Why have no Armstrong students applied for the GPB internship with Orlando Montoya? That’s ludicrous. Such a great opportunity.

It’s cool though, I’ll just apply

2 years ago link

Election results

Edna Jackson was officially crowned the new mayor of Savannah on Tuesday. I can’t say I’m surprised. Despite the connections I have with people in the Felser campaign, I didn’t have much confidence he would win the election. That’s not to say I didn’t want him to win, because I definitely thought he was the best choice, I just thought Edna had too much backing to make it possible. That being said, I was surprised about how close the election actually came. I can’t remember the numbers exactly but Felser came in somewhere around 43% to Edna’s 57% (guesstimation). Despite all the predictions made by local newspapers Felser managed to close the gap in the election pretty well, with the exception of a few predictable precincts.

Even though he came relatively close, Felser said at the election night watch party that there would be no next time, but I’ve heard talks recently about his consideration (or at least his campaign teams encouragement) of the county congressional chair election. It would be a great idea, especially since he got his name out there during the mayoral election. There is also plenty of time for him to go ahead and start campaigning and fund raising.

On a last note I think it’s sad that in a city of roughly 137,000, less than 11,000 people voted and made the decision on who the next mayor would be. Talk about apathy

2 years ago link

Photographer helps families document loved ones

"I love all aspects of photography, but I am very partial to portraiture. I just like faces. I like the challenge of it. I sort of know how to deal with people and because of that I know how to get patients relaxed and get some really great shots," Les Wilkes said.

Wilkes, a 71-year-old nontraditional student at Armstrong, is one of the primary contributors to a family photography program at Hospice Savannah — a program roughly four years in the making with a goal of providing hospice patients and their loved ones with professionally processed portraits.

"A lot of families don’t really have decent portraits of their loved ones. Many of them have two or three  4 by 6 snapshots that are overexposed or shot into the sun — for whatever reason they’re terrible," he said. "We give them some really high quality images.”

Of the other nine hospice programs in Savannah, Hospice Savannah is the only nonprofit offering this kind of family portraiture.

Wilkes’ friend of 35 years and fellow nontraditional student Diane Booker originally started the program. Through a film photography class the two had together Wilkes learned about the program and got involved. Not long after, Booker began feeling overwhelmed by the work and Wilkes took a more active role. The portraits aren’t mandatory for hospice patients, they are offered as an option for them to consider.  

"We go out and spend a half day with the patients, and we get to know the family and the people, the children, everyone. We shoot a bunch of digital images and sometimes film images, and we give them back four to six nice 8 by 10 portraits and a CD with about 20 nice images we have edited," Wilkes said.

The outing is organized through the volunteer coordinator Christy Smoke, who also assists Wilkes with the photo shoot.

"We are like partners in crime. It’s good," Smoke said. "With both of us together we get to meet the families and experience a different side. This program is wonderful because you get the opportunity to bring families together, but it’s a happy moment and something they can hold onto.”

Wilkes and Booker both come from backgrounds in the medical field —Wilkes a now partially retired surgeon and Booker a nurse — and Wilkes attributes those backgrounds to their ability to handle the work emotionally.

"My wife won’t even look at the pictures. There are some people who just can’t deal with it," Wilkes said. "We’ve been around a lot of death and dying and we understand it. It’s a natural process. Sometimes it doesn’t come at the right time, but it is a natural process.”

The work isn’t easy to handle though. Wilkes said he never really gets used to it, particularly not when it comes to younger people.

"We’ve had several children that have really been an emotional struggle for me," he said. "Cases like that really do get to you not matter how experienced you are. You know someone late in their life, they’re supposed to die,  but someone who’s an 11-year-old shouldn’t be dying.”

Aside from the family portraits Wilkes has also started taking on a veterans program, which is also offered through Hospice Savannah. The arrangement is similar to the family portraits, but the goal is to honor veterans for their service in addition to providing them with high quality photos.

"These are real combat veterans. We go out and take a member of the armed service with us. So, if they are an Army veteran, we take a member of the Army, if they a Marine Corps veteran, we take someone from the Marines," Wilkes said.

The veterans are presented with a plaque to thank them for their services, and then Wilkes begins the photo shoot.

"These gentlemen don’t talk much about what they’ve done until they get close to death," he said. "They just keep it inside, but when they get close to the end they start to open up. They want to tell people about it.”

Over the years the volume of photo shoots has increased tremendously, and the response from the community has been extremely positive.

