stories make us cry…

For some reason…I shed some tears this morning. I saw this picture posted on Facebook and I could not help myself…my eyes filled.

I was about to run out the door, but had to stop, click and read more. I remembered this picture below.

I remembered the emotion surrounding this tragedy and how that moment in Boston opens old wounds from 911. I just returned home from New York. Sarah and I visited the 911 Memorial. We remembered that day when we were both in grad school. As we walked around the memorial, we did not say a thing.

We even noticed we could not even hear the city of New York, the sounds of cars, trucks, horns, etc.  The hustle and bustle of this large metropolitan city was drowned out by the southing sounds of the waterfalls fill the holes where the towers once stood.

We remembered. And so I clicked around…more. I even Google’d “Jeff Bauman First Pitch Boston Red Sox”. When I saw this picture…I remembered the picture above when Carlos Arredondo helped push Jeff Bauman in a wheelchair to safety.

Now Carlos was pushing him out to the pitching mound to share the first pitch, both now smiling as “we” looked upon them as white doves bringing peace to this day of baseball.

Stories…sometimes make us cry…for no reason other than we have no other reason…but to cry.

I hope you enjoy this video.

Image Credits:, and

Remember…we have to reach our audience.

Distribution…Distribution…Distribution…it is just as important as the content we create.

Harvard Business Review Blog just posted a “The Rise of the Mobile-Only User” and says:
“The rise of smartphones means that more and more people are going online from a mobile device. According to Pew Internet, 55 percent of Americans said they’d used a mobile device to access the internet in 2012. A surprisingly large number — 31 percent — of these mobile internet users say that’s the primary way they access the web. This is a large and growing audience whose needs aren’t being met by traditional desktop experiences.”

I was just sitting with a client talking about all the content we had created over the last three years, and we were thinking through new ways to leverage this content for a few upcoming campaigns. All this video content is great but has no impact if it does not reach the intended audience(s). A part of that strategy is more than just a content creation strategy…you have to distribute the content.

Especially with video…there so many ways to meet the needs of the campaign/initiative which should include distribution. If you look at the numbers above, it is stating the obvious…more and more people are dumping traditional computers (laptops and desktops) to consume and share content. We have to think past these paradigms.

HBR blog goes on to state:
“Google reports that 77 percent of searches from mobile devices take place at home or work, only 17 percent on the move. Meeting the needs of the mobile-only user also doesn’t mean sending them to the desktop website on their smartphone.”

Yes…we must think message and audience…but we have to think about distribution. You can have great content but if no one is engaging with the message, the content is worthless.

Start asking real questions…

I have been following the Facebook posts of a friend who lives in Moore, Oklahoma. She has experienced first hand the devastation of the massive tornado that ripped apart the city she calls home.

I met Julie in Phoenix, Arizona in 1999 when I worked for KPHO-TV. She is probably one of the most talent photojournalists I have met. I still remember some of the amazing stories she produced. I am not sure if she remembers me, but she is one the many reasons I came to Phoenix. It was my hope to learn from talented professionals like Julie and many others that worked in the Phoenix market at the time.

Her recent posts this Memorial Day weekend had me thinking and reflecting:

Facebook Post from Julie Jones (Moore, OK) – May 26, 2013
“Businesses along 19th at Telephone Rd are starting to reopen. The 19th Starbucks (not the one across from Target that I shared earlier) opened late afternoon yesterday. The Tide group are finally getting people with the laundry. And the PR producers/photogs are finally getting real people to talk to.

Finding it hard to relate to you my observations about press coverage except to say – we really do ask stupid questions. A kindeogardemer (sp? iPhone thinks that is right) flatly told me years ago — after me asking what was happening — “don’t BE silly!”

She said it so strongly and condescendingly I had to walk away and sit for moment. True story.”

In the next Facebook Post from Julie Jones (Moore, OK) – May 26, 2013
“I am struggling to find the right advice for asking questions — cuz we have all witnessed, via the news coverage, all the sappy attempts to get emotional responses that the local, regional, and national press have used.

Really there only seems to be a few questions in my mind that should be asked of the people affected (I refuse to call us victims – we are far from victims):

The jones standard: what is _____ (fill in with “today, this event, this block etc”) and what does it mean to you?

Where is your house and how is it?

