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10 Steps to Being a Better Student Journalist

NABJ 2011 Multimedia Short Course at FAMU

By Ameena Rasheed, Texas Southern University Journalism Major

I was able to attend the 2011 NABJ Multimedia Short Course at Florida A&M University, Sept. 8-11 and it was an exceptional experience. I learned a wealth of information that made me a better journalist and I feel the need to share those skills that I learned with my fellow NABJ students. Here we go!

1. This first tidbit is one that I received from Florida A&M University Professor Dorothy Bland. Expand your network and get involved in a multitude of journalism and professional organizations. From the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) to the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), there are a plethora of associations you can join to diversify your network. Try to shy away from keeping your circle of connections “strictly chocolate.”

2. Make sure you not only know current events, but details about historical events in history like 9/11. Don’t forget about government officials (President’s Cabinet and Supreme Court Justices) and international dignitaries. REMEMBER: Spelling counts, so make sure that you know the names of these people backwards and forwards. Many news organizations, like CNN, give current events quizzes to future employees. The last thing that you want to do is end up unemployed because of something like a misspelled name.

RESUMES! Because we are journalists, we have a certain way with words and come up with catchy headlines at the drop of a hat. However, maybe it’s just me, but nothing vexes me more than trying to construct that perfect resume. Numbers 3 – 6 are pertaining to resumes.


3. General assignment reporter for KCRA-TV 3, Sacramento, Ca., Damany Lewis, explained that the pesky “objective” section should be nowhere on your resume. Your objective should only be placed in your cover letter.


4. When it comes to formatting, list your experience first and your skills, and education afterwards.


5. If you have work experience that isn’t unique and doesn’t pertain to journalism, keep it to yourself. However, if you have had some experience studying abroad or are fluent in a foreign language, include that in your resume.


6. Always make sure that your resume is written in AP style. A resume is your first impression and you want to show an employer that you know how to write.


7. Benjamin Davis, who was recently hired as a Florida A&M University CBS Dow Visiting Professor said that knowing HTML is a must-have skill for today’s young journalist.


8. Speaking of the Internet, do you have a website or blog? If so, KUDOS to you. If not, shame on you. No one can market you like you can. Create a platform for yourself online where people can see your resume, video reel, newspaper clips and whatever else you have done.


9. Rod Carter, of WFLA in Tampa, Florida, advised students that when putting together a video reel, to shy away from panoramic shots when shooting. Use wide shots, mid shots and close ups when filming.


10. Last, but certainly not least. The “YES” philosophy. In the opening ceremony for the NABJ short course, Jill Cox-Cordova, broke down one of her keys to success.


Y– Your brand. What is it? What are the things that no one can take from you? Integrity, hard working, attentive? Figure out what you are about.

E – Embrace a support system. Make sure that you have a mentor.

S – Skills. Know how to do it all and at the same time, become the go-to person for a certain something. Whether it is website design or producing video, find your niche.

Feel free to add in any other tips in the comments section and make sure that you check out the FAMU-NABJ blog: I hope I was able to help another fellow NABJ student with me sharing what I learned from the short course. As you began to progress, you must always look back and help your peers. You have to “lift while you climb.”

Posted in journalism, multimedia journalist

Our Local Media Missed the Story

TSU’s NAACP Chapter Shows the Power of One Vote

By Sara Phipps Carr

Sara is a journalism major at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.  She produced this story on TSU’s NAACP’s  voting campaign using an iPhone.

The story is also on Sara’s podcast channel TSU’s NAACP Chapter’s Voting Campaign.

Multimedia Journalism Student

One of the most compelling stories I had to cover this semester was Texas Southern University’s student NAACP chapter’s campaign to register new voters.  However, I was disappointed that our local media simply ignored the story.

I have been taught that journalists should cover stories that have impact in their communities.  Certainly this story met the basic criteria to be covered. It was organized by students who were hungry to have their voices heard.  They were passionate and meticulously organized.

Months before November 2, 2010, they met on the university campus, in their dorm rooms or anywhere they could shape a plan to get their student colleagues to the polls.  These young architects of change were fed-up with all of the talk that associated their generation with being indifferent and out of touch. 

While statistics certainly showed that young voters did not go to the polls in droves in November, these new champions of civil rights did not accept the lackadaisical attitude of those who sat out the election or buy into the status quo message the media had trumpeted for months.  Perhaps that media message effected the turn out.

The students’ in your face campaign, pitching the power of one vote to any student who would listen, was the talk of campus.  The campaign worked.

More than eight hundred students were registered to vote.  But that wasn’t enough.  They took the plan to the next level.  On November 2, at high noon, they met at the student center on TSU’s campus.  They had bright blue and yellow signs showing pride in what they were about to do.  They called the media and told them to be there.  They wanted to send a message that they understood the sacrifices made by their forefathers and mothers.  They were going to vote.

So they marched.  The scene was reminiscent of a 60’s style rally.  They chanted and sang civil rights hymns.  Then they arrived at their final destination, Lockhart Elementary school.  They walked into the building and casted their votes.

If only our local media had covered the story. The humbling thing for me is that I was there.  I covered the story.  Yes, I covered the story that our local media missed.  It’s on the Internet. And now Houston and the nation can see that there’s a group of college students in Houston, Texas who taught us all a very valuable lesson – one vote does count. Maybe the Internet was just what they needed to get their message to the masses when traditional media, for whatever reason, failed to cover the story.

Dr. Martin Luther King, who said, “The time is always right to do what is right,” would have been proud of these foot soldiers of the 21st century.

Members of TSU's NAACP chapter voting - Photo by Sara Phipps Carr
Posted in multimedia journalist

They March: TSU Students’ Voting Crusade

By Sara Phipps Carr                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Sara is a journalism major at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.  She produced this story using an iPhone.

Students of Texas Southern University’s NAACP chapter were out spreading the word on the importance of voting this midterm election. Throughout the campus and nearby neighborhoods, chants of encouragement and excitement filled the air of Houston.

Click here to see video

TSU students in front of voting precinct - Photo By Sara Phipps Carr

The young collegians met at the student center, organized and began the march to the neighborhood voting polls on November 2. NAACP members and TSU students shouted historical chants, held signs to encourage people to vote and reminded everyone of the meaning of Election Day. Once the group made it to the polling booths at Lockhart Elementary, students entered the school and casted their votes.

Election Day, November 2, 2010 was an experience to remember. The midterm election was just as important today as it was for the election of President Barack Obama.


TSU students in front of voting precinct - Photo By Sara Phipps Carr


The energy of the event was contagious. Being a part of the NAACP march was invigorating and inspirational.

I was able to take footage and capture the moments of the NAACP members and student voters during their march. I produced a documentary that captured the importance and the excitement that students brought to the event with my iPhone.

The video and photos show the history, the earlier accomplishments and the power of one vote. The story is told without narration, and students are reminded how important voting is, what a privilege it is, and to remember those who fought for this right.  It was a humbling experience producing this piece, one I shall soon not forget.

TSU students in front of voting precinct - Photo By Sara Phipps Carr