"We haven’t had a single negative thing said, and we’ve gotten all kinds of letters from people saying how important it is to them," he said. "Their loved one passed away, and now they have these wonderful portraits of them.”

On Oct. 15 an exhibition opened at the Hospice House on Eisenhower Drive displaying some of the photos Wilkes and Booker have taken over the last year. These pieces aren’t for sale. Wilkes said they are just for people to see. The exhibit is free and open to the public, and the reception is on Oct. 30 at 3 p.m.

"What Diane and Wes are doing with Hospice Savannah is tremendous and worthwhile. They are very special people to be able to do that. I wouldn’t be able to deal with it emotionally," said photography professor Linda Jensen.

While Wilkes said he is happy about the reaction from the community, he said the real pleasure comes from working with the families.

"It has been a privilege and an honor to shoot these people and to know them," Wilkes said. "At my age and with my experiences I already realize that life is fleeting and you need to get the most out of it everyday. My hospice work just reinforced that. I try to live everyday for what it’s worth.”

2 years ago link

Hit article?

Seems like Savannah Morning News may have posted a potential ‘hit article' about Jeff Fesler. This is something that happened back on the 1st that Jim Morekis brought attention to on his facebook, and I wanted to blog about it then but it slipped my mind. For those of you who aren't too savvy about campaign tactics, a hit article is basically an article published with the intentions of damaging a candidates reputation. 

Some thoughts on the article

I’m not questions the newsworthyness of the article, because I definitely think there should be an article about the lawsuit, but I do question the timing. Just a few days before this article was publish SMN endorsed Edna Jackson. Apparently the lawsuit was filed on Nov. 2, so it just seems strange to me that they would wait so long to publish an article about it. It would be one thing if they had waited until Felser submitted his response to the court (which apparently he has 30 days to do, and it hadn’t yet been that long), and it would also be one thing if the article was published right after the lawsuit was filed. Instead they published it at this awkward in-between time, right after they endorsed his opponent. Strange no?

After reading through the piece, the thing that stuck with me the most was the impression I was left with of the woman. It’s just not flattering. I mean some on, is she really suing because she feels like she deserved more money than $1 million? Ridiculous. He did his job, she is just being greedy in my opinion.

Thoughts on hit articles

I obviously can’t say definitively if this was intended to be some kind of hit article or not. Part of me says it is unlikely since SMN is journalist driven and not editorial driven, but at the same time it just seems like too big of a coincidence. I strongly disagree with the entire concept of a news outlet publishing hit articles. It completely defeats the purpose of being an unbiased voice of the people. While it is pretty impossible for a newspaper to be completely unbiased and objective, that is supposed to be the goal right? So in what way would publishing an article with the specific intentions of damaging a candidate be objective?

2 years ago link

Behind the scenes look at campaigning

<!— @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } —>

Whether it’s because there are less than two weeks left until the December 6 run-off election for Savannah’s next mayor, or because at this point over four thousand “Forward with Felser” mail pieces have been stamped and addressed, Lynn Hellman can’t stop talking about the early career of actress Elizabeth Taylor, menopause, and term papers.

Hellman, a semi-retired 64-year-old woman, is one of the people lending a hand to Jeff Felser’s campaign for mayor — literally.

“When I start getting those labels going I can really go to town,” she says, laughing and pushing a finished stack aside.

Hellman isn’t an elected official or a political representative. She’s a mother, a friend, a neighbor, and, tonight, a volunteer; a.k.a the quintessential cog in the campaign machine.

Any candidate running for a political office will tell you, campaigning isn’t easy but it’s necessary to win. What they don’t tell you is that without volunteers and employees there would be no campaign at all. But after a few hours of watching workers labeling thousands of mailers, pouring over lists of targeted voters, and listening to Felser record the same robocall — an automated phone call that uses both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered pre-recorded message — at least ten times, it’s hard to imagine what full-time campaign life is like and what actually compels these people to get involved in the first place.

For Hellman at least, it all started with President Kennedy.

“I can remember watching Kennedy send troops to Alabama to make sure African Americans would be able to attend school with the whites back in the Civil Rights movement, and that just did something to me,” she said. “I was so proud he had the courage to do that and it made me get really interested and involved.”

As far as her part in this particular campaign, the reason is simple — she likes Felser.

“I met Jeff through my son Eddie and over the course of the last five or six years I got to know him and like him like a second son,” she said. “I think Jeff is the only qualified candidate for the job. He’s young, he has fresh new ideas, he is intelligent, he cares about the city and people, and he gets things done. I think a lot of him, he’s just a sweet person, and I want him to get it so bad that I want to do everything I can to help him.”

