Registration….Big Frustration

I know, I know–registering for Spring 2011 classes can be EXTREMELY frustrating. First there’s the hurry-up-and-wait factor: though you know what classes you want and need, you can’t sign up until it’s your turn. By then, classes may be filled up. And getting help can be nearly impossible. Professor and advisors seem to never be around when you need them. Plus, you’ve still got to get through the rest of the fall.

You’re in the thick of it, and I feel your pain. And I know that many of you have had trouble getting the journalism classes you want. When you try and sign up for Introduction to Journalism, Reporting and Writing or Radio Journalism–all required for the journalism minor–you’re told you need a pre-requisite or the instructor’s permission. Yet, you’re taking the required class right now and doing fine in it, thank you very much. 

Many apologies for the trouble. I mean it. I know saying “computer error” sounds like “dog ate my homework” but that’s what it is. And I can’t fix it. You’ll need to speak to an advisor like Professor Appelbaum or contact Vivian Nilsson ( for assistance. I know you want to slap somebody right now, but be patient; it’ll all be okay.

In the meantime, here’s an idea what my classes will be like next semester. For complete information about the CCNY journalism program, check our website.

MCA 101: Introduction to Media Studies

This is the gateway course to both the Media Communication Arts department and to the journalism minor. It is designed to offer a broad overview of the different media–newspapers, books, magazines, radio, television, movies, recordings and the internet–and also looks at marketing, advertising and public relations. A number of professors teach this course, each in our own way.  Because my background is in journalism, that’s what I focus on. But not exclusively. In areas where I have less experience, I bring in guest speakers. Some include:

Rose Arce, CNN senior producer; Andrea Bernstein, WNYC political editor; James Bernard, founder of The Source and XXL magazines; documentary filmmaker Jennifer Callahan; a music publicist who works the college market; a marketing expert whose main client is the Alvin Ailey Dance Company–and so on. In this class, we watch movies and commercials and do marketing and advertising projects and exercises. I also focus heavily on writing and grammar, which is critically important in all areas of the media business.

MCA 233: Introduction to Journalism

This is a nuts and bolts class which looks at the basics of journalism. Two of us teach sections of this class–myself and the very distinguished, award winning television journalist David Diaz. Students learn how to think like a journalist and write like a pro. You’ll cover press conferences and sports events and write news pieces, opinion stories, reviews and profiles. It’s a writing boot camp of sorts with lots of short assignments. But it’s not just a print class–we’ve also taken photographs, produced videos, slide shows and podcasts. And everyone has to create a blog. Guest speakers have included senior writers from both Self and Essence magazines and CCNY alumn Jerry Eskenazi, who spent 40 years as a New York Times sports reporter.

MCA 333: Reporting and Writing

In this collaborative workshop class, you’ll be part of the staff of reporters and photographers that provides content for the website of The Campus newspaper. Being a time player who meets deadlines is key. You’ll file stories like a “real” journalist…which you will be. In this class you’ll pitch ideas and write at least a story a week.

Good luck! And stay calm…..



Straight from “The Source”

In the not too distant past, a guy with a big idea got together with some Harvard classmates and created a new product that tapped a movement, struck a nerve and appealed to millions of other young people.

The story may sound like Mark Zuckerberg and the beginnings of Facebook. But in this case, the bright young guy with the big idea was James Bernard (pictured, below). In 1988, while at Harvard Law School he was the leader of the team that launched The Source magazine, one of hip-hop’s most enduring brands. Later, he introduced XXL magazine by again tapping hip-hop music, culture and politics.

“The reason The Source worked was that it felt like a crusade,” said James, during a recent visit to City College where he addressed MCA 101 students. “The same with XXL

James is on to his next big thing, this time a social networking platform for mobile phones targeted to young urbanites. He describes his venture, Xango, as a family of apps for the phone with interesting content that will also “sell you cool stuff.”

“It’s like a living room, concierge, town hall all in your pocket,” he says. “It combines the social network effect of a digital platform with monetization.”

James has worked on the project for two years and is on the hunt for investors and partners. He’s excited about the move from print to mobile media. “Most Americans are isolated, lonely and bored,” he explains. “The mobile is about being out in the world, being live and connected.”

