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December 27 2010


Story Idea 12.26.2010

…and the last one on a regular basis. In one week I’m back behind the teacher’s desk, whipping my minions into shape. This time as a long-term sub for an about-to-be-mom teacher. In photography – the art of freezing time.

So what’s in store for this week?

How bout something near and dear to home? Jobs.

I have students who graduated this past June who are still looking for a job. Heck, I have a few who graduated in 2009 in the same boat. And it’s not for not trying and it’s not for lack of the qualities that employers are looking for.

It’s for lack of jobs.

A universal problem.

Story idea: what is the average wait time for teens (or pick any age group) in your area to get a job?

Track a few teens. Keep an eye on them as they write their resumes (required in English 9 in my area) and send them out. Listen in as they ask teachers to be their references – and find out why said teachers agree. (I tell my students I will act as a reference for ALL of them…but I will tell the truth. It is up to THEM to decide if they want to use me as a reference.)

Make a list of places your trackable teens send their applications. Tag along for job interviews. Talk with (potential) employers about what they are looking for in an employee and why your teens do or don’t make the grade. You may be surprised to learn the teen is wonderfully qualified…but there are just too many choices out there for employers.

Oh…don’t forget up front to get permission from your subjects and their parents (if under 18).


December 18 2010


Story idea 12.19.10

Just read thisWashington Post story, thanks to a link from KipCamp, part of the Kiplinger Programs.

Now there’s an interesting story idea.
Sitting is bad…

A study earlier this year in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that among 123,000 adults followed over 14 years, those who sat more than six hours a day were at least 18 percent more likely to die than those who sat less than three hours a day.

So what are we doing with our children? Our students sit at desks for a good portion of their school day. Unless they are lucky enough to have a P.E. class, they are behind the desk for just about six hours daily in high school.

And this is all part of tradition and law. The legal aspect includes requirements by most states for a minimum number of minutes, hours, days in school. In California that magic number is 175 days (down from 180, thanks to budget woes).

Just under half a year of six hours daily seat time. Which way too many teachers believe in – sitting, listening, thinking (we hope), writing, on computers. Not active.

Story idea: check out your local laws and schools. What are the required times for attendance and how many teachers use that time to be the expert on the dais as opposed to allowing students to move around, be active and interact?

Is academia actually contributing to society’s obesity and health woes?

Oh – and I loved the (mostly) boys at school who took every opportunity to grab a handball and hammer the gym walls. Plus (of course) my bboyz who expend more energy in one weekly club meeting that most students do in a month.

December 07 2010


Story Idea 12.5.10

Ahhh, retirement. I left the ranks of the living rat race at the end of May this year. No more early wake-ups, stress, always being a beat behind. Now I have all of the time in the world.



…there are times I’m bored, overwhelmed with too much to do, procrastinating…and missing my old routine. Trying to fill the hole that was taken up by a job is challenging. Doing it in such a way that is meaningful and enjoyable, more so.

Story idea: what makes for a successful retiree?

Some folks invest so much of themselves into their jobs that when said job is history, they have nothing left to do but twiddle their thumbs. What should they do?

Some folks have outside interests that carry over into retirement and have lots to do.

What happens if one spouse retires and the other plans to (as in my husband’s case) keep chugging along for a few more years?

Retirement is, after all a goal we all aspire to. The end of our work life and beginning of a new life focusing (hopefully) on all of the things we put off. Successful retire depends on successful planning…enough income, debt-free, worry-free. It also is dependent on good post-retirement planning. Which means, what the heck are you gonna do with all of that time.

I’ve seen cases where retirees just waste away because they no longer know who they are. I’ve also see them taken advantage of by friends and family, becoming free caregivers and babysitters to the extent they have no free time for themselves.

So how do you define a successful retiree…what makes them successful? How busy they are…or how happy they are? Figure it out…talk to some folks…and let me know. I’m still looking.

