Monday, March 30, 2009

Bob Ross' Visit: "It's frightening to him"

Bob Ross has a pet peeve- he made it clear during his recent visit to my Critical Writing class.

“It bothers me that so many people get their news from one publication,” he said. “That’s frightening to me.”

Ross, a well-known longtime movie critic, spoke a bit about everything; his opinion about society’s current short attention span, his favorite kind of film and his dislike for FOX.

His dislike for FOX News, which he said is really good at rhetoric, particularly stood out to me. He said so many people watch it and accept and don’t receive any other feedback.

I agree with him as far as selecting only one media outlet to rely on for all current news. It goes hand-in-hand with what the book “True Enough” discussed. Manjoo and Ross have helped me realize the importance of reading as many different news publications as you can. You can see the differences in coverage as well as be able to pick up different details in one story not included in the same story in another publication. As a reader, you must take the initiative and seek out news instead of relying on just one source.

Ross, who wrote for the Tampa Tribune for 21 years, was laid off in 2007. He spoke about the writing process for movies as well as the current status of movie critics.

Ross said being a movie critic is a position of a kind of false power.

“I could inflict my opinion,” he said. However, he added, it was more of a one-way communication.

I can understand where he is coming from. A movie critic tries to describe to readers how a particular movie was and their opinion of it- but opinions vary.

I enjoyed listening to Ross talk about his movie critic years. He spoke about “The Passion of the Christ,” the movie directed by Mel Gibson. Ross felt it was more of a horror film, gore and all. He received a lot of angry responses from that. Up until now I thought movie critics didn’t receive angry reader’s responses, not like political writers. I was wrong.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed Ross’ visit. He provided me with great insight into the movie critic business and taught me that there is a lot of good movie criticism online, not just the big guys like himself. I, along with other young writers, could develop into popular movie critics too.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Walter Mears' Visit: Without Credibility, you have nothing

When I was younger, I used to wonder what the Associated Press was. I mean, I knew it wasn’t a person. I saw this mysterious AP as somewhat of a mystical creature- this omniscient force that reported on just about every national issue and made its way into just about every newspaper I opened.

Now that I’ve grown up, I know it’s a global news network- and it’s comprised of a lot of people.

And thanks to Walter Mears, seasoned AP journalist for over four decades, I learned a great deal more about it during his recent visit to our Critical Writing class.

Mears joined the AP in 1955, a year after graduating from college. Since then, he covered Congress, national politics and the White House. He won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1977 for his coverage of the 1976 presidential campaign and is also the author of Deadlines Past: Forty Years of Presidential Campaigning: A Reporter’s Story.

What I first noticed about Mears was the way he spoke. He spoke slowly, clearly and articulately. To me, he spoke like a tight news story.

Mears shared with us the history and evolution of the Associated Press as he witnessed it. He said most people, including many people in business, are unaware that AP is owned by a newspaper.

He said over the years, AP has changed. Rather than serving as a medium, it began doing a lot of its own reporting.

Something that most stuck with me was Mears’ discussion about journalists and their credibility.

“If you don’t have credibility you’ve got nothing,” he said. “You can say something till you’re blue in the face but no one will believe you.”

I completely agree.

When I write a story, I check my facts. Then double-check them.

Triple-check them.

I read the story again. And again.

If at least one part of a sentence is tainted with a bit of doubt in my head, I immediately call up my source and ask.

I then read it again. After constant layers of meticulous editing, the story is ready for submission.

And that, to me, is how you built credibility - every time. Credibility is invaluable.

Mears’ final point was the increasing importance of being entrepreneurial in today’s journalism field.

“We will have to utilize multiple tools that we are going to go sell to people,” he said. “It’s less likely that we will be working for a news organization than being a one bang man.”

This statement triggered somersaults within my stomach; I now recognize the severity of the state of journalism today. I can clearly see the enormous task that lies before me and other aspiring journalists to make a living out of our profession. In regards to what Mears stated, it takes hard work, resourcefulness and the ability to constantly stay on our toes to be successful and entrepreneurial journalists.

I’m ready for it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Best of Blogs

I stepped into this a bit hesitantly. I was used to reading my peers’ blogs every week but I wasn’t sure how to critique policy blogs- and a blog of my choosing?

