Stony Brook is no exception to mental illness

By Janelle Clausen and Stephen Infantolino

Stony Brook University has been described as affordable, communal, diverse and exceptional, just to name a few. It is considered in the top one percent of universities around the world, ranked number 88 by US News and World Report and roughly 90 percent of its graduates get jobs after graduation.

However, Stony Brook has a less prestigious title, and that is the 11th unhappiest school in the nation among 379 top schools, according to the 2015 edition of the Princeton Review.

And it is certainly not immune to mental illness that plagues other college campuses.

A 2012 survey by the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors showed that 95 percent of college counseling center directors said the “amount of students with significant psychological problems is a growing problem.” SBU was a part of this survey.

But just how many students suffer? Last year, the Statesman reported that 1700 students came to CAPS for help last year, double what it was in 2004. It is open to students from 8:30am to 5pm on most weekdays. It’s unclear, however, how many students CAPS has served this year due to confidentiality.

Meanwhile, 52 percent of people in a 2007 ACHA survey at Stony Brook University “reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function at least once in the past school year.” More than 25 percent of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental health condition, according to the American College Health Association.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) declined to comment for this story, but some students had plenty to say.

“A lot of people don’t talk about it, and I know there is a lot of depression on campus, and I know it’s really hard to find something that relaxes you because you’re so caught up in your studies and you’re so caught up in what you’re doing,” said Emily Markowitz, 22, a marine science major. “It’s really hard for people to get out of that and remove themselves.”

“They have this really negative ball around them and that travels and that’s contagious,” Markowitz added.

Alex Bouraad, an 18-year old bio-pre med major and fellow trained in recognizing depression symptoms, said that Stony Brook has some- but not enough- resources for people with depression.

“I feel like Stony Brook lacks a lot of the support people with depression need,” Bouraad said. “There are options like going to CAPS, or going to CPO or seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist, but it’s not as readily available as it should be.”

Stony Brook acknowledges that mental health and suicide are a growing issue. Events like “Part of the Pack,” a suicide awareness and prevention program ran by the residence halls, had representatives from CAPS present. Programs like “Let’s Talk”, an extension of CAPS, also try to close the distance, allowing some students in Tabler Quad and West Apartments to talk to someone without journeying far in the evening when CAPS is closed.

And yet, it can still feel like nobody is there to help.

“Sometimes I guess it can be very lonely and quiet,” said Elizabeth Lyton, 21, a senior majoring in health science. “So most people do feel like there are no other students to reach out to.”

“It has more to due with the stress levels,” she added.

But there are options on campus, according to Cathrine Duffy, associate dean of student support on campus. Student Support, she said, works as a “network of other departments” and does a lot of “behind the scenes” work like validating documentation and reaching out to professors in the event of a hospitalization or a death in the family.

“We do this in a way so that students don’t have to repeat their story six different times because that can be traumatizing for them,” Duffy said.

Duffy also pointed out that there are other resources like CAPS, Financial Aid, Disability Support Services and the Academic Success and Tutoring Center that they could refer students to. She noted that when students feel secure academically, they feel happier.

There are also times where students just need to blow off steam, be it at Earthstock, Roth Regatta, Strawberry Fest, community events or clubs on campus.

“College is hard. We recognize that, so we do a lot,” Duffy said. “A lot of student activities, weekend life programming, a lot of the residential hall programming, campus recreation center- the reason these places program so actively is to give students a healthy outlet.”

Undergraduate Student Government’s latest budget shows that clubs receive over one million dollars in funding and the student activities board alone gets over $600,000.

“At this point there’s more than 400 clubs and organizations, so get involved, find something,” Duffy said. “If there’s not a club for you, work with student activities to create something.”

Jacqueline Lennon, 22, is one of many students who recognize that Stony Brook has groups and resources available. But at the end of the day, she said, the university can’t please everybody.

“So I know there is groups and stuff like that,” she said. “But you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. There is only so much you can do.”

Data Journalism Changing the News

What is data journalism?

According to analytics for fun, data journalism is journalism done with data. Pretty simple right?

