Go Beyond ‘Good Enough’

Every day people are bombarded with more hours of media than there are actually hours in a day. The amount of information people consume in a day is even worrisome, or interesting, enough to make headlines! Most recently a study by ZenithOptimedia gained a fair amount of coverage once it found

ten tips forgreat reporting.pngthat people spend more than 490 minutes every day looking at media. The growing accessibility of information and humans increasing curiosity for knowledge have helped foster this news-frenzy. Yet from all the positive outcomes of gaining knowledge, there is still one prevalent concern: How can someone identify great reporting from bad reporting?

Great reporting goes beyond ‘good enough’ when it is not only informative, but also accurate, relevant, engaging and interesting. Different types of articles do not always focus on or put the most importance on the same aspects. For instance, in a feature-like obituary story, like the one discussed below by Jack Nicholson, having anecdotes that help characterize the subject and introducing another voice, an added perspective of someone who knew the subject, are imperative to the story. While in a “hard story” about a recent event, inserting the 5 W’s (where, when, what, why and how) in the nut graph and being thorough yet clear when explaining what occurred is what makes the story stand out.

Yet, across the spectrum of storytelling there are certain aspects that must be included and executed properly in a story in order for it to be great. One aspect is the inclusion of sources that build credibility, and quotes that advance a story and also help to reveal a character. These sources and quotes should be diverse, since it is important that a thorough article has different perspectives, insights and points of view within the story. Another is a lead that attracts the reader’s attention by using strong verbs, details, imagery, rhythm or originality.

The best stories are also those that use direct, active voice, avoid jargon and explain difficult concepts simply yet clearly enough for anyone, a 50 year old scholar to an 18 high-schooler, to understand.

Below are examples of great reporting, and the reasons as to why they have attained this title.

 Jim Nicholson: Edward E. “Ace” Clark, Ice and Coal Dealer

Jim Nicholson’s feature obituary, proves the phrase ‘Everybody’s got a story” true. It also emphasizes the democratic nature of journalism, how the most hard-hitting stories are those which seek to chronicle the life, the successes and failures, the many or lack of advancements, of the common man and woman. This story also evidences the beauty of simple, concise and informative language.

The obituary begins and ends with all the important information about the deceased, to name a few: his name, age, profession, family members, time of funeral and of burial. The story, however informative, still manages to pull the reader in with the great details and fond anecdotes that fully re-create the subject and retell his story. For instance, his nickname “Ace Clark,” which the reporter emphasized in the lead, and which also helps make the subject him sound all-American, personable and humble. Other intimate details and habits, like the fact that the subject only missed work day after VJ-Day the U.S.’s victory over japan, when he was too hungover to wake up, expose him as a passionate person who loved his country.

While poignant physical descriptions like: “Powerful arms and shoulders atop spindly legs,” link Ace to his profession, giving the readers a more concrete image of Ace Clark. Another example of a great description that is also quirky, is when Nicholson compares Ace Clark to a “rogue elephant” when the sports team he used to coach were on the court or field. This description in particular, expresses the extent to which he loved sports, and also creates a small shift in tone, which keeps audience engaged and entertained as they increase their feelings of endearment towards Ace Clark.

 

Linnet Myers: Humanity on Trial 

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1994 Southside Chicago

Humanity on Trial is the paragon of how a compelling story can still be very creative, even when its main purpose is to inform readers of what occurs in a specific setting. Myers’ article earns the title of great not just because of the amazing writing and reporting of the piece, but because she managed to capture the big, overarching issues of class, race and of the criminal system in the U.S. by simply informing us on all the small, specific details of the Victims Court in Chicago. These details range from the quotes of people that work in the court, of the lawyers, the accused, the judge, and those that are witnessed or family of victims, to the facts of actual day-to-day cases and of the personal lives of criminals that are accused. For instance, Myers informs the reader of a case where the criminal, Austin, goes by the name “Loveless,” because “his father insisted on him being named that.” This details not only adds a surprise and further engages the reader, but it gives an idea of the life many of these criminals live.

Myers also includes a wide diversity of sources, and quotes, which enrich the story and give it credibility. Quotes range from criminals saying they haven’t done the crime, to an assistant’s state attorney’s opinion of one specific criminal or case, to a judge’s opinions on the validity of his work. She includes the doubts of a Judge Bolan, who works in “26th & Cal.” Who said of his work: “Is the world better for what I’m doing here?” I ask myself, ‘What are you doing, Michael?’” And who described the Victim’s court as: “It’s human nature with all its pretenses slipped away…Headquarters for tales from the dark side.” By adding a quote of how a judge questions the validity of his work, Myers displays the magnitude of the issue, and how it affects everyone in Chicago—no just the accused and the victims.

