Making Social Media Videos in Pakistan

Earlier this month, I spent a week in Karachi, working with a smart and energetic group of journalists and producers—and a few marketers and administrators—at news organizations in Pakistan. Together with my co-trainer Hassaan Khan and the 26 participants, we produced a dozen or so short video stories, crafted with graphics and subtitles, to be published on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

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We asked Londoners: Should President Trump visit the UK?

This past week, I was in London with five graduate students and five working reporters from Pakistan, as part of a project between the Medill School and the Centre for Excellence in Journalism at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi. While there, we were asked to do an assignment with AJ+ to poll people on the streets of the UK capital to ask if President Trump should visit the city. This is after the Guardian reported that he told Prime Minister Theresa May he wouldn’t want to come if there would be “wide scale protests.”

Four of my students and one of the Pakistani reporters helped me find people to talk to, and the interviewees had some surprisingly thoughtful responses. The video (edited in San Francisco from the interviews and footage we submitted) ran this week.

Helping local NGOs get their message out

Looking back on the work done by students in my classes this past year, I am reflecting on the incredible stories told by teams of students in a new course I developed called The Art and Craft of Persuasive Video Storytelling. For that, I reached out to local NGOs doing good work in the city—ranging from school counseling and art therapy to protecting the water of the Chicago River and finding ways for young people from poorer neighborhoods to experience rowing on it—and asked if they would like a short video to promote their work. Below are the video pieces the students accomplished in the fall quarter.

Chicago Training Center – Four students went out to meet young people rowing on the Chicago River as part of this training center, which aims to build community and opportunity through the sport. Produced by Jessica Hoffman, Katie Karalis, Michael Oppenheim and Caleigh Ryan.

Institute for Therapy Through the Arts: To show the impact that art, music and performance therapy can have, students Kayla Famurewa, Madeleine Kenyon, Evelyn Ma and Carol Schivartche introduced us to Nick, who is doing music therapy at the organization’s Evanston office.

Communities in Schools of Chicago: Meet Nicki Keen, student supports manager at Westcott elementary school. Produced by Shannon Clark, Juju Miao and Ashley Peterson.

Friends of the Chicago River: To inform the public about Overflow Action Week—a campaign by the Friends of the Chicago River warning of the toxic effects of sewage flowing into the city’s storm drain system—students told the story of a group of cancer survivors who row on the river and advocate for making it cleaner. Produced by Sherry Chiu, Amanda Hermans and Danielle Levy.


Who Loses When the Oreo Jobs Move to Mexico?

oreothing_webDonald J. Trump says he’s never eating Oreos again. Ever. He has been saying this for months on the campaign trail after Mondelez International — the new name for the parent company of Nabisco — announced it was moving  600 jobs from Chicago to Mexico, to make the iconic Oreo cookie in a new state-of-the-art facility there. Hillary Clinton met with officials for one of the unions representing workers at the Nabisco plant in Chicago, and said she would force companies to give back tax breaks if they moved jobs off shore.

Offshoring is nothing new, but the recent layoffs have meant hundreds of Chicagoans lost a good-paying job, and for many the prospects of finding a new job with the same wages are slim. Stephen Franklin and I met three union members who have been out of work since earlier this year, and struggle to find a new job.  We told their story in this short documentary for

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A first experiment in 360 video: The Living Theatre

Earlier today, members of The Living Theatre — America’s oldest experimental theater company — joined me at the beach in Chicago to do a little bit of experimentation in a newish form of communication: 360 video. We did a few short vignettes from pieces they are performing on their national tour (they’re three days in to a long journey called the “Know Your Rites” tour, that will take them all the way out west, then down south as they work their way back east to their home base of New York). This piece is “the class song.” I learned a lot in this first attempt (one of the lessons being: disguise the monopod head better), and I’m excited for the form and very grateful that this troupe was ever-eager to try something new. Have a look — and be sure to pan left and right with your mouse clicks to get the full effect.

Medill student reporting in Paris appears in The Washington Post

Paris_01In June, I joined Medill colleagues Peter Slevin and Kate Lee to support ten undergraduate students who reported on the refugee crisis in Europe, focusing on France. They reported for a week in Paris and in Calais, where they saw the camp populated by migrants hoping to cross the English Channel to the UK. While in Paris, we spoke with several Millennial Parisians, who discussed topics ranging from unemployment to the migrant issue to terrorism. The final result of those interviews was published this week in the Washington Post. It features a text story by three students, and three videos produced by all ten of the young reporters in the class.

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Medill Social Media Video Goes Viral (O.K., there are cats in it)

felinebrewcrewMedill Reports had its first viral video hit on Facebook in the spring quarter, when Kat Lonsdorf’s story “The Feral Feline Brew Crew” garnered nearly 6 million views. The video was an assignment to create a social-media piece that combines video, interviews and graphics, all tailored so it can be viewed without sound on a mobile device. Kat told the story of Empirical Brewery, a Chicago craft brewhouse who worked with a local non-profit The Treehouse Humane Society to put feral cats to work to keep rats and mice out of the brewery’s grain.

The New York Times: A Weekend in Chicago

Over Memorial Day holiday in Chicago, I joined more than two dozen other journalists with the New York Times to report on every single shooting victim in the city that weekend. The rate of gun violence has gone up this year in Chicago, and the holiday weekend usually sees a spike in shootings. In all 64 people were shot that weekend, six of them fatally. Senior video journalist Brent McDonald and I worked shifts to cover on video as many of the incidents as we could over the four days. The collective work of all the New York Times reporters, photojournalists and editors resulted in an incredibly rich multimedia project that is devastating in its impact.



Launch of the Center for Excellence in Journalism at IBA in Karachi

I am in Karachi for the official launch of the Center for Excellence in Journalism at the Institute for Business Administration. The Medill School, where I teach, is a partner in the State Department-funded initiative along with the International Center for Journalists. I am the leader for Medill’s efforts (which include our faculty coming here to teach several times a year), and this was my fifth time in Pakistan. The event began with an opening ceremony with “chief guest” the US Ambassador to Pakistan, David Hale, and the Dean of IBA, Dr. Ishrat Husain. Then we went up to the Center itself for the official ribbon cutting. The Center has been under construction for over a year, and it has a full TV studio, newsroom/classroom space, edit rooms and a radio studio. Hats off to Christie Lauder and the staff at the CEJ for hosting such a great and memorable event. And to all the partners in the project who have worked so hard to get to this point. The press release for the event is below the photos.


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Twelve parents and activists on a hunger strike for their vision of a local school


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.