Journalism classes investigate gun proliferation in Massachusetts


The Data Visualization class plans to work alongside MuckRock using Freedom of Information Act requests to research gun proliferation in Massachusetts. Erin Nolan / Beacon Staff

By Mark Emmons

Two journalism classes plan on using the $35,000 grant awarded to the journalism department by the Online News Association to investigate the proliferation of guns in Massachusetts, according to a Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism editor.

Participatory Methods and Data Visualization plan to use the grant money to produce journalistic projects over the course of this semester in conjunction with BINJ and MuckRock. BINJ News Editor Chris Faraone described the topic of the project as a different kind of coverage on firearms.

“Generally speaking, [the project covers] a lot of issues around guns that aren’t usually considered,” Faraone said. “We’re not looking at so-called street violence, we’re looking at the proliferation of guns in our state by any means.”

The Data Visualization class plans to work alongside MuckRock using Freedom of Information Act requests to research gun proliferation in Massachusetts. At the same time, the Participatory Methods class intends to collect community feedback on the writing conducted.  

The journalism department is splitting the grant money with MuckRock and BINJ for their assistance with the project. Journalism Professor Paul Mihailidis said part of the grant goes to MuckRock because students will use their systems and facilities to search for FOIA requests.

Another part of the grant goes to BINJ because of their work writing and publishing stories with students. Emerson intends to spend their portion of the grant on any outsourcing that happens over the course of the project and preparing students for reporting.

“The grant money is going to the workshops, the resources needed to do those, for people to help design and develop the final documents, some of the journalism being done, and the supplies we need to do that,” Mihailidis said.

Mihailidis completed and turned in the grant application on behalf of the college’s journalism department. ONA awards the grant, the Challenge Fund for Journalism Education Innovation, to schools based on their project’s attention to diversity, technology, community engagement and participation, and building trust, according to ONA’s website.

Faraone said the decision to join this project resulted from BINJ’s history of working with both MuckRock and college students. Students in the Data Visualization class like junior Alisha Parikh look forward to the project.

“I think it’s a cool project, it seems really well organized. I’m just really excited to work with these people,” Parikh said. “To be able to apply the things we’re learning in class to real-life stories, I think it’s just really great experience that’s just going to serve me well.”

News Editor Riane Roldan and Assistant Express Editor Andrew Stanton did not edit this article due to a conflict of interest.