Call it what you will, but I really believe what I’m doing here in the Midwest is Journalism pure and simple. Sure, it’s not the journalism that was and hopefully not the journalism that will be, but it’s journalism in transition and it’s exciting. Case in point was last Friday. I was asked by several to cover a press conference at City Hall. I really didn’t want to do it, but I decided I should. I’m kinda glad I did. It was a crazy day, though.
The day started for me around 7 a.m. I was invited by the local Rotary to come speak. At least one of their members had heard about Anderson Free Press and was interested. I didn’t really prepare anything, wanting it to be truly informal and to see, I guess, if I still had enough passion about what I’m doing to talk about it in front of people rather than typing to them via the Internet. I was nervous, but a little excited at the same time.
The real story has nothing to do with this breakfast meeting, but I wanted to put into perspective how the day started – and maybe slyly put out there that the local business leaders are beginning to take notice and come to me about advertising, etc. This could be a major shifting point… In any case, my spirits lifted by that meeting, I spent the rest of the morning borrowing equipment from different people around the county.
I want to point out here as well that the week previous, I had my only computer go down. (Yes, lesson learned.) I was able to get a cheap new one, but being cheap it lacked Firewire connection. I didn’t think about that at this point in the day unfortunately. Anyway, I collected the Nikon D80, the Canon ZR something with the external mic. then rushed back to Anderson. I saw three police and a Hummer escorting someone down Scatterfield, but that’s another story, one which I didn’t have time to pursue.
I arrived at the press conference early. Not to bore you too much with the details, but a battle over a local landfill that has been happening 31 YEARS (yes, you read that right…) was reaching its end perhaps, with the landowner getting an order from a judge that he was to be issued a permit. At this point, Anderson’s Mayor, Kris Ockomon, began to become more vocal about it. (As a side note, he first spoke out against the landfill on an older Anderson Free Press video interview several months previous… the only place he’d done it in the media, I believe, at that point…)
Okay, I’m dashing this out because I have so much other work to do today/tonight/tomorrow… and I saw an old BSU journalism professor in the Mayor’s office. Dr. David Sumner. Got to chat him up a bit, but I fear he may read this quickly thrown together collection of words regarding the event and shake his head. He was excited that day, though, because two of his students were there covering the event.
Indianapolis TV news deemed it worthy enough to drive down to cover it in their own way. The local CNHI newspaper, The Herald Bulletin, had a reporter and photographer covering the event. Then there was me, with a Canon camcorder in one hand, a Nikon D80 dangling from my neck, a notebook in my back pocket, and a desire to cover the event in a way that the other media weren’t covering it.
I will be the first to admit that what I’m doing is not in any way revolutionary, but it is different and the citizens in the area seem to really appreciate it as an honestly “fair and balanced” news report. (Sorry, Fox News was there again. I have a video of them doing another interview in Anderson a year or so ago. That’s another blog post, though.) Basically, I just recorded what actually happened and didn’t edit it down to a 30 second soundbite or 10 inches of copy in the paper.
I recorded the entire press conference and got some heated exchanges between the Mayor and the local businessman (Ralph Reed) who owned the corporation that was putting in the landfill. Remember I said this battle has been going on for 31 years now? Well, there’s a reason. And there’s not enough space for me to go into it here, but the opposing organization that was formed to stop it has their information here. I did make a point to interview Mr. Reed after the press conference to get his side of the events.
Anyway, after spending an hour or so getting the raw footage, it was time to return to the “newshouse” and get it out to the public raw but branded. Upon returning, I realized I didn’t have Firewire. So, I headed back out to try to find a solution. Radio Shack had nothing in stock but could order it. I need it tonight, I said, then tried the two mom and pop shops in town. Nothing.
My only recourse was to drive about 40 minutes or so to Fisher’s Indiana to go to Fry’s Home Electronics, the most Kafka-esque store in the entire existence of the world. I got there, but instead of getting a Firewire PCI card, I was talked into a Firewire and USB hub, being told I didn’t need an existing Firewire port to use Firewire. Great, I thought. That will save a little time.
