HIGHER EDUCATION

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Southern Virginia University is a small liberal arts college nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. The school’s president recruited me to teach there a few years back. He told me I wouldn’t have to cut back on my writing comm itments and I could design my own course.

‘Writing and Mass Media’ is the class I came up with. It’s a reflection of what I do. Here’s how it works. In the fall semester I conduct a series of all-day presentations that are held off-campus in a post and beam bed-and-breakfast tha t my wife and I built on our organic farm. I’m joined there by top writers, editors, producers, correspondents, and videographers, all of whom I’ve worked with over the years. In this intimate environment, my students form relationships with the professionals while learning from them.
The Lodge Where Classes Are Taught at Rockspring Farm.
This past fall, Barbara Walters’ longtime producer Rob Wallace taught script writing; CBS Evening News investigative chief correspondent Armen Keteyian taught story framing and interview techniques; Sports Illustrated executive editor B.J. Schecter did sessions o n integration between the magazine, the web and the iPad; and Kevin Lombard, a longtime videographer for Victoria’s Secret and Tommy Hilfiger, taught video production by helping my students make a promotional video for the course.
In fact, all of the presentations are intended to have a practical application. Rob Wallace, for example, provided each student with a DVD of an ABC 20/20 segment he produced on Hank Williams, Jr. All of the narration had been stripped from the disc. My student s were assigned to watch the segment and write the narration. They had between 6PM on Friday and 8AM on Saturday to complete the assignment.
The exercise was intended to force students to write succinctly. But they also got to experience the pressure of writing under a deadline. Many stayed up most of the night and said it was one of the most challenging undertakings of their college career. It was also the most rewarding. Each got to read his or her narration in front of their peers while Wallace critiqued them. Then they watched the segment with the narration that Wallace had written for the broadcast. It’s the kind of thing they’ll never forget.
In the spring I do something different. I take my students to New York to see my colleagues at work. We did that last week. This was our itinerary for the first day:
8:30 – 9:45 Sat in on a production meeting with ABC News 20/20 producer Rob Wallace.
10:45 – 11:30 Met with Grand Central Publishing’s executive editor Rick Wolff to learn how he acquired bestseller The Investment Answer: The Five Key Decisions Every Investor Needs to Make.
11:30 to 12:15 Met with production editor Dorothea Halliday, who used a video screen to show my students how she copyedited my last book Little Pink House.
12:45 – 1:30 Working lunch with Sports Illustrated executive editor B.J. Schecter, who explained how he edited the cover story that I co-wrote on college football and crime for last week’s issue.
SVU students with Sports Illustrated editor BJ Schecter
1:30 – 2:00 Met with SI’s videographer, who discussed how the magazine is integrating video to its website and it’s iPad application.
2:00 – 2:15 SI feature writer Jon Wertheim discussed writing and new mediums for distribution.
2:45 – 4:15 Had a private discussion in the office of 60 Minutes senior producer Michael Radutsky, who explained how he landed interviews with Michael Jackson and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
4:45 – 6:00 Met with Michael Rey and Pat Milton, producers from the CBS News investigative unit. They screened a segment Milton produced for 60 Minutes on Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer known as ‘The Merchant of Death.’
6:15 – 7:00 We were inside the control room while Katie Couric anchored the Evening News. There are few experiences in journalism that compete with the hectic, to-the-second production of a live broadcast of news to a national audience. You have to see it to understand.
The next day was set up differently. We spent the morning at February Partners, a PR firm headed up by Dee Dee DeBartlo, the former head of publicity at HarperCollins, and Gretchen Crary, a former producer for Frontline and 60 Minutes. Dee Dee and Gretchen are the publicists for my forthcoming book POISONED: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat. They took my students through the ins and outs of building a PR campaign for a book and even enlisted a couple of them to work on a social media campaign using Facebook and Twitter.
The afternoon was spent back at Time-Life. We did a long session with the creative team of editors and designers from Sports Illustrated. These are the guys who layout the magazine every week. They also are the ones behind the magazine’s iPad app. A nd one of them has been in charge of SI’s swimsuit issue for the past eight years.
Then we did a session with Michael Elliot, the deputy managing editor of TIME. Elliott entered the room with a stack of issues of next week’s issue of the magazine, hot off the presses. He handed one to every student and proceeded to go through every page of it , explaining and discussing all aspects of content and layout. Most of our time was spent discussing the amazing photographs from Libya, along with the risks taken by the photographers on the front lines of violent conflicts.
Then we went to a great restaurant before going to see Phantom of the Opera.
I love writing, whether doing a book, a magazine piece, or a blog. I also love teaching the art to students. They are the next generation of journalists. The Internet has changed book publishing, newspapers and television. But technology hasn't changed the fact that there's no substitute for hard work, excellent writing and the ability to tell a story. Class dismissed

Southern Virginia University is a small liberal arts college nestled in the Shenandoah Valley. The school’s president recruited me to teach there a few years back. He told me I wouldn’t have to cut back on my writing comm itments and I could design my own course.

