Check out our classes

We are starting to finalize the classes and schedules for the MAPW program. See Courses for descriptions of the individual courses.

twittermedical_symbolapproved stampmad_scientist-300x274. ALESSIO ROMENZI


Private and Public Grief

fireThe tragic deaths of two Boston firefighters yesterday produced an outpouring of condolences and tributes about the bravery of those in the fire service. Almost predictably there has been discussion on Facebook about the quick publication on the Web of photos from the event and the identification of victims possibly before families were notified. This is not a new debate. Complicating the discussion today, however, is the use of social media which has no regulation or even a code of conduct when posting about an ongoing tragedy. Most journalists and photojournalists — despite what some critics may say is their drive to be first and “sell papers”  — are sensitive to the feelings of victims and victims’ families. Sometimes a photographer does not know that the photo he or she snapped of a wounded first responder being rushed to the hospital was actually a final portrait. Likewise, people who snap with cell phones from distance from an event and post excitedly to their Facebook may not realize the implications of a family member seeing that photo. What complicates the issue is our notions of private and public space which are in flux. Writers  —  from journalists to PR spokespersons who must compose a reaction statement or a blogger who stumbles upon a scene — should think about these issues on an ongoing basis, before they are confronted with a situation in which they must make a quick decision.


Take a class!

We are starting our push on the first two classes in the MAPW. Here are the listings that will go up on the Regis College site Web site:

EN505 Grant Writing, Fundraising and Appeals Writing.

Summer Session I   2014

Tuesdays, Thursdays, 6 to 9 p.m.,

In this hybrid course, students will be exposed to the best practices for researching writing, and follow up on grants and other forms of fundraising for non-profits. It includes preparation of proposals to federal and local agencies, corporations and private foundations on behalf of 501 (c3) organizations as well as schools, charity groups and similar entities. The course will provide practical experience through partnerships with key non-profits. Students will learn how to write successful proposals, including: case statement, goals and objectives, program budget, management plan and evaluation sections. Additionally, students will practice writing skills in non-profit management, such as the creation of effective fundraising letters and annual appeals. C

EN 504  Multimedia, Social Media and Software for the Professional Writer

Summer Session II   2014

Tuesday, Thursday, 6 to 9 p.m.

This hands-on graduate-level course introduces students to some of the social media and multimedia tools that have become part of the professional writer’s skill set. The course will review best practices for blogging, Facebook, Twitter and other tools as well as exposing students to video editing, photo editing and audio production for the Web. Student will create projects using a selection of these tools. Guest speakers and readings will  probe the social and cultural issues raised by new media. The goal is to help students create a tool kit and develop problem-solving skills that will be useful now and in the future.

We will be posting more about each class, including the instructor for Grant Writer, Lisa Perry-Wood, who is an excellent instructor and who really knows this topic well.

Please …. Quote Me.

20080404-expertMuch of the media world is fixated on quoting “expert” sources. For issues like health, politics and climate change to celebrity diets and lost airplanes, the media seeks out experts who can, so to speak, ‘splain it all to us. Some of those experts are great, some adequate. Some are reluctant; others are media savvy and willing to speak on a dime. Some say what they believe after careful thought; some say what they think the audience wants to hear.

As a reporter, I depended on a cadre of experts who I knew were accessible, intelligent and eloquent. Later, as a communications specialist for colleges, I helped position faculty and staff as experts to reporters. And occasionally, I myself have been tapped to speak on issues such as the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire and other aspects of Boston history. The latest was earlier this week in a story in the Boston Globe about happy hours in Massachusetts. 

All this work on quoting/positioning experts has been a learning experience for me and something that professional writers should be attuned to. It’s a dirty secret — well, not so secret — that time-pressed reporters often don’t delve below the surface of the experts they quote.They need something NOW! The best public relations personnel are aware of this. Nothing drives me crazier than to have a manager say, “Oh, a reporter called. I’ll call back tomorrow.” And these are people who wanted press or wanted to control their “message.” All media professionals have to be acutely sensitive into the immediacy of  today’s communication. It’s a Tweet or be Tweeted about world.

twitterStill, PR only goes so far. Last week, my nephew was on a  flight cancelled at the last minute. He got on Twitter to complain about U.S. Airways. Within a minute U.S. Airways tweeted back to apologize and offer a number to call. Very nice, but my nephew was already on that line which he pulled off the Web after the gate agent proved to be utterly clueless. My nephew, using his phone, had more flight data than she did, and with a phone call he was able to get a flight that the agent on site could not find! He also go bumped to first class.  It makes me wonder if U.S. Airways should put less into monitoring Twitter as a PR tool  than in improving its digital infrastructure for its onsite agents.

