Tag Archives: student life

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.

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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.

 

 

 

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.

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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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Why BU men’s soccer team will make you a sports fan, even if you’re in grad school

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

Yes, it’s true: you can still be a college sports fan while in grad school!  In fact, this year, Boston University has had some exceptionally exciting teams that have led fans on an entertaining journey.  Point in case, the BU men’s soccer team.

Back in August, the team started their season off with a dramatic win, scoring in the last second of overtime to beat Fordham 1-0.  They rounded out opening weekend with a win over Iona during a torrential downpour.  Alright, so they won their first two games.  What’s the big deal?  Well, this happened to be the first time the Terriers opened their season with a 2-0-0 record since 2001.  Things were off to a great start for the boys of BU.

(Photo: Mike Tureski) Senior goalkeeper Nick Thomson (in blue) celebrates a win over Fordham with the rest of his team dogpiles over Lucas McBride (unseen), the junior who put away the winning goal.
(Photo: Mike Tureski) Senior goalkeeper Nick Thomson (in blue) celebrates a win over Fordham with the rest of his team dogpiles over Lucas McBride (unseen), the junior who put away the winning goal.

The team hit a few bumps through the rest of their non-conference schedule, marking two losses in early September.  However, by the time they reached conference play, the Terriers were ready to go.  The men defeated both Navy and Army in their first two games of Patriot League play, setting the tone for the rest of their season.  For their next seven conference games, they were able to remain undefeated, rounding out their regular season play with six wins and three ties.

The Terriers earned the right to host the Patriot League conference tournament on their home field.  However, they had to overcome Army in order to make it to the next game, or else the championship would be played on Nickerson Field by two out-of-state competitors.

Just like they did in their opening weekend, the men had to show extreme grit to come out on top.  They had some serious chances throughout regulation play, but were unable to put the ball in the back of the net.  That is until the last two minutes of double overtime, when senior Cameron Souri served the ball across straight to the head of fellow classmate Dominique Badji, who was able to direct the ball on goal and away from Army’s keeper.

Unfortunately, the drama wasn’t quite over for the Terriers as they headed into the championship game against Bucknell two days later: they fell down a goal, then tied it up, then fell down another good, then tied it up again.  But in the first overtime, Bucknell finished off the job, claiming the Patriot League title with a 3-2 win over BU.

(Photo: Sofi Laurito) The team gathers together before the whistle to begin the Patriot League championship game.
(Photo: Sofi Laurito) The team gathers together before the whistle to begin the Patriot League championship game.

Though they couldn’t come away with a win in the end, the Terriers have much to be proud of.  This year’s team was the first team in 20 years to go through a conference schedule without a single loss.  They were ranked 24th in the country by the NSCAA and finished the season with an 11-3-4 overall record.  Several players earned All-Conference honors, including Coach of the Year Neil Roberts, Offensive Player of the Year Dominique Badji, and Rookie of the Year Bjarki Benediktsson.

See, you don’t have to stop rooting for collegiate sports, even if it isn’t for your alma mater… Go Terriers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.