Fall 2019 Litzow grants to bolster podcasting, RPA project

July 23, 2019
Student checks audio for a podcast.

Ty Hudson checks audio levels for a podcasting project.

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Students will receive more training in audio storytelling and can participate in a reporting project on local evictions, thanks to faculty engagement grants awarded to new professor Ruxandra Guidi and adjunct instructor Joe Ferguson.

The fall 2019 grants are funded by donor Al Litzow, a 1973 University of Arizona School of Journalism graduate.

Guidi will receive $2,000 for “Podcasting as part of a new vision for Arizona Sonora News.” The money will be used to create a podcast storytelling and audio documentary track as part of a new vision for ASN, which will require new audio recording kits for UA journalism students. Guidi hopes to do local and regional fieldwork alongside the students, helping them produce semester-long podcasts and market their final stories.

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Ferguson, a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star and 2006 J-school alum, will receive $1,000 for “Digging into eviction court, uncovering the realities of a lopsided system.” The four- to eight-week study of evictions inside Pima County is slated to lead to a series published in the Star, along with a dedicated multimedia site that will complement student-led reporting.

Guidi has reported throughout the United States and Latin America for public radio and magazines for more than 15 years.

“Podcasts are a key and increasingly growing segment of the storytelling and narrative landscape today,” Guidi said. “There are lots of jobs available to journalists who can work well in audio, and podcasting also allows freelance journalists to market their skills and stories more widely.

Ferguson’s eviction project will be a required portion of his Reporting Public Affairs (RPA) class. Funding will cover parking, document fees and a student to enter court data into a Google form. Themes in the data-driven series could include the use of “emergencies” by some landlords to get tenants out, sidestepping an established process that gives notice to tenants that they are being evicted.

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Through reporting and mapping, students can help readers understand “where people are being evicted at higher rates in Tucson/Pima County,” said Ferguson, adding that students “can use court filings to show how families are being thrown out of their homes and a lack of resources for those who suddenly find themselves homeless.”

“A recent report lists Tucson as being in the top 25 for evictions in the country,” Ferguson said.

An outside committee selected the winners. The panel included Mark Woodhams, a member of the school’s Journalism Advisory Council, Gail Godbey from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and J-school supporters Jane Swicegood and Toppy Burke.

“We’re indebted to Al Litzow for his continued support of innovative and engaging teaching,” said Carol Schwalbe, director of the School of Journalism.