3Posted by Lindsey Mastis on March 13, 2013 at 3:08 PM
Lindsey Mastis tries to shoot her own standup in a slum outside Mumbai, India. A picture taken through a dirty bus window shows the large crowd gathered to watch. Photo: Joy Doreen Biira/International Reporting Project
Part of my job as a television broadcast reporter is getting in front of the camera and doing what’s called a “standup.” Literally, it means I stand up in front of the camera and record myself talking. The goal is to ‘show and tell’ in a way that is most effectively done by the reporter, or narrator if you will. It’s one of the hardest parts of my job because I’m a video correspondent responsible for being behind the camera and in front of the lens without any help.
Usually, I find someone near me to stand in so I can focus my camera. Then I press record, stand in about the same spot, and hope for the best. But in India, doing these standups was much more difficult. Especially in a place called Bhiwandi.
It was my second day of reporting with the International Reporting Project*. I was told that our group was only the second set of visitors the community had seen in four years. We looked different than everyone around us. We had cameras, although we tried to shield much of our equipment from until we could accomplish our goal of visiting Operation ASHA and talking with the organization about tracking patients from migrant families.
I was getting great information, but knew I needed to also shoot a standup. The longer we were there, the larger and louder the crowd grew. Our group leaders noticed the crowd was becoming mob. We had to leave.
We ducked out the back door and walked through the narrow pathways. Soon the crowd was all around us. People were tugging on my arms and shoulders. Young men were demanding I stop and take pictures with them. But there were just too many people. I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t stop. The crowd was too excited and there seemed to be no boundaries.
When we got to our bus, I noticed the crowd hadn’t quite caught up. I decided to take a chance and try to shoot a standup behind the bus. I took my camera and ran around. But I couldn’t get it leveled and focused soon enough. Young boys surrounded me first. Then teenagers. Then young men. Then men with facial hair. Every time I tried to speak, I was pushed. It wasn’t malicious. It was just a big crowd and everyone wanted to see what I was doing.
Every time I tried to speak, the crowd got loud. I put my finger over my lips, trying to use what I hoped was the universal sign for “Shhhh.” It didn’t work. Then I noticed my camera started getting knocked. It just slightly, but I couldn’t risk having the camera fall because it would jeopardize my ability to report during the rest of the trip. I ended up regretting taking the chance at all, because my attempt for a standup was unsuccessful.
A member from our group took a picture of me from the bus window. Looking at this picture, I clearly noticed the groups of boys and men. The young boys were in a circle around me. Teens behind them. Then young adults. Then men. Circle after circle. It was so obvious.
The entire standup attempt took me 2 minutes and 9 seconds. I never got a full sentence out because I’d get pushed, or the crowd would yell too loud, or the camera would get bumped. And because of my camera, I wasn’t even sure whether I was in frame.
What did I learn? An important lesson on recognizing when to pack up and call it a day.
4Posted by Lindsey Mastis on March 6, 2013 at 1:26 PM
Most people in India live in rural villages. These communities are very different from the overcrowded slums and streets of Mumbai. Although it seems people have more room, there are just as many challenges.
I flew with a group of journalists from the International Reporting Project* to Nagpur in Maharashtra state in India. Then took a charter bus southeast to Gadchiroli, a little more than three hours away. There, we visited with representatives from SEARCH, a non-governmental organization (NGO) that stands for “Society for Education, Action and Research in Community Health.”
We met with the founders, a husband and wife team – both doctors – that have made it their mission to bring health care to villages and tribes. India is huge, and hospitals are spread far and wide. I learned SEARCH is filling the gap, bringing health case to people that would otherwise have no means to get to a hospital.
While touring the facility, I saw a little boy in a large hospital bed. His family was taking turns watching over him. Nurses explained he was suffering from seizures and epilepsy. It’s possible his condition stems from some of the same preventable health issues I was focusing on. This tiny little child was just two years old, and his face was covered by an oxygen mask. He was from a local tribe, nurses explained. Had SEARCH not been there, this little boy would likely be suffering at home.
In another room, I met an 8-month old boy wearing bright pink. His mother was excited to show off her son because he was getting well. I was told he had malaria and shortly after arriving at SEARCH, his temperature was brought down and he started to get well. He seemed like such a happy baby, and it was hard to imagine what would have happened to this child had health services been completely out of reach.
After touring the complex, we set out by bus to different villages. I met with a woman in her 40s who is responsible for saving the lives of several babies each year by using a breathing apparatus on newborns that fail to breath after being born. This woman had an entire kit to help babies in their first hours of life, which is critical in a country where 900,000 newborns die each year according to the World Health Organization.
The woman is part of India’s ASHA program, which stands for Accredited Social Health Activists, and in Hindi, means “hope.” The government of India instituted this program, but each ASHA is responsible for providing healthcare and information to about 1,000 people.
