Archives for posts with tag: Journalism

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APRIL 1: The Wayne State University Department of Communication is accepting applications for  the 2016 Summer Doctoral Seminar with Dr. Donald Shaw. Theme: Agendamelding — How we use traditional and social media to connect community. Dates: June 13-16, 2016.

Modern media audiences are very active in the way they are using traditional and social media. In fact, they are melding the agendas from these two types of media to connect with community that is personally satisfying. So there is a loss in vertical power of traditional media but a gain in personal satisfaction. How will social systems adjust to all this?

Donald Shaw (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin at Madison) is a writer and communication scholar, and is associated with agenda-setting research. With Maxwell McCombs of the University of Texas at Austin and David Weaver of Indiana University, he is attempting to expand agenda-setting research into a comprehensive behavioral theory connecting media and society. Shaw is Kenan professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Attendees receive paid travel, paid lodging and paid meals.

To apply: Application materials include curriculum vitae, a letter of support from academic adviser, and 500-word statement about how the seminar fits with the student’s long term research and teaching goals.

Applications are due March 1 April 1, 2016, to Lee Wilkins, Ph.D.; Professor and Chair; Department of Communication; 591 Manoogian Hall – WSU; Detroit, MI 48201. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Michael Fuhlhage at fr1136@wayne.edu or Dr. Wilkins at Lee.Wilkins@wayne.edu. We welcome applications via email or snail mail.

Successful students distinguish themselves from their struggling classmates in many ways. The contrast is particularly sharp during end-of-semester grading, which I just wrapped up last night for a journalism course in news reporting. If I could offer advice to those who struggled before they began the term, these are the things I would tell them they need to do to succeed:

  1. Go to class every day.
  2. Be interested in the subject being taught. If the course is in your major, it should be easy to be genuinely enthusiastic about it. If it is not in your major but a required course, use the “fake it until you make it” approach. This involves what theater people refer to in their audiences as “willful suspension of disbelief.” That concept refers to spectators at a play setting aside their immersion in their day-to-day reality in order to immerse themselves in the lives of the characters of the play. That is, they let themselves care about those characters as if they were people they cared about in real life. You can do the same in a non-major, required course, but accept that you are one of the players and your role is that of one of the people immersed in that field of study. My play is News Reporting, and I play the part of an editor (which I was for a dozen years, seventeen if you include my work at the Columbia Missourian). If you are a student in that class, you play the role of a reporter, and you learn to be a reporter by doing the things reporters do. Do this, and you just might convince yourself that you really are fascinated by the subject.
  3. Beware of absent presence. This is when the student is physically present in the classroom but mentally absent. Pay attention to the instruction taking place there. Not all of it comes from the professor. Much of it comes from discussion with classmates and hands-on exercises. It should go without saying, but successful students avoid using their cell phone unless specifically directed to do so in connection with a class exercise.
  4. Be aware that even when instructors do not take attendance, missing class has consequences. Those include falling behind the rest of the class; missing graded in-class lab assignments; misunderstanding the instructions for homework because you did not ask for clarification when needed before doing the assignment; missing quizzes; missing hands-on instruction.
  5. Get notes from a reliable classmate. Especially do this if you must miss a class on account of an emergency like an illness or a court date that you just cannot change. But at least once in the semester, swap notes with a classmate who takes thorough notes. Compare yours with theirs. Are you getting everything that they did? If not, work at writing down key points. It is so easy to forget what we see and hear. It really baffles me when I talk and the pens aren’t moving. Generally, you’ll remember only about 30 percent of what you hear without writing it down. The act of writing notes with pen or pencil helps cement what you have learned in your deep memory. Want proof? Here it is.
  6. Be careful about whom you judge to be reliable. Make friends with a student or students who really have their act together and borrow notes from them if you have to miss a class.
  7. Keep close track of deadlines for assignments. Don’t mix them up with each other. Find an organization strategy that works for you and stick to it. Also, being present in class will help make sure you know when the instructor decides to push back a deadline to give you more time to complete an assignment.
  8. Read the directions for assignments.
  9. Follow those directions closely.
  10. Turn in assignments on time. If I had to pick two things that hiring editors ask me about the most when deciding whether to offer an internship to a college student, they would be “Do they follow directions and respond to feedback?” and “Can I rely on them to meet deadline?” You get that question less about candidates for full-time, paid work after graduation because successful completion of an internship usually means the answer to both questions is “yes.”
  11. Give yourself time to re-read and revise your work before you turn it in. Do this even if the final grade will be based on a revision.
  12. When given the opportunity to revise, fix every error that your instructor points out to you.
  13. If you need help, ask for it. That does not mean to ask for an extension; journalism is a deadline business, and those who cannot meet deadlines find it difficult to stay in it for long. Rather, ask when you don’t understand how you are supposed to do something BEFORE deadline.

These next pointers are just for journalism students:

  1. Read, watch and listen to high-quality journalism. Want to be a writer for a news site, magazine or newspaper? Find it in the New York Times and Washington Post. Want to be a TV journalist? Find it by watching 60 Minutes, Face the Nation and the CBS Evening News. Want to be a photojournalist? Find it in the National Geographic and the New York Times photo blog, Lens. If you’re at Wayne State University, you don’t have to look far to find high-quality print, photography and video storytelling: Turn to the Detroit Free Press. Nor do you have to look far to find high-quality radio journalism: Tune your dial to WDET-FM.
  2. Identify your heroes in journalism and emulate what they do.
  3. Be careful about whom you deem your journalism heroes. Some rise quickly by cutting corners. But if they play fast and loose with the facts, their sourcing, or the originality of their work, they are eventually called out on it.
  4. Never misspell a name in a news story. Bad things happen to your grade if you do this in a class. Worse things happen to your career prospects on the job.

