Monday, May 7, 2007

The winner is...

Just to follow up, Kathleen Carroll and Jean Rimbach of The Record took home this year's Hechinger Grand Prize for their series "Lessons in Waste." We'll begin posting presentations from speakers and other materials from the annual meeting on the EWA Web site later this week.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Narrative writing tips from the pros

Dan Golden of The Wall Street Journal, Stephanie Banchero of The Chicago Tribune and Douglas McGray, who has written for West and The New York Times magazines, were all very humble about their narrative writing skills during Saturday's first post-lunch session at the annual meeting.

But all three offered some practical tips for reporters.

Here are a few:

    Choose great characters for your narrative. McGray, who as a magazine writer does have more time than most newspaper reporters to work on his pieces, said he interviewed, or screened as he called it, about 30 potential main characters to find the one for the story that EWA will honor him for at tonight's banquet. (Both Banchero and Golden will be honored too.)

    Remember that reporting a narrative piece-- which should have scenes and characters just like a work of fiction-- is even more important than the writing of it.

    Make sure every word and every scene relates back to the one-sentence theme of the story.

    Be transparent with your sources. Prepare them as much as you can for what they will see in print, including the tone of the story. All of the writers on EWA's panel said they stop short of showing their entire story to sources. They do check facts and direct quotes.

    When dealing with reluctant subjects, let them know how their story relates to the national or even international story of many other people. Let them know the story is much bigger than them. If they still have issues with being involved, try to find out exactly what they are worried about and resolve it, Golden said.

Read superior writing. Banchero recommended theNieman Narrative Digest for finding good examples of narrative writing.


More EWA blogs

If you've been reading the comments, you've already seen links to other blogs coming to you from our annual meeting.
Here are a few more. Please let me know if there are any others...

Scott Elliott of The Dayton Daily News' Get on the Bus blog

Paul Baker's blog at EducationPR

Jeff Solochek of The St. Petersburg Times' The Gradebook

Moctesuma Esparza takes the stage

Moctesuma Esparza, the executive producer of the HBO movie "Walkout" is speaking about now on media coverage of Latino students during lunch. The movie, in case you missed it, is the true story of a Mexican-American student who led a 1968 protest of the unequal treatment of students in East Los Angeles schools, according to IMDb.
Esparza's appearance caps off a morning in which reporters could attend up to three sessions.
After lunch, there are a couple more sessions before tonight's banquet. EWA will recognize the winners of its national contest and reveal the winner of the 2006 Hechinger grand prize.

Friday, May 4, 2007

EWA in the blogs

EWA isn't the only one blogging about our national meeting.
Alexander Russo is following at This Week in Education, as is Chad Livengood in Taking Notes, a blog on the Jackson (Mich.) Citizen Patriot Web site.
Anyone know of any others?

Schwarzenegger, Broad: 2008 the year of education

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was downright jovial today during his conversation with Eli Broad, EWA's 2007 Martin Buskin Lecturer.
There were some serious moments. Broad, co-chair of the nonpartisan Strong American Schools campaign focused at thrusting education issues into the spotlight in the upcoming presidential election, and Schwarzenegger urged journalists to force the candidates to pinpoint ideas for improving education, rather than settle for rhetoric.
Ask candidates whether they support a longer schoolyear and pay incentives for teachers, Broad advised reporters.
Schwarzenegger said he's hopeful the state's Democrats and Republicans will work together to resolve some of the California education system's problems. He wants to get buy-in from stakeholders first, then roll out a plan in the state of the state address he gives each January, he said.
But for the most part, the governor talked informally, repeating a joke about Paris Hilton and, when he thought some audience members couldn't see him on stage, simply picking up and moving the podium blocking their view.
He even gave us one of his famous lines. Schwarzenegger said he hoped he would be able to return with better news about the state of education in California. "I'll be back," he said.
We'll have more on the session in our May 14 newsletter.

Friday, Day 2, begins

After a breakfast of bagels, fruit and coffee, participants split into groups for the opening plenary. (Does anyone know exactly what a plenary is, by the way?) I joined about 70 or so people in the session called “Lessons from California Classrooms:English Language Learners” and learned this: About one-third of students nationwide are English Language Learers. While the issue of how best to educate those students has long drawn attention here in California, ballooning numbers, particularly in my native land of the South, has now made it a national issue.
This morning, EWA members had first dibs on a new EdSource study that examined how elementary schools are doing at helping ELL students achieve. They came up with a few things that are key, like the strength of the principal and whether the school had set specific goals and created concrete plans for reaching those goals.
Trish Williams of EdSource, Kenji Hakuta of Stanford University, Margarita Calderon of Johns Hopkins University and Maribel Childress, principal of a Springdale, Ark., elementary school where 76 percent of the students are English Language Learners, hashed out the results.
At Childress’ school, Parson Hills Elementary, there’s at least one other important factor in success not mentioned in the study, she said. The staff makes it a priority to develop relationships with all students. If she were in Arkansas, for example, she would probably be wearing a costume to mark Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, a day that many of her students celebrate, she said.
“Learning is personal,” Childress said.
Calderon added that she would like to see the study replicated in Chicago, New York City or elsewhere.
We’ll post the results from the study on the EWA Web site soon.
And don't forget, Gov. Schwarzenegger is scheduled to speak in about 90 minutes.