David Abel holds talk about his experiences as reporter

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A small conference room in the School of Communication was replete with faculty and students as visiting James L. Knight Chair in journalism David Abel spoke of his experiences as a Boston Globe reporter and award-winning documentarian.

When he first started at the Globe, Abel covered the lives of the homeless, searching for stories throughout the city.

“In more recent years, since the paper became less of a paper and more of a multimedia operation, I was encouraged to experiment with shooting video for my story,” Abel said.

Abel first realized the power of videography when another journalist decided to tag along while he was reporting on homelessness in Boston. The footage showed a 17-year-old boy who lived on the streets but kept a suit in a garbage bag for when he had a job interview.

“I noticed that this video journalism captured something I could only hint at in print,” Abel said.

These images of someone living in extremely desolate conditions, and his own ability as a journalist to communicate them, stuck with Abel. In his own work, Abel said transparency with his subjects is of utmost importance and often what earns him their trust.

“There’s no real art form to it except honesty,” Abel said.

Starting out as a translator journalist in Mexico City, Abel was selected in 2012 as a Nieman Fellow in journalism at Harvard University, where he studied documentary filmmaking for a year.

His reporting on the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent documentaries won him several awards. Abel will now continue his string of environmental reporting for the Globe by filming “Gladesmen: The Last of the Sawgrass Cowboys” in South Florida. The film will tell the story of Everglades National Park residents, inhabitants of one of the most remote parts of Florida.

Abel said that although the history of the Everglades has been told before, it has never been told the way he will tell it – with a focus on the “gladesmen.”

At the end, Abel opened up the floor for questions from the crowd. One faculty member asked how he’s able to make himself fit in to the lives of the people he films, he said the challenging part is introducing a video camera into a genuine human-to-human connection.

Students looking to help Abel with the documentary can contact him at dxa605@miami.edu.

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