Thursday, January 27, 2011

Why George Stroumboulopoulos is awesome

George Stroumboulopoulos interviews Douglas Coupland Jan 26, 2011.

I brought my students from Centennial College's Joint program with the University of Toronto in Advanced Interviewing to take in a taping of the show formerly known as "The Hour" at the CBC headquarters in Toronto last night. We do this every semester with this course, since George is one of the best known interviewers in Canada, and has the most successful late night television talk shows in Canadian history, or as he likes to say, THE longest running one (seven years and counting.)

It's always a thrill for the students, even before they line up in the atrium of the CBC -- some were in the cafeteria, and nearly spilled coffee on George!

During the preliminary set up to the taping, George asked people in the audience who was the journalism student who tweeted him that day? Natalie Sequiera raise her hand, and acknowledge it was she.

Another student Kyle Larkin, asked Strombo if he knew the TV show "Family Guy" had a parody of him. At first, I was worried Kyle had it all mixed up, as George said wasn't it a parody of George Stefanopoulos, former US political advisor and now television broadcaster? But Kyle stood his ground and Strombo was impressed.

Another student, Maryam Shah, won the nod for the person who had travelled the farthest to see the show: Pakistan! She totally destroyed those confident people who came from Port Coquitlam, B.C and Edmonton. I was hoping Natalie would say Kenya, but she didn't!

During the show, George interviewed director James Cameron ("Titanic" and "Avatar") by remote, and had Canadian journalist and artist Douglas Coupland in studio to talk about crowd sourcing, privacy, technology and the future of privacy. It was a fascinating interview that was scheduled to air that night at 11:05 p.m.

You can watch the epidsode here:

As a teacher, I loved watching Strombo interview Coupland. He used lots of the techniques which we talk about in class all semester, especially for broadcast interviews: silence (dead air), probes, game playing to peak a celebrity guest's interest and engage them, primary questions, statements, body language, physical contact, tremendous research.

I also appreciated hearing Coupland, as I quickly borrowed from the local library here in Richmond Hill, Coupland's new book Player One, which was printed for the Massey Lectures on CBC Radio last fall. A lot to think about in that book, as he talks about the themes of humanity, environmentalism, dependence on oil, and relationships.

My students will now have to analyse the interview in minute detail, they did have a sheet to follow during the taping, and will answer questions about how well or not well Strombo did as an interviewer. I told his it was worth 5%.

At the end of the taping, many students got to spend some up close and personal time with George, including some time for photos, as he is always generous with his time when students come to his studio.

Now I see Jessica Moy is thanking George and Douglas Coupland for being at the taping, and they are tweeting back and forth with the pair, all this is moving on Twitter. Social media and crowdsourcing rules!

A great experience. Can't wait to read the students' assignments.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Observer TV Newscast by Centennial College senior Journalism students

Live from East York, it's Observer TV News for Friday December 3, 2010. Jaqueline Delange and Leticia Rodriguez have the news, Roger Tran has sports, Meegan Scanlon and Andrew Robichaud and Mike Gibbons have entertainment, and Kerry Prunskus has her editorial on the silencing of the Salvation Army bells at the Eaton Centre.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to write a sports story and cover a hockey game: CP Game Over

Several years ago, my colleague CBCSports. ca's Malcolm Kelly, did a guest lecture in my University of Toronto/Centennial College journalism Intro to News Reporting class. He taught the students how to cover a hockey game, with tips that could come in especially handy for those students who don't like sports, or have only a rudimentary understanding of the game, or even pray that they would never be called on to actually cover sports.

Kelly told them they'd better learn the survival method of covering a hockey game, since you never know when the editor will come into an empty newsroom to find you the only reporter there,  and send you out to cover a game.

The Canadian Press stylebook has a good section on the fine points of covering various sports, but Malcolm Kelly gave my students a great little formula that they could use to file what's known as a CP Game Over. It's the first brief 150 word account of the result of a hockey game, and is expected to be filed back to the newsroom by a reporter within about five minutes of the closing buzzer. Same is true for baseball, as well as other sports. Longer stories called writethroughs get written after the reporter has had time to go to the dressing room and get quotes.

Malcolm Kelly's tips:
1. Ask someone smarter then you are for help, if you don't understand something.
2. Get the game sheet from an official.
3. Look on CBCSports.Ca's excellent website for standings, scoreboard, game reports, and other statistics to help you with context and spelling.
4. Don't try to be fancy or nuanced, if you don't have a clue: just tell what you saw, and follow a simple formula.

Today, thanks to Malcolm's great teaching, and his formula, I wrote this CP Game Over after my son's hockey championship! Go Richmond Hill Stars! Thank you Malcolm!

(Toronto-Jan 23.2010) Brendan Lang scored an unassisted goal at 9:17 of the second period Sunday morning, to lead the Richmond Hill Stars Atom Select team to a 5-1 victory against the East York Bulldogs Atom Select team for the championship in their division at the GTHL's  Select Winter Classic tournament held at Amesbury Arena. 