 

Andrew H. Malcolm: A Thesaurist Leaves, Exits 

Andrew H. Malcom’s article A Thesaursit Leaves, Exits displays how he successfully transformed the conventional style of editorial pieces from just being arguments or opinions to also being stories. It is evident that Macolm spent a lot of his time researching what story he thought was most interesting. Or what subject he thought could, in discussing its life, bring with it general social, economic or political issues or examples of the advancements or faults of a certain topic, into the story. The lead of this story is original and engages the reader with its quirky tone almost immediately. It also answers the who and what, and thus introduces the reader to the story’s the nut-graph. The reporter’s diction and sentence structure throughout the entire story mirror the story’s subject and structure perfectly, as they both highlight use of synonyms and an active, informative tone. The story’s headline is a perfect example of how a headline can both describe a story and capture the attention of readers by being unconventional and creative. It says, “A Thesaurist Leaves, Exits,” infroming the reader who the story is about, that that person can no longer be found and that adjectives are going to be an important aspect to this article.

 

Tommy Tomlinson: A Beautiful Find

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Tommy Tomlinson

One of the elements that makes Tomlinson’s story, A Beautiful Find, stand out as great and as beautiful, is the structure of the story. The examination-like questions that remind the reader of having of breakdown and explain the evidence behind your solution to an equation in high school, help the story successfully introduce its main themes. This form also allows the story to begins with the most important information about the problem that Swallow is trying to solve and of Swallow himself and then flawlessly delve deep into the chronology of the four years that Swallow spent trying to solve the problem. Another element is the style of the story itself, the intricate sentences, beautiful imagery, soft tone and attention to specific details that breath life into an affair that is technical and not very adventurous. For instance, Tomlinson reiterates that Swallow life his left eyebrow over the rim of his glasses and uses this detail as the detail that best exemplifies the curiosity and quirkiness of his subject. The reporter also uses details to express Swallow’s relentless attempts at trying to solve the problem, saying that his subject would “file sheets of paper with equations next to phone numbers for the DMV.” The inclusion of Swallow’s role as the Kitchen Spouse, exemplifies the reporters ability to make his subject complex.

Ultimately, Tomlinson’s biggest achievement is transforming the traditional profile article story from the traditional ‘interesting person’ story into a narrative that follows the failures and successes of one person in pursuit of his goal.

 

Dorothy Thompson: Mr. Welles and Mass Delusion

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Cartoon of Orson Wells radio broadcast

Labeled under “Classics” in an anthology of ‘America’s Best’ Newspaper writing, Dorothy Thompson’s column piece Mr. Welles and Mass Delusion, seeks to understand the rise of fanaticism and increasing mass political hysteria with one significant event.

The event, Orson Welle’s reading of War of the Worlds on air, which she labels as the “the story of the century,”  provides the most understanding of the expansion of fascist movements in Europe. Written in 1938, Thompson perfectly captures the frustrations and confusion of a period that witnesses the destruction of Europe and half the world.

The reporter makes a persuasive argument by putting most important information and claims first. This can be seen in her story structure, as her lead begins with her argument and her many claims and then follows it with information about the incident and precise facts on why Welles famous “hour on the air” lacked any possible scenerios and factual evidence. She also begins each of her paragraphs with a claim and then follows it with evidence to prove her claim. The tone of the piece is dry and sardonic and reinforces the role of journalists as social, media and political analysts. Her story is thorough, and explores not just the answers related to the incident, but the answers to the questions brought on by the event’s repercussions. For instance, Thompson explains her disillusionment with the fact that this mass hysteria encouraged people to ask their government for more protection, since it implied giving the government more control and influence over individuals lives.

Puerto Rico, After María

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Source: Meteorologist Eric Holthaus’ Twitter

On Tuesday, September 19, hurricane María began its journey across Puerto Rico. María has caused mass flooding, broken dams and killed about 16 people. The causes of death are mostly due to drowning, however some cases have been reported of death by minor landslides or by fatal impact with flying objects.

The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, said in an interview with Anderson Cooper in CNN, Tuesday evening that hurricane María was becoming the “worst hurricane in modern history in Puerto Rico.” The hurricane lasted about an entire day. But the majority of the flooding and destruction was caused by the 4 to 8, to even 35 inches, in specific locations of additional rainfall.

“No generation has seen a hurricane like this since San Felipe II in 1928. This is an unprecedented atmospheric system.”

