Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Birthdays to Princess Raelin (18th) & Lee(30th)!

And others, as well .... but if I start naming everyone I'll leave someone out. So I think I'll stick to grandkids and hubby.

The rest of you are on your own. :-)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Day in the Life of a Knight(Fellow in Community Journalism) Errant

So just what does a Knight Fellow in Community Journalism do, you ask. Perhaps you imagine us sallying forth from The Anniston Star castle, swooping down upon neighboring villages and countryside in quest of glorious adventure, and performing such noble deeds as exposing corruption or slaying ignorance with ink and paper, bytes and (sound) bites.

Not quite.

Though it is true that Star Castle sits atop a hill and is surrounded by forest wherein woodland creatures dwell ... and though it is true that there are neighboring villages wherein all manner of life is lived ... though these things are true, our sallying forth occurs but seldom and then for purposes inquisitive rather than conquistative, to coin a word.

Actually, we sally forth each morning from our individual abodes in various neighboring villages and arrive at Star Castle no later than nine, Star-time. Generally, Star-time agrees with Central Daylight (soon to be Standard) Time, but the two clocks in our section have been purposely set ahead by several minutes in an attempt to spur the sports writers, who share their space with us, to meet their 11:30 p.m. deadline. Their copy generally concludes the day's news, and so the printers below in the belly of the fortress wait on them to set the presses in motion.

Back to the a.m. hours when we arrive. At nine, we gather in a conference room with our professor of the day. Three of the professors travel I-20 from Tuscaloosa -- about a two-hour drive -- while one comes from Birmingham, an hour away. From nine until noon we are occupied thus:

  • Mondays--Production: Dr. Ed Mullins, retired journalist and professor emeritus who oversees the class. Various Star employees have given us mini-workshops on design software, video shooting and software, photo shooting and software, etc. Our current assignment, which concludes at the end of this semester, is to talk to people within our assigned communities to discover what concerns they bring to next fall's local elections. We will be producing a special section in December.
  • Tuesdays--Contemporary Issues in Journalism: Dr. Jennifer Greer, department chair and newly arrived from the University of Reno. We study everything from financial models to media law to media formats to ethics to the latest trends in public/civic and citizen journalism. A veritable smorgasbord of issues served up in books and speakers and field trips to various newsrooms ... well, until our travel allowance was slashed, that is. Our main project is a research paper about one of the issues; I'm looking at the ways media communicate their ethical standards to the public.
  • Wednesdays--Communication Theory: Dr. Wilson Lowrey, who began his career as a political cartoonist and worked as a designer and editor before migrating to the theoretical dark side of trying to figure out just how it is that we never quite say what we mean and how we tend to mishear what others think they say. And what media can and ought to do about it. Dr. Lowrey's self-deprecating sense of humor keeps this class from becoming a dragon in need of slaying. We have each chosen a community issue (mine is animal control), written a news article about it, and are now writing a research paper applying various theories to the issue. We'll be creating a Web site about the issues to finish off the semester.
  • Thursdays--Media History and the First Amendment: Dr. Julie Williams, from Samford University in Birmingham, brings samples from her collection of period newspapers and other treats...including Nestles candy bars in honor of Civil War New York Times journalist Charles Anderson Page who founded the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company which merged with Nestles in the early 1900s (another source says it became Bordens ... but then we wouldn't have gotten Nestles candy bars....). We have been given our own set of six newspapers--the real deal, folks, not repros--from which to study developments in reporting and printing. And I'm continuing my interest in children's media by doing my research paper on a facet of Youth's Companion, one of the longest running family magazines (1827-1929) with a high subscription circulation of 500,000 households.
  • Fridays--Grand Rounds in Community Journalism: Chris Waddle, director of the ComJ program, and various Star editors and staff members have assigned us to explore various aspects of the community and to discuss, on paper, how we would cover that aspect. We meet on Fridays to brief and debrief.
So there you have it. That's what I do each weekday morning. And each weekday afternoon and evening I'm reading LOTS (I'd say TONS, but that's hyperbole) of books and scholarly articles and am trying to keep it all sorted and stored (notice the anagrammatic words there?) in my mental repository. Lately, I'm ashamed to say, I just throw it in and slam the door and hope it won't all come spilling out next time I open the door to throw something else in ...

Until next time....

P.S. Scroll to the bottom for a couple of new slide shows...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

But Will it be on The Test?

Eight out of ten respondents said, "Go, granny!" Two said, "Nice try, but try again."

Both of the two are of grandmotherly age, so may have been biased (so much for anonymity -- but both emailed me with other thoughts, so they're the ones who pulled back the curtain...just in case anyone else out there is concerned). Of the two, one was more concerned about the content of my response than about my moniker. The other suggested 'Aunt Luigi.' Now there's a thought...

