Monday, April 14, 2014

UF CMIR: Teaching the next generation of journalists

As a TV3 reporter for WUFT News, I have the opportunity to work as a on-deadline, multimedia journalist (also known as a "one-man-band") on a weekly basis. Here's a story I did recently on the 90-year-old, Glenn Springs pool.

I've always wanted to be a journalist, so when it came to picking out a college, you can bet that the schools that would prepare me for my future career were the ONLY ones I was looking at. In the end, coming to the University of Florida to study and prep for journalism in the 'real world" is easily one of the best decisions of my life.

Part of this is due to the Center for Media Innovation + Research or CMIR. It includes an active  newsroom (or the "News Laboratory" as they call it), which provides students with real world experience. There are few other journalism schools in the country that can say their students are graduating with years of working experience already under their belts. I'm confident that these experiences will help get me my first job when I graduate in a year.

If you've followed my blog then you've probably seen my work. It's honestly a product of lots of hard work and being a student of the UF CMIR. This is just one more reason that it's great to be a gator!

Check it out!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Tipping Point: A Review

This had to be one of the most unexpectedly interesting books I’ve ever read. The Tipping Point really sums up why some things “catch on” and other things don’t. But it isn’t just based on the author’s, Malcolm Gladwell opinion; there are actual (and factual) case studies to back up the theories that are presented in this book. I have to say that the most interesting and relatable part of the “Tipping Point” theory would have to be the “three rules of epidemics.” I usually associate an epidemic with a widespread disease, and while these theories can (and are) used to describe the spread of such things, it can also be used the describe the spread of things considered “popular” to mainstream society. The “three rules of epidemics” are broken up into the “law of the few,” “the stickiness factor,” and “the power of context.”
The First rule, “The Law of the Few,” essentially these are a few, key people whose interconnected work is crucial to determining the “tipping point” of an epidemic.
Connectors are people who happen to know EVERYONE. Everybody has that friend, family member, or person in his or her life that somehow seems to know everybody or can be linked to anyone through some connection. It’s kinda like Six degrees of Kevin Bacon with these people. Think about how you even got on Facebook, who was your first friend (hint: it probably wasn’t Tom). Chances are you were probably connected via someone who seemed to have a zillion friends in common with you (and then some), if not, then maybe you are the connector in your group of friends.

Mavens are people who want to “save you the trouble.” You’ve probably met someone in a store (whether they worked there or not) who provided you with extremely in-depth information when you were stuck trying to make a purchasing decision. Another example that’s been more prevalent during the social media age, are YouTube tutorials/product reviews. Ever heard of YouTube guru, Michelle Phan? Well she’s recently risen to stardom just for providing people with helpful makeup tutorials and product reviews.

Salesmen are people who do just that, sell. I’m sure you’ve met a person trying to sell you something that you just couldn’t say no to. Maybe it was the cute persistence of the little girl scouts outside of your neighborhood supermarket. Or it could have been someone with the charismatic persuasiveness of sales greats like Mark Kay Ash or Zig Ziglar.

The Second rule, “The stickiness factor,” is how well a unique factor of the trend will “stick” in everyone’s minds.  I’d have to say “selfies” are a unique social trend that has caught on and is here to stay. I mean just ten years ago, did anyone really take selfies…like on purpose? I mean now everyone’s doing it, President Obama, ridiculous amounts of celebrities, and even fighter pilots! Heck, you can now even personalize your Gmail inbox with a selfie!

Finally, the third rule is the “power of context.” It essentially, says that if the social environmental/historical moment in which the trend is introduced isn’t right then it probably won’t go over its “tipping point.” Frankly, I don’t if selfies would have caught on during WWII or the Civil Rights Movement.  It seems that it wouldn’t have been the right time (and we of course didn’t have the right technology then either).

I will wrap this review up by saying again this book was surprisingly engaging and interesting. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the world, society and trends a little bit better.

Well that’s all, you can go now, but first…let’s see Colin Powell’s 60-year old selfie. ***Cues up “Selfie” song***

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

WUFT Political Anchor: What I've learned so far

If you've read my blog then by now you may know that I love making lists and giving advice. This is not because I feel that I am a know it all, but it's because I tend to learn a lot from doing (and even more from hindsight). I hope to share the things I learn and the mistakes I’ve made, not as a way to tell you what to do, but to show you what I’ve learned/am learning. This blog is for me too! I hope to look back in a few years and re-watch some of my "old work"/the things I went through/learned to see if I have been practicing what I've been preaching. All rambling aside this post will be about anchoring/on-air presence and what I've learned about it.

Having been a Political Anchor for WUFT News for a little over a semester now (and a WUFT News reporter for over a year), there are a few tips I have to give about Live TV and being on air:

1) Nervousness. It's okay to be nervous. I once had a teacher tell my class that if you aren't a little nervous before every broadcast, then you don't care enough. While I think this may be a teensy bit extreme, I will say that being a little nervous is okay (even good sometimes). This is because it does make you care about what you're doing and that's good. But, don't let your nervousness overtake you. If you're shaking like a leaf, then you won't give a solid delivery. People want to see confidence in the person who's giving them their news; this helps to build trust and rapport with the viewer.

2) Cold Reads. DON'T DO IT. This is when the first time you're reading a story is live on air. I repeat, DON'T DO IT. Now, I recognize this is not always possible to avoid. There may be breaking news or some last minute changes, so obviously you may have to read some things cold. But if it's within your power to read your script before the show, do so! Please don't think that because you can read and speak properly that you will be fine. NO! There may be words you don't know how to pronounce, tricky strings of words that may trip you up and numbers. There may also be words that need to be emphasized or paused before/after and you won't give as great of a delivery if it's your first time reading it. Once you're a veteran journalist, then it's up to you, but for now, READ IT!

