Read Grading Comments Several Times

First, read them to get a sense of what I’m saying. Let yourself get annoyed, uncomfortable, or defensive. Some of you may already be accustomed to this and not bothered at all by grading comments.

Second, read them for substance and content. What can you learn moving forward?

Be sure that you re-read your actual blog post as well, or have the blog post open as you read my comments.


Media Writing Suggestions (Blog Post 2)

Think Critically About Direct Quotes

I assume that many of you are recording your interviews. That’s fine. It can be helpful.  But, I’ve noticed that as students record their interviews more, they rely more on the recorded interviews without doing much critical thought about the direct quotes.

Only use the direct quote if the speaker said it better than you can write it. If the quote is better summarized by one short, succinct sentence written by you, then please paraphrase the information and attribute to the speaker.

Avoid Long, Rambling Direct Quotes

Please avoid using long, rambling direct quotes that are difficult to read. If your direct quote is 3 or more lines of text with no punctuation marks, then it’s likely a long, rambling quote.

If you have a long, rambling direct quote, then what should you do?

  1. Paraphrase it (re-write the speaker’s sentence using your own words) and attribute to speaker
  2. Split it up into smaller quotes that are complete sentences. Yes, you can add punctuation to a person’s long, rambling quote. Attribute to the speaker
  3. Provide a partial quote that is not a complete sentence and attribute to the speaker.

Think Creatively About The Story Flow

A strong writer will narrative the story by relevant information and reader engagement. When a writer organizes the story by speaker only, without thinking about the story flow, then, the story may not be narrated in the most efficient way, the most interesting way, or the most sensible way for the reader.

Again, usually (although, not always) strong storytellers will weave and mix speakers as it is most appropriate for the story. Think critically about how to best present the information. Many times, it is not by the speaker order.

The AP Stylebook Is Your Best Friend In Media Writing

If you want to be a journalist, public relations professional, advertising copy writer, or anything else in media, then you need to have an AP Stylebook with you whenever you write. You should know to always double-check dates, names, titles, places, states, cities, numerals, abbreviations, and capitalization with the AP Stylebook. While writing for media, you should also think to yourself, “what does the AP Stylebook say about this?”

Proofread, Over and Over

Many times, writing can be greatly improved by simply proofreading the story. Nearly every student had proofreading errors such as misusing “its” vs. “it’s”, not capitalizing certain words, not following AP Style correctly for titles, dates, and locations, or inserting commas into sentences that use “because” in the middle.

Incorrect:

Dr. Landreville says proofreading is important, because students who major in communication and journalism should be strong writers.

Correct:

Dr. Landreville says proofreading is important because students who major in communication and journalism should be strong writers.

Incorrect:

Because students who major in communication and journalism should be strong writers Dr. Landreville says proofreading is important.

Correct:

Because students who major in communication and journalism should be strong writers, Dr. Landreville says proofreading is important.

If you want to improve your grammar and style, then I suggest When Words Collide.

Want To Improve? Read Local News! Pay Attention to the Journalistic Writing

Many students used promotional writing that made the story feel like a press release for public relations purposes. When there is an opinion in the story, it needs to be attributed. Your opinion should not appear in the story. You ARE allowed to describe the scene in objective terms, but you are NOT allowed to say how you feel or what you think about the scene in subjective terms.

The best way to learn strong journalistic writing is to READ, READ, READ local newspapers. When you buy and read local newspapers, you are:

  • learning about the events and decisions that directly impact your life
  • learning the foundations of AP Style,  strategies for storytelling, how to use direct quotes and attribution, and more
  • learning what is appropriate tone and presentation for news –> Many of you used promotional writing rather than newswriting. Some of you used styles that mimicked Huffington Post opinion blogs rather than Laramie Boomerang journalistic writing.
  • supporting local businesses by reading their advertisements and press releases
  • supporting local news so that the local news doesn’t go out of business
  • supporting democracy because we need to know about local decisions and events

Think about it:

  • larger newspapers like the Denver Post will not be covering issues in small Wyoming towns if a Wyoming newspaper goes out of business.
  • news is not free. While in an ideal world, local news would be free, it’s not. Just like health care, a college education, your internet, your Netflix and Hulu subscriptions, and your smartphone, news is not free. News is a product that we need to invest in.

Photography and Photojournalism Suggestions (Blog Post 3)

Again, The AP Stylebook Is Your BEST Friend

Review AP Style as you write captions. There were many errors in captions, such as dates and locations.

Avoid Shoot And Runs

In reviewing the class’s photos, I could tell when students were snapping one or two photos and then running. The photos were not very strong, and I got a lot of backs and butts in photos. In other words, there was some shyness and hesitancy going on because I didn’t see a lot of people’s faces and I didn’t get names in captions.

Make Small Talk

When taking photos of strangers, take a few photos without them noticing. Then, go up and introduce yourself and explain your photography. Chat with them a little bit. Make small talk. Then, ask the person to keep going about their business as you take more photos. Your photos will be much stronger.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

Many students reported feeling uncomfortable or intimidated by this assignment. I get it. I hated the first photojournalism class that I was forced to take. I was so nervous and uncomfortable with taking photos. However, being forced to do a new photojournalism assignment every single week helped me get more comfortable. So, even though this is your only photojournalism assignment, I encourage you to keep pushing yourself.

You have the ability to be great, but we need more effort and a “fake it ’til you make it” mentality. If you pretend that you’re confident and just force yourself to give it a 100% “all in” attitude, then you’ll be amazed at what you will accomplish in time with practice and persistence.

Visuals Are Essential For Media Careers

No matter what type of media career that you enter, visuals are essential. Audiences want visuals. Visuals tell powerful stories. So, keep practicing!