– Ricky Russello

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Street in Guaynabo

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The destruction has not allowed people to use roads within their neighborhoods.

News of the island’s state came slowly to the mainland U.S., and slower still for the people residing on the island. With the majority of the information coming primarily from tweets and other social media platforms, many people were left confused and scared. Below, is a short summary of what has occurred until now.

Support for the island after the devastating hurricane, both federally and domestically, came quickly and efficiently. Already on September 21st, President Donald Trump had issued a Major Disaster Declaration for Puerto Rico. This gave the island access to some federal funds in order to incentivize recuperation after María.

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At 1:24, on September 21, Jennifer Gonzalez, the resident commissioner, notified the few people on the island that still had internet—and the thousands of ex-pads anxiously waiting to hear news of their island—that more than 32,000 federal staff were beginning to respond to recovery operations.

At 2:54 PM, on September 23, Governor Ricky Rossello tweeted a picture of a helicopter reaching the island, letting everyone know that FEMA had arrived to the island with water, electric generators and other resources.

That same day, splayed on all the newspapers were these words from the governor’s address:

“A todos los puertorriqueños y puertorriqueñas, sepan que nos levantaremos. Junto con los alcaldes y alcaldesas, como un solo Gobierno.”

“To all the Puerto Rican men and women, know that we will rise. Together with our mayors, as one, sole government.”

– The Governor, speaking on behalf of the Puerto Rican government, addressing  its citizens.

 So began the hashtag that represented all outpouring support for the island: #PRSeLevanta or #PRStrong, in English.

In an extremely fanatic two-party system, the island’s destruction encouraged a new wave of bipartisanship that had never before been seen. Despite this call to civic duty, no one has stopped looking over their shoulders. People have been disseminating ‘warnings’ all over Social Media and

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A street floods inside a gated neighborhood.

in group messages with friends and family that there have been cases of open stores and houses being robbed at gunpoint in Guaynabo and Bayamon (the heart of the metropolitan center of the island) for generators.

 

Moreover, even as the government assures its citizens that there is enough diesel for everyone on the island, various news sites have challenged their claim. Eagerly pointing to the government that places in which to get diesel are scarce, and as a result, interminable lines for fuel have formed.

Jay Fonseca, a journalist, radio-host and lawyer, has reported worrisomely violent events. A man in Vega Baja was assaulted for his container of gasoline, and that a gasoline station was shot after announcing that it was closing down. Fonseca also reported that police agents and doctors have not been able to work because of the of the lack of diesel.

“It took six hours in line to only receive 10 gallons of diesel. I can’t even tell you about gasoline. All the gasoline stations have policemen. The gasoline trucks are escorted with policemen.

The entire thing is a debacle.”

– Mari Conway, a resident of Puerto Rico

A curfew from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm that was put into place on Thursday, along with a “Ley Seca” that prohibits stores from selling liquor and citizens from consuming it, was extended to last until Wednesday.

 

 

The Biggest Take-Aways from Jennine Capó Crucet’s Conversations on Campus

 

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Jennine listens to a student’s question at El Centro’s Cafe con Leche

By Ana Gabriela García 

It was a busy few days for Jennine Capó Crucet, assistant professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska and author of Elon’s common reading “How to Make Your Home Among Strangers.”

During her two-day visit to Elon University, Jennine was invited to host two sets of Core Forums, have lunch with English majors, have coffee with Elon’s Hispanic/Latino community at El Centro de Español and speak to creative writing classes; in addition to giving a speech at Alumni Gym.

Wherever she went, she engaged students with her quick wit and dry humor. While always fostering an environment of understanding and openness as she tackled topics of inclusivity, race and diversity on college campuses.

Lauren Kier, a professor of sociology at Elon University who attended one of Jennine’s Q&A’s and the author’s speech at alumni gym, said about Jennine: “She’s just so personable. I just think she’s really down to earth and that just makes someone really interesting to talk to.”

“I always love that, when I see that a speaker is just connecting with students. And that’s what she (Jennine Capó) does.

– Lauren Kier

Isabel, a student at Elon University who attended Jennine’s speech at Alumni Gym also had positive feedback regarding Jennine and the topics she chose to discuss with Elon students. “I thought professor Capó’s talk was very powerful because it was honest, straightforward and entertaining in a way that truly made me reflect on her experience and that go many first generation college students–or of just any student coming into a new environment.”

“I’m really glad that this (Make Your Home Among Strangers) was this year’s common reading, and this is a topic that I believe every Elon student will find themselves discussing at some point of their college education.”

