Archive for August, 2009

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College Broadcasters, Inc., has announced its finalists for the 2009 National Student Production Awards.  It is basically the Oscars, ESPYs, Pulitzers, and Webbies for the student broadcast journalist set- honoring everything from best TV comedy, PSA, and live sportscast to best radio DJ, documentary, and station promotion.

Atop the category listing: Best Student Media Web site, in this case referring to the sites for college radio and television stations.  Screenshots for the four finalists are below, including two from Ithaca College.  Click on the pics to access each site.  Which one do you think is most deserving of the award???

News 7, Lyndon State College

News 7, Lyndon State College

WICB, Ithaca College

WICB, Ithaca College

ICTV, Ithaca College

ICTV, Ithaca College

KUOM, University of Minnesota

KUOM, University of Minnesota

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Kansas University recently confirmed what journalism educators and undergrads have known for years: Women rule the j-school.  At KU currently, female students comprise roughly 70 percent of the total enrollment in the School of Journalism.

According to a Lawrence Journal World report, the reasons given for the trend by the school’s dean and a few students:

1) Women may just be more creative and expressive, what dean Ann Brill calls “a right brain/left brain thing.”

2) Men are leaving j-school behind as they apparently shoot evermore for positions and fields boasting higher salaries.

3) J-school may be the means for female students, but the end game is a more general mass comm. endeavor.  A KU student: “I think one of the reasons is a lot of women get into the j-school is they want go into advertising sales and television. I know the market is attractive, they make a good salary, and it’s a pretty basic concept. If you can do that well, you have stability, and that’s attractive to a lot of females, especially because you can’t just be a housewife anymore.”

Yet, even while dominating in enrollment, women are *not* dominating in the j-workplace.  According to a recent AEJMC forum post, “Have Women in Journalism Really Made It?”, the glass ceiling still exists.

Stacey Hust, assistant professor at Washington State University: “Women look around and the lack of men in their classes makes them think that gender isn’t an issue. But in reality that’s not the case. They need to broaden their horizons, top of the class doesn’t mean top of your business.”

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A college student.  Winter break.  A Time cover.  Adobe Photoshop.  An online tutorial.  Four hours of playing around.  Upload to Flickr.  Cue nationwide phenomenon.  As a new Los Angeles Times report confirms, a University of Illinois senior decided to alter a Barack Obama Time cover shot while bored prior to the start of last spring semester.  He followed an online tutorial enabling users to “Jokerize” images, basically adapting them into the infamous look of Heath Ledger’s character from “The Dark Knight.”

ObamaJoker obama-socialism-joker

He posted his effort (above left) on Flickr.  It did not receive much attention at first.  According to the Times: “Then the counter exploded after a still-anonymous rogue famously found his image, digitally removed the references to Time Magazine, captioned the picture with the word ‘socialism’ [above right] and hung printed copies around L.A., making headlines.”

Lots of attention and of course some condemnation has followed.  The threat of copyright lawsuits from both Time and DC Comics still hangs in the air.  And the whole situation provides yet another example of how quickly a bored winter Web-play-date can spin into a national imbroglio and how quickly what one creates and posts online can spin out of his control.

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In roughly two months, Vanderbilt University in the great state of Tennessee will induct its first class into, wait for it, the Student Media Hall of Fame.

This is the first hall of fame of its kind that has come across my collegemediatopia radar (any others? Let me know!).  The inaugural class at VU will enjoy a Homecoming Weekend feting and a place in a permanent exhibit going up in the university’s student center.

Does this reek just a tiny bit of a rich alumni grab?  Yes.  The honorees were all part of the university’s student media, but in general it appears it is their post-grad accomplishments that have paved the way for their hall of fame status.  The hall of famers: ESPN’s Skip Bayless, Senator Lamar Alexander, Tribune Media Services ME Mary Elson, CNN’s Sam Feist, and noted humorist Roy Blount Jr.

My take: I love this.  And regardless of what individual universities want to do, there should also be a national student media hall of fame.  It should focus on those who truly distinguished themselves as student journalists, student media advisers, and even journalism professors or legal teams who assisted student media in historic fights in years’ past.

