Mark Horvath: Telling an Untold Story
"I don't ever want to admit that I'm a blogger," Mark Horvath told a group of bloggers and hyperlocal site editors in downtown Los Angeles. "But I guess I can't do that anymore."
The truth is that Horvath hates to write. But he created and runs the blog Invisible People, which challenges traditional notions of homelessness with raw video interviews and text about real people who live on the streets. He shared his site in downtown Los Angeles with a group convened to discuss "Community Health and the Blogosphere" (#uscbloggercon on Twitter).
Motivation to tell these tough stories comes from many places, but Horvath saw a hole in the dialogue. The service sector and media, he said, have not done their jobs in educating the public on homelessness. The number of children on the street, for example, is increasing. Homeless people are families, veterans and even 9/11 heroes. They are Mark Horvath himself, who lost his home to foreclosure and spent time on the streets.
"Everything revolves around stories," he said. A former television executive who has distributed shows like "Wheel of Forune" and "Married With Children," he is now committed to raw, unedited videos. Invisible People is authentic; rather than focusing on production values, he focuses on letting people tell their own stories.
Horvath interviewed Brian, a 54-year-old Vietnam veteran in Iowa who has been "chronically homeless" and was recently diagnosed HIV-positive. "I'm after perceptions, and what I would have done as an editor is cut all the addiction stuff out of there because I want you to love Brian," Horvath said. "But I can't do that. I have to tell the truth."
Homelessness is not an easy sell for mass media, which Horvath calls "legacy media." "For mainstream media, homelessness is not a sexy topic unless it's Thanksgiving or Christmas," he says. But he hopes that with sustained relationships and by knowing the right people, he get more stories about the homeless into the public consciousness. The effects of changing perceptions are huge, he says. Empathy can be an excellent force for activism around social services, donations and help for the homeless.
"How can a guy with nothing - an iPhone, Twitter, a blog - start changing the world?" asked Horvath. "You just have to go and do it. Great people are just ordinary people who don't quit."