– Isabel

These are the biggest takeaways from Jennine Capó’s conversations with students:

Discomfort is where growth happens

Jennine reiterated this idea many times during her Core Forums and in her speech at Alumni Gym. The author was mainly referring to ‘discomfort’ in the context of participating in new experiences or discussions in college. Urging students to always be willing to be uncomfortable. According to the author, “To be uncomfortable is a precondition to growing.”

Faculty and students should work at understanding each other

During Thursdays Core Forum Q&A in the Great Hall at Global Commons, professor Capó encouraged students to learn more about their own professor’s and to seek out their books. In order to have good relationships with their professors, students have to be just as interested in the faculty, as the faculty is of them.

The student’s job is to know the value of their teacher’s work.”

– Jennine Capó Crucet

The faculty should be just as diverse as the student body

While on the subject of inclusivity and student-teacher dynamics, Jennine asked the Core Forum: “When you look at your professors, do a lot of them look like you?” She challenged Elon students to think about the privilege of having a professor that can represent them, and to think about what message their University is sending about diversity with their faculty.

This is especially relevant at Elon University, where there is a lack of diversity within the faculty. An article published on ENN earlier this year by Stephanie Ntim found that only 25% of Elon’s faculty members identified as a person of color, in 2015. More worrying still, it was reported in the 2015 Presidential Task Force that 74% of the 63 black faculty and staff members at Elon 74% reported having been belittled with race-related comments. It is interesting to note that out of the 151 black student respondents, 65% reported also having similar experiences.

For Jennine, diversifying faculty at college campuses is a subject that she considers very important, as the lack of diversity within her own undergraduate faculty body greatly influence her college experience. In her speech at Alumni Gym, the author confesses that one of the things that helped her make her home among strangers and stay in college was her menor, and one of the few Latina professors on campus, Helena María Viramontes.

Helena María Viramontes was especially helpful in making Jennine’s college experience a good one because she knew exactly what books to give to Jennine. If these books had never reached her hands, Jennine says she would not be where she is today, nor would she be giving a speech at Elon University.

Coincidentally, the books Helena gave Jennine are major influences in her creative work. In total, there are six books which the author says sit in a special shelf, Jennine’s own ‘Pantheon of Authors.’ These are:

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Under the Feet of Jesus, by Helena Maria Viramontes
  3. Faith Healer of Olive Avenue, by Manuel Muñoz
  4. The Woman Warrior, by Maxine Hong Kingston
  5. So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell
  6. Beloved, by Toni Morrison

If you think you want to be a writer- don’t

Finally, the last piece of advice to take away from Jennine’s visit is to try very hard to not become an author. When asked when she had decided to become a writer, the author quipped that for a long time she tried to deny the fact that she wanted to be writer. “If you think you want to be a writer, try to do anything else.” The author said. You become a writer because you have to, because you tried everything else and failed at everything else. Jennine reminded the students that writing doesn’t come with guaranteed recognition or rewards.

“If you find yourself compelled to write, do something else. Try really hard to love something else, and if that fails, then you know that you were meant to be a writer.

I tried to do a lot of different things in my life to make myself happy, and nothing made me as happy as writing. And so, I just sort of gave up and became a writer. Or gave in and became a writer ”

– Jennine Capó Crucet

 

 

Rethinking Sculptures: Exploring space with form, narrative and satire

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Gallery 406, Arts West.

By Ana Gabriela García

Within each one of Michael Sanford’s sculptures there is a story (though hyperbolic and extremely satirical) about our current political culture. The figurehead of his stories is our commander-in-chief, Donald J. Trump.

His art invites the audience to look at a subject who is often linked with hate and intense sentiment through a humorous, sincere lens. So that the ideas of ego, of taking command, chauvinism, disrespect and the “stupid American” are brought forth in a way that welcomes laughs, reasoned dialogue, thought and honesty.

Currently in exhibition at the Biennial Studio Art Faculty Exhibition, in Gallery 406, Arts West, these sculptures are a breath of fresh air in a political crap-storm. This exhibition will last until October 20.

“Each satirically comments upon and challenges our assumptions about a world where fear becomes a weapon of the powerful and propaganda abounds.”

– Michael Sanford describing his sculptures in an excerpt on the wall of Gallery 406, Arts West.

Sanford’s goal is not to make a sculpture that everyone loves. What he considers as a true achievement is creating a sculpture that best presents the message he is trying to share with his audience. “I look back at my work and ask myself , did it successfully convey the ideas that I had mind?

Part of answering that question is based on audience response, so when I’m talking to people or people are talking to me about the work, and they give me a certain kind of feedback, then that helps me determine whether the message that I wanted to convey was coming through or whether there are things that other people see that I had not even thought about.” Sanford explains.

