Archive for the ‘News U’ Category

NewsU- Handling race and Ethnicity

December 10, 2007

 Tiffany Talley

I found this course to be sooooo insightful and intriguing. I had no idea I was so clueless aobut race and ethnicity. If there is one thing that I learned is that race is a social construct. When you start profiling on a race, you get your self in trouble.

The only major thing that comes to my mind when there was an issue of racial profiling in the press was a story that was done on Hurricane Katrina. The newspaper ran a story regarding the looting of stores and shops by the Katrina survivors. In one article, it was proposed that the black child was stealing and looting while another article, the white couple was seen as struggling to find food.

Stereotyping and generalizations are the root of evil in Ameria. When you lump a group of diverse people under one race or identity, you are just asking for trouble.

It was really interesting to see the results from the ethnicity quiz. It definitely proves that race and ethinicty are not skin deep.


Five Steps to Multimedia Storytelling- Allen

December 5, 2007

Courtney Allen

I chose the NewsU course on “Five Steps to Multimedia Storytelling.” It is important to remember that a good journalist is a good storyteller as well. Even if the subject is boring, you have to keep the reader interested. With a variety of multimedia available today, it is getting easier to tell a story in a compelling way. The NewsU course breaks down the elements into five simple steps.

The first step is to choose a story. Before going off to cover a story, it is best to gather as much information as possible, and sketch a storyboard to help keep you on track.

Next, you must make the storyboard. To do this, define the elements that you would like to capture in your story. For example, make profiles of characters, description of main events, the process of how it all works, some background information and any other issues related to the story. The storyboard is your basic concept of your report.

The third step is to report with the multimedia, which basically means, have all your equipment ready to capture the elements from your storyboard at the tip of your fingers. NewsU’s small activity was to figure out what things to pack and for what purposes. The activity reminds you to bring duct tape in case your tripod breaks and the camera won’t stay by itself, or bring plastic bags to cover your camera equipment in case it rains. All the equipment should fit in one case that you can access easily. The site advises to never check your camera bag but always have it with you.

Once the elements are shot at the site, the next step would be to edit it all for the web. Keep the videos short, only about one to two minutes so that people will not get bored. Don’t let people talk on and on, only a few seconds per person. Only high-quality videos should be used with an exception: using really old recordings. Because the web is a visual medium, photos are a must, and can replace many words. Text should be used for display type such as headlines and photo captions, as well as first-person stories, short updates, etc.

The last step is producing the story. Put all the elements together but build a variety of story templates. This will help the focus on report and the storytelling.

I thought this was an insightful lesson. I wish it included more elements of the different types of multimedia possible, as well a more detailed explanation of how reporters package these stories on the web, as well as through other newer mediums such as cell-phones.

Cleaning you Copy

December 5, 2007

By: Aaron Oberlin

When a writer finishes a story, it needs to be made sure it is clean.  If it is not clean, then a reader will notice.  If it happens too many times, it can frustrate a reader.  The simplest thing for a reader to do is stop reading.  When the copy is clean no one will notice, but people will notice if there are errors.
To avoid this, the NewsU class “Cleaning you Copy” taught a writer the ability to:
-Identify and solve grammatical problems in a copy.
-Pick the right word when choosing between tricky pairs such as “that/which,” “that/who” and “who/whom.”
-Use the AP correct style for addresses, ages, money and numbers.
-Identify and correct common punctuation errors.
-Correctly spell words that are tough to get right.
-Avoid typos caused by homonym trip-ups.
A “Cleaning your Copy” quiz starts the course.  The purpose of the quiz is to help the student better understand their strengths and weaknesses in copyediting.
The second part of the lesson is grammar.  It divides into sections: modifiers, pronouns, that/which, who/whom, verbs, lay/lie, contractions and parallel constructions.
The third part of the lesson is style.  Style can be seen in the papers someone types for a class.  In Advanced Reporting, the style is AP.  In some English composition classes, the style is MLA.  Some other styles include APA.    Style is important because it creates consistency.
The fourth part of the lesson is punctuation.  Punctuation sets the tone of the story, and it can help identify the writer’s voice.  It also tells a reader when to stop and pause.
The fifth part of the lesson is spelling.  It covers common misspelled words and confusing words and homonyms.
The last part of the section is the “Copy Quotient Test.”  It is a test that gives a student a chance to test what he/she learned.
The course is similar to Writing for the Mass Media at the University of South Florida. This class is better because there is not a required payment for three credit hours, and it can be done at any pace.  It covers many basics that any reporter and editor should already know.  It was a good review, which needs to be done every now and then.