November 23 2010


Update on shooting shadows…

I must have at least one reader out there. Put up a post a week ago about shooting what isn’t there – picturing shadows. A creative challenge.

One Linda M. Toki (okay, so she’s my husband’s cousin) took it to heart and produced the above images. There’s more, but these are my favs and I didn’t want to totally steal her thunder (and lighting).

I’m especially taken by the shadow of what appears to be an arm (Linda says the arm of a statue of G.Washington). And the very stark lines on pavement…almost three dimensional, abstract. Great stuff.

November 22 2010


Story Idea 11.21.2010

This week’s idea is once again geared towards the shooters on staff…still and moving videots.

Everyone needs to sharpen up their skillset by setting up challenges to become a better visualizer. If all you ever do is the same ole same ole, all you will ever be is the same.

Let’s talk weather…windy weather. Not a gentle breeze. A gusty wind or stormy blast. How do you visualize THAT? (Hey, we’re back to seeing what isn’t there again!)

Story idea: how do you show weather when it is invisible?
Answer: show the effect of said weather, of course!

And this is where your excellent retentive memory kicks in. Every good camera(wo)man I know can pinpoint places where sunlight scatters, water puddles, and winds careen around corners. It’s all part of your repertoire…your bag of tricks. If the Desk So Wills, you have to know where to grab a weather scenic in less than 15. So while you’re out wandering the world on other assignments, your brain is busy clicking away and storing visuals for future stories.

In this case, think back to times you’ve been heading somewhere on a windy day and something danced past your vision and almost made you hit the brakes. A pile of leaves twisting a ribbon of orange into the sky or crawling along post-haste like crabs across the pavement. A corner where the unaware meet the hat-snatching, umbrella busting, hair ripping winds. That’s where you should head for this assignment.

The basics are: NO staging. Like a wizened hunter, take up position, set your shutter on high speed and aim. And wait. Sometimes it is better if you don’t go after the game, but let the game come to you. (It also helps if you plan your visit for when folks are heading out and around that corner or when the neighborhood hasn’t had leaf pickup yet.)

Did I hear someone ask, why set the shutter on high speed if I’m shooting video? If this is your first time playing with shutter speeds, give it a shot. Shoot once with shutter on 30fps, then ratchet it up to say a 1000th. Once you’re back in house, pop the video into your computer and play both clips back. There is a definite difference…the high speed clip is crisper. And should you decide to go with slo-mo, you will still have that crispness and not a blur as you would from same ole same ole. (For a real old fashioned visual trip, try shooting in a snow storm on high speed…WOW!)

Another great idea, brought to you by a sleepless mind…

November 15 2010


Story Idea 11/14/10

This is for you photogs out there – both the frozen in time types and sound and motion shooters. Do a photo essay on what is not there – try to shoot a series of shots of light and shade without substance.

What brought this on? Waking up the past few weeks the sun has cast shadows on my closet door…that move from high to low, from focused to wide. Almost minimalist in style.

Ties in with a video I shot while in Portland this past spring. Shadow of train and man in window on wall. Mesmerizing. Rhythmic. Compelling.

Story idea: shoot what ISN’T there…

Here’s an example…on a recent vacation up the coast of California I visited all 21 of the missions that established Spanish dominance here. Ducking through a door in the Carmel mission I saw and snapped a photo of a shadow on the wall.

It looked strangely like an angel, with wings unfurling. Then, as I fully emerged into the hallway, I saw what cast the shadow – a workman on a ladder with a shop light behind him.The image impressed me and even after seeing that it had a real-world basis, stayed with me.
Here’s a couple more, shot at a 50th wedding anniversary party. The obvious shadow of photographer on wall…and then the repetitive pattern of balcony railing mirrored with its own shadow.

In these days of decreasing light and lengthening shadows, see what you can find. At my former high school it was the long shadows cast by students walking at daybreak to their gym classes. Leaves dancing an intricate flurry on a wall or the ground. Maybe even a dog trying to catch a shadow.

