Tag Archives: classes

Narrative Non-Fiction Writing—A Class You Don’t Want to Miss!

By Gina Kim
MS Journalism ’16
BU College of Communication

The end of March means a lot of important things, but most of all, it reminds us that COM students have to pick out courses for the Fall. With just a month to go with our current Spring 2015 courses, it’s quite daunting to realize that we have to start planning out our final semester at COM. In the midst of advising appointments, checking off that list of whether we fulfilled our required courses for our disciplines, and beginning to sketch a broad outline of what our possible graduate theses will be in the fall, we often forget that there are certain courses that may not be required for most students, but will still be important to take nonetheless.

Professor Mark Kramer’s JO 527 Art of Non-Fiction Narrative Writing course is just one of many great writing classes that is welcome to all COM students, whether you’re Print, Broadcast, or even an undergrad student. It’s for anyone wishing to hone in on their already superb writing skills or to learn a completely different craft. It fulfills a student’s desire to understand the intricate mechanics of writing in such a way that cannot be taught by reading published examples alone. It’s something to constantly practice, sharpen, and eventually add on to your mile long list of skill-sets to boast about when you’re thrust into the industry.

Michelle Marino, a final semester Print Journalism graduate student at COM is currently enrolled in JO 527, where she’s been learning how to write for an audience, getting readers involved and practicing how to build upon a single great idea.

“Going into it, I knew it’d be a rigorous class that demanded lots of attention and sleepless nights of re-drafts and rewrites. I’d already taken Feature Writing last fall with Professor Ruppel-Shell, and it changed my life. I decided to take Non-Fiction Narrative as well, because I wanted to tell a more compelling story but in a different way. Narrative is about informing and educating people while still presenting them with hard facts,” she said.

There’s a lot to take away from a course like non-fiction narrative. COM already has a superb list of phenomenal, skill-building courses for students to take, and with a superstar lineup of faculty in all long-form writing courses, Professor Mark Kramer rounds out that list with JO 527.

“First of all, there’s no syllabus,” Michelle said. “Students are to come up with seven ideas that you’d plan to write about for the semester. You then narrow your idea down to the point where you have a viable one to focus on. Kramer than chips away at something until you find the core focus. After being approved, you report a first draft. You get to take a whack at it for the next class if there are things to fix. There’s a long process of going through several drafts but it’s so helpful because it forces you to take your time to produce the absolute best you can.”

Hunting for an informative course where you can have fun and tap into your full writing potential? Look no further. Check out JO 527 and make room for it either this Fall or Spring 2016 semester!

One semester down, two to go! I can do this! Right?

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

Last semester was definitely one for the books.  I dove head first into grad school and faced the roaring currents head-on.  But after a well-deserved (and much needed) winter break, I’m already back in the thick of it.  Chapters and chapters of reading seem to be piling up faster than I can even order my books.  And yet, something feels different this semester.

For one thing, I finally feel like I’ve got this whole “balance” thing down (even though sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy trying to get all my work done and actually have a life on the side).  When I take a second to stop and think about it though, I know I’m ten times more confident this semester than the last one.

Yes, the workload is still just as intense, if not more. but this time I know how to manage it better.  I know how to prioritize and organize my homework so I’m not overwhelmed.  And I know that if I don’t read every single word of every single assigned reading, it’s ok! Professors care more about understanding the big picture than memorizing and regurgitating minute details.

As much as I may feel more confident and ready to take on a new semester of grad school, I know the stress will still build up.  It’s inevitable when you’re in grad school because frankly, it comes with the territory.  You knowingly sign up for a rigorous academic curriculum and convince yourself that it’ll be just like undergrad.  Unfortunately, it’s not, and you’re still going to forget to complete an assignment or cram the night before an exam.

Again, that’s ok! So what if I get too busy and can’t study for a test as much as I’d like to? And yes, I’m repeating that as much for you as I am for me.  Because even though I can say that it’s okay to screw up every once in a while, I know I inevitably will still stress about it.  Guess I’ll just have to click back to this post if I start to head towards a mental breakdown for a little encouragement.

Because I’ve done it once, and I can do it again. Right? Right.

 

thumb_l

Journalism grad students showcase all they’ve learned from BU’s College of Communication

By Michelle Marino
MS Journalism ’15
BU College of Communication

On the last day of classes for the Fall 2014 semester, 13 of BU’s College of Communication (COM) journalism graduate students presented their professional projects at the Journalism Graduate Showcase.  Students, faculty, friends and family filled the room on COM’s second floor to support those who were presenting.

Print, photo and broadcast were just few of the many journalism mediums showcased at the event. The projects were diverse in content, offering a wide-range of stories that have never been told, such as an interactive multimedia website that take readers on a storytelling journey along Boston’s Mass. Ave. and a five-part video and article series about BU’s archeology research around the world (see video excerpt below).


Graduate student Amy Laskowski (COM ’15) uncovers the sercrets of the Three Cranes Tavern as part of her BU archeology research series. Video by Bill Politis.

Katie Tamola (COM ’15), a Print Journalism grad student who presented on her written self-harm project, says she took a great deal from the experience of her professional project and offers advice for those yet to begin the process: “I took so much from it,” she says. “This was a topic that affected me and I was curious and passionate about it. Pick something that means something to you, something that makes you think. This is your baby, and it becomes your life. Choose a professor who will challenge you but who really gets you, one you’ve had a class with or formed a good relationship with. The experience is demanding but makes you such a better journalist.” Check out experts from Tamola’s project here.

