Communication and Job Integration

See below for information on this upcoming conference. Certainly could be useful event for all Communication majors, and this could be an opportunity for some storytelling. Perhaps fodder for your feature, story # 4, or an alternative for story # 3. We can discuss in class.

We hope you all are as excited as we are about the upcoming COMM 422 conference, Communication and Job Integration.  Again, the conference, followed by a reception, will be held on Friday, April 21st from 11am to 2pm in Van Bokkelen Room 204.

At the conference, you should expect to see approximately eight diverse speakers tell inspirational stories of how they got to where they are today and how they have utilized communication skills in their journey.

Some speakers include:

Reig McConnell: Born in VA, and raised in MD–attended Loch Raven High School in Baltimore County, graduated 2004. Served in the United States Army for 4 years; duty stations include Friedberg, Germany, Ft. Hood, Texas, Camp Al Hit, Anbar Province, and Baghdad, Iraq. After attaining the rank of Sergeant at age 21, chose to leave the Armed Forces to pursue a college education. Attended CCBC and Towson University, switching majors 4 times before deciding on English writing. Currently employed as the Store Manager at The Under Armour Brand House in Harbor East.

Ryan Permison: I am 29 years old studying Electronic Media and Film at Towson University. Some of my previous internships and jobs were with WCBM 680 AM, 100.7 The Bay, and Sports Radio 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore. For over 10 years, I have been volunteering and working for the Hussman Center for Adults with Autism. I am currently on Staff as a Social Group Team Member where I help oversee the bi-weekly event.

Heather Rera: Mental health worker at Sheppard Pratt hospital and an advocate for mental health awareness. She counsels patients with trauma disorders and uses public forums and events to spread knowledge and understanding about what mental illnesses truly look like, in hopes of reducing stigma. The power of connection through discussion is what helps her counsel those struggling, and educate the general population that mental illness should not cause fear or shame, but rather incite empathy and understanding.

And two engaging MCCS faculty members: Erin Berry and Tom Burkhart

Sheets of paper will be available on the registration table that will allow students to both sign their name and identify the teacher and class in which they are receiving creditBy Friday, April 28th, an email will be sent entailing a list of students for each class who attended the conference


Finding the Lead

New Yorker writer John McPhee says, “The first part‑the lead, the beginning‑is the hardest part of all to write. I’ve often heard writers say that if you have written your lead you have 90 percent of the story.” Locating the lead, he says, is a struggle.

“You have tens of thousands of words to choose from, after all‑and only one can start the story, then one after that, and so forth. . . . What will you choose?” McPhee asks.

But before the words can be selected, the facts must be sorted out. How does the reporter select the one or two facts for a lead from the abundance of material he or she has gathered? What’s the focus of the story?

Fact sifting begins well before the reporter sits down to write. Experienced reporters agree with journalists John W. Chancellor and Walter R. Mears, who say: “We have found that a way to write good leads is to think of them in advance ­to frame the lead while the story is unfolding.”


Focus Words

When you construct a sentence, where you place certain words and phrases can add impact and help focus the story. It can also help naturally transition you into the next sentence.

Think about our in-class exercise on a feature, narrative lead. Here is the story.

The [steps] leading to Ted Drake’s Wesley Neighborhood apartment can be [treacherous]. Duct tape keeps the bannister in place and the wood step risers are warped or loose.

The [conditions inside] get even [worse].

His kitchen is infested with mice and roaches. The bathroom lacks electricity and Drake has to wash his face by candlelight over a stained sink.

“It’s a dump,” said Drake, a senior at Towson University majoring in architecture. “But it was the cheapest thing I could find.”

Drake’s story is becoming all too common. Each year, dozens of unsafe apartments in Wesley and nearby neighborhoods are being rented to area college students.

The words “steps” and “treacherous” are placed at the beginning and end of the sentence to add impact and reverberate in the head of the reader. Just by placing them there the reader WANTS to know just how treacherous these steps are and what specifically about them makes it so. The next sentence provides that and you don’t need an intervening sentence or phrase to transition you there. The transition is natural and invisible, the way good writing should be.

