Monday, December 06, 2010

Column writers wrap it, offer what columns they should have done

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The columnistas of the column-writing class at CSU, Sacramento turned in collections of their work Monday, which included a section on columns they wish they had written, but didn't.

Some of those column titles included:

Insight into the life of The Hornet 
The Hornet needs more buzz
Car Flirting: Advice for the bored commuter
Remembering my grandmother's cooking
Lefties dominating a right-hand world
Ed has the munchies
How I got away with doing every column last minute
Miracles: Evidence of the supernatural
Watch out! Black man running

Over the course of the semester, each writer put together 14 columns of 650 words each, due Tuesday mornings by 8 a.m.

The class also had a string of guest speakers from off campus, including Marcos Breton, Jon Ortiz, Dan Weintraub, Claudia Buck, Bob Shallit and Rachel Leibrock.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Editor of Sacramento's Comstock's magazine to speak at CSUS

Doug Curley
SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Doug Curley, a CSUS alum - a 1979 graduate of the Journalism Department at the University - will be guest lecturing in Journalism 132 (Magazine Writing) Monday, Dec. 6 in Mendocino Hall.

Curley is currently the editor of Comstock's, a regional business magazine in Sacramento. He will be speaking about his career journey since graduation that led him to various writing and editing positions in California before he took over at the helm of the magazine.

His appearance December 6 coincides with the final meeting of the magazine writing class. Each student has written three stories for the class and are in process of attempting to get them published by print or online magazines.

Two students - Chloe Daley and Kim Reyes - have already been successful in selling stories.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sacramento Bee's Bob Shallit to speak in column-writing class

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Sacramento Bee columnist and business writer Bob Shallit will be speaking in the column-writing class at CSU, Sacramento Monday.

Shallit's appearance comes two weeks after Bee colleague Claudia Buck spoke to the class, detailing out her work as a personal finance columnist.

Shallit's columns usually include several different business-related items, reminiscent of the three-dot journalism of the San Francisco Chronicle's late columnist, Herb Caen.

At times, Shallit also writes longer pieces on business and business trends.

Here is a link to his columns: Bob Shallit's columns in The Sacramento Bee

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First columnist presentations set a high bar for balance of class

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The first three presentations in the column-writing class at CSU, Sacramento today set a high standard for the balance of the students to reach.

Laural Kolar, Leia Osterman and Ronnie Nurss profiled Dave Barry, Heather Armstrong and Rolf Potts, respectively, all offering interesting insights into the writers and the way they go about their very different styles of using media. The students also fielded questions quite handily that came from classmates.

Dave Barry
In the presentation on Dave Barry, one video showed Barry's response to Marquette University censoring a quote of his that was hanging on the doorway of Marquette PhD student: "As Americans we must always remember that we all have a common enemy, an enemy that is dangerous, powerful, and relentless. I refer, of course, to the federal government."

That bit of humor, in 2006, sparked a firestorm of criticism against the university for its actions. Barry's responses in the video were as funny as his column.

In the presentation on columnist/blogger Heather Armstrong, the students learned that this stay-at-home mom, through her very successful blog, gets many thousands of hits per day and continually updates her work.
Heather B. Armstrong

She also has video featurettes and advertising which pay for most of her costs. Part of her particular schtick has to do with being really outrageous - something her readers have come to want from her work.

Rolf Potts, a world traveler, provided a third columnist model, not just for writing, but for a vagabond lifestyle that most people can only dream of. There were more than a few sighs in class as he described his life, one that has always been non-traditional.

Rolf Potts
Perhaps the most amusing part of that presentation was a video - and discussion of Potts' 'No Baggage Challenge' in which he travels internationally sans luggage.

His cargo pants were filled to overflowing though.

The class presentations continue on Monday with presentations on columnists  Jayson Stark, Dan Walters, Laura Snyder and Seth Kugel.

Next Wednesday, Sacramento Bee columnist Bob Shallit will speak in class. This past Monday, former Bee writer Dan Weintraub spoke about his new venture, HealthyCal. Weintraub was preceded by Bee finance columnist Claudia Buck.

Here are links to the work of Barry, Armstrong and Potts.
Dave Barry
Heather B. Armstrong
Rolf Potts

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sacramento Bee columnist Jon Ortiz to speak at CSU, Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Sacramento Bee columnist Jon Ortiz is slated to speak to the CSU, Sacramento Column Writing class Wednesday at noon.

