Journalism 2100: Community Reporting
The final project for my Community Reporting course was to create a multimedia package about a social justice issue.
My group chose civil access to justice and my portion of the project narrowed in on the Lawyer for a Day program, a partnership between Marquette Law School, Sojourner Family Peace Center and Quarles & Brady LLP that provides representation to domestic violence victims seeking a restraining order.
My video was the most challenging part of this project. Technological glitches like lost video files and encrypted data slowed me down. I probably spent a solid twenty hours on editing the two-minute video alone (I have a much greater appreciation for full-length movies now!). This was the first multimedia package I created and I am quite proud of my results!
A look at the man behind the camera
* For this assignment, we reported on a guest speaker, Mike de Sisti, multimedia picture editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
It’s clear Mike de Sisti belongs behind the lens.
His outfit, comprised of blue jeans and an untucked, rolled-up plaid button-down shirt, is relaxed and fuss-free. The way he hovers near his laptop, ready to move on to the next slide, suggests he’s afraid to meander to the middle of the classroom during his presentation to Marquette journalism students. His first slide is plain Jane – just his name, e-mail, and Twitter handle.
“That’s me,” he awkwardly gestures.
But his ordinary appearance, weak presentation skills, and inept introduction were soon forgotten Wednesday as his next thirty slides demonstrated his photographic prowess.
De Sisti began as a photographer for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, but his love for photography developed at the ripe age of nine when he got his first 8 mm camera. After graduating from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale in 1996, he entered the world of journalism with just his passion and a fine art photography degree.
De Sisti branched out to include videography in his duties because he said it “tells a little bit more of a story.” He demonstrated this by adding audio to a photo slideshow of children running a lemonade stand.
De Sisti’s current job description also includes training new reporters on how to shoot still photography and video.
“Always try to do something just a little bit different,” de Sisti emphasized as one of his tips for rookie photographers. “Get your safe shot and then mix it up with something new.”
His advice was evidenced by the wide variety of shots in his videos which he termed “B-roll,” the tape that accompanies an interviewee’s audio.
While he lectured students on the importance of shooting lots of B-roll, he deemed audio as “king” to the entire video process. Audio is what connects viewers to the “character” of the story whether it be a flagpole climber, train snack seller, or state fair musician.
Though de Sisti is known for his more quirky, fluffy pieces, he is more than capable of capturing more challenging, complex characters. He documented his 95-year old neighbor, Lester Wile, who died six months after his tribute was filmed. While de Sisti joined the students in watching every other video, for this one, he turned away from the screen.
It’s clear from this that storytelling is not just a job for him; it is a way of life. On one of his days off, he shot a video of himself raking leaves and messed around with production techniques to speed up the elapsed time.
His way of life is not something he brags about, though it would be understandable when one sees the long list of events he has covered as the multimedia picture editor for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In the past four years, he documented several presidential races, China’s paper industry, and several major sporting events, including the Super Bowl and the MLB All-Star Game.
He only mentioned the Super Bowl in class, but that was only because he showed a clip of Super Bowl fans pronouncing tricky Wisconsin names. All of his other more exciting events weren’t shown to students and instead replaced with his work on people.
This may shed light on how he conducts his interviews.
“The million dollar question you want to ask is why,” he said. “What drives him? What motivates her? Why do they get up in the morning?”
Well, we’ve found Mike’s answer to the million dollar question.
15 minutes at 12th and Wisconsin Ave.
* For this assignment, Dr. Byers gave us fifteen minutes to run around campus and find out anything we could use for a feature story. He then gave us roughly forty-five minutes to write a feature story about what we found.
Bus stops are a place of transition. People come, people wait, people leave – most within a span of fifteen minutes. Never have I really seen the temporary residents conversing. It seems like everyone leaves without their story told.
After a long day serving food at Mt. Sinai Hospital, Janet was finally heading home. Her wrinkled face and weary expression contradicted her cheery scrubs, an explosion of floral pastels. While she usually works in catering, she served cafeteria food today because of the lack of catering events. BBQ Pork and broiled fish were on the menu. Janet was going.
Kara, accompanied by three children, were coming. The two boys, Perrion and Karon, were Kara’s sons while the younger girl, Kya, was her niece. As Kara lit a cigarette, the children bickered and fought outside the sheltered bench.
