September 27, 2020

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On takeovers and personal essays

Have I mentioned I’m a big fan of takeovers? I’m a big fan of takeovers. Here’s what happened when the Guardian US gave a special section to American first-time voters.

Student media leaders would be wise to consider working with diverse student groups or communities to allow them the same luxury with a newspaper section or TV or radio show. Yes, you could still edit the work, but make it easier by outlying some journalism basics (be factual, write short) and getting your temporary recruits to focus on first-person essays and personal photographs. Plan a little extra production time for fact-checking and permissions and let me know how your campus responds!

Because I’m a fan of takeovers, I’ve written about it before (tips!). Along those lines …

My friend Rich Cameron puts out a daily (!!!) email newsletter about journalism in secondary and higher ed in California (here’s his Facebook group where you can get more info). On Tuesday he noted a trend of first-person pieces. He wrote, “Since the pandemic began more and more colleges have gone to first-person features. Their numbers are fewer this semester than last spring, but I’m beginning to see some in high school publications as well.”

A good first-person essay still needs editing and guidance. Here are two oldie-but-goodies from Poynter’s archives:

And here are four examples of personal essays:

You can share the examples above with the non-journalists you’re asking to write/shoot for your publication for inspiration. Then let them have free rein to tell their own stories for your audience.

Upcoming deadlines for students:

  • Election SOS Fellowship: “With our Election SOS Fellowship Program, we are putting out the call for students and recent grads who are pursuing a career in journalism to help newsrooms during this chaotic time. For newsrooms, this is a chance to have extra staff to track polling, trends, and the questions your audience needs answering. … Election SOS will be paying students $25 an hour with shifts about eight to 30 hours per week, depending on their availability.”
  • Reynolds Journalism Institute’s 2021 Student Innovation Competition: First place is $10,000! Bonus help: “Join us for a Q&A with RJI Interim Director of Innovation Kat Duncan to hear more about the competition, how to participate and ask any questions you may have before entering.”

Behind the curtain

The latest in the How to Be a Reporter series from the Washington Post: Covering the White House. I am a huge fan of these videos, and think they make incredible classroom fodder. Of course, videos take time, money, coordination and planning, but if you find these useful, maybe drop an email to and tell her how much you value them in your classroom. Heck, CC this guy for fun.

Readings from Poynter

This is how we do it

Young journalists, take note. Deanna Schwartz is the managing editor of the Huntington News at Northeastern University, and she’s been burning up the professional journalism space (Poynter, the Objective) with important stories about her student journalism experience. The Lead editor Taylor Blatchford and I are always looking for pitches from student journalists, as are plenty of other places (think CJR and Neiman Lab) and it’s great experience to learn to pitch to editors.

Helpful links

Fodder for classroom thought

I recently stumbled across The Big List of Class Discussion Strategies and thought it could prove helpful. I particularly liked TQE: “This protocol has students come up with their own Thoughts, lingering Questions, and Epiphanies from an assigned reading. Teachers who have used this method say it has generated some of the richest conversations they have ever heard from students!”

Great journalism to share with your students

One last thought

I love it when people say, “Be careful. You don’t want to get burned out.” As though burnout is easily avoidable — something you would just cross the street to escape, like a swarm of bees or a group of hockey fans after their team lost the Stanley Cup.

That’s why I surprised myself this week — after reading about the three key signs of burnout — by thinking, “Wait, there are signs?

My friends at Jumpline, a community hub to support journalism educators, linked to this Inside Higher Ed column in their newsletter this week. “Beating Pandemic Burnout” feels so spot on, and I wanted to pass it along to you in case you, too, have been avoiding a self-diagnosis of burnout. “This is just what hard work is like! I pride myself on my work ethic!” Etc.

It reminds me that the most important thing right now isn’t pedagogy, but people.

The single biggest action I’ve taken in Pandemica is to commit to a nightly walk at 6 p.m. I set my entire day by it, and it’s remarkable how the rest of my family has accepted and worked around my little corner of self-care. I can’t recommend this kind of movement enough.Try to walk a few nights this week — even for just a few minutes. See how you feel with a little movement and fresh air.

Also in my self-care world, I’m going to take some time this weekend to finish the novel “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell and try to watch “The Post” again, because I want to enjoy once again that subtle moment where Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham orders publication. I think those are the kind of joyful moments health professionals are urging us to seize.

And hey. Don’t burn out.

Barbara Allen is the director of college programming. She can be reached at or on Twitter, @barbara_allen_

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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of She spent two decades in…
Barbara Allen

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