college

PODCAST EPISODE #49: Vicki Michaelis, journalism professor, University of Georgia

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How can we help journalism students do better?

What are the things journalism students should know before they enter the business?

So many of us in this profession, I fear, rarely think about how we welcome newcomers into that profession. I grapple with it often and have written about it in several entries in this blog.

I have even authored a how-to book for aspiring local TV news reporters: The Solo Video Journalist, available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the publisher’s web site.

Vicki Michaelis has taken her own path to help our industry’s future. She became a nationally respected and renowned sportswriter, leading USA Today’s coverage of the Olympics on six different occasions. She also served as the president of the Association for Women in Sports Media.

Then she received an opportunity that she had not foreseen.

Michaelis, in 2012, learned of the chance to head the University of Georgia’s new sports journalism program. She applied for the job and got it, and for the past five years she has helped sculpt a wave of young sports reporters as they prepare for their grueling entry into the professional world.

Michaelis is my guest on Episode #49 of the Telling the Story podcast.

I really enjoyed this conversation, in which Michaelis gave important insights into the mindset of current journalism students. We also discussed, at length, my recent blog post about what I learned (and didn’t learn) in J-school. What should students expect to gain from a college journalism program? Michaelis and I dive deep into that topic.

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Ten years later, revisited: what I learned (and didn’t learn) in J-school

Nearly four years ago, and ten years removed from college, I embarked on a project to help young journalists in ways I felt I had missed.

I started the “Telling the Story” blog and used one of my first posts to reflect on my college experience. I titled the entry, “Ten years later: what I learned (and didn’t learn) in J-school”. I spoke of how my time at Northwestern University did not prepare me for the day-to-day realities of TV news, nor did it prevent me from feeling overwhelmed at my first job. It did, however, encourage me to think big, both about and beyond my career, and I have never forgotten.

Of the hundreds of posts I have written, “Ten years later” remains among the most popular.

Now I have unveiled a new project: a book called The Solo Video Journalist. It also aims to assist young storytellers; it does so by providing a how-to guide to the fastest-growing position in our field. Nearly every broadcast journalist who enters the field today must shoot and edit his or her own stories; many embrace that challenge and turn it into an advantage. My book draws upon my experiences, as well as those of eleven other MMJs, to offer foundations and solutions to the unique challenges of the solo life.

I had not connected the book with this post until I was approached about re-publishing “Ten years later” for the web site School Video News, in conjunction with a review of my book.

But as I re-read the post, I see how true it remains — and how much it informs The Solo Video Journalist.

The post notes how no college experience can stop a young professional journalist from feeling overwhelmed. The book takes direct aim at that problem by working to make that life more manageable. Operating as a one-woman or one-man band can be daunting, especially while also adjusting to adulthood and figuring out the rest of one’s life. I want my book to help ease that transition, all while encouraging young journalists to think big about what they can accomplish in this profession.

As for this post, I am now four years removed from writing it — and 14 years removed from attending J-school — and I completely stand by it.

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When people find out I work as a TV news reporter, they often ask where I went to college.

I tell them: “Northwestern University; the Medill School of Journalism.”

Then they ask: “Did you like it there?”

I tell the truth: “Absolutely.”

Then, assuming we do not start talking about the always-promising Northwestern football team, they usually say something along these lines:

“That’s a great school for journalism. You must have learned a lot there, right?”

I always give the short answer: “Yes.”

But I always wind up thinking later about how the long answer to that question is far more complicated.

This week marks a big anniversary for me. Ten years ago, I finished my last class at Northwestern. I graduated in June 2003, and I started working at my first TV station in July, but I left Northwestern’s lovely Evanston, Ill. campus in March, carrying all the ambition and eagerness expected of an aspiring journalist.

For a long time after I left, I thought mainly about what I had not learned — what I could not possibly have learned in my four years at journalism school.

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Interns, Part 2 (or the time I almost became famous)

“CLASSIC!”

That was the inside joke that rang regularly through the WCBS-TV sports office.

The room looked like nothing I have seen since in local television news. It was a traditional edit bay surrounded by multiple TVs showing different events, but it also included three rows of stadium seating so that nearly a dozen staffers could watch at once.

We interns were relegated to the middle row. On a given night, we would monitor the major New York sporting events — which, during the summer, typically meant Yankees and Mets games — and log the highlights. We would then report back to that night’s anchor about which ones he should use during the 11 pm sportscast.

Occasionally that anchor was a New York broadcasting legend: Warner Wolf.

By 2001 Wolf had worked in broadcasting for 40 years. He had developed a renowned catch phrase: “Let’s go to the videotape!” As an intern, I marveled at his ability to go off-script for highlights; Wolf stiff-armed the TelePrompter and simply wrote a few words on a piece of paper to guide him through the show.

