A New Dawn Rises in Hamburg

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A New Dawn Rises in Hamburg

If you’ve been alive for a few decades you’ve surely noticed how fast time passes and how things seem to change, sometimes even without us fully comprehending what has happened. Once a year, somewhere in Germany, several thousand enthusiastic individuals get together to consider those changes and look into what else is possible in the future. Beyond that, old and new friends get a chance to catch up, share knowledge, and maybe even get inspired.
This event, known as the Chaos Communication Congress, has brought me friends and acquaintences that I feel very fortunate to have and look forward to seeing year after year. Two such friends and fellow audiofiles, join me on today’s program to kickoff CTRP 2015 properly; by reporting from the congress and evaluating what this meeting is all about and how this thing connects to the big thing out there. Today on the program: Emmanuel and Kyle of 2600 Magazine, Off the Hook and Off the Wall.

Shaped By War: An Iraqi Journalist in Dubai

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Imagine yourself at work one day when the boss comes to you, hands you a shovel, a gun, and says “the invasion is starting, you must defend your workplace.” It may sound implausible but that is exactly  what happened to my guest on the program today.

Ali Al Shouk was your average working chemist when the invasion of Iraq began in 2003.  It was then that a series of traumatic events and coincidences would begin, eventually leading him to a career in journalism and a place he did not expect to end up.

In between my taxi interviews Ali and I sat down together in Dubai to talk about his amazing experiences that made him who he is today.

Storytelling Renaissance, Sort Of

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Storytelling Renaissance, Sort Of
photo by Local Studies NSW/Flickr
photo by Local Studies NSW/Flickr

photo by Local Studies NSW/Flickr

The word storytelling seems to pop up all over the place over the past year.  A quick glance at cultural events in your community and projects being carried out by NGO’s (such as our very own hardworking Small World News) and you are sure to see the word storytelling.  Storytelling as an art, a hobby, an activity to bring people together, to share experiences and culture; it’s this thing that has always been there, for generations, and might just be having a bit of a renaissance in the context of on and offline culture.

I’m often involved in discussions or projects related to the world of online story telling.  Truth be told, I do love a good story, and I do believe it is part of why I love to record other people’s words. By and large it must be a big benefit for all of us now and for future generations, that in 2013 storytelling got hip!

photo by giulia.forsythe /flickr

photo by giulia.forsythe /flickr

Despite the fact that it is probably good for our collective health and I myself am involved in teaching and promoting story telling online, I am also partly skeptical of all the noise surrounding the word. Storytelling for the sake of sharing with the world and bringing us closer together- yes! Surely it does matter how you present something, if the audience can understand it, follow it, and to some extent relate somehow. But storytelling that is focused on entertaining and manufacturing emotional high’s and low’s, as a journalist at heart, that is not what I am about. Of course I like a good story and have certainly exaggerated my way through some tales for the sake of a big smile or a “huh.. wow.. that’s amazing” reaction.  I too love the stories coming out of radio projects like This American Life, Radio Lab, or Snap Judgement.  But if indeed I am a storyteller and I’m busy teaching means of better telling their stories, I would rather inspire people to not try to entertain but rather – tell the truth.

Choose to record the words of a person without chopping up the audio or video in an effort to create an emotional moment. Films do that. Radio plays do that. Even the guy or gal at the bar on a Friday night does that. But we who genuinely want to bring stories of real lives and real issues from one part of the world to another, our priority should not be to produce “a story” that will captivate and move an audience, we should let the truth do that.  And if the truth isn’t enough to get someone’s attention, if the reality of suffering or triumph from some corner of the globe isn’t enough to compel an audience to listen, at some level, I say- so be it- life is not always entertaining or captivating. Sometimes life is just sad or wonderful or something in between. It is not a made for tv drama, and there are still many of us out there that don’t need to be entertained before we learn something new.

Putting the Puzzle Together

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Putting the Puzzle Together

A good friend said to me today “seems like all the work you’ve been doing and the journeys you’ve gone on, they are all pieces of a puzzle, and now you have to put that puzzle together.”

Paris RiverIt would seem so, after 13+ years as a blogger, 9 years as a podcaster, and over 7 years of giving lectures and workshops around the world, I’ve always believed that this was building up to something and I would know what at some point down the line.  All this knowledge, experience, and the contacts I have around the world, they do indeed fit together in different and sometimes unexpected ways.

But the puzzle still lies before me, waiting to be solved.  And whereas in the past there always seemed to be time and a natural order to all this, now it would seem push has come to shove financially and professionally and the question is – can I put it all together and make something out of it that I will be good at, enjoy, and be able to live from.  Over the past decade the answer has been yes, yes it can and will work. I have been fortunate enough to have lived the kind of life where I do indeed have options and people willing to help me sort through these options to find what is real and worth while.

One feeling that follows all this is that the time for sitting back and just going with the flow has ended. The time for action, decisive, meaningful, and well thought out, has arrived. Success is in no way guaranteed; I need to stand up and create the next opportunities.  Just like I did when I started this whole thing all those years ago.  The same spirit that caused me to start writing online, with an honest and determined approach, even at the risk of sounding like a fool, is what once again will get me to the next level (of life and slow journalism) which I very much desire.

On that note, on to Brooklyn!