Archive for May, 2009

Students at a California community college are fighting to save the print edition of the school’s student newspaper (and the class that produces it).  Their comments provide added ammo in the ongoing print-online fight.  

Again, j-students and educators cite student readers’ preference for print news; the online edition’s status as a content provider read mostly by alumni; and the notion that a lack of print equals a lack of presence (and therefore a lack of relevance) on campus. 

Check out related video below.

Fight to Save Paper

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I promise to present some cheery news soon.  As it stands, the reports and asides coming in recently have competed for the title of bleakest.  The latest is awfully bloody bad news for student newspapers across the pond.  According to a new nationwide survey, campus papers in England are suffering crisis-level cash flow problems.

Like every other part of the industry, ad revenue is not flowing in at anticipated levels.  The result: UK student newspapers printing fewer copies and at times cutting out entire issues to save money.

According to the surveyors: “It remains to be seen whether student journalism can be sustained on life-support until the economy shows signs of recovery.  If it can’t, the student journalist may become a thing of the past.”

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Jake Donahue loves Little League.  He has coached five Little League baseball, three basketball, and three soccer teams, amassing an above-.500 won-loss record and a not-so-secret desire to serve as a high school or small college athletic director.  He also just may be the country’s most talented young news designer.  

Colleagues who served with him on The Sentinel at North Idaho College describe his design prowess as sheer innovative genius.  According to the paper’s news editor, “I have seen him do things with InDesign that I formerly did not know were possible.  Jake’s imagination in the process of design is unparalleled by anyone I have encountered in the industry.  Even the local paper in our area looks to our publication for design ideas. . . . He is truly a man amongst boys.” 

The 24-year-old journalism major, who currently serves as Sentinel editor in chief, has a larger-than-life persona.  His personal blog is even called “The Jake” and features a reconfigured Hollywood sign that now screams “Jakewood.”  The reference is well-deserved.  His landmark journalism work in the past year alone exposed a drug scandal that led to the resignation of the NIC student union president and separately caused a heated debate on handicapped rights (and wrongs) at the university (see Q&A below).  

For his über-design sense and sensability, his editorial gung-ho-ness, and his man-amongst-boys mystique, Donahue recently earned a spot on the vaunted UWIRE 100.  Today, he also rightfully takes his place in CMM’s “Student Journalist Spotlight.” 

Jake Donahue

Sentinel editor in chief Jake Donahue poses with his fiancée.

Write a six-word memoir of your student journalism experiences so far.

Writing works, editing helps- design dominates.

What is the best piece of journalism advice you’ve ever received or given?

This quote is from Steve Jobs (Apple Computers).  I’ve had it blown up on a huge sheet on the wall above my computer monitor, and I’m pretty sure I look at it whenever I have a tough decision to make.  I’ve never been one to let the masses decide what I’m going to do, and I feel that The Sentinel has benefited from that mindset this past school year.  It’s worked so far: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes . . . the ones who see things differently- they’re not fond of rules.  You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things . . . they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do.”  [Editor’s Note: If you are not inspired after reading that, please change professions.] :)

Memorable behind-the-scenes production moment.

The funniest (and by far, most memorable) moment in my journalism career happened during my stint as Sports Editor.  I had written countless sports columns on what I had thought were somewhat controversial matters, including how to hunt grouse from a moving truck- without spilling your beer; what it would be like if we could douse our Little League teams with steroids; and even comparing Johnny Damon to Jesus Christ and proclaiming that the sequel to “The Passion of the Christ” undoubtedly involved the Boston Red Sox.

Those would all remain lackluster when compared to how I ended my stint that semester.  For most of the year I parked in a handicapped spot just outside the newsroom.  There were four handicapped spots empty ALL THE TIME, so I got away with it easily- until I finally got a ticket.  Bewildered, I penned an article titled: “If Handicaps Can Drive, They Can Walk 30 Feet.”  Holy Mother of God!  We received letters from the Disability Association of Coeur d’Alene, VFW, and the NIC Board of Trustees (some letters were even directed toward THEM concerning me!).  Our editor in chief then wrote an editorial stating that while “Jake Donahue is an ass and freely admits it,” she still felt obligated to publish my article, because while I had gotten a ticket that day, SHE parked right next to me without getting a ticket, sans a handicap permit! More letters poured in. . . . Our college even called me in for a meeting.  They recognized the fact that we cannot be censored, and thus formally asked me to write a retraction.  Well, I took that into account, but still wrote a follow-up: “Stuck on Handi-CAPS Lock.”  I didn’t come close to apologizing, but my two articles did spark a debate in the City Council on whether they have too many handicap parking spaces, or whether they are in the right places.  I like to think I won.