We followed the ASHA through the village to the home of a woman who just gave birth 14 days earlier. The ASHA weighed the newborn and happily reported that the child was of a healthy weight. This is a success story.
The child has not yet been named, in accordance with tradition. Although many people in India say they wait for naming ceremonies, some admit the reason babies aren’t named for months is because so many die. The doctor at SEARCH said some families have become apathetic because childhood deaths are so common. That broke my heart.
I wanted to feel like every single child I met, mattered. That each one had the potential to make a positive difference in their communities. But I’m an American, and I grew up hearing rhetoric about the American Dream and that we each could achieve great success as a business owner, astronaut, forewoman, or even a President. It was something I I long believed. These aren’t the dreams of parents of these children. Their wishes are for the things us Americans take for granted: healthcare, clean water, transportation, education.
I loved visiting Gadchiroli. There seemed to be so much pride among it’s residents. Parents were proud of their children, and whole families were extremely hard-working. Seeing a couple success stories raised my spirits. I hope the child suffering from seizures makes a recovery as well.
3Posted by Lindsey Mastis on February 20, 2013 at 3:28 PM
I tried to observe as much as I could on the bus ride to a large slum in Mumbai. The streets along the way were crowded with rickshaws, motorcycles, and people. The rules of the road I’m so used to in America, seemed ignored or nonexistent here.
As our air-conditioned bus slowed, I noticed cows and goats. None of these animals looked particularly healthy. The cows, which are sacred to Hindus, looked skinny and weak. Most were laying on the ground, perhaps too tired to stand. The few that were standing, were in middle of trash piles.
Squatting next to a parked bus, was a little girl. She appeared to be less than five years of age, and there was no sign of anyone watching over her. I soon realized young children squat and relieve themselves almost anywhere.
They also play in streets, their hands filthy with dirt. It occurred to me that this is ideal for children and many seemed extremely happy to be getting dirty, having fun. It’s the same in the US, except American children are often scolded and taught not to get dirty or play in filth.
When our bus stopped, I looked out the window at the slum and noticed swarms of mosquitos. I had sprayed my clothes, arms, and hair with Deet in the morning, but I wasn’t sure if it would be enough. Our group got off the bus and began walking.
I expected it to smell, but didn’t notice any foul odor. My eyes were too occupied with what they were seeing.
I’m traveling with the International Reporting Project, and were advised not to take pictures right away because of sensitivities. I was told many foreign media was not trusted over concerns about how India would be portrayed. And that the movie Slumdog Millionaire was considered highly offensive and because of it, Americans are trusted even less.
What I noticed first was stagnant water along the narrow dirt streets. Goats and dogs were laying next to the walls of shacks. Women that weren’t working outside, peered out of doorways and windows as we walked by. Rickshaws and motorcycles honked to get through, but their persistence didn’t seem to affect the general flow.
I visited with one of the families living here. Inside their home, it was cozy and warm. Generally, inviting. I talked to the head of the household, a skinny man holding a baby boy in his lap. He talked about life in the slum, and some of the issues he has with health.When I asked for his name, he pointed to the door where it was painted. He seemed proud of his community, saying it was his choice to move here because it provided more opportunity. He can make money here, although it is a tough life. Surprising, yes, because it’s not what anyone in America would consider a positive situation.
This particular slum is located on a giant trash heap. It’s the dump. People here make their living off what they find in the trash. They find goods, food, and recyclables. These people are called “Rag Pickers.” But it seems a lot of what they intend to do is sort recyclable materials from the rubbish and sell it to people within the community that collect it and take it to recycling centers for an even larger profit.
I saw two little boys helping sort a huge collection of plastic bottles. They appeared to be working hard, and without supervision.
I walked to the edge of the slum, where the trash heap hovered over the community. A yellow excavator sat at the very tip top. The entire pile looked more mud than trash. Everything was brown and gray.
We visited two slums. This one along the dump was an illegal slum. In both, we visited health offices, which are generally one room facilities with little privacy from the outside.
At a day-care, there was a small group of children sitting on the floor. Health workers find it best to treat kids at these places, versus relying on their parents to bring them in for check-ups.
I also visited an office with an outreach program where I met a 16-year-old girl, who looked much younger for her age. She beamed with pride. She told us her parents supported and encouraged her to become educated on topics of health and to share that knowledge with her community.
She’s been doing this for months and says it took a while before people would listen to her.
It can be extremely difficult for girls and women in Indian society living in the slums, because of tradition. It seems to partly explain why there’s an epidemic of child and mother deaths. It all has to do with nutrition. Here’s a surprising fact: In Indian culture, women are taught to eat last and the least. The head of the household, the man, eats first and the most, and then the children, and then the mother. Changing this idea won’t fix the problem, but it could help.
