tell me about the project:
The project was truly a group effort by the Detroit Free Press staff. It shot over 3 months by Detroit Free Press photographer Mandi Wright. I edited for the first 2 weeks and then began on the graphics as Brian Kaufman took up the edit to the completion. Various photo editors came in like Kathy K to give their say and critique while I consulted the edit every few days or so. Not to mention the writers working on the print side researching contacts and information.
In the end the project was very well rounded and presented a new side of the story that entertained and educated.
40 Years of Respect
In 1967 two things hit Detroit that would forever change it’s history; The Aretha Franklin recorded her famous song, “RESPECT” and the riots. When Franklin came out with RESPECT it literally spelled out the one thing she wanted as a woman in the 60’s. The song revolutionized the music industry and helped women break through barriers. The song was recorded in Franklin’s hometown, Detroit, during a year that was pivotal for that city. Tensions in the African American community rose In 1967 when a freeway was built right through a section of town called, “Black Bottom”, a predominately African American community. A riot broke out after a few police harrassed some African Americans. That year the Detroit Free Press won the Pulitzer for their reporting of the riots.
This series entitled “40 Years of Respect” goes and looks at 1967 and those two events and relates them to today.
hw did you feel when you won
I was surprised that we won, not because of insecurities in our project but because of the high level of competition we were up against (NY Times, Frontline, Washington Post). This was my second time at the Emmys so I knew a bit what to expect. Last year I was surprised too when we won but the whole edge of the competition was different then because it was new to me and it was the first year a newspaper won in a broadband specific category (competed against National Geographic, Frontline, Washington Post, Newsweek). The win this year was pinnacled by winning with my best friend in the biz, Brian Kaufman.
Working with Kaufman during this project was the best part of it. In my opinion he is one of the best editors and video shooters in the USA. In early 2005, while I was still at Brooks, I had just come back from Vietnam after documenting the return of war photographer Nick Ut for the 30th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon when the subject of Ut’s image, Kim Phuc, called me to ask me to document her going to Uganda. I knew the story of her going to an orphanage and burn center in Uganda was going to be a challenge to document thoroughly in two mediums. I talked to Kaufman after that call about possibly teaming up with me on this story. After one more call to secure this trip I yelled across the south lawn at Brooks, ” Hey Kaufman, we’re going to Uganda”. And he was in.
So how did it feel winning, I’ll get to that. After I got a job straight out of Brooks at the Detroit Free Press, Kaufman graduated and got a job at Naples Daily News. A few months after documenting wealthy people, turtle races and storms he traded beaches for bums and moved to Detroit. I think he moved up to Detroit to work at the paper because he missed his good old friend Steve.
So after working next to Kaufman for 4 years, sitting next to him at the Emmys was an amazing mark on our professional careers and our friendship. I had my hand on his shoulder as they were opening up the envelop (ready to consul him in our loss sorry to say, ready to say, “Don’t worry, we will be back again”). When they announced, “Freep.com for RESPECT” I stated loudly, “Shut up bro, we won” at which many people turned around startled. Then we walked to the stage.
I think receiving a national spotlight on your work is a blessing and being recognized by the Academy is humbling and an honor, but I continue to say, it is not about the victory, it is about the vision. There are amazing filmmakers and photographers that never get an award or nationally recognized and their work is still amazing. For students I would have to say to not focus on personal prestige, status or affiliation, focus on producing work that means something to you, whether it is work that you want to do or not.
Brooks is the reason I am here today, doing what I am doing, because it gave me a great platform to push myself. I believe God chose me for this path as has a plan for me and for all of us who chose to go to Him to find that plan. I give all my thanks to Him.