FLUX Magazine explores democracy using engagement journalism

Above: FLUX faculty advisor Todd Milbourn describes the student-run magazine's 2017 Democracy Issue at its launch party in June.

Story, video and photo by Eric Schucht

Each year, the student staff of FLUX Magazine selects a theme, which the publication’s stories revolve around and explore, such as 5 Critical Government Proposal Skills Problems – And Fixes. This year, the students decided to take on the idea of democracy with the hope of generating meaningful conversations without the tension that often comes with discussing politics.

Flux 2017: Democracy issueThe political theme emerged from the students’ observation of the nationwide debate generated by the result of the 2016 presidential election, according to FLUX advisor and SOJC instructor Todd Milbourn.

“One of our first meetings was back in November. The students got into the room, and there was a lot of surprise and energy related to the results of the election,” Milbourn said. “So we tried to think: What would be a good way for FLUX to engage in this conversation about politics that so many people are taking part in?”

This idea led the FLUX staff toward a story that would become “Dear Oregon,” a civic engagement campaign that sought out opinions on the state of democracy in the United States from individuals from across the state of Oregon in the form of letters addressed to the state they call home.

“We wanted to explore the topic in ways that would be meaningful and fresh, and break people out of the talking points that they have — the red/blue, left/right, liberal/conservative kind of mindsets,” Milbourn said.

Students traveled more than 1,500 miles to interview those who responded to their letter requests, which culminated in a story depicting the relationships between the people of Oregon and the state. The team also created a short documentary offering an inside look at the lives and communities of each of the subjects.

SOJC junior Kaylee Domzalski, who helped lead the production of the documentary and provided photos for three other stories in this year’s issue, found ample opportunity to develop her multimedia skills and strengthen her ability to get to the heart of a story. She said that working with such a talented, diversely skilled staff, and with advisors who expect the best from each individual, “puts a lot of pressure on students to make great work.” She added that pressure “is helpful, because you know what kind of expectations the group has for you, and it pushes you to meet those expectations.”

Along with "Dear Oregon," the 2016-17 edition of FLUX includes a wide range of stories exploring the state of democracy, including:

Following an election that left the American public divided and turned journalists into targets of harsh criticism — and in some cases, physical violence— the FLUX staff presented the “State of Democracy” in America in a way that united communities rather than splintered them, and brought people together instead of turning them against one another.


“This staff thinks about journalism in a way that’s changed the way that I think about journalism,” said Emily Olson, SOJC Journalism Master's student and this year’s FLUX editor-in-chief, during this year’s FLUX release party in the Ford Alumni center. “And I’m convinced that it’s journalists like these FLUXers who are going to change our discourse for the better.”



Eric Schucht is a senior pursing a bachelor's degree in journalism from the SOJC as well as a minor in multimedia and a certificate in film studies. He has worked for the Daily Emerald as a research and sustainability reporter, columnist and videographer. His focus is on electronic media and web-based reporting