Excellent video journalism, or, seeing crucifixes on walls

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A journalist I greatly admire shared this video, mentioning it was from the New York Times. It immediately struck me as a riveting piece of journalism with a not-too-small religion angle.

I have no doubt that readers of this blog will find this piece remarkable. What I’d like to discuss is why this works so well.

I wondered if a written story could even begin to convey what this video journalism does. As I was thinking on that, I found the original New York Times piece that highlighted the video. It’s from The Well Blog. The piece is headlined “Laws of Physics Can’t Trump the Bonds of Love” and it basically just introduces the video. We’re told that Jeffrey Wright, the subject of the journalism, is a well-known Physics teacher in Louisville who has become known also for a lecture he gives on love:

It has become an annual event at Louisville Male Traditional High School (now coed, despite its name), and it has been captured in a short documentary, “Wright’s Law,” which recently won a gold medal in multimedia in the national College Photographer of the Year competition, run by the University of Missouri.

The filmmaker, Zack Conkle, 22, a photojournalism graduate of Western Kentucky University and a former student of Mr. Wright’s, said he made the film because he would get frustrated trying to describe Mr. Wright’s teaching style. “I wanted to show people this guy is crazy and really amazing,” Mr. Conkle said in an interview.

Zack has a future, friends. He tells a great story (and yes, finding the right subject is a big part of that, but still). Do you think it’s the case that this story lends itself to video over print, too? Are many more stories that way than I realize? Probably, and I probably miss that because of my love of print.

We’re also told that Wright decided to give this lecture when students began asking him “the big questions”:

“When you start talking about physics, you start to wonder, ‘What is the purpose of it all?’ ” he said in an interview. “Kids started coming to me and asking me those ultimate questions. I wanted them to look at their life in a little different way — as opposed to just through the laws of physics — and give themselves more purpose in life.”

As he tells the story of his love for his son and of his son’s love for him, he tells them that there’s something greater than energy, something greater than entropy. What’s the greatest thing?

“Love,” his students whisper.

But all of this is so deftly yet powerfully presented in the video journalism.

I’m just very curious what you think of it and what it teaches us about the Godbeat in general. There’s this scene in the video where the father is taking care of his son and there’s this giant crucifix — but a crucifix in the background, on the wall of a bedroom. When I think of my favorite journalists, some of whom have spent time on the religion beat, some of whom have never officially been there, they’re folks who included the crucifix in the shot, so to speak. It doesn’t mean just focusing on the crucifix, obviously, but it doesn’t mean ignoring it or, worse, never seeing it to begin with.


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