Tag Archives: Conference

SPJ provides never-ending education for journalists

29 Oct

“The content of any new media is the old medium.” – Jack Hart.

spj-logoOn Saturday, Oct. 24, the third annual Society of Professional Journalists: Building a better journalist conference attendees took away valuable information, useful tactics and tools for bettering journalistic skills.  With a amazing panel of speakers to host each session the event was a huge benefit to students and seasoned journalists alike.  With so many wonderful options to choose from on the list of training opportunities it made my decision difficult in narrowing the sessions to sit in on.

Thinking Big at a Small Paper

I opted to attend Thinking Big at a Small Paper and Storytelling with Style in the morning.  Lee van der Voo and Nick Budnick spoke about a 2009 police misconduct investigation they were involved in and how they put together a wonderful piece as the underdogs.  It was very informative for tricks on how to use your small paper status to get more information and pull it off with limited resources.  Budnick pointed out that you can use your “underdog” status to your advantage in investigative work.  You possibly may be able to get more information from your sources considering you have good relationships with community members and the town you work in.  Other tips included how to use a more personal approach to your public record request, which usually shows more results than a long formal request.  The more formal and impersonal the more likely someone reading it will put it aside immediately and make a mental note to never let you see that information, it could seem likely you would use the record negatively.

– Storytelling with Style –

“Look at the story not as what it is, but as what it means,” Anna Griffin and Jack Hart said in agreement.  Hart, legendary writing coach and author, along with Griffin, columnist for The Oregonian, shared how to make your work stand out from the rest.  Storytelling with style was a great reminder to journalists to be creative and think outside the box when it comes to narrating your story.  Think about yourself as the reader, and while you read, learn.  Ask yourself “why did they start the story that way, or why did they end it that way?” Get your brain thinking in the terms of what makes for good storytelling.  Try breaking down stories while you read them.  Everyone at the conference also recommended buying Hart’s book  A Writer’s Coach.

“Think of yourself as a writer; not a reporter.  Think of the people as characters; not sources.  That is what equals a good reporter.” – Hart & Griffin.

– Video for the Web –

The second half of the day for me consisted of learning how to shoot video footage for the web and a great discussion on science and tech writing.  I was amazed to learn that the iPhone now even has an application that allows you to shoot, record, edit and upload video straight from your phone to the web.  Great tool for breaking news or when you are thrown into a situation and equipment isn’t working or you have none.  TJ Mullinax from the Yakima Herald shared his pointers on how to shoot a good news segment in any situation.  When shooting Mullinax stressed the importance of not zooming in or panning while shooting because your final product will most likely lead to motion sickness.  Mullinax also carried on him many photography tools, the Canon EOS 5D being my favorite (On my wish list!).  I have a great yearn to learn valuable skills in video production, this was just my first step.

– Covering Science & Technology: So you want to be a tech writer? –

A great discussion on science and technology writing ended a great day of education at the conference.  David Wolman, author and contributing editor at Wired, and Marshall Kirkpatrick, lead writer for Read Write Web, shared their ways of writing in a rapid and ever changing beat.  Kirkpatrick and Wolman use almost completely different methods in their writing.  Wolman strongly recommends sit down informational interviews to find the key parts to the story.  Wolman loves to ask the question “so what else have you been working on?” He said this question has led him to many other interesting pieces he has wrote on.

Kirkpartick on the other hand puts out more material in one day.  He will usually produce two to three articles for the web a day.  There is a detailed intertwined list of RSS feeds that he receives constantly to point him in the right direction of what is the hot topic of discussion.  More detailed notes are available from Daniel Bachhuber about this session.

Overall the conference was a great success and it was awesome to meet some extraordinary writers and journalist enthusiasts.

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