“Perrion!” Kara yelled with no concern to the people around her. “Get off your brother. I ain’t gonna tell you twice!”
Kara took her niece to the Brookfield Mall for her birthday. They went window shopping and shared a Cinnabon. Kya handed me her used bus ticket, perhaps the only souvenir she had to remember her trip by. The group was headed home with the lingering taste of cinnamon and cream cheese frosting on the minds.
Fifty-year old Iris was waiting for the 30 bus. She was on her way home after a full day’s work at the Bradley Center. She has worked there for 23 years setting up food events. Though it’s not the most glamorous job, she enjoys the Marquette basketball games in the winter.
“Marquette is a sellout crowd,” the Golden Eagles fan said.
While she’s required to wear a catering uniform, she shows her spirit by donning a Marquette head on her commutes.
Like Iris, Charlae was waiting. She was also headed home, not from a day of work, but a day of class. She is a freshman studying business administration at Milwaukee Area Technical College.
“I don’t really like the long commutes, but I need to be home to take care of my baby,” the young mother said about her one-year old, Davante.
Dynesha, another student headed home for the day was leaving. She is also a freshman, currently studying street law at the New School for Community Service.
“I wanna go to law school and become a street lawyer,” the twenty-year old mentioned. “I wanna help people like me.”
Dynesha didn’t explain what she meant by “people like me” but I could take a guess.
Confession: I used to be terrified of the bus stops I passed every day on Marquette’s campus. I thought they were dirty, were for people below me, were for people who would never rise up to become something great.
My fifteen minutes at the bus stop revealed to me what bus stops really are. Not a place of transition, but a place for transitionary people. A place for people to come, to wait, and to eventually leave.
Journalism 1550: Reporting and News Design
For the final project for this class, Dr. Thorn assigned a group project. We were to design a multimedia website about Marquette's renovation of three historic core buildings (Marquette Hall, Johnston Hall, and Sensenbrenner Hall). We were each assigned different tasks.
I had the pleasure of learning about Sensenbrenner Hall's history and renovation. I got to interview the university project architect, the contractor, a MU law professor who started in Sensenbrenner and still works in Eckstein Hall, and the architect. I also wrote a short story about the recycling process for this extensive project.
I really enjoyed this final project. Though group-based (which I'm not a huge fan of), I think we all collaborated well. I look forward to seeing the changes in the buildings that I wrote about.
*Some photos courtesy of Marquette Library photo archive
Journalism 1100: Journalism Bootcamp
A Faith-Based Education: Is It Worth It?
A 57 percent acceptance rate. One national NCAA basketball championship title. A twelfth national rank in the physical therapy program. Home of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings original manuscripts. The only medieval chapel in the Northern Hemisphere.
Marquette University is a thriving, private, religiously-affiliated institution. But many other private, religiously-affiliated colleges are struggling to stay afloat. Schools like Taylor University,John Brown University and Wheaton College are very small – around 2,000 students – and pride themselves as learning communities with a Christian focus. Perhaps this unique distinction is why many of these colleges are closing up shop. Why?
Fewer Religious Recruits
Funding these small religious schools used to be easy because of students who attended for purely religious reasons. But today, fewer prospective students are available to be recruited by these small religious schools because of a decline in religious membership among young people.
After enrolling in a traditional four-year institution, 64 percent of students report a decrease in religious service attendance. What is the draw to a college where chapel is required multiple times a week if so many college students are skipping Sunday service?
Researchers point out that even though people may be dropping out of organized religion, that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning faith.
“There’s an awful lot of religion on campus that is not labeled as such,” author of “No Longer Invisible: Religion in University Education” Jake Jacobsen said. With more of a focus on ethics and morals, he added, “Learning in higher education has gone from very subject-centered to student-centered.”
Enrollment in these small religious schools is not falling solely because of an overall decline in religion; financial reasons have also played a factor in students’ choices to go elsewhere.
The Real Cost of these Colleges
The economic recession combined with the increasing cost of higher education has forced students and parents to assess the “economic value” of a degree.
The average tuition at a public university for this year was $8,655 while at a nonprofit, private university, the tuition rose to $29,056. The numbers don’t lie – going private costs over three times as much as a public institution.
But many of the students applying to these types of universities do not bother looking at public schools. Haley Gallina attended Spring Hill College in Alabama. And knew she wanted a small Jesuit institution despite its heftier price tag. She said most of her classmates were rich, Southern kids who did not want to go public either.
