My SEJC 2019 Recap

By: Joshua Fife

The Southeastern Journalism Conference in Murfreesboro, Tennessee was an amazing experience that left me feeling inspired and invigorated.

All of the presentations were amazing, including the keynote speaker, Phil Williams. He is the chief investigative reporter for Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 and a seasoned whistleblower. He has uncovered corruption, lead to Tennessee laws being changed, and has won numerous awards for his work. He showed us what the relentless pursuit of truth looked like, and assured us that though it is not an easy road, it is rewarding.

Earlier in the conference I caught the tail-end of a presentation from Peter Cooper, Grammy-nominated musician and award-winning journalist for The Tennessean. He talked about writing obituaries following the death of legends like Johnny Cash and George Jones. He didn’t give us some magic secret on how to craft a good hook, he simply told us to write from the heart. His classic article, “Somehow, Johnny Cash is Dead”, was birthed from the first instinct that he had at the time; that the indomitable force that was Johnny Cash had somehow been overcome, and Cooper, along with the rest of the world, was left in awe. He encouraged feature writers to scrap inverted pyramid and experiment with different styles, and to never be objective. Rather than using balance, feature writing uses emotion to tell stories. Good writers can translate what they feel onto paper, but great writers can take those same emotions and make the reader feel them.

Following Cooper, I stepped into Stephanie Dean’s world of virtual reality. I had never considered the use of VR and augmented reality for storytelling, but I got an early taste of interesting new developments in immersive storytelling. Telling stories has always been an “immersive” experience, however new technologies bring new ways. Radio and television once changed the way people consumed news, and now VR is offering another way to bury yourself in the story like never before. We tested some VR stories that are out now, and research has shown that virtual reality has the ability to stick with people longer and impact them in a different way than traditional methods. They are currently being used to tell powerful and often emotional stories, but journalists are only beginning to scratch the surface of VR’s potential.

The last (and my personal favorite) presenter that I saw was a photographer by the name of John Partipilo. He had traveled to many places with his camera, showing us projects that he worked on in Iraq and Cuba. He also showed us the kinds of people he liked to shoot, sometimes for news, sometimes for personal endeavors. His subjects were typically the disenfranchised: the homeless, gang members, survivors of natural disasters, and people living in poverty. He, like good journalists and photojournalists do, had an amazing way of giving a voice to the voiceless. It was amazing how he was able to tell so much in one still image, and make reality look so beautiful or so grim that it seemed fake. He hardly alters his photos and preserves the harsh realism that comes with his work. There aren’t a thousand words that can describe any one of his pictures, and they’re worth much more than that. Beyond showing us the pictures, he also describe the lengths to which he went to secure the photos, and that was what really inspired me. I was astonished hearing about how this seasoned, award-winning photojournalist had hopped out of a moving car to sneak a picture of President Obama (easily the coolest picture of Obama I’ve ever seen) before getting escorted back by the secret service. Or how he dressed up as a refugee just to sneak into immigrant camps and get a few shots before getting kicked out. 

 The message that seemed to come through, in some form or fashion, in every discussion was to dare to be different, break the status quo, try something new, and think outside the box. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. This golden nugget hit close to home for me. Isn’t that the point for anyone who works on a craft? To try new things and develop your own unique style. That’s what makes creative industries so rewarding to work in, and what separates us from basic cookie-cutter, desk jobs.

Investigating Large Companies, and the Empathy Involved

By: William Solomons

Jaime Satterfield, an investigative reporter from the Knoxville News Sentinel, shared her experiences working on exposing horrid working conditions for employees under the Tennessee Valley Authority and Jacobs Engineering.

She gave us advice on how to approach stories that may seem intimidating and that have a unique human element to them. For her, the people afflicted by coal ash, the primary source of ailment for the workers, were more than just statistics and legal reports. They were husbands, fathers, brothers and friends. She said that when reporters seek to write stories that could impact lives, it’s important to have empathy toward sources. By meeting with the wives of the workers, she was able to truly capture how much pain and suffering the families were going through.

She said her main purpose of being an investigative reporter was to inspire people and that she wanted to “advocate for truth and justice.” If anything, her discussion on empathy in investigative reporting and the challenges therein has inspired me personally to pursue the field even more and to work to shine light on issues that are facing us.

It’s important to continue to stand up for those who do not have a voice and to be helpful to someone, according to Satterfield. My hope is to take her words with me and to tell others of her work so that in the end we can tell as many people’s stories as possible and invoke change on corrupt business and governments.

