Archive for December, 2008

Your New Year’s Resolution: Shepherd your student newspaper into the wonderful world of Web 2.0 with a site that screams innovation, newsiness, and new new new new journalism.

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Who can help: The uber-tech-savvy team behind the revolutionary CoPress collaborative. As announced today on its Web site, CoPress is ready to host your student newspaper on its private server and work with you to build the type of site you desire. Check out its self-described “swanky hosting page” for details. A demo is also coming soon.

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My take: The College Publisher CMS is so 2008. Shovelware is like coal in the stocking. CoPress seems to be the future. It is determined to make student news sites that are student-friendly and UNIQUE to each and every outlet and campus. The results of its efforts of course are still pending but the CP team oozes passion, relevant experience, and new media sensibilities. (I still think CoPress founder Daniel Bachhuber’s first words were technical ecosystem.)

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A judge has scored round two of the slugfest between St. Louis University and SLU communications professor and student newspaper adviser Avis Meyer squarely for Meyer, according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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The fight started with an administrative decision last spring to rewrite the charter of The University News student newspaper. The administrators said it was to create a better newspaper. Some student journalists worried at the time it was an attempt to control content. So Meyer, a longtime U News official and unofficial adviser, set up a nonprofit corporation using the names The University News and SLU just in case student editors wanted or needed to move off-campus to continue publishing. Students eventually decided to accept the school-mandated charter changes and Meyer disbanded the corporation. But the school filed a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit in October 2007 ensuring its registered names would not be used.

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Yesterday, a judge dismissed a majority of the school’s suit. The details are a bit complicated, but one look at Meyer’s close-mouthed grin in the photo run with the Post-Dispatch story leaves no doubt about the victor at this stage of the fight.

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Forget Soundsliding, podcasting, vlogging, geotagging, and a-Twitterin’. New media tools are important, but without kick-ass content Journalism 2.0 is still deader than Cuba Gooding Jr.’s acting career (seriously, what happened to him?). Everything journalism was, is and will be rests on our ability to tell a story. And every story starts with idea.

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Below is a brief list of what I’ve found to be timely, pertinent, and interesting recent reports from student and professional media that I hope you might be able to localize, adapt, or otherwise draw inspiration from for story ideas of your own:

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COLLEGE WATERGATES: The recent death of Watergate’s famed anonymous source Deep Throat led me to wonder about the biggest and most scurrilous administrative, athletic, and student scandals at universities worldwide over the years, especially those exposed only through student journalists’ shoe-leather reporting.  Maybe the symbolism of his death and the term break provides a decent timeframe for your media outlet to look back at your own college’s Watergates and what, if any, impact they continue to have on your school today.  By the way, apropos of nothing, here’s a snippet about Deep Throat’s death in a Washington Post appreciation piece: “Felt had breakfast Thursday at his home in Santa Rosa, Calif., he took a nap and disappeared into the evermore. As we in the newspaper biz say, he took the buyout. Good for him, and thank you.”

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LAST LECTURES: On Christmas Day it was exactly five months since the passing of famed “Last Lecture” professor Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University.  He was an inspirational figure for many in large part due to the YouTube-sensation of a lecture he gave about pursuing dreams after learning his cancer was terminal.  Again, possibly with the added time of reflection provided by break and in the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, get professors’ (or even students’) take on what their own last lecture topics or even simply their last words to the world might be.

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BRANDING IN BAD ECONOMIC TIMES: A recent Salt Lake Tribune piece touts the near-ubiquitous branding efforts carried out by universities across the U.S. in the past decade via advertisements and larger marketing strategies.  The economy has turned.  Schools’ finances are tightening.  What does it mean for your school’s brand and the behind-the-scenes work done to project it?

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CAMPUS SPORTS SECURITY INCREASE: A governmental push to increase security at college athletic events and a related $3.5 million Homeland Security grant is funding workshops on sports event security training for officials at roughly 1,000 colleges and universities in the states.  Is your school involved?  What’s the current security plans in place at your school for various athletic events?  What have been the biggest security lapses or concerns at athletic events over the years?

