Technology contributes to students’ skills as media writers

photo by Julie Dodd
Students in Multimedia Writing used their phones to record an in-lecture interview. I took this photo with my iPhone.

An interview in class was a reminder of how technology is a part of college students’ lives and a positive contribution to their ability to work in the media.

Every semester, I conduct an in-lecture interview with expert sources that becomes the foundation for the students for one of their first reporting assignments.

This semester, I interviewed Laurel Nesbit, program assistant for the UF Office of Sustainability, and Chip Skinner, marketing and communications supervisor for the Regional Transit System. During the interview, the students took notes and will be writing a story with a focus on sustainable transportation. Our news hook is UF’s One Less Car campaign that is going on right now.

Part of my job is modeling best practices for interviews. For example:

  • I had my interview questions prepared — and sent those to the students in advance. But I also listened for opportunities to ask follow-up questions or questions I hadn’t planned that were prompted by something one of the sources said.
  • I took notes but also used eye contact.
  • I asked the sources to explain concepts that readers might not understand that the sources brought up, like a proposed road tax and how a hybrid bus is powered.

During the interview, I took notes in a reporter’s notepads, as reporters typically do in face-to-face interviews. Most of the students took notes on their laptops, which is the approach for notetaking for phone interviews and at meetings and sporting events. Photo by Sally Ince

I had encouraged students to bring their laptops and phones to the interview.

Students had the option of recording the interview, although they were to take notes, too. About 30 students brought their phones to the table where the interview was going to take place to record the interview. Other students moved closer to the front of the auditorium to use their phones to record the interview from where they sat.

The number of those recording the in-lecture interviews has increased dramatically in the last year, as more students have smartphones. For now, the students are using the recorded interview for fact checking and to get quotes. But the recording functions on most smartphones are good enough that the students will be able to edit their phone-recorded interviews for audio storytelling and podcasts.

Throughout the interview, the auditorium was filled with the sound of typing, as students used their laptops to take notes. Journalism and public relations students are required to have laptop computers, and this in-lecture interview was just the time for using those laptops.

Some students were reading the interview questions on their phones and then taking notes in their notebooks. Students were referring to websites that were discussed during the interview. When Chip Skinner talked about  TransLoc, the free app that lets riders track the buses in real time, several students got out their phones and downloaded the app in our wireless auditorium.

In lecture tomorrow, we’ll debrief from the interview, talking about the interview process and the information and quotes collected. We’ll also talk about how to use technology to contribute to the interviewing process but remembering that most face-to-face interviewing is done by writing notes and not typing on a laptop.

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