Social Workers Speak! Web Site Attracts Users

Social Workers Speak! homepage imageNASW’s Social Workers Speak! Website has made a big splash.

Social Workers Speak! And how!

Since launching in November, approximately 20,000 people have visited Social Workers Speak, the NASW Website — some call it a blog — where social workers and others are encouraged to discuss the way social workers and social issues are portrayed in the media.

That's a lot of intrigue for such a new presence on the Internet, according to Greg Wright, the NASW senior public relations specialist who manages the Web site. What's more, Wright says people from around the globe are checking out the site's content, not just Internet surfers here in the U.S.

"The way social workers and the profession have been portrayed in the media has not always been favorable," says Wright. "Our hope is that social workers will use the Web site to monitor how they are portrayed and interact with the movers and shakers in media to paint a more accurate picture of the profession. We're seeing positive gains."

One measure of success is the number of comments visitors post — 600 so far — about the site's content, which ranges from "Hollywood Connection" (articles about Hollywood's treatment of social issues) to "Research Round-up" (social work research making headlines) and "Media Watch" (social workers themselves making headlines) and more. For example, articles about the film "Precious," in which singer/actress Mariah Carey plays a social worker, have garnered over 100 comments — many from self-identified social workers.

The buzz over "Precious" led Wright to interview Sapphire, author of the novel on which the film is based, about its portrayal of social workers. That interview is on the Web site.

Wright is impressed by the nature of the comments: "Social workers write wonderful, well thought-out comments, and I hope people in the media and the public will notice that too and reach out to them."

It's already happening. After Wright interviewed Betsy Forhan, an executive producer for MTV's "True Life" (a reality show in which each episode confronts a social issue young people face -- such as alcoholism, addictions and sexuality — Forhan invited social workers to submit episode ideas, Wright said.

"Social workers are very well positioned to consult the media because they are at the forefront helping clients everyday with these social issues," he said. "But they're oftentimes overlooked."

NASW also uses the Web site to cast a spotlight on social workers engaged in the media. Here's an excerpt of what Social Workers Speak! had to say about Aracely Neeley, a licensed clinical social worker in Houston who is featured in a new reality TV show:

Aracely Neeley has a new job some actors would kill to get. She will get to use her social work skills on camera in "Keeping up with the Joneses," an upcoming reality television show on Centric that follows entrepreneur Tracey Ferguson. ... She hopes her work with "Keeping up with the Joneses" will make more African Americans willing to try therapy to ease depression, family strife and other social issues.

In a response to the article posted to the Web site, social worker Jessica Sawyer said:

I am glad that Ms. Neeley, LCSW has accepted the role to portray LCSWs doing counseling because a lot of people love to label social workers as only case managers. There is nothing wrong with case management, but in essence portraying various roles of social workers in the media, I believe, is a good way to educate others about the social work profession.

The Web site is sponsored by the NASW Communications Network, which represents social workers, educators, researchers, practitioners and policymakers engaged with the media.

Comments About Social Workers Speak!

"I applaud the NASW for developing this site. I am often puzzled by the limited depiction of social workers in the media. Moreover I am offended that clinical social workers are not automatically included in news media coverage of mental health issues. Hopefully this site will change some the way the media thinks of the profession."
— Tom Tharayil LCSW, BCD

"Terrific looking, solid website look, and what an opportunity for all of us!"
— Kristina MacGaffin, MSW, LICSW, LCSW-C, FIPA

"So often I see things in the media that frustrate me about the way that social workers are portrayed and am very excited to get the opportunity to share and get feedback from fellow social workers."
— Molly Miller

"I love the idea of a community forum where participation is encouraged, and there is a spirit of candor and professionalism."
— Todd Atkins, LCSW