David Lee, the co-founder and creative director of Projeqt.com, was supposed to be with us in class today, but wasn’t able to. Rick Reo, though, an instructional designer for GMU’s Division of Instructional Technology, was!

TBWA Worldwide, a part of Omnicom Group Inc., is a global advertising agency that sponsors Projeqt.

“We wanted to make sure that it was usable by people with limited Web browsing knowledge,” said an employee via Skype. “You don’t have to be a super designer to use this.”

Along with many other personalization options, one can use either a grid mode or a linear mode when designing one’s project.

A lot more information on TBWA can be found here.

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Former Chief of Staff for the First Lady Anita McBride video conferenced with us today, and, boy, has she worked in the White House for quite a while.

McBride said that she never looked back after campaigning in 1980. Between 1987 and 1992, she was the Director of White House Personnel under both President Ronald Reagan and President George H. W. Bush. More recently, though, she was the Chief of Staff for First Lady Laura Bush from 2005 to 2009. Check here for more background information.

Above all, McBride, who is now a professor at American University, discussed in the conference the responsibilities and the life of a First Lady.

She says that being the First Lady of the United States can be “very painful,” but can also, at the same time, “help to humanize” the president. She cites President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife Lady Bird Johnson as a great example of this.

After all, First Ladies, throughout history, never “run shadow governments” behind their husbands. They’re there to help and support them.

On the First Lady she worked with most, McBride said that Laura Bush was “typecast” as a house wife right off the bat. Instead, as most First Ladies should, McBride said that Bush put herself out there to do all the interviews and show genuine interest in the country’s issues and interests.

First Lady Michelle Obama demonstrated this recently with her coverage of bullying in schools across the country.

If the First Lady does that and makes the attempts, McBride calls them a “champion.”

But what happens when a First Lady tries to cover too many issues at once?

“It’s certainly a risk,” McBride said.

She believes that one can “absolutely” lead a normal life as a president, and that knowing our presidents and their wives give us comfort. We can relate to them… or as least think we can.

What surprised me most was when McBride told the class that the First Lady is an unpaid job, but that her staff (which is technically not even her staff but her husband’s) is. What a job to have to not even get paid for!

“I don’t miss getting up at 5 AM,” said McBride, commenting on her job. However, she said that she does miss the camaraderie and the ability “to get terrific things done” each day.

If she was given the choice to work with any First Lady in history, McBride answered either Dolley Madison or Abigail Adams. Both were fantastic hostesses and patriots.

Overall, a very interesting interview and probably one of my favorite parts of COMM 361 thus far!

For more, check this video:

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The managing editor for digital news for National Public Radio, Mark Stencel, was with us in class today.

“It’s kind of hard to say anything you’ve been doing for 16 years ‘new,’” Mark began.

According to Mark, NPR only works nowadays because people are stuck in traffic for hours, especially in the District. People can’t do anything while stuck in traffic, so their only choice, if they’re not listening to music off of a CD or an mp3 player, is the radio.

When deciding which stories to cover, Mark states that the challenge of figuring out which stories to tell and which stories not to is the biggest challenge of all. He wonders about which part of the story the readers want to hear about most and exposes it prominently.

Students said they listen to NPR instead of their favorite other station to seek a “more professional” atmosphere.

“Cover the implications, not the events.”

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Through the Associated Press, Brad Kalbfeld, who was with us in class today, “saw the world.”

I suppose it’s only appropriate to assume that he knows a thing or two about journalism.

1982: Typewriter = Laptop. After he finished typing up a story, he would read it out into a portable cassette recorder.

(Event) –Filter 1–> (Reporter) –Filter 2–> (Copy Editor) –Filter 3–> (Section Editor/Show Producer) –Filter 4–> (Managing Editor) –Filter 5–> (Reader/Viewer)

In the old days, the viewer didn’t know what they were missing out on — now, there’s so much information floating out there, considering that anyone can be a Reporter, the Reader/Viewer is in charge.

  • People that would’ve never been able to be heard can now be heard — “they have voice where they’ve never had voice before.”

“YOU are the new face of journalism,” Klein said to the class. “Journalism doesn’t look like us anymore.”

There’s more pressure on professional journalists than ever before due to the rise of citizen journalism.

“News used to be a one-way proposition,” Kalbfeld said. Not so much anymore!

“It’s participatory.”

Investigative journalism, though, is special. It will get you noticed because the average Joe isn’t going to do it. It’s more intensive work.

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“We haven’t fully taken advantage of the medium,” said Mark Potts, commenting on the vast world of the Internet.

Mark Potts, creator of RecoveringJournalist, his blog, came in to speak to our class today! He offered some useful opinions on great ways to tell stories.

Potts began with Patch.com.

“It’s important because it’s close to you,” said Potts, referencing hyperlocal news and why it’s a big deal. “The Washington Post doesn’t cover it.”
Then, Potts pointed out why bloggers blog. The passion for journalism was quite alive and vibrant back in the days of the Vietnam War and the Watergate incident, but nowadays, it’s not nearly as strong.

Professor Klein, though, pointed out that bloggers are the driving force behind the passion these days. They write because they want to write.

Sites with data collection Potts went over:

  • Nate Silver’s blog, FiveThirtyEight, is seriously interesting stuff. Titled off of the number of seats there are in the electoral college, the Web site examines political data and makes predictions. In short, the site is to “give the best possible objective assessment of the likely outcome of upcoming elections.”
  • Very, very cool.

