Connecting intro and outre class experiences

Maggie Voelzke

Maggie Voelzke, senior, guest teaching my J201 lab on social media.

The course of study for majors in our department runs in a sequence designed to build on a foundation, layer by layer. In teaching the foundational JOUR201 Intro to News Writing, I’m now giving students exposure to what they will be doing in the next year or two in the sequence.

I’m trying to bend the sequence into a circle.

The course has two lab sections  this term. As I did last fall, I had students in this class cover one of the presentations by other majors on their summer internships. (I also tried something new for the assignment this time around: I called their first effort a draft, wrote comments on how it should be re-worked, gave no grade and very few copy-edits, and sent it back for a re-write, which would be graded).

The 35 internships were remarkable. Those students, most of whom took 201 a year or two ago, were writing page-one stories for big dailies, or for hometown slick magazines. One was staking out celebs for a New York tabloid, and another working for an all-digital award-winning New York ad agency that some Boston University students started a few years ago in their dorm as “Mr. Youth.”

Maggie Voelzke, a senior I had taught three years ago in a first-year comp class on “The Press and the Civil Rights Movement,” then in JOUR201, was working for the NBC affiliate in Washington D.C. One of my 201 students, for her assignment covering the presentations, said Maggie “spent her summer hashtagging, interning on the web team . . . More than just tweeting, Voelzke wrote articles, conducted research, and posted on a variety websites.”

This gave me another idea for circling the course sequence back around. I asked Maggie if she would help me teach the lab on social media. She did so, enthusiastically. This gave my 201 students a feeling for how social media–their daily bread—is actually being used today in the business. Maggie brought her summer experience with NBC4 to both labs, starting with a marketing assignment.

Maggie 2 “The first event was a big one for the advertising and PR side of the office,” she said in an e-mail to me before lab. “Several hundred people gathered right in the center of Dupont Circle to watch the USA v. Germany soccer match.

“The German embassy put up a jumbotron and it was a huge social event for DC residents. The web team saw this as an opportunity to not only cover the action (as I did), but also to promote NBC4 as a brand. Three interns went down to Dupont Circle to give out NBC4 water bottles, hats, sunglasses and grocery bags to fans watching the game while simultaneously covering what was happening in Dupont Circle via Twitter. Using Twitter allowed the web and promotions teams to easily access our tweets (via use of the hashtag #whereareyouwatching) and gave us an edge on social media. We were encouraged to be funny, creative and, above all, interesting in our tweets.”

About Doug Cumming

Writer, W&L journalism professor emeritus
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