Wolf had also, by this stage, become one of the few remaining examples of a full-blown New Yorker on local New York news. He neither looked nor spoke like a modern assembly-line anchor; he wore a thick accent and a brash yet kind-hearted demeanor.  This showed up behind the scenes, too; Wolf did not say much but, when he did, always commanded the room. Every now and then, Wolf would ask one of us interns to run down to the cafeteria and get him a sandwich; he would always give us enough money for our meals, as well.

And he would always ask for the same thing:

“I want a tomato sandwich … with a slice of cheese … and a bag of Lay’s potato chips … CLASSIC.”

His voice would then rise comically:

“That’s CLASSIC. None of that sow-uh cream s*** … none of that baw-be-cue s*** … CLASSIC!”

Wolf would then leave the room, and the inside joke would begin. (more…)

Interns (or, the value in thinking out loud)

“You know this is making me very uncomfortable, right?”

I said this in the car recently on the way to a shoot. My drive time at work usually consists of reflection. As a multimedia journalist, I produce stories by myself, which means I rarely ride with someone in the passenger seat. I spend most of my time thinking about either that day’s story or my overall outlook.

But this time was different.

This time, I was accompanied by an intern.

And that intern had questions.

And those questions forced me to speak aloud about my career, my journey, and my job in a way I seldom do.

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Summer brings into the newsroom a unique atmosphere. Colleagues take vacations, which leads to smaller staffing. Our viewers take vacations too, which usually means fewer story ideas and a reduced audience. The enormous May ratings period gives way to a less pressurized environment, and the June and July heat brings its own challenges in the field.

The season also brings interns — usually a handful on summer break from college. (more…)

5 active, insightful journalism blogs from educators

These are five “classes” you should audit immediately.

As a TV reporter in a major market, I can easily get myopic about my job if I so choose. I can focus on the inner workings of Atlanta, the politics of my station and its competitors, and whatever story happens to sit in front of me at the time.

But I always aim to fight that instinct. Instead, in addition to working hard on my various stories, I strive to both improve my skills and examine my industry.

I find, in the blogosphere, a perfect catalyst.

One need not look far to find a sea of worthy blogs about journalism, and some of my favorites come from those who teach. Professors and educators often provide perspectives that are both thoughtful and prescient; in many ways, they get paid to look ahead. I always appreciate those who take time to instruct not just their students, but anyone with the Internet and an open ear.

Here are five of my favorites, all of whom post regular if not semi-regular updates:

Jay Rosen, New York University: The founder of PressThink, Rosen will next year hit his 30th anniversary on the journalism faculty at NYU. His blog succeeds in part because of Rosen’s own knowledge and experience, which comes through whether discussing the White House Correspondents Association or Facebook’s Newsfeed. But Rosen truly stands out because of his willingness to collaborate: his posts nearly always feature links to other articles, alternative perspectives, or background posts that enhance his own reasoning.

Meg Heckman, University of New Hampshire: Here is another great blog for mere thought expansion. Heckman writes about a diverse array of topics, and she finds inventive, informative ways of presenting herself. Her most recent post as of this writing, an inside look into her work as a juror for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes, is a must-read.

Shawn Montano, Emily Griffith Technical College: From the heartland of Colorado comes one of the strongest how-to web sites for anyone who edits video. Montano fills his Edit Foundry blog with real-life, step-by-step examples of editing at its finest; I read every post, and I always walk away with valuable insight.

Joy Mayer, University of Missouri: An associate professor at Mizzou, Mayer constantly offers informative looks at modern-day journalism. She focuses predominantly on technology and community, both of which are rising factors on the current landscape.

Robert Hernandez, University of Southern California: He posts less frequently than the others, but Hernandez makes up for it with lively work that delves into the power of social media, language, technology, and devices. His is a look into the future of journalism — and an entertaining look at that.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. The photo above is “Different types of pens” by .janneok.Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

PODCAST EPISODE #26: Adam Seth Levine, American Insecurity

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You can imagine my surprise when a childhood friend of mine wound up being the 2nd-most popular person named Adam Levine.

But I was completely unsurprised when this Adam Levine — now going as Adam Seth Levine — became a published author.

A faculty member at Cornell University for several years, Levine recently embarked on the journey of writing a book. Nearly three years later, that journey is complete, and the result is American Insecurity: Why Our Economic Fears Lead to Political Inaction.

Levine joins me for Episode #26 of the Telling The Story podcast.

He is an atypical guest for the podcast; he does not work in journalism or storytelling by trade. Levine has, though, at least partially, made it his trade. His background is academic; the potential audience for this book is far wider. He thus faces the challenge of producing a book that both general and academic readers can find useful.

And when Levine discusses the process of writing a book — the surprises, the triumphs, the difficulties — he unearths lessons for storytellers of all stripes.

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The Telling The Story collection: advice for college journalists

We have reached 18 months since I first launched the Telling The Story web site.

