Today, Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Aubrey Whelan came to speak to our class about her experience covering addiction in Philadelphia. Whelan has been reporting on the Opioid Crisis beat for over a year, and had a lot of relevant and helpful information to share about her experience. Throughout her time with us, she talked about covering addiction, not only in Kensington, but in many neighborhoods of Philadelphia and counties beyond. Beyond debunking myths about substance use and sharing interesting and important facts about the crisis in our city, Whelan gave insight on interacting and interviewing sources. She noted that covering addiction is difficult, but rewarding; journalists have a responsibility to share people’s stories and to do it as best and as accurately as they can. Whelan also stressed that, while telling the individual’s story is important, journalism needs to go deeper than presenting the problem. She shared that an important part of the writing is tying the stories to a bigger picture, and attaching a solution to it.
I’m really glad that Whelan came to speak to her class, because her experience in the field and advice on reporting is extremely relevant to the kind of reporting we all aspire to do. She shared examples of stories that she covered in relation to whatever tip she was giving, which was helpful for understanding the concepts. This was especially helpful when she was giving us advice on how to talk to sources, how to write their stories, and tips on how to go about naming (or not naming) sources. She definitely reassured concerns that I had about talking with and locating sources, which makes me feel more confident moving forward with my own reporting. Whelan also gave so many great examples of unique stories covering addiction, which will definitely be helpful moving forward in brainstorming story topics.