Archive for the ‘Journalism Education’ Category

At this past weekend’s SPJ Region 3 Conference, Meredith Cochie delivered a hyperactive Broadway-esque performance– interrupted only by the occasional “coffee burp” (her words).  In a manic 50-minute session that brought a blah-carpeted University of Florida auditorium to life, Cochie shared a bevy of tips aimed at helping j-students stand out from the job-seeking masses and land a gig worth bragging about on Facebook.

As the esteemed UF journalism alum and self-described “journo-maniac” shouted to an audience literally hanging on her every word, “I’m going to tell you some things you already know.  I’m just going to say them louder.”

Below is a brief highlight reel of what she laid out.  Enjoy.

How to Land a Job and Impress People…

1) Be a know-it-all.  Or in Cochie’s words, “Be a know-it-all about what you want to be a know-it-all about.”  Journalists need to know about the world in general and should have near-encyclopedic knowledge of one field or subject in particular.  As the classic saying goes, “Know a little about a lot and a lot about a little.”  If you want to report on sports or fashion or write movie reviews, dive in.  Study the history.  Read related daily news.  Identity and write about emerging trends.  Participate in online discussions.  Share your knowledge breadth and depth in mixed company, including in front of potential employers.  Just don’t overdo it.  Asinine should not become a three-syllable synonym for you.

2) Get a real email address.  Potential employers’ first perceptions of you may veer into the unprofessional category if you contact them with a personal email containing a cringe-worthy nickname, potty humor or nonsensically odd word-number configurations.  Two whoppers that students apparently used when reaching out to Cochie in the past: tequilas69@hotmail and

3) Analyze what your social media profiles and Google results say about you.  When warranted, delete, update, revise or create new content that oozes professionalism while still retaining the essence of you.

4) Make an impression in person.  At one point, Cochie told the tale of an overzealous student who politely and repeatedly accosted her with business cards and clips and questions about job prospects.  Guess what?  He stood out to her.  Some of his early approaches were a bit abrupt and artless, but his overall persistence and speak-to-strangers-in-positions-of-power courage enabled him to earn a name for himself, one that was backed up over time by the quality of his work.  In the digital age, when anything but an email back-and-forth makes some students break out in cold sweats, those who man up and introduce themselves to people they don’t know have an edge.

5) Hustle, without being a pimp.  Work uber-hard to stand out in some way.  As Cochie mentioned, “Tweet, blog, build an online presence, and a professional individual brand. . . . Otherwise, you’re in this big group of normal people and that’s gross.”

6) Don’t be late to an interview or any other get-together with an employer or mentor.  In Cochie’s words, “When you’re late, you look rude.  And silly.”

7) “Write.  Tons.  A lot.  All the time.”

8) “Build, don’t burn, bridges.”  As I can also attest, the people you know are often just as important as what you know and where you’ve worked when attempting to land jobs or make new connections.  To be clear, this shouldn’t be about simply collecting contacts that might be called upon for favors later.  Phoniness, like Saran wrap, is see-through.  And heck, you should genuinely like people.  You’re in journalism, after all.

9) Don’t overlook the handshake.  “When you shake hands with someone, use your hand, not a dead fish.”  According to Cochie, the art of the handshake is simple: Be firm without breaking bones; make eye contact without being creepy; and lean in without inching a…bit…too…close.

10) Look at your current cover letter one last time, then rip it up.  Most applicants’ letters scream perfectly adequate, unmemorable or middle-of-the-road.  So do their job prospects.  Your goal: Be bold.  Do something different.  Inject some life into it.  Remember, it’s the first chance an employer has to vet you.  Hook them with the lede sentence.  Show them who you are and why they must hire you immediately.

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Students in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon are increasingly having trouble checking out reporting 2.0 tools like video cameras and digital recorders from the school stockpile, a report late last week in The Oregon Daily Emerald revealed.

Apparently, a new set of classes is requiring their use, suddenly making demand dramatically outpace supply.  Frustrations are up.  Assignments are being submitted late.  Deadlines are being pushed back.  And work quality is suffering.

An Oregon junior: “It’s worrisome because if you don’t have funds to purchase the equipment, it’s a game of chance. It’s really discouraging for a lot of students.  It really makes you think ahead and some people are really good at doing that, others are not.”