What are your steps today to move forward?

And, maybe, what is the thing you witnessed that caught you the most?

And off camera – what do you need? Most likely we just need info – where do I get my mail? Where are the FEMA trucks? Do u know if I have to stay at home for FEMA to find me (that has been my question as I search for Wifi)?”

As I was reading her thoughts…her observation and reflection as just applicable to my daily life as they are for press/journalists.

This thought makes me go back and look at a video I remember her posting the day after the tornado struck. More importantly, her Facebook post that coincided with this shared video.

Facebook Post from Julie Jones (Moore, OK) – May 21, 2013 4:18am

I think Julie has shared something most revealing, and more importantly, something storytellers should use regardless of our assignment, client, deadline, or purpose when capturing the moment…we should listen. We should listen with more than our ears, we should listen with our hearts. We should also listen and ask questions that are most natural, not ones that have the ulterior motive of sparking an emotion. The emotion is already there, it is our place to learn to listen *and* allow those emotions to fill the space when it is appropriate.

Thanks to Julie for this reminder.

Here is a little more about Julie, her career, and her work.

Julie Jones is associate professor at Gaylord College, co-founder of OUStormCrowd, national chair for the National Press Photographers Association News Video Workshop, and, in 2012, was one of ten professors nationwide named as Kappa Alpha Theta’s Outstanding Faculty. Jones earned her doctorate at University of Minnesota in 2010.

A former television photojournalist and producer, Jones brings a wealth of professional experiences to her academic work. Her research is focused on the participatory nature of online news and visual platforms. Her work has been published in New Media and Society, ACM publications, PBS MediaShift, and she is an active member of AEJMC’s Communication Technology division.

Marissa Mayer: Defining The Profession of Photography

The profession of photography took a huge hit on Monday. Well…let’s just say that highly acclaimed Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer clearly defined something I have been pondering for a long time.

If you look at the picture above, she said these words exactly during a press conference on Monday. Yahoo made a few announcements specifically the acquisition of Tumblr and the release of the new Flickr. Tumblr is a popular blogging platform and Flickr is a popular photo sharing social outlet.

Below is the response from a question posed by a Fast Company writer during Monday’s press conference:

There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro because today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there’s no such thing, really, as professional photographers when there’s everything that’s professional photographers. Certainly there’s varying levels of skills but we didn’t want to have a Flickr Pro anymore. We wanted everyone to have professional quality photo space and sharing.” – Marissa Mayer, May 2013″

Here is the video to listen to the response in context with the question posed from Fast Company.

I get it…we live in a age of cameras everywhere. I just returned from my vacation in New York and I was surrounded by people all around me taking pictures with iPhones, Droids, professional digital SLRs, pro-sumer digital SLRs, and so on. We live in a time with the pervasiveness of capturing and sharing pictures.

I did not take my professional Canon camera to New York. I did not want to carry around a bulky camera while walking with my wife all over city. My iPhone 5 did a wonderful job capturing images then allowing me to immediately upload the images to Flickr.

Here is one of those images:

It looks great and I think I am going to have it printed and hung in my office. Is it perfect…no! Could I have done a better job with my DSLR…yes. We have access to these technological tools and a price that allows the masses to capture beautiful images. Am I a professional photographer or videographer, well…yes. But…no. I do not consider myself a photographer, videographer, or any term that connects me directly with technology. I consider myself a photojournalist.

I was a journalist at one time working for news outlets all over the country. The I feel word photographer defines a person based on the technology used to capture images. I want to move away from that stigma…I want to associate with the idea of craft…the craft of capturing and telling stories regardless of the technology used to achieve that goal.

As I was standing on the boat taking the picture above with my iPhone 5, there was a guy with a Canon 1Dx. As I was watching him capture his images, I could tell…he was an individual that had not spent a lot of time around a SLR or DSLR. He had over $7000.00 in his hand as he was running around madly holding the shutter down to capture the same image everyone else was capturing with their iPhones. He was holding the shutter and pointing…you could tell there was no clear thought process by the way he was framing the image. Because he has an expensive camera, does that make him professional? Does it make him a professional photographer? Does it make him a photojournalist?

