Wil S. Hylton

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On Wednesday, Wil S. Hylton came to my feature writing class to talk about writing profile stories and his journey and experiences as a journalist.

Wil has a very different clothing style and I later came to realize his style reflects his years in New Mexico and New York city. He did not remain stagnant in Baltimore.

He starts to talk about the program at his high school that basically got him a job at the Baltimore Sun, using his hands to express his thoughts, his legs stay crossed as he leans back comfortably at the table.

Hylton admits he “was just this kid who had a lucky break,” as he barely passes high school and doesn’t get into or go to any college but still manages to land jobs at papers such as the Baltimore Sun and magazines like Baltimore Magazine.

His philosphy of journalism is all about doing “whatever it takes to get a story.” He laughs as he says he would smoke a joint for an interview or drink a lot, just to make them more comfortable. And to “put your chips on the table next to theirs.”

He, like many others, believes that “journalists have a role to provide a perspective in the world.”

Some of Hylton’s advice was to do multiple interviews on one person in the story. Mainly the central or primary character. This way you can get the best detail out of a story. Also, the details in their stories that change mean that they haven’t thought about it much and now the details become vivid to them.

Hylton gave me a lot of good advice to think of as I start following around and interviewing my next profile story subject.

If you’re feeling ignorant, try looking through Baynard’s perspective

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The managing editor and columnist of Baltimore’s City Paper and author, Baynard Woods, came to the Towson campus to talk about feature stories amongst other things.

Truth be told I’ve only ever heard his name from one of my past professors, Benn Ray. Ray once mentioned him when talking about the Baltimore Sun acquiring the city paper around this time last year.

Unlike our first speaker, Woods immediately took control of the floor. His voice was loud and passionate. I have to say he is exactly how I always pictured a journalist to be.

“You shouldn’t be writing if you don’t want to be better than everyone in the fucking world!” Baynard says throwing his arms. He said this same phrase in about five different ways.

As much as I agree with this, I also believe to be a good writer you should have a passion for telling people the truth and what they need to know. You also have to know when to be productively annoying and have a relentless curiosity.

Baynard remarks that journalists should also have a voice and a vision.

As he speaks it seems as though his thoughts are racing. Perhaps because he has so much experience he struggles to find the best example to explain. Or there are probably too many thoughts in his head to keep in order.

Ten years ago he was a philosophy professor here at Towson. His master’s degree was in ancient philosophy after all.

I have a minor in international studies and because of this I take a lot of Spanish and literature classes and although most believe both of these subjects can never help me with reporting; However, Baynard unintentionally explained that having a vast knowledge of subjects can help you in any way.

Baynard often referenced Socrates, his ideals and how he relates to the objectivity that journalists strive for. He even mentioned Kierkegaard, who I often study in literature for his essentialist ideals, and how he felt about journalists and journalism.

His experience and knowledge was impressive.

Baynard may seem too intense or vehement to some, but I believe his passion for honest and to have a worldly understanding shows what kind of journalist he is: the best kind.

 

 

Towson feature story ideas

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Last Wednesday my feature writing class met at the local Towson Fractured Prune. Our next assignment was to literally walk around York Rd and come up with at least four feature story ideas.

My first idea came even before I got to Fractured Prune. To meet my class on time I had to take my car to campus and park in a visitor’s spot. Parking at TU is always horrid and not only did I miss my 2 p.m. class but I also ended up with a $52 ticket. So, while on my way uptown I thought a really good feature story idea for Towson would be on metered/paid parking. Every time you want to go to Fractured Prune or Towson Hot Bagels and it’s not Sunday, you have to pay a little to park- if and when you’re lucky enough to find parking. However, paying for parking is not the only problem. If you have ever tried to go to the Trader Joe’s on Joppa Rd during normal hours you will never find a parking spot. Joe’s shares a tiny lot with Barnes & Noble, Pier 1 Imports and sometimes Bahama Breeze and Mall shoppers. Basically, the story would be about the insufficient parking in uptown Towson!

