Archive for October, 2011


Yesterday’s KOMU shift was my first “real” newsroom experience, as the previous Missourian shift was working on a special project, and Newsy didn’t have strict deadline and it had no original reporting part.

I first shadowed a reporter who was covering the story about elementary school students’ jazz class, which was part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move plan. As the jazz was only held on Thursday, she already got most of her job done, and only need an interview with a lady from the Columbia Public Schools today. After the interview, we went to the Benton Elementary School to see if we can take any relevant picture, but, the school had no class today!

Going back to the newsroom with only three pictures of the outside look of the school building, I started looking for another reporter to shadow. I asked the director for opinion and he pointed Jeff for me. Everything was not going so well with Jeff that day. His original story pitch was killed, and he had nothing to report on, so he kept practicing making up the whole afternoon until he was told to cover a special meeting at Moberly about the recent failed Mambek project. It was a short notice, so when we set off, the meeting which was being held 30-minute-drive away has already started. “The news will never wait for you,” Jeff said.

It was an endless and extremely straight highway, and I saw some Amish houses on the side of the road.

We rushed there, and found the council members were having a closed session. So I walked around and started talking with the citizens who attended the meeting.

Citizens and media are waiting in the lobby of the Moberly City Hall during the closed session.

Then, the council members went out and made a short statement that they will have further discussion and the final decision will be out by Nov. 1. And none of them was willing to answer any question. It was not ideal because Jeff finally got only the footage of the statement, a citizen who showed concern, and some b-rolls of the downtown. But it was the worst, at least we finally were able to get there before everybody left.

 

Outside the City Hall, Jeff is talking with a Moberly policeman.

Sunset on the way back

We went back to the newsroom, and Jeff started exporting the footage and working on the web story as well. I started to write captions for my photos and picked three of them showing different aspects of the event, with one wide shot, wide medium shot of the council members and one medium shot of one Moberly citizen. And they were posted to the facebook page and the website before our story was on air, and got 6 people like them by the time I got off the work. That’s social media’s speed!

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Get your story idea early, then you can have time to aim at your sources, contact them and get the information you WANT, rather than they GIVE. The last two days before the deadline, i was still hanging around in the nursing school, talking to anybody who is willing to talk, and passively being led to one and another new angle of the story.

Contact the sources, especially those big figures, before starting reporting, then you can get sufficient time for a good interview. This time, when I started contacting the dean of the nursing school, I found her time had been booked for the following two days. I got this interview because I met her outside the restroom when I was sitting in the lounge of the nursing school, and she happened to go out because the restroom beside her office was occupied. How lucky that I had seen her picture on the website before I came, so I could recognized her! So, I decided to go ahead and ask her to spare just a few minutes with me. I knew it’s an awkward time to make an appointment, but I had no choice. Finally, this method worked. People changed their mind when they SEE you. It’s much easier to decline someone via an email, because there’s no personal connection there.  The result was a 15-minute interview during her lunch time, and I had so many questions to ask and barely had time to raise critical questions. If I started contacting earlier, things might would have been much easier.

About the photos. I planned to have a main photo of the accelerated program students having class, because this is much more related to our story, which talks about the online programs, and this class increasing size in the last few years. Besides, there would be a photo of the dean chatting with studetns from the traditional program as a sidebar, which turned out to be the only photo of our story.

I spent an afternoon in the nursing school and finally found some students in this program, and asked them when they would have a lecture in the classroom, but at last, the faculty didn’t pick any picture from these pool of pictures maybe because of their poor technical quality. The lights in the front of the classroom were turned off, so the professor was in the darkness. Most of the students sit on the two sides, so there were a lot of spaces in the middle, which made it hard to show the “increasing” size of the program.

Still not sure how to get good pictures in this kind of situations : (

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the infographic.  Plan for the infographics at the same time when you work on the text or other main element. It should tell a whole story by itself, rather than be a dispensable stuff. In other words…Discuss with Reuben BEFORE you put hands on it. And this time, I didn’t come up with the idea of infographics until the night before production day : (

BUT, anyway, the most important is….We LEARN from our failures. : D

Looking For A Heart

Looking for a heart ❤

Homecoming

It’s homecoming again! But this year, i have to stay at Newsy, and listen to the cheers and laughters coming from the street a block away : (

But still got a chance to have a glimpse of the parade before the shift began~!

Believe or not, you’ll find more fun in the watching crowds than in the passing floats : )

"Don't leave me, candies!"

REAL couples (1)

REAL couples (2)

Bo and Tigger, you guys look handsome! (I mean, the horses)

Danny Lyon

One thing that I’m thinking after Danny Lyon’s lecture is “what’s the key to being a successful journalist?”

A casual T-shirt under the suit, a cap hiding half of the face, a braid behind and the tough facial expression–the first sight of Danny Lyon gave me the impression that he’s absolutely not a traditional journalist.

Danny Lyon, left, talks with David Rees before the lecture begins.

Afterwards, I learnt that he studied history in the university and never received professional journalism training. So strictly speaking, Lyon is not even a journalist.

Then, what makes his stories successful?

  1. the devotion of time to the story. Lyon joked at the lecture that we students have to quit school and go out if we want to do good stories now. “Several weeks are not enough, it takes your lifetime.” Lyon did this when he produced his photo stories like the bike riders. He didn’t show any photos at the lecture, so I searched for some at home. From the content of the photographs, I can guess how long it took him to immerse himself to the life of the Hells Angels to get such intimacy between those bikers and him. Definitely, the immersion made his story different from the ordinary ones.
  2. the unique contents of the stories. Is journalism actually something that everybody can do? As Lyon said, “Photography is part of the air.” It’s the same as journalism. Everything can be related to the journalism, which also means the journalism is about nothing. A person who doesn’t have the professional background may produce better works because he can focus more on the content and get rid of the frames and technical restriction. Just take Lyon’s film “Murderers” for example. From a “professional” aspect, I found a bunch of “mistakes” which should be avoided in a documentary video. The shaky scenes are resulted by not using the tripod. The use of zoom-in and zoom-out also obeys the rules. Even the music used to arouse the emotion can be criticized in a lot of ways. However, all these “mistakes” did not prevent the video from being a good documentary film, just because its content is compelling and unique. The “zoom in” works when he wants to show the tears on that man’s face.

So the lesson I got from Lyon is that technology is important, but always second to the content. To get amazing contents, you need to dedicate yourself into your story. This is also the way how Lyon seeks for truth.

Lyon recorded stories in a straightforward style. It sounds simple, but not easy. He chose to cover the uncovered, and believes that is what he wants to do. It’s especially hard for people in the current age when everybody is struggling with materials and money. Few people are willing to sacrifice the wealth to pursue for the justice. Lyon did make big money, but it apparently was not his original aim.

Lyon also gave me some inspirations to make this world better by being a journalist. I’m always thinking of going back to China after graduation. One of the reasons is that I do want to do something for my hometown. My country is experiencing a period when a lot of social issues are springing up as a result of quick economic development. I don’t know if I might become a photographer like Lyon some time, but I do want to record those conflicts and changes in some way.

 

Walking around with a backpack and a camera--this is the life I want.

I love the fall in Columbia. Colorful leaves, gentle breeze and lovely sunshine.

I know, those leaves look the same from a distance, but if you get closer, you will find each of them has its own beauty.

The same as people.