Takeaways from LA journalism conference

At the end of February, I took an opportunity to attend the Associated Collegiate Press conference in Los Angeles with a small group student journalists from Chico State. The amount of workshops offered was excitingly overwhelming. I had to choose wisely which ones to attend. Oftentimes, our group would fill one another in on what was learned in our separate workshops. In an effort to value and remind myself of the knowledge gained that weekend, I wanted to document it all in a blog post. Hopefully my fellow Journalism and Mass Communications students can appreciate or even take something from it. Below I have listed, chronologically, which sessions I attended and what I took from it.

Journalist rights – Frank LoMonte, Student Press Law Center
Campus unrest is heightening the traditional conflict between student journalists and police. We’ll discuss journalists’ rights when covering campus emergency scenes and how to respond to demands to surrender your camera or cellphone

Journalists are not superior or inferior to officials and citizens alike.
The Privacy Protection Act of 1980 resulted from a court hearing which stated that police do not have a right to search a journalist’s work product. A search warrant is not enough.
In an instance of a public injury, a journalist should not be charged for invasion of privacy. Getting injured in public is not private.
Officials may use HIPAA in defense. The majority of the time, this law only applies to medical doctors. Likewise, FERPA is only related to education.
“Plan your arrest” – wear your press ID, record the arrest, and be mindful of what you’re asked to sign.

Raw images for print and digital publication – Ken Steinhardt, the Orange County Register
We’ll look at print and web reproduction tools in Photoshop, editing workflow, and managing your images. Steinhardt will introduce monitor calibration, color space, Colorsync, profiles, cameras settings and image editing plug-ins.

Photo Mechanic 5 is useful for tagging photos, relocating, captioning, copying, and sending pictures.
720 is the ideal dpi (dots per inch) setting.
When adding colors in PIGMENT, the result will be black. When adding colors in LIGHT, the result will be white.
Photographers refer to a contaminant as what saturates or desaturates color, in other words adding or taking away blue. The opposite of blue is yellow.
Dot gain refers to the absorption of ink. Newspapers have a heavy level of dot gain.
To open skin in a photograph, take blue out of red.
A raw file has more megabytes and is better to edit with, whereas a JPEG file is compressed.
iCorrect software is a Photoshop plugin used to tone photos, including decontamination.
Back up photos on an external hard drive!
1 take typically equals 300 photos. Ideally save 20.
“save laters” are for generic stock.
Color settings in Photoshop to make a universally good edit -> color settings ->(ask printer for color sync profile so what you see is what their press looks like) -> RGB setting: Adobe -> US web uncoated for newsprint, US web coated (swob) 2 for magazine.

The day we benched our photographers – Jeff Goertzen, The Orange County Register
See how one of the nation’s leading newspapers benched its photographers and used graphics and illustrations to tell the stories of two high-profile cases that gained national attention and took reporting to a new level in its print and digital platforms – “The Snitch Tank,” and “The Prison Escape.”

1) Cultivate reliable sources – keep tabs of people you talk to
2) Think outside the box
3) Make your editor happy
4) Don’t be afraid to take risks
5) Have fun

Food journalism – Jenn Harris, Los Angeles Times
Food journalism is staying on top of the food world in your city, being a food critic or food reporter (there’s a big difference). Learn how the pros do the job and how you can do it better at your media outlet.

Words not to use: tasty, foodie, gourmet, bounty, iconic, decadent
DETAILS. Put reader in your shoes even if they’re not eating the food.
Do background research on the chef, food, etc.
Take decent photos – clear the background, get some light
Find out if the article has already been done; if so, find a different angle
Generic freelance income: 600-900 words is $700, recipe development is $1000, roundup for blog is $250
Be yourself. The weirder, the better.
Write how you talk. How would you explain the restaurant to your friends?
Don’t go the obvious route when using adjectives.
Read other reviewers (Lucky Peach)
Find stories as you go out!

MY PERSONAL FAVORITE –> The Art of the Interview – Geoff Boucher, Formerly LA Times and Entertainment Weekly
Learn the essence of the interview process and specific tricks of the trade from a veteran journalist who’s interviewed celebrities (like Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Brad Pitt, Clint Eastwood and Beyonce) onstage and on the page. 

Unplanned and unexpected serendipity is why we do this.
Have a deep sense of wonder.
Journalism is now knowing what you’re doing the next day.
Have a sense of history, mission, ethics, and connection.
Interview for print and on air.
Insight is greater than insult.
Visually take it all in – write things you see. Match verbs to subject matter.
If you show people things, they feel it. If you tell people things, they learn it.
Suggestion: watch C-SPAN and take notes for five minutes. You’re “building a muscle”. It will lead to better writing.
Recording is good.
Interviewers = dancers. You don’t know what will happen next.
Don’t look at your notebook! They’ll feel like they’re being audited.
Don’t miss the moment. LISTEN.
You want the magic of FOLLOW-UP.
It’s okay to interrupt, politely.
If you don’t want to read a story, you shouldn’t have to write it.
If you want them to open up to you, open up to them.
What makes interviews special – memorable moments.
Describe unusual scenes! (Boucher recalls time he spent in a penthouse at 4 a.m. with Mariah Carey.
You can’t fake it; reveal yourself.
Stay true to ethics.
Avoid off-the-record interviews.
Off-the-record is an agreement between the interviewer and journalist.
Know body language – it will help enrich your understanding of a person.

Telling stories with sound – Willa Seidenberg and Victor Figueroa, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Audio journalism is in demand and has expanded beyond traditional radio news stories. This session will explore how to tell meaningful stories for audio platforms, touching on recording techniques, writing, interviewing for audio, using ambient sound and creative approaches.

