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Audio Documentary and Audio Outline

My audio piece includes a combination of self narration and interview audio from three sources within McKeesport’s city planning division —Director of Development A.J. Tedesco, City Solicitor J. Jason Elash and Contract Officer for the Community Development Office Johanna Bell.


Self-narration McKeesport, Pennsylvania is the largest town in the center of the state’s steal region and lies about 15 miles south of Pittsburgh. McKeesport, and the remainder of the Mon Valley, was home to over 35,000 steel employees.

Fade in chipper music behind self-narration

During the early to mid 1900’s, McKeesport, Pennsylvania was one of the fastest growing cities with an abundance of candy shops and record companies among other novelty and home good stores, eateries, and movie theaters, Mckeesport’s main street was a destination spot for city residents who often frequented the city’s fifth avenue. McKeesport was once a highly populated cited with a bustling mainstreet, but when the steel industry left the Pittsburgh area in the 1980s, Mckeesport, like other areas in the Mon Valley, suffered serious losses in population, business, and overall morale.

Fade out chipper music and fade in darker music behind the self-narration

McKeesport is classified as a distressed urban community with 29% of people living below the poverty line. The poverty rate in the state of Pennsylvania is only 13%. McKeesport receives federal assistance through Community Development Block Grants or CDBGs from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also known as HUD. McKeesport’s Director of Development A.J. Tedesco, City Solicitor J. Jason Elash and Contract Officer for the Community Development Office Johanna Bell sat down to discuss McKeesport’s Community Development Block Grant funds. 

Cut background music 


Self Narration Can you elaborate on McKeesport’s action plan for CDBG usage?


Self Narration What role does the consulting firm that you hired play in McKeesport’s action plan for CDBG funding?


Self Narration What is the process by which sub-recipients receive some of the CDBG money?


Self Narration What are some of the federal regulations that HUD puts forth for McKeesport’s usage of the CDBG money?


Self Narration What area of McKeesport is the CDBG money used for?


Self Narration What do these Community Development Block Grants mean to McKeesport?


Fade in darker music in the background of the last comment, and, once the speaking is complete,  fade out the music to close the piece



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Lines of Flight

While first conceptualizing my Untold History, I was intimidated by the idea of telling the story through a variety of media. I had never produced a visual argument or audio piece, let alone worked with the adobe production programs that we explored this year. Entering this course, I had the most experience working in the print medium through traditional journalism. This course allowed me to explore the different affordances of each story telling outlet and challenged me to utilize the contributions that each brought to the overall narrative.

Each medium had its particular affordances when it came to producing the segment and having an outside viewer engage with the segment. The visual medium — produced through the visual essay and visual argument — allowed people to properly visualize the areas/images of my untold history that I found most important but also afforded them room to interpret the material and attribute meaning because they did not rely on written word. I feel as if my visual work was effective while not overwhelming the viewer by requiring her to need information that she may not have known about McKeesport. My visual argument, which outlined the amount of CDBG money given to the city government, provided necessary information, but did not overwhelm the viewer. The captions that accompanied the photos also gave a brief history of the city without inundating the viewer with unnecessary facts or figures. 

The video medium — produced through the video essay — combined moving images and audio in a way that was most easily accessible by the viewer. I believe my video was one of the most effective in furthering the goals of my overall history because it allowed me to personalize the narrative with the anecdotes of the people from the Heritage Center, while still allowing me to include important background information about McKeesport. Because the medium allows the  viewer to engage with the narrative through the video without having to do too much extra “work,” the video is integral in providing necessary background information that would weigh down other segments of the project. 

The audio medium — produced through the audio interviews — relied on voice and music to tell a portion of the narrative. I found this medium the most difficult to work with. As a visual learner, I found it difficult to engage the listener in the piece. I originally felt that the grant funding would be a good topic for this section because it was a complicated issue that was discussed by the official who deal with it, but I ultimately found that the issue was rather dry for an audio clip. In the future, I would try to use more anecdote and less straight fact in my audio compilations. I believe that I was able to liven up the piece with background music clips to further convey the mood and message of different portions of the piece, but music alone could not carry the piece. The audio medium may have been more engaging than the print medium in the case of discussing the grants, but the print medium may have allowed for a briefer discussion of the funding. 

