Tag Archives: Journalism

Update on a current project: Dredging on the Hudson in Rensselaer, NY

Map of former BASF site.

Source: NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, courtesy of John Strang.

Dredging the Hudson River is more than likely associated with the dredging that occurred in Fort Edwards as a cleanup of PCB’s left behind GE. However, it has been arranged by New York State’s DEC, DOH, and the company BASF that dredging will occur later on this year (though the timing is still uncertain) in order to clean up pollutants left behind by BASF’s former dye factory that operated on Riverside Avenue in Rensselaer from 1986 until 2000.

Riverside Avenue is a small stretch of colorful homes (including an old dutch house converted into a museum) that ends in a sprawl of facilities like Albany Molecular Research Institute and the Port of Rensselaer. Residents of the close-knit community are mostly happy for the cleanup, but concerned about various factors such as odors from the dredged riverbed and traffic.

Full disclosure: my grandfather worked at BASF, although he did not get involved with this story besides my mother relaying one story of his about digging lagoons to catch runoff.

I will be producing a story on this proposed dredging for my internship at the radio station WAMC sometime in May. At this point I should probably say something cheesy that relates back to radio like stay tuned, readers. 

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Animals At The Zoo

Let’s talk about writing.
See, that was a technique known as breaking the fourth wall. It’s probably gained some fame since the premier of the Deadpool movie this past weekend. I’d now like to use a well-known and overused writing technique known as a metaphor. You see, I can compare various writing styles to the animals you would see at the zoo. A deep lengthy writing piece, for example, something you would see in the New Yorker magazine or that your college proffessor would assign for you to read, is an anaconda. Wedged between a fake rock and plate glass, this large sluggish animal, with its dull eyes and tiny diamond head, appears dull and boring. To truly understand the complexity and ferocity, one has to get past the glass and in the tank and then see how this snake reacts when it gets hungry.
Other pieces of writing function like the tropical birds you can get up close with and let dive-bomb your head in a heated house at the zoo. Beautiful, coloful, fascinating, and melodic, these creatures are only hypnotic for so long before you realize they are nothing but a small mass of fluff and repetitize nonsense you’ve heard before.
My writing does not belong in a zoo, and that’s not just because no one would look at it. My writing ressembles those frogs that school children find in ponds near nuclear power plants. With their green and leapord-spotted skin sprouting out extra limbs and mucas, there is something inherently wrong with these swarming creatures, something bizarre and twisted that makes people shake their heads in confusion. I’m not talking of something Lovecraftian or inspired by Poe. I’m talking about mix-ups and lost train-of-thoughts and crude references. Something that is abhorred until the right person with the right appreciation comes along, picks it up, and studies it with a quiet fascination, maybe realizing that these little green deformities stand for something bigger, something more important as a whole. With the frogs it’s the school kids or scientists. With me, maybe a friend, a teacher, and hopefully in the future it will be an editor. It’s good proofreaders, professors, and editors who can give structure to my work. My leads are more than often abhorrent; I can’t pick a focal point in my article when I want the reader to find every little detail as important as I found it. No, without these people, I’d just continue swimming in circles, paddling my extra limbs.

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Isabel Wilkerson on Interviewing in “Telling True Stories”

File:Isabel wilkerson 2010.jpg

Isabel Wilkerson doesn’t interview “in the Mike Wallace sense of the word,” according to her essay in “Telling True Stories.” In place of jarring, nail-to-the-wall interviews, Wilkerson prefers the kind that build what she calls “accelerated intimacy.” Wilkerson essentially builds a relationship with her source, using a series of steps which she compares to peeling an onion: finding that perfect center with the “truest flavor.”

The other day I conducted two very different interviews: one with the owner of a local club and one with a professor who had made a new discovery. I began my day interviewing the club owner, and our interview began with the realization that this man was a friend of my family (conflict of interest?). The interview flowed excellently from the introduction, but it wasn’t only due to the connection. The man was someone I’d categorize as ‘the cool kid.’ He was willing to talk about himself, but also willing to ask about me, and to talk about others.

My second interview began abruptly, in part because I dove into the questions too quickly. Going into the interview, I knew that this scientist would be someone I’d categorize in an interview as a ‘nerd:’ someone who would not want to talk about themselves, or you, or make small talk, but have them speak on their specialty and they won’t shut up. The professor actually interrupted by background questions to tell me what I really wanted to hear was this. He then proceeded to explain the entierety of his theories and theses with myself asking minimal questions.

I pride myself for categorizing the types of people I have interviewed, but the issue is that I merely categorize and then react. What Wilkerson has developed with her series of stages throughout the interview, is a relationship being built-no matter whether the person is a ‘nerd’ or a ‘cool kid.’

The first black woman to receive a Pulitzer prize in journalism, Wilkerson began her career in journalism at internships with the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times before rising to the position of Chicago bureau chief at the New York Times, and contuing to receive awards throughout her career. In 2010, she published “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration,” a book compiling the personal stories of African Americans who traveled the three major routes from the South to the North. No doubt, the aging people Wilkerson describes interviewing in this essay were for this work. Wilkerson states that she builds a granddaughter-grandparent relationship with these sourse due to their age.

In some ways, I too am building a relationship with my categorization, but people are not one-sided. By adopting some of Wilkerson’s techniques, I may be able to round out my relationship with my source and my interview, peeling that onion to its final, flavorful core.

Appendix and Sources:





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