Monday, May 11, 2009

Got any big ideas?

Today's Times has an interesting story about a video called The Story of Stuff, which has currently drawn 5.5 million views at its website, and nearly 200,000 more at YouTube. This is one more interesting example of "jumping the line," (OK, old paradigm? Maybe there is no line anymore---it's all a big blob), and illustrates a different model of distribution of your work from a decade ago.

Ten years ago, the writer and producer Annie Leonard would have had to get this video on network television to get an audience of 6-8 million. Today, via the web, she's done it. (Okay, she got some help today from the dreaded old media: the Times story helps; since I noticed it three hours ago, it has moved from the fifth most e-mailed story to the first.)

According to the Times:

The video was created by Annie Leonard, a former Greenpeace employee and an independent lecturer who paints a picture of how American habits result in forests being felled, mountaintops being destroyed, water being polluted and people and animals being poisoned. Ms. Leonard, who describes herself as an “unapologetic activist,” is also critical of corporations and the federal government, which she says spends too much on the military.

Ms. Leonard put the video on the Internet in December 2007. Word quickly spread among teachers, who recommended it to one another as a brief, provocative way of drawing students into a dialogue about how buying a cellphone or jeans could contribute to environmental devastation.

In this semeter's public issues reporting class, we watched a terrific documentary called King Corn. Here's the description from the press kit:
King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation.

In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.

Both of these project integrate public policy reporting and activism into the documentary format, and use the web extensively as a distribution system.

Got any ideas that might catch fire this way?

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