An Ax, a Notebook, and a Microphone.

Pluck. Scrape. Pluck.  Jot. Snap.

Don’t get turkey poop on your shoe!  Take a picture.  Scribble some notes.  Pull another feather.  Cook the turkey.  Blog, write a story, tell it over the airwaves.

Laura McCandlish, a freelancer from Corvallis, Ore., is a unique kind of journalists.  She writes, she records radio spots, she blogs, she creates multimedia presentations, and she does it all while getting her hands dirty and revealing the essence of the topic she is covering.

Last Wednesday she shared some insights on modern journalism with a class of about 25 reporting students at OSU.  Like many other journalists today, she highlighted the importance of multiple media platforms, and finding an engaging topic.  Regardless of the medium, she expresses her passion of telling stories about food and stories about unique local people.

“Journalism is very unpredictable right now, so I think that getting as many multimedia skills as you can is very important to be in the field,”  McCandlish said.

After working for the Baltimore Daily Press, McCandlish relocated to Oregon and launched a new career path as a freelancer.  She developed an interest in writing about food on her blog the BaltimOregon.com, and uses this experience as inspiration for future stories.

One such story was a piece McCandlish wrote, about Corvallis farmers Tyler and Alicia Jones who operate Afton Field Farm.  After purchasing a turkey, she was invited, like all customers are, to meet the bird and help butcher it prior to it becoming her dinner.  This process inspired a blog post that lead to a story for the Oregonian.  This publicity for Afton Field Farms, his since, prompted a story about the operation in the New York Times.

McCandlish took her interest in food beyond written content, and is now a host on the KBOO radio Food Show in Portland.  Community radio was a welcome challenge for her because it was a good way to start reporting via radio and has since lead to paid work for KLCC in Eugene.

A recent story she did for KLCC, though not about food, combines audio, text, and multimedia extras to tell the unique story of the working mothers who run Soft Star Shoes, a handmade shoe company in Corvallis.

McCandlish said she loves the multimedia process because she has to constantly think about writing and taking photos, as well as recording audio narrative and ambient sounds. Ambient sounds like noises of the factory, voices of a working mother potty training her child, and the sounds of breast feeding during an interview, add a unique context and depth to her stories that would not be possible through writing only.

McCandlish’s hope is that her multimedia talents will potentially send the Soft Star story to a national level, and that she will eventually get a spot on National Public Radio (NPR).

After sharing her experiences, her impression to the class of reporting students was to find great story topics, and to use a variety of mediums to develop these stories.  Her future success and the future success of others entering the field of Journalism will depend on their ability to engagingly tell stories on the multimedia platform.

And don’t forget, if the opportunity comes to butcher your own dinner, bring your camera and notebook because you never know where butchering a turkey might lead.

 

Tyler and Alicia Jones Butchering Turkeys (courtesy of http://highheelsinthebarnyard.wordpress.com/)

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Cloudy With a Chance of Collective Information Sharing

The dilemma of online journalists today comes down to the bottom line of how to fund content creation and how to integrate user involvement in online media.

Direct reader funded stories and user contribution are a couple of the ways that Matt Neznanski said modern journalism can reach these goals.  Last Wednesday in an Oregon State University Reporting class of about 25, he discussed how the convergence of media has affected the craft of modern journalism.  He shared some of what he has learned about integrated media, social media, and crowd sourcing in his work over the years as a reporter for the Corvallis Gazette Times, and now, as Director of Communications for Brass Media in Corvallis, Ore.

“The journalists who succeed online are the ones who understand that they are no longer simply reporters, but that they have become community organizers,” Neznanski said.

His opinion is that the job of modern journalists is to gather information from the collective cloud, and connect with their audience in a way that organizes this giant community of knowledge sharing.  Journalists no longer just tell a linear story to an audience of passive listeners.

The Knight News Challenge is a contest that brings together new ideas of how to share collective information, and rewards the best ideas with funding.  One of the past winners of this challenge that Neznanski highlighted was a project called Every Block that aggregates database information on a block by block bases, allowing users to completely localize their feed.  This content includes jobs, restaurants, news, photos, directories, and more.  Similar information collection technology is currently being used in the development of augmented reality projects such as Layar, that combine highly localized information with 3d virtual mapping for tablets like the IPad.