HIV and AIDS is also a big problem in India. In one of the slums I visited, I was told the disease is often spread by migrant workers employed to stitch details onto fabric. These men are away from their families and may visit a sex worker and contract the virus.
We learned a lot about the problems facing people in the slums. Being there gave me a greater understanding of the issue. I realized the importance of having medical programs at the grassroots level. These communities aren’t organized the way anyone in the US would expect, and probably not the way most Western countries would expect.
The way to help solve the problem of child and maternal mortality has to be done with the help from people within these communities. The people themselves need to be empowered and educated. And there has to be persistence, resilience, and patience. This is not a problem that can be easily or rapidly solved.
As for me, I got to get back on a bus and spend my evening with an abundance of food. I received vaccinations before I left the US, so I know I’m safe against many of the diseases suffered by the people I met. And, I didn’t notice one bug bite. It seems the most well-fed being in the slums are mosquitos.
4Posted by Lindsey Mastis on February 17, 2013 at 2:20 PM
It’s very, very late here in Mumbai. I’ve just gotten situated in my hotel, but I can’t stop thinking about what I’ve already seen. After leaving the airport (still called Bombay), I met up with several members of my group. We’re all here to report on child survival with the International Reporting Project. We were met by hotel staff and split into two groups. I got into a very nice van and we took off on a very short, 15 minute journey to the hotel.
It was already dark. Already past 10 p.m. But the city was alive. Shops looked open It seemed everyone was awake. People were walking around, and some cars were packed full of small children. This would be considered pretty unusual in America on a school night.
Then, on the side of the road, I noticed families I thought to myself, “They must live there. Under that bridge. How do they do it? How do they stay safe at night?” Our car continued on. The driver asked me if I wanted them to stop so I could take pictures. I said no, as I snapped a few pictures from my seat. It was so dark, my photos were coming out blurry.
Our car pulled up in front of our hotel, in front of a stylish barrier and security took a quick look. Our bags were once again placed through an x-ray machine and we each walked through a metal detector. The hotel was beautiful. The people working there spoke English extremely well. They all asked where I was from. I asked a couple of them if they had been to America. No, they said, but they wanted to visit.
The hotel is luxurious. It will be a complete contrast to what I see each day as I report from the slums, hospitals, and even the trash pile. I’ve been told over and over again India is the land of contrasts. And so far, it’s been true.
2Posted by Lindsey Mastis on February 6, 2013 at 12:19 AM
I’m heading to India for two weeks to report on child survival with the International Reporting Project*, a non-profit journalism organization. I’ll be putting together news stories using various media. For this adventure, I’ll be taking my Nikon D3200 with a bunch of accessories that will allow me to produce content for television broadcasts, radio, print, photography and (hopefully) interactive multimedia on the web.
This is the first time I’ll be using these tools. Taking a whole new set of gear to a foreign country is intimidating- I’m not gonna lie. But I think this kit is very versatile and I’ll be able to accomplish my goals of creating numerous eye-opening stories about the troubling facts of life for so many young children in India, struggling to survive in difficult circumstances.
I wanted to share with you, what’s in my backpack:
Nikon D3200 (Red)
Price: $700 retail, $600 on Amazon
Yes, I had to get the shiny red one. This way me and my husband can tell our cameras apart (he uses the Nikon D5100). I chose this camera because of it allows users to adjust the input audio volume, which I could not do with the D5100. I can place a mini-jack microphone directly into the camera and monitor the volume. It records HD 1080p video, which is what I need to produce high-quality news stories.
Nikon 18mm – 300mm Lens
Price: $1,000 retail and on Amazon
When I went to Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, last November, I brought a wide angle lens and a 70mm – 300mm zoom lens. I was constantly switching them and was worried one would roll out of my bag and disappear or break. As soon as I got back, I started researching lenses to solve this problem. I decided on this lens because I don’t have to change lenses to go from extremely wide to extremely close-up. This particular lens uses new technology so the lens itself it’s that long when retracted. It takes beautiful pictures, but I find that it’s autofocus does take some extra time when fully extended, so I generally use manual focus with this lens.
SLIK Pro 340QF Tripod
Price: $125 on Amazon
This is the tripod I should have bought first. Instead, I purchased a cute tripod that matched my red camera, not thinking fully about it’s functionality for video. I paid twice as much for a tripod that didn’t tilt. Every one-man-bander knows that tilt is a must, especially when doing stand-ups by yourself. This SLIK tripod is amazing. It’s light, compact, and yet comes with a very fluid head that pans and tilts. Plus, it extends pretty high – much higher than me, which is great because almost everyone I interview is taller than me. Not to mention, it includes a bubble level. (Why do companies make tripods without it?)
