CCJA wants you to be involved!
I try not to be a drill sergeant, but some of my best lessons came from one.
Eighteen years old and fresh out of basic training, I was training to be a photographer in the Army. My first instructor at tech school in Denver was none other than an Air Force sergeant named Nemo.
Sgt. Nemo took our class of five Army, Navy and Marine privates, dressed in civilian clothes, to downtown Denver on a Saturday morning. He handed each of us a Nikon FE with a 50-mm Nikkor lens and four rolls of 36-exposure Kodak T-Max 400 ISO film. He looked at us and said, "If you are going to be a photographer, you have to get over being shy right now."
Our instructions were simple: Go out and get 144 individual mug shots with names. That meant we had to go out into an unfamiliar city and introduce ourselves to at least 144 people. I remember his last words as we were leaving: If we did not complete the assignment correctly, we would wash out of photo school and retrain as infantry.
His box of cigars in the broom closet approach to teaching was shocking but very effective. My shyness withered away after the ninth or 10th person. Rejection became much less personal, and I met many interesting people and heard their stories. It was the kind of the push off the end of the dock a kid from South Dakota with a buzz cut needed at the time.
At the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication's Boston conference, I heard less extreme but nonetheless interesting ideas for pushing your students to extend themselves. Many focused around getting them to explore their community and really get to know the people they are covering as reporters. The lessons my peers shared triggered an immediate desire to change up what had become a tired way of getting my beginning reporting students engaged from the start.
Like many of yours, my students are young and haven't started exploring the world around them. Over the past several years, I'd fallen into giving the same assignment, "First Impressions," each semester. The assignment forced them to write about their first impressions of Del Mar College, our two-campus college of 10,000 students. Basically, I wanted to jumpstart their writing and have them pay closer attention to their surroundings. But the assignment was getting a little tired, and it seemed we were reading so many of the same experiences.
We needed a change. Soon. Enter Boston and my peers' great ideas.
There, I attended a panel discussion intended to get help break your students out of their comfort zone. It was a great opportunity to garner some new ideas for assignments to give to beginning reporting students. I plan to "borrow" a few, but what I really enjoyed was learning how to marry my previous learning experiences with my current students' needs to come up with something original.
Goodbye "First Impressions," hello "Riding the B."
This fall, my beginning reporting students got off the campus and, instead, on the bus. The called for the students to take the city's public transit for at least one hour through a portion of town they do not normally travel. While on the bus, they had to talk to at least two people and find out their stories.
Most students traveled in pairs, but some took on the assignment alone. After reading the first stories and discussing the completed assignment, I heard a familiar refrain: They hated the assignment when it was given but were glad they did the assignment afterward. I was thrilled with many of the stories I got back.
That assignment became a successful melding of personal experience with an open approach to other educational resources. The AEJMC conference was an invaluable learning tool. Without my ties to the Community College Journalism Association, I wouldn't have been introduced to the resources and people who make learning a continuous goal.
I am very excited to lead CCJA during an evolution in journalism and education. My friend and former instructor Dr. Manuel Flores introduced me to the organization when he went from teaching at Del Mar College to Texas A&M Kingsville.
I cannot express enough appreciation for the outstanding work done by Past Presidents Beverley Bailey and John Neal and most certainly Edna Bautista. Her hard work over the years by organizing the GIFT program as well as editing and producing the Journalist, has been invaluable.
I look at my tenure with CCJA as being very much a continous learning. Like my "First Impressions" assignment, I've worked very well for a very long time but, like all things in life, it is time to take a new approach based on past experience as well new ideas.
I very much am looking forward to working with everyone who has built and maintained CCJA, and well as people like current vice president Toni Albertson and John Kerezy on the association's future. There many exciting interesting and thoughtful ideas on what the future of CCJA holds, and we should all move forward with our eyes on the horizon.
I was recently elected your new vice president and program coordinator. As I begin to dive into the position head first, one thing is for certain--we need members!
We are all working in a time where we are witnessing an evolution of the media. None of us are sure which way it is going or where it will end up, but we all know that things are changing fast. I conducted a comprehensive nationwide study in 2003 on the vulnerability of journalism programs and the student newspapers these programs support.
I watched programs get cancelled, including two programs that I was involved with. I listened to concerns from colleagues from across the state about the status of their programs and realized the importance of doing everything possible to keep journalism programs off of administrator's chopping blocks. I also knew that I had to do something to make sure this did not happen again to my own program.
Since that time, my journalism program and student newspaper is flourishing with more than 100 students on our newspaper staff, but many others programs are still in danger, especially with the budget crisis that we are all facing.
I have been speaking nationwide about the importance of implementing a convergence model in our newsrooms, and about training our future journalists with skills that will allow them to work in this new environment. I also have used my public relations background to implement innovative recruiting efforts to bring students into my program. I would like to share my successes and challenges with our members and offer tools that can help us all succeed. CCJA offers the opportunity for all of us to connect with each other and to share our thoughts and concerns. It also offers us a network to bounce ideas off each other; to discuss what works and was does not.
I had the chance to meet with our new president, Robert Muilenberg, at the AEJMC conference in Boston last August. We are both determined to make CCJA one of the best and most progressive organizations in the United States. Robert has taken on our Web site to make it user-friendly with up-to-date content while I am working to connect with our current members, and to bring in new members.
The CCJA has a new multimedia focus, and with that comes the new online edition of The Journalist. We encourage all of you to submit articles, news, research, and anything that will benefit our members.
I am also coordinating our panels and sessions for the national AEJMC 2010 convention, which will be held in Denver on August 4-7. I welcome your ideas for topics and hope that some of you will be interested in participating.
I am urging all of you to step up and become involved with this valuable organization. This is a time when we need to rely on each other and to make sure that we are all doing what it takes to ensure that our students are successful in the field of media, and in life. What better way than to have a resource like CCJA!
I look forward to meeting all of you!
Toni Albertson, Vice President, CCJA