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.