Shannon Philpott-Sanders

Writing, Reflecting, Teaching, Parenting

Story Sources are E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E

One common complaint that I field in my journalism classes is that students have difficulty finding sources for stories. “So-and-so won’t talk to me because I’m not a ‘real’ reporter” or “I sent three e-mails, but I never heard back” is what I typically hear.

My first response: You ARE a real reporter, so act as if.
My second response: Pick up the phone. Don’t rely on e-mail.

The reality is that sources are everywhere. They are hiding in their offices on campus, protesting on downtown streets, voicing their beliefs on Facebook and tweeting their opinions. As a journalist, your task is to find them, track them down and get the interview. Continue reading

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching, Writing | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Grown-Up’ Journalists

I’m the first to admit that I’m a biased teacher. Just as I think my kids are the best kids ever, I also think that I have the best journalism students ever. I see firsthand how hard they work and the dedication they put into perfecting their craft.

I watch them closely in the newsroom as they consult with each other on ethical issues, scramble off to interview sources and torture themselves while writing and re-writing story after story.

I’m proud to be a part of the environment, part of their challenges and part of their successes. They never cease to amaze me with their professionalism.

Continue reading

March 10, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

On the Road Again as a College Media Adviser

The job of a college media adviser is sticky. Without any control over content or editorial decisions, a media adviser walks a fine line, trying to guide students to practice solid journalism without “taking over” or dominating decisions.

 I bite my nails on a regular basis, I hold my tongue as much as I can, and I try to keep my facial expressions at bay while pointing out the pros and cons of the decisions and proposals my students make. In the end, though, I trust them to go with their instincts and gut feelings. It is after all, their paper, not mine.

Continue reading

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching | , , , | Leave a comment

Meaty Story or Milky Mess?

 I’ve never been one to rush out the night before a “predicted” snow storm and buy up all the milk and bread on the shelves. In fact, I often refuse to go anywhere near the stores when a storm is brewing, especially since I don’t even like milk very much.

But, nevertheless, the rush of a “predicted” storm sends people into panic mode. They break out the survival skills and fill the fridge with necessities as if they will be snowed in for days.

Snow day panic mode is very similar to a journalist’s or writer’s looming deadline. We know it’s coming sometimes days or weeks before and we know what needs to be done, yet we don’t break out our survival skills until 10 minutes before closing time. Continue reading

February 16, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching, Writing | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Proud to Sweat the Small Stuff

 If you know me well, you know how I fret over the little things. It irritates me when wet towels are left on the floor, when dishes are in the sink and my counters are cluttered.

 It irritates me when my newspaper students don’t even the text off at the end of each story or leave half-empty soda cans next to brand new Macs in the newsroom.

 It irritates me when periods are outside of quotation marks, when story leads don’t have a hook and when text is bold or italics within an article.

I sound neurotic already, but in my mind, the little things really do matter, no matter how much I get irritated. Continue reading

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Parenting, Reflecting, Teaching, Writing | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Redesigning Our Lives

For the past few months, my newspaper students have been planning a re-design of their website. They poured over possible layouts, templates, video components and social media plugins. Our online editor Jenn has worked tirelessly to make sure that the best laid plans became a reality.

 Jenn worked hard. The staff worked hard. And, in the end, the site was launched this week. The hard work and hours of planning resulted in a major change in how their news site functions.

 After witnessing their efforts firsthand, I began to wonder about other “things” we could re-design. Our staff manual. Our policies and procedures. Our copy editing processes.

 Our lives. Continue reading

January 28, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching | , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Hear Voices

I love to read, but I have the shortest attention span. If a story does not hook me from the beginning, my mind starts to wander and I start thinking about my next meal, the laundry that is piling up and my never-ending to-do list.

A hook is crucial and for me, a good hook involves an interesting human subject in a good piece of writing (What is Good Writing?). I want to relate right away to a person’s life story, sense of tragedy or triumph and descriptive nature. Without a heartfelt, nail-biting hook, forget it. I’ll head off to do laundry. Continue reading

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching, Writing | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Contests: Guessing Game or Gut Reaction?

I’ve been playing a guessing game all day. It involves guessing what other people think, what they value and what they like. It’s called the contest game and it’s a game I hate to play every year.

The game is part of my job as a college media adviser. At the beginning of each year, my students and I pour over a year’s worth of newspapers and select entries in 27 categories for the Missouri College Media Association’s annual contest. Continue reading

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Journo Nerd

I’ve always known that I had a nerd in me. I tried to hide it for years, but it finally came full circle when I admitted to my obsession with office supplies.

 Colored pens, cardstock paper, mini notebooks, cute little binder clips, file folders – all of it excites me. Every few months, I attempt to re-organize my files and my office. I pretend that it is necessary to get myself organized, but honestly, it is just an excuse to buy more office supplies and gadgets. Continue reading

January 6, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching, Writing | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Top 10 Blog Posts of 2009

Over the past six months, I’ve produced some heartfelt writing and some shabby fill-ins as my blog evolved. During this time, I’ve realized that what I thought was a great post (or a fun one to write) may not have interested or inspired anyone else.

 Today’s post is dedicated to what my readers have deemed as the top blog posts of 2009. The results are based on my blog stats and the number of page views – not necessarily scientific but definitely an indication of what you, as my readers, chose to read. Continue reading

December 30, 2009 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Parenting, Reflecting, Teaching, Writing | , , , , , , | 2 Comments