Book reviews

Journalism & Mass Communication Educator
Winter 2009, 63/4

Books – “Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World”
By Dr. Michael Murray, University of Missouri-St. Louis

(Excerpt from a review of three books – pp. 366-367)

If the potential adopter of the first two books accepts that more attention needs to be paid to broadcasters and online brethren – and those are important enough to acknowledge – then it is worth nothing those areas targeted for attention by a third book, Advancing the Story:  Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World, which attends to the field of broadcast news under a backdrop of the still-merging multi-media mix.  Recent contributions to local, national and international reporting, including the Internet, are the subject of attention by Debora Wenger and Deborah Potter.  Designed as a text more than something that could be used as a reference, it combines production and writing components in multi-media with awareness of the role of interactive storytelling and multiple-content preparation online, with platforms multi-media, backpack reporters.

While stressing basics of good journalism with emphasis on attention to detail, authors explain how technology has changed the approach to content preparation among those invested in the Internet and integrated technology.  They explore opportunities online content provides, attempting to impress readers with the need to consider storytelling as cyber-journalists, working across and among various platforms.  They discuss how story leads require varying approaches in different multi-media contexts and how the stories need to consider related opportunities to connect with other sources and users.  They provide illustrations from sources targeting and producing content exclusively for Web sites and others offering visualization of stories through use of Flash animation (p. 101).

While the criticism of ignoring the important broadcast past would be considered a flaw – with no significant references to Murrow, Friendly, or classic news broadcasts (with all the attendant questions and controversies) – the underlying goal and approach to the content are well-served.  In fact, while it does mention “Broadcast Journalism” in the title, this last book could be easily dubbed the first post-TV news-era textbook in the field.  While events are not what we want or need them to be right now, it is heartening that professors have some good books to consider – to point students in the right direction.

Dr. Michael Murray is at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  He can be reached at murraymd@umsl.edu. 

Electronic News
Vol. 2 No. 2, April-June 2008

Book Review – “Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World”
By Katherine A. Bradshaw, Bowling Green State University

If you teach broadcast journalism, you’ve been waiting for this book. If you’re trying to teach old reporters (or yourself) new tricks, you need this book. Debora Halpern Wenger and Deborah Potter have done a great job of integrating reporting for multiple platforms with reporting for television news. Their clear explanation of how to think differently about the demands of many platforms is key to the book’s value as they explain the strengths of each medium and the needs of people using it.

Wenger and Potter take solid television news reporting as their starting point. Although it does much more, this book is a sufficient text for teaching television reporting. They take journalists and students step-by-step through research, shooting, writing, producing and delivering the news. Then they cover ethics and finding a job.

Each chapter has useful, highlighted sections that summarize, expand, and add to the text content. “Trade Tools” and “Know and Tell” are the best. In the “Know and Tell” sections, practicing journalists explain their experiences with the topic discussed in the chapter. Each “Trade Tools” item provides advice about best practices or an approach to a challenge a journalist would face. Chapters are summarized in the “Taking it Home” sections. Discussions will be stimulated by the “Talking Points” and “eLearning Opportunities,” which include self-testing and exercises. Practicing what they’re preaching, the authors offer their own blog in addition to the on-line workbook.

For every chapter, the online workbook has five sections that expand skills. Students report and write a story for an “Ongoing story.” They begin with a news release, and when they’re finished with their stories for multiple platforms they can see what professionals did with the same story. “Skill Building” provides exercises to practice the techniques discussed in each chapter. In “Discover,” students can look at high-quality work across platforms. The authors point out specific points of excellence in each piece. The heading “Explore” leads students to annotated (and useful) web sites, and a “Study” feature summarizes each chapter.

Authors Wenger, a Virginia Commonwealth University associate professor, and Potter, executive director of the resource center NewsLab, have deep television news experience and online expertise. They’re created a gracefully written, leading-edge book, and I need it. However I do have three reservations about Advancing the Story. First, the book overtly and frequently advises its readers to “think about what the consumer wants” (italics mine). This isn’t altogether wrong, in that people do consume media content, but I want my students to think about them as people, the public we all serve–not as consumers.

