A meeting for our minds

After doing some basic rewrites of news releases and a police accident report last week, we’re going to be moving on into meeting coverage this week.

For our initial effort, we’ll focus just on a meeting itself. You don’t even have to attend in person. View this video of last week’s Academic Senate meeting, produce a news story about it and post your story in the Meeting 1 category before the start of class Feb. 13. Assume you are producing the story for an online publication dated Feb. 6 that serves students and faculty and staff members at the University of Illinois.

As a team, we will review all the stories in class and suggest improvements before we head out to cover an actual meeting as one of our next assignments. When that assignment comes up, we won’t be able to get by merely watching a video. It will be important to be on the scene and, in all likelihood, interviewing participants with follow-up questions or seeking background, explanation and color that will make our stories more than merely stenographic accounts. For our warm-up Academic Senate story, we’ll avoid that so we can concentrate on the basics of covering just what was said at the meeting.

Although several media organizations already have covered the meeting in question, you are strongly urged not to read those pieces before you write your own. It’s important for you to develop your own strategies for coverage, not merely imitation some other reporter’s. After all, he or she could have missed a significant point you found or could have somehow been biased in the coverage. We’ll look at professionals’ stories after we’ve examined ours.

We’re doing these simple exercises to learn more before we go back to work on our eventually revised and enhanced story proposals. Make sure you get the most out of these in-class critiques, which in many ways are the textbook for our class. You can review what we did with our rewrite assignments last week by comparing your efforts to the versions posted here that we came up with on the arts center debt, book signing and “car tag” accident stories. Make sure you understand how and why these versions differ from your own. If you don’t quite getit, don’t hesitate to ask.