Skip to main content
Jason Strother smiles at the camera.

News

Globetrotting in Pursuit of Journalism

Play audio version

Meet DJP Mentor Jason Strother

June 2, 2022

Jason Strother, a multimedia journalist, educator, and newly appointed Disability Justice Project (DJP) mentor, has shuttled between Seoul and New Jersey to pursue his zeal for journalism. “I really felt journalism was the best vehicle for me to meet new people, to learn new things, and to explore the world, and it’s worked out that way,” he says.

Strother landed in South Korea in late September 2006, giving himself three months to find freelance work. He met his deadline. Within a week or so of his arrival, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test. Reporting on South Korean reactions to North Korea’s first nuclear test launched his freelance career. “So I went out with my microphone and found some people to interview … on a nearby college campus about their views on North Korea. I interviewed the guy who I was renting a room from, and his mother … who had escaped North Korea 60 years earlier around the time of the Korean War and I filed that report,” he says. “The work kept coming in more and more after that.” 

Strother has freelanced for news platforms around the globe, including The World, NPR, South China Morning Post, and The Wall Street Journal. Now, he is on the advisory board of the National Center on Disability and Journalism at Arizona State University. Much of Strother’s reporting focuses on disability and accessibility today. He perceives journalism as a great career for people with disabilities to contribute to storytelling. He believes people without disabilities cannot be left to report on topics that concern people with disabilities. “I think people with disabilities, journalists with disabilities, bring a much-needed perspective in covering this type of stories,” he says.

The 42-year-old grew up in a middle-class family in New Jersey. “For someone with a visual disability like myself, there were just no opportunities in my hometown area, which is pretty rural,” he says. Lack of opportunities and inaccessible transportation in his hometown led him to study abroad and pursue travel.

After 15 years of immersing himself in freelance journalism abroad, Strother moved back home and founded Lens15 Media, a disability news agency. In the last two months, Strother received two grants for Lens15 Media – one from the UC Berkeley – 11th Hour Food and Farming Journalism Fellowship and another from the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium. His news organization focuses on teaching how to cover disability in accessible ways and is working to establish a network of local and independent news outlets distributing its accessible, multimedia reports. 

Jason Strother, a white, middle-aged man with short brown hair, sits a desk stacked with various newspapers and a MacBook laptop. He is wearing a gray button-down shirt.
Strother sits at a desk stacked with newspapers and a MacBook laptop.

In 2019, while searching through organizations offering grants, Strother came across the National Geographic Explorer opportunity. The National Geographic Society states that Explorers are “exceptional individuals in their fields” who “illuminate and protect our world through their work in science, exploration, education, and storytelling.” Strother became an Explorer in 2020, focusing on the impact of climate change on Indonesians and Bangladeshis with disabilities. “This intersection [of climate change and disability] is grossly unreported, and it’s really only been in the past few years that disability rights advocates have reached the floor of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations, and other world bodies … to point out that severe weather, sea-level rise … all this type of phenomena associated with climate change is impacting people with disabilities arguably the worst, especially in developing countries,” he says.

The COVID-19 pandemic initially halted Strother’s Explorer work in 2020, but he will return to Asia this July. He wants to learn about disability advocacy and rights in Indonesia, where the current cohort of DJP fellows is based. Strother will be the first mentor to connect with his DJP mentee, Retta Maha, in person. He is excited about helping his mentee “improve their journalism and storytelling skills.”

Well-versed in guiding emerging storytellers, Strother has been a journalism and disability media adjunct professor at his alma mater, Montclair State University, for a little over 10 years. At the university, he has created three courses: “How to Become a Foreign Correspondent,” “Films about Journalism,” and “Disability in Media.” He is launching an audio description writing course within the university’s school of communication and media with colleagues this fall. 

Strother received his broadcasting and television production degree at Montclair State University in 2003, where he was the first admitted student with a visual disability in his program. He moved to New York to work for News 12 The Bronx, a local cable news outlet, after graduation. He came in as an assignment editor and later became a producer, overseeing the nightly newscast. At first, he did not disclose his disability. Reflecting on his time at News 12 The Bronx, he says, “I would not advise job seekers now to hide their disability. I think we live in a better time, a more inclusive time,”

Strother’s advice to up-and-coming media advocates is to let their voices be heard so government officials and editors at media outlets can take disability and accessibility seriously. Working, producing, and learning new things keep him going: “I feel I’m most happy and I feel most fulfilled when I’m making interesting reports that are informative and kind of shed light on whatever topic it is that I’m reporting on.” 

Bukola Badmus is a 2021 fellow with the Disability Justice Project and the financial secretary and Lagos state coordinator for LALIF. @2022 LALIF. All rights reserved.

Michelle Faulkner is the head of alumni engagement/managing editor at the Disability Justice Project.

News From the Global Frontlines of Disability Justice

Retta Maha poses for the camera. She is wearing a red shirt and her hair is pulled back.

As Long as You Have a Story to Tell

DJP Fellow Retta Maha is the first blind filmmaker the DJP has worked with, and she’s paved the way in showing how individuals who are blind or low vision can tell video stories: “I found that blind people also can be filmmakers, as long as they get support. The blind have their own idea of … what the story is, and then the sighted people can help them make it real.”

Read more about As Long as You Have a Story to Tell

A shack located in Jongaya, a leprosy community in South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

‘Everyone Has Dreams’

Misconceptions surrounding leprosy continue to have significant impacts in Indonesia, a country with the third-highest incidence of leprosy in the world. In Jongaya, people experiencing leprosy live separately from the rest of the population in South Sulawesi. One former resident shares her story.

Read more about ‘Everyone Has Dreams’

Sustia Rini poses for the camera.

The Right to Health

Six years after Indonesia passed its disability law and 11 years after it ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Indonesians with disabilities still do not have equal access to healthcare. Forced to go without medical treatment, many become sicker and perhaps more disabled and fall deeper into debt.

Read more about The Right to Health

Ariani Soekanwo poses for the camera.

Rule of Law

Ariani Soekanwo became a disability rights activist as a college student. Since then, she has helped start several Indonesian disability rights organizations. Age is not an obstacle for her. Her enthusiasm for encouraging the fulfillment of rights for persons with disabilities in Indonesia pushes her to never stop thinking and creating.

Read more about Rule of Law

Naufal Asy-Syaddad stands outside homes in Indonesia.

Sticks and Stones

After DJP Fellow Naufal Asy-Syaddad was diagnosed with autism, he experienced bullying and exclusion in his early school years. Now, he’s found a home at Yogasmara Foundation, where he advocates for disability rights and raises awareness about autism. People with autism, he says, “are highly misunderstood.”

Read more about Sticks and Stones

Dija poses for the camera.

‘Treat Me Like Everyone Else’

DJP Fellow Dija spent the beginnings of her life indoors and away from others. “In my village, people with disabilities are pitied,” she says. In recent years, she has been on a mission of acceptance and opportunity for persons with disabilities. No longer afraid to leave her home, Dija draws from her own experiences in her advocacy work.

Read more about ‘Treat Me Like Everyone Else’