Tuesday, November 29, 2016

My justification as to why audio lesson is a vital part of photoj curriculum

This is the very first audio story recorded and produced by Owens Visual Storytelling student Suzanne Caris, published on the Owens Outlook online student newspaper Nov. 28. 
WGTE's Haley Taylor explains her strategy for producing her Rough Draft Diaries series at the Toledo station.
   I received a negative comment on an instructor evaluation last semester from a Wayne State Digital Photojournalism student.
   That student wrote, and I quote: “Why in the f--- are we editing sound?”
   A few years ago I would have asked that same question, but not now. Gone are the days when photojournalists simply take still photos and write captions.   
   I try to make it pretty clear throughout each semester that photojournalism is rapidly evolving, expanding, transforming, and yes, getting harder. We are multitasking; being spread too thin; and doing more for less. Photojournalists now shoot video (and some even fly drones and do VR and 3D work), while journalists can be expected to shoot their own still photos and videos, as well.
   All three of my classes (Wayne State, Kent State and Owens) are either creating audio slideshows or podcasting. So, as a photojournalism instructor, it's my job to expose students to basic audio capture and production.
   That’s why they are editing sound.
   The WSU Digital Photojournalism course is an intense introduction class that is filled with journalism, broadcasting and public relation majors. They learn the basics of the DSLR camera, how to write captions, and their First Amendment rights. They also shoot feature, portrait and sports assignments for practical experience.
   For their final project, they shoot and produce an audio slideshow, which requires an audio track. They shoot the story, and also record interviews and capture ambient sound, if appropriate. The students can add royalty-free music if it benefits the story.
   The audio is recorded with their cell phones, a recording device or their cameras, and then edited using Audacity, a free multi-track audio editor and recorder that is installed on all of the MAC computers in the classroom. Adobe Premiere Pro CCis used for the audio slideshow production.
Haley Taylor's strategy for a Rough Draft Diaries show.
   For the Visual Storytelling course at Owens, I added podcasting to the curriculum this semester. 
    According to Dictionary.com, a podcast is a digital audio or video file or recording, usually part of a themed series, that can be downloaded from a website to a media player or computer.
   To kick off the audio lesson we took a field trip to WGTE Public Radio in Toledo in October. We were given a tour by Cathy Kamenca, and podcaster Haley Taylor was gracious enough to show us how she produces her Rough Draft Diaries series.   
   Then the students hit the ground running. They used either the Zoom H2 recorder or their cell phones to capture the audio; edited their files using Audacity, and uploaded their stories on either audioBoom or SoundCloud.
   Their audio stories are currently airing weekly on the Owens Outlook student newspaper.
   This new audio lesson, which is pretty basic, is appropriate for this course, considering the Visual Storytelling class is now a requirement course in the new broadcasting major.
   The Owens Outlook staff is pondering a name and branding image for the podcasts. It’s unclear at the time the direction we’ll go with them.
   After all, this class, like photojournalism, is still evolving, transforming and expanding.

   To listen to my first effort at podcasting for the Toledo Blade, go here.
WGTE's Cathy Kamenca, second from right, gives the Owens' Visual Storytelling students a tour of the Toledo studio.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My failed job interview at Kent State: What I would say differently

   This is a story about failure and sabotage.
   I’ve lost plenty of sleep over it, and played back my poor performance in my head a million times. How could I have done it differently?
   Well, this is my first step in trying to redeem a little of myself, by helping others. Though it’s too late for me because I didn’t get the job, it’s not too late for others, who will be in my shoes at some point in their careers.
   Earlier this year I applied to teach at my Alma Mater, Kent State. The position was in the journalism department, and it was for a nine-month tenure track position, meaning full-time employment with summers off. I was selected for the first initial Skype interview.
   Though my attention to details is fading, and for the sake of brevity, I will highlight two major mistakes that could have cost me the job.
 Because I started teaching podcasting at Kent and Owens CC, I 
was compelled to do this podcast series for a Toledo Blade story. 
"In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn." Phil Collins
Mistake No. 1: My paraphrased answer to their first question.
The search committee: “So, why should we hire you?”
Me: “Because I worked very, very hard to get here.”
   What? Did I really say that? Who doesn’t work very, very hard to get where they are?
   What I should have said was this:
“Because I’m a very experienced journalist, photojournalist and newspaper editor. I’m also social media savvy. I believe every student journalist should graduate with multiple skills (writing, shooting stills and video, podcasting) because that’s what the job dictates these days.
“I’m also experienced in the classroom, teaching the skills I have mastered over the years. 
“I love teaching so much that I went back to school and received a Master’s degree in Journalism Education in 2012. In fact, I currently teach the Teaching Multimedia grad course within that program, which is at your fine institution.
   I also have written two articles in 2016 on journalism education and photojournalism interns for NPPA's News Photographer Magazine. Plus, I'm the faculty advisor for the Owens Outlook student online newspaper.
   “I think you should hire me because I understand that this field is always evolving, so I continue to learn, and I thoroughly enjoy evolving with it, and taking students on that journey with me.”
o   Mistake No. 2: My answer to this question: “What is your biggest weakness?”
   “Um, I guess research.”
Sigh. Did I really just admit that? Yes, I did. I was even warned that they were looking for a researcher. This is when I truly sabotaged myself. What I should have said was this:
   “My biggest weakness is my greatest strength.
   "As you know, I am a working full-time photojournalist at the Toledo Blade. The strength of that job, which I've had for the past 21 years, is that it keeps my shooting and communication skills sharp. I’m shooting everyday, and using social media to promote our stories. I’m also very aware of our First Amendment rights, and am very ethically and legally fit. Students should be aware of our photographer rights, as well.
   “However, the weakness of having that job is that it takes up at least 40 hours a week of my time. Consider that each fall semester I also teach a class at two universities, and in the spring I teach a class at three universities! Can you imagine how much energy I can put into my job at Kent State if I directed all my resources into one, single school and job? I would be thrilled to devote that extra 40 hours to do research on innovation, which I would love to do if I only had the time.”  
   So, there it is. Truth is I am not quick on my feet in front of a search committee. 
   Maybe next time, since I’ve actually written this out, I can do a better job in letting them know that I would be a great asset to their school. Sure, I’ve failed in two formal job interviews at Bowling Green University and Kent State, but I can’t give up because I still believe I have a lot to give.
   Of course, I could be totally wrong about why it didn't work out. But regardless, my advice is this: 
  • Write an essay on both your strengths and weaknesses. Read it over and over again before the interview so it’s fresh in your head. 
  • Know exactly what you want to say about why you would be great at the job. 
  • Don't be afraid to brag about your accomplishments. I should have told them to look at my website and my class blog, because the proof is in the demonstrated work.

   Maybe I didn’t have the courage to talk up my accomplishments enough, and that could have been my biggest mistake.