Monday, April 28, 2008

To Our Parting Leader

As we all know, our esteemed instructor this semester is leaving us. Professor Burzynski Bullard, or Sue as she is more affectionately known, will be teaching in Nebraska(lucky farmers). I think I speak for my peers when saying that Sue will be missed greatly. Over the course of 8 months my mindset has changed dramatically. In August I stepped foot in Sue's news media management class expecting the worst, a class I could only miss once, where there was an assignment due every class. I expected to loathe the instructor and hate going to the 3 hour lecture. Boy was I wrong. Though the readings got a bit repetitive, the class did not. Never in my J-school adventures had I encountered such an experienced, intelligent, likable professor.

With most professors, it can seem like they are just talking to hear themselves talk, Sue spoke to enlighten her audience. When she thought someone else might be able to say it better, she brought them in. Through various teaching techniques and role playing games her point got across and everyone learned, even if they didn't know they were. Future news media managers were being born, and Sue was the reason.

This class was so well taught that I opened a spot in my schedule to take another of Sue's classes in the Spring, Copy Editing. Now I have no interest in being a copy editor, and although the skills are very useful and will undoubtedly help me one day, I enrolled for one reason and one reason only, to receive 6 hours a week of life lessons and journalism advice from Sue. Again many guest speakers were brought into the classroom to teach us some skills that Sue hadn't experienced, like online editing and headline writing, design, and blogging, and that was well and good. I think the most important knowledge gained from the class was not from these speakers, nor was it from the AP style presentations, but it was from everyday class discussion and real life examples of any and every news situation from Sue.


I would like to thank you for this academic year and the immense amount of knowledge you have spent hours handing over to me. You will never know the impact that you have had on my future, my present, and me as a person. I look up to you more than anyone except my parents (sorry), and believe me, they know how honored I am to have been taught by you. I regret that you are leaving MSU as I would have loved to spend more time in the classroom learning from you, heck I might've even gone back and taken 300 just for the hell of it. You are an instructor, a mentor, an idol, and more important than anything else, a friend to me, and for that I am thankful. You've given me more than I could ask for by way of advice and direction. You will forever play a pivitol part in my development as a journalist and as a person. I regret not throwing you a going away party in class, but hopefully you'll be back in the mitten again anyways. I hope to never lose touch with you, whether it be via facebook or e-mail. And in about 5 years, if you need a guest speaker on being a smart ass, call me and I'm there. Thank you again for everything you have given myself, and MSU. To the best J-School prof. at MSU, Nebraska, or anywhere else!

Your Friend,

Friday, April 25, 2008

One parting thought

So, I graduate in less than a week and I'm headed off to Seattle. Before I take off I'd like to impart something I was someone had told me when I was a freshman. GET INTERNSHIPS! That may seem obvious to some, but the reality is, I think far too many of us don't take advantage of the opportunity to gain professional experience and contacts. I always avoided applying because I didn't think I was good enough and lacked the clips, but there are internships available for all levels of college journalists. I applied to 40 places and had interviews with only four, but I did eventually get one. Despite the shot to my ego, the experience I gain will be well worth the pain of the applying process. And as you go through college your marketability only improves with each additional job you take. So, instead of working that summer job back home at the local gas station, get out and apply for internships. Who knows who'll get back to you, but there are seriously worse things in life than rejection letters.

P.S. This is the site that saved my life when I was looking for a job.

Watch out! Citizen journalists are taking your job

I've always been fascinated by the recent trend of citizens submitting their photos and videos to newspapers for publish. CNN does this all the time, calling it their iReport. The Lansing State Journal also did it with their Cedar Fest coverage. I caught this interesting posting in BusinessWeek about it as well. So, the question is, is this a safe policy? Journalists pride themselves on the objectivity training and ethical standards we have hammered into us, so is it safe for a guy off the street to submit content for web publish? Do we know what motives, biases, reasons exist for submitting the content, and is it framed in a skewed light? Will editors soon need to start writing corrections on behalf of their citizen journalists when they blow it? Only time will tell, but personally I think this starts to cross into a gray area with enormous potential for harm.

