Here are my top 5 best stories that I’ve written for Media Writing this semester. It’s been a long-road from only knowing how to write English papers to learning AP Style and traditional, broadcast, press release and feature forms but I’ve learned a lot!
1. Summer study abroad in … America?
Elon University offers two domestic study abroad summer programs
By Madeline Carlin
Los Angeles or New York City—the choice is yours.
Elon University offers two summer programs that give students the chance to study and intern in either of America’s more famous cities.
The programs are open to any major, and students must apply and be selected to go to LA or New York, where they live in university-contracted housing and take six credit hours—two hours for an internship and four hours for a course.
Students take a co-requisite class on Monday, which collectively lasts about 12 hours, but often encompasses studio tours, exercises, master classes and alumni panels with limited classroom instruction.
The rest of the week is spent interning at various companies, usually among Elon’s nearly 700 contacts in both cities with many being alumni, according to J. McMerty, the coordinator of both Elon in LA and Elon in NYC and a professor in the School of Communications.
Notable internship sites include “60 Minutes,” “The Mentalist,” Food Network, Paramount Pictures and Lionsgate.
“The goal is to demystify these cities and see what it’s like to really live and work there,” McMerty says. “It’s the genuine article of experiential learning.”
For many students, it is an opportunity to embark on a domestic study abroad trip and explore two of the entertainment industry’s biggest capitals, adhering to the programs’ motto of “Live. Learn. Intern.”
Students blog about their experiences throughout the summer, and, among the posts about celebrity sightings and visits to tourist destinations, students also boast about decisions and plans to move to the cities following graduation.
In the case of Elon in LA, which was the first of the programs to be established in 2008, McMerty says 72 percent of participants moved back to Los Angeles and found employment after they graduated.
But, McMerty says, “It is not a vacation or a trip. We’re bringing Elon to these cities.”
A large emphasis is placed on making good impressions because a goal is to create communities in both cities, so that students can use connections to find jobs after graduation.
“Networking is a double-edged sword,” McMerty says. “People still have to like you.”
He shared the story of Tim Johnson, an Elon in LA student who complained that his first assignment at his internship was to organize the kitchen and make sure that the vending machine stayed stocked with candy.
But after doing the best he could at the seemingly menial task, the company began to give Johnson overflow editing projects and a year later, ended up hiring him.
“Attitude matters more than anything else,” McMerty says. “We want hard-working, ambitious students who want to work at the top of their industry.”
Yet as Matt Smith, a student in the Elon in LA program, blogged about, the experience is once in a lifetime.
“I came out to LA with no expectations but the willingness to search for opportunities,” Smith wrote on the Elon in LA blog. “So far, this open-minded lifestyle has taken me on strange, outrageous and even enlightening adventures.”
*This was a great piece to write because these domestic study abroads are a huge part of why I came to Elon – I am hoping to participate in the Elon in LA program myself one day!
2. Communications school adds production to skills set
By Madeline Carlin
Take 300 pictures this weekend. Make a short film. Write code for a website. Use Photoshop. Blog. Repeat.
These are tasks increasingly asked of students in Elon University’s School of Communications, as it continues to place a greater emphasis on film and production.
Classes such as Digital Media Convergence, a 200-level course aimed at teaching students multimedia skills, is required for all communications majors and minors, regardless of concentration. And student organizations devoted to the topic have improved, as well.
While Cinelon still serves as the student media organization geared toward narrative film students, Communications professor Nicole Triche revamped this year the school’s documentary film production program called elondocs. It’s now a production program that offers students greater opportunities for involvement.
elondocs, which was created in 2005, has traditionally catered mostly to senior cinema majors, faculty and outside filmmakers. It provides funding to make a few documentaries. But Triche led the charge to add the production component, as a sort of training program for sophomore and junior students to receive greater instruction in documentary work.
“You do one year of training so you can make the bigger documentaries as seniors,” Triche said.
The 2010-2011 school year marks the pilot year of the production program, which boasts just six participants. But Triche said she hopes to expand in the future as elondocs garners more interest through word of mouth.
She also speculated that the overall growing interest of production in the school is a result of the addition of faculty members, who have defined careers in the film industry, such as visiting professor Paul Castro, a graduate of and former teacher at UCLA’s film school and the screenwriter of “August Rush.”