Besides the enormous hike in tuition as compared to going public, many of these smaller colleges are not nationally accredited which means that the degree is not equivalent to an accredited institution.
The lack of name recognition associated with these institutions is another concern when it comes time to enter the workforce. Current Marquette student, Emily Gorz looked at several religious institutions but decided on Marquette University in large part because of its name.
“One of the main reasons that I chose to go to Marquette was because of it’s name recognition and when people say ‘I went to Marquette’ it implores that they’re going to know it’s a good school and has a really outstanding reputation.” Gorz explains.
Name recognition had become more of a determining factor in school choice. To attract a wider range of students, some colleges have gone so far as to remove the “Christian” or “Bible”. This was the case for Johnson Bible College in Knoxville, Tennessee, which is now called Johnson College. The change may make it easier on students when they enter the workforce.
Gorz knew that the abundance of opportunities Marquette offers would serve her well when applying for jobs. Gallina, who ended up transferring to Marquette after a semester at Spring Hill College, also mentioned the larger amount of resources at larger schools as compared to smaller ones.
“We have the basketball games and Late Night Marquette events, and I’m an education major, so there is service learning. At Spring Hill, we had none of this.” She explains.
Solutions to the Problem
The goal of these universities is to prepare students for a career in ministry, which is usually low paying. But many students are choosing a more professional career to pay off student loans.
Colleges have attempted to combat this problem by slashing tuition prices. Brewton-Parker College, a Bible study school in Georgia has cut tuition by 22 percent and has instituted a four-day workweek. Duquesne University, located in Pennsylvania, has reduced tuition by 50 percent.
Some colleges have seen results with current students because student retention is up, but enrollment has remained relatively stagnant. Lowering tuition can only be sustainable for a few years but the schools can only run on borrowed money for so long until they are forced to shut down.
Parents seem to be the ones concerned for financial reasons while potential students fear the social life on faith-based campuses may be a bore compared to public schools or larger private colleges.
Strict Policies Push Students Away
Many religious schools require incoming students to sign a pledge, outlining their beliefs and lifestyle restrictions. John Brown University requires students to sign a Covenant, which prohibits smoking, premarital sex, drinking, gambling, and all on-campus dancing except folk or square.
John Brown is just one of the many colleges with such severe guidelines. Cornerstone Universityin Michigan requires students to sign a lifestyle statement and Taylor University in Indiana has adopted a Life Together Covenant. Both colleges forbid the same lifestyle choices that John Brown University dismisses.
The issue of social dancing has become a hot topic at many of these universities. After 90 years with no dancing, John Brown University just began to allow swing dance in 2007. In the past 10 years, several of America’s most established evangelical schools, including Baylor University,Wheaton College, and Cornerstone University, have lifted restrictions on dancing and are allowing formal dances like swing or ballroom.
Though it may sound socially stifling, students’ voluntary enrollment at the university confirms that they agree to live within the framework of the school's community expectations. Current John Brown University student Brittiny Craig estimates that 90 percent of her classmates believe adhering to Covenant is not restrictive on their social lives.
“I don’t think they (the restrictions) are. I don’t think it’s that hard just because I’ve always had the same morals as this. I was never really a partyer, so I don’t really think that it’s hard for me to uphold these rules. For others, it might be, but not for me,” Craig says.
Will these schools soon be extinct?
Though these schools are struggling, this is not to say that America’s colleges will soon be either public or large private institutions. Small religious schools are not for everyone, but they are for a select few.
Reflecting back on her college application process and how she ended up at Marquette, Gorz said, “There’s colleges for everyone and small religious schools aren’t very popular because a lot of people aren’t interested in living that way. It’s too restrictive for them. For example, I don’t think I would be able to go to that school but for some people it could be the perfect fit.”
The perfect fit. It’s what every future student hunts for when picking a school. Small religious schools must strive to make their college that “perfect fit.” The place that students will spend their next four years. The place they call their home.
Marquette's 11 Percent: Religious Minorities on Campus
"Why Marquette?” It’s a question every future Golden Eagle gets when they send in the enrollment deposit. For the 11 percent of non-Christian students, it’s a harder question to answer than for their 89 percent of Christian classmates. The Office of Institutional Research reported that 2 percent were of another world religion, 6 percent were not religious, and another 2 percent were unknown. For this minority, the draw to Marquette was because of reasons that outweighed the lack of religious diversity on campus.