In any case, I think I'll stick with Granny Annie for a bit and see what happens. You'll hear from her from time to time and, if her audience begins to demand it, she may even acquire her own space. We'll see.

Dear Granny Annie,

My teacher makes us read the whole chapter even though only part of it is going to be on the test. She won't even tell us which parts. This isn't fair! Why should we spend time reading stuff we don't need to know? And even the parts that are on the test are a waste of time. Who cares when some stupid battle was fought? Besides which, if I really need to know, I can look it up on the Internet.

Disgusted Student

Dear Disgusted,

Ahh...I see your point. The Internet has made learning obsolete and there are so many other things one could be doing besides reading, studying, and going to school.

Such as?

Before you answer that, stop and think. Do you get more done when you are on your own or when someone else is telling you what to do?

I know what tends to happen to me when I am on my own with no schedule, no assignments. My cell phone alarm goes off, but I roll over in bed for "just a few more minutes." An hour later I wander into the kitchen for a bowl of cereal and the morning newspaper (yes, some people still read one). By the time I get dressed and sit down to my computer, it's almost noon. The whole morning is gone while I puttered around.

But...if I have to meet someone or have a deadline? Things are quite different then! My cell phone alarm goes off, and I get up. If I have to do so, I can be out the door within half an hour. If I'm working at home that day, I get to my computer and start working. And, yes, sometimes I look things up on the Internet, but...

But how would I even know to look something up to check the date or the spelling or whatever if I'd never heard of it?

Think of your teacher as your brain's personal trainer. You know. Like what a physical trainer does to help an athlete build muscle and endurance.

"OK, now, we're going to start with this 3-lb. weight, which seems light enough, but I want you to do 15 reps of bicep curls with an overhead lift and a tricep drop, then back up and down. Got it? Good, let's go ... and one-two-three-four and two-two-three-four and ...."

Crunches and lunges and kicks and squats. Heavier weights. More repetitions. Longer workouts.

"OK, now, we're going to start with a five-page chapter, which doesn't seem very long, but I want you to pick out the important people and dates and events, write them down and memorize them. Got it? Good, let's go ... 1914-1918-World War I-Woodrow Wilson-League of Natons, 1929-Stock Market Crash, 1930s-Depression Era-Herbert Hoover-FDR, 1939-1945-World War II..."

Times tables and names of planets and punctuation rules. Harder problems. More information. Longer chapters.

An athlete does it because he/she never knows what's going to happen in the game. You have to be prepared for anything ... ready to sprint, leap, dodge, catch.

Your teacher makes you do it because he or she knows you never know what's going to happen in life. You have to be prepared for anything ... ready to figure, know, explain, understand.

The more an athlete's body is conditioned by training, the more he or she can adapt to what happens in the game.

The more your mind is conditioned by training, the better you'll be able to adapt to what happens in life. That's the real test.

But...deep down I think you already knew that.

That's OK. We all need to be reminded. Including ...

Granny Annie

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Shoes, shoes, and more shoes

If you want to check out a couple of other takes on the shoes video--see how a couple of other fellows, who are actually a fellow couple as in they're married to each other, used the same footage--check out The Fourth Estater (click on the little triangle by September -- on the right hand side where the archive posts are listed -- then click on 'A Little Something I Threw Together') and Are You Talking? (scroll down to October 2 post -- 'I'm no Coppola' -- it looks like a black box, but click on the start triangle at the bottom and it will come to life!).

Saturday, October 6, 2007

MoJo -- Of Shoes & Ships & Sealing Wax

Our training as mobile journalists began when we took turns training our one camera onto each other's faces and shoes and shot footage of ourselves talking about our shoes. Then we downloaded the raw footage into our laptops and each of us edited the material into some kind of cohesive package using IMovie, a fairly basic editing software program...but enough to get us started. I've worked enough with PowerPoint that I found it easy and fun ... we'll be using more advanced programs like Adobe Premiere Pro soon.

What is a mobile journalist, you ask? No, it's not a riddle ... at least I haven't come up with a punny answer ... although I'll send a Snicker bar to the first three people who come up with something that makes me do just that and who post their answer to this site. You can even specify milk or dark chocolate.

Mobile journalists do it all -- shoot video that can be uploaded to a news outlet's Web site, do podcasts (kind of like radio interviews that you can listen to on your IPod), and write old-fashioned print-it-in-the-paper-so-you-can-read-it-with-
your-coffee kinds of articles.

Soon we're being unleashed on an unsuspecting community where we're going to be doing video reports of town meetings, features, and sports events. Actual journalism and not the more artsy example below.

The only glitch I'm running into is that it's taking forever to upload this ... and it's timed out three times already. So...back to my reading "Communication Theories: Origins, Methods, and Uses in the Mass Media."

Video editing was way more fun... :-)