Lang, who was also named most valuable player of the game for Richmond Hill (3-1), had a total of three goals. East York's lone goal to ruin Richmond Hill goalie John D'Couto's shutout was scored by John Buchan, at 1:28 of the third period, assisted by Quinn Reetham-Clayton and David Dunlop. 

The Atom Select players were among nearly 60 teams from the Greater Toronto Area and southern Ontario who were competing iortsn this annual tournament, held Jan. 19 to 23 at arenas scattered across the York -Weston area of Toronto. 

It was a surprising victory for Richmond Hill, since it was the team's first time playing in a tournament. In fact, the team didn't exist until mid-November, when coach Ralph Di Roma agreed to scout the top 10 year-old hockey players from both house and local league and organize a squad. 

Other Richmond Hill goal scorers Sunday included Evan Friedlan, and Evan Nitchov. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oprah Interview on Piers Morgan Tonight

We will discuss this in class with my Advanced Interviewing students this week from the University of Toronto/Centennial College's joint program in journalism. After the retirement of Larry King, is Piers Morgan the new King? Is he a better interviewer? We are looking at probes, a technique which journalists need to know how to use properly in order to get a better interview. You can watch the video here. It's part one. It runs 12 minutes and change.

Part two is here.

part two is here:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Journalism professors offer free food to appreciate their students

As a welcome back to school event, your Iron Chef professors will be flipping pancakes for you on Wednesday Jan 12 at the CCC.
Come for the food. Watch the fun!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Too much editing? A Journalism New Years Resolution

New Year’s resolutions

After the latest round of marathon marking and student feedback extravaganzas that have been underway at my house since mid-December, when classes ended, I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching and evaluating methods, and about just how much is enough, and  how much is too much.

I’ve been teaching journalism at the college and university level in Toronto since 1999, and one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2011 is to try to figure out a better way of marking. It’s a good time for reflection, as we are about to begin a brand new winter semester where I will be teaching 4 sections of Radio News, and one section of Advanced Interviewing.

Here’s the resolution:

Decide how much feedback a student really needs on an assignment. Then adjust accordingly.

And I have to admit there is another motivation to this quest, aside from wanting the best for my students. My health has suffered because of the non stop grading sessions most weekends, and doing course preparation every weekday night. For the past four months. Not to mention my weight, the height of my laundry piles, and the cleanliness of my kitchen! There has to be a better way.

Do students need every CP Stylebook mistake noted, and copy edited, as I usually do for the more senior students work? Do they need spelling and grammar corrected? Isn’t it enough to just mark the broader picture? In TV news stories, do they need every jump cut noted, every scene checked for white balance? What about mic handling noise in radio interviews?

I debate about this problem a lot with my husband, who is also a professor (of Accounting) about how heavily to mark an assignment. He says I spend way too much time on each assignment, which is why it takes me a whole day, or sometimes two, to mark 36 stories.

One the one hand, I worry that the articles are going to be published online, on our college journalism website, on our YouTube channel, and on the students’ professional blogs. Without a good stiff edit, there are stories that I’ve graded this weekend, for example, where I found libel or contempt of court in them, or have factual mistakes, and I worry about the reputation of the college, as well as how such stories, if published but unedited, could also potentially hurt the students’ own professional chances at employment. I also like to check for plagiarism, if I suspect something looks too perfectly written, or sounds like it came from somewhere else.

Also, my teaching philosophy has been based on the belief that students benefit from a close look at their story structure, syntax, research, and writing style. That’s what they are coming to journalism school for, isn’t it? To learn to write properly, I mean. Or do they only care about the mark, and not about how they got it or how they could improve for next time?

I do get some students who take my suggestions into consideration and rewrite their stories so they are better. More often, I see simple superficial clean ups of spelling and grammar mistakes, but not much new interviewing or research to fix major flaws.

Then there’s the shock and awe factor. Does a student freak out or go on the defensive when they see their script with too much red pencil through it? Does this discourage a student? Probably.

With about 100 students each semester, it would be great, but nearly impossible to have individual one on one meetings with each one, for each assignment, to review their progress. I do it as often as I can, during class time, and outside of it as well, regularly during the semester. The rest of the time, the stories are handed back with my comments and corrections, by email, or hard copy.

For now, until this issue is settled, I remain convinced that the best way to give a journalist feedback is to sit down with them, one on one, and go over where they did well, and where they didn’t, and show them line by line how to fix stuff. That’s how I learned to write more clearly and concisely during my career as a journalist at C.B.C. and CTV.  There was nothing that improved a story more then reading the draft of it out loud during a “vet” with David Tweedie, editor of “World Report”, or having afternoon editor Mario Carlucci take apart a script before I could record it. I know some veteran reporters who hated having to vet their pieces, but I always felt having another pair of eyes look at a story before it goes to air helps find flaws, holes, confused writing, and…yes, even mistakes.

The floor is open.