Beat Guide: Climate

Graphic by Kyra Posey.

Why Cover Climate? 

  • Climate change affects many aspects of society, such as human health, agriculture and food security, water supply, transportation, energy and ecosystems.
  • These aspects are expected to become increasingly disruptive as the century continues.
  • As global temperatures and sea levels rise and as the oceans acidify, research shows that people living in poverty are the most severely impacted.
  • Climate change affects everything from where a person can live to their access to health care, and it will be difficult for people in poverty to adjust.
  • Up to 132 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030, according to research.

Research Guide

Here is a list of databases, essential reading and institutions with information to help you form the right questions about poverty and climate change.

Aren’t finding what you need? Check out our list of essential studies, data and tools.

If you’re feeling stuck, use the resources below to help answer these questions. They might help you get started on a story or expand on an idea about climate change and poverty.

  • What percentage of families in your county live below the poverty line?
  • What is the unemployment rate?
  • What is the poverty rate in your county?
  • Is extreme heat affecting my city’s poorest communities?
  • What questions should I ask government officials about how they’re combatting the effects of climate change?
  • How could climate change affect people in poverty in my state?
  • How could climate change affect people in poverty in the future?

Databases & Datasets

Tree Equity Score

This resource by American Forests, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit conservation organization, provides a map of tree cover in cities and towns across America. The Tree Equity Score calculates a score from 1-100 based on how much tree canopy and surface align with income, employment, race, age and health factors in the U.S. This resource provides a score for 150,000 neighborhoods and 486 urbanized areas in America.

Annual Greenhouse Gas Index

The Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, measures the capacity of Earth’s atmosphere to trap heat as a result of the presence of long-lived greenhouse gases. This data provides information about how human activity has affected the climate system. 

Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) collects Greenhouse Gas (GHG) data from large emitting facilities, suppliers of fossil fuels and industrial gases that result in GHG emissions when used, and facilities that inject carbon dioxide underground.

American Community Service Data

This data from the U.S. Census Bureau provides detailed information about the U.S. population, including housing, economics, and demographic information. This data set will be useful in stories which examine climate issues in certain communities and neighborhoods.

Essential Reading & Viewing

Global Citizen: Why Climate Change and Poverty Are Inextricably Linked

This article explains the relation between poverty and climate change, and the implications climate change could have in the future.

NPR: As Rising Heat Bakes U.S. Cities, The Poor Often Feel It Most

This investigation from NPR and the University of Maryland’s Howard Center for Investigative Journalism uses NASA/U.S. Geological Survey satellite imagery and U.S. Census American Community Survey data to show the link between heat and income in U.S. cities. They detail their methodology and share the link to their open-source computer program for journalists and organizations who want to replicate their investigation.

Public Integrity and Columbia Journalism Investigations: Dangerous Heat, Unequal Consequences: How two neighborhoods in Arizona and Florida became hotspots for sickening heat

This project examines how low income communities experience higher rates of heat-related illnesses. The data used in this story shows that emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to heat-related illnesses are more likely in area with less income, and in neighborhoods with a history of racial segregation. The story links to a detailed data and methodology document to demonstrate how this investigation was possible.

Vox: How America’s hottest city is trying to cool down

This video visits Phoenix and explores how trees might save the city from extreme heat. 

Academic Papers and Relevant Studies

NASA Landsat Science: Ecosystem, Vegetation Affect Intensity of Urban Heat Island Effect

This NASA report  the origins and development of the “heat island” concept. The “heat island” effect was discovered when scientists first observed cities growing warmer than surrounding rural areas. 

Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure Journal: Urban Heat Implications from Parking, Roads, and Cars: a Case Study of Metro Phoenix

This research examines the infrastructure that contributes to Phoenix’s stifling heat. Other articles from Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure focus on the sustainable development of resilient communities.


U.S. Global Change Research Program

This federal program researches the forces shaping the global environment and their impacts on society. There you can access the National Climate Assessment, view reports, examine the physical science behind climate change and more. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA’s climate change website provides climate change facts, information about what the EPA is doing, and datasets and reports such as the Social Vulnerability Report which examines how climate change specifically impacts socially vulnerable populations based on income, education, race and ethnicity.

UN Environment Programme

This page from the UN offers information on the intersection of environmental issues and biosafety, gender, conflict and disaster, sports and more.

