Meridian Hill Park.
Into The Light: Sexually Exploited Children On The Path To Restoration (Trailer)
Photographer Carolyn Cole and Videographer Michael Kleinfeld explore the root causes of human trafficking in Southeast Asia. Following the path from poverty to prostitution, Into The Light focuses on the people and organizations trying to make a difference.
I was recently asked to write my philosophy of teaching. Many of you will recognize some of the thoughts and ideas in my philosophy, and that is because we all learned them together. I guess that transfer of knowledge (because these were not our professor’s ideas either) is the essence of teaching: To pass on what you know. Thank you everyone who filled my head with these thoughts.
My Teaching Philosophy:
Value yourself, value your work, and understand what others value. Take creative chances. Affect and be affected by others. People remember little of what they see and hear, but all of what they feel. People learn more when they both ask the question and find the answer themselves. Collaborative work in the classroom leads to collaborative work in the profession. Be passionate.
Value yourself, value your work, and understand what others value:
It is very important that students place value in themselves and in their future professional work. Athough journalism is a socially significant profession, it is not an easy industry to make a living in. Students must make real sacrifices for this career but are often made to feel that their work is not valued. It is no coincidence that many aspiring journalists are later devalued and underpaid as employees. Therefore, it is necessary that aspiring journalists feel that the decision to pursue their dreams was the right one. Teaching students to have value in themselves better equips them to overcome the difficulties of their chosen profession, strengthens their chances of success no matter what they do, and helps them realize that their work itself has value. Taking this into consideration, the classroom should be a nurturing place.
Enabling students to value themselves also affects how they market their work in a business sense. As a freelance multimedia specialist, I make the bulk of my income outside of the editorial realm. Online editorial publications rarely hire freelancers to produce multimedia projects from start to finish. If they do, their payment for such a product is far below the actual value. Current ownership of most media outlets has failed to create a viable business model for online journalism partly because it does not properly value its products or employees; as a result, the public does not either. This cycle of devaluation is self destructive. Yet, as students understand the social and monetary value of their work, they will publish the highest caliber content via the most effective platforms to the largest audiences — and be compensated fairly. By continuing to create the best quality content and not settling for less than they are worth, today’s journalism students will make a long-term impact on the editorial industry, which will have to compete for new journalists’ talent in an online world where advertisers, virtual games, and entertainment all utilize multimedia content.
Future journalists should not only strive to develop their storytelling skill set; they also must unilaterally develop business models that will create a viable financial future for journalism. That said, students must always prioritize the integrity of their work, and remember that their value as professionals is relative to the quality of their content.
Take creative chances:
As crude as it is, the unofficial mantra of my graduate school class was “Dare To Suck.” What does this mean? It means that as a professor, I would encourage students to put aside their fear of failure because the story structure they imagine for a project doesn’t fulfill a standard equation. Progress and success can be stunted by fear, and I think that one learns more from failure than success anyway. Only a person’s imagination and intelligence limit how they craft a good multimedia story.
I believe that students should be proficient in all techniques of content gathering and production. However, the most effective content is often collected when a journalist can explore and experiment. As a videographer and photographer, you pick your location, your subject and then study it from different perspectives, angles, times and interpretations. Take this one step further and add intent. As an editor of multimedia, one benefits from having the most varied and expansive collection of content to work with. Really good journalists follow through with a conceptual idea and communicate their message because they have correctly collected the content that most suits their specific project road map and production style. When students master the ability to think through a project as a publisher, an editor, a videographer, a reporter, a writer, a designer and a viewer, they can start thinking innovatively.
Affect and be affected by others:
As a teacher, I would underscore the importance of humility and sensitivity when dealing with people as your subjects. Syracuse Journalism Professor Bruce Strong once asked me about the Jewish practice of sitting shiva. The principle is that friends and family support people in mourning by spending time with them. Bruce said his feelings about journalism remind him of sitting shiva. By forming relationships with his subjects and being both present and attuned to their needs, he makes the most positive impact. Regardless of the circulation of the story, you can’t make people feel something with your work if you don’t feel anything yourself.
People remember little of what they see and hear, but all of what they feel:
One of the most memorable assignments I had while in school was in my photographic essay class. Our first task was to photograph thirty adjectives; to think about “shooting adjectives, not nouns.” When considering what parts of an interview to incorporate, and how to use complementary music and imagery to form a succinct story structure, this is how I now think: How do I make my audience care? What can I do to make my audience feel compassion, anger, shock, disgust, because if they do, they will less likely click away, and they will be more likely to watch the rest of the project. They also will be more apt to think about what they heard and saw, and maybe their feelings take root and sprout some form of action. As a teacher, I would strive to impart this principle.
People learn more when they both ask the question and find the answer themselves:
It surprises me how little discussion or critique often occurs in the classroom. One of the most effective ways I can help a student arrive at a solution, or to think differently, is by asking them the questions that they are not prepared to ask themselves. Not only does this help students in the immediate sense, but it shows them how they can ask the same questions of themselves in other situations and find appropriate solutions. In a lot of ways, being a photographer and videographer requires one to be a savvy problem solver. The key to being a successful technician is to be a problem solver when things do not work the way you first envisioned. Therefore, critical and imaginative thinking is one of the best technical skills a journalist can have, and I would emphasis this in my classroom.
Collaborative work in the classroom leads to collaborative work in the profession:
“Boats rise and fall with the tide together.” Those were the first words I heard from Terry Eiler, director of my graduate program. Not only is this true in terms of cultivating friendships in a professional field, this is also true for learning, and I realize that my fellow students in graduate school were the ones whom I learned the most from. Frankly, I yearn for the types of group work/collaborative thinking we would do at school because, too often, today’s journalists are encouraged to do all the work themselves on fast deadlines, or hand their content off to others who produce. However, an editor/producer should not be a copy editor. Real conversations need to exist between journalists who work together on a project, and it needs to happen from beginning to end. Students need to experience this as part of their training if they are to successfully collaborate as professionals.
To this day, I email selected work to people I went to school with for a first edit, or when I am frustrated by a problem I can’t solve. It is not uncommon for us to link up via Scype in groups or share whole edits on web light rooms. I will foster in my students the concept that learning is life-long, and that learning with life-long friends/colleagues has the greatest impact. As a teacher I would set up the structure for these types of relationships to flourish by creating online groups, blogs and web sites where students share/critique work prior to and after class. Students most importantly will learn how to speak a language to discuss visual communication so that they can effectively collaborate. This is often overlooked.
I am extremely lucky to have had some unbelievable teachers and mentors, many of whom I now consider valued colleagues. These people are generals in the class room. They tailor their teaching style to fit your learning style, are fierce arbiters of ethical behavior, motivate by working harder than you, and are really, really good human beings. They are my examples of what an exceptional university professor is made of, and my experience with them is a testament to how much positive change one person can create.
After six years of higher education, the teachers I remember most were passionate and eager to share that passion; this passion was key to engaging me as a student and helping me learn as much as I could. I, too, have that passion. Therefore, I am driven to motivate others to become great storytellers and journalists of the highest professional skill and integrity.