Citizen journalism: The power of a story

Matt Chan February 9, 2017 0

As events unfold for our nation I can’t help but reflect on how we arrived at this point in our history. We live in a divided America, for some it’s the worst of days, for others it’s time to rejoice, but this divisiveness has also sliced our country in two, and like all wounds left unattended will eventually lead to a very bad outcome. What has divided us more than actions have been words. Talking points, invectives, and outright lies all powered by soulless social media platforms and a dysfunctional “News for profit” media, have pushed out real stories about real people. In political terms, we’ve lost the ability to see each other as human beings. We are now just “Red” and “Blue” caricatures, human talking points. As an Asian-American this is distressing and cause for concern.

I’ve made a career out of telling stories, and have come to understand the most powerful stories always connect with people on an emotional level. We communicate who we are and what we value through stories. In fact it’s hard to come up with any facet of human life that doesn’t revolve around a story. From why your homework didn’t get done to why you should be President of the United States, stories are essential to human communication. Emotional stories hold the power to change things.

Today people differ in opinions and worldviews to the point where we don’t understand each other, in some instances hating each other for it. But the truth is we are all the same no matter social class, color of skin, religion, or whatever device we use to separate and define each other. As humans we all experience pain the same, love the same, sadness the same, in fact we’re way more alike than different when we connect and communicate as people.

If we share the stories of our lives with each other and try to find common ground, that would be a first step in healing our divide. To be able to see each other as people, not objects of derision and scorn. A good example of this is Facebook. How easy is it to un-friend someone who pisses you off with a posting that you disagree with? Easy, right? What if the person who wrote the post was someone you really know, understand, spend time with; a real friend? Not so easy, because you know their story.

What if we took two people who have totally opposite political views, but were similar socio-economically, have the same life challenges, and asked them to talk to each other about their lives without injecting the news and political talking points. To have them speak honestly about how they see their lives and struggles, to tell each other their personal story. I think it would be harder after they spoke to demonize each other. They might still disagree, but there would be understanding, honesty, and who knows, even trust. They would see each other as people with a lot in common. They would know each other’s story.

So what does all of this have to do with Asians and other people of color? Everything. No matter how culturally difficult and uncomfortable it is to stand up and present our stories to the world, we need to do it. By not telling our own unique stories we let others define us. We become the “Other,” “People not like you and me,” less than human, and easily scapegoated. We need to tell our stories to heal the divide in our country.

It will take good people to go public, not from behind the isolation of social media, to take action by meeting people to share these stories with, to physically be present. The Women’s March showed the world the power of standing up. It was and is a powerful story.

The International Examiner is teaming up with 21 Progress and industry expert Matt Chan to present a workshop series on citizen journalism.

“Video Production” is the fourth workshop in this series, and will focus on teaching skills for shooting in the field. This workshop will be interactive, with opportunities for participants to practice setting up and using interview equipment. The workshop happens Thursday, February 16 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at 21 Progress. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/internationalexaminer.

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