Story Pitches

The first story I am considering is examining enrollments in the politics major at Brandeis to determine if there are trends or correlations with any discernible, heightened moments of political interest in recent American history. A few politics professors have noted that lately their class sizes feel unusually large, and as of late, politics feels like an especially salient topic in media, culture, and conversation. I would like to find out if there is in fact a relationship between enrollment and traceable moments of political interest. Time periods of political interest might be identified by looking at google search trends or some other available data set. Appropriate interview subjects for this project may include a representative from the office of the university registrar, the politics department chair, or the politics department administrator. This story would also require examining changes in total undergraduate enrollment at Brandeis so as to not inaccurately represent the significance of shifts in major enrollment. Examples of possible photos include a lecture hall with seats filled for a politics class; students in the politics department office, meeting with professors, or in a hall waiting for office hours; the collection of books authored by politics faculty on display in Olin-Sang; and shots of an event hosted by the politics department.

Questions can include:

  • Is there a noticeable trend in politics major enrollment over time? When have high or low points of enrollment occurred?
  • Do you think this corresponds to any broader trends regarding political interest or events occurring in American society? What might those be and why do they capture student interest?
  • Are Brandeis students and their shifting interests a fair or accurate sampling of topics that capture the moods of larger segments of society overall, or are these isolated occurrences?
  • If there an upswing or downswing now, why do you think that is the case?
  • What, in your opinion, attracts students to this major?
  • Have there been any changes in the structure of the major or the courses offered that reflect changes in political developments or attitudes over time? How does the department or university respond to changes in subject interest?

My second story idea is interviewing a friend who is currently interning at the Waltham Recycling Department. My friend told me that Waltham changed its recycling bins recently, and some residents called the department in confusion and even anger. I should be able to find information specifically about recycling programs and data in Waltham, and information about the Waltham Public Works Department as a whole. This is completely my own guesswork, but it seems that many Brandeis students, despite living here, do not necessarily know much about Waltham as far as local government and operations. I think the views of a Brandeis student embedded in Waltham city government would make for a unique perspective. If my friend does not feel comfortable or qualified, I am sure that she can connect me with another employee in the department to interview. Pictures can include shots of the interior or exterior of the Public Works Department; photos of the Recycling Department; employees at the Recycling Department; the new recycling bins waiting for collection; and images of Brandeis students who live off campus handling their recycling or some other public works related issue.

Questions can include:

  • How long have you been working for the city of Waltham? Are you from here?
  • Can you explain the role of the Waltham Recycling Department?
  • What sorts of initiatives has the department undertaken recently and how have residents responded?
  • Why did the department decide to undertake (initiatives from previous answer)?
  • Can you talk about recycling trends in the town – have residents become more or less prone to recycling, or have rates remained constant?
  • What is something people should do or know to help improve the town specifically as far as recycling?
  • Does the Waltham city government, Public Works Department, or Recycling Department interact with Brandeis or Brandeis students in any capacity?
  • Can you describe the relationship between Waltham and Brandeis overall?
  • Is there anything you want Brandeis students to know about the Waltham Public Works Department or the city in general?

2 Replies to “Story Pitches”

  1. Both of these pitches seem very well thought out and interesting. I would start contacting interview subjects and see who is available, and consider who you most want to speak to. If you are very passionate about both of these projects you could consider using one for your video project, which involves interviews with multiple subjects and video rather than pictures. The recycling center seems like something with more potential for movement and multiple interview subjects, so that’s something to consider for the future piece.
    For now though, I would definitely think about who would have the most to say about the whichever pitch you choose for this project, because you mentioned several possible interview subjects, and reach out to that person.

  2. Hi Matthew,

    You’ve written some excellent questions for both topics. Like Elizabeth says above, you may want to table one of these topics for your video project, and I agree with her that the story about the Recycling Center may work better in that format. You’ll be able to interview multiple people for that story, students, public workers, and maybe longtime Waltham citizens, as well, and you’ll be able to explore the environment more fully with your video camera.

    I like your angle in the story about the Politics Department. I think it would be best to interview a faculty member who has been around for a while, with enough experience during different political eras to have seen enrollments ebb and flow, and who has taken the temperature of student political action and engagement at various points in recent history.

    Please remember, too, that you’re aiming to evoke a personal narrative in this interview. I think this topic lends itself well to this kind of format, because you can query your subject about how the student body, and the culture it represents, has changed, and how these changes have affected their own point of view. Be sure to ask questions about the faculty member’s own journey as an academic and politically-engaged citizen.

    Best,
    Mark

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