Journalists of Tomorrow: Stéphane Grasso

Every year, I speak to winners of Concordia’s journalism school awards as they’re presented at the Montreal Gazette offices. Today, one of the 2016 winners of the Philip Fisher bursary, Stéphane Grasso.

Stéphane Grasso in 2016.

Stéphane Grasso is an artist. His specialty is in film production, thanks to his education at Concordia’s Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema that started 15 years ago.

As he explains below, he produced documentaries for non-profits like World Vision, and that work led to a desire to focus on underrepresented people, so he decided to study journalism.

You can see some of his work on his website, but here’s a nice little video of his I liked, about a jewelry crafting studio in Bangkok:

Why did you decide to study journalism?

My background is in film production (fiction, music videos, commercials, etc) and I’ve directed several documentaries for NGOs over the 10 years I’ve been active. A few years ago, I realized that being in the field and working with underrepresented people always felt particularly “right” to me, so I felt like focusing more on that. It also helped that my wife, a former human rights lawyer, strongly encouraged me to go for it and that we were starting a new life in India anyways, so transitioning/refocusing to journalism made sense.

What does journalism mean to you?

Given how closely related documentary and video journalism are in today’s online multimedia ecosystem (where the line between journalistic pieces and short docs are often blurred), I always saw journalism as more of an approach and an infrastructure than just a form. A certain (broad) code of ethics definitely guides (good) journalism, which is something I’ve taken a lot from since my studies, but I really feel that the structures of journalistic production and dissemination are so influential in the creation of its content — deadlines, integration of content, integration of media production, the transition to online platforms — that the context/environment in which modern journalism is now created needs to be taken into account.

What kind of journalism would you like to do?

I’m focusing on long-form multimedia documentary projects, with journalistic components. Given my visual background, producing video and photo docs comes pretty naturally to me.  I’m about to start working on a project that integrates articles, data visualizations, 360-degree video and audio documentary as well.  I also specifically love projects where I can spend a significant amount of time with participants (i.e. embeds), so we can get to know each other a bit more intimately and create the piece collaboratively, which is an approach that I find sometimes lacking in the mainstream media.

What other interests do you have that you think you can apply to a  career in journalism or a related field?

As I said, my background in film and documentary production is definitely an asset, though to be honest freelancing and finding outlets to support you (especially while abroad) is a bit tough, so I’ve kept a foot in the film production world here. It helps that I live in Mumbai, the second largest film industry in the world.

How do you see the future of journalism?

I strongly believe that projects that integrate as many media as possible to maximize audience engagement and outreach are the future of journalism. Media consumption is now fundamentally mobile and multimedia by nature, as our phones now give us the possibility of experiencing stories in a dazzling variety of ways anywhere, any time. Media production has also been democratized with the advent of affordable, mobile technology, which means that there is also more media content for journalism to compete for audience attention than ever before.

I think that the only way for journalism to survive in this context is to focus on creating well-researched, in-depth, quality pieces but also on producing innovative multimedia content and platforms which users can not only experience new kinds of stories on but interact with these stories in a meaningful way as well.

What have you been up to since receiving your award?

I’ve been working on my Masters in Digital Innovation in Journalism Studies (quite a mouthful) at Concordia University, which shouldn’t come as surprise given how academic-y some of my answers above may sound. I’m also starting a new life in Mumbai, completing some documentary projects and preparing a long-form multimedia project that should go into production in February. The project I’m currently finishing is a documentary on a Rohingya family living in Balukhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, produced with World Vision. I hope to get that out by 2019.

How can people follow your work?

I’m pretty active on instagram, where my handle is @sringrasso. My journalism-oriented website is srgrasso.com. If anyone is interested in seeing my (much prettier) fiction/advertising website, it’s stephanegrasso.com. I am absolutely terrible at Twitter, but my handle there is @sringrasso

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