A bumpy start to Boston

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

I arrived at Logan International airport feeling more excited than tired after my nearly-24 hour journey. Being the klutz I am, I managed to find myself in an awkward situation just minutes after I got out of the airport.

After a great struggle to load and push out all of my luggage (two suitcases weighing a little over 50 lbs each, another two weighing about 60 lbs and my backpack) from the airport, I was relieved when I spotted my friend who’d come to pick me. In my elated state (I was meeting him after two years), I left my trolley on the pavement to go over and say hello. Bad idea. In the 10 seconds that I was away, my trolley, with all its mass, rolled down the sidewalk and crashed into a parked car causing a rather bad dent. Oopsy. Little did I know, the week that was to follow had more awkwardness in store for me.


The day I moved in, I lugged most of my luggage from the T to my apartment in the sweltering heat. Honestly I was prepared for the cold but NOT for the heat! I then had to attend the ISSO orientation for new international grad students. When I got home, I noticed my comb was missing. There were some women at our apartment helping us clean and I asked one of them if she’d seen it. She didn’t exactly understand what I was saying, but she did point to the bag of trash she’d just collected. Apprehensively, I took a peek in it. Did I find my comb? Yes I did, but not just that. They’d thrown out a whole bunch of my other stuff including my phone charger, my brand new water bottle, a shoe bag and the pair of socks I’d just taken off!

Later that week, at BU’s College of Communication (COM) building, I mistook a professor for a student and asked him what he was majoring in. At J.P Licks, just as I began relishing my mint chocolate yogurt, my roommate pointed out that I’d picked up a spoon from the used spoons bin.

Nevertheless, my first week has been great. I like all my classes, I made some friends and ate some good stuff. I look forward to the fall and winter, I just hope I don’t embarrass myself too much, as much fun as it may be in hindsight.

Only in grad school do you have class on the weekends

By Keiko Talley
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

My first week of grad school is officially done. I am the third one in my family to even go to grad school, so my mother was bombarding me with texts saying how happy she was and proud of me; she has always been my biggest fan. My best friends from home were all wishing me an amazing first day. It felt like everyone was excited for me, except for myself. I was nervous. I barely knew my way around this huge city, and I was going to have to get back into the mindset of school after being in pure work mode for two years. I didn’t know anyone besides my roommates and few people from a chat group that we created on Facebook (but lets be real how often do you actually meet any of those people and become friends with them). Making friends isn’t my number one priority at BU, but it is something that I know I am going to need to do in order to keep my sanity…and that scares me a lot.

For my first week, I only had three classes. During my first, the T.A. told us that our professor was tough and made him sound like it was going to be next to impossible to get a good grade. Twenty minutes later, the professor came in and immediately started poking fun at everyone, myself included for my tattoos. However, this helped me start to feel a little better about things because I soon realized that someone who I thought was going to be “so scary”, actually was comical.

I chose not to go to the first graduate event at the Hyatt (a cocktail meet and greet for students and professors); however, when I picked up my roommate from the event, I quickly regretted it. But while everyone else was recovering the next morning, my roommate included, I went to a new journalism “boot camp” class all day Saturday and Sunday.

I had already had such anxiety about the class because it was about photojournalism and how to take pictures on a fancy camera, which I knew nothing about. After the professor took attendance I realized that everyone knew each other, which I found odd. It’s a small program, so most of us are in a lot of the same classes, but we hadn’t even had class yet. As I quietly sat at my seat, one of the kids behind me started talking about the Hyatt event and how I wasn’t at there. At this point, I thought I had missed my opportunity to make any friends.

I was wrong because that changed quickly. As annoying as it was having class all day my first weekend at school, it forced us all to get to know each other and become friends. I never thought I would actually enjoy learning how to focus a camera and set the aperture and shutter speed. But by Sunday, it felt like I was hanging out with my friends just taking silly photos of each other. Meeting the people in my boot camp class, and hanging out with them all weekend long made walking into other classes or even around campus a million times easier.

I had fully expected the worst when I was entering my first week at BU, not because the school work seemed so daunting, but because I was five hours away from anything and everything I knew. It’s a scary thought to embark upon a new journey where I could potentially fail. But, that ended up being the best part of entering my first week here at BU. You expect for the worst but hope for the best, and that’s just what happened.