What’s the multimedia lab and equipment access situation within your j-school or j-program???

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In the oddest piece I’ve come across this week, a professional-in-residence (AKA visiting prof.) at Marquette University debates how he should have responded to a pair of his students who asked to be excused from class to cover March Madness-related events in person for reputable outlets.

For some reason, this debate takes 1,000 words and involves multiple sources weighing in.  Seriously?

My answer to the students, in two words: You’re excused.  Two more words: Good luck!  A few more words after that: Send me links to your work, let’s talk soon to catch up on what you missed, and be ready to speak to the class about the experience and any lessons learned once you’re back!

Classes are wonderful avenues through which to explore and practice journalism.  But they are incomparable to a real-world reporting opportunity of A-list stature such as covering March Madness– in respect to strengthening students’ résumés and for adhering to the larger idea that college is about many, varied, and even occasionally once-in-a-lifetime experiences.  Even having to think twice about penalizing or holding my students back from that sort of experience seems apposite to my role as an educator.

So, in answer to the question posed by the visiting prof. in the Poynter piece headline, “What’s a journalism professor to do when his students miss class to cover March Madness?“: You cheer them on, offer help and feedback along the way if asked, and brag about them to anyone who will listen when they’re through.

Happy Friday. :)

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Spurred by a protest, a pair of top-notch student newspapers in the city by the bay are collaborating.  The Golden Gate Xpress at San Francisco State University and The Guardsman at the City College of San Francisco have joined forces to provide real-time, multi-platform coverage of the March in March, an organized statewide higher education budget cuts protest that kicked off this morning.

As the Guardsman confirms, “The partnership is the first time that the San Francisco State University and City College of San Francisco’s journalism departments will work together to break live news in either school’s institutional memory.  The Xpress will bring its expertise in online breaking news technology, while the Guardsman will provide a larger news crew in Sacramento than would be possible otherwise.”

A screenshot of a recent Xpress front page previewing a related protest held at the start of the month.

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It has quickly become the most hotly-debated journalism lesson so far in 2012.  Late last month in an advanced reporting class, a DePauw University visiting journalism professor passed out a student-athlete’s public records– including her social media profiles and reports related to a recent arrest– for a session on accessing documents.  It has spurred complaints from some of his own students and a subsequent ongoing imbroglio with DePauw administrators.

The gist, as reported by The DePauw, the student newspaper at the Indiana school: “In [a recent] Investigative Reporting Techniques class, which teaches journalism students how to access public information, [Mark] Tatge passed out a 17-page packet detailing the Jan. 27 arrest of sophomore Alison Stephens.  The front three pages were Stephens’ Facebook and Twitter profiles, available online.  Other documents included her booking record, permission to travel out of state, her father’s drivers license, police incident report and other court proceedings.  Tatge said that he chose the case to present because it was local, a breaking news story and involved a peer.”

The initial reaction: “[S]ome students were uncomfortable discussing a fellow DePauw student, particularly one who had been arrested.  Four students in the seminar are in the same sorority as Stephens, Pi Beta Phi. A member of the men’s basketball team was also in the class, another connection to Stephens who plays on the women’s team.  News of the class traveled fast.”

One camp is criticizing Tatge for being crass, singling out and further embarrassing a student who has already had a tough semester (including an arrest on charges of public intoxication, minor in consumption, resisting law enforcement, and criminal mischief).  The university is investigating whether the packet’s distribution created “a hostile learning environment” for the student or her peers.

As the mother of Alison Stephens wrote to the DePauw, “The fact that a visiting professor would chose a current student’s records to teach investigative journalism is an assault to everyone on campus.  Each student on campus is subject to the whim of whether a professor may or may not want to target them as the next ‘subject’.  The lesson being taught could have been made just as strongly without harming a 19-year-old student.”

The other camp argues Tatge was well within his rights to utilize the records– all of which are public– and deserves kudos for attempting to present a records sampling relatable to students.  In Tatge’s words, “I guess I could pick something about patent law and have them go look up patent and trademarks, but I think they would be less interested in that than they would be about an arrest for drinking [and the other charges].”

The bottom-line argument, from this perspective: Journalism, even in the classroom, is a real-world endeavor.  As the top Facebook comment on a related post asks, “So, investigative reporting for beginners should exist of fantasy exercises, duck any use of public records and forgo any lessons that your reporting– the truth– will hurt feelings, create controversy and generate criticism?”

