We're hiring!

We are looking to hire a part-time (0.5 FTE) Manager! We are seeking for a dynamic and diligent individual to manage the organization’s event space on N. Mississippi, produce a radio show on XRAY.fm and oversee our educational programming. It is a broad-ranging job that demands talents both as a media-producer and a program manager, and as a teacher and an administrator, or some potent mix of those skills. Here's the full description:

TITLE: Manager
ORGANIZATION: Media Institute for Social Change  

LOCATION: Portland, Oregon

The Media Institute for Social Change is a Portland-based educational nonprofit (MediaMakingChange.org) that serves as a public interest media lab that works to inspire, empower and engage emerging media producers.  We are looking for a dynamic and diligent individual to manage the organization’s event space on N. Mississippi, produce a radio show on XRAY.fm and oversee its educational programming.  It is a broad-ranging job that demands talents both as a media-producer and a program manager, and as a teacher and an administrator, or some potent mix of those skills.   

The Media Institute currently hosts several successful programs and projects, and the Manager will have the primary responsibility to run these programs, including:

  • Our flagship program, the Summer Documentary Program.  For the past ten years, we have hosted a two month program that teaches college students from around the country to produce radio and film documentaries about social issues. 

  • A weekly radio show, the “Non Profit Happy Hour” on local station XRAY.FM, which interviews and profiles local civic leaders. 

  • And, Citizen, a small, but dynamic space on N. Mississippi that includes a coffeeshop, screening room and classroom.  

The ideal candidate will have hands-on background in and/or interest in public-interest journalism, and an ability to produce and/or teach about either/both radio and film production.

As important as the programming responsibilities are the administrative tasks to support, manage and grow a small nonprofit.  Duties are multi-faceted, including:   

  • Communication:  Managing aspects of communication for a small nonprofit, including actively branding the organization, effectively creating outreach, and marketing the organization’s media projects; overseeing the organization’s website; providing nationwide recruitment and outreach for our summer program and film festival.

  • Fund-raising:  Managing fundraising, underwriting and grant-writing to sustain a modest annual operating budget for a small nonprofit; designing and hosting events.

  • Event planning:  Enthusiasm and proven experience in organizing, hosting and managing fun, productive events (ranging from 10-100 guests), like movie series and dinners with local filmmakers.  

It is a half-time position, and payment is modest, but there is an opportunity for the position to grow into a full-time job, and great latitude for creativity and professional opportunities to help build a portfolio and contacts.  You will have support from an Executive Director and an eager Board of Directors.  

Please submit to Phil Busse, Executive Director at Phil@MediaMakingChange.org:  A one-page cover letter explaining your interest and qualifications; and, a resume that includes your best two examples of media projects, two examples of marketing campaigns and information about any events you have planned/hosted.  

Start date, January 2, 2018.

Meet Emily Curtis, Our New Program Associate!

905811_1457749241189140_4107404641793719144_o (2).jpg

Big things are brewing at the Media Institute as we gear up for fall programming and continue to build out our space on N Mississippi. We're excited to welcome a new staff member aboard to keep things steady as we grow. Meet Emily Curtis! As a member of the 2017 Summer Documentary Program cohort, Emily displayed a real knack for storytelling. In addition to working on communications and event coordination for Citizen, she will be acting as the associate producer for The Non-Profit Hour.

Emily is a budding audio producer, Reed College graduate, and erstwhile religionist based in Portland since 2012. She worked previously as a production assistant on a documentary about Portland’s Hindu diaspora, and is now diving headfirst into hunting down stories for radio. She believes in the power of stories to inoculate us against indifference and sow the seeds for transformative direct action, and is excited to translate that ethic to her work at the Media Institute.

Existential Dread

For the past six weeks, I have consumed more documentary film and radio than ever. Sometimes this occurs formally in class, or with friends afterwards, or at home by myself when I’m looking up the many suggestions my peers have offered to me. Notably, Emily shared that we should check out the the podcast Millennial, which I now listen to almost every day. Molly also prompted us all to gather around one evening and watch Bombay Beach (if you haven’t seen it, you need to). Local filmmaker Cambria Matlow even gave us a sneak peek at her upcoming film Woodsrider. All of these examples have evoked strong emotions, given me a fresh perspective, and made me consider my own role as a media maker.

But none of these can compare to my experience watching City of Ghosts. About a week ago, our student cohort got the chance to attend an advance screening at Regal Fox Tower 10, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since then. I can’t begin to explain or give justice to the film’s brilliance, so I’m not going to try. Instead, I will share with you my fervent stream of consciousness that I scribbled out that evening, as soon as I returned home.

7/26 - 10:30pm “City of Ghosts”

I am sitting outside on the ground next to my red bicycle, and I’ve just ridden back from downtown. I feel like all my thoughts might float away as soon as I head inside. The movie we saw was City of Ghosts, and we all sat in a row: Me, Kienna, Jordan, Moira, Theo, Emily, Coral. Usually when I leave a movie theatre, or any social event, I’m already thinking about what’s next: mingling, walking out, saying goodbye, riding home. I’m usually worried about stupid things. But tonight I didn’t care. The world had slowed down because something in that film had given me pause. After the film, we all stood in a circle outside the theatre, wordless. Coral put her arm around Moira and they continued to lean on each other for quite some time. When we finally walked outside, we all looked lost and confused. Kienna and I biked across the Hawthorne Bridge together, then went our separate ways. I rode along the Eastbank Esplanade and felt my heart rate go up every time a stranger walked past me, or a bike whizzed by, or a tree branch crackled. Regardless, at one point I stopped to take a photo because I couldn’t dismiss the beauty of the sunset along the Willamette River. A yacht rolled by, lazily. Later, as I rode up Williams St, I passed by a board game bar, where a couple sat in the window playing Monopoly. I crossed into my neighborhood, where laughter echoed from back patios. Houses were strewn with twinkling lights and surrounded by soft smelling gardens. The crescent moon was shining on my face and I felt simultaneously at ease and on edge. For the entire 38 minutes of my bike ride, as I rode through the city, I felt as though I was noticing everything around me for the first time. As I took in every detail, I considered how the world can be so beautiful and so cruel all at the same time. The idea repeats in my head on an endless loop, as though if I keep it there, maybe I’ll come up with a reason.

I thought about Emily’s response to my question after the movie, as we all stood there in our circle.

“How do we go exist now?” I had asked.

“Go be with people that you love.”

