ABOUT CITY COUNCIL

CITY COUNCIL is based on an actual city council meeting I covered while working for a small twice-a-week newspaper early in my career. Some of the items here have been fictionally enhanced for educational purposes. And, of course, some names have been changed to protect the foolish.

Even as an assistant editor at this small paper I knew that someday I wanted to teach journalism and I had the feeling after the meeting that the notes from this particular meeting would come in handy some day, so I filed them away. Coincidentally, my solution to writing this story was to write eight of them. The editor was out of town and I was the only one who had to make a decision on what to run in the paper. So I wrote eight separate stories on different aspects of the meeting.

Alas, the poor journalism student in my newswriting classes these days does not have that option. Instead, my students must write one mega-story that covers the whole meeting. I use it as a kind of final exam in my newswriting classes. It involves a lot of what we've learned in the class:

There are even topics that can easily result in editorials.

Shortly after I became a teacher I started looking at a newsgathering simulation I could use with the Macintosh computers in my school's writing lab. I had seen a simulation product available for PCs, but nothing for Macs. Just as I was becoming resigned to the fact that I'd have to learn programming and do something myself I learned about a new software product from Apple called HyperCard. It looked easy to learn. So I sat down one summer and buried myself in the project of learning HyperCard as I wrote the simulation. When I had problems I'd post a question on AOL's HyperCard forum and got solutions from the authors of HyperCard for various scripts. Three months later I popped my head back up and CITY COUNCIL was done.

I wrote it for my class, but soon realized others would benefit from it. Our campus Apple rep saw it and took a copy to show to the folks at Apple, who also liked it and nominated it for a higher education software award. In 1989 it was honored by EDUCOM/NCRIPTAL. Apple even sent me to a couple of conferences to show off a possible use of HyperCard.

Later Allyn & Bacon purchased the rights to distribute CITY COUNCIL as a software add-on to journalism texts. But since it was a HyperCard product that only ran on Macs and was in black and white, it never really was distributed. When rights reverted to me I started thinking about converting it to web format so that more people could use it. And here it is. More than a decade later it is still a useful assignment in my newswriting classes. I've heard from others at papers, in junior highs, high schools and colleges/universities who enjoy using it, too.

Feel free to use it. I'd love feedback.

Thoughts about the assignment and how to structure it.

Rich Cameron
rich@rcameron.com