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It’s true: social media has effectively penetrated nearly every aspect of our lives.

Personal life? Check.

Social life? Obviously. Check.

Professional life? Check.

Sites like LinkedIn create avenues for individuals to connect with other professionals and obtain an advantage over fellow applicants when it comes to finding a job. (As they say, it’s not what you know, but who you know.)

But as a former aspiring actress, the auditioning process seems to be a sacred and untouchable aspect of landing a performance role. You sit outside the auditioning room in uncomfortable chairs and survey your competition, rehearsing your lines and anxiously tapping your feet. You are called in, one-by-one, and meticulously analyzed on your appearance and performance. You leave. You wait.

No longer.

Benedict Cumberbatch recently made Mashable headlines by landing a role on the new Star Trek sequel. It wasn’t the fact that he was hired that garnered press, but the avenue through which he obtained the offer.

Cumberbatch, who was on vacation during the auditions, simply recorded a video of himself reading the script on his iPhone. He then sent the video to Director J. J. Abrams and was offered the part.

In ways, this should not be surprising, as new technology paves the way for “citizen filmmaking” as well as citizen journalism. But it does astonish me that a high-budget film would hire a newly-established actor without actually seeing them perform in person.

I suppose that this could be a positive development. Perhaps in the near future, entire movies will be cast and filmed without the majority of the actors even meeting in person.

In my last post, I described the inspirational lecture William Nack shared with my feature writing class.

After looking through my notes (as I attempted to take his advice and use it to become a better writer), I thought I should focus on his words of wisdom regarding poetry.

Become comfortable with iambic pentameter.

Reading Nack‘s profiles is equivalent to reading poetry. It is truly a beautiful style. Perhaps the most important thing I took away from his lecture was that this does not occur on accident; he writes in iambic pentameter, making the words flow rhythmically in your mind’s voice. I had never considered writing this way, but it is something I am attempting to become comfortable with.

I must admit: I vaguely remember learning about this type of prose in a high school English class, but as Nack was discussing it I was tempted to Google what it meant, exactly. (I decided not to for two reasons: it would be rude, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him.) I saved the Google-ing for later. Here’s what I learned:

The technical way to describe this type of English prose is that it is a pattern of five unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. An unstressed syllable is essentially a “short” syllable while a stressed syllable is essentially a “long” one. Take, for example, the word “trapeze” — the “tra” is unstressed, while the “peze” is stressed. Tra-PEZE.

I was still a little confused.

In laymen’s terms, think of a human heartbeat, or the sound “da-DUM.” The “da” is unstressed while the “DUM” is stressed. A line of traditional iambic pentameter looks like this:

da DUM | da DUM | da DUM | da DUM | da DUM

A perfect example can be found in a sonnet from John Donne.

Your force | to break | blow, burn | and make | me new.

Now an example from Nack’s “My Turf,” which defers from traditional pentameter only by the number of syllables in the pattern.

Mur-phy | knew what | had to | be done.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I’ll try | to write | this way | for good.

My experience with Late Night Patriot continues to be overwhelmingly positive.

I am extremely impressed by the quality and dedication that Director Jake McLernon and the rest of the team bring each week to our broadcasts. While we certainly are still undergoing growing pains, every session there is something new and exciting in our studio that makes our little experiment even better.

Personally, the hardest part of giving the “Mason Nation” its weekly source of information (other than getting over my insecurities) has been getting used to the teleprompter. As I previously discussed, we use McLernon’s iPad to slowly scroll through our weekly script. In the beginning, it was difficult matching up my sentences to the pace set by the screen. I found that some words took longer for me to articulate while at other points in the script I needed to take long pauses to make up for my rapid speech.

Thankfully, this is another eccentricity that we’ve overcome!

We are currently capable of syncing the iPad’s teleprompter with McLernon‘s cell phone. As our team continued to grow, it became possible to have a staff member slowly scroll through the text at the pace Britt, Jeremy and I were reading at. This has made me increasingly confident reading the script and allows for a much more natural wordplay.

