Andrea Ballocchi

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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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: