Rich's Musings

This blog is a collection of thoughts about teaching journalism and how I teach journalism at Cerritos College.

My Photo
Location: Norwalk, CA

Rich Cameron has been the chair of the Journalism program at Cerritos College since 1997. He teaches a variety of journalism classes and advises the school newspaper, the Talon Marks. Prior to 1997 he taught at West Valley College in northern California for more than 16 years. He has also taught at Reedley and Merced community colleges.

For more information about Rich or Cerritos College journalism, go to the department's home page.

Subscribe to the RSS feed for Rich's Musings and let your browser tell you when I add it.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My students are getting creative again

Talon Marks Sopranos adA few years ago a couple of my most creative students started what is becoming an annual tradition. They decided to create a house ad promoting our program in the form of a replica of some famous pop culture image. First up was The Sopranos. The ad was designed for bring-in competition at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges' bring-in competition for student designed ads. I got to play the role of Tony Soprano. Their effort, shown here, blew away the competition. We made it into a poster and gave copies to all staff members as a souvenir.

Talon Marks Journalist adThis effort was followed a year ago or so with a second ad that parodied the TV show The Apprentice where I was cast by the students as Donald Trump. Our version was called "The Journalist." As with the first ad, we could not include the whole staff, so the other roles were cast by select editors and my instructional lab aide at the time.

Grand Talon Marks adThird up was a takeoff on the computer game Grand Theft Auto and was called "Grand Talon Marks: Write City."

The Latest

Today we shot the next in line. My students have warned me against spoiling the surprise, so I can't reveal the pop culture image yet. But I was cast as the lead role again and this time I had to temporarily lose my hair. I look weird bald.

What has this got to do with journalism? Well, part of what we encourage is experimentation that helps develop the skills we use in putting out our pubilcations. In all the creations so far students have learned about creative ways of expressing a message (albeit by copying someone else), developed photographic and lighting skills and practiced extensive photoshop skills. In each case photos of individuals are taken individually and the final package is put together in PhotoShop. It expands the graphics arts skills. And this time around they shot still and video images of the behind-the-scenes action and I overheard that they plan to put together a video story about the project.

Watch this space for the final project. They hope to have it completed in time for the upcoming JACC Southern Regional Conference next weekend.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Watching my students 7

We're 90 minutes into the interview and a couple of times already I thought it was winding down, but new questions keep coming up.

Comm director calls time. Has to get her to next interview.

All done.

Glad I can type quickly. Nice to be able to do some research on the fly. Hope I learned something I can pass on to my students and my colleagues.

Oh, and she didn't take the pillow.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 6

She's talking about how important young peoples' vote are. Marching is great, but that doesn't change policy. Voting does.

Attacking the MinuteMen now.

No notetaking. No more photos. I think my interruption of the photographer stopped him. I don't think he's taken a single shot since he came back into the room after uploading the photo for me.

Talking about the fence along the border and comm director has to share some specifics on costs. Glad to see her focus on issues and rely on staff for details.

Oooh, The House has just passed a voting bill that would affect students' voting. Students should look into that.

Ahh, one of the women reporters asked a question about whether the wall will work. It'll work at getting people to the polls. First and only question so far from one of the women students.

Dr. Pepper Pillow imageAssemblywoman wants to walk off with my Dr. Pepper pillow. Will have to watch her on the way out.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 5

The students are back to the one questionner. He's asking some good followup questions about how Congress works. Still waiting to see what happens next.

Not too many students writing anything down right now and the assemblywoman keeps tapping the table right in front of the tape recorder. Will probably render that portion unusable.

Next: Who will be the next Democratic nominee. Crowded field, but refuses to share her favorite. Has some good things to say about Clinton and Dodd. John Edwards, too.

"Ladies, any questions?" So far the female students have been silent.

Dau chimes in: Wants to mobile younger students. Biggest difference between 2004 and 2006? Republicans campaign on fear and students are more analytical than that. And while the Demos lost the San Diego election, it was close and that is a strong Republican district. A moral victory.

Immigrants: A sideshow to deflect the real issues. A fear issue. Terrorism is not the issue. All efforts are at Mexico, but the terrorists we've caught sneaking in have been from Canada.

Another student has wandered in and is asking questions on the fly. Not too bad, he's our awestruck cartoonist.

Time 3:27

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 4

Oooh, the strategy changes. The one student is through with his questions and the next hits with questions about Darfur. I noticed ahead of time that one of the students had printed out a news release of Sanchez'. BTW, I'm scrambling to find links on the fly. Ain't Google great.

What can students do about Dafur? She says that it came up on her radar when students asked her about it. She mentioned that student actions got the University of California to change some of its investments in Sudan. She says to get local groups to do the same.

Second student is done with questions.

Time is 3:12.

First student asks if things have changed since the 200 election. Set up the old "Are you better off now" answer.

Took a break to process the photo. Here it is. But a great question has been asked, "Why do Democrats keep losing." Part of the answer is conservative media.

Time: 3:18. I'm faster than my students, but this shows you can work quickly with and while blogging.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 3

So far only one of the students, the one who has been here the longest, and certainly the one most politically savvy, has been asking questions.

Next: Iran and Korea.

(North) Korea is a bigger threat than Iraq was. I'm not writing the story, so I'm not going to go into all the detail. Guess I've been doing too much of that so far. I'm more interested in watching and commenting on the work of my students.

Their strategy seems to be to have one student ask questions and three of them write answers. A fourth snaps a picture every once in a while. Just asked my photographer to take a shot of the table and upload it. Will see how long it takes for him to get it on the server and for me to process it and load it. Time is now. 3:06.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 2

Okay, took a break to post part 1 and send a note out to JACC faculty in case they want to come in and watch my experiment. So I missed a question or two.

Now she is giving the stories a great story on why young voters should pay attention and vote. She found a young smoker who was passing on his chance to influence smoking laws and taxes.

The character of elections is the next discussion. Negative ads about personalities turns voters off, she says. Her communications director points out that one purpose of negative ads is to also make sure that some voters stay home. That affects outcomes, too.

Next question: Iraq.

She has some issues with Bush's reasons for staying in Iraq. He has been stubborn and steadfast. Anyone who has sailed will tell you that if you stay the course and don't make adjustments you'll run aground, she says. More Iraqis have died in the war than under Hussein.

Are Iraq and the war on terror related: No.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 1

I'm going to blog sort of live here. Assemblywoman Linda Sanchez, who represents our district is in my office right now and I'm sitting back watching my students interview her while she is on a information swing. Nice of her to include the student press.

Ms. Sanchez was here a year ago or so doing the same thing. One thing I remembered from last time was that no one seemed to take notes on what she was saying. They came up with a fairly accurate article, but I was worried. They relied too much on the tape recorder, though.

This time they are starting off better. The tape recorder is there because we may create podcast, but several have notes.

First question was how important is it that Democrats take back the House. The answer covers several areas, but she got to the Mark Foley issue and she is deflecting the answer as to whether Haster should step down. Have to wait until the investigation is done. But she says there are some fishy elements of the story that seem to have been overlooked. She points out, too, that Foley is beyond the reach of the House Ethics Committee because he has resigned. Even aides who have stepped down cannot be involved. Seems like that is one way to bury evidence.

Five students, including a photographer are conducting the interview. Also present is Jim Dau, Sanchez's communication director from Washington, D.C.

Next question: What will the Democrats do if they take control in the coming election. Nancy Pelosi has put together an agenda for the first hundred days should that happen. Of course, even if the House and Senate pass bills, Bush could block them with vetoes.

Next question: Impeachment. She is real cautious on this. The word is thrown around too much. She would be slow to pursue impeachment, even though she has serious disagreements with Bush.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Monday, October 09, 2006


Spent last Friday at Pierce College helping the staff there understand the new powerful tool they have in a College Publisher web site. They'll launch this week.

challengeBut part of the day was spent talking with colleague Rob O'Neil about how much we can expect of students. I've been amazed over the years at the talent of students and how hard they will work for the student newspaper. When I started teaching I thought I was pushing students hard. But what I expect of them then was no where the expectation I have today.

Rob reminded me of a former Pierce teacher who was the mentor of the day back then, Tom Kramer, who must have challenged me to expect more from students.

Students are so capable of reaching new heights. And perhaps it is the teacher who unconsciously places limits on student achievement by not expecting much that fail to learn. Expect high standards. Expect students to continually learn new things. Trust them to implement them.

For instance, I do not copyedit the work of my students before they publish articles in the Talon Marks. I expect students to learn to copyedit their own stories. I'm there if they really need help. But they are so capable to doing it themselves if they realize that I'm not going to do for them automatically. Sure, they make mistakes from time to time. But we review those and try to help them from making the same kinds of mistakes later on.

Part of my teaching philosophy is to honor students for the work they do well, but then challenge them to work harder next time. I'm an old dinosaur, but I have so many more things to learn about the craft I teach. So I apply the philosophy to myself as well.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Help enough other people ...

You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. -- Zig Ziglar
Ziglar is one my favorite speakers and I particularly like this quotation. Which is why I was happy to spend part of my day training faculty and students at Pierce College, who are getting ready to launch their new College Publisher site.

They received training from College Publisher, but there is nothing like a little extra help on strategy for implementing the tool into the infrastructure of the program.

One of the important tips I gave was to make sure to give everyone on the staff a "reporter" account (at least) so that they can submit their stories and photos for the print edition through the CP site. Too many advisers I talk to cling to the old style of having stories submitted separately and then uploaded to the site. What a waste of time. A common comment I hear is that the staff does not have the time to update the web site. Of course not when you insist on creating extra work in the process.

Fortunately, the advisers and staff saw value in that first step.

I had to laugh inwardly, however, when one of the students who has HTML knowledge started asking about majorly redesigning the site. I get that a lot. The techie wants to immediately monkey with the template when the staff needs to learn to focus on developing content. Never fails.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New media day

Tuesday was an interesting day at the Talon Marks newspaper. Tuesday is the day we normally toil all day putting together a print edition and preparing the next online edition (got to get away from that structure one of these days). But for a variety of reasons, including not wanting to overload my students, we scheduled in an off-week.

It is interesting to see what the students do when they don't have the print edition to dominate. A lot of my photographers did not bother to show up at all. But the core editors and page designers who are used to living here showed up and worked on videos and slideshows for the site. They all are still trying to learn the software. We're learning where our skills are and where we need to improve. The results are adequate to good, but the exciting part is that they got so excited about learning and trying. Note to self: Must stop praising them so much; they might let it go to their heads. While the early efforts may have flaws, they'll get better over time.

Some examples: Video of hotel workers' protest and photo/sound show from Marine Corps. Band performance. More are in the works, but not quite done yet.

News is just a click away

"Do you like to write or take photos?"

That was my opening line last night as I reached out to a couple of hundred high school students at the annual Cerritos College University fair held in the campus gym. While the goal of the event is to stage a university fair emphaszing four-year colleges and universities from around Southern California, the entire state and the nation, each year the college opens up a few tables for Cerritos programs to let high school students know we offer a good first two years of study. I was there to promote the journalism and radio-tv programs.

If students replied (often in front of their parents) that they like to write, I pitched writing for the student newspaper here. If they like to take photos, then I needed photographers. And then the stronger pitch followed to get them thinking about coming here. If they didn't like either, I asked if they like to design things (we need page designers) or if they ever wanted to be on radio. If I struck out then I simply suggested they needed to follow campus news in our print or online edition.

Each pitch, regardless of outcome, ended with our outstanding web site where they could keep up on campus news. My table was infamous for the evening because I was handing out free clicker noisemakers with the web site address printed on them. "Cerritos news is just (click, click) a click away." Always gets a smile and everyone wants a clicker.

The other vendors don't like them, though. Imagine hundreds of people walking around in a closed environment clicking away. Drives them mad. I got three faux death threats. Of course, at the end of the evening, the vendors all came by my table wanting their clicker, too.

I also got the opportunity to connect with head counselors from feeder high schools and sell my program. "I'm the one responsible for all the noise," I'd say. And immediately I had a bond with them.

Pile of Talon Marks clickers
Photo courtesy Cerritos Photojournalisim class