Shannon Philpott-Sanders

Writing, Reflecting, Teaching, Parenting

Use This Only For Emergencies

When I traveled to Europe the summer after high school, my mom handed me a credit card right before I boarded the plane. She looked at me sternly and said, “Use this only for emergencies.” The next three weeks were filled with “emergencies.”

It was an emergency when I found the cutest jacket at EuroDisney. It was also an emergency when I was starving for a Belgian waffle on the streets of Belgium. The “emergencies” continued until I reached the $500 limit. Continue reading

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Reflecting, Teaching | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In this Room …

Tonight, after a 13-hour day of teaching and advising, I stood in the doorway of our student newsroom and paused with my head and my heart heavy. It was late and my kids at home were missing me, but I didn’t want to leave.

It was the last production night of the semester and I don’t deal well with the “last” of anything, especially in this room.

An outsider might not see the appeal of the newsroom. It is littered with soda cans, pizza boxes and empty energy drink containers. Papers overflow every desk and cameras are piled unorganized on the corner table. The recycled, dilapidated couch from Goodwill sits in the middle of the room and the floor looks as if it hasn’t seen a mop in a few months, if not years.

However, this room is the most appealing place on campus to me. Continue reading

May 4, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Reporters Can’t Be Shy

Reporters can’t be shy. Plain and simple – there’s no other way to put it. In order to report, you have to approach people, talk with people and gather information.

You can’t hide behind a computer hoping for an e-mail response from a source. You can’t base an entire story from online research and worse yet, trust all online sources. And, you can’t use the excuse – I couldn’t find any sources – if you want to stay employed.

However, if you have a shy nature, there are ways to prepare yourself mentally for the task of breaking out of your shell. There are online sources that can provide multitudes of information to prepare you to ask the questions to human sources that need to be asked. Continue reading

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Editors Fix. Coaches Build.

In almost every newsroom – student or professional – the animosity between copy editors and writers is often visibly apparent. Copy editors profess about commas and fragments passionately. Writers hold onto their text as if someone is trying to rob every ounce of their being.

Both parties have legitimate concerns. However, when treacherous debates occur, honestly, they defeat the purpose of what both parties are trying to accomplish – producing better copy. Continue reading

March 31, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Journalism, Teaching, Writing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Pinewood Derby: A Teaching Moment

I’m not a crafty mom. I’m not even a very creative mom. I don’t follow directions well and I always put things together at the last minute. So when I first heard about the Pinewood Derby project for my son’s cub scout pack a few years ago, I panicked. How in the world was I going to help my son build a car, much less figure out how to come up with a concept for his car? 

What I quickly learned was that this project would be a teaching moment for all of us. Continue reading

January 30, 2010 Posted by | Blog, Teaching | , , , , , | Leave a comment