Listening to Bob Wood Woodward again was really exciting. During his convocation speech at Elon last month, he was sporadic and didn’t really get to his specific point until the end. His speech consisted of many anecdotes from he illustrious career. Bt at his keynote speech at the ACP conference, he was succinct and touch on points that were extremely relevant to aspiring journalists. Of course he talked about Watergate and his ordeals with the Nixon presidency, but the main essence of his speech was advice. He listed seven points that outlined his thoughts on what journalists should do. Two of them that stood out to me were “you have to show up,” and “don’t be afraid to make mistakes.” Showing up means that you have to be active in the community and be present. If you are active, people will take notice and you will also be more knowledgeable about the things you are reporting on. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes is self-explanatory, but one thing he also said in this point was to not be afraid to leave information out. When Woodward was writing “All the President’s Men,” he always fumbled around what to put in the book. If stories are complex enough, you’ll never be able to tell the full story, so it has to be the journalists’ job to shift through information and figure out what’s most important. All of the seven points are below.
- You’ve got to show u p
- Find something to do an in depth research project of some kind
- Check your sources and find second ones if needed
- Don’t succumb to authority, need a little spirit of defiance
- Read your stores out loud
- Find alternative ways to get people to talk. Talk yourself seriously and your source will as well. Show interest and they generally will respond.
- Don’t be afraid of mistakes. You won’t be able to tell the full story, but tell as much as you can
One of the sessions that I went to on Friday talked about how to write better profile pieces. I went to this one because I haven’t written an in-depth feature on someone in a longtime, so it was nice to get a refresher before I did one again. The session was very interactive with the professor and the students asking each other questions. Some of the main points that I took away from the session were that if you didn’t make anyone mad with your profile, you didn’t go deep enough and that one of the best questions to ask someone in a profile interview is “when is the last time you cried.” Overall, it was a great session, I learned a lot and I’m glad I went.
By Christina Elias
For one of my last APCDC sessions, I chose to attend the Freedom of Information Act session because while I know what FOIA is, I’ve never known exactly how it works and how it can be used. The presenter, Vince Filak of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, did a great job of turning what would usually be flat information about rules and regulations into an engaging explanation of our rights as student journalists.
In the end, he confirmed what I figured would be the case at Elon University: students at private institutions have less of a right to information, which can be difficult for us to work around in our reporting. But instead of leaving it at that, Filak explained some interesting strategies to try and obtain the records you need, like writing about the process of requesting to expose the lack of transparency on the institution’s part.
Filak’s remarks tied into one of the previous sessions I attended, which at one point the speaker emphasized the role official documents play in authenticating stories. I’m glad I attended Filak’s session because now I feel like I have a better understanding of another method for obtaining information to use in reporting.
By Bryan Anderson
The keynote speakers have been remarkable throughout the course of this conference. Today proved to be no exception as Edward Snowden spoke today. It was remarkable to see the man behind the NSA revelations and learn more about the person.
One of the more interesting parts of the keynote occurred when he started talking about his selfless motives for leaking classified information about the government’s massive data collection program.
I was surprised to hear him explain how he thought the story would only stay in the news for about five days. When he said surveillance technologies have outpaced democratic control, I felt fearful about the security of the American people. I found it humorous how he began his presentation talking about how journalists are the ones who like him the most.
The only areas of disappointment for me was that the line was too long to ask him a question and that he had offered lengthy responses that did not directly answer questions at time. While I’m happy the moderator did not interject, I wish some of Snowden’s responses could have been trimmed so more questions could have been asked.
By Bryan Anderson
Elon University is a private institution, which means access to public records is severely limited. Vince Filak offered an energetic, engaging presentation with a helpful overview of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). He constantly answered questions, including two from yours truly. In the presentation, Filak did a great job articulating how to go about executing a FOIA request.
He talked about the need to be specific with a written request, provide a timeline for how soon you expect to receive a response. He also explained how Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center was a valuable resource for fielding legal questions. Moreover, the information was valuable but offered nothing new to me.
By Bryan Anderson
Bob Woodward’s keynote address on Saturday was quite similar to the Fall Convocation speech he gave at Elon University last month. Woodward spoke in great detail about the Watergate Scandal and his interview with President Gerald Ford about the pardon. He even used the following identical lines when describing the phone call he received from Carl Bernstein: “The son of a bitch pardoned the son of a bitch.”
Though the Q&A portion of the event was quite informative and offered new information I had not heard before, the speech itself was underwhelming since I heard most of it before. My favorite question was when someone asked Woodward for his thoughts on emerging business models. Woodward saying he didn’t have an answer is telling of the environment many newsrooms are finding themselves in — struggling to find a sustainable revenue model.
I appreciated how Woodward spoke of Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post and publishers taking on a limited influence. He highlighted the importance of having publishers aware of the newsgathering process but removed from the day-to-day decisions.
This morning I attended the session called “Free to be me and willing to work for it,” by Ken McCoy. It was an exuberant and amusing session filled with plenty of stories from his 32 years of experience being a freelance photographer.
While his anecdotes were funny, I wish there was a little more advice in the talk itself. I did get some good notes about the importance of connecting with people, keeping your credentials on you at all times, pitching your own opportunities and stories, and listening to your gut feeling. But I felt as though a lot of the talk was being geared toward freelance photography, and not how to be yourself and getting in the mindset of success.
There was plenty of time for questions at the end of the talk, but some people were asking very personal questions that needed tailored answers. And I’ve never been a fan of that.
Overall I thought it was a fun talk, but I wish it had a little more direction, and a little more I could apply to life outside of being a freelance photographer.