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“Campus gossip Web site tests freedom of speech”: One student’s take on the continuing Juicy Campus saga (Poughkeepsie Journal)

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“Students see the possibilities”: A journalism professor writes about what keeps students joining J&MC programs (Miami Herald)

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“College students learn records may be open, courtesy not a given”: A rundown of j-students’ experiences gathering public documents in River Falls, Wisc., as part of an information gathering course (River Falls Journal)

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“Back home again in Indiana”: Sports journalism program starting at Indiana University  (Reporter-Times)

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The Saturday and Monday editions of The Columbia Missourian are being dropped to help reduce the newspaper’s heavy operating budget deficit, but the newspaper will continue in print. (A brief write-up and related podcast can be found here.)

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The start of an open letter to readers from the paper’s exec ed:

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The Columbia Missourian will reduce its print publications from seven days a week to five by the end of February. The Weekend Missourian, distributed free on Saturday to about 40,000 homes, will be canceled, as will the Monday editions. What won’t change: The Missourian will continue to be a general distribution print publication for the Columbia area, with home delivery as well as in newspaper racks. Journalists will publish news seven days a week on columbiamissourian.com. Missourian personnel will serve advertisers; Missourian circulation staff will deliver your newspaper. Vox, the Missourian’s city magazine, will publish in print each Thursday, as it has for a decade. Its content can also be found at voxmagazine.com.

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One option on the table had been a shift to an online-only news operation. Is this a small victory for print? Or simply an acknowledgment it’s not quite dead yet?

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A group of current and recent journalism students at Georgetown University are suing the FBI, CIA, and six other government agencies for records related to the 2002 kidnapping and death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.  According to The Washington Post, the students have been attempting to solve the Pakistan-set murder mystery for more than a year, a quest that started as a class project in a Georgetown j-course.

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As the Post reports:

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The students’ assignment was to find out who killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and why. Although the class ended last spring and many of the students graduated, they’re still trying to write that last paper. . . . Yesterday [Dec. 18], the group, known as the Pearl Project and now attached to the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court asking for the release of records by the CIA, FBI, Defense Department and five other federal agencies. . . . In the early days of the class, [the instructor] told the students of her longtime friendship with Pearl, a musician who hung out with her in Adams Morgan bars after work in the 1990s. . . . The class immediately felt different — more emotional, weightier, students said. “We weren’t sitting in front of a textbook reading about Danny Pearl’s case,” said Erin Delmore, a 2008 graduate. “We were in it, head-first in it.”

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To me, at the most general level, the group’s efforts are a wonderful example of two things:

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1) The genuine impact student journalism can make when channeled toward a worthwhile, focused goal.

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2) The importance of a knowledgeable, impassioned adviser to direct j-students’ talents and energies.

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College Media Matters joins College Freedom, FIRE, and Chicago Reader in questioning and decrying the proposed free speech and free press restrictions currently under consideration at Northeastern Illinois University.  The most disheartening part of the regulations for press lovers: a planned prior approval scheme encompassing all print newspapers and pamphlets appearing on campus.

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As John K. Wilson writes for College Freedom:

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NEIU officials propose to demand that any pamphlet or newspaper to be distributed on campus must receive their prior approval. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled for many decades that the notion of government “prior review” and “prior restraint” of publications is totally anathema to the notion of a free press. . . . By a strict reading of these rules, the student newspaper (and even official flyers from the administration) would have to wait a week until after it is published to be distributed.

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In an e-mail to CMM, Wilson graciously outlined the relevant parts of the document. The most troublesome portion, he pointed out: Page 3, C(1): “Students, faculty, and staff wishing to express themselves through demonstrations or events involving distribution/display of visual communications. . . . must first complete a reservations request form  . . . [and] must submit a a copy of all visual communications to be utilized.” On page 1, the distribution and display of visual communications is defined as “posting and/or handing out, signs, posters, flyers, newsletters, newspapers, photographs, and similar items.”

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As Wilson explains:

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It’s a little tricky unless you understand that the university considers the act of handing out a newspaper or a flyer to someone to be an “event.”  It’s not clear how the university defines leaving a pile of newspapers for people to take, if that’s posting or handing out or something else. But it’s very specific in covering newspapers and restricting the act of handing them out to people.

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It is nearing the year 2009.  NEIU administrators top New Year’s resolution should be: Respect students’ free press rights.  After all, the name of the student newspaper at the school is The Independent!

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The name and slant of a new student newspaper recently launched at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are conservative. Student Newspaper, according to its founders, is “the product of a core of five UNL students who have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of conservative voice on the UNL campus.”

