Category Archives: Communication Experience

Sunflowers on the dunes

Prepping for Grad School by Camping

CSU Rams logoIt’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything. With school starting back for most of Colorado, I’ve been busy preparing for the first semester of graduate school as part of Colorado State University’s Master of Communication and Media Management (M.C.M.M.) program through the journalism department (Go Rams!) as well as an increased workload at my workplace, the University of Northern Colorado (Go Bears!).

Originally, I was going to start on a master’s degree program last fall; however, due to my husband’s unexpected health concerns that are now resolved, I dropped out of the program. It’s been over a YEAR since his cancer diagnosis and almost a year since his first of two surgeries. I am amazed at how much he has recovered both physically and mentally, and it was an experience that led me to truly understand just how much he means to me. Life is short, so best to live it up as much as possible as you never know!

Needless to say, I am excited for the challenge of going back to school and hope I can smoothly balance working full-time and on school this semester. In the end, I’m sure this experience will be worth the added stress and result in the academic stimulation I’ve been craving for the past few years.

To mentally prepare, we took a short but thrilling camping venture across southwest Colorado/Utah the week before. Here’s what we experienced:

Arches National Park, Utah

When we entered Arches, it was over 100° and dry enough to make our throats somewhat sore. On the way in, we saw Balance Rock, set to eventually fall and something that would be cool to see, I think!

We set up our tent in the Devils Garden Campground in the northern end of the park in the shade of a Utah Juniper bush. After hydrating ourselves and filling up our camel backs, we hiked around five miles in the Devils Garden loop trails and saw the Skyline (first image below), Pine Tree and Tunnel (third image below) arches.

Mark and I standing under Pine Tree Arch.

We returned to the campground and saw a family of mule deer, chipmunks and lots of mice tracks. On the way out of the park, we hiked to one of the viewpoints of Delicate Arch and then made our way to Mesa Verde park to see the cliff dwellings!

View of Delicate Arch on our way out of the park.

Mesa Verda National Park, Colorado

Mesa Verda offers a chance to view and/or walk around ancient cliff houses, temples and other structures built by ancestral Pueblo people thousands of years ago. We were awestruck by the beautiful and preserved buildings literally made into cliff walls, known as cliff dwellings. Here’s some of what we saw:

Durango, Colorado

Durango is a hip and friendly town nestled in southwest Colorado. Our Airbnb was right off of Main Street, and we got to enjoy some great, local breweries as well as a great breakfast place, Durango Diner, which was amazing, especially the green chili.

Word of advice: parking downtown is nearly impossible if you don’t have a ton of change for the coin-only meters. It was quite frustrating at times. Park in the nearby Kroger parking lot and walk a block or two to downtown as a get-around!

UFO Watchtower and the Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve

For the second time, we got to enjoy the Sand Dunes outside of Alamosa and this time with friends! Before going to the Piñon Flats Campground, we made a pit stop to a road-side attraction that’s out of this world … literally: the UFO Watchtower!

From alien-conspiracy theorists to photographed sightings, a garden filled with personal items left by visitors and a funky gift shop and artwork, it was definitely worth the experience. I left a half-sand dollar I found years ago on my hometown of Oak Island, N.C., that conveniently was in my car!

This place is the ultimate roadside attraction full of funky personalities!

Afterwards, we met up with friends at the Great Sand Dunes‘ Piñon Flats Campground and explored seven miles of the dunes and nearby landscape. We heard coyotes howling and yipping multiple times each night that we stayed there, which was utterly surreal! We also saw mule deer and tracks of those coyotes during our exploration.

In the midst of the sand dunes with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the background and prairie sunflowers up front.
The gang including me (up front) then from left to right: Mark, Jessica, Sarah and Lee.

On our way back home, we stopped by an amazing southwestern restaurant, Salado, in Fairplay, one of our favorite towns (I recommend the Butter Burger).

Outside of the extreme heat in Arches and lack of parking in Durango, the only other issue I had to deal with was a constant leak in my mattress pad where I basically slept on the hard ground for three nights, but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected but it sure did make me grateful for mattresses!

Now onward to achieving one of my life’s goals: attaining a master’s degree!

5, Must-Know Standards Citizen Journalists Should Know and Practice

Citizen journalism involves those who aren’t professionally trained in journalism to take part in one of the foundations of democracy by conducting their own reporting and interviewing. The rise of social media has allowed the number of citizen journalists to exponentially grow where information and visuals can be attained and shared in mere seconds. But there’s been skepticism regarding the growing number of citizen journalists and how they contribute, such as the accuracy of information, how that information is portrayed, and a lack of standard training unlike their professional counterparts.

