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Student Success

Technician Recognized For Coverage of Disability Issues

Technician opinion correspondent Jordan Birkner was recognized for her coverage of disability issues at NC State.
Technician opinion correspondent Jordan Birkner was recognized for her coverage of disability issues at NC State.

As mental health issues and construction dominated campus life in 2023, Technician, NC State’s student newspaper, embarked on in-depth coverage of how those issues were affecting students.

Those efforts didn’t go unnoticed. 

The Ableist, a website that tracks disability and neurodiversity coverage in higher education, ranked Technician’s coverage of disability issues among the best in the country among collegiate media outlets.

The website’s creator and curator, Bowen Cho, reported that Technician published seven qualifying stories, ranking 12th in the country among the top 100 universities as ranked by US News & World Report.

“I appreciated both the quantity and quality of Technician’s disability coverage, which had seven qualifying articles this year, placing it just out of the top 10,” Bowen said in an email interview. “In addition to covering a range of disability topics, I appreciated Technician’s inclusion of mental health issues and neurodiversity under the disability umbrella.”

“I appreciated both the quantity and quality of Technician’s disability coverage.

Technician’s coverage included stories about accessibility, accommodations, mental health and transportation on campus.

The stories were also part of a larger effort by NC Student Media during the 2022-2022 academic year to identify significant community issues and create responsive coverage and programming. Among the eight issues identified, health (including mental and physical) was the second-most covered community issue, garnering 101 stories published between Technician and Nubian Message, and 53 minutes created by WKNC 88.1 FM HD-1/HD-2.

As part of their study, Cho tracked qualifying stories by student journalists that touched on issues under the umbrella of disability and neurodiversity. They reported the mean number of stories published across all universities surveyed was 3.2, with the median as two stories.

Technician ranked in the top 20 collegiate news outlets along with The Daily Princetonian at Princeton University (22 stories), The Daily Bruin at UCLA (14 stories), and The Daily Tar Heel at UNC-Chapel Hill (10 stories).

Cho mentioned essays by opinion correspondent Jordan Birkner as “taking strong positions on topics that other writers, including disabled writers, don’t often engage with.” 

“I particularly enjoyed reading her essay about embracing the empowerment that comes from self-identification and self-advocacy — with or without diagnosis — which demonstrated a fundamental understanding of the neurodiversity paradigm, which is often misused or misconstrued,” Cho said.

Cho said that despite the increased visibility of disability on many campuses in recent years, 19 of 98 universities and 41 of 89 liberal arts colleges published zero disability-centered articles this year. 

“There are still too many disabled and neurodivergent students who are unrepresented on their campuses,” Cho said. “And while there are many organizations that are creating community for disabled students in higher education, I wanted to create The Ableist specifically as a resource for students to find and read about what disabled students at other campuses across the US are doing to improve accessibility and inclusion.”

Cho’s project was made possible by the funding and support from the Emerge Fellowship, a program of Paul K. Longmore Institute at San Francisco State University