A contest with a purpose

One of the missions of the California Journalism Association of Community Colleges is to provide educational opportunities for journalism students outside of the classroom. That’s a fancy way of saying we hold conferences with workshops. But sometimes it means something else.

A big part of many of JACC’s conferences are contests that test students’ skills. But last weekend the JACC board of directors changed one of its contests in a way designed to encourage programs to start teaching multimedia skills in their classes.

The board made an experimental change in its Team Feature contest. This high-profile contest brings together a reporter and photographer to create a feature package. Too often it has been a feature writing contest that just happens to have a decent photo entered along with it.

Team Feature 2.0Enter Team Feature 2.0, which will be the format for the 2008 convention in Los Angeles next April.

Team Feature 2.0 provides an interesting twist to JACC’s venerable contest. In keeping with industry trends the contest will give the writer and photographer new challenges as they work together to create a multimedia story using SoundSlidesPlus software.

Writers will gather information and craft a story using text and/or audio while photographers put together a series of photos to illustrate the story. More than ever, the writer and photographer will have to work together to construct a compelling story.

In the end, the team will come together in a Macintosh computer lab to put final touches on the story using a simple-to-use SoundSlidesPlus software program that brings together audio and photos, or stories can be told through photos and text captions.

The simplicity of the software tools and the wide availability of digital cameras, from high-end single lens reflex cameras to low-cost-but-high-quality point-and-shoot cameras, will insure that even students from schools without regular multimedia journalism programs will be able to participate.

At next weekend’s Northern California regional conference at San Jose State University I’ll be introducing and explaining the contest to students and faculty from 20 or so community colleges so that they can spend the school year practicing for the contest and creating slideshows for their online publications. I’m also preparing a second workshop called “Think Online” where I hope to encourage students to change their thinking about their online publication and to encourage instructors to start their own in-classroom “Think Online” campaigns. I repeat the workshops three weeks later at the Southern California regional conference, where another 30-plus schools will probably participate.

We’ll also do workshops at the convention on how to use SoundSlides and how to edit audio using Audacity: We’re trying to use easy-to-obtain software available for Mac and PC, so even the poorest programs can afford to make this leap.

BTW: I love Ryan Sholin’s latest blog entry on “Five Ways to Produce Online News Without Asking the Web Guy for Help.” I plan to share it with next week’s participants.

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