Friday, November 2, 2007

Student Media invades D.C.

Welcome to the Northwestern State University student media blog covering the 86th Annual National College Media Convention in Washington, D.C.

Ten NSU students represented all four student media outlets -- The Current Sauce, Potpourri, KNWD 91.7 and Argus -- at this October 2007 conference. They fanned out across multiple disciplines to learn from a gamut of sources: reporters, editors, marketers, advisors, professors and peers. They attended sessions ranging from Amendment, First, to zeroing in on the perfect internship. By blogging directly from the conference, these student media leaders can share their CMA experience and knowledge with you.

Many thanks to David Dinsmore, NSU senior majoring in news/editorial journalism, for setting up this blog.

Dr. Lee

The Lighthearted Side of D.C. and Beyond

I've touched on the sessions and my overall thoughts of our trip, but, boys and girls, I'm straying off the beaten path to recap some of characters we encountered outside of the confines of the Washington Hilton, nestled near Dupont Circle.

Upon our arrival in D.C., we took the Metro subway to Dupont Circle. Unfortunately, we were on the train at the same time as seemingly half of Washington, as they all appeared to be leaving work. Our peaceable group, well representative of Southern hospitality, was bombarded by hordes of impatient subway riders hardened by their thankless jobs. One particular Wall Street wannabe shoved right past me and didn't even stop to confront me after I sarcastically remarked: "Excuse you."

Perhaps the most interesting Washingtonian we met on our trip was our tour guide at the Founding Church of Scientology. A sign at the facade of the church advertised an open house, so a large chunk of our group thought it would be worth a look merely to see what goes on inside.

We were greeted by a chipper, bespectacled woman who was a little too excited that we wanted a tour. She gave us a brief history of L. Ron Hubbard and the church itself. We were even allowed into what they claimed was Hubbard's office. If that were the case -- and even if it weren't -- a creepy feeling lingered in the moldy air that hung around in the room like a wet blanket on a helpless child.

Later we were led in the basement of the church where our guide showed us the infamous E-meter and even used it on another conference-goer (he went to a school in Idaho, if my memory serves me correctly). I wasn't convinced that the E-meter actually worked, for it appeared as if she were merely twisting the knobs to keep up appearances. Overall, they failed to convert me even after the guide asked me if I had been here before.

The remainder of the conference remained somewhat mild. However, once we boarded the rubber-band airplane back to Shreveport, things took a turn for the hilarious. The single flight attendant "serving" us on Flight 3495 must have had a bad night, for she was outright rotten. She reminded me of a Waffle House waitress (or a waitress from similar nicotine-soaked all-night establishments).

Unfortunately for poor Lela, who was trying with all of her might to turn off an unwilling laptop, the attendant from hell chose her to unleash her raspy wrath. The following conversation closely reflects what occurred shortly before takeoff:
ATTENDANT (in a loud raspy hiss): I told you FIVE MINUTES AGO to turn that off. It interferes with our navigation...
LELA: I'm trying. It's not...
ATTENDANT: If I have to ask you again, I'm stopping this plane and I'm kicking you OFF!!!
Much to the amusement of the plump businesswomen who sat in front of me, the attendant's attitude didn't change for the remainder of the flight.

Fortunately, the flight went off without further incident, and we arrived safely and wearily back to the quaint Shreveport Regional Airport.

For now,
Richelle Stephens

As Always, All Good Things Must Come To An End

As I write this particular post a week after the fact, the memory remains fresh in my mind. The sights and sounds, the hustle and bustle, every aspect of our short albeit busy stay in our nation's capital is still vivid in my mind. I have no doubt that I will be returning there someday.

Dr. Lee wrote in an earlier post of the emerging unity of the small group of Demons (for the uninitiated, the Demon is our school mascot) that went to this conference. There is no doubt in my mind that convergence in the journalism department is possible; the way that we came together in the duration of this conference shows that the same can be accomplished on campus. However, it's up to the students to make this dream a reality. I'm currently involved with three sectors of this department: I'm the Music Director for KNWD, I write for the Sauce, and I'm on the NSU-22 Tuesday and Thursday crew.

But enough about me...I'll end this thought by saying that the department's goal of convergence is easily possible.

Redirecting my train of thought to the D.C. trip: Needless to say, it was an educational experience that extended far beyond the sessions. I was able to observe how Washingtonites live day to day; their hurried lifestyle closely mirrors the lifestyle I saw in the people I sat in traffic with every day this past summer back home in Dallas. This is relevant because journalism has to adapt to this increasingly rushed world we inhabit.

