My reflections of the first-ever class of Tools of Storytelling begin with personal recollection. I remember walking from my car parked on Campus Road, resting every 100 yards or so. Walking into our building, I could make it up one flight of stair. Up to the Business Department floor. Then I tried to catch my breath. I was so embarrassed to speak with Dr. Frye, and Professor Macias, and of course, you, my students. Trips to the Mens’ bathroom brought horror, as I saw a ghostly-looking old man – myself, in September and October, 2016. The aftermath of my bout with head and neck cancer, during which I lost 50 pounds, but also during which the cancer was reversed, had left me a shell of my former self.
Yet I was thankful for the opportunity to teach at Brooklyn College. I needed to feel useful, good about myself, and a job teaching a new class at a new school was a real blessing. The mental challenge gradually took over, and I had my work cut out for me in getting the course off the ground. I had no help from either the author of the course, Professor MJ Robinson, nor anyone in JAMS. No briefing on what the department was all about. Nor why the course was developed. Nor what was expected of the instructor teaching a new course at a new school. No meetings, No phone calls. No cups of coffee. No camaraderie.
As my physical strength grew, my confidence in our class, and my students’ work, also flourished. As we worked our way through a demanding syllabus that had many assignments, a midterm, and weekly blogging, I found that I was up to the task of presenting the GPS coordinates of today’s journalism, and facilitating the students in mapping out their own future as a student, and a bit further down the road, in their careers. The results were heartening, in terms of our discussions, and the deliverables of our assignments and our lab periods.
The course rhythm emerged quickly after the course began. Relevant lecture material about the state of journalism, production, and media led to lively give-and-take. Lessons and demonstrations from our two textbooks were presented, some aspects of which were practiced in our lab section. For 4 labs, each of our 3 teams produced a near-complete 90-second news piece. We learned how to use the Broadcast Center’s Padcasters.
Each student blogged weekly, on subjects timely, and touching. Embedding of links to video, and later to show Twitter and Facebook posts, became second nature to Tools students. Our second assignment, an 8-minute audio story about Sparky and Kang Chul, my two dogs (we just adopted Kang Chul’s sister, Audrey), yielded as many variations and approaches as there were students. Assignment #3, the vision piece concerning each students’ unique career path, showed that even if that path had not been envisioned prior, it took shape as the assignment was fulfilled. The fourth assignment, recognizing the dominant role of social media in exchange of ideas and opinion, was almost a wonder to behold.
What is the significance of this course, Tools of Storytelling? Is it the achievement of high productions values? Not really, although some of the students’ skills, in writing, shooting, producing and post-production, were surprisingly sophisticated. Is the value of the course its immersion in the multi-platform world of communication? Perhaps, although we live in it as citizen-journalists. What the course forced us to do was think as a journalist brand, able to work in several platforms (taking note where our comfort areas are), and observing where journalistic principles and practices must be adapted to work with those media audiences prefer.