If you can make all of those things a part of your set of skills and attitudes, you will have much greater chances for success in the classroom or in the newsroom.

Buried leads (or to the old-school journalist, “ledes”) are a common problem for beginning journalism students. As I read a particularly long, throat-clearing buried lead, I had a Chance the Gardener thought. If you have seen “Being There,” you will get what I mean by that. If not, watch this. If you don’t need the reminder, here is what occurred to me. It is quite lengthy; I will try to remember it all:

It is important to remove the weeds from the garden. If you do not remove them, they will take up all the sunlight and the flowers in the garden will die. But if you remove the weeds, the flowers will get sun and bloom. You must be careful to keep weeding because they will try to come back and overgrow the garden.

Getting to the point matters.

That is particularly true in a relatively short story of, say, 500 words. Throat-clearing leads — those that take too long to deliver the most critical information and/or the news peg — waste space. Say in 75 words what you could say in 20 and you choke out room for a couple of quotes or more details about the event you’re writing about.

Throat-clearing leads also try your reader’s patience. A short story is usually not the right piece to attempt a scene-setter lead. Adequate scene-setting takes space. It is a form of ornamentation that works extraordinarily well if you have the space for it. There is a place for narrative and scene-setting leads in the news just as there is a place for certain kinds of plants in a large-enough garden.

But plants that are beneficial in one context are harmful in others. In the wrong place, they become weeds. I love mint, but if you let it out of a container and onto your yard it will take over the whole place and the other plants will die because the mint consumes all the water and sunlight and soil nutrients.

Put the plant of ornamentation in the wrong space and you have introduced weeds to the garden of your words that choke out quotes, context and details that would help the reader learn more about the subject rather than wonder what you left out in order to write that lengthy lead.

UPDATED

New York Times Insider has a fascinating piece by Gretchen Morgenson on how she broke into journalism, switched to a Wall Street job, and parleyed her “workingman’s M.B.A.” into a position as a finance columnist for the Paper of Record. It’s a model of the job-hunt process I described this week to students pondering their futures.

In my last week as a journalism teacher at Auburn University this week, I advised my students about how to hunt for journalism jobs. The venn diagram for this is one circle consisting of “Great jobs” and another consisting of “Great places to live.” One hopes you’d be able to find a job where the circles overlap. If not, you have to decide which is more important and work your way toward a position in which you are able to have both.

How do you get a job at the New York Times? Your first option is to be so good they can’t ignore you right now because you have your professors’ highest recommendations, you’ve had one or more prestigious internships, and have the skills, talent and drive to succeed at the Times right now. If you haven’t done all that, then you need to become so good they can’t ignore you. That includes finding out where the Times hires from and what skills and experience they want you to have, then do all you can to attain them.

Building a career in journalism works a lot like a baseball player working one’s way up through the minor leagues to the majors. If you’re pretty good but inexperienced, you can move from Single-A to Double-A to Triple-A to the Major Leagues incrementally. For me, that meant a few years in Double-A (papers with circulations between 20,000 and 42,000) to Triple A (a paper around 80,000 circulation) to the majors (where I finally started earning something approximating middle-class pay).

It also helps to start with the goal in mind.

When I started out, I wanted to work at the Des Moines Register or the Oregonian. So I found out the “feeders,” papers that were stepping stones to them, then made it my mission to get good enough that my work would be noticed and I could move up.

Funny things happen on the way to your destination, though. Your goals can change.

I discovered I liked being a big cog in a smaller machine in a more laid-back Western culture rather than a little cog in a big machine in a more formal work culture. Realizing that led me to leave Des Moines after I got there as a senior copy editor and go to the Santa Fe New Mexican, which I sincerely believe was the best community newspaper in the United States in the years I was there. When an editor at the Oregonian asked if I’d like to work there, I was too in love with what I was doing in Santa Fe to leave.

So you never know how your goals will change. Doing well for myself was important to me from the start, but doing good for others through journalism became too important for me to want to leave New Mexico at that time.

The American Dream is to better one’s condition throughout life. Morgenson shows you can do a lot of good for others while doing well. Her example shows you don’t always arrive at your ultimate destination on your first try. Life is full of transitions.

Speaking of transitions, I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge one of my own. I taught my last sessions at Auburn University this week, and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my great students and colleagues at Auburn University. It’s been gratifying to see how much so many journalism students have grown in my time here.

For my next chapter, I’m on my way to the Motor City to take a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at Wayne State University, where I’ll be joining some old friends from my M.A. days at the Missouri School of Journalism and making a whole bunch of new friends in a program that’s deeply committed to hard news and diversity. Detroit has a great, innovative culture, and in teaching Multimedia Journalism this semester, the innovation bug bit me HARD.

Thanks, Auburn, for hiring me out of my doctoral program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and giving me the opportunity to grow as a teacher and scholar. I’ll always have a warm place in my heart for the Loveliest Village on the Plains.

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