Purpose of the Theology Requirement
Catholicism permeates the campus – just look at the theology requirements. All Marquette students are required to take at least two theology courses, sometimes three depending on the college. The introductory Theology 1001 course covers mostly Christian and Roman Catholic texts, but depending on the professor it may include discussions of other world religions.
“It’s not about convincing other people of what I’m teaching. It’s about sharing with them. It’s up to students what they want to take away from it. It’s certainly not my goal in teaching to preach,” theology professor Irfan Omar emphasizes.
Omar is one of three non-Christian theology professors at Marquette. Born in India and raised Muslim, he chose Marquette because he believes Jesuit institutions are more accepting of conversations regarding faith as opposed to state schools.
Marquette’s Eleven Percent: Student Profiles
Cassandra Botica, a Marquette student, was born Catholic, but her family was kicked out of the Catholic Church after her mother divorced and re-married. She was raised Lutheran, but currently does not identify with any religion. She chose Marquette because of the small class sizes and stellar academics.
Liana Hariri, a Muslim, chose Marquette for the financial aid and academics. Being a member of the Student Arab Association and Muslim Club has helped her remember her identity. Hariri has only felt singled out as a minority during her cultural class where she is the only Muslim. But Hariri believes even though she is a different religion, she still feels a part of the faith community at Marquette. “God is God no matter what religion. You need that in college to manage the stress and problems and worries.” Hariri explains.
For Mimi Fain coming to Marquette was an easy decision. She knew the academics at a Catholic institution would be better than a public university. Fain had attended a Catholic high school despite being a devout Baptist. Her friends are mostly Catholic but she has never felt singled out.
A Catholic Perspective
Despite the overwhelmingly Catholic student body, Botica, Hariri, and Fain all agreed that Marquette is very accepting of other religions. Alexandra Maglio has attended Catholic school her entire life and said she wishes Marquette had more diversity.
“There are people of other religions here like my own roommate but she’s still Christian. I would say that I’d rather have it be a little more diverse and to hear about extremely different beliefs.” Maglio said.
If the remaining 89 percent feel the same way as Maglio, Marquette’s 11 percent may soon grow larger.
Election Season: Only a Few Days Left
Politics is a contact sport – especially when it comes to campaign ads. With less than a month left in the race to the White House, TV-watchers are being bombarded with political attacks.
Bonnie Brennen, journalism professor and guest lecturer at Marquette’s political panel “Media Coverage of Modern Campaigns” mentioned that of the 1.2 billion dollars spent on campaigns, the majority of the money goes to thirty-second commercials that undermine the opponent. Many people no longer feel as if they are voting for someone but rather against someone else because the negative ads present viewers with few choices– either vote for X and watch our country fail or vote Y.
CBS correspondent Ben Tracy, another guest lecturer at the Monday panel, explained that of the three to five percent of swayable voters, most are turned off by the negative ads. According to the article, “Going Negative”, by Ansolabehere and Ivengar, attacks ads produce the highest drop in voter participation with Independents feeling the pinch of negativity most strongly.
Tracy also pointed out the lack of negative ads in California because of a large Democratic population.
Rebecca Norgord, one of the 60 people that attended the event, said, “I’ve grown up in Wisconsin my whole life and I thought all states had negative ads. But Tracy said in California there aren’t any negative ads because Obama’s already won the electoral vote.” Political ads are most prevalent – and negative – in swing states like Wisconsin.
Media history expert Brennen said the dirty politics in this election is nothing new and has happened throughout history. The most recent development in political mudslinging are the Super PAC ads which are sponsored by political action committees, organizations that can engage in unlimited campaign spending and are known for being more negative than traditional ads. Brennen noted with disgust, “The most negative ads are the Super PAC ads on both sides. They’re terrible. They’re just terrible.”
Do the ads really serve their purpose? Research has yielded conflicting results. Some studies suggest that negative ads are more easily remembered and influential while other studies prove otherwise. There are also conflicting conclusions about the effect of negative advertising on voter turnout.
Despite the contradicting evidence, Brennen believes that these ads have persisted for a reason. “They wouldn’t do negative advertising if it didn’t have some kind of an influence.”