Asides from the aesthetics of shooting shadows…there is a real world application in shadowing those who prefer to remain anonymous…adding intrigue to portrait photography…and mystery to movement.

October 31 2010


Story Ideas 10.31.10

What would you make of an ad like the following (found on craigslist in wanted section)?

Looking for someone to help me with “History Of The Movies” community college coursework. Project consists of reading, writing, weekly quizzes, and tests. Course is 100% online. I’m 50% finished with it, just got hit with a ton of stuff in life making it near impossible now for me to finish.
- Passionate about the movies, or at least interested in their history
- You can access movies via BitTorrent or Netflix on the spot
- Daily access to a computer and the internet
- 100% committed to finishing project from now till Dec 8th
- Starts immediately and ends Dec 8th
- Coursework is due weekly and will be tracked with online project management tool.
- Course is 50% completed, need someone to help me out with the remaining workload.
- Coursework is 100% online.
- Pay is $100 plus a $50 project bonus for receiving a B- grade (2.75) or higher
- Send short cover letter highlighting our requirements. Candidate will be selected based upon writing quality, interest in the project/movies, Netflix/BitTorrent access, and likeliness to see it through from start to finish (now through Dec).

What I get from it (and others similar) is that someone wants to buy your brain to take an online class for them. I’ve seen (and tagged) others where the “wantee” wants you to take a sit-down class for them (you have to generally match their physical description) or provide answers to tests. The best offer I’ve seen so far was to take an English class with pay ranging from a few hundred for passing to $700 for getting an A.

Story idea: is this happening in your neck of the woods? Are students so strapped for time (and intellect and ethics) that they want to pay someone to take classes/tests for them? What meaning does this have beyond just paying someone for a job (well done)?

Let’s see…would you see a doctor who cheated her way thru school? Or lawyer, or any professional for that matter?

What does this do to folks who do it the old fashioned way – on their own, studying, working hard? Does it devalue their grades?

And what, ultimately, does it do to the “wantee” in the ad? Yes, it shows lack of ethics…but if they need help with bonehead English…how the heck are they going to pass more difficult courses. Skip Algebra I and how are you gonna do in Geometry?

Lots to delve into the ponder on this one.

And along the same line, here’s another idea from Peter Brown. Folks who go for fake are liars and cheaters. Vastly oversimplified, but those who are attracted to ripoffs of reality have trouble with the truth and the reality of life. In one study, see the results:

The women wearing the fake Chloe shades cheated more–considerably more. Fully 70 percent inflated their performance when they thought nobody was checking on them–and in effect stole cash…

Brown’s blog posting is based on a psychological study that seemed to indicate that buying fakes and personal behavior are closely linked.

Story idea: can you replicate some of these experiments done by the researchers in your own area? Are people even aware of the link between what they buy and behavior? Can these behaviors be recognized and possibly even reversed?

Good luck with it…see ya next week.

October 24 2010


Story ideas (from Oz) 10.24.10

I “friended” a random person on facebook recently…and since have been reading his postings with great interest. So this week’s story ideas are courtesy information garnered from him.

Peter Brown is a clinical psychologist in my hometown, Brisbane, Australia.

Today he posted a Courier Mail story on how fear of pedophiles is putting all men in the danger of being accused. This story has been done over here…but some good quotes nonetheless.

But moving on…

I LOVED this one. How long does it take to form a habit?

Story idea – everyone, but everyone, has bad habits they want to lose and good habits they want to start using. Want to loose weight? Stop smoking? Be a nicer person? Quit chewing your fingernails? In order to be successful, you have to get in the HABIT of doing what cha wanna do. And that takes time. How much time? According to Brown’s posting:

Ask Google and you’ll get a figure of somewhere between 21 and 28 days. In fact there’s no solid evidence for this number at all. The 21 day myth may well come from a book published in 1960 by a plastic surgeon. Dr Maxwell Maltz noticed that amputees took, on average, 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb and he argued that people take 21 days to adjust to any major life changes.

