What a semester! For Spring of '12 I did: Media Ethics with the incomparable Mary Hausch; then I ventured just across the hallway to Prof M. for Ad Copywriting; grabbed my bookbag and a quick smoke to jaunt over to see one of my home-state success stories, the fantastic Dr. B for Media Law (also known as First Amendment and Media) in Beam Hall, then finally I trotted my happy backside all the way back over to Greenspun Hall for my campaigns class with Scorsese (also known as my NSAC class).
All semester long, every Monday and Wednesday, I had very long days. I started at 10 a.m. with Mary, not stopping until well after 5 p.m. most days because of the time demands of being a part of UNLV's 2012 NSAC team. Food was scarce, the course load heavy, the topics not easy, but at the end of the day, here I am in my very messy apartment getting ready to do my best impersonation of a backhoe to get myself straightened out again.
Media EthicsAs I'm sure you've noticed and gone "WHOA!" yes, I actually just mentioned one of my professors by name. That's of course because I asked her ahead of time. As you know, I usually keep most of my professors and most people I write about to pseudonyms, protecting them as best I can. Heck, even my boyfriend "Ace" is a pseudonym because I want to protect him. When I told Mary that I was going to be writing my semester wrap-up, I told her about my use of pseudonyms and she just said, "Use my name." I'm so very glad she did because I have to gush about spending time in Mary's Journalism 305 "Media Ethics" class.
For the last three years going to class in Greenspun Hall, I had only heard tidbits and rumor about the Legendary Mary Hausch. Every day I would walk into the building and it was almost like the very mortar between the bricks that held the building together were whispering her name. Everywhere I turned the students raved about her and every day I would hear students talk about her; what they had learned, what they had talked about with her, what influence she held. Before I even set one foot in her classroom, it was ingrained into my DNA that the woman was a legend and modern-day royalty inside Greenspun Hall.
When the fall semester wrapped, I had already signed up for her Ethics class. Knowing that I was going to spend a semester with her, I held my breath absolutely petrified with fear as I dared to introduce myself to her. As I entered the room, I felt like I had walked into the court of Elizabeth I or into the presence of Marcus Aurelius because you can literally feel the air of gravitas that surrounds her, commanding loyalty and respect. As I approached, I felt like I should have bowed or had some sort of formal salute for her because she's that imminent of an authority. If you were in my shoes, you would have been shaking too. I mean good gods, the woman was the managing editor for the Review Journal! That's like being a minor league baseball player that has dreamt of being a Yankee since childhood, then getting to stand in the same room and being allowed to shake hands with George Steinbrenner! If you've ever been in a room with someone that important, you know how fast you take a knee with how it humbles you. I remember stammering out an introduction and her looking at me like I was half crazy, but in all, I was glad I did it.
After spending a semester with her, I now understand why I have never heard one single student say one ill word about the Great Mary. More importantly, I now know why I felt the need to bow my head and take a knee when I met her. Holy lordy, the woman is just all that and a plate of cookies. I can definitely say I want to be like her when I grow up. Seriously, she is my #1 pick as a female role-model. She's strong, funny, brilliant, beautiful, wise, and she can absolutely make you stand at attention and learn. I've had a lot of teachers in my lifetime who have made visible impacts on me, but Mary stands in a league all of her own. If there were anyone I'd build a shrine to, it would be her because she has the most effective way of accepting everyone, putting them at ease, but then at the same time she'll make you stand up for your beliefs, make good decisions and teach you how to hold your ground. But with Mary, it's not just words, you can feel what you are learning in your bones and you have no choice but to rejoice as it happily becomes part of your DNA.
Every Monday morning this semester, you could see me booking it to get to Mary's class on time because what she teaches, you do not want to miss. But, y'all know me, I'm a walking tardy, so getting to class on-time was a struggle after being up late reading for Media Law, writing ads, researching for NSAC and of course, writing about all of my adventures along the way. All of it decided to play havoc with me getting to Mary's classroom on time.
