I have occasionally read Salon articles from Facebook and Twitter but I never really thought about what they do as an online magazine and what their goals are for their readers. Surprisingly, Salon’s audience is primarily male, college educated and making almost $100,000 a year. Their median age for readers is 36 years old. Besides the specific ads targeted to me, one ad I saw was for a technology-consulting firm. The magazine seems to be more aimed and agreeable to Democrats and more specifically, democrats who are also in the millennial generation as well. For example, there was a second video ad all about how we “like” things on Facebook and finally in the end, they say its time to start loving things like this new Chevrolet. So you can tell they are definitely reaching towards people in their late 20s and 30s- who can afford a new Chevy at least.
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When I was in the fifth grade, my last year of Catholic Community school in Baltimore city, I used to sit in church almost every other day and just look around at all the students and think why are we here?
Why do we sing to and ask someone we have never met, and never will meet, for peace and good health? I never felt comfortable in church and only went because school and my grandmother forced me to for years.
This morning I received an email from Emirates offering a round-trip and hotel package from Dulles to Dubai at a discounted rate. OH PLEASE CAN I GO?
Today, writer Ramsey Flynn came to class to talk about his personal narrative “You haven’t lived until you’ve died”.
He gave advice on how to make a personal narrative interesting to your audience. He says the best way to pull a person into your personal narrative story is to start with the conflict and build it right away.
Next, throughout the story keep adding more twists to the conflict and never let your readers expect the ending. But lastly, always satisfy the conflict in the end.
Flynn also gave us advice on how to transform your experiences into a story to tell your readers. For his story he went back to all his surgeons and other nurses/ doctors who may have been around his procedure or have done a similar operation on someone else.
Flynn also interviewed all his family members, especially his wife, to get important details that he may not have remembered. He said he probably did between 80-100 interviews to get his story 100% right.
This particular story took him years to put together and to make everything factual and perfect.
After Flynn’s visit I am uncertain about my personal narrative topic and am trying to find another story in my life that could be better told and more interesting to my audience.
This class has been very helpful in the way of meeting experienced journalists and getting to know more about writing that does not come from a textbook.
Andrea McDaniels from the Baltimore Sun came to speak to my feature writing class today.
She came to talk about her latest project Collateral Damage and some of her best writing tips.
Collateral Damage is a three-part series for the Baltimore Sun on violence in Upton/ Druid Hill and how it affects people.
The first part was about the young children who often suffer from PTSD, the second was on families struggling to help victims of the violence and the last part was about family members dealing with grief over a loss of a loved one to violence in the neighborhood.
The project came out of one article she was writing that she felt like had too much information and that the article “was everywhere”. Her media editor helped straighten the story but together, they also came up with a way to expand it.
She found most of her sources through the social workers in that neighborhood’s schools because Upton/ Druid Hill is not an area a reporter can really walk around all day and ask questions.
It took McDaniels a full year to report and write the three-part project.
Some of her best advice was to always make variation in sentence length and to put the most interesting idea last in a sentence or paragraph.
“Writing never gets easier,” McDaniels repeated throughout her visit. But she also said that writing is a craft and can always be improved. Editors and random writing tips will always help a journalist for every story.
It was nice to finally have a female reporter come to class to talk but every visitor has given great advice that I will take with me through my last year at Towson and on to my first job.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
When the MSA first came to Towson University 15 years ago, there was just about six Muslims in the entire school population at Towson University. Today, almost 200 Muslim students join the MSA every Friday afternoon for prayer, MSA Advisor Sana Kirmani says.