Occupation: Currently, I am doing freelance videography and editing, working on everything from music videos to weddings to profile pieces. I’m also involved in some very rewarding work with The LAMP, teaching kids how to be more proactive when it comes to their media consumption.
Favorite blogs & websites: I use blogs to stay in the loop about what’s going on in Brooklyn and the rest of the city: Kinetic Carnival, McBrooklyn, Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, Brooklyn Vegan. TheSkint is a great place to find great deals around the city. I have an electronic subscription to The New Yorker and I’ll also turn to the New York Times Online and the Guardian for news. The Onion has a great website and I enjoy checking out their A/V Club. Sites like Gawker, Geekologie, and Videogum keep me hip. My son and I spend a lot of time together on YouTube not only posting our own content, but watching old music videos. Another favorite site of his is Sploder, where we can make our own video games. And with Netflix and Hulu it seems there are less and less reasons to turn on the television these days.
What got you interested in media literacy? I would have to say my interest in media literacy began with watching television as a child and recognizing patterns in the shows and commercials. I began asking myself why these patterns existed. Why, for example, did cartoons like He-Man always go to a commercial about eight minutes into the show and how did that effect the structure of the show?
In school I gravitated toward whatever audio/visual options were available, even if it was just operating the projector on movie day. By the time I was in high school I was very aware television was always trying to sell something and viewed even my favorite shows with skepticism.
In college I studied radio, television and film and that took my media literacy to a whole new level. We studied mass communications and learned the techniques used by broadcasters to manipulate their audience. When you think of what the average young person is up against when they turn on a television or, now, their computer, the need for media literacy is more important than ever.
You used to be an editor at Fox News. How does that experience change the way you look at media? I worked at several news stations. It was a great experience and I would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that I absolutely loved it. The pace and the excitement of live television is undeniable. Working in television you see that there is no grand conspiracy. The higher ups are driven by ratings and everybody else is just trying to do the best job they can. It’s very competitive. A great deal of what you see on television is motivated by stations just trying to keep up with one another. A lot of the theory I learned in school went out the window and it all became a matter of trying to outdo what the other guy’s where putting up. I did, however, see the answer to my He-Man question first hand. News has a very strict format dictated by commercials, i.e. all the real news is in the first block while the last block is reserved for the kicker (a fluffy story about water skiing squirrels or whatever).
You’re also teaching one of The LAMP’s workshops at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School. What has surprised you the most so far in working with the students? Working with the kids at Brooklyn Prospect, the biggest surprise was how aware so many of them are about things like target audience and viewer tracking. These kids are very cognizant of their value as consumers and as the children of consumers. It was just below the surface, but once we started asking them questions their response was immediate. You could literally see the realization on their faces when they were asked to think about why their favorite websites are set up the way they are. (Click here to see pictures from this workshop and others!)
We know you do a lot of video projects with your young son. Tell us more about that–why do you think that’s important, and what do you hope to impart? For us it’s mostly about having a good time, exploring ideas creatively. I want my son to be able to express himself any way he sees fit, so that’s part of it, too. I also try to pass on whatever knowledge I have about technique and get him to think about the ways stories are told, but mostly it’s just a way for us to spend time together.