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 individual 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.

  • 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.

  • To say it again — there is no wiggle room on deadlines. There will be no deadline extensions for stories, even if you have other demands or commitments. You’ve got enough lead time — plan to get it done.

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.

  • Visit the instructor, lead TA and/or your TA during office hours to discuss interview questions if you’re unsure about your approach.

  • 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 the people who are affected by a certain topic or issue. If you are writing about something that relates to students, for example, your story cannot be complete without talking to some students. Those personal reactions are what really make a story.

  • 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. This might mean you need to reposition the microphone to get better audio.

  • Always bring extra batteries with you in case the recorder conks out in the middle of the interview.

  • You can check out recording equipment from the Journalism Reading Room. Take a few minutes to be sure you know how to use it before the interview. Always clear the memory card before starting the interview and bring extra batteries.

  • 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.

Open lab hours

  • Various locations on campus will check out laptops for you to use (UW InfoLabs Equipment Checkout System). The campus InfoLabs also have most of our software, as do the computers in the Journalism Reading Room on the 2nd floor of Vilas. The regular J202 labs are never available for open lab time except during your lab hours.

Reaching your team

  • Each lab has an email distribution list that goes to all members of the lab, your TA and the instructor. 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.

Equipment

If you need still pictures for your final project or a recorder for audio, you may need to check out equipment from the Journalism Reading Room. When doing so, please remember the following rules supplied by the JRR:

  1. The equipment is expensive, so you will sign a contract agreeing to pay for any damage, loss or theft.

  2. Do not check out items in your name and loan them to someone else, as you are still personally responsible for any costs.

  3. You must be a registered J202 student and bring your student ID to check out.

  4. Cameras and recorders are for use in the campus area only and may not be taken elsewhere.

  5. Journalism Reading Room hours.

  6. Cameras checked out on Friday must be returned Monday evening (Friday checkouts are popular, so be prepared to have demand exceed supply).

  7. If you return equipment late, your grade on your individual informative assignment will be lowered one full letter grade.

  8. Equipment is checked out first come, first served, with no possibility of reservations or wait lists. If you do not need any checkout for the full period, please return it early. If you can’t get equipment through the JRR, check with the Business Library or College Library, which also loan such equipment.