Interviewing: A necessary skill for any reporter

December 5, 2007

By: Eric Moeller 

 Because I believe it is one of the most important aspects of journalism and an area in which I could use improvement, I chose to take the Poynter Institute’s News-U course on the subject of interviewing.

I found the course very engaging and full of useful information. In the course, a mock interview with a fictional city councilman provides a platform for instructor Chip Scanlan to give students tips on performing interviews and getting the most useful answers.

One of the main points made in the course is that the best interviews are those conducted in an informal, conversational tone that encourages the free flow of information.

Many times, interviews conducted by young reporters tend to resemble interrogations more than conversations, which leads to subjects becoming reluctant about giving information.

While maintaining a spontaneous, conversational setting is an important aspect of any interview, John Brady, author of The Craft of Interviewing, also believes a reporter should approach an interview like a chess match. Brady believes that — like moves in a game of chess — every question in an interview should serve a greater purpose.

The course also points out the importance of using open-ended questions that encourage long, thought-out responses as opposed to the simple yes or no questions that lead to one-word answers.

The advice that I feel applies the most to me concerns allowing the interviewee to answer questions completely. Many times, I waste too much time asking long, leading questions that end up restricting the possible responses a subject can give. This leads to short disappointing quotes that often require a great deal of set-up instead of the engaging quotes that come when a subject is given time to think of their own way of responding to a question.

Ultimately, I think the Poynter Institute’s News-U course on interviewing has given me some valuable tips on one of the most important aspects of journalism. 

Course reflection

December 5, 2007

Mari Muzzi

I took the course on Journalism and Trauma. Since journalists often have to interview individuals who have experienced stressful and traumatic situations. It is beneficial to be able to identify post traumatic stress and other stress related disorders when interviewing these people. Also, it is good to know this information because journalists who cover crimes, natural disasters and other traumatic situations can experience these stress disorders, as well. The course gave suggestions for interviewing people who are grieving.  Start the interview out with easy questions, such as asking the person to talk about the live of his/her lost loved one, because the story is not just about an accident or whatever the sitution, but also about the life of the decreased. Save the more difficult questions for the end, this allows the person to warm up to you. We had to interview teens from the Tampa Bay Academy of Hope for a group project for a multi media journalism class. Though the story was not about decreased loved one, we wanted to obtain personal stories from the teens and their families about the struggles that they faced and how the program had helped them. We wanted them to tell us about the poverty they experience and what it was like living in areas with higher crime. However, we were unable to get them to open up to us. They didn’t feel comfortable around us.  We should have made small talk with the teens and their parents before we started the interviews, and asked them about school, sports, something to loosen them up and make them feel more comfortable around us.

The other thing that this course discussed was ways for reporters to overcome post traumatic stress disorder by joining support groups, not taking on too many assignments, exercising, playing with children and spending time outdoors. They also talked about seeking professional help when needed. This course offered practical information for reporters in the field and learning students.    

Sports Story: Cycling with Cerebral Palsy

December 4, 2007

Cycling with Cerebral Palsy: 100 miles
By Courtney Herrig

Clayton Gandy was 30-years-old before he decided to learn how to ride a bicycle, Clayton has Cerebral Palsy (CP).  On Nov. 17 and Nov. 18, he will ride 100 miles through North Tampa and Pasco County in the Ride Without Limits event organized by United Cerebral Palsy.  Each rider agrees to raise $500 to participate in the ride, Clayton has raised $3000.

