Saturday, May 8, 2010

Aggie NFL writer, prizewinners among Batt speakers

A&M grads including the president of the Pro Football Writers of America and the creator of "Tubularman" came back to speak with Batt staffers this year, and other speakers brought experience from the Dallas Morning News to tales of a Pulitzer with the Kansas City Star. Among recent grads, Jordan Meserole of KBTX taught about creating a story visually, and Brent Shirley, now at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, talked about his McClatchy President’s Award for sports writing in a community paper.

Thanks to Cheri Shipman for this summary of the journalists who came to speak with the Batt staff this year:

In addition to internal training of legal issues, daily activities and editing, the staff was fortunate to be exposed to some of the top journalists in the industry. If you'd like to do a workshop for The Battalion team, please let Cheri know. Speakers who gave tremendous feedback for Spring 2009 - Spring 2010:

Charean Williams shared what the industry was like for her as she began to cover more than jus the NFL. She spoke in March with the staff. She has covered the NFL for 15 seasons, the past nine for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her peers recently voted Charean the first female president of the Pro Football Writers of America. For the next two years, she will serve as the organization’s liaison between the NFL and the journalists who cover the sport. Three years ago, Charean became the first female selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. She remains one of only 44 voters for the Hall. Charean appears weekly on ESPN2’s First Take morning show as an NFL expert and, last year, she served as an analyst for ESPN”s second-day NFL Draft coverage. Charean’s second sport at the Star-Telegram is the Olympics, and she traveled to Beijing last summer. That was the fourth Olympic Games she has covered for the paper. Charean is a 1986 graduate of Texas A&M University, where she worked in the sports department at the school’s newspaper, The Battalion, for two years. She began her full-time career on a three-person sports staff in Orange, Texas, at the Orange Leader. After eight months covering high schools and Lamar University as well as working the desk, Charean returned to Bryan-College Station, where she spent six years covering Texas A&M and the Southwest Conference for The Eagle newspaper. Charean was hired by the Orlando Sentinel in 1992 to cover NASCAR. She soon was promoted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFL. She left the Orlando Sentinel in 1999 to return home to Texas.

Artist and former cartoonist for The Battalion Boomer Cardinale, Class of 1994, discussed graphics and illustration efforts with the graphics team. He showed them his portfolio and talked about creative ideas to incorporate into The Battalion.

Brad Loper shared video and photo storytelling opportunities with the staff. Brad, 39, joined the staff of The Dallas Morning News in July 2001 as a Staff Photographer following a five-year stint as a Staff Photographer/Special Projects Page Designer at the Arlington Morning News. Born and raised in Amarillo, Texas, Loper moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in 1990 to attend The University of Texas at Arlington where he received a BA in Communication with a minor in Criminal Justice in1993. Following graduation, Loper interned at the Topeka Capital-Journal (Kansas) and the Palm Beach Post (Florida) before moving back to the DFW area. During his career as a photographer, Loper covered notable events including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy in 2003, the Dallas Mavericks through 70 plus playoff games from 2002 through 2006 including the NBA Finals in 2006. In 2006, Loper was one of eight photographers from the DMN awarded The Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Later that same year he moved into his current role as a Photo Editor. During the last three years, Loper has served primarily as the Photo Editor in charge of daily and Sunday 1A and Metro news coverage. In both 2008 and 2009, Loper was awarded Newspaper Picture Editor of the Year in the National Press Photographers Association’s Best of Photojournalism competition. In addition, two projects for which Loper was the lead editor were finalists for The Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography (The Bottom Line by Mona Reeder – 2008 and At the Edge of Life by Sonya N. Hebert - 2009). Loper and his wife, Adrienne, have four children: Nathaniel, 12; Ian, 9; Gabriel 6 and Jacqueline Mei, 5; who was adopted from China in 2009.

Mike McKenzie returned to Aggieland from Washington and discussed the art of storytelling to student journalists in the newsroom. He was the special assistant to Texas A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne. McKenzie worked with external operations (focusing on marketing and media strategies) for Aggie Athletics from May 2003 to November 2007. But his roots extend past Aggie sports and into the world of journalism. A 1982 Pulitzer Prize winner, McKenzie was a member of the Kansas City Star reporting team that covered the deadly Hyatt Regency Hotel skywalk collapse. He would go on to spend decades working for various publications including six daily newspapers and Sports Illustrated.

Jordan Meserole, videographer, showed samples of shot set-up (or "scene composition" if you will), then talked about building a story with the camera. He showed some RAW footage of a story he shot for KBTX followed up by playing the final product to give students some ideas for video projects. Jordan came for two sessions, one on video camera work and the other on editing. He enjoyed working with the staff. The first session in the fall he stayed all day and shot video on construction, then edited the footage with the staff.

Wayne Nelson, executive producer of Dan Rather Reports on HDNet, shared information on documentary storytelling and internship opportunities in the newsroom. Dan Rather Reports is a weekly investigative hour featuring correspondent Dan Rather. Two student journalists — Nicole Alvarado and Daniel Crump — from the spring 2009 semester editing team spent the summer in New York interning for Wayne Nelson after his last visit to Aggieland! Prior to HDNet, Nelson was employed for CBS News for more than 20 years where he was a producer at 60 Minutes, the Senior Broadcast Producer for The CBS Evening News in New York and Washington as well as bureau chief for CBS in Dallas and Atlanta. He was also assigned to London where he reported on the fall of eastern Europe and from Baghdad, the Gulf War. He recently returned from Afghanistan where he completed a documentary on the role of United States and NATO troops in the ongoing war against the Taliban. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has awarded him with four Emmys. Nelson was a member of the "Fightin Texas Aggie Band" and was graduated from Texas A&M University in 1978 with a degree in Journalism. His son Ben was in the Class of 2006. He lives in New York City.

Brent Shirley, Class of 2008 and former editor in chief, returned to the newsroom in the fall to discuss what it was like getting his first job. He talked about what was expected of him at a mid-sized newspaper. He recently joined the sports team at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Brent Shirley won the McClatchy President’s Award for sports writing in a community paper (a $1,000 prize and a crystal trophy). Here are the comments: First Place: Weatherford Telegram. Brent Shirley shows that you don’t have to work at a big newspaper to have big ideas. He gets it – alternative presentation, a different way of presenting traditional news. Shirley submitted a collection of otherwise routine story assignments and turned them into something special through his creative storytelling and presentation. The matching series of thumbnails and small chunks of copy worked on “Kangaroo countdown.” Some of the details were fantastic: “The blaster” helping with a fumble issue, using “upside-down tubs” as opponents, and winning players running a victory lap. Once you read one nugget, you had to read them all, and you were glad you did. “How Brock won state” is another strong example of doing something different. Good journalism starts with strong reporting and great detail, and Shirley came through again.