Likewise, the focus words “conditions’ “inside” and “worse” lead the reader to the next paragraph and set of details. In essence, they foreshadow what is to come. The reader is expecting you to take them inside and show how bad the conditions are in there. Again, no awkward transition needed, the copy just flows.

When you’re building a story, try to find the right focus words and placement for them to move the story forward and lead into details.


Next Week

Due next week will be your revision of story # 2, the advance story. I strongly encourage all of you to take advantage of this opportunity. Look at my notes and suggestions. I didn’t micro edit every sentence, so go over your final draft very carefully and check for spelling, grammar and AP Style mistakes. Make sure your tone and verb tense is consistent. Use active voice. Vary your sentence structure. Several of you will have to go back your primary source for details. That’s normal. If I have time, I almost always go back to my sources for follow-up questions and to confirm details.

Also due next week is the Coca-Cola Co. announcement. Treat this as a hard news, deadline story in a major national newspaper or news site: NY Times, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, USA today, etc. Think of all the questions a reader would have. Keep the story focused. Be objective. Use primary sources. Attribute where necessary. Contact me if you had any questions, but you guys are ready to tackle a story like this. This really blends all we’ve learned in class so far.

Next week we will start learning about features and soft news, and alternative leads.



Delayed leads

A delayed lead in journalism is used to entice readers into reading the whole story by giving a few hints about what the story is about but not giving the details. It teases the subject of the story without coming out and saying it, or sets a scene and creates an emotional response in the reader.

Like the name implies, the key information is delayed. For this reason, all delayed leads require what is called a “nut graf” immediately following, which does the heavy lifting of the lead—combining the 5 W’s (maybe the How and So What?) and the angle or focus.

SAMPLE 1 – from the Philadelphia Inquirer

This is no ordinary public library.

For one thing, there are only four books on the shelves. For another, you won’t find any of these works, or the many that are expected to join them soon, at other libraries or bookstores.

You probably never will.

That’s because the Brautigan Library, which opened here last weekend, has a unique policy—it only accepts books that have never been published.

SAMPLE 2 – courtesy of the Washington Post

Every fall, Fiona Marshall’s home is besieged by legions of mice.

“They drive me crazy … trying to colonize our pantry,” said Marshall, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

It would be easy to think of the furry little creatures as invaders. But Marshall knows that they are here only because of us. In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Marshall and her colleagues trace house mice to their origins 15,000 years ago, when they evolved alongside the first humans who built semi-permanent homes.

[Notice how this last sentence is very similar to the summary leads we have been working on in class.]

Sample 3 –  taken from the class assignment

Humans can be a dog’s worst friend.

Short-nosed dogs of owners who smoke are 50 percent more likely to develop lung cancer than long-nosed dogs such as Collies and retrievers, according to a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.


Tonight, Next week

Hi all: No class tonight, as I spelled out in my broadcast message earlier. Still due today are your pitches for the “Advance” story. More info about that in the email, and the post below. There are a number of newsworthy events coming up. Please look in all the places I mentioned, and don’t overlook fliers and posters on walls and in the hallways.  Like I mentioned in class, you can also cover an event if the timing works.

Next week we will have our midterm exam. You’ll have plenty of time to finish it. You can bring your AP Stylebook. The exam itself will be a mix of short answer, multiple choice, and writing exercises.

Some study topics to consider:

  • Leads (summary): how to write and organize them.
  • Delayed ID and the Five Ws (Who, What, Where, When and Why) and the How and So What?
  • Story structure, inverted pyramid
  • News qualities
  • Sentence and paragraph structure in newswriting
  • AP Style
  • Quote and attribution form
  • Passive v Active voice
  • Tight writing, word economy
  • Primary sources. What are they? Be able to define.
  • Grammar, comma usage