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Student Newspaper

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In an early December article acknowledging its new competition, The Daily Nebraskan wrote: “From a scathing indictment of ‘The Female O’- a sex education forum held at UNL last month- to a column arguing America is better than all other nations past and present, Student Newspaper certainly has a particular audience in mind.”

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The DN then questions the accuracy behind certain SN reports, quoting the student president of the university chapter of College Republicans as saying, “If they want to present themselves as a news source, they need to have facts and reporting to back up their opinions.” In response, a SN founder blogged that the DN piece fell short in several areas, including by misspelling the name of the College Republicans university chapter president. Oooooh. Let the games begin! :)

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About the newspaper’s name: It reminds me of a comment I once heard from the co-creator of NBC’s “Friends” about why the show’s episodes always carried simple titles starting “The One With…”. Roughly remembered, she said it was because she wanted the show’s writers to refrain from wasting time on catchy headers and instead pour their creative energies into the episodes’ content. Hopefully, over time, Student Newspaper will be able to accomplish the latter. Good luck.

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In a move  reminiscent of professional newspapers’ handling of the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and The Starr Report, The Collegiate Times at Virginia Tech has posted online roughly 750 pages of what it is calling the “April 16 Documents” and what The Roanoke Times has labeled “shooting papers.”  Read Bryan Murley’s related post, including his mention of the program the newspaper used to do it.

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April 16 Documents

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The e-mails, memos, and other docs cover many related thoughts, reactions, and plans of action at the university before and after the campus shootings on April 16, 2007- everything from correspondence that mentions faculty concerns about the student shooter to docs “detail[ing] techniques and approaches to dealing with the image of a mass shooting on campus” by University Relations.

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The newspaper’s posting of the documents late last week came one day after they were made available to families of the victims by the university through a “password-protected electronic archive.”  According to the Roanoke Times story, “Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said it appeared that one of the victims or family members gave their password to the Collegiate Times. [The paper’s EIC] would not say how the paper obtained access to the archive.”

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The most journalistically impressive part of the paper’s effort: The Collegiate Times had already stopped publishing for the term and is not due to start up again until January 20, 2009.

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New Expression, a student publication in Chicago that exposed more than 4,000 teens to working journalism in its 32-year history, ended in October. The executive director of Youth Communication Chicago, the organization behind the pub: “It’s the economy, and the squeeze on nonprofits, and the crisis in the newspaper industry- it’s a perfect storm.”

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New Expression Story

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The story is only marginally connected to college j-students or campus media: Columbia College undergrads had participated in a related local schools’ outreach program teaching younger students about journalism basics and inspiring them to express their opinions on current affairs.  A Columbia College student told ABC7 News in Chicago, “New Expression was kind of their form of hope, because we go to environments that take away that hope completely from these kids. For us to come down there, to give them a chance to write, a chance to say what they want to say…”

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The ABC7 story hinted at a hope of saving the newspaper.  I saw no evidence of that in the report, however, and could not find anything online but a mention of a mid-November rally to flesh that out.  For the sake of student journalism, I hope more is done and those in the know please inform me how interested parties can help.

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The Gonzaga Bulletin has stirred publicity and a bit of controversy for its recent rejection of a pro-life advertisement. The 12-page ad insert, titled “We Know Better Now,” “vigorously argues for the pro-life position. . . . arguing that it is now better known that abortion kills a human being, that it hurts women, and that abortion has a ‘racist legacy.'”

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We Know Better Now

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According to LifeNews.com, “Human Life Alliance [the organization behind the ad] expects secular colleges to give it trouble but is disgruntled that Gonzaga won’t allow the . . . supplement to appear.” Gonzaga University is a Catholic Jesuit school officially supporting pro-life policies, but Bulletin staffers and school administrators found the ad’s overarching message too disapproving of pro-abortion groups.  According to Catholic News Agency, the university president “explained that the advertisement was rejected ‘not from any disagreement with the pro-life cause, but out of a preference to emphasize a positive pro-life message rather than a negative one.'”

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A spokesman for the Human Life Alliance: “The business of abortion is ugly and we think college and university students have a right to read the facts from someone other then abortion providers.”

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Talk about intimidating office hours! The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is adding another celebrity faculty member: Len Downie Jr., the famed, recently-retired top editor of The Washington Post who succeeded Ben Bradlee.

