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New Urban Reporting Course Tracks Progress of West Dallas Neighborhood

In-depth journalism course allows students to apply theoretic skills

Armando Aguirre | B.A. Creative Advertising, '12

Meadows journalism students now have the chance to experience the world of urban reporting first-hand. The new “West Dallas Beat” class, taught by veteran journalist Gabriel Escobar, pairs students with West Dallas-based nonprofit organizations; the nonprofits then introduce the students to life in the largely Hispanic and African American neighborhoods across the Trinity River from downtown Dallas.

Throughout the semester, students submit articles about the social progress of each agency in the area. Success in the course, according to the syllabus, depends greatly on the ability to explore the turf.

When asked why West Dallas was chosen as the area of study, Escobar explains that, in addition to SMU already having a footprint of classes and relationships within West Dallas, the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge made the area ripe for timely and relevant stories.

"Distinct in both geography and identity, this section of [Dallas] is often described as being on the cusp of significant change," explains Escobar. "Students will profile neighborhood leaders, explore the challenges posed by development and learn how to use local resources to advance and illuminate reporting."

Escobar holds a joint appointment as an SMU Meadows journalism professor and as an editorial writer for The Dallas Morning News. Previously, he held positions as metropolitan editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, foreign correspondent for The Washington Post and associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. Students in the “West Dallas Beat” class have the benefit of his extensive experience, mentoring and feedback as they learn theory and in-the-field training for urban reporting.

The class is open to junior and senior journalism majors as well as majors in sociology, anthropology and other field-reporting disciplines.

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