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Archive for the ‘Journalism education’ Category

Six times last week, I taught a class that I first presented last spring when I was interviewing for my current job at LSU: writing for social media.

In the context of a beginning “Media Writing” class that we require of all Manship School of Mass Communication students, I teach the techniques of good writing in the context of social media. While my background is strongest in journalism, I apply the points of the class to other specialties within the Manship School: political communication, public relations and digital advertising.

This is going to be a long post, probably helpful only to mass-comm teachers (or last week’s students who would like a review). But that’s who I’m writing it for, and it’s long because I want to invite you to use some of my slides and points in your classes and/or to invite me to cover these or similar points in your own classes or in a workshop at your university or a conference. Of course, I could adapt the presentation to a professional audience, too.

I will tell about the class mostly through the students’ tweets. At the opening of the class, I assigned students to tweet about my points, ask questions on Twitter, make observations, etc. during the class, so they would be applying the lessons as they were learning them.

Many of my slides from the class will show in the students’ tweets. I will supplement with some of the actual slides that didn’t make it into their tweets. If you want the full slideshow (which I’ve already updated since the last of this week’s classes), I’ve posted it at the end of the post. I welcome and encourage teachers to use the materials here however they are helpful, or to contact me to discuss how to teach this topic in your class.

I’ll add context here and there, but mostly the students will tell the story:

Platform shapes the writing

I start with a discussion of how the nature of a social platform and your audience there shape the writing on the platform: the privacy of Snapchat, the professional nature of LinkedIn, the heavily female user base of Pinterest, the 140-character limit of Twitter, etc.

Social media writing basics

Part of my introduction covered some principles of social-media writing that apply in all situations.

I admit it: I did shout “Squirrel!” in one of the classes to illustrate the many distractions people face as they multi-task social media use into their days.

How to handle opinions

We also discussed how importance context (and your bosses’ expectations are) in learning whether opinions are encouraged, allowed or forbidden in your job.

Writing for memes

Before discussing specific social platforms, I discussed writing for memes, which appear on a variety of social media (and teach writing lessons for a variety of professions).

I always plan to update slides before a class where appropriate, and last week’s World Series win by the Kansas City Royals gave me some great memes to share along with the class (I wore my 2014 World Series t-shirt to Monday’s classes).

A note on updating old examples or visuals for a class or workshop: When I did this class last spring, I used some Rand Paul memes. Ben Carson and Donald Trump hadn’t yet risen to prominence in the Republican presidential race. I updated my slides for last week with memes about both. I’ll use the Carson memes in a later post about how he’s playing on social media and in professional media.

Error pages

I used error pages as another example of social-media-style writing in other contexts than social networks. For instance, the error pages of Clinton‘s and Marco Rubio‘s campaigns use humor in attempts to turn the error-page experience into an opportunity to volunteer or hear the candidate’s message:

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Slide24

Writing for Snapchat

Now we’re into the actual social tools, starting with Snapchat (which the students know much better than I do).

Gathering material to write about

Though the course is about writing, I point out how closely writing and reporting are entwined. Making some points about using social media to gather material for writing, I use some examples from earlier blog posts about how the Denver Post used social media to get a great story and photos about a mountain lion staring a cat down through a glass sliding door in Boulder and a hard-news story about rape and victim-blaming in Torrington, Conn.

I shared Andy Carvin‘s search tip for breaking news stories:

Visuals are important in social-media writing

In social media, I noted, words and your creative use of them can have a visual effect with or without photos:

The tweets above refer to some creative use of returns and a screengrab from a court docket by the Boston Globe’s Hilary Sargent in her coverage of the Dzhokar Tsarnaev trial last spring. Here are two of my slides from Sargent’s tweets:

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Slide54

I show some examples of strong breaking news coverage in tweets:

I talk about how Twitter can help tell an unfolding story:

I tell how Brian Stelter used text messages to tweet the story of the Joplin tornado when he didn’t have enough cell signal to make a phone call or access the Internet.

Twitter helps your writing

I tell how Twitter’s 140-character limit can help your writing:

Even in long writing, a succinct point is important

Toward the end of the class, I make the point that even in longer writing, such as books or political speeches, they should use social-media writing skills to make a memorable, brief point. I use those slides separately in an accompanying post.

