The Other Ottawa - a multi-platform pitch doesn't go as planned
Our concept for the Other Ottawa came about in days following Donald Trump's election night win. I wanted to go and meet the people who chose this reality for America.
Scrolling through The New York Time's election map I was struck by Putnam County, Ohio, where 80% of eligible voters cast a ballot for Trump. Just five hours southwest of Toronto, we quickly decided this was a community we wanted to visit and keep visiting. It didn't hurt that the County seat was a village named Ottawa.
The project was initially pitched as a proof of concept experiment. Send a video producer and platform expert (me) down with one of our best documentarians (Timothy Moore) and spend Trump's inauguration with the community. While producing a mini-doc, I would simultaneously take our audience into the heart of rural Ohio and introduce them to the folks who put their faith in Trump through Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.
I had two primary goals in mind. First, produce content that humanized the individuals who voted for trump, introducing them to Canadians in a way that let them speak for themselves. Second, I wanted to demonstrate that with the right training and equipment, our reporters could be incorporating platform-based storytelling into their reporting.
I threw myself into pre-production and planning. Building out assets I would use in Instagram Stories, Snapchat and Twitter Moments in advance, setting up interviews, researching Putnam County history. Despite the planning, my efforts to demonstrate what reporters could do in the field with some training and better phones didn't go as planned.
We spent a whirlwind four days getting to know residents in Putnam County, and building trust in a community that is deeply skeptical of the media. We barely had enough time to eat, never mind re-shoot or re-cut interviews for various platforms.
In the end, we produced a mini-doc we were proud of, but I only managed to squeeze out three days of mediocre Instagram and Snapchat Stories.
I took for granted how hard it is to parachute into a community, build relationships, interview, report and produce with just two people. I left Putnam County with a new appreciation for the resources required to produce quality, platform-specific content in the field. More than this, I left Ohio with a much deeper understanding of how hard our foreign correspondents have to work to win the trust of strangers as they try to report the news.