Kyra Posey is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Georgia. 

How to Cover Evictions

A screenshot of Reporter Janice Yu’s video story, “Lack of understanding surrounds eviction process,” for Fox 5 Atlanta.

Covering evictions can be a challenge for reporters. Shelter is a basic human need, and an eviction is a traumatic event for individuals. There are multiple angles to cover this topic, from how difficult it is for people to recover from an eviction to how to explain the complex eviction process. 

When Sean Keenan reported on the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the Biden administration’s nationwide ban on evictions in August 2021 due to the financial turmoil caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote these words:

“For more than a year, Atlanta renters have dreaded the crash of what Terri Lee, the city’s chief housing officer, called a ‘tsunami’ of evictions — a tidal wave of displacement in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, it seems that wave is cresting.”

He wrote these words with such gravity because he knew that millions of people across the U.S.  were suddenly at risk for eviction after the Supreme Court struck down the protections originally mandated due to the economic effects of the pandemic. Keenan reports on housing for the Atlanta Civic Circle, an online news platform that provides in-depth reporting on the most critical issues facing metro Atlanta. 

Read the full story here: The “tsunami” approaches: With federal moratorium killed, Atlanta braces for crush of evictions

“I was just like, so many people are going to become homeless, and a lot of those people will die,” Keenan said.

More than 8 million U.S. adults live in households that are behind on rent payments, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey. Over 4 million Americans have no confidence that they won’t be able to pay next month’s rent. 

“Housing is central to almost every aspect of your life. Where you live dictates where you can go to school, where you can get a job, the safety of your environment,” Keenan said.

For more tips on covering housing, you can also check out our Housing Beat Guide.

Even after the Supreme Court rejected the nationwide ban on evictions, counties and states still were legally allowed to have an eviction ban. But with no federal mandate, some of those bans, such as the ones in DeKalb County and in California, expired in September 2021, putting hundreds of thousands of more renters at risk of eviction. 

Housing and government reporters have useful tips to remember while reporting on evictions.

Hold government officials accountable.

Reporters can hold government officials accountable by asking questions about how government entities are working to prevent evictions, and exploring whether the government’s actions match their promises in their reported stories.

Linked to the issue of ensuing evictions is states’ slow distribution of money from emergency rental assistance programs, such as in DeKalb County, which only distributed a portion of the $21 million provided by the federal government for renters in need when the county’s eviction moratorium expired. 

After the Supreme Court decision came down, slow distribution made Keenan check in on what counties were doing to prevent evictions. 

When Fulton County officials said that they were protecting evictions and  they had their own rental assistance program to aid in this, Keenan asked whether the county would enact an eviction moratorium. 

The county judge said that Fulton would not extend an eviction moratorium, even though at the time DeKalb had one in place. This proved that Fulton, in fact, was not doing everything in its power to prevent evictions.

“A lot of this job is putting fire to the feet of public officials,” Keenan said. “All you can do is ask the questions.” 

At best, holding officials accountable affects change after they confront how their decisions are actively affecting at-risk citizens, and at the very least, this reporting can inform audiences about which officials are responsible for the issues at hand.

“Public officials can almost always do more to help people,” Keenan said.

Also be sure to write how government actions — or inactions — to prevent evictions are affecting people at risk of eviction along with the accountability approach.

“Once you have an eviction on your record, it’s 100 times harder to find another apartment or another house to rent,” Tyler Estep, a reporter covering DeKalb County for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said. “So it’s kind of a balancing act of doing that government accountability piece, but not losing sight of how it’s affecting real people.”

Read one of Tyler’s stories on DeKalb’s rental assistance here: DeKalb has now distributed $7.9 million in rental assistance funds

Utilize other sources besides those being evicted.

It can often be difficult to speak with renters who are at-risk for eviction, as often talking with a reporter when they’re facing homelessness is the last thing on their mind. 

Estep recommends developing relationships with local nonprofits, housing advocates and homeless shelters.

“A lot of times, those are the trusted people in the community,” Estep said. They can either speak on their perspective on the housing crisis as a community leader, or connect reporters with people affected by eviction.

