Posts tagged with journalism
Congrats to our friends over at Blank on Blank, on the launch of their new animated series with PBS Digital Studios. Up first: Larry King on Getting Seduced.
In El Salvador, Gang Truce Can’t Stop the Violence
This story was produced in partnership with Mother Jones.
It began with a trip back home, to a small town in the country’s western valley, to visit his dying grandmother. More than a decade after El Salvador’s bloody civil war had ended, Juan Carlos, a 38-year-old photojournalist, wanted to see how life had changed. Was his country, one of the most violent in the Western Hemisphere, better off after 12 years of war? Sure, there were shiny new roads and malls, but was the country any safer?
Juan Carlos began by documenting infrastructure and families; education and health systems, traveling for long stretches between El Salvador, where he was born, and San Francisco, where he now lives. But it didn’t take long for a new focus to emerge: the gang culture, and accompanying terror, that had seeped into the fabric of everyday Salvadoran life. With an estimated 64,000 identified gang members, El Salvador’s street gangs — or maras, as they’re known to locals — operate like armies. They control traffic stops and neighborhoods. They hold press conferences. They are incestuously intertwined with the police. In other words, they call the shots — as well as fire them. In its peak, in 2009, the gangs were responsible for a homicide rate that reached 14 deaths per day.
In Storm-Ravaged Rockaways, Voting — Against All Odds
At 6:45 a.m. the line was already a dozen deep as the polling super site in Far Rockaway, Queens, struggled to open. The gas for the electric generators, lights and six port-a-johns provided by FEMA had been stolen overnight. Poll workers fumbled with flashlights to set up the polling stations.
Life’s a Beach: Scenes of Destruction & Recovery
Over the next week, photographer Ben Lowy will be documenting the destruction — and recovery efforts — in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in and around New York City, using nothing but an iPhone camera. Lowy spent yesterday at Midland Beach on Staten Island — New York City’s “forgotten” borough— where hundreds of residents remain homeless. Today he’s headed to New Jersey.
(Photos, clockwise from top: a home on the South Beach boardwalk; Ronnie, a delivery man for the New York Daily News, helps clean out his sister’s home; Newlywed Ayisha Fahad cleans the apartment she shared with we husband; Luis, a father of five, whose Coney Island business was also destroyed by the storm surge.)
It was in the summer of 1966 when a star-struck 17-year-old set out to interview his idol: Muhammad Ali. Twenty miles from the South Side of Chicago, in Glencoe, Ill., Michael Aisner was calling repeatedly to the gym where the boxing champ was training. Finally, a man named Mr. Shabazz — Jeremiah Shabazz, perhaps? The man who introduced Ali to Islam? — picked up.
“Where are you from?” Shabazz asked the boy.
“I’m from WNTH, a high school radio station,” Aisner said.
“The champ doesn’t have time to talk,” he told him.
Aisner called back two days later. And then two days after that.
“Can I interview the champ?” he asked again.
Finally, Shabazz relented.
“Ok,” he said. “The champ will meet you.”
Later that week, with a suitcase-sized tape recorder in a back seat, Aisner and his best friend Pat were driving from the the tree-lined suburbs to inner-city Chicago, where Ali’s fan club was headquartered. It was two years after Ali had trash-talked his way into a victory over Sonny Liston; a year before he would refuse to go Vietnam. At the time, many black Muslims, led by Malcolm X, were advocating for “total separation” of the races. And so, for a scrawny white boy from the suburbs, heading to the heart of Chicago’s gritty South Side was no small thing.
“We parked as close as we could to the building,” Aisner, now 63, laughs. “White Jewish boys from the suburbs did not go to the south side of Chicago.”
The Muhammad Ali fan club was housed in a small brick building with a gold-foil sign out front. Next door was Muhammad Speaks, the black Muslim newspaper. From inside the club, Aisner and his friend watched out the window as Ali screetched up in a red Cadillac convertible, parked in front of a fire hydrant, and jumped over the car door.
For the next 20 minutes, Ali talked boxing, footwork, why he wanted to fight — and launched into an epic riff about traveling to Mars and fighting for the intergalactic boxing title. All went smoothly — until Aisner realized he’d forgot to record the Mars bit.
“I was mortified,” he says. “I said, ‘Champ, do you think you could do that again?’”
The champ obliged.
The interview aired a few weeks later, in the first of what would become a lifetime of radio work for Aisner. And for nearly five decades, Aisner kept the original reel-to-reel recording of that interview with Ali, as well as a signed copy of the champ’s poetry album.
“There were two huge loves of my life at the time: astronauts and Muhammad Ali,” says Aisner, from his home in Boulder, Colorado. “So here is Ali doing a routine that has to do with him going to Mars — there wasn’t anything that could have been cooler.”
Last month, Aisner heeded a call for lost interviews and loaned the tape to Blank on Blank, a newly-launched nonprofit that brings lost interviews back to life. Now digitized for the first time, we are proud to present this joint production between Blank on Blank and Tumblr Storyboard.
The Murders & the Journalists
This story produced in partnership with The Awl.
In February 1970, at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a pregnant woman named Colette MacDonald and her two children, Kimberley, 5, and Kristen, 2, were slaughtered in their home. Colette’s husband, Jeffrey MacDonald, a 26-year-old doctor and Green Beret at the time of the crime, was convicted of the murders in 1979. MacDonald faces the next of countless court dates on September 17, 2012, still seeking exoneration. The MacDonald case has been an object of obsession and controversy for more than four decades and the subject of high-visibility journalistic debate. But respectable opinion has always vastly favored the jury verdict of guilt. Errol Morris is trying to change that.