Wednesday, September 28, 2011

HS Journalism Event at Ferris, Nov. 2, 2011

Ferris FREE Journalism Day
“The J-Factor: Lessons in Storytelling”
Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2011
Ferris State University, Big Rapids

Registration is filling up fast for the FREE one-day journalism workshop for high school students (and teachers) offered by the Ferris State University Journalism and Technical Professional Communications program. Registration is free, but limited to a first-come, first-served basis.

All for FREE: The day will include lunch, workshop sessions, tour of TV and newspaper facilities on campus, contest, bag of free stuff and more! All this is free to the first 125 students who sign up (space is filling up fast)!

Workshop sessions include: Interviewing Techniques; Photography; Video Broadcasting; Tips from Pros at the Big Rapids Pioneer; Sports Reporting; Careers in Writing; and more.

Remember: A chaperone is required from each school attending.

CONTACT: E-mail journalism professor Steven Fox ( to reserve your spot now (or call 231-591-2529). This is a free event, but registration is required.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Context matters

In doing journalism, sometimes it is easy to assume that readers will get the message on their own. Other times, they need more explanation.

I didn't know about the latest Torch cartoon until it was already published, as is common in my role as the faculty adviser to the student paper. I can't claim to have known or thought about this beforehand. Sometimes, things just happen in this industry.

The cartoon, depicting a sorority member over a toilet, has stirred more than 600 comments on the Torch web site in a couple days and much more discussion on campus. It has definitely been the buzz. The web site has struggled to keep up, getting nearly 20,000 hits in a day. At times I have receive error messages trying to see the latest discussion. The previous best MONTH in terms of site visits was 11,000.

What many who are seeing the cartoon without any context don't realize, is that it was not done randomly. From talking with national award-winning Torch cartoonist John Vestevich, I learned he was responding to T-shirts being worn by many members of Ferris State sororities as they head toward recruiting week.

The T-shirts, as shown in the comic, say: "Fall Sorority Recruitment. We didn't invent CLASS, we perfected it."

The shirts seem harmless enough, but clearly they also provided an easy target for a witty cartoonist like Vestevich. He has also seen the irony in other things on campus, like the universities slogan to "Imagine More..." and poking fun at students in general.

Is it out of line to do satirical commentary on a university campus? Apparently, many who are involved in the Greek community feel it is if you read their comments. I believe it is only a problem when it gets personal. Editorial cartoons are meant to touch a nerve and get personal.

However, understanding the full context of why Vestevich chose the topic I don't agree with those who believe the cartoon is out of line. In fact, the Torch has repeatedly published articles about the positive work Greek organizations do at Ferris, including this very one in the same Sept. 14 edition.

I encourage everyone to take a look at the bigger picture and take it all in perspective.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I feel your pain

I have done a few YouTube videos over the years, mostly using our family Flip video camera. It is easy to use and works relatively well.

However, I figure if I'm going to be critiquing student multimedia work I had better step it up a bit. I am getting my first experience using iMovie. Here is a short video of my son, Hayden, wrestling.

It isn't much, but this newer video includes raw sound, edited video to keep it short, some audio voice over, a flip transition, some text at the start and end, and I published it to YouTube. I'm not claiming to win any awards here, but you can learn a lot by just messing around. And I can tell you that from experience.

I also posted a much longer video to YouTube of my son wrestling last fall. It's much longer and includes no editing work.

Please, compare the two and let me know what you think.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Time, patience and incredible creativity

Doing the best multimedia storytelling takes a lot of work. Not just hours, days, weeks or even months.

I heard today as Jim Sheeler, a former reporter for the now defunct Rocky Mountain News, described the work he did reporting about the death of soldiers in Iraq. The thing is, Sheeler didn't just do reporting. He did true storytelling. He invested a huge amount of time and energy and then had nearly a year to produce his writing - that also was accompanied by incredible photographs, audio and video.

Check it all out to get a glimpse of the power of creative energy displayed in words, visuals and sounds, in the package called Final Salute. It's truly emotional journalism. It makes you slow down, pay attention, and soak it all in.

Friday, September 2, 2011

I don't want to find out....

I read this blog post today on the site 10,000 Words: What happens when a city loses its newspaper?

Truth is, I don't want to ever live in a place where I have to find out the answer to that question. Because I'm concerned about a lot of things that could happen without my knowledge:
- City commission raises water rates without public knowledge.
- The high school kid down the street is a soccer star and I don't even know it.
- My county commissioners approve a policy weakening its stance of acceptance of gay citizens.
- A local official is caught soliciting teenagers for sex online.
- My favorite band is going to play in town and tickets go on sale at 8 a.m.

I could go on and on. My newspaper gives me so much information that it is painful just imagining what it would be like without it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Multimedia journalism requires far more planning

Multimedia journalism brings thoughts of video, graphics, and other exciting online imagery. It also includes audio, still photos, and good storytelling.

A critical component to effective multimedia journalism is the planning stage. Questions need to be asked:
What format will best tell this story?
Is video useful for this story?
What audio can enhance the storytelling?
How should images be displayed?
What is the pace of the story to be told?
Why am I using the components I have selected?

Without asking questions, and properly planning, multimedia journalism is often no better than a sloppy homemade YouTube video. That's not what professional journalists should be doing.

Here is an example I found from a student at Columbia University about the rundown conditions of Camden, N.J. It caught my attention partly because of the use of still photography, the slow dramatic music, and the pace of the audio narration. It adds to the dramatic story. This is well planned.