Janice Yu, a reporter at Fox 5 Atlanta, said reporters can explore what those at risk of being evicted are experiencing, but can also look at  the issue through the perspective of landlords, realtors, eviction attorneys and more.

“There’s going to be stories for days because you can tell it from the tenants’ angle, you can tell it from the landlord’s angle,” Yu said. “At the rate that they’re coming in, there will be more evictions that are served, so how many can these law enforcement officers handle in a day? Another thing is, how long is it going to take for these people to get kicked out of their homes? There are so many other arms of the story that you can get that might not be what everyone else is doing.”

Understand the reality of the people who are most affected by evictions.

During the reporting process and the production process, work to understand what people affected by evictions are actually experiencing, including renters and landlords. This process can sometimes lead to a service journalism approach. 

“At the end of the day, you have to think about how what you’re producing is impacting and who it’s about,” Keenan said. 

To better understand what people at risk of eviction had to go through in order to receive federal rental assistance, Keenan filled out the complicated paperwork required for receiving rental assistance in Georgia. Georgia differs from some other states, like Texas, where only a legal attestation is required to receive relief funds. 

“They required all of this paperwork, and especially for those affected by poverty, or old people who don’t have technical skills, or people who just don’t have access to computers or cell phones, it was incredibly difficult to even apply for it,” Keenan said. 

This process allowed him to better understand the barriers to access to receive federal funding. 

Keenan also received emails from people who were at risk for eviction or who applied for assistance asking for his advice. While he can’t help in every case, there have been a few instances where he’s been able to get responses to people’s questions from his connections in local governments. This fits in, too, with Atlanta Civic Circle’s solution journalism approach as it ramps up outreach to affected communities.

Yu also recommends becoming familiar with the process that leads to an eviction and what happens after an eviction notice is issued. When she reported on the Supreme Court decision in August 2021, she learned that many tenants facing eviction are unaware of the steps they need to take when an eviction notice is issued. She reported a story about what people need to do if they receive an eviction notice.    

“As a journalist covering these topics, it’s good to know the background,” Yu said. “And maybe the background becomes your story.”

Read the digital story here: Many tenants facing eviction taken by surprise due to limited understanding of the process

Maintaining a human connection to what people at risk of eviction might be experiencing and having empathy can ensure sensitive and ethical coverage.

“You have to talk to real people differently than you would to some county commissioner that you’re trying to hold accountable for a vote on some issue,” Estep said. “It’s a different tone, and you have to remember that you’re a human, too. Sometimes journalists try to separate themselves from the story, but at some point, you have to maintain that human connection with them.”

Kyra Posey is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Georgia.

5 Takeaways from our Covering Poverty Twitter Spaces Event

Covering Poverty reporters Hayley Croke, Janelle Ward and Allison Caso joined a Twitter Spaces chat on Friday, Nov. 12 to discuss their tactics for covering poverty, share approaches to service journalism pieces and reflect on what they’ve learned since they began working with the Covering Poverty initiative.

The discussion, moderated by site coordinator and contributor Kyra Posey, brought up important insights about the process behind service journalism stories, serving your audience and letting your sources drive the story. You can find some of the most important takeaways below.

When writing service journalism stories, take yourself out of the equation and consider what your audience actually needs to know.

“When we’re at UGA, there is such a divide between us and the Athens community. And we don’t normally interact with people in the community a lot. Sometimes we stay in our UGA bubble. And so I think it’s really important to find the pieces that serve the community, because they’re here all the time, and we’re just here for a couple of years. It’s kind of our duty to, you know, bring them into that equation and kind of shine a light on that.” -Allison Caso.

“For me, finding newsworthy service journalism stories is relatively easy, honestly, especially in this socio-economic climate that we’re living in with the housing crisis and food insecurity kind of everywhere, especially in Athens. It’s almost as if there are potential stories everywhere you look, but it’s the question of how to ensure those pieces serve your audience that’s most challenging. For example, for a piece that I’m working on now about where to find diapers in metro Atlanta and how to afford them. There’s so much useful information that I’ve gathered on my topic, but I obviously cannot include it all or else the article would be way too long. So deciding what to keep and how best to arrange it ultimately affects how effectively the audience understands what you’re reporting.” -Janelle Ward.

There are many statistics and historical facts to consider when writing about poverty. Consider including what the reader will benefit from the most.

