From Newsroom to Classroom: Feedback That Isn't From Nielsen

By Dr. Lydia Reeves Timmins, University of Delaware

No matter the line of work, just about everyone wants feedback. In broadcasting, that feedback comes with the overnights, with emails and phonecalls to the newsroom, from audience response on the street. In the classroom, the feedback comes both in real time (sleeping or texting students) and in the form of evaluations.

Although my paycheck is no longer directly linked to the Nielsens, the perceptions my audience have about my effectiveness remain important. Just as a poorly produced newscast can make the audience change the channel, so a poorly planned class offers no educational benefit. Twice during the semester, I measure my effectiveness: in the middle and at the end. 

While it might sound corny to the more jaded of the professional journalists, I really do want to reach my students. I want them to understand how the news works (and doesn’t), how to tell compelling and engaging stories, and help them figure out where they want to go in their jobs and their lives. So I ask them to tell me what I should start doing, stop doing, and continue doing.

The results are quite interesting. In one class, several people told me to start discussing politics and journalism more. In the same class, several others told me to stop talking so much about boring political stuff. One group of students would like more “low-stakes” writing assignments and quizzes, another group wants an end to all papers and quizzes. Most of them agreed that outside speakers are great, but the papers they have to write about them are not. As I looked over the comments, I felt much like I did when viewers complained about a story--one saying it was too liberal another saying it was clearly conservative. Gee, I must be right down the middle!

My favorite comment was one I would never have received in a newsroom. “Continue being fly.” 

I’m pretty sure it’s a compliment...