Personal Narrative: October 16, 2018

On-Camera Set Adjustments

I faced a real challenge and learning experience while working on a set adjustment during a live taping of Roland Martin Unfiltered. As I was still very new and nervous when it came to interacting with a lot of the broadcast equipment, this experience required me to do something as equally important as it was uncomfortable.

I was monitoring the show and teleprompter when I received a message in the Roland Martin Unfiltered show crew group: “Melanie’s mic off.” I was immediately mortified. One of our most important guests was completely inaudible moments before her segment, which was a one-on-one interview with Roland. As the only person working the floor that evening, I knew it would be my responsibility to quickly and quietly rectify this snafu by crawling onto the set, turning on and adjusting her mic and then leaving the set without being seen on camera. More, all of this had to be accomplished within the following 90 seconds. I immediately jumped into action, ready to apply the two weeks of on-the-spot training I had to this quasi-emergency situation. I crawled behind Roland, the other guests’ chairs and finally Melanie’s and remained crouched down until I was sure that I was out of sight. Then, I quickly adjusted the volume on the microphone and re-inserted the hearing component from the IFB back into her ear. Still holding my breath, I crawled off set and looked towards the control room to see that the microphone remained in good working order. Upon receipt of a “thumbs up” from our show’s director, I exhaled and felt much better: I had just successfully completed a task that two weeks earlier I would have found far too daunting to even consider doing. 

While making an on-set adjustment during a show may seem like a relatively small task, it represented so much more for me. After successfully doing it, I realized that I knew more about set technique than I thought and had learned more in my two weeks on the show than I gave myself credit for. It opened up a mental door for me and allowed me to feel like more of a part of the crew rather than a rookie who was unsure of her role on this team. I left the show that evening feeling both proud of myself and also thankful to have the opportunity to work on a show that allows me to take calculated risks. While I do not see myself working in the broadcast news industry for very long, I feel that the experience I had that day can be carried with me to any career I pursue. The lesson learned in trusting one’s instincts and knowing how to deliver the desired outcome under lots of pressure was one I needed, especially as I start to more seriously explore my employment options. I’m sure that I will face more risks and trials at Roland Martin Unfiltered and beyond. But I look forward to attacking them with the same level of knowledge, determination and, most importantly, self-trust.

Advertisements

Fall 2018 Internship Practicum – Journal Entries & Reflections

Week One: My First Week at Roland Martin Unfiltered

August 24, 2018

I will never forget the fist time I walked on the set of Roland Martin Unfiltered. The TVs, the cameras and the lights were both overwhelming and exciting for me. The show’s executive producer gave me a brief tour of the studio—an office space that was converted to a show set—to show me what the day-to-day life of the guests and crew would be.I was thinking to myself, “oh my gosh…I’m on a real-life news show set! More, I’m interviewing to possibly WORK on it!” Then, after a few minutes of questioning and logistical explanations, I heard the magic words: “You’re hired.” I was ecstatic. Then, the nervousness kicked in. Being hired as a stage manager meant stepping into a role I had never completed before. I was determined to learn how to do it well, though. This week has been nothing short of a ‘baptism by fire’. I know it will take some time to learn exactly what it will take for me to truly succeed here. I am excited for what that will look like!

Week Two: A crash course in Mic-ing guests

August 28, 2018

Being a stage manager means more than just calling cues and talking to the producers in the control room. It means learning the floor—that is, the set and everyone on it—from the inside out. And I’m quickly realizing that it means being a master at some very basic skills, which is easier said than done. One of those skills is putting the two microphones on our guest panelists so that they can hear what is happening on the show and be heard by the hundreds of thousands of people who tune into it every evening. I was taught to begin by adding the IFB, or interruptible holdback microphone, to a guest’s jacket, shirt or dress collar, before attaching the lavalier mic. I thought the IFB would be more difficult to maneuver because of its in-ear attachment, but I’ve found that the cavalier is a little more tricky. During a show this week, one of our guests with a lot of hair was not able to be heard clearly because I placed the lavalier too high on her collar. (Needless to say, the control room was not very happy.) However, I  learned my mistake, made the adjustment and practiced on some less-notable members of the crew for the next time. I’m sure that by the end of this cycle, I’ll be a pro at mic-ing.