Among the many highlights for me has been the opportunity to reach and inspire younger journalists, particularly those in college.

With that in mind, and with most college students heading back to school over the next few weeks, I wanted to use this space this week to offer a collection of posts that have focused most directly on aspiring journalists in college:

Ten years later: what I learned (and didn’t learn) in J-school: “Maybe I needed ten years to understand the importance of those four years at Medill. For so long I wondered why Northwestern had not better prepared me for the “real world” of journalism. But here’s the thing: the only place to truly learn those “real world” skills is the real world. And like it or not, you learn those skills very quickly when you start your career.

Instead, my professors and leaders at Northwestern focused on teaching what I would not automatically learn as a professional. Through everything mentioned above, they ingrained in me a sense of the tradition and power of journalism. What we do is important. What we do is valued. What we do is a time-honored touchstone of society. These may sound like bromides or motivational ploys, but I believe them to be critical. Journalism is always changing, but journalists must always remember the importance of what we do.” (more…)

The toughest question to answer for college journalists

It never fails.

Whenever I speak to a group of young journalists or communications students, I always receive a question or two that either stump me or touch me emotionally.

This past week, I had the pleasure of conducting a leadership forum for scholars of the Posse Foundation. The organization provides scholarships and support for up-and-coming leaders who, as they put it, “might have been overlooked by traditional college selection processes.” I spoke at the winter conference for Posse’s Atlanta chapter, spending nearly an hour with a few dozen students interested in communications as a whole.

I offered my advice for how to get ahead, answered important questions about how to network and build a strong portfolio, and had a genuinely interesting back-and-forth with a group of students who, I believe, will be quite successful in their chosen fields.

But, I found, the toughest questions they asked had nothing to do with how to “make it” or “get ahead”.

They dealt with how to balance one’s life in the process.

First, a student asked the following: “Since you work in such a stressful business, how do you still manage to have a life and not let work run your life?”

It’s a great question — and a difficult one to answer.

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PODCAST EPISODE #10: Rachel Hamburg, Stanford Storytelling Project

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At the end of a lengthy and optimistic answer about how young journalists can succeed professionally, Rachel Hamburg — a 2011 Stanford graduate — took a step back.

“As a 25-year-old hoping to make a career out of this, I think it’s a little bit scary,” she said. “And it’s OK to be scared.”

Then she broke into laughter — the type that occurs when, looking at the difficult journey ahead, all you can do is laugh.

The majority of young storytellers and journalists face the challenge of channeling their enthusiasm and skills into a stable, long-lasting career. Many industries have obvious and time-honored career paths; journalism is not one of them. It is a constantly changing field where new tools and vehicles pop up almost annually.

Hamburg is off to a great start. She freelances with innovative storytelling programs like Mashcast, and she currently serves as the managing editor for the Stanford Storytelling Project, which provides storytelling training for students in any field.

She is also my guest on the tenth episode of the Telling The Story podcast.

I chose Hamburg as a guest because she represents a unique viewpoint. She produces traditional media, in a sense; the Stanford Storytelling Project team regularly delivers episodes of an hour-long, “This American Life”-style podcast called “State of the Human”. But she also has relationships with cutting-edge journalists and does not limit the power of journalism to its traditional forms. She is a new college graduate who also, through her job, advises current students.

And she does all this while trying to figure out her own future.

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PODCAST PREVIEW: Rachel Hamburg: “You have to be a hustler” as a young journalist

My favorite part of the Telling The Story podcast is the final part.

This is where my guest, young or old, offers advice and insight for young journalists entering the field.

At age 32 I consider myself somewhat in the middle — still (I hope) on the younger half of my career, but definitely far beyond the inexperienced journalist I was in college. As a result, I always enjoy the “time capsule” lessons my guests hope to impart on those who are just beginning their careers.

In this case, my guest actually is a young journalist.

Rachel Hamburg is 25 years old and barely two years removed by Stanford University. She may also wince at the idea of being called a journalist in the traditional sense; she participates in journalism, and storytelling, on very innovative and abstract levels. Currently she works as the managing editor of the Stanford Storytelling Project, a thorough and multi-platform college storytelling program in which, among other things, students produce an hour-long radio show and podcast called “State of the Human”.

The podcast is extremely impressive: almost like a college-level “This American Life”, filled with youthful sincerity and detailed attention to the individuals interviewed by the students.

I enjoyed my entire interview with Hamburg, but I specifically appreciated our back-and-forth at the end, where we reached the section about advice. She spoke about the challenges of entering this industry — and the need to which, as a young journalist, “you have to be a hustler.”

“You just have to kind of make it work these days,” she said, “and I don’t know if that’s going to change. But I still think it’s very possible — and I think there are lots of ways for it to be possible, thanks to crowd-funding and stuff like that.”

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