Letters Home: Brad Belote

Brad Belote is the digital content
director at KY3 Inc. in Springfield, Mo.
He graduated from the Missouri School
of Journalism in 1997 with a degree in
broadcast journalism.
The following letter was submitted June 13, 2012

Dear newly-minted graduate (now or later), nothing is going to turn out the way you think it will.

When you leave the hallowed halls of the School of Journalism, you’re likely leaving confident that you know what you want to do, where you want to go and how you’ll get there. After all, you’re now armed with the journalism seal of approval: a degree from Mizzou.

I don’t want to discount its value. Membership in that Mafia has its privileges. And you’ll always to stay connected to that special place. (Some day, you’ll realize just how short a time you spent there and pine to go back.)

But at the end of the day, it’s your life and your story that you are now fully responsible for. There is no one right way to write this story. Allow me a moment to share the lessons I’ve learned producing mine:

'Buzz' surrounds New York Times politics partnership

By Stacey Welsh
The New York Times has announced it’s spicing up coverage of the 2012 Democratic and Republican national conventions with a BuzzFeed collaboration. The paper posted a press release explaining how the not-so-traditional partnership will offer "expanded video coverage." Times staffers and BuzzFeed’s political team will create video segments with commentary about the conventions and the events leading up to them.

Erik Wemple, a Washington Post blogger, comments that the most "astounding" part of the move is that the Times proposed it. Additionally, he writes, BuzzFeed has only been covering politics "seriously" since January when former Politico writer Ben Smith joined as the site's editor-in-chief. Wemple, however, said this wouldn't be a problem because the Times is searching for "the ability to command a large following and to strike up the sorts of online conversations for which older, well-paid, traditional newspaper reporters aren’t famous."

Letters Home: Abbie Schmid

Abbie Schmid is a social media specialist
for the Cox Media Group. She graduated from
the Missouri School of Journalism in 2011.
The following letter was submitted March 9, 2012

Dear ONA Mizzou -

I work best with bullet points, so here are my three pieces of wisdom for you.

1.) Utilize the faculty at the journalism school - they are there for you, and you’re lucky to have them. They’ve been on the other side - and have the insight to prove it. Sometimes it’s easy to see them as the people with the red pen who possess a supernatural ability to spot jump cuts and AP style snafus. But they really have your best interests at heart - and if you want to be a journalist, a nurse or an accountant, there’s nothing more valuable than having someone truly examine your work and point out your strengths and weaknesses. Not only do they direct you to producing your best work, they can assist you in landing your first gig out of school. The lead to my current position came from a tweet from my capstone advisor about a “cool internship in Atlanta.” That cool internship turned into an awesome job.

Magazines finding ways to expand

By Dalton Barker

Don't call for the death of print just yet. Magazine launches in 2011 outnumbered closures for the second year in a row, according to an Economist article.

The trend could be a reaction to the vast number of blogs and message boards. Those do a good job of catering to niche audiences, but some people still look to professional media when they need tips for gardening or low-carb cooking.

Helping magazines thrive are tablets. The iPad, among others, has allowed for the creation of interactive content that's available anywhere there's an Internet connection. Tablets' 3-D graphics engines and other display technologies give magazine designers new avenues for styling snazzy pages. That can help their products stand out from other media. 

Tablet magazines are likely making sales folks happy, too.

"There are signs that advertisers are accepting higher rates on tablets than on the web, because magazines on tablets are more like magazines in print: engrossing, well-designed experiences instead of forests of text and links," according to the Economist article.

Letters Home: Matt Pearce

Matt Pearce is a freelance writer for
the Los Angeles Times, the Pitch and
The New Inquiry. He received a master's
degree from the Missouri School of
Journalism in 2011.
The following letter was submitted April 10, 2012

Dear students:

The most important thing you should know at this point in your career is that it’s OK if you don’t grow up to be a journalist.

I realize that your student loans are probably about to drown you and you’re thinking I already put in, like, all this work. I’m actually not trying to dissuade you! Being a journalist is a very fine and fun thing to be. I’m having the time of my life, and I’d be the first in line to encourage you and tell you that you’re gonna have a great career and so many stories to tell at the bar.

But because your teachers probably won’t say it to you, I’ll say it to you: If it ever stops being fun, if you ever start dreading going to work, if you start going hungry because they won’t pay you enough to do something you stopped loving to do anyway, then for the love of god just quit. If I wake up one morning and they tell me that journalism is sitting behind a desk for 10 hours a day and trying not to accidentally plagiarize something from the million blogs I’m supposed to aggregate, then I’m leaving journalism and moving to New Orleans to open a coffee shop. May the bridges I burn light the way.

Free online course teaches journalists where they can gather news

By Andrew Gibson

Many journalists learn news-gathering law in college, but that knowledge could dwindle without a refresher.

And with the March arrests of two Chicago journalists near a hospital, as well as the May acquittal of a New York University student arrested during Occupy Wall Street protests -- two incidents in which police took issue with where journalists were standing -- knowing your rights seems as relevant as ever.

Newsgathering Law & Liability: A Guide for Reporting is a self-paced, online course from Poynter's News University that promises to keep journalists up to date on where they're allowed to bring a camera and notebook.

"You'll learn to identify the level of permission you must get to gather news in a location," according to the description. "You'll practice interviewing sources and see what promises you should or shouldn't make to them. You'll find out how to handle documents and other materials, and understand what your rights are to protect and retain them."

Grants from The Harnisch Foundation and The Cutts Foundation have made the course free to everyone, and you can start whenever you want.

Letters Home: Francie Williamson

Francie Williamson is content editor at The Gazette in
Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She graduated from the Missouri
School of Journalism in 2000 with a degree in print
and digital news (formerly the news editorial sequence)
The following letter was submitted Feb. 28, 2012

Be a sponge. And don’t leave early.

That’s what I would tell my younger undergraduate self if I could go back in time to December 2000. That’s when I graduated from Mizzou a semester early in order to beat the recession that I had a feeling was coming.

I was right about the recession, but I would have been fine staying another semester. Newspapers didn’t really start on their current precipitous decline until the middle of the decade.

I’ve been back to campus twice since graduating. I’m in awe and quite envious of all the things that have popped up not only in the journalism school, but at Mizzou as a whole in the last 12 years. In that time I’ve worked at five newspapers in South Carolina, Maine, Georgia and Iowa. I’m lucky to still be employed at one now.