Building a photoblog

In 2012 I set out to teach myself how to build custom WordPress themes in order to finally launch a much talked about, but never realized photoblog at The News Journal. Right off the bat, we knew we wanted to shy away from a Big Picture-style photoblog. It’s already been done, and done well. Also, we don’t have a dedicated photo editor who would have time to curate images from the various wire services.

Instead, our first thought was to build a blog that would highlight the work being done by our staff, and have it fed automatically through their smartphones and photo services such as Flickr, Instagram and TwitPic. I wrote about the blog theme last year, but unfortunately, it never took off.

Fast forward a year and I decided to try and tackle a photo blog again. This time, with a community-centered blog that encouraged outside contributions, highlighted photo communities and events in the state and no longer relied on what is an already overworked staff for content. The new photoblog, now titled First State Focus, launched last week and is easily one of the projects I am most proud of here at The News Journal.


Only in Delaware

Finally catching up on some blog posts that I have had sitting as drafts for a few months now…

The day after Hurricane Irene passed through Delaware, my photo editor and I went up to Lewes to survey homes damaged by a tornado and cover a press conference by Governor Markell. The event went as you would expect, a few quick interviews, shoot some b-roll, etc. Forty-five minutes later and we were back in the car, hopes of sleeping in my own bed for the first time in a week floating through my head. Just as I was about to drive off, I caught a cameraman walking up the street towards the damaged homes. “Poor guy,” was all I could think as he approached the governor’s SUV (just about to drive of as well).

What I saw next amazed me. Charlie, the cameraman, later told me that he asked if the governor had any time to jump out and say a quick sound bite. Instead, I saw Governor Markell and Senator (and former Governor) Tom Carper jump out of the vehicle and make their way back to the most damaged home.

The icing on the cake? Senator Carper was carrying Charlie’s tripod. Only in Delaware…

50 Who Matter

In between the grind of pumping out daily video at The News Journal, we also try and fit in special projects and a few video series. One such series if 50 Who Matter, which focuses on individuals throughout the state of Delaware who are working to improve their communities. The series can be hit or miss at times, depending on how soon/late they decide who they will feature. Recently though, we have had two that I think are worth sharing.

Mary Hampson

Mary Hampson was unique for many reasons, the most obvious being her age. Most of the people we feature in the 50 Who Matter series are middle-aged, but Hampson began volunteering with the Freedom Outreach program at 17, and became its director at 21. She is also unique because she works directly in areas that are often skeptical of people from outside the community. One such area is Southbridge, which we focused on during a project on poverty and crime. Mary has been more than welcomed into Southbridge and Riverside, she is practically a member of everyone’s family. She checks up on schoolwork, knows when family members are in the hospital, drives kids to and from basketball practice and bakes and delivers over 100 birthday cakes a year.

Dolores Finger Wright

Dolores Finger Wright is an associate professor of social work at Delaware State University. Back when Ms. Finger Wright was attending Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., she helped to plan and organize the Greensboro sit-ins which were a pivotal moment in the Civil Rights movement. In speaking with her she reminded me of how different life was for her growing up as compared to the youth today, and explained how she tries to instill the same passion for social change in her students today that she had as a college student.

My Neighborhood: A Love/Hate Relationship in Wilmington

The video above is from the first major project I was able to work on at The News Journal. Ira Porter (how great is that name?) had been working on a story about a University of Delaware professor who was doing research in the Wilmington neighborhoods of Southbridge and the East Side. That quickly expanded to a larger story on what residents thought of their communities and the efforts to bring change into them.

Eventually we published a five-part series on the two communities, as well as an online component that included photo galleries and six videos. Though much of the work was done before I arrived at the paper, I did get the opportunity to film most of the interviews for the longer feature profiles and went out and shot some additional b-roll.

One of the features focused on Antony Logan, who was the only black male in Southbridge to graduate from high school from 2006 to 2009, a fact that I initially found amazing. In his itnerview, the UD professor performing the research, Yasser Arafat Payne, asked, “How did we even let it get that bad?” I don’t think that our piece really provides any answers to the situation, and, on a surface level, many already knew that Southbridge and the East Side were struggling (heck, even I did and I just moved here), but learning about people like Antony definitely put a face to the issue and hopefully served to make it a bit more difficult to conveniently forget about.