For others, like Felser’s Field Director Nathan Mai-Lombardo, the motivation to get involved is more intricate, and seeded in Savannah’s racial divide and conflict over the last year.

“This mayor’s race could have been a sleepy campaign had the mayor not inflamed tensions in the community with his semi racist comment regarding the city manager search,” Mai-Lombardo said. “Now you have a small town trying to be a big town, and there is a lot of underlying racism, but it’s the people in charge that are the ones stirring the pot.”

The City Council tensions began back in May when Michael Brown ended his 15-year leadership in the role of Savannah City Manager and Rochelle Small-Toney, previously the assistant city manager, became the acting Savannah City Manager.

She became a controversial figure from the start by requesting money to redesign her office. Things only got worse from there when she threated Police Chief Willie Lovett’s job over a Savannah Morning News article, and when the revelation came in January that she had been serving for nine months without meeting the requirements of the city’s charter. Actually that last part had two revelations, the second came when newspapers realized the performance bond she was denied was actually for $1 million and not the $50,000 previously assumed correct.

Once Small-Toney entered into the four way race for the full time position things spiraled downhill. According to a GPB news article by Orlando Montoya, the white city council members wanted a white candidate and the black members wanted a black candidate, but a 5-4 majority black council ultimately had the final say and the two black candidates — Small-Toney and Alfred Scott — were selected as finalists. Combine that with a series of illegal closed door City Council meetings and you have a bonafide snafu.

For Felser this created the perfect storm.

“I have learned a lot over the last eight years as an at-large alderman, and had considered running for Mayor but wasn’t entirely sure until Mayor Johnson caused the racial tensions to flare regarding the City Manager,” he said. “I knew that I could bring people together more than any other candidate.”

Racial tensions — both real and imagined — aside, campaigning is demanding. Few people know that better then Felser’s Campaign Manager and Finance Director Ted Terry. Despite close to a decade of experience ranging from Lead Field Organizer in a 2006 State Senate Campaign in Athens, to Finance Director for Congressman John Barrow’s successful re-election campaign, Terry says things never get easier.

“This is a stressful job, mainly because you will encounter people on a daily basis who do not want you to win the campaign, or who will be argumentative regarding the issues or candidate you are working for,” he said.

Things get especially busy during the final weeks of the election race with days full of lunches with donors or political supports, community events, mayoral forums, door to door canvasing in targeted neighborhoods, and jam packed evenings of stamping, data entry and catching up on financial disclosure reports. There’s also call time, better known as asking people for money.

“Fundraising is the biggest challenge for any campaign, and it is the absolute most important aspect of a campaign. If you can’t raise money then you can’t get your message out to the likely voters,” he said. “A candidate can have the most precise and appealing message but if the voters don’t hear it then it isn’t effective.”

So is it challenging? Yes. Is it tedious? Yes. But the question remains if life on the campaign trail is worth it. The answers may vary but for the people on the Felser campaign at least, getting involved means working towards change and making a difference

“Jeff is the only person who had an answer for what he’s going to do tomorrow, and if you don’t get involved and help how will anything get done. The whole purpose of a campaign it to devise a strategy and tactics that influence enough people to agree with your point of view to do what the founding fathers hoped we would do — use our speech and make this a better and more prosperous country,” he said. “Understanding that I can’t change the world but I can change myself to lead as an example has guided me.”

You’re friendly neighborhood campaign cogs.

Lynn Hallman is a semi-retired vintage jewelery seller with one brother and one sister. She has a little bit of Scotch, Irish, Dutch and Cherokee in her and she says she flunked algebra one because she had a teacher who mumbled.

Ted Terry is 28 years old and he graduated from Florida State with a degree in nutrition. He first took an interest in politics in 2000, when George W. Bush was elected by 404 votes in Florida. He hasn’t eaten meat in about ten years and says he likes to use Bikram Yoga and Crossfit Hyperperformance to de-stress.

2 years ago link

Twitter News

This is topic I have actually been wanting to do a small post about for several weeks. A while back in class we were looking at coverage from the Troy Davis execution. It was a pretty big deal so naturally there was a good bit of coverage for the execution, especially because he tried for a last minute appeal to the death sentence. The most interesting example we looked at in class was a journalist who was actually out with the protesters, and she was consistently tweeting updates. 

