Anna Weggel and Jeff Jones talking with MPR’s Tom Weber about the Minnesota Marriage Videos project.

More at MPRNews.org.

Two journalists from the Public Insight Network at American Public Media have been taking a slow and steady approach to gathering the stories, opinions and experiences of people on all sides of the proposed Minnesota Marriage Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment destined for the MN ballot in November.

In November 2012, voters will be asked to decide if the Minnesota Constitution should be amended to say that “only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage” in Minnesota. Watch these sources from the Public Insight Network share the stories behind their votes. Share the story behind your vote at http://bit.ly/mnmarriage. -Anna Weggel and Jeff Jones

So far the project has more than a dozen videos, all using a common approach: they let people tell their own stories.  The lead-in to each video is a shot of the person describing something about their perspective, without revealing how they will vote.  Then a cut to the person holding up a sign with a YES, NO, or ?.

And then we dive in.  It’s a fascinating project that you can only do if you start early, and believe deeply that empathy for everyone’s story is a key value for you as a journalist and something you care about imparting to the audience.

What I love about the project (disclaimer: I work with these guys), as someone who thinks a lot about how we see and how we are seen, is that it forces the viewer to challenge his or her assumptions.  When watching the subject of each video begin to talk, how do you think they’ll vote?  Do you like them?  Do you want to like them?  Do you think they share your values?  When their vote is revealed, how does that make you feel? Does it make you reexamine how you may have judged the person?  Does it make you reexamine your own values and assumptions?

So far the project has lived on Youtube.  As the election gets closer, I expect the videos will be available on MPR News.  This collection together with MPR News coverage of the amendment could make for one of — if not the — most comprehensive packages of coverage on the marriage amendment.