Award Winning Journalist Speaks to Hofstra Students

Dick Brennan gave lots of great advice when speaking to my journalism class last Tuesday but one thing he said really left an impression. A fellow classmate of mine asked Brennan what he wished someone had told him at his age when he was trying to break into the business.

“You can do this,” he responded.

The veteran New York reporter’s advice was simple but powerful. My classmates and I spend countless hours reading chapters in textbooks about journalism, writing articles, and applying for internships that sometimes, it takes a guy like Dick Brennan to remind us why we work so hard.

The task of breaking into the field of broadcast journalism is a daunting one. Hearing Brennan speak eased some of my fears and shed light on great tips for the future.

Brennan currently works at WCBS-TV News and has interviewed everyone from Denzel Washington to Michael Moore. He shared many of his tips, embarrassing stories, and favorite moments of his career with students and opened up for all kinds of questions.

Brennan’s golden rule for writing is, “tell me a story and make care.”

To illustrate his point he talked about finding a story on victims of Hurricane Sandy this week. He had done some interviews earlier in the night that he considered “okay” but “didn’t tell the story.” Finally, he stumbled upon a family that still had no heat and two young children. The interviews produced golden news material that would generate audience interest while also sharing an important message.

Brennan’s many first hand experiences helped me understand how important it is to connect your story with your audience and tell the story from their perspective.

“You want great journalism? Knock on doors,” Brennan said.

Last Tuesday I left my journalism class with a lot more than tips on writing an effective news story, I left with renewed inspiration.

“You’re just as good as anyone else,” Brennan said to my class of aspiring journalists that would kill to be in his shoes.

But Dick Brennan didn’t just tell me that, he made me believe that.  He made me realize that my dreams of interviewing the President really aren’t that far out of reach and that yes, I can do this.

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Hurricane Sandy Exposes the Ugly Side of Twitter

Twitter is a great way to communicate news, but an ugly side of the social media site was exposed on Monday night when Hurricane Sandy hit. I was genuinely disturbed by the amount of insensitive tweets I saw last week and I realized how social media has desensitized us to things as devastating and life threatening as natural disasters.

As I curled up on a couch in my pitch black dorm building, listening to the screams of the 90 mile per hours wind, and watching the sky light up as transformers blew, Twitter was the only website I could access. I checked it all night to get updates on the progression of the storm and could not help but notice the sarcastic tweets many were sending out about the storm.

Comedian Patrick Melton, played on the storm hitting close to Halloween when he tweeted, “Looks like New York is dressing up like New Orleans this year.”

I’m sure the people who lost loved ones and everything they owned in this storm didn’t think Melton’s “witty” tweet was very funny.

A few days before the storm touched land a twitter account was made called, @AHurricaneSandy. The account is up to 19,167 followers and has sent out 123 tweets so far.

On October 30th, @AHurricaneSandy tweeted a picture of damage done by the storm. The caption read, “THIS IS WHAT I DID TO THE EAST COAST MUWHAHA,”.

Even when the twitter account paid it’s respect to the people killed by the storm it felt sarcastic, cold and empty.

Countless memes were created with pictures of Olivia-Newton John’s face over a picture of the storm that read, “Hopelessly devoted to ruining your Halloween,”

The problem with this joke and all the jokes surrounding the hurricane was that it didn’t just ruin Halloween, it ruined people’s lives.

As people sat in their comfortable living rooms, with the heat and lights on, tweeting their puny one-liners about Hurricane Sandy, people were fighting for their lives. Nurses were carrying newborn babies down 18 flights of dark stairs, manually pumping air into their lungs. People were trapped in their homes as they helplessly watched everything they’ve ever known being destroyed. Others lost their mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends in the storm that night.

It’s clear this wasn’t a time to send out a witty tweet in hopes of getting some “favorites” or “retweets.” ‘

This experience taught me to appreciate what I have and be respectful of those that lost everything. Social media is a great platform that keeps us connected. However, Hurricane Sandy exposed the nasty, negative side of social media that is also capable of tearing us apart.