"It heartens me to think of Verdi who composed thundering operas in his
eighties; Michelangelo who did fine work in his ninetieth year, and Titian,
who painted better than ever in his one hundredth."
Community groups need to discuss their reason for being. What is it they are trying to achieve? In the case of senior citizens, research has shown that activities such as volunteering and being part of a community group actually add years to a person’s life. Seniors also have a natural instinct to share the wisdom of their years. They have much to offer based on their experience. In the case of younger participants, publishing activities help satisfy their heightened sense of curiosity and provide an outlet to have their voices heard, a luxury seldom accorded to them.
As a young journalist, I was taught to avoid use of the word “unique”. My editor said there was no such thing in this world. Original ideas probably don’t exist either, but there is much satisfaction in executing ideas that come out of your own mind and heart in written, photographic or art form.
What do you do when you run out of fresh ideas? One tried-and-true technique is to play off the ideas of others, or play off the news or off current trends or issues. In the established media a technique called “localizing” a story is quite common. When a major story breaks elsewhere in your country or in the world, the media tries to relate it to its own community.
In the mid-1990’s a project called PLUM was developed at the MIT Media Lab by Sara Elo of Finland based on the “localizing” practice (PLUM stands for Peace, Love and Understanding among Mankind). Elo fashioned a program that instantly responded to natural disasters in the news. If a flood occurred in China causing loss of life, Elo’s program would augment the story by providing you “localized” information whether you were reading the story in Rio de Janiero, Helsinki or East Podunk. It would tell you when the worst floods had occurred in your locale, how many lives had been lost and what the extent of damages had been. It also would generate a map, showing the river and affected flood area in China with an overlay of a map of your community, depicting how far the flood waters would have spread had you experienced the flood. It is a way of “bringing home” the disaster in China. It is called augmenting the news.
Before the advent of computers the media routinely localized major events in a variety of ways. When an earthquake took place a thousand miles away, the media try to find out whether anyone from their area was traveling in the locale of the quake. They might try to contact those persons. Or they might seek out residents of their own community who have relatives where the earthquake hit. Frequently they supply the address of a local agency where donations may be sent.
It’s possible to “bring home” just about any story. It
doesn’t have to be disaster-related. The results of studies, research projects
and surveys often provide fodder for local reaction or examples. Major medical
stories often can be localized. Stories that reflect human experience, whether
happy or sad, are jumping-off points for a variety of perspectives.
Holidays and anniversaries of major events also are triggers for personalized approaches. Certain seasons may also prompt “your story”.
Our experiences and insights often touch a chord with the reader, because my story is so often your story in one aspect or another.