Category Archives: Inside COM Classrooms

Graduate students use final project to showcase all they’ve learned from photojournalism class

By Keiko Talley
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

BU’s College of Communication (COM) offers an advanced Photojournalism class  (JO513) taught by Pulitzer winning photojournalist, Greg Marinovich. In this graduate level course, students are taught how to produce long-form documentary work through the use of photos.

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Throughout the course of the semester, students develop a chosen topic for their final multimedia project. This topic tells a certain story through the use of photos and other forms of multimedia. To prepare for their final projects, students shot and discussed their opinions on each other’s photos, as well as photojournalism ethics and conflicts surrounding professional work.

Ester Ro, an undergraduate senior, Pankaj Khadka, a first semester graduate student, and Dominique Riofrio a third semester graduate student are three students who took JO513 and completed the final multimedia project. Their final productions stood out amongst the class, as they displayed photojournalism skills way beyond the ordinary.

“Good projects take time”, says Riofrio on what she learned from JO513. “When working with people it takes time to develop a relationship, to understand their realities, and to be able to show that in photos or video”.

Riofrio’s final project is called “We will not leave” – resisting eviction in Boston. It is a short documentary that explains the story of the Lopez family who are fighting an eviction from their home in Chelsea, Mass., due to a higher rent demanded by their landlord without reason. Her documentary exposes displacement within Boston.

“We will not leave” Resisting Eviction in Boston from Dominique Riofrio on Vimeo.

Ro is a senior at Boston University, who took on a graduate level class. “I just saw it as the natural next step in photojournalism,” says Ro. “I enjoyed being in a class mixed with undergrad and grad students, but I think we were all more or less on an even playing field”.  One of the perks to graduate school is that everyone comes with different backgrounds and levels of experience, so having an undergrad in a graduate level class is not uncommon.

Ro did her final project on her church in Boston, Highrock Brookline, bringing a more family oriented community that does more than just come together on Sundays to celebrate and pray. She chose to represent this family in a number of black and white photos that reflect what her church and the members of its community are like on a daily basis. Check out her project here.

Khadka is a first semester graduate student who claims Marinovich’s class has given him a better understanding of how to produce more compelling photo stories and take his time on his work.

Khadka’s final project is called The Mattapan Series: Blue Hill Artery, a multimedia project that documents life on the streets of Blue Hill Avenue. He explores the everyday lives of people living in the area and shows what it is that makes these neighborhoods, which are just five miles out of Boston, so unique. Check out his project here.

 

 

 

 

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COM’s first data storytelling course was nothing short of a success

By Iris Moore
MS Broadcast Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

In a recent post, blogger Michelle Marino filled us in on the most recent, innovative medium of journalism—data storytelling (if you did not get a chance to read it, check it out here). In her post, Michelle introduced us to Maggie Mulvihill, a BU College of Communication (COM) professor who is at the forefront of incorporating data storytelling into COM’s Journalism curriculum.

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I, along with a few other COM faculty and staff members, had the pleasure of sitting in on Prof. Mulvihill’s final data storytelling class of the semester. In fact, this was the very first data storytelling course offered at COM—I watched history happen!

During this particular class, Mulvihill’s students presented their final projects, which they had been working on all semester. However, before presentations started, Mulvihill provided us with a clear objective as to why she worked so hard to convince COM to let her build and teach this course—a journalist’s story becomes more powerful when data is used because it enables one to more effectively persuade, pitch, propose, advocate, engage and convince their audiences.

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Throughout the semester, Mulvihill worked to equip students with a number of skill sets for analyzing and obtaining data. After teaching students how to identify what data is attainable and appropriate for an intended story, she made sure they understood how to do the following:

  • Obtain data
  • Clean data
  • Analyze data
  • Extract data
  • Scrape data
  • Visualize and present data (students learned how to use a number of multimedia and software tools, such as Open Refine, Tableau, Time Toast and Google Fusion)

Mulvihill designed the course’s final projects to provide students with a practical understanding for telling stories with data. Students were expected to identify a data-set for their project, request it from a government agency, negotiate for it and obtain it.

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For each presentation, students first told us how they came up with their data story idea. Then, they explained why the data they had spent all semester trying to collect was actually newsworthy. From there, they described what tactics they used in obtaining the data. Each student explained the numerous challenges they faced while trying to obtain data (costs, contact issues, legal issues, etc.). In fact, some were even unable to collect the necessary data for their story. However, this did not make their project any less complete, as one thing was made clear by both the students and Mulvihill: data storytelling takes time!

The majority of these projects are not even complete. They will require months, maybe even years of work. One example is a project done by graduate student John Hilliard. He took on a project Mulvihill started back in 2013 and took it all the way to the front page of The Boston Globe (the day I sat in on their class was the same day the article was published—again, more history I was able to witness). If you want to hear more about Hilliard’s exciting accomplishment, be sure to check out blogger Gina Kim’s interview with him here.