Week Three: Broadcast reflections

September 6, 2018

When I came to Howard as a print journalism major, I always intended to pursue jobs and internships that would strengthen my writing and reporting skills. Many of which, I did. So, when I first received a call back from the RMU team, I was a little nervous because I figured they would realize the limited amount of broadcast experience I hold. Yet, learning from such a patient and talented team of broadcasters has proven invaluable. In the three weeks I’ve spent working on the RMU set, I’ve learned about all aspects of the broadcast experience from certain vocabulary words (‘on deck’; ‘standby’; ‘set up’; ‘pan left/right’) to actually working with camera and video equipment, as well as working lights. I started this job knowing it would be a ‘baptism by fire’ and it has surely been that. I do not know if I see myself working in the broadcast realm further than this in my career, but I’m glad this job gave me the chance to explore that. 

Week Four: My first remote show at Congressional Black Caucus Week

September 13, 2018

This week, Roland decided to bring his show to the floor of the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual legislative conference. So, our entire crew packed up the studio equipment that we keep at the office on K Street and brought it downtown to the the Walter H. Washington Convention Center. Doing this was tough for everyone on the team logistically, but I was glad to have been able to do it. It gave me an opportunity to work in a new environment while networking with other young professionals in the D.C. area. Also, Roland’s show that day featured a number of prominent political figures and social activists who are working extremely hard to enfranchise black voters during the 2018 midterm elections. Among the guests on our show was Melanie Campbell, the President & CEO of the Black Women’s Roundtable. She spoke to Roland about the ways her organization is spreading civic awareness on a community level through their programs like Black Youth Vote! and the Black Male initiative. It was refreshing for me to witness this on a number of levels. As a black woman working on a black news show, I felt thankful to be a part of something so special. More, as a voting aged person, I gained a new understanding of the importance of exercising my rights.

Week Five: Roland Martin and the issues

September 17, 2018

One of the hardest parts of working on a news show for me, is remaining quiet. Some days that means lowering my voice when giving off-set directions during our live broadcasts. Others, it means holding my tongue when we invite guests with unpopular perspectives on the show. This week and last, our booking person worked closely with Roland to invite more black conservatives on to the show in the weeks leading up to Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearings. I found myself frustrated sometimes to the point of anger as I was listening to black men and women attempt to defend this man’s alleged behavior, which I believed to be despicable. As a stage manager I am supposed to have very limited interaction with our guests and so I do not. But watching Roland tackle these controversial issues from a journalistic standpoint while they try to refute the facts is one of the most difficult things for me to watch. These experiences have taught me a lot, from how good journalists present the most important aspects of a story to how good orators argue those facts. At the same time though, it saddens me. Why, I wonder, are we living in an era where it is becoming commonplace to argue the facts?

Week Six: Technical difficulties

September 20, 2018

Web-based shows are a unique, sensitive animal. They provide incredible reach in ways that some television or radio shows could not and are largely uninhibited by scheduling or censorship. This is a large part of what makes a show like Roland Martin Unfiltered so necessary. It is also what makes the job of our producers and technical assistants invaluable. This week, the show experienced a number of technical difficulties that almost made it impossible for us to broadcast live. It was frustrating (and a little frightening) to see how heated things got in the control room as Roland, our executive director and entire team of producers tried to figure out what the problem was with our software that was causing the problem. Twenty minutes later, though, the team was able to determine it and start the show (albeit nearly half an hour late). I realized that working in digital media means working in tech in some ways. While your main objective is to deliver the news, the means by which you do it matters almost just as much. The experience inspired me to learn more about the role of  technology in journalism and digital media, as I realized I could make myself more marketable in my field with that skill set.