Curiously, when I Tweeted a problem about US Airways, I got no response. Maybe the airline company has a logarithm that only targets younger passengers not us crotchety older folks.

If I were a reporter on this, I’d be calling a Twitter expert for comment.

Whatever Makes You Happy

Plucking a lyric from Sheryl Crow from a faulty memory: “Whatever makes you happy, can’t be bad. Whatever makes you happy… then why are you so sad?”

600px-Smiley.svgOr let’s go back to to Thoreau: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation” Like usual, Thoreau overstates things a bit but there’s something to be said about finding work that you love. For writers — professional writers, journalists, novelists, poets — there is often a trade-off between what you want to do and what you can be paid to do. Decades ago, when I was working for the Boston Herald and writing features, interviewing authors and going to places like Panama and El Salvador for stories, I would stop, shake my head, and think, “I can’t believe I’m being paid for this much fun.” Then there were  the days with the crushing deadlines, the demanding editor and the sense of dread sitting before a blank computer screen knowing it had to be filled before the hour was up.

Decades later, I experienced the joy and pain of writing books. To meet deadlines I had to call upon skills that I learned in college… about staying up all night. Thank goodness today we have Jolt Cola and Red Bull. When people tell me, “Oh, writing is fun,” I should say, “Well, you’re not doing it right.”  As Dorothy Parker once said (again relying on fault memory, “I don’t enjoy writing. I enjoy having written.”  And I have no regrets about the grueling days or sleepless nights.

Which brings me to a link sent by a colleague about the question of happiness and higher education.  Here.  Here’s the key sentence:  “In the midst of a passionate discussion about the future of higher education here on Tuesday, one young man stood up and wanted to know if the goal of higher education is to make people productive – or to make them happy.”

Of course, the answer should be “both.”  And we could debate endless about who is more productive: A medical doctor, an elementary school teacher, a plumber, the CEO of a tobacco company. (My vote is for the plumber but then again, I’ve been rescued by them more than once!)  You can’t measure productivity by salary — that would put the tobacco CEO at the top, never the poison production he oversees.

Writing as a career can be productive, sometimes lucrative, and often happiness producing. In designing the MAPW program, we will try to balance the need to cater to the media market with the pleasure of creativity, passion and purpose.

Reading One Word At a Time


Clipping of a newspaper from the 1890s.

The Boston Globe has a story today on a new technology that aims to change the way we read.






OK, that’s a shameless imitation of the style used in the story about Spritz Technology Inc. of Reading, Mass. Turns out there is a lot of buzz about this new way of presenting type. The company claims it can help us read faster. (Anyone remember the Evelyn Wood School of Reading Dynamics? No? I’m sooo old). And certainly we need to read quickly on a variety of devices.

The scientists and sociologists will argue about the one word at a time method. I know that it nearly killed my eyes doing research in old newspapers of the last two centuries. Tons of type and stories crammed together on newsprint which always made me marvel that people would take the time to read through it all.

We now seem to be moving in a different direction. .

Spring Break?

photo (2)

A statue in the College Hall foyer

Spring break is over for Regis College in more ways than one. The Boston area woke up to a dusting of snow, a reminder that we haven’t quite sent the March lion packing yet. We’ll spare you the clichés about this never-ending winter and concentrate on the developments in the Masters of Arts in Professional Writing for New Media program. The first class, Grant Writing, has been scheduled to start in May, to be taught by Lisa Perry-Wood, an experienced and personable instructor. We will put up a biography of her soon. We are continuing to refine the Multimedia/Social Media course for Professional Writers. This is more of a challenge as it seems there are twists and wrinkles in the media world on a monthly basis. Yours truly activated an Instagram account over the weekend and promptly spent precious time playing around with photos. That is, however, how we learn — by hands-on play, experiment, failure and success.

Someone drew my attention to the concept of “building planes while flying” and provided a link to this video. It’s an ad for EDS but the point is beautifully illustrated. More than a few of us can related to this.