It is sad to say that our trip has reached its conclusion. We were able to attend a few sessions before we hit the road, which was great.
I cannot be explained in a blog or in a sentence the amazingness that came from Kansas City. The memories and information learned will be difficult to forget, and hopefully it has all enabled me to become a better leader, editor and writer.
9 a.m.: Storytelling
You know when you are a good photographer when your photo moves the viewer. You know when you are a good writer when the reader never wants to stop. You know when you have a good team when a photograph and story make a reader cry.
I stared my Saturday in tears.
Everyone is a storyteller. Everyone has a story to tell. As a yearbook, with a combination of phenomenal photography and stellar writing, we can touch the hearts of the student body.
There are four levels of writing. Level 1 involves informational type images. Level 2 includes graphically appealing images. Level 3 has emotionally appealing images and the writer and photographer have become one with the subject. Level 4 is complete trust with the subject.
The lady showed us some pictures from a news story.
The first was of a plane. You could see the passengers doing their thing and looking out the windows. Below, were soldiers pulling out one of their fallen men. This picture showed how disconnected we, as a nation, are from the war until it hits us. The lady spoke of how no one on the flight knew they were flying with a dead marine until they were asked to wait before they exited the plane so the men could escort the coffin. The picture tugged at your heart. I couldn’t explain it; it was just a force.
The lady then showed us a photo of a woman clutching a soldier, and she was screaming and in tears. That marine was her husband. She was the widow with an unborn child. The lady spoke of how the journalists went to her house ahead of time to see if they could tell her husband’s story. Reluctant at first, she agreed, and the reporters became part of her life. The lady told us how that’s how we should report. We should become part of our subject’s lives in order to help report it.
She then continued to the final picture.
It was of the women, a marine and her husband. She was laying on an air mattress with her husband’s coffin behind her guarded by a marine with her laptop in front of her playing their favorite songs. It was the night before the funeral, and she had asked if she and her baby could spend one last night with her husband. The marines were there to look over her husband, and she listened. I cried.
The lady then said that during the night, the woman looked up at the guards and asked, “Are my reporters still here?”
That is good reporting. That is trust. That is getting to know the subject.
A yearbook should include all levels of reporting in order to be amazing. It is impossible to cover every aspect of campus life using level 4, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be covered.
Writing should include all 5 senses’, and it should put you in the book. It’s ok if Tom wasn’t in the yearbook, because if we did our job, he would be able to relate to someone who is.
As writers and reporters, we should think of all unanswered questions and answer them. We should think outside the box and through all angles to get a story.
Headlines should include a powerful word at either the end or the beginning. They should become part of the artwork and unique. They should tell a story.
Instead of focusing on the entire pie, a writer should pick one piece and dwell in its scrumptiousness.
Writers should think of “call-out quotes” to use in the spread. They might not fit perfectly in the story, but they apply to the publication and spread.
10 a.m.: 10 Steps to Feature Writing
A feature is journalism art that entertains and informs.
A journalist should fin an angle and think of new ways to cover annual events. Things can become monotonous, but if approached from a different angle they could be slightly cool.
Vary your sources. Combine primary, secondary and expert sources. They won’t always be used in the story, but they could help give some background information on the subject.
Have a productive interview. Learn about the subject before you walk in. Develop good questions. Pay attention to the location, and try to do it where they are most comfortable. Be observant; look around their office when they walk out of the room etc. Tape-record all feature stories. You never know the importance of conversation, and you don’t want to miss a killer quote. Master the art of conversation.
Plan everything out. If you have time, type your notes. Look over them and get familiar. Create an outline and look for holes in your story. Write a thesis statement. What do you want your story to say?
The lead. Identify what you remembered the most from your interviews. Don’t get suckered into the same leads repeatedly. Above all, capture the reader. A story isn’t any good if no one will read past the first line.
The body needs to have a nut graph or bridge close to the beginning to help tie the reader in. Readers need a path to follow, and it is the writer’s responsibility to create it. Transitions are your friend. Use them.
Write a quote that only that source would say to help bring the reader into the story more. Use anecdotes.
Conclusions are essential. Make the reader remember what you write. Use a STRONG quote, provide a final observation, bring the reader back to the beginning. Let the reader leave satisfied.
Include sidebar material for a spread. Not everything can be included in a story, and you don’t want everything included in a story. Seek inspiration from other publications. There are amazing people out there doing amazing things. Let them inspire you. Get a second opinion after you write. Look for ways to be better. Never think you are the best.
11:30 a.m.: Story Ideas
This lady is amazing. That is all I have to say. She gave us a power point of lists of story topics. All I can really say is she is inspirational, and I adored all of her sessions.
Story ideas are different from topics.
Get the school’s budget from the library. They have a copy on file, and it is public record.
Go look to the alumni office and get a list of amazing people on campus or who have graduated.
“We are covering the college community in a way that no one else can.”
She provided so many different ideas that would take up pages and pages of a blog. I have lists for my staff, and I am so excited to implement them this year and years to follow.