Coming into graduate school, Jonathan Batuello was a nose-to-the-ground reporter with plans to work at a regional newspaper before going into teaching. Two courses in literary journalism from Ball State University’s master’s in journalism program helped him expand those goals, turning a daily sports writer into a potential author.
"[The courses] went beyond traditional journalism styles to teach me new ways to look at how to write a story," says Batuello. Classes even gave him the confidence to turn a writing assignment into a book.
That project began when Batuello learned that his tennis coach at DePauw University, where he played as an undergrad, had developed early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Batuello asked the coach if he would agree to be the subject of his 6,000-word essay for JOUR 614 Writing Literary Journalism.
"I used it for class, and then I asked some professors, 'What do I do with it?' They said, 'Well, you could try to keep going with it.'"
That's what he did, eventually developing 25,000 words, or about 60 pages. Batuello thinks the manuscript is halfway finished.
Part of Last Cohort Before Retooling
Batuello was in the last cohort to complete all their course work on campus. In fall 2012, the journalism master’s program was retooled to meet the needs of distance learners and working journalists, but it retains its focus on emerging media and long-form storytelling.
The 36-credit hour program is taught by distinguished faculty from Ball State's nationally recognized journalism department. Taught by the same professors who taught the program on campus, the program is now available completely and only online.
During the program, Batuello also learned about telling stories across platforms. For an immersive project called Transmedia Indiana, he helped create an interactive e-novel that told a story through a book, websites, podcasts, graphics, and a live event.
"It has become a problem where journalism entities tell the same story three different ways across platforms," he says.
"But this taught me how to tell one story with an added piece across the various platforms [to help build the story]."
He Takes Storytelling Techniques to Work
Batuello says he uses storytelling techniques from class in his current job as a freelancer for the News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he covers high school and college sports for his hometown paper.
Of course, he brought some professional experience into the classroom from two internships and a term as editor of his student newspaper, The DePauw.
"There was an understanding that my classmates and I had our own experiences in the field and were bringing at least some knowledge to the program," says Batuello. "I enjoyed the fact that as a master’s student they treated me like a professional."
Master's students have the option of writing a thesis or doing a capstone creative project. Batuello is in the process of finishing his thesis on the use of anonymous sources in sports journalism.
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