Journalistic alumnus explores American dream

Elizabeth Cochrane, better known as Nellie Bly, was a 20th century journalist who reported from inside New York asylums to bring about reform. The creators of her namesake organization, the Bly Project, are reporting about American dreams to bring about discussion and reflection.

Geneseo alumnus Pete Wayner ‘11 and Roberts Wesleyan College alumni Leah Stacy and Kevin Kennedy make up Team Bly, a group of determined, dream-seeking journalists who traveled cross-country to redefine the American dream.

From Sept. 14 until Oct. 3, Team Bly drove from Rochester to Austin, Texas with stops in Southbury, Conn., Brooklyn, N.Y., Washington, D.C., Roanoke, Va. and Charleston, S.C.

To those they met on the journey, they posed two questions: “What is your version of the American dream?” and “What are you doing to pursue that dream?”

They will publish the answers to these questions and the stories that go along with them on the group’s website and in a book set for release in January 2013 titled American Dreamers.

In a phone conference, Wayner said his musings on American hope and a desire to explore travel and immersion journalism inspired the Bly Project.

“There are a lot of people saying … why other people are wrong or why America is not doing well. And while those things might be true, there are also a lot of good things that are going on. So we wanted to go toward the hope angle,” he said.

The group developed the idea for the project while all three members of Team Bly were living in Geneseo, but they were forced to incubate it for a few years while Wayner and Stacy pursued their master’s degrees at Syracuse Univsersity; Wayner obtained his in magazine, newspaper and online journalism and Stacy arts journalism.

According to Wayner, the members of Team Bly shared a common goal to “take advantage of the fact that media is a changing landscape in order to do something that is a little untraditional.”

Prior to its launch, the Bly Project gained a following on Facebook, Twitter and Kickstarter, a funding website for creative projects. The team reached its $3,750 fundraising goal before the trip ended.

Stacy, Kennedy and Wayner kept followers entertained and informed throughout their three-week excursion by leaving an extensive social media trail that included photos, videos, blog posts and social media updates.

Stacy said one of her favorite parts of the trip was the complexity of the interviewees.

“It was really eye opening to meet so many people from not only different parts of the states and different social or economic classes but to hear how their answers were really different.”

She added that the Bly Project taught her about the American dream.

“I learned that as you age your dream can change, and that’s OK,” Stacy said.

Wayner said some that of the best parts of his time at Geneseo were working for The Lamron and the Geneseo Scene, experiences that are still relevant to what he does today.

“[At Geneseo] I learned that everybody has a story; it’s not always obvious to you or to them, but I still think that it’s worth telling.”