Describing itself as a “web based media company dedicated to serving the needs of adult women through online communities and various content areas,” iVillage Inc. has undoubtedly lived up to its slogan as the daily destination for women. Currently owned by NBCUniversal, the viral community focuses on a wide range of female oriented topics including: Astrology, Babies, Beauty, Books, Computing, Diet & Fitness, Health, Home & Garden, Love & Relationships, Money & Finance, News & Issues, Parenting, Shopping, and Work. In addition to its flagship portal, iVillage also includes several additional business and brand extensions such as iVillageUK, Astrology.com, GardenWeb, NBC Digital Health Network, and BlogHer– a participatory online news and entertainment network for women. By joining iVillage.com, members gain access to certain features like email, instant messaging, and personal home pages. Because of the immense amount of traffic the site receives on a daily basis, it has become the digital world’s largest and most successful content-driven community for women. Along with co-founders Nancy Evans (Family Life) and Robert Levitan (YearLook Enterprises), iVillage was established in 1995 by early America Online veteran Candice Carpenter. A graduate of both Stanford and Harvard Universities, Carpenter was well known for being a visionary genius, and although she initially knew next to nothing about computers or the nascent Internet, the former Q2 president understood quite early on that virtual communities were the future of the Internet. As a digital native, Carpenter once admitted to Crain’s New York Business that she was, in fact, “technophobic.” However, she managed to immediately grasp all the possibilities inherent in online culture, and with a uniquely modern insight, she found a wealth of common-interest communities beneath the surface of AOL even prior to her creation of iVillage. The branded media firm that came from the three-person business team was based on slogans like “Internet for the rest of us” & “Humanize Cyberspace.” At its core, the company would consist of a variety of communities that were thought of as a sort of virtual village greens where many could gather– An “i” was added later on simply because it was the popular Internet prefix choice at the time. Currently, Jodi Kahn reigns as president of iVillage Networks with Angela Matsuik serving as Chief Content Executive. Though starting out as a group of general communities focused on women, iVillage swerved drastically into being a pure media orientation and e-commerce in the latter part of the nineties and early 2000s. Fortunately, NBCUniversal’s 2006 acquisition of the then-troubled company led them out of an almost bankruptcy, and the $600 million deal proved to be an important step forward for the website. Because television advertising was the preferred way to reach the mass of untapped mainstream users, the swap of services between the two companies was likely to draw even more women to all iVillage sites. The deal, as expected, brought in the masses, and as of today, the site has a 3-month Alexa traffic rank of 2,776– an average of 2.1 unique pages are viewed each day by visitors, with approximately 62% of visitors surfing from the United States– where it has attained a traffic rank of 896. Visitors are, of course, overwhelmingly women and compared to the rest of the internet population, the site seems to be a powerful magnet to high income, well-educated women– a market segment many advertisers consider very difficult to reach. Because the site draws in more women than any other web site, the company has, unsurprisingly, caught the interest of many advertisers. Thus, the lion’s share of iVillage’s revenues are derived from an eclectic mix of advertising, e-retailing, and sponsorships. Although vast and influential, the site, unfortunately, seems to pull in a rather undiverse minority audience, and in the end, the web community derives mostly of middle-aged and middle-class women browsing from the comforts of their homes. In comparison to emerging and more cutting-edge sites like principal competitors GlamMedia and Jezebel.com, most of the content on iVillage.com caters disproportionately and rather specifically towards Caucasian women already in the prime of their lives. Despite its lack of audience diversity, the site definitely blends a more-than-extensive amount of both expert opinions and special interest topics that would undoubtedly be attractive to the intended audience. iVillage.com offers a rare sort of cyber retreat for the female web surfer, and provides not only a variety of forums and online chats on topics of interest to parents, but also, articles and advice on today’s most pressing topics and issues. Along with numerous interactive surveys, quizzes, and polls, the site blends the community features of message boards and blogs in all of its content areas to provide women with a truly topically-diverse ‘one-stop shop’ where all of their problems can somehow be touched on. Furthermore, the highly informative site presents a simplistic, yet engaging design layout that proves to be rather easy-to-navigate. The site ultimately triumphs in providing all its visitors with a relaxing and hassle-free viral experience. Along with its mass media