Rumor has it that we will soon be moving to a new and improved studio, as well.

Stay tuned!

This past Tuesday, I had the opportunity to speak with one of the greatest journalistic legends in my lifetime: William Nack.

The former Sports Illustrated writer and renowned author of “Secretariat” (yes, that Secretariat) came to my feature writing class and regaled us with tales of stalking his subjects across the country and meeting with mob bosses in prison.

While I had not heard of him before, after reading several of his stories from “My Turf” I was in awe. In fact, I think I had a little crush. I have never read anything before that flowed so beautifully, like poetry, with vivid imagery and the kind of quotes that make you feel like you actually know someone. Two of his stories, particularly Sonny Listons, made me cry.

I listened, literally on the edge of my seat, for nearly three hours. When it was over I didn’t want it to end.

In addition to exciting us with stories of his past and the characters he had the opportunity to get to now, he gave us some extremely valuable pointers in terms of beingĀ  journalist.

“I always like a dramatic lede,” Nack said. “Where’s the drama? Put that first. Make people want to keep reading. Then I’ve got you.”

Perfect advice, really. Writing a lede is always the hardest part for me when I’m not writing a news story, because I don’t know how to grab the reader’s attention. But drama? That’ll do.

Nack also gave us some unconventional advice that I’ve never heard from other professors: memorize poetry. He recited about fifteen minutes worth of poems for us and clearly could have kept going.

If memorizing poetry will help me write even a tenth as poetically as him, I’m all for it.

He even signed my book. I’m keeping it forever.

For the longest time, I dreamed of being an on-screen actress. I wanted to be in the movies.

I had a natural penchant for acting and my mother always tells me the story of how once, when I was four years old, I waltzed into her bedroom and proceeded to recite 45 minutes of Beauty and the Beast. Which I had seen once. Two months beforehand.

She said the hair on the back of her neck stood up as she realized that I had a talent for mesmerizing words. She enrolled me in acting classes and I took them for years, acted in school plays, the works.

I even left for college at San Diego State University to study Theatre with a concentration in Performance. It was a lot of fun, but after a year and a half I realized that maybe I’d be happy doing something else too, something that might not come with as much intense competition and waitressing.

I love to write, too.

I took a leap of faith and moved across the country to attend George Mason University, where I am studying Communication with a Public Relations concentration. After taking a couple journalism classes and relishing them, I chose to add a minor in Online Journalism. I love journalism, but I miss acting and performing.

How do you do both?

Broadcast journalism.

I was presented with a unique opportunity to do just that when my classmate Jake McLernon approached me about being the female anchor for a student-run news broadcast he was creating called Late Night Patriot. Along with a few of my other classmates and a few new friends, we have officially started it and last night we completed our third broadcast.

Last night was particularly exciting because we had a professional backdrop, our own theme song created by one of the crew, and two cameras which enabled us to transfer quickly between shots. We use an iPad as a teleprompter, which Jake controls using his phone while another crew member holds it up at just the right level so that we look like we are staring into the camera. It’s really quite sophisticated, and a lot of fun.

I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and it has been truly eye-opening to see how many different crew members are needed to work the cameras, control the teleprompter, and handle the audio. Each show we have had keeps getting better and better.

I hope that Late Night Patriot sticks around long after I have graduated.

“Thanks for making history with us, Mason.”

I clearly remember Tuesday, April 20, 1999.

I’m sure the rest of the country does as well, but for me it was the marking of the first real tragedy I had ever witnessed firsthand. The only time I have ever been more afraid was on the morning of 9/11.

I grew up in Jefferson County, Colorado, a fairly safe and beautiful community which boasts the Coors Factory.

