NJF to Host 8th Annual Showcase

By Sabine Poux, Arts and Sciences Editor

The fellows of the eighth annual Middlebury Fellowship in Narrative Journalism will present their year-long radio documentary projects to the Middlebury community on Friday, May 12 in the Axinn Winter Garden from 4 to 6 p.m. The fellows — Matthew Blake ’17, Will DiGravio ’19, Izzy Fleming ’17 and Tabitha Mueller ’18 — have crafted digital portraits of 13 students after asking them the event’s titular question, “How Did You Get Here?”

Middlebury Scholar-in-residence Sue Halpern and Middlebury Magazine Editorial Director Matt Jennings founded the The Middlebury Fellowship in Narrative Journalism in 2008 and have been co-directing it since. The fellowship teaches students how to conduct narrative journalism projects using interviews and digitally-based media. The fellows work with Halpern throughout the year to learn the basics of radio production and narrative journalism.

For their projects, the fellows drew on interviewees’ personal stories to create vibrant portraits of the paths that led them to the College. When presented, these profiles will give the greater Middlebury community a look into the diversity of experiences among students at the College and will honor the myriad of backgrounds and stories that students have to share.

“The Narrative Journalism Fellowship offers a solution for the divide that exists between ourselves and others, a divide which prevents the story of us to take place,” Blake said. “It creates a space for students to engage with their peer’s stories and develop an awareness of, as well as appreciation for, the multiplicity of stories and experiences on Middlebury’s campus.”

The audio-based medium the fellows used in their documentation allowed for narration that was completely story-focused.

“Learning the unique power of audio storytelling is my biggest take-away,” Fleming said. “Unlike other forms of expression, there is no room for prejudice when listening to someone talk. You can’t evaluate their level of education, identify their race, or notice how expensive their watch is. Instead, the human voice puts everyone on an (relatively) even playing field. It is an incredibly intimate medium, and the relationship you can nurture with a human voice is far deeper than I would have ever anticipated at the beginning of the year before this fellowship began.”

The student profiles will be between five and six minutes each. This may not be enough time to tell the entirety of a person’s story, Blake said, but it is enough time to spark meaningful discussions.

“After listening to one of this year’s pieces about a Football player,” he remarked, “a student commented, ‘I had no idea that someone on the Football team would write poetry or be so open about his emotions. . . . Do you think that he’d be willing to talk with me if I asked him some questions?’”