Good facts…interesting too because it explains why so many fail…they just don’t have a winning habit.

Here’s another one. Do you have a blankie? A bear or some over-loved worn-down object from your childhood that you just can’t let go of?

Psychologists call these items “transitional” objects…

objects that people feel a bond with, despite the fact that the relationship is, by definition, one-sided.

And these emotional attachments to objects is intense…the research Brown quotes shows that people become disturbed when they just cut up a photograph of the object they are attached to.

So the story idea here: are there folks in your community who (will admit to) have a “transitional” object they still hold on to. Who are they – why do they still have this lovey, blankie, bear? Do they hide it – are they ashamed of the child-like attachment? (what shape is it in?)

That’s it for now…but if you want to develop your own story ideas, never be afraid to listen to everyone you know. Last summer I was reading a reprint of a story from the LA times in my local paper…the story connected with me…and is now in my sights for shooting in the next month. Last night my husband and I were playing cards with his college roommate from 38 years ago and I found a story in his workplace – he owns a leather factory, making primarily belts but also fashion items with machinery more than a century old. Yes, we newsies are vultures…we eat our own young. But we provide great stories for our audiences!

Oh…and thank you Peter from some food for thought. I really do enjoy your blog and facebook postings.

October 05 2010


Fishing for jobs…

…is hard in these times. I have students who graduated a year ago who are still looking. My 18 year old daughter has been looking to no avail for five months.

Photo 8 Photo 9

So while waiting on the mezzanine of the Stockton Hilton today, I was nearly run over by several hundred folks who lined up to pick up applications for jobs in – Alaska. Seems an old tradition lives on. Back in the late 60′s many of my college mates did summer stints up in those northern waters, working the fishing boats and processing plants, making enough cash to tide them over through the school year.

The face of this era’s potential employees has changed – primarily Filipino, probably 70% male, young (18-30). They want jobs and are willing to travel to get them. And they’re from all over the state. Plus, a few (at least) are repeat customers who’ve already spent time up north. The others, youngsters with a sense of combined foreboding and adventure, are slowing completing their applications and turning them in.

What place does this have on a VJ blog? Well if you aren’t curious and you don’t ask questions, you will never find the story. I began grilling folks after I saw the first few dozen downstairs and continued until my curiousity was sated. If I didn’t have to watch a table full of tech gear and registration papers I’d be out wandering the crowd shooting tape (another rule of the road: never leave valuables unattended).

September 28 2010


Story Ideas 9.26.10

Tradition…a word with BIG MEANING.

Tradition has warm connotative meanings – reaching into the past and remembering what has been and will always be. Think holiday traditions. Foods that are cooked for certain celebrations. Colors and sounds. Smells…all tied in with good feelings.

But tradition also has a negative connotative meaning. The rut. The way it has always been done…and by inference, WILL always be done. So…uh…why are we going this way? “Because this is the way we’ve ALWAYS gone.” But…uh…there’s a new bypass that will save us 45 minutes. “No…this is the way we’ve ALWAYS gone.”

Yeah – tradition.

Choose a topic…a story idea. Here…I’ll choose one for you (as a former teacher) – and I choose the educational calendar. Tradition dictates that the school year is (now loosely) based on the agricultural needs of the country. Kids are needed for harvest…then are released to school in September once a lot of the farm work is done. Tradition – talk about separation of church and state – everyone takes a week or two off for “winter break.” Be honest – Christmas. And it’s back to school for another stretch until – tradition again. “Spring break.” Easter. Now spring and planting time are here and we have to get those kids back out in the fields…so summer “vacation.” (But not for those ole time kids…summer hoeing and weeding and working.)

The educational calendar is full of traditions…some good/some bad.

Story idea: now you choose your topic and list the traditions/good and bad that are tied in with it. We have several calendars we have to contend with – the January-December calendar that is the chronological year…and the fiscal calendar. Why do we drive on the right side of the road and other countries/continents the left? Are the common rules of etiquette good or bad traditions? Which traditions are good for us…which make us feel good…which make no sense?

