Friday, May 9, 2008

About Image

We decided on the theme of image for our final issue of NYC24 because New York is obsessed with image—both personal and public.

We caught New Yorkers stealing glances at themselves in plate glass windows and half-empty subway cars. We watched them pluck the most healthful-looking products from grocery shelves and apply makeup before begging for a job. We listened to they way they cheered for presidential hopefuls and examined foreign lands and unfamiliar cultures.

In 11 stories, our reporters uncovered the places where perception and reality conflict. We probed the boundary between where a person's image ends and where his or her identity begins.

by Sydney Beveridge

As the issue unfolded over the last month, we began to see the world as a series of images cascading, one behind the other, layers of an infinitely complex onion that as reporters, we had pledged to peel.

Like anything worth doing, it wasn't easy. We canvassed Staten Island, lost tapes of DMC of Run DMC rapping against domestic violence and for NYC24, gawked at hot pants, flirted with getting a Mohawk, learned how to scrum and nearly fainted while filming eye surgery.

But all the sleepless nights were worth it, just to bring our readers this issue, which digs beneath the image of New York.

Here's a gloss of our issue...enjoy!

Lisa Biagiotti
Executive Editor

Lizzie Stark
Managing Editor

Photo: Yian Huang/NYC24

Commentary on Digital Images

Since is a pioneering online publication, I wanted to explore how technology has impacted images, specifically digital photography. I asked three image experts about the topic. They shared their perspectives on the creation and distribution of digital images.

Please click here to listen to the story.

(Or download the audio here.)

Find out what documentarian Clayton Patterson keeps in all these boxes.

Flip through photo albums with Martie McNabb of Memories out of the Box.

Learn what Barbara Taranto is digitizing at the New York Public Library.

An Imageless Overview of the Image Issue

For an aural taste of the image issue, check out our audio story guide.

Click here to listen to samples from each story.

(It is also downloadable here. )

In addition to listening to samples and reading about images, please visit the site to see the entire image issue.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Seeking Men to Fight Domestic Violence

I haven't posted much recently and that's because for the past few weeks I've been working full gear on this story. It's about how the images being put forward by people working against domestic violence have changed in recent years: now the effort is more inclusive of men. As fun as it is to do videos about Chinatown garbage tours and Scottish dancing, it is also incredibly rewarding to work on some more serious issues every once in a while.

I've met some amazing people - men like Daniel Jose Older, a paramedic who was so sick of bringing beat up women to the hospital that he decided to become an anti-violence educator, and singer Michael Bolton, who founded an organization that supports women and children at risk of poverty and abuse (photographic evidence below)... as well as many others who unfortunately didn't make it into the final story but certainly helped me understand the issues a lot better. Like Quentin Walcott, who runs a whole team of anti-violence educators at CONNECT, and Stephanie Davidson and Linnea Hincks, two very bright students at Columbia and Barnard who also helped me unpack some of the concepts behind feminist theory and gender violence.

I'd love to hear what you think about my story, so feel free to post comments below. I'm also probably going to be adding another blog post or two in the next few days about other interesting things that didn't make it into the story, so stay tuned for updates (and previous posts).

Israel remakes its image at 60

Israel remakes its image at 60 looks at the efforts underway in New York City to promote an image of Israel that is not related to the many conflicts in which Israel has been, or continues to be, involved.

As it turns 60, leaders in the Israeli and Jewish community have been involved in different projects to show Israel as modern and multicultural. The picture above shows one of the "Faces of Israel" banners being installed along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, between 47th to 96th Streets. The one below shows another of the banners. Other efforts include blogs, pages on Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, lectures, film festivals and tourism ads.To see more faces of Israel, beyond those on the banners, visit "The Face of Israel Today" on the Israel21c site.

My project also includes the image of Israel that Esti Tsal sees, a volunteer with MachsomWatch (meaning Checkpoint Watch). Every week she visits the checkpoints in the West Bank to document the interactions among settlers, Israeli soldiers and Palestinians. She dreams, she said, of a day an Israeli leader will remove the soldiers back within the pre-1967 border, or the Green Line, and end what is called the occupation.

In the May 8, 2008 New York Times, Ethan Bronner reported, in his story, "At 60, Israel Redefines Roles for Itself and for Jews Elsewhere," that a conference next week in Israel involving 700 guests will look at a spectrum of issues that relate to Jews and Israel, including Israeli accomplishments, climate change, terrorism and Jerusalem's sovereignty. Israel is a melting pot of people, of ideas, history, accomplishments, failures, disillusionment and hope. And so, Israel has many images as it turns 60 today.

Gay homeless youth keep up appearances

The teenage years can be particularly rocky for young adults who wrestle with the images they want to project to the world. But when a young person struggling with sexual orientation or transgender issues has no family or community support, an already fragile self-image often shatters.

