Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"The City the Recession Forgot"

Eli Reed, Magnum photographer extraordinaire and Associate Professor at University of Texas at Austin's Photojournalism Department, is teaching the intro class for first year graduate students this semester as a production class about the economy here in Austin. He wants to expand that class's scope and take them to New Orleans for a short three day trip in October to try and cover the story of the economic down turn in crescent city as well.

He has asked me to serve as resident NOLA Guru for the team that goes down and I have decided to chronicle my experience both logistical (trying to help guide a group of rowdy journalists) and intellectually (trying to develop my own understanding of the city I love, yet am confounded by). I will basically be doing a great deal of preliminary research and reporting ("fixing", if you will) for all participants before we go so that those folks can just hit the ground running.

I have asked Jen Reel, Christina Burke and Dawn Jones Garcia (All rad visual journalists) to help me head up an editorial team that will get all work produced posted online at least once while we are there and again when we return and finalize the projects. (This is all scheduled to happen at the end of October and I intend to post links to said webspace soon!) The editing team will also serve as structure gurus should anyone need any guidance and/or someone to bounce their ideas off of both before and after we get there. (This model is loosely based off of Tracy Dahlby's used during the China Maymester - See www.chinaonthemove.net for more of an idea of what we are going for.)

I have suggested that all participants and editors read Tom Piazza's Why New Orleans Matters. This is quick, but efficient read to help you all understand what it is that make New Orleans a unique American city. The first half is just a good general background book on the mindset, social/political climate, and cultural richness of this historically poor and corrupt city that bubbles over with life. The second half is the author, a journalist for the Times Picayune's (New Orleans local newspaper) explanation of what the Storm did to the city, how it was able to wreak such havoc, and what his concerns were for the future (He wrote the book just after the storm.) While what the participants of the project will be doing down there is directly covering the story of the economy and not the story of the flood or of the rebuilding, anything and everything they do in New Orleans will be, at least, indirectly tied to the events of August 29th, 2005 and the days followed. It will behoove them all to be familiar with how locals perceive those events as they move forward with their stories.

In addition, I have suggested that they all do as much reading up on the situation as possible. A really rad article on the recession in NOLA I found was this one, posted on the CityBusiness Blog:


*Some of the best points are actually made in the comments section of this piece. More to come on that later....

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