Live journalism experience Pop-Up Zine comes to Northwestern for one night only


Aaron Wang/The Daily Northwestern

Medill sophomore Jamaica Ponder interviews fellow students onstage during Pop-Up Zine. The students were chosen from a survey that asked questions like, ‘where have you cried on campus?’ and ‘what is the weirdest thing you’ve seen at the arch?’

Abigail Sutter, Reporter

A group of undergraduate and graduate Medill students performed stories Thursday night in Pop-Up Zine: a live journalism experience where stories are told through multimedia to a live audience.

Pop-Up Zine is a chance for collaborators to create their own version of the nationally touring Pop-Up Magazine show for their local communities. Northwestern received the only Chicago license and the only license for college students.

Aine Dougherty, a Medill senior and Editor in Chief of Pop-Up Zine NU, spoke to that hyperlocality, saying it’s one of the things that makes Pop-Up Zine a special performance.

“We wanted them to have a little bit of a local angle or something that will resonate specifically with our Northwestern and Chicago audience,” Dougherty said.

The stories reflected this wish — examples included the story of a Skokie man dreaming of playing for the Cubs and a physical chain of NU students connected by campus experiences.

The project began in the fall of 2018 when a group of NU students, Dougherty included, went to see Pop-Up Magazine’s show in Chicago. After reaching out about the possibility of bringing the experience to NU, they were told about the Pop-Up Zine program and discovered the organization had been in contact with Medill professor Patti Wolter. From there, the process continued moving forward.

Medill senior Daniel Fernandez, the editorial director for the show, and Dougherty both agreed that a difficult part of the process was choosing which stories to tell. Six stories appeared in the final show, chosen from a couple dozen pitches.

Each story utilized a different multimedia element. One piece about the memories that can hold a family together was told through photographs, while another used shadow theater to tell the story of a boy daydreaming about the moon. The show also included a performance from Prom D8, a student band that played original songs.

Fernandez said the experience was both personal and intimate considering the show was a one-night-only viewing experience.

“Pop-up is ephemeral, you only get to watch it once,” Fernandez said. “That creates a certain amount of responsibility that you don’t typically have as a journalist, in that we really have to be astonishingly clear.”

This resulted in debates over the minutiae of how long a photo should appear and when, as well as the right time and amount of audio to include, Fernandez said.

Another distinct feature of the process for the team was the fact that it was a live performance. Having always worked in print and audio, Fernandez said he was excited to watch the audience’s reaction in real time.

“That’s not often something we get to see as journalists — how does your work viscerally affect people or how does it not affect people,” Fernandez said.

Weinberg sophomore Afnan Elsheikh and Bienan sophomore Anne Teeling were two of the people chosen from a survey to make the physical representation of campus connections.

Although both were unsure of how the production would play out, Elsheikh and Teeling agreed that it was incredibly impactful to hear somebody speak their journalistic pieces.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Elsheikh said. “Whatever my expectations were, it was above and beyond.”

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