To help explain this more, Simon Rogers, the date editor at Twitter, broke dow the key aspects with data journalism. To define it, he suggests that data journalism is about three things: telling stories with numbers, finding the best way to tell the story, and the techniques with which you tell the story.

Examples are the best way to have data journalism explained, and one of the best examples out there is the full text visualization of the Iraq war logs.

AP, the media site that started the visual, said they wanted to go a step further, by designing a visualization based on the the richest part of each report: the free text summary. The problem was that AP then had to somehow visualize thousands of written documents of data points.

PC: Screen shot
PC: Screen shot  

Above is a picture of the 11,616 SIGACT (“significant action”) reports from December 2006. Each dot is report is a dot.

Screenshot 2015-04-21 23.41.08 Screenshot 2015-04-21 23.42.05

AP quoted making putting the data together in order to help their audience understand the information better than if it was just numbers on a page.

“Visualization is metaphor. Certain details are thrown away, other are emphasized. The algorithms used to produce the visualization have their own sensitivities and blind spots. Without understanding these, a viewer will make false inferences.”

Because data journalism is so hard to define and so broad in the definition it already has, data journalism doesn’t have to stop at charts like these. Data journalism could be a moving charts, re-adjusting pictures, anything that helps get the point of numbers across in a way that isn’t just with numbers.

The Upshot: an interactive form of data-driven journalism

On April 20 the New York Times published an article titled 1.5 Million Missing Black Men.

The article was to point out the fact that the most recent census showed a huge gap in the amount of black men in the country.

For some, analysis pieces can be kind of boring and dull. The way that this particular article displays the information is appealing to an audience because of all of the graphs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.51.22 PMUsually stories that are data-driven are important stories to tell and report on. Unfortunately, not everyone will take the time to read these stories. The good thing about adding an interactive element, or a simple graphic, to a piece like this is that a person can log on, skim through a story, but still see there impact by viewing the graphs.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.54.20 PMThis graph above clearly displays the areas where the highest percent of black adults are missing. A quick look at this graph would give viewers the basic idea of which areas are experiencing this issue.

I think it is important for journalists to be familiar with how to incorporate these techniques into their stories because it guides the reader through more complicated stories where they can get lost with words. It is also a much cleaner and reader-friendly way to display data.



Data driven journalism helps understand war better

Data is typically used for statistics, finances, numerical trends and other news-worthy stories requiring numbers, but it can also be used to demonstrate information regarding war.

Currently, the most vulnerable Arab nation, Yemen, is under strife with clashes between the Yemeni government, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Houthi rebel group, security forces still loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and more recently, ISIS. Foreign help, such as Saudi Airstrikes against Houthi rebels and other forces, were brought about to help regain stability. The nation is down-trodden that the UN human rights commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said the nation “is on the verge of total collapse.”

The New York Times published a data-story titled “Mapping Chaos in Yemen,” detailing where clashes occurred, which factions have control and where. For the most part, the only factions detailed are Al-Qaeda and the Houthis.

Dots on one map show where Saudi-led airstrikes have occurred. Shaded areas on the same map show Houthi territory and where they expanded after the strikes. What is not mentioned is if the strikes empowered the Houthis to expand or if what looks like an expansion is just them moving to different locations. It also mentioned how many people were killed or injured in certain places.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 1.27.06 PM
Map from The New York Times

The second map shows the progress of Houthi movement from where they had the most influence at one point to today.

Map from The New York Times.
Map from The New York Times.

The last map shows where Al-Qaeda is operating, where the US and other nations led military action and where. Two things regarding this map: The first thing is that military is denoted in clusters of squares. The clusters vary in size, but there is no information as to why the sizes vary. My guess is the size differences show the scale-size of a strike. The other thing, which I would have done, is it doesn’t show a comparison of Houthi-controlled territory juxtaposed with that of Al-Qaeda’s. No map shows this side-by-side comparison, which is what I would have liked to see.

Map from The New York Times.
Map from The New York Times.

Overall, the story does satisfactorily tell the Yemeni situation using data and numbers.

Making numbers pop with data journalism

Let’s face it: a story that’s jam-packed with numbers and statistics doesn’t always hold a reader’s attention.

