I spent Wednesday of this week with some of the dozen parents and activists on a hunger strike to demand that the city reopen the Dyett High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood as a Global Leadership and Green Technology school. Chicago officials on Thursday said they would reopen the school next year, but as an arts-themed school, not the proposal the hunger strikers want. They continue their hunger strike, now into its 20th day.
The shooting assignment was for AJ+, who produced this piece.
In Chicago, 12 ppl went on a hunger strike for 17 days, battling for the future of a local school – and they lost.
In doing this three-part documentary series for the74million.org with former NBC and CNN reporter/anchor Campbell Brown, I got to spend a lot of time in the amazing city of New Orleans, where I met students, parents and educators who have persevered as the city rebuilt and reformed its school system.
On July 18th, I gave a lecture at Jinan University for the school’s media leadership conference. They asked me to speak about “convergence journalism,” a subject I know a lot about, even though I’m not a big fan of the word “convergence.” I emphasized that in the digital world we live in, many ways of storytelling have converged, and any news organization can work in practically any medium — text, photos, audio, video and interactive — with relative ease. So, essentially, all journalism is convergence journalism. Instead of dwelling on converging media, I urged the audience to be smart about finding the right medium for the story, rather than trying to shoe-horn a story into any individual storytelling method.
To make this point, I use a poem by Dylan Thomas, which has been used and adapted across various platforms. By reading it, listening to it being read, and seeing people (including the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield) perform it, we see the strength of each of the mediums and can then think about how that translates to news stories.
One of my favorite quotes of Dylan Thomas — who was known for this lilting baritone and the flourish of his reading aloud from his own work and that of others — is this:
“The printed page is the place in which to examine the works of a poem, and the platform the place on which to give the poem the works.”
In modern news reporting, we have so many platforms on which to give the story the works.
I was joined at Jinan by my Medill colleagues Scott Anderson, Michael Deas and Zach Wise, who made this collage of photos of attendees who came to speak to me after my talk.
This past week, I continued work on a series of pieces I’m doing in New Orleans for the74million.org, a news portal focused on education that will launch this Monday. (The 74 million refers to the number of children under the age of 18 in the USA.) Since so much of what I’ve been doing the past several years has been solo video journalism, it has been a while since I’ve had the luxury to work in the field with a correspondent, a photographer and a sound person.
I had the pleasure to work with former NBC and CNN reporter/anchor Campbell Brown, photographer Roger Herr, a former CNN colleague and Darryl Mitchell on sound. The last time Roger, Darryl and I worked together we got to stand on top of the head of George Washington on Mount Rushmore for a Discovery Channel show on Homeland Security.
I’ll tell you more about the New Orleans stories when they run in August.
AFTER a few decades of music collecting, I have amassed about a thousand CDs (not including another stash of vinyl albums in boxes in the closet). At the height of my music buying, I would go to my favorite record store the Tuesday after payday (Tuesday is when new releases traditionally come out) and spend up to $100 on new music. That would be total some $200 a month. I don’t remember having that much disposable income, but that’s what I spent — buying six or seven compact discs at each visit, ranging from independent labels to perennial pop favorites, classical or jazz to hidden gems I had heard about from magazines (then list-serves, then websites), and word of mouth.
And that’s just what I spent on recorded music. I would also go out at least one night a week to a venue to hear a band.
When I worked at TIME and wrote a little (very little) about music and covered events like SXSW, I got on music publicists’ lists, and they’d send me new releases in advance. That made my collection balloon so much that I ran out of shelf space in both my office and Brooklyn apartment. They ended up in boxes. And, too lazy to sort through before I moved midwest, they were schlepped to my Chicago condo and have been sitting in closets.
All of that has tapered quite a bit these days. I don’t go hear live music as often as I used to (though I have lots of tickets for upcoming shows — including the Stones in Milwaukee in June — and I subscribe to the Chicago Symphony). And because I now have much of that collected music at my fingertips — either from the discs I’ve digitized in iTunes or via online music services — I don’t buy many CDs these days. That $200 I used to pay to support the music industry has dropped to my monthly Spotify $10.99 premium account payment.
I still buy the latest work of favorite artists at my local record store — to support both the artists and the shop (recent purchases include the latest releases from Lucinda Williams and My Brightest Diamond). And I make it a habit to buy the CD of any musician I hear at a live venue whose music I dig (recently, The Maytags from Iowa and Swedish Americana artist Sofia Talvik). It gives me a chance to chat with the musicians after, and to support them with a little gas money as they drive to their next gig. Continue reading “Lessons from a lifetime of music collecting”→
This past year, I had the pleasure to spend time with veterans involved in a program to help students get to school safely. Leave No Veteran Behind is a non-profit that hires recent and long-time US veterans in various programs. I had arranged to spend time with Aleia and Cedrik, two supervisors with LNVB who led patrols for a program called Safe Passage, an initiative where adults command the sidewalks on the routes to and between neighborhoods and schools. But it seemed each time we arranged to shoot was a day when there were few to no students. The first day I arranged to spend with them turned out to be a big testing day and only a handful of Juniors were at the high schools. We tried again close to the end of the school year, but the principal let the students out early.
But I did manage to get enough footage so that we could cut together a story worthy of the group and what it does for veterans and the communities they serve. My thanks to Jacob Templin at NationSwell, editor Thomas Shomaker and editing assistant Martine Granby. Have a look: