Wick Communications

Whitman, Ala.

In journalism on July 6, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Let me ask you a question: What is news? What is the definition of the term? Does it have to have a beginning and an end? Is the inverted pyramid necessary?

Now I’d like to take you to Whitman, Ala. It’s a fictional place invented by a filmmaker and the Alabama Media Group and it’s designed it to tell you something about the people of the state. It’s beautiful. It’s stunning. It’s the kind of thing I want to be doing. And I think it’s both newsworthy in its own right and “newsy.” Here is how the producers explain it:

This is an experiment in using documentary and poetry to reveal the threads that tie us together—as people, as states, and as a nation.

For two years, filmmaker Jennifer Crandall has crisscrossed this deep Southern state, inviting people to look into a camera and share a part of themselves through the words of Walt Whitman. The 19th century poet’s “Song of Myself” is a quintessential reflection of our American identities.

Who is America? The question will always be a difficult one. But if you listen to Alabama’s many voices, you may hear some of the answer.

“For,” as Whitman says, “every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”

I hear you now. Great, but who has time for this? I have to cover a town council meeting in an hour and Lambert wants to talk to me about a 52-part documentary centered on a poem. This isn’t what I do…

Let me ask you another question: If you don’t have time for something great like this, how are you spending your time? Do all those town council stories add up to the story you see here? Does this not tell us who we are? Isn’t this an exercise in community? Shouldn’t we do things like this? …

Please let this flow over you. I’m not asking that you come up with a poet and a similar project. I’m asking that you consider the “special-ness” of it. Does it give you ideas?

Clay

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