Unique Courses Broaden Student Experience
In J-term 2013, students explored Ireland, the "Museum Beat,"
social media for sports and smartphone photojournalism. During the Spring
semester, students had the chance to dig deeper into
the entertainment beat by studying at Semester in LA: Journalism, based
at Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles. In Chicago, students are learning the
latest journalistic applications in Data Visualization, taught by an
expert from Tribune.com and more about the business, sports,
environmental, health, music and crime beats in advanced electives.Our core provides the foundation for students to make the most
of these unique courses. The combination produces resumes and
experiences that are attractive to internship providers and news
directors, editors and supervisors looking for qualified entry-level
Students also have the chance to see their work published or broadcast by major media outlets. During J-term 2013, members of Elio Leturia's "Visual Images for Your Portfolio'' course had work published on the Chicago Tribune's web site. And student Patrick Smith from Suzanne McBride's Journalism honors seminar this spring already had a piece on WBEZ Chicago Public Radio. The seminar is focused on telling the stories of murder victims in Chicago this year who are age 25 or younger.
Unique courses are offered round-the-calendar. While much of the South
Loop was shut down in spring 2012 because of massive protests expected for the G-8
summit (subsequently moved to Camp David) and NATO, our journalism
department ran a course called "Covering NATO," using the latest
technologies to cover people in the streets and those inside the
convention center. You can read their work here, on ChicagoTalks and in the Columbia Chronicle, and view student Timothy Shaunnessey's reaction to the class below or on YouTube.
Students in Nancy Day's recent Covering Politics course focused on competitive races through Election Day, including nationally watched Illinois congressional contests. Members of the class also collaborated on a national Democracy in Action project with Syracuse University and the University of Georgia, among others, to demonstrate with photos and text the importance of Election Day across the country.
For the pivotal Town Hall meeting between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, each student covered a different debate watch party, with the stories published on Chicago Talks. Students reported live Election night from their beats for WCRX, the college's radio station, which streamed five hours of breaking news coverage. Student reporters used social media throughout the course. Post-election, they turned to analysis and produced a television round-table on Election 2012.
Stephanie Ewing was the graduate assistant for Columbia’s
“Covering NATO’’ class, assuming the managing editor role
for the intensive reporting course. Below, Stephanie describes her experience during this class. All photos are by fellow master’s degree candidate
Ashlee Rezin, the graduate assistant for photography for the course.
The students’ eyes grew wide as they walked into the weekend’s headquarters for the first time. We were surrounded by screens — a giant touch-screen computer on the wall where we’d zoom in on planned protest routes and stream live student videos, big flat screens mounted on the walls where we watched students tweet and live blog, and even a table with a touch-screen computer built into the top.
A hidden sound system piped in the sounds of protests and summit meetings. We had our own portable Wi-Fi transmitters and tablet computers to take out to the Grant Park protests. I was sure I’d died and gone to tech heaven.
| "NATO, shut it
down! The war machine, shut it down! The whole damn system, shut it
down!" chanted protesters as they marched from Grant Park to McCormick
Place on May 20, the first day of the NATO Summit.
The Interactive Arts and Media Lab — or the “Situation Room,” as we called it — became our home base for covering the NATO Summit that brought protesters from across the country and sent locals into hiding. Even Columbia College Chicago was closed that weekend, and had moved up the end of the semester to avoid potential conflicts between graduation and NATO.
So we were glad to be afforded the opportunity to take the Covering NATO course. What excited me was the groundswell of support from collaborators on so many different fronts: faculty, staff and technology from the Journalism Department and Interactive Arts and Media Department, Campus Security, and local, national and international dignitaries and media outlets.
Two weeks before the start of the summit, instructors Teresa Puente and Steve Franklin held classroom sessions where 17 undergrad and graduate journalism students pitched story ideas, backgrounded the summit and met with guests ranging from CAN G8 protest organizer Andy Thayer to Onur Sayin, vice consul of the Turkish consulate in Chicago.
Safety was a top concern. Though we all hoped for the best — peaceful, interesting protests — we prepared for the worst. We worked closely with Campus Security and guests from the National Lawyers Guild to learn our rights and the best practices of covering potentially messy protests. Students winced as we watched clips of violence erupting at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, our worst-case scenario.
Columbia journalism students Steven Schorn and Charles Jefferson interview participants of the National Nurses United Campaign to Heal The World rally at Daley Plaza on Friday, May 18, the first day of protests the weekend of Chicago's NATO Summit.
There was cause for concern. Just days before the scheduled protests, four visiting protesters were arrested on terrorism charges, which sparked outrage in the ranks of NATO protesters. We were unsure if that anger would translate into violence.
So we brought with us bandannas soaked in vinegar or lemon juice (to neutralize tear gas) and ear plugs (to prevent hearing damage caused by the use of so-called “sound cannons”). We had the numbers of legal aid scrawled on our arms in case of accidental arrest, and Prof. Puente brought in two large blue bottles of milk of magnesia to relieve anyone unfortunate enough to get pepper sprayed.
Luckily, we needed none of these.
But our preparation did pay off. As a graduate assistant for the class, I worked closely with the faculty to coordinate, edit and publish more than 30 student pieces on the award-winning hyper-local news site ChicagoTalks, founded by Columbia journalism faculty members Suzanne McBride and Barbara Iverson.
The student work showcased a diversity of viewpoints and depth of coverage that some of the larger media outlets didn’t deliver. In typical Columbia fashion, we zigged when everyone else zagged.
I was proud of the stories we told about the people to whom the NATO summit mattered most. Students profiled local protesters who hoped to use the additional media presence to bring attention to immigration issues and the mental health centers shut down by city budget cuts.
|Austin Montgomery recorded speakers during the press conference on the first day of Chicago's NATO Summit. Speakers included President of the Coalition Against NATO/G8 War & Poverty Agenda, Andy Thayer, and representatives from organizations such as Occupy Chicago and Communities United Against Foreclosures and Evictions.
One student profiled the mother of an Iraqi War veteran who took his own life. She led a protest march with other veterans who gave back their war medals, tossing them over the McCormick Place fence in protest of NATO’s ongoing involvement in Afghanistan.
We wrote about the boarded-up businesses in the South Loop whose traffic evaporated despite the mayor’s assurances that wouldn’t happen.
We also delved deeply into the global issues discussed inside McCormick Place that shape international policy on everything from defense spending to women’s rights. One student met the Italian prime minister, and all the students had a front-row seat at President Obama’s address.
It was a hard-working weekend for me, a caffeinated blur of editing, tweeting, publishing and tracking students in the field. But our body of work contributed uniquely and positively to the media milieu surrounding the NATO Summit, and my editing for Covering NATO will be a highlight in my portfolio.