But sometimes, the most informative and useful stories are those that are drawn from specific data. Data journalism, according to VOX, a website that tracks the top headlines, tells a story with numbers instead of basing a story off documents and conversations. The numbers have to be significant enough for a story to emerge from them, however.

A data-based story cannot be complete with just simple reporting on the numbers. Explaining in writing won’t do any significant value justice. People need to see to believe. That’s why in order to be a well-rounded data journalism story, the story needs graphs and charts to put numbers into perspective. When considering the facts that most people read stories on the Web and how most people look to get their news the fastest way possible, graphs and other pictures explaining the numbers make the story flow easier. To make graphs even more fun, adding an interactivity feature is always a plus.

Screenshot of a graph used in Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.
Screenshot of a graph used in Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.

A recent story posted on The Upshot, a section in the New York Times that’s dedicated to number stories, reported on the increase in drought that is going on throughout the country. The story includes a large animated map of the U.S. with blobs of yellow, orange and red moving throughout the nation. Those “blobs” represent the drought and it’s intensity based on where it is in the country.

The story didn’t just simple report on the drought, it took an ongoing issue, global warming, and combined that with the increase in number of drought-like condition in the U.S. With the interactive map, readers can see how the drought moves and what areas are being hit most intense over the course of the last few weeks. The map is also updated weekly.

Screenshot of the interactive map on Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.
Screenshot of the interactive map on Mapping the Spread of Drought Across the U.S.

Along with that one map, there are more charts and graphs depicting the numbers visually. According to the story, 37 percent of the country was in moderate drought by April 7.

For someone on the east coast who is not experiences the major effects of this drought, this story helped break down the severity by using five different visual methods to help me better understand what is going on in the rest of the country.

Freelance journalism is the future

Did you know that 1 in 3 American workers are freelancers?

That stat is about the overall workforce, but journalism definitely isn’t exempt. There are 30 percent less full-time journalists today than in 2000, according to Pews’ 2013 State of the Media report.

The Student Center at Hofstra Unviersity, where the SPJ Region I conference took place. Photo credit: Paul Berendsen, Wikimedia Commons.
The Student Center at Hofstra University, where the SPJ Region I conference took place. [Photo credit: Paul Berendsen, Wikimedia Commons.]
The days of health benefits, job security and a healthy pension might be over. But more newsrooms are building elite armies of freelancers, according to a recent panel at the Society Professional Journalists (SPJ) Region I Conference at Hofstra University.

The grind can be hard. Any given week a freelancer could be juggling 5 or 6 stories for multiple publications, all of whom expect you get it done. This excludes marketing yourself and researching pitches.

As veteran freelance journalist and author John Hanc says, “There’s always a deadline.” It’s a “hard-work business,” but it is possible to be well off.

To get the first job, in the words of Sandra Mardenfeld, sometimes you have to do “a little bit of targeted stalking” to get the job (or an interview for your story). Know your target. Do your research. Reach out on LinkedIn, Twitter, even Facebook if you have to. Know what they’re looking for and pitch ideas.

Liza Burby, Sandra Mardenfeld, Jason Molinet and John Hanc at the Effective Freelancing panel. Photo Credit: Susan Keith on Twitter.

Liza Burby of Anton Media Group remembers when she worked for $10 per week and produced 100 clips (100!). The experience matters and local journalism is the best place to do “renaissance reporting,” where you can report on multiple topics and build all sorts of skills. Not only do you get bylines and exposure, but you build a reputation and sources.

So beware the first impression. It’s a double edged sword. Make no mistakes, hand in good copy and be a friendly face when you visit for a good reputation to follow you. Just be sure to keep it up. But if you mess up, even locally, you can bet said editor won’t hire you again and a bad reputation might stalk you.

You don’t want something like that stalking you, right? No work means no pay.