My second story idea came to me as I passed the Greene Turtle and the Real Thing. My next story would be a profile story on the Real Thing Owner, Tony Marwah. The Real Thing has been on York rd longer than the Greene Turtle and Tony is confident that the Greene Turtle brings him more business than before! “After everyone finishes drinking at their bar they come to me for food! I know I get their business so no, I’m not badly affected by the Turtle being next door.” he said. He is also not worried about the upcoming new restaurants for “Towson Square. “My customers know where I am and they know what I have.”

My third story idea came after I saw a sign about Torrent Night Club’s three day, one-year anniversary celebration this weekend. This Thursday, Friday and Saturday night 10 p.m. Torrent will be hosting an array of D.J’s and entertainers for their anniversary celebration. After looking up the events on Facebook I saw that over 50 people had already planned on going to at least one event! I would interview people who are going, people who went and employees of Torrent who have been here for the clubs entire year. Torrent is huge for Towson students so I think this would be a good feature story celebrating the anniversary and looking back on how the club did in its first year.

My fourth and final story idea revolves around the long awaited Nando’s PERi PERi and the construction of Towson Square. After plans were finalized two years ago construction immediately began on the amazing Cinemark and several new restaurants. Today only Nando’s and the Cinemark stand and I think a good feature story on how Nando’s is doing so far in Towson. For example, interviewing some Nando’s fanatics and owner of this specific Towson location. This Nando’s is the very first one in Baltimore County and only the third in the state. This company has come far out of South Africa and now has locations in over 30 countries. Nando’s is definitely an interesting spot and deserving of a feature story.

Talking with a WSJ reporter

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Yesterday I met Scott Calvert, news correspondent in Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania & Delaware for the Wall Street Journal, for my feature writing class.

Most of the conversation was about his experience as a journalist. Some great questions included: how do you organize all your material for a story and as someone who has been in the field for 20 years, how he thought journalism had changed and will continue to change.

He talked to us about topics ranging from his stint as the last international correspondent for the Baltimore Sun to ethical practices for quotes when creating a story to his first every experience as a journalist in New Hampshire.

He gave my class a lot of good tips for gathering ideas for stories. He scans Twitter constantly because of the speed of news released on the social media site. He also looks more deeply into topics he’s curious about or very interested in.

All the while trying to keep more of a business perspective in his writing for the WSJ.

After he has a story idea he always prepares for the worst. He jokingly states that many times, obstacles come in a journalist’s way as he or she starts to actually find people for their story idea.

However, he believes that even if one or two people don’t want to talk, a journalist still needs to talk to as many people as they can. This way a journalist can get all the possible information he or she would need to complete a story.

He also gave us an example of a time where he had to make an ethical decision involving a person he interviewed for a crime story in Wilmington, Delaware.

Personally, I enjoyed that story the most as we all know if any person consents to be interviewed and he/she gives us his/her full name we can write down their words exactly as he/she says them. This is not a problem but sometimes people tell us things they did not mean to and they do not realize what their words will sound like for them when it is printed in a newspaper article.

Scott made me think about how much power we have over someone’s interview in that moment. He brought up the idea that a lot of the time we, as journalists, had to look out for those people and do what is right by them. Besides politicians for example, who say something incriminating and then afterwards add, “that was off the record” by then, for them it is too late and will be published.

Pets Allowed: people who go to extremes or people just overreacting?

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Back from a long HIATUS, I recently read an article from last fall in the New Yorker.

Essentially, the author despises people taking advantage of Emotion Support Animal certificates. Although she comes to find out that many of her friends also have E.S.A. certificates for their pets.

Continue reading

Getting to know the girl who gets to know everybody

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Freshman Jenna Barry coordinates the Humans of TU Instagram and Facebook site.

Freshman Jenna Barry coordinates the Humans of TU Instagram and Facebook site. Photo by TU Student/ Kayla Baines

I got to meet one of the most inspiring students on campus. Although she has yet to even finish her first semester at Towson University, Jenna Barry has successfully started and continues to run the Humans of TU Instagram and Facebook accounts. With almost 2000 followers on Instagram, Jenna interviews people for the accounts everyday, whether by random outside of Cook Library and Freedom Square or by setting up an interview by email. Read my feature story here.

