Monday, August 6, 2007

“Just tell the story as it is.”

Ever wonder what "media justice" looks like? Right now, down in Gulfport, MS, a small group of organizers and activists is turning that sometimes abstract concept into a powerful reality.

We--the grantee partners and a few staff members of the Ms. Foundation for Women--have come together in the offices of the North Gulfport Community Land Trust here in Mississippi to learn the art of radio documentary in anticipation of the 2nd anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and beyond. The goal? To elevate the voices of our grantees--those women and men who are working on the ground, every day, and who know better than anyone else what is at stake in the continuing recovery of the Gulf Coast region--and to give them the tools they need to bring the story of the storms and their aftermath back to a place of prominence on the national media landscape.

As Mitch Jeserich of the People's Production House explains it,
"The idea is not that we come here to tell the grantee stories--which is how mainstream media is run these days, and it’s a model that continues to fail people. The idea is that we put the microphones in the hands of people experiencing the problem, so that they are telling their own stories and getting them out on the media landscape. The goal is that you all--and the people in your communities--will be the ones to tell the story."
Through five days of intensive training, our grantees will acquire the specific skills they need to take an idea from concept to polished piece: they will learn to storyboard, to interview and edit--and best of all, their finished reports from the field will air on Pacifica stations around the country, just in time to remind people that the effects of the storms are still being felt daily by millions of Gulf Coast residents.

It's a remarkable endeavor,
putting these tools in the hands of the people who are living and breathing the devastation of Katrina, still. And luckily for us we're being guided in the process by a similarly remarkable group of experts: the team from the People's Production House--led by Deepa Fernandes and Kat Aaron (both of WBAI's "Wakeup Call" radio program) and staffed by Sacajawea Hall, the aforementioned Mitch Jeserich and Abdulai Bah. In just these first few hours of training, they have given all of us a great tutorial in the art of story telling, how to use a mini-disc recorder, and the basics of interviewing. (In fact, as I write this, the grantees are conducting the first interviews: with each other!)

As part of our time down here, I (Elizabeth Hines, a staffer at the Ms. Foundation) will be filing reports as frequently as possible about what we're learning, what we're accomplishing, and hope to give you a brief look at what's really happening down here on the Gulf Coast--showing you the multiple realities that the national media leaves out of the picture far too often. And my partner back in NYC, Irene Schneeweis, will also be offering us some context based on the coverage that is showing up in the national media.

So do stay tuned... Our grantees are doing truly amazing work, and our hope is that this blog, and the documentaries that come out of this training, will offer you an opportunity to witness that power in something closer to real time. I have no doubt you'll be amazed, and moved to action, by what's to come.

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