A nearly empty Starbucks cup in a Stony Brook University lounge. [Photo Credit: Janelle Clausen]
A nearly empty Starbucks cup in a Stony Brook University lounge. [Photo Credit: Janelle Clausen]
That being said though, Hanc noted that one of the worst things you can do is “go whining about how you made more as a Starbucks barista” on your first contract. You’re in no position to negotiate. Those bragging rights come later. When you write with the Washington Post, Politico or Smithsonian- which should be done early as possible- then you might get away with it. Name power is important.

But creativity is vital. Papers are always looking for fresh content. Send pitches- the amount varies on your schedule- over with 2 to 3 sources and statistics at the ready. If you need help keeping them in steady supply, build off previous stories you’ve done.

“Ideas are your currency,” Burby says.

Sound like a lot of work? It is.

But every day is an adventure where you control your own destiny. So long as you have consistency, quality, ideas, passion and communication skills, you can find a healthy future in freelance journalism. If a panel like this shows up again, I highly advise you try attending.

Serial Podcast tackles audio Journalism

Audio reporting is not something new. The mediums through which it happens, however have changed .

Since the 1930’s, people have gathered around radios to listen to stories, newscasts and entertainment shows. As much as technology has improved in the last century, there is now popularity in getting news in an old-fashioned way.

Serial is a weekly podcast that explores the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee and if her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed, who is currently serving a life sentence for her murder, is truly guilty of the crime.

Journalist Sarah Koenig hosts the show and through interviews, old audio clips and her own investigation seeks to discover how Lee was killed.

Koenig is thorough with her reporting and seems to tell listeners everything she has learned about the case. She includes interviews conducted by police during their investigation, notes that she received and stories she discovered by speaking to those who were involved.

Although I am only five episodes into the podcast, I would like to hear more from the cops and Hae Min Lee’s family to hear their side of the story as well how they came to the conclusion that Syed was guilty.

Koenig is a great story teller. She keeps listeners interested and has a chronological order to the way she tells the story, which is crucial with such a complicated case. I like how she includes her own personality and thoughts throughout the episodes. It adds a personal touch without taking away from the facts of the story.

Her script also keeps the story in order and prevents rambling, which may defer or confuse listeners.

Good audio is crucial to a podcast, and even the old interviews that Koenig uses are good quality. In phone and in-person interviews I can tell that the reporter gets close to her subject in order to prevent background noise and get their stories as well as she can.

Serial is a great concept that is informing people who may not read the New York Times or watch CNN everyday. It takes an old medium and introduces it to an entirely new generation of people.

Journalism, far and beyond

When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a conductor on the Long Island Rail Road. When I was in middle school, I wanted to be a meteorologist. From then onward, that was my set plan. Back then, I would watch The Weather Channel for weather reports and shows. One show was “Storm Stories,” which featured personal stories from people who experienced violent weather first hand.

That was the plan for college, I had my plans focused. Eventually, I found out all the math involved in high school. Not being a math person, I knew it would not be best for me. Still, I had an interest in it. At the same time, I started watching and reading news. Even before then, my family would watch the local and national Univision newshows in the evening. One of the anchors, Rafael Pineda, was the longest serving anchor- surpassing Chuck Scarborough- and the one I remember the most. It was upsetting when he retired back in December 2013.

My interest in journalism peaked at this point. I don’t know what it was, and I don’t know how to explain it either, but something just sparked. My interest in meteorology was plummeting and my interest in journalism rose. I still did have some interest in meteorology and thought that maybe I could do something with it, but now it was journalism that I wanted to study. I appreciated how I could learn basic knowledge of a range of topics such as politics, science, health, business and among other topics without needing to go to schools designated for these subjects.

I first attended Suffolk Community College and declared a communications/journalism major. I did not really do much journalism there and I did not until I arrived at my last year there. I took a few journalism reporting classes that year, one class that was considered an “internship class,” which was reporting on the happenings around the Ammerman Campus of the college. It saved me rom having to take JRN:288.

I planned to transfer to another school after graduating from Suffolk, but I did not know where. I was considering commuting to the city, but I was informed of Stony Brook University’s school of journalism, and was told how great its journalism program was by some of my professors. I looked into it and thought why not? It beat commuting to the city and paying an exorbitant amount of money on commuting to the city and was not far from my home either.