 

But she’s not just the girl that knows everyone

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As a high school student, Jenna Barry enjoyed working in hospitals. At 16 years old she watched surgeons perform a live open-heart surgery. She’s not your average girl.

In a high school competition Jenna interviewed the mother of a 22-year-old man who died but his organs went to save the lives of 51 people. She was so touched by the story; she realized that everyone had a different and unique story to be told. And she wants to listen!

After following the “Humans of New York” blog Jenna became inspired. “I just loved the idea that he had that he would just walk up to random individuals and have a conversation with them,” Jenna said. “You never know what someone’s going through and everyone is looking for someone that will listen.”

As a freshman starting out at Towson University Jenna started the Humans of TU Instagram and Facebook accounts. The Instagram alone has over 1900 followers.

“I’m really interested in what people have to say and every story I come across becomes a piece of me and how I view life everyday.” Jenna said.

Jenna has not had a storybook upbringing, but then again who has?

The difference from Jenna and us is that Jenna wants to know how everyone else’s upbringing was, what’s currently going on in their life, and how they feel about it.

She is a student truly interested in people.

As Millennials, we know what it’s like to pretend to be on your phones just so we don’t have to talk to people, and we look down when we walk past someone so we don’t have to make eye contact.

Jenna walks up to random students daily outside of the library and in Freedom Square. She knows everyone has a good story and not only wants to hear it but wants to tell the thousands of other Towson students about it.

She also prefers to do interviews herself, she works with two students who excel in photography skills that interview some people with their cameras but as she says, she’s very picky about interviews and wants to create a personal space for those who she interviews and really make a connection with that person.

“The ability to speak to total strangers in order to share what are personal stories is a skill rarely possessed!” Graduate, Josh Hutchinson says about Jenna. Although Josh is back home in England now he still follows Humans of TU. “I see it everyday from 4000 miles away and despite rarely knowing the person featured, it brightens my day to see Jenna’s work.”

Jenna has put her email out on both social media accounts and allows anyone to email her to request a spot on humans of TU. She said she does get more emails a day than your average student but contrary to belief, she does read every single one.

“With doing humans of TU I have met athletes and I have met business majors, people that are outside of what I know so it’s a lot different and meeting different people like that helps change your mindset.” Jenna said.

For Jenna it’s more about making a name for everybody else rather than herself so she normally doesn’t post any pictures of herself or link her personal accounts to her Humans of TU ones.

The 16-year-old girl watching open-heart surgery two years ago could not imagine herself today, now looking into the hearts of students at Towson University while listening to their most personal stories.

What’s been done to fight against ISIL’s propganda so far

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We all know the U.S. has been trying to fight ISIL’s Islamic propaganda, and by now we’ve heard about the social media movement by Muslims called Not In My Name campaign to denounce ISIL, but how are these strategies stacking up against the propaganda war that ISIL is putting up?

Like the first article states, the U.S. has put out anti-ISIL accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr; however, I agree that the Department of State’s current effort is a mostly “too little, too late”.

In fact, these social media accounts that they created are probably only appealing to those who are extremely against not just ISIL, but Islam as well.

I think the best hope in countering ISIL’s “message of hate” is shown in this article. From the United Arab Emirates, this article best demonstrates how to successfully fight ISIL in its propaganda war.

As I have said before, this war is a war between Muslims. Completely inside the religion of Islam, and I do not think anything people or countries outside of Islam say against ISIL will help the ultimate goal of silencing/ stopping ISIL.

Sure the U.S. and other nations may want to continue their support for Iraqi and the Pershmerga forces, they should not however, continue to belittle the religion of Islam on national broadcast new shows like CNN. Ben Ferguson and Don Lemon, you guys completely represent the ignorance that needs to stop.

I’m not saying all non-Muslims should stop denouncing ISIL but that those who belittle Islam should stop. The world should unite against ISIL, not Islam.

ISIL in Ferguson

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This recent article on ISIL using the uproar of the grand jury decision on Darren Wilson to promote their own cause is pretty surprising.

