Monday, February 28, 2005

Watch your backs, reporters

Hello, all:

I ran across this clip where a Jacksonville, Fla., reporter gets whacked a couple of times by an irate passer-by.

I forwarded it on to Prof. Wiggins and Mr. Fisher, who posted the link to his blog, Common Sense Journalism. And, of course, that's where I got the idea to share it with everyone here.

Check out the clip, and enjoy!
(Windows Media file)

P.S. Would you fight back?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Tamika's job hunt

The Lost Remote, a widely read industry site, has made mention of Tamika's recent post. The comments are pretty supportive.

So has, though it's a paid site and so we haven't seen the responses yet (though judging from the comments section on her post, most are not positive there).

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


I think that it is interesting that Tamika found a job and turned it down and David talks about how hard it is to find a job. Sometimes I feel like I am wasting my time and money on an advertising degree. Like David said I don't think I will be prepared. If the school of journalism is really trying to find a new major, it needs to be a major that teaches students hands on material. Not the material out of the textbook that doesn't even matter in the real world.


Does anybody know if the j-school is really trying to create a new major?

Suck it up, rookies!

All right, students. You want to know what it's like out here in the real world? Let's put it this way: Your first professional gig is akin to the first day of school -- primary, not secondary. You think you're hot sh**? You're ready to set the world on fire? You just wait. Here's a wake-up call for those of you who think you could be the next fill-in-the-blank star journalist, whether print or broadcast. You've got a lot to learn, and many of those things won't be learned until you do this for a living.

Let me give you some deep background here. I'm into my second week as a news editor for The Item in Sumter, S.C. The hours are fierce and bound to take their toll on one's established sleeping habits. I'm lucky if I see the curb outside before 1 a.m. The budget meeting happens promptly at 3 p.m., and lasts five minutes at the most, so you'd better show up with an alert mind. An editor is assigned X number of stories per page, and is responsible for a certain page or pages. Everything that goes on those pages is subject to change. Such is the nature of news. As I am not the fastest draw when it comes to computer skills, it takes me much longer to lay out a page than it does my co-workers. Thankfully, they've been gracious to answer the same questions over and over, long after my tolerance level for such antics would have dwindled. Another thing about the nature of news is that it's constantly happening, and the order of importance changes just as quickly. The other night I and a co-worker went through three drafts of a single page before going to press. Be prepared to wipe out the thing you've worked on for three hours, because it might get cast aside for a more important story any minute, and page space is valuable.

Speaking of which, here's another point: Ads rule. This is not to suggest that I love advertisements, only that they take precedence. You fit the news around the ads. If the ad space eats up the story you've been given to put on the page, tough. Ad wins, every time.

Another thing is this: Unless you simply have a massive self-esteem issue, if you don't think you're very good at this thing called journalism, well ... maybe you're not. On the other hand -- without getting gender-specific -- if you think you're THE MAN, well ... you're definitely not. Here's a key word: Professionalism. People better than you do this job every day. To get to their level, you have to do what they do. That means you meet deadlines. That means you arrive on time and ready to work. That means no diva-like attitudes. I heard so many people in the halls of higher learning say they could be the next Oprah, the next Katie Couric, etc, ad nauseam. Guess what? They can't. They don't have the polish, the seriousness of tone, the look of determination. They're just star-tripping. That's not what this profession is about. It's about getting the truth and presenting it in a way that grabs the reader's or viewer's attention.

Lest you think I consider myself superior to anyone at my job ... think again. I've had my a** handed to me already. Each night, prior to sending our pages to film for pressing, we print out the entire news section, one page at a time. Each of us gets a look at the other's work for proofreading. Believe me, there's nothing like getting back a page full of red marks. You look at these errors all over the place and say, "How did I miss that?" If such an exercise doesn't instill a little humility, nothing will. It's happened to me. It'll happen to you. Don't take it personally, because you've got to go back in there and do it all over again tomorrow. Every day is a new chance to get it right.