Another example Neznanski showed was a website called Spot.us, a community funded journalism project.  Here, writers can pitch stories, and potential readers can directly fund the creation of this story.  Spot.us facilitates the direct support of content, by completely bypassing the constraints of traditional media outlets.  It gives users the power to choose what stories they want to read, and to pay specifically for that content.

Every Block, Layar, and Spot.us are all examples that take user interaction to a new level that was never available when readers simply bought the Thursday paper and flipped through the newsprint pages.   They aggregate content from the collective cloud of information, and actively engage users to be part of the everyday flow of information and news that they receive.  Hopefully, this engagement will attract enough interest from users, so that they once again see the need to support the journalists who facilitate the delivery of this information.

On a side note, Neznanskis presentation got me thinking about ways to get the average person more involved in humanitarian work.  The website, Spot.us, is an awesome pattern of how to do this.  Why couldn’t people with a great idea to serve their communities in a humanitarian way, pitch their project in a community style forum and then have a user base directly support the projects that they want to see happen?  If this idea isn’t already in the works, maybe it’s my job to do some community facilitating and make it happen!

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The Face Inside

Picture this.

A crumbling concrete building, twisted iron bars hanging off the side, broken bricks piled all around, a cracked sidewalk out front, and graffiti staining the surrounding urban canvas.  An elderly woman sits inside.  This is her slum.  Her face is filled with deep wrinkles that mark every memory of the changing of time in this forgotten corner of the city.

An eccentric Frenchmen interviews her, and photographs her beautifully worn features.  He pries the details and history of this place out of her.  She tells him about life in this broken neighborhood.  She tells how the passing of time has left its mark.  He wants her memories to be heard.  He wants the youth, and those outside this slum to know who lives here and to remember what they have endured.

Soon after this interview, the details of this woman’s face get pasted to the side of the dilapidated building she dwells in.  JR, the Frenchmen, constructs a collage, that when finished, creates a giant black and white image of this woman that magnificently depicts the wrinkles of her beautifully aged face.  This photo is a 50 foot by 50 foot reminder of the life that the members of her community have to endure and is visible from hundreds of yards away.  Its message is heard worldwide.

Photo via SLAMXHYPE

JR is a French artist and photographer who use his images to inspire social causes around the globe.  He is currently in Los Angeles in the third installment of his “Wrinkles of the City” project.  This past year, JR won the Wish Award from TED, a technology outlet that highlights ‘ideas worth spreading.’  Their wish project enables artist and activists like JR to pursue their goals of changing the world.

JR has worked on multiple global, graffiti style projects that visibly place black and white photos in impactful locations to inspire thoughtful social consideration.  In his “Wrinkles of the City” project he captures the faces of elderly people that live in slum areas round the globe to raise awareness of the memories they have of how their society has changed.   He has already finished exhibits in Shanghai, China and Carthagene, Spain.  This project will be presented at the TED convention in early March.

Some of his other campaigns have told the visual story of oppressed women throughout the world, members of the Israeli and Palestine conflict, and people known as “thugs.”

His work gives a significantly human element to the daily struggles that inflict millions.


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Be Like the Rain

Duane Noriyuki, a former LA Times reporter, explained to a room of around 30 New Media Communications students at Oregon State University that their future job working in media was to be like the rain.

“The rain does not choose who it falls on, it falls on everyone equally.  Your job working in media is to be like the rain and treat everyone the same regardless of their demographic” he said.

He reasoned that members of the media have assigned themselves the roll of being the mouthpiece for all people, regardless of their race, age, sex, religion, or any other distinguishing factor.  Media professionals have the extensive job of being a voice to the voiceless and unheard people around the globe, and specifically, to oppressed minorities.

