A New Chapter

The Future of Journalism

In August 2011 I joined the faculty of the University of Illinois College of Media as an Assistant Professor of Journalism. Soon thereafter, I was asked by the other faculty members to draft a profile of what a student graduating with a Journalism degree would “look like.” What skills would she have? What experiences? How would she fit into the new media landscape? Here’s what I came up with –

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Overtown Inside Out: The Screensaver

This is just a quick post to share the screensaver that will grace the four multimedia kiosks that we should begin to set up in Overtown this week.

The brains within the kiosks are four PowerPC Mac Minis I got for about $175 each off eBay. These machines each have a gig of RAM, a hard drive of between 40 and 80 gigs, and not much else. In fact, I’ve uninstalled every piece of code I could remove from them and still allow them to play and record videos.

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“Overtown Inside Out”- Here We Go!

This week “Overtown Inside Out” shifted in to high gear. I designed the sixteen-week multimedia project not only to document contemporary life in Overtown, but also to test the viability of a completely new method for disseminating hyperlocal journalism to communities with limited Internet access. On Friday funding came though for the multimedia kiosks that will deliver to the people of Overtown the films I make about the people of Overtown.

Overtown is one of Miami’s poorest neighborhoods. The project is built upon a foundational series of three short films, each one to four minutes long, that I shot in there in late 2009 and early 2010. These introductory films – “This is Overtown” (2009), The Eye of Overtown (2009), and Bullets Don’t Have Eyes” (2010) – are the first three chapters of what will be a twelve to sixteen chapter documentary about life in Overtown, told from the perspective of the people who live there.

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Innovation in Journalism: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

I recently applied for a multimedia journalism teaching position at the University of Nevada-Reno’s Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism. The search committee asked applicants to write 300 words on the topic, “What Innovation in Journalism Means to You.”

This is my submission, edited only slightly because here I’m not trying to make it exactly 300 words:

To me, innovation in journalism means creating a multimedia experience as engaging as Angry Birds, but much more informative.

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Miami-Dade Metrorail Update

A number of folks have requested updates to the July 1, 2010, post concerning my lifetime banishment from the Miami-Dade Metrorail.

I’m pleased to report that since I returned to Miami in early September I have been riding said metro unmolested. I have even made a few photographs while riding the metro, though not nearly as many as my friend Carlos Miller, who organized not one but two groups of camera toting defenders of the First Amendment to descend upon Miami’s Douglas Road station wielding enough cameras to make Kim Kardashian blush.

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With Her Final Goodbye, a Final Lesson

My mom leaving her room for the last time, guided by her trusted physical therapist, Gene Hall. 'For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.' - Paul's Second Epistle to Timothy

Although she loved most of the photographs I have made since she and my dad gave me my first camera as a Christmas gift in 1978, my mom hated photographs of herself. Over the years she did everything possible to ensure that no one, including me, pointed a camera toward her.

But recently her failing eyesight conspired with the tiny lens of my iPhone’s camera and allowed me to eek out a shot of her every now and then, and to do so in a way that I believe honored her sense of privacy.

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Sinking Sensation Stirs Students to Swim

For their third assignment, my University of Miami Fall 2010 Introduction to Photojournalism students covered the 2010 Sunshine State Dancesport Competition at the Fontainebleu Hotel in Miami Beach on October 8-9. They immersed themselves in the assignment, took some calculated risks and knocked it right out of the park. Bravo!

I am passionate about visual journalism, and a passionate advocate for young visual journalists. So I spend a fair amount of time thinking about strategies I can use as an instructor that will allow my students to become better visual storytellers.

At the University of Miami, students in my CVJ-221T class, Introduction to PhotoJournalism, have confirmed that like their peers, they are voracious consumers of visual information. But the jejune visual idioms of the prevailing popular culture are ineffectual as tools of journalism. Our goal as journalists, in the words of legendary photojournalism educator Cliff Edom, is to “show truth with a camera.

My thoughts on this topic continue to evolve, but I’m pretty sure that the challenge of training young people as visual journalists breaks down something like this:

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Getting in Tune

The best of the best from my University of Miami Fall 2010 Introduction to Photojournalism students’ first assignment: The annual birthday party for MiChiMu, the Miami Childrens’ Museum mascot. Buncha rockstars. :)

It has been many, many, too many moons since my last entry here. I want to thank my loyal followers, all 1 of you, for hanging with me.

Chalk my quietude up to a crazy summer travel schedule that included four Central European countries in a month, another month of transitioning into my final (?) semester of grad school, and yet another month of assisting and advocating for my aging mother as she moves out of the home where she lived for fifty years and into a skilled nursing facility. (More on all of these topics later.)

It’s not that I’ve had no inspirations to write during this hiatus. On the contrary, inspirations have been plentiful, but inspirations are, as pioneering psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote, “a dime a dozen.” I’ve just not done the “awful lot of hard work” that Maslow describes as necessary to bring inspirations to fruition.

Chalk up my return to writing to my fabulous new students in the Intro to Photojournalism class I teach at the University of Miami School of Communication. These gals and guy (that’s right, an 8:1 ratio) really just are the coolest folks on the planet.

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Ruled by Laws, Not by Men

Greetings from Bucharest, Romania.

I arrived here this afternoon along with four of my University of Miami (UM) colleagues to begin work on a month-long multimedia project documenting the plight of the Roma people in Romania, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Another five of us will hit Bulgaria and Slovakia. We’re fortunate to be working not only with three of the most talented multimedia professionals in the world – Candace Barbot, Rich Beckman, and Travis Fox – but also with a number of journalists from the region who are familiar with the territory and the Roma stories.

I wanted to take a few moments to update everyone on the situation in Miami, vis-à-vis my having been “banned for life” from the Miami-Dade Metrorail. This was punishment Miami-Dade Transit’s (MDT) security contractor, “50 State Security,” imposed on Carlos Miller and I on Wednesday, June 30, after we made photographs at Miami’s Douglas Road metro stop and attempted to board one of the trains with our cameras. Strangely, MDT’s action was supported by both the Miami Police Department and the Miami-Dade Police Department.

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Banned for Life from the Miami-Dade Metrorail

Be sure to read about the eventual resolution of this debacle here.

Wow. What a day. I’m 47 years old and got my first camera, a Canon AT-1, when I was 15 of so. In the intervening 32 years, I’ve made photographs both professionally and for my own personal enjoyment in 50 countries and in most of these beautiful United States of America. Photography has allowed me to see and experienced a lot of things, and yesterday I had an experience that I won’t forget for a long time. I’ll bet that some of the other folks involved – including but not limited to my friend Carlos Miller, various employees of a Miami company called “50 State Security,” three officers from the Miami Police Department, two officers from the Miami-Dade Police Department, and a gentleman who identified himself as an agent of the federal Department of Homeland Security – won’t forget it for a while either.

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