Would there be famous faces among the inductees?  Quite possibly!  In the U.S. alone, the following figures once toiled full-time or on a freelance basis with college media: Barack Obama, 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 broadcasting legend Walter Cronkite.

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When we last left Nicholas Persac, he was in the eye of a hurricane. At the close of part one of our *epic* interview, the Daily Reveille editor in chief had just begun to tell the tale of a journalistic experience of a lifetime: covering a natural disaster in the making.

Daily Reveille editor in chief Nicholas Persac changes a camera lens during the Barnes & Nobles release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

Daily Reveille editor in chief Nicholas Persac changes a camera lens during the Barnes & Nobles release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

Prior to his disaster talk, Persac discussed his goals for the paper in 2009-2010 and the challenges it faces.  Below, in part two, he offers journalism and new media advice to j-students everywhere.  But first, he recounts his time as news editor during his junior year when Hurricane Gustav made landfall in Louisiana.  As he shared:

A core group of about 10 of us hunkered down in the Reveille office and stayed there providing constant updates about the storm’s devastating effects on campus. The basketball arena, not too far from our office, was being used as a triage center for patients evacuated from nursing homes.  On the day of the storm’s arrival, another reporter, JJ Alcantara, and I were standing outside in a covered stairwell to watch the pouring rain and whipping wind.  We could see tree branches flying left and right.  We had heard from a PR woman that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal planned to come to campus to visit patients in the basketball arena during the storm, but she had no idea when that would be, and cell phone service was sketchy and landlines were down.

We had lost power and couldn’t do much until we could secure a generator, so JJ and I stood out there talking for a bit.  Sure enough, we see a caravan of four or five black SUVs with deep tented windows roll right up to the basketball arena- we knew it had to be Jindal.  JJ and I sprinted into the office, grabbed a camera and a notepad and then ran, literally, into the hurricane.  Neither of us were wearing shoes even, as we had groggily woken from air mattresses that morning and couldn’t leave the building in the thick of it all.

So, we ran maybe 200 yards as small twigs and debris flew near us in the air, splashing in puddles up to our ankles.  I remember the wind was strong enough to where we were being thrown around a bit.  We ducked into the arena after explaining to National Guardsmen, who were on security detail, that we were student journalists.  And there was Jindal, shaking hands and talking to patients.  So JJ and I got to interview Gov. Jindal and ask about the storm’s effects on the state-run shelter right in the middle of Gustav and both with bare, wet feet.

What advice do you have for j-students looking to up their media outlet’s Web game?

Most college newspapers are completely student run.  Since we’re the ones calling the shots, it’s important for editors to foster an open environment where all staff members can suggest ideas.  Some of the best things we do are ideas a random reporter sees on another Web site.  Now is the time to try it out.  We don’t have much to lose other than the time and effort of trying new things.  For instance, this semester we’re adding “…or follow him on twitter, @nicholaspersac” to the contact line of all our opinion and entertainment writers’ stories.  We’re going to require staffers to tweet often- blogs they’re reading, things they’re writing or things to do.  It’s also a great way to have opinion writers promote their own columns (by using the #keyword) to get people from around the world interested in a niche topic to come to our site that they would otherwise never find.

But for papers struggling with or looking for ways to improve their new media game, the best advice I can give is twofold.  First, don’t be afraid to teach yourself.  Take a leisure class or buy a “for dummies” type book.  The second is simply: Ask for help.  When you see something you like online, shoot the Webmaster an e-mail or pick up the phone and ask how they did it.  There is no shame in asking for help.  Also, keep in mind those computer engineering or graphic design students- just because they are not in journalism does not mean they cannot contribute to your newspaper.  You should actively recruit students from all areas of campus because each will have different specialties and knowledge to push your publication to the next level.

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

Tim Konski, my editor at The News Journal in Delaware, where I interned this summer, told me: “We tell stories, and stories are about people.  Readers want to know how a story affects them.”  I’ve spent plenty of time on the cops beat this summer, and he’s quick to point out how police write press releases that often make them look like heroes for simply doing their job.

