This year’s CMA spring college media convention keynotes covered an entertaining spectrum spanning “old media,” “new media” and media/journalism satire:
Carr and Stelter “star” in “Page One, the definitely worth-your-time documentary about The New York Times’ ongoing and sometimes painful transition to the digital age.
Now for some highlights/quotes from their presentations, which riveted the student journalists, at least the ones from the University of Portland.
“The fact I used to be a coke dealer is probably the most interesting thing about me.”
“I’m absolutely stunned that I work at The New York Times.”
“Being a reporter is a lot more complicated than it used to be.” (because of having to tweet, blog, shoot and edit video, etc.)
“Nothing stays written. It’s a rolling, organic process.”
“People who are brought up blogging. they write clean…and you know what? I’m not that clean of a writer.”
“The cool time to be doing what you’re going to be doing is right now.”
“It’s about “how much shit can you put out and on how many platforms.”
“You have to have a relentless curiosity.”
“Be incredibly frickin’ stubborn.”
About what sometimes passes as journalism but isn’t: ” People say you are entitled to your own opinion, but you shouldn’t be entitled to your own facts. I worry about that.”
“You should run with winners. These guys you’re in school with, that’s probably who you’re going to be in business with…Don’t hang with the cynical, bitchy people who never accomplish anything.”
David Carr of The New York Times with University of Portland students from The Beacon staff
With his constant blogging, tweeting, video-shooting, Carr wonders: “Am I losing my ability to think long thoughts?”
On hard times: “I was 34 years old on welfare, unemployed, single father of two, had cancer, washed up in my business.”
On his transformation from unemployed drug addict to iconic journalist: “I am genetically ambitious. I did not come from super bright people. But I came from super hard workers.”
Carr talked about loving to read as a child: “My head filled with words and the words have sort of been spilling out ever since.”
Carr’s literary influences:
- “Moby Dick”
- “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City” (Nick Flynn)
- Hunter S. Thompson
- Kurt Vonnegut
- Gay Talese
Brian Stelter – Media Reporter for The New York Times
Growing up, he wanted to be a TV news anchor and pretended he was one, sitting in front of a sheet draped behind a desk in his basement. “I guess, in a silly way, I was practicing, “Stelter said.
At age 10-11, he started a website called “The Bumps,” on which he reviewed books from the Goosebumps series. Later, he started a website about Nintendo games.
In college, he ran the student newspaper at Towson University, and told students at NYC 12 it was “the best journalism experience I ever had.” Apparently, it wasn’t enough. He started a blog about TV news his freshman year, blogging anonymously the first six months. He says the best thing he did was putting an anonymous tip box on the website. People started feeding content to the blog, TVnewser. He kept at it all four years of college and built a following by sending links to people in the industry. Network news anchors took notice. Stelter was interviewed by MSNBC -“The 20-year-old who rules the news” – but his anchor dreams were fading. He was balding when he graduated from college.
But things worked out just fine for Stelter, who sold the blog to Mediabistro and was hired by the Times at age 21. In the documentary Page One, his older, less-digital colleague David Carr referred to Stelter as “a robot assembled to destroy me.”
Stelter, 26, offered his audience of student journalists a shot of optimism with some advice on the side:
“I learned so much more from my college paper than I did from my classes.”
“There are jobs in journalism these days… They have to be earned.”
“There’s been a forest fire that has swept through the industry with fury…There’s something about a forest fire that I find somewhat helpful…We are the young sapplings that are starting to come out of the soil.”
“Think about what you can do better than anyone else does… what you can do to be indispensable.”
Rather than climbing career ladders, “people will be coming in side doors.”
“I zig when other people zag. I try to cover unique things.”
Post frequently, he says. Think of Twitter and Facebook “as if you’re anchoring your own personal newscast. You don’t want to have dead air.”
“Think before you tweet.”
“On Facebook and Twitter, you’re creating your own media company.”
“Everybody in here should be writing everyday.”
“Post unique original content…Go where the darkness is. There’s a lot of great stories in those space that aren’t being covered…Finding those stories that are right in front of you that are almost too big to write about because they’re so obvious.”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret: Credibility often comes from doing a lot, writing a lot.”
Beacon staffers Kate Peifer and Laura Frazier with New York Times media reporter Brian Selter at NYC12.
“We’re all going to be video reporters in the future, which means we have to comb our hair.”
He predicts the New York Times will be doing hours of video a day, and encouraged the students to start now.
“To start practicing on video is crucial..The earlier you start, the better you’re going to be.”
Stelter’s parting advice:
- See “Page One.” (“a shameless plug”)
- Write every day and take photos every day.
Now for the “fake news” writers…
Hallie Haglund and Zhubin Parang from The Daily Show
Their advice for aspiring comedy writers:
“Write as much as possible… It’s a lot of practice. Writing and getting involved in a comedy community- New York or L.A.” -Parang
(Parang writes nine pages of jokes in an hour.)
“Write well… fast…getting in the habit of writing fast about something that just happened…(Do) whatever it takes to find your voice, which is writing a lot…creating a curriculum for yourself. Find out if you love it enough.” -Haglund
Also, a comedy writer needs a thick skin; “If you have any sense of preciousness about your jokes, you will be crying everyday.”-Parang
Haglund on the subject of sexism in the male-dominated field of comedy: “I don’t think that, in terms of my career, asking myself that question has ever been useful to me in moving forward… In the arc of my career, I have never found walls that prevented me from getting where I am.”
As described by Parang and Haglund, “The Daily Show” staff consists of 10 staff writers, correspondent Jon Oliver, a head writer, two executive producers and Jon Stewart. “He always guides the narrative of whatever we do,” Haglund said.
For the record, their office is “dog friendly.”
Parang, who was working as a lawyer before he went into comedy professionally wrote for The Onion (50 bucks for a headline) before joining “The Daily Show.” To apply for the job, he had to submit a script with three headlines summarizing the news stories of the day. At that time, the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan were the top stories. What’s funny about that?
“In tragic situations, the comedy is the media’s reaction to it,” Parang said.
-Nancy Copic, ass’t director of Student Media & Beacon adviser
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