Former Chief of Staff to the First Lady Anita McBride joined our class via C-SPAN to discuss her work in the White House.

Checkout some background information about McBride here and her work as a contributor at The Daily Beast. She is currently a professor at American University.

As a veteran of three administrations, McBride knows her way around the cycle of things at the White House well. She witnessed both outgoing and ingoing  administrations, including those of former presidents Bush and Reagan.

McBride believes that the “modern first lady” term was defined by former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who did so much to aid her husband’s presidency and her position as first lady. She was very active on a variety of issues and because of her, the public expects so much more out of future first ladies. McBride says that “People don’t realize how much work went on behind the scenes.”

McBride went on to explain the first lady position. Here are a few facts about the job:

  • There is no salary (McBride says it’s the “most important and demanding unpaid job in the world.”)
  • The first lady serves as a social hostess
  • She is expected to bring an era of authenticity to the role
  • The first lady should choose to work on policies that best reflect what she wants to do

McBride went on to describe Laura Bush‘s role as first lady. She said that because of her past as a librarian, she was typecast as being shy and introverted. The media went along with this typecast and showed a press bias against her and provided flat coverage of her role. It was very hard for Mrs. Bush to break out of that stereotype, however she eventually did with her work towards education.

When asked about if someday there is a future female president and how the “first man” role would work, McBride replied, “I hope it will be the same.”

There are always privacy issues when one lives their life in the public eye. However, McBride says that the White House adapts to all kinds of families and all kinds of changes, so one can definitely live a normal life — even at the level of high decision-making. The White House is the one place where it’s a sanctuary and where one can make a good family life.

Regarding her chief of staff job, McBride says that she doesn’t “miss the everyday pressures.” However, she says she does miss the camaraderie of people on staff and the ability to get terrific things done on a daily basis.

When asked which first lady from history she would most like to work for, McBride said Dolly Madison or Abigail Adams. Madison was able to use her personality and hostess abilities for the position. Adams was an early abolitionist and sacrificed for her country by volunteering during the Civil War.

McBride says that the first lady position is an extremely important job to hold. She believes, “A first lady humanizes the president.”

Mark Stencel, Managing Editor for Digital News at National Public Radio, spoke to our class today about the challenges radio faces in the media today. Stencel first started working in online journalism back in 1991, when it was called “new media.”

Check out his personal Twitter and his NPR bio.

Stencel says that NPR has done very well in the past few years because of all of the road traffic in the Washington metropolitan area. More people are able to listen to the radio in their cars while they NPR’s audience has grown tremendously, becoming one of the largest consumed news  organizations in North America. However, even though they have a huge national audience on the radio, they do not have the same audience online. Because they are mainly a radio outlet, they face competition from many other online news sources.

To set themselves apart from the rest, NPR has engaged in:

  • experimenting telling stories with animation
  • creating a “print journalism” platform and a layout for their online webpage
  • beginning to employ NPR staff photographers and videographers
  • involving their audience on the NPR Facebook page, which has over 1.5 million fans!
  • learning how to convey stories in different ways, and determining how their stories can be more compelling than their competitors

An example of NPR angling their stories in different ways would be their coverage of the Royal Wedding. Most media outlets are focuesd on the entertainment aspect of the wedding, however NPR will differentiate itself by providing more contextual and historical information for the story while still making it relevant. To do this, NPR is including  an interactive royal family tree, questions about royal scandals, a royal/political analysis, and a more of a focus on the “how” and the “why” of the story.

Regarding smart phones, Stencel says, “They are basically Tivo for radio.” They provide a way to do audio journalism for the web that works for an online audience.

Stencel says one of the best pieces of journalistic advice came from his co-worker, Matt Thompson — “Don’t cover events, cover the implications.”

Former White House Chief of Staff Andy Card joined students from George Mason University in a C-SPAN video conference to discuss his political career.

For more information on Card, check out his background here.

Card began by explaining his relationship with the Bush family. He met George Bush Sr. at the height of the Watergate scandal, and said that the rhetoric was very tough. Card and the Bush family became very close, and Card said that before he became chief of staff, he and the president were very good friends.

When asked to assess the Bush administration, Card discussed that the president  had to face unprecedented challenges, and demonstrated the courage to make tough decisions. Card said that Bush was “one of the most disciplined individuals I have ever met.”

