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The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view
Monday, March 31, 2014
Blog posting by Kimberly Capehart, Documentary Studies and Production '16, FLEFF Blogger, Cherry Hill, NJ
About an hour ago, international traveler, journalist, and activist Jonathan Miller finished his opening lecture in the Park Auditorium.
Entitled "The Journnalist's Dilemma: How to Boil the Global Food System Down to Spoon-Sized Servings without Losing All Its Complexity" (a clever twist on The Omnivore's Dilemma), Miller discussed his work with his latest multimedia journalism project, Food for 9 Billion, as well as lessons he's learned along the way in trying to report on global hunger.
Here are 5 pieces of advice Miller offered up to any aspiring journalist:
#1: The world doesn't organize itself into stories; human beings organize the world into stories
The world is a messy, hectic place and doesn't always fit easily into perfect little columns or 4-minute news reports. As a reporter, it's important to figure out how to incorporate all the detail and richness of an event into a comprehensible story for readers.
#2: Having a good, strong character is the number one consideration for choosing to do a news story
In Food for 9 Billion, Miller met with and interviewed a number of activists who were doing a lot of work in their own communities. He said that he's particularly drawn to strong characters over strong stories, because a strong character will add a more personal, realistic element to a report.
#3: It is impossible to get a comprehensive view of any issue; journalists can tackle an issue systematically, but never comprehensively
The nuance between "comprehensive" and "systematic" is important here. Miller emphasized that no one person can ever truly understand every side of every issue. Rather than trying to "boil down" an issue and risk losing its dynamism and details, journalists should approach issues with a systematic approach. Instead of trying to diagnose the problems and solutions for an issue as large as global hunger, Miller showed 10 slides of various categories into which he tried to break up the issue. Don't draw generalizations that are too large or too general to prove.
#4: There binary between "journalist" and "activist" doesn't have to exist
Journalists can be activists, activists can be journalists, etc. The two categories aren't mutually exclusive and Miller, himself, is a true embodiment of this notion. Miller started off his career with a degree in Literature and is now traveling around the world, reporting on issues and, more or less, serving as an activist in bringing attention to these big issues.
#5: Live life. Test yourself in situations you're not totally comfortable in
It's important to continually break down the barriers of your comfort zone and to redefine your limits; not just as a journalist, but in any capacity as a student, learner, citizen of the world, etc. The most valuable experiences won't happen while you're sitting back and comfortable.
Don't miss Jonathan Miller this week at the following events: