Hyperlocal journalism frames Reporting & Writing

A writing class is one of the more challenging classes to teach. Do I simply talk about the expectations, show examples and then assign students exercises to allow them to practice before I grade the writing and see if they’re mastering the skills? Without a context for writing assignments, I’ve found that students (and I) have difficulty focusing. So, this semester I am trying something new.

COMM-312 Reporting & Writing, a required class for our journalism majors, has been taught at Lee for three or four years. After a year off (@JoanGarrettCTFP taught the class last spring), it’s back on my teaching workload. Basically, the class is designed to help the students develop their abilities to gather (report) a story and then tell (write) a story.

Front page of Ocoee311 on Launch Weekend

To give structure to the class this spring, I’ve adopted a hyperlocal journalism approach. Students have become the staff of Ocoee311. They are reporting, writing, producing, editing and managing the production of this website. In addition to learning how to develop their multimedia storytelling abilities, students are getting first-hand experience managing a website and its content flow.

On Friday, Feb. 11, we took the site live with stories representing three main sections (i.e., campus, community and culture). The first few weeks of the semester were spent learning the basics and developing a production work flow. Then over the past week, the 16 students (except for two who served as managing editor and copy editor) reported and wrote stories for the launch of the site.

At the end of the semester we’ll evaluate just how effective this framework was for accomplishing the course’s objectives, but my initial assessment is overwhelmingly affirmative. The enthusiasm and energy level I’ve seen from my students has been impressive.

Check out their work online at Ocoee311.com. You can also follow their work on Twitter and Facebook.

Resolved for 2010

A new year is the ideal time for fresh starts and new beginnings. Some people declare their resolutions for the new year–resolutions that often are so great that it inspires them for several days or weeks of January. I’ve never been one to articulate such resolutions. Instead, I look at the annual marker as a time to think strategically about where I’ve been, where I am and where I’d like to go. Like most years, there are so many hopes and wishes for 2010.

However, as Robyn and I were having dinner last night, the Lord cemented a lesson He’s been trying to teach me for several weeks years:

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to [us] as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow …” (Matthew 6:33-34 NIV).

So, as I process the many goals for 2010, I resolve to study, meditate and try to seek first His kingdom and his righteousness like never before. It begins today.