Week Seven: Our Amazing Guests

September 28, 2018

Being able to work on a show with someone like Roland Martin at its helm is really a blessing, not only because of his name and notoriety but also because it provides access to some really interesting and dynamic guests. This week, Donna Brazile, Veronica Chambers, Leah Daughtry and Minyon Moore were guest panelists on our show to promote their new book, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics. It was difficult for me to maintain my composure and professionalism while mic-ing and giving directions to these ladies. I knew how much history and knowledge was sitting in front of me and it was both beautiful and exciting to witness, even for a 10-minute-long segment. Leaders like Donna Brazile are not the only big names I’ve been fortunate enough to work with on this show. In the past few weeks, Roland has interviewed Erika Alexander, Rev. William Barber, Brittany Packnett and next week he will sit down for a one-on-one interview with Alice Walker. In my past entries I have been repeatedly harping on just how much I’ve learned while working on this show and yet I feel like I still can’t talk about it enough. The people alone have shown me a lot about myself and the industry and have either directly or indirectly inspired me to refine my future goals and aspirations. They are by far my favorite part of the job.

Week Eight: Kavanaugh and #MeToo

October 4, 2018

This week was one of my hardest ever. The news cycle has been saturated with reports of Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual assault of Dr. Kristin Blasey-Ford when they were teenagers. More, it has inspired a number of brave men and women to come forward both publicly and privately about their own negative experiences with sexual assault. As a journalist, I am glad to see how much coverage this extremely important issue has received. It makes me proud to know that I work with a team of people—and have in the past—who value the stories of survivors. However, as a woman, I find this work to be especially tiring and jarring. It has made me realize that predators exist everywhere, across all industries. I’m nervous about how much I can prepare and/or protect myself in the midst of so much abuse. Especially when so few men are punished for their lewd actions. I realize all I can do is remain vigilant. I just wonder if that is enough.

Week Nine: My first time working the sound board

October 9, 2018

Tonight, in the absence of our sound board engineer, I was given a crash course in how to work sound for a show. I was pretty nervous sitting in the control room at first, but I quickly realized that after the sound equipment is set up, all one has to do is push up two or three buttons. So, as Roland went on set with one of our guests, I was in formation and ready to complete my new job. I missed my first cue which caused us to have to do some editing on the back end, but for the rest of the interview things went smoothly. I wouldn’t mind doing it again.

Week Ten: Making midterm plans

October 15, 2018

It’s an exciting time for politicians and journalists alike. In less than three weeks, millions of Americans will be voting for their governors and representatives in congress in an election that is sure to change lives and political ideologies. For black Americans, so much is riding on the election, from access to healthcare to civil safety. We are planning to tackle all of those issues and more on Roland Martin Unfiltered. I haven’t gotten my complete assignments for that night’s show, but I’m really excited to see how we cover it. Times like this make me feel like I chose the right profession.

Journalism in a Multimedia World

Unknown.png

In 2017 it is nearly impossible to find a viable job in journalism with skills in writing only. Employers, editors and copy chiefs alike are seeking staffers who can work with cameras, numbers and words, among others. Here are three examples of important skills in the ever-changing multimedia journalism world:

  1. Data Journalism

Data journalism involves the use of numbers, statistics and data to tell and/or add power to stories. Renowned data journalism outlets like ProPublica use figures to tell stories about everything from science and technology to culture and community patterns.

2. Science Journalism

Science journalism–as its name suggests–is consistent reporting on developments in science and health. It is especially important for a number of reasons, the highest among them being the fact that consumers need to know about developments in science and health in order to track developments in their own personal lives and health journeys.

3. Tech Journalism

Tech journalism is defined as “the activity, or product, of journalists engaged in the preparation of written, visual, audio or multi-media material intended for dissemination through public media, focusing on technology-related subjects.” It involves both reporting on and creation of tech-related content that educates consumers and producers.

 

Experimenting with Lighting (feat. a little help from my friends)

It’s been a while since I’ve submitted anything creative for a class or otherwise. This week, however, I am displaying the techniques I used to take pictures in varying levels and types of light–some were taken in my room, others were taken in class and I even got a chance to take some at the NPR office where I work.

