Technology Connects Students, Author
By Barbara Bullington
An East Carolina University communication professor arranged for an audio/video exchange this month that connected students in his basic reporting classes with the author of their textbooks.
Dr. Bernard Timberg, associate professor in ECU’s School of Communication, negotiated the exchange, using Skype software for live video interactions between his students and Thom Leib, professor of journalism at Towson State University and author of “All the News: Writing and Reporting for Converging Media.”
The textbook is due out from Allyn and Bacon this year. Timberg uses an advance copy to teach his basic reporting students.
The exchange took place Feb. 7 in Joyner East on campus. Students took turns asking questions in front of a camera, which transported the students’ images to the author in Baltimore, Md. Leib’s face appeared on the large screen in front of the classroom.
Most questions focused on clarifying or enhancing information from the textbook. One student, for instance, asked how a journalist might relate to his audience. Leib responded that newspapers must learn to relate to a younger audience. To do that, he said, they need to reach out and learn “who’s in their community.”
Other students expressed curiosity about the author himself. They questioned Leib about his employment history. They asked what job had most influenced him while he was writing the textbook. Leib responded that his career as a newspaper editor greatly informed his own writing as a journalist as well as his advice to other writers.
“When you spend the day looking at other people’s mistakes, you can’t stand to do them yourself,” Leib said.
Students learned that the author’s inspiration for becoming a journalist came from growing up during the breaking Watergate story. He cited his admiration for Bob Woodward’s and Carl Bernstein’s reporting during that time.
“People were looking at journalism as a way to change…the world,” Leib said.
Students also suggested ways Leib could make the textbook more helpful. One student asked Leib about including writing samples to accompany information in the text. The author responded that he is actually working on samples that he plans to share with Timberg in the coming weeks.
Timberg said the two sessions with Leib were not recorded but future sessions might be. He also noted that he began using “All the News” after learning about it from a colleague who had done a review of the manuscript for the publisher.
At the time, Timberg had been searching for a text that would be relevant to students increasingly faced with convergence in journalism – the trend toward reporting for print, the Internet and broadcasts, as opposed to focusing in only one area of reporting.