Producing Stories from the Historic West Grove on Election Day

James Massey, born in 1940, grew up in the West Grove witnessing the community's civic evolution.

James Massey, born in 1940, grew up in the West Grove witnessing the community’s civic evolution. Photo by Tatiana Cohen.

“It’s very important to live in a country where you can say almost anything you want to say and not have threats to your life,” said 68-year-old and West Grove resident James Massey. He was referring to having lived in fear of the KKK in Coconut Grove and feeling liberated to speak his voice when he became eligible to vote in 1961.

I found his story when I hit the streets of “West Grove”, a sub-section of Coconut Grove, historically comprised of Afro-Caribbean settlers, to find voices representative of this community for an online multimedia project called Witnessing History in the West Grove 2008.

It’s an area that often is overlooked by mainstream media in South Florida, but that is civically active. And the goal for my University of Miami class of journalists was to document and package on the 2008 Election Day the stories representing this community’s sentiments on having a black president.

Andrea Ballocchi (right) and Walyce Almeida working in the West Grove to produce Witnessing History in the West Grove 2008.

Andrea Ballocchi (right) and Walyce Almeida working in the West Grove to produce Witnessing History in the West Grove 2008.

My classmate Andrea Ballocchi and I were producers on this project. We coordinated and supervised the teams of students and what stories they would work on as well as came up with the website’s design concept and ensured the execution.

It was one of my favorite jobs and it inspired me to pursue becoming a producer – a role I’m currently seeking to fill. (Check out my resume.)

Massey’s story and many others on the site made the project so rich and meaningful. And my talented teams told those stories beautifully. (Thank you Tatiana Cohen for helping me find James Massey and taking those gorgeous pictures of him.) Take a look at the multimedia website and let me know what you think.

Witnessing History in the West Grove 2008 - screenshot

Witnessing History in the West Grove 2008 – screenshot

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Web Development Skills Comes with Voracity

1h2o_logo

Voracious, bulldog, hungry – those were words my editor Joseph B. Treaster at the Knight Center for International Media said needed to describe me if I truly wanted to be a journalist. He reported for over 30 years at the New York Times, which makes those adjectives perfect to describe his professional style.

I learned quite a bit from him about being persistent and speedy. It came in handy as I worked as his Associate Editor on 1H2O.org, an online magazine about the worldwide water crisis. Part of my job was to edit and gather content as well as work with freelance journalists around the world reporting from their respective hometowns, such as Marko Phiri in Zimbabwe and Ada M. Alvarez in Argentina.

And because the journalism job market in Miami was tough, I decided to apply some of my newfound voracity in learning and practicing web development skills. So not only did I maintain 1H2O.org, but I also had the opportunity to develop the design and structure for the following two websites.

Knight.miami.edu – The Knight Center for International Media focused on stories for positive change in communities around the world.

Knight Center for International Media

Aguasnegras.glocalstories.org – Aguas Negras or “Black Waters” is the term used for the polluted water source for Mexico City and surrounding farmlands. Photojournalist Janet Jarman investigates how this environmental issue affects the locals and their businesses.

Aguas Negras - A Report by Janet Jarman

Hoping in the DREAM Act – More than a Thesis or Chore

The movement behind the DREAM Act gives many young people hope that one day they will have a chance to come out of the shadows. They hope to contribute to American society as well as receive the full freedom that comes with being a citizen. Because my parents are immigrants themselves and so many of my friends are as well, immigration became the theme for my thesis project in the University of Miami’s Multimedia Journalism Master’s Program.

As a kid, I used to hate doing house chores like cleaning up my room and would usually try to whine my way out of it. My father would tell me (in Portuguese), “Oh you don’t want to? Then get an education and work hard, then you can hire a maid. But until then, go clean your room.”

My parents, who arrived in Miami from Brazil in the 1980’s, taught me that we were here because our dreams could come true. And for a while, I really believed hard work was all it took until I got to college. That’s when I realized many of my friends couldn’t register for school or apply for financial aid or even just get a driver’s license.

So I produced a three-part video series published on Vimeo that looks into what the DREAM Act is and how it could change lives.

Only the DREAM Act can restore hope for undocumented youth: An interview with Immigration Lawyer Tristan Bourgoignie

Walyce’s Final Project on Undocumented College Students – Part One from Walyce Almeida on Vimeo.

Achieving a higher education against all odds: Young, Peruvian Jimena Alvarado struggles to attend and pay for college because of her status

Walyce’s Final Project on Undocumented College Students – Part Two from Walyce Almeida on Vimeo.

