Day 10: Tropical Video

Friday turned out to be a most fun-Friday indeed.

After a morning of cinematic inspiration from the talented video-maker, Drew Belz, each video team left the office to make their own production.

The WJI video projects loomed for two weeks as the inevitable climax of our brief WORLD experience. Some were excited for the chance to show off their video-making prowess, but for me, I just wanted to get out alive.

Faith (my partner) and I knew that we had a great subject for our video. Mark Zimmerman, the 25-year owner and operator of Tropical Gardens Mini Golf course, opened up his facility to all our video-making needs. We previously heard about him through a local business reporter, who told us about her experience writing the piece during class. We read the story and knew that he would make for an interesting video subject.

Mr. Belz gave us a morning crash course on all things video-making. He told us the 10 commandments of sound and video as well as other ticks of the trade for making good visual works. He instructed us to record the audio separately from the visuals. Which sounded very odd at first, but made a lot of sense when we arrived on scene.

Since neither one of us had any filming experience, doing it separate from the the recorded interview made for an easier day. Mr. Zimmerman is both fascinating and hospitable. He made our work easy by answering all our questions and allowing us free reign of the course. He gave us free beverages, allowed me to take a few puts on the course and also a few cuts in the batting cage. I fared poorly in the cages, but made a hole-in-one on my first put. Sadly my triumph did not make the final cut of our video.

We had such a good time on location shooting, we didn’t want to return to the office to edit our footage. But return we did and the editing lasted long into the night.

The editing was not as difficult as I suspected, but it was no breeze in the park either. I spent several hours cutting down the mass of audio we collected into a manageable size.

The major difficultly was not finding an interesting story from the audio we recorded, but rather which one to choose. Mr. Zimmerman has a fascinating life and he opened up about a lot of it. He told us about his highlights of owning a business for so long and also the low-lights. He spoke about his always growing family, leading to a scrolling of dozens of pictures on his phone. We had so much material and we only had a few minutes to convey it.

In the end we were very happy with the piece we created. Coming from our combined zero experience, we made something we could both be proud of. The best part of the day was not completing the project however. It was the opportunity to meet an interesting person and learn his story.

People are wonderful and it’s nice to shut up once in a while and listen to them.

Advertisements
Day 10: Tropical Video

Day Nine: Does Compute

The beautiful thing about the internet is there is infinite information available to you… The problem as a reporter is the internet has infinite information available.

Lee Pitts, WORLD reporter and WJI’s fearless den leader spoke to us about how to sift through the internet and add quality information to our stories.

We visited websites on tracking spending, criminal activity, demographics, and even uncovered some of my more unflattering selfies. Link after Link Pitts showed the value in each one of these sites. What we can learn from them and what it can uncover.

Later we paired off and read an award winning computer assisted reports. Sandy and I read about traffic cameras from my hometown of Baltimore. In more the 5,000 words and over seven months of reporting the two journalists showed the epitome of data driven reporting.

After reading the piece, we read about how the Baltimore Sun tackle the immense reporting and data analysis. The two writing scanned through more than 4.5 million speeding tickets. Categorized them into Excel and dissected them for meaning. Incredible stuff.

Afterwards, we looked as a class at the results of yesterday’s reporting frenzy. I learned that it is important to think of WORLD readers when writing for WORLD. I also learned that Lee Pitts is much more likely to enjoy your piece than Marvin Olasky. But Mr. Pitts did a great job and gave me and others usable feedback.

I rewrote my story using the comments. Then, back to the phones I went.

Day Nine: Does Compute

Day Eight: Just One More Phone Call

“Hello, my name Evan Wilt, I’m with WORLD Magazine and I’m writing a story about the recent budget cuts to welfare…,” I said to the gatekeeper of a Arizona lawmaker.

16 more calls of similar dictation, I finally began writing my story.

Today, we had the pleasure of hearing from Jamie Dean, one of WORLD’s more accomplished reporters. She spoke to us about covering complicated topics. Dean gave some great insight about how it feels to arrive in New Orleans post Katrina. She explained how to tackle such a grand occurrence, like Katrina and how WORLD approaches such stories differently than other publications. In everything, there is a search for the redemptive aspect, the overarching message of grace and God’s work in the world. However, she did explain that sometimes you have to just report bad news. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for the larger message. That is if you have the time.

