Saturday, May 2, 2009

So nice to have a summer job!

I knew with the economy and budget cuts, it would be a challenge to find a summer internship this summer. More specifically - a job back home! In fact, two summer internships - the State Journal-Register and the Department of Agriculture, both had budget cuts that forced them to either not hire as many interns or not hire at all. Therefore, I feel very fortunate to have a summer internship that sounds like I will enjoy very much.

I will be working with the Midwest Dairy Association as their summer intern. For those of you not familiar with the MDA, its main purpose is to promote the dairy industry and its products, as well as educate the public on dairy nutrition. As the summer intern, I will have a variety of duties, including: writing press releases, traveling to staff meetings, helping with publications sent out annually, as well as working the entire Illinois State Fair in the Dairy Building! I will be very close with the butter cow this year, so be sure to come and visit me if you visit the fair this summer.

I am so glad to have had these journalism classes prior to taking this internship, as I have learned a lot about writing and being a journalist. Learning how to research more efficiently, using "tighter" wording and learning how to get the main message across quickly will help me with this internship.

All in all, I am very excited about interning with the MDA. I will have the opportunity to communicate with the MDA interns in Minnesota and Iowa as well, so it should be a great summer!

What I have learned about journalism this semester

Before enrolling in JOUR 420, among a few other journalism classes, this semester, I had the naive idea that journalism is all about being a good writer. And boy, was I wrong. Granted, a journalist must be a good writer, but I have learned there is so much more to journalism than just being a 'good writer.' These days, a journalist must know how to tell a story visually, the difference between online and paper stories, how to make an ethical decision, and yes - how to do math!

I will never forget the day I realized that people really don't read an entire story in a newspaper. All this time in high school, I had this assumption that people read a story thinking about how the writer built the introduction and body, as well as the vocabulary used. But, no. People want the main idea of the story and then move on. They want visuals that help tell the story in a compelling way.

As far as editing goes, an editor must be able to make quick decisions and be ready to defend it. After learning about headlines and cutlines, I realized that headline must be carefully constructed. For example, I had always thought of "Man bites dog" as a headline - simple and easy to write. But there is so much more to take into consideration. It must be short and to the point, but must also tell the story. In addition, online stories must be taken into consideration when writing a headline. The editor must think about what most people would seach for in a search engine to ensure easy access to the story.

Yes, I have learned not only how to be a better writer and how to hone my grammar skills, but I have also learned that journalists must be a 'jack of all trades.' It's a little differernt from what they show in the movies.

Should I be worried?

As a journalism student, many people give me a worried look when I tell them I take several journalism classes here at school. They often ask me, "Isn't journalism a dying industry?" You should see the look they give me when I tell them my actual major is in agricultural communications! Then the jokes begin - "Oh, so you talk to cows?" To which I reply: agricultural communications is basically a degree in communications with a focus in agriculture. These types of conversations no doubt make me think about the major I'm in. However, I have come to love what I do, and I have no hesitations about being in the wrong major. Yes, I think journalism will change - it is inevitable. But I am confident about the area and don't feel the need for panic. Right now, some people may be worried about journalism's role within the Internet, which is understandable. Once its role is determined, however, I believe journalism will be 'back on its feet.' We will always need our news, and to get that reliable news, we need reliable journalists. Maybe I'm being optimistic because I'm in the major, but I do believe journalism has a future. Yes, it may change, but what ever stays the same?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Catching the "Cowboy Spirit" this summer!

As I make my last-minute plans for a summer internship back home in Springfield, I have found myself adding a little bit of "spice" to my typical summer plans, thanks to one of my fellow agricultural communications peers. Though plans are still in progress, I would love to attend the National Ag Media Summit, which will be hosted in Texas this summer. Besides getting to enjoy the beautiful scenery, I would have the opportunity to interact with media professionals in the industry from across the nation. Several public relations professionals, photographers, journalists and designers attend this summitt to learn about the most up-to-date ideas in the industry.
So you may be asking what there will be at this summit. Several seminars and workshops will be held that will give students the opportunity to discuss the future of agricultural journalism, how consumers and producers can reconnect with each other, and what to expect from this type of career in the future.
I am hoping to broaden my horizons this summer and attend this year's 11th ag media summit. Hopefully I will be able to travel with a few of my ag comm. peers and have the opportunity to site-see around Texas at the same time!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Discovery of the AP Exchange!

Let me just say that as a college student, I sometimes lack on listening to the news. Back home, I always watch the 6 o'clock news each night. However, here at school, it's just a different a student, you are "busy." Each semester, I make it a goal to catch up on the world around me, but sometimes it just doesn't happen. I was happy to discover the AP exchange web site in lab this week. It gives a quick and easy way to browse not only breaking news, but also developing stories. It is convenient, and for people who only want "selected" news, they can simply choose which category they would like. This is not to say other news web sites do not offer this. The AP exchange, however, just lists the stories without distractions.

My favorite story was about the South Carolina widow who had been dead for 18 months and nobody even noticed. While this is very sad, I enjoyed the conversation I had with my news team about this bizarre story. The first questions most of us had was, "Oh, so the dog died, too?" Come to find out, the dog had actually died of thirst. Authorities said there was enough dog food in supply. Readers tend to enjoy these types of stories, because they offer a break from the typical hard news each day. It leaves the actually story to the imagination, which is what many people enjoy, just as my news team did.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Future of Agricultural Newspapers

As I decided on my research paper topic for this class, I found I had a hard time deciding what I would like to do. It's not that there's a lack of subjects to talk about in the editing world, but it's finding what interests you. I decided to follow my passion for agriculture. Back home, my dad will always get the AgriNews publication, along with Farm Week, Prairie Farmer, among many others. When I get a chance to sit down and read them, I find myself thinking about what we discuss in lecture (which I guess is the point). In one of my agricultural communications classes, we discussed the future of agricultural publications and what role they will play in the future with farmers. The main area of concern, however, was with radio in the agricultural communities. My father, however, tunes in daily to our local agricultural station to catch the markets and get caught up on what's going on with issues that could affect him.

As I narrow down my focus of research, I would like to explore the future of agricultural publications. It would be interesting to interview editors to see what they think about the issue, if there is any concern. I would like to have a better understanding of the current state of the agricultural communications world, as I will be entering it soon. I find this topic very interesting, and as a farm girl, nothing makes me feel more at home than kicking back and reading my AgriNews.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Profanity's role in a paper

I found lecture this week very interesting as we discussed word choice of editors - especially when it comes to profanity. How far is too far? This question is even harder to answer in this society, because more words and actions are "socially" accepted today than ever before. Does this mean the newspaper should follow the trend in how society is communicating?

My thought is no. A newspaper should serve as an example of proper grammar and writing without any distasteful content. In my opinion, a newspaper should something a family can enjoy without having to worry about an R-rated movie or even a suggestive commercial come on during dinner time. Although it may seem our society is changing more and more, there are still plenty of people who believe in using "clean cut" language.

I understand when an editor chooses to use a profanity word to get a point across, depending on which word it is. As we discussed in lecture, it all depends on the context of the word, which makes everything a lot harder when making a decision. However, I believe newspapers should avoid using profanity at all costs. This is not to solely avoid conflict or disagreement among the readers; it is to give the people a newspaper they can enjoy without suggestive comments or profanity. Call me old-fashioned, but I would never want my newspaper to be one of "those" media sources many think of.