What first sparked your passion for journalism?

It would be incredibly hard to pinpoint a certain moment.  I was deterred from journalism many, many times, but my current journalism advisor, the national guru known as Nils Rosdahl, is the greatest influence I’ve ever had.  Obviously over the span of a few years he alone has convinced me I’m on the right track- he’s also the one who’s shown me how to get where I want to go.

What are your predictions for the future of college journalism?

I think it’s pretty obvious. As local dailies continue to shrink, and they focus more online-only, college papers are thriving.  Even their websites dominate.  Just look at The Daily Kansan.  They make tens of thousands of dollars by selling Jayhawk merchandise on their Web site, along with contests drawing thousands of entries (each a non-traditional money-making method newspapers are not known for).  I believe one reason that college newspapers thrive is their sheer dominance on campus: Everywhere you go, there is a free newspaper.  Keyword: FREE.  Especially since college students are broke, FREE is synonymous with success- no matter the material.

Another amazing aspect about college is journalism is that we can attempt anything imaginable, and whether we succeed or fail, we’re still going to print another paper. Being able to take risks without worrying about the publishing company’s aftermath (nor the audience’s reaction), is the single greatest reason college papers will always exist, both in print and online.  . . . [W]e will weather through the current newspaper Armageddon unscathed.  We will obviously be tailoring an online presence to match the success of our printed product, but printed newspapers will last a long, long time on college campuses.

What is one question we should all be asking much more often about the current state or future of journalism?

Is it worth it?  Sometimes we get stuck in traditional roles that worked long ago, such as charging a mere pittance for the paper (25, then 50 cents) while relying on advertising revenue to drive the wallets of our publisher.  Indeed, those tactics worked swimmingly decades ago, but what about now?  Rather than tossing in Web site advertising as a free premium add-on to a printed package, thus diminishing the value of what we now must rely on, we must solely focus on where the masses read the news: ONLINE.  It’s very easy to state what must be done, but I believe it will be incredibly difficult to transform the printed advertising mindset into an online force.  And whoever figures it out will become lavishly rich!

You wake up in ten years. Where are you and what are you doing?

Probably still lying in bed if I just woke up . . . and hopefully working from home running my own magazine or (better yet!) publishing company.  Because although the future lies in online media, printed publications will never perish.

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According to the j-student shown below, the photo was taken in fun: half journalist, half-zombie, a sort of “Night of The Living Deadline.”

Journalist Zombie

The student is a staffer at The Ryersonian, a student newspaper at Toronto’s Ryerson University.  In a blog about the picture, she admits the spoof also contains a bit too much truth about a student print press that is stuck between life and death.  It is a journey, she writes, “from the printing press to the morgue“:

Once upon a golden time, the average masthead was about 15 people strong. [Now, there are five staffers.] Granted, this was at a time when . . . online journalism and bloggers had yet to ravage the industry, making newspapers shift gears to Internet-based newspapers and mobile updates in a desperate bid to remain relevant and competitive. And students obviously following suit. Not that I mind this; I’m obviously a blogger. I’m interested in online journalism. It’s just that it makes life hell for the kids in the newspaper stream. The numbers are diminishing. Consequently, we each have at least two jobs (i.e. managing editor and photos), which kills the quality of our product. So hence the zombie.

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It is official: Journalists are telling j-students to STAY AWAY from the profession, for their own sake.  In a new “Help Wanted” blog for UWIRE, recent j-grad John Sutton writes that a former internship mentor is less-than-keen on his enthusiasm for joining the newspaper biz:

— 

Even one of my primary contacts in the job search, Mariel Hart, a Web producer for The Record, in Bergen County in New Jersey, where I interned last summer, has been encouraging me try and find jobs in another industry. When I met her for an alumni gathering in Syracuse she talked about how proud she was of another student for finding a job in public relations. She told me to not lose three years of my professional life to journalism– something I might be passionate about– only to leave.