–Madi Stapleton

I Like Licorice, You’d Rather Eat Dog Shit

When I wracked my brain for a media event I could attend as a means for blog inspiration, my mind returned with nothing. Sure, I could reference something I had done in the weeks past, but I wanted to focus on something much more present in my mind. And without any events I felt compelled to attend, I figured I might as well create one.

First, I was tasked to find my audience. This was easy. I’ve been staying with my uncle, his fiancé, and his son for the past month and a half, constantly talking their ears off about movies, all that they’re missing out on by not reading contextual additives for my favorite franchises, and one specific jewel in the now-saturated genre of comic book movies: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. With nearly one week until I left, I finally wore them down enough to sit down in front of what I assumed would be the best cinematic experience of their life.

As I pressed play, I had a faint feeling of discomfort and questioned my plan. Would forcing them to watch this movie make them love it? Would I enjoy it for the sixth time? Do I even have enough knowledge about movies to tell people that this movie is objectively good?

But as quickly as that feeling arose, it faded. I heard the 8-bit remix of the Universal Studios Theme and fell into a trance. Without pause, for an hour and fifty-two minutes I sat, head on a swivel, looking back and forth between what I love, and my relatives (teehee).

It is rare to have an experience in which one can teach and be taught. I was both a presenter, but also a viewer. I could show my audience something unique and innovative whist learning from them that unique and innovative don’t mean the same thing to everyone.

I’d love to say they adored it. I know I did. But I think it’s almost more important to realize that it’s okay for them not to like it. I tend to write off things that I am not immediately attracted to. A movie that doesn’t immediately pique my interest may fall by the wayside for me, while someone else finds it speaks to them in a way no other film has.

As students of film, and pursuers of quality creative products, we must work to both create our own opinions on things we find interesting, but also understand the opinions of those around us. As stated best by my 14-year-old cousin who is just learning of the world of cinema, “It’s cool for you to like cheesy movies dude. That’s your thing. I think I like good ones.”

The reason that film is so important to so many of us is because we can all find our unique perspectives within the broad range of cinema that is created. Film is just like candy: I like salty licorice, but you’d rather eat dog shit.

–Atlas Finch

 

From a Bad Day to a Great One

I never thought I’d hate public transportation so much. It definitely has its high points, but one of them was not Tuesday. We had our shooting planned to a T. We’d be at Citizen by 12:30 p.m. sharp to take the bus up to PDX. Our plan was to film some simple b-roll of Dignity Village and hopefully interact with some of the residents.

I blazed down Michigan Ave that morning on my bike. I was determined to be on time to take the bus. My sixteen minute Google Maps predicted bike ride took ten minutes. I arrived at Citizen only to find out that we had a small hiccup. Well, more like a rather large vomit. There was no equipment, none. Zilch. Nothing. Nada.

Instead of filming some lovely footage, Coral and I spent the better part of four hours on a wild goose chase for a camera and its dressings. Apparently, three other groups had equipment, even groups that didn’t need it. So, upon the news that Emily had our equipment in her car that was about to be repaired, we booked it to the next bus to SE Portland to her apartment.

Of course, SE Portland isn’t close in the slightest to Mississippi Ave by public transportation. So, I languished for over an hour on two separate buses to arrive at Emily’s apartment. I sat trapped in the back of the bus next to two late-twenty-something guys. They just happened to be reliving their high school years as loudly as humanly possible, while hurling spittle into my ear all the while.

We arrived at Emily’s apartment in just enough time to snag the camera before she spirited away to get her car fixed. Everything seemed right in the world for all of two seconds. I could have sworn that I smiled for two seconds. So, our trial by TriMet fire was over, yeah? Nope. After the angels had sang and the clouds opened up overhead to grant us time to shoot the rest of the day we realized, rather fortuitously, that our little quest had been doomed by design.

The camera had no battery. Let me repeat that. We had a one-thousand dollar camera, complete with carrying kit, but we were thwarted by a lithium devil the size of a block of cheese. I’m talking two cheesesticks at most. We ventured back to Citizen and arrived there an hour and a half later (the bus was delayed and an hour ride) utterly exhausted.

Yes, Tuesday was a disaster, but Wednesday was one of our greatest triumphs. For one, we began the day with an interview with Berk Nelson, one of Mayor Ted Wheeler’s chief advisors. Our luck began with him simply agreeing to interview and continued with the stellar interview that followed. We discovered that the shotgun mic on the camera worked wonders and that Berk even knew his way around a lav mic. He gave us all of the governmental input that we so craved.

After the interview, successful yet yearning for more, we called our mentor Michael for a pep-talk. We had yet to choose a main character for our documentary. We debated everything from just sitting and waiting for someone interesting to show up at Right To Dream Too, to just going nuclear and only having our documentary contain interviews.

Thankfully, after a flurry of texting with none other than Catholic charity wunderkind Vahid Brown we learned that Vahid had an exclusive tour of the Kenton Women’s Village. Access to the women’s village was, and remains to be, some of the most guarded journalistic access relating to houselessness. We, two upstarts from China and Richmond, Virginia had that access. The tour itself was scintillating, but our big break came when we met Desiree, our new documentary main character.

Desiree was a part of the tour to represent her houseless tiny house village of Hazelnut Grove to Vahid and some other bigwigs, and represent she did. She wasn’t camera shy in the slightest and agreed to interview with us tomorrow (Thursday) and grant us access to Hazelnut Grove. She could best be described as a spunky grandma, with grey pigtails and a nose for activism, who always wears purple.

Tomorrow we go to the mattresses. We’ll be going to Hazelnut Grove and trying to hammer out the bulk of our narrative around Desiree. Wish us luck! Even though when you read this our filming will have already happened. Who says a bad day has to mean a bad week?

–Jordan Joseph

Oh Hi, Mark

Last Friday Coral, Jordan, Atlas, and I went to see one of the worst movies ever made.

On purpose.

In the process, we got to experience one of Portland’s (arguably) coolest local offerings: Cinema 21. The movie theater, located on 21st street, always offers more small-screen, carefully curated fare than other large blockbuster theaters. Over the past few years, I’ve had the opportunity to see a few amazing films there that I couldn’t catch anywhere else; The Red ShoesThe Illusionist, and Tarkovsky’s Stalker to name a few. That night, we went to see The Room, Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 drama—a movie many film critics have called “the worst film of all time.” The theater was offering an interactive viewing, a la Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Not only was I pumped to go to an interactive viewing of one of the most terrible movies ever, I had actually already gone to see an interactive viewing for The Room at Cinema 21 a few years previous. To be fair, Tommy himself was at this viewing, and his strange behavior during the Q&A proceeding the film will definitely go down as one of my most cherished high school memories. Safe to say that I’d enjoyed myself at this viewing so much that as soon as tickets were available for last Friday, I was already asking my MISC classmates if they wanted to come.