incorporation of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, iVillage.com also provides smooth access to its sister sites– Astrology.com, GardenWeb, Momtourage, Petside– as well as various other NBCUniversal subsidiaries such as Access Hollywood, Bravo, Oxygen, and USA Network. Against its stark white background, the boldly marked menu-bars take web-surfers very quickly to their intended destinations, and with a cornucopia of contests, coupons, entertaining videos, and free giveaways, the site adds a fun twist to its already innovative and expressive display. Several months ago, iVillage.com added to its already extensive blog catalog, a new editorial package known exclusively as CelebVillage—An iVillage Star Blog. The recent addition features a variety of self-penned stories and words of wisdom from many of today’s most well-known celebrities. From Felicity Huffman on ‘Family Dinner Bonding’ or Katherine Heigl on why ‘Marriage Isn’t Easy, But It’s Worth It’ to Alanis Morissette on not ‘Anticipating the Challenge of Postpartum’ and Denise Richards on ‘Positive Body Image,’ the highly anticipated series provides readers with further inspiration and support in all aspects of life, womanhood, and motherhood. Along with the original site content, these new personal stories and photographs are also integrated with daily hot topics. Members, in addition, have the ability to instantly join any conversation, and this increase in user engagement also facilitates a distinctly profound connection among peers. It can easily be said that iVillage.com is, without a doubt, the very first of its kind—a dynamic media company dedicated exclusively to connecting women at every stage of their lives. As stressed by Lauren Zalanick, president of the NBC division that oversees iVillage, the site (and NBCUniversal) have hopes to leverage “a community feel from the message boards, elevate the experience” and at the same time, making it even “more attractive to both potential members and advertisers.” Interestingly, with the aid of HUGE Inc., the entire website went through a complete remodeling and transformation after the NBC acquisition, and the new and improved iVillage continues to embody the personal experiences of women everywhere. The site carries a capability of serving original content in a vibrant modern aesthetic, and with its recent makeover, it caters endlessly to the busy iVillager’s life while still managing to elevate her sense of community. As stated, navigation of the site is fairly simple, and along with easy access to the separate yet linked-in special interest sites within the iVillage Network, the site continues to increase its traffic flow by emphasizing on this community-driven focus. Astoundingly, even after almost two decades, Carpenter’s original digital strategy seems to still be implemented in all aspects of the iVillage site. Despite numerous management shake-ups and an almost bankruptcy, it is rather intriguing to see that even the extraordinary creation of a former technophobe can carve itself, a rightful place as the world’s most active community for women— In this day and age, iVillage continues to shape the way women use the web, and it seems quite clear that the site (and Carpenter’s initial concepts) will maintain a truly passionate and very loyal audience base.
No matter where in the world I would be, the last few hours of each and every New Year’s Eve were always spent rocking it out with”America’s oldest teenager,” Dick Clark. The famed radio and television personality has without a doubt, contributed effortlessly and endlessly to the worlds of media and broadcasting. His recent passing, unfortunately, greatly saddens not only fellow industry colleagues who will forever remember him as a pioneer & genius, but also, the American public as a whole– The nation has and always will adore his familiar face, bright smile, and rare talent as the media legend of our century.
Spanning both radio and television, Dick Clark undoubtedly created a legacy that lasted for more than six decades. Along with his never-ending passion for his work, Clark literally brought the phenomenon of rock n’ roll music into every household through American Bandstand. His long-running variety show showcased not only his strong communication skills, but also, “legitimized” rock n’ roll music to both young and old Americans everywhere. In its thirty-seven years, the show exposed the national audience to a variety of once-unheard of artists, and thus, launched the utterly successful careers of Stevie Wonder, Simon & Garfunkel, Tina Turner, and many many more. And because his shows were among the very first where both whites and blacks could perform on the same stage, Clark also played a vital role in the integration and desegregation of live television during a time when tense race relations were at its peak.
Society has definitely evolved in the ways we consume media– The constant array of modern digital innovation has truly altered how we live in this world. It can be said, however, that Clark began making media history long before the emergence of our recent technological hype. His impact on the world is truly unprecedented, and in a sense, there may never be another face or voice with the ability to cause so much positive change.
