As an Oregon State University majoring in Digital Communication of Art, Donald Orr has a lot of knowledge to gain, and after his experience this past week, to share with the world. Along with five other students across the country, Orr was chosen to participate in the Next Generation project, an NPR workshop held by Capital Public Radio in Sacremento that seeks to pair talented student journalists with professional mentors. Within days of submitting, Orr’s application was accepted, and he immediately took on the challenge of obtaining a source, conducting an interview, and writing a story; all in less than a week.
In our interview, Orr explained to me that the program uses one-on-one mentorship to help guide students through the process of telling a story that hasn’t been told before. In his own words, Orr’s main goal in pursuing broadcast journalism is to continue “amplifying and elevating diverse voices.” For this particular project, program facilitators chose to focus on the neighborhood of Meadowview, where Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, was shot eight times in his grandmother’s backyard in March. The project strove to stray away from coverage on crime and violence in the neighborhood and instead emphasize positive, solutions-based stories highlighting particular members of the Meadowview community.
Orr found arts activist Shonna McDaniels, who founded and currently serves as the executive of Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum in Meadowview. Through voice recordings, photos, and direct quotes, Orr created a space for McDaniels to tell her own story about her community through her own unique perspective. McDaniels leads public mural-painting sessions that unite her community on the basis of art, history, and identity. By focusing on McDaniels’ work, Orr was able to explore his passion for the arts, which is clear in his work as a member of the Corvallis DIY music community as well as the Orange Media Network community.
In terms of the program itself, Orr emphasized the diversity of background, social identity, and academic experience in the newsroom. Orr himself is first-generation Filipino, and he is one of only two Oregonians to be chosen for the Next Generation Radio program. Orr places importance on varying subjectivities and identities in the newsroom: “having a more diverse and inclusive newsroom is going to have a better-informed approach to your storytelling…if you have more traditionally marginalized people in the newsroom, you’re going to have a bigger…goal to cover more diverse stories.”
Keep an eye out for Donald Orr’s future work, and watch how one of Corvallis’ own young journalists tells compelling stories about topics he finds both powerful and socially important.
By Maria DeHart