Great Characters Make The Story

By: Kelsey Perkins

I attended this session and it taught me how to really connect with the people of the stories I cover. However, I would like to point out that Christine Eschenfelder was an awesome speaker. She was a very experienced journalist but made sure she wasn’t the center of attention. Eschenfelder gave consistent eye contact with each and everyone of us and actively engaged with the crowd by slowly strolling down the aisle while asking for our thoughts or opinions as we went through a new topic of her slideshow. Not only was the multi skilled journalist easily relatable, she presented extremely helpful tips of what it takes to become a stronger journalist.

In her presentation she embedded in our heads that “great characters make the story” and that a journalist should always tell their story through people because people connect with other people. Statistics are helpful to add validity to a story but with our hard wired brain we often forget numbers but hardly never people. This technique provokes emotions that makes us humans. This essentially brings in an audience and allows them to be more invested in a captivating story. Unfortunately, every story is not always happy or uplifting and having the job as journalist can be an emotional rollercoaster because you see the best and the worst of. However, becoming a voice for the voiceless is the determination that helps a powerful journalist continue to shine light on what is hidden in the dark.

What I have truly learned from Eschenfelder is that if a journalist turns the camera away from them, they will find the story in the people who are affected. Find. Observe. Listen. Letting the silence grow and allowing your vibrant characters talk is the birth of an incredible story

SEJC 2019 Onsite Competition Luncheon

At noon on Saturday, Feb. 16, our crew gathered together at the Middle Tennesee State ballroom to celebrate the past few days of competing hard and learning new techniques to take home. This luncheon would be the end to our efforts at SEJC 2019 – but not the end of our fun, we’d be heading to Nashville to explore the city before the day was over.

However, it wouldn’t be a Georgia State student media gathering if we didn’t find a way to spice up the award ceremony before it begun. We crowded around a table – all 16 students and our advisor – even though it only fit a maximum of 13 seats. Why spread out to a separate table when we can share seats and knock into each other as we dine on lasagna, salad and garlic bread?

Our little family was right at home as the award announcements began. We faced some fierce competition but took home some big winners nonetheless.

From The Signal, Julian Pineda placed third in the photo feature competition and Amber Kirlew placed third in the competition for design/layout. From Panther Report Network, Tyrik Wynn received second in the current events competition.

The night before, Georgia State student media took home 11 Best of the South 2018 awards.

“If nothing else, SEJC proved once again that The Signal is turning heads and making an impact. I’m incredibly proud of our team’s growth this year, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such talented and driven people,” Daniel Varitek, The Signal’s editor in chief, said.

SATURDAY, OCT. 27 / Libel, Libel, Libel

By: Ada Wood

The second day of the CMA Fall 2018 National Convention began, and I started off with a panel on a topic I love reporting on: the environment and climate change. 

Dr. Edward Maibach introduced the material from Climate Matters in the Newsroom which can be found online at ClimateCentral.org. The media library includes a function where journalist can search by their city and see the effects of climate change in the local community.

After this panel I went to the Grand Hall where I sat down for a resume review, which gave me some great feedback onto how to improve my resume. I visited the engagement center and the silent auction while I was there as well.

I sat in for a few more panels including writing with voice, data reporting, the reliability gap and also for the ACP Pacemaker Awards Ceremony.

However, my favorite panel of the entire convention was “Editor-in-Grief 1: Rule with an Iron Fist, Wear a Velvet Glove.” The speaker was Michael Koretzky, from journoterurorist.com, on how to be a leader and how it applies to journalism. Koretzky’s section was crazy. He wore an all red suit with “LIBEL” written all over it, wore sunglasses inside, had a whip and tossed cigars into the crowd for participating viewers. He was loud, crazy and started the presentation with the communist national anthem.

But most of all, he was smart, really smart. For the midnight snack, I ended up sitting down with him and some of the girls who work with him and at the event. We talked for hours until 2 a.m. about how to improve my writing and The Signal style. I was so thankful for this time together as a group and I feel more motivated now than ever to make a change.

FRIDAY, OCT. 26 / Perfecting The Pitch

By: Ada Wood

After an eight-hour bus ride and meeting some fascinating people from the student media at Georgia Southern on Thursday, the 2018 CMA Fall National Convention really took flight early Friday morning.

The first panel I attended was one of my favorites from the entire convention. Titled “Perfecting the Pitch,” Katie Myrick from Global Press taught students how to do just that.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. What strategies did they really have for me to get better at pitching to my editor? The answer was a detailed process for more in depth, analytical and meaningful stories.