More than 3,800 homeless young people lived in New York City last year, according to a survey conducted in 2007 by the Empire State Coalition, an advocacy group devoted to the rights of homeless youth, runaways and street youth. Sixty-two percent of that group identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or unsure.

The multimedia story Gay homeless youth keep up appearances by Jay Corcoran appears in the Image issue of

From Shelter to Office on Staten Island

On Staten Island, homelessness now hides behind shelter doors, walks in designer clothes and carries cell phones. Many homeless people are working-class, college graduates, parents or the elderly, according to Project Hospitality, a private nonprofit organization that operates the borough's homeless shelters and many food assistance programs.

Homelessness has blended into Staten Island communities that still hold on to the image of the drunken or mentally ill nesting in the ferry terminal and don't "see" the new image.

Contrary to the worn image of chronic homeless people, today they are either close to finding a home, or on the verge of losing one. Almost 62,000 Staten Islanders eat at emergency food programs--up 300 percent since 2004, according to Hunger Safety Net 2007, a report produced by the Food Bank for New York City.

The multimedia story, From Shelter to Office, A New Class of Homeless Grows on Staten Island, by Lisa Biagiotti and Tom Davis appears in the Image issue of

Struggle on the street

As I reported for my project on Israel's image at 60, I looked for people unrelated to the conflict in the Middle East who would have something to say about the country's image. No members of the Jewish/Israeli or Muslim/Arab communities because their responses would be expected. I wanted to hear both critical and supportive comments from people on the streets of New York.

In a city whose Jewish population is almost as large as the entire Jewish population of Israel (the latter is 5.5 million), most don't feel comfortable criticizing Israel in front of a camera.

I came across two people who were not pleased with Israel's image, but they did not wish to be filmed. The individuals in this piece agreed to be interviewed on camera. I debated making this video because I lack a contrary voice. But I made the video to thank them for participating with their time and their comments.

Amal, who is from Beirut, became my exception to my rule above. Her comments were so inspirational I couldn't not include her. If someone from Lebanon can believe in peace and has hope for the future, then I can, too.

Broadening the Image of the Middle East Through Business

My story is about efforts to broaden the image of the Middle East in the United States and focuses on the Arab American Business Fellowship, a privately-financed program meant to promote respect and a better understanding among the Arab and American peoples.

The fellowship gives young Arab business people the chance to work with U.S. companies in New York, Iowa and D.C. for three weeks and, beginning this year, will also allow American fellows to work with Arab-owned businesses in the Middle East.

The story's multimedia elements explore the image that New Yorkers have of the Middle East and the ways in which the fellowship changed Americans' and Arabs' perceptions of each other.

Efforts to broaden the image of the Middle East in New York, New Jersey and Los Angeles

My story for this issue focuses on a fellowship that gives young Arab business men and women the chance to work with American companies in New York, Iowa and Washington D.C. for three weeks with the idea to foster respect and understanding between Arab and American societies. During my research I have come across other efforts to reach a similar goal:

1) The first one was written about in today's New York Times. It is a story about young American Muslim performers and filmmakers who are trying to change the image of Islam through postings on and similar Web sites. "Why Islam," a YouTube video, was done by Ali Ardekani, a 33-year-old Muslim living in Los Angeles, and explains his reasons for converting to Islam. "I am a Muslim" is another example:

2) New Jersey's Arab American community, with the support of Governor Corzine, has been trying to establish the Arab-American Heritage Commission for a few years now. If approved, this effort within the state government would disseminate information about the community to state organizations, and public and private schools and corporations. Ahmed Soliman, an opinion writer for New Jersey's The Record, wrote a column about it recently. 

Health Images on Food Packages Stretch the Truth

I was lucky to find a source that was as enthusiastic about reporting this topic as I was. His name is Joe Feigenbaum (check him out on video here) and he's a real mensch. (Speaking of mensches, Israel is 60.)

Joe invited me up to his advertising agency in Irvington, NY, where we spent a few hours in the local supermarket, pulling products off the shelves and comparing the claims on the packages against the reality of the ingredient listings.

We didn't really find anything super shocking. But Joe did a little reporting on his own and found this interesting little nugget about Kellogg's Smart Start cereal, which counts potassium chloride among its ingredients. He emailed this to me a couple weeks back.

"Potassium Chloride: Dr. Jack Kevorkian's thanatron machine injected a lethal dose of potassium chloride into the patient, which caused the heart to stop functioning, after a sodium thiopental-induced coma was achieved. A similar device, the German 'Perfusor', also uses potassium chloride as a suicide aid."

Obviously, Smart Start contains non-lethal doses of potassium chloride. And I'm no chemist so I can't come right out and condemn Kellogg's for putting the stuff in their cereal. Who knows? I'm sure a lot of common food items could be lethal if some nut were to isolate the properties correctly. (Put down that peanut butter sandwich....)