My second reservation about Advancing the Story is that it sells for $75 a copy. This would seem to my students a good deal of money. There’s no color in the book, the reverse type every few pages doesn’t add much visual interest, and the few pictures have courtesy notes that suggest there were only small payouts, if any, for photo rights. So why such a high price tag?

My third reservation: The authors slight radio news. Broadcast journalists who’ve been working at all-news or news-talk radio stations have been living the 24/7 news mindset for decades and have been interactive with their listeners as well. Their multimedia needs deserve attention, but this book gives them short shrive, referring to “audio” or “sound” only in a television context.

Still, the book is interesting, well written, and useful. It will help practicing professionals guide their staffs, and in most ways it’s exactly what broadcast educators need. Advancing the Story will lead teachers and students to the expertise today’s journalism job market demands (especially if used in combination with James C. Foust’s Online Journalism: Principles and Practices of News for the Web, published by Holcomb Hathaway. Disclosure: Foust is this reviewer’s friend and colleague at BGSU).

Katherine A. Bradshaw, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor and Broadcast News Sequence Head in the Department of Journalism at Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.

The Convergence Newsletter
From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina

Vol. V No. 7, Feb. 2008

Book Review – “Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World”
By Dr. George Daniels, University of Alabama

This article started out being just a review of a single textbook. But one will quickly see that “Advancing the Story: Broadcast Journalism in a Multimedia World” (CQ Press, 2007) is more than just a book – indeed, it exemplifies the textbook of the future.

While there is a hardcopy book, it only provides half the learning experience – the other half being a Web log and an interactive workbook, which authors Deb Wenger (Virginia Commonwealth University) and Deborah Potter (NewsLab) have been updating constantly since this text was published in October.

With the title “Advancing the Story,” Wenger and Potter, both veteran broadcast journalists with major-market and network TV experience, cast the discussion on convergence in the terms that we ought to be thinking of it in 2008 – its impact on the news product.

After acknowledging that the words “multimedia,” “convergence,” “cross-platform” and “multi-platform” would all be used interchangeably, the authors define them as “communicating complementary information on more than one media platform” and a cross-platform journalist as one who can “work effectively in more than one medium.”

Two key points on which I particularly agree are handled well:

“Good journalism skills are universal.”

“Just because technology allows you to do something does not mean it’s something you should do.”

At the 2006 Convergence Conference at the University of South Carolina, we convened a panel of authors of convergence, Web journalism and multimedia books. As the moderator for that “Convergence Booknotes” session, I recall how much we grappled with the challenges of preparing a teaching resource on a topic that is constantly changing.

Wenger and Potter may have the best answer yet. With unit-specific exercises and a long-term project completed in steps during each unit, the interactive online workbook is head and shoulders above the static print resources that students often don’t use.

Simultaneously, the authors are posting to a Web log that has current developments with tags to specific chapters in the book. So in effect, the core concepts in the text can hold even as the blog is being updated semester-to-semester.

Let’s acknowledge that Wenger and Potter aren’t the first authors to use a blog with their text. Janet Kolodzy, for instance, launched her Urge 2 Converge blog with her book, “Convergence Journalism: Writing and Reporting across the News Media.”

So what makes this particular book different from other Web journalism or convergence books? I think the chief difference is that it is written from the perspective of broadcast journalists, without excluding the needs of those whose primary role is a newspaper one.

At their core, this text and the supplemental e-resources are designed to make students better reporters for whatever platform on which they’re conveying the story. While the early chapters deal with the reporting process, the latter ones address such issues as doing live shots, dressing for television and producing for podcasts.

With students coming to our classes immersed in the World Wide Web, it was only a matter of time before we would have a multimedia-journalism textbook that is truly multimedia.

It looks as though that time has come.

Dr. George Daniels is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He can be reached at
gdaniels@bama.ua.edu.

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