If you want to report news and label such information as factual and journalistic, then you should have a grasp on the foundation and basics of journalism.

Five, Must-Know Standards Citizen Journalists Should Know and Practice:

  1. Journalism Ethics
  2. Learn about journalism ethics for citizen journalists and why upholding ethics while reporting information is vital.
    Image from Journalism Degree.
    Journalists are given or discover powerful information for a story at one time or another. Knowing how to ethically handle such information is important as the main role of a journalist is to report confirmed, factual information to the public while maintaining one’s reputation.

    Aidan White, Director of Ethical Journalism Network, describes the five core values of journalism, which include: accuracy, independence, impartiality, humanity, and accountability.

  3. Media Law
  4. Learn about media law for journalists and why citizen journalists should understand the major and most impactful cases.
    Image from Our Lady of the Lake University: Comm 2340 Media Law.
    What may be considered one of the more complex journalism areas, media law involves learning how past cases were handled and how such legal outcomes influence how journalists practice and report today. Understanding the bigger and more historical significant court cases allows citizen journalists to not only understand their legal rights, but also knowledge of how to handle any issues that may arise from obtaining or publishing information.

    From copyright to libel and slander, to invasion of privacy and first-amendment rights, journalists must know where the law currently stands with such areas, and how journalism and freedom of press evolved before and during those court cases.

    Resources on media law for journalists:

  5. AP Style
  6. Why citizen journalists should know AP Style.Journalists even have their own writing style that citizen journalists should adapt in order to maintain consistency and professionalism.

    When I was accepted into UNC’s School of Media and Journalism, all students were required to take a news-writing class that involved learning the do’s and don’ts of AP Style and other areas. I remember studying various parts of the AP Stylebook—literally—and being tested on them, such as when to write out names of cities and states.

    Purchase the most recently published AP Style guide and read through the more common sections to familiarize yourself with the proper forms of words and grammar. This, in turn, will increase your professionalism as well as the likelihood that a media outlet, professional organization or person will share or re-publish your article.

    Resources on becoming familiar with AP Style:

  7. Interviewing Techniques
  8. Learn how to interview sources and other resources for citizen journalists.
    Image from journalism.about.com.
    Being able to find, interview, and successfully include direct quotes and/or paraphrases into your story is a vital and strong skill to have as a journalist. Also, as discussed earlier in the ethical standards of journalism, ensuring the story has the whole story instead of only one side will not only make your story stronger, but will also seem more impartial.

    One of my first interviews I ever conducted happened my senior year of high school as an intern at my hometown’s local newspaper, The State Port Pilot. I was very nervous and tried to write down every word the source said, which I successfully did—although my notes were almost illegible! However, the more I interviewed, the more confident I became in my ability to find great sources and record the discussion. You don’t need to record every single word, but instead, be able to note the main topics he/she talks about as well as quoting one or two very strong quotes; this method worked well for me. Also, always ask if you can contact them again in case you need to confirm anything.

    Another method involves using a recording device while interviewing; however, there may be some limitations in recording sources, which you should review prior to using one. It’s also polite to let your source know that you would like to record them prior to the interview.

    Resources for bettering your interviewing skills:

  9. Fact-Checking
  10. Fact-checking and journalism: Jon Stewart quote.
    Image from AZ Quotes.
    Double-—no—triple-check the facts: names, places, quotes, and anything else that may slip by. By fact checking your work prior to publication and having a different set of eyes on it, if possible, you’re setting yourself up for success. Ensuring the names of people, places, organizations, etc., are spelled correctly will not only uphold your professionalism but increase the likelihood of no potential conflicts.

    Resources on fact-checking:

Citizen journalists who understand and practice these journalistic standards will find their reporting, ability to handle conflicts, and overall reputation become more confident and professional.

