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Two JOUR 1550 students had their community journalism project for Milwaukee NNS reposted by Fox6Now.com.
I reported in February that my Digital Journalism II (JOUR 1550) class would pursue community journalism by focusing on efforts by 2012 MANDI (Milwaukee Awards for Neighborhood Development Innovation) finalists. My 10 students enjoyed the prospect of having the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service publish their work. I am happy to report that all five pairings have succeeded in getting published by the professionally edited news organization. 

Dana Christen and Rebecca Hixson collaborated on the first effort published, "Veterans Feel at Home in Housing Built for Them," focusing on the lone initiative among the five chosen by the class to actually win a MANDI. "Working on this project really made me appreciate living in Milwaukee," Christen wrote on her course blog.

Caroline Campbell and Olivia Morrissey reported on a program focusing on people who have been incarcerated in "WCS is 'Friend for the Friendless.'" Referring to McGowan, Campbell wrote in a blog post, "When I first met her and learned about MNNS, my immediate reaction was, "That's amazing. I want to do something like that with my life!"

Joseph Kvartunas and Alex Rydin teamed on the report headlined "Beerline Rec Trail Rejuvenates Neighborhoods." Kvartunas wrote on his blog that "it was a good experience that featured a lot of 'Hard Knocks'-style learning on our part, but it was a heck of a good time," while Rydin shared on his post that "when I started, I expected this to be just another class project. I had no idea it would turn out to be a defining moment of my college career." 

Melanie Lawder and Shoshauna Schmidt worked on "53rd Street Community Garden Bridges the Gap." Love this from Lawder's post: "The final product of our reporting was, in my opinion, worthy of a Pulitzer Prize – and seeing it published (by) a news service was immensely gratifying." Schmidt shared in hers that "I actually have an answer to how I feel when I see my name in a byline. It is fabulous. Just seeing my hard work being out there for everyone to see is a fantastic feeling. ... As much stress as this story was, I would do it all again in a heartbeat."

Tess Quinlan and Brynne Ramella produced the final piece published, "Cluster II Grow and Play Lot Pulls at Heartstrings." In her post, Ramella wrote, "This project was my biggest learning experience in my young journalism career. I stepped out of my comfort zone to find fantastic stories about great people." And how about this from Quinlan: "If I learned one thing from this project, it is that a community is not created and nurtured by street signs or white picket fences. It is the dedication and love of people ... that create a community ..." 

As an added bonus, and for the first time since my students began working with NNS, another local media company picked up the project by Quinlan and Ramella. Click here to see the shared posting on Monday via Fox6Now.com.

Amazing! Hard knocks? Stress? Pulitzer? Biggest endeavor? Biggest learning experience? Just like I planned it!
 
 
Must one explain himself for telling the truth? Today, it appears necessary here. This morning WISN-TV's Marianne Lyles interviewed me for a segment tonight about the Social Media Tourism Symposium. Milwaukee and El Paso, Texas, are the finalists to host the event, and Lyles wanted my professorial perspective on the power of social media. (Remember, the Marquette Journal recently named me one of the university's Top 5 tweeters.) 
My tweets are linked to my Facebook newsfeed, and it got a "like" from my good friend, John Yearwood. About the same time, though, I updated my status with the following 39 words: "Mira Lowe and I spent time yesterday afternoon deciding from 32 names for a baby girl. The final four: Gabriella, Adrianna, Sophia and Nora. Gabriella beat Sophia to become the winner. As usual, Mira ended up getting her way." Then I went to three back-to-back meetings.

Seven hours later, well, here's another example of the power of social media. This particular post so far has 55 likes and 58 comments. Apparently, all these folks – our families, friends from NABJ and various newsroom stomping grounds, my Marquette students and colleagues – have concluded that my wife and I are expecting a baby. It's also clear that Gabriella is a very popular name, though some of our friends and my students want theirs reconsidered.

All of the comments showered us with love and well wishes (for example, "Beautiful news. Thanks for sharing": mentor Monte Trammer). Some were dramatic ("OMG! Literally have some tears right now, I'm so so so happy to hear this news; Gabriella couldn't be coming to better parents": student Marissa Evans). At least one was threatening (Yay, a baby! Congratulations! This better NOT be a Friday the 13th joke": journalism stalwart Sonya Ross.

Meanwhile, my cell phone is blowing up, and Mira – hers was, too – is texting me nonstop, with one saying that "you need to come clean about the maelstrom you have started!!! Lawdy." Another text: "We either need to get a puppy named Gabriella or get pregnant fast. Running out of options ... lol." Problem is, I'm in those back-to-back meetings, which turned out to be good because it gave me time to figure out ... how to tell the truth about telling the truth.

OK, honest to goodness, Mira and I did spend time yesterday afternoon deciding from 32 names for a baby girl. A colleague and his wife are expecting another child in May and there's this little effort seeking input for choosing their daughter's name. Not sure how it works, but I called upon Mira to choose between the names. Plain and simple.

