Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Specialized Daily Teaches Valuable Skills

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Specialized Daily Teaches Valuable Skills

Article excerpt

WHEN ASKED TO name New York City's daily newspapers, most people would list the biggies: the New York Times, the Daily News, the New York Post, and, maybe, the Wall Street Journal.

People more familiar with journalism would name a few more specialized and trade newspapers: the Journal of Commerce, the New York Law Journal and Women's Wear Daily. And, of course, there's always the foreign-language press.

But few people outside the mental health and social service communities would name Fountain House Today. That's because it's largely put together by, and for, client-members of Fountain House, a Manhattan settlement house complex for the mentally ill, serving about 400 residents and 800 non-residents.

A weekly edition, containing the feature stories from the past week, goes to similar mentally ill "clubhouses" in 39 states and 16 countries, from England to Russia to Japan.

Fountain House, says community relations director Anne Sommers, was the first establishment for the mentally ill, to take the clubhouse approach. It focuses heavily on job training and education, but also has activities you might find at any neighborhood YMCA, such as horticulture, a theater club and trips to sports events.

"Almost all Fountain House members have been hospitalized and are still taking psychiatric medications," Sommers points out.

Fountain House Today, which has published since the early 1960s, typically has eight pages, and is printed on 8-inch by 11-inch paper, giving it more of a newsletter appearance. However, members classify it as a newspaper because it comes out five days a week.

Often, reports on house meetings serve as lead stories. But members also write stories of nationwide importance: about new Social Security Disability regulations, changes in tax laws that affect the mentally ill, and increasingly -- demonstrations against cutbacks to mental health services.

"Generally, the same person whom Fountain House sends to the demon-stration will then write the story," says Sommers.

And just as mainstream daily newspapers pick up stories from Associated Press or Reuters, Fountain House Today regularly reprints articles from smaller publications put out by other "clubhouses."

The Feb. 21, 1995 issue, for example, carried an item from Venture Voice, of Venture House in Queens, on a Mental Health Awareness Week seminar in Long Island. The main speaker was CBS-TV newsman Jim Jensen, who described his experience with substance abuse.

"Listening to Mr. Jensen," wrote Ronald Singh, "brought those of us attending ... the magnitude and nature of what it is to be mentally ill regardless of the reason."

The "TEP (Transitional Employment Program) Report," an inside feature by Michael J. …

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