I got accepted into Stony Brook’s journalism program and was excited. I think I was more excited that I got accepted somewhere. It was going to be a challenge for me, coming from the community college environment, but through orientation, I felt at ease.

Through each semester since then and up to this point, there have been laudable moments and moments of stress. In the end, I found it all worth it. I have met new people from various places and background who have impacted me in positive ways. I feel like I would not have felt this camaraderie if I were in another school, such as the medical school, where the student body is immense. I hope to pursue a career in the broadcast journalism in the future. I also hope to stay in contact with those I have met during my time here so far.

The J-school is like my second home and family. We all go through joys and stresses together, but none of us are ever alone. I can only imagine what the upcoming semesters will provide me.


Journalism: the second chance

My mother holding me back in the day, just before she realized I was destined to write.
My mother, Joann Clausen, holding me back in the day just before she realized I was destined to write. Photo courtesy of Joann Clausen.

We could trace my journalistic future back to the Doggy Times, where my six year old self single-handedly wrote, managed and published a fictional newspaper about their imaginary friends.

But we should also look at my school life, where I could count my real life friends on one hand. A boy “asked me out” while his friends cawed in the background and once, when I accidentally broke a desk, snickering persisted until another teacher lectured the chorus class for an agonizing ten minutes. I rarely vented my grievances like these aloud. Only the librarian and my mentors earned my full trust, fostering a love of knowledge and escaping the present.

Writing, whether it was essays, comics, and short stories, however, always gave me solace.

The Vignette newspaper staff in Fall 2011. Photo courtesy of the Vignette Facebook page.
The Vignette newspaper staff in Fall 2011. Photo courtesy of the Vignette Facebook page.

So when I went to Nassau Community College, it only made sense to timidly step into the Vignette‘s (the student-run college newspaper) office, with a piece about the how hackers replaced all the videos on the Sesame Street YouTube channel with porn in hand. The opinions editor exclaimed how happy he was to have someone write this, and subsequently put it in the next issue. I became a copy editor a semester later, then spearheaded the features section for the rest of my time at NCC.

I found a home.

The group, featuring myself, Bridget Downes, Sunasia (“Sunny”) Turnbow, Diana Lopez and others grew together like a crazy, semi-dysfunctional family. We talked about everything from sexuality and drugs to the poor state of the country. If you missed your birthday like I did, you’d find your desk drowning in colorful sticky notes. Don’t rule going to a themed party as if you were in the 1950s, either.

Sunasia Turnbow, Diana Lopez, Kara Curtin, Bridget Downes, Megan Murphy and I in Washington D.C. as springs began. Yes, we made it to the bus and survived the trip to the Newseum. Photo courtesy: Kara Curtin.

We could laugh through hell together. Imagine a fully loaded truck, with tires ready to burst any time, roaring through New York City to chase down a bus leaving for the Newseum in Washington D.C. We did stuff like that. We even overcame Superstorm Sandy and, in my opinion, pulled through the aftermath together.

Working with the editorial board to throw the paper together was a pleasure. It wasn’t work. I had no problem writing multiple stories in the Features section and contributing across the paper. There was freedom. I could write about anything, like Mitt Romney’s ridiculous plans to cut the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and just how and why Sandy was so devastating, to smaller things like the efforts of local blood drives to supply the nearby medical center. It was strangely satisfying.

Stuff like this led to Richard Conway, our faculty adviser, calling me “a shy tiger of a journalist.”

Accepting the SUNY Chancellors Award, given to less than 300 students in the entire SUNY system, from Chancellor Nancy Zimpfer in Albany. Photo credit: Joann Clausen.
Accepting the SUNY Chancellors Award for Student Excellence (CASE), given to less than 300 students in the entire SUNY system, from Chancellor Nancy Zimpher in Albany. Photo credit: Joann Clausen.

My career at NCC ended with a 4.0 GPA, dozens of articles published and several accolades.  I got recognition from my staff, the campus community and even the state of New York. But more importantly, I found my destiny as a journalist and a community of like-minded people.

Life here at Stony Brook University may be a struggle, but not being in the journalism program would be worse. It’s my very foundation.