Friday, April 29, 2016

Tip for success

Dear future student in Prof. Piacente's Writing for Comm course,

There are two points of advice I'd like to give. First, something I learned the hard way: read the Washington Post every day. It is way, way easier to do briefly every day then to spend more than two hours (and it will take more than two hours) on Sunday catching up, and you'll find yourself becoming far more informed and connected to the region.

Second: take advantage of the amazing resources Prof. Piacente provides. Ask guests good questions, and prepare for guest lectures by researching the person. You'll be able to appreciate them a lot more.

Have a good semester!
Ben Goldstein

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Class 4/25

Opening Exercise 
We each wrote one broadcast lead on the board.  The could be from the colon cleanse, Hassell DaJudg, or tornado stories. This activity acted as a "writing bootcamp" before the final which includes a broadcast story.  When writing leads, remember to...

  • Write the lead in present tense
  • Include the gist of the story, or "nugget" of most important information
  • Prioritize the most important news at the beginning of the lead
    • ex) Results of the colon cleanse, not that a study was conducted 
  • No not use quotation marks or parenthesis for phrases
  • Exclude unneeded  information so as not to dilute the strength of the message
    • ex) Damage to three houses is not as vital as the death of nine-year-old

Discussion on "Study: Poor Writing Skills Are Costing Businesses Billions"  
This article spoke to the importance of being a good writer.  Over $3.1 billion is spent annually on remedial training for adults even after their college educations.  The report showed that employers  noticed a lack in writing skills among college graduates, and during hiring they now assess resumes and cover letters for accuracy.  There is immense value in being a good writer, and it is a skill any business needs.  

Videos on Importance of Being Prepared 
We watched two short interviews that showed what happens when a reporter is prepared, and what happens when he/she is not.  

The first scenario showed a woman interviewing John Cusack and talking about his performance in American Beauty, a movie he is not in. She was caught off-guard and thoroughly embarrassed because she did not do her research.  

The second showed a high school reporter interviewing a government official on the issue of funding towards education.  After the official boasted his support to the program, the student was able to pull out records of when the official voted against it. The ordeal caused the official to be so flustered that he walked out of the interview, and it was a clear win for the student. These examples being prepared and informed is essential in communications.  

Writing Exercise on Pictionary  
We wrote broadcast stories about fight in Brasco State Psychiatric Hospital leading to a prison stabbing.  New developments were released two separate times prior to the piece being published, when the inmate was stabbed and when he died.  Our stories needed to change and be updated three times within a half hour, which worked on our versatility and ability to adapt.  This lesson reinforced the need for a lead to state the newest, most important information  These stories were printed or saved for us to reference when studying. 

Final Exam Next Week
The final will take place next week, Monday, May 2 at our regular time, 5:30 pm.  We will be given two fact sheets and must write one press release and one broadcast story.  The AP Style Manual may be used during the test. Professor Piacente gave last-minute tips to ensure success... 

  • Read past posts from the blog, important chapters from the textbook, and feedback from old work.
  • The press release will be held to a higher AP style standard because it would be sent to media outlets. 
  • Formatting, including the headline and one-sentence-leads, are essential points that should not be missed. 
  • Remember that when writing a press release you are an advocate not journalist, and you are the organization.  
  • The broadcast story MUST be in present tense.  
  • Be sure to make multiple rounds of revisions, each time for a different type of mistake.  Check for...
    • Grammar
    • Flow
    • Word Choice
    • Punctuation/ AP Style
Good Luck! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Class 4/18

The first part of class today was a writing exercise where we wrote a broadcast story update on Stefanie Ferguson and her saga. This portion of the story focused on her arrest near the Canadian border. After, we took the last current events quiz of the semester and discussed the broadcast story we had just written. Some of the things we talked about are:

  • "Authorities demand that she return home" is out of date news that has been outpaced by current events. Therefore, we can leave it out of the updated story.
  • We should make sure we start with the new news, then circle around to the background information.
After discussing Stefanie Ferguson, we brainstormed leads for our homework for next week (See below).

After the break, we listened to guest speaker Michael Edson, who has worked in the past as an exhibit designer with the Smithsonian and is now working with the UN to organize the creation of a new UN museum in Copenhagen and elsewhere. Edson is a strong advocate for using technology as a tool for the democratic flow of information.

Edson discussed the old model of information flow, that of the Smithsonian, where the so-called "experts" bring a passive but grateful audience through the doors so they can have information delivered to them. Edson feels a great deal of frustration with this model.

