Archive for March, 2009

The Heights student newspaper at Boston College wants you to know: It is not descending into that great unpublished yonder that is journalistic oblivion.  In its own words, via an editorial published recently, “The Heights isn’t following the fate of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer just yet.”  Take that Newspaper Death Watch!  (Umm, at least for now…)

In the editorial, the paper offers one of those funny this just in … no news here announcements.  It reminds me of the press conferences that general managers in the sports world call to ensure the public that a coach’s job is safe (ironic of course because in the end a statement of confidence in something is typically only made when confidence in something is lacking).

However, the editorial did win me over with two specific confidence motions:

1) “The Heights survived the Great Depression – in fact, its advertising sales increased during the early ’30s – and it will survive the present crisis in the print news industry.”

2) “The Heights‘ raison d’être is the service it provides to this campus, and we promise to do whatever necessary to preserve that. There is something irreplaceable about paging through a newspaper in the morning and something unmatchable about the quality that Stanford University Professor Theodore Glasser claims only the “sustained, systematic coverage that a good newsroom” can generate. A newspaper provides a standard of integrity and ethical journalism that the blogosphere has yet to attain. Furthermore, only a campus newspaper with allegiance only to itself can promise to unapologetically expose truth on the university level.”

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The CICM College Media Online Journalism Contest, which bills itself as “the most comprehensive student media online journalism contest evah,” is back.  The contest is international in scope.  Its aim: to feature the best in online and multimedia reporting, presentation, and innovation in collegemediatopia.

Contest version 2.0 is now accepting standout student journalism work in 22, let’s be honest, kick-ass categories.  The two newbies: multimedia journalist of the year and webmaster of the year.  In the words of CICM director Bryan Murley, “Rock on!”

The fee: $30 per student media outlet.  The deadline: May 15.

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Truly disturbing.  A Detroit-based neo-Nazi group spread its anti-everything message recently by rubber-banding fliers around The Daily Chronicle student newspaper at the University of Utah (an image of one of the banded papers is below).  As a Salt Lake City ABC news affiliate reported: “Some [readers] got a flier condemning ‘interracial marriage’ and others got one entitled, ‘Take back America from the Jews.'”

The basic plot: Chronicle issues were stolen.  The fliers were wrapped around them.  And then the rubber-banded stack was delivered one by one to the doorsteps of some Salt Lake City residents.

Chronicle editors have publicly condemned the act and ensured readers the paper was not involved in the theft, fliers, or hateful deliveries.  Truly disturbing- and interesting that even hate groups still respect the power of the print press in spreading their messages.

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If the related reports have any merit, the Board of Trustees at Clark College in Washington state should be ashamed with itself.  According to The Chronicle of Higher Education (and others), the board has engaged in the one of the worst kinds of indirect student press censorship: denying tenure to a professor who leads the student newspaper.  Why the denial?  Reports indicate it may be because under her tenure the paper has amped up its coverage of the school administration.

According to the Chronicle: “[T]he journalism professor, Christina Kopinski, fought the administration’s desire to prescreen articles before they were published and advocated a more aggressive brand of journalism when she took over as faculty adviser to The Independent, in 2006. The newspaper subsequently published a number of articles criticizing campus security and certain administrative decisions.”

The board swears the process was handled properly- so properly that it flew in the face of a unanimous tenure approval by the school’s faculty committee and a feeling that her tenure process would be routine.  Hmmmm.  I smell foul play. One faculty member: “[I]s there a subliminal message with it? Are [Clark’s leaders] trying to exert some influence on people, ‘Be careful.'”

To the Clark board: Own up to your failings.  Respect the student newspaper’s role in occasionally pointing them out.  And don’t punish someone for doing her job (and doing it well!).

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In what amounts to a hugely positive shake-up in student press circles, has purchased UWIRE, the richest content provider in collegemediatopia, the Center for Innovation in College Media announced earlier today.

Billing itself as “an online home for everything college students care about,” “has been operating outside the traditional college media sphere” since its launch in 2006, according to CICM director Bryan Murley.

With the UWIRE purchase, however, it is official: Palestra is now on the inside.

Joe Weasel, Co-founder and CEO, is a former Ohio State University journalism professor and Scripps Howard News Service syndicated columnist with years of broadcast reporting experience.  (Second on the “Bios” list.)  He graciously spoke to me just now about the transaction, which he said has been in the works since Thanksgiving ’08:

What is the goal for Palestra in picking up UWIRE?

