Michelle Schmitt

MY STORIES:p1000922

 
MY BLOG:

My journalism class at the University of Utah has required that I write about matters pertaining to “…And Justice for All,” which is an organization that helps low-income and disabled Utahns overcome legal issues. Prior to my assignments, I knew there were a number of people who do not have access to our legal system, but the breadth of the dilemma spread much wider than I had anticipated.

I always thought of filing for bankruptcy as something that happened to someone else, and to businesses much more than individuals. But as I learned while conducting research for my first story, this is not the case. Everywhere I go people are talking about the economy and how hard it is to find a job these days. It only makes sense that individuals are filing as well, out of desperation. The worth of finding such information via the media lies in providing the public with options. As for myself, I was surprised that there are so many people/organizations available to help everyday people with their financial woes.

In class we had the executive director of Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, Stewart Ralphs, come and talk about their role as an organization that specializes in family safety. Throughout the course of his lecture one thing jumped out to me: domestic violence victims often must devise an escape route in the case that their abuser comes after them. This was a concept that was completely foreign to me, so I chose to pursue it further. My investigation led me to Ned Searle with the Utah office of domestic violence. He was incredibly helpful, offering me specifics and anecdotes pertaining to my topic. Searle was sympathetic and led me to think about how common this type of planning must be in our society; a scary reality, I think. That someone would have to go to such lengths to be protected from another, of whom they perhaps once thought of as a “loved one,” just seems so sad.

As my reporting continued I found myself at the Disability Law Center (DLC). I was astounded at the levels of assistance that is provided for the array of disabled individuals who live within any community. DLC stands up for the disabled as this group tries to hold down jobs, get around on public transportation and access the rights they are entitled to as American citizens. Janis Tetro, with DLC, told me working with the disabled has altered her perception. She said now she always notices when a building is not equipped with handicapped access.

The semester seems to have flown by, and I would be lying if I didn’t say I am excited for a break this summer, but during my short time as a reporter I have rekindled my desire to be voice for those without one. Talking to various people who are associated with “… And Justice for All” has reminded me about the goodness that can be found within a society. Lawyers are working pro bono and advocates are standing up for those who need a hand.

ABOUT ME:

I am a southern California native who moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, after high school to explore the Wasatch Mountains and snowboarding. I quickly grew to love Utah and now think of it as home. I study Political Science and Editorial Journalism at the University of Utah. My college experience has led me to complete three internships. One on the Matheson for Congress campaign; another as a reporter for KUER news, where I covered Utah’s legislative session; and the third took me to Washington D.C., where I worked in the communications department at the Democratic National Committee.

The internships were wonderful experiences. I was able to narrow down specific areas of interest and gain experience in a variety of political and journalistic arenas. I have always believed in journalists’ role as government watchdogs and hope to leave my college experience prepared to write about politics and social issues, and to provide a voice for the silenced and disenfranchised.