Last week through my work as a digital media producer I had the pleasure of meeting some of our state’s living treasures. Based in a suburban nursing home my team and I interviewed a sample of residents for a 300 word bio and short video clip about them.
All part of a pilot program it was the perfect marriage of documentarian and journalist.
Starting cold with each person we had a handful of questions on key parts of their life – where they grew up, marriage, children, work and went from there.
What we uncovered was a treasure trove of Australian history. From the housewife who dedicated 25 years to CAFHS managing committee, to the scientist who studied under Nobel Prize winning scientists to a Red Cross Field Officer who served in Vietnam.
They all sat in the hot seat and declared they didn’t have much to share, but instead uncovered decades of community service, family life and careers. It was work anyone would be proud to own.
These were stories families had heard over and over and often kept to themselves. Yet aural histories such as these are just as important on our public record as any other. We need to get them away from the kitchen table and out there for all to share.
By the end of the week I was struck by the good fortune I had come across. In addition to the stories was the realization that as a journalist I was back working at the grass roots. But more so I was doing what we need to do to stay relevant, I was taking my skills and practically applying them to service my community.
Why aren’t more of us out there doing this? Has journalism just become being ‘in’ the media with the front page or lead story?
The newsgathering skills we have been taught are not just about reporting events of today, but also stories of yesterday. Both are serving the public’s interest equally as there is so much we can still learn.
But most of all, we need to learn to celebrate life and not let important members of our community feel like they have moved in to the departure lounge.