Throughout the years, the city of Los Angeles has gone through its fair share of change. Most of these cultural shifts, however, have shed quite a negative light on a city of supposed angels. According to KCET Departures, this “city of sprawl,” along with a horrible reputation, is “a place with no center and no cohesiveness, a city with an intricate web of freeways that take residents from suburb to suburb erasing the concept of place, neighborhood and community.” However, there are those special few who continue to believe that the streets of this city bear a deep social and cultural history—And it is groups like KCET Departures that strive to push Los Angeles back toward its former glory.
As one of the founders of the cultural project, journalist Juan Devis describes Departures as a blend of “an oral history project and an interactive documentary” that also incorporates a unique community engagement tool. Instigated by his interests in the “slow food movement,” Devis felt that he could create a similar “slow media” project to portray the unseen richness of Los Angeles culture. By using the public space to tell a story, Departures is known to thoroughly introduce to the world the cultural histories of specific communities within the area by engaging with residents & historians for long periods of time. Having already worked with people from Venice and Highland Park, the project boasts a growing list of community partners that will further aid in their attempt to positively portray Los Angeles. Devis’ February 16th presentation introduced many highlights of the hyper-local web documentary & place-based mapping project that seemed rather extraordinary. The series attempts to involve surrounding areas with different activities such as their annual mix-tape contests, Youth Voices group, excursions of the LA River, and their Land of Sunshine blog. By creating a multiethnic editorial about Los Angeles without putting too much emphasis on one, single group, Departures fights to preserve media’s initial role as a public service to engage local communities. With “Get Lost!” as one of the original taglines, Devis hopes to inspire residents to become lost in the unseen wonders and beauties of their everyday surroundings.
Being a veteran journalist himself, Devis emphasized his utter disapproval of the popularity that “drive-by” journalism has achieved. It is our jobs as makers of the media not only to engage people, but also to figure out how to make certain content both interesting & inspirational to viewers as well. Because most current day media outlets have become rather national in scope– in order to better serve everybody— many aspects of journalism have unfortunately lost the community initiative, and thus, are failing to provide a service to the public. Devis stresses the importance of using our journalistic & media skills to help better the world that surrounds us. In this day and age, backpack journalists need to possess an unending curiosity, marvelous writing abilities, a savviness in media, and a pure willingness to continually learn from those that are around you. It is with these skills that we, as journalists, can begin to propel good within our communities.
Go discover Los Angeles for yourself at: http://www.kcet.org/socal/departures/