The remix and remediation projects challenged me to approach the story telling in a new way. While each of the other mediums asked me to create, these projects asked me to recreate and reshape, and It was a new experience. I was pleased with the story telling capabilities that the remix afforded me. It provided me with a different level of depth that the other mediums did not. I was able to echo the past on top of images of the present to draw a comparison between issues that McKeesport has faced overtime with its current state. The remediation project was both familiar and knew. I have the most experience working in the print medium, but it allowed me to combine my work produced throughout the other media forms. While I was writing a type of news feature — something I have done several — I found myself approaching the experience from the reader’s vantage point and considering the type of experience she would have engaging with the text in comparison to each of the other mediums. This portion of the overall history was effective because it allowed for a traditional narrative story telling while also giving the reader the opportunity to engage with the material in different ways through the visual, audio and remix forms.

The net effect of the projects directly relates to the way that they were interwoven and worked toward one common goal. I believe that I largely achieved my storytelling goal. It is hard to judge without an objective viewing eye, but I believe that I was able to share part of the city’s story in a new way. While the narratives within each segment of the overall narrative were similar — and at some points even overlapped — each medium has a different impact potential and, in several ways, furthers the overall narrative.

To further develop this piece in the future, I will next undertake the project of re-envisioning the final product and narrative. While I believe the net effect of the project produced a cohesive package, I am still not sure if it offers the most effective narrative engagement experience. Most interactive news pieces still focus on the text-based portion of storytelling and incorporate the other visual and audio elements within the more linear delivery. While I linked my other projects in an attempt to create this effect, having the different elements combined more accessibly in one place may strengthen the narrative’s overall delivery. I will also continue to sharpen my different segments, and cut down unnecessary material. This will present me with the opportunity to add any new reporting without drawing out the engagement experience to a fault.

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Remediation Proposal

For my remediation project, I chose to remediate a combination of my projects. I chose to turn portions of my audio-, image- and video-based projects into a more traditional, text-based piece of work. I chose to use a combination of my projects because each provided information that could be compiled into a well-rounded and well-researched long form story. Rhetorically, this text-base piece aims to present a reader with a greater understanding of McKeesport’s use of grant funding money and the challenges it faces in redevelopment. While some of the other pieces put forth an argument to persuade the reader or viewer, this piece works to outline some of the different facts and perspectives that surround McKeesport’s redevelopment efforts and allow the reader to draw his or her conclusions on the city’s potential for success or failure. The piece is, though, written within a particular frame, which is that the city government, its consulting firm and the RIDC are major players in the city’s redevelopment. Because of this, each plays a prominent role in the story.

Aesthetically, this piece aims to provide the reader with a more traditional story telling experience. While the other pieces seem a bit more interactive because the reader/viewer/listener engages with each through different sensory experiences, this piece provides the reader with a more structured experience that challenges her to take more of the engagement responsibility onto herself (as we have previously discussed the ways that standard text makes the reader do more “work”). But the aesthetics of this piece also allows for the reader to engage in or reject different opportunities. For example, the piece is linked with the audio and video pieces. If the viewer chooses, she has the opportunity to break away from the text and expand the text-base experience through the other media.

The resulting experience is dramatically different than the earlier projects that I have produced. Unlike the audio or visual projects, this piece relies heavily on written word. It challenged me to take the positive effects that the other media afforded me and attempt to produce a similar outcome through print. It utilizes the print medium to provide faces to McKeesport’s decline and redevelopment efforts through quotes and anecdotes from people like Michelle and John from the McKeesport Heritage Center and the folks at the City Hall. It narrows in on the sources’ quotes that do the most to capture a specific idea or sentiment. The quotes set particular ideas apart and stand out among the rest of the written narrative.

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McKeesport Remixed: Kennedy Speaks to the City

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Justification: McKeesport Remixed

For this project, I will remix archival audio with my own recently captured images of McKeesport. Archival audio will be assembled from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum and will include Kennedy’s remarks at McKeesport’s City Hall on October 13, 1962.

Over the course of the speech, Kennedy urges those gathered to elect Democratic representatives from Pennsylvania to move the state forward. This was the second time that Kennedy spoke in the city, and each time crowds gathered to hear the president. Today, a Kennedy memorial statue stands in downtown McKeesport to commemorate the president’s stops in the area.

The audio of the speech will mix with more recent images and video that I have captured of the city’s downtown (including images of the Kennedy statue and the city’s mainstreet). This juxtaposition will present viewers and listeners with the opportunity to compare and contrast the McKeesport of the ’60s to the McKeesport of 2014. Kennedy uses his speech to discuss issues of housing, health care, education, and agriculture in the region. Many of these issues remain relevant in the discussion of McKeesport’s development today. The layering will, hopefully, spur discussion on the ways that the area has progressed, and ways that it may have room for improvement.

