Saturday, December 27, 2014

Big City Reporting

A week or two back the kids had to do a project up in the even bigger city of Burlington, and I thought they did a great job. They are doing a news project in conjunction with CSPAN (yes, they've hit the big time) that requires that they do interviews with a variety of people, including politicians and everyday citizens on the street. The politician part was fairly straightforward because these are public servants who make themselves accessible to their constituents. Most of them can be contacted by email or phone, though talking directly to them doesn't always happen. We happen to have a friend and neighbor who is in the state legislature, which made this faction a little more accessible.

The interviews on the street were another matter. The kids had to get opinions from people in Burlington about a local event, and that meant getting a camera and hitting the street. It didn't help that the weather was brutal with freezing rain and snow. We had a time frame to adhere to, however, so we packed up the kids and headed up there. NMP is part of the group so AM dropped her off with some vittles and we were all set.

One of the goals was to find local schools that were affected by this legislation, but it turned out that we couldn't find the darn things. Burlington is a big town, and the suburbs are extensive, so there are a ton of schools. We found plenty of schools but none of the ones we needed. It was really the first one that confounded us, and foolishly I printed directions that were all based on the previous school so we could hit them one after another. The problem was, without finding the first one, I couldn't find the next one and so on. Oh well, we still got some footage of schools.

We literally wasted 2 hours looking for this stupid school, realizing later that we were in Burlington when in fact that school was in Winooski. At some point we decided it was a waste of time and headed into downtown to interview people. We had packed lunch so we parked on Church Street and ate our food, then got out and sought out word on the street. Now it's not easy for a kid to approach a total stranger and ask for some opinions, especially in the bigger city where people have a contrived sense of urgency. People frequently said I don't have time when in fact they probably just didn't want to deal with us. Fair enough, I get that, but I do think seeing some kids trying to do a project should spark a little more understanding and willingness to help. Maybe that's just me.

Either way, the kids did a great job, and I'm proud of them. They went to the mall and waited out on the walkway asking for opinions and got shot down about 99% of the time, but they hung in there and got what they needed. One thing about Burlington is that there are a lot more hoodlums and whacky people. I made sure to linger nearby and keep the kids in sight in case I needed to give someone a karate chop to the head. One zany woman in particular was very opinionated but declined to be filmed. She spoke for about 20 minutes, then came back for more. I saw her throughout the evening talking to various people on the street, so clearly something was going on with her.

It didn't help that the weather was so poor, and at some point it started raining and getting dark. We took a break and got ice cream/hot cocoas at Ben & Jerry's, and in a stroke of good fortune, the guy working there was passionate about this topic and agreed to be interviewed. What a score. The kids headed to mall for one last try, and then we headed home. We could have stayed there all night, but it was getting late and we still had a 2 hour drive home in wet, icy conditions. Total bummer.

We had snacks so we chowed on those on the ride home, eventually making back to our town around 7:30PM. We called JP en route and he met us at our house to get his daughter, and we ate a quick supper and relaxed. Despite the challenges, I thought the kids did a great job, and again, I'm proud of them for mustering the courage to just do it. It ain't easy, even for an adult, but they did it.

Now they are ready to move on to the next phase, whatever that may be. Whatever it is, I think I'll be somehow involved. Funny how that works.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Doc Oren for the pic.

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