This is the goal of most media outlets today, but many new independent collectives are going far beyond the basic feature story.  Their method is to tell stories of those that are afflicted by atrocities around the globe, in an artistic and visually engaging way.  This artistic perspective expresses the emotion and depth of these injustices, and gives the viewer a deeper, more personal connection with the topic.

iEmpathize is one of these organizations that is “acting like the rain” and crying out for the unheard minorities around the globe.  Their mission according to their website is to create immersive exhibits and engage the reality of the issues they are dealing with.  They use a variety of mediums including film, photography, and artifacts to immerse the viewer in the reality of what they are witnessing.  This style requires a personal connection between the story teller and subject, and this connection is evident in the work of iEmpathize.

They are currently focusing most of their energy on producing content that encourages its audience to be active in helping end the sex trade.  They are working in areas such as Thailand, Cambodia, Russia, and Mexico.  The content iEmpathize produces is powerful, and does an amazing job of relaying the stories of the thousands of boys and girls that have been affected by the illegal sex trade.  It is clear from their work, that they are willing to tell the stories that are hard to hear and equally hard to tell.  Just as the rain, they distinguish between no one, but willingly share the stories of the unheard to anyone that will listen.

Embedded within this post are a couple striking examples of the film work iEmpathize has done to raise awareness about the sex trade.

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The Pink Blackberry

Constantly connected, constantly communicating, constantly being fed information…this is our life.  It never ends.

Here are a couple recent examples of how this flow of content has impacted the world of social reform…

One Example:

There has been non-stop coverage over the last couple weeks about the heated protesting in Egypt.  One of the stories to come out of this conflict was how the Egyptian government pulled the plug on internet and cell service to the entire country.  These outlets were being used to organize protests against the dictatorship government.  It did not approve of this protesting, so it shut down communication in an attempt to hinder protest organizers.  That move ultimately did not work, but that is not my point.

My point is that this story demonstrates how, the relatively new tools of social networking and cell phone communication, can be used in organizing reform.  The protesters in Egypt saw these tools as a way to quickly and effectively organize mass demonstrations.  The demonstrations and protests have had a major impact in the country, and will definitely fuel some kind of political restructuring.  Related to this story, the Chinese government is currently blocking news feeds of what is happening in Egypt on their internet and twitter equivalent, so that the Chinese people don’t get any ideas.

The protesters in Egypt are trying to create a more democratic and peaceful government, but there methods are not always peaceful as you can see from this video.  Either way though, social media played a big roll in the organization of these protests, whether for better or for worse.

Another example:

I conducted an interview with Dr. Cyndi Romine last Friday.  She said her work as a rescuer of sex trafficking victims in the Philippines requires endless communication via cell phones and social networking.  Just as traffickers use social networking to locate potential victims, she uses it to locate potential rescues.  It is an effective and speedy way for her to organize networks of people all over the world.

She also uses these tools to communicate directly with girls that she is attempting to rescue.   She told me a story of how 7 underage girls were recently rescued by her organization in Manila.  For this particular rescue, she was sitting in her home office in suburban Vancouver, WA.  Through text messaging she coordinated a team of rescuers, in a van, in the Philippines, to infiltrate a prostitution ring.  Simultaneously, she sent directions via text to the girls being rescued, telling them how to locate the van and escape their entrapment.  She completely changed their lives with her thumbs, a pink Blackberry, and a few 140 character messages.

There you have it…the power of communication.

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Jungle to Jungle

We continued to wind down the road along the edges of hillsides that were nearly vertical, through thick ruts carved months before during the rainy season, past banana trees, mountain corn stalks, and grazing water buffalo.  The two wheel drive Toyota trucks were weighed down to their limit…the first truck carried 9 people, a substantial amount of groceries, and a pile of gear that was precariously lashed on top.  The second truck were I was riding held three passengers in the cab, and myself and Alyson, a 18 year old girl from Enumclaw, WA in the back.  It also held the rest of the duffel bags which seemed to spill out of the bed.   Our caravan created a very interesting spectacle for the local villagers that we passed.