 

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Sanford’s sculpture, “I am not a teapot, you silly American.”

Sculptures, according to the artist, are about “exploring space with form.” Yet Sanford’s work makes it evident that a sculpture can also be about conveying an idea through story-telling. In these sculptures, the ideas seem to be: What would Trump look like if we transformed all his hate-speak and selfish demeanor into physical attributes? And: What kind of situations would these faults get him into?

To answer these questions, Sanford has created a world in which personality traits determine a person’s physique. Trump’s ego and his temperament have disfigured his entire body. In the sculpture, “An Inflated Sense of Self,” the president’s body is, literally, inflated, and his gorging cheeks and pout make his lips look like the circular, protruding tip of a balloon.

 

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Sanford’s, “Inflated Sense of Self,” Backside

When explaining his decision to inflate Trump’s body and paint it all over in a gaudy gold color, Sanford said: “If I have an inflated sense of self, I think that I am more important than everyone. I don’t (referring to himself), but if I think that I’m more important, then my ideas are more valuable. My approach to problem solving is always right.”

“So there’s a kind of preciousness and value to who I am, that no one can approach. And a way to symbolize that is for me to be golden.”

Michael Sanford, explaining why he painted Trump’s disfigured body bright gold, in his sculpture “Inflated Sense of Self.” 

The idea that Trump is an egotist is not the only one that is presented in the sculpture, “Inflated Sense of Self.” This sculpture also subtly insinuates that Trump’s dominant and aggressive behavior stems from lack of self-esteem or compensation for some flaw.

When referring to this sculpture, Michael Sanford says, “If you look really closely, he’s not wearing any pants. You have to bend over and look. And his genitals are really, really tiny. There’s a theory that men are patriarchal, dominant and aggressive because they feel that they are diminished in ‘some way’. So that’s a symbolic way of suggesting that. It’s a playful way to suggest that.”

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Sanford’s “Inflated Sense of Self,” Frontside

The narratives that Sanford has added to his sculptures are as whimsical as they are hard-hitting. Prompting the question of art’s role in today’s political situation. When asked what role he thinks art should play in today’s political spectrum, he said:

“First of all, art is not a singularly focused term, art can be many different things. There’s art that seeks to educate and inform. There’s art that is made as protest. There’s art that is made to document the historical facts. So art can serve all these purposes and one of the many things that art can do is that it communicates in a variety of languages.

So if you think of the language of form and color and texture. Or if you think of the language of tempo and music– that’s more word-based. Or if you think of dance, which can express so much through movement and gesture it the human body. ”

“Through all those languages art has an opportunity to reach people in ways that journalism and editorialism and video documentary cannot.”

– Sanford, talking about art’s role in today’s political culture.

Sanford’s engaging storytelling fills his sculptures with life and the exhibit with laughter. But he does not just attribute his sculptures for this reaction, Sanford credits his titles for helping make his stories interesting.

“One of the things that I would say about my work is that the titles play an important role. They serve as a way of provoking thought or creating associations or creating humorous dimensions to the work. It’s also an essential aspect of the satire. It’s not just the sculpture, it’s the interplay between text and visual image.” Sanford said.

New Students prepare to uphold Elon University’s honorable legacy

By Ana Gabriela García

As fall gets closer, faculty members, student campus leaders, and incoming freshmen at Elon University prepare for one of Elon’s most important traditions, its ‘Call to Honor.

This year it will take place at 9:40 am, on September 14, inside Alumni Gym.

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Leo Lambert addresses new students in a previous Call to Honor Ceremony

The long-awaited ceremony will follow a yearly tradition in which campus leaders and faculty define the core principles of Elon’s Honor Code. All students are expected to uphold this code dutifully.

The code reaffirms Eon University’s legacy, and the school’s dedication to the intellectual, personal, spiritual growth of all it’s members.

Paul Miller, an assistant provost at Elon, said: “The Call to Honor Ceremony is very important to our community because it reaffirms our commitment to a very important code of conduct and values that reside at the core of our campus community.”

 

“Honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect. These values are the bedrock on which our academic community rests.”

– Paul Miller

The ceremony will begin with an introduction from Leo Lambert, the president of Elon University. As always, Leo Lambert, along with the president of SGA and officers for senior, junior , sophomore and freshman classes sign their names on the Call to Honor Book. Evidencing this long-standing tradition, the Call to Honor Book has signatures that date back to 1936.

The even ends as new students receive an honor coin with the Elon Logo and sign posters printed with the university’s Honor Code.