Should we as professionals that use our cameras to perform our jobs and run our businesses take offense to Marissa’s statement? Maybe or maybe not…if you term yourself a professional photographer? If you just take pictures and feel your space is compromised by those who access to these same tools including iPhones…then maybe this will piss you off. But if your craft is to tell stories…you should like the fact the Flickr just extended your account storage to 1 Terabyte. Then, sit back and watch everyone else moan and grown.

If anything…her statement is a statement of the changing in times. The fact more people have access to professional gear and professional editing software brings more value to what I do. There are many that take pictures and capture video…then there are those that believe in a craft of telling stories.

By the way…there has been a lot of backlash online from her statement, here are a few tweets surrounding this conversation:

*Photo credit to SLR Lounge

Stories Impact Conversations: Angelina Jolie’s BRCA1 Story

It was just last week, Angelina Jolie announced her radical mastectomy after learning she carried the BRCA1 gene mutation. Her OP-ED appeared on titled, “My Medical Choice.” Her story was one that brought tremendous media attention and awareness to an issue that is hard for many families to even discuss.

Over five years ago, my wife Sarah lost her mother to breast cancer…a very aggressive breast cancer referred to as triple negative, metastatic breast cancer. Her battle was beyond tough, creating many deep conversations and heated discussions after her passing. One of those conversations included the genetic testing for BRCA1 gene mutation.

The term “breast cancer” is one of the biggest marketing engines in the world of large hospitals, cancer treatment facilities, and organizations that raise funds for research. Families of those who lost a loved one to breast cancer even resist the marketing engine behind “breast cancer awareness” including the pink ribbon, cause marketing initiatives, and other marketing engines that leverage the conversation for their own gain.

Sarah is one of those women who has resisted for years not buying anything that uses the color pink to further the organization’s bottom-line. We focus our giving to organizations who can make direct financial for breast cancer research. Sarah even resists the conversation of being tested for the BRCA1 gene mutation. Why?

To many of us, the genetic testing is a no-brainer. But imagine being the daughter of a woman who died from one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer. Imagine being mother-less on Mother’s Day or even trying to figure out to raise your first child without your mother. Having “the test” is entering pandora’s box of finding out your “death” sentence, then not knowing what to do next. It seems so simple.

For the first time, we have a story that has brought mainstream attention to not only having the BRCA1 test but taking action after the test. Angelina Jolie lost her mother to ovarian cancer close to five years ago. This means “the idea” of being tested has been a part of Angelina’s thought process for some time. We know her mother did not die recently and we know she did not make the decision to have this surgery as a “knee jerk” reaction. She pondered, processed, and prepared for this decision over a long period of time.

Angelina explains in the OP-ED:
“The truth is I carry a ‘faulty’ gene, BRCA1, which sharply increases my risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. My doctors estimated that I had an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, although the risk is different in the case of each woman. Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average. Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could.”

It is a huge set of hurdles Angelina faced. First, loosing her mother…then making the tough decision to be tested. After learning that she carries this specific gene mutation, making the decision to have a surgery that ultimately changes her visible appeal. A visible appeal that makes her one the most beautiful women on the big screen. Imagine the series of decisions she had to make. Now we are learning she will further her resolve by having her ovaries removed in the near future.

Her story has become a tangible path for many women to connect. Regardless of how she is viewed…we see the human side of Angelina and how she can empower others to to face this tough decision. Her story has given us language…given us context to frame the conversation.

Stories of courage bring paths of positive movement. These stories pave the way for women to not only make tough decisions but also impact the way women and families view medicine, technology, research, and the power of making healthy decisions.

As a male, it is hard for me to even begin to fathom this decision. But as a storyteller, it brings me tremendous empathy for those women who are faced with this decision everyday.

These are the stories that bring change, advocacy, and hope for the future of health care. May we all have the courage to make tough, healthy decisions that not only impact us personally but those that surround us…including the ones we love.

Case Study: AccessHealth SC – Communicating A Healthy Conversation

Access to quality health care here in South Carolina has consumed the public conversation over the last few years. From the Affordable Care Act to hospitals seeking to find new and innovative ways to deal with the growing needs of the uninsured…we are surrounded by the groundswell of health care discourse.

For the past few years, I have been working with the South Carolina Hospital Association to find and tell the stories of the uninsured. Initiatives like AccessHealth SC are special, focusing on those uninsured individuals to not only provide access to quality health care but also a continuum of care.