Ortiz will be focusing on two columns he wrote in the past six months, with the column-writing students expected to compare  content and style - as well as analyze how successful the articles were at making their respective points.

Both columns are part of the popular State Worker series written by Ortiz.

His visit to class comes one week after the class talked with Marcos Breton, Metro columnist for The Bee.

Breton talked about politics, his years as a student journalist at San Jose State and how he landed his current position with The Bee.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

News writing class puts together an advance for on-campus event

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Journalism 30 students today wrote advance stories about an event on the CSU, Sacramento set to happen Thursday.

And in the process of writing the story, several students discovered that the information provided for their story was at odds with information published in the State Hornet newspaper.

The university-provided information says that British rower Roz Savage will speak at 6 p.m. in the University Union. The Hornet said she will start at 7 p.m.

Roz Savage
It provided an object lesson for the students for when sources disagree.

They decided to stick with the 6 p.m. time listed in the official University Calendar - and in two other 'official' university sources.

Of course, it's possible the State Hornet has some inside information and the start time has been changed. If so, the people who read the newspaper will get there right on time. On the other hand, if the 6 p.m. start time is right, well, the 7 p.m. crowd will be quite tardy.

Savage is the first woman to have rowed solo across the Pacific Ocean. In 2005, she rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean.

She has also published a book, Rowing The Atlantic: Lessons Learned on the Open Ocean.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Magazine writers file How-To stories, Breton on tap for column class

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The writers in the magazine writing class at CSU, Sacramento have posted the first drafts of their How-To stories in the last 24-hours. (The drafts are posted to the right of this blog, just below the columns of the column-writing class.)

The pieces vary from How To Lose Weight Without Really Trying (are you ready, Oprah?) to How To Create a Digital Scrapbook. The students will be getting their first drafts returned within a week, with about another week to do a rewrite. In the meantime, what they have written is available to peruse here.

Next up for the magazine writers is to select a person to profile, someone who might figure prominently in their major feature, due at the end of the semester.

And in column writing this week, Sacramento Bee Metro columnist Marcos Breton will be visiting class Wednesday.

Breton has visited the column-writing class for several semesters running, giving the class insight into what it is like being a newspaper columnist - and the challenges of print journalism with so much competing electronic media.

Breton is a dedicated Twitter person, too. He has 1,840 followers as of today.

Marcos Breton

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Magazine writers drafting 'how-to' articles this week

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The writers in the magazine writing class at CSU, Sacramento are busy drafting their first "how-to" articles, due Monday.

The articles range from "How to create soy-based candles," to "How to find a job on the other side of the U.S."

And there are 22 other how-to stories in the works, also.

The articles are meant to be short - 500-600 words - but still have to resonate with readers.

Prior to Monday, the writers will be posting their first drafts on their magazine writing blogs, which can viewed at the right, below the columns posted by the column-writing class.

The columnistas of that class are currently drafting columns based loosely on their experiences listening to a speech Monday by Carlos González Gutiérrez, the Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento. His speech was interesting - and pretty much what you would expect from diplomat. The columnists, however, have full rein to go after any Mexico-related topic, provided they have some tie-in to his talk.

The Mexico-related columns come two days after filing columns about last week's Phlagleblast in the University Union.

The columnists' reactions to that event were very mixed, and often quite humorous.

Columnist Christina Hayes found an interesting oversight made by the event's promoter that became the focus of her column, titled: The Phlaglebreast is best. It's funny - as is the video at the end.

Here's the link to the column: The Phlaglebreast is best

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Column writers to hear Mexican Consul General on Monday

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The columnists of Journalism 131 will be listening to a talk Monday given by Carlos González Gutiérrez, the Consul General of Mexico in Sacramento. 

And their assignment?

To write a column based on issues relating to the U.S. and Mexico, using Sr. Gonzalez Gutierrez's talk as a prompt.

Carlos González Gutiérrez
Those issues could include immigration, Mexican-American relations, language, culture - almost anything.

But the column will have to have a tie-in to  González Gutiérrez's speech, however tenuous the connection.

This next column comes as many of the columnists are still pounding out 600+ words about this week's University Union's Phlagleblast, which was a big success, according to organizers who are already looking at what they will be doing next fall.

A full biography of González Gutiérrez - who will be speaking Monday at noon in the University Ballroom - is available here: 

Biography of Mexican Consul

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Columnists and reporters all checked out the Phlagleblast at CSUS

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Writers from three classes converged on the University Union Wednesday, taking notes, interviewing and generally acting like journalists.