Have another tip or technique that all journalists should know? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

6 Low- to No-Cost Ways to Learn New or Improve Existing Skills

This post was published on First Draft, the Society of Professional Journalist’s Generation J’s Committee blog: blogs.spjnetwork.org/genj/2016/09/12/low-to-no-cost-ways-to-learn-tech-skills/

Education never ends for journalists especially those on the techy side. Understanding trendy technologies,  social sites, and learning new, necessary skills are all part of the job.
If you're looking for ways to learn how to use new technologies, then you'll love the blog post, 6 Low- to No-Cost Ways to Learn New or Improve Existing Skills.
But learning new or improving existing skills can be really expensive, right? Not if you know who to follow, what to learn, and how to find such opportunities:

  1. Stay-up-to-date with the latest technology and media news.

    By keeping up with the latest tech news and state of the media, then you’re less likely to be caught by surprise. One way to do this is by maintaining a semi-active Twitter presence and following related companies on LinkedIn to see most recent updates. There are many amazing sites that report on new technologies or the state of the media that you should follow. Here’s my take on four of the best media and tech news sites every digital journalist should know.

  2. Day-long workshops.

    Society of Professional Journalist's Journcamps.

    If you’re looking for a full day of training in the latest trends and technologies in journalism then you’ll love Society of Professional Journalists’ JournCamps. These events start with all of the attendees listening to a broad and relevant topic or issue in the media world. Afterwards, there are a total of four breakout sessions throughout the day where you can choose two sessions to take that cover specific topics.

    The Online News Association offers free sessions in their ONACamps, and check out the National Council for the Training of Journalistsresources, as well.

    Attending such low-cost workshops with top-of-the-line media experts is an amazing deal and experience.

  3. Volunteering increases your chances at finding a job. Learn why journalists should volunteer their skills to nonprofits.

  4. Volunteer your skills.

    Did you know those who are unemployed and volunteer have a 27% better chance of finding a job versus those who don’t? This is one of the many positives of volunteering your journalistic skills to a nonprofit whose mission you believe in. Not only does it allow you to learn new skills and become more experienced in existing ones, but you’ll also increase your network and improve your overall health.

  5. Free or low-cost apps for your smartphone.

    Smartphones are becoming more and more vital in the reporting world from professional lenses to video production applications. Practicing with such apps can definitely increase your expertise with them;Smartphone journalism requires knowledge of useful apps and more. if you’re reporting from the field and catching real-time video, you’ll be ahead of the curve. One of the free video apps for Android is KineMaster, which basically gives you a condensed production studio on your phone—from filming, planning, editing and publishing.

    Check out other top Android video editing apps recommended here. If you’re an iPhone user, check out some of your recommended video apps here.

  6. Online training in specific skills.

    Moz logo.
    Along with keeping up with the latest trends and news, finding sites that specifically train you in a desired skill are bountiful and extremely useful:

    • Moz offers countless trainings and blog posts about search engine optimization (SEO) and social. Diving into the SEO and understanding how it interconnects with other areas of a website is a very technical skill to undertake, but will vastly increase your knowledge and make you more competitive. Not only will you learn how SEO relates to a website and user interest, but you’ll have a deeper understanding of how the entire Web is connected.
    Google News Lab logo.
    • From teaching yourself HTML to C++, you’ll find it all in free coding sites, such as Codeacademy. Learning such skills will help you be more competitive and worldly in your skills. Here’s a great blog post about “45 of The Best Places to Learn to Code for Free” if you are looking for other sites.

    Google provides excellent training resources for its tools, and you can become certified in some of them (I recommend the Google Analytics one). Every journalist should know the basics of Google Analytics and be able to translate the metrics; however, some Google tools depend on what types of skills you want to learn. For example, Google recently developed Google News Lab, which includes various tools for journalists, such as Google Trends.

    adobe-tv-logo

    • If you want to create interactives or other types of visuals and have access to Adobe programs, then check out Adobe’s awesome training videos! Understanding widely used Adobe programs such as Premiere Pro and Photoshop, is extremely useful for any type of journalist. Check out the training videos here. Also, if you’re still a student, or still have access to your student email, then you can register for the student and teacher rate for only $19.99 a month for The All Apps Plan.

  7. Curriculum being taught at top journalism schools.

    What courses are future journalists being taught in the top journalism schools? Keep an eye on what courses are leaving, staying, or going and then compare it to new technologies, trends, and events. From there, you can decide if you should train in specific areas. When I entered UNC-Chapel Hill’s journalism school, the sequences changed to more technical ones. Instead of following news writing as was my original plan, I chose the ever-changing world of multimedia and learned numerous technical skills.

It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest technologies and the state of the media, but it can feel overwhelming at times; however, you’ll discover the types of training and frequency that fit your desires and schedules throughout your career.

First image at top from Jeremy Keith (Flickr: Device pile) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.