This isn't meant to discourage anyone. I have aspirations, just as you all do. Some of those who are in school at the moment, who even ply their trade on the side in local free rags, have a leg up on the game. What they don't know, however, is that they haven't REALLY been subjected to the madhouse that is a full-time job in journalism. Many of these are reviewing jobs, which are fine and dandy, but -- sorry -- reviews aren't reporting. You're just giving your opinion, not going out to gather information from multiple sources. Such work requires you to get off your a** and go after something.

Just do me and all your future co-workers a favor: Do this for the right reasons. Do this because you love the news-gathering process. Do this because you want to make a positive contribution. Do this because Jason Blair and "Jeff Gannon" have put a pockmark on your choice of profession and you want to prove to the world they're the exceptions, not the rule. (By the way, if you don't know who those people are, find another field NOW.) If you wanna be a star, join the f****in' circus.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

River of Life

Oyez, J-School Bloggers:

Doug has prodded and pleaded to let the world hear more from us but so far few have responded. He and I have posted prompts but I suspect we might be asking the wrong questions, poking the wrong ribs. Let me take another stab at it. (Warning: Extended metaphor ahead.)

If getting a J-School degree, or any college degree, is like crossing a river, many students are wading along with relative ease, while others feel the water is too wide, fierce and possibly unfordable. For some, life on the other side appears increasingly unappealing and not worth the effort. Still others are waist-deep, fearing any moment they'll be swept away by the rushing current or wiped out by passing debris. Though tempted to turn back, they stay the course because the clock is ticking and starting over from another point or finding another way to cross would be costly. (End of metaphor)

If this is what you're experiencing, well, dear blooger, "That's life." Even after you've graduated, it will appear that for some life is a breeze; for others, a wicked nightmare of uncertainty and dread. Nothing mystical determines who is who, however. I believe those who are most successful and happiest -- regardless of station or profession -- have goals that help them make wise choices. They don't live life on the fly. They're more deliberate and sure-footed. More than that, to them, life is not just earning enough to buy a nice home or raise a family, although these are important. To them, what they do for a living matters, and this, in turn, fuels their grit and stiffens their backbones.

Eventually, all of you will step out of the river and into the real world. What are you going to do then? Do you hope to make a difference? If so, what's your plan? What are you going to do to ensure that at the end of your professional life you will have done more than collect paychecks for 30 years? Even if you don't want to work in the media, we all must contribute. What is your plan for making sure your professional life matters?

Let's keep it real.

Professor Wiggins

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ralph Hanson features J-School Year

Ralph Hanson, who professes journalism at and blogs (Living in a Media World) from the halls of West Virginia University, has featured J-School Year as one of the student blogs on his site.

Thanks, Ralph, and a top 'o the Morgantown mornin' to ya.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Yada Yada Yada

This is my first post since last semester.

Since then, I have discovered numerous things. First, school is tough, requiring upwards of hours of studying and general preparation for proper learning.

Second, I hate large groups of people that do not allow for me to easily pass through said group.

Third, purchasing a iBook was the best thing that happened to me last semester (including interviewing Mayor Bob). If my PC did not contain my complete 'Seinfeld' collection, I would possibly chunk the machine right into Blossom Street, only hoping that one of the cars that tries to run me over every time I cross destroys the damned 'computer.'

Fourth, if I don't put my nose to the grindstone, I will be working at my part-time job, full time. I'm batting and the count is full; either I strike out or sail on over Jeter's head for a stand-up double. OK, enough with the Curtis Chow sarcasm. That being said, I refocused my academic endeavors away from the J-School, to the more general courses I should have taken my freshman and sophomore years.

Being released to the BA and Gambrell side of campus is somewhat of a relief. I get to see old friends and even make some new ones. Get this, there are even some rooms with windows. The Coliseum is very much like a casino with no windows or clocks; you could be down there for day and never know it.

In conclusion, study hard and often and you can make it. And don't wait to take those classes you should be taking now.

