BY CAROLINA BARRIOS
Leaving home and heading off to camp for some students has become a summer routine. For others, attending the Summer Journalism Institute at the University of Florida was a brand new experience. We all had ultimately one thing in common and that was to learn and understand the broad field of journalism and communications.
On Saturday, June 23, 2007, eighty seven high school students from all over the nation flew and drove to Gainesville, Florida to spend a few days at the prestigious University of Florida to experience life as a true journalist and to learn from skilled professionals. Though the main focus was indeed to grasp all of the beneficial information given by speakers and special guests, the students did also intend on meeting new friends and actually living the college lifestyle for a few days.
As students eagerly arrived at the university they checked in at the Beaty Towers where they would be welcomed by the friendly assistants and of course, the famous Meredith Cochie whom we all were previously introduced to through SJI emails.
“I love Meredith, she’s so funny” said SJI writing student, Sarah Blanc, 17.
Meredith has the most outgoing, energetic, crazy, awesomely eccentric personality here. She’s in charge of helping put just about everything together for us students; and what a great job she has done! The Beaty Towers would be the sleeping quarters for the following time spent at the camp. Rooms were spilt into groups of fours on the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth floors. At the towers, students soon realized they were not the only ones staying at Beaty. The remaining floors were being occupied by students taking part in other camps and as well as students in the infamous, seemingly intense, seven week long science camp. Once checked in, students impatiently headed for the awfully slow elevators to see what the dorms looked like. For me, I know that I had always heard terrible dorm stories about how simply filthy, bug infested and disgusting they were; I was not too excited. SJI writing student Kristen Sibeitt, 16, also had the same mindset prior to entering the dorms.
“They weren’t what I thought they would be, I like it a lot better.” She said.
Finally, I made it up to dorm room 1106, and I must say that what I was looking at did not match the picture I had created in my mind – thankfully! The rooms were exceptionally pleasing. Dark blue carpets and bright empty white walls stood out first to me; walking in, you would find a fridge, oven and cabinet equipped kitchen/living room area with a round table and four semi-comfortable chairs. To the left would be the plain and rather dull bathroom which reminded me of the bathrooms at the elementary school I attended.
“The bathrooms reminded me of (the movie) The Ring”, said SJI writing student, Catie Mouw, 17.
I agreed! But really, what do you need? Simply a sink, shower and toilet, it’s got it! Ahead were two doors leading to each of the bedrooms. As I opened that door I was actually pretty impressed. It obviously did not look like my bedroom at home, but what I had pictured in my mind was once again deceived. To the left were the two low beds with a tiny wood night table in between. To the right of the beds was a small desk in front of a window reaching from the roof to the floor of the dorm. The view was appealingly nice, the streets, hospital and other places on campus. Next to that were the closets. The closets were made up of drawers, shelves and places for hanging clothes. Like the rest of the students I unpacked my belongings and made my bed.
“We’re at one of the oldest campuses, its college life, its dorms. Wouldn’t have it any other way,” said SJI writing student Reed Yaras, 17.
None of my roommates were in the room and as I was talking to my parents about how anxious I was to meet them. That’s when I heard a knock at the door and it was some other friendly girls who were part of the camp as well, knocking from door to door trying to get to know everyone on the eleventh floor. I was so excited to finally meet people! They were the sweetest girls; we immediately all got along.
At four sharp we were to all meet at the lobby of the Beaty Towers to get ready for a walking tour of where we would spend the following days. We took what we students thought was a long and exhausting walk to the College of Journalism and Communications auditorium where introductions took place. That walk would be our daily routine for the next five days. As students rambled into the auditorium we were told we would be called by numbers on the name tags that were assigned to us. Anytime we would meet as a whole, we were to shout out our numbers and then would be accounted for. That’s when it began. The simplest thing would become one of the hardest tasks for us students. If it wasn’t that someone would always be late then it was that they would forget their number; counting numbers has never been so difficult! SJI writing student Sarah Blanc, 17, not surprisingly, chose one of the first times counting off as one of her highlights at camp.