Even without Tommy, The Room didn’t disappoint during a second public viewing. As the four of us queued up at the front of a line that wrapped all the way around the block, we started seeing people dressed in khaki pants, blazers, and dark sunglasses. Some even wore dark curly-haired wigs; their transformation into Johnny, the main character of The Room, was uncanny. Portlanders were going all out for this movie. I knew this was gonna be good.

I was also nervous, and excited, to bring along Atlas and Jordan, neither of whom had seen the film before; interactive viewings are intense. In the lobby of theater used to stand a giant, poster board sized sign that delineated when and how audiences of The Room are ‘suggested’ to interact with the masterpiece. In practice, things are a little less organized: over the course of the film, lines are screamed, sound effects are enthusiastically improvised, and there are intermittent cries of “SPOONS!” followed by hail storms of—you guessed it-- plastic spoons, prompted by onscreen setpieces.

However, despite the barrage of utensils, we all got through the movie intact and I think I speak for all of us when I say I had a fantastic time. Normally, I’m one for keeping quiet in the movie theater and letting the film wash over you, drawing you into its narrative. With that in mind, I can safely say that the interactive viewing of The Room is possibly the best way to enjoy the film—there’s something about watching adults scream “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!!” in a crowded theater, complete with hand gestures, that smacks of community, or even something uniquely Portland.

But who knows; maybe it’s the nonsensical cuts, the random football tossing, or Wiseau’s brilliant line delivery that just makes for a plain fantastic time. 

–Lucy Stevens

“Don’t You Ever Come Back”

Last Monday I saw the movie Persepolis as part of the RESISTANCE Film Series at Citizen. It was such a heavy experience and emotional investment that I was not able to utter a word after seeing the film. I knew that it was a good movie, but I wasn’t prepared for it to be so profoundly personal. Even after 30 years, I feel touched by Marjane’s narrative. There is a striking, even frightening similarity between Marjane’s reality and mine.

Greater of Two Evils

Baby Marjane’s Iran, though well shadowed by an underlying political storm, used to be a relatively prosperous place. Marjane and her middle-class progressive family would never have thought, as they protest against inhumane persecution of political prisoners, that the soon-to-come replacement would only add to their misery.

She led a life of an exile, being sent off to Austria and back, then sent back to Paris as a young woman. It was more complicated than having to bear the title of “refugee.” Part of it was a universal issue of expats—learning to be away from home. Fitting into another culture, making friends, speaking a foreign language, learning to make food, going to hospitals and pharmacies by yourself, having to call family and tell them everything was fine, etcetera. Part of it, as I speculated, was remorse and horror. It must be devastating to see that everything you stood for and believed in came only to hurt you and your loved ones. The revolution happened, the monarch was overthrown, but a better Iran didn’t arrive as promised. Ironically, she was asked to flee now rather than before. It was watching your neighborhood burning to ashes and your friends being locked up and not being able to do anything about it. It was hearing your mom trying to hide her sobbing voice on the phone and you trying to hide yours.

I used to feel a life like this is far away from my world; yet I see it approaching sooner and sooner for me. Maybe there won’t be a bloodshed war, but there probably will be mis-convicted crimes and secret persecutions. Maybe there won’t be massacres of political prisoners, but there probably will be death with unclear reasons and spiking population behind bars. Maybe there won’t be mandatory hijabs and police raiding parties, but there will be more 404-not found webpages, disappearing content, vanished voices.

Silence is strongest synonym for violence. I shiver for such a future to rule my country, but I fear more for a drastic shift a power that lands us in a worse place—history has proven it not only possible, but common. Iran, Afghanistan, Chile…will China be next?

I don’t know. I prefer not to think so. I hope a day will never come in which my parents send me off in the airport, and say to me “don’t ever come back.”

A Distant Familiarity

Another layer in this movie was Marjane’s personal life. Every so often, we were so busy looking at news to realize refugees have their own narrative about romance, pop culture, and much more of what we share as young people of the world. Sometimes we forget that they listen to the same kind of music as we do, they gossip about the same celebrities as we do, and they fall in love, they break up, and fall in love again, just as we do.

Marjane has fallen in love three times; she had faith that she met her Mr. Right, only to be let down, getting up to believe once more, and being let down again. She got cheated one time, and got unbearable bored by love the next. Had been put on either of us, it would be a banal tale of a heartbroken but naive girl looking for true love. Yet with her, the story is worth telling, because she was making a point, bringing a missing piece as counterweight to the overwhelmingly biased picture of a refugee.

Let us also not forget that she loves Iron Maiden and Michael Jackson, loves to act as Bruce Lee, wears dresses with plunging necklines to parties, and that such things exist in what we now label as a closed and stoic land.

I love Marjane. I love her for being full of guts and feelings. I love her for being true and honest, for never hiding and acting against her belief, yet ever so tender with her loved ones. I love her and I will forever remember her.

—Coral Yang

Exploring Independent Media in Portland Through Zines

This past weekend, I had the chance to check out the Zine Symposium in Southeast Portland. For those who might not know, zines are independent, self-published magazines usually made on a low budget. The first known zine was created back in the 1930s, but zines really started to get big in the 1970s with the emergence of the punk rock scene and the DIY movement. The art has only been growing since, as technological advances have made it easier and easier for people to self-publish more volumes of their work.

The symposium itself was an all-weekend event, with panels, workshops, tabling, and discussions. I was only able to stop by on Sunday afternoon, when different zine-makers were tabling to promote and sell their work. The event took place in a building that used to be a furniture store. Rows of tables created a loop around the room that visitors could circuit through, with a station of snacks and water for those who planned to stay awhile.

The room was packed when we arrived around 2 o’clock in the afternoon and it was a little overwhelming at first, being surrounded by so many different artists and their work. It was hard to decide which zines to buy—there were too many amazing ones to choose from! Everyone’s styles were so different and covered a vast array of topics.

The zines I did decide to buy were pretty different from each other. One of the first ones I bought because the drawing style really drew me in. It’s called The October Country (Volume 3), by an artist named Sage Howard I talked to for awhile. It is a collection of drawings he made during Inktober, a challenge that artists from around the world participate in each year where they complete an ink drawing every day of the month. Another zine I had to get because it’s so relevant to what we’ve been learning at MISC. It’s called How to Make Radio #2. It’s simpler in design, but has a great structure where it walks you through some basic tips for getting started in the radio and podcasting world. The creator is even a producer on a podcast! Combining zines and audio—how could I say no?