There were even quite a few reporter's notebooks in evidence.

For next week, the column writers already have their marching orders: produce a 600-650 word column based on their experiences, or something at the event.

The Phlagleblast was a gold mine for column ideas with thousands of students wandering about, exhibits, games, and plenty of food.

For the news writers, the task was a little more daunting. Their assignment was to gather enough information for a news story, a story that the class will put together as a group Monday. The fun part will be to see what different details the reporters picked up in their conversations and interviews.

One person/exhibitor who got plenty of attention - from both the classes and other students attending - was the 'balloon guy' who made animals figures which adorned heads all over the union.

The balloon guy told me he made more than 200 of the figures. And I won't put his name here - let's see how many of the students got it.

Here's a short video of him at work:

Column writing & news writing students head to Phlagleblast

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The students from column writing and news writing will loosen the classroom shackles today and head to the University Union to check out the annual Phlagleblast celebration.

For the columnists, its an opportunity to do an 'event' column.

For the news writers, it's an opportunity to search for news from the various activities.

Here's a link to the schedule:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Latest columns are up from column-writing class

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The latest columns from the column-writing class at CSU, Sacramento are up, columns that take a look at an area in which the columnists want to specialize for the semester.

In some cases, it's a little hard to tell exactly what the area of specialty is, in others, quite plain.

And the columns range from serious to comic.

One of the best out of this group of columns was this one, 'The Sake of Slam Poetry.'

And it can be read with or without sake in hand, though the column does reference the Starry Plough Pub in South Berkeley, a well-known Irish bar.

Most of the columnists have also completed their columns with their thoughts about the 2nd Saturday shooting in downtown Sacramento this past weekend.

Links to all of their columns are on to the right.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Column writers to write about Second Saturday art-walk shooting

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The students in the Column Writing class at CSU, Sacramento will get their first deadline-column assignment today, writing a piece about Saturday's fatal shooting at the downtown Sacramento art walk known as Second Saturday.

Sometime shortly after midnight, shots rang out near J and 19th Street, leaving three people injured and one dead.

Relatively detailed accounts what happened have been published in the Sacramento Bee, including today's story:

The plan for the class is to have the students discuss the issue, do a collective tornado outline of ideas and then pound out a column in the remaining class time.

It will be a challenge for the writers to get a column done on a short deadline. But I'm sure the muse will strike them.

Deadline cartoon

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

News writing classes search for news on campus

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Thanks in large part to the textbooks for the classes being two weeks late, two basic news writing classes at CSU, Sacramento took to the campus as part of a news-gathering exercise this afternoon.

The idea?

News does not happen in the classroom (or newsroom) but out in the world. And if you never leave your desk or computer, you will miss what's going on.

The exercise is generally called a "news walk" and the students are generally good at ferreting out what's going on.

What did they find? A lot.

And what will be interesting for the students will be to see what The State Hornet publishes - or doesn't publish this fall.

Here is a list of stories the students in the early news writing section think should be pursued:

• Recruitment for sororities and fraternities and clubs (and hazing)
• World-record dodgeball tournament at The Well (1,200 people participated)
• Why do parking construction this week? (Just as school starts...)
• Math and history department policy changes
• Four-year-plan to graduate? Adios!
• Unit cap was lifted too late for students to enroll in more units
• Sept. 20-24 is Constitution Week - events, guest speakers
• Bikes on campus - locked? Unlocked... What's the deal?
• Blood drive (Oct. 19-20)
• Anchor Blue on campus... (underground clothing sales???) Clyde T. Hinkenson spokesman
• Eco-Grounds Coffee place feature (recycled everything, except coffee, maybe)
• Panda Express vs. Burger King (long line at Panda, no people at Burger King)
• Atmosphere concert in University Ballroom Sept. 28
• Expanded library area with couches and computers
• PRSSA fundraiser Sac Skate Sept 17
• Sandwich guy on campus - why is he so quiet this semester?
• Different places to eat on campus
• Mellow-me-out massages (how many students use?)
• The Well - experiences... Fingerprints required to enter (24-hour Fitness, too?)