Why should we care? Sometimes traditions box us in…keep us from seeing over the edges of the box so that we never fully realize what is possible.

September 20 2010


Story Ideas 9.20.10

This week a bugaboo that has been sitting in my brain for some time. Are schools REALLY keeping up with technology and learning? As youth become more and more techno-savy, as their learning styles change, are their schools adapting and making use of technology that will reach out and connect…or just making gestures?

Today’s primary and secondary students absorb information differently than old geeks like me. My generation (and a few that followed) learned by the book…seat time. Yeah, we had multimedia…filmstrips, movies. I even remember the first time i saw a TV in the classroom – on the day President Kennedy was assassinated. Not a lot of fanfare, but remarkable at the time. Principal and upper grades teacher Malen Stroh hauled a small TV out of somewhere, set it up, and introduced us to live news – a watershed moment in history and our lives.

But what is happening today? Teachers are encouraged to use technology, but at the same time most districts bind their hands and feet with rules and regulations meant to “protect” everyone. Too many schools love to point out the computers in the classrooms as the “be-all” solution. So while I was teaching video production, I couldn’t have open access to youtube or news videos to show my students. Cell phones and personal electronic devices were forbidden in the classroom (even as certain teachers ignored the rule in favor of creative uses such as recording music to rehearse the choir, bluetoothing music from cell phones to my personal laptop so they could move by thumb drive to their editing station).

Story idea: try this. Survey the students in one school to see what personal electronic devices they use in their everyday lives. Then as how these devices dovetail into their academic lives and how. If at all. Good luck.

Oh – and here’s number two. Take a drive with a fellow employee at rush hour. One of you concentrate on keeping out of trouble…driving. The other have a still or video camera and tape the number of folks who are multitasking as they commute. You can focus on carpoolers, but the really interesting ones are those driving alone. I’ve seen everything from drinking coffee to cell phoning to putting on mascara (with both hands yet at 70mph in the fast lane) to texting with both hands while merging at 55mph.

Story idea: this is a visual story only. You don’t need words when a picture is worth a cool thousand. See how many variations of “look ma, no hands” you can get in one commute session.

Now be careful out there…

September 13 2010


Story ideas 9.12.10

I almost hate to admit it, but some of my best story ideas come while cruising and dreaming or hitting garage sales. At the latter remember – you have to TALK to people to get information.

So at a garage sale just down the street I ran into a friendly guy and we were wandering and checking out the stuff he had for sale when another neighbor yelled out, “Hey why don’t you put your fire stuff out!”

He had me right there…as a dusty old bag was pulled out and there it was! Nomex! You wouldn’t understand unless you’ve been in a forest fire. Fire retardant clothing. Bright yellow. Outrageous. Brought back memories.

Turns out Tony was a former volunteer firefighter. A dying profession. It seems that rural fire departments in my area are no longer allowing volunteers to man the trucks and hoses and haven’t been for some time.

Used to be in the outback areas if you wanted to fight fire, you had to do it yourself. Many of the men in the community would sign up and at the sound of the bell (or phone) they’d drop everything and head to the smoke (or accident). For a while I remember there being an issue with not enough volunteers. And now this.

Story idea: what is the status of volunteer firefighting in YOUR rural areas? Is it still thriving or has it died out due to lack of volunteers or (worse yet) bureaucracy?

And speaking of volunteerism, how easy is it for folks to volunteer at schools in your community? Now I just retired from teaching a little over three months ago – and when I went back on campus the first few times it was okay but then – WHAM! The doors slammed shut and I was told I needed to complete a volunteer form and get fingerprinted. Same for my daughter who at 18 was a recent grad of the school and had been training the school’s color guard for nearly a mont.

Problem? They slammed down so hard and fast that no one know what we needed to do exactly to get the paperwork done. Some kind soul finally figured it out and got the proper forms up to the front desk. And the district finally confirmed that yes my fingerprints from teaching were still good…but now my daughter has to PAY to volunteer. Sweet.

