Live from July camp: Day 3

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Today began like the previous two days did: We arrived at the O’Shaughnessy Educational Center at St. Thomas at 9:30 a.m., and it was off to the races.

The first thing we did was discuss last night’s assignment. We were tasked with coming up with three “slugs” for the ideas we had for our stories, so we submitted our ideas and then began to discuss how to find a good story.

Once we had finished that step the instructors, Annie, Miles, and Aisha, started to discuss the different news values and qualifications a story must have before it is worth writing.

They touched on several key points; how impactful the story was, what conflicts it brought to light, and how recent or new the news was, but, by far, the most memorable examples were the emotional and impactful ones.

They were both moving stories. The one that illustrated a news story that impacts a community was about the rise in autism of Somalian kids born in the United States. But the one that really struck me was an emotional piece about a woman in Utah who paints soldiers who died at war even though she doesn’t know them. And when they are done, she sends the paintings to their families. She refuses to charge money for them.

The piece drew much emotion out of you, and it struck home hard, because it was a story about Minnesotans who had died.

We then discussed how a journalist comes up with a finished project, and Annie, the youth publications editor, summed it up rather nicely: “(Journalism) is like Mary Poppins’s purse dumped on a table.”

She was stating this while describing all the different things a journalist must do to prepare for a story, ranging anywhere from talking to people to scoping out the land and the background of the people they wish to interview. A journalist must sort out all they’ve collected during interviews and figure out what they need before they write their stories in order to do it well.

Today was kind of a dark day though, because our next activity was comparing two interviews, one from Katie Couric on Columbine, and another from a student reporter at St. Thomas.

Ms. Couric’s story was very well done. She knew her topic thoroughly and you could tell she had looked into the life of the man she interviewed, the father of a student named Isaiah who was shot in the tragedy.

It was a tough story to hear, to be honest. I feel genuine sorrow at the fact that those kids did what they did.

However the next story was a rather more lighthearted one. It was about a police building for neighbors of St. Thomas to use to file their police complaints. (The story was at least a decade old.) The only problem was the female reporter didn’t stick to the topic and just started asking random questions of the security officer they were interviewing.

Then came the really fun part — lunch! Oh, that wonderful time when you get to enjoy food and stimulating conversation. It warms my heart. At lunch we discussed a whole bunch of random stuff, everything from pet dogs, to girls’ frustrations about hair color.

I would say we are still in the get-to-know each other phase. But the conversation was really cool.

For the final part of the day, Annie, Miles and Aisha, took Dan’s idea about a story on lacrosse and showed us how to fine tune and focus the idea into a viable story. This was extremely helpful because we were shown what good and bad websites were, what to look for in a site, and how to adapt if your story angle isn’t working.

We were then set loose for the remaining time to work on our own research and create a story pitch for why our article should be done. I decided after much thought, to do mine on a little known sport called Quidditch (Yes, the same sport that Harry Potter plays is now happening in the real world). So for the rest of the time, I researched and found out plausible sources and information to use, and then we were asked to finish our story pitches for the following day of camp.

— David Gustafson, July 2010 Introduction to journalism camp

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