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The College Media Hall of Fame is a digital enshrinement of individuals, news outlets, and organizations who have made a recent lasting impact on collegemediatopia.  Inductees include standout student journalists, innovative student media entrepreneurs, and impassioned advocates of campus press 2.0.  With a hat tip to the annual Time 100, many of the posts announcing each honoree include a few words of adoration penned by a close friend or colleague.  Next up…

David Teeghman

Founder and Publisher, J-School Buzz

J-School Buzz, an independent student blog focused with unblinking intensity on the University of Missouri School of Journalism, awes me.  At the moment, it is the only hyperlocal student blog within collegemediatopia of any significance.

It continues to break interesting stories and trigger debates of consequence in Columbia, Mo., and beyond.  And it is staffed by students within the Mizzou J-School who are unafraid to doggedly and at times critically report on their own program, for its own good.

As its editor-in-chief Ali Colwell writes with gusto, “It is not our job to make the journalism school look good.  We are bloggers, always digging for the truth. . . . We want to be a student voice for the Missouri School of Journalism, and we welcome conversation as well as debate.  We want to engage readers and create a site that fosters the dialogue for our amazing school that brings in the best students around.”

As part of Teach for America, Teeghman is leading middle school reading classes.

The man behind the Buzz deserves applause, respect, and a hyperlocal blog focused just on his hair.  David Teeghman launched the site in January 2011.  Roughly 13 months later, he can pat himself on the back for an accomplishment most j-students never muster: an actual start-up success story, one that has outlived his time in school.

Teeghman, now a Mizzou grad, is currently taking part in Teach for America in Indianapolis, while J-School Buzz continues to be a player in the student media arena nationwide.  Just yesterday, its post about the Mizzou J-School Facebook account not actually being officially aligned with the school prompted a response from the school’s planning and communications director on Romenesko.

For his courageousness, spirit of innovation, entrepreneurialism, and hyperlocal A-game, Teeghman rightfully earns a spot in the College Media Hall of Fame.  Frankly, it’s long overdue. :)

“A Rising Journalist with a Vision”

By Claudia Tran

Most of my interaction with Teeg was not during regular daylight hours or even face-to-face.  Most of the time, it was between 2 and 4 in the morning and we were communicating via Facebook, Twitter and text messaging, sometimes all of the above. In all honesty, it was usually the moments when I was right about to silence my phone or shut off the computer that the text or the chat with a new piece of advice or demand came from him, greeted with a half-groan and an eye-roll from myself [during her time as J-School Buzz editor-in-chief].

But it was during these times I had the privilege of getting to know a rising journalist with a vision.  Certainly not liked by all– and that has been the topic of many of our conversations– it is difficult even for his most passionate, fake-Twitter-account-creating critics to deny that Teeg is not only a talented journalist, but also innovative and dedicated.

Sure, he calls me Tranny (not only that, he encourages the world to) and enjoys likening me to a “cat continuously scared by its shadow,” but I always knew Teeg had my back and only wanted me to learn as much from the experience as he has.  He’s like a journalism equivalent of a big brother.  From him and his website I gained trade secrets far more valuable than anything a textbook or class lecture could have taught me.  He put 110 percent into J-School Buzz and never looked back.  He’s rolled with the punches, had successes as well as failures, and continues to push the boundaries in the name of our education.

Best of luck in the future Teeg.  May you continue to be controversial– we know you will be, and remember that JSB will always stand behind you.

Tran is a former J-School Buzz editor-in-chief.

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2012 is only a month old and it is already a mortal lock: Journalism’s word of the year is entrepreneurial.  It is being bandied about by j-profs and programs everywhere, finagling its way into existing course syllabi, new courses, full degrees, books, and workshops.


Among its most prominent early sightings:

1) The School of Communications at American University is launching a “10-course, 20-month master’s [program] in media entrepreneurship” that should earn formal approval soon and kick off in the fall.

2) At the start of the year, Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication staged its first Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute for a select crew of j-profs.

3) Last October, Entrepreneurial Journalism, the latest book from news media guru Mark Briggs, was unveiled.  Buzz has been growing steadily and the book is undoubtedly in place on many class syllabi.

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