So I went through the routine of trying to escape from Fry’s Electronics (oh there’s a story coming about that experience…) then hopped on the Interstate to get back to Anderson and finally get the video encoding and uploading. I grabbed some Subway and hit the newshouse excited to get going. I got the hub out of the package and not only did it not power on (ie it was broke), upon reading the directions I realized you do need a Firewire port like I had thought. I shouldn’t have let the Fry’s people assure me otherwise.
Upset, I packaged up the malfunctioning new equipment quickly and headed back to Fry’s – another 40 minutes one way trip. At this point, I had been up around 16 hours, working most of it. Well, trying to work. I got back to Fry’s and had another HORRIBLE encounter (noticing a theme about Fry’s Home Electronics??), but I managed to escape with my life and a $15 Firewire PCI card I should’ve got in the first place. Another 40 minutes or so back to Anderson, and I was ready to install the new hardware.
I popped the case of the new, cheapy back-up computer and tried to take off the cover for one of the PCI ports. Being a cheap eMachines, they had not cut the pieces of metal all the way, so they weren’t popping out. That or there was some secret Chinese puzzle method for getting them out. A screwdriver and a little muscle forced it out without breaking anything else and the card was in. I crossed my fingers and fired up the computer.
At this point, I realized my bump up to Windows 7 64-bit made my old video editing software pretty much useless. Yeah, I coulda found some shareware somewhere, but I shelled out another $90 for video editing software from Magix. I ran into problems at first, but around 1 a.m. I finally had it installed and grabbing video from the camera. It took about an hour to get all the video off.
I was exhausted at this point, but I was close to the finish line, and I knew a lot of people who hadn’t been able to make the afternoon press conference on a Friday were interested in seeing the results. They had already seen what Indianapolis television had done and what the local newspaper The Herald Bulletin had done, but they deserved to see the whole thing and make up their own mind on how it went down.
So I plowed ahead and after another few hours, had the video edited, branded, and uploading to YouTube. From there it was just a matter of posting to Anderson Free Press. I took the time to create a thread with all the videos (although you can see them below as well.) If you have any interest in what the public had to say about my efforts, you can click through to Anderson Free Press and read the few comments that were left.
The videos only received a few hundred views, which amount to a considerably less amount than what was spent on the production of the videos, but I felt satisfied. Why? Because it’s not always about the money. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices for the better of the community. Like I said, what I’m doing is not in any means revolutionary, but the people seem to love it. I show them what happened and they make up their own minds. At the same time, I allow a forum for them to discuss the issue while moderating it.
The formula is working. I’m not making a lot of money at this point, but the server pays for itself. And as I said, it continues to grow. It’s gaining momentum. Coming on FIVE YEARS in the field on my own, I am very tired. But every day that I wake up and keep going, I feel that there is more and more hope for journalism. I’m not the only person trying to save it, but I am actively trying to save it. Journalism is important to the American way of life. I stand by that, and do what I can to help create a new form of media that has the people’s interests at heart.
If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, part 5 and 6 are really interesting. I’d love to have feedback from other journalists, though, whether you’re still working for “the man” or are out there on your own. I will soon reach the point where I will be able to take what I’ve learned and apply it elsewhere in the United States. Why haven’t I done this already (ala Examiner.com?) Well, there’s a reason, a few actually. For one, lack of capital means it’s hard to jump all over all at once (although, BackFence showed that even with money this can be difficult.) Also, I want to try something different. I don’t want the new boss same as the old boss.
I’ll have more on that as it progresses. Stay tuned, though, as there are big things coming up as year five ends and with it perhaps the entire “lean years” period. I still have a long way to go and I may fail at any step of the way, but I feel that I have a good number of people behind me and that helps. It’s a day to day struggle at this point, but I heart journalism.
If you love journalism, please leave a comment below to show your support. I’m not asking for financial donations (although those never hurt), but please take a moment or two to let me know you read and appreciate my efforts to help change journalism in America for the better.
Your friendly neighborhood publisher,
K. Paul Mallasch