As a point of reference (and inspiration), I’ve included my Barack and Michelle Obama action figures. They’re nice to look at, sure, but more than that they provide a means of gauging how much light exists in different environments by how clearly they can be seen.

The majority of these photos were taken on my iPhone. I used the HDR feature for the sunny and outdoor shots. It did a great job of enhancing some of that good natural light I was able to capture.

1. The iLab – A school of artificial light

IMG_4636.JPG

As I sat in the iLab drafting my next Multimedia Storytelling article and considering my journalism career prospects, I took a photo of Barack & Michelle. We can see them very clearly due to the great amount of lighting in the iLab. However, the gray tiny of the lights there juxtaposed against the gray desk didn’t give them any shadows or nice angles like, say, a White House chandelier might. Just plain LED lighting here.

2. Maya’s Room – Shady AF

IMG_4631.JPG

This year I’ve had the displeasure–um–opportunity of living in the Plaza Towers. My room does not have any overhead lights (or light at all, really). In the evenings, my only source of brilliance comes from the lamps I keep in my room. Look at Barack & Michelle here and you will see what I’m talking about. Their plastic skin (still melanin-rich) reflects the lamp light while their figures create shadows behind them.

Also of note: it’s relatively easy to see Barack & Michelle here due to their proximity to the lamp. My back is to the light but the camera is practically up against it. This makes the photo as clear and well-lit as possible.

3. NPR – Early evening in the lounge area

IMG_4649.JPG

The kitchen/dining/lounging/working area that exists just beyond the newsroom at National Public Radio is very well-lit. You might be able to tell by the sun that is reflected against the wall and casting Barack and Michelle in shadows.

This shot was tricky for me. My back was to the light, per se, but it was to no avail because the sun was setting and the room was not very well lit. For this reason, what you see here is a shadowier Barack and Michelle. They are also turned to the side, which only emphasizes the shadows that obscure their faces.

4. Maya’s Room Again – A bad example

IMG_4630.JPG

This photo is just frustrating. We can’t see Barack & Michelle’s faces! In fact, they are all shadows. Why? Because I shot into the light–foolish. This is an example of what not to do, but it also lead me to a couple of conclusions: 1) Regardless of how bright a light may be, shooting directly into it will only make your subjects appear darker. 2) When you take photos at dimly lit places like, say, the club, this dynamic is what makes the otherwise-nice photos one may take appear unpresentable.

5. Another view at NPR – Shot parallel to the light

IMG_4645.JPG

I was actually surprised at how clear Barack and Michelle appeared in this photo. I shot with my right shoulder to the light unsure of how it would make the photo appear, but as you can see it’s actually pretty clear. In fact, the lighting looks pretty good here. Barack and Michelle are not only clear but also glowing a little bit. As an added bonus, you can see the sun peeking out from the right corner of the photo, which is nice to see.

In Conclusion…

I learned a fair amount of these small photo hacks through trial and error. However, Barack and Michelle’s likenesses guided me along. Here are my biggest takeaways:

  • Lighting is everything – even on a cloudy day.
  • The camera should focus on the subject, even when abiding by the rule of thirds. Anything else often causes confusion.
  • Not all lighting is the same.
  • Good photography takes patience and a steady hand.

News Blog Profile: NPR’s “Code Switch”

National Public Radio’s “Code Switch” blog remains in keeping with the organization’s commitment to looking and sounding like America by starting and continuing conversations about race in the United States. Bloggers and podcast co-hosts Gene Demby, Kat Chow and Shereen Meraji, who update the site with new content every day, use their talents to debunk the commonly-held belief among many that America is post-racial through their words both on line and on-air.

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 11.19.53 PM.png

Perhaps what makes the blog so compelling is the range of voices that appear as writers on it. In any given week a reader is bound to find takes on race from Black, white, Asian, Latino and Native American writers. In all pieces one is able to learn about an experience he or she may never have had or understood before. For this reason, the writing is not only compelling but also important–it assists in helping Americans better understand each other.

