Connecticut native embraces power of digital storytelling
GREENWICH — Fred McNulty is a man with a camera, on a mission to tell stories. But not in the usual way.
A generation ago, a young person three years out of college with an energetic disposition, a sense of curiosity about the world and good writing skills might have been angling for a spot on the features desk of a big-city daily newspaper or a local television station, or more ambitiously, a magazine job.
But McNulty is part of the YouTube generation, and those traditional slots in legacy media are not as plentiful as they used to be. So the young videographer has been following his own digital muse, combining technological savvy and plenty of old-fashioned shoe leather to carve out a new form of online journalism that bypasses traditional media, an increasingly common path.
The do-it-yourself journalist, outfitted with an iPhone and a $25 microphone, has been roaming all over the state of Connecticut in recent months, looking for interesting stories to capture and upload to the social-media platform that draws millions of viewers every day.
He has produced videos posted to YouTube on young people’s growing infatuation with horoscopes and New Age spiritualism. He profiled a coffee shop that allows patrons to bring their cats to mingle over espresso, Mew Haven, in the Elm City. He’s talked to an immigrant facing deportation in Meriden and interviewed a Hartford school teacher who helps the homeless through music. He has been working on recent piece about the state’s unusual borders, which took him to Greenwich recently to record some footage along the Byram River.
McNulty senses he’s part of new generation of innovators taking digital tools to new levels, sort of like being a part of the early days of television news.
“This is a unique time now, and I want to be part of a bigger media enterprise,” he said. “I’m able to do stories that aren’t getting covered. And I don’t have to answer to a boss or a company. It’s not the model for every journalist, but there’s a market for it, and I think I do good work.”
McNulty, who lives in the Old Saybrook area, has set up a Patreon account, allowing subscribers to pay to support the work. He’s looking for sponsors and hopes to eventually sell advertising on his YouTube videos. He has no illusions about the difficulties that one-man operations face in today’s media landscape, and he’s living at home. “It’s a difficult marketplace, and rising above that is difficult,” he says.
McNulty has been studying the Korean language in South Korea, and when he returned to Connecticut this year, an idea was born.
“I’m going to take some time off and see if I can make something work with online journalism,” McNulty said on his stop-over in Greenwich. He hosted a radio show when he was at Connecticut College, and the mix of personalities, conflicting viewpoints and lively talk gave him an enduring interest in the spoken arts.
McNulty does all the research, interviews, shooting and editing himself. He’s guided, he says, by his own curiosity, digging in “to a smorgasbord of interesting stuff.” He focuses on local issues, “or national issues that have a local focus,” he said.
Though he’s content to work as a one-man operator for now, his work could also be used as a solid portfolio should he decide to enter a more conventional career path.
There are more than a few one-man operators like McNulty working in the new-media landscape. It can be hard to discern where the growing media trend is headed and how it might make money, said one longtime media observer.
“If he wants it to be a business, I wonder where the revenue will come from,” said Paul Janensch, a former editor and educator from Bridgeport, who holds the title of emeritus professor at Quinnipiac University. “He has to decide what is his market.”
Janensch called McNulty’s output “pretty good journalism,” though he thought it could use some more editing and tighter pacing.
The ability to create stories and visual media with a hand-made approach was certainly intriguing, the former editor said. “It’s definitely a promising medium, to communicate directly with people,” said Janensch, “There is a future for this. There’s going to be a lot of junk, while some of it will be great. It will be hard to turn it into a business. But it’s definitely the future.”
McNulty’s website and videos can be found at www.mieummedia.com. The name refers to the Korean language and its version of the letter “M” and its and phonetic sound.