After much scouring, here’s who made the cut:

The first blog I ventured into is the Bay Buzz: Political News of Tampa Bay. It’s a blog that offers the latest news on Tampa Bay politics by staff writers at the St. Petersburg Times.

At first, I noticed its appearance. The blog looks very similar to that of the “Breaking News” section of the website; short blurbs of information, the headlines are colored in green, and readers can comment on the pieces. I noticed however, that this is much more informal writing. I mean, I know that’s what blogs are (full of candidness and randomness) but I guess I found it a bit jolting to read the informal writing from staff writers and not columnists.

Drum roll please…..I found a typo!! And I’m damn proud of myself- but a little disappointed.

Below is the headline where I noticed the typo:
“Candidates lining up for Hillsborough commisison races”

I know these are blogs and more informal, but come on, writers should always double-check and triple-check their spelling. And I know blogs are quick, but they should still be given the time to go over at least once more before they’re submitted. Overall I enjoyed the blog- it had interesting headlines such as “Gibbons shaking trees in Tallahassee” and it listed the different categories under the blog on a sidebar, which is very convenient for readers.

The second blog I read is the Thinking Out Loud blog, which contains postings from The Tampa Tribune’s Editorial Board and from local community columnists.

With this blog, I personally liked the headlines of each blog post- they were intriguing and drew my attention greatly. Also, like many blogs, I appreciate the ability that readers have to post comments on each blog. I also liked that the blogs varied in topics, but they mostly all center around events and current news in the Tampa Bay Area. Also, what’s helpful is the fact that on a sidebar is a listing of all the contributors and their e-mail address, just in case readers would like to contact them themselves instead of having to dig around or call the Tribune.

I am not computer-savvy. I’m currently struggling advanced programs such as PhotoShop, Adobe Illustrator, etc. I do, however, appreciate technology and for the wonders it does. So I cam across my third blog, And it is hilarious. It is packed with funny blogs highlighting and poking fun at the latest quirky news associated with technology. The blog is also full of funny images that accompany many of the blogs, some edited with speaking bubbles alongside them. I really enjoyed this blog, hopefully I can learn something from it.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Martin Fennelly’s Visit: The great stuff in this business is “people stuff”

I’ve never had a healthy relationship with sports. My parents never placed me in such activities- only swimming lessons. Then, I almost drowned during a lesson and never returned.

Now, not only do I not know how to swim, but my eyes glaze over whenever someone attempts to engage me in a conversation about sports.

I’m just not that into it.

You can only imagine how my vision slightly blurred when I heard Martin Fennelly, sports columnist for The Tampa Tribune, was coming to speak to my Critical Writing class.

It’s nothing against him- I just don’t like sports. Nor did I believe I would understand what his columns were about, never having read one.

His visit isn’t what I expected.

Fennelly drew from his great well of experience and shared his stories with us about column writing and his profession.

The sports columnist, who has written for The Tampa Tribune for a long time, touched upon his different experiences writing several columns and his ways of thinking behind his writing.

Fennelly said when he’s formulating a story, he thinks about what would jump out at the reader. I can identify with this writing technique; I also think hard about what is it that I’m trying to say and which angle would jump out at readers. As a columnist, you want to keep your readers engaged.

Through his columns, Fennelly said it always fun to take people to task. He said he wrote a column recently ripping a coach for not being a “people-person.”

It was about Jim Leavitt, the USF’s head football coach.

This story was interesting. What peaked my interest even more is how passionate Fennelly is. He missed an exit arguing with Leavitt. Actually, two.

And he described Leavitt as a “turd-ball.”

“It got very heated, and that’s part of the job,” Fennelly said. “I get to say whatever I want.”

With that said, the columnist profession becomes increasingly appetizing to me.

Fennelly added that he doesn’t dislike Leavitt, however.

“I basically call him a bully,” he said.

Fennelly was friendly and you can tell when he spoke about his column writing, it was from the heart. He loves what he does.

Perhaps the most heartfelt moment was when he spoke about how he first became interested in writing.

His father died when he was 13 years old and after that, Fennelly immediately withdrew in his own head. He filled notebook after notebook of his thoughts.

In high school, he said it was easy to get lost. He began writing for a literary satire publication at school and loved it.

That’s where it all began for Fennelly.

During his discussion, there was some emphasis on “stuff.”

“The great stuff in this business is people stuff,” he said. “Educating and bringing stuff to a level that people can understand.”

And that’s partly what it’s all about.