Switching Sides, Camera-wise

December 16th, 2008

Guest Blogger: Amanda Gordon, freelance correspondent, New York Voices

What does a society reporter do in a recession? Go on TV!

After six-and-a-half years writing and photographing a daily column on charities for The New York Sun, I lost my job at the end of September, when the paper closed, on the same day the vote on the federal government’s bailout of the banking industry failed in the House of Representatives. The stories were side-by-side in the headlines.

The cold reality set in that I was without a means to cover New York’s community of givers, until the executive producer and director of Thirteen’s local programming, John DeNatale, gave me an assignment. Apparently the recession hadn’t put society reporting out of business yet.

Amanda Gordon and Jim Tisch, WNET.ORG
chairman, at Alvin Ailey’s 50th anniversary gala.

Tonight I am making my Thirteen (and television) debut on the local public affairs show New York Voices. My report is on the spirit of giving in the midst of a downturn, covering two very different charities, an internationally-known dance company and a Brooklyn-based pre-K provider for low-income families. In reporting the story, it’s clear that charities are feeling the pain of the downturn and working hard to make their numbers. There are bright spots, for example: Brooklyn Kindergarten Society raised 20% less than it hoped to at its end of year fundraiser, but it still had more volunteers hosting dinner parties than ever before.

The health of arts organizations like Ailey, which had a $200,000 increase in gala proceeds in its special 50th anniversary year, is heartening. Everyone I’ve talked to comes back to the same theme: their confidence in their donors and the strength of their organization’s management to deal with the changes.

I’ve been sharing with former Sun colleagues the adventure of reporting for television as opposed to print. The basic methods of reporting and good storytelling are the same, but a lot of how you tell the story differs. And what lingo! My favorite term is “sot,” or sound on tape, which in print is called a plain old “quote.”

And then there’s the glamour. I’ve always been happy behind the camera. With this story, I went in front of the camera. I put on makeup (that’s a major Amanda headline – I’m an inky newspaper Chapstick-wearing gal at heart). And I even got to have a 1980s music video moment in the recording booth yesterday. Think Milli Vanilli. Tune in tonight at 8:00 pm to see the results.

There were New York Voices cameramen to film the parties I covered, but I couldn’t resist pulling out my own camera too: Clive Gillinson of Carnegie Hall, Sharon Gersten Luckman of Alvin Ailey, and Joan Weill, the chair of Ailey, at the Alvin Ailey gala.