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Howard University's Multicultural Media Academy to Address Post-Pandemic Health Disparities in DC

Students from Howard University Multicultural Academy pictured

WASHINGTON – The Department of Media Journalism and Film in the Cathy Hughes School of Communications will host its Multicultural Media Academy from June 17 to 28. This year, student journalists will learn how to report and write news stories about health disparities in the District of Columbia.

Open to high school students and recent high school graduates, the Multicultural Media Academy at Howard University was founded in 1975. The program adopted a virtual format during the recent pandemic but returns this year to an in-person programming.

Dominic McKenzie, an assistant professor of journalism and director of the academy, said students from multicultural backgrounds are well-positioned to report on health disparities. News stories produced during the two-week program will be published by the Howard University News Service and distributed to Black press outlets across the country. McKenzie said stories also appear on the Voices of Tomorrow website, named for the program’s previous newspaper. 

Students in the Howard University Multicultural Academy learn to operate cameras at WHUT.
A student in the program receives camera instruction at WHUT in 2019, the last time academy was held in person.

“Reporters of diverse backgrounds know best how to provide culturally sensitive reporting on sensitive matters that concern their communities. They understand what is needed, because of shared experiences, to deeply connect in these spaces to unearth hidden or protected narratives for the greater good,” McKenzie said. “This is critical in creating awareness and advocating for changes in healthcare policy and practice.”

The Washington Post reported this year that nearly half of Black D.C. residents live in medically underserved areas. Their lack of primary healthcare resources contributes to higher rates of heart disease, hypertension, and other significant chronic ailments compared to the city at large.

McKenzie said students in the program will put the spotlight on the Federally Qualified Health Centers which play a pivotal role in delivering healthcare services – most recently to minority communities during COVID-19. There are only 37 such centers serving over 700,000 residents in the Washington, D.C. area. Students in the program will interview local health leaders on gaps in healthcare and chronicle how the centers respond to the needs faced in their communities.

The Multicultural Academy is one of 10 academies sponsored by the Dow Jones News Fund across the United States. The organization awards $50,000 in grants to nonprofits and schools for summer journalism programs for students in under-resourced communities. The workshops teach the fundamentals of journalism and provide opportunities for participants to report on issues that impact young people’s lives, particularly topics broadly related to health and wellness.  

Ingrid Sturgis, associate professor and chair of the Department of Media, Journalism and Film, said the program has a storied history. The media academy has introduced innumerable high school students to the best in journalism education. At Howard University, the first director of the program was Wallace Terry, a journalist renowned for his coverage on the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement. Journalism professor Dr. Yanick Rice Lamb has led the program in recent years before passing responsibilities to McKenzie.

“The Multicultural Media Academy is great for giving high school students an opportunity to see what it’s like to work as journalists,” Sturgis said. “It’s also a great way to spot talented students and allow them to see what our wonderful program is like. In past years, some of the participants have returned as students in our program or in other departments.”

Top photo: Participants in the 2019 cohort visit WHUT studios with professors Yanick Rice Lamb and Ingrid Sturgis. Photo contributed


About Howard University 

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced two Schwarzman Scholars, four Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American PhD. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu 

Media contact: Sholnn Freeman; sholnn.freeman@howard.edu