That day, I was working on something in the middle of my 5th-grade classroom when suddenly the principal rushed in — tears in her eyes, panicked, screaming something about getting away from the windows. We were all herded into the school’s auditorium, rightfully terrified, as the teachers padlocked the doors and huddled onstage. They were whispering frantically, crying hysterically, but would not say anything to us — children ranging from five years old to ten.

Eventually the adults composed themselves and attempted to calm us down. We were informed that our parents would be coming to get us immediately — school was done for the day. We played games uncertainly while children trickled out erratically, embraced by parents who looked like they’d never been so happy to see them in their lives.

Then: Columbine.

Part of what has terrifyingly become a pattern of truly tragic, needless violence. School massacres.

It took some time before news of the tragedy got out to the public. Adults working 9-to-5 jobs were not watching the news, and many news outlets did not regularly update their websites (nor did many citizens read them). By the end of the day, my mother and I were in a blood bank preparing to give blood. Dozens of people surrounded us then, the line was out the door, and all bleary eyes were watching the broadcast news for updates. There was no other topic of conversation. But this process took several hours. Most people found out through word of mouth.

Today: Oikos University.

Today was another tragic day. Around 10:30 this morning, a shooter in Oakland‘s Oikos University shot at least six people. My heart goes out to them, their families, and everyone who has been affected. It breaks my heart.

However, there is an interesting angle regarding how law enforcement successfully handled this needless catastrophe.

According to Mashable and Stephanie Haberman‘s article, the Oakland Police Department utilized its Twitter account to spread the word about the shooting, encourage people to evacuate, hunt down the shooter and update information regarding fatalities. When they had an idea of what the suspect looked like, people could keep their eyes peeled and tweet back any leads. The local news was utilizing Twitter as well, and citizen journalists took to Twitter to inform their friends and followers.

Technology is changing the way we communicate in such a rapid way. I learned about the most recent Virginia Tech shooting through Twitter last year. Clearly social media has evolved from simply a way to entertain ourselves. It is a way to educate ourselves, to protect ourselves, to arm ourselves.

My prayers are with all those whose lives changed today.

As a budding journalist, one quote I consistently hear from my professors is: “Show, don’t tell.”

Simply saying that someone is selfless means next to nothing from a journalistic standpoint. Giving a quote from an outside source depicting their charity work, or describing how someone spends their days taking care of abused and neglected puppies — that contributes to a valid story. I have personally found it somewhat difficult deciphering opinion from fact and “telling” versus “showing.” However, there is one clear alternative.

What about when you can literally “SHOW?”

As humans, we are visual creatures. (Or is that just what they say about men?!) The availability and prevalence of smartphones has made it possible for even the most entry-level journalist to capture and share visual stories that often tell more of a story than our descriptions ever could.

This might be one reason that print journalism is facing a rough period while broadcast journalism is still thriving (despite the fact that online forums still offer a plethora of videos and pictures). Readers and viewers today want to be entertained; they want to feel connected to the story. And often there is no better way to create this feeling of intimacy than through videos of your subjects.

Briggs broaches this subject and suggests that video is the newest, most versatile form of journalism. It sets the stage for a much more personal story than print itself can offer. What is more interesting, he suggests that professional-quality videos are no longer necessary. In fact, sometimes viewers prefer to watch cruder videos of live events! Just like with any news story, the trick is to be in the right place at the right time and present the right angle.

Briggs does recommend using a variety of shots in these stories, however. The most common and popular sequence is the BBC five-shot sequence, which is actually incredibly simple considering all of the shots are static (meaning no movement of the camera). If you have steady hands, and a story to tell, you are Good. To. Go.

Visual storytelling is more of an art than a science. Experiment, be open to feedback and suggestions, and continue to post. Or write. Or “show.”

The world of news is changing. Are your video skills up to the task?

I am fortunate enough to have a video and photography expert as a classmate, friend and coworker.