The article features many screen caps from different ISIL promoters throughout Twitter. I found this very useful because I normally search for those specific propaganda twitter accounts to see what’s going on in the world of ISIL.

Besides the obvious shock factor of how on top of their promoting game ISIL is, I think the real result we should be looking at is how many people see these tweets and think: These guys are right.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 9.08.47 PMI found this tweet to be most compelling simply because of the bloody axe in the front. The rioting and looting in Ferguson got way out of control but the last time I checked no one killed anyone else with an axe. No one even had an axe, there was some gun shots and a lot of fire… but no axe.

Besides that picture, the other tweets went along the lines of this: “To #Ferguson people, the solution of #freedom is #islam. #IslamicState #IS #ISIS #FergusonDecision”

These types of tweets I think can potentially be the most influential on susceptible people.

A lot of these tweets use Islam as a scapegoat for all the world’s problems. I think the most common one is for judgement day. ISIL often references to the impending judgement day and how the followers of ISIL will be the only ones let up into Heaven.

Although the tweets can sometimes be influential, even more influential are the long propaganda videos posted in English. Although YouTube and Twitter are quick to take down the worst videos, mostly of beheadings and such, there are the quick users out there that get to see the worst of the worst.

So maybe after a Twitter user in Ferguson reads the aforementioned tweet and thinks, “Maybe I should learn more about Islam…”. So, he or she reads up on Islam online and tries to understand what ISIL is all about. He or she finds Dabiq, and watches some propganda videos online. Suddenly, he or she doesn’t think ISIL is all that bad.

Now I’m not saying he or she hoping on a plane and joining ISIL’s fight right now, but now perhaps he or she is a bit more sympathetic to ISIL and its “cause”. Clearly with all the propaganda videos ISIL is aiming for people to join them but they also aim to make people around the world sympathetic to them.

Especially the American people.

So what can be done about ISIL and its propaganda? In my next blog I will talk about what the U.S. and other Muslims in Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are doing to combat the propaganda.

 

 

 

 

Why more Muslims should denounce ISIL

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By now we have all heard about Obama saying “ISIL is not Islamic”. Whether you may have believed him or not, there are some Muslim organizations and movements that are denouncing ISIL and ISIL’s claim to be Islamic.

Last Wednesday, the Muslim World League met with top leaders of Christian and Jewish organizations in Vienna and together denounced ISIL’s actions against the religion and humanity.

All three Abrahamic religions came together to call out ISIL. There have been other instances of Muslims putting down the terrorist organization. Like the Not In My Name campaign online.

If you haven’t head about the “Not In My Name Campaign“, it is a social media movement of younger Muslim followers denouncing ISIL and their actions.

Many Muslims have condemned ISIL’s actions, but some Muslims refuse to condemn them.

While I do understand the opposing argument that some Muslims feel like condemning ISIL may be like condemning themselves. I cannot agree that Muslims should think “when you ask Muslims to condemn or denounce heinous actions, ideologies or groups what you’re saying is that you don’t trust any Muslim.” That’s honestly just taking an overly defensive view.

When Obama asks Muslim’s to do more in the way of condemning ISIL, he’s asking this to show that ISIL is not in fact Islamic! Not because Non-Muslim Americans think all Muslim-Americans agree with ISIL and will work for ISIL inside the US.

I believe Muslims publicly denouncing ISIL will show the group people– who believe all of Islam is violent and should be eliminated from the world- that all Muslims are neither extreme nor violent.

Some Muslims are extreme and violent, yes. But they do not represent the billions of other Muslims in the world and you shouldn’t let them.

There are many Non-Muslims who do believe ISIL represents all Muslims, and by the Muslims against ISIL remaining silent it is easy for those non-Muslims to have their false beliefs reaffirmed. 

Also, I agree Obama cannot be completely right in saying that ISIL is not Islamic, if ISIL claims to be Islamic, then they are Islamic

But don’t let the Islamic extremists define your entire religion. 

Speaking out for the billionth time is much better than saying nothing and allowing silent consent to what ISIL is doing.