What do sentiments like this mean for students aspiring to be journalists? I admit, reading Sutton’s post depressed me more than most journapocalyptic statements and predictions.  (I’m officially laying claim to coining the term journapocalyptic.)

A lot of us in academia endlessly spout out optimistic predictions about journalism’s future as a field in which many can maintain full-time jobs.  The truth is, while hoping for the best, we have no clue what is going to happen. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or spewing an especially gaseous amount of BS.

I do like Sutton’s resolve upon receiving the get-out-while-you-still-can advice: “[H]onestly, PR has no pull for me. I would not be happy there, it just isn’t for me.”  Maybe it will be resolve like this that will save the craft.  (Stop rolling your eyes– I’m trying to end on a positive note.)

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A note I just received from a trusted source with intimate knowledge of Penn State’s Daily Collegian, one of the best student papers within collegemediatopia:

“Yesterday at 3:30 p.m., the [Daily Collegian‘s] longtime news adviser, John Harvey, was fired.  Most people seem to think this is a personal vendetta thing involving the newspaper’s General Manager Gerry Hamilton.  Within hours, word got out (we’re journalists, come on) and there is a growing Facebook group called Support John Harvey.  Alumni are livid, and it really puts the paper in a bad situation- you don’t want instability when you are already having financial problems.  It ruins the major fund-raising campaign we were starting, which had the goal of supporting scholarship grants to Collegian students.”

The newspaper’s Alumni Interest Group (AIG) has already fired the first retaliatory shot, calling for a reinstatement of Harvey and a larger look at what are obviously some cracks in the paper’s decision-making structure:

The Daily Collegian AIG strongly protests the dismissal of Mr. John Harvey. The AIG board asks that the board of directors reverse John Harvey’s dismissal and, further, that the board of directors takes a more active role in overseein the Collegian‘s operations so that it can resume its proper role of educating and training student journalists.  The AIG board further asks that the board take a close look at the way the Collegian has been managed.  The Daily Collegian AIG will place a moratorium on its fundraising efforts in support of the Collegian until the AIG board is satisfied that Collegian Inc. is moving in a direction the AIG can support.”

I’m working to find out more about the situation (anyone with info, please write me ASAP at dreimold@gmail.com).  I will say this at the outset, to the individual or group who canned Harvey: Anyone fortunate enough to hang a diploma bearing the initials PSU knows that The Daily Collegian has defined editorial excellence and zealousness for longer than Joe Paterno has been alive.   You better have a ridonkulously good reason for getting rid of a man (and an actual film star!) so respected by those who worked under him or you’re going to suffer the wrath of a thousand angry Collegianites.  They know how to use the media to their advantage.  They know how to uncover the truth.  And from the looks of it, they’re hungry.

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The video does not lie.  In video of a post-race interview with uber-Olympian Michael Phelps streaming at ESPN.com, Phelps offers a brief assessment of his performance.  The most interesting part of the video: The words uttered by Phelps on video and the words attributed to him in quotes in the story beneath it are not exactly the same.

Check out the video for yourself.  When he starts to talk, listen but look simultaneously at the sixth paragraph in the story, the first featuring a quoted statement from Phelps.  You’ll notice that the differences between what Phelps actually says and what is quoted to him in the piece are small and do not impact the meaning of his statement, but they are there nonetheless.

And that is OK.  The CMM Teachable Moment: Recognize as a j-student extraordinaire that it is NOT your job to capture every utterance and inflection exactly as a source provides it.  Doing so, especially without a recorder, would be murderous and leave you focusing on the insignificant details at the expense of the bigger picture i.e. what he/she is trying to say.  

No reasonable reader or editor expects every-single-syllable perfection in a published quote.  In fact, in many cases, cleaning up a source’s comments HELP.  If we printed every ‘like’, ‘umm,’ ‘you know’ and the Obama ‘uhh’ readers would want to shoot us.  (After finishing this blog post, ask a friend a question and listen to him/her talk.  Believe me, all of us are flawed speakers, in many ways.)  

The basic rules of thumb with quoting sources: Recant it as close as possible to the original.  Focus on key words or unique turns of phrase.  Do not put words into anyone’s mouth.  Feel OK with dropping the *small* extraneous speech pattern stuff.  But never never never change the meaning of what someone is saying.

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