Friday, May 23, 2008

Feature Is My Forte

In my last post, I wrote on my first day at multimedia section of Post-Gazette. I spent the week there but I have realized that I am basically a print guy. I told to my editors at features section: "Multimedia doesn't seem to be my cup of tea." One of them remarked, "but that is where the future is!"

I agree that the Internet may very well be the future of journalism. Yet, many American journalists I spoke to have repeatedly said: "We don't know the answer yet." The usual answer is: "we're trying to figure out."

My week long stint at multimedia was a part of my own figuring out. I am curious to know how American print media are coping with the challenge. Now, people get information through a plethora of mediums: TV, Internet, podcast, videos, blogs to name a few.

At Post-Gazette, almost every reporter is required to do either a podcast or a video of the story that is running in print. Allan Walton, the editor at multimedia section, said, "We try to run the print version and the video on the same day." I was aware of this, thanks to David Bear, a travel editor who also worked for NPR. He encouraged me to do a podcast concurrently with a piece on Nepal. My accent is terrible (perhaps at times not comprehensible to native ears) but it was a unique experience.(To listen click the left side of the write up).

On the second day, after I saw Nate Guidry handle the hand held movie camera, I ventured out of my office, searching for a subject to shoot. I came across the Visitor Information Center. I entered the booth hoping to shoot something newsworthy. But Ron Koch, a retired Pittsburgher and volunteer, turned out to be a perfect person for an interview. I told him that I was only learning to shoot. I shot the vicinity; interviewed the volunteer and also bought a Pittsburgh postcard.

I returned to office and showed the video to Andrew Rush, a brilliant multimedia reporter and to Allan. Allan suggested me to expand the video by furnishing it with more info such as interviewing the director of the agency that is running the info center and finding more info on tourist arrival in Pittsburgh. But I was not able to do so partly because the agency was not willing to help.

I chose Bhutanese refugees (here's the story I wrote) as my second subject. I spent one Saturday shooting their lifestyle and interviewing those who could speak English. But, the video turned out to be pretty bad, according to my colleagues. The reasons: I was not focused and their English was not audible (I did not have a microphone). So, I thought a day's labor was lost. But I'm compensating by writing about them for my home publication. However, Allan suggested me to do another video on how refugees (there are Burmese, Iraqis and Bhutanese) in Whitehall area mingle among each other. I am waiting for the permission to shoot. A publishable video is well within the sight.

This week and last week, I also did two stories. I wrote an obituary of a local nurse. I was waiting for a chance to write one because unlike here we don't write obituary of an ordinary person back in Nepal. I still remember Reginald Stuart who ran a boot camp for all the Fellows in Washington, DC before embarking to the newsrooms. He had said: We Americans love death, which is why we have a huge readership for obits.

PG reporters are often assigned to write obits. I look forward to writing more. But it's hard to talk to the relatives of the dead at a time when they are mourning.

On Sunday, I volunteered as a photographer at Silk Screen Asian American Film Festival where I also got a chance to watch Chop Shop, a superb movie by Ramin Bahrani, a director of Iranian origin. The story has been published in Mag&Movies section of Post-Gazette.

The other day, Susan Albrecht, program director at Alfred Friendly Fellowships visited Pittsburgh. I invited four of my colleagues on a lunch in Oakland. The meal in the Indian restaurant was delicious. In the evening, we were invited by my mentor Greg Victor to talk to journalism students (graduate) at Point Park University where he teaches international journalism. After a brief introduction by Greg, Susan talked about Alfred Friendly Fellowship Program. I started with a brief note on press in Nepal. The interaction grew interesting as students fielded questions.

In the evening Susan and I went to have dinner in a restaurant across the Allegheny River. Greg joined us after his class. Thank you Susan for such a wonderful time. Her visit reminded me of the good times we had in Washington and as we talked about the Fellows, the memory lingered on for a while. Hope to see you guys in Florida!


tilak said...

Interesting experience.

Prajwol said...

Deepak Ji,

Just out of context, is it possible for you to muscle your way in Post Gazette to make them pay attention to the story of Ian Baker in Nepal?

I think the western media never picked this up, and the guilty (which he is likely at the moment) shouldn't be getting a free pass.

This hypocrisy of Mr. Baker with the theme of National Geographic, and the notion that anything can be done in a poor country should be dealt severely.


narendra said...

dear deepak dai,
you meet some of the student
studying in the point park university.what kind of interest you find with them? particularly what they eager to know with you? compare with the nepali journalism student?
what kind of learning system in that college? make an article about this.
Narendra Raule,

Deepak Adhikari said...

Prajwol: Thanks for the suggestion. Do you think that a bad news about a Nepali in America will be published by Nepali media (eg: recently few Nepalis in Texas were arrested on drug charges)? So is the case here. I don't think the editors here will entertain this idea. I even don't want to pitch it. I am pitching a piece on Nepal's monarchy, it's downfall. Let's see what happens.
Narendra: The discussion was interesting. Most of the students did not know about Nepal. So I started from the basics like Nepal is between India and China etc. "Make an article about this," I liked that. I'm thinking about it.

Prajwol said...

Deepak Ji,

That makes sense.

But I would not compare Accredited National Geographic Journalist/writer with few college going kids working in a Gas Station to make quick buck. Especially, with the theme of National Geographic.

But like you said, that doesn't do any good to the newspaper ratings or business, so why bother.

good luck on your upcoming piece, I'll definitely would like to go over it.

Prajwol said...

Oh I forgot to mention, providing your temporary stay at Post Gazette, it's not worth pressing too.

Keep up the good work, and good luck :)

Laura said...

Multimedia does take time to pick up, especially if you are only used to writing. It's wonderful you're trying!

And contrary to what you may think about Mr. Baker from Natl. Geo., I think Americans would be HIGHLY interested in this story. Americans are patriotic, but not nationalistic. Plus, they love crime stories