Screen Shot 2017-01-20 at 11.20.06 PM.png

Among the blog’s extensive use of social media, photos and other multimedia elements, what stood out to me most was its option to listen to the Code Switch podcast while reading the Code Switch blog. The incorporation of audio and visual is a feature I, too would like to use.

Finally, the blog’s About Us page serves more as a source of information than inspiration. It provides the reader with a brief overview of every Code Switch blogger’s life as a journalist, American citizen, and, of course, person of color. Lead blogger Gene Demby, for example, has a bio that outlines his accomplishments as a journalist and person by featuring the awards he has won for his journalism and recognition he has received in his running career.

All bios place heavy emphasis on the social media aspect of bloggers’ lives, which I appreciated and felt compelled to add to my own blog in the future. I feel like, in this digital age, it is important to understand where someone is coming from on social media before proceeding to get to know them in real-time.

 

Community Profile: Petworth

If traveling towards Silver Spring, Md. from the National Archives via Georgia Avenue, one will inevitably pass through Petworth–D.C.’s northernmost neighborhood nestled right on the border between Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Located in the northwest quadrant of Washington, Petworth has been referred to as “a place of porches” by Washingtonians on account of the layouts of its homes, scenic street side views and cordiality of its residents. Drew Schneider, a Petworthian for more than 10 years and creator of the popular blog “Petworth News” described it as an area that fosters a sense of community.

“[Petworth has] people hanging out, people waving to each other, talking to neighbors,” he said in an interview with the New York Times last year.

A Noble History 

Before it was a bustling neighborhood with new restaurants, stores, salons and a growing population, Petworth was a large area of farmland belonging to the wealthy Tayloe family as a post-Civil War acquisition. It was not until the 1808 construction of what is now Georgia Avenue and subsequent sale of more than 130 acres of land to area families in 1887 that the area began to urbanize.

By the early 20th Century the name Petworth was synonymous with streetcars and rapid development. The 1920’s saw an influx of Jewish and white populations to the area–in fact, a number of its iconic brick row houses were built by the famed Jewish philanthropist and builder Morris Cafritz. This owes in large part to the area’s majority residential aspects. It also laid the groundwork for the construction of the community staple, St. Gabriel’s Church and School.

Another notable historic site in Petworth is President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s Home, located close to Rock Creek Park and constructed in 1842. The Lincoln family used the cottage, located on top of a hill, to escape the sweltering D.C. heat in the summer. It is believed that Lincoln drafted late versions of the Emancipation Proclamation there.

In 1992, the Washington Metro Transit Authority instituted the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Station, which resulted in an increase of traffic in the area and, perhaps most notably, ushered in a wave of gentrification to the area.

Challenges

Like most D.C. neighborhoods, Petworth is rapidly changing. This comes as a result of the combination of national trends and local politics. A major sign of these changes comes in the form of two new middle schools that are slated to be built and opened in the area by the year 2019. However, as the neighborhood continues to change along racial and socio-economic lines, a number of residents fear their school-aged children still may not have access to the resources they need.

“We’re not asking for yoga classes; we’re not asking for sushi; we’re just asking for a safe environment for our children,” said Jasmine Riley, co-president of the Parent Teacher Association for Shepherd Elementary, a Petworth school.

Another point of contention among residents has to do with the Metro’s newest trains that have seemed to cause a lot of disruption.

“I can sit at the kitchen table and feel every time a train goes through,” said Petworth resident David Somini in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s obvious. It’s pronounced.”

Most recently, Petworth residents have organized for changes in the area’s humane practices after the story of Momma, a bulldog left outside in freezing temperatures, gained international attention.

Demographics – Logistics

Recent demographic reports from the ANC classify Petworth as a largely blue and white collar area, compromised mostly of black and Latino residents (however, in recent years racial demographics have changed). According to D.C.’s planning website, a majority of the households in the neighborhood are occupied by single families.

The Petworth neighborhood has a population of about 60,000 people. Average household incomes range from $60,000-$70,000 per year.