It was rather interesting to learn the other day that even at the tender age of thirteen, the young man knew that he wanted more than anything, to make a true difference in the world. Throughout his eighty-two years, Clark worked tirelessly to achieve this dream, and although he started out fairly small– By working in the mail room at an AM station fresh out of high school– It wasn’t too long before he landed himself a place among the stars. If there were to be at least one industry professional who stands out amongst the rest, Clark would be that revolutionary someone who many broadcasters will aspire to be like. The man seemed to posses a mix of tenacity, strength, courage, and class– Characteristics society rarely ever sees within popular culture anymore.
The celebratory ends and beginnings of each new year may have forever lost a familiar face– But the influence and impact provided by Mr. Dick Clark will undoubtedly remain an American inspiration for decades and decades to come.
As we delve deeper and deeper into this new digital era, the plethora of new opportunities and technological advances that constantly surround us seem only to further the already long list of issues regarding property rights. In an age where hardly anything is truly inaccessible, the once-minimal controversies surrounding copyright and free content have become unfortunately large– And it seems as if most, if not all, creative industries are both benefiting from and struggling with these emerging new concepts of credit, trademarks, and ownership.
The blessings of technology have been known to fuel the creative mind and spirit– Because of these modern advances, the world has been offered many chances to establish brand new expressions and utterly unique art forms. However, these new forms of artistic expression also cause numerous political and financial debates that in the end, seem to over-shadow the miraculous potentials of all cutting-edge technological innovation.
Whether literary, musical, or performative, the majority of professions in popular artistic industries have dealt delicately with the pros and the cons of changing views in artistic expression. Copyright Criminals, for example, is the perfect example of contrasting thoughts within the music industry. The 2010 Benjamin Franzen and Kembrew McLeod produced documentary thoroughly examines the creative and commercial values of music sampling– A controversial new age of hip-hop & electronic music that is fueled purely by emerging technological advances. By remixing, reusing, and reworking bits and pieces of songs by other artists, these modern musicians have been known to generate quite an immense amount of income. With their growing popularity, however, also comes a substantial amount of legal action as most original artists have claimed basic copyright infringement by branding sampling as ‘stealing.’
In a sense, music sampling seems to parallel similar conflicts within the journalistic community. The Huffington Post, for example, has been highly criticized for simply ‘aggregating’ existing news stories, and if looked at from a similar angle, the creation of new music through sampling initiates the same ‘copy & paste’ sort of process. Thus, like in the world of journalism, it comes as no real surprise that both veterans, professionals, and newbies of the music business each hold very different views regarding the morality and true legitimacy of this ‘aggregated’ music. On one end of the spectrum lies those like famed Nirvana producer, Steve Albini, who not only expresses antagonism for sampling, but also feels that it is a “lazy artistic choice [for musicians] to rely on samples.” There are also those like George Clinton, who although himself was a victim of sampling, felt that this new form of hip-hop refreshed and revived his career. Avant-garde artist DJ Spooky, on the other hand, displays mixed thoughts on this touchy subject. Yet despite all the legal battles, conflicts, and continuing debates, many still seem to advocate this new form of art and continue to argue for its survival. The creative artistry involved in sampling has been heavily stressed, and many argue that this whole new way of music was created simply by just “ignoring the rules.”
From my perspective, this ongoing issue is undoubtedly a tough situation to actually solve. We are, in a sense, living in a truly digital culture and these new ways of making music seem rather inevitable. The ethics behind the process, however, raises questions in my mind, as I find music sampling both artistically lazy and morally wrong. Conventional thoughts like mine, unfortunately, are rare nowadays and I can only hope for a compromise by urging all modern artists to offer proper credit to the source of their new inspirations. And in addition, to thoroughly attain complete permission before attempting to ‘borrow’ someone else’s hard work. Whether it is the music, the journalistic, or the educational community, passing off another’s work as your own is without a doubt stealing, and as with any sort of creative material, there is a golden rule of thumb that must never be ignored– Cite your sources. Credit your inspirations. Honor your art by choosing to do the right thing.
Having become “the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet,” Wikipedia’s own personal entry introduces the revolutionary site as “a free, collaborative, multilingual Internet encyclopedia supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation.” And unfortunately, I, along with 365 million other individuals, have come to rely rather heavily on the Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger developed phenomenon as the perfect modern-age sourcing tool.
