We knew we were onto something during our October 2020 video editing workshop in co-founder Jen Larino’s backyard. At the time, meeting space at New Orleans-area libraries and schools was still limited by the pandemic. We were learning that outdoor gatherings were safer. Lede New Orleans’ solution was to put a few laptops under a canopy tent and teach outdoors. Not only did the youth in our training program show up, they insisted we stay through an unexpected rainstorm to keep learning. We were floored.
Since March 2020, Lede New Orleans has trained 17 diverse local youth (age 18-25) in multimedia journalism and launched Lede Voices, a video profile series highlighting young changemakers of color in our city. New Orleans is a majority Black city covered by majority white newsrooms. We wanted to see how opening access to media training and work to BIPOC youth could spark a narrative shift in how communities of color are covered, and who tells their stories.
Youth in our program completed virtual and in-person training sessions covering topics like interviewing and video composition, and then got hands-on experience interviewing and shooting video for a dozen Lede Voices profiles. Youth explored the studio of a local painter who got his start in high school customizing sneakers for his 9th Ward peers, watched an art toymaker at work as he paid homage to his Black Masking Indian forefathers, and listened to the daughter of a local man who was wrongly convicted of crimes explain her work supporting girls with incarcerated fathers. Youth led interviews, set up cameras and lighting for interviews, shot B-roll video and edited video. More importantly, they formed lasting connections with neighbors and mentors.
We have designed a responsive 14-week program curriculum that provides fellows with hands-on experience, but Lede Voices is more than a project. It’s an invitation to radically rethink media as a force for equity and mutual aid, and to rebuild trust, led by youth who want to tell stories and help their communities, but lack access to training, resources and mentors.