Donna Gandy knew that something wasn’t right with Clayton when he as a year old,  “ He wouldn’t even try to sit up on his own” she says with her Mississippi accent.  At 16 months of age he was officially diagnosed with CP.  Clayton has some upper extremity symptoms of CP, but the majority of his symptoms affect his lower extremities.  

Because of CP, Clayton slouches in the patio chair as we discuss his search for a bicycle. “I ordered the recumbent bicycle from Bike Works in Brandon and I had to special order the pedals. They had to fashion a guard that extends several inches from the bottom of the pedal to keep my foot from turning in – so that my foot does not unlock”. For a healthy cyclist, the rider must turn is feet inward to remove their feet from the clipless pedals.  But for Clayton his feet naturally turn in, his custom designed pedals prevent his feet from slipping out.  

Clayton is a senior majoring in computer science at the University of South Florida and was just offered a graduate assistant position to design wireless networks.  When asked about special equipment for computer use, his mother explained, “In the beginning he used voice recognition, but once he got use to the keyboard he did not need the software anymore.”  The more he used his finger muscles, the better motor skills he developed in his hands.  

People with CP develop atrophy in their muscles as they get older. Donna explains, “That is the whole problem with a child who develops CP, if they don’t ever push it and use those muscles, they will never work.  The more you use the muscles the better they will function.”

When Clayton got older he decided he had to make lifestyle changes if he was going to fight the aging effects of his disorder. Clayton has a way of speaking, the listener knows that he doesn’t use his words lightly, “It was basically a draw to become active.  I knew that I was able to balance and pedal on a stationary bike. When I began, I had no stamina at all; I could do barely any miles. With time and persistence I was able to bring my average mileage up.”

Since he began training for the Ride Without Limits event, he has noticed better movement, better muscle tone, and better strength over all. “It is also improving my gait, my knees have a tendency to draw together, turn in when I am walking. The training is giving me the strength to keep my knees apart,” Clayton explains.

Training for the average athlete is tough, but for a person with CP even the process of putting on cycling shoes and  helmet, and getting onto the bicycle is a challenge in itself.  What takes the average triathlete two minutes in transition time at an event, could take Clayton up to 15 minutes. 

 Clayton wants to be an inspiration to individuals with CP and other disabilities, “I think over all, it is attitude and will that gets me on the bike. The training will help you, but unless you have the motivation and the inspiration to do it and to overcome pain you won’t succeed.”

“He is a pretty determined dude,” says Clayton’s mother.  

Donna tells me about Clayton’s aunt who has battled breast cancer. Her doctors keep telling her that she needs to become more active.  She tells Donna that she has no excuses when she sees the effort that Clayton goes through just to get equipped for a training session.  

“I don’t think I am unique in my situation,” Clayton humbly explains.  He goes on to say that his situation is no different from someone else who is truly determined to achieve better fitness and outlook on health.  

After Clayton finishes the Ride Without Limits event, he hopes to travel to Quebec and ride the P’tit du Nord. The trail runs for 120 miles from Saint-Jérôme to Mount-Laurier on an abandoned train route.  

Fact Box
Ride Without Limits November 17th and 18th
Clayton Gandy’s Blog:



Chip Scanlan: 4 Lessons in Conducting an Interview

December 3, 2007

By Courtney Herrig

The course on NewsU, Reporting, by instructor Chip Scanlan was very useful because no one ever teaches the journalist how to conduct an interview. I actually took a different course, entitled, 5 Steps to Multimedia, but the course had no interactive features and was not structured logically. However, this course was engaging and informative because the lesson used audio and video to teach the lesson. The course is presented with animation and audio for the interview and video footage of the instructor. The lesson was very cleaver because the instructor calls you one a video phone while you are in an interview and gives you hints and advice to get a better response from the interviewee.

4 Lessons to Reporting
Lesson 1: Always come prepared with questions listed in a notebook. The questions should be audience centered, i.e. ask questions that the reader would ask. I interpret this rule to mean that my line of question should follow my initial thoughts when I was first presented this topic and interview – before I did my research. In my opinion, this is the best way to place myself in the shoes of the reader.