For instance, when two men were arrested for swindling about 10 senior citizens out of more than $100,000 by convincing them they needed home repairs then doing shoddy work and charging them twice, rather than writing up a brief from the press release saying “Officers arrested X and Y for Z,” he helped me write it from the more relevant angle of “Two men swindled 10 senior citizens out of $100,000 for shoddy home repairs, a growing problem in the state according to elder-abuse advocates.”

People want to know that the risk of the elderly being taken advantage of is on the rise or could come their way- not that the police busted two men.  This advice- telling stories that are about people- seems obvious, but is very easy to lose track of when you’re working on deadline.  The same advice can be applied to other angles.  As an example, at LSU our Student Union has been under construction for awhile and has faced multiple delays.  Rather than simply saying, “it’s been delayed again until X date,” we’ll report, “the contracting firm hired to renovate the Student Union has once again caused a delay, keeping students out of the building for another year.”  Even with a good feature, you have to capture the story and talk about the people.  Don’t ever lose focus about who the audience and readers are.  You’re not writing for the sources or for yourself.  You’re writing for the consumer.

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

How is the work I’m doing today inspiring change tomorrow?  Everything we do as journalists should be ethical and truthful, as well as thorough.  Is the work I’m doing going to cause the world to somehow be a better place?  That’s the core of journalism- bringing change for the better by reporting the truth.  Be it in print or online, consumers will always need journalists to ask the hard questions, analyze the documents, and hold people accountable.

We report the day-in, day-out activities, but what people really want is for us to say, “wait, this isn’t right . . . why not?”  At a university level, one of our writers looked into the fact that a Web site listed our main library as a “sex hot spot” for men because of “glory holes” in the bathrooms.  When we reported the story, every local TV station hopped on it, and within days the university was replacing stalls and patching holes with metal plates.  A year later, $40,000 had been spent to fix a problem we first reported.  So, we should all ask what we can do that is “change” journalism, because that’s the reporting people will always pay for.

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In the mega-huge photo above the story, the student is smiling.   From the story and caption, we quickly learn the student’s age (23), his origins (Tunisia), his academic concentration while studying at the University of Minnesota (English literature), his first name (Ashref), and even the style and color of his shoes (red Keds).  In late July, when The Minnesota Daily originally ran the story on the study abroad experiences of Ashref and almost two dozen other North African students, readers also knew his last name and the last names of certain family members.

Now that info has been cut and this editor’s note, in bold, sits atop the piece: “The last name of the main subject of this story, Ashref, and his family members has been removed from this story since its original publication. The source became concerned of the negative implications that may come from speaking critically of the Tunisian government and its programs upon his return to his home country.”

After the piece was published and placed online, Daily eds. were contacted not only by the student but also university officials and the U.S. State Department about removing various identifying information in the piece, already published- proving as a separate editor’s note confirmed that, unlike print news, content disseminated online is “no longer written in stone.”

In the words of Holly Miller, the paper’s editor in chief: “This situation presented the Daily with an unfamiliar dilemma. What do we do when a source — who may not have understood the American media process and who might be in physical danger or danger of being repressed by his government — wants something removed or changed after publication?”

My take: Obviously, in most cases the decision needs to be ‘no changes allowed,’ especially in respect to the most common related requests- people simply having a change of heart about something said or done or sources’ concerns over embarrassing Google results.  But I do believe the paper acted properly in this instance.

The story is still up.  Even the huge photo of Ashref above it still stands.  And Ashref is still named in the piece, sans last name.  Ultimately, the removal of his last name and a few family members’ names does not change the bottom-line nature of the story.  And Miller and her fellow eds. are also respecting that rock-solid online ethics are still murky and that people still need to be protected from speaking their minds in certain parts of the world and from a lack of understanding about “the American media process.”  Staffers rightly consulted an ethics expert.  They fully explained their decision.  And they have publicly stated that they understand not everyone will be in agreement about it.

Obviously, this decision needs to be one in a million.  I do believe this one is correct.

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