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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

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BU’s College of Communication Pioneers Emerging Media Studies

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

Even if you’re not in the communication world, chances are you’ve probably heard at least one conversations discussing new media—social media has changed everything, from interpersonal communication to journalism, and more.  Traditional media may still be around, but new media is quickly growing.  It feels like an absurd amount of media outlets and technologies have come and gone over the past few years, especially with the widespread use of smartphones.  I had to wait till my freshman year of high school to get a chunky old flip phone.  Now, parents are handing iPads and iPhones to their kids before they can even talk!

YLNnbxyzAfter a few years of discussion, BU’s College of Communication finally decided to introduce a one-year Master’s program that focuses solely on new and emerging media.  The MA program, Emerging Media Studies, is one of the first in the nation to do so (go BU!).

One of the primary courses taught within EMS is a collaborative class entitled Extended Group Research Project Seminar.  Quite a mouthful, right?  But the year-long class is not as intimidating as it seems.  According to EMS Director and Professor James E. Katz, Ph.D., the class aims to prepare students to take positions that will be a fast track to leadership in various organizations by helping them to become experts in big data, consumer psychology interaction, and research methods.

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Professor Katz with his Reddit Gifts present.

“Our goal is to mentor students in doing meaningful research relating to emerging media so that when they take their post- graduate positions, they will already know how to do research and will have a portfolio to show employers,” explains Katz.  I may be a PR student, but I already love the sound of this class.  It’s a class that does more than just theoretical and academic discussions.  It’s actually preparing students for the “real world” after graduation.

One of Katz’s students, Katharine Sipio, heartily agrees.  Having majored in both English and Communication Studies at Saint Joseph’s University for undergrad this past spring, Sipio is excited for the possibilities this class has opened up.

“The readings and projects we do not only give us some strong writing samples, but [also] research skills that would be applicable in different types of careers,” says Sipio.  After taking this class, Sipio can see herself going into a “various number of communications careers such as a social media consultant, or maybe even going into PR, media management, copywriting, or exploring the world of digital writing and publishing.”

In addition to Sipio, I was able to talk with two more of Katz’s students, Adrien Park (Syracuse, ’14) and Brittany Anderson (UMASS Lowell, ’14).  All three of them had nothing but good things to say about this class, even describing it as their favorite class of the semester.  Park adds that the class has become somewhat as a family between the students and faculty because it is solely for EMS students.

“The professors and TA’s are extremely caring and helping, giving us a lot of great tips and insight about working on research [projects],” explains Park.

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Next semester, the class will begin working with a project sponsor.  This sponsor will be a local organization for which students will work on a research project that focuses specifically on that organization’s needs – just one more example of how BU is preparing its students for post-graduation careers.

Make sure to follow EMS on Twitter @DEMSatBU and like them on Facebook so you can stay updated on all the happenings within the program!

Does this sound like a program you’d like to learn more about? Tell us why in the comment section below!

Please feel free to ask us any questions you have about the EMS program and be sure to check out or website for more information on all graduate programs offered through BU’s College of Communication

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Behind the scenes: Film/TV and Journalism grad students work together

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

On various Fridays throughout the semester, BU’s Film and Television department at the College of Communication hosts free premier screenings of innovative film and television programs. This screening series is part of the department’s Cinemathèque: meetings and conversations with filmmakers/television-makers. The series’ curator is Gerald Peary, a cinema professor at Suffolk University and a long-time film critic for the Boston Phoenix. He chooses his BU programs based on his extensive contacts in the professional film world and from his travels to film festivals around the globe.

For each featured production, a special guest  (the producer, filmmaker, etc.) is invited to COM for the screening. During the screening, film students quickly escort the filmmaker to a brief interview shoot.  Afterwards, a Q&A is held to provide more information to the audience regarding the production process.

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Setting up the interview with Journalism and Film/TV graduate students .

However, it wasn’t until after this year’s first screening that the After this year’s first screening, the Cinemathèque team decided they wanted to shoot interviews with the featured guests. Clearly, figuring out the production technicalities for these interviews would not be an issue, but what they did need was someone who could ask the right questions.

Without much thought, fingers pointed in the direction of third semester Broadcast Journalism graduate student, Alistair Birrell. “I thought it would be a good way to hone my interviewing skills,” he said.

On Friday, October 24, Birrell interviewed filmmaker Frank V. Ross, during the screening of his film, Tiger Tail in Blue. This was Birrell’s second interview of the semester for Cinemathèque.

Allistair Birrell interviews filmmaker Frank V. Ross.
Alistair Birrell (MS, Broadcast Journalism ’15) interviews filmmaker Frank V. Ross.

With only a fifteen minute window, Birrell must make sure he steers the interview in the correct way. “Where are you from?” Ross asked Birrell during the interview. “I’m from Scotland, but we can talk about me later,” Birrell quickly responded.

Birrell prepares some of his questions beforehand.

After each interview, students on the production team edit the video down to around three or four minutes. All interviews are featured on the Cinemathèque page, so be sure to check out Alistair’s full interview with Ross.

Overall, this program is an excellent example of COM’s Film and Television department preparing its students with hands-on, practical experience for the ever so competitive entertainment industry. These are lessons no textbook can teach, yet something every student should experience.

Take a look at the 2014 Cinemathèque schedule here to see what will be screening over the next few weeks. Although these screenings are designed to primarily  benefit  Film and TV students, they are free for all BU students and professors as well as the general public.

