Jacqui Banaszynski and “AIDS in the Heartland”

I was in my J2000: Cross-Cultural Journalism class this week, and we had a guest speaker, Jacqui Banaszynski.

Jacqui Banaszynski headshot.

Banaszynski is on the J-school faculty and happens to be just about the coolest female journalist I’ve heard of and gotten to encounter. I knew of her story, AIDS in the Heartland, from the 1980’s, because it won a Pulitzer. I was curious to see if she was going to talk about it in class, and lo and behold, it was practically the entirety of the discussion. I know that this sounds like an antiquated thing to be writing about, but what she talked about was so applicable today I was blown away. She described her experience with the gay couple whose last days were spent under her scrutiny and documentation. It was a fascinating experience, seeing how LGBTQ issues were so taboo then and have remained, with some progress, to still be a topic avoided by many a people. Her coverage was fascinating because she got so amazingly close to these two men and eventually their families. I’ve always wondered how human interest stories work in that way—how does the journalist get to that point with the subject? How do they maintain the objectivity and wrangle in the emotion involved with spending so much time in a concentrated setting? I admire her very much. She described her technique of alternating between having her notepad out and just talking to the sources with no direct record, although she said it was important to always have everything on the record. It was just a fascinating speech, and I hope that my journalism can reach that peak at some point. It’s my goal.


More climbing…and the infiltration of the film industry

Yes, I am becoming progressively more and more obsessed with climbing. And yes, I am going on my first Midwest climbing trip this weekend (specifically, the “Horseshoe Hell” competition in Jasper, Arkansas). But alas, there’s more to this! The climbing community has become increasingly more and more open to documenting their experiences as they expand and develop. A new film by Andrew Kornylak and Josh Fowler, A Fine Line, sets out to document the journey of several boulder climbers from the deep south to the western states. Bouldering is different from top roping (what most people think of when thinking of rock climbing, with a person belaying the climber with a pulley-rope system) in that it requires no ropes, no harnesses, no attachment. Normally and in most gyms, bouldering is a quick experience in which you can develop specific skills for different holds and body positions, but it does not require the endurance of lead, trad or sport climbing or top roping. When I used to climb before college, I loved to boulder, and seeing these guys do it for longer periods of time on absolutely ridiculous rock faces, it’s equally mind-blowing and frustrating. It’s people like this that keep me going forward. Here’s the preview for the documentary film:


But besides the climbing aspect, I like how the docu-journalism (yes, new word) where documentary-style films are portraying the real life stories of people (e.g. climbers). These documentary-style pieces make it appealing to wider audiences in the same way that a regular movie does. The preview gets people excited, anticipated. While pieces like this aren’t necessarily (and don’t seek out to be) journalism, they tell an honest human interest story just as successfully and journalistically as a written piece or broadcast would.

Screen shot from A Fine Line.

I like the fact that real stories, not concocted, elaborate ones, have become a starlet of the theatre. With famous documentaries like Project Nim, exposes like Fahrenheit 9/11 and pseudo-documentaries like 127 Hours, The Motorcycle Diaries and Into The Wild, the “real life” aspect of film is becoming more and more popular. I think that interpretations like 127 are fantastic, but I also think that telling the real story with the actual people is fantastic when possible. Journalism seems to be gradually pushing its way into the film industry, and with film moguls and skyrocketing prices and costs, I see no reason why this is a bad change. The only issue would be if people were unable to tell the difference between fictitious stories, real journalistic stories, and reinterpretations/reenactments. This would be the responsibility of the film maker to determine how to portray and explain to the audience his or her piece.

Screen shot from A Fine Line.

This weekend, a fellow journalism student and climber got access to a film and a DSLR camera to document our experiences. I hope that some good stuff can come out of it. While I can’t take out equipment for that long and take it camping in Arkansas with me without making the J-school have a heart attack, I will definitely be taking some shots of my own. There’s no reason not to document life, and that’s what I love what I am able to do with the J-school and the climbing community. We’ll see if this develops into something fantastic later on!


Climbing, coffee and Capitan


I saw this video a couple months ago, and boy, does it get me pumped up about climbing. This piece was done by a National Geographic photographer who was given an assignment to cover a bunch of climbers on a trip to the famous El Capitan cliff in Yosemite. Being a climber (I’ve finally gotten back into it and I’ve never made a better decision), I automatically feel the intense, wonderful mood of the video as it moves from sweeping shots of the beautiful greater Yosemite area to shots of steaming coffee and sleeping bags. It’s hard to describe the life of a climber. It’s certainly different from other sports or activities. That’s not to say that other sports are less exciting or beneficial, because I always have a soft spot for athletics. But climbing is an all-encompassing experience: mind, body and soul. That’s what struck me about this video: it portrays this experience so incredibly well. You can see the daring actions that the journalist takes alongside the climbers, and you can almost smell the mountain air and feel the gritty rock wall. It’ll almost make you want to go and climb El Capitan right here and now.

El Capitan.

The flow of the the video contributes to the overall impact. It moves from morning to day to night so flawlessly, that you feel, as a viewer, as if you are there with them. The close-up shots of the range and climbing rope are so visceral and necessary to tell a story that is otherwise unattainable to and separated from the average person. The video demonstrates the communal aspect of a climbing community so well, and having the ambient noise over the beautiful shots contributes even more to the multimedia experience. Having the journalist speak himself as the voiceover to the piece is interesting, because that’s usually a big no-no with pieces like this. But it’s such a raw piece that breaks so many rules that his narration becomes likable if not necessary to the whole video. It’s almost a self-reflection of a piece than an outsider’s look in. Having the personal narration over these intimate shots draws in the viewer in a warm embrace.

