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How a COM grad student made the 2014 midterm elections her professional project

By Gina Kim
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

One of the greatest components to Boston University College of Communication’s Journalism graduate program is the professional project. When I say “greatest,” I don’t mean easy, fun or relaxing.  As with anything great comes hard work, and that is exactly what the professional project showcases. After three semesters worth of classes, sleepless nights, and every ounce of blood, sweat and tears you have finally reached the end. You are now a mere shadow of what you were when you first entered grad school, and your professional project is your opportunity to show everyone else that transformation.

What is a professional project? I will explain. All candidates for the MS in Journalism must submit a professional project in their final semester. Each student arranges for a faculty member to be their adviser for the project. Upon completion, students are expected to endeavor to sell or place their work with a professional news organization.

Third semester Broadcast Journalism student Ashley Davis set out to accomplish one of the most daunting tasks and most impressive professional project to date— The Midterms 2014, a live coverage production of this year’s midterm elections. I shall elaborate.

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Anchor Louise Liu gets ready for The Midterms 2014.

Monday, November 5 at 6 p.m., the night before Election Day, a dress rehearsal took place. About 60 BU students (both grad and undergrad) were involved, including an impressive number of BU COM faculty and staff. Everyone had a job to do. Some were helping in the studios, a handful of students (selected by Ashley after auditioning) were anchors at the National Desk and others were scattered throughout Massachusetts, New Hampshire and even D.C. to act as call-in reporters for the live production.

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Professor Cavalieri helps students with technical operations in the production studio.

Ashley went over every aspect of the entire coverage the night before and explained exactly what needed to be done. After she sent the troops on their way, she remained at COM to get ready for Tuesday, November 4. This was her professional project, and since everything was going live, there wasn’t any room for mistakes, as per usual.

Tuesday, November 4 came quickly. Some people were asked to report to the studios several hours before going live at 9 p.m. At 7:30 p.m., the anchors prepared their cut-ins—pre-made news packages (stories). These packages would air in-between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m., mixed in with some live shots, on-cam anchoring and reporters calling in from different headquarters around Massachusetts.

I spent my time on COM’s third floor in Room 321, where I worked with others to help Professor Susan Walker push out live content and numbers for the anchors to live report as votes came pouring in from states across the nation.

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Ashley Davis directs on the set of The Midterms 2014.

Here is a breakdown of The Midterms 2014‘s amazing team and their various roles:

On campus at COM, in Studio East/West:

  1. First Block: Anchors Supriya Muppala and Peter Zampa
  2. Second Block: Anchors Taylor Walker and Justin Shrair
  3. Third Block: Anchors Mikaela Lefrak and Jamie Bologna

During this block, Kate Kahn — BU professor and former Senior News Producer for WHDH-TV (NBC-Boston)— served as the live shot producer, coordinating all the live reporters.  Andre Khatchaturian and Louise Liu— both Broadcast Journalism students at COM— were anchors at the National Desk. Lauren Westberg— Broadcast Journalism grad student— was a live reporter and interviewed Professor Groshek, Professor Carroll and Tom Fiedler—the Dean of COM.

Candidate Headquarters: Students were placed at all of the following locations in order to quickly report polling results back to BU’s College of Communication.

  1. Steve Sisto— MA 6th Congressional District, Seth Moulton Headquarters
  2. Paul Dudley—MA Governor Charlie Baker Headquarters
  3. Ashley Paul— MA Governor Martha Coakley  Headquarters
  4. Christina Erne—The Casino
  5. Hayley Crombleholme—MA Senate Edward Markey Headquarters
  6. Noelia Valero—Washington D.C.
  7. Rachel Mccubbin—NH Senate Scott Brown Headquarters
  8. Nikita Sampath and Rebecca Sananes—NH Senate Jeanne Shaheen Headquarters
  9. Keri McAlpine and Kathlene Gibbs—MA 6th Congressional District, Richard Tisei Headquarters

COM Professors Involved: The following faculty and staff members stayed hours and hours after they should have gone home. Instead, they helped make sure this live-production was nothing less than exceptional. Just one more example of COM’s professors doing all they can to make their students succeed.

  1. R.D. Sahl- Broadcast Journalism Professor
  2. Susan Walker- Broadcast Journalism Professor
  3. Christophor Cavalieri- Film & Television Professor
  4. Jacob Groshek- Emerging Media Studies Professor
  5. John Carroll- Mass Communication Professor
  6. Kate Kahn- COM Professor

The large production team watches live coverage at the National Desk.

The large production team watches live coverage at the National Desk.

Technical Operations Team: Quite possibly the most important part of this production, these students and staff members worked hard to make sure everything in the studio was functioning and the coverage aired without flaw.

