Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

Thursday’s Story Because

Posted: June 21, 2012 in journalism

If you’re old enough to remember the original premiere of Star Wars back in 1977 you’ll never forget that first shot.

First you hear it. Then the immense Imperial Battleship rumbles slowly across the entire screen. There in the darkness of a movie theatre, the film literally took my breath away. Big screen. Big sound. Big impact. Big wow factor.

Now compare that with seeing a copy of Star Wars on my I-phone. Sure it’s more intimate and portable but it’s something I “monitor”. I don’t experience it the same way. I may marvel at how such a huge image can fit in the palm of my hand but the enormity of that moment just isn’t that same. In the theatre there’s less to distract me but there’s little “wow” factor. Nice but nowhere near the same.

How and where we see a story affects its impact and how we engage the story narrative. Stars Wars was an epic. It’s a blockbuster. Those are big words. No content on my mobile will ever compare.

The medium has a direct impact on how the message is digested. Perhaps the novelty of the I-phone trumps all. Perhaps nothing will ever take the place of the movie theatre. And then again, perhaps it’s just too soon to tell. The medium of the miniature alters my perception of content. And there’s no way to replicate the sound from that first screening in 1977.

Maybe you disagree. Maybe you feel we’ve sacrificed nothing in the quest to personalize and in the process, minimize media. Maybe you feel we’re better off. May that force be with you. You’ll need it.

All I can hear is the pounding of my heart. I can’t see a thing.

A black cloth bag is pulled over my head. I hear gunshots.  Men wearing Army fatigues and ski masks pull me out of a van screaming, “On the ground. Now! Don’t move!”  After just a few minutes of silence, the bag begins to feel hot. I can’t get a cool breath of air. Someone takes off my watch and goes through my pocket for my cell phone. I’m either being robbed or taken hostage – or both. Now the bag is taken off my head. The whole ordeal only took only a few minutes. It felt like an hour.

It was just a drill.

Near Strasburg, Virginia

Welcome to Centurion’s Hostile Environment and Emergency First Aid Training Course near the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I’m here with a dozen journalists from Associated Press, Al Jazeera (English Language  Channel) and relief workers from non-governmental organizations like mine, World Vision (an international Christian relief and development organization.

The setting is pastoral, a farm near Strasburg, Virginia, near Washington, D.C. But the curriculum is exhaustive, comprehensive and sobering.

The five-day course is designed to prepare journalists and relief workers who may find themselves in hostile environments to fully understand the risks associated with their jobs and to prepare for those risks in realistic scenarios.

For example – you come upon a screaming gunshot victim. How do you respond? Centurion experts told us to determine whether danger still exists at the scene, whether the victim is responsive, identify and stop catastrophic bleeding, check the airway, the breathing and then circulation.

Juan Mayou
Al Jazeera Photographer

We worked on how to treat a wound, a burn or an amputation, spending hours on CPR, how to respond to tear gas, how to negotiate a roadside checkpoint. We even got a primer on how to spot a landmine.

Scott Heidler
Al Jazeera – English

I used to be a full-time journalist, meeting a deadline for more than 25 years covering mountain climbers at Base Camp in the Himalayas and WTO anarchists in the streets of Seattle. In 2005, I found a new purpose by accepting a job to develop stories for World Vision.

Same reporting skills – different purpose. It’s how this blog came to be known as the “Re-Purposed Journalist.”

By the time the five-day course was over, I made some new friends. Nothing bonds twelve people like having a black bag pulled over your head and being forced to the ground. The subject line on our group e-mail says it all:

“Those who get kidnapped together – stick together.”

from left – John Yeager (World Vision), Nahedah Zayed (Al Jazeera), Juan Mayou (Al Jazeera) Holly Frew (World Vision)

But something else happened. Sure they were just drills but I now have confidence in my ability to respond to an emergency. The week also renewed my bond to journalists. If you’re a journalist reading this – just know that I appreciate you a little more today. And maybe I miss doing what you do just a little more too.

That hostage scenario was supposed to me feel what the “shock of capture” was like. Though I couldn’t see – it gave me insight into just how dangerous and unpredictable journalism can be, whether you’re “re-purposed” or not.

Before he became a successful artist, Seattle’s A.J. Power found purpose working in West Africa with the Peace Corps.  Power is among a handful of gifted artists who now find inspiration and a unique sense of community in Building C, described as, “a vibrant community of artists with studios in a former paint warehouse in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.”

But Building C is also living testimony to the fact that you cannot judge a book by its cover.

Online Video: ADDTV

Posted: May 3, 2012 in journalism
According to the latest numbers, almost 7 out of 10 of us watch or download video online. This represents a fundamental shift in how we digest new media. It’s as if we’ve not only time-shifted but we’ve unplugged the TV set and put it on our desk or slipped it in our coat as we walk down the street. It feels like this has happened in the blink of an eye.
The special nature of watching a “show” that you’ve recorded is fading. Yes, I can watch virtually anything I want on my computer or smart phone when I want but that also means that I control the duration. It used to be the remote control dictated how short my attention span was.
Now it’s on-line video.
To make my point I look no further than my living room DVD player. I lost the remote in a move last year. I now tend to watch what’s on longer because I don’t want to get up every time to flash through the previews. Technology (or the lack of it) has effected the way I consume it. In the same way online video suppliers such as Hulu now allow me to graze for programming and then choose something else if the programming even BEGINS to lose my interest. As a result, my already gnat-like attention span (honed down by my years of TV news reporting) is even further diminished.
From the consumer side this trend may appear to be a good thing. I don’t have to wade through programming that wastes my time. But from the content producer side I think it’s a bad thing. If you can’t grab the audience in the first 30 seconds (and I’ll bet it’s probably a lot shorter than that) you lose them all together. The bottom line – content will get more concentrated and “top-heavy”.
The result: ADDTV.
It’ll be more difficult for a good storyteller to let a story breathe and build. Of course good story tellers consider their medium before they start to spin their yarn. They grab you off the top, then ease their grip long enough to let the story flow. It’s just important to realize that the trend toward more online video is upon us.
And it’s passing may take longer than the blink of an eye. A lot longer.

You Tube: What Kind of Medium?

Posted: April 28, 2012 in journalism

View Beigez Movie

KVUE’s Repurposed journalist Tyler Siseswerda has brought back some compelling stories Swaziland, in sub-Saharan Africa. In case you live outside the Austin market here’s a link to Part One of “Channels of Hope”, that aired recently.

Tell me a story.

We tell stories to move the listener or get him or her to do something. We tell stories to children to get them to go to sleep. We tell them around the campfire. As we get older, stories are told for more complex reasons. And they almost always involve money.  

In the academic deconstructing of the concept of story, Drew Keller seeks to break the storytelling model into smaller segments (beginning, middle and end). He says every story starts with exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.  But I think that model misses something.

The surprise.

It’s the one thing that separates a good story from one you tell over and over and over again. It’s the one thing about the hero that doesn’t fit. It’s the nurse who hates the sight of blood, the acrobat afraid of heights or the actor scared to death to take the stage.

Surprise shakes our perceptions and grabs our attention. It’s the piece of the puzzle that makes a character more complex, more human. It’s essential. And for me, when it comes to storytelling that should be no surprise.