Why conferences are important to students

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Viewpoint by Austin P. Taylor

I’ve rarely left San Antonio. Aside from family reunions and the occasional visit to my grandmother’s home in Lubbock, my life has been contained within this city.

On Oct. 5, Ranger students took a trip to the University of Texas at Arlington to participate in a live multimedia competition at the Texas Community College Journalism Association conference.

Ranger adviser Tricia Buchhorn, a UTA alumna and former photo editor of The Shorthorn, accompanied the team chosen to represent The Ranger. The team consisted of visuals editor Deandra Gonzalez, sports editor Jessica Del Valle, multimedia editor Nicole Bautista, staff photographer Virginia Finster and me, managing editor.

At 8:30 a.m., the multimedia contest began.

Previous live contests involved having students find a story, take pictures and shoot a video. After these three components were complete, they’d be compiled into a multimedia package and submitted for judging.

Instead, we were given a staged event of an auto accident caused by negligent driving. The students of UTA’s journalism department and a college police officer setup the situation.

A pickup truck driver was on her phone and had to swerve to avoid hitting a cyclist, which caused her to hit another student on the sidewalk.

Trying to assemble the information for this story was, perhaps, the most complicated part of this whole challenge. The amateur setup was a little shaky, students struggled to remember the exact details of the “accident” and the officer on the scene switched between playing it close to the chest and giving out information that would only be available in the still-to-be-filed police report.

After collecting all the available information, the teams began assembling their packages about 9 a.m.

We had about three hours to write and edit a story, select appropriate photos and publish a video. All of this had to be assembled on a new WordPress page, software that no one on the team had any real experience with.

Jessica and I wrote the story, Deandra and Virginia selected the photos they wanted to run and Nicole edited and published the video. Once these were completed, we assembled the package and posted it to the appropriate WordPress page by the 11:59 a.m. deadline.

The pressure to get this done before our time expired was huge. I’m still not entirely sure how we did it. I’m proud of the work we did (even if I didn’t particularly express such at the time of publication) and I’m honored to have worked alongside this team.

After the competition, we were released to lunch and asked to attend a variety of lectures hosted by experienced journalists based in Texas. The lectures I attended dealt with trying to find sources and techniques on how to improve interviews.

Both of these lectures were very insightful and taught me how to approach people in a way that would make them more comfortable talking to a reporter. (I don’t know if it’s working yet.)

The advisers at The Ranger are fantastic and I’m glad to be able to learn from them. However, being able to hear new, and different, approaches to how I could conduct myself while out on assignment is invaluable. No method is “the best” so being able to hear how people outside of this program operate is essential.

At 6 p.m., the awards ceremony commenced in a ballroom of the student center at UTA. It was nerve-wracking to say the least. Over the next hour-and-a-half, we were presented several accolades.

For the live contest, we received awards for photos, the multimedia component, headline writing and for the overall media package. For the canned contest, where judges evaluate previously produced and published material, Ranger staffers received nine awards.

Looking back on this event, I realize that this was particularly important to me. I’m particularly harsh towards my own work, and at times, I struggle to appreciate what I’m doing. However, this event allowed to me to understand two important aspects of my work and how I handle it.

First, I’m not absolutely terrible at this whole journalism shtick. I have to remind myself of this everyday, and TCCJA gave me a much needed morale boost. Second, the work my colleagues and I do at The Ranger is important. It has meaning outside of what I see at this college.

So when I’m banging my head against my desk because I can’t seem to remember why I’m doing this, or when a source is being especially difficult, I can remember these points.

It usually helps.


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