Jenny McCoy

A Miami University journalism capstone class will be hosting two multimedia forums about community identity and involvement from the perspective of both a rural and urban school system in early December.

“The Learning Curve: How Education and the Economy are Reshaping the Heartland” is a student-produced project that will feature print, radio and television stories in the Union County, Ind. and the Middletown, Ohio school districts.

These events are in partnership with the Miami-White Valley Public Media (MWVPM), a project that creates community-based journalism projects in multimedia platforms.

Joe Sampson, who teaches Journalism 421B, said his students decided to study two communities close to Oxford that were not receiving much media attention.

With the economy in a crunch, Sampson said the coverage-particularly its focus on the relationship between success in education and the economy-is more important than ever.

“When one does well, the other does well,” Sampson said. “Neither can be strong when one is weak.”

The Union County College Corner Joint School District is split across the border of Indiana and Ohio. Although the elementary school’s half court line sits on state lines, the school district continues to act as a fluid, seamless rural community, according senior Kate Stark, a student in the class.

Additionally, Middletown-a former paper and steel mill community as well as home to one of Miami’s branch campuses-has been seeking a new identity, economy and educational future.

Stark has been reporting on the Union County School district. Stark said it was easy to report on a rural community where the people were very open and welcoming. Her first story described an older resident of Union County that has lived in the community all of his life.

“He is an illustration of the community as a whole,” Stark said. “Like others, he gives back to his hometown through the school district.”

After taking on the project, Stark said she has learned that journalism is all about storytelling. She also learned that all communities have their problems.

“Issues, whether economical or educational will persist in any community, and these issues are not always negative,” Stark said.

Union County has tried to overcome the economic conditions by continuing to work and help out their community to the best of their abilities, according to Stark.

Senior Alison Peters, another student in Sampson’s class, has been reporting on both the Union County and Middletown school districts. She has written print stories about the No Child Left Behind act and comparing the Ohio and Indiana education systems.

In addition, Peters has been working on a slideshow presenting the past and present of Middletown narrated by Roger Miller, Middletown’s historian.

“The class is great because we aren’t just doing all of these projects, presenting them the day they are due and then forgetting about them,” Peters said. “At the end of the semester, we are going into Union County and Middletown and sharing our reporting with their community members-hopefully giving them a fresh perspective.”

Currently, the class is working on a Web site that has all of the projects the students have produced over the semester. The Web site includes print, broadcast and radio stories, along with research information, blogs and sound slides from the students.

“It is very important to share the reporting with the very people that are our partners,” Sampson said.

Both school systems will feature multimedia forums along with community discussion that are free and open to the public. The Union County forum will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Union County Public Library Community Room.

The Middletown forum will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 at Miami Middletown Downtown Center for Community Engagement.