As the end of the year approaches, I feel it’s time to disclose some of the sweet perks I enjoyed as the Forward’s video reporter. Just to confess and get clean for 2015.
1) I got to travel
The best thing about being a video reporter is that you can’t do your interviews over the phone. You have to go out into the world. That’s how I escape my sun-deprived office desk on a regular basis.
For “Cracow Crescendo” I traveled to Poland to capture the voices of a new choir at the local JCC. Listen closely. Between song lines, you can hear the cautious hope for a Jewish revival.
For “Nomadic Love” I walked the gritty streets of Berlin with artist Liad Hussein Kantorowicz, who told me how the German capital has become a magnet for soul-searchers from Israel.
And for “Scars in the Garden” I stepped deep into the mud of East Detroit to learn about a community farm where African-Americans and Jews come together to harvest a new era of trust.
2) I got backstage access
My job exposes me to all kinds of bizarre business practices of which I was previously unaware.
For the “Tiniest Victim of Passover Cleaning” I got to peek at the professionals who specialize in pre-Pesach cleaning operations and charge good amounts of money to wipe out every speck of hametz.
While working on “Orthodox Wig World” I learned everything about religious Jewish wigs that I was afraid to ask.
And I spent a whole day with a “Nice Jewish Exterminator.” Moshe Stein kills New York’s hardiest bedbugs, ants, rats and roaches — all while obeying the Torah’s warnings against causing unnecessary pain to animals. The downside: I felt itchy weeks after the shoot.
3) I got to laugh
This year I had the chance to meet a lot of witty women who are fearlessly funny.
For “Comedy About Choice” I interviewed Jenny Slate about her role in “Obvious Child,” a film that deals with abortion in a new way by showing a woman’s ownership over her own mistakes.
In “Drawing the Last Chapter” New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast told me how she turned her parents’ demise into a tragicomic graphic memoir. It’s the type of book that makes you cry and laugh simultaneously.
And for my video profile of “Ruth Bader Ginsburg” I met a young law student who turned her intellectual crush into the latest Internet sensation.
4) I got free career advice
For “Women on Top” I shadowed three powerful female CEOs who shared insights on how to challenge sexism in the workplace. I also learned how to negotiate my salary.
5) I got free food
For “Lox Me Tender” I had the pleasure of munching on thinly sliced lox behind the Zabar’s fish counter. I also heard more about lox and lovemaking than I had initially sought out when I started working on the story.
6) I got to see secrets. Lots of them.
As a video reporter, I meet strangers in their offices, cars and bedrooms. I ask them about their hair, their parents and their salaries. Some of these secrets unfold in my films. But the rest I try to keep to myself.
Martyna Starosta is the digital media producer of the Forward.