One of these challenges Bush had to face were the September 11th attacks. That morning, the president was visiting a second-grade classroom to read to some elementary school children. When Card heard of the first plane flying into the tower, he thought it was a tragic accident. Upon hearing of the second plane, however, Card interrupted the president from his speech — something extremely rare. He then spoke these words to the president, “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.”

Card also noted that Bush’s speech at the National Cathedral on September 14th was a dramatic day. The president gave, according to Card, one of the best speeches that he ever heard. Soon after, the president traveled to Ground Zero to give a speech, which was mostly unscripted remarks that evoked the president’s passion, resolve and concern for the country. Card said it was a dramatic conversation with the American people.

Before the events of September 11th, the Bush administration was focused more on domestic issues such as the No Child Left Behind Act, which Card said Bush worked very hard on to get bipartisan support. However, the agenda soon switched to an international focus.

Despite criticism, Card said that Bush is still very confident of going into the Middle East and removing Saddam Hussein from power. Regarding the Afghanistan election, Card said in a democracy, outsiders don’t get to pick the winners — the people do. Despite the new democracy, corruption is still a very big problem in Afghanistan and Card questions the time table for removing troops from Afghanistan.

Another foreign policy issue a student brought up in the conference was Africa’s situation in the playing field. Card said that most of the challenges in Africa center around leadership, healthcare and economic opportunity. He stressed that humanitarian concerns are greater than those of democracy, and that one of the most important things to be done is to bring freedom of the press to more African nations.

Regarding the pending government shutdown, Card said he hopes the two parites work very hard to prevent it from happening, although he is not afraid of it. He said it would definitely cause disruption and cost more money than it saves, but he noted that with everything, perfection is almost never the result.

Card also said he believes “the president should get the benefit of the doubt.” Congress should not step in on issues like the government shutdown — they are there to help the president do his job, not do it for him.

Card talked briefly about the chief of staff position. He said that it’s necessary to learn how to survive on little sleep, and that you almost become a “vampire,” often working late into the night. It’s a very tough challenge and it’s important to make sure the president has what he needs, but not everything that he wants. Card tried very hard not to let his emotions get in the way of his job.

One of the most intriguing things about the chief of staff job is the information you can receive. Card said that the information in the daily briefings is scary. Often, he knew more of what was going on than the president did. With that note, Card explained that he couldn’t always tell the president everything, while the president had a tremendous job to do. He said, “I respect the burden the president carries.”

Brad Kalbfeld, AP journalist and author of the Associated Press Broadcast Style Book, joined our class today to talk about the historical aspects of journalism and how it has changed/evolved in today’s world.

Check out his Bio here.

Kalbfeld showed us what a laptop and cassette player looked like from the 1980s — very bulky compared to today’s MacBook Pro standards. His next laptop upgrade was only able to show 4 lines of text at a time on a tiny screen.

Using analog, expensive and slow technology with a very limited number of people having access to it is a thing of the past. Now, there are a variety of multi-purpose gadgets that have made an incredible leap in technology from the past to the present. Things like the iPhone have made it possible for anyone to have access to telecommunications.

With this increase in technology, Kalbfeld notes that many of the traditional “filters” are beginning to decrease — nowadays, an article can be uploaded directly to a reader without having to pass through a variety of  editors.

There is often so much information floating out there that the reader/viewer is in charge. The implications of this is that the content can change, and the reader can now choose the news they want to read rather than having the news coming to them.

Kalbfeld says that in the journalism world, it used to be that people from a relatively uniform background made the calls. Now, the newsroom is more diverse than ever, representing a variety of different points of view.

When asked about citizen journalism, Kalbfeld noted that there is good and bad that comes with it. Citizen journalists can provide a level of coverage that professional journalists sometimes cannot. Some traditional journalists are scared of citizen journalists, because of their ability to appeal to the public. Kalbfeld believes that journalists need to find the balance for weighing editorial standards the same for both professional and citizen journalists. However, often citizen journalists do not understand how the camera can lie and manipulate stories, in addition to incorporating unwanted bias.

For better understanding news sources, Kalbfeld reccommends reading the “About Us” section on news websites. As a consumer, judging for yourself where the information comes from is very important.

News used to be a one-way field. Now, there are so many opportunities to interact with the audience. With the addition of the Internet, journalism has become increasingly participatory.

