When you find what you love, chase it.

“Use CMU to find out what you’re good at. Whittle it down. Whatever comes from your classes, use it, and when you find what you love, chase it. Chase it for the rest of your life. Then you’ll be doing something you want to do.” – Jeff Daniels

Who would have thought that Jeff Daniels would have given me the best career advice out of everyone in this world? A man that doesn’t know me, who called me once, gave me excellent advice to give to students around the school.

But it really felt like he was talking to me, too.

I’ve spent the last six years at Central Michigan University. I’ve spent countless hours on campus, in classes, participating in extracurriculars, going to football games and taking pride in being a Chippewa.

I’ve cried more times in classrooms and in the library than I want to admit. I’ve laughed with so many friends in the dining halls, and I’ve met some really radical people who helped shape me into who I am today.

Central Michigan University was my home before I was a student here. I grew up on its campus. I broke my arm in fourth grade in Anspach Hall. I met my first mentor in Moore Hall. This place helped me grow into my own, and it pushed me to be a better me.

It’s been six years. I can’t believe that in that time I’ve gotten so many useful life skills. I know how to network. I know how to create stories worth reading. I can take a photo and make it look damn good.

It’s been six years of searching for my passion, and Central helped me find it. I love sharing people’s stories. I love being able to connect them with the community that surrounds them. I love that I have the power to do that through my words, and I love that people trust me to share their stories.

I’ve found what I love, and in 10 days, I get to start chasing it.

Fire Up Forever.

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Thought Piece 4: Interviewing, Scripting, Editing

In Chapter 11, all about interviewing, the author gives a pre-interview checklist. This includes things like having a clear reason for the interview and preliminary research into the topic. This carries over into Chapter 12: scripting. The checklist can help you prepare whether you want to make the video into a scripted piece or one without narration. This then flows over into Chapter 13 in editing. If you have a script and a storyboard, then you can easily find clips that you planned out and place them into the areas they belong.

Storyboarding and scripting are more important than a lot of people think. With them, you have more of a solid plan of what you need to shoot. Shooting without a script can be challenging as the book points out. Sometimes plans change, but it’s good to have a solid idea of what you want.

In TIME’s piece about extreme couponing, they use a narrator, something that is more like a TV news story rather than a newspaper piece. This is still an option, though, because he is able to tell the story exactly how he wants it, rather than let the subject control the story’s direction. I think the narration fits better in the TIME piece about Kony. Because there is the language barrier, the narrator can tell the story and add in pieces that support his statements. I do think that his use of the child’s story was extremely powerful as well even though it’s subtitled. You hear him and you hear his tone.

Stanley Heist, author of Chapter 12, is a lecturer at the University of Maryland. He is an award winning photojournalist and has been published in multiple areas.

Thought Piece 3: audio and visual elements

Chapters eight, nine and ten all discuss audio and visual elements of storytelling. All three chapters emphasize that audio is the most important part of the process. If you don’t have good audio, you don’t have a good story. Chapter eight is all about collecting audio and the stories you can tell with it. If you think of everything as a radio show, you can tell your story and then add in the visuals. Chapter nine talks about adding the visuals to the audio and keeping the audio your priority. The visuals push the audio along, but they aren’t the most important part of the story. Chapter ten discusses how to keep the visuals interesting as well. The different angles they use to tell stories are important.

In Chapter ten, the author discusses the “bread and butter” of visuals: the wide shot, the medium shot, the close-up shot, the point-of-view shot and the reaction shot. These shots alone can tell the story better because they have a variety. If each shot is shown for five seconds each, it can be a 25 second audio story, which is plenty. I also found it handy that they gave alternatives for recording devices in Chapter eight.

In Chapter nine, the story “Waiting to Die” by Liz O. Baylen of the Los Angeles Times is incredible because of the combination of audio and visuals. He’s talking about his life and the times he’s had and basically that he’s waiting to die. You see him and his family and his house and how lonely everything is.