‘Writing and Mass Media’ is the class I came up with. It’s a reflection of what I do. Here’s how it works. In the fall semester I conduct a series of all-day presentations that are held off-campus in a post and beam bed-and-breakfast tha t my wife and I built on our organic farm. I’m joined there by top writers, editors, producers, correspondents, and videographers, all of whom I’ve worked with over the years. In this intimate environment, my students form relationships with the professionals while learning from them.

barn

The Lodge Where Classes Are Taught at Rockspring Farm.

This past fall, Barbara Walters’ longtime producer Rob Wallace taught script writing; CBS Evening News investigative chief correspondent Armen Keteyian taught story framing and interview techniques; Sports Illustrated executive editor B.J. Schecter did sessions o n integration between the magazine, the web and the iPad; and Kevin Lombard, a longtime videographer for Victoria’s Secret and Tommy Hilfiger, taught video production by helping my students make a promotional video for the course.

In fact, all of the presentations are intended to have a practical application. Rob Wallace, for example, provided each student with a DVD of an ABC 20/20 segment he produced on Hank Williams, Jr. All of the narration had been stripped from the disc. My student s were assigned to watch the segment and write the narration. They had between 6PM on Friday and 8AM on Saturday to complete the assignment.

The exercise was intended to force students to write succinctly. But they also got to experience the pressure of writing under a deadline. Many stayed up most of the night and said it was one of the most challenging undertakings of their college career. It was also the most rewarding. Each got to read his or her narration in front of their peers while Wallace critiqued them. Then they watched the segment with the narration that Wallace had written for the broadcast. It’s the kind of thing they’ll never forget.

In the spring I do something different. I take my students to New York to see my colleagues at work. We did that last week. This was our itinerary for the first day:

8:30 – 9:45 Sat in on a production meeting with ABC News 20/20 producer Rob Wallace.

10:45 – 11:30 Met with Grand Central Publishing’s executive editor Rick Wolff to learn how he acquired bestseller The Investment Answer: The Five Key Decisions Every Investor Needs to Make.

11:30 to 12:15 Met with production editor Dorothea Halliday, who used a video screen to show my students how she copyedited my last book Little Pink House.

12:45 – 1:30 Working lunch with Sports Illustrated executive editor B.J. Schecter, who explained how he edited the cover story that I co-wrote on college football and crime for last week’s issue.

SI

SVU students with Sports Illustrated editor BJ Schecter

1:30 – 2:00 Met with SI’s videographer, who discussed how the magazine is integrating video to its website and it’s iPad application.

2:00 – 2:15 SI feature writer Jon Wertheim discussed writing and new mediums for distribution.

2:45 – 4:15 Had a private discussion in the office of 60 Minutes senior producer Michael Radutsky, who explained how he landed interviews with Michael Jackson and Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

tim

4:45 – 6:00 Met with Michael Rey and Pat Milton, producers from the CBS News investigative unit. They screened a segment Milton produced for 60 Minutes on Viktor Bout, an international arms dealer known as ‘The Merchant of Death.’

victor

6:15 – 7:00 We were inside the control room while Katie Couric anchored the Evening News. There are few experiences in journalism that compete with the hectic, to-the-second production of a live broadcast of news to a national audience. You have to see it to understand.

The next day was set up differently. We spent the morning at February Partners, a PR firm headed up by Dee Dee DeBartlo, the former head of publicity at HarperCollins, and Gretchen Crary, a former producer for Frontline and 60 Minutes. Dee Dee and Gretchen are the publicists for my forthcoming book POISONED: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat. They took my students through the ins and outs of building a PR campaign for a book and even enlisted a couple of them to work on a social media campaign using Facebook and Twitter.

The afternoon was spent back at Time-Life. We did a long session with the creative team of editors and designers from Sports Illustrated. These are the guys who layout the magazine every week. They also are the ones behind the magazine’s iPad app. And one of them has been in charge of SI’s swimsuit issue for the past eight years.

Then we did a session with Michael Elliot, the deputy managing editor of TIME. Elliott entered the room with a stack of issues of next week’s issue of the magazine, hot off the presses. He handed one to every student and proceeded to go through every page of it , explaining and discussing all aspects of content and layout. Most of our time was spent discussing the amazing photographs from Libya, along with the risks taken by the photographers on the front lines of violent conflicts.

Then we went to a great restaurant before going to see Phantom of the Opera.

phantom

I love writing, whether doing a book, a magazine piece, or a blog. I also love teaching the art to students. They are the next generation of journalists. The Internet has changed book publishing, newspapers and television. But technology hasn't changed the fact that there's no substitute for hard work, excellent writing and the ability to tell a story. Class dismissed.

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