Thankfully, the faculty has been nothing but helpful and understanding of a few unfortunate situations; such as, coming to class late because you went to the wrong building, not having the right book for class because you weren’t sure if you actually needed it (FYI: you do in fact need every book that a professor asks you to get prior to class), and even messing up your first assignment because you were completely clueless. The students here at BU are just as nice as the faculty, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this week, it’s that we’re all in this together. We all want to make friends and succeed. So don’t forget, even though everyone in your classes is your competition, they are also your support group.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

By Michelle Marino 
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

As another cherished New England summer draws to a close, the school year is back in full swing at BU’s College of Communication (COM). As I reflect on my summer interning as an Internal Communications Writer for Baker Hughes in Houston, Texas, I come to the stark realization that while I was still warm this summer, I skipped over my most beloved season in the Northeast. Alas, here we are, and the change of the seasons lingers in the air.

Since I’ve lived in Boston for the past six years post undergrad, I didn’t endure the normal trials and tribulations that most did come move-in day. I have been, however, experiencing probably the same amount of trepidation that comes with a new program and a new academic year. Recently, I left my career in technology consulting to pursue a more fulfilling and challenging path. I have always wanted to be a journalist, but I will admit I didn’t always have the guts to do it. So far, it’s been the most liberating and positive life choice I’ve ever made.

My true yearning has always been to write, and so I finally followed my heart. As my specific area of interest is culinary journalism, I have been trying to immerse myself in food events, reviewing restaurants, and experimenting with my own cooking at every opportunity. Much to my excitement, I was recently assigned the “food” beat in a Feature Writing class with Prof. Shell.

My overall impression of BU’s Journalism school thus far is that it is a top rate program run by people with serious credentials. It’s been made clear, in order to make it in a precarious industry, it’s necessary that you be even more dedicated to the craft and to marketing yourself. A swift wake-up call was the writing of obituaries in Prof. Klarfeld’s class (who knew that an obituary is the foundation of all good journalism)? If you did, then you are ahead of where I was a week ago.

Along with Journalism Principles & Techniques, Feature Writing, and a Graduate Journalism Seminar, I am currently immersed in a two-weekend Photojournalism class that covers the basics of camera usage, video and audio production, and photo and video editing using Lightroom and Final Cut Pro X software.

This class is as relevant as it is intense – a must for any journalism student. As it was just added to the list of required courses this year in a spearhead effort by Prof. Smith, the kinks are still in the process of being worked out. Despite the tight logistics, I have a feeling this class will be around for some time to follow.

 Lastly, a Media Law & Ethics class delves into the role of the journalist and responsibility to the audience, as well as the ethical and legal implications at hand. I was interested to find out that Prof. Lehr (who teaches the class), recently wrote a book called Black Mass, detailing the dark existence of organized crime mobster Whitey Bulger. Hollywood is in the process of filming a movie starring Johnny Depp based on the book as well, and Lehr himself makes a brief appearance as a diner at a restaurant.

It’s going to be a hectic semester, but I know it will be both rewarding and invaluable. I hope that I have enough time to cultivate all of the incredible resources that BU has to offer, as well as priceless relationships with the professors available to us. Take advantage of everything your tuition pays for!


Back to my new, old school

By Ali Parisi
MS Public Relations ’16
BU College of Communication

If you were in a 30-mile radius of Boston during Labor Day weekend, you knew: it was move-in time.  Home to numerous colleges and universities, the Boston move-in process is a beast in itself.  Everything from midday bumper to bumper traffic to countless discarded furniture pieces left on the curb screams, “Get out of this city while you still can.” And yet, hundreds of thousands of college students continue to make their way into the city.

Fortunately for me, this wasn’t my first time around the block, and I was smart enough to move in well before then.  This will be my fourth year at Boston University.  After three years of studying Mass Communication, I’m incredibly excited to dive straight into BU’s Public Relations graduate program.

If moving in and adjusting to graduate level classes wasn’t enough already, it’s also the middle of soccer season. I’ve been on campus since August 3rd for preseason training. Before classes even started, I had been through three weeks of training, two home games and a weekend trip for two games in South Carolina. I think it’s safe to say I’ve been pretty busy.  But hey, that’s life, right?