Associate Dean of the School of Communications Kenn Gaither said there are really two reasons for the school’s increased requirements and opportunities.
The first regards the school’s close relationship with its advisory board compromised of media industry professionals.
“One of the things they tell us is that students need to have a broad skills set, and it includes applied skills,” Gaither said.
He also argued that in today’s industry, for example, a journalist has to be able to write a story, take pictures and create video content. So regardless of a specific major, having a complete set of skills is paramount.
Hope Williams, a sophomore marketing major and communications minor at Elon, who took Digital Media Convergence during last winter term, said that while it was not something she was excited about, the course “sparked an interest in filming and made me want to take more communications classes in the future.”
Her enthusiasm for the subject did not stop there. She still actively applies the skills she learned to her work in her business classes and says that they will be vital to her in the future as an advertiser.
“I’ll know how something like a commercial is made and edited, allowing me to know the possibilities and limitations of the creatives in order to work closer with them,” Williams said.
But the growing importance of film and production within the school is not just catered to those looking to attain basic production skills with about 12 percent of the school registered as cinema majors.
Sophomore cinema major Will Anderson is a member of “Project Halcyon,” a music group and pseudo-amateur production company that he started with three of his friends his freshman year.
As members of the communications living-learning community last year, Project Halcyon began creating birthday raps and music videos for friends, but they received their big break on Elon’s campus when they created “Ode to Smith Jackson” for an Elon television series last spring.
The video, an auto-tuned rap dedicated to Elon’s vice president and dean of student life, currently boasts nearly 10,000 views on YouTube and has been praised by alumni and faculty alike.
Anderson credits the success of the video and their subsequent projects to Digital Media Convergence being offered to majors as early as the second semester of their first year, access to equipment and the presence of the learning community.
Sophomore Will Anderson behind the lens
“As freshmen we got to use top-of-the-line equipment and facilities to create amazing videos,” Anderson said. “And having the communications learning community was a great way to collaborate with other students interested in filmmaking.”
Another sophomore cinema major, Heather Cassano, said she believes that film and production are growing in importance within the school because they are applicable to almost any communications job.
“Sometimes it seems like film students at Elon have a very risky career path ahead of them, but I would disagree with that,” Cassano said.
She says that job opportunities directly correlated to film and production have greatly increased.
“Many film students have gone on to work on the creative team at advertising firms, at online sections of newspapers, and of course as filmmakers,” Cassano said. “As cinema majors, our options are really unlimited, which is a great thing to have with today’s job market being so small.”
Sophomore Tanner Kendall recently switched his major from cinema to sociology, but he said he believes production skills crossover into many different fields.
“I think that it’s a growing focus, particularly at Elon, because the industry itself is growing,” Kendall said. “The industry, cinema and production have made incredible strides over the past 50 years, and the school needs to keep up with all the new techniques and styles.”
While the halls of the communications building may be filled with students complaining about doing work outside of their intended concentration, faculty in the School of Communications have made the decision to add production knowledge to its students’ skills sets with hopes of expanding their film opportunities in the future.
So as tedious as it may seem: Take that photography class, learn how to make a cool video and get some production skills.
*This feature story was a natural choice for me because it not only let me learn about the great opportunities open to me as a cinema major, but it also allowed me to write about something I am passionate and curious about.
3. Do you have a ‘lunch buddy?’
By Madeline Carlin
Lunch Buddies, one of Elon’s largest volunteer programs, places Elon students in local elementary schools to mentor children once a week during their lunchtime.
When was the last time you had a “lunch buddy?” Many Elon students still do.
Once a week, 96 Elon students share lunch with a child as part of a community service program called Lunch Buddies. The children range in grade level from kindergarten through fifth grade, and the topics of discussion include college life, the latest Disney channel show and who will win tag at recess.
Lunch Buddies is one of Elon’s most popular volunteer programs. Approximately 90 to 125 students volunteer every semester at one of two local Alamance County elementary schools. Both schools classify as Title I schools and are deemed “high-need” environments within the community. School counselors identify the children they feel could most benefit from the program each semester. Most are recommended because they are experiencing behavioral, social or academic problems in the classroom.
Program co-coordinator Lauren Clapp said Lunch Buddies serves as a way to create role models for the children and set up something that they can look forward to each week.
