Preparing for One Last #loweclass Project

As the end of the semester rapidly approaches, #loweclass turns its attention toward one last major assignment. Over the course of the year, we have learned to produce journalism on a variety of platforms. These exercises included making digital portfolios on Weebly, using Twitter to live tweet campus events, and most recently writing short profiles on Instagram.

Now we are learning to use one final platform: Medium. It has the potential to reach a large audience like any other social media site, but it also allows for lengthier writing. Because of this, it is an ideal place to reflect on how #loweclass will use other writers’ journalism as models for our own projects.

We spent the entirety of Monday’s class period looking at examples of video and photojournalism done by professional reporters. These helped get the creative juices flowing and provided a sense of direction for the #loweclass final. One such example was an op-doc called “Hotel 22” that was published by The New York Times. It focused on a public bus that operated as a makeshift shelter for homeless people in Silicon Valley.

This video included a number of useful tools that can be utilized in my final project. It placed a heavy emphasis on natural sound. There is no actual dialogue between the reporter and the bus riders, and no one is technically narrating the video. Instead, the journalist tactfully allows everything to occur naturally and simply captures what is happening. The changing camera angles between people and the outside environment help convey the passage of time. There is drama, tension and uncertainty throughout the film. These are all qualities I hope to include in my final #loweclass video.

Another example of professional and incredibly effective video journalism is a piece called “Bronx Obama,” another op-doc by The New York Times. While this piece took a different approach to telling a story, it still succeeded in providing an interesting and detailed description of one man’s daily life.

This article utilized several techniques that differed from those in “Hotel 22.” It had the subject, Louis Ortiz, narrate his story for the viewer. While it used a completely different approach from the non-narrated video, it was still a compelling piece. The beginning was filled with intrigue because the viewer is not initially shown how Ortiz makes himself look like Obama; I personally did not see the resemblance until he actually dressed up. This video was also incredibly inspiring. Ortiz made a living as his Obama alter ego when he was otherwise unemployed. He never lost hope, and simultaneously stated that his only real goal was to inspire others. The piece contained some tricks that are beyond my skill set, such as merging the iconic Obama cartoon with Ortiz’s face (as pictured in the thumbnail above). Nonetheless, it had valuable traits that can translate to my future video.

One final example of effectively using video to tell a story is “Misty Copeland’s perseverance,” part of the On Leadership series for The Washington Post. Copeland narrates the video, detailing her journey to becoming one of the few African-American ballet dancers.

This video flawlessly combines Copeland’s narration of her own story with the natural images and sounds of her at a ballet performance. This type of integration is something that I will definitely be incorporating in my final project. The ability to mix interview footage with action and b-roll is essential to producing quality journalism, and this video perfectly demonstrates that. This piece was also compelling because of its story of overcoming adversity and the emotion that can be seen on Copeland’s face and heard in her voice. I know basically nothing about ballet, yet this video was still interesting enough to both capture and maintain my attention. In a time where people often click away before completing a four minute piece, the ability to retain a viewer’s interest is incredibly important.

These pieces and many others will help direct me as I decide what path to take while completing this final project. The past semester has been one in which I learned a lot about different platforms and developed a lot of journalistic skills and tools. With only a few weeks left until #loweclass draws to a close, it will be exciting to showcase what I’ve learned this year.