Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Denise James: "The Words Provide Context to What You See."

Denise James testified before city council when she was a teenager growing up in Detroit. The area newscasts covered the event and she wound up on air.

"They didn't get me," she remembered as she spoke to class on Tuesday.

She felt the newscast misrepresented her sentiment. And that sparked an idea in her mind.

"I could do that and I could be a more clear megaphone for people," she said. "I could assist people and get their voices out there more accurately."

She went to Michigan State University and then landed a job at WGPR, the first wholly African American-owned television station in the United States. It was a small station but a huge television market, so Denise reported alongside seasoned veterans, and she learned from them.

She spent a few years as a broadcast journalist at stations in North Carolina and then came to 6ABC, where she was a reporter for more than 23 years. She has since left the station and now she runs her own media company.

Here are a few things she said that stuck out to me:

• In broadcast journalism, a pen and notepad are almost as important as the camera, she said. "It's still about the writing," Denise said. "Content is king."
• Broadcast journalists write to sound and video. "It's my job to not get in the way of the marvelous images," she said. "I'm just a boat to deliver the messages. The words provide context to what you see."
• The reporter's job is to make the audience relate to the story, to help create that universal experience.
• It's important to be curious. You need to go beyond your personal interests.

• When you are writing, you need to pay critical attention to your presentation. Use active verbs. Vary the sentence length. And be aware of tense - most TV news is in the present or future tense.

• Journalists must remain ethical. Always. "The perception of impropriety can be worse than the impropriety itself," she said.

• Be careful what you put online. "If you don't brand yourself, someone else will," Denise warned.

• Talent is absolutely necessary but you also need something that will make you stand out when applying for jobs. Get involved with student groups, the school newspaper and TV station, and do internships.
• Start networking now, Denise implored. Even your classmates might help you get your foot in the door in the future. "Who you know might let you know if a door is opening," she said.


Eric Newby said...

Many of her main points have been reiterated to us many times now. But thats a good thing! If we're not taking them to heart by now, then we shouldn't be in this class.

Moumita Ghosh said...

Just like Eric said, we have heard her main points before. But I think it is very important for us to know these main points. We should absolutely be involved with different school groups, magazine clubs, things such as- the Temple News etc. We should also try and do internships and stay as involved as possible and make use of opportunities. And when we work as future journalists we must always be ethical, that is very important! I agree that we should be curious and be interested always to learn new things. And one thing I really liked that Denise said was that when we are writing we should try to use active verbs and pay close attention to our presentation.

Rachel Manning said...

I really enjoyed Denise James's presentation. I felt that she was very charismatic, which I suppose you have to be if you're going to be on television! I honestly found her to be kind of inspirational. I think it's very true, as she said that you have to work hard and work your way up. I think many people in college think they will just graduate and get a job. They don't realize you have to work for it. With my graduation date quickly approaching, she inspired me to get work harder and make more connections.

Anonymous said...

As far as all of the guest speakers go, I felt that Denise James was the most helpful in terms of pursuing journalism. I appreciate how she showed up that journalism consisted of a lot of hard days and nights. Realistically speaking it is not a 9-5 job.

Melanie McCoy said...

As far as all of the guest speakers go, I felt that Denise James was the most helpful in terms of pursuing journalism. I appreciate how she showed up that journalism consisted of a lot of hard days and nights. Realistically speaking it is not a 9-5 job.

Peter Neill said...

i agree very helpful and informative on pursuing a career in journalism. Awesome speaker and very inspirational for someone looking to go down a similar path.

Mariel Coughlin said...

Not being a journalism major, I found her speaking to be very informative and inspirational. As for getting a job out of college, you HAVE to work for it. The process in the end will help you to grow and take on bigger challenges. Pursuing your dream takes dedication and time that will benefit you in the long run.

Tsega Tesfaye said...

All the information she gave was very helpful and encouraging. You need to have the dedication and patience to get where you want to be. It isn't going to be a easy ride up you have to work for it.

Patricia Madej said...

Denise James was one of my favorite speakers this semester. I felt like she was very real and down to earth with the class. She’s been around in the field, and had a lot to share about her experiences. With that being said, they were very insightful. She reiterated the point that journalism is definitely not a 9-5 job, but is worth every minute of it. To see someone so passionate about their job made me that much more confident that I’m pursuing the right career as well.

Corynn Johnson said...

Denise James was to me to be one of the most genuine and relatable speakers. I think that she gave some really good points and was very engaging.

Adam Wrigley said...

Denise relayed a lot of insightful information to us that day. I found it amusing that Denise was so embarrassed by her Scotch taped videos that she had to be almost stalked into handing them over. It just goes to show that you can only do the best that you can with what you have. And if you do good work with meager means, people will see your potential.

Andrew Salciunas said...

Two years ago, I wanted to go to college and study the culinary arts. Now as a freshman in college studying journalism I was still in need of motivation to help my cause for I lacked intelligence with my new study and future profession. Although I have heard the same things being repeated, Denise James inspired me with her story. Not knowing that she wanted to do until it struck her in the face has me feeling the same way. I really took her presentation to heart and have progressed since.