A Reflection of My Experience at UF

I am not graduating this semester, thankfully, because I really do need as much more time as I can get to decide where I want to apply the incredible skills I’ve learned at UF’s College of Journalism and Communications. Plus, I have a couple more graduation requirements to meet, but that’s besides the point.

The point is, my experience at UF has been more than I could have ever dreamed of. I started out as a reporter for spot-news segments for WUFT-FM‘s local news cut-ins, and went on to anchor live coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election for WUFT-TV. The Center for Media Innovation and Research has provided me with advanced resources to produce professional, multi-platform work. These lessons have prepared me for working in the “real world,” and I am now facing the ultimate dreaded question: what do I want to do? This question arises not because I am not confident in my preparation for “the real world,” but because I want to ensure that the invaluable skills I’ve acquired through CMIR will be applied in the most meaningful context for me.

I have acquired journalistic skills, such as timeliness, research, and ethical practices, along with more practical skills, such as leadership, networking, and open-mindedness. I have witnessed the great transitions at the J-school through my four years here, particularly the development of the Integrated News Facility. Here, is where the goals put out by CMIR–to produce cross-platform productions— were really put to the test, with the production of material for radio, television, and internet broadcast.

election night 1

Many awesome people at work in the INF on Election Night this year.

I have performed the role of anchor, producer, news operations manager, multimedia journalist, and various other behind-the-scene production roles at the INF. It has been truly invigorating to contribute to the success of this program and its broadcasts, particularly in a few specific experiences I had, such as Election Night 2012.

In November, I anchored and co-produced live cut-in segments on local election returns which aired during PBS’s national coverage of the presidential election. This was by far one of the most challenging undertakings of my college career, as time flew by way faster than I expected during the night, material such as return numbers and reporter packages came in one right after the other, and I had to work amidst varying levels of stress, egos, and excitement among my colleagues. Yet, the result was a nationally recognized successful and important production. To me, this is the ultimate portrayal of the outstanding opportunities that CMIR at UF’s College of Journalism and Communications provides for its students.

election night 2

Preparing for my first live cut-in to announce local election returns in North-Central Florida.

In particular, CMIR has provided me with the skills to tackle projects across various platforms, perform overlapping roles in a production, and understand the value of teamwork and communication. While election night was the most significant depiction of all these skills at work, I have unwavering thoughts that these experiences will remain invaluable to me for the rest of my working life, and I know I’m not the only who who thinks so.

election night 3

My fellow co-anchors and me after our last evening newscast of the semester for WUFT-TV.


Other Writers Part II

While I love cooking, and while I love using it as a method of procrastination, all I’m really thinking about is the end of this semester. In less than one week, I will be home hanging with my parents, playing with my adorable dog, and spending time with my boyfriends who will be home from his grad school in Washington. I have to remind myself of these things about every ten minutes, in order to keep me going. Therefore, as part of my assignment to highlight additional blogs written by my classmates, I will feature those that deal with countdowns… as I countdown till winter break.

First off, check out Zac Blobner’s blog, where he discusses the woes of being an anxious and exhausted senior in such a demanding program like telecommunication at UF. I can especially relate to his advice to sleep anywhere at any time. I also appreciate Stephanie Jones’s lighthearted attitude for the end of the world in Blank Days Until the End of the World. Although I’m only anticipated the end of the semester, I have adopted a similar happy-go-lucky mindset. Finally, as a distraction from the stress of finals week, I’ve enjoyed reading Hannah Schrader’s blog, called I Can Hear the Bells. Not only is Hannah an incredible writer, but she is also planning her wedding!!! Talk about inspiration. School, pending graduation, and a wedding to plan?! She is my new telecomm hero.

I hope you enjoy reading some of the work of my classmates. One of the best things about the telecommunication program at UF is the variety of characters that are a part of this major. These links should give you a little bit of insight into the greatness of our diversity.

Other Writers

One things that inspires me within the telecommunication program is the quality of the peers I work with. This week, I decided to explore some of their blogs as sort of a break from the chaos of finals week. Here are some of the ones worth checking out that have to do with cooking. Like Marjorie Rawlings, I have a deep passion for cooking scrumptious dishes, especially for other people. Marjorie used to say that she didn’t mind people critiquing her literary work, however, she never tolerated any critique of her cooking. Aside from the amazing journalistic work my peers produce, they also happen to be good cooks or food admirers. For those of you who need quick fix meals, you might find it useful to check out Alexa Padilla’s blog, where she posts several easy, delicious, and healthy recipes, like this turkey chili recipe. For college students like myself who cannot afford fancy kitchen tools or ingredients, Sarah Samuels’s Easy  Recipes for Poor College Kids might be a good cooking guide. I mean, she features a recipe for Rocky Road Cookie Pizza, which is my latest obsession. Finally, one of my favorite of my peers’s blogs is Brittany Wienke’s blog, called Freshly Pressed and Dressed. Her writing particularly hits home to me because she not only features great recipes, but also highlights Gainesville as a unique food community. Especially a pizza community, which I have no complaints about. 🙂

The Tipping Point

The Tipping Point shares lessons we, as journalists, must learn if we are to succeed in the rapidly changing media landscape in this day and age, that is, the ways in which social trends spread through people. The author, Malcolm Galdwell, imparts that there are advantages and disadvantages to this rapid communication, including everything from the the feasibility of up-to-date news, such as the verdict of the Casey Anthony trial which exploded on Twitter, to disease epidemics, like the AIDS virus. Galdwell uses these examples to convey the purpose of a “tipping point,” or the instance in which a small idea becomes a large trend, bringing about a change in our society.