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At Cronkite, Downie will be joining former CNN anchor Aaron Brown, former San Jose Mercury News editor Rick Rodriguez, former Minneapolis Star Tribune editor Tim McGuire, and former BET vice president Retha Hill, among others.

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The PR quote from the school’s dean: “We’re just really excited to have Len Downie as a part of the faculty. He really is the best newspaper editor of his era, and to have him impart that knowledge to his students is going to be a huge benefit.”

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The Zapruder film.  The Paris Hilton sex tape.  The Charlie Bit Me YouTube phenomenon.  In contemporary world history, a few video recordings have risen above the rest, etching a permanent place in the public consciousness.  In my humble, college media-centric, only-slightly-sarcastic opinion, the Daniel Bachhuber Future of Journalism Livestream has now joined them.

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Daniel Bachhuber is the Future of Journalism.

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The Qik vid is Bachhuber’s response to Publish2’s much-publicized “I Am The Future of Journalism” Contest asking entrants to describe the ins-and-outs of the awesomeness they feel they are bringing to journalism’s reinvention.  Bachhuber’s video answer, delivered ad hoc in Blair Witchified-handheld fashion, is a sample (since he is a Publish2 intern he cannot officially enter the contest).  But in my view, regardless of the final outcome, the contest is officially over.  Bachhuber is the winner.

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The University of Oregon j-student extraordinaire and CoPress founder has made a vid that makes him the face of journalism’s future.  It’s earnest.  It’s raw.  It’s innovative.  It’s rambling.  It’s youthfully energetic, complete with a closing admonition that would make Obama proud: “Onward and forward, let’s make a better world.”

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A recent survey on college students’ favorite brands revealed a surprising entry atop the magazine pile: Not People or Cosmo or Glamour or SI.  Instead, Time, a purveyor of (mostly) serious news with only a dash of sports, fashion, and celebrity thrown in.

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What can student journalists learn from their peers’ apparently unmatched love of Time?  To my mind, five main things:

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Politics is in (and maybe here to stay, at least short term, in Obamerica): Don’t be afraid to delve into campus, local, state, national, and international political coverage.  The climate is ripe, and students’ appettites whetted, for Time-style coverage:  a mix of the horse-race, behind-the-scenes profiles, and explanations of how the politicos and their measures will actually impact the public they represent.

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Students will ante up for serious news:  A sentiment too often exists among student (and professional) journalists that serious news is akin to a youth reader death knell and might as well be a manual instructing them flip to what’s next.  And yet, students have revealed themselves as devoted to Time!  The magazine boasts serious news coverage, but it’s often presented in more accessible feature-story form and at times even with first person reportage built atop a journalist’s eye for detail rather than polling data or statistics.

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Snazzified design elements, in moderation, are appreciated: I have no doubt that, along with its hipper writing, Time appeals to student readers more than other newsy (and not so newsy) mags simply because it looks better.  It’s been increasingly visually inventive in recent years.  Its photos and graphics and page designs are colorful, even quirky at times, without overdoing it (see People and Star).  Also, save for the hideous “Pop Chart” feature, the layouts and images are professional without coming across as sterile as a corporate newsletter (see Newsweek).

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New media story packaging pays off in print form: Time lovesssss lists and year-end recaps and quotes of the week and extremely tight summary packages such as “A Brief History” and “Postcard” (delivering news of the moment from somewhere in the world).  It is a non-story, new media-type sensibility that I extremely admire and it’s the main reason I’ve grown to like Time over Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report and The Economist in recent years.  I’ll read The Economist when I’m feeling reflective or on a plane with hours to kill.   But Time is much more “readable” quick and easy in the loo or on the subway or in a waiting room or over a quick dinner and is more aligned with our short-attention-span, scannerific, story-last reading philosophy in the Internet age.

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A hint of activism and opinion is all right with undergrads: Time doesn’t shy from espousing ideas or ideals, whether it’s about the environment or impactful inventions or just its Person of the Year.  It is a magazine with an obvious liberal, pro-change, pro-technology, humanitarian bent and it sticks to and return to its core themes repeatedly, a tact to which students have obviously warmed.  The lesson here: It’s OK to be subjective, to stand for something, to use your media outlet as a vehicle for positive change.  It goes to the very heart of what student journalism should be.  And as students have reported, it’s about Time.

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