COSJ Senior Ralph Garcea on Location in Big Apple PBS Documentary Shoot
Ralph Garcea (Class of 2011), pictured with actor Sam Waterston
Forty-third Street in Brooklyn is teeming with people in tenements, and it’s teeming and stinking with mounds of trash on the street.
Brooklyn is just across the East River from Manhattan, but it’s a different world, most definitely not the world of Park Avenue or Broadway, not the world of big money and easy living. It’s a world where even the air feels stale, and the hopes of the people who live there are too easily squashed.
This is the world of the ordinary people, the ones just trying to get by living in cramped apartments in Brooklyn, the South Bronx and Queens.
Springfield College assistant professor of communications Jody Santos has, and is, willing to take a stand for the “little guys” – people who have little or no voice. She wants to show the television audience more reality and less of what she calls “infotainment.”
“There came a point where I needed to have a direct impact,” Santos said. And that direct impact happened just over 10 years ago. Santos was working for the NBC news affiliate in Boston when she heard about The Visionaries, a public television series that highlights the work of non-profits.
I joined Santos and her videographer in New York City in late-February to assist them in profiling a non-profit law firm, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG).
Santos said, “The Visionaries has a strong perspective people who are doing good in the world.” So rather than the typical journalism that goes out to find out what’s wrong with the world, The Visionaries is about uncovering what’s right with the world, people who are making a difference.
It’s not just people involved with these non-profits making the difference, but those who give them access to tell their story. Mainstream media seem to look over the little guy, and Santos has noticed.
“I think non-profits have become frustrated with the mainstream media not covering issues that they care about,” Santos said, like “international issues, poverty and housing, so they have to become savvy about telling their own stories.”
Helping non-profits tell their stories might seem counter to the journalistic mandate of objectivity, but Santos feels that it is important for journalists to take a stand on the crises the American nation and the world face, a point she made in her book “Daring To Feel: Violence, the News Media, and Their Emotions.”
“Sometimes the objective model maybe can capture both sides, but it doesn’t necessarily capture the truth,” she said.
The public tends to forget or not even pay attention to “real-life” stories. The Visionaries gives non-profits access to an audience that could help make a difference.
“They (non-profits) play a key role in educating people about the world, and they’re becoming more proactive in doing that.
“The people who don’t tell their stories don’t have a voice,” Santos said, “and if you don’t have a voice, then you don’t get funding to help people and you don’t have the power to change the situations of people less fortunate.”
Over the past 10 years Santos has covered issues ranging from the reproductive rights of women in Africa to the trafficking of girls in India and Nepal.
The series executive producer Bill Mosher talks about the need for journalists to stay away from what he calls “flies-in-the-face journalism” – exploiting the poor for money or sympathy. Mosher’s and Santos’s approach is to create empathy in an audience to put them in the shoes of their subjects.
This is an exciting time for journalists but a critical one as well, she said.
“What I hope,” said Santos, “is that the role of the journalist becomes more clearly defined and that they seize upon it, which is to take all the information out there and filter and interpret it.”
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Springfield College Assistant Professor of Communications Jody Santos recently took her students on a documentary shoot in New York City, where they got to participate in a real-world production. Professor Santos is a producer/director for the public television series "Visionaries," which is hosted by Law & Order's Sam Waterson.
At right, communications/sports journalism senior Ralph Garcea with Sam Waterson.