Getting into climbing has been one of the best decisions of my life, and I’m not afraid to say it. Finding something so real is fantastic, and having a piece like this to show and illustrate the magic of the community is exciting.

Maybe I’ll go to El Capitan sooner than expected after all.

Where Were You on September 11, 2001?


I mean, seriously, do I even need to say anything? This is the epitome of awesome journalism. This too. NYTimes has really gotten on its convergence game. Very impressive.


The Times' interpretation for 9/11 10-year anniversary.

Chris Burchett: "I was in Mrs. Wiseman's 8th grade English class."


Tumblin’ around

So, a friend and I started a Tumblr blog (or more affectionately known as a “tumblog”) in order to encourage our demographic to get more into not only the blogging atmosphere but also in the news world. News is hard to make applicable to people, and particularly and most interestingly, college students. We’re at the peak of our intelligence and we’re just getting thrown into real life, and yet, many of us have yet to find something to be passionate about. I, for one, love the news and subsequently, I love my major. Therefore, I love to be involved in whatever the J-world throws at me, but I often find other people my age questioning what they want to do with their life between cups of beer. It’s not fair to unjustly paint a brush over my fellow populace—I actually just spoke about this with a friend yesterday—because I feel like every person has a little spark inside of them that sometimes just needs a little push. It’s probably impractical to push every young person to follow the news, but I feel like using a platform like Tumblr is a good way to turn more people on to the idea. That’s why my friend and I have decided to start this blog. Tumblr has a very interesting population, and it’s become increasingly more popular. While traditional journalists lament the collapse of the newspaper industry, I sit here progressively agreeing with the prospect of convergence journalism. There’s no way that people, especially younger people, are going to jump on the news band wagon like their predecessors did decades before. It’s going to take a lot more than newsprint to keep our industry going, and I think this blog (while we’ve been lacking in keeping it updated…this will change as soon as we get a good hold on balancing life stresses) will help us thrust our convergence presence, at least in the world of Tumblr.

Here’s our blog here.

Here are a couple screen shots:

Front page of Collegiate Voice.

One of my posts on our blog.

Here’s what the main dashboard looks like:

Dashboard of Tumblr.

Tumblr’s become a more popular place to host news blogs: there are now Tumblrs for NPR, The New Yorker, Christian Science Monitor, among many others. It’s a combination between the more traditional long-form blogging like Blogger and the short-form sites like Twitter. It’s a nice place for you to be equally eloquent and concise. Which, in turn, is exactly what a journalist fawns over. I believe that embracing these forms of communication is vital to reinforce the future of journalism. While I feel like the blogosphere and the App-oriented journalism has a rocky future, I feel like we can be aware of modern technology while remaining in the strong boots of traditional news reporting. We’ll always need papers, but we’ll also need readers too, and the internet is clearly a contender for the future.

Political cartoons in the modern age

I think it’s so interesting how political cartoons still maintain their stronghold within the news spectrum and public preference. It’s not that political cartoons are less intuitive or intelligent than other pieces of news, but it’s interesting to see such an antiquated idea remain so powerful. There have even been arrests that involve cartoonists—most recently, a Syrian cartoonist—and perhaps it’s because the way they portray the modern political situation is so controversial and honest. Political cartoons have the nice automatic effect of being humorous as well as informative.

It’s like Jon Stewart wrapped up in one nice, artistic package. I wonder if there’s a future for political cartoons, a future that brings changes and updates. Or, maybe, political cartoons will remain like newspapers in a sense, because they contribute a sense of classic journalism alongside modern ideas and humor. I think political cartoons are important to keep the news applicable to a larger audience. These cartoons are like ledes that require little mental rigor—I mean no offense to political cartoonists. Cartoonists are like photojournalists in the sense that they infuse the sense of art into journalism, and prove that telling a story takes more than reading Yahoo! News and subsequently writing a blog pst about it (I know, this is the ultimate irony as I write this in a blog post).

Here are some cartoons of the day that I’ve seen on my Tumblr dashboard.

A political cartoon on extreme conservatism.

A political cartoon on extreme conservatism.

A political cartoon on the disparity between rich and poor.

A political cartoon on the disparity between rich and poor.


They sure do put a smile on your face when you see them, even if what they portray, in reality, is very depressing. As it often is. But political cartoons tend to be the laughing, observant person in a room of quiet, grim people, and that’s definitely something to respect.

Loss and Healing in Norway


I just watched this convergence piece about the posthumous reflections of Norwegian citizens about the terrible massacre in Norway by Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year old extremist, or as some say, a terrorist. It’s difficult to pin a title of “terrorist” onto a person like this, and why, I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps our perspective of terrorism has become racially and culturally charged. Yet, I’m not going to go into the discrepancies about the description of the incident. I really just want to analyze this new piece that I watched. It’s different from other multimedia pieces because the audio (a collection of ambient noise and voiceover) is optional. The control of the photo-flipping is also interesting, because it’s in the viewer’s hands. I liked this aspect of the piece. While I do think that multimedia pieces can and should be done well by the journalists themselves, it’s definitely an interesting prospect to consider the audience within the process of learning about a story.

Here are some shots from the piece.

Mourning young people in regards to the Norway massacre and attack.

Mourning young people in regards to the Norway massacre and attack.

A woman recovers from her wounds from the Norway attack.

A woman recovers from her wounds from the Norway attack.

It’s a very fascinating concept, and I’d really like to delve into it. But even at face value, the story is moving and touching. Being able to interact with it propels you more into the story than the average news story would. It’s an intimate experience, and I feel like more multimedia pieces like this could help the general public become more open and accepting of the media and its changing coverage of modern news.