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Now more than ever, our world is dependent on independent and reliable news. More importantly, as we face increasing political polarization, it is critical that we are doing our part to humanize the news, especially through broadcast journalism.

Akshay and Professor Selfie
Akshay Gokul with Lynn Owens

Though approaching the world of broadcast journalism can be daunting, Lynn Owens invites students to carefully dissect and understand each aspect of video journalism. Owens teaches video journalism at Sanford through the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy.

From writing brief readers to ultimately producing packages, Dr. Owens turned our class of average Duke students into on-air journalists over a just a few weeks. The course delved into the nitty gritty of how to effectively report on current events using one of five broadcast frameworks, readers, voiceovers (VOs), voice over sound on tapes (VOSOTs), packages, and interviews. Each week, the class unraveled the various components that go into producing a specific news segment, all while learning news etiquette, journalistic ethics, and video shooting and editing strategies.

Going into the course with an applied interest in media-based storytelling, I was energized by methods for showcasing stories through the news. As I went about creating my various news segments, I found myself touching upon big questions that exist beyond the world of broadcast journalism. How do you ethically tell someone else’s story? What role does the media play in empowering local communities? How do we straddle the line between showcasing the authenticity of community members and addressing a news assignment at hand?

As I was creating my VO on Duke’s puppy kindergarten, I began to view the class as an outlet for personal growth. Going up to strangers and striking up conversation was always so daunting until it felt like it was integral to my growth as a journalist. Filming in public felt embarrassing until I gained the confidence to capture moments with a purpose. Beyond acquiring new journalistic skills that I had never tapped into before, creating news stories taught me that efficient storytelling often comes with fears or concerns that must be set aside for the integrity of a story. To this end, in showcasing the essence of a community, it is critical to go out of your way, even if it may be outside your comfort zone, to capture individuals in their authentic self.

Such experience cushioned me for my next feat of conducting an interview with Lynn Magikcraft Swain from Magikcraft, Bull City Magic, a metaphysical shop in Durham. Throughout my conversation with Lynn, I was able to explore how I could balance between holding an authentic discussion from human to human while also making space for her to contribute her perspective to the interview. This experience helped me simultaneously enhance my social skills while also forming relationships with leaders in the community.

Towards the end of the course, I went straight to Durham City Hall, with a mic and tripod in hand, to create a package on the Durham City Council Swearing-In ceremony. I arrived a couple of minutes prior to the ceremony, and was hit with a wave of emotions as I stared at the scene in front of me. City Hall was overflowing with people. The elected officials were busy talking with colleagues and constituents. Journalists were scattered recording everything. And, here I was, the novice journalist that I am with no press credentials and no formal plan.

As the night unfolded, however, I didn’t let my limitations stop me. Throughout the program, I made sure to record everything and anything, and by the end of the night, I was able to interview North Carolina State Senator Natalie Murdock. While times like these can be initially anxiety-inducing, it instilled the idea that I must be resourceful with my time and resources. Moreover, the opportunity to interview an elected official allowed me to understand the ways media can be used as a channel to connect elected officials with their local communities.

At the end of the course, I found myself craving an outlet for expanding my journalistic exploration. Video journalism not only empowered me to reclaim my sense of voice, but it also forced me to see how I could use current frameworks to embrace more communal based storytelling methods. Crafting my own news segments allowed me to see firsthand how critical it is that we, as storytellers, center and uplift local communities within our stories in order to use artistry as an agent of change. In order for our current news to connect and energize individuals in times of discouragement and disarray, we must take it upon ourselves to invest in others as we seek to uncover stories of our everyday life.

Akshay Gokul is a sophomore from Central Jersey studying public policy and economics. He is energized to use his artistry, particularly through filmmaking and theater, as a means of advancing racial justice. Currently, Akshay serves as the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Chair of Duke Student Government, Student Researcher on the Bass Connections project “Hip Hop Pedagogies: Education for Citizenship in Brazil and the United States”, and Communications Assistant at the Sanford School of Public Policy. Moreover, Akshay has been passionate in exploring ethical community engagement and leadership through participating in SOL (Service Opportunities in Leadership) a part of the Hart Leadership Program and Duke Engage Chicago: Connecting Hip-Hop to community activism.