For the last three years, y'all have heard me do nothing but rant about people losing their common sense, not acting the best way they can and the merits of being different. As you've read and cringed with me, most people view being "different" or thinking for ourselves as a bad thing. Not with Mary. Mary celebrates being "different" and she also teaches people how to use their common sense to the best of their abilities because having ethics means (at least to me) that you engage your brain and use some pretty common sense rules when it comes to not only writing and being a journalist, but in life as well. She has the greatest teaching style I've ever seen because whether we were discussing ethics in advertising or checkbook journalism, even down to source-reporter relationships, it was never just about the job - it was about being the best person you could be in the process.
The best part of it all is that every Monday and Wednesday morning, she made us laugh. We practically rolled on the floor laughing at some of the really "no-brainer" ethics decisions that people out in the real world just fell flat on. Then there were other days where her wit would absolutely just leave us in stitches when she'd look at a case study and go "Really?" Y'all know how I always say, "If you're laughing, you're learning"? Well Mary puts it into practice full force. I felt like I was in the "Dead Ethicists Society" with the Great Robin. I laughed and learned soooooo much! Oh, I so want her to adopt me so I can be under her constant influence.
The only truly hard part of the semester for me was the photojournalism section we had to cover, and what she calls "Dead body day" where we looked at photos published in the media of dead bodies, and to me what was far worse, dead soldiers. When I looked at the dead soldier pictures, all I could do was think of Ace and how I would never EVER allow a photo of a dead serviceman if I ever ran a newspaper. Even though my Ace of Hearts is safe, that day, I ran out and called him just to make sure he was okay and knew I was thinking of him.
After spending four months with Mary, I will never look at a news story, photo or anything else in the media the same ever again, not without asking myself, "What is my journalistic purpose?" "Am I maximizing truth telling and minimizing harm?" "Can I tell the story without the photo?" "If the story was about my grandmother, would I do it? Would she be embarrassed by it?" There are tons of other questions to ask myself now and just so I'll make sure I'm being a good girl (and making Mary proud) I have made myself a special folder for my desk that has all of the Ethics Codes that Mary gave me this semester. I can promise you they'll never be far away from me.
I can say without a doubt that after you spend a semester with Mary Hausch that you come out a better person for it. After going through it I will, without a doubt, scream it from the rooftops that every single person on the planet needs to spend a semester with Mary because it is an experience that everyone should have, taking four intense months to look deep inside yourself and find out what you are going to do when the storm comes and you're faced with a hard decision to make. Mary taught me how to distill things down so I don't feel overwhelmed, but instead I feel empowered to make good, informed, ethical decisions. She didn't only teach me Journalism Ethics, she taught me how to laugh while I'm sticking to my guns and making the hard choices.
And that was how I started my day...talk about a tough act to follow.
Ad CopywritingAfter being with Mary to start out the day, I would just do a quick jaunt across the hall for an hour and 15 with Prof. M. for one of the classes I had been looking forward to taking, Ad Copywriting. You all know how much I love, love, love Luke Sullivan's Hey Whipple Squeeze This: A Guide To Creating Great Advertising so much so that I've read it five times and drool wanting to become an ad copywriter.
After figuring out how I was going to approach being an ethical advertising practitioner for the first hour of my day, it was on to trying to figure out (as I had discussed with my editor while we were discussing putting my book together) how not to be "a bastard at the end of the day" as my profession tries to separate consumers from their money.
For my assignments, I had to choose a pair of companies to write for, one for-profit and one non-profit. My for-profit was of course Nissan because that way I could use my research and my findings from my NSAC class to cement my concepts; then for the non-profit, I chose a Veteran's cause so that way I had research and findings with Ace that I could work from: both very real and very applicable case studies.
To my dismay, 4 out of my 5 writing assignments came back with B's on them. Me? The girl who wants to make this her profession get B's? Well, yeah. Prof. M. sat down with me and helped me understand where the flaws were in my writing. How I like to change voice and target a lot...nooo, y'all didn't know that, did you? But the thing is that she sat down with me and really made sure I understood where and why I was goofing up, making me better in the process.