Thought it was notable and so I posted it on Facebook. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
 
 
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"These are some of my favorite books that help me do my job," says Daria Kempka, web producer/digital publishing extraordinaire.
Linda Menck, the advertising professional in residence and one of my graduate school instructors in the Diederich College of Communication, offered me an amazing opportunity just before my Digital Journalism I class last week: Joining my undergraduate students join with her graduate Emerging Media students to witness a presentation from Daria Kempka, a Marquette University web producer who knows plenty about digital publishing and multimedia.

"I'm really excited to be here tonight because I love what I do and I love sharing it," Kempka said at the start. She then sought to assure those students wondering if they can actually make a living as a journalist. "If you are a writer, and you can express an idea ... you will probably find work somewhere," she said. "That skill is in demand."

Kempka stressed that it's important to be good at shifting given that the latest in multimedia and digital publishing changes so rapidly. Don't get too attached to particular tactics or tools, she said, adding that the industry will always need people who can do these simple things: listen, look, show, tell, imagine and make.

From there, Kempka spent a lot of time talking about how she and colleagues at the Marquette Office of Marketing and Communication have worked to develop and redevelop the university's mobile applications. "It all starts with these drawings and getting feedback, feedback, feedback," she said while showing showing examples of the applications' first iterations. Hearing from others can be scary, but it's better to figure out mistakes early and not wait until too many resources have been assigned and expensive outside developers have been hired, she said.

My JOUR 1100 class heard the first part of Kempka's presentation; each student is to write a 400-word column or editorial about what they thought of it by this Wednesday. After a break, the graduate students and Kempka – she is pursuing a master's degree herself, actually – spent time discussing what makes a delightful or horrible interactive experience on the Web or a mobile device. Some delightful mobile app examples shared by the class included those by or featuring Flipboard, Walgreens, Under Armour, eBay, Clear, Alice in Wonderland, Martha Stewart and Dropbox.

"I have received amazing feedback from students – "best presentation ever!" Menck told Kempka in an email afterward. "You hit this one out of the ballpark." I wholeheartedly agree. So insightful. So inspiring.
 
 
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Credit: isabisa on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/isabisa/1215556658/). Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.
I have read enough cover letters from students to know that most struggle writing them. Not all of my students seek careers in newsrooms. But almost all of them will soon need to apply for an internship, scholarship or their first job after graduation. That's why I spend time on cover letters in my Digital Journalism I class each semester. Besides, it's a great way to see how well they have learned AP style and to check their grammar, spelling and punctuation.

Here's a synopsis of what I shared with my JOUR 1100 class on Wednesday, with instructions for the 14 students to each write by next week a one-page, five-paragraph cover letter for the position they want this summer:

First, the essentials, starting with 1-inch margins all around. Except in two places, the font will be Times New Roman and 12 point. Next, the letterhead – be sure to have one. Three lines, centered, with your name, in bold, on the first line. (Here's the first of the two exceptions: raise the name's point size to 14, 16 or 18.) The second line should be where you can be found on earth, that is, your street address and telephone number. The third line is for where you are in the digital universe (website or blog address, LinkedIn, Twitter, Cuttings.me, etc.).

From here, it's all block style, that is, aligned left with spaces between paragraphs. Skip a line and place the date. Skip another line and declare to whom and where you're writing. This should be five lines: name, position, company and address (city, state and zip code goes on the fifth line). Skip another line and apply the greeting, with a prefix, last name and colon. Don't use To Whom It May Concern. If the application instructions say to send to human resources or to a generic email address, show that you can do a little research. It should be easy to find out who at the company most likely will decide who gets picked for the job or internship. Address your letter to that person.

The first paragraph should be two sentences. The first states who you are and where you're from – I am a junior majoring in journalism at the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University in Milwaukee. The second states what you want and where – I am applying for an metro desk internship this summer with (company name) in (location). This paragraph should be no longer than three lines. The second, third and fourth graphs are the most important. Save room for them. Oh yes, my students know that I don't tolerate widows and orphans.

The second paragraph is for your campus experience. For journalism students, this means student media and or exceptional course achievements. The third paragraph is for what you have done away from school, as in previous internships or other co- or extracurricular activities. Your fourth paragraph is where you really distinguish yourself. Let's assume that everyone else applying for the job you want has been busy with student media and had at least one internship. This is where you show that who you are and what you have done are truly remarkable. Did I say show? Remember, don't tell me! Show me! That goes for the second, third and fourth paragraphs.

The fifth paragraph is key, too. It's also two sentences. The first is easy – Thank you for considering my application. The second keeps the ball in your court (excuse the cliche) – I will contact you soon to confirm receipt of my letter. They should fit on one line; that leaves more room for the three preceding paragraphs. Also, this is better than telling the reader to feel free to contact you. Remember who wants the job. Be sure your letter reaches its destination.

Finally, let's close the letter in style. Skip a line and write Sincerely, then type your name on the next line, and then your name again on the line underneath it. Now it's time for the second font exception mentioned above: Select your name on the line beneath the salutation, change it from Times New Roman to Lucida Handwriting, and raise the point size to 14 or 16. This will give the impression of an electronic signature. That's it. You're done.