It was 5:30 and dinner would be next. The food was something everyone was looking forward to and like everything else, no one knew what to expect. As we bunched into the Gator Dining Hall everyone headed in a different direction which was a good sign of a large variety. From Italian foods to sandwiches to cereals to Hispanic foods and more, the café was full of diverse meals to satisfy most, if not all taste buds. The afternoon ended with a final meeting they called “Ice Breakers.” There all eighty seven students introduced and said a little about themselves. Once we all shared sixty seconds about us, it was time to head back to the dorms. I met my three roommates and quickly got along with them. We shared a little bit more about each other and then phoned our parents to say our goodnights. Everyone at camp was happy with their roommates.
“I came with my best friend, but the girls in the other room are awesome, they’re great” said Sarah Blanc.
One of my roommates, Leah Arnold, 16, and I had brought our laptops in hopes of connecting to the Internet and being able to impatiently check our Myspace’s and Facebook’s for new comments and new wall posts each day. This would be a problem; we soon realized the Internet was not in that of our access. Once we got over our little issue we decided it was time to hit the sack. I realized that this was not my soft, high, excessively padded bed I was used to sleeping on. Surprisingly, I woke up on Sunday morning without any back pains.
Sunday, we had the morning free so everyone took great advantage of that and either explored campus or hit the Gator Bookstore/Clothing shop! At 12:30 we all met at the auditorium for a presentation by UF professor John Freeman. Freeman started off with showing very well known pictures like the soldiers at Iwo Jima. As a photographer, he explained to us why the picture was such a great shot. The pole was running diagonally across it, “diagonals are good!” he said. SJI writing student, Meaghan McGowan, 17, viewed the presentation as “creative and really well done. I realized how important photography is in this field and the pictures he showed were so touching, almost like a cultural lesson.”
After Freeman came Meredith Cochie’s lesson on “Tips for Being a Rad J-school Student in College.” Speaking from experience, she left us with thoughts to always keep in mind while working in the field like “talk to your teachers”, “dress appropriately and be prompt”, “take ownership”, “learn to listen”, “its not what you know, its who you know- kind of” and more. She shared with us key skills that will always be useful whether we continue with journalism or change our mind. Her lesson was more of a college survival speech; everyone enjoyed it because we can all relate to it. College is right around the corner for most of us and of course it was also enjoyable because Meredith is quite entertaining- in the best way! That night was “Movie and Pizza” night so all the students met at the auditorium and impatiently waited for the movie to begin. Once numbers were counted off, we watched “Accepted”; extremely appropriate for the moment being! After that was back to the dorms!
Day three, Monday June 25, students rushed into class at 8:30 in the morning and were finally assigned what they would be working on to be due at deadline on Wednesday 3:30 sharp. Topics like cosmetics for men, speaker personal interviews, hockey’s declining population, Gator Dining Hall food and Paris Hilton were among those chosen. When class was finished, students from all three classes gathered at the auditorium to listen to Ted Spiker’s presentation titled “The Art of a Good Interview: It’s All in the Details.” Spiker, associate professor of journalism and communications and contributing editor for Men’s Health, gave the greatest and most helpful tips on how to go about interviewing someone.
“The basics: prepare- research, write a list of basic questions, have your tools ready, think conversation, not interview” were some of the key bullet points he helped us understand better.
He often stressed to “get in the game, to depict the person in a different atmosphere.”
A favorite speaker of many students like Sarah Blanc, Spiker gave students a top ten for interviewing tactics. Among the top ten were tips like “know the hot questions: why questions and superlative questions (those that end in –st)”, “listen and follow up”, “keep your mouth shut! Silence is a powerful tool”, always go on a second date” and the infamous “think Mike Tyson: jab, jab, jab, cross!” meaning of course hard and awkward questions.
After Spiker’s interesting and passionate lesson, came David Stanton’s presentation. His topic was interesting simply because it is the changing point, the transition all journalists everywhere are seeing and having to go through. Stanton’s presentation was based on the Internet and how powerful it’s becoming in today’s society. Truthfully I had not noticed it until he really pointed it out and explained the change.
“Parents go to the newspaper for information, you go to online sources,” he said.