I intend to carve the audio clip in a way that will compress the amount of time that the speech plays (to hold more of the viewer’s attention for a shorter period of time), but that will not lose the intentions of the original speech and message. However, I intend for the mix of the cut audio and images to allow the speech and piece to take on a new meaning and message for the viewer.

This piece will reflect an understanding of current “best practices” of remix culture through its aim to create discussion through the mixing of two pieces of media. By taking something old and transferring it into a completely new piece, I will be creating a piece for an audience with varying familiarity with Kennedy’s speech and McKeesport’s current condition. The finished piece, I believe, will stay true to remix culture’s encouragement of combing and editing preexisting to works to produce a new creation.

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Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage

For Johndan Johnson-Eilola, writing in digital space is a nontraditional form of writing that struggles with the definition of originality. It is nontraditional in that it brings together different aspects of traditional writing and production, but also involves the aggregation of other material. Writing in a digital space struggles with originality in that it is not necessarily possible to produce original content today because most content echoes its inspiration. Johnson-Eilola argues that striving for the impossible “original” ideal furthers the problem and drives people to plagiarize in the attempt to appear unique in their thoughts and claims.

Johnson-Eilola argues that copyright law is and is not in step with new digital reforms. While copyright laws have been put in place to prevent the illegal copying of another’s work without credit, the Internet has made it increasingly difficult to enforce copyright and increasingly easier to repurpose information.  The nontraditional digital writing space, for Johnson-Eilola, does have the ability to separate sourced materials’ legal requirements. The law is not in alignment with new digital reforms, though, as much of today’s produced work still relies on more traditional forms of citation through in-text citations, footnotes, endnotes, paraphrasing, and the like.

Originality will continue to be a topic of debate for compositionists as we produce work in specific contexts. In my opinion, we can respect our sources by giving credit where credit is due. When someone works off of another’s work for inspiration, that person deserves credit, even if the person goes on to create a “new” work through experimentation. Different techniques can be used to make sure that credit is given, such as citing who gave the courtesy photo or using  Document Cloud  to store primary documents (in pdf form) for viewers’ consultation. Proper citation, through these forms, will always add validity to one’s work.

I encountered a type of copyright issue when assembling my Untold History of McKeesport. While the Historical Society did not have the proper licenses to allow me to reproduce different images that they have, I was able to record myself flipping through a book of images (with credit given later) so that I was not purely representing the work as my own ownership or creation. Taking this approach was a way to get around the licensing issues, considering that I still had permission from my source.  The remainder of the images and the audio I have collected myself and given credit to the people who speak within my pieces, because it is still important to credit people for their thoughts and ideas.

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Visual Storyboard

First, it is important to note that my video project has changed in terms of content. While it will still be exploring McKeesport’s history, it will be exploring it from the point of view of the McKeesport Heritage and Historical Society. The video will include different clips from the society as well as from the city area. I am finishing collecting the footage for final editing as I have begun to collect the audio for my audio documentary and edit it. 

While I have quality sources for the video, the sources’ images are not as important to the story as their voices are with some of the concepts that they are discussing. Blending the two will help to create a visually compelling story that ties in footage as well as anecdotal reflection to personalize the piece.

I envision the piece moving as follows:

  • The piece will begin with an opening title screen with a title layered on top of a still image.
  • The title page will fade to an introduction which will have audio spoken by one of my sources about McKeesport today in comparison to what it used to be. The audio will be layered on top of footage of the city today.
  • The scene will cut to an image of the first source continuing to speak. This will also introduce her name and title.
  • The scene will then transition to images of the city in the past with music that was fitting of the time period.
  • The music will then give way to the second source’s voice and images that are fitting with what he is speaking about
  • The image and audio will cut to an image of the source still speaking and identify his name and title. Like the first source, the second source will be standing and walking, but you will only see his face.
  • The piece will then move to video of pages flipping in an old development plan from the sixties. The audio overlayed will relate to the development efforts of McKeesport today, and what the sources think that it should become.
  • The piece will close with audio layered over an image of the city fading out to a black screen and the production credits.

I believe that this type of format lends itself to telling the story in a compelling way that allows people to truly visualize the issue through the images provided. Because of this, I plan to use multiple images that can further what the sources speak about.

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Sourcing McKeesport

My on McKeesport provides annotated sources that provide information on McKeesport, the city government, Community Development Block Grants, and its possible future, among others.

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