The Global Press pitch process has four main steps: action, reaction, consequence and context. Action is what is happening at the most basic level. Reaction is how communities and people are responding to the action and which perspectives are most important or most unique for the story.

Consequences is a step I often forget in pitching my story, and sometimes even in writing it. This step looks at the previous two and works to identify what is going to change and what the first two steps signify on a broader level. Lastly, is context; what the readers need to know to understand the story, be it historical, political or cultural information.

The other panels I attended that day were just as interesting. These included the topics of “fake news,” FBI strategies for interviewing and reporting the opioid crisis. The last panel of the day, “Writing Long” was one more highlight.

Mark Siebert led the discussion on how to tackle long-form feature pieces and not lose the reader on the way. I often prefer writing longer pieces, so I was grateful for the advice. One fact that caught my eye in the presentation was that stories of over 1,200 words receive more clicks, longer engagement and more interaction according to Pew Research and the API.

The whole day was filled with learning and thought-provoking topics. Each panel gave me knew ideas of how to transform my writing and try new, creative techniques.

CMMW 2018: Storytelling and Reporting

At the College Mulit-Media Workshop, I learned so many valuable lessons. As I begin my transition into my new role as the news director of GSTV. I had the opportunity to come together with other students, that were in the same boat as I am. The best part of the workshop was when we were able to watch a veteran reporters' work. His work showed me that there are so many different ways to storytelling and that your writing really counts! I was able to use this method during my project. During my project, I wandered around campus and tried to find many different story ideas by asking students, and finding flyers around campus. 

I finally found a story by wandering into the school's art museum. I noticed that the university was implementing a new exhibit in their art museum. The exhibit features instructors and dancers as they educated the guests about what it means to be and feel like a fetus. I thought that the concept was really intriguing and I was able to gather some b-roll, interviews, and additional information in turn it into a quick package within an hour. 

My work can be found at the following link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADl-4BQZV3Q

I would definetely attend the conference again because not only did I learn, but we were also able to bridge the gap between the different media organizations on campus.

CMMW 2018: Use what you have to get what you want.

By: Ky'Wan Parker

A distance of nearly 1,200 miles was traveled to the Twin Cities in Minnesota for the College Media Mega Workshop. This was all for one message from the track on digital journalism. This is one of the most critical concepts to remember in any field of work, but especially journalism which is simply to “use what you have to get what you want”. This proverb is so straightforward that it’s hard to imagine content creators working harder and not smarter.

It should be no secret to anyone that the world is fully immersed in the digital age. Previous analog technologies are now converging into digital formats. Many millennial journalists are now at the forefront of creation and innovation with some of the best digital tools at their finger tips being apps. The motto “there’s an app for that” is not a signature phrase simply to be stated. In this digital age we must use what we have to get what we want. Let’s explore some apps that were made known in the digital journalism track.

One of the most compelling digital resources discussed in the track was Juxtapose. This application makes easy frame comparisons which helps storytellers compare pieces of media such as photos and gifs. Generally, this application is perfect for showing a change over time like the growth of a cityscape, forest growth, and even Atlanta’s Georgia Dome implosion. Juxtapose embodies the concept of out with the old and in with the new. https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/juxtapose/latest/embed/index.html?uid=3d411b14-9d8e-11e8-b263-0edaf8f81e27

To further “use what we have to get what we want”, the track instructors Sarah Quinn and Amy Devault introduced Thinglink. It is self-explanatory. Pick a thing being media such as photos or videos and link something to it. This something could be an explanation of ideas, history, or concepts. Thinglink provides a means for content creators to boost platform intelligence by adding simple interactivity as users are able to click about to immerse themselves with the given media. This app is an innovative route to provide a project with attitude by allowing 3D video and augmented/virtual reality enhancement two of the leading innovative technologies of today.

The pinnacle occurred when the track attendees explores various methods of our generations gift to the digital age of course being social media. Now, we should know that social platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube serve as a means for people to remain connected to loved ones and stay on top of trends, but what happened to reporting? No need to worry as these social apps have enabled users with the power of journalism and reporting what’s going on. According to Statista 78 percent of young adults between ages 18-24 use Snapchat to build a brand or grow an audience. Although Snapchat was slow to catch on, much momentum has been gained when using the app for recoding standups, gathering b-roll, short interviews, enchantment using geo filters, and gathering quick/witty vine like commentary.

