To John Paxson, a three-time Emmy Award winning broadcast journalist, strong writing skills provide the foundation for good journalism.
“The basic building block of journalism is the ability to write clearly, succinctly and quickly,” said Paxson, the director of Northwest Public Radio and Northwest Public Television at WSU.
But Paxson sees a need for more communication students to gain reporting experience during their early years as undergraduates at WSU.
Starting tonight and on every Monday evening following for the next seven weeks, he will hold free workshops from 4-5:30 p.m. in Murrow East 326 to help students develop their skills in news writing, editing and production.
Paxson worked with Lawrence Pintak, the dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, to develop the program.
The goal is to give new students opportunities to get hands-on experience. In seven workshops, Paxson plans to focus aspects of journalism including print, radio, broadcast and recording.
“You can’t be a journalist without being a writer,” he said. “It’s like being a cowboy without a horse.”
But in addition to focusing on writing skills, the workshops will give students a chance to delve into current affairs. To be an effective journalist, one must constantly interact with the media, Paxson said.
Paxson uses what he calls the teaching hospital approach, which gets students actively involved with practicing a craft instead of just learning about it through a conceptual approach.
“One of the traditional problems in journalism schools is that the hands-on experience only comes as a junior or a senior in a one-semester internship,” he said. “Our focus has been turning that experience to the first year from the last.”
Fadumo Ali, a freshman communication major, heard about the program during the Week of Welcome and decided she would attend.
“I think it’s important to be a multimedia journalist and learn about all different aspects of journalism,” Ali said. “I’m also very excited to learn from an experienced journalist.”
Ali said she is eager to learn about video editing.
“People need to know the way they can use a video to tell a story,” she said. “Storytelling is no longer between paper and pen, it’s evolving with the time.”
Paxson hopes to pass on a strong sense of the fundamental values in the trade to students, such as skepticism, honesty, credibility and clarity. He also wants students to understand the excitement a career in journalism can offer.
He plans on bringing in experts from all fields of communication to talk to the students.
Paxson has been planning the Murrow Boot Camp since he started his job at the university about a year ago. He picked up the idea from a similar program at Fordham University in New York.
The Fordham program has operated for a decade and has achieved huge success for the college, Paxson said.
All majors are welcome to enroll in the Murrow Boot Camp, but it is directed at communication students. Twenty have enrolled for this semester, and Paxson plans to keep the group small in order to give each student personal attention.
Enrollment is mostly based on a first-come-first-serve basis, Paxson said.
Enrollment for the spring semester’s program will open at the end of the seven weeks. Paxson encourages interested students to contact him for an application.