After James’s guest lecture, the students were assigned to pitch their own digital businesses. Here are their big ideas:

Academic Benefit Collection: a digital subscription service that helps people better their educational experiences and academic futures. (Laura Pilloni)

Buyer Live: online shopping via television shows (Jonathan Alvarado)

Fiction Collide: a worldwide, social network community for gamers. (Carlos Albarracin)

Digital Entertainment Provider (DEP): a website and media sharing services that brings together movies, music and video games. (Luis Ortega)

Integrated Savings and Loan ( an online bank with highly competitive services and rates. (Colin McIntyre) a social network targeted to urban professional women, 25 to 40. (Sarah Grossman) a site that allows users to buy clothes they see on major TV shows. (Mike Gugliada)

Know It Inc.: a search engine to keep subscribers “in the know”–about news and celebrity sightings. (Chavelyn Perez)

MetroPlus: a service that allows you to use NYC public transportation using your camera phone in place of a Metrocard. (Emily Goldblum)

MYUnderSound: a website and app to link users to the underground music scene (Amanda Rivera)

NYC Guide: an online and mobile search engine that helps teens and adults connect interesting places to visit in New York. (Aveena Ramoutar)

Oneness: an app that helps you organize your life, aimed at spiritual/socially conscious consumers. (Rodni-Kaye Thorpe-Rankine)

The Perfect Dater: online help for couples (or friends) who want to make date nights special. (Raven Robinson)

Vandal Arts: an entertainment production and guerilla marketing company and showcase for the arts, hip-hop, design, music, fashion and culture. (Sean Bryan–he’s already got it up!)

More than Just the Red Carpet

For several years, Tomika Anderson had a perfectly fine job as a celebrity journalist. She got to interview T.I., Usher, Beyonce, her idol Stevie Wonder and many other stars.

But something for her changed several years ago when her brother was sent to Afghanistan to fight.

“I liked the whole celebrity journalism thing, but after my brother went to war, I wanted to do something different, something more serious,” she told my Introduction to Media Studies class last Tuesday during a guest lecture in Shepard Hall. (See Tomika with our class, below.)

“I realized there weren’t enough of us, journalists of color, in the news.”

Now Tomika mixes the hard news with the soft. She produces stories for FoxNews Edge and also writes scripts for BET shows

like the “Black Carpet. ” She covers celebrities and what they’re wearing for MTV and Uptown Magazine and also writes about serious issues like HIV, the Duke University rape case and the state of black America.

And as you’ve figured out, she also mixes her media–she describes herself as a TV and content producer and a writer. (She’s got clips from Ebony,, Entertainment Weekly, Vibe and Time Magazine.) And she even does a little PR on the side.

“There were days when a writer was just a writer,” says Tomika, who lives in Brooklyn. “Now, though, networks like CNN want someone who can do a bit of everything, someone who’s self-contained. So now a writer writes, produces, edits and is sometimes even the camera person.

Tomika describes the media as ever-changing, and promises to roll with it. She says she prefers to remain strictly freelance and is careful not to burn bridges to the gigs keep coming. Down the road, she’d like to write a book.

She advised anyone who’s interested in a media-communications career to stay current.

“You’ve got to be on top of the news,” she says. “In our business you always need to know what’s going on.”

It Was the Best of Times….*

On September 7, writer Jacqueline Woodson visited my Introduction to Media Studies class. A children’s author, Jacqueline has written too many books to count (but, 30, if we’re counting) and won dozens of awards including the prestigious Newbery the “Oscar” of children’s book publishing. Her latest picture book, Pecan Pie Baby, comes out at the end of this month.

Jacqueline spoke to the class about the publishing industry which has undergone massive changes in the last decade, largely thanks to the internet. Jackie has managed to roll with publishing’s punches and branch out from print: Her novel Miracle’s Boys, published in 2000, appeared as a TV miniseries in 2005. It was filmed in Harlem and directed by Spike Lee and other well-known directors. She rewrote her 2003 novel Locomotion as a play, and it’s opening at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC later in the month.

Even in our 21st century media landscape, Jacqueline urged students to work on the basics: good writing. At the end of class, I assigned students to write the first 300 words of a novel or memoir that might like to some day publish. Here are excerpts from several of the best:

I am almost a silhouette, but the bright morning light form the large windows in the living room sinks all the way into our window-less bathroom. I can see one of those windows just over my shoulder. It is quite beautiful. –Jonathan Alvarado

When someone takes your name, who do you become? I am a companion piece, part of a set; I am a twin. — Sarah Grossman

Students in sixth and seventh grade are usually just entering puberty, a turning point in their teenage lives. Between getting braces, body changes, and new voices, young adults struggle to fit in in school. I was just that, an awkward skinny girl with braces. But I had another kind of brace: on my brace for my scoliosis.–Aveena Ramoutar

I don’t give a damn. I really don’t. In fact, everyone can go screw themselves for all I care. If it was up to me, I would let the world know what’s coming, right away. I can’t though, and I probably won’t do anything about it. In fact, I probably won’t do anything about anything. –Luis Ortega

I tried so hard to avoid it because I knew how I’d end up feeling. You’re a force, you’re a force, you’re a force. You knocked me down and all I wanted was to knock you, too. But I couldn’t even make a dent. I couldn’t break you down. I couldn’t let you i. I couldn’t give you anything to hold on to. –Amanda Rivera

*It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)