Troubleshooting

The instructor and teaching assistants will collect notes while watching all of you work through the final project. Here are some things you’ll want to consider as you develop and work on your individual and group projects.

 Deadlines

  • Start working on your Q&A pieces right away — past J202 students would say you can’t start soon enough. As you know from your IS pieces, finding live and documentary sources takes time. Start looking for information and setting up interviews as soon as you get your story ideas finalized. There may be extra delays because of the way our lives have been upended by coronavirus, so get working on this right away. Also, you should not meet with any sources in person — all interviews should take place over the telephone or video conferencing services. Please ask if you want some advice on how to record your interviews.

  • Technological problems like to mess with your ability to make deadlines. But there is no wiggle room on the deadlines, so plan for those inevitable technical problems and be sure to give yourself some extra time to get things done.

  • Also expect that someone — maybe your partner — will let you down. This rarely happens, but on the occasion that it does, those who don’t have full participation from their partners are left scrambling at the last minute.

  • This is so important, we’ll say it again — there is no wiggle room on deadlines. You’ve got enough lead time — plan to get it done.

  • You’ve got a lot of open work time over the next few weeks, which means it’s up to you to keep yourself on task. You’re still expected to be in close connection with your labmates, because collaborating to work on stories and other elements of the project is essential to your lab’s ability to turn in a cohesive project. You should expect your TA and classmates to reflect your participation (or lack of it) in your evaluations — even though we’re all in 115 different places.
Sources
  • Remember that sources are available at their convenience, not yours. Get in touch with them as soon as you get your assignments and plan extra time to go back to them for more information if needed.

  • Be sure to collect the source’s contact information, including name, title, phone and email address. You must include this with your story so your TA can fact check it.

  • In the interview, don’t stick to a fixed set of questions that you put together before you walked into that room. Do your homework and come to the interview prepared, but give yourself room to let the interview flow, throwing in follow-up and new questions where necessary.

  • With interviews for audio stories, tune your ear toward making sure you’re getting useful soundbites. If not, find more creative, succinct ways to ask the questions. This means you may feel like you’re asking the same thing again, but it’s sometimes necessary to get the best soundbites.

  • If you’re unsure about your approach for your interview, reach out to the instructor, lead TA and/or your TA to set up a time to talk.

  • The quality of your sourcing factors into your grades as much as your writing. A piece can be beautifully written, but if it lacks important or interesting information, it fails in its ultimate goal. This also means that you need to talk to someone who is affected by a certain topic or issue. If your Q&A angle is about something that relates to students, for example, your story cannot be complete without talking to a student. Those personal reactions are what really make a story relatable to readers.

  • You are free to consult with us for sourcing suggestions, as we know this community and this market better than you do in many cases. Also, ask your labmates to help you brainstorm and locate potential sources if you’re stuck. Use your personal networks to find people who might speak to your topics (putting out an appeal on Facebook or Twitter often works wonders). Also, remember that University Communications offers a comprehensive database of experts.

Audio stories
  • Make sure your interview subject is speaking loudly. Do your best to get good audio under our circumstances, but it’s not the end of the world if it’s low quality.

  • Always have extra batteries on hand in case the recorder conks out in the middle of the interview.

  • Check your sound levels before starting any interviews.

  • Be aware of the noise around you when you’re recording your voiceovers. Yes, you want natural sound, but you also want to be sure you can hear your interview subject.

  • Record voiceovers in separate chunks, rather than one long shot, as it’ll save you the step of splitting them up to fix mistakes.

 File formats

  • All your stories, scripts, etc., must be saved as Word files or a format approved by your TA and the Content Team.

  • Any graphics you’ll include in an InDesign file must be png, jpeg or pdf.

  • Any audio stories must be compressed and saved as MP3 files or embedded through Soundcloud.

  • If your alternative story form is being presented as an image, it must be in png, gif or jpeg format.

Software help

  • The incredibly helpful trainers at STS are still available to help you right now. You can reach out to them to schedule a consultation.

Reaching your team

  • Each lab has an email distribution list that goes to all members of the lab, your TA and the instructor. We’re setting you up to use Slack, which is a tool for team work that’s used across the media industry. Your lab may have also developed your own ways of communicating, and you should continue to use those as well. The Strategy and Project Management Team should set up a shared doc with everyone’s name, email address and phone number, so you can reach each other individually.
  • Use these methods to stay in touch with each other as you work on your final project. Remember — communication and effective collaboration are key to your success.