“I usually will put it all down and then go back and reread and think to myself, ‘what’s important for context, versus what’s a number that I want to put in there, just because it’s something I think that’s important to the story?’ So being able to take yourself out of it, and say, ‘what does the reader need to know versus what would I ideally love to have in the story,’ just making sure the numbers you have in there are necessary and easy to follow.” -Hayley Croke.

“It can be kind of hard for me to determine how many statistics is too much to include in one story. So I start with the info that I think I’ll absolutely need to include, and then I’ll branch out from there if necessary. And for me, the same thing goes for historical context. I’m a history major, so I love historical background, I love facts and figures. So I start with enough information to fill the reader in on something that they might not know.” -Janelle Ward.

Click here to listen to Janelle’s insights.

Let your sources guide your story.

“This project has really made me change the way I look at my relationship with sources. These are issues that obviously I do research before I talk to sources, but something really important I learned when dealing with sources for these stories is to really listen to what they’re saying. Ask them to expand upon things that they’re talking about, they have difficulties with, or things that they’re saying are working really well. It’s really important to hear them out more, because they’re coming from a place where they have more experience about the story that you’re covering, so it’s so much more important to understand their perspective than to just write about the research you’ve done. You want to create a good balance between the two, to make the story both empathetic and informational.” -Hayley Croke.

Click here to listen to Hayley’s insights.

When heading into interviews with people affected by poverty, and writing for an audience affected by poverty, do your research. 

“You don’t want to make anyone that you’re interviewing or anyone that’s going to read what you’re writing uncomfortable. And so I think the best thing to do with that is just researching prior to interviewing anyone, and reading a lot of other pieces, maybe about the same topic and figuring out how you can be the most direct with the information that is still sensitive to the people that are going to be reading it or that you’re going to be interviewing. Include what is necessary, but not anything for the shock value or just to kind of get a reaction out of people.” -Allison Caso.

If you’re just starting to cover poverty related issues, be patient with yourself.

Be patient both with yourself and with the piece that you’re working on. And by that I mean don’t expect to nail the writing style all at once. It takes time to perfect, to hone your craft. But at the same time, you know, it’s easy as you know journalism students to feel like oh, you’re just hammered with deadlines, you have to finish this story and that story. But really understand that isn’t just another deadline for you to check off your to-do list. This is real journalism that directly affects the community. It affects people who come from all different types of backgrounds. This is literally people’s lives, for some it might be life or death, or you know, it might be an issue of starvation or diapers. These are very, very important issues and you should handle them gently and you should just really put forth the most effort in making sure that all of your reporting is accurate and very informative. Welcome mistakes that you make along the way, and don’t be too hard on yourself. Because ultimately, that’s how you learn — by making mistakes and correcting them.” -Janelle Ward.

How I Reported the Story: How Metro Atlanta Housing Groups Adapted to COVID-19

Read how reporter William Newlin reported this feature for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution: How metro Atlanta housing groups adapted to COVID-19

Credit: William Newlin

Similar to my and Carolyn Crist’s previous Atlanta Journal-Constitution story, I began gathering information for “How metro Atlanta housing groups adapted to COVID-19” by looking for organizations. Rather than take a broader look at the finances of various nonprofit groups, this story focused on the physical and organizational changes within homeless shelters and affordable housing groups due to the pandemic. How did they adapt? Are things getting back to normal?

Google searches and consultations with the Guidestar nonprofit database helped me find groups within my area of focus. From emergency shelters in the City of Atlanta to a youth shelter in Marietta to an affordable housing group in Roswell, I began making phone calls. I received a lot of voicemails. Follow-up emails proved useful, and after a while I gathered a useful sample of anecdotes and experiences that informed my story.

Before I reported this piece, I didn’t know that certain types of housing carry technical definitions. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care Program defines transitional housing as providing “interim stability” until an individual or family can achieve a permanent home. Per HUD guidelines, people living in transitional housing must maintain a lease in their own name. The Center for Family Resources is the liaison for the Marietta/Cobb County Continuum of Care and follows federal rules to receive funding for itself and its housing partners in the area, such as MUST Ministries. 

