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.

The Greatest Day in History: Does It Matter?

This weekend, we celebrate the greatest day in the history of the world–the day when the world got a glimpse of God’s power when they discovered that Jesus Christ had conquered death. Before church this morning, Robyn and I were contemplating the resurrection. Just imagine what His followers thought when they discovered that Jesus had risen just as He said He would. What a profound discovery!

During worship this morning at FBC Cleveland our pastor, Dr. Allan Lockerman, took a slightly different approach to his Easter Sunday message. Speaking from Philippians 3:7-21, he didn’t attempt to prove that the resurrection actually happened. Instead he asked the question: Does it really matter? As the Apostle Paul emphasized in verses 10-11, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is all that matters. As Dr. Lockerman bluntly reminded us: We’re all dying and our only hope is in the resurrection of Jesus. In the meantime and until our appointed time comes, may we press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call (Philippians 3:14).

Early this morning I tweeted and updated my Facebook status to wish for us to have such a profound discovery as Jesus’ friends and followers had. May it be so.

Added 4/8/10: You might find this devotional from My Utmost from His Highest to be interesting, relevant and inspirational: His Resurrection Destiny.