At the symposium, I had the chance to actually stop and chat with the artists I was buying work from, which for me, made it a better experience than just reading the zines online. With the internet, the fact that everyone can make their voice heard can be both empowering and suffocating at the same time.

Putting everyone on the same platform means anyone can put their thoughts, art, content, etc out there for the world to see, but with so many other people doing the exact same thing, it’s easy to feel lost. Being able to actually connect with the people making art and media you admire is such a different experience. That’s why I love that Portland has so many different outlets for people to actually promote and share their work in a way that doesn’t feel like just shouting into a void. I feel like I’ve been exposed to local, DIY types of media and art in Portland more than any other city.

From community-based stations like Open Signal to individual artists hand-drawing zines to trade and sell at the Zine Symposium, there’s a place for all kinds of media-makers to share their work here. When we give everyone ways to actually create and promote their own work, you can actually get voices and stories that aren’t heard as often - the ones we don’t get from Hollywood or other mainstream outlets.

At MISC, we’ve had the chance to meet so many independent media-makers, from Skye Fitzgerald producing his own human rights documentaries about refugees to our radio mentors, Sarina, Phoebe, and Alex, all making their livings as freelance audio producers. It has been really exciting and inspiring to meet so many people involved in the community, and have the chance to make my own pieces to share as well.

–Kienna Kulzer

Just Light

Of all the quick, in-depth, video tutorials that Tim led for us at Open Signal this week, I found the lighting tutorial the most helpful. Where the camera day and the audio day had been borderline bewildering, I think we all left the building on Wednesday feeling confident that we could light an interview.

There was no terminology, functions, or menus to go through and learn. It was just light. We set up the light stands and fiddled around with them under his guidance. The whole class had to participate to make the lighting look good, and it was really cool to be able to use the different filters and dials to manipulate the image (which was being fed from a camera to a large monitor that we all could see). We needed two brave volunteers, Emily and Coral, to sit in front of the camera and have their faces observed in front of the whole class, in varying amounts of light. Thanks to them, we were able to use the time we had to look critically at lighting and figure out what we could do to make it look better.

After that, we still had time to go on a brief tour of the rest of the building. Open Signal is a public access filmmaking and broadcasting organization, and they have a lot of studios and equipment that they rent out to local media-makers like ourselves. Now that we’ve gone through their training, we can check out their cameras, tripods, audio recorders, and lighting equipment to make our documentaries in the next few weeks.

They also let people use their studios, which we had a chance to see during the tour. They have two large, quiet rooms, complete with crane-rig cameras and green screens that are open to the public, so long as they have a proposal and have gone through the training. I think it’s amazing that there are organizations like Open Signal that make media-making so accessible to ordinary people. All you really need is the motivation to create something and you can make it happen.

Theo Morris 

Reasons to Spend Your Leisure Time Collecting Trash

The weekend had arrived. My audio project was complete. After over a week of manic, late night editing, a weight had finally fallen off my shoulders.

So, my next decision was this: how should I possibly spend these precious days of relative ease? What can I do to unwind before we hit the ground running with our video projects?

I could have gone for a hike, checked out a local concert, or simply spent my whole weekend sleeping (I honestly could have done that). But instead, Birgit (my host for the summer) enticed me to do something entirely different: she asked me help her collect trash.

Yes, I honestly set my alarm for 7:00am on a Saturday to go pick up trash. How could I ever agree to this, you might ask? On my one weekend of freedom?

First of all, Birgit is very convincing. But it wasn’t just that—there’s actually an organization in Portland that makes trash collection a fun, recreational activity. I’m not lying.

This Saturday, the Columbia Slough Watershed Council coordinated with Next Adventure to help folks get out onto kayaks and into the slough to help clean it up! So, basically you get to paddle around, chat with new people, and enjoy the wildlife—while also stopping along the way to pick up trash and debris.

And it turns out a lot of people were just as interested as Birgit and I. We launched at Kelly Point with about twenty other people. On top of that, the council had organized five different access points where other groups of volunteers were also spending their morning kayaking the slough.

In addition to being able to chat and discuss local issues with the other volunteers, I also got to enjoy the presence of two eagles, an owl, a heron, and a curious turtle. It was a happy day.

But the most interesting (and bittersweet) part of this was the sheer volume of trash we all collected. When we returned to land, everyone’s kayaks and canoes were overflowing. A few people had larger objects they were towing along behind them. It felt productive to have collected so much, but it also made me wonder—why is there so much trash here in the first place?

As with a lot of issues in Portland, some of this seems to circle back to the housing crisis. There are many people camping and fishing along the slough because they literally have nowhere else to go, nothing else to eat—and nowhere else to leave their trash. It’s not a choice, it’s not laziness or lack of care: it’s because a lot of these people have no other option right now, largely due to lack of avenues for support coming from the city of Portland.

As we packed up our kayaks and said our goodbyes, some of the other volunteers began to vocalize the same issue I had been considering all day. A few folks talked about ways in which environmental advocates might partner with organizations supporting the houseless community. It’s all still a brainstorm, but I appreciate that we ended our Saturday with some fresh ideas.

Anybody who is interested in tackling these problems, joining these conversations, and supporting a good cause should definitely check out the Watershed Council—they are a great group!

—Madi Stapleton

Affordable Alien

Last Saturday I went to go catch Alien: Covenant at the Academy Theater in Southwest Portland. When I entered the Academy Theater, the décor was comforting. The physical theaters were small, cozy, and historical, making it a very pleasant experience to sit through scenes that depict aliens exploding out of stomachs.

Now usually I would say that the film I saw would spark some kind of realization, but my observation of Portland’s independent theaters started at the ticket window. It was when discovered that a Saturday night showing was $4.

Never in my life had that happened. In any other movie theater, expecting such a low price for a movie would not be the case because we assume profit-seeking media conglomerates that back theater companies would push prices up as movie distribution prices increase. This dilemma leaves little room for the showing of independent or low budget productions that would be meaningful for the public to see.

Price matters. It makes the difference between someone going to see a movie and not seeing one. In this way, a $4 screening of Alien puts the democratization of media front and center. This is what was so great about the Academy Theater—that seeing a movie doesn’t have to be a financial loss. Perhaps Portland's independent media arts community ought to be applauded for helping the independent movie theater system survive on such low profits.

The number of independent movie theaters in Portland amazes me. Though I have only made it to the Hollywood and Academy Theater thus far, I cannot wait to sit myself down on the many theater seats to come.

