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Posts Tagged ‘Manship School of Mass Communication’

Dean Baquet

Dean Baquet addressing students and faculty at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, a New Orleans native, visited LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication Monday.

In an afternoon address, the Q&A that followed and in an informal chat with the staff of the Daily Reveille, Baquet expressed excitement about changes in journalism and stressed that our mission as journalists is more important than the platforms we publish on.

These tweets from Manship School students best summarize some of his key points:

For more detail, here are tweets from Baquet’s speech (including some interaction from Twitter):

 

Pictures from Baquet’s visit

I didn’t catch all of Baquet’s visit to LSU and Baton Rouge, but these tweets show the different groups he visited with.

The Reveille and Advocate both reported on Baquet’s afternoon speech. And here’s a video of the speech:

Dean Baquet from LSU Manship School on Vimeo.

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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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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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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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Brian Charles

Brian Charles

I am pleased to announce that Brian Charles will be joining me at LSU later this month as a Student Media adviser.

I think I first met Brian in 2013, when I was visiting the Pasadena Star-News for the opening of its “News Lounge,” a place in downtown Pasadena where the public would be welcome to come for events, using computers, accessing archives, etc. I was in charge of community engagement for Digital First Media, the parent company of the Star-News, and was chatting with an editor during the event, which attracted local dignitaries and residents. The editor pointed out that Brian was chatting amiably with the police chief and a police captain. What was remarkable, he said, was that Brian had been providing relentless coverage of various police department issues in the wake of an officer’s shooting of an unarmed man (this was a year-plus before Ferguson). I already was aware of his police coverage, but the scene across the room told me a lot about Brian: Not only is he an outstanding journalist, but he earns respect, even in difficult and potentially contentious situations.

I ran the DFM editorial awards program and a few weeks later, I got to hear judges discuss and praise Brian’s work when they chose him as our Journalist of the Year for mid-sized daily newsrooms.

After excelling for DFM in California, he joined the New Haven Register, where he developed a poverty beat. I spent several weeks in New Haven last year during Project Unbolt, and had several discussions with Brian about his work and more broadly about journalism and the changes that were happening. My admiration for him grew with each conversation.

I was pleased when he applied to be an adviser. On his visit to campus last week for an interview, I saw another conversation that said a lot about Brian and why I think he’s a good fit for this job. I had him scheduled to meet with student leaders of our various media operations from 2 to 3 p.m. Then he had a free hour to check email, call home or catch his breath during a long day of interviews. I broke into the student discussion at 3, saying they didn’t have to cut it off right then, but this was Brian’s free hour if he wanted. The discussion was still going on when the people scheduled for 4 p.m. arrived, and they just joined the discussion. At 5, I finally cut the discussion off, with some of the students who had arrived at 2 still discussing issues with Brian.

I caught only slices of the discussion, but from what I heard (and from the writing on the whiteboard in the conference room), I could tell that they were discussing the important challenges facing our Student Media operation. While most response to Brian’s interview last week was strongly positive, the critical remarks I received indicated he was already starting the difficult conversations we need to have to lead the students through the changes that lie ahead. I’ve long argued that journalists and media leaders need to embrace discomfort to innovate successfully.

Beyond his range of journalism skills, data analysis experience and digital skills, I’m glad to be adding Brian’s conversational skills. I want a teacher who will help me lead our students in some important and difficult conversations about changes we need to make in student media to pursue a prosperous future.

I’ve admired Brian’s work as a journalist since before I met him. I enjoyed working with him as a colleague in DFM newsrooms. I look forward to working together with him as we lead LSU Student Media.

Other Student Media leadership notes

Tad Odell, an instructor in the Manship School of Mass Communication and head of our journalism area, has agreed to take on a part-time role advising student media as well. I’ve enjoyed working with Tad the past year as we’ve been colleagues on the Manship faculty. He was one of the colleagues who pitched in earlier this year when chemotherapy interfered with my teaching duties, for which I’m deeply grateful. I look forward to working more closely with Tad.

We hope to fill out our Student Media staff soon by hiring someone to lead our student advertising team. If you are (or know) an outstanding advertising professional with strong leadership skills, please check our listing for the position and get in touch with me right away.

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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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Steve ButtryThe next chapter of my career will be at Louisiana State University. After I wrap up my work at Digital First Media July 1, I will become the Lamar Family Visiting Scholar at LSU’s Manship School of Communication.

I have enjoyed teaching as a part-time pursuit for several years now. I am excited about making it my full-time job. I’ll be teaching, working with students on a social media project and working with other faculty and staff to improve digital journalism education at the school.

Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School, emailed me the morning of April 2, as I was on the train to New York to get the word about DFM’s plans to shut down Thunderdome and eliminate more than 50 jobs. He asked if I’d be affected. I told Jerry that my job would be one of those eliminated, and he told me later that day that he wanted me to come to LSU as the Lamar Visiting Scholar at the Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs. After a May visit to Baton Rouge and more emails and phone calls than I will bother to count, we sealed the deal this month.

I enjoyed the dynamic of teaching the first time I stood before a classroom at Central College in Pella, Iowa, in 1980. I taught two courses at Central in the 1980s as an adjunct professor, and ever since thought that might be something I’d like to do someday. (more…)

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