Story idea: with all of the cutbacks to schools and complaints they don’t get enough help – are they making it hard or easy for folks to volunteer? What kind of barriers are set up or what kinds of incentives are given to help out?

Enjoy the week – I’m on the road again.

September 04 2010


Story ideas (early) 9-5-10

As with many of you, I’m outa here for the Labor Day weekend, so thought I’d post a few ideas before heading out the door.

Three - TwentyTwo - ThirtySix

The first one is personal – for me as well as you.
Who are your grandparents (or meaningful elder)? Who are they REALLY?
We tend to ignore or revere our elders…now is the time to look at them in a totally different light.
Once they were just like you. Ten years old…a teen…a young adult…they had mid-life crisis…had fears of growing older. They have been through every stage you have been through and survived and they can look back with or without regrets at their life and are able to understand the connections along the way from the safe distance of time.
Story idea: interview someone old, someone close to you. Force them back in time to their youth and have them talk about everyday things. What they had for breakfast. What their favorite toy or saying was. Slang from their youth. What they hated/what they loved. Ask them how things have changed…where they might have had a party line shared with other families, what do they think of cell phones that can shoot video, stills, and surf the Internet.
Just think about it – maybe as teens they couldn’t even conceive of the changes they have lived though.
Not think about this – can YOU imagine the changed YOU will live though?

Second and final idea.
It is Labor Day Weekend. Symbolic of many cultural themes. The end of summer. The beginning of the school year. A change in seasons.
How many of you or your audience have ever celebrated the true meaning of Labor Day?
Story idea: check out your community and see if there are any local events, picnics, meetings that hone in on the reason for the quintessential three day weekend. Does anyone show up? Ask them why? Then head out into the community and do a survey on what is really happening – what does your community do to celebrate Labor Day and what do they think it’s all about.
Not the most original idea…but I remember covering labor and union meetings held on this first Monday in September back in the 70s, where labor was truly honored. I’m not too sure that is happening any more.

August 29 2010


August 29, 2010 Story Ideas…

This week we’ll call them, what aren’t kids (and adults) being taught (or are learning on their own). And no – not the moralistic preachy type of thing. Just a nuts and bolts set of ideas. Some skills I feel are essential that seem to be lacking.

We’ll start with our young folks. A few years back I had the (then) brilliant idea to have my students build a set for our upcoming daily bulletin program. I sketched out a simple desk design, complete with studs, plywood overlays and dimensions and gathered a small group of volunteers around.
The first question I asked when they joined was, “Have you ever used tools before?” Resounding YES! “How about power tools?” “SURE!”
Uh oh.
We discussed tool use and safety … primarily hammers, screwdrivers, saws plus a couple of power tools – a drill for drilling holes and setting screws.
My memories are horrendous…and fortunately short-lived. I pulled the power tools first and then the hand tools and gave up.
So MY lesson learned that week was…teenage boys know everything. They may never have done it, seen it, heard of it, but they sure KNOW it.
Story idea: what skills do you think are good ones to have even in these highly technological days and do most students or young adults in your area have them? Can they work a saw? Hammer a nail straight? Push in a power drill to set a screw? Focus really might be, can they do simple home/apartment maintenance? In questioning the guys I found that none of their families really had or used tools. And with the push for no child to be left behind and every child to go to college, hands-on classes are disappearing. No more woodshop, auto shop.