As for Soundslides, I understand that it’s a great tool for some people to use, especially those who aren’t familiar with other programs. I, however, would prefer to use something like FinalCut or Premiere because I’m familiar with the tools. The video on Soundslides was very helpful, though. I also appreciate that the program is relatively cheap.

I was impressed to see Liz O. Baylen because she has been a great writer to follow. Her stories have always had a great flow, and “Waiting to Die” is no exception. Her storytelling in this story is very personal and I think she captures his life and death through those photographs and audio very well.

Who has the best beer in Mount Pleasant?

For my final project in JRN 340, I’m looking at breweries in Mount Pleasant, Mich, and finding out which breweries are local favorites. Infographics for this project are important because they can illustrate things that cannot be said. They are fast and efficient in displaying data, like maps can share the locations of breweries and a poll can display the types of beers that are popular at bars and the brewery.

Most college kids enjoy going to breweries because the beer is right there, freshly bottled and poured. This story will be very popular with finals coming up because most college students are looking for a way to relax with a tasty brew after finishing their exams.

Which brewery is your favorite to visit? Comment below to explain your answer.

High schoolers proved Nik Wallenda’s calculations wrong

Nik Wallenda, a seventh generation member of the famous Flying Wallendas family, recently walked a tightrope in Chicago. Students at Hinsdale South High School in Chicago decided to take on the math problem of the degree that his walk would be at. The Chicago Tribune did a video of the class explaining their take on the walking degree. 

The video is definitely short and to the point. It’s only two minutes. This story was easily told in video because you can see the class, their teacher and their calculations on the whiteboard. It’s easier than explaining it through just words.

Not every video needs to have a clear narrative. This was just one part of a bigger story. This small portion was the class’s perspective on the man’s overall tightrope walk. The beginning was how she came up with the idea to take on the real world math problem, then solving it and explaining how they got to the answer.

We see the class first and the teacher and we hear her explaining that she told her class she was going to call The Chicago Tribune. I thought it was a cute way to draw in the students. It got me interested because it’s not every day that teachers call their local paper over a math problem.

The story is told by the teacher and her students working on the problem. There aren’t any title slides, graphics or anything in the story, but I still think it works. There’s definitely a good array of shots. There’s b-roll of the students working and the teacher talking. There is nat sound, but it’s just background noise of a classroom. I guess it’s more of the setting, but you don’t really notice it.

The people in the story are identified through a cutline below the video. It’s something that’s consistent through a lot of papers. The transitions are good, but a little clunky at points. I’m glad they don’t do those stupid fades or Star Wars swipes. Those are awful and outdated. The pacing was good because it kept you moving through the story fairly quickly. You got the whole story without a bunch of fluff.

I did like the video because it was a no-bullshit video. Something simple and quick is all you really need. You have three minutes really to capture your audience and keep them. They did just that.  I would have added in lower thirds to identify the people like the teacher, but that’s really it. Maybe faded out at the end, too, but otherwise, I liked this video.

Waiting for death and more slideshows

I found an audio slideshow about a World War II veteran that was waiting to die. The Los Angeles Times did a fantastic job of telling his story. He felt he had lived long enough and had seen enough, and now he wants out.

The narrative is just about him. It doesn’t really tell his story from anyone else’s perspective, which I appreciate. It starts with him talking about being decrepit like the statue in his backyard. He moves on to his opinions and why he’s waiting to die.

The very first shot you see is that of the man in the story, Edwin Schneidman. It introduces us to the person talking and the person that the story is about. The last shot is another portrait of the man. You can see the age in his eyes, and it’s a very compelling photo. I like that it does tie the story together because it’s simply about him.

The photos told the story of the man. They showed the wear and age on him. They also showed more into his life than just the audio would have. There are a variety of shots from all over his house and a variety of shots of him.

There really isn’t any natural sound, which I really actually appreciate in someone telling their story. It’s supposed to be just about them and about their life, not about the sounds around them. There’s no music, no other voices, just this man and his stories.