While I have media access on my mind, I also want to highlight another organization that supports accessibility to media or democratization of media in the Portland community: Open Signal. My cohort and I are in the middle of film workshops there. Its mission is to provide film production tools and knowledge so that locals can broadcast their productions on Open Signal's community access channel. On a tour of the studio, our guide compared Open Signal to a mosquito next to the big TV networks and stations. It doesn’t follow codes that they follow and allows for independent creations. They offer workshops I hadn’t even heard of like, ‘video glitching.’ It really seems like a system too good to be true. We have this mindset that media is supposed to cost a fortune to make and even more to be taken seriously. By providing equipment and workshops, they are empowering people of all ages to involve themselves in media. 

Sometimes we need little reminders that technology and expertise are not completely out of our hands. Being introduced to this resource and media community reminded me that there is hope for me to one day work somewhere where that media production isn't driven by profits but by the arts and knowledge-seeking community surrounding it.

–Isa Kaufman

“Oscar Peterson Didn’t Have to Think About Playing a C Chord, He Just Did It”

Monday marked the halfway point of our time in Portland. We had turned in our Audio
Documentaries the previous Sunday, and were ready to move on to the second segment of the
program: video.

Though Theo, Moira, and I had already captured a lot of footage at The Big Float (an
event encouraging public recreation in the Willamette River) on Saturday, we were just now
getting acquainted with the cameras which we were to use for the remainder of the program.
For some, this was a task not far from that of a scientist analyzing alien technology. As a more
audio-oriented person myself, I felt this whole-heartedly. I often found myself shifting my gaze
back and forth from the groupings of buttons spackling the side of the device to the rotating
dials on the lens, wondering if I had any hope of mastering this equipment in just four weeks.

Slowly, we made our way through the camera, learning of the iris dial to control
exposure, the focus dial to change the sharpness of our subject, and the zoom. As I fumbled
with the camera, our instructor, Tim, gave an insight I hadn’t thought of since my days in jazz
band: “Oscar Peterson didn’t have to think about playing a C chord, he just did it.” As a pianist
myself, who has spent hours upon hours studying Oscar Peterson and his uncanny ability to
move through changes with ease, Tim’s comment immediately clicked in my mind. For as much
classical training I’ve had in piano, I’ve found that just feeling my way around the keyboard is
one of the best ways to move through challenging changes. When I started thinking about this
in the context of recording video, it made perfect sense: in documentaries, we want the visuals
to give us a fluid entrance into the setting and move us through the scenes seamlessly. The
technical aspects of the camera work are less important than the “feel” or “vibe” one can make
come across through video.

Now, all I have to do is convince Theo and Moira to call ourselves the Willamette River
Trio.


Above is a video of Oscar Peterson performing in his trio. If running low on
time, I would suggest listening to the second tune, “Satin Doll.”

–Atlas Finch

This Biggest Float

The whole concept of hundreds of people submerging themselves into Willamette River, once rumored to be "toxic," sounded a bit like the opening sequence from The Day After Tomorrow—horrifying. As a newcomer to Portland all I’ve heard about Willamette are the dirty details of its dirty history. I’m not suggesting this is a routine conversation. However it’s a conversation that ultimately generates interesting personal accounts of outbreaks of rashes,and or other miscellaneous instances of feeling…“off.”  And so after hearing all of this gossip, I decided there was only one thing left to do…get in the river.

I recruited a lovely member of our group, Kienna, to accompany me on this journey, and we settled on these floating docks off the river. They bore nostalgia for my childhood summers in Maine. We eventually submerged ourselves in the river, after witnessing commercial boats coming to and fro adjacent to our makeshift tanning bed. The water appeared enticing, which made the initial plunge not a terribly difficult feat. However it was the exiting the river that proved to be especially challenging. As the current was constantly changing, it was harder to exert every muscle in my body to free myself from the rivers clutches. After multiple tries, I was able to achieve the beached whale flop back onto our safety dock.

While that was my first encounter, which I did take some creative liberties in embellishing, my second submersion was a different and more joyous affair. This past Saturday marked the 7th annual Big Float—a project put on by the Human Access Project, aka a group of zealous endorsers of the “riverlution.” They promote increased recreational activity in the Willamette. Decades ago, Portland began to find ways to prevent excess sewage and waste from entering the river, and as recently as a few weeks ago the government's website deemed that it is safe to swim in the river.

The festival was like an environmentalist's Coachella. Subaru had an especially big sponsorship and was able to put one of their forester car models on a floating dock, which was hilariously upstaged by the eclectic array of musicians that were circulated throughout the event.
My second time dipping in was significantly more populated, as I played bumper cars with other participants of the float, who had quite the collection of inner tubes masked as other modes of transportation.

–Moira Peterson

What a Music Thanatologist Taught Me About Storytelling

I woke up the morning of my interview filled with this odd jitteriness. This would be my first official interview for a piece I hoped to use, for once. To actually include in a portfolio. To actually show friends and family, when they ask what exactly is it that I am trying to do with myself in this life. To send back to the individuals whose story it was meant to serve. If I messed this one up, another learning experience gained, but the harsh self-critic inside of me would feel the loss of an opportunity to tell a story properly. I wanted so badly to create something I could be proud of enough to send out and give a life beyond it. A life where it would invoke emotion. Or spark a new dialogue (or perhaps continue an ancient one, in this case). My project is meant to explore questions surrounding death. Specifically, it tackles a practice that aims to help us talk about it, cope with it, and even make it normal

I was scheduled to interview Kieran Schnabel, a harpist and music thanatologist for Portland’s very own harpist hospice non-profit organization called SacredFlight. Essentially, Kieran helps people die peacefully. I knew that just as important as my interview questions and the sound quality of my audio would be my ability to truly listen and process all that he would be sharing with me.

So, in preparation for the interview, before double checking my batteries in my Zoom H1 or even printing out my interview questions, I meditated. I wanted to be sure my own worries and insecurities as a novice media maker wouldn’t distract me from being the responsible storyteller I aspire to be, especially with this type of heavy and fragile material. I slowed down my thoughts and did enough breathing exercises until I felt ready. Then, all of sudden, I realized time was catching up to me. All the jitters I thought left my system, rushed back in a panic. I got myself all put together and hurried over the local church where his office was located.

There was no amount of meditation I could have done to match the calmness and focus of Kieran in this interview. He spoke softly but purposely. Every word he shared with me carried emotion and deep reflection. As someone who always seeks meaningful exchanges, it was a truly memorable experience.