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Other projects covered topics, such as domestic violence, housing issues, crime on university and college campuses in Boston and lightning related injuries in the state.  (Since many of these stories are being offered for publication and broadcast to larger news outlets, we are unable to provide you with the actual project).

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To me, these projects are a clear reflection of Mulvihill and her students’ hard work throughout the semester. On behalf of her students, Mulvhill spoke with so much pride and confidence in their ability to become successful journalists, given the tools they so successfully acquired over the last 15 weeks. Her passion and dedication for her students reminds me, yet again, as to why I am here at Boston University’s College of Communication.

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Why journalists shouldn’t fear numbers: storytelling with data

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

We live in a digital world. No matter what you do or what profession you’re in, this reality permeates everything around us. In the communications field especially, it has never been more critical to embrace digitization to effectively gather, analyze and disseminate information. Aside from a compelling narrative, finding ways to insert data and help people visualize information is vital.

COM Journalism Professor Maggie Mulvihill
COM Journalism Professor Maggie Mulvihill

It’s no coincidence the Fall 2014 issue of COMtalk (BU’s College of Communication publication for alumni, parents and friends) listed data storytelling as one of three major trends affecting journalism today. Within the issue, many of COM’s professors are featured for their keen efforts in providing students with the tools needed to succeed in a changing field; one of those professors is Maggie Mulvihill. This COM Journalism professor is dedicated to getting students on board with using data not only to enhance their story’s credibility, but also arm them with valuable skills eagerly sought out by employers.

Professor Mulvihill, whose background is in watchdog and investigative reporting, has been using data to inform her stories for over 20 years. She ran a Storytelling with Data workshop at BU this summer, and is currently teaching a class this semester—Data Storytelling. The course focuses on learning how to identify and obtain appropriate data, how to download and extract, clean, analyze and finally bring it to life through data visualization. “No matter what occupation, we need to know how to work with digital information,” says Mulvihill. “All records are being digitized. In three to five years, government information will be streaming instead of static. Journalists have to be able to harness and capture information as it’s streamed and tell stories,” she says.

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Data is important, but when coupled with good journalistic skill, it can be powerful. Especially when analyzing, if you’re asking the right questions, your data can serve to elevate your story in a meaningful way. Although most of us aren’t statisticians or research scientists, as social scientists we’re able to ask the right people to fairly and accurately assist us with data interpretation.

Currently, Mulvihill has a student in her class working on a story with the use of government data. After analyzing this data and obtaining a statistical finding, the question of statistical significance comes into play. Mulvihill asks the question, “Is it statistically significant to be news?” In other words, to be newsworthy, data has to provide information that isn’t already out there and doesn’t serve as an outlier. The student looking at government data consulted with a statistics professor who advised them to get more data so they could look at a broader spectrum of information. In the end, these types of consultations will ensure a statistically sound story.

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Along with journalistic skill, data is always more effective when presented with a human face. “It can’t just be statistics and government records,” says Mulvihill. “It has to have a strong character driving the story so people who read, watch and care about it can identify.” This is why Mulvihill asks her students to choose a character at the beginning of the story development process to focus on throughout.

Mulvihill is also in the process of developing a computational journalism initiative at BU. She says there is a sense of urgency for journalists to move in the direction of telling stories with data, and more and more people studying journalism are learning and integrating computer science into their careers. “There are so many jobs for journalists now with data storytelling skills,” says Mulvihill. “It’s prominent and it’s not just limited to journalism, it’s every profession,” she says. “I love the ability to do stories other people can’t.”

What are your thoughts on incorporating data with journalism? Let us know in the comment section below.

Interested in BU’s College of Communication graduate programs? Visit our website here and you can find out what it takes to earn your MS in Journalism at BU.

 

 

 

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Inside TV graduate course: Production 1

By Nikita Sampath
MS Broadcast Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication 

Production I is an introductory class that every Television graduate student takes in their first semester at BU’s College of Communication (COM). Professor Geoffrey Poister, who has 15 years of experience in the film and TV industry, teaches the course.

In Production I, students start off by learning how to use a basic DSLR camera and what different lenses are used for different effects. Next, they move on to the more advanced Panasonic camcorder, which is used by professional TV crews and is good for shooting interviews. Students learn to record sound using various microphones such as the wireless, lavaliere and shotgun. They also touch upon lighting techniques and learn how to use Avid, Hollywood’s editing software of choice.

For their first assignment, students produce a silent film. The script for this project must be highly action-based. After the script is complete, students learn how to add sound to their film. Students choose to either record new music or select from the available media libraries on COM’s computers located in all the labs on each floor.