Now for the old(er) folks. An essential skill set everyone under the age of 30 has hardwired into them is social networking. The old folks have it too – but to them it is done with letters, in person. The difference is technology.
So I’m trying to work with my husband’s church as they try to build up some excitement in the community about their new home – a renovated restaurant – in a pretty spiffy part of town (yeah – that word alone dates me. Spiffy.)
A website is up and running and a facebook page too. (Transparency: while my family are members of this church, I am not…but have close ties with it.)
Snail mail invites are in the works for the dedication…and e-vites have been sent to facebook friends with little success. What’s up?
Story idea: can the older generation learn the different rules for real world and online social networking? They’re pretty much the same…there is the formal invitation and then there is the talk…soft gossip if you will. Using the rumor mill in a positive way. Getting folks to talk about you or your project to build up excitement.
Interesting to me that the two generations are doing pretty much the same thing effortlessly in their own worlds…but don’t always communicate with each other very well exactly what they are doing. The teens say they’re just talking, hanging with friends…but are accomplishing exactly what their grandmothers are with lunch dates with friends.

Until next week…

August 23 2010


August 22, 2010 Story Ideas…

Each week I hope to post a short list of ideas for stories which you can develop into something your audience can relate to. Some may be obvious and others may be a stretch. If you have ideas you’d like to contribute, send them over to me at cyndyg@mac.com.

Fresh in the garden - a pumpkin in waiting.

I will admit to frequenting farmers markets in my area. Besides the benefits of exercise (all that walking) and really really fresh veggies – there are some equally interesting folks wandering around. Both in the crowds out front and the folks behind the tables.
One of my special weaknesses is onions. Stockton reds. A large sweet onion..somewhat flat and a rich burgandy color. So last month I saw an especially mouth-watering pile, grabbed a bunch (3 large ones to the bunch) and started talking with the man behind the counter. He is the farmer and took over his dad’s place and is raising the same crops dad did. I asked if his were real “Stockton Reds,” and he replied yes. A resounding yes – he can no longer find the real “Red” seeds, so raises his own crop just for seed each year in addition to the crop he sells at the farmers markets. He says only those he raises from his own seeds have that real taste – and customers can tell the difference.
Story idea: farmers markets are a treasure trove of people who love fresh food, gardening, recipes. Don’t just buy…ask questions. I plan to track my farmer down and see if he’ll allow me to turn up to his farm from time to time over the next year to document his labor of love. Stories such as this one are not quick turnaround stories. Like the plants grown by farmers, they must be given time to grow to fullness.

Times are rough and folks are turning back to Mother Nature…raising their own backyard food, canning, making to. What year is this? Well since my childhood in the 1950s and 60s I’ve been through the 60′s Hippies Back to Earth Movement, the Eighties Back to Earth Movement, and now the 2010 Return to the Roots Back to Earth Movement. Each of these movements is a totally new concept to those who embark on them. Fueled by rejection of mainstream American to financial necessity, they seem to come, take hold, and then fade away.
Story idea: Do some research and find out why folks do this…and does it have a lasting impact on their lives or the community around them? What is the motivation for each movement? Does each movement include moving to the outback and really being a pioneer or just making do with a back yard garden and learning how to sew, buy used, and cut back to cooking real food, not just pre-packaged food.

Every summer has its share of tragedies – drowning is right up at the top. When I was a kid here in California’s Great Valley, swimming was a MANDATORY high school class. There are so many levees and rivers and lakes and resevoirs that waterproofing kids was a great idea. I continued this thought with each of the Green kids, taking them to summer swim lessons until I knew they could float long enough to be pulled out. (They also were forced by evil parents to wear life jackets to all water functions until they were fourteen.)
Story idea: what are the practices in your area? Are swim lessons mandated, left to the parents, or no big deal? What is the death rate by drowning? How many of these deaths were preventable, either by use of life jackets or by knowing how to swim?
Or does your community gasp in horror and allow this bizarre game of removal of genes from the pool to repeat it self annually?

Big Box in the Big City. Big Box Stores. Big Box Schools. Big Box Housing Developments. Big Box Churches. The more the merrier and the better a deal for everyone. Right? Buy in bulk, live in packs, life is cheap and easy.
Only part of this list is true…and even then, there is a downside.

