This week, Eliza Moreno, Shane Thin and I met up with Meghann Cotter, the executive servant-leader of Micah Ecumenical Ministries , a non-profit organization that coordinates nine churches across downtown Fredericksburg to provide food, showers, furniture, clothing, shelter, housing, respite and work experience to the city’s homeless, regardless of prior criminal history, mental illness, disability or substance abuse. During the interview, we discussed Meghann’s idea to create short videos that highlight the stories of individuals impacted by the organization, in order to gain donations and volunteers, and introduce the local community to Micah’s work.
After the interview, I worried about the open-ended nature of the proposed project. Meghann did not have any specific ideas or information she wanted to include in the media stories and left their direction and content up to our discretion. This can lead to miscommunication and disorganization, so we will need to work closely with Micah to establish concrete benchmarks and strategies in order to produce a final product that will make a true impact on community awareness. It will take a lot of research and on-site meetings to get a feel for Micah’s aesthetic, culture and influence, so that we can faithfully represent the organization and its members.
Along the same line, the media stories will entail extensive visits to Micah’s many community centers to interview individuals and volunteers. Finding people who are willing to sit in front of a camera and discuss personal subjects will likely be difficult. Although Meghann will help introduce us to potential interviewees, we will still need to develop a working rapport with them so that they can feel comfortable communicating their story. I do not have any experience with journalism, and I’m still developing my formal interviewing skills, so I will find this component of the project personally challenging.
I initially wanted to work with Micah because their client brief mentioned they were interested in updating their website to include search engine optimization and traffic analysis, something which I wanted to learn more about. However, because the scope of Micah’s wish list was so large, and because my other team members had a lot of experience with video development, we decided to focus on the media stories, which have the potential to cover most of the issues Micah addressed in their client brief. While I’ve created videos in the past using free editing software, I focused mostly on montages, and have little experience with professional filming and photography. However, I am taking a course called digital approaches to fine arts, where I can receive a good foundation in photography, Photoshop and Premiere. I have also never done collaborative video development before, and am unsure how to plan and manage this kind of project. Likewise, I will need to rely on my team members’ proficiencies to tailor the final product to our chosen modes of distribution, since I am unfamiliar with social media platforms and their standards. In the end, I might consider moving to a project that more aligns with my skills, goals and interests.
Creating the media stories will push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me to change the way I engage with my local community. One aspect of Micah that I would like to explore is its pay-what-you-can restaurant. I think that it’s an interesting departure from a traditional soup kitchen, because it allows different social groups to interact and work together, and gives the homeless a chance to develop the food preparation skills necessary to obtain permanent jobs. Since it opened recently, there is a lot of room to raise community awareness about this particular program.
While the media story project doesn’t really play to my strengths, it will give me the chance to considerably expand my social media and video production skillset. Since the project is a blank canvas, it will also provide my team an opportunity for unrestricted, creative expression, with the potential to impact the well-being of individuals.