How I Reported the Story: Everyday Heroes: Rachel Johnson

Read how Dawn Sawyer and Sydney Hood reported this piece for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:  Everyday Heroes: Rachel Johnson

Dawn Sawyer
Sydney Hood

Period Poverty is an important issue in Athens that doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. This simple fact is what encouraged me to cover the Period Project at UGA, and more importantly, its co-president, Rachel Johnson, for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I wanted it to be a more personal story, not just about the organization, but more importantly about the people behind it that ultimately allow it to function. 

An important part of the fight against menstrual inequities is the people who are passionate enough about the issue, either because of personal experiences or because of their close proximity to them, to truly make a difference. With Johnson, for example, though she had never experienced period poverty personally, her privilege is what ultimately encouraged her to pour in so much of her time and resources to ensure that everyone could enjoy the same luxuries that she knew as a little kid. Her story provided a different perspective of the issue, and thus was intriguing to me as I continued to interview her. 

In order to find out more about her story and what led her to the Period Project, I asked her a variety of questions about her background — where she grew up, what her family life was like, etc. — and how she first came in contact with the organization. I quickly learned that it was her co-president, Areeba Hasmi, that introduced her to the group and the issue of menstrual inequity. This led me to my second interview for supporting information, where I asked Hashmi to recall how she met Johnson, what their experiences have been like together in the organization and their overall goal as co-presidents. I wanted the piece to highlight not just the Period Project, but the individuals that make it up and what in their life stories brought them to this moment. It’s often the most personal articles that show the people behind the big issues that resonate the closest, and thus provoke the most emotion and change. —Dawn Sawyer

The goal of this piece was to shed light on not just the work Rachel Johnson contributes to Period Project but who she is as a person. Working with my partner on this, we wanted to give insight to who Johnson is, her work within Period Project and how she’s worked up until this point. 

I relied on “New Books for Keeps executive director seeks to grow nonprofit for youth literacy” as my exemplar when approaching this piece. I found the structure to be similar to our goals in writing this piece: focusing on one organization and one person heading the initiative. The piece gave me a little more confidence in how to approach this topic and most importantly how to report on it (and also how to not gush over the profile subject). 

We started with an initial Zoom interview with Johnson to get to know her better. This turned into an extensive 30-minute conversation where we ended up getting more answers to our questions than anticipated (not necessarily a bad thing).

We, of course, had follow-up questions, which we were able to ask in-person at Period Project’s meetings and packing events. I attended one of Period Project’s general body meetings to ask additional follow-ups and consult our secondary sources. Here, I was able to beef up the piece with commentary from those who work closely beside Johnson in the Period Project. 

For the video portion, I attended Period Project’s November packing party. The purpose of the video is to not just showcase the packing event, but see Johnson in action and in her leadership position. 

I’ve worked on profile pieces before, but this one really challenged me in the sense I’ve never profiled someone my age, which, oddly enough, is intimidating for me. Overall, this piece taught me more about the importance of follow-ups and how those additional questions can really make or break your piece, giving you new information you didn’t have from that first initial interview. —Sydney Hood

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