Finding some accurate and appropriate information to contribute to an article was actually the most difficult part of my first editing attempt. Fortunately, my initially fun and silly Wikipedia lookup of a close acquaintance brought to my attention, a missing piece of information in the section that featured content about her early life. Because this additional information was, for a fact, a pivotal part of her former years, I thought that it would be a fantastic idea to lend that significant piece of educational information to her Wikipedia article.
As we have continuously discussed, the media undoubtedly holds a great power over the thoughts and opinions of our current society. With up-to-the minute news stories and a variety of manipulative videos circling the digital world, it is not at all difficult for our ideals to be swayed because of this constant propaganda that looms around us.
Kony 2012 , has undoubtedly become the viral sensation of our generation. The video serves not only as a way to raise awareness about the Ugandan conflicts, but also seems to serve as a promotional tool for Invisible Children. As much as I hate to admit it, I, myself, was unfortunately one of those ‘Americans’ that was initially quite unaware of the multiple conflicts revolving around Uganda, The LRA, and Joseph Kony. It was only until after the start of this recent Kony 2012 uproar, that I began to look more closely into the numerous issues that have already been, unfortunately, going on for a while now.
It’s been a while now since the video originally surfaced and, as with most public frenzies, all the hype has began to die slowly down. Along with Jason Russell’s psychological breakdown, the multiple criticisms for and against the video’s initial message have unfortuantely put the video in a rather unwanted negative light. The influence of the viral hit has, without a doubt, drawn in an immense amount of public participation. And despite the ongoing controversies, the continuous online pledge signs, action kit purchases, and promotions for ‘Cover the Town’ on most social media sites, seems to revive Invisible Children’s hopes for public awareness and engagement.
I can’t help but say that the extraordinary partcipation (from both the young and the old) that Kony 2012 has drawn from today’s youth really puts a smile on my face. Today’s youth, unfortunately, have not been the best followers of any sort of meaningful social action, and it was rather inspiring to see that some of us still engage ourselves in worthy attempts to better the world. Our works within the campaign brought out the hopeful child in me, and I honestly do hope that despite the recent flux in actual involvement, we will continue towards the goal that Invisible Children has been aiming for.
That being said, with just a couple of weeks before ‘Cover the Town,’ a part of me remains a bit skeptical about how many people will actually involve themselves on April 20. Because of the various ordeals it has caused, the viral hit seems to have quickly changed the minds of a once dedicated majority. If truly thought about, it only requires a hassle-free amount of mouse clicks to ‘get involved’ in the campaign. From the comfort of our own homes, this sort of social action can be easily done. And a tiny, more cynical part of me truly wonders how many of us will actually leap out of our seats to do something on 4/20. Yes, the Kony 2012 campaign did draw in millions of viewers all around the world. But some important questions should be asked– How many of us will continue our adamant commitment to the cause? How many of us ‘got involved’ because it was the right thing to do, and how many of us took some action only because almost everyone else was doing it? In a sense, April 20 may begin to answer that question…
Earlier last week, our afternoon class had the pleasure of hearing a variety of very wise thoughts from one of America’s most respected media analysts, Henry Jenkins. The former MIT Media Studies Professor and author of the 2006 best seller, Convergence Culture, presented us with a fascinating discussion about the huge impacts that social media has had on the world of journalism. With this ever-evolving digital world, Jenkin’s vast amount of knowledge on the significant trends in old and new media further aided in my true understandings of the viral changes occurring around us.
Visit The Aca-Fan at: http://henryjenkins.org/
In his enlightening presentation, Jenkins not only emphasizes the powers of grassroots media, but he also introduces the ultimate impacts of “convergence culture” on the relationships among current-day media audiences, producers, and content.
Jenkins seemed to debunk outdated ideas of the digital revolution by arguing that new media will not simply replace old media, but rather, it will learn to interact with it. He goes on to highlight the particularly negative impacts of new media on the newspaper industry by presenting a truly thorough analysis of this emerging aspect of citizen journalism—A new, popular and yet very controversial part of the journalistic community.
With the majority of the youth generation now only “grazing” the news, Jenkins frowns on the utter ease of current-day journalistic reporting and opinion sharing because it diminishes both the accuracy and validity of breaking news topics. He illustrates his frustrations by sharing Morley Safer’s well-known quote, “I would trust citizen journalism as much as I would trust citizen surgery,” and argues repeatedly on the importance of moving from “citizen journalism” to new “civic ecology.”