  1. Jake Kassen- Technical Operations Manager
  2. Tristen Olly- Media Technician
  3. Scott Lovejoy- Digital Post Production Specialist
  4. Shawn Fallon- Media Technician

Additionally, BU Professor Michelle Johnson coordinated a simulcast on the Boston University News Service‘s website. Professor Anne Donohue coordinated live news updates on WTBU, Boston University’s student-run radio station. Coverage from DC was made possible with the help of journalism faculty member, Elliot Francis, who coordinated student packages from BU’s Study Abroad Washington Program.

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Anchors get ready at the National Desk.

The Midterms 2014 was an immense success. Ashley Davis could not have done a better job handling such a high-stress situation, nor could she have selected a better team. Ashley never lost her composure, always made time to answer questions and kept very calm throughout the entire evening. She had so much responsibility lying squarely on her shoulders, but yielded excellent results.

Watching Ashley’s professional project come to life makes us first semester grad students realize that this time next year, a similar task is awaiting us. Although it was a little intimidating, I now feel inspired to find a professional project in which I can showcase all I have learned throughout grad school. No other institution would provide the resources, the studios and opportunities to create something so impressive and professional. Now, not only does Ashley have a remarkable production to add to her resume, but she also made history happen, right there on the third floor of COM.

Ashley Davis’ final professional project is currently being edited. Check back here to view the final publication and follow her on Twitter @ashley_m_davis to see what else she is up to. 

On Wednesday, December 10 from 5-7 p.m. in Room 209, the College of Communication’s Department of Journalism is hosting the Journalism Graduate Showcase. The event will feature journalism graduate students presenting excerpts of their professional projects. Seniors, graduate students and faculty members are all invited. Adult beverages will be served, so please bring your ID. 

Interested in one of BU College of Communication’s graduate programs? Tell us which one and why in the comments section below. You can find out more information on our website, so be sure to check it out here

PHOTO BY SARAH FISHER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

David Carr and Jill Abramson discuss the future of media

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

“Switch to something forward-looking, like blacksmithing,” David Carr teased, breaking the ice on his outlook for journalism at his much anticipated Fast Forward event. The event, which also included his former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, was equal parts laid back and engaging. It kicked off by Carr fielding a few brief questions on the future of journalism and the media with WBUR & NPR’s Here & Now co-host Jeremy Hobson.

Carr went on to explain there is a place in journalism for people who can create a concise piece of work and effectively distribute it to the right audience. When asked about the future of media, he didn’t make outright predictions but touched on issues facing print, the trouble of being a mid-sized publication, the declining influence of cable news and the transformation of newspapers to daily magazines. Talking about change, he explained how it usually comes very slowly, and then all at once. He likened print to intellectual jewelry, saying, “In 10 years, print will be a luxury artifact – web will be the primary vehicle.” He also discussed the importance of curation and the organization of news in a world of relentless information and content personalization.

Carr then took over as host, with Jill Abramson joining him onstage. The dynamic between the two was casual and jovial. The conversation flowed freely and without formality, Carr often probing and Abramson answering. Topics ranged from Ebola to the American Dream to the current generation. Carr calls worrying about successive generations a “waste of time”, saying “This generation is serious…we’re just pot smokers.”

Abramson was forthcoming on her career with the Times, saying “I devoted my career to telling the truth and the truth is I’m fired!” She said she misses the chase of being in the thick of the news, but she is enjoying her new role as a professor at Harvard. Much to everyone’s surprise, she nonchalantly dropped the news of a startup she is pitching with journalist Steven Brill, which will have her writing one long-form story annually. On news competition, she says she ceased thinking of other news organizations, as competition is coming from everywhere.

In closing, Abramson shared the best advice she ever received related to journalism: “Shut up and listen.” It was eye opening and entertaining to watch two of media’s most influential players bat ideas around and gain valuable insight.
Boston University is lucky to have Carr as a professor here at the College of Communication. Next semester, he’ll be teaching Media Criticism JO500.  If you’re interested in joining Professor Carr’s class, you can apply by critiquing a piece of media content in any medium you like. In the meantime, Abramson will continue to pursue her startup. So, shut up and stay tuned!

To find out about more events going on at BU’s College of Communication, check out the calendar here

 

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Classmates and competition in grad school

By Keiko Talley
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

One of the greatest aspects of grad school is the friends you make during your time. Instantly, you find a group of people that are going through the same thing as you, so you befriend them. The people around you offer to review your work and let you know what you need to add or take out before submitting it. Everyone is in the same-pressured situation as you, so it’s easy to quickly form a bond that continues to grow stronger, like a family.

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I met some of the greatest friends my first month here at Boston University, and for that, I could not be more thankful. When one of us is down, the others are always there to pick us up. When we all have the same project to do, it turns into a night with dinner and homework, spent laughing way more than students should be while doing homework. Everyone within the program is more than willing to help each other out; they’re the ones I call to go out with on the weekends, and the same ones I ask to reread my work.

