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Meeting Scott Bowles, Film Critic for USA Today at UCLA


 Tonight is the first class session of the Reporting and Writing class at UCLA, instructed by Scott Bowles, film critic from USA Today. 

I’ve been excited for weeks and have been in anticipation for this night to finally arrive.

When I received my school catalogue for the UCLA extension course 2 months ago, the catalogue sat on my desk for a few weeks unattended to. I had no intentions of even taking a course, as many times before I mindlessly looked through the pages and the classes always looked interesting but not enough for me to actually take one.

As I flipped through the pages for the first time randomly, first looked at the Project Management studies and then stopped on the Journalism classes being offered. As I started to read the description for this class, I felt a connection, a knowing and intuition that I had to go to this class. I rarely feel this way, so I had a month to ponder before the deadline to enroll.

I do decide to get started. When I arrived, I sit close to the front, observing the other students, Mr. Bowles introduces himself and his background. As the evening starts to unfold he takes us on a brief tour verbally on what we will be doing each week in class.

Here are some interesting tidbits that he shared with us:

“Journalism is how we can be heard.”

Just because a story is on the front page, doesn’t mean it is actually news. There have been times where a major story has been buried on page 7. These decisions are made by the editor, who the stereotype is usually a 65 year old male. Sometimes what news is to the editor may not always be to the public.  He gives us the example of the death of Kurt Cobain ended up being in the middle of the newspaper and readers could not understand how insensitive the paper was by not having this story on the front page. This editor did learn from that experience and started to be more in tune to readers.

On-line newspapers stories are determined by importance based on the number of clicks. Now with technology, news organizations can track and pinpoint what stories people are reading and how much time they spend with an article. This is what constitutes what is a good story or news of the day.

Mr. Bowles brings up the on-line site of USA Today, the Life section where the Entertainment news is written. He shows us the interview that he had with Johnny Depp and the release of his new film, Transcendence, which tells the story of a scientist (Depp) who unloads his consciousness into a computer, sparking tensions between humans and sentient machines. He mentions that a few hours before his article had gotten buried through the other titles and was beaten out by the Miley Cyrus article, “Her severe reaction to Antibiotic’s.”

Bowles also shares with about his preparation of how he approached the interview with Johnny Depp, a huge part of the process is knowing and understanding your subject. Depp is not really into social media and likes to keep things traditional. Being that the movie is based on technology he still wanted to broach the topic, so instead of putting all the weight on Depp. Mr. Bowles opens it up to the cast and gets their take on social media.

Mr. Bowles knows that Depp has been interviewed by several thousands of journalists over the years and knows that you have to keep the story angle fresh and interesting.

Mr. Bowles points out that on-line newspapers are published instanteously and there is no one editing or making changes to the story till few hours later.  People don’t want to wait for the news and if they do they will go to another news outlet instead.

The print version of the USA Today, has more thought as to where stories are placed and what is considered news. Mr. Bowles recommends the class still pick up a copy of the newspaper on a more frequent basis. Print is thought to be more worthwhile.

Mr. Bowles also points out that sometimes people put journalists on a pedestal because they think that only they have access to information. He points out that we as Americans , under the Freedom of Information Act we all have access to the same information.

Well this wraps my take on the first class of Intro and Weighing the News……. Mr. Bowles closes with the 10 Commandments of “What to Look For When Weighing in the News.”


To Be Continued……………………………………
  • effypaul

    Thank you for sharing this.

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