"That's my cell phone, baby. My cell phone!"

Michael Longinow | Biola University

I hate it when students text in class.

But I noticed when the V-Tech shooting was happening how cell phones were the news medium as the story broke. My students get why.

So in my introductory journalism class, we take a week and do bureau reporting. It's cell phone reporting.

I divide the class (of about 25) into four groups. They're competing for a prize, and it's timed.

Each group selects two who will be the bureau chiefs. The rest are reporters. I pick a topic for each group that's a "man/woman on the street" interview encounter with people on or just off campus. Topics are drawn from that day's news (or the day before). It's controversial stuff and worthy of heated, passionate comment.

(I know, I know...I should let the students come up with stories, but this is a fairly newsy exercise, and I didn't want it to tank for lack of student attentiveness to the task.)

As the students get their quotes, they text those quotes in to the bureau chiefs. Meantime, the bureau chiefs have divided their duties. One is backgrounding the story and writing up the lower material in the story — putting it in the larger context. (So last fall it was the death of a college-age jogger in San Diego. Localization was safety measures on our own campus near L.A.)

The group has to turn in a story by the end of the class session (or, if it's going slow, the next class session) based on the quotes obtained from the text.

The stories are filed on blogger.com. I have all the students read the final story of the other class groups and comment.

Students rave about this assignment as one that forces them to think on deadline, approach people on deadline for quotes, and rely on each other (team-building and cooperation in a journalistic endeavor.) Some of the bureau chiefs hate it; others thrive on the pressure.

The stories they produce are amazingly cogent for what are mostly freshmen who have never written news or features on a tight deadline.

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