Why radio and audio? It provides a powerful, intimate connection to the human voice. Radio is portable an nimble. Podcasts are personal.
Great audio stories have:
1) High quality audio. Speak no more than 3 inches away from the mic source. Mic should be pointed slightly off center, away from air flow.
2) Guidelines. Never let the interviewee hold the mic. Always wear headphones while recording. Avoid rooms with hard surfaces. Use a wind screen. Constantly check levels.
3) Ambient sound. Similarly to video closeups, mid-shots, and wide-shots, have varying levels of ambient sound (background and foreground). It gives a sense of being present. Capture activity at the location. Don’t throw it in just to throw it in there.
4) Interviewing. Make subject tell a story, every action. Ask open-ended questions. Follow up with specifics and examples (Give me an example. What was your favorite moment?) Get visual details, anecdotes, and scenes. Allow silence. Always get clarification. The best stories come from people not used to giving details.
5) Writing for audio is the most important. Write for the ear, in active voice. Make it conversational. Use strong verbs and nouns. Read it out loud.
Write visually: Use all senses; emotions (tension, happiness, anger, excitement); clear beginning, middle, and end; don’t necessarily write chronologically <-start with the most interesting sound. You will come in powerfully.

Christians in the newsroom – Michael Koretzky, Society of Professional Journalists
Can you be a serious journalist and a devout Christian? At secular schools, you wonder how to fit in without giving in. At Christian schools, the challenges are different: You get weird looks at conventions and questions about whether you’re a “real” journalist. Join us for a conversation, not a presentation.

The job of journalists is to tell the truth, whether you believe the content or not.
What do you want your newsroom to understand?

General Session: covering terror, the San Bernardino shootings – Greg lee, ABC7; Ryan Hagen, San Bernardino Sun
On Dec. 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 people were injured when Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple living in the city of Redlands, attacked a holiday party at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. Journalists immediately began covering the breaking news and became an interesting part of the story in the days that followed the attack. 

This job is a calling that you have to be passionate about.
Sometimes for breaking news, time is little. Just talk about what you see.
Maintain your poise in difficult situations; People look to you for information.
Find a mentor, people you can talk to.
The role of social media changes the way we do our job.
If you’re a respected journalist, get the facts right. Two important aspects: newsgathering and providing read updates.
To process tragic events:
For every negative story, there are 10 positive stories.
You’re preserving memories.
Take time to talk to people.
Your job is to tell both sides.
The climate of journalism is showing that more people are doing less.
When interviewing grieving subjects, remember the golden rule. Only treat them how you’d want to be treated.

Building relationships: finding and telling stories through photos – Amy Gaskin, Freelance Photographer
As a student, how do you gain access and build trust with subjects? Recent graduate Amy Gaskin shares the behind-the-scenes stories and tips that will help your photo stories have greater impact. 

Carry your camera all the time, everywhere.
Advantages to being a student:
-Deadlines are more lenient. You can go to the event early and stay late.
-Don’t compare – only compete with yourself.
-You’re your own boss. If you have a bad assignment, it’s on you.
-You have this opportunity to shoot what you love.
Ask: where can I go that’s different?
Take every photo story opportunity.
Keep shooting – always be available.
Show subject you’re committed so they build trust.
Take care of your subjects. Give them prints.
Ask for permission – “Can I stand here?” They’ll gain trust.
Think where you your next shoot will be.
Make the most of your location.
Build rapport and people will help you.

How to cover campus crime and breaking news
From bursts and break-ins to fires and natural disasters, entropy can really throw you for a loop as a journalist. Come learn how to cover breaking news, criminal enterprises and things that go “bump” in the night.

Number 1: Stay calm. Stay safe.
The minute you panic, you’re worthless.
Ask: Are people dead? Is the situation under control? GENERALLY – What happened?
Witnesses can be unreliable and offer no protection. A cop is a better, privileged source.
Don’t let witnesses do the accusing.
Secondary information – if the witness is describing the scene that is okay, as long as they’re not accusing.
Scene description – go to agencies (county/city dispatch, 911 call, firefighters)
Student Press Law Center will back you up.
You never know what you’re going to get until you ask for it.
Be understanding with victims of disaster.
Three types of interviewees:
-“I don’t wanna talk about this.”
-will hurt or lash out against you
-will want to spill everything out.
Collect information at the scene. Who can you be in touch with as the incident furthers?
Things to avoid:
-Never convict people in your story.
Don’t use the word “allegedly”. Not using “alleged” gives readers room to form their own opinion.
“Police said…” is an appropriate attribution.
Know crime lingo:
-robbery: victim was threatened in person.
-burglary: item was stolen when owner not present.
-accident vs. intent
-murder vs. man slaughter
Don’t extrapolate.
Don’t let witnesses write crimes for you.
If you make a mistake and learn from it, it’s meaningful!

General Session: Where do we go from here?
Campus protesters vs. Campus Journalists. Free Speech vs. Free press. Inner Space vs. Public Space. COme hear leaders of collegiate media programs and protest movements discuss how they are navigating the collisions that result from competing expectations.

If someone says “You can’t report on this”:
-If you legally be in a location, you’re allowed to publish.
-There is no law against photos of children.
-If police clear an area, you’re not above them. But they cannot exclusively relocate you.
The question is, how can we teach people to trust the media? It begins with journalists. It’s a matter of perspective.
You’re allowed to be bias in favor of students.

Go on and do big things, journalists and communicators of media!


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