Keeping disability news coverage alive

Karen Meyer image courtesy of ABC 7 NewsA Disability Culture class from Chicago’s DePaul University used to take a field trip to my apartment once a semester to get a glimpse, so to speak, of what it’s like to be blind and live in a big city. The class was taught by Karen Meyer, who is deaf. She can read lips, and I learned to use a lot of gestures and always face her when we talked.

In addition to teaching at DePaul, Karen was a reporter for Chicago’s ABC 7 (WLS-TV) News until she retired. DePaul classes stopped coming over every semester when Karen retired from there, too, and moved to sunny California. Knowing how unusual it is for a TV news show (whether local or nationwide) to ask a reporter to focus on disability issues, I pretty much assumed ABC-7 would discontinue its disability beat altogether.

I’m happy to say I was wrong. ABC 7 in Chicago has kept their disability beat, giving it to special projects producer Sylvia L. Jones and Hosea Sanders, a prime-time anchor at the station.

In a story in the Columbia Journalism Review this month, Jennifer Graves, the president and news director for ABC 7 said that they had a long history of serving the disability community through Karen’s reporting, and they want it to continue. “Karen Meyer blazed the trail for that kind of reporting,” she said. “When she retired, we felt it was important to continue to tell those stories.”

Neither Jones or Sanders has a disability, and Jones acknowledged she reports from a “position of ignorance.” She says she won’t pretend to be an expert, but she understands full well there is a community out here that needs to be heard. From the Columbia Journalism Review:

Being on the beat has changed how Jones sees the world, she said, making her more attuned to the subtle ways people with disabilities face discrimination. “I definitely look at the world through a different lens,” she said.

Kudos to ABC 7 in Chicago for staying with the beat. As they say in the broadcasting biz…stay tuned.

Does your local news cover disability issues? Do they do it well? Let us know in the comments section below.


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