What We Do & Who We Are
Before we tell you about our background we’d like to answer one of the most frequently asked questions about “How’s Your News?” This question is: “Should I find this material offensive?”
The short, simple answer is: no. We fully understand why people would express concern upon hearing the concept behind HYN, but we’d hope anyone with such concerns would take a look at the films we’ve made and get to know the background of this project. All of our reporters, and their families, are very proud of “How’s Your News?”, and yes, they like to laugh at it too. Anyone who lives with a disability, or lives with someone with a disability, knows that a sense of humor is absolutely essential. Without it, our days would be immeasurably more difficult. This is one of the reasons we love HYN, because it shows the lighter side of life with a disability, among other things. The disability community has widely embraced this project, often using our films for training or inspirational purposes. Far from being offensive, HYN provides a positive, empowering view of life with a disability. That’s our opinion. Please watch our films and let us know what YOU think!
And now, the background:
Below is our account of the story, but, really, if you want to listen to a great, fun account of HYN, please check out this episode of “This American Life”. It’s got all the relevant info, and is a fun listen.
How’s Your News first began over 15 years ago at a summer camp for adults with disabilities in Massachusetts. We were working in video class and searching for a format which could include as many people, with as wide an array of disabilities, as possible. So we began making our own news shows.
One day we decided to bring some reporters downtown to interview people on the street. These first two reporters were Bobby Bird and Sean Costello, two men with Down Syndrome. The interviews they conducted were both funny and sweetly revealing. When we screened them for the camp community we got a great response. We kept making videos with other reporters from the camp and at the end of the summer we compiled a vhs video tape of our favorite man-on-the-street interviews and made copies for our friends and family. Those tapes got copied and passed around and one ended up in the hands of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who were just two struggling filmmakers at the time. They contacted HYN director Arthur Bradford and told him they’d love to see more videos like this. The three of them struck up a friendship and when Parker and Stone hit it big with South Park, they offered to finance a short documentary staring reporters from the summer camp. Bradford and some of the other counselors put together a team and the first “How’s Your News?” video was made in 1998.
In 2002 the team released a feature film about a cross country road trip with five reporters with disabilities. This was financed again by Parker and Stone as well as Indie film legend John Pierson. This film won several festival awards and was broadcast on HBO/Cinemax, PBS, and Channel Four England.
In 2004 we released a short documentary about our trips to the Democratic and Republican National conventions which featured very candid interviews with public figures such as Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Ben Affleck, Peter Jennings, Al Franken, G. Gordon Liddy, Andre 3000, and many more. The NY Times called it, “The highlight of tonight’s election programming..cuts through the hype in ways the pros often could not”.
This half hour TV special led us to start thinking about the possibility of a HYN series.
We pitched the series idea to several networks and MTV agreed to finance a short pilot which we made in 2006. In late 2007 MTV gave us the greenlight and we began shooting a six episode series in 2008. It played for one season in 2009 and got great reviews. Tom Shales of the Washington Post called it “Upbeat and moving…the show is a genre all to itself… funny in ways that nothing else on TV is funny… a chance to look through someone else’s eyes and see the world in ways you’ve never seen it before.”
We all took a break after the MTV series. Several of our reporters developed health problems and we sadly said good-bye to Ronnie Simonsen and Larry Perry, who died within a year of each other in 2010. In 2012, with the election season heating up, we decided to rev up the old “How’s Your News?” engines once again. We applied for, and received, press passes to the Republican and Democratic conventions and headed to Tampa and Charlotte to make our newest film, “Election 2012″. It’s available for download at howsyournews.com and we hope you’ll watch it and support this one of a kind media adventure!
”Upbeat and moving…the show is a genre all to itself…funny in ways that nothing else on TV is funny…The show isn’t really “about” mental disabilities; it’s just a chance to look through someone else’s eyes and see the world in ways you’ve never seen it before. It could be part of a course in the humanities, or just a course in humanity. It’s also a wickedly entertaining half-hour, one you’ll never regret having surrendered to your television set.”
How’s Your News? is one of the most eye-popping, feel-good, and surreal shows that MTV has ever featured. There is nothing like it anywhere on TV, for that matter.
Great in depth interview with reporter Jeremy Vest and Director Arthur Bradford on the NPR show “The Sound of Young America”
“…in case it’s not apparent by now, one Web commentary gets it precisely wrong when it accuses the show of being a comedy that uses “handicapped people as the punch line” and concludes, “Can’t get too much more offensive than that.” In fact, if any viewer can get to know these seven personalities — can watch Harrington debating the merits of medical marijuana with passers-by on the street, or Bird bullshitting with Silverman and Kimmel, or Vest interviewing an acid casualty on Venice Beach — and still feel that way, it probably says more about the viewer than the show’s producers, who’ve succeeded wildly and hilariously at their professed goal: to show the disabled in a light that’s “less sentimental and more empowering.”
“When I first saw the internet version, I remember first feeling a little guilty or awkward for laughing at people with disabilities on-screen. But when I watched the MTV episodes in entirety with the BBV crew, I started to feel like I knew these people, and was more comfortable with it the more I watched. Maybe part of the lesson here is that people with disabilities are real people. They don’t need me to feel “precious” or “protective” about them. It is okay to laugh with them, and when they are being funny in a comedy series, it’s okay to laugh at them, too. Not as people to be pitied, just as people.”