Day 1 Lightning Talks: How the Prison Journalism Project shepherds intentional, careful collaboration
3:32PM Jun 20, 2023
Okay, so last up, I'd like to welcome I'm honored to welcome Yukari Kane up from Prison Journalism Project.
Hi, everyone, I'm Yukari Kane, and I'm the CEO and editor in chief of prison journalism project. And we work with incarcerated writers, we train them in the tools of journalism, and we publish their stories on our own and in collaboration with other journalists and newsrooms, and just explain a little bit about more about what we do, the impact we're trying to make, and the difference we're trying to make. I wanted to show you a video, you know, we'd like to put our writers first. And so
so hard to, especially in the media to feel like anything that you've done individually has really, you know, oh, that's, that's that change policy that changes. It's, and that's the value I think of broken Philly is it's a network effect. And so we're not, we're not seeing reductions in, in violence, we're not seeing like the statistical things that are changing. But I do think narratives are changing. And I think that that's a very powerful part of what media can do.
If we want to produce news that people can use in their lives like really us, then we have to be working together, we have to be doing a better job listening, we have to be doing a better job focusing on solutions, not just the problems themselves.
I mean, now like almost all of the major and minor media players are a part of broken Philly. And so that, to me, is an incredible win.
Yeah, okay, I'll run up on a roll up there and get the right video. Alright. So we got our start about three years ago, I, my me and my co founder, Shaheen Pasha are longtime journalists. And we also teach at universities. She's assistant professor at Penn State. And I've taught at Medill and UC Berkeley. And we got our start right after the pandemic started. And we, everybody was talking about it as a historical moment. There were some scary reports coming out of prisons, where we've both taught and you know, there are outbreaks and we were just not getting stories about what was going on inside. And we thought, you know, let's publish some will. Let's put up a publication on medium and see what happens. And so fast forward three years.
We've, we're a fully fledged training and training outfit and publication, prison journalism project.org. We've published over 1600 stories from think right now it's more than 600 writers across 190 prisons in 35 states. Do we Okay, perfect. And I'll let the video room
think I'm a prime example of how decent folks can still end up in prison for a horrendous crime. You know, I put myself in some bad situations. And the worst case scenario came true.
I mean, prison is full of good people who deserve a second chance. I mean, I've always been vocal and outspoken. And seeing what I see through the lens of my incarceration, being a journalist just kind of rose to the surface, being a journalist has really just changed my experience for prison life, it's given me sort of this obligation, this responsibility to everyone around me, and also to people outside, I just want more and more people to read my stuff and be impacted by it. You know, I want their eyes and ears to get open to the truth about mass incarceration. Hopefully, I can inspire conversations so that the people that can affect policy have a lot more things to consider when they make these arbitrary decisions that affect us.
Who was one of my first students at San Quentin State Prison. He's been working with me and us for about five years now. And right now he's working on a story with the New Yorker. So that's where, you know, it really says everything about what we do, what we're trying to do and where we're trying to go.
And I wanted to I was asked here to talk a little bit about our model, and just as a as one. One way to work with marginalized communities and people who don't get their voices heard very often.
As I mentioned that we have a model that's a combination of training and And then we work with them to publish the story. Over the past year we, we've really worked on when I guess one of the things that is really important we thought and working with our writers inside is just making sure that we have all the policies and processes and protocols down to to think about their emotional, legal and physical safety. And so we spent the past year really honing that down. We in terms of editing the stories, for example, we think of ourselves as editor coaches, we always we try to really go out of our way to explain why we do things we take care of, with our language, being mindful that our writers are people who've, who have a lot of trauma and have been rejected their entire lives. And so even little things like in memos where we say, you know, we can't accept this story, because, or in order for us to publish this, we need a, b, and c, we might change the wording and say, you know, your story would really be more powerful if we can get this stuff. We stopped sending out rejection letters, because again, our writers are people who have been rejected their entire lives, and they don't need another rejection from us. And we want them to keep working and training. We, in terms of our communications, you know, we do most of our communications through postal, and E comms, prison communication systems that are private, that are electronic, and we have somebody who works that we're very careful with the way we send in content, thinking about what state they are, we've done all the research, looking into their legal rights in each state, every state has a different set of laws, we share them on our website, by the way, how that we can communicate with them, and then being also sensitive to where they are geography wise. And so we're much more careful with a writer in the south, for example, and we're even more careful if it's a woman in the south, because there's usually one prison and there it would be much easier to find them. And so time runs out quickly. There's much more to say about this, I am going to be on an ins panel talking about more about duty of care. But I just wanted to you know, where we're trying to go with all of this is it's just to bring out stories that wouldn't, wouldn't be told otherwise. Sometimes in surprising ways. Where we're trying to go with this is, you know, ultimately, I think the power of this collaboration is not just our work with our writers, but also work with journalists and other newsrooms combining inside reporting outside reporting, sometimes just outside production of inside stories and and also being able to connect the dots between the stories that the writers are sending us. And so with that, I just wanted to give you an example of a story. You know, a story a little bit unconventional that we did. This was this was triggered by a diorama that was sent to us by a writer. It's kind of miraculous that it found its way to us but Sarah Rogers, who's a creative director at longreads. Now I think she used to email@example.com worked with us to create this video that we thought you know, it's one of it well, I thought it was one of my it's one of my favorite stories and we've had formerly incarcerated people cry watching this so I just wanted to share that
my name is Jesse Milo, and this is house of Milo.
Filament now it's just like the one I made for you.
I'd like to show you around. Let's start with the list. The top of the sale when the lid is on, and you look in the close front door towards the back of the sale. You can see how the light beams through the back window and drapes across the table and bed. This actually happens outside every back window or bright stadium lights. If you're on the bottom bed, and you lay with your head by the toilet, the light will shine right in your face. Next, we go into the cell you'll see a towel that used to be a shower towel. But now you can clean the floor. Add some water and some shampoo and you've got to mop up the wide shower shoes. We wear them to prevent falling in the shower and from getting fungus on the floor by the toilet. It says Sit down to pee. So don't splash because when you pee standing up, drop them to bounce out of the toilet. And then on the cell wall. Next to the toilet. It says Drop one flush one. This includes passing gas to alleviate the smell. The smell is very small, and there's not really much air Top you'll see it says round as beautiful as a boy, a Grammy for call me racial names, and it still impacts me. My picture is also posted there, those of us who have been sent to die here, looking at photos of ourselves kind of as a way to prove we exist, it's like saying hi. I told you I was real or I'm still alive. You know my picture is a host Zinger pastry I love on the table or letters. If I get now this is where I respond to them. My fan is nearby to to blow dry my boxes. Now let's go over to the bed. I keep on the bottom. The mattresses are three and a half inches thick. So they're not very comfortable. The Metal Bed Frame is 30 inches wide, lying down. You can even stretch out both arms. Some guys on the top bunk tie themselves to it by the wrist, so they don't fall off. Sleeping in long stuff in the first decades. Now, I'm used to on the top bunk I wrote vacancy, because I haven't had a salary during the pandemic. On the bed is also a copy of the newspaper PJP inside with the top story and allusion to a dream, my loan debt free. I cover the top pillow and a COVID-19 Max that represents the time it says human on the end of the bed in case people forget about the doorway, something about the American Kennel Club. If you get the formula and apply it to the average man side you will see the dogs get on average way more room for a cage than humans do. The last bit is the writing on the wall above the bed. Now share my journey with you as fuel for your own.
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Thank you. Please find me if you're interested in working with us as a newsroom. As a journalist. We have so many stories. Most of them are print. But this was one that was just really special to us. Thank you so much.