In our conversation, I saw many similarities between his work as a music thanatologist and that of any storyteller, especially those in the field of documentary. The same way I had to emotionally prepare myself to be attuned to my interviewee and present in the moment, so would he before any vigil he would be a part of. It’s a balancing act we have to perform to follow our training, whether it be interviewing skills or harp chords, while also undergoing the humbling process of throwing out what you were taught for what you know is necessary in the moment. I like to think it’s in those moments that we embrace how human all of us are, no matter how hard we want to put that aside. Intuition doesn’t have to be in conflict with doing diligent, professional work. Rather it is what sets us apart from the next professional.

When I asked Kieran about a vigil experience that had stayed with him, it took him some time to respond (understandably—he serves about six patients per day). I made sure he felt comfortable in those moments of reflection and silence. I had to remind myself to be comfortable with silence as well. In those moments, I tried to imagine all the different scenes Kieran and his harp have touched. I found I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to witness a person die in front of you once, let alone six times in one day. While his work specifically deals with serving terminally ill and dying patients and my work doesn't, I realized our paths have some things in common. I believe that the duty a documentary storyteller has in the world is this: to carry every story—every layer of joy and suffering, every face documented, every place captured—deep inside of their heart.

It’s a gift, but it’s also a curse. Sometimes. It means you may very well carry hundreds of people’s stories inside you after a lifetime of doing the work of a storyteller or music thanatologist. It means you entered someone else’s world temporarily as a witness, and no matter if you helped or could’ve done better or perhaps worsened things, you leave and you live always remembering that. You are an outsider with a benevolent mission, but you will always be the outsider.

I feel that both storytellers and harpist hospice workers, in spite of those existential challenges, are healers. Hospice workers help people die in peace and extend that peace to the grieving family. Storytellers help us make sure that even when we do die, our souls, our stories, memories, cultures, and ideas, exist beyond ourselves. They help us face ourselves. They help us learn ourselves and those around us.

But who helps us healers heal ourselves? Kieran told me how important it was for him to have conversations after vigils to simply process his experiences. He explained that if he doesn't properly do that, he has trouble serving the next patient. This is good advice for storytellers as well. If we want our work to spark hard conversations, we should have those conversations with each other. If we want to heal anyone around us, we must be sure we are healing ourselves.

We cannot simply come into people’s worlds to exploit their stories and emotions for our own gain, hoping it’ll simply make us seem like better storytellers. We have a responsibility as people who are keepers of memories and histories outside ourselves. We need to think deeply about why we want to do this work, and if we are willing to give it the emotional labor and self-reflection it requires.

–Amanda Peckler

Sticking to a Deadline: One Man’s Search For Sticker Stardom

I grasped the plastic coated in pressure sensitive adhesive, admiring the multitude of colors and neat design emblazoned on it. A sticker from KBOO a gleaming radio tower with a red, Sovietesque star perched on top of the broadcast tower. The teal green sticker sits on my laptop now—a reminder of the independent radio station where it came from.

Over the past few weeks I’ve realized that Portland is a literal treasure trove for stickers. Erin Yanke of KBOO even said that she was giving us one sticker for our laptops and one for our bikes. I think the proliferation of stickers has something to do with the obscene number of people who enjoy biking way too much here. Nevertheless, the sticker that I received at KBOO hasn’t been the only sticker that I’ve proudly affixed to my clear MacBook Speck Case.

Looking at my laptop and my burgeoning collection of stickers I had an epiphanic moment: the stickers all tell a story. Whether it’s the sticker from KBOO that speaks of the rushed vox pop projects we attempted to complete there, or the Powell’s Books sticker that ushers in memories of a scavenger hunt gone horribly wrong, the little pieces of plastic aren’t just decoration. Here are some of the moments that stuck with me in Portland.

The Powell’s Books sticker that I meticulously cut to size with scissors to maintain room on my laptop is a reminder of the scavenger hunt where my wayward sense of direction didn’t help us in the slightest. We made it to Powell’s with no trouble. The sign is huge and the clue was obvious, but after that our group got horribly lost and behind. And it was irrevocably All. My. Fault. My sense of direction has never been good. The advent of Google Maps doesn’t help it either. I can hardly get around the city of Richmond where I lived for twenty years and still sometimes use GPS to get home. So, no surprise that in an entirely new city, Portland, my hopeless bravado and directionally challenged brain took us the complete opposite direction on multiple occasions. We ended up catching a TriMet bus to gain ground on the other groups scavenging. Luckily, my sense of direction didn’t put us on the wrong bus. I did venture back to Powell’s later that night though and have the fond memory of Roxane Gay signing a copy of her new book Hunger for me.

Another sticker highlight happened this past weekend when I went to the Mississippi Street Fair. I biked over to the fair and was wandering around in bearable heat when I came across a local artist’s booth. The artist was offering free stickers for an Instagram follow. Me, being the sticker aficionado that I am, recognized his artistic talent and followed him almost immediately. In return, he gave me a skillfully drawn sticker of a bird being held by a pair of creepy looking hands. So, not the happiest vibe for a street fair, but I wasn’t going to turn down a sticker that cool.

I remember the best parts of the Street Fair were the aroma of smoked barbecue from the BBQ ribs competition wafting around, a kindly man with a bubble machine making his way around the festival, and discovering an array of inventive graphic tees. One t-shirt had a picture of bike and the words “Put the Fun Between Your Legs” printed on it. It was a great experience to see droves of people gathering to buy community art, support local vendors, and eat local food.

Most recently I acquired a new sticker on Monday for X Ray FM Radio. We were meeting with Jefferson Smith and talking about the democratization of radio. X Ray FM is based in the basement of the Falcon Art Community at 5415 Albina Ave and the hallways are filled with grandiose paintings. We were informed on multiple occasions by both Phil and Jeff that many of the paintings were the work of Saddam Hussein’s portrait artist who was smuggled into the country.

Monday wasn’t the first time I saw X Ray FM’s digs because during the scavenger hunt we had made a foray into the space and taken pictures of the outlandish paintings. That Monday though, after Jeff’s lecture, I left with a tiny souvenir of the day and it wasn’t the notes I’d taken on the talk or the talk itself, but it was the X Ray FM sticker that was given out afterward.

Thinking back on the stickers I’ve picked up thus far this trip has helped me catalogue a lot of the memories that I’ve made so far, but not all of them.

The stickers don’t tell the tale of rushing on a bus on Fourth of July to catch the Hawthorne Bridge fireworks with Theo and Lucy. Or, that same day abandoning a Reed party where people entertained themselves by flipping hammers and hammering nails while getting hammered themselves (but not by actual hammers).

