The most valuable card in the deck

21 02 2012

During my capstone’s trip to Dubuque yesterday, we had an interesting conversation about one of the biggest things we would miss upon leaving Drake University: our Student Journalist Card.

It’s not a physical card of course — and it’s not an idea, concept or dream — it’s a weapon. It’s a tool that’s more useful than any little piece of technology Steve Jobs could come up with, and in just a couple months, I lose it forever.

Here’s how the Student Journalist Card works. You phone or visit your source, whether that be the mayor of a small business, dictator of a country, rock star or scummy landlord, and you sit down to interview them. You say something along the lines of, “Hi! I’m Matt Nelson, a journalism student at Drake University, and I was really really hoping you could maybe help me out with an article I’m working on?”

You sound naive, eager and maybe a little stupid — which is exactly what you want. You want your source to underestimate you, to let down their guard so they feel free-er in answering your questions.

This might sound underhanded, but it really isn’t. The point of any interview is to get your subject comfortable speaking with you, so they speak from the heart and capture the essence of their story in quotes that are interpretable and eloquent.

This works for hard as well as soft stories. Sometimes people get nervous talking to people they know are media-savvy, and being a student journalist isn’t nearly as intimidating.

As a student journalist, I am young, naive and prone to stumbling. As a student journalist at Drake, I can appear to be all these things while still being adept on my feet. It’s a handy tactic that’s gotten me great stories, great opportunities — and the chance to get the real voice of my source out.

I was in three states today!

20 02 2012

Myself and five others just returned from a successful trip to Dubuque, Iowa, a cream of the crop city on the cusp of a state triad — Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. My partners in crime included a two talented graphic designers, a yellow-fever survivor, the former Editor-In-Chief of the Times-Delphic and my next door neighbor.

If you’re wondering what compelled me to travel to such a place as Dubuque, and with such a diverse group of characters, then you’re in luck because I’m going to tell you whether you like it or not.

We were travelling to the town for our journalism capstone, “Think” magazine. Our mission: to find and retrieve compelling content for the World Wide Web in a variety of formats, including text, video, audio and reliable sources.

“Think” is the class that takes everything you learn as a journalism major at Drake, whether a magazine, News/Internet or graphic designer, and puts it all together. Quite literally, it is the culmination of my Drake experience, and I could not be more excited for it. Our travels to Dubuque are a significant part of our project, and heavily involves our website. I’m not quite ready to divulge the mission behind it just yet — but I can tell all of you persistent readers: keep coming back here, because our first launch is coming up quicker than you can imagine!

I had a wonderful time in this city by the river, and it wasn’t just the location. I’ve gotten to know the other students well during my four years at Drake, and at this point, any interaction with them becomes a rewarding experience.

I cannot say enough how close you become with the people in your major at Drake. You have classes with them, but it’s more than that. I’ve done projects with them, adhered to the same deadlines with them, confronted challenges with them I never dreamed of facing when I lived in Northern Minnesota.

We started our Dubuque adventure in the Sunshine Family Cafe, which was bustling with the after-church crowd. We quickly stood out as we were the only people in the room tweeting pictures of our food before we ate it. We launched into a discussion of our day’s plan, but for every decision we made and every point we considered, we also found time to sneak in minutes of laughter.

“You’re not from around here,” one woman came up to us said. She was right — we’d traveled three hours from Des Moines to a place where state lines converged and we hoped to find something magic. And (although I haven’t gone through the tape or pictures just yet), I really think we did.

The Red Flannel Run is Done! (and I am still warming up)

16 02 2012


We’re talking three degree temperatures here. Now, being a guy from Northern Minnesota, that’s normally not a big deal, but even I don’t normally run five miles when the mercury dips that low. Holy Jesus, it’s a miracle I made it out alive.

I’m not sure about my time — as far as I can tell, the YMCA hasn’t posted anything yet. I didn’t do as well as I wanted and had to walk a couple blocks. I attribute that to my five shirts and four layers of pants (it took me about five minutes to find my car keys afterwards, as I had eight pockets to choose from).

Overall — it was great! I’m still planning on doing the half marathon for Relays this year, and I’m going to need to get my training butt in gear. Half maraton for Relays, here we come!

Oh, and check out photos from the run at the Des Moines Register’s site!

The Red Flannel Run is here!

11 02 2012

I am bundled up and ready to go! Keep an eye on my cover it live version of the event (seen below) for updates during the run.


7 02 2012

Yesterday I had the unique experience of being a human test subject for a research study. The project was for a class project, and it was being supervised by my Biology professor.

The project was this: to go in and try on several pairs of shoes and to try and find a correlation between comfort and weight, without the subject having the ability to actually see the shoes.

It sounds basic, but I had never done anything like it before. Apparently, this sort of thing is done all the time. My professor told me that there is a waiting list of students who want to have the opportunity to conduct their own research. They are given time, university funds and equipment in their studies.

How cool is that?! I’m not interested in doing research any time soon, but the prospect of conducting organized studies in a professional manner with professor support was intriguing to me. It’s just another example in my mind of how cool Drake can be.

The test itself wasn’t too bad — although the taped goggles I had to wear to prevent me from seeing the shoes were a little unnerving. As far as I’ve heard, they’re still looking for subjects, so if you’re interested just shoot me a message in the comments!

A week from now, I’ll be all red-flanneled out

6 02 2012

I recently wrote about my upcoming race in the Red-Flannel Run, and I’m happy to report that training for it has been going fairly well. My racing partner and I ran five miles (in January, of all months — I think I even got a sunburn) within our target time. To beat my goal of five 8-minute miles, I only need to shave off about four minutes, which I think is entirely doable.

The race is happening next Saturday morning — I might try and set up some sort of “Cover it Live” iFrame on this blog and live tweet the event. I know no one will probably feel compelled enough to follow it, but that isn’t why I’m doing it. As a News/Internet major at Drake, it’s important to take advantage of web tools available to you, and I try to incorporate them whenever it’s feasible for me to do so.

If you’ve never seen cover it live, you may want to watch how I use it! If you’re thinking of doing journalism at Drake, this is a very handy tool you’ll want to know how to use.

My checklist of things to get done before the run:

  • Get another five mile run in and under the target time
  • Practice my coordination with tweeting and running
  • Get to look like this guy:

College Newspaper of the Year: Check!

6 02 2012

The best and worst experiences of my Drake career were spent on the staff of the student newspaper, The Times-Delphic. My involvement on that staff has taught me an incredible amount about perseverance, Adobe Creative Suite and how to pull effective all-nighters. I have found some of the closest friends in my life and have witnessed an incredible amount of campus life and politics.

So, when the newspaper was awarded the College Newspaper of the Year last Thursday night, I was pretty excited.

I was also excited to see all the other awards that came out of last year’s stellar staff. We won for sports stories, news stories, profiles and photographs. Several pieces of award-winning content came from the Drake Relays issue from last year. This was especially exciting for me, since I served as Relays Editor and fostered some of these stories into existence.

You can find the complete list of awards at the above link. And please take a few seconds to peruse the Drake Relays issue from last year, and all the other virtual editions!

Working on the Times-Delphic was an incredible experience for me, and it’s one that no Drake journalism student should ever ignore. If you’re interested in working for the paper next year, feel free to email me or comment and I’ll put you in touch with the right people!


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