Oops! No, you're not. Proofread your letter, not once, not twice, but three times. Put it down. Have someone else you trust read it for you. Then read it again. Make sure it abides by AP style and correct grammar, spelling and punctation. You have worked too hard on this and all your efforts so far to lose out because of stupid mistakes.

Well, that's all I have for now. I make no guarantees that following my advice will automatically secure the job or internship or scholarship you want. This is about style and formatting. What really matters is what you have for the second, third and fourth graphs. That's up to you. No cover letter can cover up for lack of substance. 

I hope to soon offer tips for crafting resumes. For now, review these links from recruiting guru Joe Grimm: Tips for Avoiding Four Common Punctuation Errors on Resumes and The Top Six AP Style Errors on Resumes. Oh yes, as I tell my students, whether it's a cover letter or resume, the most important thing – show me you can write!
 
 
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Metro columnist Eugene Kane visits JOUR 4953 to talk about Trayvon Martin, reporting, writing and his long career in journalism.
I had invited Eugene Kane, a metro columnist at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, to visit my JOUR 4953 seminar class last week in hopes of focusing on the Trayvon Martin case that is a national cause celebre. My students knew of the matter already, and Kane had written two related columns – Slinger Case Echoes National Furor Over Trayvon Martin and Hoodie Shouldn't Define Trayvon Martin, or Anyone – so I expected good discussion.

The students had each written blog posts about the Martin case after reading several media-related weblinks I had shared from Richard Prince's Journal-isms, the Poynter Institute and elsewhere before Kane's visit. And he did address the case with the surety one would expect of a metro columnist with 30 years of journalism experience.

"There are certain facts about Trayvon Martin that haven't really changed," Kane said, "even though all these stories are changing: He was unarmed. He was killed. The guy was chasing him. There's a record of a dispatcher who told him, 'You don't have to chase him. We'd rather you not chase him.'" Yet all about the case is so murky. "How can anyone at this point say with absolute certainty that they know what the hell happened?" he asked.

A former president of the Wisconsin Black Media Association, Kane also discussed how the media have progressed – and regressed – concerning newsroom diversity and sensitivity in coverage involving people of color.

However, I couldn't help noticing something: The students seemed more interested in Kane than Martin. For example, after he shared how he got into journalism and his perspective on blogging, a student asked how difficult it is to write three columns a week. "I always feel like I'm on a treadmill," he replied, before stressing the need for maintaining basic reporting: working the phones, developing sources, staying abreast of community concerns, etc.

Other questions focused on how Kane worked to find his voice. "If you read your stuff out loud, you hear your voice," he said, adding later, "If you're really interested in your voice, you have to keep trying." Beyond that, Kane said, he strives to emulate the legendary and hard-hitting columnists – Acel Moore and Chuck Stone, among them – whom he read as a child growing up in Philadelphia and as a student at Temple University.

Kane proudly states that he was among the first columnists to embrace Twitter as a tool for engaging readers. No doubt that he picked up a few more followers – and readers – from JOUR 4953 after his visit.
 
 
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Guest Ronald Mulvaney speaks to JOUR 1100 about why he believes changes must be made to at-will employment laws.
Any journalism educator hopes – particularly when inviting a guest speaker for a class exercise on interviewing and or writing a news feature on deadline – that each student learns to pinpoint that crucial quote. Ronald Mulvaney made it pretty easy for my Digital Journalism I (JOUR 1100) class last week, when he said early on: "Let me say really clearly: This is a toxic law. It's poison. It's lethal – and in my estimation, it kills."

A 1960 graduate of Marquette University, Mulvaney has advocated since the early 1980s for more rights and opportunities for job seekers who are at least 40 years old. He believes at-will employment laws discriminate against them and has created a blog at Dequav Inc. to call attention to the matter. My class had reviewed a lengthy written statement and relevant news article that Mulvaney shared before his visit. All 14 students knew they must ask him at least one question, and so they were urged to research the topic beyond his offerings.

Mulvaney spent about 45 minutes with the class and offered plenty of material for a worthwhile news feature. In an email afterward, Mulvaney thanked me for the opportunity to meet my students. "I felt privileged," he wrote. "You have a great bunch of kids in that class and they asked perceptive questions." They most certainly did. The questions ranged from how can young people help make a difference, to what should organizations such as AARP and the NAACP be doing to help, to what other approaches besides his blog could be useful? My favorite question came from freshman Eva Sotomayor, who after saying that economists consider at-will employment one of the strengths of the U.S. economy, looked directly at Mulvaney and asked: "How do you respond to that?"

Interestingly, even though the written statement referred to people whom Mulvaney said the law had led to kill, no student asked him about his personal life. Indeed, no one even asked his age. I had to do so when they were done – he's 78. (My challenge is to teach journalism students that it's not disrespectful to ask personal questions.) By and large, the students shared with each other that they believe Mulvaney is someone to admire.

With that, they all moved to their respective computers to write a 500-word news feature – with me in their ears stressing that readers aren't going to care about Mulvaney's issue unless they are first made to care about him.