Web Site Encourages Debate on Social Worker Portrayals

NASW has developed a new Web site that will allow social workers and the public to critique and improve the way social workers are portrayed in the news media and the entertainment industries.

The site, Social Workers Speak, offers visitors a chance to blog and exchange commentary with members of the media as topics in popular culture unfold.

"We want to give social workers and non-social workers an opportunity to express what they feel about how the social work profession or social work issues are being depicted in a news article or program, a television show or a movie," said Brandon Maddox, NASW Web manager.

"The topics will be timely and can relate to what someone may have just seen, heard or read," Maddox said. "We want social workers, the public and media professionals to weigh in on these issues and promote a dialogue."

To help fuel discussion, the Web site includes a feature story as well as surveys, forums and content feeds. The association hopes it will evolve to become a referral source to assist in matching up news reporters and entertainment writers with social workers who can answer questions about accurate portrayals of the profession.

The new site contains the latest in content-sharing features, including links to popular social networking Web sites such as Facebook, as well as an interactive map of the United States so site visitors can comment on topics close to home.

The site is sponsored by the NASW Communications Network, which works to help the news and entertainment media better reflect the roles of social workers on news reports as well as through movies and television.

"Our Social Workers Speak site serves as the latest step by NASW to improve the public's understanding of the profession through the media," said NASW Communications Director Gail Woods Waller.

She noted the Web site is debuting at a perfect time as the fall television season features a significant number of dramas about people who help others in emergency situations through different community settings.

"There are several shows this fall that have social work issues in their storylines," she said.

Another anticipated example of social work in entertainment is the premiere of the critically acclaimed movie "Precious," based on the novel "Push" by author Sapphire.

The movie tells the story of Claireece "Precious" Jones, an illiterate 16-year-old girl from Harlem who is emotionally and physically abused. Set for national release this month, the film features pop singer Mariah Carey starring as a social worker.

Members who see the film are encouraged to add their opinions about the movie to the Social Workers Speak site.