Meet-a-Member | Ed Fillmer

May 9, 2018 | Collin Hadley

Ed Fillmer, a local video journalist working from Springfield, boarded the bus of this school-bus-driver-veteran on the very last day of his 50-year-long school bus route. For over 5 decades he’d been driving the same, single school bus route in West Plains, Missouri.

“What I didn’t know was that this man was something of a highly respected figure by 50 years of kids that he had hauled.”

This guy was also a farmer. He helped people. Not only physically by helping them cut or haul wood, but he helped them emotionally. He was the person that the community knew they could come to talk to about almost anything. Fifty years worth of children and their children had shown up on this final day to talk about how he was such a gentleman, such a mentor. Even though he was just a simple man in coveralls, he was beloved.

“He’s passed away since. Doing that story reminded me of how I want my work, and my influence, and my personal being to be respectful, influential; I gather thousands of stories because I care about people in them. I really cared about that bus driver. Didn’t know him before. I think about how in his quiet and gentle way, and by doing a story on him, he influenced me to be a better member of the community, a better citizen, and a better friend.”

Ed has worked the past 20 years as a freelance video journalist. Over the span of his career, he’s worked for KY3, National Geographic, and freelanced for the Associated Press, as well as many other news outlets from around the country. As of February 19th, 2018, Ed’s channel has more than 350,000 views on YouTube, with at least 130 videos from his 40+ year career.

Growing up in Marshfield, Missouri, Ed had always known he wanted to be a journalist. But back then there just weren’t many journalism schools, and the University of Missouri was just too expensive. Exposed to local TV news after moving to Texas, Ed had tried to get a job in the industry, but without any experience he just couldn’t do it.

Moving back to Springfield, he started with part-time work, eventually leading into full-time work with KY3. Self-taught and learning along the way, he gained one advantage: KY3 sent him to a week long TV intensive training bootcamp in Oklahoma.

This really kickstarted his career in video journalism, where he learned how to really tell stories and be a storyteller. It was here where he learned about the importance of telling the stories of people who weren’t in the headlines.

“It’s always been important. Before television and radio, every town had a newspaper. Who’s doing what, what the issues were. I grew up with the Marshfield Mail. They had people, mostly women, who would report on their community every week. So-and-so was with so-and-so, Joe Smith’s son came down to visit from St. Louis. The reason that local journalism is important, is it’s a tradition in America because of the Freedom of the Press.

The Freedom of the Press enabled journalism, when the founding fathers decided realized they didn’t have that in European countries, they set a good example for what the country could do with information. Journalism in the past was controlled by the government, now it represents the interests of the people. It can report on the way the government is being run— arts, science and a whole range of things interesting to the people. Local journalism became important in towns large and small across America. Frankly, not enough happened in a day. But cities like Springfield had a daily newspaper or two for a century and a half. A morning paper and an evening paper.”

Q: As a video journalist, do you think that film is beginning to experience a resurgence?

“I haven’t shot film in decades. Have no intention of going back. It’s expensive. Time-consuming and a burden. I would be gone for a week at a time with a film camera. And I had to process thousands of feet of film. It was just so time consuming, and then editing it. You had only one chance to get it right, because you would slice it. You don’t want to slice it in the wrong place.”

“It’s just a different discipline. A digital camera has room for thousands of photos. With a film camera, you have 36 images. And then you have to change the film. So you have to have a discipline to get it right the first time. That’s what is missing with digital photography.”

“Young people are learning about the difference in image quality between image and film. They want to learn how to “do it the hard way I guess” digital manipulation is easy, (in film you can’t see what you’ve done) you have to have a discipline to make sure you’ve done it right the first time. With digital you have a lot more to choose from and a lot more to wade through. To become a visual storyteller you have to set yourself apart to become a storyteller. I kinda absorbed it naturally as a child while reading things like National Geographic and realized the images and photos were telling a story just as much as the text.”

Q: In the KSMU piece with Scott Harvey you point to Ozark Life Online, but with only 2-3 videos, it appears to be out of date – what’s with that?? How can we see the digitized content on social media?

“Many years ago, before the Ozark Life online, the clips were given to College of the Ozarks. Just sat on the shelf for 10 years. After moving back from Colorado, went back to CofO and got the tapes. I bought a digital recorder and transferred all those hours of film.”

“KY3 on April 1st 2016 was sold to a large corporation of TV stations. They informed us before it was sold that they had to switch to a platform that the corporation owned. Made the switch. Everything in the archive, including my stories disappeared overnight. Only a month ago did we finally figure out how to finally start loading those stories back online. (The easiest way to see Ed’s work is on the YouTube channel.)”

“It’s an involved process. Eventually, all those stories will be back online. I’m doing that in conjunction with the History Museum on the Square, it just takes time.”

Q: What is Ozark Life Online exactly?

“From when I created old stories in the 80’s. It’s a franchise about what’s going on in the Ozarks  – doing stories on people not normally in the headlines (ghost towns, general stores, Route 66, people from the Ozarks having adventures around the world).”

“Hundred’s of old stories about people of the Ozarks, 3-4 stories of the week (unpaid) – it’s part of the collaboration with the History Museum on the Square and KY3. The History Museum appointed me to be Journalist in Residence.”

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