Archive for July, 2009

Pop quiz: What do John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Lady Bird Johnson, Hugh Hefner, Nike founder Phil Knight, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, and Barack Obama have in common?

Answer: All once freelanced or worked full-time for a college media outlet. See, it pays to be part of the student press!

Like the legends named above, and many past and present professional journos, broadcasting titan Walter Cronkite also began his journalistic sojourn while in school, specifically as a reporter for The Daily Texan.

As the New York Times reports, in March 1935, an 18-year-old Cronkite interviewed Gertrude Stein for a profile published in advance of her arrival on campus for an event. According to the Times:

After recording her attire (‘a mannish blouse, a tweed skirt, a peculiar but attractive vest affair, and comfortable looking shoes’), Mr. Cronkite talked with her about the proper role of the writer and the impact of the Great Depression, then in its sixth year. Discussing her craft, Stein told Mr. Cronkite, ‘A writer isn’t anything but contemporary. The trouble is that the people are living Twentieth Century and thinking Nineteenth Century.’

The Daily Texan has posted the full piece online.

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According to a pair of news reports published on the same day late last week, two A-list student newspapers enjoyed separate pardons from incidents begun last October- one financial and another criminal.

First up, Penn State’s Daily Collegian.  Last October, a student photographer for the newspaper faced charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse, related to a post-football-victory riot he was covering.  According to the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, cops twice asked him to scoot, at one point telling him his presence was actually inciting the crowd.  The photog had contended that he was simply doing his job calmly, acceding to every police request except vacating the scene.

Apparently, the authorities agree.  All six charges have now been dropped, a sign of respect and recognition that he was present at the riot as a member of the press, not a fan.  Excellent news.

Also in the excellent news category: The Daily Californian at UC-Berkeley will be keeping its newsroom for now, even though it had been unable to pay all its rent and utilities.  In a sign of the troubling economic times, as The Berkeley Daily Planet reported, the paper had “been forced to scale back on its operations. The paper is no longer printing its Wednesday edition and has stopped paying its student reporters the $8 to $15 they previously received for each article. Faced with a drop in advertising revenue, the Daily Cal has only paid half its rent [for its newsroom in Eshleman Hall] since October.”

The owner of the building, an organization called the Store Operations Board of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC), has forgiven the debt, citing the newspaper’s “significant value” to the campus as one of the reasons for not forcing it out of the building.  Daily Cal‘s editor in chief has publicly assured readers that the action will not influence its editorial coverage of the board in general.

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Dear Newseum,

On a recent trip to Washington D.C., I had pleasure of stopping by your museum of news for a visit.  Two words: Loved it.  Two more words: a lot.  The exhibits are interactive.  A ton of stuff featured is impressively up to date (literally, Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing was playing on the big screen, a compendium of last week’s current events jokes from late night hosts played on a TV nearby, and content and images related to Obama were everywhere). And, for this news junkie, the whole experience was literally, well, fun (three and a half hours of it, which is mega-long for me re: museum time).

One grievance: In your compendium of news history and news NOW, throughout all the exhibits and especially along the wall featuring an assortment of that day’s newspaper front pages the student press is missing. Literally, save for one brief shout-out in a short video I watched, I did not come across any student press mentions at all.  Scholastic and *especially* college journalists have played an incredibly influential role in the history of the field- fighting for freedom of the press, scooping major media on breaking news, paving the way for Journalism 2.0 and 3.0, and covering their individual campuses with distinction.

The student press deserves a spot (multiple spots) in the museum of news. (And I’d be happy to suggest specific ideas!)  For starters, campus newspapers should be featured along with professional newspapers in the gallery of front pages.


A news junkie and impassioned college media advocate

P.S. I first had the idea for this post while walking out of the Newseum.  Huge hat tip though to Nicholas Persac, top editor of The Daily Reveille, for providing the sit-down-and-write-this-thing inspiration, something I’ll explain in a related post later this week.

Me at Newseum

Excitedly posing in the Newseum concourse with a chunk of the Berlin Wall.

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Two recent pieces brought journalists’ love/hate relationship with journalism school back into the spotlight.  In the hate camp, Richard Sine writes on HuffPo with exasperated astonishment that anyone would pay for a journalism education given the current state of the economy and field.

