What I Learned From Michelle Bernard

(I drafted the first half of the post while I waited for About Our Children, a live special on MSNBC to start.)

I’m currently sitting in Howard University’s Ira Aldridge Theater. The auditorium is buzzing. MSNBC’s production team is doing sound checks and testing the teleprompter. Chris Matthews, who seems to be here on his own time, is walking around backstage. The team from the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), the non-profit that pulled the show together, are filing students into seats. This is the moment many of them have been waiting for.

And here I am, sitting in the second row, taking it all in. About three weeks ago, I was asked to help produce a series of web videos for the show’s companion web site. Over the course of three weekends I sat at the Dell MTV bequeathed to me during Street Team ’08, and produced. But what is more important than what I put out, is what I took in.

Here are three of my favorite take aways from my time on the About Our Children project.

1. There is no problem Craigslist can’t solve. I came across a problem with Premier Pro (editing software) that had me ready to pull my hair out. I ran through my personal network and couldn’t find the answer – so I posted an “Advice Needed” ad on Craigslist. I got a half dozen responses, and the next day a young Peruvian kid came over. For a hour, he provided me with a ton of tips and solutions I never would have found on my own. But for the record, I gave my neighbor a heads up that I was hosting someone from Craigslist¬† – and I am happy to report he was perfectly behaved.

2. Ideology is important, but I’m an Independent. I was so immersed in the editing that I never did my homework on how the show was going to be received. When I finally got around to a Google search for info on the airing details, I found a rush of media coverage, some positive, some negative. The negative coverage wasn’t even about the substance of the show – the substance being poverty in America and how to engage parents to be more involved in their children’s lives. All media coverage aside, I was on the project to provide a specific skill set – and in return, have a learning experience and exposure to a debate about poverty, parenting, and education in America. As a side benefit, I had the chance to observe and work with Michelle Bernard, who I found to be a passionate and thoughtful person.

3.  I would love to do this again. It was so exciting to be a small spoke in a large media production. Tonight at the airing (I am back home now, at the trusty Dell) I got such incredible energy from the crew and the audience. It reminded me of when I shadowed MTV VJ Kim Stolz during the Inauguration coverage, and uploaded blog posts from my iPhone while the crew filmed stand ups.

I know deep down my new media reporting ambitions have set me up for a steep and ambitious climb. But if there is anything I can take away from the individuals who were interviewed for the show tonight, nothing is out of reach. You just have to believe.

Watch highlight clips from the show at AboutOurChildren.MSNBC.com.

Or check out my web video series here, starting with this one from a young Mother and daughter in Baltimore.


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