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...


Patricia said...

Someday, I'll let you know my schedule. It goes from 8-5 but not as structured and changes moment by moment with each phone call. Learning is fun! You are proving that...:)

May said...

People should read this.

Anne said...

Did you have particular people in mind?