4) Resting Face. A journalist from CNN who attended the FAMU Multimedia Short Course with me (see my last post) talked about "resting faces." It's what your face looks like when you’re listening to someone else talk or just relaxing/not doing anything. Depending on how your face looks in that moment, people could misinterpret it. I know this is something I struggle with. My resting face looks pissed off. So sometimes on air I look ready to fight and the story is happy or just neutral. My goal for the rest of the semester is to work on looking more pleasant and less ready for battle.

5) Voice/Pace. A lot of students, including myself, struggle to find their "on air voice." I can't tell you how much I cringe when I hear a journalist put on a weird voice to read the news. But for some people it works. During my Summer 2013 internship with CNN, I worked with Suzanne Malveaux. She told me that as a woman you do want to find the "bass in your voice" so as not to sound like a higher pitched and thus, younger girl, but as someone of authority. However, she also said you shouldn't really change my voice. Think about it, how strange would be if I spoke with a deep voice like Toni Braxton or Sade and then in real life used my real voice (hint: my real voice is NOT close to that deep)? If a viewer met me in Publix they'd be really confused. So, I don't plan on changing my voice. I think that if I speak slowly (which inadvertently causes me to lower my voice a bit), I’ll be fine. But hey, that's what works for me; everyone's got to find his or her own sound.

I upload most of my WUFT Political broadcasts to my YouTube channel, so feel free to check them out and tell me what you think.

NABJ's "FAMU Short Course"

Producing isn't easy!

Now this is not to say that I've never had respect or admiration for television news producers, but after taking in walk in their shoes, my hat is off to them. ALL of them. I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a Multimedia "Short Course" at Florida A & M University, which was sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists. This program was kind of a like a mini multimedia journalism bootcamp which was jam-packed into two and a half days of non-stop news, media, learning and fun. My role during the program was to produce the first of the weekend's two webcasts. I have never produced television news before and it was one of the most stressful, exciting and rewarding times of my life. The show didn't turn out perfect, not by a long shot, but I am proud to say that I was able to get it done. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Day in the life: With swine flu becoming more prevalent, should pregnant women vaccinate?

It seems americans are split when it comes to deciding whether or not to vaccinate themselves during flu season. There are many reasons behind the choice to vaccinate or not to vaccinate, some are based on fact and research and others are based on myth. Regardless of your stance, one thing you do need to know is that this flu season the H1N1 strand of the flu or the "swine flu," is most prevalent. Swine Flu Symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms you should see your docotor immediately. But, if you want to prevent yourself from getting the flu altogether, doctors recommend you get the flu shot as soon as possible. Those most at risk this flu season are children, the elderly, young adults and pregnant women. My story focuses on the latter and why so many of them aren't getting the vaccination. I spoke about stand ups in a previous post, take a look at the one I did in this story and tell me what you think. You can also take a look at the "Google Flu Trends" chart to see how the nation is handling the 2013-2014 Flu Season. To find the nearest vaccination location in your area, use the "Vaccine Finder":

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tiffany Sessions: 25 years later

As a night side reporter for GTN News, I had the opportunity to produce a story following a break in the 25 year old "Tiffany Sessions Cold Case." The University of Florida student went on a walk on February 9, 1989, but never returned. Her family and several law enforcement agencies have been searching for her ever since. New information is leading detectives to believe Tiffany was abducted (and potentially killed) by convicted serial killer, Paul Rowles. Rowles died in a state prison in 2013, but this new information could lead us one step closer to finding Tiffany.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review of "Don’t make me think (Revisited): A common sense approach to web usability."

I’ve recently read through the book “Don’t make me think (Revisited): A common sense approach to web usability,” and I have to say it really opened up my eyes to the world of being a “user friendly” web operator. In saying this I mean that there is so much more that should go into creating and maintaining a successful website. For example, I created this blog for the Advanced Interactive course that I am currently enrolled in at the University of Florida. However, in making this blog I didn’t put much thought into what you as the reader would get out of it (sorry!). I honestly just assumed that if I posted things and made them witty and easy to read then people would read my posts and that would be the end of that. But this book challenges you to dig deeper. On the internet there are a million different things competing for your attention. In personally know that even when logging on the web with one specific task in mind, within seconds I have at least four to five other tabs open on my browser window. As I write this post right now I have a tab open for Facebook, Pandora, Essence Magazine, Elearning, and BuzzFeed. That’s insane when you think about it! I say all of this to say that as an online consumer it takes something more than “catchiness” or “quirkiness” to grab and hold one’s attention. When I look at all of these things that I have open, more than half of them where due to links that I found on Facebook and ended up clicking on. And that’s just it, it’s the ease with which I was able to get to another site that made it so enticing to click. If I knew in order to get to that funny BuzzFeed post I’d have to jump through a million hoops and give a pint of blood, then I would have never clicked on it. And it’s with this mindset that we as web operators should be creating and managing our website. Chapter four of the book, “Don’t make me think (Revisited): A common sense approach to web usability,” really does a great job of explaining this concept. Essentially it says that people on the Internet don’t want to have to think too much to do anything (harsh right?). But when you think about it it’s true! If there are two things competing for your attention on the internet, both equally “important” to you, but one is easier to get to, which one are you going to go for first and probably stick with longer? The easy one, duh! So in sum there are few important tips that any blogger, website manager/owner, etc. should employ based on this book. For one, don’t give users too many hard and lengthy choices to make in order to get to you content. Just don’t do it. And two, if you keep your site full of brief, timely, unavoidable, and (my own addition) easy to access, you’ll probably have more eyes looking at your content for longer.