Thursday, July 7, 2011

Feelings, Freire, Forward Progress

One of the aspects of reporting that I have a hard time with is remaining neutral when telling my stories.

Firstly, how many times do you tell a story with no emotion? Hardly ever. Why should it be different for a reporter? We meet the fascinating people who have been effected in some way or another and it's our job to communicate their experience to viewers. It would be unnatural not to feel something.

Secondly, my education has taught me that when telling stories/making videos, it's normal to feel something. And to embrace that human feeling. This is especially true when uncovering more and more information in an investigation or report.
A quote that sticks with me comes from Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, "Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral."

Lastly, documentarians are inciters. They rally people to support whatever oppression, or unfamiliar cause they communicate in films. Most docs have a call to action to wrap up the report. Something to get the viewer off the couch and make changes. Here's one of my journal entries from a college course titled Communication and Social Justice:
Lastly, it is not enough to find and report the problems. There must be action. “...if we labor on with courage and patience, [our work] will bear fruit sixty and hundred fold” (169). Solutions must be presented in order for our work to be taken seriously and put into effect.

At work, I let my emotions fuel the quality of work while keeping it in check. Being neutral is a challenge I try to succeed at everyday.

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Television is a one way medium. The people on the TV dole out information without an any readily available way to receive information back. In the past decade or so, that's changed as social media and networking allows more people who wouldn't otherwise be connected, to be connected.

Still, for the majority of viewers, news media in almost all forms is a unilateral information streams. Freire talks about a "banking" concept of educating where the teacher's task is, "to fill the students by making deposits of information which he or she considers to constitute true knowledge." It sounds good. Who would know better than teachers (or, in this case, news reporters and producers) what is true and how to report it?

The counterargument says that teachers (again, news reporters) are no more important than students (in this instance, viewers). "Implicit in the banking concept... a person is merely in the world, not with the world or with others; the individual is spectator, not re-creator." The student loses agency in reality and, consequently, loses humanity.

The solution is "problem-posing" education, where teachers and students are on the same level and simultaneously teachers and students. No one group teaches the other and no one is self-taught, but all gain knowledge through dialogue about the world. "Problem-posing education affirms men and women as beings in the process of becoming -- as unfinished, uncompleted beings in and with a likewise unfinished reality."

Agency: reinstated. Humanity: reclaimed.

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How do we get there? How can we turn "banking" systems into "problem-posing" systems? It doesn't happen in news or the classroom, it happens in workplaces, community groups, and friend and family hierarchies.
(Here comes the call to action) It won't be easy and it won't be quick. But how many revolutions are?

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