Tamrac Evolution 8 Backpack
Price: $175 in store, $165 on Amazon
After watching several product videos, browsing the isles of Samy’s Camera, and reading up on customer reviews on Amazon, I decided on Tamrac’s Evolution 8 Backpack for it’s size and versatility. It’s “carry-on compatible” and has a separate space for a laptop, and the ability to clip on a small travel-sized tripod. It comes with a rain cover that fits over the entire backpack, and the straps can be adjusted to be worn as a regular backpack or a sling. That means I don’t have to take the backpack off to access my gear. It’s very padded, so I don’t worry about my gear getting bruised up. I can also use the velcro dividers to customize the lower portion of the bag (which works well because I have a very large (fat) lens.
Zoom H4n Recorder
Price: $265 retail, $225 on Amazon
I have never used one of these recorders before, even though many of my radio friends have. Although my Nikon has an audio jack, there’s no way to record off a mic and get NAT sound. Plus, I’m a bit concerned about having an interviewee attached to such a small device (if they walk away, the camera will fall over). I decided to purchase this device because I can treat it like a wireless mic system while getting superb audio for a decent price. I almost bought a cheaper model, but decided on the Zoom because of it’s features. I can use the built-in microphones (it comes with a windscreen) to record NAT sound. At the bottom, I can plug in two separate XLR cables. It has four channels and I can record them all at once. But what really sold me on this device (surprisingly) is the mini-jack input in the back. It means I can use the same microphone I use for my DSLR.
Blue Icicle XLR to USB
Price: $50 retail or on Amazon
I’ve been using this handy tool since my WUSA days in Washington, DC http://search.wusa9.com/News-Staff/Lindsey-Mastis. It allows me to record on an XLR Microphone directly into my computer via USB. My friend Scott Broom first discovered this device at a Guitar Center and we were soon using it to do live reports via Skype using our Sony EX-1s (which worked, but without sound which is why we needed the Icicles.) I use the Icicle every day to record my radio reports in Wavepad for Feature Story News, or voice directly into Final Cut Pro. It’s not perfect, but it’s light and easy to use. I actually keep it in my purse at all times.
Audio-Technica Lavalier Microphone
Price: $30 retail, $17 on Amazon
This is a very cheap lavalier. I haven’t tried it out yet, so I’m not sure of the audio quality. But it works, and if I won’t have to worry something happening to this microphone because it’s cheap to replace. I’ve used a similar microphone in the past and it worked quite well. This has a mini-jack cable so I can plug it straight into my Nikon. It features a very long cord (way too long in my opinion). I’ll be using this more as a back-up microphone when I don’t have time to grab my Zoom and drag out the XLR cables.
Eco-Friendly Lens Cleanse by Hoodman
Price: $10 retail, $12 on Amazon
I picked these up a bit cheaper at Samy’s camera because they have a deal with Hoodman which makes the product. I haven’t used them yet, but I like the idea of having sealed wet and dry towelette wipes to clean my lenses. That means I don’t have to worry about dirt on a cloth scratching my lens (yes, I have a lens filter, but it’s $50 and I don’t want that scratched either).
LED Top Light
Price: $30 on Amazon
I haven’t tried this out yet because I just ordered it online, but yes, this light is only $30. It’s LED which means it won’t get hot, and includes a dimmer. It comes with several filters (yey!) and has the option to use a lithium battery or double-As, which is critical when spending a long day shooting. I need an LED light instead of a flash for my DSLR because I’ll be shooting video. My DSLR already comes with a tiny built-in flash so it’s not like I’ll be without a typical flash for photos. I’m excited to try this new light out. Similar lights I looked at in retail stores averaged about $120 in price. I hope this one works well (it would be awful if it flickered). We’ll see!
Pyle-Pro Wireless Lavalier
Price: $15 on Amazon
This is another microphone I haven’t tried out yet because when it arrived in the mail, I realized it featured a regular-sized jack, not a mini. So I’ll have to modify it. I want to give it a try because it will allow me to record into my Nikon and wirelessly mic up an interviewee. The most important feature will be it’s sound quality. I need to make sure there is no disruption in the audio. I’m sure it’s frequency is quite limited. But in a rural area of India, it will probably work quite well. I figured I’d give it a try, since it is so affordable to do so.
PaleKai Waterproof iPhone Case
Price: $50 retail or $23 on Amazon
I don’t have the money to buy a GoPro, and after trying out a lesser-known brand with disappointing results, I opted to go with my trusted iPhone. I got this case so I can dunk it water, or place it on the ground in mud. My iPhone camera already features a wide-angle lens (like the GoPro) and I can actually see what I’m filming, unlike the GoPro (which costs $100 extra to do with a GoPro 1 or 2). I can’t wait to dirty it up!
*The International Reporting Project (IRP), a non-profit journalism organization, is based at the Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. Major funding for the New Media Trip to India comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This independent fellowship program maintains editorial independence and the final content is at the sole discretion of IRP.