How colleges and the US would benefit from the DREAM Act

Walyce’s Final Project on Undocumented College Students – Part Three from Walyce Almeida on Vimeo.

Going In-Depth on Business’ Need for Fish

Blue Crab

Photo by Brian Schlansky

Blue crabs, fish, and some other sea creatures creep me out a little bit. It’s something about their cold, slimy, expressionlessness that makes no distinction between them being dead or alive… until one moves.

For one undergraduate project called The Fish at Bay, classmate Brian Schlansky and I got to join a family that owns a fresh seafood market on a short boat ride to catch some blue crabs. When those little guys got to escape the box in which they were poured, they chased you around the boat.

Brian and I produced a video and I wrote an in-depth article on the different kinds of businesses in South Florida that depend on a plentiful, local fish population.

It was one of out five stories that a class of students put together. And it was so much fun to work on, not just for our adventure into Biscayne Bay but also because I got to taste so much amazing seafood. Sorry blue crab, but I prefer you cooked.

Fish Dependency: How South Florida Businesses Rely on the Resource from Walyce Almeida on Vimeo.

Dabbling in Coding and Web Design

Most students go into the workforce right after getting a bachelor’s degree. When I was done, all the rapid changes were occurring in journalism such as shifting business models, replacing old reporters with multi-tasking ones, integrating social media in news, and so on.

With no professional experience and just a degree, I knew I had little chances of landing a decent job in journalism. So I went back to school. The University of Miami had just launched its multimedia journalism master’s program. Perfect timing!

During my undergrad years, I started to dabble in coding and web design, which I did every now and then during grad school as well. At one point, my classmate and friend, Andrea Ballocchi, started working with UM’s Director of the Arnold Center for Confluent Media Studies, Ali Habashi.

Ali gave us one simple site to make for a student organization. Then his fiance asked if we could do a portfolio site for her. That turned out to be fun because she’s a classical pianist. Check her out!

So here are the projects:

Front of the Business Section

As part of an internship at The Miami Herald, my beat for an entire year was to cover a small town south of Homestead called Florida City. Every other week, I would go to the city council meetings to find issues worth reporting. And in between, I wrote features.

Because it was a small town, I started to feel a part of it. Mayor Otis T. Wallace, who had been the mayor for almost two decades, and the other council members were very sweet with me and always willing to provide information and answer my questions. I even bumped into my elementary school principal – a local and friend of the mayor. Small world!

So it became pretty interesting to learn the ins and outs of Florida City’s administration and to see it grow in ways outsiders wouldn’t expect.

My biggest story on this town turned up on the business section’s front page for the Herald. (But read it on this blog that picked up the story.) A colleague told me it took her five years to accomplish the same thing. You might expect me to boast at this point, but instead I’d like to thank my editor at the time, Donna Gehrke-White, for mentoring me. She was very hands-on and taught me how to write a decent news story.

Thank you Donna!

Translating Amazonian Dreams

Photo from Paula Sampaio’s book ‘Antônios e Cândidas Têm Sonhos de Sorte’

After transferring from Miami Dade College to the University of Miami, I was so excited for what I would get to do in the journalism program. And as luck would have it, my new advisor recommended me for a project that couldn’t have been more perfect.

I had the opportunity to translate Photojournalist Paula Sampaio’s book Antônios e Cândidas Têm Sonhos de Sorte (Antonios and Candidas Dream of Luck) from Portuguese to English for an online multimedia project called Roads of Dreams.

Sampaio traveled on two roads that cross the Amazon collecting stories from families that ended up there because the Brazilian government had promised them a future. But after the government cut funding to infrastructure and transportation works in the area, most of those families were stuck – not having enough resources or opportunities to go elsewhere neither to grow where they currently were.

One of the stories that touched me was of a teenage boy working on a farm whose only dream was to learn how to read. Most likely his father was promised a construction job. Without one, the boy had to step up and help sustain the family. And there aren’t many academic institutions around.

Unfortunately, the website for the project has been lost, but I still have a photo Paula gave me as a gift. In the photo, there is a picture of two female toddlers walking toward their cabin-like home on stilts. You can tell it’s surrounded by forest. And to the left of the wooden home, there is a large satellite suggesting the family that lives there has a TV.

Special Note: The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication awarded Roads of Dreams first place in the category of Creative Sites. My professor Kim Grinfeder led the project and had the help of student Kathryn Bain.

Brazilian Photojournalist Paula Sampaio documented the lives of various families living in the Amazon.