I also learned about the hotel voucher program implemented earlier this year to people experiencing homelessness in Atlanta. The American Rescue Plan passed this spring provided 202 emergency vouchers to Atlanta’s housing authority. It created vacancies at Our House’s shelter downtown, prompting the group to expand its eligibility criteria to house more families. Asking my sources about housing distinctions and programs related to their missions helped with accuracy once I reached the writing stage.

While every group and all my sources had their own stories, trends did appear. Namely, each nonprofit cut back on volunteers, rearranged how they accepted and housed clients and kept a keen eye on regulations created and updated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it was important for me to include human emotion alongside discussions of safety protocols. All of my sources expressed fatigue regarding their work over the past 18 months and deep concern for the people they serve. I tried to select quotes that highlighted those emotional details. 

William Newlin is a graduate student at the University of Georgia with work appearing in Georgia Health News, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Red & Black.

How I Reported The Story: 3 Things to Know About COVID Care Costs

Read how reporter Sofi Gratas reported this story for the Atlanta-Journal Constitution: 3 things to know about COVID care costs.

For this story on COVID care costs, I felt it was key to focus on resources and solutions. The article is a fact-based resource for people concerned or struggling with the cost of COVID, whether it be tests, vaccines or associated health care costs in general. 

My first step was to get as much information as I could to understand the problem and determine what information was key. I consulted these questions on the Covering Poverty website and gathered information on unusually high COVID care costs, populations struggling with vaccine intake and solutions being presented nationally. 

I found that the Kaiser Family Foundation — one of Covering Poverty’s essential data resources— is an excellent source for COVID-related statistics. I used this key point from a survey in September 2021 to inform my research and reporting process: American adults under the age of 65 without health insurance are stuck at a 54% vaccination rate, one of the lowest of any group.

Understanding my intended audience in this way was key in my writing process. I tried to break down the most important information into three different sections that were digestible and readable. Many aspects of the healthcare system are notoriously inaccessible to people living in poverty, Because this article is supposed to be a resource for people who might be sceptical of the health care system, or unsure of how to navigate the system, I wanted to use clear terminology.

How I Reported the Story: New Books for Keeps executive director seeks to grow nonprofit for youth literacy

Read how Janelle Ward reported this story for The Athens Banner-Herald/ New Books for Keeps executive director seeks to grow nonprofit for youth literacy.

Credit: Janelle Ward

Athens is home to many nonprofit organizations, but this is the first I saw in my two years of living here that was specifically dedicated to improving youth literacy. After hearing of the organization’s success over the past few years, I was intrigued to learn more about it and help spread word that it exists.

I stopped by the Books for Keeps warehouse to interview Justin Bray and take photos of volunteers setting up for the nonprofit’s annual book fair. I asked Bray questions during his break from manning the warehouse’s loading dock, picking up piles of books donated by members of the community.

I also interviewed Books for Keeps founder, Melaney Davis, over the phone, for insight on Books for Keeps’ beginnings and how the organization has grown in the almost decade it has existed. She gave me the contact information for my final source, Leslie Hale, who was even more knowledgeable of Justin and his work with the organization.

Leslie was executive director of Books for Keeps for eight years and gave me great information on what her work entailed and how she grew the nonprofit in that time. I felt like I could complete the story after speaking with her.

There was so much information I wanted to include, but had to cut for the sake of length. I knew, from the reporting I had gathered, that I would predominantly write in chronological order, and since profiles tend to be more longform and fluid, there was more room for creativity and almost “flowery” writing. The information about the education beat on the Covering Poverty website was a great starting point for me and my research. It caused me to brainstorm and consider the many angles of which I could have taken the story.

Janelle Ward is a senior at the University of Georgia.

How I Reported the Story: Where to find COVID-19 vaccines in East Athens

Read how Janelle Ward reported this story for The Athens Banner-Herald/ Where to Find COVID-19 Vaccines in East Athens.

With such a significant percentage of Athens-Clarke County not vaccinated toward the beginning of the academic year, a service journalism piece with vaccine locations in East Athens and other important information was much needed. East Athens is a community heavily consisting of marginalized people of color who normally lack access to resources available in wealthier communities.

The Covering Poverty site, particularly the health care beat guide, offered helpful tips on how to report the story. The guide contains descriptive questions that helped me brainstorm and determine the direction I wanted to pursue with the piece. 

