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Telling Stories that Matter

Telling Stories that Matter By Ken Dinitz '88, director of Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations

As the director of Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations at the College, I have a role in telling the story of Swarthmore to the outside world, so I was eager to take advantage of an opportunity to participate in a campus workshop given by the Center for Digital Storytelling.

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The Center for Digital Storytelling describes their role as assisting "youth and adults around the world in using media tools to share, record, and value stories from their lives, in ways that promote artistic expression, health and well being, and justice." In my case, I wanted to tell the story of something important to me personally that was also a remarkable Swarthmore project.

Sharing stories within the group and seeing how our stories evolved over the course of the workshop was a large part of what made this a meaningful and worthwhile experience. I knew I wanted to tell the story of War News Radio, but it was only after the initial conversation in the workshop, when the facilitators from the Center for Digital Storytelling went around the room and asked each of the dozen participants to talk about our projects, that I understood what a personal story this was to me.

When it was my turn to talk about War News Radio, I realized that my interest in this terrific student-run project originated in my personal feeling of frustration at the way the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are usually presented in the media. The World Trade Center was a daily part of my life in the 1990s and I am always aware that the origins of these wars lie in the emotional events of 9/11.

War News Radio documents the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through personal phone conversations with people living and serving there. The program lets them tell their stories clearly, humanely and personally. I so admire the students who work on the program because they are passionate about helping people tell their stories and about doing the program well, even though there is rarely academic credit involved. I'm also so impressed because for them, 9/11 is a fact of their childhood, and this program is such a thoughtful way to engage its aftermath.

In the three days of the workshop, each participant developed a short script about something important to them and turned it into a 2 - 3 minute personal documentary (digital story) on the computer. This was an intensive hands-on workshop with a lot packed in. We learned how to use a digital editing program to integrate photos, scanned items, special effects, voice and music into a seamless story. Beyond the finished product, the process itself is tremendously valuable.

My final piece not only attempts to tell the story of an inspiring student led program it is also an example of a way to use technology to tell any number of important stories. I hope more people make the effort to become familiar with these tools and share their most meaningful experiences.

Ken Dinitz

Ken Dinitz '88, director of Corporate, Foundation and Government Relations, previously worked in public broadcasting at WNYC in New York, KBNA in Anchorage, and Vermont Public Radio. He put his experience working in Public Radio to use when developing this story. You can reach him at