Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Students finish production of Burned, a photo story on arson

This photo was taken at one of the arson sites by PHO245 student Amarrah Smith:
Amarrah paid attention to the little things.
Cell phone pic of students producing the Burned project using Soundslides.

   Last week the class finished production on their final project: the team photo story on arson for
    The editing and sounds teams worked diligently on the painstaking process of marrying three minutes of audio with more than 40 photos of arson sites and abandoned homes scattered throughout Central Toledo.
   The caption writing team gathered arson statistics for the essay they will write. They discovered that Toledo is ranked #4 in the nation for arson fires, according to
   This team project was real-life journalism. Armed with a short list of confirmed arson sites provided by Toledo Fire Dept. Lt. Matt Hertzfeld, we ventured into urban neighborhoods for two hours one morning last week and knocked on the doors of neighbors who lived next to targeted houses.
   Besides shooting photos at the scenes, the audio team had the added responsibility of searching for witnesses who watched the houses near them burn by the hand of arsonists. The team encountered three different types of witnesses:
· A woman who wanted to tell her story and wasn’t afraid to be identified;
· A man who absolutely didn’t want anything to do with it. In fact, he initially admitted the house next to him was destroyed by arson; then he changed his story when asked if he would be willing to be interviewed.
· Two men who wouldn’t stop talking but refused to be photographed or give their names.
    Watching the students work their multimedia magic in class this morning was amazing. Dave Cantor and I gave them little bits of advice, but for the most part these students did all of the work. It is fundamental students are given hands-on assignments like this because it allows them to make their own content decisions for this real-world project that will be published on a reputable website like
     Don't expect the students to answer the burning questions of why arsons happen and what the city is doing about them. This project was simply meant to wet their appetites for storytelling: This is an introduction course, after all. PHO245 students don't spend a lot of time on any one subject, especially something as deep as arson. I can only hope that this multimedia project inspires them to advance their skills later on down the road.
     In class next week we will present our story, entitled Burned, to co-founder of Kate Giammarise. I can't wait to show off the skills of these six scholastic photojournalists.
     And that’s a wrap, folks.

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