Choices students made for Blog Post 1

Sometimes I am surprised to see how students dealt with an assignment. I had some surprises when grading the first blog post assignment for this course (Blog post 1: Analyze a “beyond radio” story).

The phrase “beyond radio” refers to a chapter that students were supposed to read in the book Sound Reporting: The NPR Guide to Audio Journalism and Production. The chapter describes many things that NPR is able to do on its website to enhance the stories that are broadcast on radio.

A number of students selected stories that had NONE of these enhancements, other than perhaps one photo or other image added to the Web story.

How does that make sense? When the assignment says, in part: “discuss the ‘beyond radio’ aspects of this story on the website,” it would make the most sense to choose a story that had some of those aspects.

Two examples (these are good choices):

(1) Can We Learn to Forget Our Memories?

Unusually, this story includes five links within the text, and all of the links lead to websites outside These links add information to the story.

The most interesting “beyond radio” thing about this story, though, is that the transcript of the radio story is quite different from the text story. Most students found that the NPR text story was usually very similar to the audio from the radio broadcast. (Most text stories on the NPR site do have a complete transcript of the audio.)

Comparison of the audio, the transcript, and the text story in this case provide very good lessons about the best way to tell a story on different platforms. One important element is the nat sound included in the audio. In this case, that nat sound is NOT “sound effects” (such as hammers, car engines, seagulls at the beach, etc.) but instead sound captured on site at the 2012 USA Memory Championship, including groans and applause from the audience. The nat sound brings the audio story to life.

The text story is structured much differently and adds a lot of new information not found in the audio story.

(2) Mekong Flows Along Troubled Myanmar’s East

This story is one of five in a series broadcast in 2010, when NPR’s Southeast Asia correspondent Michael Sullivan and freelance photojournalist Christopher Brown traveled along the Mekong River from the Tibetan plateau in China to the giant delta in southern Vietnam. In class, I showed the interactive feature accompanying this story. Outstanding “beyond radio” aspects of this story include the 9-image photo slideshow at the top of the story page, a map, and the interactive itself, which is linked to an image embedded in the story text.

Photos. And radio. That’s “beyond radio.”

Something else you can’t do on radio: The other four stories in this series are linked to this one.

About students’ WordPress blogs

All of the students in the professional master’s program set up individual self-hosted WordPress blogs in the bootcamp class this summer. Your blog represents you and should be professional in tone and appearance at all times. Some of your blogs do not meet this standard yet, so I expect you to take time NOW and clean them up.

In particular, it’s important that a first-time visitor to your blog is able to find (1) your contact info, and (2) your “About” or bio page, from EVERY page in your blog site.

You would be smart to explore the two journalist blogs linked above. How do working journalists, experienced and employed, present themselves? How do you measure up to them?

Please complete the following steps before our first class meeting, on Aug. 28:

  1. Create and/or clean up your Contact page; make sure the Contact link is easy to find from every page in your blog.
  2. Create and/or edit your About or Bio page; make sure that page is easy to find from every page in your blog. (Note: This is a different page from your resume.)
  3. Make sure the SoundCloud plugin is up-to-date and functional in your WordPress blog. You will be using this plugin several times in Toolkit 1 — starting in Week 2 of this semester.
  4. If your blog post pages are messed up (I mean that the design has been blown up or corrupted somehow — this is the case on SEVERAL of your blogs!), FIX THAT NOW.

I’m going to check these Tuesday morning before we meet, so don’t be surprised if I show your blog during class and make comments about it.

Looking for online journalism tutorials?

You may have accidentally come to this site when searching for Journalists’ Toolkit, a site that provide free tips and tutorials for journalists, journalism students and journalism educators. In many ways, this class blog was the inspiration for that website.

This blog was created for and used in a two-semester course for graduate students in Journalism at the University of Florida in 2007 and 2008.

At the Journalists’ Toolkit website, you’ll find handouts, downloads and other materials to help you learn about Web audio, video, photojournalism and design.

The students’ final projects

There were eight students, and they worked together in teams of two.

Here are their final videos from the spring 2008 semester.

Wrapping up a very interesting year

This has been quite a journey for me as a teacher, and I’d like to thank my students for their enthusiasm and their patience.

I think the students’ blog posts about the spring semester, in which we focused primarily on video, were very fair and helpful.

Brittany wrote:

I’d like more experience covering actual news this way, not necessarily an issue story, but a news story. Not that they couldn’t be both. But at times, I felt I was seeking the documentary story, and not the news story, which is hard for a journalist and a little confusing. I like the challenge of telling a news story in a way, a visual way, that might not be expected, or in the normal reality of a standard news publication.

Curt wrote:

Now, the best part of the course was, I believe, the time I was able to spend with my hands on a video camera or editing tool. The worst part of the course was, I believe, the (lack of) time I was able to spend with my hands on a video camera or editing tool. While I understand the structure of telling a story, telling that story through video took me well out of my comfort zone.

