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Looking back on my time in New Orleans is a bit difficult because the sheer volume of things I experienced is so great. On the one hand, the National College Media Convention was a dense barrage of new information about writing, reporting, photography, editing, social media – the list goes on. But every time I had the chance to rest my mind, I would walk out into New Orleans, which during Halloween season is a bombardment of bright lights, live music and outrageous costumes. The whole weekend fluctuated between mental overload and sensory overload. But in a good way.

One of the sessions that really stood out to me from the conference (mostly because I’m a huge nerd for writing in any form) was called “Writing Visually.” A photographer and a news writer led the session, outlining principles that are central to both written journalism and photojournalism. The basic idea is this hierarchy of traits in photography:

  1. Informational
  2. Graphically appealing
  3. Emotional
  4. Intimate

Basically, the argument was that these characteristics are just as applicable to news writing. Most important, or course, is information – each story needs to answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions. The next step is for writing to sound nice and flow well. This should also be achievable in all stories. Emotion is not always possible in journalism – sometimes our job is just to present information to the public. But when stories can connect to readers’ emotions, they tend to have more impact. Finally, the best stories are intimate, meaning they can present a person, place or event in a way that most people will never be able to see.

-Philip Ellefson, Opinions Editor of The Beacon

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Day Three at CMANYC13 arrived even faster than it took the College of Cardinals to elect a new pope! Each day was so chock full of sessions that the hours just seemed to fly by. And before we knew it, we were flying back to Portland ourselves!

The first session I attended was about reporting sensitive issues on campus, which I thought would be a good idea to learn about, what with this nondiscrimination policy business on campus. You never know when something little could blow up as big as the nondiscrimination policy issue, so I was ready to get some pointers on how to better cover stories like these. The presenter, Baris Mumyakmaz, a Turkish national who attended university in the U.S. but works for a publication in Turkey that seeks to expose underreported issues in the country, did his best, but the whole presentation was a bit awkward considering I was one of three people there, and the others sort of kept coming and going throughout the presentation. I felt really bad for him, and unfortunately his presentation wasn’t that groundbreaking in terms of tips on how to report sensitive issues on campus. But I did think one thing he said was useful: always have your text, headline and picture be a cohesive package. This would require greater communication between the reporter, designer and photographer at The Beacon, but I think it would make our paper even more awesome!

Luckily, the second session I attended was amazing! The title alone “The Undertaker Takes His Coffee Black (and Drives a Hearse with 71,000 Miles on It)” intrigued me, so of course I had to go! The session, taught by Rob Kaiser of Canisius College, was about keeping an eye out for detail as a journalist, even the insignificant ones, like someone’s boots. Seeming irrelevant details like these could give you more information about a source than you ever dreamed possible. In the beginning of the session, he asked a girl where she got her boots, and after asking her a few questions, learned that she and her sister, who are 20 months apart, are best friends. Who would have thought you could have learned such a personal detail about someone from their footwear? During the session, Rob had us free write a description of our childhood bedroom, and by going around the room and asking some students about their bedrooms, he was able to learn really personal details about each of those students. As Rob put it, “You have a zoom lens on your consciousness. Use it.” His session got me really excited to write more features, so I can try out this detail-oriented approach!

Mark Luckie, manager of journalism and news at TWITTER, of all places, gave the keynote address for Tuesday. He came to offer his insights on how to be a better Twitter user. SAM_0287

Before his talk, I never gave much thought to how people may perceive me on Twitter, but Mark made it clear that people can now judge you based on how often you tweet/what you tweet/how your Twitter page looks/who you follow/who follows you. So much to think about now! Especially as a current and future member of the media, I really need to be aware of how Twitter can even affect my job prospects. Mark said that “Twitter is a great equalizer.” By this, he meant that even though you may not be the most bubbly, extraverted person in real life, you can still have a major presence online through Twitter and other social media websites.

That pretty much concluded CMANYC13! I am so happy and grateful to have had the opportunity to attend such an exciting and informative conference. I am so stoked to apply everything that I have learned to my work at The Beacon! This conference has taught me that the world of media is so much larger and complicated than I could have ever realized, and that real opportunities are out there for anyone who wants them and will work hard to achieve them. My hope is that before too long, there will be a place for me in that world. Now, back to business…

~Kathryn Walters

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