Jake McLernon, affectionately known as “JollyJPhotog” in the Twitter world, works for Connect2Mason and can frequently be found scouring Mason’s Fairfax campus in search of exciting and interesting photos and videos. He and I now work together on Mason’s first live-streamed news broadcast — his baby, Late Night Patriot — and I am no stranger to his insight regarding shooting video and photography.

He was kind enough to share some of his expertise regarding the BBC 5-shot sequence, which represents an industry standard in terms of shooting video. The sequence of video shorts, added to informative audio, lends itself as an attractive and interesting way to tell whatever story you so desire. Whether you are shooting students hanging out during class or an Occupy movement, this sequence of shots informs viewers while keeping them entertained long enough to stay on your page.

  1. Medium Shot: This shot helps to establish the story you are telling your viewers. McLernon recommends keeping this shot sedentary; in other words, don’t move the camera around. It is neither a close-up nor a long-shot, but an angle which helps inform the reader about the topic you will be discussing without singling in on one particular person.
  2. Close-Up Shot: After the initial introduction, it’s best to focus in on the person being interviewed/most important statement. This type of shot gives readers an intimate view and understanding of the person whose views are pertinent to the story.
  3. Hands/Activity Shot: To keep viewers interested, it is always best to show an action sequence related to the story. McLernon gave the example of students doing homework for class, and how at this point a possible activity shot is their fingers typing on the keyboard. This footage often takes place while the audio is still from the individual being interviewed in the close-up shot — but it entails action, not just words.
  4. Over-the-shoulder Shot: This type of footage can either be looking up or down. The idea is to give viewers the impression that they are actually in the story, not just watching it from afar like a bad documentary.
  5. Long-range/Random Shot: Much like the Medium Shot explained above, this kind of footage gives an overall description of the setting to viewers and serves as the perfect transition to the next story — or the next BBC sequence. Frequently, the long-range shot utilizes a transitional quote as its audio.

Thrown together, this 5-shot sequence gives viewers an overall understanding of whatever story is being told. We all know that viewers do not respond to constant static images or one person being interviewed for a lengthy period of time. So try out the BBC 5-shot! In less than 30 seconds, McLernon proved to myself and other classmates how valuable this sequence can be.

 

I’m sure we all remember the brilliant Apple ads that came out years ago.

Hi! I’m a Mac.

And I’m a PC…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQb_Q8WRL_g

These came at what I consider the “Apple boom” — when all of a sudden, Apple and its Mac products went from being the exception to the rule. iPhones and iPod’s began leading the market in terms of smartphones and mp3 players. College campuses went from being dominated by PC notebooks to a sea of MacBooks. Macs are certainly trendy, yes. But in terms of quality and ease of use — what’s the difference between Mac and PC computers?

This question prompted me to attend a Mason STAR Lab workshop on switching from a PC to a Mac. I have owned a Mac for about two years now, but admittedly am not extremely well-versed in its functions. I have many friends who are adamantly “PRO-MAC,” and while I love the sleekness and style of my MacBook, I’m sure I am not taking full advantage of its capabilities.

The workshop was extremely helpful in terms of navigating through the toolbars and learning about how to make PC software Mac-appropriate. This is one problem with Macs — they often do not support PC-based software. My most recent encounter with this issue stems from an online Statistics class I am taking this semester. Several of the required assignments require MiniTab software, which is not compatible with Macs. I purchased software that was supposed to make MiniTab work on my computer, but after many hours at the help desk and $125…no dice. My Mac is destined to remain MiniTabless.

Life goes on. Thank goodness for on-campus computer labs.

While I learned several interesting things about my lovely computer, such as how to make the most of the image/graphic software MacBooks boast, the main purpose of this workshop was to inform non-Mac users how to navigate the computer. I probably would have been better off attending a session that was more “Mac-skills intermediate” than “Mac-skills beginner.”

Still, every day you learn something new, and this day was no different. I am certainly more confident in my ability to handle my computer and also learned a few unexpected tidbits about PC computers as well.

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