Kalbfeld says that in the end, journalists must be aware of ethical issues. This is critical for any good journalist!

Former George Mason University Communications major B.J. Koubaroulis spoke to our class today about video techniques and how video can really enhance the story you are trying to tell.

Visit his personal Twitter account here and check out his blog here.

Koubaroulis reccommends starting out small after you graduate and working in a place that is more personal so that you are able to learn more from your experience and gradually work your way up to the big leagues.

Koubaroulis believes this story  from the Washington Post was the game changer for him. He was able to use video to really tell the story well and reach out to the audience, pulling them into the story with video.

Koubaroulis started a company called Synthesis Multimedia Productions, which showcases a variety of “one-man band” video journalists who cover unique content and stories. The video stories are posted very quickly too — only about 2 hours after reporting!

What are the four things that every video journalist needs to have according to Koubaroulis?

  • a camera
  • a computer
  • a microphone
  • a great work ethic

Koubaroulis also showed us a few websites that incorporate interactive media platforms, such as Mason Metro. For information on buying camcorders and video equipment, Koubaroulis reccommends B&H.

“Anybody can do what we’ve done,” said Koubaroulis. “You just need the equipment. Play around and learn how to edit.”

Koubaroulis’ number one belief for journalists is to “learn by doing.”

Mark Potts, journalist and digital pioneer, spoke to our class today. He helped create the Washington Post website, served as editor for various news websites and has worked in the media field for nearly 20 years.

Check out his blog Recovering Journalist.

Potts showed us a variety of different websites that all present unique ways of telling stories:

  • Wikipedia — As soon as a story breaks, there is always a collection of new data and compilations by citizen journalists. A lot of journalists look down on Wikipedia, but Potts believes it’s a great tool for researching.
  • Washington Post article “A Facebook Story” — used Facebook as a story telling device to create a human-interest story
  • Storify — Pulls pictures and tweets to create a unique storytelling platform. However, it doesn’t work for everything. A downside is that the reader has to pull together the story themself without any transitions.
  • Baristanet — example of hyperlocal news with an organic focus.
  • TBD — Combined a variety of users’ blogs to create local news coverage from the public without having to hire other local-based journalists.
  • FiveThirtyEight — A blog that follows and analyzes political polls and looks at how electoral votes are being represented during elections.
  • The Texas Tribune — Non- profit website that covers serious topics in the state government that other news organizations seem to overlook.
  • Tubeify — Music website that uses the Billboard program and lets users travel through the years to see what was ranked on the charts in the past.
  • New York Times interactive map “A Peek Into Netflix Queues” — Lets you mouse over neighborhoods in big cities to see what the top 10 rentals are according to zip codes.
  • Google’s Flu Trends — Maps flu trends based on searches the Google database.
  • Newsmap — Kind of like a Tag Cloud, it features a variety of stories color-coded by type to see what’s going on in the world.
  • A few websites like NCAA Probe  , Play the News  and Predict the News  let users play interactive games featuring certain news-worthy events or situations.

Potts also explained the term crowd sourcing, which is asking the audience what they know and letting them report on what they find. For example,  certain news outlets might ask the public to call in when there is a pothole somewhere or allow them to go through government documents to see if they can turn up any suspicious information.

“Twitter is nothing but noise,” said Potts. It has “a fire hose of stuff.” Potts believes that at times Twitter can be useful, and says it is an excellent publicity tool and something necessary that journalists should keep up with. However, Potts says there are too many posts without filters, something I definitely agree with.

When asked what the most important tool for journalists in the last five years has been, Potts pointed to his iPhone.

Potts encourages the use of a variety of different mediums for telling stories and writing articles. “You don’t have to tell every story in words,” said Potts.

Kevin Anderson, a digital strategist and freelance journalist, spoke to our class today via Skype. He has worked for BBC, Al Jazeera English and the Guardian.

Check out his personal Twitter account , his Muckrack account, and some of his work with Al Jazeera English here.

When asked what tools are needed for a journalism skill set in the real world, Anderson  says an important part of landing a first job is to take the initiave now by setting up a blog, taking pictures, and doing multimedia journalism. Anderson says to also start thinking about the best way to tell stories through this type of social media.