“We never know the details, but a lot of these kids have troubles at home,” Clapp said, “so the positive relationship they get to form with their buddies is really invaluable and impactful on their lives.”
Sara Stanton-Hoyle, a sophomore volunteer, has worked all year with her buddy, Blake, and said that she has noticed significant transformation in him from a scared and closed off child to a talkative and bubbly kindergartner because of their relationship.
“I really care about him and by showing up and being reliable every week he has come to understand that and value that extra attention,” Stanton-Hoyle said.
For her, the program is a chance to give back a small part of her time and life as a college student to do something important for someone else.
“The kids we work with often have almost no one who cares about them,” she said. “When they have a buddy who is all about them, they get a chance to feel special and often just having a friend can help them immensely.”
Senior volunteer and Lunch Buddies director Ginni Fischer said she feels it is an important volunteer program because “it brings an intergenerational component to service and allows everyone to meet people who are very different from them and connect over lunch.”
She shared the story of her former lunch buddy, with whom she shared weekly meals with for more than two years.
“I saw him go from a really shy, quiet kid who was emotionally reeling from his parents’ divorce to an energetic and talkative fifth grader,” Fischer said.
Fischer also said that it helps Elon students break from the “Elon Bubble” and do service in the greater community.
The program stresses the importance of creating long-term relationships in order to create stability for the children, which is why training and guidelines are offered to volunteers.
*As a member of this program this spring, I was very happy to be able to write a piece reflecting the wonderful experiences that Lunch Buddies provides. By simply sharing lunch 1x a week with my own buddy, I have been able to get a much greater perspective of the Elon and Burlington community at large…and catch up on the coolest new games at recess.
4. Press Release for NIIUCA
For more information, contact:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
INSURANCE INDUSTRY PAID $2.5 BILLION AS RESULT OF SEVERE WEATHER
A new study on property loss and violent weather revealed that the insurance industry saw a 25-percent increase in its yearly payout this year to $2.5 billion to repair and replace property damaged in hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.
The study, conducted by the National Institute of Insurance Underwriters and Claims Adjusters, was discussed at the institute’s convention Tuesday in San Diego, where NIIUCA President James Addison addressed 3,500 insurance agents and claims adjusters. He said that most of the increase was a result of the severe flooding in Texas, California and the southeastern United States. Most homeowners who have flood insurance are insured through the federally funded National Flood Insurance Program.
Additionally, hurricanes caused an estimated $512 million alone in damage to homes, businesses and personal property.
“These projections are very preliminary,” Addison said. “The total number of claims and their costs could vary depending on the amount of federal aid that was provided, but it still was a costly year for the insurance industry.”
For further information, contact NIIUCA at its headquarters at One Insurance Plaza, 2305 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or by telephone at 1-800-555-0000.
*Writing press releases was a great experience. I appreciate the shorter format and immediacy of the information and style. I hope to maybe work in PR someday so this was great experience!
5. Armed robber assaults Burlington woman in string of similar crimes
By Madeline Carlin
An armed robber stabbed a Burlington woman early Sunday morning outside her home—the fourth incident in a string of robberies with assaults that have been reported in the past month in the Burlington area, according to police.
The victim, Lucinda Appleby, 51, told officers that she arrived home from work around 7 a.m. and while walking to her house at 809 Pine Lake St., a male stranger approached her and demanded money, said Burlington Police Capt. Kelly George.
“When she replied she had none, she said the man knifed her in the chest, grabbed her purse and fled on foot down Pine Lake Street,” George said. “She struggled into her house to phone for help.”
Appleby, who works as a night-shift nurse at Alamance Regional Medical Center, is now being held there in critical condition, according to a hospital spokesperson.
A similar incident occurred in a Sept. 13 robbery near the Riverview Apartments on Blaine Street, in which two victims suffered knife wounds to the neck and arms.
George said she will appoint a special detail headed by Lt. Akesha Suleman to investigate the string of robberies.
Anyone with information about the recent assaults is asked to call the Burlington police at 555-3624.
*Throughout the semester, it was somewhat fun to write crime stories for me because after hearing so many on the news and reading so many in the newspapers, I felt like I knew this style best. It definitely seems one of the most exciting genres of news to work in because there is always new and interesting details it seems.