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Monday, November 28, 2011 - Hands-on reporting critical to OU journalism students' future
By Erik Reikowski, staff writer

Photo courtesy of OU News Bureau/RACHEL RITZENTHALER

OU students, from left, Troy Frisby, Ruth Freeman, Tom Barry and Mark Cowan listen to News Bureau instructor Brian Hlavaty.
Students in Oakland University’s journalism program are getting a chance to gain experience and showcase their talents through the newly launched OU News Bureau. The class immerses students in a newsroom setting and challenges them to produce professional news stories focused on OU and the surrounding community.

The course is led by Brian Hlavaty, visiting instructor and internship director in the journalism program. “I run this class just like a news meeting, where we discuss story ideas.” Hlavaty explained. “The class gives students the opportunity to write stories and have them posted online, so that when they graduate they have a portfolio to show potential employers.”

Hlavaty says the course takes a hands-on approach that requires students to spend time working outside of class, researching stories and setting up interviews. He serves as the bureau's editor, providing feedback that helps students polish their work before publication.

"Students are evaluated based on what they complete," Hlavaty said. "This prepares them for what is to come in their careers. They really learn time management."

As a veteran journalist who spent most of his career with The Saginaw News, Hlavaty guides students through the process of generating ideas and crafting well-developed news articles. With the advent of the digital age, students also are learning to incorporate more visual media, such as art, photographs, video and graphics.

"We are doing this because journalism is changing," Hlavaty said. "Up until five or 10 years ago, you could go into newspapers and be a reporter your whole career. Now, you need to be able to work with graphics and video as well."
Senior journalism major Andrew Craig worked at the bureau when it began last winter. He said it helped him bring his goals into focus and apply what he had learned in other classes.

"For me, the OU News Bureau internship was a turning point in my academic path at Oakland," Craig said. "At the time, I had been dabbling with English, communication and French courses as well, trying to find what major would work for me. I had taken a few journalism courses, but the bureau really let me put what I had learned into practice."

Craig has also served on the Oakland Post student newspaper as a staff intern, reporter and campus editor. He says that working at the bureau allowed him the freedom to pursue story ideas beyond the campus community.

"At the bureau, not only do you have the possibility of more wide-ranging stories, but stories that you, the reporter, can discover yourself," Craig continued. "One of the biggest perks was spinning my own story ideas and receiving honest, legitimate feedback from other reporters and Professor Hlavaty."

OU student Ruth Freeman currently works at the bureau and credits the experience with sparking her interest in the local business community.

"When I started at the bureau in the fall, there's no way I would have said that I'd come out of it thinking that I'd go into business reporting," said Freeman, also a senior journalism major. "But I've gotten a chance to tap into whatever story ideas interest me. I have found myself going for things like the new entrepreneurship program in the School of Business Administration. I am working on a story right now about African American business ownership in Michigan and another one about the effect of the economy on the local wedding industry."

To learn more about the OU News Bureau, view the website. For additional information on internship opportunities in Oakland's journalism program, contact Hlavaty at