Twelve ways to get through J4804 Convergence Reporting (and like it)

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A favorite topic of complaint among students in the Convergence department in the Missouri School of Journalism is J4804. (Sometimes these complaints are prevalent on Twitter). This is the reporting class all Convergence students are required to take. Students split their time between working in newsrooms affiliated with the J-School and working on multimedia team stories they pitch themselves. Make no mistake, the class isn’t easy and it requires a significant time investment. But it’s also not the reporting hell one might think from talking to some previous 4804-ers.

Futures Lab ThursdayIf you don’t want to pursue a career in reporting, this might be the only reporting experience you have. Even jobs that aren’t traditional reporter listings want to know that you can write and are competent in producing multimedia. You can slide by for the rest of your college career by taking the less-demanding, non-reporting classes. In short, this is a useful class even if you never intend to be a reporter.

It’s no secret this class requires you to put in a lot of effort, have good news judgement and a strong grasp of multimedia storytelling. Those aren’t things I can teach you in a blog post, but skills you will hone if you put in an honest effort into 4804.

There are several non-journalistic skills that can make getting through the semester a whole lot easier and more enjoyable. None of these pointers will directly translate into a higher grade, but I found them to be useful strategies to work well in groups and foster strong relationships with sources and faculty.

You have to take this class seriously. It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to be a reporter, are thinking about switching to strategic communication or are certain you never want to work in journalism. The work you do and the attitude you have in this class sets the tone for how the faculty will remember you. When it comes time to get an internship or job, you want to be certain you have put in the effort and produced the work to secure a recommendation from them.

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Who wants to be a journalist? Not these guys.

I have a close-knit group of friends that I made at the beginning of freshman year living in Mark Twain. We all came to Mizzou for the J-School, and have all continued in our respective sequences. You could say we are all advocates for Missouri Journalism.

With that in mind, here’s some excerpts of a recent conversation we had on Facebook.

Friend 1: Just a thought I wanted to share: I realized AGAIN that I have no idea what I really wanna do in life. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that it has nothing to do with Journalism … OY VEY! Now what should I do?

Friend 2: join the club.

1: I am thinking in majoring in conversation and schmoozing. What school has that major?

2: Communication. And, honestly, Advertising.

1: So should I just stick it out with this whole J-School thing?

3: I wouldn’t worry. A journalism degree is a good, well-rounded degree that can set you up for a variety of jobs. Knowing how to write and communicate well will never put you at a disadvantage. I’d stick with your degree program, since you are already so far and have done so much work. A degree from this school in this major will not hurt you. You’ll be able to do just fine.

4: Sorry, some of us were doing journalism today and didn’t have a chance to see this til now…my response-welcome to the club, biotch

3: So wait…am I the only one who actually does want to do journalism for the rest of my life?

5: I plan on doing lots of hard-hitting journalism. Like my child’s school’s PTA newsletter, the church bulletin and uploading videos of my kids and dog to my mommy blog.

3: Thanks for the support, friends.

I’m not surprised that my friends and I are experiencing a bout of second thoughts about their career paths, but at the same time it makes me wonder why so many j-schoolers decide so early on that they don’t want to be journalists.

In my group of eight friends, two of them are strat comm majors and they never had any intention to be  All the rest of us are currently working for one or more of the various real-world media outlets through the J-School. But only a few of us are committed to long careers dedicated to journalism. (Me? Right now I’m still fence straddling).

The J-School tells prospective students that within three years of graduation, 90 percent of J-School alums end up in journalism, PR or advertising related jobs. I don’t doubt the accuracy of this statement. But I think it could be misleading. Through anecdotal experience, I would be willing to bet that far more than half of that 90 percent are in PR or communications type jobs. I’d be curious to know how many graduates consider themselves to be journalists.

And I have no doubt that my career path will eventually lead me to a more PR-related job. The pay is typically higher, the hours are more ideal and the workload might cause me to have fewer gray hairs. Heck, my career might even start out int he PR world.

But Friend 3 is right. A journalism degree is a well-rounded degree and communication skills are essential anywhere in the world. But I can’t help but wonder where I’m bound.

I love going to journalism school. I love being a student of journalism. But do I love being a journalist and actually doing journalism?

That’s still to be determined.






The clandestine life of a project manager

Over the course of the past eight weeks. I have learned a little about what the semester looks like for the students who are project managers. I’ve gained some insight about how story idea discussions and grading meetings run.

I’ve asked some questions about what role/approach they are supposed to have in the team story process. I’ve questioned about what happens in those elusive Wednesday where story pitches go to die.

But I still largely have no idea.

From the view of a 4804 student, here are my perceptions of the project managers.

1. Project Managers play the bad cop as they are reviewing our story pitches. I have gone into every Friday morning pitch meeting feeling certain that all of our ideas would get rejected. I mostly felt this way, because of project manager skepticism of the idea/amount of research/focus of the story. But, so far. It’s been a good thing. It’s forced me to check all my facts, do more research and think critically about the story to present competently to the faculty come Friday morning.

2. They are constantly on their email. Holy crap. I have never worked with people who consistently respond so quickly to messages.

3. They still check their email after 9 p.m. They will lie to you and tell you they won’t. But honestly, what college student doesn’t check their email before going to bed? And honestly, what college student goes to bed at 9 p.m.?

4. They’re good at leading from behind. By this, I mean they know what the right way to do something is, but they’ll let us come up with 15 wrong solutions and and slowly guide us to the correct one, instead of telling us outright.

5. All the project managers will think I’m a huge ass kisser when this blog post inevitably get’s brought to their attention.

What am I missing?

I don’t have a “circle” of friends yet who actively use Google Plus. I created an account over the summer because Mashable, my friends and my desire to be-in-the-know.

But I haven’t used it much. Approximately once a day a new story will appear in my stream, but it is about .00001 percent of the information is feeding me. (Especially now, that Facebook is giving me updates on my newsfeed, but also in various lists forms and tickers on the side of the screen.)

I just wonder how many social media profiles I (and everybody else) can actually maintain. I’ve only recently started tweeting consistently and established my LinkedIn profile, and I don’t feel ready to take on an additional profile at this time.

The only real advantage I have found from Google Plus is that it is the first thing that pops up when I Google myself. It’s nice for the first hit to be a nice image of me as well as my handcrafted “twitter-format” bio. But if one were to click on it, they would see that I have literally made zero posts from that account.

It will be interesting to see the “role” that Google Plus will play in the social media realm. LinkedIn is for professional communication. Facebook is for sharing videos, photos and articles. Twitter is for sharing your random thoughts that are only relevant or funny for about five minutes. There’s been plenty of hype around the site, but I have yet to see what I’m missing out on yet.