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Been watching/reading a lot of media and news reports while in the process of looking for relevant stories about hunger lately, and in a world of commercial products, “reality” TV drama, and negative press, it’s encouraging to see positive tidbits here and there in the form of simple but well-done news segments about social justice. These include stories about the work Northwest Harvest and dedicated community members are doing throughout the state. One thing that strikes me is how down to earth each of these stories are, as they present the issue of hunger just as it is – a big issue that affects all people of all ages and all backgrounds. It takes a lot of balance to communicate a story effectively, and this is something that I try and pay attention to: How can I be energetic about a cause without sounding fake? How can I draw attention to a story without being too flashy? How do I stay optimistic about the future of a problem without ignoring the real consequences of that problem in the present? How do I appeal to people for help without sounding too righteous or demanding? How do I portray a story in a way that is both good to listen to and true to its origin? How to I tell a story like it is while I respect people’s rights at the same time? There are so many questions to answer, so many factors to consider, and so many people’s opinions to take into account. You can’t please everyone, but you can certainly try your best to, especially for those that matter. Seeing a reporter and a cameraman work firsthand to produce a news story on site last week was very informative, because I got to ask and see some of these questions discussed right there. The urgency of trying to get an informative, presentable, and effective story was balanced with the necessity of preserving people’s dignity, privacy, and willingness to be included in the news. Also of importance was the question of how to portray people in a way that highlights the pressing needs of the clients as well as how to portray the mission of the organization in an accurate way.
I can always be thinking about how to achieve a balance between incidental storytelling and intentional marketing that makes for effective communication. I think a lot of it comes down to taking an honest approach to a very real problem – presenting it just how it is and just how much it affects people while focusing on concrete efforts to make things better. You want to tell a story from the heart and not just from facts and observations, and this comes with an authentic appreciation and desire to make a difference. I’m learning that nonprofit work is a lot about learning how to care about the people you are trying to serve, and learning how to give others the opportunity to make a difference as well. As someone of immense privilege, I’m still learning that having a heart for those in need isn’t something you are simply born with but rather that it is something you grow and develop through experiences that challenge your view of the world. I’m still spending time in the lines, still trying to get a glimpse into a state of need I have never experienced and will never fully understand, still trying to come up with compassion that still wavers for all these people I do not know. It’s hard, but through education and experience, I’m slowly finding that I’m becoming more and more invested in a cause and in doing the little I can to help out.
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