Anderson also notes that Zeemaps is a great tool for projects as well. He suggests that when doing video recording, make sure to get some of the background noise from the setting where you are reporting to make the audience feel like they are in the middle of the story. Audio is one of the most important things when shooting video, but often is forgotten the most. Shaky video is forgiven, but terrible sound quality is not.

“Social media without context doesn’t do the audience any favors,” says Anderson. In other words, make sure that when using platforms such as Storify, you are able to explain the various social media content that is being used.

With there being an increase in more citizen journalists, it can be hard for trained journalists to make their mark. Regarding this situation, Anderson says, “If we amplify every voice, it just becomes noise.” It is still important to make editorial choices when dealing with articles and newsworthy items.

“We’re entering a fascinating time, and how we navigate that is going to be very interesting, especially as journalists. It’s a tough time in journalism. You’ve got to start somewhere. Where you start doesn’t determine where you end up,” says Anderson.

Steve Buttry

Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement for TBD, joined our class today for a presentation on cross-platform journalism and the different tools and techniques that are applied to many articles and stories today.

Check out his Bio, personal Twitter account, and blog, The Buttry Diary, here.

Professor Klein noted that Buttry understands the social web as well as cross-platform journalism— a skill that journalists really need to focus on.


Buttry showed us a compilation of audio, video and pictures done by The Minneapolis Star Tribune on their wesbite covering the collapse of the 35W bridge into the Mississippi River in August 2007 . Titled “13 Seconds in August,” reporters at the Star Tribune tried to find the story of every single vehicle on the bridge. Within one story, there are dozens of stories featured. This type of cross-platform journalism is the way of the future.


As a writer in traditonal journalism, there is contol. However, in digital journalism multiple tools are used to let the reader view the story how they want. This in turn changes the style of reporting. There needs to be much more than just interviews- audio and video play a large part in the story telling process.


Buttry also showed us a website from The Des Moines Register in Iowa, titled Parkersburg Tornado: The Aftermath. The website features a virtual map of the town of Parkersburg where you can view video of the tornado in addition to before and after pictures of houses hit by the tornado.


Buttry stresses to think of the tools you can use when reporting to cover the story in a new, unique way.


By using certain tools like taking large scale panoramic photos, as seen with this picture of the Glastonbury Music Festival in England, average citizens are able to tag themselves and add in their own stories, further adding to the main idea of the article.


Buttry says, “Think of what would be the best way to tell this story.” Then use the appropriate tools or find a new way and think outside of the box.

When asked what the one thing he could take away from his years of journalism experience was, Buttry replied, “Always be curious.”

Jim Iovino, Managing Editor of the website NBC Washington, spoke to our class today about different types of cross-platform journalism.

Iovino began his career in print journalism, but soon switched to online journalism due to the downsizing of newspapers and other print content.

Most of the news content on the NBC Washington wesbite is original, however some stories get picked from TV broadcasts and newspapers. A lot of the news is also instantaneous and gets updated periodically throughout the day.

“Find an angle to a story that you think no one else is going to have,” said Iovino. Pat Collins, a reporter for NBC News 4, does exactly that. Iovino showed us an example of Collins’ reporting style (Sandwich Girl feature), and said that he can get an interesting story out of anyone he is interviewing. This reporting style is about good, basic journalism. You have to tackle the news with a unique point of view to reap in viewers, especially if many local news programs are covering the same stories. You must be able to differentiate your story from the rest!

Another thing Iovino said is important for journalists is their ability to connect with an audience. Collins also does this well in Chat with Pat, where he receives questions online and answers them with one-of-a-kind video responses.

The Feast, a website run by NBC News, works as a content center and incorporates some stories from other news organizations while focusing on entertainment, shopping and food in DC.

Capital Games is a blog run by NBC News, which covers interesting stories about athletes in the Washington DC Metro Area, with lots of video coverage incorporated into the site.

“A good video can speak for itself,” said Iovino. Sometimes, instead of editing video footage, it can be better to post the raw footage to create a higher impact for viewers.

Just wanted to link to the Mindmeister outline our group (Raffi Paul, Lexie Ramage and myself) created for our Football Multimedia Project. Mindmeister is a pretty cool tool for mapping and brainstorming to help you get started with any type of planning that you may need to do. It’s basically like a virtual ‘spider web’, allowing you to add lines and idea bubbles for all of your information. You can even share your web with other members of your group so that you all have a chance to edit the outline, making collaboration so much easier. Check ours out here!

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