Tag Archives: Journalism

IMG_0904

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.

IMG_0916
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.

IMG_0907
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.

IMG_0912
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.

IMG_0910
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).

IMG_0920

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

International Students

A helping hand for the international students in COM’s Journalism graduate program

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

All Journalism graduate students at BU’s College of Communication are required to take JO721- Journalism Principles/Techniques. Every fall, Professor Christopher Daly teaches a section of JO721 designed for all new international grad students in the Journalism program.

Alongside classes, Prof. Daly does his bit to help these same students acclimate to American culture and the education system. “In a program like journalism, a lot of our assignments depend on cultural awareness. If the students need to tackle topics like the Red Sox, Halloween and Black Friday they need to have a general knowledge of American folkways and society, as they cannot be expected to have that exposure coming from another country” he says.

The American exposure begins early in the semester, when Daly invites students to his home so they can get a first-hand impression of an American household. Daly is also known to bring alumni and other experienced journalists into his classroom to speak to the international students.

The positive influence Daly’s class and efforts have on international students is apparent through the grad students who have been in the program for a few semesters. “My more experienced students come into class and happily and spontaneously testify that they got a lot better over the course of their first year. ” says a proud Daly.

Those grad students who visited Daly’s current students had a lot of advice to offer. Third-semester Journalism student Claire Giangrave told them about how she would ask American students who were better than her to let her read their work. She would look at what they did and imitate it. “The truth is, you have to work harder and better than the others. I made it my goal to compare myself with the best, not just among my peers, but also with great journalists and professors.” she said. She also advised the students to not hesitate to ask for help from fellow students and BU’s amazing faculty. Claire herself moved to Boston from Rome.

Prim Chuwiruch, another third-semester Journalism student from Bangkok, advises new grad students to relax. “ I know that it sounds like the most easiest piece of advice but it’s true. Once you take a breather and get yourself accustomed to everything in this new city, things will fall into place on their own and you’ll look back and wonder why you ever stressed out so much in the first place.”

A couple weeks ago, Melanie Lidman, an alumnus from the University of Maryland, visited Daly’s international class. Lidman now writes for The Times of Israel and the Global Sisters Report. The entire section pepped up when Lidman told stories about her reporting experiences in troubled parts of the world including Egypt and Israel. She also offered some sound advice for those pursuing a career in the journalism industry: “You will make mistakes along the way. It’s a long journey to grow as a writer and move your career forward,” she told the class.

Are you an international student looking to apply to BU? Find out more about the application process here.

10469301_10101404499354128_6901645107538494100_o

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.

10730862_10152845177077463_4281841193526692690_n

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.

IMG_0104

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.

B1qI-J1IQAA3_mN

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.

10615342_10152845177817463_5312151630349806143_n

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