But the point is, if your a normal non-vegan, non-vegetarian everyday American carnivore like me, pretty much every packaged product you buy, even products that appear to be healthy, are going to have things in them that you probably shouldn't be ingesting. (Or, at least, don't need to be ingesting. Take it from Arnold.)

So if you are trying to be health conscious, don't rely on a "heart healthy" cereal or any other product that claims to provide a nutrition-related function. The body doesn't need much to function properly; you'll get your daily requirement of vitamins and such as long as you eat a couple veggies and fruit every day. Just watch your portions, reach for an apple instead of "apple-liscious fruit chips" and go for a run once in a while.

(Unless you're Dave Burdick, who can eat a whole pie without consequence.)

Roller skaters are leading double lives

The women of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league are smart, motivated and independent. They’re championing female empowerment while leading doubles lives.

By day, the skaters embrace their professional identities, whether they are teachers, architects or lawyers. By night, they slip into their alternate personas as easily as they slip on the kneepads and roller skates that signify a roller derby identity.

The highlight was going to see my first roller derby bout in Brooklyn. My video captures all the action – the hip checks, take-downs and super fast skating. Readers can also “meet” some of the women who I interviewed in the portrait gallery. Learn about roller derby’s long history from the timeline and read more here.

Asian Eyelid Surgery Sparks Debate

I spent some time last week walking around Manhattan's Koreatown, the heart of which is West 32nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues. Took a photo of this lovely lady as she took a break from her job in a bookstore. I was trying to highlight the poster behind her, to give an idea of what the prevailing beauty standard is. (My story's about Asian eyelid surgery, a popular cosmetic surgery procedure.)

Whether consciously or not, we're all influenced by beauty standards, which change according to time, place, culture and taste. One academic I spoke with, Beverly Yuen Thompson, noted the global reach of Western media in defining "beauty."

"Valuing one eye appearance over the other is not a natural condition, but is socially constructed," Thompson said. "There is no reason one appearance would be considered more attractive than others outside of the social value of that particular society."

Speaking of our society's values, check out this post on Jezebel, about a very nasty Maxim list of "the world's five unsexiest women alive" and then a list of "ultimate female hotties" from Entertainment Weekly that didn't include any Asian or black women. Now that's lame.

The multimedia story Popular Plastic Surgery Raises Questions About Ethnicity, Image & Identity by Karen Zraik appears in the Image issue of

Women Swap Heels for Cleats

Rugby is a popular club sport in the US with over 315 women's club teams and about 12,000 participants at the college level, according to USA Rugby.

But the sport is also played after college by women in their professional lives. Many women of the Brooklyn Women Rugby Football Club said the sport has changed their self-image. Rugby has empowered them, changed their view of femininity and broken the monotonous work grind.

Some players who hold jobs as teachers, consultants, librarians and attorneys have learned what it means to scrum, while others return the sport after a hiatus.

The multimedia story Women Swap Heels for Cleats by Matthew P. Moll
appears in the Image issue of

Far From Apathetic: Non-voters campaign for Clinton, Obama

While the image of the non-voter has traditionally been one of apathy and inaction regarding politics, in the 2008 presidential election, that image is changing. Jasmin Morales, 16, is too young to vote but is a Barack Obama supporter and is working to convince family members to vote for him. Will Straw is a British citizen and cannot vote but is active in campaigning for the Hillary Clinton campaign. In this election, a new kind of non-voter is emerging -- one who cannot vote but is nonetheless motivated to get involved in U.S. politics in support of a candidate.

The multimedia story Far From Apathetic: Non-voters campaign for Clinton, Obama by Channtal Fleischfresser appears in the Image issue of

Working Stiffs Get Cutting Edge

Ever wonder what it is like in a neighborhood barbershop? Want to know how funky haircuts are making their way into the workplace?

Haircuts are among the elements that define a person’s image. The straight, combed to the side haircut can evoke corporate America, but for Don Juan’s customers on the Lower East Side that look is too conservative. They want something that will make them stand out.

They are not artists or hip fashionistas. They work in the service industry, from a bellhop at a swanky midtown hotel to a ramp agent directing airplanes at JFK. Historically, the service industry has had rigid rules about appearance. In recent years however, more individuals have pushed the boundaries of what is considered an acceptable image, depending on their level of contact with customers

The multimedia story Working Stiffs Get Cutting Edge by Anthony Vanger appears in the Image issue of

Monday, May 5, 2008

A little R&R

What do you do when you've had three hours sleep in 72 hours?

Find your friends......hug your spouse/boyfriend/ with your kids.

Just hours after the soft launch, I took the stage for my kids' talent show Friday night....I felt like Keith Richards after a string of sold-out shows in South America. Nevertheless, I channeled my best Hamlet for our performance of a You Tube video sensation....LIVE!