Saba Aziz (COM ’15), also in the Print Journalism grad program, wrote a piece on the history of the Longwood Cricket Club and maintenance of their grass tennis courts. Tennis is something that is close to Aziz’s heart, as she was Pakistan’s number one women’s player and a Federation Cup team member. She comments on the importance of solid reporting when completing the project: “For me personally, this was the longest piece I’d ever done at BU. When you’re doing something that’s written with not a lot of visual, the more reporting you can do to get the narrative and details the better.” View the photo slideshow here.

Along with reflections on the experience and advice on completing the project, Samantha Mellman (COM ’15), creator of “The Never Forget Project“, an interactive multimedia site documenting Holocaust survival stories, stresses the critical role of journalism in bringing stories to life. “As a journalist I think we’re playing a part in helping the world,” says Mellman. “It takes one great story to create a domino effect. Even talking about the Holocaust, which seems very removed from us now, seeing those people on screen, it makes it that much more real.


Lucy Jacobs is a Auschwitz Holocaust survivor who re-tells the horrors she struggled to live through as part of Mellman’s “The Never Forget Project.”

 For those of us who have yet to complete the project, it will surely be an intensive but rewarding process. Andre Khatchaturian (COM ’16), a Broadcast Journalism grad student, says although he knows what he will do his professional project on, he’s still marveled at the presentations. “A lot of people have put a lot of work into this,” says Khatchaturian. “The one I was most involved with was Ashley Davis [COM ’15]’s project on the 2014 midterm election coverage. I was a national desk reporter for that. To see the final product was awesome. They’re all very interesting topics. I learned a lot about a variety of things. Journalism is cool in that sense – you don’t have to specialize in a specific topic. You can tell all kinds of stories.”

According to Associate Professor Susan Walker, this is the second year of the Graduate Showcase, and will be an annual event the last week of classes in December. “Students gain from presenting, succinctly, a topic into which they’ve done a deep dive,” says Walker. “It is an opportunity to seed ideas for other students pursuing a project as well as a chance to demonstrate the craft they’ve learned here at COM.” Since graduate students finish mid-year and often can’t return for graduation ceremonies, it’s also a chance for them to get together and celebrate their hard work. In the future, Professor Walker’s hope is to invite more people, including potential employers and prospective grad students. “Nothing sells our graduate journalist program better than our students and their work,” says Walker.

Be sure to check out some of the other professional projects here.

Interested in learning more about BU’s College of Communication Journalism graduate program? Make sure to visit our website here. You can also find more information about all graduate programs offered through COM here.

 

Guest blogger: PR grad student shares her first semester experience at COM

By Becca Liudzius
MS Public Relations ’16
BU College of Communication

The halls of BU’s College of Communication (COM) are much quieter now that everyone has settled into what many consider the most stressful week of all—finals week. Lucky for me, and for most other COM grad students, my semester ended last Wednesday with the last day of classes. No, I did not have final exams, but yes, I did have four (that’s right, four!) final presentations within a three-day stretch. As I sat back in my desk last Wednesday night after my Writing for Media Professionals final presentation, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally done with all my work. I had successfully completed my first semester of graduate school.

Now, don’t let me confuse you… this semester wasn’t just all stress and no fun. Sure, the adjustment from being an undegrad to a studious “adult” in graduate school was difficult, especially when it happened all in one year, but my first semester as a Public Relations grad student at BU has overall been an incredible experience.

Some of the hi934808_10203805522673568_1393775127967161284_nghlights of my semester include:

My first weekend: What better way to start the semester than with Boston Calling (a three-day music festival on City Hall Plaza in the heart of Boston). I went with a couple of my friends and it was an awesome experience! Despite us having to evacuate for a couple hours due to a severe thunderstorm, we still got to see Lorde and Childish Gambino.

My Professors: This has been the first semester of my life that I have genuinely liked all of my professors. All four have been so helpful and knowledgeable.  I am so grateful to have such great mentors as I embark upon my grad school journey.

Group projects: Yes, group projects!  A task I absolutely despised in undergrad has become a lot more bearable, even fun at times. Group projects are now an experience where I can look forward to input and collaboration from my peers, and not worry about having to do all of the work myself.

Cooking: Having always had a meal plan at my undergrad, I never really learned to cook. At all. The beginning of this semester was filled with frozen pizzas and chicken nuggets, but now I have learned that cooking can be really fun and yummy. Adult life, here I come!

BuzzFeed: For my aforementioned writing class, our final project was to interview someone interesting. I took a long shot by emailing one of my favorite writers from BuzzFeed asking to interview him. He said yes, and I got to go to the BuzzFeed office over Thanksgiving break and interview him. That was probably my favorite thing I did this semester.

photo
Overall, this fall has been great. I am looking forward to next semester (especially my Nonprofit Public Relations class with Professor Downes and my internship with Peace First). But before that, my winter break will consist of much need sleep, my mom’s home cooking, some reading for leisure, and lots and lots of Netflix.

Have any questions for our PR graduate student, Becca? Ask her in the comment section below!

If you’re interested in finding out more about all graduate programs offered through BU’s College of Communication, make sure to visit our website here.

 

 

 

Story

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.

story telling

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.

Data

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.