I enjoyed Dean’s practical advise giving. She told us when to record and when not to. What to pack on an international trip and how much of it to bring. I have always been intimidated by big stories and long form pieces, but Dean boiled the finer points into an easy to swallow capsule.

After hearing so much about how Dean writes stories, we got to write a story of our own. Lee sent out an email with several news clippings from the Associated Press and we chose one to rewrite and contribute some reporting. I jumped at a political piece about an Arizona budget cut, but soon realized the disparity of my story.

I chose my topic, because I wrote a story about welfare several months ago and I had a few ideas of whom to call first. However, after one failed call I knew I had my work cut out for me. The more people I called the more rejections I received. When I finally started to get though to a person on the other end of line, the more confused I became.

At one point, while on the phone with a welfare policy expert, I read the AP story to him. “What? That can’t be right,” he said.

I made phone calls to get information and clarity on the subject, but I left each one more befuddled.

I read a quote from a Republication Arizona Senator to a Democratic Senator on the phone. She told me that the statement was false and that she had no idea why the budget cut passed. I wanted to get a response from the other side, but I wasn’t able to get through to anyone. The truth alluded me, but the story must go on.

Still confused and definitely lacking at least one point of view, I wrote my story. I knew it could be better, but I could only write what people gave me to work with. I know I tried my best and that was good enough for me.

Day Eight: Just One More Phone Call

Day Seven: A Memorable Memorial Day

Memorial day included, good food, continued death of the passive voice, and southern hospitality.

After a glorious Sabbath away from writing and recording, Monday morning rolled in way too soon. My energy level ran on low in the morning hours, but soon perked up when Lee saved the day with a delivery of Chick Fil A.

We had a wonderful guest speaker before that however, Mindy Belz spoke to us on the finer points of international reporting. She told us to embrace our awkwardness, pack light, and always have a good translator.

Belz gave a lot of good insight of what it means to cover a foreign land. She told us about the many challenges, but also the many rewarding moments that international reporting can bring. Belz spoke about times when she said or did the wrong thing in a different culture and how easy it is to look foolish when you haven’t done your homework.

After a some chicken sandwiches and waffle fries, we journeyed back to the land of the dead. Our obituaries have been on the shelf for a week, just waiting to be ripped apart for a second time. The Olasky’s walked us through each one and gave great feedback as we worked together to make them crisp and punchy. The passive voice took another beating, but deservedly so. By the end we all left with a Dick Van Dyke beaming smile.

Ending our day early, we carpooled to the house of WORLD’s CEO, Kevin Martin. He and his family welcomed us with cold beverages and North Carolina BBQ.

We ended the day with some pick-up soccer games.

Memorial day fun turned out to be just what the doctor order. Now I’m ready for the craziness to come.

Day Seven: A Memorable Memorial Day

Day Six: Sound Sliding

There has been a lot of stuff thrown at us in the last several days. News writing, writing for when someone dies, killing the passive voice, photography and radio, just to name a few. Pain resonated during those days, but also growth. With so much work on detailed crafts, learning and understanding took place. Today proved to be a great example of that.

After a morning presentation of radio pieces, all of us took to the field for food and for story. Each of us tasked with the mission of telling a story with images, through reporting.

I traveled to the Mountain Sports Festival in Carrier Park. The bike races and hockey games had long ended, but gobs of people still buzzed throughout. Children ran across my view-finding while I fumbled with the settings on my picture taker. I knew I had my work cut out for me. I stood alone surrounded by people and had zero ideas for a story. After 30 minutes of walking around like a dork with a camera, I made the decision to narrow my focus.

Seeing a blue tent with scattered bike parts, a man with a ginger ponytail and sideburns sat in a chair. “He looks friendly enough,” I thought. I approached him and asked if I could hang out with him for a while and take some pictures.

While conversing, I learned of his amazing story. He runs the local chapter of Trips For Kids, a non-profit dedicated to getting kids off the streets and onto the beautiful Asheville bike trails. I felt awkward snapping pictures of him while he spoke about his life, but I took them all the same.

IMG_1100
This is Stephen Janes’ son Juble, I don’t think he appreciated me invading his space.

