Five minutes in and sniffs reverberated around the lecture hall. Hearty sniffs. I’m-barely-holding-back-a-sob sniffs.
Seven minutes and the sniffs were louder, more frequent. Ten minutes and we were all goners.
I could blame the professor – for showing us the video, for playing it in a class of 300, etc. etc. The real fault, though, lies with the reporters. Kristina Budelis, Piotr Malecki, and Jeff Rhode compiled video, audio and pictures to create a truly emotional piece of multimedia reporting.
Their piece on the Media Storm website entitled “A Thousand More” chronicles the daily life and daily struggles of Phillip ‘Philly’ Mayer and his family. Before his first birthday, Philly was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a genetic disease that destroys the motor neurons in the spine. His motor functions gradually deteriorated and his parents were told that he wouldn’t live past age 7.
Today Philly is 9 (the class let out an audible sigh of relief) and living life to the fullest. Happy day! But why do we empathize so much with a person we’ve never met? Why does Philly’s story tug on its audience’s heartstrings so insistently?
In part because of the methods of the reporters. It would be easy to talk about SMA, to spout statistics and lump individuals together as a tiny percentage of the population.
Instead the Media Storm reporters give the disease a name and a face. They humanize Philly and introduce us to his family and friends. We get to know him, his daily routine, his singular personality and his wise-beyond-nine-years-old outlook on life.
This ability to immerse the audience is what gives video such power. It shows as well as tells and, when done right, leaves a lasting impression.