I used a map to locate pharmacies and clinics in the East Athens area, double checking my research using the full list of coronavirus vaccine distribution locations on the Athens-Clarke County website. I visited the website of each location I included in the piece to gather details on the vaccination process, including whether appointments were required and whether minors needed an adult present during the vaccination.

Given what I’ve learned so far about covering poverty, the information explaining why this story was necessary was probably the most important. I used data from Justice Map to show the negative correlation between the percentage of residents of color and annual income in East Athens.

Janelle Ward is a senior at the University of Georgia.

Want to Uncover Hidden Details Missing from Poverty Coverage? Ask These Questions.

Graphic by Kyra Posey

Many news outlets tell stories about people living in poverty, which provides many chances to miss important details which need to be told. 

To empower readers with the tools to uncover those details, Covering Poverty spoke with Greg Jaffe, a national reporter with The Washington Post and finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. Jaffe was nominated “for deeply reported stories that powerfully depict the suffering and dislocation endured by Americans who lost their jobs after the sudden collapse of South Florida’s tourist economy in the pandemic,” according to Jaffe also shared a Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for his work on a Wall Street Journal series about defense spending.

Read his nominated stories here:

Question 1: Does the story help readers understand why this person is in poverty?

Similar questions to consider: Does the story tell readers about how a person came into poverty, or is it just telling readers about a moment in a character’s life? 

To really understand people, you need to understand the progress of their story, including what they experienced, how they got there, and a story that feels honest, Jaffe said. 

“Everybody makes mistakes, so it’s important to not judge people for those mistakes but also not shy away from telling the full story,” he said.

Understanding how a person came into poverty is essential to fully understand a person’s story. This includes a person’s past, their present and any historical context that keeps them in poverty. 

Reporting that fails to explain how people, especially when used as characters in a story, came into poverty do not accurately represent the individuals who trusted journalists with their stories.

Question 2: What context could be missing?

Similar questions to consider: Does the story discuss historical or economic context, or tie the story into a larger relevant issue? Could that context tell a more complete story of what’s happening to the characters?

Considering broader contexts can help readers better understand how the story represents large-scale issues. Plus, knowing the context can help readers understand why the story is timely.  

“It’s good to have some sort of news peg that you can say to your editor: This is why we’re telling this story now,” Jaffe said. 

When he reported on people living in the Star Motel in Kissimmee, Florida, he told the story of how the pandemic was drastically worsening the lives of residents. 

“The pandemic had heaped crisis on top of crisis,” he said. 

Read the story: A pandemic, a motel without power and a potentially terrifying glimpse of Orlando’s future

Question 3: Does this story try to show a complete picture of its characters?

Similar question to consider: Do you see multiple sides of the characters?

Journalists have to overcome biases when covering poverty. Two of the biggest biases are judging people’s mistakes and underestimating the stress that poverty causes, so it’s important to discern whether a story spend too much time talking about characters’ mistakes.

Jaffe said journalists can ask a source, “Why did you quit this job after six months?” as they sit by and think, “I wouldn’t have done that. I would have stuck with that McDonald’s job until I had another job. I wouldn’t have gone out drinking and missed work. I wouldn’t have smoke weed.” 

Greg Jaffe answers: What are some biases reporters should work to abandon when it comes to covering communities affected by poverty?

“There are so many stresses in people’s lives,” he said. “People in poverty smoke weed because sometimes it’s the only escape. We tend to judge them too harshly for these things.”

On the other hand, Jaffe said some stories ennoble people affected by poverty. Stories that are one-sided in conveying that they did nothing wrong and bad things just happened to them also should be avoided. 

“But it’s never a simple story,” he said. “People make mistakes and we shouldn’t judge them, but we shouldn’t shy away from putting them in the story.”

For example, The New York Times story “When Dasani Left Home” follows the story of Dasani, a girl who separates from her family to try to escape from poverty. The story talks about some of Dasani’s best moments, and some of her lowest moments as she goes through her time at private school. 

When Dasani Left Home

“And that shows the value of understanding people in all of their complexity,” Jaffe said. “That piece didn’t shy away from writing about the mistakes that Dasani made, but it puts them into a broader context. So you got to understand what she had to overcome and why she did the things that she did.” 

He describes Times reporter Andrea Elliott’s storytelling as “sympathetic and honest” because she captured what Dasani had to overcome to become a remarkable person. 

