If you’re a production junkie like me and often wonder how programs wrangle their material and then get it to air, this short film about PRI’s The World will tickle your fancy. The part about how the BBC correspondents shape the agenda is intriguing:
A behind-the-scenes look at how PRI’s global news program, The World, is produced for broadcast. Video journalist and freelance producer Marcus Wraight created this piece.
We are in awe of the talent at The World!
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
What Our Editorial Process Revealed in 140 Characters, or Less
Trent Gilliss, online editor
Well, the query we’ve been nurturing over the summer has revealed some real gems for voices. So far we’ve received more than 120 lovely stories from Muslims located in all parts of the globe. And, the age ranges and family histories and professional paths add to the layers of complexity and vivacity of these responses.
We narrowed our list of interviews to 16 eloquent people, 30 minutes each. Over four editorial sessions, a small group of us listened to more than six hours of interviews (thankfully, Mitch answered my emergency call and stepped in for the first two).
While listening, I wanted to share, real-time, with our audiences some of the phrases that struck my ear, kernels of wisdom and insight that surprised me. And what more immediate way is there than through our Twitter stream.
For those of you who don’t follow @softweets, here’s a transcript of what I wrote and interjections from folk following our tweets.
Sahar Ullah on the Qur’an: “To listen is an act of worship.”
10:35 AM Aug 18th
Ny’kisha Pettiford on her Muslim identity: “I am a woman in corporate America and yet keep true to my faith and its laws.”
10:44 AM Aug 18th
Basem Hassan on navigating the grey areas of creating art as a Muslim: “…at least understand the spectrum of debate.”
10:53 AM Aug 18th
Basem Hassan: “2nd + 3rd generation Muslims are embracing the arts as a form of rebellion.”
10:54 AM Aug 18th
Ibrahim Al-Marashi, as a Muslim on living in Spain and Moorish culture: “I can forget the darker side, seeing beauty every day…”
1:44 PM Aug 18th
Ibrahim Al-Marashi on fasting + ice cream as a student at UCLA: “I learned a Jew from Iran can be more considerate than an Iraqi Muslim.”
1:59 PM Aug 18th
Ibrahim Al-Marashi worked in a Star Wars analogy and the three monotheistic religions. He’s won us over with his sci-fi acumen! *grin*
2:01 PM Aug 18th
Samar Jarrah, who grew up in Kuwait and has lived in many other places in the world: “These Muslims I have only met in America.”
2:07 PM Aug 18th
Samar Jarrah on being challenged at a lecture when talking about God: “I had never met an atheist.”
2:10 PM Aug 18th
Samar Jarrah, when asked why she remains in Jordan or Egypt for Ramadan: “The best Ramadan I ever spent in my life is always in America.”
2:13 PM Aug 18th
Feruze Faison, a Turkish Muslim now in NY on coming out: “Rumi and Yunus made me believe that love is what rules, and nothing else.”
2:36 PM Aug 18th
Feruze Faison on community: “It’s always easier to talk about peace and joy. When it comes to practice, it’s a little bit more challenging.”
2:43 PM Aug 18th
If you don’t mind, I’ll be quoting from our editorial sessions for the 2nd day of listening to Muslim voices for our upcoming show.
10:13 AM Aug 19th
Wajahat Ali, a burgeoning playwright and his path from law school to drama: “Allah works in mysterious ways.”
10:18 AM Aug 19th
Wajahat Ali on his new-found success in the Muslim-American art community: “There is a burden that is upon me, a sense of responsibility.”
10:19 AM Aug 19th
Wajahat Ali on mastering his ambition: “Do you want to be that petty person who undercuts or be a risk-taker and do something different.”
10:22 AM Aug 19th
Wajahat Ali: “I listen and read everything. … That makes me a product of America.”
10:53 AM Aug 19th
Maria Enriqueta Romero, a Mexican-American who converted to Islam: “Living in Seattle makes it easier to be Muslim.”
11:02 AM Aug 19th
Maria Enriqueta Romero: “If they only knew my cultural clothing are the jeans and t-shirt that I wear underneath my abaya.”
11:05 AM Aug 19th
Maria Enriqueta Romero on how Islam informs her law practice: “If you’re going to do something, do it with dignity.”
11:07 AM Aug 19th
Maria Enriqueta Romero on family law: “My faith has developed and that has helped me take on challenges I wouldn’t have taken on before…”
11:11 AM Aug 19th
Maria Enriqueta Romero when asked why she wears the abaya: “You’re not going to get the most religiously correct answer. They’re beautiful.”
11:18 AM Aug 19th
Yanina Vashchenko, a Russian-born American living in Dallas, converted to Islam after a spiritual path from her Russian Orthodox roots.
11:34 AM Aug 19th
Now, do we create a 2-part series, complementary shows not tied together but reference one another, or discrete shows w/ different formats?Yanina Vashchenko, on an exchange outside a mosque in Texas: “If you want people to understand you, you have to show yourself to them.”11:51 AM Aug 19th
11:43 AM Aug 19th
Adnan Onart, a Turkish-born poet living in Boston, read a beautiful poem, “Ramadan in Dunkin’ Donuts.”
1:52 PM Aug 19th
Sabiha Shariff, raised in Mumbai and living in Dallas. The Qur’an says that “indulging in gossip is like eating your dead brother’s flesh.”
2:07 PM Aug 19th
Allee Ramadhan, a retired federal prosecutor: “There was not a large incentive for a black child to be proud of the fact he was a Muslim.”