 

I found that if I looked like I knew what I was doing, bystanders would accept my intruding presence. I spent nearly two hours with Stephen Janes, I captured almost 200 photos, many of which I knew would be unusable as I played around with settings between shots. But pictures or not, I knew I had my story.

Selecting photos, editing them, writing narration, recording, importing, exporting, the compilation of a slideshow is a daunting task. The previous training we had with Audacity and photo editing software came in handy. While taking photos in the field I had to pretend I knew what I was doing, but in the office with the photos uploaded on my laptop, I knew the ropes.

I finished my slideshow first, I felt like I won a price. “First place,” I thought. In terms of quality I would not have medaled, but I felt accomplished all the same. I did something that I couldn’t have done just a few days ago. I put my learning to good use and created a finished work.

Now, rest.

Day Six: Sound Sliding

Day Five: Mock Evan

On day five we played make believe.

Real lawyers gave a fake press conference and I pretended to know how to interview them. Later I pretended how to write a radio script. When the excitement defused I found myself in the same place I ended yesterday in.

I sat in a claustrophobic box attempting to read all the way through a script I wrote without murdering the English language. When it comes to broadcasting, I akin myself more to Forrest Gump than Scott Pelley.

“We all make mistakes…even those who have done radio for years,” said Nick Eicher, while calmly talking me away from my angst.

Yesterday’s radio exercise proved to be far from perfect, but today, as the script got longer, my delivery diminished. I wasn’t nervous, but frustrated. The more frustrated I become the less clear my voice became.

There’s something very humbling about being locked in a carpeted box, alone with your own voice. The last two days of voice recording were my first experiences with the medium. I leave them with nothing but admiration for those who broadcast their voice. It is incredibly difficult and takes a great deal of self awareness and control.

The mock radio piece ended and dinner began.

Nothing can make me forget my troubles like hot pizza topped with an assortment of meats. I arrived at the Mellow Marshmallow tired and frustrated and I left full and ready for a nap.

However, fun-Friday had more in store as the daylight vanished.

I grabbed my inadequate point-and-shoot camera and headed to the sound of drums. As I approached the rhythm of drum beats and bobbing bodies I pulled out my picture taker and snapped away. The lack of sunlight didn’t help my already terrible photography skills, but I fired away anyway. I found myself right in the middle of action projecting a bright flash into the faces of dancers and drum-beaters.

Normally I would feel out of place at an event like this, but this event can not be described as normal. The drum circle is as weird as I imagined, but every bit as entertaining.

I took pictures for a while and then joined in the dancing with the eccentric mob of bodies.

When in Asheville right?

Day Five: Mock Evan

Day Four: A Dialogue With Radio

Three…Two…One…Go…

That is what Nick Eicher said to me as he signaled me to start speaking.

We sat in a makeshift radio studio in a back office of WORLD Magazine as I labored over my first recorded radio piece. I took a deep breath and began to read from my script–displayed awkwardly on my clunky laptop on my lap shifted to the left. The chair I rested in placed me square in front of a microphone that assuredly cost more money than I’d like to know.

I read aloud from my poorly written sentences into the mic. I got to the end and exhaled a chest full of tightly compressed air. It’s over, I made it.

On day four we did many things, one of which, the radio experience I just described. In the morning Warren Smith spoke to the group about the finer points of investigative reporting. I asked a lot of stupid questions and he graciously answered them. He told us about his experiences uncovering corruption and other ills of society. He told us how to interview, how to organize our information and how to get people to talk to you; and what to do when no one will. He gave a lot of great examples and expounded on his wealth of experience working for WORLD and other places. I learned a lot and he gave a great testimony of calling in the field of Journalism. He spoke about the grace of God and how his work fits into that. I appreciated his honesty and his sense of place in the world.

In the afternoon, Nick Eicher joined us for a radio crash course. He gave us great tips on how to write for radio and how it is different than print. He showed us wonderful examples of top-notch radio productions by NPR and even one from his daughter. He displayed the beauty of sound and told us to be “aurally” attentive to our surroundings. We sat in the room at one point with our eyes closed and just listened to the sounds around us.

After listening, we started speaking. We downloaded sound bites to use and wrote a script to tell a news story. Incorporating our own narration with a sound bite producing a piece of radio journalism. I had a great time and I’m looking forward to the craziness we have planned for tomorrow.

Day Four: A Dialogue With Radio