Archive for September, 2012

Did The Arkansas Traveler really turn down an advertisement due to its poultry perspective?

According to author Sijin Belle, the University of Arkansas student newspaper “declined to run a pre-paid display ad for my novel, a satire set in a poultry plant.”

Belle’s book, Big Chicken, purports to do “for Big Poultry what Christopher Buckley’s Thank You for Smoking did for Big Tobacco.”  The plot teaser: “Reluctant corporate investigator Greta Greenberry picks her way through a minefield of body parts in tasty hot wing buckets, crooked executives, skeevy lawyers, chucklehead rednecks, oleaginous clergy, hapless workers, gun-toting federales, and piles of dead bodies (not counting the chickens) to find herself hog-tied in a freezer face-to-face with a grisly truth.”

In a message early this morning, Belle told me:

“Tim Barger, publisher of Selwa Digital in Vista, Calif., submitted the ad for Big Chicken in an email Wednesday to [Traveler] advertising manager Elizabeth Birkinsha.  The four-column-inch ad shows a picture of the book’s cover and reads ‘If you ever worked at Tyson, you won’t be able to stop laughing.  This is your story– you’ve been there and most likely have done that too.  Check it out at Amazon or B&N.com’, along with available formats and prices.  [Copy of the ad below.]

“Ms. Birkinsha replied by email ‘We will not run this ad in our paper.’  The paper did not respond to Tim’s follow-up emails, one asking for clarification and another re-submitting the ad with the word Tyson replaced by Poultry Xtra– the fictional company in the book.

“It is important to note that Tim has placed a number of similar ads referring to other large poultry companies, e.g., Pilgrim’s Pride, in newspapers in other areas known for poultry processing.  These ads have helped drive our ebook sales in particular.  The Traveler seemed a logical marketing outlet because Tyson Foods’ corporate headquarters is in nearby Springdale and the campus is home to the John W. Tyson Poultry Science Building.

“The Travelers current advertising rate sheet states ‘All advertising submitted to the Arkansas Traveler for publication is subject to review, rejection or acceptance by the editor,’ so we understand the paper’s prerogative, and that the editors don’t have to explain.  Moreover, it’s not a First Amendment matter.  But in my mind, the Traveler has committed a shady sort of prior restraint.



“For this one-time news-hound, the idea that student journalists don’t want their audience even to know about a book (granted, one with a different view of poultry processing than students are likely see in class) raises a number of questions.  For starters:

  • were the students pressured directly or otherwise to commit this tiny act of suppression?
  • were they afraid running the ad would jeopardize other more lucrative ad sales or offend benefactors?
  • is this public, land-grant university a place that values a free flow of ideas and freedom of expression or not?

“Obviously, I have a vested interest in being able to publicize my work, and there certainly are other advertising outlets.  But this episode is troubling in many ways, not the least because students of journalism– a profession in critical flux struggling to ‘monetize’ itself into the future– turned down ad revenue apparently for no good reason.”

I have reached out to Birkinsha and Traveler editor-in-chief Chad Woodard for a response.

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The Daily Orange is at last in control of its own online destiny.  At the start of fall semester, the Syracuse University student newspaper unveiled a website free from “the order imposed by College Publisher . . . their CMS, ad network, and host.”

The new design specs are professional, clutter-free, and white-black-and-gray-hued (of course with specs of SU orange).  My favorite new elements: the scrollable photo slideshows embedded within some of the main story pages; the separate photo galleries featuring images in all their gigantic high-res glory [one example here]; and the removable sidebar option that allows all featured stories to appear larger and center screen.

According to editor-in-chief Mark Cooper, the Daily Orange redesign was handled by Upstatement, “a firm out of Boston directed by a few SU (and DO) alums.”  A related post on the Upstatement site lays out a variety of digital looks adopted by the Orange over the years, including the late-’90s design below.

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Welcome to the sixth episode of the College Media Podcast.  The CMP is a collaborative venture between me and Bryan Murley from the Center for Innovation in College Media.

The podcast’s aim: spotlighting big college media news, standout student press work, and array of helpful and innovative sites, programs, and tech tools.

In our most recent episode, recorded Sunday afternoon, we discussed the recent exchange between digital news guru Steve Buttry and I regarding the advantages and challenges embedded within student press innovation efforts.

Related

Advantages, Disadvantages to Student Media Digital Experimentation: My Response to Steve Buttry Report

College Media Podcast #5: USA TODAY Redesign & the American University Breastfeeding Controversy

College Media Podcast #4: The Harvard Crimson Quote Review Reversal & More Gaming the News

College Media Podcast #3: RNC, Student Newspaper Presidential Endorsements & Gaming the News

College Media Podcast #2: RNC, Princeton Review Rankings, Oklahoma Daily Autopsy Report

College Media Podcast #1: A Red & Black Breakdown

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In a public statement issued yesterday afternoon, the president of Bryan College confirms his spiking of a student journalist’s story late last week “may have been a mistake.”

As I previously postedAlex Green, editor-in-chief of The Bryan College Triangle, self-published a piece yesterday outlining the real reason behind the sudden, quiet resignation of a Biblical studies professor at the Tennessee Christian college: his arrest over the summer during an FBI sting for attempting to meet up with a minor.  Charges include “attempted aggravated child molestation and child sexual exploitation.”

Green wrote, printed, and distributed the article [screenshot below] on his own four days after Bryan’s president Stephen Livesay told him it could not be run in the Triangle.