They also wouldn’t tell you about the David Lynch retrospective I went to on Friday night where I met Theo and Jessica to see Eraserhead. They definitely don’t tell you about the surprise fire alarms that were set off in the midst of the film or about David Lynch’s early work. The struggle catching the last bus home later that night in an effort to get groceries from Safeway is definitely not commemorated by stickers.

I think the most significant part of this summer that stickers don’t cover is my personal struggle to stick to a deadline. With so many things going on in Portland and so many worthwhile organizations to make a radio or documentary piece on the toughest part of the whole thing is distilling it down and quickly. The program is flying by and, as I discussed with Atlas on Sunday, after this week we’ll only have four weeks left of Portland and four weeks left to see our fellow MISCies. There’s still plenty of time to try to stick to deadlines though. I hope there’s still time to get more stickers. I’m cautiously optimistic about all of it, but hey, at least I’m optimistic.

—Jordan Joseph

Chopping Chicken, Cutting Audio

If the past few days have taught me anything, it’s this: condensing down almost three hours of recorded audio into only three to four minutes of smoothly produced, informative content is…difficult. I actually had a ton of fun with the recording process itself—on July 1st, I attended my first Tender Table meeting, and it was an awesome experience.

Being in a predominantly POC-occupied space while two women told stories through food produced audibly rich (and delicious) results. My interview with Stacey Tran, the founder of Tender Table, went similarly well; I was lucky enough to not only get a chance to talk with Stacey, but also to get a taste of her cooking! I spent the evening prodding my microphone towards her hands as she dexterously chopped apples, lettuce, and chicken. Eating in her apartment was a simultaneously intense and casual experience, and by the end of the night, I had taken roughly an hour and a half of audio.

But getting the audio was only half the battle. Now, I’m faced with the task of sifting through all this rough content. As much as I tried to craft the overall structure and shape of my project before the interview, I’m realizing that I’ll have to cut out so many chunks I love. For example, Stacey’s moving story about a Korean friend who was taught that her palate for wine would be ruined by eating too much kimchi.

It’s been painful trying to figure out the bits I think add character, but which others actually serve my overall narrative. After a night of snipping up the big chunks of the interviews, my Hindenburg clipboard is overflowing with audio clips titled things like: “Stacey cute,” “chicken sounds,” “’I know about pho,” and “chicken story.” So far, knitting these different sonic moments together has proved a difficult but rewarding process. 

—Lucy Stevems

Two Brief Moments in Portland

One

The first day back in Portland, I'm almost late for class.

I'm on the eastbound MAX refreshing Google Maps every other minute. The bus schedule says 1:40.

The MAX arrives on time; I rush to the bus station 300 feet away. The bus is supposed to be there in two minutes, but as my 2pm class approaches, I see no sign of the bus.

I'm getting worried. On Google maps, “delayed 2 mins” “delayed 4 mins” “delayed 8 mins”—the number keeps going up. I finally get on the bus at 1:53, and when I rush into to Citizen, class is just getting started.

I have a lot to say about the Portland public transportation system. The same thing happens again over the next couple of days—either late or early, the bus almost never arrives on time.

A couple days later, when I am on my way home, the bus takes a long stop next to Citizen. The ramp comes down, and two people sitting across from me move from their seats. Our driver steps down, lifts the handicapped seats, and helps a woman in a wheelchair move into the bus. The whole process takes about 4 minutes. That’s why buses are never on time—because people's needs must be taken care of. 

My best friend from high school who studied in France told me that while he was there, he always complained how French people have a habit of procrastination and inefficiency. Yet before he had to leave, he thought back and suddenly realized France might have been one of the countries that respond best to its citizens’ needs.

I started to appreciate Portland a little bit more.

Two

On the 4th of July I don't go out to one of the big parties nor to see the fireworks—I go to Madi’s host home, where they are having a low-key potluck BBQ in their backyard.

It's a beautiful backyard, with the fragrance of lavender, shade from tall trees, and wind chimes tinkling overhead. Madi tells me her host, Birgit, is a photographer from Germany. She’s a tall woman, both arms tattooed, and I noticed a newly tattooed German verse on her right arm.

“Were you there when the Berlin Wall came down?” I ask her.

“Oh, I was doing it!” she says with pride. “I just flew back to Germany, dropped my bags at my parents house and I was like, ‘Bye! Off to Berlin!’”

Fireworks start to boom throughout the neighborhood. I imagine Birgit's figure within the monochromic footage I've seen on TV—I have a hard time registering that a real person, having gone through a major moment in world history, is sitting right in front of me. She witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, but she is also one of us, lives in Portland, and likes biking and art. She is one of the many interesting people Portland has brought to me so far.

-Coral Yang

Video Killed the Radio Star (and Radio Killed the Writer)

As anxious as it makes me to think about The Future and What Happens After College, I’m going to be a senior this year and suppose I can’t avoid it forever. Also, Phil and Molly are making me think about it, as we have to give them a description of our dream jobs this week. It’s just an assignment, but it’s led me into a minor existential crisis the past couple days.

I’ve always been an indecisive person. While most people switch their major maybe a few times in college, I’ve changed mine no less than eight times before finally settling on my current degree, Cultural Anthropology.

Growing up, I loved to read and write. I always had some novel or short story I was working on. So naturally, I started college as a Creative Writing major with the dream of becoming a writer. The thing is, it turns out I really hate English classes. I just felt like I was going nowhere. How was I going to actually make any meaningful change in the world by taking apart the rhetoric in Gilgamesh? (Not to say anything bad about English Lit folks—it’s just not my thing). That question took me on a prolonged detour with Public Health with plans of doing the Peace Corps and working in women’s health before finally settling on my current degree. Anthropology does, in an unexpected way, combine a lot of the aspects of the two fields I’d previously been torn between.

So fast forward back to week two of MISC, where I’m still trying to figure out exactly how I want to shape these new realizations into a career path for myself. And that, finally, brings us to the world of audio.

Hearing our mentors talk about radio and working on my own audio documentary project this week has made me think a lot more about pursuing it as a career. I think it’s both totally unexpected and totally natural that audio has made such a significant comeback in the 21st century. While it’s an old medium, not as flashy or immersive as film maybe, what it does is cater to is the go-go-go mentality we currently have as a society. It’s a rare form that you can consume while multitasking.