In addition, Jenkins’ advocacy for youth activism intrigued me as well. By offering his opinions on the growth of online activism via social media sites, Jenkins introduces the idea of moving from a world of “public service” media to “public engagement” media. He mentions the recent uprisings in Cairo and Syria, along with the dramatic March rise of Kony 2012. On a personal level, I was astonished to learn from Jenkins about Invisible Children’s original prediction of a mere half-million views by April 2012—And along with his readings of the viral hit through the professional lens of broadcast communication, I was able to achieve a much better understanding of all the hype surrounding Jason Russell’s viral video campaign.
Jenkin’s concluded the latter part of his discussions with a bright idea that I found to be truly helpful and inspiring for the journalistic path that lies ahead of me. He notes that in a world of social media, personalization is the norm. As journalists, we should not just be throwing out information abstractly, but we should be carefully offering our own individual thoughts and opinions to the rest of the world—And that, in my mind, was one of the wisest thoughts of the hour.
From media outlets in New York to San Francisco and everywhere in between, we’ve read the stories. From everyday sports chats to comments by top sports talk radio personalities, we’ve heard the buzz. And from arena signs and celebrity tweets to every seemingly possible pun, few of us have not been affected by this new insanity. Linsanity. As with all major stories, even the most extraordinary, the initial commotion that had surrounded the epic rise of Jeremy Lin has slowly died down a month or so into ‘Linsanity.’ His stellar plays in February undoubtedly lit up the sports world, and although I may not be the greatest follower of basketball, I must admit that I, myself, have also been caught up in all of the hype. With his constantly updated game highlights to the millions of comments on various social media sites, it could be safe to suggest that the phenomenon that has circled around this young Taiwanese-American Palo Alto native has provided a many number of Asian-Americans with a new sense of inspiration.
From the surface, the elements of his story are already compelling. The rise of an Asian-American basketball player with a devout Christian faith who had went undrafted upon graduation from Harvard University was suddenly, filling up the box scores and winning for one of the NBA’s mainstream teams– all while sleeping on his brother’s couch just days before his scheduled release from the team. It really is the perfect fairy tale.
However, the reason that Lin’s tale has resonated with so many (especially Asian-Americans) is not the fact that he went from being a complete unknown to being the top pick of the century in fantasy basketball leagues. The true moment that resonates with us is not his game-winning three-pointer against the Raptors with less than a second to play. Nor is it his 38-point victory over the Lakers after Kobe Bryant had said that he had no idea who Lin was. Instead, the significance of Lin does not just come from being an athlete playing for a team. Jeremy Lin, in a sense, is playing for the whole Asian culture and our representation to the rest of the world. And because of this, Lin’s recent emergence has further resonated and inspired not only me, personally, but young Asian-Americans everywhere.
Given the mindset of society today, it is not a surprise that quite a few hints of racism have been aimed at his growing fame. Unfortunately, Asian-Americans know all too well the feelings of being overlooked in this Western world and I’m sure there are many people with slightly similar stories– filled with the same familiar challenges, perceptions, and judgements he has experienced. But despite the complications Lin has faced along the way, he continues each and every day to not only put up unprecedented numbers, but to capture the imagination of mainstream American culture. The optimist in me hopes that this might be the start of something wonderful and new for Asian-Americans everywhere. Jeremy Lin has, in my mind, truly transcended the game. He has succeeded in getting people to think about more than just hoops– he’s triumphed in making Asian-Americans, like myself, believe that we, as well, can transcend other aspects of society. And that alone is the greatest gift of all.
Here are a couple of thoughts:
A.N. Whitehead’s quote, “It is the business of the future to be dangerous,” brilliantly ends Quentin Fiore’s visual metaphor of Marshall McLuhan’s original thoughts on media and communication– And it is, without a doubt, very true. Whether we like it or not, the rise of media and technology in modern society is utterly inevitable. As McLuhan so famously put it–
“All media work us over completely. They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences that they leave no part of use untouched, unaffected, unaltered. The medium is the massage. Any understanding of social and cultural change is impossible without a knowledge of the way media work as environments” (26).