The one thing that I've told everyone about my ad copywriting class is that Prof. M. taught me the business of advertising. She didn't just let me go off on creative whims or anything else until I was deeply rooted in what the business expected from the copy I wrote, that I had to keep in mind the budget, the audience, practically every small detail to make sure I was hitting everything on all cylinders leaving my copy no choice but to succeed.
In all, I only really have one thing to say about my Ad Copywriting class: It was like stepping into Godfather II where Hyman Roth looks at Michael Corleone says, "This is the business we've chosen."
First Amendment and the MediaMy first shout-out for this one goes to my professor, Dr. B. He's what I consider a "hometown hero" because he's from a small Texas town himself. Now what you don't know until now is that that same small-town Texas kid went up to Harvard and came back a world-class professor. How a kid from a tiny Texas town adjusted to the Ivy League is something I'll never be able to wrap my brain around. Literally, every time I try to put myself in his shoes and think about what it could have possibly been like for him, my mind locks up. The only thing I have is admiration and an unswerving amount of pride for him. He did something I don't think I ever could have done. His trip from Flea-Speck, Texas to Harvard and back again is one that I can only imagine is filled with tales I'd just love to hear.
But, being that he's a Harvard man, you better believe he's one tough cookie considering what he's teaching. This is media law we're talking about and it's filled to the brim with all kinds of things that just make you go, "Do what?"
When I was a kid, when something really dumb would happen and "common sense would done fly out the winda'", my father would never fail in exclaiming, "Do what?!?!?!" Yep, that was a lot of what happened in the cases we looked at in Dr. B's media law class. From Westboro Baptist Church to all sorts of things, I finally looked at Dr. B on Monday just minutes before the final exam and said, "Sir, it seems to me that every time someone's common sense wins a Darwin Award, we end up reading about it." He just laughed and gave me a "Yep." LOL.
From Libel to everything First Amendment in between, we covered it. From the Marbury v. Madison all the way to Jerry Falwell versus Larry Flynt. I found out what I could say and couldn't say on my blog, even down to the copyright and trademark laws that applied to it. It was four months of court cases and articles about people who had justified means to complain, all the way to people whose common sense 'done flew out the winda'. Man, my brain is still gasping for air from that.
I do have to say though, sitting through a semester with Dr. B was a hoot. I don't know if it's just me, but some of his inflections (how ever much Harvard was just dying to assassinate any and all of his hometown style) gave red flags to me as to what was important and worth digging into further. He was really a nice man that I really enjoyed being around. He made me laugh as well and I tell you what, I'll be digging up more of his articles that he's published in the Washington Post, that's for sure.
NSAC Campaigns Class
Sorry to say, but I'm just going to have to give you a teaser for my NSAC class because it's getting a whole post all of it's very own. There are so many details and so many adventures just for that one class, I'd be here for the rest of the day on the wrap-up. Last time I checked, when I go too long, y'all like to skip to the end, so I'm just going to wrap up NSAC by saying we got sixth place overall, fourth in presentation. I'll go more into the distinction in my next post.
I'd like to thank Mary for just being her and being such an inspiration. In my C-PTSD filled world where I thrive on approval from strong female role models, she gave me so much compassion and so much love that I can never thank her enough. Her class being the first on my daily school schedule made me get out of bed, put my feet on the floor and dig in for the ride because I never wanted to miss a single moment with her. She single-handedly kept me from giving up mid-way and gave me the hope and courage to keep going.
Along the way I learned how to write better, I learned how to make my ads fit with the business of advertising, I learned the letter of the law that keeps my profession in check and how to use it should I need it, and I learned that heart is the name of the game and part and parcel of the "business I have chosen." And I just happened to get inducted into Phi Kappa Phi and Kappa Tau Alpha this semester too.
Before I forget, I need to give the wrap-up a song of the day...a tune that often played on my car stereo on the way to and from school: Flo Rida's "Good Feelin'"