S.K.Bowen III

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Writing tool

I've discovered a tool that will help you detect problems in your writing, at least while doing it on the Web. The Passivator over at F-Train will detect all "to be" constructions and "-ly" adverbs and highlight them. That's a good place to start considering a tweak here and there.

It won't work in the posting box on Blogger and similar services. But if you use preview mode after you've written, it will run.

HS Journalism: a threat?

When I was reading Mr. Shaw's column, I had flashbacks to my own high school journalism experiences. Though I was never threatened with replacement or displacement from my position as editor-in-chief, as a newspaper we definitely had our share of controversy.
When I became editor-in-chief of our newspaper, The Pitchfork, my senior year, a new principal was hired. I had to meet with him over the summer to get to know him and his policies. To my dismay, one of the first things he told me was that he was for prior review and had disliked some things we had run in the past. Although our paper never shied away from covering controversial issues, we had never reported or uncovered earth shattering news. I had been taught by my passionate and persistent adviser, Kim Stokes, that one should never EVER be censored or prior reviewed. So I decided to fight the principal on his prior review policy. Needless to say, we were never prior reviewed that year, and I eventually became the principal's assistant. Although he was unhappy with some of my decisions to run stories on a teen mother in our school and unnecessary breathalizer tests at the prom, we openly communicated with each other, and we still share a mutual respect for one another.
Because Julia and I are from the same high school, worked on the same newspaper staff and shared the same experiences with censorship, my opinion on the article is the same as hers. Julia and I had an amazing adviser in high school who always fought for our rights as journalists and taught us about the rights we had. If we had been without Mrs. Stokes, I would never have had the courage or knowledge to go against our principal and fight for an uncensored and a true student newspaper. I am disturbed by the trend of "self-taught" journalism teachers, although some are perfectly capable of handling student publications. However, I am probably more disturbed by funding being cut for school programs including journalism. In high school, journalism offered me a way to express myself through writing and designing and also afforded me the means of changing certain aspects of the school.
Journalism was my high school experience not merely a part, and I only wish more students could have the opportunities I had in high school with journalism.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Freedom in print

I'm glad I went back and read the Times article instead of just reacting to the post. I thought the author was for censorship when I first saw the post.

I was a high school journalist, and had to fight the district office on many of my stories. I believe the 1st amendment and the rights it gives us as citizens and journalists is probably the one thing in life I am most liberal about, and I will always defend those rights.

The censorship issue is not what I found the most interesting about the article though. David Shaw summed up perfectly what is wrong with journalism and the teaching of journalism. Shaw wrote that the journalism adviser had been pulled from the English department to advise the program.

Shaw said, "[...]it is typical of what is happening in high schools nationwide. As budgets are cut, journalism programs are often eliminated or combined with English departments, where teachers — their skills in literature and grammar notwithstanding — often lack the journalistic background to give students proper guidance in the practice and, especially, the ethics of newspaper work."

It is one thing for the administration and faculty to belive the student was wrong in publishing the story, but how can they judge the student or the adviser when proper education was not provided? Parents would expect any teacher and administrator to have a proper education to teach their students and make decisions for them about their education, so why shouldn't the same be demanded of a program that is more than just an elective?

Journalism in high school is suppose to challenge students to ask the questions not asked and to seek the truth, which is often hidden in school districts. If journalism was treated as an academic subject and taught with certified journalism teachers, I believe the new reports on the 1st amendment and high school would be dramatically different and the school district would be more understanding.

Until half the nation has been censored though, I really don't expect the administration or anyone else to truly understand the student, the press or their rights.

Student journalists face more restrictions

Many of you were high school journalists. How do you react to David Shaw's column in the L.A. Times about increasing restrictions on high school journalists?

An excerpt:
The most recent manifestation of the crackdown on school papers came in Fullerton last week when officials at Troy High School placed Ann Long on a leave of absence from her job as co-editor in chief of the Oracle.

Long's "crime" was writing and publishing a story about two bisexual students and one gay student in what she called "an attempt to raise awareness on campus that people with different sexualities go through more emotional stress than the average teenager."