I have to admit, it’s so nice already knowing my way around campus and the city of Boston.  But even though I’ve been here for a few years already, I still feel the excitement of a new start: meeting new classmates and professors, taking new courses, and even playing new teams in soccer.  The comfort of the location, along with the thrill of a new beginning truly gives me the best of both worlds.

We’ll see how happy I am to be this busy when the papers start piling up…But for now, bring it on BU.

Why Study Journalism?

By: William McKeen

I get this a lot: “Why should I let my kid study journalism? Isn’t it a dying business?”

These days, parents generally escort their children through college preview or orientation events. The students ask about the schooling and the opportunities, then the parents ask that inevitable question. I have a response ready.

“If journalism is a dying business, then we are a dying species,” I tell them.

“If journalism is a dying business, then we are a dying species,” I tell them. This befuddles the parents – befuddling being part of the job for a professor – but then I elaborate.

Do not confuse journalism with the newspaper business. I am far from convinced that the newspaper business is dying. It is in transition, but I understand where the “dying business” comes from: look at the stories of old newspapers folding and the massive layoffs at even the healthiest of institutions. (Still, a newspaper is still a darned-good invention, a great way to present news. You also don’t have to worry about wifi signals or running out of power.)

Journalism is alive and well – transitioning, changing, taking new forms. To adapt a line from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, journalism is like a shark – it must constantly move forward and eat or it dies. So it adapts and changes. It always has and always will.

Journalism has been with us since the dawn of time (cue the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey). As soon as those hairy and unhygienic cave people domesticated fire, they needed something to do as they gathered around the flames nightly. S’mores had yet to be invented, so they told stories.

Think of those prehistoric cave paintings as news stories: “Killed a mastodon today; fingerpaint at 11.”

As children in our parents’ laps, we wanted stories. As adults, we still want stories. When it comes to stories, truth is stranger than fiction – which is why fiction is such a comfort.

So the forecast for journalism is great, I tell the parents. If there comes a time when human beings no longer want stories, then we are extinct.

There’s more to it than stories, of course. Our stories are true. They entertain as well as any tall tales or fiction, but they are true. They illuminate the mad catastrophe of human life on earth. But they also give people information they need to know to participate in our society. With a modest investment – a buck in a newspaper rack, a cheap online subscription – we have a vast universe of information at our command.

It was not always so. Information used to be the property of the wealthy. That changed with the advent of the penny press in the 19th Century, which enfranchised millions of people who’d been pushed aside. Now, for the cost of a penny, they could learn what they needed to know to participate in society. It was a cheap price for citizenship.

We have managed to mostly avoid a society of information haves and have nots since the coming of the digital revolution and more journalism – more storytelling – is available than ever before. Even the most geographically isolated corners of the world don’t have to be isolated from the rest of humanity. Journalism helps keep us connected.

The world managed to exist without journalism schools for centuries, so it’s worth asking why this field of study is vital today.

I started working for a daily newspaper in 1970 and when I looked around the newsroom, I could count the number of journalism graduates on one hand of an amputee. We were sociology, psychology or history majors (me).

But the world has changed since then. The stakes are higher and fewer news organizations take the time for on-the-job training. Plus, as lines get blurred across media, it’s important to clarify a few things for future journalists.

I’m not talking so much about the mystical part of the job – the actual storytelling. I’m convinced that writing cannot be taught, but only learned. A good teacher serves as a coach and brings the student along slowly, showing good examples, talking about best practices, but the actual storytelling and style is a personal journey and the students must go it alone.

What we can teach is the art of reporting, of how to interview reluctant sources, of finding public records and of explaining this complex world in a voice the audience will easily understand. It’s also vital that journalists have an understanding of law and ethics and history. Understanding the history of journalism gives journalists a sense of their legacy.

And there’s much to be said for community. As students navigate through their schooling and their internships, they dwell in a community of journalists, all learning the craft and sharing the sense of duty and responsibility that comes with this noble calling.

We all share an unshakeable faith in the function, if not the form, of journalism.

William McKeen is a journalism professor and the chairman of BU’S College of Communication Department of Journalism. McKeen is the author of seven books and the editor of four more. Before beginning his teaching career, he worked for several newspapers and magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post, The American Spectator, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ky.), The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post and The Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times. His major teaching areas are literary journalism, history of journalism, reporting, feature writing and history of rock’n’roll.