Join us tomorrow (Wed. April 28) for our final meeting. We will have a guest speaker, and discuss new leadership for next semester.
Author Archives: anthonyjmartinez
By Anthony Martinez
Speeches from several award winning journalists set the tone for the regional conference in Fort Worth, Texas, this past weekend. Each of them urged the members in attendence, both students and professionals, to continue striving for excellence. None of the speakers or panelists failed to acknolwedge the dark times faced by the global economy, and thus the field of journalism. What they did do, however, was offer the reminder that there have been bad times before and the industry survived them all.
Hagit Limor, of WCPO-TV in Cincinnati, spoke at Saturday’s opening session and delivered the powerful message that strong media are required in times such as these to serve as watchdogs for the public. She cautioned that the largest obsticle the industry faces is the industry itself. With constantly emerging new technologies, media must reinvent themselves and be flexible. Reporters can no longer expect to get by with only a pen and paper. Everyone needs to know how to shoot, and edit, video and photos to help visually tell the story.
Following the opening session members split off and went to a wide variety of panels in which they had interest. I found myself at a session given by Dave Lieber, of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, titled The Power of the Story: How to Communicate Any Message to Anyone. In this panel, Lieber gave us a brief background on the way humans have communicated since the dawn of language. Simply put, we tell stories. There is always a hero, there is always a villian or something to overcome, there is a low point, there is a climax and there is an ending. Lieber went on to criticize the inverted pyramid method of presenting information, saying it leads to dull pieces that fail to engage the audience and ultimately costs readers. According to Lieber, when the time to dig beneath the surface is taken, there is always information available that will turn any event into an engaging story.
During the Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon, Gilbert Bailón, former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, spoke about the future of news. Bailón was optimistic that news will never be irrelevant, saying that the bloggers, talk shows, and everyone else still depend on reporting for their information. He also cautioned the professionals, and the students, against abandoning what we know or the way we work as we push forward with convergence. One remark in particular drew a hearty round of applause. Bailón asked why media outlets are cutting internships, when interns are the future of the industry, already know the technology, and are willing to work hard for little money (or even just experience). In his closing remarks, Bailón urged the membership not to confuse technology with journalism. He said that the technological devices are tools, but that those tools are useless without the skills that make one a journalist.
Texas State University won several Mark of Excellence Awards, congratulations to the following:
- Spencer Milsap, Stacie Andrews, Monty Marion and Austin Byrd of The University Star – 2nd place for Breaking News Photography
- Pat Stark of The University Star – 2nd place for Editorial Cartooning
- The University Star Editorial Board – 2nd place for Editorial Writing
- Jenny Polson of The University Star – 3rd place for General News Photography
- Stacie Andrews of The University Star – 2nd place for Photo Illustration
- Andrew Russell of KTSW 89.9FM – 2nd place for Radio Feature
- Adam Swank of KTSW 89.9FM – 2nd place for Radio Feature
- Grant Martin of Bobcat Update – 2nd place for Television General News Reporting
After lunch, it was back to the panels. Given my background in computer science, and my work with The University Star Web site, two panels jumped off the page and demanded my attendance. The first was Multimedia: A New Way to Tell the Story by Jen Friedberg of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The second was Express Yourself: Blogging and Web Site Creation Demystified with Jake Batsell (Southern Methodist University), Mike Orren (Pegasus News) and Richie Escovedo (Dallas/Fort Worth PR Profesional).
Friedberg echoed Limor’s earlier comments that everyone needs to learn to shoot, and edit, their own video. She also said that in the current climate all bets are off with regards to what you may be required to do in the newsroom. Everyone must learn to do everything now, and nobody is immune when it comes to layoffs. It is up to the individual to make sure their toolbox is as full as possible, and that they understand how to use those tools. Learn video. Learn Adobe® Flash®. Understanding these tools will help keep you marketable, and improve the content of your online edition (for newpapers, and other media).
One very interesting area addressed in Friedberg’s panel was the use of audio slideshows instead of video for certain things. Where it may take several hours to edit video and make it available for the Web, an audio slideshow can generally be created and posted in a matter of minutes. When there is a need for immediacy an audio slideshow is probably the way to go. For longer features you may be best served with video. An advantage the Web has over traditional broadcast is that time constraints are gone. There are no commerical spots to edit around, there is no requirement that a story end by a certain time. The trick, according to Friedberg, is keeping the attention of the viewer and using your multimedia content wisely.
Another point that was discussed was the use of interviews versus the use of voice-overs in video pieces. In general, viewers percieve stories with voice-overs as though the conclusion was known before the story was shot. To some, it may seem as though the story was written and the video produced to say what was already known. On the other hand, if the story is told directly from the source there is a more direct personal attachment to the information by the viewer.
Probably the most important pieces of these two was the distinction made between professional and amatuer blogs, and the need to generate traffic. Friedberg touched on the need to distinguish between the two in her panel, and Batsell, Orren and Escovedo did the same in theirs. While the amatuer side posts any information they come by, the professional must maintain reliable sources, verify information, and consider ethics at all times. Batsell, Orren, and Escovedo described this difference as one between “beat blogs” and “soapbox blogs” and went on to explain how beat blogging can help improve your contacts drastically and in turn improve your news stories.
Where Web traffic is concerned, Friedberg made the suggestion to send at least three links out to people or organizations with vested interests in any story you run. For example if you run a story about a DWI incident, post the link on Twitter, email a link to the local Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter, and post a link at Digg. Batsell, Orren, and Escovedo focused on the more technical driving force behind increased traffic known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Headlines show up as major fields in searches, and should be written with that in mind. What would you search for to find your story? Use that as your headline. Another trick is to include images with all of your stories. When you search a news story on Google relevant matches are grouped together, and Google attempts to find a photo to run as an icon for that search group. If you have the only photo that matches, Google will run that photo as their icon and you will benefit .
When it was all said and done, I left the conference with new contacts in the industry and a clear picture of the challenges every mass communications student must prepare to overcome. Over the next month, I will work on putting together some of the information from the conference and making it available to our members in one form or another. Anyone able to attend these conferences definitely should do so. Start saving now for the national conference if you are interested in going.