Livesay’s subsequent explanatory statement, posted on JimRomenesko.com, offers an apology of sorts– not for the censorious action but to those who may have been “upset or offended” by it.  It also provides a refreshingly candid, if off-base, account of the school’s rationale for the decision.

According to Livesay, “My cabinet and I agreed that since the faculty member resigned on his own initiative, that the events surrounding the resignation occurred during the summer when students were not on campus, and that the resignation involved charges being filed, but no proof of guilt (legal matters are not the expertise of the college administration), the wisest course of action for the college and our students would be to not issue a statement about the resignation.”

It’s a fairly cringe-inducing excuse.  At my most cynical, I frankly find it hard to believe. At face value, I’m left to conclude that– along with legal matters– a basic understanding of journalism is not in the college administration’s wheelhouse.

Ultimately though, I give Livesay credit for stepping up and sharing his side of the scandal.  As he notes, “Our intent was to look at the situation as Christians and do what was right.  As humans, we are fallible.  What we can do is learn from our mistakes.”

Related

College President Kills Story About Prof. Charged with Child Sex Crimes, So Student Editor Self-Publishes It

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Update, 1:35 p.m.: The story is more complicated.  Romenesko is all over it.

The editor-in-chief of The Bryan College Triangle at Tennessee’s Bryan College self-published a controversial story yesterday about a former professor charged with sex crimes involving a minor.  Alex Green wrote, printed, and distributed the article on his own four days after Bryan’s president told him it could not be run in the paper.

As Green told Jim Romenesko, who had the scoop on the incident, “I placed [copies] around campus and at the doors of dorm rooms and at public areas around the school.  They were primarily in the main administration building, the library and the student center. … [A PDF] was emailed and entrusted to a select few current students and alumni in the case that fake papers began to surface.”

The article [screenshot below] outlines the real reason behind the sudden, quiet resignation of a Biblical studies professor at the Christian school: his arrest over the summer during an FBI sting for attempting to meet up with a minor.  Charges include “attempted aggravated child molestation and child sexual exploitation.”  When Green initially inquired about the professor’s departure, the school told him he was leaving “to pursue other opportunities.”

In an editor’s note headlined “Why It’s Important,” Green outlined the probable reactions of readers to his publishing decision and explained his reasoning behind it:

“I know that the first reactions from students, faculty, staff, and alumni will be varied.  Some will applaud me.  Some will be livid.  Some will feel that I am defaming and throwing salt into a very fresh and very sore wound.  Some will believe I have stars in my eyes.  And that’s OK. . . . Bryan College is not Penn State.  Had one individual in the Penn State program stepped up and revealed the truth about the actions of Jerry Sandusky, there would have been no fallout 14 years later.  Joe Paterno could have died a hero. Instead, he died a goat. Penn State could have been praised. Instead, they are broken.  Bryan College is not Penn State because there are people here that will not attempt to save face by dusting over the arrest of Dr. David Morgan.  Printing this story will not cause a Penn State situation for Bryan. I believe it will prevent one.  That’s why I’m dispensing it.”

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Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman’s announcement about her impending retirement sent The Daily Princetonian into overdrive over the weekend.  It began with an all-staff email from editor-in-chief Henry Rome.  Subject line, all caps: “BREAKING ALL HANDS ON DECK.”

What happened next, according to an editor’s note from Rome posted this morning: “Over the span of 12 hours, a team of 19 editors and 19 staffers aggressively covered the story from all angles in all media, from print to video to social media.  Staff from across campus converged on the newsroom to write 11 full-length articles or columns and publish more than 40 tweets and Facebook posts. In addition, we shot a video, created an interactive timeline and searched through all of the Prince photo archives to find old photos of Tilghman.”

Some of the content Rome mentions was featured in a special issue published and distributed across campus on Sunday, the day after the announcement.  In a staff editorial in that issue, the Prince declared, “President Tilghman’s tenure has been characterized by an impressive list of accomplishments and frank discussions of the challenges Princeton has faced. We commend President Tilghman for her dedicated service to this University and believe that her tenure, while not without setbacks and missteps, was a success.”

Related

Daily Princetonian to Stop Using Email Quotes in News Stories, Except in ‘Extraordinary Circumstances’

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For Daily Reveille staff writer Chris Grillot, covering a bomb threat at Louisiana State University was “the most fun I’ve had this semester.”  In a recent blog post, Grillot confirms his anxiety quickly segued to a pure adrenaline rush last week when a bomb alert began sounding in an LSU library.

In his words, “Instead of going home, I met up with a photographer and a few other student journalists and scoured the campus for news, interviews, photos, bombs, etc.  Though the threat wasn’t real, the excitement was. . . . To an average person, bomb threats at universities are pretty shitty.  But when you work for a student newspaper, bomb threats at universities are absolutely awesome– especially when it’s your university.”

According to Daily Reveille editor-in-chief Andrea Gallo, the alert prompted a full newsroom evacuation and forced staffers to temporarily work remotely.  The paper also had to forgo a print edition for a day.  But constant coverage of what was ultimately proven to be an empty threat continued.

As Gallo writes, “There’s not much that can frazzle the Daily Reveille staff– we slept in the newsroom during Hurricane Isaac for God’s sake.”

Related

LSU’s Daily Reveille Providing Standout Isaac Storm Coverage

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