Unfortunately it appears as though in a hundred years (or even earlier than that) we may not be obtaining our news from a printed source. I take it back -- it's not a question of "if" but one of "when." As the next generation of journalists prepare to enter the battlefield, we must be armed with the technological prowess to keep the constant flow of information readily available for our time-deprived public.

For now,
Richelle Stephens

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

D.C. Departure.

Leaving D.C. was physically easier than arriving, but many of us found it hard to leave. The sun shone brightly on our last day in the District, a bittersweet ending to a waterlogged but wonderful trip.

We began our stay in D.C. having dinner together. We closed it with a leisurely al fresco lunch before heading off to the airport.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Diversity and Opportunity

I was highly disappointed in this session. The speaker was Marion O'Grady, a 19-year veteran of The New York Times. I thought she would be a great speaker and I was really excited. She ended up being late, and her partner was unable to make it.

She basically gave a general overview on diversity and the importance of opportunity. She told us to embrance each other's personality as a way to keep things interesting. We need to be open to change and differences and to take advantage of opportunities. She says to take advantage of multiple forms of media both print and digital.

It was very repetitive and basically explained topics I already understand.

Brittany Byrd

Sex, Love, and Rock of Ages: Handle with Care

This session focused on the importance of reporting on touchy topics and how to do so tastefully. Topics like sex and love can be awkward for some reporters to write about, but they are newsworthy and we owe it to the reader to cover these stories.

It is important for reporters to be able to rise above pressure and internal conflict. "Hot issues" are interesting to the reader, and ignoring these issues can cause a loss of credibility. Even Christian magazines cover these types of issues because there is a call to understand sex/sexuality more.

Be sure to talk to experts, faculty (because they have more than likely done research on the topic) and health officials. The point is to make sure you have good sources. Administrators usually find these topics uncomfortable so it is important that you are prepared for some confrontation.

These types of stories don't always have to be covered in the opinions section they can be features also. Look for positive vs. negative angles or conflict driven pieces. Use a small group of friends as a focus group to get story ideas.

There are several things to avoid though. Do not use these types of stories for shock value -- that defeats the purpose -- and avoid clich├ęs, hypothetical stories, and condescending (preachy) stories.

Address these topics as news, an important, truthful story that you worked hard on.

Brittany Byrd

What's New on the National Advertising Scene?

Three national rep firms spent about 20 minutes each with our group discussing what they predicted for the upcoming year.

Alloy Media and Marketing

This company represents a lot of government branches, like the Coast Guard, Bank of America, K-Mart, AT&T and (new this year) Walgreens. They did have two large accounts, McDonald's and Wal-Mart, not renew contracts this year, but they believe that they will be back next year. An interesting fact about this company is that they developed the hit book and television series "Gossip Girls." They also worked on the development of "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants."

Campus Media

Significant Accounts: Sprint, Blimpie's, and Carl Jr.'s

This company is expanding and in the beginning stages of working with magazines. There are also job opportunities here. The company is looking for young graduates to fill open positions.

This company prepares a PSA pro bono for a non-profit group each year for college campuses to use. I passed this information on to Lauren so she can look into it for KNWD.

College Media Network

MTV recently purchased this company. They placed over 2000 ads this semester and are ahead from last year due to several major accounts and acquisitions. MTV is moving into the college media market, as well as utilizing MTV U.

Brittany Byrd

Ins and Outs of Resumes and Portfolios

This session was not what I expected. It was set up as a question and answer session. The information was useful and informative, but it could have been more detailed.

The panel emphasized proofreading your resumes several times; as a senior, I know to do that. I am aware of the fact that mistakes on a resume can be a dealbreaker. I was looking for more in-depth information.

The panel also discussed how technology is becoming increasingly important when applying for a job. They suggested creating an electronic portfolio/resume and explained the necessity of listing technological skills so that it can be determined where you stand when you do get a job. The panel even went as far to say that they have not hired applicants because they did not have a Facebook page. They explained they did not want to hire someone who was not up with technology.

They also went on to discuss portfolios. It is important that portfolios look neat. Be sure to use a high-quality copier, adjust the toner, and remove all staples. Limit your samples to five because no one has time to look through a book of samples. Make sure to include a variety of samples and that you can talk about each.

When networking, be assertive and show that you want the job.

