What We're About

Starting in late May this past summer, our team of 10 journalists bedded down for six weeks in a bunkhouse at a dude ranch in rural, northeastern Washington state.

Nine members of this student team were from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. The other was a News21 "visiting fellow" from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Newhouse departments in the print-online, broadcast, graphics and photography majors were represented on the Newhouse team.

The group was led by three Newhouse professors: Steve Davis, Ken Harper and Bruce Strong. They directed last year's team, whose project won the top Team Journalism award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. You can explore last year's Newhouse team site, Young and the Wireless here.

The Newhouse team's mission: Get to know the community of war veterans that saturates this countryside. Our question: What are the consequences of war, as experienced by a tight-knit and classic small-town, all-American community? Why did we come here in particular? Because going back for years, this serene and beautiful setting has been a refuge for hundreds of Vietnam vets who’ve lived here “off the grid” and away from it all, trying to forget some memories, make sense of others. And it’s also a source for many of today’s soldiers; high-schoolers with limited opportunities still do see the military as a career choice and a way out. What might these young men and women now heading off to Iraq and Afghanistan tell us years from now, decades from now? Will anything change? Will old themes be replayed? Will we learn?

We know the consequences of war, to some extent. We can list many: PTSD, drug addiction, divorce, chronic unemployment — even criminal activity and suicide. We found much of this here, as we suspected we would. But we also developed an understanding of this complex topic, through the people we met and got to know from investing a month and a half in the work. We thank them for teaching us, giving us an opportunity to learn.

We wish the same for you as you meet “Jerry” and the other Vietnam-era “mountain men” who populate the hills and mountains around Republic, Chesaw and Tonasket. As you meet Ryn and Adam , high-schoolers heading off to war. As you hear the voices of the friends and family of Marine Chad Olson , who took his own life and his wife’s less than a year after returning from Iraq. We also talked with wives , mothers , children , aunts and uncles and others — the families left behind.

The participation of the Newhouse School is part of News21, a national project to promote in-depth and innovative, multiplatform journalism.

Photos
News21 fellows walk through the woods in Republic, Wa | AJ Chavar
Juliette Lynch on the back of a logging truck.
Prof. Bruce Strong and News21 fellows shoot near Republic, Wa | David Miller
News21 fellow Kelly West in the air above Republic, Wa. | Juliette Lynch
AJ Chavar and Sierra Jiminez work in the Syracuse News21 newsroom | David Miller
Prof. Davis, Kelly West, and AJ Chavar on their cross-country road trip to Wa.
Prof. Ken Harper walks through a meadow at the K-Diamond-K ranch | David Miller
The News21 fellows meet with Mike Stewart at the bunkhouse | AJ Chavar
Michelle & Sierra say goodbye to Jared and Cassie's kids | David Miller
Shooting through the last leg of Cassie's pregnancy | AJ Chavar
Justin and Rick Francis on Rick's old property | David Miller
David Miller shoots a meadow in sunlight | Kelly West
Prof. Steve Davis on the cross-country road trip to Washington | Steve Davis
Juliette Lynch, AJ Chavar, and David Miller on the exploratory trip to Wa.
Juliette Lynch climbs a telephone poll on a mountain to get a better view.
Justin shows Jerry photos in the woods near his cabin | Juliette Lynch
"The Goats" dominate Curlew Barrel Derby Day | Kelly West