The extremely unique uses of juxtaposed imagery, repetitive text, mirrored writing, and historical photographs prominently portrayed a truly creative and graphical representation of McLuhan’s well-known thesis– While making it all the more pleasurable to read as well. Fiore’s graphic masterpiece only further reinforces the over-arching argument that each medium seems to produce a different sort of “massage” or “effect” on the human sensorium. But not only is modern media a pure extension of human senses– With the ability to alter the environment, media also has the capability to alter “the way we think and act– the way we perceive the world” (148).
Ironically, Fiore’s superimposed collage styling of both the visual elements and the sparse text also furthers McLuhan’s suggestion that modern audiences have found new media soothing and enjoyable. This pleasure, however, is rather deceiving, and because these continuous yet inevitable changes between society and technology are so incongruent, society finds itself in an Age of Anxiety— An age and a feeling that I, as the well-known digital immigrant, am often too familiar with in our ever-evolving digital world. Media, however, is in fact, the medium in which modern society defines anything and everything these days. And this textual illustration McLuhan and Fiore have cleverly compiled is a definite “collide-oscope of interfaced situations” (10).
By now, it would be safe to say that there is not a certain individual in our world who has not heard at least something about the controversies surrounding Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks. Depicted as “an international online self-described not-for-profit organization that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources, news leaks, and whistleblowers,” the site intends “to bring important news and information to the public” by stating, “One of our most important activities is to publish original source material alongside our news stories so readers and historians alike can see evidence of the truth…”
Their journalistic approach, however, has sparked utter madness within the media, the government, and society in general. The leaking of the United States cables, for instance, showed that “nearly a decade after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the dark shadow of terrorism still dominates the United States’ relations with the world” (Shane & Lehren, 56). By itself, WikiLeaks triumphs in its ability to offer remarkable details, and has already changed the rules of journalism by creating a situation where competitive news organizations “cooperate to share a scoop.”
Still, the debates over its “political, ethical, legal and technological ramifications” (402) continue to circulate—For some, it has an ability to expose “the machinations of American realpolitik, [while to others], it’s a dangerous security breach that paradoxically may aid those devoted to a hawkish foreign policy” (Harshaw, 408). In addition to stirring up major political turmoil, WikiLeaks has succeeded in creating a rift within the journalistic community itself. Far too many, mainstream media especially, have criticized the site’s ultimate objective of pure transparency by arguing that although “mainstream media may spend a lot of time trying to ferret information out of official hands,” they usually operate with “the belief that the state is legitimate and entitled to at least some of its secrets” (Carr, 235). As the site’s founder, Assange assumed that the activities of WikiLeaks could carry society through a mess of politically distorted language, and into a position of true clarity. It was rather interesting to note that he thought that by exposing secrets, the site could “ultimately impede the production of future secrets.” Twisted and mind-boggling as it may seem, it seems that Assange’s development of WikiLeaks was “simply to make WikiLeaks unnecessary.”
Naturally, WikiLeaks inevitably raises many questions regarding limits to the freedom of speech. One of the organization’s additional goals was to ensure that journalists and so-called “whistleblowers” were not jailed for sharing sensitive or classified documents. With its initial drop, the project has drawn comparisons to the 1971 leaking of the Pentagon Papers and has gathered numerous amounts of mixed feelings among government officials. Hillary Clinton, for example, claimed that the leaks “put people’s lives in danger” and “[threatened] national security.” Furthermore, the introduction of our reading, Open Secrets, also detailed the remarkably contrasting reactions of the Bush administration versus Obama’s more “sober and professional” response that I found quite intriguing.
With all this said, it is important to remember that WikiLeaks was and basically still is a pure product of the Internet. As emphasized within the readings, the internet had transformed the landscape of journalism long before the birth of WikiLeaks by “creating a wide-open and global market with easier access to audiences and sources, a quicker metabolism, a new infrastructure for sharing and vetting information, and a diminished respect for notions of privacy and secrecy” (Keller, 21). It can be suggested that even with all the ethical controversies the site has ignited, the Internet had already eliminated a number of the space restrictions journalism initially had, and thus, produced this unavoidable tension between the media’s responsibility to inform and the government’s responsibility to protect. Simply said, the uneasiness and uncertainty produced by the questionable morale of these publications seems to have been rather imminent…
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.
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