Branching out in the newsroom

So, today I got my first byline ever. It's not going to win me any Pulitzers, but it was a generous offer by one of our sports editors that I had to take. It really got me thinking, wouldn't it be amazing if more newsroom staffers could become involved in areas of the paper they aren't necessarily familiar with. My top reasons for this are;

A. It gives you a better understanding of how the paper works as a whole. Until you've actually had a story of yours hacked in length so it fits on the page, you really don't really comprehend what you're doing as a designer when you ask, can't we just cut it?

B. It allows you to explore areas of the paper you never gave a chance. Am I going to switch over and become a reporter? Hell no, but I've seen designers, photographers, writers, etc. move around our newsroom and find out they're calling really lies in a field other than what they've previously done.

C. It always makes you more marketable, like this guy. What paper wants to hire someone to write a story, someone else to capture audio of the event, and a third person to take some photos when one person could theoretically take care of it. I'm not saying journalists shouldn't specialize, but instead this provides even more content for the readers that otherwise wouldn't be available.

Covering Elections, What Not To Do

There's an interesting story on CNN that found a rising number of voters find the campaign too negative and dull. The story states that roughly two-thirds of those polled say (the campaign has) been “too long" and it’s become “too negative” and more than a third say the race is just “too dull." On the exact page where this story was published are accompanying headlines that state, McCain: 'It's very clear who Hamas wants' in the White House and Clinton, McCain camp fire back over Obama energy remarks.

Is CNN seriously too oblivious to their own articles to see readers are growing tired of the campaign coverage? This appears to be the case, as new stories continue to focus on the "horse-race" that this election has become, neglecting to cover the actual issues, credentials of the candidates, and qualifications for presidency. Perhaps newsrooms need to bury their egos and actually cover what the readers want. The continual coverage of the race from the competition standpoint is simply news for the sake of news.

Top Ten Lists

Sure, everyone loves top ten lists. Top ten pizza places, top ten sitcoms, top ten vodkas. And of course David Letterman and his top ten list every night. They're all just someone's (or a survey of a group's) opinion, which means that not everyone agrees with them. But we love top ten lists, so we keep making them.

Forbes recently came out with a new top ten list, this one for best and worst cities for commuters. Detroit ranked second in the worst category, only behind Atlanta. I had to scratch my head here. Forbes, you're telling me the traffic is worse in Detroit than it is Los Angeles, or Chicago? Or even Boston, where you're an inch away from a crash every time you go down one of the many narrow streets?

Many people from out of state love our efficient and well-planned highway system. The auto industry made us what we are: a street-loving, public transit-shunning sprawl of a metropolis. The study says the counties of metro Detroit use less than five percent on average public transportation, which is a horrid statistic, but that doesn't mean the commute is terrible.

See how angry one top ten list can make a person? Can we stop with them, please?

Another prof. athlete in trouble with marijuana use

Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard admitted on a radio show the other day that he does indeed smoke marijuana, primarly in the off season. He adds his name to the list of other athletes who have gotten in trouble with this situation. I understand that athletes do drugs, it is no secret, but why would they go ahead and make that public and take a chance at Deteriorating their reputation.
When one becomes a prof. athlete they are looked up to as role models by kids and others all over. Especially in Howards case, as he is an NBA all star and one of the top players on one of the NBA's most popular team. The ESPN article that relased this news, says that Howard will likley be enetred into the NBA's marijuana program, which is designed to keep players clean and require them to take more frequent drug tests. This is just because he decided to mention this in a radio broadcast, as if everyone dosen't already know that not all athletes are drug-free.
Bottom line, if you are a prof. athlete, act the part of a professional and don't do stupid things to tarnish your rep and the leagues rep as well. Get the memo Josh Howard, put the hippie lettuce aside and do your job which is to play basketball and represent your team and the NBA in a positive manner.