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But then you go home and think about why you’re in grad school and the job you want in a year or so. Suddenly, you can see your competition; she’s the girl sitting across from you in class with the nice outfit and perfect makeup. She is also the same girl you just went to the bar with last weekend. You look to your left, and you see more of your competition. He is Mr. Personality with great hair that everyone loves. He is also one of the guys you had lunch with yesterday. The friends you make in the classroom are also the competition you face in the field. “Look around, these people are going to be your friends. But these people are also your competition,” my TA said on the first day of class.

When I first heard her say that, I chuckled, as I found it hard to believe we would one: all become good friends and two: compete with each other. Sadly, it’s the truth. Mr. Personality may be one of the funniest friends I have here at BU, but he is also the one that’s going to apply to that position at the Boston Globe when you apply too.

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Although at the end of the day, this unique friendship-phenomenon has its advantages. That competitiveness we find within grad school, subconsciously motivates us to better ourselves; run faster, swim harder, speak better, smile bigger. Grad school gives you a sense of healthy competition. You’re competitive with your friends because you want to do better, but you are also friends with your competition. You’re able to learn from each other and grow together as a unit, which will bring you one step closer to that dream job after graduation.

If you’re a graduate student here at COM, I would love to hear any of your stories or thoughts on befriending your competition! Not a graduate student, but interested in becoming part of our COM family here at BU? Learn more about our graduate programs by visiting our website.

Where Does My Application Go?

So what happens to your application to the BU College of Communication once you hit the submit button online? This is a great question. One that I am sure many of you that are in the application process are probably interested to find out more about.

First

Once you complete the online portion of the application, you are entered into our system. You are considered to be among the group of people who are officially applying to the school. At this point, we make you a file. In the file we include all of the application materials that you have sent us prior to filling out the online application (Recommendations, Transcripts, Essays, etc.) and where we will add all of your subsequent items until your application is finished.

The files are very nice, by the way. The programs are separated into color-coded folders. For example, PR applications go in pink folders. Photo Journalism gets teal folders. Television gets yellow. So now you know, that if you have submitted your online application for the Advertising program, all of your materials are currently in a blue folder. But what happens after that?

Next

Assuming that you get all of your application materials to us by 11:59 p.m. February 1, then we double check all of our color coded files, and send them off to the admission committee. The committees are comprised of faculty in each given program. So the Broadcast Journalism committee is presented with a box full of applications in maroon folders. This all happens within a week or so of the application deadline, so by February 8th or 9th we have the applications ready to go to committee.

Next

Once the committees have the files, it generally takes them a month or so to sift through the applicants. Every essay is read by multiple faculty members, every recommendation is taken into account, and every test score is looked at. This is a pretty stressful process for the faculty because there are so many quality applicants. By taking every piece of the application into account, they are able to decide who they feel is the most qualified to study at Boston University.

Next

The committees send back the folders with their decisions to us here in the graduate services office. Once we input the decisions into our system, we send the decisions out to you. Applicants who finished their online application prior to the December 15th deadline receive their decisions first, then we send out the remaining decisions afterwards. If you are accepted, you will receive financial aid information, housing options, and information regarding on-campus employment.

We realize that this entire process can be pretty stressful, which is why we try to do our best to be as available as possible to help. From now until you make your decision, and even after you get here, we here at the graduate services office are here to help. Any and all questions can be sent to comgrad@bu.edu, where we will get back to you very quickly. We are also doing a podcast aimed to ease the application process, which can be found here.

Be Well Read

As an applicant to the masters in journalism program at the BU College of Communication, one of the essays that you have to write, along with life narrative and professional experience, is called “Periodicals”.  This is the part of your application where you get to show the admissions committee how engaged you are in the current media landscape as a consumer. The thought is that folks who are interested in becoming journalists are likely inspired by professionals who they have encountered along the way. One of the defining characteristics of a great journalist is a constant thirst for news and information, and in the periodicals essay you have the chance to share with the school how you quench that thirst.

There is a major focus here at BU on electronic media and social media, so in writing your periodicals essay be sure to make it very clear that you not only frequent a variety of online news sources, but that you have at least a working knowledge of the social media scene.  If you don’t have much experience with social media, I would suggest getting a little acquainted with the ways of Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. While you may not use these tools every day while studying here at BU, you will undoubtedly need to use them from time to time.

Listed in the required reading for every jounalism course you take here at BU will be a number of daily newspapers. Being up to date with The Boston Globe, the New York Times and USA Today is expected in the courses you will be taking. Therefore in this essay the ability to demonstrate that you are already in the habit of staying up to date will bode well for your application. And much like I suggested in the social media section, if you are not in the habit of reading daily newpapers, you would help prepare yourself for life at BU by starting.

The fact is that journalism is just as much about reading and staying informed as it is about writing and reporting. In my Journalism Principals and Techniques course in the fall our professor had what he called “The 3 R’s”:  Reading, Reporting, and Writing. In order to be a better writer, it’s vital to be an avid reader. So while you are writing your periodicals essay, be sure to express just how much reading means to you.