Half of the duffel bags were stalked full of clothes for the children, that we had yet to meet, in the village, and the other half held most of the gear for the 16 members of our group from the Northwestern united states.  We passed village after village of predominantly Buddhist Karen people as we made our way to Mai Lota.  Face after face turned up from their hard days work of scraping a living from the rugged mountain ground to watch as we passed by.  By late afternoon we were nearing the village and I could feel the excitement building…

This rugged mountain road was a stark contrast from the view I witnessed as I pulled into Portland last weekend on the flyway of I-5 as it loops through a maze of concrete bridges and crosses the Willamette River above a city of shining lights.  This modern city has one thing in common with those mountains of Thailand.  That is the problem of human trafficking.  Sadly, Portland, often listed as one of the most beautiful cities in America, is also rated as the worst city in the country for child sex trafficking.  I will be meeting next weekend with a woman by the name of Dr. Cyndi Romaine who runs an organization, Called2Rescue, that works in the midst of this problem.

This meeting prompted me to look deeper into the trafficking problem in Portland.  Last year, Portland received a lot of media attention around the same time ABC aired a short special report that profiled some of the young girls who have fallen into the dirty hands of the underground adult industry.  Here is an article from the OregonLive.com from September of 2010 with a multitude of links that have tons of information on the issue.  Portland has the most legal strip clubs per square foot, a very prosperous adult industry, and a high population of homeless children.  All of these factors, plus its geographical location, all contribute to the high number of trafficking victims in the city.

There are quite a number of organizations that are working within the city.  Dr. Romaine’s organization is just one of many.  She splits her time between working as a rescuer in the Philippines, and training volunteers to be active in the Northwest.  The Northwest Coalition Against Trafficking is also active in the region, and recently held their annual conference on January 14-16.  The conference highlighted many local resources and organizations that can be used to help solve Portland’s trafficking problem.

It’s a sad thought, but even our beautiful, quirky, hip, Portland has some dark secrets.  The word is getting out, and many people are now aware of the trafficking problem, but there are also a large number of residents that I have met, that have no idea about this issue.  Awareness of a problem  is the first step to solving it.

 

–Eli

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Crossing the Line

Five and a half hours of driving on a rough dirt road through the thick jungle canopy had me feeling weary and disoriented.  I was riding on a pile of duffel bags in the back of a Toyota truck using a backpacking hammock as protection from the thickening mist.  The route reminded me of a logging road in the coastal range of Oregon, but instead of being a short distance from my home in Corvallis, I was 13,000 miles around the world winding through the mountains of Northwestern Thailand.

I was on this road for a purpose and a destination. The destination was the remote village of Mai Lota populated by members of the Karen tribe, originally refugees from Burma (Myanmar) a mere 70 miles away.  The reason was to spend two and half weeks of working on a childrens home structure in the village and to document this experience through video and photos.  That’s how the story begins…

I am home now currently about half way done posting the pictures of this trip onto my Flickr account.  These pictures tell the story of the project, but also a little bit about who these members of the Karen tribe have become after they fled into Thailand to escape the oppressive Burmese government.  This flight of Karen tribes people still continues.

This week, I noticed a story of a photographer named John Sanlin.  Sanlin was recently arrested by the Thai government in the border town of Mae Sot after he returned into Thailand from Burma where he was covering the escalating conflict between the ethnic Karen tribe and the Burmese troops.  The Thai government is planning to deport Sanlin back into Burma where he is a passport holder.

The article I came across says that Thailand has long been a safe haven for photographers and journalists to report on the atrocities in Burma, so The Committee to Protect Journalists from New York is trying to convince the Thai government to call off Sanlin’s deportation.  Known journalists and photographers who are given into the hands of the Burmese government tend to serve terribly long prison sentences or worse.

Interestingly, this story popped up as I was posting the photos that I took of the Karen people in the mountains of Thailand.  The village of Mai Lota has Karen roots that go back over 100 years.  Just a few hours down the bumpy dirt roads from Mai Lota though lies the Burmese border.  Just across, less fortunate members of the Karen tribe struggle for life every day as the Burmese government continues to commit acts of genocide against them.

Photographers like Sanlin are trying to tell the story in Burma, but if Thailand ceases to offer them a safe place of escape, the government in Burma will continue to hide its actions from the world.  Hopefully the Committee to Protect Journalists is successful in their outcry to release Sanlin.

— Eli

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