The panel also mentioned a Web site similar to Facebook called Linked In. It is a grown-up version of Facebook and can be very beneficial when applying to jobs.

Brittany Byrd

How Do I Get an Internship?

I was so excited about this session. Katie Curcio, director of the CBS Internship program, was the speaker. The session was very informal with the eight people in the room sitting in a circle, just talking. She explained the internship program at CBS and the different departments. There is only one PR internship available and three available within the advertising/marketing departments. During the fall and spring, broadcast interns only work two days a week, and during the summer they are full time. The internships are not paid, but she has set up a partnership with a dorm building to provide low rent housing for interns. Curcio said that sometimes it is hard for participants to balance holding a paying job and getting the full experience of working with the media.

She told our group that the most important qualification to have was to simply love the news! She explained that experience was a Catch-22. Interns need experience, but at the same time sometimes it's best if the experience you have is what you are taught at their station.

Curcio also discussed resumes and interviews. She advised students to research the company that you are applying to before even beginning your resume. When preparing your resume, keep it to one page and include relevant work experience but try to avoid including extracurricular and awards that are insignificant. It is important to include your computer skills as this is becoming increasingly important when applying for a job.

She went on to discuss interviews and the importance of being prepared. In her experience, an interview can make or break an applicant. Curcio emphasized having ideas/story pitches that are relevant to your market lined up for an interview. She also said to keep your options open when applying and not to close yourself off. When asked about areas of interest, be open to any position and just touch on specific areas of interest.

Curcio concluded by summarizing again the importance of the application process and the internship experience and stated that the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

Brittany Byrd

Writing the Effective News Lead

At the conference I wanted to be sure to go to several writing sessions. I thought this one would be good because I have trouble coming up with good leads. I was not the only one to think so. This session was packed, and students were standing out in the hall.

The speaker, Steve Ames from California Lutheran University, basically told the audience to lay it on the line and don't tease or summarize in the lead paragraph. He emphasized following the order of the lead and using discretion when deciding details because readers are busy.

He also talked about the importance of newswriting before feature writing. First things first: you have to know how to write the facts and the importance of not being biased. He advised students to also double-check numbers, especially if they are used in the lead.

To conclude the session, Mr. Ames told students to never settle for the first lead. Students should read and rewrite because every word serves a purpose and its important that it is just right. It is important to read your lead aloud to hear the rhythm of the sentence. If you stumble over a word, the reader will too. Don't use general/vague language, and do not repeat the story subject.

I found this session to be one of the more informative sessions. The speaker was animated and interesting and provided the audience with useful information.

Brittany Byrd

Slick work- how to break into magazines

During this session, on Saturday morning, the sun began peaking through the shade, and I became very mad. This session was very good and I learned a lot, but it would have been better received if I wasn't steaming from anger for the weather.

Three women represented different ways to get into magazines. One started, and still works, in teen magazines. Another started as a copy editor, and the third began working for organizations with in-house magazines.

It was stressed by all three to gain as much writing experience as possible and learn many different writing styles. It was also said that it is never too early to start submitting work to potential publishers.

When creating a cover letter for your resume, it is a good idea to research the magazine and emulate their style. Also, don't oversell yourself and find your own voice.

Online resources such as Craig's List,,, were given for query tips and job applications.

It is important to follow the application guidelines very carefully, since some are different.

Also, if sending your resume electronically, it is best to save the cover letter as a word document so it may be opened and read easily.

I also learned that a perk of the magazine industry is its variety. One is less likely to burn out if one does not stay at a publication for very long.

Kera Simon

Easy Breezy Journalism

On Saturday morning at 9 a.m., Easy Breezy Journalism was being held to a room filled with an almost even amount of editors and advisers. This session had some important key points about how to teach journalism to not only journalism students, but also young writers on a newspaper staff.

Her first suggestion was to bring food. Where there is food, there is fun. She also suggested praising quite often for little things.

The lecturer suggested creating mini-lessons during meetings, which I've been meaning to do.
She suggested a book that was very useful to her. "Inside Reporting" by Harrower was said to have small chapters that can easily be turned into short lessons.

As a means to recruit writers, the speaker suggested talking to English teachers about announcing meetings or adding extra credit(I know that will never happen, but it would be nice...)

I asked how to target the adult learners, a group of students The Current Sauce hasn't been able to reach. She suggested having a few feature articles on outstanding adult students and distributing the newspaper during night classes.