Kecia wrote:

Out of al the things I learned, I think I am most confident about telling a story and making sure I have a variety of interesting shots and audio. I wasn’t as creative with shot angles and ideas in the first video I shot for class, but now I’ve become more comfortable with thinking about how the angles, sequences and pacing of shots can add visual interest. Now, I also know how to use the tripod appropriately for interviewing and also for controlled movements like panning, tilting and dollying.

Cher wrote:

I feel like there were many practices in this class that were not reflective of regular newsroom practice, and I am not sure how helpful they will be in producing short news videos for web packages for a newspaper. I am not sure that the emphasis on documentary film making and broadcast news styles will serve online journalists. I simply do not think the documentary film making methods is appropriate for producing news.

Eisa wrote:

For the past few years, I have been experimenting with video … back then I thought I was doing a great a job.

The first day we experimented with the camera in class, however, changed that thought right away. The 5-shot technique along with the 10 second rule of shooting opened my eyes to that art of video and film. I have already made two videos that I am really proud of, and I am pretty sure that I will continue producing more video projects.

Laura wrote:

I have enjoyed our class’ exploration of longer films to help us gain perspective about storytelling in shorter formats, which is what I will do the most as a journalist. As much as I loathed doing it the first time, I now see how making a log of shots before capturing the video from the tape is beneficial. The same goes for writing a script. It can be tedious, but it does make the rest of the editing process easier. And, I think the more I edit video, the better I will become at identifying the best shots and writing a script that really facilitates the storytelling process.

Iñigo wrote:

The important issue is that Toolkit II is about how to create journalistic stories and learning how to tell them using a video camera, a bunch of cables, and a microphone. I think that is the real goal of the class. And it is not easy at all.

Shifen wrote:

Shooting video footage, a task that demands extensive visual work and creative thinking, offers me a chance to develop my storytelling skills. It is always a thrill to find a lead, dig the story and present it creatively. In comparison to last [semester’s] Soundslides, video storytelling has been a greater challenge for me, as it is difficult to effectively calibrate details such as view angles and lighting. I believe that a great video narrator must be a careful observer in daily life. I am glad to have spend time learning how to edit video footage, a task that, though it may seem boring, is actually very enjoyable. [I] only wish I could have more experience using Final Cut Pro.

Thanks to all the students. It has been a privilege.

Blogging 1 assignment

For easy reference, here are the blog posts in which each student reviewed and compared two newspaper videos:

  • Brittany: 2 from the Toronto Star
  • Cher: 2 from The Washington Post
  • Curt: 2 from the Toronto Star (both different from Brittany’s two selections)
  • Eisa: 2 from The New York Times
  • Iñigo: 1 from The New York Times (different from Eisa’s) and 1 from the Las Vegas Sun
  • Kecia: 2 from The Spokesman-Review
  • Laura: 2 from The Spokesman-Review (one is different from Kecia’s, and one is the same)
  • Shifen: 1 from the Las Vegas Sun (different from Iñigo’s) and 1 from the Toronto Star (same as one of Brittany’s)

Nice job, students!

What you have learned in 2008 so far

Kecia has made a very good blog post that I recommend to ALL of you. Even though a post was not assigned, she summarized what she has learned so far this semester, and she also linked two of the videos we have watched and discussed them.

This post will reflect well on her if she applies for a job and the hiring editor looks at her blog. The editor would see not only what Kecia has been learning (the laundry list, so to speak) but also how she is thinking about it — which makes Kecia appear pretty smart! Go on and read it — I think you will agree.

This kind of post also creates a nice record for the blogger herself.

I hope I’m not embarrassing Kecia too much. Any one of you can write a post like this, as I know from last semester.

Neglecting your blogs

I know you all have lots of stuff to do (the life of a grad student), but I must remind you, your blog is more than a class exercise.

Read this if you doubt me.

More and more today, the hiring editor is going to look at you a little funny if you say, “I want to be a journalist, but I just can’t find time to blog regularly.” The hiring editor is going to wonder how on earth you will ever survive in a real newsroom if you can’t even get off your butt to write a few little blog posts every week. What, you say you don’t know what to write about? Another bad sign! A journalist who can’t think of anything to write about? What the — ?

You see what I’m saying?

Photojournalism and being sensitive

This post, written by a working photojournalist, is very much worth your time:

Photographing Victims

The blogger (Gary Cosby, Jr.) tells us what a photojournalist thinks about when on the scene of an accident or other tragedy.

Cosby’s whole blog is good. (I found this via a journalism student’s blog called The Learning Journalist.)

Have you checked your e-mail?

I sent the following three e-mails to the class Listserv:

  • Friday, Nov. 16: “MMC 6936 – Instructins and templates for final Story Package” (embarrassing typo!)
  • Monday, Nov. 19: “MMC 6936 – Web space for your stuff!” (with one attached GIF)
  • Monday, Nov. 19: “MMC 6936 – Important note about final Story package files”

Check your mail and make sure you have all of these. Save them somewhere good.

Have a great Thanksgiving holiday! If you are traveling, please travel safe.