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Their second assignment is a group assignment in which students have to work on a documentary—one with real people and characters. This semester, one group chose to work on a story about Professor Poister himself, as he is part of a band. “This is the course I have most fun in. Professor Poister is very funny! I was really surprised to know that he was part of a band,” said Maggie Shuting Cao, a first semester television graduate student.

Professor Poister gives his students creative leeway while giving them hands-on instruction for learning the techniques of film production. Students learn to differentiate between producing say, a more dramatic, fictional movie and one that is more ground in reality, a documentary kind of production. This way they learn two different ways to narrate stories, all in one semester.

Mohammad Behroozian, a student from Afghanistan, who took the class this semester said he really appreciated the “opportunity to test the edges of [his] creativity.” For his first project he produced a stop-motion animation. Beginning right from scratch, he built a set on his study-table. He created mannequins and gave them costumes and lit it artificially. Check out his work here!

Mohammad Behroozian says he would like to work on producing educational television material for children back in Kabul once he graduates from BU’s College of Communication.

Want to learn more about the programs offered by COM’s Film/TV department? Visit our website here and find out how you can apply to one of the graduate programs here at COM.

 

 

 

 

 

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BU’s College of Communication offers a degree that could help you develop the next big app

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

Tucked away in the College of Communication’s Film & Television department sits a relatively new Master’s program that you may not know much about—Media Ventures (visit our site to find out program details). The program, which has only been around for five years, already has its graduates making quite a splash in the world of new media.

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Media Ventures (MV) is a 12-month MS program that focuses on media innovation and entrepreneurship—a creative degree for creative students. This bi-coastal program combines practical experience with theory and mentorship to help students prepare for a career in technology, business and media (if the business component appeals to you more, a dual MBA/MS degree in MV is available- more information can be found here).

“I look at it as the new producing,” says Media Ventures Director Cathy Perron. “I was a TV producer and I liken this to that process [producing]. You have the idea phase to air date, and all the constituents you work with until the show airs. Here, instead you are coming up with a new media process and working with similar constituencies,” she says.

MV graduate students get ready for PitchFest 2014 in LA.
MV graduate students get ready for PitchFest 2014 in LA.

During their first semester in Boston, MV students develop a new media business product or service, complete with prototype, business and marketing plans (this project serves as the degree’s thesis component). Students work with each other to brainstorm and pitch different ideas. The following two semesters are spent in Los Angeles, where students complete two internships while simultaneously finalizing their thesis. “Los Angeles has a very vibrant startup community and most are focused on media startups,” says Perron.

Students in MV talk about their experiences as interns in start-ups in Boston and LA.

As the two semesters unfold in LA, students are constantly working to improve their new media project. Each summer, COM hosts their annual summer PitchFest, which gives MV students the opportunity to present their projects to a guest panel of media start-up and venture capital experts. This 15-minute presentation with 15 minutes of Q&A allows students to receive valuable feedback on their ideas and create networking connections with those in the media industry. Check out pictures from this year’s PitchFest by liking BUMediaVentures on Facebook.

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Even if creating the next big app is not your goal, there are other things you can do you’re your MV degree. “Students who have graduated are getting really good jobs,” says Perron. “They are in well-compensated strategic positions. The program was timely in its launch because the kinds of jobs out there are jobs that Media Ventures will prepare students for,” she says. The program has alums in positions like Senior Manager at Hulu and Editor of Bloomberg.com.

Beth Haber, Consumer Insights Manager at Hulu and graduate of the program, says her role at Hulu is directly related to what she learned in Media Ventures. “Media Ventures is focused on the execution of media and the introduction of new media platforms,” she says. “Hulu has really been a part of that. It’s interesting to see what I was learning in the program and how it relates to what I do every day now,” Haber says.

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MV students with HBO Senior Vice President, Jay Roewe (COM ’79) at 2014 PitchFest in LA.

COM’s current MV class is comprised of students from all walks of life—a largely international crew with backgrounds in technology and engineering, design and even law. “What I want to stress is it’s a cross-disciplinary program,” says Perron. “Anybody who’s interested in any different form of media could come into this program as a one-year grad program and learn the strategies of innovation,” she says. “You get real roll-up-your-sleeves practical experience, where at the end you have a calling card [thesis project] to show a possible employer or investor and you can show them what you’ve done from concept to marketplace,” says Perron. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Make sure to follow @BUmediaventures, so you can keep up with what’s going on in their program.

Do you have a great idea for media innovation? The Media Ventures graduate program could be for you! Learn how BU’s College of Communication can help you take that next step in your career by visiting our site here. Have questions? Ask us in the comment section below.

Check out the video below to hear what HBO Senior Vice President, Jay Roewe (COM ’79) has to say about PitchFest and the forward-looking aspect of a Media Ventures degree.