The dissertation participants include: jimi izrael, a moderator on NPR’s The Barbershop
and author of The Denzel Principle: Why Black Women Can’t Find Good Black Men (2010);
Kasumi, a 2011 Guggenheim recipient, now working on a feature-length experimental
narrative entitled Shockwaves; Carol E. Beck, an international video producer for name-
brand corporate accounts like Mercedes Benz, The Coca-Cola Company, IBM, Panasonic,
etc., while also following her passion for Buddhism by documenting monastic projects for
the Emory-Tibet Partnership in India; Marc Jaffe, a comedian and writer, is now
incorporating both of these skills in his foundation, Shaking With Laughter, which is raising
money for Parkinson’s disease research; Alan McElroy a screenwriter, whose latest
screenplay is scheduled to be produced by X-Men’s Ralph Winter and directed by Akiva
Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man); Steven Tatar, entrepreneur currently
rebranding Ohio Knitting Mills, Internet designer and former creative head of American
Greetings; Kate Farrell reality television executive producer with WE-tv; Ayad Rahim,
former New York Times Blogger and radio show host with a focus on the Middle East,
currently in graduate school; Sheryl White a copywriter for major national accounts;
Laura Paglin; filmmaker and documentarian; and Bill Cavanaugh, audio engineer MTV,
VHI, History Channel, Nova, Discovery, etc.
The Conversations
Since media is a relationally networked business, I connected with people that I have
worked with in the past or had familiarity with their projects. I visited with all the project
participants and had in-depth relaxed conversations in the summer of 2010. We had some
time to reconnect beforehand so the atmosphere was casual, comfortable, and collegial. I
invited them into a conversation with some common overlapping questions. Our
discussions meandered but often touched on professional issues that pervade their
personal lives such as aging in a youth-fixated industry; how the nature of the industry has
changed over the years; the influence of technology; the challenges and rewards of
working as a freelancer; future plans and whether the work was sustainable; and lessons
they could offer to someone in order to successfully navigate the industry.
Sense Making: The Appreciative Reflection
For each of the participants, the time of the interview (2010) coincided with a severe
economic recession. It was easy to be cynical about work and working. All the participants
had a long career with plenty of highs and lows. Instead of focusing on a “deficit
discourse” (Gergen, 1994), the Appreciative Reflection was a positive profile with
conversational takeaways that offered valuable insight on how to navigate the freelance life.
The Appreciative Reflection was inspired by my deep interest in Appreciative Inquiry a
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