[Images by KCET] Departures: L.A. River — An Online Documentary Mapping 52 Miles of the River :: Narrated by river advocates, residents and political figures :: Co-Produced by KCET Web Stories and Friends of The Los Angeles River with Local Students.
Once home to wild animals and wildlife, the Los Angeles River provided desperately needed water to the region. Until the 1930s, that is, when the Army Corps of Engineers began the process of paving 80% of the river, turning it into a ribbon of concrete. With the launch of Departures: L.A. River, the Los Angeles River comes alive through an intimate collection of interactive panoramas showing the incredible diversity connected with a nearly extinct natural resource that locals now work to restore. Departures - hailed by the New York Times as a project that “strongly suggests a new twist on the Los Angeles muralism of the 1970s” - is an online documentary series of neighborhood portraits co-produced with community partners for Web Stories, KCET’s exclusive online magazine of cultural journalism.
Departures: L.A. River takes online visitors into often neglected and nearly forgotten portions of the river, spanning more than 50 miles of terrain, concrete and flowing water. The project was produced by KCET in collaboration with Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), a non-profit organization founded in 1986 to protect and restore the river, and with participation from students at Los Angeles Leadership Academy, a social justice charter school that prepares urban secondary students to succeed in life.
Provided with digital cameras and video equipment, students worked with KCET producers to create a visually compelling online experience in which visitors can casually scroll through the river’s many personalities or explore in-depth through audio interviews and video portraits with community leaders, activists and residents. In addition, FoLAR complemented the production by designing a comprehensive curriculum that included in-class presentations and field trips - all designed to raise awareness about the significance of the river and the challenges faced by those engaged in restoration and clean-up efforts.
“This is one of the most comprehensive online documentaries about the Los Angeles River,” says Juan Devis, KCET New Media producer, who blogged about his experiences throughout the project’s production process at KCET’s Web Stories site. “The scope of the project included environmental lessons and hands-on multimedia training for students that empowered them to help us tell this amazing story from multiple perspectives.”
Departures: L.A. River is one of four youth media initiatives, with support from the Adobe Youth Voices Venture Fund, that are inspiring young people to work with educators in their communities to create compelling digital media content. Through the PBS Foundation, three PBS member stations — KCET in Los Angeles, WGBH in Boston, and WILL in Urbana, Ill. — and McNeil/ Lehrer Productions, producers of the PBS program The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, received funding for projects that offer outstanding educational value and youth engagement.
Departures: L.A. River is produced for KCET by Juan Devis, Director of Production, KCET New Media and co-produced by Justin Cram, in collaboration with Friends of the Los Angeles River. Multimedia and content curricula were created by Alica Katano, Friends of Los Angeles River; and KCET New Media Staff, under the leadership of Jackie Kain, Senior Vice President, KCET New Media. Historical Images appear courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library, SPARC and Metabolic Studios.
Student participants from Los Angeles Leadership Academy: Sandra Cach, Lizbeth Sierra, Arthur Salcedo, Brenda Ramos, Alma Sanchez, Yosselin Melgar, Kiara Hernandez, Jesus Hernandez, Vanessa Covarrubias, Gabriel Kim, Ely Hernandez, Cindy Irineo, Giovanni Jimenez, Yessenia Hernandez, Mengi Luo, Mo Rahman and John Aod Alvarez.
KCET, public television for Southern and Central California, offers extensive content at www.kcet.org, including web-exclusives and podcasts, plus complete episodes of the PBS series Frontline, NOW, Tavis Smiley, Bill Moyers Journal and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Daily webcasts of NewsHour and Nightly Business Report are also available. Each issue of Web Stories offersan insider’s glimpse of the cultural diversity found in Los Angeles.