Zhang Kaiju studies Missoulian’s online strategy

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I’ve had two days of job shadowing at the Missoulian, from July 29 to July 30. On July 29, I followed Rob Chaney, an environment and science reporter. We started our day by following his “trap line” online to see if anything interesting or important had happened. We stayed in office, so I got a chance to talk to other people about their new media strategies.

According to the Editor Sherry Devlin, the paper’s main strategies are to be very quick and very visual. And the current statistics on the monitor are only used for short-term decisions, like identifying under-performing and over-performing stories to move them around on the website. I found that the digital data supplied by online readers does’t have that much influence on the paper’s news judgment, but it plays a big role in determining where and how stories are displayed.

The Missoulian has different platforms to release news, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc; and it has a video program called 406, in which a reporter is videotaped as he or she describes the  important news each day, just like a television newscast. The video the appears on the paper’s website. I watched them recording a new video for it with simple equipment. It was interesting.

On my  second day, I followed Kathryn Haake, a cops and courts reporter, to the courtroom to see the sentencing of a transient man who beat another man within inches of his life over a pork chop, and then we went to the police station to learn more details. In the afternoon we visited the jail in Missoula. It was not that scary and it seemed that everything was in order.


Yu Shijie shadows a Missoulian photographer

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I was with Tom Bauer, a photojournalist for the Missoulian, for two days. The first day we went to downtown to look for something to shoot because we got some information that there would be a crowd of people riding motorcycles to help veterans. Yet, unfortunately, they weren’t there when we got to the motorcycle shop. So we went around the Clark Fork River, and we found some people preparing to go floating. We took some pictures of them, and the photos might be used in the newspaper.

The second day, we drove to a farm with another journalist. We took lots of pictures of the plants of the farm, and we also tasted fresh beans. When we went back to the Missoulian, Tom Bauer put all the photos into the hard drive and then picked the best pictures to edit. When editing pictures, he said, we mustn’t change the content of them. We could do just some nourishment of color, which would make the image more real and easier for audience to see on the Internet or in newspaper. Every picture has two versions, one for Internet and one for newspaper. The color of the Internet one should be saved as RGB, while the newspaper one is CMYK.

There are two important things that I learned form this two-day job shadowing. One is that I should have a good eye for interesting things, and the other one is that I should be honest about what I’m doing.

Check out these Missoulian photographs.

Chen Yijun trails a reporter on the crime beat

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I spent two days  job shadowing with Kathryn Haake, a cops and courts reporter for the Missoulian. On both days, our first thing to do was to look up special cases in criminal records, jail records and court schedules. We looked for people who had just been charged with a committing felony crimes, including a former college basketball player who was charged with selling drugs.

Police and crime news is not like other news. It requires great efficiency and timeliness in the reporting because what happened today must be written today. After we looked through the records, we talked to officers in police station and at the sheriff’s office for more details and things we may have missed. These cases are undoubtedly depressing, but it is exciting to know every clue leading to the truth.

On day two we covered the sentencing of a transient man who beat another man within inches of his life over a pork chop. The transient was sentenced to 15 years in prison. This story sounds just as ridiculous as it really was. We rushed to the courtroom at 10 o’ clock to see the sentence and noticed that the defendant is also a multi-state offender. Kate was taking notes to get a general view and recording the audio in case she needed accurate quotes, which are helpful to put together the story.

She had three stories to report this day. There was only one during day one. This unpredictability makes the daily routine different and more interesting.

Thanks to thoughtful Kate for taking me and Zhang Kaiju to see the jail. I learned a lot about the jail system, and “jail” is now a less scary word.

Journalism on the go at KECI-TV

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If I can only use a short phrase to sum up my experience in KECI, I would definitely recommend the French phrase “C’est la vie,” which means “This is life.” It contained thrilling new challenges and flat daily routine. The reporters with whom I worked met challenges such as stories that fell apart and pressing deadlines, but they all sailed through the impossibles.

One cool experience I had was sitting besides the KEIC anchor Steve Fetveit during the newscast, because the camera couldn’t take me in in terms of angle.

The first day I followed Matt Gray, who works on weather reports on weekends and weather-related news on weekdays. After talking with his supervisors, he decided to do a story on changes in regulations for firefighters, and we went to the Aerial Fire Depot, a facility by the airport that serves people who fight wildfires. Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet with any supervisor, and the key man didn’t call us back.

What surprised me most is that when Matt told executive producer Cyndy Koures about the problem, she told him to change the story’s subject immediately instead of chasing his first idea. “Let’s go!” he said as soon as he knew his next subject: a story about skin cancer.

The second day I met a truly kind girl named Andrea Olson, who taught me how to handle pressure. Although we had done two interviews in UM without any problems, and did the editing all afternoon, we still had to hurry to finish the story before the deadline because the story was complicated. We finished just 10 minutes before the show started.

The KECI staffers are all superheroes in my heart because they all do the news alone. That is to say, they have to carry the camera and tripod, drive anywhere, write the script, edit the package, and appear live sometimes for the show. Everything must be done in one day, or to be more precise, in 8 hours, from 9 to 5. That is the job of a journalist in the 21 century.

“You can’t tell your viewers ‘I can’t do it,” because those people depend on you,” Andrea said as she walked me out of the door at the end of my unforgettable job-shadowing. “Keep in mind time management and never be afraid.”

Let the job shadowing begin

Seven SISU students met today with hosts from news organizations around Missoula to begin a two-day stint of job shadowing. Three were matched with TV news departments. Lu Nan is following reporter Brin Merkley at KPAX, while Chen Xiaoying is shadowing in reporter Ashley Sanchez at ABC Fox Montana News. Jiang Yiyun was Executive News Producer Cyndy Koures’ guest at KECI.

The Missoulian is playing host to three students. Zhang Kaiju is following natural resources reporter Rob Chaney.  Chen Yijun is making the rounds with crime beat reporter Kate Haake. Yu Shijie is spending time with photographer Tom Bauer.

Meanwhile, Li Huizhong is tailing Montana Evening Edition anchors Conrad Scheid and Corin-Cates Carney at KUFM.

Two more students will get in on the action Wednesday at the Montana Independent. Lin Li is scheduled to shadow reporter Alex Sakariassen, and Tang Jinglei will follow reporter Jessica Mayrer.

We’re much obliged to all of the hosts for sharing their time and expertise. Thanks!

Covering the environment

Science source

Our students spent the morning with environmental reporter Matthew Frank, who told them about a story he did following the shipment of coal from Montana to China. Frank is the editorial supervisor of Science Source, an grant-funded School of Journalism project that provides coverage about environmental science and natural resource news to newspapers and radio stations in rural areas.

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After that we heard from Jill Alban, the outreach director for the Missoula-based Clark Fork Coalition, a non-government, non-profit environmental organization that works to clean and preserve the watershed of the Clark Fork River drainage. The watershed was once heavily polluted by mining and smelting in the Butte-Anaconda area. The coalition encouraged government agencies to begin the cleanup in 2008.