Interested in applying to one of the graduate programs at BU’s College of Communication? Tell us which one and why in the comments below.

To find out more about all of the graduate programs available through COM, be sure to check out our website here.

 *Pictures by Nikita Sampath

 

 

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A look at what happens inside a Broadcast Journalism grad class

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

Broadcast Writing/Reporting (Course: JO 707) is a course taught at BU’s College of Communication (COM) that all grad students interested in Broadcast Journalism should take in their first semester. As the title suggests, the course is designed to teach us how to write a story for broadcast news and report on camera.  The course, which is taught by Professor R.D. Sahl, a veteran journalist with 40 years of experience in the field, teaches the main requirements of good story writing. These include: good writing, videography, editing, sound, natural sound and tracking. Timing is of essence too.

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At the start of the semester, JO 707 introduced us to script writing for television broadcast– attention-grabbing, short and simple sentences, with editing and production commands. Each week, we begin class with a discussion of breaking news for the day.  We then spend a considerable amount of time watching and analyzing professional news packages. For an assignment, Prof. Sahl asked us to watch evening news telecast and break it down– number of stories, kinds of packages, whether the reporter was on screen etc. This helped us learn the different ways in which news stories can be broadcast.

As for equipment, we’ve learned to use the JVC 100/150u to shoot our news packages and how to access the recording booth to do our tracking and voice overs. All necessary equipment can be rented (free of cost) from COM’s Field Production Services. Additionally, we use Final Cut Pro X to edit videos. We are very lucky in the fact that this software is available to all students in all editing and Mac computer labs at COM.  It’s great that students don’t have to worry about buying equipment or software of their own.

It’s only been six weeks and the eight of us grad students in the class are capable of producing entire packages by ourselves, one or two of which could be aired with some additional editing.

Check out this news package on the peer-sharing ride Lyft, done by Broadcast Journalism grad student Iris Moore, for last year’s JO 707 class.

One student from JO 707 said, “Prof. Sahl is a meticulous evaluator. Having watched each of our packages several times he was able to give us valuable, detailed feedback so we don’t repeat our amateur mistakes in future packages.”

From JO 707, Prof Sahl says he hopes every student will take-away the following:

  • The best TV stories have strong writing, powerful video and sound, interesting characters and a compelling story line
  • Accuracy is the coin of the realm. Get it right.
  • Deadlines matter. Meet them.
  • Care about the stories you report. It will show in the final product.

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To learn more about the BU’s College of Communication Journalism graduate program, go here. A list of offered Journalism courses can also be found here.  

Have questions? Ask us in the comment section below. Also, be sure to visit our site to learn more about the various graduate programs we offer at COM.

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What it actually means to get a Masters in PR

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

What is public relations you ask? Writing.

As a first semester PR grad student, that’s at least how I see it.  In fact, one of my favorite classes this semester has turned out to be Writing for Media Professionals with Professor Dorothy Clark.

In high school, if you had told me that I would end up loving writing, I would have flat out laughed in your face.  Back then, the only type of writing we did was to analyze works of literature.  And if you didn’t agree with the teacher’s analysis, you wouldn’t agree with your grade either.  That type of writing was just not for me.

But this class is the complete opposite.  Instead of writing to agree with someone else, I get to write for my audience (or, as we like to call them in PR, “publics”).  I get to write things that I can actually use in the fabled “real world.”

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For example, one assignment had us write a traditional news release.  To simplify things, Professor Clark had us write about a made-up conference for which she provided all of the information and facts about the hosting organization. That way, we could focus on both prioritizing the information to fit the format of a news release and also on writing in the objective voice, typical of that writing format.

To make this assignment even more hands-on, we also had to do a second, social media version of the news release; honestly, had no idea what a social media news release was before this class, but everyone knows that social media is huge today, and online news is growing faster than traditional media.  This assignment gave me a taste of both and helped me feel like I was actually learning something practical and applicable for my future career in PR.

Another assignment from this class, and easily my favorite so far, was to “create a blog with a focused brand for yourself” (straight from the syllabus).  I really enjoyed this assignment because we were able to write about something that we are truly interested in, rather than being assigned a topic that we don’t care about.  I chose to create a blog that focused on fashion from an athlete’s perspective.  Check it out here (Note: keep in mind that I made this site for the assignment and therefore it may not be perfect! Meaning the social media links don’t actually link to anything, etc.).

Everything we do in this class is up-to-date and tailored to fit the demands of new media.  Aside from the blog and news releases, we’ve also worked with Twitter, created a landing page for an event, and will be working on a feature and slideshow in the next few weeks.  We’re always talking about writing online as being a portal to other information, writing in your voice versus a company’s voice, and more.  Most of our assignments have second drafts, which gives us the chance to review and refine our work after getting criticism.  I feel that this is extremely valuable for the real workplace, where editors are more likely to chop up your work and spit it back at you, demanding a re-write.

If all of my classes in grad school are as engaging and hands on as this one, I have a feeling I’ll be just fine.

Check out the video below of Alumna Sandra Frazier (’01)  as she shares how the Public Relations courses she took at BU helped prepare her for working in the real world. Frazier is CEO of Tandem Public Relations in Louisville, KY.

Think you have better ideas for future PR assignments? Leave a note in the comments below!

Interested in BU’s College of Communication Public Relations graduate program? Ask us any questions in the comment section. Also, be sure to check out our program webpage for more information the various graduate programs we have to offer.