‘Be your best self’

In the questions at the end of one class, I passed on this advice from a friend (though I couldn’t remember who). If this is your line, please identify yourself and I will credit accordingly:

Other students’ tweets

We wrap up the course reviewing the students’ tweets and praising them for some that illustrated the very points I had been teaching. You’ve already seen some of the best, but here are some others that I liked:

I don’t actually plan to boast/complain of being blocked, then later whitelisted, by Twitter for tweeting too much. But someone asked whether there was a limit on how much you could tweets, so I confessed to hitting the limit back in 2012:

Unrelated advice on posting photos in social media

If  you look at most of the photos posted above, they could use some tighter cropping. I’ll confess that I don’t edit all photos that I post to social media. The swift posting of live-tweeting in particular doesn’t allow much time for editing photos and keeping up with the story. But editing doesn’t take long. I’d say a quick crop and adjusting the brightness of a dark photo are usually worth the time.

Slides from the workshop:

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LSUreveilledotcom logoI don’t know whether this is a measure of how often I change jobs or how long I’ve been blogging, but this is the fourth new job I’ve announced on this blog that’s less than seven years old. But it’s the first new job that doesn’t involve changing employers.

reveille logoI start work right away as Director of Student Media for LSU. When I came here almost a year ago, I was accepting a one-year job as Lamar Family Visiting Scholar. But Dean Jerry Ceppos and I were always interested in exploring long-term opportunities. This one looks like an excellent fit. Thanks to Jerry for another excellent opportunity, and to the search committee and faculty who aided in this decision.

KLSU logoStudent media face many of the same challenges I’ve helped professional media address for the last decade and more in various positions: Developing new revenue streams; developing new products; finding, adjusting and maintaining the right mix of digital and legacy media. And it involves additional challenges I’ve enjoyed in the past year: Teaching and preparing students for media careers.

legacy logoI think and hope that I am well-prepared for these challenges. But I expect to learn a lot more about LSU’s Student Media operations in the next few weeks before the retirement of my friend and predecessor and the incumbent until he leaves, Bob Ritter. And maybe I’ll learn more by phone, email or over lunch after he retires. I also expect to learn a lot from the professional staff of student media and from the student leaders.

Tiger TV logoI come into the job with student media experience going back to 1972, when I wrote my first stories for the Daily Skiff, student newspaper at TCU, when I was a freshman. I later became editor of the Skiff for the spring semesters of 1975 (yes, 40 years ago) and 1976, and also worked briefly for KTCU, the student radio station, and Image, the student magazine. All three products continue today, along with several more. More recently, I have consulted with TCU and several other university student media operations as they seek to transform for the digital age, the very challenges LSU student media face. I’ve been a speaker at seminars for student media leaders hosted by Iowa State University and the University of Georgia, as well as conferences of the College Media Advisers/Associated Collegiate Press and Western Association of University Publication Managers. And I think my extensive experience in professional journalism as well as my teaching experience will be valuable in this job.

Gumbo logoFor all that experience, I’m still learning, and I’m interested in learning from you. If you’ve been involved in student media, what have you learned from your successes and mistakes? How do you think someone in my position should guide student media through the changing media landscape? What are some goals we should pursue, some traps we should avoid?

My blog posts on student media

I’ll be blogging a lot about student media in the coming months and years. Here are some things I’ve already written on the topic:

Student media need to pursue a digital-first approach

Students already consume news digital-first; student media should follow suit

Digital-first journalism workshops for TCU student media

Digital-first workshops for student media at the University of Texas-Arlington

My keynote for student media leaders: You will shape journalism’s future

Posts on other new jobs

Pursuing a new opportunity in Washington

Another extraordinary opportunity: this time Journal Register Co.

My next adventure: teaching at LSU

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Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen, one of the leading thinkers in journalism and journalism education, is teaching a “digital thinking” class that I’d love to take and that I might sometime want to teach, stealing liberally from Jay.

But for now, he asked for my feedback. So I’m going to give the feedback here, because I want to spread the word about Jay’s thoughtful approach to digital thinking, as well as milk a blog post from my feedback to Jay. (Ask me a question that would result in a long email response, and I’m going to make it do double duty on the blog, unless it’s a private matter.)

