To a person, the participants seemed to feel not only excited by what they’d experienced, but empowered by it, too. I think each of them had been a little surprised by how much actually goes into not only conducting an interview, but also recording it and checking sound levels and battery power, all at the same time—but it seemed to me that they were equally surprised at how good they all were at it, too, once they got the hang of things.
It was great to hear them sharing their experiences, and offering others advice based on their early impressions. One grantee was quick to share her finding that though it’s great to interview someone you know well, it also presents a challenge when it comes to remaining on topic—and in remembering that no one else will have the kind of information about the interviewee that often gets taken for granted between friends. In other words: make sure you walk into the room with good, specific questions, and be sure to always cover the basics. Great advice for any newly minted citizen journalist.
Then it was time to dive into the technical element of the day: learning to edit. It sounds daunting, and I’m sure it was to some extent, but the folks at PPH really seem to stick by the model of “you learn by doing,”—so within an hour of the start of their presentation of how it’s done, all of the participants were behind the wheel of a laptop, copying sound files, checking levels, and cutting and pasting the tracks they would need for their final pieces. And once they got started they didn’t stop: the entire afternoon was spent slowly and methodically constructing the narratives of the storm they will soon be sharing with all of us.
If the flashes of sound I heard looping through our temporary offices on Martin Luther King Boulevard are any hint of what’s to come, I think we’ll be astounded by the sadness and horror, but also the bravery and spirit that’s driving life down here these days. It is impressed on me more with each passing moment that I am down here, how little we who do not have to live this out understand of what “living” has become since this storm. I know that I, personally, could not envision what losing everything might really look like until just tonight, as I stood next to Sharon Hanshaw in the parking lot of the Imperial Palace Casino (a very different kind of Katrina survivor).
There, with the gravel crunching beneath our feet,
We stared a little while longer at what was not there. Then, together, we turned and headed into the casino for dinner.