Over the last 5 months, we have been capturing stories of the uninsured across South Carolina. We have also been working with AccessHealth SC providers and administrators explaining how this healthy initiative can be a model for health care reform.

Purpose of the Video Project (from AccessHealth SC):
“The motivation for capturing AccessHealth SC client and provider stories was two-fold. The primary purpose of the video was to communicate what exactly we are doing through AccessHealth. The idea of collaborative networks of care for the uninsured and underinsured is a bit cumbersome; it doesn’t slip neatly into conversations or presentations and the evidence-based, logical model can get lost on people. This project allowed us to really unpack what it is our networks do and the good sense that they make. A model of providing medical care that addresses social needs makes sense, but when you package it up in a few words with little explanation-lights go out.”

“The project also allowed us to highlight the human impact of our work, the individuals who are using medical services more appropriately, who are better able to manage their chronic diseases, and who are living healthier lives. Even more than putting a face to an outcome, it provided our clients an avenue to share their stories and their hope restored; as cliché as it sounds, this video was an opportunity for them to be heard. As we work to promote dignity and respect in the services our networks connect to, this was vital.”

As we were developing the story line (along with crafting the script), we began having this conversation whether to include statistics and numerical information explaining the economic impact of the program. In the world of video production, many times it is hard to visually showcase information in a compelling manor.

We used graphic animation to bring the numbers to life. You will notice the following video is a smaller section of the video above. We felt this could stand alone as a simple explanation of the AccessHealth SC model and the value it brings to the State of South Carolina.

Purpose of this Information Video (from AccessHealth SC):
“Communicating the economic impact our of our work was important to us because of the stakeholders we are/were hoping to engage. Most often, the individuals within organizations in communities that have the push or say to actually catalyze change speak in numbers and outcomes. Not only was this speaking their language-but drawing their attention to significant results.”

These videos have been launched online and for internal presentational purposes. AccessHealth SC will use these videos to share the visual context of their mission as they present to stakeholders, hospitals, community groups, legislators, and other individuals interested in building a healthier South Carolina.

These videos will also live on the AccessHealth SC section of the website. Our goal, to educate and advocate to those searching for information concerning programs like AccessHealth SC. We want to be a part of the digital paradigm as people search for content related to health in South Carolina.

Lean Forward: Listening for those non-verbal cues

Interviewing individuals in the world of documentary video production is a journey…it is a journey that many times cannot be scripted or predicted. Starting a new project with a new client is often times sharing a philosophy. The interview process will shape the overall production.

Interviewing someone is probably one of the most rewarding parts of the production, but can be the most challenging. Sometimes these interviews leave the producer exhausted and mentally drained.

I am in the middle of a project for the Family Effect and I just finished a series of interviews with teenagers who are going through a drug rehabilitation program. The goal, to find and tell their story…their path, so those who donate will find value in their potential donation.

I typically work with the organization to pre-screen the interview subjects. I like to review their background information, understand their path which ultimately leads to the context by which they are tied to the story.

When I sit down with the individuals…I first have to build trust. Trust is a huge barrier…especially when you have the camera, lights, microphone and all the other production equipment that builds a wall around the interview subject.

Building trust is more than capturing the story, it is allowing the person to fully trust you as the gatekeeper. You have the power to capture and share that story! Yes…we carry that ethical burden. So we have to build a relationship with our interview subjects so they not only trust you to listen…but to capture, edit, and craft their story in a way that brings a larger meaning to their life for others to view. If not…you might as well not even try to ask the first question.

We carry this burden, find this tension between seeing and feeling the story…but keeping a critical distance so we can share it from our exterior perspective.

Reading those non-verbal cues many times is a critical path to gaining that trust. As I was interviewing one of the individuals for the Family Effect project, they started with their arms crossed as they leaned back. This barrier took a while to break down in the interview. The more we chatted, the more we shared, the more the camera and lights were forgotten.

The conversation moved from simple pleasantries and canned questions to open-ended conversation sharing rich details of life choices, courage, and failures, and goals, and hopes. The story emerged as trust was building…and before I knew it…we were both leaning forward talking face-to-face.

When we listen…we have to move away from just using our ears. We have to read those non-verbal cues as a path to build trust. Trust is critical to breaking down walls to find the inner core of the story.