The Silent Island


Coney Island in the fall is far different from its summer self.

At least how I imagine it to be; I’ve never been at its peak. The boardwalk was empty. A man growled at me for taking pictures that weren’t even of him. A lone musician strummed his guitar, singing to no one. A lady stared at a bird that stared at her back.

Yet, it was exactly what I needed.

Tired from jumping for pictures, we headed back to the city.

That weekend, for me at least, Baltimore beckoned.

 

Notes from the Borough

This week I covered a public hearing at Brooklyn Tech concerning the closure of 19 schools to make way for charter schools.

This has been a huge issue in the city, as Mayor Bloomberg is a huge proponent of charter schools and already has closed a number of public schools in the metro area. There had been a couple of public hearings in the city, with this one being the last and the biggest right before the vote. Naturally, hundreds of people showed up to protest the changes, and though there were a lot of defiant statements, there was also a sense of futility. Many knew that no matter what was said that night, it was pretty much a done deal.

I was multitasking that night, as I interviewed, took pictures, audio and video. The story was my top priority, however, and I couldn’t get the video finished in time. Here it is in all its glory. There were lots of chants that night, a lot of anger, and I hope that’s pretty evident here (For those not familiar with NYC schools, Joel Klein is the school chancellor).

The auditorium didn’t provide a lot of light, and I have an aversion to using flash (which isn’t the smartest aversion to have indoors), so the pictures have a blurry effect. I used to shun blur altogether, but I’ve recently acquired an appreciation for them. I think it’s also effective in this set of pictures, where everything was moving at a frantic, active and very emotional level.

With that said, I feel OK about the pictures and video.

I wandered around the auditorium and barely sat down for the five hours I was there. Just when I thought I’d gathered enough notes, I found that people started getting used to my presence as I stood by the wall, away from the other reporters, and even initiated conversation with me. I got my strongest quotes then, reminding me that it’s best to sit back, observe and let things happen rather than force interviews with reluctant sources.

Here’s a segment that didn’t make it in the story. The teacher was standing next to me watching his students speak, and at one point shed a tear:

Students from various schools were bused in, and at around 10 p.m. they were allowed to speakĀ  so they wouldn’t miss their rides home.

Michael Ross, a teacher at the slated-to-close New Day Academy in South Bronx, said regardless of the outcome, the students will have learned to question authority.

“I hope it teaches them they can effect change,” he said.

One of his students, trembling, approached the mic:

“Did you know that I worry about being shot at every day at school?”

“Did you know that I worry about being jumped by gang members?”

“I deserve a safe education.”

For more pictures, check out my flickr.

Latest: Band Q&As

Photo by flickr’s Ferrari + caballos + fuerza = cerebro Humano

I’d never done band profiles before, so I was at a loss for questions when they were first assigned to me.

There’s something intimidating about talking to musicians as opposed to public officials or school administrators (which are the kinds of people I used to deal with). Musicians don’t have to be formal, so they can say whatever they want. I was afraid my attempts to appear nonchalant might actually backfire, leaving me as the rambling idiot wielding a pen and notepad. Still, I took comfort in their unfamiliarity. Like government officials, musicians have their own jargon — What makes sense to them might sound abstract and nonsensical to me — and, after covering education and local government, I’m used to that.

Fortunately, the bands (the fearsome sparrow, Aeroplane Pageant and Horse’s Mouth) were pleasant to talk to, gave insightful answers and, in most cases, made sense. Ultimately, I approached them the same way I approach all my interviews: I loaded them up with questions with a nod and a smile. The biggest challenge was probably deciding whether to hold an alcoholic beverage or a voice recorder.

Good news for my editor, I chose the latter.

Hyperlocal Brooklyn

Though I live in Astoria, I spend much of my time reading about Brooklyn and going to Brooklyn because I write for brooklyntheborough.com. One of the things I quickly learned is that Brooklyn — other than being the artist/hipster/musician mecca of New York — is also a blog mecca.

Here’s a sampling of the few blogs I’ve come across, which gives you an idea of how hyperlocal news is getting these days. Some are by freelance journalists, and some are by former or current (insert here profession) who are actively involved in their neighborhoods.

It’s good news for readers, because blogs are updated frequently and provide a great way for them to participate in discussions. Still, most work with skeleton crews who are either unpaid or paid very little, and grab news from the big newspapers that continue to lose money. Is journalism going to stay a viable career (which is a notion many journalists would snicker at) or is this the age of news by hobbyists with day jobs?

Such a conundrum.

Brownstoner : real estate and renovation
BushwickBK.com
: life in Bushwick, Ridgewood, East Williamsburg
Brooklyn Based : food, art, shops
Clinton Hill Blog
McBrooklyn
Brooklyn Heights Blog

Luxury condo auctions

My latest story, about luxury condo auctions, is now up: “At Brooklyn’s first luxury condo auction, agent advises ‘buyer beware.'”

To get an idea just how long it had been since I’d written an article, my last one was published in January.

But I didn’t sit idle long. I moved back home to Richmond, saved money, had a two-month stint at a law firm (yeah, I’m not kidding), ran a 5k (a big feat for this former non-runner and couch potato), created my online portfolio (still under construction, but I’m so excited to publish it!) and moved to New York to freelance.

I like staying busy, what can I say?

Coming up with the lede used to be my favorite activity. I’d usually have one in my head before I even sat down to write the story. This time, I was intimidated. I hadn’t written one in so long, I felt I’d forgotten how to do it. I probably fudged with the introductory paragraph for about an hour (which is what newswriting 101 tells you NOT to do), and the rest came out in halting spurts of jumbled thoughts. Still, the key is practice, and I already have another assignment to tackle.

As my editor said, it’s like riding a bicycle.