Media project promotes awareness

Rebecca Stewart with young clientsSocial Work Month 2015

Social worker Rebecca Stewart, left, returns items stowed for the school day and says goodbye to River Bend Education Center students El’evoun and David, while staff member Ernest Tucker looks on. The story, about social workers making a difference — in this example for students in the Minneapolis Public School District — is one of several available in the online series “Lifelines: Stories from the Human Safety Net.” NASW supported the series. — Photo by Sasha Aslanian.

With National Professional Social Work Month arriving in March, it’s important that social workers promote the value of their work, says media educator and critic Julie Drizin.

“If social workers don’t share their stories — both the successes and challenges — the press will only focus in on the failures,” said Drizin, who recently oversaw a yearlong media project that promotes greater understanding between social workers and the media.

The online series, called Lifelines: Stories from the Human Safety Net, was produced by the University of Maryland Journalism Center on Children and Families, with support from NASW.

The association is encouraging social workers and their supporters to use the stories, available at Lifelines: Stories from the Human Safety Net, as real-life examples of the power of social work during National Professional Social Work Month and throughout the year.

Showcased in news articles, cartoons, and video and audio formats, the series shows a human side to the many ways social workers help clients overcome challenges at different stages of life, Drizin said.

“We went to tell some very real stories and the fact that they are positive is a testament to the field,” said Drizin, who left her role as director of the JCCF in December and is now the executive director of Current, a nonprofit news service that examines changes in public media and nonprofit news.

Drizin noted that one of the lessons she learned from working on the project is that social workers and journalists share common bonds.

“I found so many aspects overlapping of the two professions,” she said. “They share similar passions, particularly empathy.”

To nurture that connection, the series website includes the “Reporter’s Notebooks” section, which highlights the personal insight the reporters experienced from working on the series.

Drizin said the reporters learned about the profound challenges social workers face when trying to help people turn their lives around after being traumatized, imprisoned or addicted.

“It was very eye-opening for them,” she said.

In addition, the website offers “Reporter Resources” in an effort to help other reporters generate their own hometown stories based on the topics that were examined in the articles.

“I hope, as a result of Lifelines, that social workers will begin to see journalists as not the enemy but as another aspect of, potentially, another sector of society that can make the world a better place,” Drizin said.

Robert Long, right, Earl Driscoll, left, shaking handsFormerly homeless, veteran Robert Long, right, found a home at the Jon Bon Jovi apartments in Philadelphia —thanks to the efforts of social workers, including Earl Driscoll, at left. The story about social workers making a difference in people’s lives is one of several available in the online “Lifelines” series. — Photo by Emma Lee.

Greg Wright, public relations manager at NASW, developed ways social workers can use the Lifeline series for this year’s National Professional Social Work Month, where the theme is “Social Work Paves the Way for Change.”

His suggestions include:

  • Include a link to the series in promotional packets when visiting local lawmakers and officials to give them a sample of the positive contributions social workers make in society.
  • Send a link to the series to local university schools of social work and journalism and encourage instructors to use it as a resource.
  • If the Lifelines articles reflect issues occurring in your area, invite local reporters to brown bag lunch meetings or hold meetings with editors. Use the Lifelines stories as a springboard to persuade reporters and editors to do a localized article on the issue.
  • Put a link to Lifelines on your chapter or professional website to give visitors more insight into the social teens and staff members from the Latina Girls Project view Statue of Libertywork profession. And feel free to share the website through your social media connections.

A group of teens and staff members from the Latina Girls Project take a field trip to New York City. The story about how the project is helping Latina girls in the Long Island area build their self-esteem and tackle issues such as depression is one of several available in the “Lifeline” series. — Photo courtesy of the North Shore Child and Family Guidance Center.

» Learn more about Social Work Month 2015, which will coincide with NASW’s 60th anniversary.