The second news writing class came up with these stories:

• Muslim Student Association - its take on Florida minister and Ground Zero mosque
• Hazing among sororities and fraternities, plus discrimination in selection process
• Sidewalk hazards on campus
• Jaywalking tickets issued - around the dorms especially
• Possible food poisoning reported at Panda Express (orange chicken, cashew chicken)
• Anchor Blue tour (clothing) Arty and Eric were there (B-list actors)
• Beginning of a Sac State mall?
• The Well, open and, well, students pay $118 per semester for access to rooms
• Student dropping other gym memberships?
• Club, sororities and fraternities - why join?
• Financial aid, problems with gaps in coverage at beginning of semester
• Transfer rate - impact of impaction
• Bookstore prices - out of line?
• Parking lot torn out before school starts
• No furloughs this semester for faculty
• Riverfront changes in food service
• Peak Adventures bike repair shop has bike-sized door (NOT)
• The Well usage and registration (5954 active) 800 - 1000 per day... register early
• 176 students employed at Well
• Adding classes a problem? Sociology said no mas. Geography classes are empty.
• Writing intensive classes are overflowing
• Well doesn't allow guests????
• Freshmen get the old dorms - not the new dorms
• Effects of weather on students
• Dodgeball world record broken
• Apple store at bookstore - big discounts for students, faculty

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

First columns are up from Column-Writing class

SACRAMENTO, California, USA - The first set of columns have been posted (the links are to the right) for the fall 2010 semester.

For the first semester in memory, the majority of the class posted their columns way ahead of time.

Ahead of time?


And so today, my task is to continue reading through the columns, making notes for Wednesday's class at which I will be doing a critique of the work and talking about the next set of columns.

Also on tap, is a discussion of how to plan before writing, using a technique called a 'tornado outline,' favored by writers and detectives.


Yup again.

Elementary my dear Watson, elementary.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

First column from Column-Writing class hits the in basket

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The first column of the fall 2010 semester appeared in my email inbox Friday, a piece by Leia Ostermann about the first week of school.

By getting her column in when she did, she has broken all existing column-writing records for getting the first column of the semester turned in ahead of deadline.

The link to her column is at the right, called Cardboard File.

Leia Ostermann

At the same time, as column writers are ruminating on the first day of school, they are also sending along their ideas for areas about which they would like to write.

Half the class, it seems, wants to write about restaurants. (Perhaps they think restaurant reviewers eat for free. Sorry, they don't.)

But in addition, there have been a number of excellent ideas put forth that will make for interesting columns. One person has asked to write about alternative-to-automobile transportation. And he will.

Friday in Alameda, I saw this fellow pedaling by, obviously enjoying being out of his car. He had a pretty good view, too.

on the tall bike
Big wheels keep on rollin'

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

First columns due Tuesday on the 'first week of school'

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The columnistas of CSU, Sacramento's column writing class have their first writing assignment ahead: write a 500-650 word column on their experiences of the first week of school.

Only a few people groaned when that turned out to be their assignment. It could have been a lot worse. I was pondering having them write about the Tea Party, or Sarah Palin, or even the new Arizona immigration law that has so many knickers in a twist.

After turning in this column, the class will be churning out one or two columns per week, one assigned, the other on their specialty area.

The specialties students talked about Wednesday included close looks at college life, clothing fashions, restaurant and food reviews, and soccer.  One columnist wants to write about art and design.

And the entire class swears they will make their deadlines.


column deadline

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Four classes down, all writers at the ready for assignments

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Two sections of basic news writing, one column-writing class and a magazine writing seminar all met on Monday - officially launching the semester for fall 2010.

The column-writing students are constructing their column/blogs (the links to which will appear on this page later this week); the magazine writers are coming up with ideas for their first articles: a how-to story. And, no, a how-to story on how-to-write-a-magazine story is not one of the possibilities.

All four classes had more students than the classrooms can accommodate, so in terms of classroom space, it will be another Sacramento State sardine semester.

Still, lots of bright lights among the students in the classes. In magazine writing, one student was familiar with the concept of hydro-fracking, a topic from some writing earlier this summer, linked here.

  • What the frack is going on?

  • In the meantime, by the noon deadline today, all but a relative handful of students in my four classes successfully completed their first assignment: getting me an email for class email lists.

    Monday, August 30, 2010

    Back in the classroom to teach about columns, magazine writing and news reporting

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - In just a few minutes the fall 2010 semester is about to be launched, which for me means teaching column writing, magazine writing and two sections of basic news reporting.

    And as in semesters past, some of the work of the students in those four classes will be published here (and elsewhere) as well as reports on guest speakers and outside-of-class activities.

    Last semester, the column-writing class posted many great blogs.

    A few of those students have kept up writing in the eight months since.