In today’s digital age, the most common struggle for a journalist can be the illusion of not having access to the resources to create compelling content. Ya know, like the stuff we see on TV. Be assured if you are a content creator there are many resources right at your fingertips, most likely in the device your reading this article on. Resources we use everyday for communication can be repurposed. Try reporting using YouTube live then add a cool graphic using Juxtapose. The possibilities are endless as long as you use what you have to get what you want.   

CMMW 2018: Building a Better Journal

By Grace Aldis

I wasn’t sure what to expect out of the College Mega Media Workshop in Minneapolis, but I jumped at the opportunity to promote our undergraduate art and literary journal Underground while learning and meeting new people. I wondered at first whether or not the workshop would cater to literary journals since it seemed to focus on newspaper groups, but I found that my workshop session did have a good amount of others working on literary journals such as ours. Overall, I thought the experience was invaluable, and I left with a fresh head of ideas to help make Underground the best it can be. 

I was concerned about the yearbook and magazine track not applying to my work at the literary journal, but I ended up learning a lot at my session and making valuable connections with others in my field. The instructors for my track, Kelley and Adrianne, had known each other for a long time and were fun to work with. Kelley mostly did presentations on things like design elements, leadership organization, and marketing, while Adrianne led fun team-building exercises. I got a lot of useful information out of Kelley’s presentations, such as a break-down of different types of fonts and how they should be used, how to effectively manage my team, and how to best promote what we do. One of my main learning goals for this conference was to have a better understanding of design since I do not have a huge background in design and it is an imperative skill for making a quality literary journal. I feel that this workshop gave me a lot of the knowledge I need to grow more and create a better journal. 

Another very helpful aspect of this conference was the critiques. I had the two previous issues of Underground critiqued by two experts: one being Kelley, and the other’s name was Lisa, a former editor of the Booth literary magazine. Neither one held back in their critiques, and I had to hear some somewhat harsh truths about our journal. I had never questioned the concept of our logo, a lantern, and how it relates to the idea of being “underground,” but both Lisa and Kelley didn’t make that connection. Kelley said it looked more like “a disembodied lamp post” and thought it related more to Sherlock Holmes than a literary magazine for undergraduate students. I realize this means we will have to reconsider our logo, or at least redesign it and make a clearer connection to the “underground” aspect and our history. Lisa was more concerned with the fact that we are now a national journal, and said we need to be more forthright with the purpose of our journal if not to directly benefit GSU students. Both critiques made me realize that there needs to be a change in how we approach things at Underground, no matter what changes we decide to make in the future.

One of the best things I got out of this trip was getting to know others in student media in and outside of GSU. I enjoyed getting to know the individuals on the trip, as well as learning about their organizations. I’ve said before that I think GSU does a great job of supporting student organizations, but now I have a better appreciation for what many of those organizations put together. I have the hope that GSU’s student media continues to collaborate in the future, as I see a lot of potential in that unification.
 

CMMW 2018: Educate Yourselves On Diversity

By Amani Patterson

The topic of diversity is often brushed off. Everyone thinks that they are experts on the topic, therefore, do not take the time to really understand what diversity is. Most, usually thinks it just means to acknowledge people/things that are "different." What a lot of journalists (and people in general) fail to realize is the fact that diversity is what keeps journalism alive. No one wants to keep hearing the same stories from the same groups of people.

Everyone has a unique, especially immigrants who came to this country looking for better opportunities. These stories need to be reported on and generally, people are interested whether they admit it or not. Also, having diversity in the newsroom makes a difference as well. The way people tell stories will determine how the story will be perceived by the public. Newsrooms need diversity in order to tell diverse stories. Different points of view makes the difference.

he general lecture on the first day of the workshops was about diversity. I was interested in what reporter Faiza Mahamud had to say but at the same time, I felt as though I knew a good deal about the topic due to the fact that I am a female that is both of African-American and Latino descent. Even though I felt like an expert on diversity because it is something that I advocate for, there were still things that needed to be revealed to me.

Faiza Mahamud dropped a lot of gems during her lecture.

These key points stood out the most to me:

  • Cover communities you’ve never covered before

  • Find new stories

  • Report on communities correctly

  • Treat immigrants as full members of communities

  • Make contacts

  • Go to a community when you’re not on a deadline

If you follow these instructions, communities will respect you more and be more willing to help you report on the story. We must all educate ourselves on diversity and go into it with the most genuine intentions. We cannot disrespect the communities that surround us, especially immigrant communities. They are people just like us, they have stories just like us as well.