Campus / News / November 6, 2008

A voice for the voiceless

“What is your story? Who are you?” These are some of the questions Stephen Bloom asks as a critically acclaimed journalist. He came to Knox College to present the first Joe W. Morgan Memorial Lecture, sponsored in part by the Joe W. Morgan Memorial Fund, established by Ann Lee Morgan, ’62, in honor of her father, a longtime editor with United Press International. Bloom spoke about what he does as a journalist, how he goes about journalism, and what is important to him as a journalist.

Bloom said, “I think storytelling really is the oldest occupation we have, and I don’t think we get as much storytelling as we need to in journalism today.”

In 1984, photographer Peter Feldstein started a project of taking pictures of all the people of Oxford, Iowa. Twenty-one years later, Bloom asked what he did with the pictures. The result is Bloom’s newest book, The Oxford Project, which contains portraits and life stories of the small town residents. Bloom said, “My deal is to give voice to the voiceless.”

The book, The Oxford Project, features three panels. The first panel is the picture of a resident in 1984, the middle is an account of his or her life story, and the last panel is a picture taken two decades later. As Bloom interviewed these people, he wondered who they became and if they became what they wanted.

“People want to make meaning of their lives….If you’re interested….people will reward you with their stories,” said Bloom. The stories Bloom gathered were amusing, poignant, heart-wrenching, and every emotion in between, proving everyone has a story to tell. One resident, who was photographed being held by his father when he was two weeks old, told his story of losing his father at the age of ten. Another resident spoke about how he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and was the last surviving liberator of Buchenwald, a concentration camp.

In the Q & A, an audience member asked, “Why do [the voiceless] need to speak out?” Bloom responded, “I wanted to tap into their lives; it’s to give meaning to their lives…Someone’s got to do it, and I want to do it.”

Sheena Leano

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