We’re trying to position the company, which is now UWIRE, that’s what we’ll go by is UWIRE, we’re trying to find an outlet and find the mechanism whereby students can get even more engaged in not only print and text but digital journalism.  We’re trying to get students as much exposure as possible to the outlets that combine both UWIRE and Palestra and in essence keep building the college network.  UWIRE is a good fit for Palestra because it’s such a foundation for journalism students. Even though we’re changing platforms and technology changes and consumption changes, we still pretty much believe the foundation is still going to be a solid writer.  That’s not going to change.  This kind of brings that into play for us.

What changes will student editors or the sites’ visitors notice?

You are going to see the UWIRE site maybe improved a little bit.  For the most part, the mechanics of how UWIRE works will remain.  You know, Ben French did a tremendous job of setting that company up and getting it into the position of where it is and it would be foolish to change that.  The differences you’ll see, we’re going to launch a number of education intitiatives in the fall of ’09.  We’re going to try to increase our presence with some of the college organizations and try to become as much of a partner as possible with schools.  We also have some plans that hopefully will help drive traffic to the student newspaper sites because UWIRE isn’t UWIRE without a strong newspaper network.  So we have to continue to build upon that, like I said, the things that Ben laid the foundation for.

This must be a personally exciting time for you, as Palestra Co-founder.

While it’s a very scary time for journalism, I’m hoping that this is the time to kind of bring all the different media together and find out where some of the dust settles.  I really want to see students get opportunities.  As a professor, it was always frustrating that it seemed like the students I had, the best ones, were schlepping around delivering pizzas so they could stay in school.  That was really why I started Palestra, to try to find paid internships, not to compete or not to replace TV stations or school papers but to try to find a branch to get them into the profession the best I could and I think this helps enhance it even more.

Any teasers on the education initiatives you mentioned?

We have the UWIRE 100, which is a phenomenal place to start to see where some of the best [j-students] are that will come out into the workplace.  We want to take that model and do some specific initiatives that get students exposed and to get them direct links into a number of media, using both text and video to be able to have access to networks and get exposure they maybe normally wouldn’t have.

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After a much-publicized strike and the resignation of its publishing board head, The Emerald student newspaper and its supervisory board have reached a mediated agreement on the paper’s immediate future.  The basics of the statement, as outlined by the Emerald (sent to CMM and other blogs/media outlets by editor Ashley Chase):

1) A publisher will be hired after a national search.

2) The publisher’s duties will be strictly business-related (i.e. keeping the paper in the black).

3) The Emerald‘s student leadership will retain editorial control of the paper at all times.

4) The publisher will not teach courses in the Oregon University j-school, to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

5) Future bylaws will dictate the board and student staff must smile at each other much more often.  Hugs optional.  :-)

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A father of a prospective student at the University of West Florida who considers himself “no shrinking violet and certainly not a prude” wrote a letter of moral outrage late last week about a sex column in The Voyager student newspaper penned by “Pixie Gonzalez.”

It is one the funnier anti-sex-in-the-student-press missives I have ever come across.  The man, a father of three who stumbled upon the column in a campus cafeteria after taking his high school senior son on a school tour, started the letter by assuring that he has not written anything like this in the past: “I DON’T DO THIS! But I was so shocked and disgusted by what your newspaper chose to publish.”

As he went on to note:

What possible editorial and journalistic motive was there for printing such trash- was this opinion piece meant to elevate the discussion on sex, excess drinking, drug use or STD’s on college campuses? . . . We also learn from this enlightened young lady that having “lady parts” will not make a girl psycho if you have good old casual sex and that we, as men, need to “loosen up a bit … and give vagina’s a chance.” Girls at UWF want what Pixie wants- “a belly full of beer, a taquito from Whataburger and an orgasm.” UNBELIEVABLE!!! . . . My 18 year old obviously was shocked but more concerned that his mother and I would never allow him to attend a University that would publish such trash.

Oh, dearest proudly non-prude parent, please understand five things:

1) The student newspaper is editorially independent.  Call it UNBELIEVABLE.  Call it trash.  But keep the blame to the paper, not the school.  The only thing to which the school is guilty is upholding students’ free press/free speech rights.

2) It is called sarcasm, satire, even a dash of sensationalism.  Google them now.  Then go back to shrinking violets.

3) Read campus newspapers all you want.  Learn from them.  React to them.  But remember, they are not published for you.

4) In the end, it is all about perspective.  You dislike Pixie.  By contrast, a comment underneath one of Pixie’s recent columns online: “Pithy, honest, and hilarious. Everything I want in a column like this!”

5) Finally, a non-prude alert!  Many student newspapers at U.S. and Canadian universities have sex columns.  So be careful flipping through the paper on your next campus tour. :-)

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