Petworth is not serviced by a single police department. Residents have access to the Metropolitan Police Department on Park Road. [phone: (202) 576-8222]

Schools

  • Roosevelt High School
    Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School enrolls students in 9th through 12th grade. The school offers its students two options upon graduation season: they may receive their high school diploma or a vocational school certificate through its S.T.A.Y. program, which provides students the opportunity to receive technical training while in high school. It is currently undergoing renovative reconstruction.
  • Truesdell Education Campus
    Truesdell enrolls students in sixth through eighth grade. It aims for mastery of ALL subjects with its students and celebrates its diverse school population comprised of black, white, Latino, Asian and multiracial students.
  • Powell Elementary School
    Powell Elementary School is a bilingual school that enrolls students in Pre-K through fifth grade. It gained a fair amount of fame in 2014 when President Obama paid it a visit. Since 2016, the school has been slated to receive a full $42 million renovation.

Petworth is also home to five different charter schools: Breakthrough Montessori Public Charter School, Bridges Public Charter School, Center City Public Charter School, E.L. Haynes Public Charter School and Washington Latin Public Charter School.

Trends 

The rapid and diverse changes in Petworth are perhaps most evidenced by its businesses–hangout spots like the Scandinavian Domku Bar & Cafe, French Chez Billy and Qualia coffee are popular examples of this. However, it is probably more common to see a usual array of Ethiopian and Salvadorian and Caribbean restaurants in the array, especially along Georgia Avenue.

Petworth’s culture fosters a number of local, grassroots activities. Arts & Crafts fairs and small music festivals are the norm throughout the year in this neighborhood. Activities like the Petworth community market allows residents to buy and sell produce from one another on weekends. Additionally, the Petworth Jazz Project offers a series of concerts each Spring that are free to the public.

Other popular aspects of the neighborhood include the newly-renovated Petworth Library on Upshur Street, which attracts a large number of residents, namely children.

From 1993 to 2011 the D.C. Caribbean Festival was held in Petworth, along Georgia Avenue en route to Howard University.

Key People & Places 

Petworth is currently represented by Ward 4 commissioner Brandon Todd on the Council of the District of Columbia. Muriel Bowser once held this position before becoming mayor of D.C. in 2015. The Council of the District of Columbia meets every last Tuesday of each month. They are open to the public.

Petworth is also a member of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, with representation from ten area residents. They host public meetings every second Wednesday of each month.

Future Outlook

Like its D.C. counterparts, Petworth is slated to continue to change. In the coming years residents can expect the neighborhood to continue to grow as more families move in to take advantage of the area’s proximity to downtown and relatively low housing prices.

Upon considering its history, challenges and culture of adaptation one may infer that the future of Petworth is bright. The influx of people and families to the area has earned it a top real estate rating and even higher praise from actual residents.

“I’m of the mindset we’re on the right trajectory,” said a Mr. Mandle, a founding member of the Petworth Farmer’s Market in an interview with the New York Times. Paul Ruppert, a Petworth business owner, echoed his sentiments.

“Growth has come to Petworth,” he said.

Blog Post 01: What’s in a Semester?

The months from May to November in 2016 reminded me, along with the rest of the world, of the importance of the news media. We learned that the news is not only a resource but also a tool. This means it has the potential to be both useful and detrimental to the general public’s “greater good”.

Now, as the United States enters an era of uncertainty characterized by a new presidency and gridlocked national legislature, the media has been forced to do some serious re-evaluation. Its role remains the same: report the news. But by what means? And at what cost? It is up to those who write the stories to draw the line.

The job of a journalist is a difficult one. However, now more than ever, the job of a student journalist is critical. The entire world has its eyes on the District of Columbia. As if class were not enough, the people and events that occur in this city every day provide countless invaluable opportunities for the coveted hard-hitting story to anyone willing to walk outside her door.

For this reason, I am extremely optimistic about what Multimedia Storytelling can do for me as a writer. I hope to gain more experience in storytelling and have the chance to clearly, safely and successfully tell the most interesting stories of the people who live just around the corner from me–I don’t know them yet, but I’m working to.

Truly, taking this class, like being a journalist, just feels right to me. This class, like this semester, should be nothing short of interesting.