Telling a more complete story of a person allows the reader to better understand them. 

“When you embrace the complexity of the person, it’s easier to have empathy for people who are different,” Jaffe said. 

Kyra Posey is a graduate student studying journalism at the University of Georgia.

How I Reported the Story: Grab your sneakers! Here are some upcoming fundraiser runs, events in the Athens area

Read how Liset Cruz reported this story for The Athens Banner-Herald/ Grab your sneakers! Here are some upcoming fundraiser runs, events in the Athens area

Community engagement is an important topic to cover. With the pandemic leaving some people feeling trapped inside and alone, this story allows residents to become aware of events in their community, which would help them fight those feelings. 

The Covering Poverty site helped me realize how I can reach out to these organizations and ask questions about their causes without making them feel ostracized and exploited. 

The organizations they work with can deal with sensitive matters and the Writing Across Differences page helped me work through that. On this page, there was a section titled “Be Sensitive to Trauma,” which allowed me to realize how to ask personal questions. For example, Jadon’s Run is an event featured in my story. However, the story behind the event deals with infant death. I asked questions carefully and allowed interviewees to take their time answering. 

Overall, the Covering Poverty project site is helpful for a wide range of stories. I’m glad to be a part of this initiative.

Liset Cruz is a senior at the University of Georgia. She has worked for NBC News, GPB News, and The Red & Black.

How I Reported the Story

Our reporters produce service journalism pieces and report on issues related to poverty through our partnerships with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Athens Banner-Herald. Below, read how they reported their stories to see how these journalists take multiple different approaches to reporting and storytelling.

Service Journalism

How I Reported the Story: Need rental assistance? These 3 routes are available for metro Atlantans. Reporter William Newlin shares the process behind finding and learning more about relevant resources for rental assistance in Georgia.

How I Reported the Story: How Organizations are Working to Diminish Diaper Need and Where to Find Free Products. Reporter Janelle Ward shares the research she did to better understand the problem of “diaper need,” and explains how she found key sources.

How I Reported the Story: Help for those in Northeast Georgia: Where to find shelters, washrooms and food pantries. Reporters Allison Caso, Brieanna Smith and Foster Steinbeck reflect on the reporting process behind a project to provide an extensive list of resources available to food and shelter insecure residents in Athens-Clarke County.

How I Reported The Story: 3 Things to Know About COVID Care Costs. Reporter Sofi Gratas shares her strategy for a fact-based piece for people concerned or struggling with the cost of COVID-19 care.

How I Reported the Story: How to Find Affordable Child Care in Georgia. Reporter Anila Yoganathan explores the world of affordable child care for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

How I Reported the Story: Grab your sneakers! Here are some upcoming fundraiser runs, events in the Athens area. Reporter Liset Cruz explores community engagement and explains how to ask questions about sensitive topics.

How I Reported the Story: Where to find COVID-19 vaccines in East Athens. Reporter Janelle Ward explains the need for a service journalism piece on local vaccination sites and her research process.


How I Reported the Story: Marigold Market among the farmers markets working to make fresh produce more accessible. Reporters Irene Wright and Foster Steinbeck share the reporting process behind this feature piece on a Winterville, Georgia farmers market that teams up with an Atlanta nonprofit to match SNAP benefits so families can spend double on healthy foods.

How I Reported the Story: Pantries at Athens area colleges, student centers grow to combat hunger. Reporters Allison Caso and Brieanna Smith share how they contextualized the prevalent issue of student food insecurity, and how they localized the issue.

How I Reported the Story: How Metro Atlanta Housing Groups Adapted to COVID-19. Reporter William Newlin shares what he learned while reporting on how metro Atlanta housing groups adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How I Reported the Story: Colleges Expand Food Pantries to Help Students in Need. Reporter Sofi Gratas explains how she discovered a trend in the development of new and expanded student pantries in Atlanta-area universities.

How I Reported the Story: For Local Nonprofits, Need and Support Swells. Reporters Carolyn Crist and William Newlin examine trends in Atlanta-area nonprofits.

How I Reported the Story: New Books for Keeps executive director seeks to grow nonprofit for youth literacy. Reporter Janelle Ward shares how she told the story of a local nonprofit that aims to grow youth literacy.