September 25th, 2008
News is “just the facts.” It’s literal and often leaves you only with the knowledge that, whatever it is, is happening. News is supposed to be objective. And so, over breakfast you read headlines like “Family of Four Killed in Car Wreck,” “City Officials Unveil New Zoning Plan,” “3 Soldiers Killed by Blast,” “Great Weekend Destinations.” It’s the day’s news, filtered through several layers of editorial opinion and advertising considerations.
Advocacy is different. There is the issue; it may enrage, or it may be so dark it nauseates. There is the solution–or an attempt at a solution–which provides hope. And then there is the call to action, the “here is what you can do.”
The work I prefer to do walks a fine line between the two. It’s factual, but I look for the hope in the narrative and try to find an action, something viewers can do. Over nearly a decade now, I’ve learned these are two important components to “advocacy journalism” (if that’s what it can be called) for otherwise you traumatize your viewers. No one wants to come back again and again to desperation, it’s too much.
For me, in the last months and ever increasingly since returning from my last trip to Cambodia, I’ve bumped against my intellectual and psychological limits. There are only so many hours in the day, only so many skills I can master, and only so much trauma I can think about. I’ve been meaning to produce more, but I haven’t been able to.
This prelude has a point: it’s that Transitions Cambodia (now Transitions Global) has a new promotional advocacy video out. I looked at it from a creative, advocate, and personal standpoint. I know the key personalities in the video and I shot some of the location footage and stills. But I had nothing to do with the production, which is a good thing: if it were my job, it would still be in the digital “cutting room” because I am saturated. Grants, research, jobs, paying rent, trying to live a life. Those limits, again.
However, besides the media collection, I was involved in educating my community. I used images and media from a 2007 trip to Thailand and Cambodia, held a fundraiser, and made an ask. I recognized there were people who want to do something; they are as shocked and nauseated as I once was about human trafficking, but they don’t know where to put their desire to act. I said, help send me to do this work. It will help these organizations communicate their message which will build awareness and inspire others to act. My community, of mostly modest income, stepped forward to give $6000.
And so I share this video, not only so I can spread further awareness and raise the call to action–for Cambodia or elsewhere, since human trafficking is global–but also to thank my community one more time. Without your help, a lot of these images and footage wouldn’t exist. You helped make this, it is yours.
I’m also going to start actively soliciting comments. I’ve turned off some of the comment filters and I’d like to hear your thoughts on activism and engaging communities. What moves you? What do you look for in a cause, how are you motivated to act? What do you think about advocacy, about journalism?
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