I’ve never wanted to join the twitter bandwagon, even though it seems more and more like it is a necessity for not only journalists but all freelancers. That being said, it was really interesting to see the way the journalist made twitter work for the story. She was able to give her follows, or really more like her potential audience, consistent information about what was going on leading all the way up to his execution. She also had a pretty quick turn around on her article after the execution was over, and it seemed like used the twitter updates to structure the article. Looking at the coverage in class actually made me realize that twitter is a worthwhile way to document news. I can also see how it would actually make the writing process easier. A journalist could look at what updates got the most reaction from followers and use that to decide what the most important pieces of information are. 

As much as I hate to admit it, a twitter account may be in my somewhat near future. 

2 years ago link

Photographer helps families document loved ones - A&E - The Inkwell - Armstrong Atlantic State University
2 years ago link

Ruel Joyner decision repealed

Happy to announce that Monday night the the decision to disqualify Ruel Joyner from the District 1 City Council race was overturned. It’s not really surprising since the whole premise of the disqualification was pretty flimsy in the first place. What did surprise me was everything the judge had to say about the incident, which we talked about some in class on Tuesday. Talk about laying the smack down. I think maybe the judge was a big unnecessarily harsh regarding Reese. Yeah she was involved in aspects of the case she had no business being involved in, like gathering evidence and all of that, but at the same time nobody told her she was doing anything wrong. It worked out though, now Ruel is back in the race.

3 years ago link

Ruel Joyner kabash

I’m the first to admit, I really don’t know a ton about politics. Arguably, I am a good bit more informed at this point then I was a year ago. My recent familiarization can really be attributed to some freelance photography I have done over the last year with various republicans and democrats in Savannah. I also became good friends with the once John Barrow fundraiser, now campaign consultant, who is all about politics. That helps. All that being said, I’ve been following Ruel Joyner for a while because at one point I was talking to him about possibly helping out this campaign endeavors with some copy editing. It didn’t work out, but I met Ruel and I went to a little get together at one of his Tybee houses, and I liked him. It was really surprising that the challenge to his residency actually went through. Yeah, the chances of him getting anywhere in a 75 percent African American district, running against Van Johnson, were pretty slim. But, that’s beside the point. From what I know of Ruel he really does have a legitimate concern about things going on in Savannah, so it seems silly to disqualify him from running based on such flimsy evidence. The fact that he has a business in Savannah should be good enough to show he has a vested interest in the city.

Even funnier, apparently the same residency rules that got Joyner pulled out of the race were bent extensively for council incumbent, Edna Jackson, who is currently running for major. Jackson owns a house on Walthour Road on Wilmington Island, which from my experience isn’t even close to Savannah. According to Jim Morekis’s column in Connect, for ten years Jackson’s homestead exemption was there rather than another house in the city limits she said she lived in. It was apparently enough for council members that her driver’s license and utility bills prove she lives on Fernwood Court, which is interesting since the same courtesy wasn’t extended to Joyner. 

In any case, Joyner is appealing the decision. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

3 years ago link

Connect experience

About a month back, The Inkwell hosted it’s yearly journalism bootcamp for students at Armstrong. The bootcamp, not limited to just Armstrong students, provides some basic insight into the world of freelance writing and journalism. We usually bring in editors from local papers like Savannah Morning News to talk about their experiences and things they expect from writers. This year we brought in Jim Morekis, the Editor in Chief from Connect Savannah. All that being said, I was really looking forward to sitting through his talk because I really enjoy Connect. I’ve also been trying to keep in mind that I really need to get an internship set up for myself, since I’m supposed to graduate soon and all of that good stuff.

After the bootcamp was all said and done, I went against my better judgment and went up to talk to Jim about a possible internship. Apparently it wasn’t such a bad decision because he was all for it, especially when he found out I am really into photography and used to be the Photo Editor for The Inkwell. A few weeks ago I actually got a call from Jim, saying he had some work for me if I was interested. We met out at the Davenport Hotel downtown to watch a play rehearsal. The play, set in the 1800s, is about the yellow fever epidemic. This was probably one of the first times in a while I have been nervous about a photoshoot. It was a really great experience though, especially because it wasn’t so different from shoots I have already done. It was even more exiting when Jim said one of my photos may (not for sure) be the cover. I have to say it was pretty awesome to come to Armstrong that following Tuesday (on a production day no less) and see one of the photos I took on the cover of Connect. There were probably about 5 more of my photos in the inner fold with the full article, and the online article
used a handful of my photos as well. I’m hoping that I will have more opportunities to get some experience working with Connect in the future.

3 years ago link