Train 'em to be people whisperers

Beverly G. Merrick | United Arab Emirates University

Students resist reporting on their communities. However, once they are assigned to tell "an untold story" in a small town in the region, they speak highly of the experience. A professor has to twist their arms to get them to do this kind of assignment. So be prepared for the opposition. I prepared my students through showing "Capote" and In Cold Blood." This provided a cache of valuable assignments in class and out in the real world.

Then, I assigned each one of them to report in class on an admired journalist. All reported to peers about how their admired journalist handled "untold stories." It is the hero approach. This assignment is also a good way to help students break the barrier of talking to strangers the people journalists meet when reporting on the first job in the professional world.

Students go through the "Aha!" experience of finding that they have the ability to interview. They learn that it is a natural act to communicate with others. And, placing them in an environment within their own small-town region helps break them in.

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