Galdwell provides valuable insight for journalists like me, because trending news through social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is becoming the standard. He discusses the general similarities amongst various type of phenomena where something minute “snowballs” into something large through the way we communicate it.

There are three variables these fads contain: the law of few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context.

Within the law of the few, there are three type of communicators present, the connectors, mavens, and salesmen, who all contribute to the spread of trends, or points of interest that eventually reach the “tipping point.” The roles of these communicators is essential to understanding the power we have as reporters, especially in the digital age, where information is spreading faster than ever. Whether they be gaining your trust and “selling” an idea or product, like salesmen, or devoting their time to educating the public, like the mavens, these connectors are what move ideas to the tipping point in our society.

Additionally, Galdwell discusses the appeal of certain ideas over others, or the “stickiness factor.” How likely a concept is going to “stick” and spread through various communicators. For example, the children’s shows that stick, like Sesame Street, spread to different families for different appealing factors, like the characters and educational value.

Finally, Galdwell discusses the role of people’s environments and settings in “the power of context.” For example, once one fad reaches its tipping point, it may fade away from the mainstream almost as if it had never existed, due to factors in the setting in which it became popular. This makes me think of kids nowadays on their iPads sharing viral youtube videos, and how it can become a sensation between their friends, on TV programming, or on social media, and then a forgotten fad (keyboard cat, anyone?).

Whether we like it or not, ideas are spreading wider and faster than ever before. (If you can’t tell, I am an old soul and this kind of stuff really freaks me out.) Galdwell does an excellent job at explaining the ways in which ideas spread, regardless of the medium. This is, after all, our whole goal as journalists, right?

Meet the Writer

I’m going to take a break from discussing my research and tell you a little bit about myself.

My name is Monica Berra, and I am a senior telecommunication student at the University of Florida. My passion is to tell stories, specifically those that impart empathy and understanding among people of different backgrounds.

UF has given me invaluable opportunities to hone my storytelling skills–through live newscasts, special reports such as my recent election coverage on WUFT-TV, and in documentary filmmaking through the Digital Worlds Institute. I have covered everything from the lack of minority teachers in Alachua County, to how to shop for that perfect Christmas tree. Despite the fact that I loved reporting, anchoring, and just hanging out in the newsroom at WUFT, I am ready to pursue my passion for longer-form storytelling. Currently, I am applying to various programs to get a Master’s in Fine Arts degree in documentary production. My dream is to be a field producer or story producer for an agency like National Geographic, or even better, my own production company.

As for now, I’m just working on getting those final credits in order for me to graduate on time this Spring! And working on my thesis about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and the Florida Crackers. How time has flown. Marjorie is getting me through it. Writing a thesis is hard, but loving the subject makes it a whole lot easier. Feel free to check out the rest of my blog!

My resume

Before her writing career, Rawlings worked as a reporter in various newspapers up North, primarily known for her syndicated “domestic poetry” column. This was ironic because although she wrote eloquently about sweeping and cooking, she rarely participated in those activities herself. She wasn’t too proud of her work; in fact, when she moved to Florida she was on the verge of giving up on writing altogether.

I will soon be applying for jobs as a reporter myself, hopefully telling stories beyond those of homemaking. For any possible employers out there, or for any of you who may be curious, here is Monica Berra’s resume.

The Yearling Trail

This is me at the entrance to The Yearling Trail in the Ocala National Forest.

This weekend, taking advantage of the absolutely wonderful weather that graced us in north-central Florida, I decided to visit one of my favorite hiking trails, The Yearling Trail. You can probably already predict why I love it.

The Yearling trail takes visitors through the Big Scrub where Marjorie imagined many of the scenes in her novel, The Yearling to take place. It leads you to Pat’s Island, which became the model for Baxter Island in the book, which is a cluster (“island”) of pine trees surrounded by low-lying scrub bushes. It is also the site of the Long family homestead, where Marjorie stayed while doing research for her novel. Just as described in the book, bears, snakes, and, my favorite, the scrub jay can all be seen along the trail. (Okay, so I’ve never actually seen a black bear here, but I am quite okay with that.)

 The Yearling was also turned into a film of the same title, which was shot on location here in the Ocala National Forest, featuring many of the sites along the trail. You can still see remnants of the film set along the hike, along with remainders of the Long family homestead, who lived on Pat’s Island, and served as the basis for the Baxter family in the novel.