Conversely, Edson in his work now with the UN is focused on finding a new model, wherein everyone can have the chance to contribute to the gathering and distribution of information. This new UN museum is a tool to this end and is being built with the goal of reconnecting people with the original vision of the UN.

Homework for next week:
  • Read and think about this article
  • Write leads for the three stories we brainstormed for in class. Bring in a hard copy, and remember: dead children are more important than anything else.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Class 4/11

-       Current events quizzes
-       Verb tense quizzes

-Discussed WSJ article about basketball
            -we enjoyed how it related economics to sports
            -did not stray into cliché when describing Steph Curry

-Mr. Blount’s article
            -well written but less engaging than the basketball story
            -mixed opinions on how he censored the word “Redskins”
                        -equated “Redskin” with the N word
-good example of persuasive writing, but more intended for people that see no problem with the word

-Broadcast lead discussion
            -make sure to use present tense when saying what happened. Telling the backstory in past tense is acceptable
            -throwaway lead: quick attention grabber that leads into actual information
            -make sure to still include the unusual information

            -Broadcast journalism 4 C’s:
-Correctness- be accurate
 -clarity- be understandable, don’t be ambiguous
                                    -uphold rules of grammar
                                    -omit the ‘time element’ of the story unless it’s important
 -conciseness- don’t be wordy
            -stories are built on nouns and verbs
            -fire info in short sentences
-color- make it interesting
            -allow viewers to paint a picture in their minds
            -Dramatic Unity
                        -climax, cause, effect

-Clip from Broadcast News
            -about how stations are reporting news that isn’t really “news” or newsworthy
            -people are unqualified for their positions and pretending to be reporters
            -preaching to core audience

-Writing radio news leads
            -don’t go for the easiest choice
            -be creative
            -don’t forget 4 C’s, especially color

            -writing stories at the beginning
            -Research guest for next week
            -Michael Edson, head of digital for the Smithsonian

-Wrote broadcast story using new info in the Stefanie Ferguson case

Read these two pieces by Michael Edson.
Read whatever else you want about him.
Come up with two questions that you will ask in class.
Try for questions that can't be answered by anything you find online.


Again, arrive promptly at 5:30 p.m. next week. Julianna will receive and then print the assignment. This will be another broadcast story based on a new set of facts. You will have roughly 50 minutes to complete the piece.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Nicholas Kram Mendelsohn
April 4, 2016

What did we discuss with substitute teachers?
-Discussed leads for Feature stories
-Discussed purpose of feature stories, what to include, emphasize, and what to exclude

Review of Busdicker story:
-Think of how to expand the audience for the story
-What makes this story interesting is the ashes being buried in the clarinet
-If you don't have that in the lead, you have missed the story
-Stick to one sentence leads

Cardinal rule of broadcast lead:
-Check the handout "Sequence of Tenses" and the website Purdue Owl Writing Lab to help distinguish present tense

The website:

Class Note:
Verb tense quiz next Monday! (Closed book)
Instructions for the upcoming quiz:

If the tense of each underlined verb expresses the time relationship accurately, write S (satisfactory). If a shift in tense is not appropriate, write U (unsatisfactory) and make necessary changes.

Sample question: After Alice visits AU for the third time, she decided to apply.

So the example above would get a U.
The change would be, she decides to apply. That keeps the sentence in a consistent tense (present).

There will only be 2 more current events quizzes!!!!!

Powerpoint notes:
1.  Write for the ear, not the eye
2.  Has to be catchy and compelling right from the beginning
3.  Use present tense whenever possible (generally you will change was to is)
4.  Attribution not as necessary, if you need to use it have it come in the 3rd or 4th paragraph and start with it instead of ending with it as you would in AP style
5.  A benefit of broadcast is immediacy, so even if it is in the past we use present tense in order always appear current
6.  Don't confuse leads with headlines or teases ( a tease isn't a full sentence)
7.  Again, put attribution before quotes, not after.  Paraphrase, don't directly quote
8.  Use short, simple sentences
9.  Use active, not passive voice
10.  Don't use a lot of numbers, keep it simple
11.  Don't use abbreviations, spell out the words,

Thing's to remember:
a)  Your audience is in a hurry, so your writing should be brief.  Get to the point.  Now!
b)  Your writing should be full of active verbs
c)  Always lead with the news information
d)  Easily understood, no jargon, think of the guy with his hand on the clicker
e)  Put title before name
f)  Use oval format with beginning, middle, and end

1.  Review and know tenses
2.  Read broadcast chapter 12 in textbook
3.  Pick two stories that we have done this semester and convert the leads into broadcast leads.