As a full-time student with two jobs, I don’t have a lot of free time to watch TV or read anything not related to school. But I do have time for podcasts. It’s the only kind of media I can consume consistently everyday, on my morning commute, as I deliver mail at work, as I make dinner, as I do dishes, as I fall asleep.

With NPR programs like Radiolab and This American Life leading the way, podcasts are increasingly becoming a source of entertainment and news for Americans. While the audience of podcasts still remains behind that of other media forms, it is steadily growing. As all of our radio mentors have talked about, the great thing about audio is that it’s much cheaper and more accessible to create as a solo freelancer. Audio lets you include more emotion than print without all of the people and equipment necessary for a professional-quality film. Audio requires only a journalist, a professional recorder, and editing software.

One of the main benefits of audio I’ve noticed during my own project is how you’re able to capture people’s emotion and personality more than you would be with print, while still being much less invasive film. The organization I’m working with serves weekly meals to women who have been affected by homelessness, poverty, the sex industry, and domestic violence. Not everyone wants their entire identity to be associated with a period of hardship they are going through.

Many of these women I interviewed are in very vulnerable positions and having their face on film could put them at risk. I feel I was able to have real conversations with all of the women I’ve spoken with, and I’m not confident I would have been as welcomed or given that same authenticity if I had a video camera in their face. It’s easier to forget about a recorder, which allowed us to have better conversations and also gave me a way of providing some of the women the anonymity they needed for their own safety. But I was still able to capture their voices and the overall feeling of the space in a more vivid way. It’s one thing to describe a scene, but it’s another to be able to actually hear the specific sounds in the room that made it feel so warm and welcoming- the dishes clinking, the doors opening, the conversations happening between old friends.

I’m much too indecisive to settle on any one medium just yet, but audio has definitely stepped up as my number one this past week. It’s an exciting and accessible medium that gives me a way to tell stories that matter in a creative and impactful way. Is it what I’m committing to for my whole life? I don’t know. But for this next week at least, that would be my answer.  

–Kienna Kulzer

Everyone Looking Up at the Sky Together

I woke up bright and early, peed, and went back to sleep until 11. How nice it was not to have class on the Fourth of July. Last week in Gearhart, our mentor Phil told us all about how the Fourth of July in Portland was “nuts.” Parties, music, tons of traffic, fireworks—we experienced it all.

I cooked breakfast and then hopped on the MAX to begin my commute from North Portland to downtown. My host’s condo is near the last stop on the yellow line, just about as far north as you can go before hitting the Columbia River. It's not a long ride, however, and I spent a good portion of it enjoying the fantastic view of Mount Hood from the train.

I wanted to use my day off to go see the Portland Japanese Garden, one of the things that had been on my list of touristy things to do while I’m here. The Garden was beautiful, with colorful flowers, peaceful waterfalls and ponds, and an even better view of Mt. Hood than from the train. It was an interesting contrast, seeing this Garden, which looked like it had been sliced out of a Japanese compound, situated in the middle of a forest of Douglas Firs, a trademark tree of the Pacific Northwest.

After seeing the Garden, I met up with some fellow students who were celebrating at a house near Reed College. It was really fun, but I didn’t stay for long, as I was eager to see the fireworks from the Hawthorne Bridge.

Three of us left the party and got on a bus, making it to the Bridge just minutes before the fireworks were to be set off. The ramp to the bridge was closed off to vehicles, so the bus let us off about a half mile from the bridge. We walked swiftly on the dark overpass, and as our eyes adjusted to the artificial twilight, we could see a bunch of people partying on the rooftops of the buildings next to us.

As soon as we got to the crowd on the bridge, the first firework went into the air. The three of us stood on the bridge together with the rest of Portland and watched. Someone I talked to about it later summed it up quite well: “There is something about everyone looking up at the sky together that makes me feel really good.” I totally understood what they meant. For the first time in a while, I felt like I had so much in common with a bunch of people I had never met. And it wasn’t because of race or where we grew up. It was because we all liked fireworks. If only the whole world would celebrate America’s birthday (just kidding)!

–Theo Morris

Group Dynamics, Competition, and Confidence in Journalist-Activist Spaces

I have spent the past week trying to find my footing as a student in a new program, a guest at a new home, and a stranger in a new city.

Immersing myself in this new space has brought up quite a bit of reflection. What do I hope to gain from this jam packed summer? Why do I want to be a journalist, and how do I hold on to that? Meeting with successful mentors in the field, and hearing them discuss their paths to success, has provoked a sort of gut check that cannot be achieved when I am merely sitting in a collegiate journalism class, hearing my professor drone on about “the real world” and the lucrative “job market.”

There are students across the country pursuing jobs that all eleven of us would like to obtain, but there is something more specific than our desired careers that brought us to Portland this summer. Yes, this is a media institute, but the key phrase here is “social change.” We are aspiring journalists, but we are also activists, and that will always be a difficult line to walk.

For starters, the ethics of journalism nearly juxtapose the ethics of activism. The journalist’s job is to interpret, contextualize, and convey nuances of an issue. Creating an informed debate is at the heart of journalism, while the job of the activist is to have a seat at the debate table, and to advocate for certain sides of an argument.

Furthermore, journalism is a profession and a livelihood. Activism is not so compartmentalized, and in many instances, it can be a way of life. This code of ethics reaches beyond the professional arena and impacts our relationships and our social interactions. So, how do we choose to look at the world if we are both? How do we as a student cohort choose to interact with each other this summer? Are we professional aspiring journalists who are competing for praise, for success, for airtime, and eventually for jobs? Are we also activists, who are working collaboratively to lift each other up, to dismantle systems of injustice, and to repeatedly check ourselves when feelings of capitalist-driven competition creep into our psyches? The lines are continually blurred.  And maybe we don’t have to pick one.

Most of us in the program this summer are all too familiar with competition-oriented academia. We are aware that the job market will be no different, and we would like to be prepared. At the same time, we recognize that the ethics of activism such as collaboration, respect, and awareness can often result in better journalistic content. This summer, when we gather around the table at Citizen to share our projects, I hope to feel supported by my peers, not fearful of their judgement and comparisons. Media making is an art form that requires vulnerability. It calls for creativity, for excitement, and for openness. That part of my brain tends to shut down when competition is at the forefront.

I feel that my peers this summer do agree with my previous statements, and hope for a similar group dynamic as I do. It is a conscious choice that we all must set an intention to uphold. Are we going to support each other when things get difficult? Will we center our interactions on concepts of inclusion and respect? Will we call on our activist mindsets, or will we revert to the competitive tendencies that we have spent most of our lives being trained to uphold?

Only time will tell.

–Madi Stapleton