Monday, April 30, 2018

My soapbox that I gave to my Wayne State students on last day of class

I wrote this as a departing love letter to my Wayne State University Digital Photojournalism students on our last day of class April 19. I read it out loud. Thought I'd share it here, too. Thanks for reading it!

  Journalism is about many things: Shining the light. Informing, educating and entertaining your community. Deadlines.
The tenets of journalism haven’t changed much: We still answer the 5Ws & H. We still adhere to the pyramid, whether it’s right side up or upside down. We should always tell real stories of real people, places and things.
What has changed is how we disseminate journalism. Besides still producing legacy news, like newspapers, TV news and NPR, we have many more ways of spreading our stories:
·      Websites
·      Blogs
·      Twitter
·      Instagram
·      Snapchat
·      Who know what else is out there …
·      … and yet to come
For you print journalists in the Wayne State Digital Photojournalism course, this ever-changing technology has added this to your plate: visual journalism. 
This class was designed to help you understand the visual concept of using photography to support your stories.  At the very least, it will also help you understand photojournalists who will work with you to help support your text, or work for you someday.
To stand up here and tell you what you need to do without you actually doing it is a complete injustice to you as journalism and broadcast and even PR majors. That's why you had to go out there and face your 'out of your comfort zone' fears. I hope that helped you realize how hard photojournalism can be. It’s not just taking pretty pictures. You need to know:
·      law & ethics, and your First Amendment rights
·      how to write concise AP Style captions
·      your camera controls
·      and understand the power of an image
·      that once you produce the content, you need to promote, share, preview and post on social media
This is the era of doing more for less, and I hope you gained a healthy dose of respect for those out there who are doing it all: writing, videography, photography, social media, mobile journalism, podcasting, and on and on.
Though all of you would love to get an A, that’s not realistic. Some of you won’t. But I’m here to tell you with confidence that your future employers won’t look at your GPA. They’ll search for your footprint on social media. They’ll be reading your stories and viewing your visual journalism in your clips and portfolio, and on your website. That’s what they care about.
So, after this class:
·      Polish your website
·      Shoot more feature, portrait and sports photos for yourself to hone those skills
·      Have a seasoned journalist sit with you and clean up your writing
·      Commit to posting an Instagram photo at least once a week. You have no idea how many editors look at Instagram and Twitter accounts when they are looking to hire
·      Post in journalistic fashion, AP Style. Don’t be lazy or rushed in your writing
·      Study lede sentences and stories of Pulitzer Prize winners
·      In fact, if you are a journalism major, commit to reading your hometown newspaper every single day
·      And broadcasters, listen to NPR every single day
·      PR majors, find those big corporations you dream of working for and study their social media habits
That’s the end of my soapbox.  
I offer these tips and words of caution because I care for you and your future. It’s a tough world out there, and now is the time to toughen up that skin and gain confidence as you move forward.
Confession: I was a horrible writer and photographer my first five years in the field. I was a messed up kid who didn’t know how to study. I had no confidence in myself. But I had role models who knew I wanted to succeed, and they took me under their wing and taught me the skills I needed to succeed. They had patience.
Don’t expect it to happen overnight. Stay true to your goals. Know that failing is learning, and not giving up is half the battle, even it might seems like a long downhill roller coaster ride.