2:29 PM Aug 19th
Allee Ramadhan on memorizing the Qur’an: “…understanding is as important as reciting.”
2:31 PM Aug 19th
Our listening session with Allee Ramadhan was interrupted by a tornado touching down in Minneapolis! Will pick up tomorrow.
4:03 PM Aug 19th
Our last editorial session for our upcoming programs including individual Muslim voices is now under way. Let the tweets begin!
10:44 AM Aug 20th
Allee Ramadhan: “There was nothing b/w me and my God. … When you remain humble in the world, you tend to approach people with equality.”
10:47 AM Aug 20th
Allee Ramadhan on being a diabetic + Ramadan, “I try to be a little more generous than I normally am. I try to compensate in other ways.”
10:51 AM Aug 20th
Tayyaba Syed, on taking care of her parents now and a saying from the Qur’an: “You don’t even say uff to them.”
11:19 AM Aug 20th
Nicole Queen, a 20-something celebrity photographer from Dallas who converted to Islam, asked herself, “Is the best enough?”
11:24 AM Aug 20th
Nicole Queen, a party girl on what drew her to Islam: “You start to respect the things that you don’t see often in your own lifestyle.”
11:27 AM Aug 20th
Sifting Through Screens
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
The image above is a photo of artist Nam June Paik's video installation "TV Buddha." It’s always been a favorite of mine for its clever take on the practice of meditation — a Buddha statue “contemplating” a live video image of itself. This picture is one of the photos that we considered for our recent program, "TV and Parables of Our Time," but it didn’t end up making the final cut.
Choosing images for our programs is one of my favorite parts of this job, but it’s not always easy. The best image usually contains some mix of aesthetic appeal, editorial relevance, and that slippery, hard to pin-down thing we call “sensibility.”
"TV and Parables of Our Time" was no exception. I initially proposed to Trent (SOF’s online editor) using images from the TV shows Krista and Diane Winston discussed (much like our Web site for "A Return to the Mystery"). After talking it over a bit, we decided this conversation deserved a different approach — so it was off to Flickr, Getty, or any other place I might be able to find the right image.
I struggled to figure out where to start searching for an image with this program. The most obvious starting point was to start with an image search for “television,” but that seemed a little too easy. I came back to Trent with a set of images (included above), pushing the one you see on top with the young girl facing sideways. Unable to find something directly related to the program (other than the presence of a television), I had mostly gone for images I found visually interesting. Trent’s advice: keep looking.
I find that there’s no sure-fire way to accomplish this task, but it often helps to have more than one set of eyes looking to get it right. It’s real easy to get attached to one element of the program — in this case, the image of a television — and lose track of the larger message. On my second round of searching, I encountered photos of “TV Buddha” and got excited to have found something I already loved — hoping I might be able to make it work for the show. Talking it over with Trent — someone a little less infatuated with the image’s content — helped me realized that, while it may have been a cool image, it wasn’t the right fit for the program.
(photo: Andrea Volpini/Flickr)
I finally came back with one last set of images (above), which included the photo we ended up using, on top. Not only did I like the image, I also appreciated the quote that the photographer included on the photo’s Flickr page. From the Egyptian screenwriter Mohammed Amer, on the subject of Egyptian musalsalat (TV series): “One of the most important things soap operas have done is encourage the public to condemn terrorism.”
I liked that it kept with one of the themes of the program — the power of televised storytelling to help us cope with contemporary issues — but came from a different cultural perspective: Egyptian television rather than the American-made shows discussed in the program. My one concern was that the image seemed a little grainy, but Trent’s input was that the image quality didn’t make it less compelling.
Oh yeah, and I did manage to sneak Nam June Paik into the Web site. Another image I’d found on the last round of searching included Paik’s large installation "Megatron/Matrix," which we ended up using for the site’s secondary pages.
(photo: Garrett Miller/Flickr)
“All Words Have Connotations”
Andy Dayton, associate web producer
We’ve been talking about covering the difficult topic of torture for quite a while now, and the idea resurfaced again in staff meetings with the recent release of the Bush administration memos on interrogation techniques. About the time we were renewing our efforts to find a voice on the topic, I opened up the Sunday paper to find Clark Hoyt’s editorial "The Brutal Truth" — an account of the linguistic evolution of The New York Times' torture and interrogation coverage.
Hoyt outlines the decision to use the word “brutal” to describe what the Bush administration had labeled “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the reader mail they received in response. Some thought the word was a cop-out, one reader writing “Why can’t The New York Times call torture by its proper name?” While another writes “The Times has simply placed itself as one actor in a political fight, not a neutral media outlet.”
This sort of criticism was in our heads as we produced this week’s program "The Long Shadow of Torture".” Unlike The Times, we don’t get to hash out our editorial choices over a series of articles — we pretty much have one chance to get it right, and then have to live with our decisions after broadcast. I found that many of the questions asked during production mirrored the ones posed in Hoyt’s editorial; as a journalist, when does your choice of words compromise the integrity of your reporting? Using harsher terminology may seem to impart a biased viewpoint, while softer words might be complicit in obscuring the truth. Is “detainee abuse” more accurate than “torture,” or vice versa?
Perhaps my favorite part of Hoyt’s account is the linguist Deborah Hannon’s response to his presentation of the “brutal” issue:
"The search for words that are not in any way evaluative is hopeless," she told me. "All words have connotations."
This statement makes the prospect of objective journalism a daunting one. What do you think, did we we come out OK on this program? What kind of connotations did we inevitably inject into the conversation?