Archive for March, 2012

It reads like a mix between “Hunger Games” and “Survivor.”  Apparently, in the past, students vying for the position of Daily Tar Heel editor-in-chief at the University of North Carolina had to run in a CAMPUS-WIDE election similar to a student government vote.

An excellent new article in the DTH commemorating the 20-year-mark since the process ended outlines a bevy of problems with this “John Carter”-sized #epicfail.  The paper’s general manager Kevin Schwartz says simply about his memories of that time: “It decimated the staff.”  The words nightmarish and popularity contest also appear in the piece.

The oddest– and in retrospect, funniest– part to me: The election required active campaigning, prompting EIC candidates to QUIT the paper in January so they could begin politicking.  Staffers loyal to them would apparently then also resign to pitch in (leaving the paper in great shape, I imagine). 

And then it was a bloodbath of a campaign, pitting former colleagues against one another.  One more quote from Schwartz: “The race was so nasty.  Campaign staffers stole all the Rolodexes from the office, which were like the Bible back then.”

Happy Saturday. :)

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By his own admission, Al Diaz shoots better than he speaks.  The award-winning photojournalist and Miami Herald staffer began his presentation at last weekend’s SPJ Region 3 Conference by admitting that while his oratorical skills may lack gusto he hoped the photos he planned to show and the stories behind them would resonate.

And they did.  Diaz delivered a kick-butt talk with stirring images to boot.  Below is a top 10 sampling of the wisdom and witticisms he shared last Saturday with j-students, profs., and advisers.

10 Steps to Succeed as a Photojournalist in 2012

1) When you wake up, consider yourself on assignment.  Shoot every day.  As Diaz put it, “Don’t just shoot for class.  Shoot for yourself.”  Early in the talk, Diaz mentioned with a smile that when people ask him when he stops shooting, his two-word answer: “I don’t.”  People laughed when he said it.  But I didn’t get the impression he was joking.

2) Develop your own style and vision, while also mastering the basics.  Take visual arts classes.  And visit museums to get a firsthand glimpse of how artists capture and present elements such as lighting, composition, and depth of field.

3) Embrace photojournalism as a business.  The days of surviving and thriving as simply a staff photographer at a single news outlet are over.  Set up multiple revenue streams that include editorial and commercial work such as wedding photography and holiday portraits.

4) Self-promote, humbly not arrogantly.  Set up a professional website featuring a portfolio of your work.  Be present and active on social media.  Blog within reason about assignments and photojournalism news of the day.

5) Retain the rights to your images.  Diaz repeatedly stressed the importance of copyrighting your work, along with keeping track of the whereabouts and use of your older, archived shots.

The message featured beneath images on his own site: “COPYRIGHT NOTICE All multimedia content, photographs, text, video, sound and music within is copyright protected by Miami photojournalist Al Diaz and/or the stated publication and are presented for web browser viewing only. No images are within public domain. Nothing contained within this site may be reproduced, downloaded, stored, copied, manipulated or altered for broadcast or publication. Nothing may be redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium  without prior written permission from Al Diaz and/or the stated publication. Using any image as the base for another illustration or graphic content, including photography, is a violation of copyright and intellectual property laws.”

6) Enmesh yourself within the larger photography community.  He recommended joining the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), Editorial Photographers, the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), and Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

7) Don’t wait to be handed an assignment.  Develop, pitch, and undertake your own projects, for your employer and yourself.  Advantages: You get the chance to follow your passions and do work you’re excited about.  You can earn a rep as an independent thinker, someone with the foresight to simply be let loose on the waiting-to-be-photographed world.  You have the opportunity to stand out by building up a body of work that represents a particular style or content niche.  And you are motivated to stay visually sharp, always looking for the next potential project.

8) Learn and love video along with stills.  Become a multimedia whiz, adept at capturing, quickly stitching together, and presenting narrative slideshows, still-and-video mash-ups, and full-on video reports.  These presentation options also seem to be great for organizing and featuring your own work on your portfolio site.

9) Dress appropriately, depending on the assignment.  Don’t wear sandals and shorts to shoot a funeral.  Don’t wear a shirt and tie or super stilettos to shoot a construction site.  Think ahead about the type of scene you’ll be entering, the people within it, how long you will be on site, how much you will be moving around, and what the temperature will be.  Bottom line: Attempt to fit in while still projecting professionalism and ensuring comfort and ease of motion.

10) Never work for free.


Top 13 Reasons Journalists Screw Up Their Stories

10 Tips for J-Students: How to Land a Job & Impress People

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The Dartmouth University hazing scandal first brought to light earlier this semester in the school’s student newspaper is featured prominently in the current edition of Rolling Stone.

Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: Inside Dartmouth’s Hazing Abuses” is a “meditation on class, violence, and power in Dartmouth’s overheated campus culture.”  The piece premiered online yesterday to oodles of interwebs chatter.

The hazing fanfare began in late January, with a column in The Dartmouth by senior Andrew Lohse (pictured in the screengrab above) outlining the many degrading acts he allegedly endured while pledging a fraternity in 2010.

As he wrote in the piece, headlined “Telling the Truth”: “I was a member of a fraternity that asked pledges, in order to become a brother, to: swim in a kiddie pool full of vomit, urine, fecal matter, semen and rotten food products; eat omelets made of vomit; chug cups of vinegar, which in one case caused a pledge to vomit blood; drink beers poured down fellow pledges’ ass cracks; and vomit on other pledges, among other abuses. Certainly, pledges could have refused these orders. However, under extreme peer pressure and the desire to ‘be a brother,’ most acquiesced.”