FCC Stockton - Dedication planned for September 26, 2010

Big Box Stores – lots of stuff at reasonable prices. (Though I questions how much “stuff” we really need and how much is a good sales job.) Downside: generally it’s what the masses want…and not all brands are represented and choice is somewhat limited.
Big Box Schools. Elementary schools with 500-1,000. High schools with thousands. Big boxes holding hundreds and thousands of young minds, all being taught in lock-step. How many bodies can we cram into a classroom as we downsize staff? How can learning proceed when teachers are crushed by numbers while at the same time being pressed to make sure every student succeeds.
Big Box Development – large housing tracts, each its own community with shopping center and theme. (I swear I will never buy in a development called “Countryside” anything. Give it four or five years and that countryside view has disappeared, crowded out by the next development.
Big Box Churches – the more the merrier. Churches with congregations in the thousands. Overwhelming. Did these churches spontaneously grow or was this a studied plan?
Story idea: is there room in Big Box Development for a community church? Are these developments planning for everything but spiritual needs? I’ve watched my husband’s church struggle for the past seven or eight years, looking for a home. One of the issues they faced was the possibility of becoming a “destination” church – a church so big and with so much to offer that people would come from all over just to take part in it. I won’t say they rejected it – however, the new homesite precludes any major development. They want smart growth, not unbridled growth. Check out your local developments…see if they have in place plans for churches, mosques, synagogues, places for souls to gather and reflect.

Nothing really novel to this first list…just some stuff that’s been bouncing around in my head looking for an audience. Hope at least one takes root in your imagination and grows.

August 16 2010


Seeking story ideas…

I will now state the obvious: there are stories everywhere. Everyone has a story in them. Look out your window, in a mirror, anywhere. Turn brain on to questioning mode…step outside of your box and pretend the world is new. Now – take a hard look and see how many stories you can come up with.

In order to tell a story, you need data…a foundation. Too many (broadcast) newsrooms rely on the print media doing the footwork and they all walk the same walk. All media follows the big story, the one you can’t miss.

Real storytellers find worthy stories everywhere.

I’m sitting at my kitchen table and am giving myself the next five minutes to come up with a few ideas as a challenge.

So here goes.

Idea number one (and I’m sure this has gotten play already) – spent Saturday garage sailing with the husband. Kind of fun…and the estate sales are best because of the oddities and antiques. Pause for a moment…an estate sale is the remnants of a person’s life. What the family…friends…those who knew the person felt wasn’t worth keeping, for whatever reason. I see a slow, somber move with details…questions. Who was this person? Why did they buy this particular knick-knack? Was it passion? A trinket for a child? A gift with meaning only known to the deceased?

Idea number two…and I’m running outa time here cause I’m typing slowly (for me). I bought two magazines a few days back. Don’t laught. Chickens magazine and The Herb Quarterly. I swear twenty years ago I might never have seen these rags. And I recall something from the past month or so about how magazines are faring pretty well compared to other media. Hmmm…Are there more niche zines out there? Are the actual number of magazines increasing in these dire times? Heck, let’s even ask if in addition to more mags if the total number of magazine readers is up…maybe take a look at early mags (when exactly did this medie become mainstream?) and their evolution.

Time is up…but the lesson here is approach everything with a questioning mind. So never again will you get stuck with a half-baked potato of a concept and be expected to turn a banquet from it.

August 15 2010


Chastity and chickens…

…or purity and poultry. Just a couple of story ideas I’ve been mulling over. Tonight a couple of teens I know are getting “purity” rings as they pledge to restrain from pre-marital sex. Good for them. They’re battling society and hormones, but I know they will be strong enough to win.

Ahhhh…and my long love affair with chickens (aka poultry) continues. There is a statewide movement to allow chickens inside city limits as part of the path to healthier living.

Two random thoughts.

Both pretty solid story ideas…a well- used brain stays sharp…as a videojournalist you should always be on the lookout for ideas.

August 11 2010


#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – original story ideas

Be original: Media Helping Media has a long list of tips on how to find that original news story, without relying on press releases. Tipster: Rachel McAthy. To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link - we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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