Welcome back to the Filak Furlough Tour 2023-24. This stop was such a cool moment for me because I got to chat with Nancy Karibjanian’s class at the University of Delaware. She runs the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication as well as teaching the next generation of journalism students at UD.
Nancy has tons of broadcast experience and is an amazing expert in political journalism. In fact, if you took all of Nancy’s expertise on politics and added it to all of my expertise on politics, you would have exactly the amount of expertise Nancy has on politics.
Thankfully, I wasn’t there to talk politics, so I had at least a fighting chance of adding something to the sum of human knowledge.
Welcome to stop three:
UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE: Newark, DE
THE TOPIC: Doing solid multimedia journalism and the hunt for employment
THE BASICS: In dealing with multimedia journalism, we talked about the ways in which it’s really important to have a wide array of tools at your disposal. A student was concerned about how to make a print-style story into a broadcast-style story and if that was always something that should be possible. I noted that, sure, there are plenty of times that we can do something for one platform and then reconfigure it effectively for another.
That said, the issue I wanted them to think about was if they were using the tool/platform because it was the most effective way to reach the audience and help the viewers/readers get the message, or if it was a case of their own familiarity with that tool driving the choices. I still remember having this argument with an old-time broadcaster who was team teaching a class with me on news. I noted that there were some stories better suited for print, some for web and some for broadcast. He argued that every story can be told in broadcast.
I noted that print or web would do a better story on a budget than a TV broadcast. He noted ways in which he could toss a budget on a table and record that for b-roll, or how he could use iconic graphics like a dollar sign to transition in the package. He never quite got my point which is, sure, you can do that, but it’s not as effective as doing it with a different platform.
We also talked about the idea of how to find stories that will excite you as a writer and thus hopefully excite your readers or viewers. One of my favorite ways to make this happen is to think back to any time you ever spent with a 4-year-old kid.
What’s their favorite question? “WHY?”
This is shortly followed by “How does this work?” or “What are you doing?” or a dozen others that can really push the patience of any living adult and half the deceased ones out there.
At some point, we lost that sense of wonder as we grew up. Maybe it was because in middle school it was no longer cool to ask questions. Maybe it was in high school because nobody likes to look like they don’t know something. Whenever it was or whatever triggered it, we need to get back to that stage of wonder as journalists if we want to find stuff that makes us really engage with the content and then tell it to our audience members in a compelling fashion.
HELPFUL LINKS: Here are a couple spots on the blog that can reinforce these ideas.
- One of my favorite “tool-based” Filak-isms explains the idea of the right tool for the right job.
- Here’s one about how just opening your mental aperture can help you find some cool stories.
- Here are a couple posts on “Life 101” and what people wished they’d know before they graduated. Part 1 and Part 2.
BEST QUESTION (PART I): A professor last year told me that when I graduate, it would be best to start at a small (media outlet) instead of a big one. Is that the way you see it or not?
BEST ANSWER I HAD AT THE TIME: There’s a way that I kind of look at jobs that’s a bit different from other people…
(EDITOR’S NOTE: These are the questions that have me breaking into a cold sweat at night. It’s not because they’re hard, but rather they feel like when my kid would say, “Mom says XYZ. Is that really true?” and I’d wonder if I’d be sleeping in the milk house that night because of my answer. Fortunately, this one had a solid, true work around that I do believe and yet prevented me from accidentally crapping all over another professor.)
I tell my students that I tend to look at three counterbalancing aspects of what you will face when deciding to take a job: Your professional life, your financial life and your personal life. These things tend to work in tandem to determine how good something is for you.
For example, you might look at a small place and see that you get a lot of opportunities to learn things and develop skills that will really make a big difference in your professional life. However, it might be counterbalanced by a smaller paycheck, which is something you need to consider. Journalism might feel like a calling, but you still need to pay the bills. In addition, it might be really close to a place you want to live, so you get a lot of personal benefits in terms of lifestyle, friends, food and fun.
Conversely, you might decide that it’s more important to make a lot of money, so you take a job where you’re kind of doing the same basic thing a lot and you’re not really going to grow much. In addition, it might not be where you want to live or it might be far away from your friends or it might be in some godforsaken place where it snows 11.5 months out of the year. Thus, the money is huge, but is it worth it?
In my life I’ve made trades where I took less money and got a ton of professional growth, even though I was really alone for a lot of that time. (Fortunately for me, I’m half hermit, according to my 23 and Me profile.) My most recent trade was one where I made a lateral career move at best, took a big pay cut and moved back home, where my kid got to grow up with both sets of grandparents within driving range, I got to see my folks a lot more and things like “garage sales” were basically everywhere. To me, the trade was worth it, even as I’m working on Furlough-O-Clock time here…
The point is, you can’t judge something by it being small or big, but rather in relation to the rest of these elements that can make life better or worse for you.
BEST QUESTION (Part II): Are the things we’re learning going to really help us get a job? (I simplified that one a bit, but that was the gist of it.)
BEST ANSWER I HAD AT THE TIME: Yes. What you are getting is a top-notch education in an area that really puts a lot of tools in your toolbox. You can take that toolbox anywhere you want. The people who I included in the book in the “View from a Pro” features all started out in one area of media and then ended up somewhere else in the field. Even more, people I didn’t include in there have made moves outside of the traditional media field and it’s because of the tools in their toolbox and the way they made use of those transferable skills.
Put another way: If you can think of a job where you don’t have to do research on an important topic, talk to other people, ask clear and insightful questions, translate information you have received into content that makes sense to someone else and generally communicate effectively, I’ll buy everyone in here a whiskey sour.
Also, when you get into the job field and you get to the point where someone offers you a job, feel free to reach out and I’ll teach you how to negotiate. So many people don’t like to haggle, but it’s a crucial skill you need to get what you deserve.
NOTE: We’re off to Missouri at the end of the week. More posts will follow the visit to the University of Central Missouri.