The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s (SOJC) Multimedia Journalism Master’s program is hosting a community of filmmakers and journalists for Filmmaker and Journalist: Embracing the Genius of the ‘And.’ Award-winning filmmakers/journalists Tim Matsui and Bob Sacha will present clips from their work and lead a moderated discussion about the challenges that filmmakers and journalists face when telling stories that speak truth to power.
“Matsui and Sacha both have had long, successful careers as journalists — but their work we will be screening was designed to impact laws and policy,” said Wes Pope, director of the SOJC Multimedia Journalism Master’s program. “Is that the calling of journalism? Some would say yes, absolutely. Others think journalists should be cautious to never become advocates for any cause or solution. We look forward to a vibrant discussion.”
Building on the recent American University report, “Dangerous Documentaries: Reducing Risk When Telling Truth to Power,” the speakers and attendees will explore acts of nonfiction filmmaking that are risky — physically, legally and to filmmakers’ reputations. What happens when filmmakers are accused of bending the truth in the interest of telling a good story? What can journalists and documentarians learn from each other about storytelling and rigorously documenting facts? When does storytelling become advocacy?
According to Matsui, journalism’s role in advocacy is not black and white. In the case of his documentary “The Long Night,” for instance, although social change was not his original purpose, it was the inevitable result. “When starting the work that lead to ‘The Long Night,’ policy change wasn’t my goal, although I did see a social injustice,” he said. “My goal was to help the subjects tell their stories. My second goal, given the commercial bias of media distribution, was to get the film to invested audiences. Once I did, they created the policy change.”
Sacha added that, while storytelling can be a powerful tool, journalists should be cognizant of its limits. “I want my stories to be fair and honest and to make a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “I feel that’s the space where journalism and advocacy can co-exist. But no story is worth ruining someone’s life or livelihood.”
The screening and discussion will take place Tuesday, May 10, 5-7 p.m., at the George S. Turnbull Portland Center in the White Stag Block in Portland. Registration is free and open to the public. RSVPs are kindly requested.
Story by Erika Vogt and Andra Brichacek