August 3, 2012 | By: Daniel Pryfogle
Lonnell Shelmon Jr. and Ty-Ty Major, two young journalists, had worked into the night crafting stories about their neighborhood. Their handwritten first drafts, a homework assignment after a day of media training, highlighted their desire to draw out the strengths of the Russell community just beyond downtown Louisville, Ky.
“I think people in the community get along so well because we take good care of each other no matter what,” wrote Lonnell in a piece he titled “A Great Community.”
It is a great community. This week, through the support of the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries of the United Church of Christ, I returned to the Russell neighborhood with my colleagues Amanda Romano and Savannah Pryfogle to facilitate a two-day training for members of the Digital Storytelling Group at Plymouth Community Renewal Center – 10 youth who are 13 to 16 years old. Their stories, the driving force behind Plymouth's new website, underscore their pride in the neighborhood and their belief in the potential of their neighbors and themselves.
Our training started in a classroom setting where we covered the basics of journalism – the 5 Ws and the H – plus the elements of photojournalism and social media. But things got really interesting when we went outside and walked the streets under a blazing sun.
Larrieka Major and Kiona Kilgore noticed litter in the neighborhood and decided to document it with photography. Deara Daniels saw the scrawl of graffiti on playground structures and a park shelter, and chose to deliver a message that there are other ways besides vandalism to express one's feelings.
To unearth the roots of violence in the neighborhood, Terry Calloway and Ciona Parker used a multimedia approach, including a video interview with Ty-Ty, who recalled the shooting of her cousin over a game. She concluded, “It's too much!”
Lonnell and Ty-Ty edited each other's drafts on the second day of the training. Ty-Ty and I noticed that two of Lonnell's articles – one on the tight-knit community, another on the generosity of his grandfather – would be more powerful if combined, because his grandfather's actions embodied the community spirit. Lonnell's openness to the rewrite – a trait not always exhibited by more seasoned journalists – showed his desire to tell a stronger story. The two youth also combined separate pieces on community activities available to their peers. The result is a more comprehensive article.
Reflecting on the way young people play in the neighborhood park, Ty-Ty wrote, “We also like how after the games people say 'Good game!' Because that lets people know 'We can do it, I’m good, and I’m getting better!'”
Pride and potential. That's why their neighborhood is a great community.
Experience the stories of the Digital Storytelling Group at plymouthcommunity.com.