At different points during my 10 years with Feet in 2 Worlds, I’ve stuffed my face at an Indian buffet while recording a comedian, mixed a music session with a pint-sized Mariachi singer, and edited a story about belly dancers in Michigan. They call this work?
As much fun as it can be to make stories for Feet in 2 Worlds, there has also been a lot of heavy lifting. As technical director and a producer, I’ve been involved in much of the training and mentoring of reporters and fellows, the sound editing of many of our radio stories and podcasts, and the development of content for our website. Looking back, I can see how our narrative methods, distribution channels, and our niche in this ever-changing media landscape clearly have evolved.
Listen to Jocelyn’s favorite audio moments from Fi2W podcasts and radio stories:
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In the first couple of years after the production of our first hour-long radio documentary, we were primarily concerned with assisting print journalists at ethnic newspapers or independent community websites to make the jump to radio. We trained them in the differences between pitching for print outlets and pitching for radio, and how to cast their radio pieces. We trained them to record good audio in the field, pull compelling clips, and use sound design to create stories. And we helped them learn to write tight radio scripts and master good mic techniques for narration. In the process, we tried to nurture their ideas and discover new points of view from within their own communities and experiences.
Check out Jocelyn’s favorite Fi2W stories:
“Finding Common Ground on Immigration in Arizona’s Dairy Farms”
“Remembering Srini, a Leader in a Hidden Corner of New York”
“Free Conference Call ‘Radio’ for African Immigrants”
In recent years, with the rise of a new creature called the multimedia journalist, expectations have expanded for reporters. Now when they work on a story, not only are they trying to deliver a well-written article, but they’ll also need to take decent photos, record usable audio, possibly shoot video, tease and promote the story on social media, write a blog post, or adapt the story for a podcast.
Realizing this, Feet in 2 Worlds incorporated these activities into our workshops and story assignments to keep our reporters competitive. We’ve done this in small steps and in stages. If Phase One was moving from print to radio, then Phase Two was publishing on the web.
As part of this second stage, we first had to determine what our blogging voice and style would be. We began podcasting as soon as we could figure out the delivery technology, and then we started to embed short bits of sound and photographs in our posts. Along the way, we experimented with galleries and audio slideshows. We also supported our reporters’ transition to video. The results speak for themselves. All of our reporters have developed audio/visual skills and understand how to integrate these multimedia elements into their stories.
When we established fellowships focused on particular themes such as economics, education, LGBT issues, we also started to learn how to use social media. We had already started a successful news blog and figured out how to publish on the web, but now came the challenge of socializing that content and directing an audience to our site. We grappled with different platforms and types of content. Eventually we got the hang of using Facebook and Twitter, creating online groups and invites, live blogging, and live tweeting. All of this is now part of our promotional arsenal.
Along with developing these new tools came the realization that Feet in 2 Worlds was coming into its own as a unique and vibrant repository of stories about immigration and ethnic communities. Earlier, our goal had been to get our stories aired on local or national mainstream public radio broadcasts, or at least get them reposted on their websites. That was our target audience, and it validated our work. But in more recent years, other independent bloggers and ethnic media websites have matured as distinctive sources of local news and commentary, and so have we.
We’ve become a place where immigrants can find news tailored to their own communities, like human interest stories about their customs and culture, discussions of legal status, census data, local elections, or any number of issues of collective concern to those coming to the United States to start a new life. Feet in 2 Worlds is a site where immigrant nurses, small business owners, teachers, laborers, religious leaders, lawyers, activists, and others can hear voices and opinions they may not see anywhere else: their own. For us, this audience is every bit as valuable as the mainstream one.
Sites like ours have become a vital part of the media ecosystem. If you want to be well-informed about issues of immigration, then yes, watch CNN, Fox, read the New York Times, and listen to Latino USA and The World. But also check in on sites like ours: Voices of New York, CultureStrike, and Colorlines. These days, well-informed news consumers read outlets big and small, high and low.
There are race and immigration beats on public radio, at major newspapers, in mainstream podcasting, and even on cable television. It’s gratifying to see these changes because, although we’re a small organization, we’ve been on this beat all along. Now that there’s so much choice, we’ll have to be more nimble about the stories we tell and how we cover them. But Feet in 2 Worlds is up for the challenge, and we’ll probably have a little fun along the way.
Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation.