Confessions of COMM 200

March 1, 2011

What I would study if I had to take Prof. Crowe’s evil exam…

Filed under: Uncategorized — socatau @ 4:43 pm

I had a dream the other night (not the one about showing up for an exam in a class I forgot to attend all semester, although I am sure some of you can relate!) No, it was the dream that I was pulling together a test that would indicate whether the folks I am yammering at each week (not my children; I know they don’t listen) are learning anything.
It was quite a beautiful exam. It was structured in four parts. One part was about the stylebook A – F. These were tough questions but the people in my dream were whipping through that part like their fingers were on fire. The second part was about what we have been learning. It included things such as the information in chapter 3; the information on attributions in chapter 4; the ghoulish obit writing in chapter 5 and profiles and editorials and short-form writing styles in chapter 6. Again, the students in my dream sped through this like they were snorting something (NOT SOMETHING THEIR PROFESSOR ENCOURAGES). Some of these students even paused to thank me for the opportunity to show me what they had learned.
The third part was about tight writing and attribution. I was testing how much these smart kids had been listening when I was saying things such as “erase the words ‘massive’ and ‘impact’ from your internal spelcheck/dictionary.” My exam takers were positively giggling through this part as they streamlined sentences and remembered what was said about attribution. It was probably a good thing they got through the other parts so quickly.
In the last part they had to write. A lot. They had to write a news story; they had to write the lede through the nut graf of a profile (they were sure to include that sentence that guides the reader from the anecdotal lede to the nut graf) ; they had to write parts of an obit and parts of a persuasive piece and they had to do some breakout boxes. I gotta admit, by this time the students in my dream, while still smiling, were getting a wee bit tired. 
(Of course they were smiling because in preparing for the test, they had actually re-read the chapters, looked over quizzes and homework assignments, and tested themselves with exercizes from the book.)
Just as they were turning in their papers; my bleeping alarm started whining: time to face the day.
It wasn’t until my third cup of coffee, after I had rolled the dream around in my brain for a while, that I realized I didn’t recognise any of the happy folks taking the exam. There was no Kelsey or Kayla; no senator or HJ; the voice of God wasn’t in the corner and of course, Paul was no where to be seen. 
I guess the lesson of the dream is that you don’t prepare adequately for my exam on Thursday, send a substitute.
Study hard. Prof. Crowe


February 7, 2011

Guest blogger reveals all…

Filed under: Uncategorized — socatau @ 10:12 pm

In my haste to get the tough little quiz into your clammy little hands, I forgot to harass a would-be blogger and demand a recitation of the First Amendment.

Alas (not a word to use in a news story) I guess I will have to write the blog entry today.

Class started with a quiz that came from the Style Book, the Meet Mr. Comma handout, the textbook and the news. These quizzes should be a reminder to you that I am not handing you reams of paper just so I can kill trees. They are for you to read and study and lovingly admire.

After the quiz, I returned some pretty good homework on the snow that snarled traffic. All managed to get the news in the lede and I didn’t get to make fun of any of them.

Then we handed in homework (two assignments, so I can spend the rest of my life grading) and moved on to read and write obits.

Yes I know, its kind of creepy but it is a good exercise because you have to dig for a good detail and then remember to put in all the other stuff that obits require. By the way, writing obits sets us up for the next thing we’ll be writing: features. As in obits, profiles require that you home in on one aspect of a person and tell the story about them through that angle. For example, an AP reporter many, many years ago was assigned to do a profile on then-vice president Harry Truman. One thing this reporter noticed was that Truman had a cup of pencils on his desk and on every single one, the eraser was used up. In other words, Truman was doing a lot of second-guessing of himself and revising and editing. That need to rework, revise or second-guess became the angle for the story. It is one telling detail just as the obit in the book showed in one example that eating fried eels and telling stories was a key part of one person’s life (Fried eels? Argghh, no wonder he died!)

In class we looked at obits, read about them, then took information from a Funeral Home about a retired schoolteacher (middle name: Loretta – love that!) who died.

We contacted her surviving daughter Emma (who looked and sounded a lot like Paul) who answered all of our questions with one-word answers. While we learned she liked to garden, that daughter was pretty worthless. We called the other (Alex) who gave us great quotes about how the dead lady loved kids and always sacrificed for her family. (I for one was reaching for the tissues, so sad.) Good stuff but we wanted more. For example, the old girl was only 69 so we had to call Rose Hill at the Rose Hill Funeral Home to find out how she croaked. Rose (with a surprisingly deep voice, kinda like Joe’s) said she overdosed on drugs. Well that changed the story a bit. Rose tells us the coroner ruled the death accidental,   apparently Jessica Loretta didn’t read the dosage instructions and took too many pain meds after hip surgery (I hate that when that happens.)
We called the school where she worked and found an amazingly chipper sounding friend of her’s named Sarah (with an “h”) who said she had been at the high school where JL worked for 52 years! Even though Sarah didn’t know her good friend was dead, she seemed to take it in stride. She recalled meeting her in Yoga class and said she was a great teacher (blah, blah, blah – we were playing Angry Bird and didn’t get all the gush about how great she was.) When Sarah handed the phone back to the principal (we didn’t get her name) she said the great JL thought the lunch lady’s food was so bad that she brought in tomatoes from her garden for all her little biology students.

Then I gave you about 10 minutes to sweat the details and write something and then I made fun of what you wrote. A great class.

Your assignment for Thursday is to write your obit. I am sorry to tell you this but you all died at the end of class, except Michelle who was given a one day reprieve so she wouldn’t pull a Tom Jefferson and die on her birthday.  The rest of you, ta-ta. You can come up with a cool death but you must give actual details on the rest of your life and remember, you want an eel-eating thing for us to read so you don’t sound like every other college student who meets an untimely end. (I got to say that being the grim reaper is kind of fun. Those of you who missed class, you’re dead to me too.)  Enjoy yourselves.

See you Thursday.

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