Journalism is alive in West Virginia, but it requires deep listening and a dedication to meet people where they are.

This is a story about what happens when people are asked to choose between their safety and their right to vote.

On June 6th, 2020, I packed up my orange Honda Element and drove 500 miles from my family home in New Jersey, in the middle of the worst pandemic in a century, to move to Charleston, West Virginia, a place I’d never been in my life.

Freshly emerged from a Brooklyn quarantine and ready to hit the road! (Photo credit to Dad)

Scratch that…rewind back to January 2020 when I’d pitched an internship to Ken Ward Jr., the legendary coal reporter and MacArthur Genius, at the Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia. I’d wanted to learn…


How I used an AI-chatbot to help voters in West Virginia during the pandemic election.

When I started this final semester of the Social Journalism program, I knew that my community practicum had to combine a bunch of different components that I wasn’t sure how to tie together. It was late August 2020, and I had just completed my fellowship with Mountain State Spotlight. In my last week on the job, we had brought together 21 West Virginians on Zoom to talk about the future of local news in the state. …


Lessons from my trip to attend the People-Powered Publishing Conference at Columbia College Chicago.

With help from the News Integrity Initiative and the Newmark School’s Foundation, I, along with other classmates, was able to attend the People-Powered Publishing Conference 2019 last week in Chicago. The annual conference is a place for innovators, revolutionaries, and misfits to gather and discuss the waves of change rippling throughout the field of journalism. Naturally, we were right at home.

“This conference aims to provide a space for journalists, civic-engagement practitioners and community storytellers to work together on a shared goal: strengthening the connections between news organizations and the people they cover, in order to create a more collaborative…


What can journalists learn from engaging with theory and the social sciences?

Once upon a time, I had a really bad feeling I would end up being a teacher. I wouldn’t quite call myself a “teacher’s pet” when I was a kid, because I got on the teacher’s nerves a lot, but I had this sort of respect and interest in the work that they did, and I now believe that’s why I was always seeking their attention. I always viewed teachers as this amazing source of knowledge itself, and if my life was to have any worth, I needed their approval in some shape or form. …


Understanding the journalist to understand the journalism.

Motivational street art that I walked by on Graham Avenue in East Williamsburg (Jake Wasserman / NYCity News Service)

Just as I take the time to blog about the process of becoming a journalist and all of my ideas, experiences, and criticisms, I feel like I need to take the time to write out some thoughts on the process of becoming myself.

It’s been a particularly challenging last couple of weeks, with life accelerating into hyperdrive and finding myself particularly out of touch with tending to my own basic needs like food and sleep. I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time at school and out on the street than I have in my own apartment. This blog post is…


If the media wants to responsibly engage the public on the 2020 election, we need to first take a look in the mirror.

CNN’s Gloria Borger with former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC), former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), and former Gov. Bill Weld (R-MA). All three men are challenging Donald Trump in the 2020 Republican primary. (Jake Wasserman / NYCity News Service)

According to a 2016 study from the Pew Research Center, 57% of Americans get their news from watching television, be it local (46%), 24/7 cable (31%), or nightly network broadcasts (30%). (Somebody once told me never to start off writing anything with a statistic, but ‘learn the rules to break the rules’ blah blah blah…hear me out.)

The above statistic skews largely toward older demographics, with young Americans aged 18–29 having a significant preference for online news consumption over TV. In the budding enterprise of social journalism and its philosophical underpinning in community engagement, I find it difficult to conceptualize…


Journalism can be about building and sharing collective power, but we have to be brave enough to do it.

Remember when during the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama was described as a “community organizer”? The term was spoken with pejorative tones on the right, and reverence on the left for its connotation of grassroots glory. Obama said that being a community organizer was “the best education I ever had, better than anything I got at Harvard Law School.” The work that he did in Chicago’s South Side became central to the Obama ethos, and became instrumental to his campaign’s ability to build a diverse coalition from the ground up.

I bring up the former president because I was reminded…


How community engagement is helping me get over my anxiety and self-doubt.

Lately, I’ve been having a hard time wrestling with what I’m doing here. Not in the concrete “what are my tasks?” kind of way, but more abstractly and ethically. I think it’s cathartic to admit that I’m conflicted about being a journalist, especially when I’m trying to help invent this new paradigm in journalism that seeks to dismantle oppressive structures.

I’ve been really trying to ask myself “why?” in regards to why I’m doing this work. …


Part I:

I want to start out with a confession: I’m biased. I come to journalism with a life of preconceived notions about the way that the world is and how it should be. It affects my judgment, my attention, and the way I treat other people. But shouldn’t it be plainly obvious that people are biased? Why are journalists, and the entire field of journalism, held to this unachievable standard of objectivity in order for their work to have value?

Jay Rosen first wrote about “the view from nowhere” in 2003, pointing out the absurdity in pretending that news…


I don’t know exactly what blogging is. I did it once before, but figured it was just throwing your thoughts out on the page all unedited, and hoping someone would read it. I know how to type, and I think I know how to think. If blogging is just typing and thinking, and typing what I’m thinking, then perhaps this endeavor to maintain a Medium page might just work out.

My name is Jacob Henry Wasserman, but you can call me Jake because I’ve never particularly liked my full given name. I was born in that generationally gray area between…

Jake Wasserman

Engagement Journalist | Harm Reductionist | Investigator

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