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User Journalism - Giving Socially Vulnerable People a Voice in Society

Author: Anne
Published Date: 17 February 2010

During the past couple of years Social Development Centre SUS has held four courses in what we call ‘user journalism’. The purpose of inviting socially vulnerable people (users) to a course in journalism is to qualify them to write and create articles based on their life situations.

The participants are introduced to the journalistic approach, how to conduct a professional interview and how to write and edit texts for specific audiences. They also learn how to write a ‘good story’ and how to catch the attention of professional journalists and the media. The participants are taught by professional journalists, trained communicators and photographers.

During the course, all participants create an article, telling their story. The articles are printed in magazines and newsletters published by various organisations such as the YMCA’s Social Work in Denmark, SAND - The Danish national organisation for homeless people, and LAP - The national organization for Danish (Ex-) Users of Psychiatry. Some articles are also published in local or national newspapers.

Through the course, participants gain confidence. They learn to believe that their personal stories are interesting and thought-provoking. For participants, the various tools create a personal toolkit to help communicate and disseminate the challenges associated with e.g. mental illness and traumatic experiences - and also the solutions to these challenges. By doing this, people – who are rarely heard in the public debate - are given a voice in society.