The instructer qoutes John Brody, author of The Craft of Interviewing, “The interview is like a chess player, he says, never moving a piece or asking a question without a greater purpose.” I like this perspective because it demands that the reporter think about the implications of each question and answer. This is not an easy feat, but with time and practice this could be a craft.

Lesson 2: The instructor is quick to point out that interviewing is not an art or science – it is somewhere in between. The reporter cannot aways predict what people say, because humans are unpredictable beings. He says that reporters often ask questions that suppress rather than produce information. Scanlan explains that the most productive interviews are conversations. This rule is closely related to the first rule, if the reporter is not responding to what is said by the interviewee but simply going down the list of questions they are not having a conversation. This can be very off putting and could create an empty story depending the topic.

Lesson 3: Listen with the heart as well as the head. Scanlan says the tape recorder taught him his hardest lesson. I could empathize with this part of the lesson. This exactly how I felt time I listened to my first interview that I had recorded on my new iPod digital recorder. It was an embarrassment. I had been told by my closest friend that I wasn’t the best listener, but I had a difficult time stepping out of my perspective every time I tried to improve my listening skills. The voice recorder put this personal flaw right in my face . . . or rather my ears. Even though I was hearing and listening to what the interviewee had to say, I was not listening with my heart. This is perhaps the hardest lesson of this course. Lesson 2 and 3 are a balancing act; the interviewer needs to talk less, but still keep a conversational environment to the interview.

Lesson 4: No such thing as “off the record”. Scalan discusses that if the interviewee uses this term, explain that nothing is off the record. The term “not for attribution” may be what they mean. He explains that “not for attribution” means the sources information can be used in the story but will not be referenced back to the interviewee.

Cleaning your Copy

December 3, 2007

by Priscilla Mader

This is a great class to help journalist to avoid mistakes in grammar, spelling and style.

This course showed me a lot of details to look for in the sentences, in order to avoid mistakes and perform an excellent writing. It also helped me to recognize the areas which I most struggle and make most of the grammatical errors.

I highly recommend this course not only for journalist students, but to anybody.

News U Course- The Interview

December 3, 2007

By Shantrell Scott    

I really enjoyed the course and learned a lot of information on a subject that is known as my weakness as a journalist. The modules were visual and allowed me to receive clear and useful tips on how to ask the right kinds of questions when doing an interview.    

There was some information that I was already aware, one being the pre-interview, which is to construct several questions that gets you to your goal of what you want out of the story.  What I learned from constructing questions is that the questions don’t have to be so long and complex.  The lesson suggests that the reporter ask more short and simple questions in order to get more feedback from the interviewee.      

I also learned that even journalists have to shut up and be more of listeners than always blurting out question after question or cutting the source off in mid-sentence.  The lesson talked about how we should listen with the heart and really be interested in what the person has to say.   

There were also other useful tips from different writers on how to conduct a good interview, especially in sports writing. One tip that I learned is to not allow the source smell your fear. The writer is supposed to be the one to place the fear in the interviewee because their lives and reputation lies in our hands.  

The lesson also talks about how to handle the popular statement from interviewees: “…and this is “off the record.”  I learned to inform the interviewee about what “off the record” means and that when something is off the record, that means that the information is not meant to be used in the story. The course also talked about “not for attribution” where the source may not be attributed, but only the information is used or the source may be attributed in a general way.    

The entire website was a great help and I hope to continue to use it in the future. 

News U Course–Math for Journalists

December 3, 2007

By: Jennifer Teuber

First and foremost, I have to say I was confused. I thought the News U course would involve a quiz at the end of each section, which it did not. It was not as interacitve as I expected.

The first few sections of the cousre offered background information and refreshers for those of us who haven’t done much math for the past few years.

Only when it got into percentages, ratios, means, medians, etc. did it actually seem like Math for Journalists. The most helpful parts, I think, were mean, median, and mode. Also, the section on ratio, rank, and rate.

By far I thought the most interesting and helpful section was the last section on Advanced topics. How to estimate crowds seemed exceptionally interesting to me, as well as the other two topics: weighted averages and cost of living.

All in all, the News U course was good reading, but I would have liked more involvement to keep it interesting. I got bored.