In his piece, headlined subtly “Close the J-Schools,” Sine opines, “These kids are paying upwards of $70,000 . . . for a ghost’s chance of landing a job, at pitiful pay, in an industry that is rapidly collapsing. What’s going to be the next hot field in graduate study? Blacksmithing? Bloodletting? Steamship design?

His points are well-argued retreads of the traditional if there’s no job, where’s the beef? line of reasoning.  It’s certainly one philosophy, but it fails to consider that many, many, many, many, many students do not major in an academic field of study solely for the purpose of landing a job in that field upon graduation. Colleges and universities are not purely factory lines.

This sentiment is shared in a (slightly) more optimistic post about j-education by the blogger DigiDave.  At the close of a thoughtful, if rambling post, he summons the journalism Gods with this pronouncement: “I think there is a misconception that they hand out jobs at the end of J-school. I think 10 years ago this may have been true, but it isn’t right now, perhaps never will be again. The goal for when you come out of J-school is to start at the bottom, but be so refined and qualified that they’ll recognize how good you are quickly. Whereas others straight out of undergrad will be learning on the job– you’ll be showing off on the job. And there is real practical benefit to that in one’s career. So that’s how I see it. Go forth and journalize.”

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The Poynter Institute‘s uber-amazing Al Tompkins (he’s basically the Obama of journalism story ideas via his Al’s Morning Meeting blog) is hosting a live Web chat THIS AFTERNOON (Thursday July 23rd) at 1 p.m. It is centered on the question: What do you need to be teaching your students this fall?

It is designed as a capper to a weeklong all-things-multimedia workshop for journalism educators, but there is no reason students should not have a say too.  So get online today at 1 p.m. and speak up about what you want included in your j-education!  Below is a screenshot of a previous Poynter live chat on teaching social media.

Poynter Live Chat

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A brand new Siskiyou is coming to a world wide web near you this fall, courtesy of a student journalist brave enough to act upon her recognition that the time for change had come.

As The Mail Tribune recently reported, the digital edition of The Siskiyou student newspaper at Southern Oregon University will soon be unveiling a killer new site.  Interestingly, it seems the paper’s soon-to-launch Web reinvention was spearheaded by a single SOU undergrad, Johanna Thompson, who served this past year as Siskiyou editor in chief.

Screenshot of the current Siskiyou site

Screenshot of the current Siskiyou site

While obviously waiting to pass final judgment until the site goes live, what I already like about the story is that its most positive message is not about the outcome.  Regardless of the new site’s relative awesomeness, the real trend I’m seeing emerging is a student press contingent who are much more willing to abandon the status quo, throw caution to the wind, and attempt to boldly reimagine everything they had previously known about the media outlet in their stead.  (See my related post on the award-winning reinvention of The Collegian site at the University of Richmond.)

I turn to the words of journalist and blogger extraordinaire Will Sullivan, who previously expressed certainty that college journalists’ online betterment overall will be the bread-and-butter of Journalism 2.0’s survival.  As he advised j-students, “College is one of the few times in your career that you can try something totally wacky, fail and it won’t really set you back or ruin your career. Try alternative story forms. Learn new technologies. Break the mold of traditional journalism. Your generation and its ability to innovate will save the craft.”

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John Wright, dean of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, is now officially the coolest dean ever.

In a recent post detailing a UF student’s unfortunate spate of plagiarism, I mentioned being suitably impressed that Wright communicated his initial reaction, in part, through a status update on his Facebook account.  As I stated at the time, in my humble opinion, “[I]f Wright also tweets, he is officially nominated for “The Coolest Dean … Ever Award.'”

Yesterday, the Web administrator for the UF CJC announced on the UFJSchool Twitter account: “Welcoming @jwright721 to Twitter. According to one blogger last week, this now makes him the ‘coolest dean ever.'”

I am proud to say I am that blogger.  And I hereby confirm Wright’s ascendancy to “coolest dean . . . ever” status and seriously wish him well on his Twitter journey.  As his opening tweet hungrily announced, “On my way to the Swamp for lunch.”

Coolest Dean Ever

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