Media and Communications: Narratives of Inequality

The Cook Center Media Workshop

Harnessing the power of storytelling to create social change

The Cook Center Media Workshop is a group of student interns dedicated to using media and storytelling to create social change. Under the direction of documentary filmmaker and Artist in Residence Bruce Orenstein, students direct, edit and produce videos that highlight issue of social and economic inequality in North Carolina. Orenstein is committed to working in collaboration with community leaders and advocates, and his students have produced videos for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Democracy NC, and the North Carolina NAACP. The group embodies the philosophy that giving a human voice to statistics on poverty and unjust social policy is a powerful tool for informing policymaking in the present, and working towards a more equitable future.

Past projects have examined racial inequality in Durham’s school-to-prison pipeline, shed light on the challenges facing North Carolina’s low-wage workers and analyzed the impact of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. These videos have been featured on a multitude of platforms including ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, UNC Public Radio, the 2013 Summer Retreat of Congressional Democrats, and the 2015 Oral History Association National Conference. The group is currently expanding on a traveling exhibit on North Carolina’s low-wage economy, and working on a video about the impact of the state legislature's decision to cut funding for an Earned Income Tax Credit, an anti-poverty program that once benefited thousands of North Carolina’s working families.

Leadership Team
  • Bruce Orenstein, Director of "Telling Our Stories Student Working Group" and documentary filmmaker/Artist in Residence at the Arts of the Moving Image program and Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, Duke University
  • Ashlyn Nuckols, Co-founder and Media Intern,"Telling Our Stories Student Working Group," and junior at Duke University studying cultural anthropology and political science


Shame of Chicago











A series of mini-documentaries produced and directed by Bruce Orenstein, Artist in Residence at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, entitled "Shame of Chicago" tells the story of how Chicago became so sharply segregated, with consequences we see today. Learn more about the documentary series here

School to Prison Pipeline 

Trying to Get By Exhibit

Trying to Get By: [Not] Making Ends Meet in North Carolina, an exhibit sponsored by the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and Center for Documentary Studies, features video vignettes that document the struggles hardworking low-wage earners face in today’s low-wage service economy, including compelling on-camera testimonies from North Carolina’s home health care workers, early childhood educators, house cleaners, fast food workers, and adjunct professors. Curated by Duke University students from a selection of thirty-five student-produced videos, Trying to Get By: [Not] Making Ends Meet in North Carolina attaches a human face to today’s disquieting statistics about workers who lack paid vacations, health care, and paid leave, while being vulnerable to wage theft and management abuse. 

To see more videos and learn more about the Trying to Get By exhibit, visit our project website.