Putting skills to work outside the box a good thing for Cedarville students

We have this saying in the Cedarville University Department of Communication: “What Can’t We Do?”

We put it on T-shirts, hashtag it, say it, etc.

The more students apply that to co- and extra-curricular activities while on campus, the better it prepares them to find work.

In addition to my journalism teaching responsibilities in the department, I also teach a writing class to communication majors. My sense is that what we discuss and learn in that class helps them think about writing in new ways. They are, after all, comm majors and want to know the best ways to communicate in whatever job they find.

There are obvious limits on what they can do. They can’t use their degree to be a nurse, an engineer, a school teacher or an astronaut. But they can work at hospitals, innovative companies, schools and even for NASA. All those places, and just about any other place open for business, needs people to do the work comm majors do. “Where Can’t We Work?” is another way to think about it.

I could say just about the same thing for journalism majors. We train them to be reporters and to do other aspects of journalism. But they are employable beyond those areas at businesses and non-profits. Same goes for broadcasting and digital media students. We just did a survey of recent journalism graduates, and most are working either as reporters, content marketers or public relations specialists.

Similarly, students choose to work for Cedars, our campus newspaper and website, and Resound, our campus raido station, from outside of the comm department. We are inclusive, not exclusive, in both directions.

I just saw this article about a graduate from a program outside of our department. He got a good job at a web design firm and was once a part of our design team for Cedars. Andrew Spencer did some great work for us and helped us win a design award in the annual Ohio Newspaper Association contest. He looked for ways to grow his skills outside of the classroom.

Students are wise for taking advantage of opportunities outside of their specific discipline. It grows their knowledge and understanding of the world.

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Drones and virtual reality and the future of journalism

I recently attended two events and saw drones and virtual reality in action.

At the Society of Professional Journalists Region 4/5 meeting in Cincinnati, we had workshops on both.

First to the drones. The presenter said that he believes the FAA will deregulate soon and open up drone usage for commercial uses. Right now, it takes a pilot’s license to operate a drone for commercial uses. That’s really held back the journalistic uses. Recreational use only requires you to own one. Soon, probably with some small amount of training required, commercial use will become more like recreational use. This will open it up to journalistic uses. Journalists in other countries already use drones because they don’t have restrictions like the FAA has put on us in the U.S.

The next level of drone technology was written about on fastcompany.com a couple days. The Hover Camera is designed for indoor use and has all kinds of possibilities for journalism and education.

I can see journalism students using drones for class and for Cedars to help produce stories that will truly benefit from drone footage. If you are familiar with Cedarville, imagine the cardboard canoe race, getting started weekend, involvement fair and many other outdoor activities. And what about a story showing off the new chapel in the fall from a variety of views. Drones are more than a gimmick. They can really help tell stories.

Virtual reality with 360-degree viewing experiences are coming fast. The workshop presenters at SPJ said within five years we will all have a VR device. Right now Samsung is pushing it with its Gear device as a $100 add-on. I got to try one there and then again at the Evangelical Press Association convention in early April. I watched a video made my a mission organization that told a story of a third-world village. You felt like you were sitting there watching all that was happening.

An editor from the Cincinnati Enquirer showed us some 360 virtual reality they have done, including this video from a pops rehearsal. It’s on YouTube which allows you to use the mouse to move around and see what the conductor sees. With a VR viewer it would be 3D and much cooler to watch. We always want to put people there with our words and pictures. Now we can virtually do it.

Of course these technologies aren’t cheap, but they are becoming more affordable. Hopefully we can get these technologies into our curriculum soon.

Cedars staff brings home eight SPJ awards

Awards season was good to the Cedars staff again this year. We just returned from the Society of Professional Journalists regional conference with eight Mark of Excellence awards. That’s three better than last year. Four of the awards were category winners and will be entered in the national contest.

This followed a third straight honor as the top non-daily student paper in Ohio in the Ohio Newspaper Association collegiate contest.

Journalists have never been in it for the money, and they aren’t just in it for awards either. But awards are still fun to win. It’s validation that you are doing good work, even some of the best work among your peers. The students of recent years are certainly helping to build a good reputation for the program and for Christian journalists.

They have been a blessing to work with. And it’s a blessing to see them take what they learn and apply it with a mindset of wanting to do the best job possible. Our program still has plenty of room to grow and much opportunity, but a strong foundation has been set in the past few years.

The goal of our faculty is to blend practical experience and skills development with what every journalist needs to know about the law, ethics and the ever-evolving business of journalism. And, most importantly, to apply a Christian worldview to every part of journalism.

If you know any Cedars staffers, please congratulate them on a job well done.