Groupon is definitely a useful tool as well, says Potts.

Twitter, though, isn’t. “It’s good for keeping an eye on what’s going on, but I just don’t find it that interesting. It’s too much stuff, and it’s not that interesting.”

What is the most important tool for journalists, according to Potts?

THIS,” he said, holding up his smartphone.

And lastly, while speaking about a journalist and their work, Potts believes in  “getting it right the first time.” Sure, a writer can tinker with their work endlessly, but, generally, write stuff “that’s ready to go.”

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Al Jazeera English, the world’s first English-language news channel headquartered in the Middle East, has a young employee, Kevin Anderson. He Skyped with us in class today! 🙂

Headquartered in Doha, Qatar, he chose Al Jazeera English because he “is trying to cover the Middle East from the Middle East.”

ZeeMaps is a Web site that Anderson highly recommended.

Regarding sound in video, Anderson points out that bad camerawork is forgivable, but bad sound is not. Always make sure that you have good, if not great, sound.

Regarding the usefulness of Storify, make sure that there’s content. Just make sure that it makes sense. Put the sources in context.

The major role of social media is “networked journalism”:

  • It’s not enough to build a Web site anymore
  • You must congregate people online
  • Some of it’s about distribution
  • Use networks to add sources and voices to the story

I know how to de-mine a field with a Bic pen,” said Anderson, commenting on his “journalism bootcamp” training.

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Director of Community Engagement Steve Buttry for TBD.com was in class with us today!

Buttry started by showing us a social media project that the Star Tribune worked on in mid- to late-2007. It involved a slide show of pictures and sounds that depicted the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minn. The bridge used to cross over the Mississippi River.

He then pulled up a picture that showed the entire bridge, crumbled. Virtually every story (just over 100 in total) from everyone involved was included in this picture in the form of numbers on the picture. A viewer could just click on the number and hear/see that person’s account/experience of the event.

THAT’S good storytelling. THAT’S something I would want to read.

Another project he showed us was one the Des Moines Register worked on about the tornado that wiped out Parkersburg, Iowa. The piece, which can be seen here, collected many of the town’s security camera’s footage when the tornado struck. Certainly a fascinating (and breathtaking) way to see the damage for an outsider.

Next, he showed us satellite before-and-after photos of the recent Japan tsunami disaster that was posted on the New York Times Web site. That project, which was possibly the most striking, is here.

The Gigapan site he showed us, though, is something I could seriously look at all day long. Absolutely incredible. This is hilarious, too. This, too.

All of these were shown to us to prove that “if you do the biggest and best stuff” you will reap the rewards. Respect will be earned simply due to the clear effort is put into a project — if you put a lot of effort into a project, more likely than not, it shows and readers WILL take note.

Buttry closed with advising to always be curious — “If a question occurs to you, ask that question.”

Never say no for somebody else,” Buttry also recommends. There’s no reason to ever turn anyone down for a good quote.

Buttry’s blog, the Buttry Diary, can be found here.

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“Unless you are a so-called early adopter, you probably find it impossible to keep tabs on all the latest and greatest tools and services available online.”

Briggs advises first and foremost:

  • Organize your e-mail
  • Find the right personal productivity tools

Data driven journalism:

  • Every story is a field of data
  • Telling stories with data

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Briggs’ eighth chapter explains:

  • Capturing quick video highlights, not documentary projects
  • Managing digital video on your computer
  • Using common software to edit video
  • Choosing online video hosting services
  • Driving audience to your video

“The best way to build a solid video story is to think about it the same way you would think about writing.”

  • Use different approaches for different projects
  • Try storyboarding
  • Mix your shots
  • Build five-shot sequences: Close-up on the hands/Close-up on the face/Wide shot/Over-the-shoulder shot/Creative shot

Being a film major at GMU, this is definitely the most chapter that I found the most interesting. It didn’t really teach me anything, per se, but it’s still beneficiary.

I really liked that Briggs pointed out to “aim for solid, not spectacular clips” – I can definitely see how this would apply in good pieces.

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News 4 employee Jim Iovino was with us in class today!

At the start of class, he brought up this video of News 4 weatherman Pat Collins interviewing “Sandwich Girl“:

  • On that day, every other channel is covering the storm — how could they make it interesting? Or, at the very least, MORE interesting than the other guy?

Iovino suggested finding an angle to any story that you don’t think anyone else has seen or thought of:

  • Journalism is always changing, so make it interesting!
  • It’s good, basic journalism
  • It starts with the questions, it starts with the story

Capital Games is a NBC Washington blog dedicated to finding and “covering the biggest personalities in DMV sports” that Iovino works on, too.

Advice on your clips:

  • Strip it down to the bare minimum — don’t add unnecessary banners/bookmarks, anchors or music
  • By saving your viewer time, you’ll help to ensure that they’ll come back to your Web site
  • “Just like a good picture can speak for itself, video can do that, too.”

Lastly, Iovino put out his thoughts on the future:

  • The newspaper isn’t as necessary as the electronic version of it — one screen is better than many pages
  • Professor Klein even asked the class who doesn’t think that newspapers will last much longer. A lot of people raised their hands. Then, he asked which of us personally subscribed to a major newspaper. One person kept their hand raised

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