I've been at SAG HQ here in Los Angeles all day sitting in on the Wages & Working Conditions process in preparation for negotiating the actors contract with the AMPTP. The contract expires June 30, 2008. The entire time I was thinking about what I was going to say for my final post to this blog. Should I talk about the process? Should I just sign off and thank everybody?
So here are my parting shots:
Why did I do these podcasts?
Back in September I was reading (on-line, of course) that the Burmese military dictatorship was frustrated by monks, bloggers and civilian journalists during anti-junta protests when they provided detailed accounts of the bloodshed and helped spread the news. The thing that fascinated me the most was that most photos and text messages were posted to the Internet via cellphones.
Immediately, the junta disconnected the nation's Internet links at the height of the violence to cut off the flow of information about the crackdown. The next day, after the story broke, I was on Facebook and learned that a group called Support the Monks' Protest in Burma was set up to protest the military crackdown and within days had 176,069 members. Today Burma's media is completely under military dictatorship.
So cut to the writers strike: I was on a plane from New York to Los Angeles on the first day of the strike. It seemed everybody in-flight was talking about it, even strangers across the aisles and seats removed from each other. At the time it occurred to me that seven members of the AMPTP controlled the major news networks and this concerned me. That night after I got home, I thought about this strike and knew it would be historic. I also felt, inspired by the Burmese bloggers and monks, that I could help tell the story of the strike from the bottom-up using new media tools because at that time I was already producing a weekly podcast since 2005.
It's worth noting that after two years working on my other podcast it was beginning to bore me. I mean, it was weekly and it had no end-date. It could go on for the next five years if I wanted to. So I wanted the challenge of creating a new and different podcast and I wanted it to have an end date. And so the writers strike was perfect. I decided OK...I'll do it. It will be short in content and it'll be daily.
Now it's 110 episodes later and what may have started out being in theory a quick and dirty show took on a life of its own since its launch. It kept getting longer and longer. Some of you listeners are familiar with the life-of-its-own phenomenon, but this caught me by surprise. I mean the thing is, I had some creative say in how to package my recordings, but as a citizen journalist I also had a responsibility to remain true to the facts.
At times I felt so overwhelmed and in it way over my head. There were weird people on the line, people who looked like FBI agents and who would ask a lot questions but give out no information. There were people who were obviously drunk and others who appeared in need of psychological services.
At one point I was like WTF have I done? It occurred to me that I could have sat this whole thing out with daily yoga classes, working at Starbucks and forgetting about it. Less stress. No mess. Then in mid-December I got a mild case of laryngitis that turned into this 6 week long bronchial infection that just kicked my ass and wore me out.
So, again, why did you do it if it was such a challenge?
It's a funny thing. When I told this to a friend, he asked me why I did it then and I told him I was having the time of my life. I don't mean I was having fun. I mean the time I spent on the line talking to people, the exchange of information and ideas, the sense of community and common purpose, the relationships I made fed and inspired me. I felt I was documenting a part of history and giving voice to writers who in my profession had given voice to me. And, despite the fact that at one point I temporarily had a bout of laryngitis, I believe I found my creative voice through this medium. I discovered that this entire experience has only been an opportunity of change and growth. Also, in no small way, this project has served as a symbol and a milestone in the grief and recovery process from losing my father to cancer the year prior to the strike.
I think it might be obvious that I am not a professional sound engineer. Even so, I know my podcasts are amateur but that's not to say they are amateurish. All UGC is not the same. I believe I really captured the feelings and sounds of what it was like on the street and on the line and delivered them to my audience in a professional and consistent manner. I taught myself everything I know just by participating in on-line podcasting communities.
Having said that I want to give a shout and a holla to my guru, the guy that taught me EVERYTHING that I do on my podcast: Rob Walch from the Podcast 411. I want to add that I got to meet Rob at the Podcasting and New Media Expo in September and I was working on getting him to be a guest on the Strike Chronicles podcast when the strike started to wind down. So Rob, if you're reading this: maybe you'll be a guest on my next podcasting project?
My colophon is listed at the footer of this blog post, so scroll on down. I want to mention that in an effort to save money (because after all the strike rendered me unemployed for months) I attempted to host the audio files at the Internet Archive at no cost. This seemed fitting to me because I felt I was documenting a historic and newsworthy event that would be archived in perpetuity. But this turned out to be a critical mistake because time and again uploaded files would just disappear off the server with no explanation. So at my expense, I purchased extra storage and bandwidth on my website server. And because of this expense, I began passing the hat and asking for donations to help offset my costs. In all, I received exactly $60.00 in donations through PayPal.
Internet versus Printing Press?
Oh come on. Legacy withstanding, it's the printing press. Legacy notwithstanding, it's my own personal printing press and media outlet that I control and provide content for.
The Internet is more than an electronic printing press, however. It creates a read-write culture in which a true discourse and transaction between creator and audience can occur.
The printing press, for all it's revolution and disruption, was still a read-only technology in which information and ideas came from the top down.
Better you should ask me: "Star Wars versus Star Trek...who would win?"
Everyone knows a Galaxy Class Federation Starship is absolutely no match for an Imperial II Class Star Destroyer. The Federation ship is designed for a multi-role variation with emphasis on scientific exploration and research, the Star Destroyer is purpose designed and built for military aggression with about ten times the firepower and defensive capability. The Galaxy Class wouldn't last ten minutes in a battle. My two cents. YMMV.
First and foremost I wanna thank my mother who, when I told her I was going to have to get a real job and work in an office said, "That will kill you. Let's tighten our belt. You need to see this through." It's more than her do-what-it-takes mentality that makes me well up inside. It's the fact that she knew and accepted that I was passionate about this project and what the strike stood for. I am very blessed to have a parent that loves me so much.
Family is family. Union is union. So next, I want to thank all the people who participated in this podcast including every single one of my interviewees.
A fond shout out to SAG member Alicyn Packard who helped produce two episodes back in November.
Also, a shout to SAG member Bill Funt, my co-host in January who showed up at the right time and carried the show for several episodes while I hacked up a lung and held the mike. For those of you who were wondering if Bill got voted off the island: the answer is no. He caught whatever bug I had and is still on the mend.
Thanks to SAG member Elizabeth Reynolds for volunteering to be SAG's Mistress of Communications and for keeping me informed.
Gratitude and many hugs and kisses to NoHo Damon for being the staff photographer of the Writers Strike Chronicles.
A very special thanks to all the strike captains (and you know who you are) that supported my efforts and pointed me to people worth interviewing.
Another special thanks to my personal Mac genius and friend Lecter who helped me out when my laptop had a hard crash at 4:00 a.m. a few weeks ago.
Also thanks to Susan Olsen, Becca Bryan and Monique Darling. To Susan and Becca, for providing support and information when my focus was so narrow I forgot to remember the fact that trees comprise a forest. To Monique: thank you for identifying writers on the line.
And holla to Fans4Writers for the pizza. You know, I never in my life forgot to eat until I was on the line tired and hungry after a days worth of interviews.
Penultimately, I want to thank Eric Rupert from Odeo who provided answers to all my bugs.
Most of all I want to thank my listeners for calling in or sending me e-mails to give me feedback, comments, and suggestions. Being in conversation with each of you really helped keep me grounded and encouraged me to continue, knowing you were out there downloading and listening.