That statement really hit me! It is so true, we are the future, and eventually there will no longer be a need for any newspapers. Why would anyone read a newspaper when reading it online is so much faster; not only can you read it online but you can watch or listen to interview clips. He really opened up the eyes of many students with this lesson because many of us do not realize the changes happening right in front of us daily in this field.
After Stanton’s presentation on the Internet, the rest of the afternoon was ours to make the most of! Students once again explored campus or hit the shops! Many discovered the Starbucks at the Library across Century Tower, which was a hit! The following day began like the one prior, with breakfast and class.
Our first speaker for Tuesday would be Mike Foley. Foley has been given the honor of being theUniversity of Florida’s teacher of the year for 2006-2007. He is also the master lecturer and former St. Petersburg Times executive editor. His presentation was based on journalism ethics.The first main point he brought out to us was that no, “the media can’t say, print or broadcast anything they want.” He defined good journalism with five main key words; being “fair, accurate, complete, interesting and profitable.” He also added to that, here at the University of Florida, you will get fifty points taken of your paper for getting the fact wrong, whether it is a small as the wrong time or a misspelled name. He listed what he believes are the nine attributes of a good friend. Some were “fair, a friend is fair”, “helpful and useful”, “rejoices in success” and “is compassionate”. Foley showed us a different side of journalism that many people who are not journalists do not get to see. Journalists don’t have one of the easiest jobs out there. It is not a simple task to get insight on the latest news of Paris Hilton being arrested. Journalists are the ones they all hate, yet everyone wants the latest information. So Foley gave his lesson on the right and ethical ways to approach these difficult situations that need to be reported.
The following presentation was by two high school teachers speaking on “You and Your Adviser: Making it Work”. Kerri McLean and Terry Sollazzo gave us the best tips on how to be flexible with our advisers. The presentation began with a little game they called “Whose Staff is it Any Way?” Entertaining to say the least! Several students went up on stage and acted out scenes that as high school staff members we are faced with. McLean and Sollazzo helped us face these situations properly and professionally. The rest of the afternoon, students were allowed to once again explore or shop!
Wednesday morning, everyone rushed to breakfast and class, typing up and getting information for their articles! Deadline would be at 3:30 this afternoon! When class finished we all headed for the auditorium. Kristin Harmel was our guest speaker. She was my personal favorite speaker of all! Her lesson was titled “Beyond the Red Carpet: Entertainment Journalism.” Harmel, an alumna of theUniversity of Florida, is the author of several novels, an online course instructor of mediabistro.com and a reporter for the well-known People magazine. For most girls this was definitely a favorite! Meeting people like Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew McConaughey and Patrick Dempsey must be fun.She gave out some of the best tips like to “prove yourself first through writing.” Often, being young it is more difficult to prove yourself and that you really can handle writing for a publication. Her advice was to write on a topic that interests you and submit it to any local publication; don’t allow them to automatically judge you because of your age without even seeing your writing. She also said it was important to get a lot of contacts and to start small. She also gave out a handout with more information on how to get your foot into the door the right way! Following Harmel was Media Law Professor Sandra Chance. Chance spoke on the first amendment and the rights journalists do and do not have. She gave political examples to us from the past like Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969). She also gave some guidelines for acting reasonably in the field like “using trustworthy sources”, “talking to all sides of the story” and “be open minded.” Chance allowed us to see the political side and aspect of journalism that all journalists have to be aware and alert of, like laws, copyrights and more.
Our last speaker of the day was John Wright, the interim dean for the College of Journalism and Communications. Considering the power he holds at the university, students were excited about what he had to tell us! Many students questions were based on applying and getting accpeted to this university. What he empahsized most was the essay for applying. “Write things about you, thats what will make the difference”, he told us. Wright also repeatedly reminded us to maintain the high grade point averages and the high SAT or ACT scores, as well as being a diverse all-around student.
All in all, the experience all the students received here at SJI will be a memorable one. All the teachers, special guests, the dean and new friends we met have been a highlight of our summer.
“It’s an all around good experience”, said Reed Yaras. With the way SAT’s and scores are going; at least we are able to say ‘we went to a UF class. It’s hard to be sitting here during the summer working on articles but we’re soaking up the experience here at UF; taking time out of our summer. The only problem was that it’s too short!”