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Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

Media Forum

5. A Matter of Dignity: Star Tribune Article

[Robb Leer] There was a story last spring, a five-part series "A Matter of Dignity" in the Star Tribune.

How many read it or saw it? [Applause] This was the good work of Chris, and it… well, I'm going to have Chris explain about… a little bit about the reaction that this work received, and how to this day stories that you're reporting are now finding itself above the fold as opposed to buried in the paper, when Mac was there, and why editors are now taking all this a little more serious.

No, but seriously, the feedback that you received from this series, if you could communicate a little bit to this group here today.

[Chris Serres – Star Tribune] Early last year we wanted to better understand the lives of people with disabilities in light of this monumental court case known as the Jensen case, which had exposed all kinds of problems within group homes within Minnesota.

So initially we decided we wanted to focus on group homes and the conditions in group homes. And as went out to meet with people and get to know them, and try to immerse ourselves in their lives, we realized we had a much bigger story. And so we decided to write something more in-depth, not just about the facilities but also about people's lives.

What we're really trying to do as reporters, is we're trying to understand how people live. That's our baseline. We're trying to understand how people live.

At least from my perspective, we're only interested in stories that pertain to people's existential situation. Anything that affects it, anything that is a barrier, that's what we're interested in.

And as we set out across Minnesota, we came across all kinds of incidences where people weren't able to achieve their dreams and their ambitions.

They weren't able to actualize themselves.

And that really affected us on a personal level, and so we wanted to tell that story, and we wanted to tell it in a way that put the person first, that tried to get at the level of how people live their daily lives and not tell it from the point of view of our leaders or policy wonks.

We really wanted to get beyond that.

So that's really what came about and that's what led to the series, and it was… as you probably noticed, it was very much focused on segregation and the Olmstead decision, which I assume everyone here is familiar with.

But if you're not, I would encourage you to go and read that decision from 1999, which specifically lays out that, for people with disabilities, living in the most integrated setting possible is not just a voluntary thing, it is a requirement under the law.

So as we went into the series, we took that as our frame of reference, that 1999 decision is the law. So wherever we are straying from that, we are violating the law. So it's really important to keep that in mind.

[Robb Leer] As the reaction of the series and the letters that came into the newspaper has impacted how those stories are today placed in the newspaper…  

How many remember the photo of the first series, the first photo that ran?

How many responded to that photo and didn't like it? Thought it was unfair, thought it was insensitive?

That's what reporting is. The good, the bad. You're trying to strike the balance.

And so what we hope that we can talk about here today is to try to get to that balancing point, and to make… you know, ask the questions to these reporters that are going to have a better understanding of how this dialogue works.

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