The Rolling Stone report explores some of the extreme activities Lohse describes, while also turning a spotlight on him.  In respect to the latter, an IvyGate post calls it “a comprehensive character assassination of its main subject– Lohse– whom editor Janet Reitman portrays as a violent, pretentious, alcoholic, mentally ill, status-anxious, back-stabbing drug addict.”

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The controversial editorial cartoon published earlier this week in The Daily Texan has quickly become the most (in)famous student media take on the Trayvon Martin case.  But there have been many other student perspectives offered that are worthy of the spotlight, in a positive sense.

Over the past two weeks, a large majority of the student news outlets in the U.S. have featured articles and op-eds discussing various aspects of the saga, including the media coverage, the “hoodie controversy,” the Stand Your Ground law and the role of neighborhood watch, and the shooting’s existence as a flashpoint for protests, talks, and tension surrounding race relations.

Below is an active-links screenshot sampling of related news stories, commentaries, photo spreads, and video reports that have recently appeared in more than 30 student news outlets nationwide.

Any additional pieces you recommend for inclusion??  Please let me know, politely, via a comment.  To be clear, the focus of this post is sharing student outlooks about the incident beyond straightforward coverage of the many protests and vigils that have been held on campuses.

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A whopper of a headline leapt out at me during a web scan of The Daily Beacon website yesterday afternoon.  The header tops an article containing crime report highlights from a decade of campus life at the University of Tennessee.

The oddity: It first ran in 2004, but eight years later remains the most popular story on the Beacon site.  The headline: “Masturbation, Steak Theft Plague UT.

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Student newspapers are struggling financially.  The decade-long plights of the professional press have at last weaved their way into the land of collegemediatopia.  If not quite a time of reckoning for some campus papers, we have definitely entered a prolonged period of profound change– cutbacks, weary sighs, and hopefully some spirited reinventions.

That is the gist of what I told Connecticut Post reporter Linda Lambeck late last week when contacted for a quote.  She was wrapping up a story on the financial woes of The Daily Campus at UCONN, and the paper’s attempt to add needed funding through a slight rise in student fees.  (In a campus-wide vote, students rejected the proposal.)

As part of the piece, Lambeck wanted a wider-angle view on the economic dilemmas of student papers nationwide.  Below is the response I sent her, a statement I feel needs to be taken as a wake-up call for the j-students, j-profs, and advisers swearing everything is still status quo or A-OK.

A Boot Camp of Sorts

My Take on the Current Financial Status of the Student Press

For years, student newspapers have been immune from the financial downturn plaguing the professional press, thanks to their lack of overhead, the support of their schools, advertisers’ love of the student market, and their need to only break even.  But those days are over.  A growing number of student papers are struggling financially.

The hardest-hit segment at the moment are the daily papers that operate independently as their own businesses.  Some have cut the number of days they publish each week.  Others have reduced the number of pages they print or their page sizes.  Many are pulling back on staff pay and perks like conference travel.  A few have appealed directly to students and alums for funding help.  A small amount have launched magazines in hopes of broadening their readership and ad appeal.  Still others have aligned with a service that requests donations from all readers who visit the papers’ websites.  A few papers have even gone dark entirely, mostly at smaller schools or community colleges in which related journalism programs have also been shuttered due to state funding cuts.

Students are still reading their campus newspapers in print, by all accounts at a reliable, surprisingly high rate.  But advertising is tougher to come by.  Related school budgets in some cases are tightening or disappearing entirely.  Student governments are getting occasionally restless as they look at papers’ financial bottom lines.  And the seemingly inevitable shift toward digital-first publishing looms large in many editors’ and advisers’ minds.

At a recent major college media conference in New York City, a pair of student newspaper advisers spoke in a packed-house session about the opportunities and challenges of becoming an online-only news outlet.  The close of the session description in the program stated plainly why attendees should stop by: “[B]ecause your newspaper will probably have to consider it eventually.”

Student editors’ financial battles might be a boot camp of sorts for what they will face after graduation.  Or the troubles might be a blessing in disguise, motivating members of the young, mobile, and wireless generation to step up and help reinvent, truly reinvent, journalism.

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The Daily Texan briefly removed an editorial cartoon about the Trayvon Martin case from its website yesterday afternoon.  The University of Texas student newspaper then re-posted it, with an editorial statement acknowledging “the sensitive nature of the cartoon’s subject matter.”  It also appeared in yesterday’s Daily Texan print edition.

The cartoon depicts a mother reading a book to her daughter about media coverage of the Martin shooting.  The mother says to the wide-eyed daughter, “And then, the BIG BAD WHITE man killed the handsome, sweet, innocent colored boy.”  The cartoon’s overt argument: Sensational, biased journalism has morphed Martin’s death into a racial flashpoint in which the minority victim is being unduly sainted and the shooter unfairly vilified.

Critics are calling the cartoon tasteless and “vaguely racist”– referencing the “colored boy” description, the white skin-tone of the characters featured, and the misspelling of Martin’s first name.  On Gawker, the headline of a post that broke the news about the cartoon’s temporary removal stated sarcastically, “University of Texas Student Paper Wins ‘Most Racist Trayvon Martin Cartoon’ Contest.”

The full statement from the Daily Texan editorial board: “A controversial editorial cartoon on the Trayvon Martin shooting was published Tuesday on the Opinion page of The Daily Texan.  The Daily Texan Editorial Board recognizes the sensitive nature of the cartoon’s subject matter.  The views expressed in the cartoon are not those of the editorial board.  They are those of the artist.  It is the policy of the editorial board to publish the views of our columnists and cartoonists, even if we disagree with them.”

In response, one commenter counters: “Your statement is insufficient.  As a writer and editor, I disagree with your view of an editor’s or editorial board’s role in forming its publication.  You curate the voice of your publication; it is your responsibility to draw difficult lines between what is acceptable, what is controversial, and what is tasteless.”

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