Filling the Silence: News, Numbers and Poetry

Fall 2016 and Winter 2017 quarters

Taught by

poetry and literary arts, community studies/Middle East studies, journalism
sociology and social statistics
  • UG

Most people would agree that media censorship undermines democracy. But can the news be censored through silence and under-reporting of important events? In this writing-intensive program of poetry and journalism, we will explore how current issues and events make or do not make the news. Stories in our communities of vital public interest that historically were regularly covered by journalists go largely unreported or under-reported in mass media, only to become the focus of poetry by both the youth-driven spoken word movement and literary poets as well. This vacuum of too little local reporting with a potentially broad audience coupled with poets' burgeoning focus on social justice issues but with much smaller audiences draws into question to what degree our democracy can effectively function and inform the public and decision-makers on issues such as the environment, public health, and systemic racial inequity.

Specifically, we will explore and engage with two genres of writing - community-based journalism and poetry - to cover critical issues of the day. We will write journalistic articles and craft spoken word and literary poetry to explore themes critical to marginalized and majority communities. Quantitative reasoning is an integrative part of both journalism and poetry and are to be woven into written assignments. Additionally, this program will explore the statistical process of obtaining, describing, interpreting and using of the quantitative data in news making, and engage with the surprising yet fascinating mathematical aspect of poetry. 

Our poetic study and practice will be partially based on the visionary work of the national spoken word/slam poetry movement. Beginning in its current form in the late 1980s, spoken word is a vital and energetic movement in poetry, revitalizing poetry as a performing art. Connecting poetry to its roots in oral tradition, spoken word and poetry slams are often highly politicized, drawing upon racial, class, gender and other injustices as well as current events for subject matter. Our journalistic work will draw inspiration from Project Censored. Founded in 1976 at Sonoma State University, Project Censored is a media research program with a focus on student development of media literacy and critical thinking skills as applied to news media censorship in the U.S. The program continues to educate students and the public about the crucial role of a free press for democratic self-government.

Fall quarter, we will study and practice the fundamentals of writing effective local journalism and poetry. Winter quarter, students will choose a specific issue or theme and develop two pieces of writing - a local journalistic piece to be submitted for publication and a spoken word or literary poem to be performed at a local poetry venue. 

Students who participate both quarters in good standing will have an opportunity to do internships winter quarter.

Program Details

Fields of Study

communication community studies literature writing

Preparatory For

Journalism, communications, government, education, nonprofits.


Fall Open Winter Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

Class meets every Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., plus field trips to local poetry venues one Wednesday evening and one Thursday evening per month. First Winter meeting is Sat, January 14, 10am in Sem 2 A1107.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$15 per quarter for entrance fees for program-related events in the community.