There were crossfades but no movement within the photos. I actually prefer that because I feel like movement can be distracting. You want the person to take in your photos as a whole. If you want them to spend more time with them, then leave it on the screen for longer.

The pacing was slow, but I also really liked it to be slow. The story is about an old man and his journey. Old men move slow. The captions also added a lot to the photos. I believe that they used soundslides, because it wasn’t automatically popping up, which is frustrating. They really explain more about the settings.

The people in the shots are identified, but it’s really just about Schneidman and his life, so there aren’t that many people. The minimalistic feel of the slideshow was preferred.

Overall, I’d love to see more slideshows like this one. The transitions were good, the photos were good and the audio was good. It’s something that is simple, but so powerful. I don’t know that I would have done anything different had this been my own work. I prefer minimalist takes on things.

Who I follow and what they do

David Carr

David Carr has always been one of my favorite writers. He’s raw. He’s not afraid to say how he feels. He’s a damn good journalist.

When I found out he had a blog on The New York Times’ website, I had to follow it. His book was brilliant, so why not get more of his opinions on what’s happening in the world.

I got more than I bargained for.

In his blog, The Media Equation, Carr talks about different topics that are in being discussed by multiple media outlets around the globe.

This week, he posted two blogs about two very different topics. Ray Rice has been dominating headlines, including Carr’s latest blog. Carr also discussed how Apple has kept winning more customers through its meticulous planning.

Now, Carr does not have a comments section on his blog, and I actually agree with this practice. Blogs are usually people’s opinions. I don’t think it’s fair to have a comments section because the majority of the comments would be negative and would probably tell Carr that he is wrong. That’s not OK if we want to have a free press and if we want to allow people their First Amendment rights of free speech.

Carr’s blog is updated weekly. He does link to a lot of articles and facts, and I appreciate that because I don’t know everything that has happened in the world. He definitely does his research. The headlines are also engaging. They make you want to read more about the topic.

Carr’s posts are not very scannable, but that’s because he’s a very traditional journalist. I appreciate the long form narrative style that he has in his posts. If I’m going to read a blog at all, it’s more likely that I’ll want to sit and read it without scanning. If I’m reading anything at all, I’d care about it and want to spend time with it.

Depth, style and storytelling are definitely Carr’s strengths. He’s meant to be a writer, a longer form kind of guy.

Sometimes, though, it’s difficult to make it through some of his posts because they are so long. They’re almost a thousand words for the majority of them. That is a lot for someone who has school, work and a social life to deal with.

I don’t know that I would do anything different for Carr’s blog if it were my own. I think the long form style fits him and his personality that I can get through his writing.

Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry is someone that I’ve been following for a while as well. I’m not 100 percent if he still works for Digital First Media or not, but he’s a good writer nonetheless. His blog, The Buttry Diary, has decent insight on what’s happening in the world of digital journalism today.

Buttry also wrote about the Ray Rice incident recently, but he went more on the way of using anonymous sources. He doesn’t have enough comments on there to really respond to many people yet. His blog about the gender advantage in journalism, though, has multiple comments and he does respond to them.

This journalist definitely does use good blogging techniques. He updates fairly frequently, if not daily, and does have tags and links to many other articles to back up his opinions. The headlines could stand to be a little more engaging, but he’s still a solid writer.

Buttry’s style is definitely more long form and analytical than most other bloggers I follow, and it’s all about journalism. His posts are more scannable than a few others, too.

I like that it’s all about the industry, and I feel like it helps me learn more about what’s happening in journalism and its future. Buttry is a solid writer and he’s good at relating things to the future of the industry while taking his analysis one step further.

I wish that his posts weren’t so long all the time, though. It’s a lot to wade through when I’ve missed a day. Like I said before, classes, homework, work and a social life are my priorities.

I don’t know that I would do much differently if it was my blog. Everyone has their own style, and I could definitely adapt mine to be more like his.