In a Twitter direct message, Jay likened his class to my work on Project Unbolt during my last few months with Digital First Media. My initial reaction was that Project Unbolt was about action and Jay’s class is about thinking, but of course, the two go together. Digital thinking changes how you work and changing how you work changes how you think. One of my first blog posts for my DFM colleagues was about digital thinking.

Below are the main “currents and trends” Jay expects to cover in the class. He wants students in each case to learn “what it means, why it’s important, and where things are going with it.” I encourage reading Jay’s post, which has links to earlier posts he has done, as well as material from others.

What I do here is post Jay’s key points (in bold), followed by some of his explanation and my comments and any links to posts I’ve written that might be helpful. I recommend reading Jay’s blog to get all his comments and the links he shared, which elaborate well on his points. I’m ripping him off extensively here, but not totally. (more…)

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At today’s meeting of the faculty of the Manship School of Mass Communication, I will be discussing why and how faculty should use Twitter.

Dean Jerry Ceppos asked me to discuss the topic following my discussion earlier this month about why editors should be active on Twitter. We agreed that a similar discussion of Twitter’s value in teaching communication students would be helpful.

Both to gather more views than just mine (and to demonstrate Twitter’s usefulness in crowdsourcing), I asked my tweeps:

My tweeps, as usual, were most helpful in their responses:



















My examples lean more toward teaching journalism than the other specialties taught in the Manship School: political communication, advertising and public relations. I think a lot of the advice received from other professors would be helpful in multiple fields, but I welcome your advice relating to a particular specialty in journalism or any of those other fields of communication.

Here are the slides I used (showing the tweets above as well as some examples I used):

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I told faculty of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in January that one of their most important jobs was to help students learn for themselves how to use new tools. That’s what I’ll be doing next semester: I’ll be teaching without teaching.

Dean Sarah Bartlett had asked me to speak at a faculty meeting about what journalism graduates needed to succeed in digital media. Back then, I was thinking I’d be working the next several years at Digital First Media. A key point of my presentation was that students needed to learn how to use digital tools — not that a school needed to teach any particular set of tools, but that students needed to learn how to learn new tools by themselves. Whatever tools a journalism school teaches students, some of them will become obsolete before long, and new tools will come out soon after any student graduates. So it’s important that journalists have some experience and comfort with the process of figuring out how a tool works and how to use it to do better journalism.

Well, that Digital First thing didn’t last as long as I thought, so I’m teaching now. And next semester, I will be teaching a class in interactive storytelling tools. Only I won’t be teaching the students how to use the tools (some of them I may not know myself). Instead, I’ll be guiding the students in exploring how to learn new tools themselves. (more…)

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My distracting laptop

My distracting laptop

I’ve updated this post after discussing the issue with my class. 

I can think of no journalism professors I admire more than Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen. But I (so far) disagree with them on the subject of whether to allow students to use laptops and mobile devices during class.

Clay has explained in a blog post why he bans computers from his classroom. Jay chimed in his agreement:

They both have notably more classroom experience than I do, and they might be right. I encourage you to read Clay’s full explanation and won’t try to summarize it here, but he cites research about how multitasking can interfere with learning.

My limited experience is different. I was very glad yesterday that a student had her laptop and multitasked in class. (more…)

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Guest-speaking at Northern Kentucky University, 2012

Guest-speaking at Northern Kentucky University, 2012

In my recent job hunt, a university (not LSU, where I’m now working) asked applicants for faculty jobs to submit a statement of teaching philosophy. It seemed to me more like something to cover in a job interview than a document to submit with your cover letter and CV, but I was interested in the job, so I wrote a brief statement and submitted it.

I expect that what I submitted in May, before I’d ever taught full-time, will change in subtle ways in the coming year. I’ve taught several times as an adjunct professor and many more as a guest speaker. And I’ve trained journalists hundreds of times. But as a full-time teacher, I know I’m a rookie with a lot to learn. But I suspect students and colleagues still might be interested in my teaching philosophy, since I went to the trouble of writing it. So here’s what I wrote:

However much knowledge or experience I have to share with students, the most important things I can teach them are how to make good decisions as journalists and how to learn. (more…)

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