Archive for December, 2012

The Saginaw Valley Journal has put together a book on the current president of the Student Association at Saginaw Valley State University.  The book is being released in June by the same publishing company that oversees the SVJ, a for-profit campus newspaper focused on the Michigan school.  The company is owned and operated by Michael Westendorf, an increasingly innovative and intriguing figure within collegemediatopia.

The book’s title: “Feels Good Man– The Student Presidency of Theodore C. Goodman From the Pages of The Saginaw Valley Journal.”  (Cover image in screenshot below.)

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As the paper explained last week in an online announcement, “Last spring, Mr. Goodman became just the second SVSU student since Armen Hratchian in 2004– and just the seventh student in 45 years– to serve two consecutive terms as president of the association.  The year before, Mr. Goodman eked out a 10-vote victory in extraordinary fashion to unseat Julie A. Boon in a nail-biting election that saw more than 880 votes.”

Upon learning of the news, I asked Westendorf two questions via email.  Question #1: Why?  As he tells me, “It boils down to: we had enough material on him/his tenure for a book, and I’m president of a publishing company.  That’s really it.  It’s not a profit-seeking venture, it’s just a project we wanted to do that might expand our brand a bit, and one that I think will add to our ‘library’ of quality journalism.”

Question #2: Why would this be of interest to anyone outside the student president’s immediate family?

Westendorf: “The reaction so far has been, in a word: amusement.  This, of course, is the type of thing usually reserved for national newsmakers, not local (or campus) officials, but that’s really what our coverage does with the student government here. It truly treats the student government as THE government.”

One folo for Westendorf, when he reads this: What does the first part of the title refer to?  (I’ll update the post when he answers.)

Update, from Westendorf: “‘Feels Good Man’ is an Internet meme that originated in message boards like 4chan and the like. It’s a take off of Ted’s last name (Goodman). During his first campaign, some folks joked that he should have used the ‘Feels Good Man’ meme on posters.”

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During super-storm Sandy in late October, the editor-in-chief of The Pioneer at Long Island University Post updated the paper’s website via the Wi-Fi at a health club— after her car, part of her home, and electricity all fell prey to the ravaging squall.

That is one of the many facts, anecdotes, and general knowledge bits I gleaned from reading EVERY LAST WORD of the current issue of College Media Review, the only magazine focused solely and completely on the campus press– and the many people and publications comprising it.

My read EVERYTHING campaign is inspired by a similar quirky assignment New York Times Magazine staffers occasionally carry out and blog about.  Editors and reporters there gamely attempt to read every word– every last word– of a variety of magazine issues and then share what they learn from them with the world (wide web).  The cover-to-cover read-throughs have included editions of Psychology Today, House Beautiful, Sports Illustrated, Surfer Magazine, Vice, Vogue, and The Economist.

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While their efforts at times are superficial or sarcastic, the larger premise sports a serious, important lesson, in my eyes: Even the most niche publications possess a bunch of intellectual and entertaining goodies that might trigger ideas worthy of a story– or at least make you a smidgen smarter.  Quick plug alert: This assignment is one of many out-of-the-box exercises featured in my forthcoming book on brainstorming, uncovering, and reporting ridonkulously fantastic news and feature stories.  Book Title: Journalism of Ideas.

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So now, without further interruption, building off the first fun fact shared at the start of this post, here are 14 additional things I learned from reading EVERY LAST WORD of the winter 2012 issue of College Media Review.  (Kudos to CMR’s excellent editors Robert Bergland and Debra Landis.)

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2. After Hurricane Katrina shut down Tulane University during fall 2005, student staffers kept The Tulane Hullabaloo student newspaper alive– even while stationed at different schools.  For example, while attending the University of Pennsylvania, the paper’s EIC grabbed server space for the paper from generous editors at The Daily Pennsylvanian.  The staff called their efforts the “Tulane Hullabaloo Hurricane Plan.”

3. In the wake of Katrina, the Hullabaloo EIC created a “newspaper in a box” containing all equipment and instructions needed to run the paper from a remote location, in the event of another sudden, prolonged evacuation.

4. Just before the start of the school year in 2010, a flood divided Ames, Iowa, in half. Iowa State Daily staff were stranded on both sides, so they set up two bureaus to report the news from where they were.  Editorial adviser Mark Witherspoon: “It was probably one of the best training exercises we ever had.”

5. This past semester, a Drake University student wrote a blog post tutorial on transforming old T-shirts into tank tops– it’s apparently an eight-step process (partial screenshot below).  It went mini-viral, in large part due to a promo pic she put up on Pinterest.

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6. When turning “your old T’s into tanks” it’s best to select a shirt that is slightly big on you and cut a “neck hole” 1.5 inches below the collar (after already cutting off the ribbed part of the collar).

7. In 2008, less than 10 percent of student newspapers featured blogs on their sites, compared to 45 percent of daily professional papers (in 2007).  I am confident in saying the number of student press blogs has grown since then but, as college media leader and luminary Rachele Kanigel shares about recent ones she’s seen, “I was surprised they aren’t using blogs in a more creative way.  They are very much focused on the weekly deadline.”

8. Adaptive Path’s iWitness is an interesting online app, one of the new breed of real-time, location-specific social media trackers.  Its inventors dub it “a vehicle for discovering what’s happening in the world in cases where time and place really matter.”  (Mentioned in this CMR piece on election reporting.)

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9. Students are still reading their campus newspapers (dramatic pause) in print, according to some studies (and some previous CMM posts).  According to Lisa Lyon Payne at Virginia Wesleyan University, citing one research piece, “Some possible reasons for this phenomenon are the direct relevance of a college newspaper, the free price tag, and the notion that a college campus is one of the few remaining places with high pedestrian traffic and large amounts of leisure time.”

10. Five years ago, more than one third of the college newspapers in the U.S. did not have a website.

11. At least according to a 2011 study, WordPress is the most used content management system for top college news sites.

12. Belva Davis, the country’s first black female news anchor, had a TOUGH childhood.  Among other challenges, “she confronted prejudice in school.  She lived in projects.  She suffered from neglect and abuse. She describes a home ‘overstuffed with people but lacking in affection.’ . . . [S]he was [once] denied the right to practice for her high school bowling club at a local bowling alley because the proprietor told her, ‘We don’t let Negroes bowl here.'”

13. Last year’s editor-in-chief of The Miami Student at Ohio’s Miami University was also involved in the school’s Glee Club.  He “felt the student newspaper was not providing adequate coverage of the arts.”  So he started an Arts & Entertainment section.  It continues to run today.

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14. The Illinois College Campus Press Act is the strongest state law in the country protecting college journalists at school-supported outlets from administrative censorship.  One portion: “A collegiate media adviser must not be terminated, transferred, removed, otherwise disciplined, or retaliated against for refusing to suppress protected free expression rights of collegiate student journalists and of collegiate student editors.”  This portion of the Act was upheld in March by an Illinois U.S. District Court, which required Chicago State University to rehire and clear the personnel records of a former student newspaper adviser fired after the paper published controversial content.

15. Interestingly, “the placement of newsracks at a public college is a protected First Amendment act, and colleges can regulate distribution locations only if they act under established standards that prohibit picking-and-choosing among publications based on their editorial content.”  Choosing the color of those newsracks though is a different story…

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Yes, Students Still Read the Campus Paper in Print. I Repeat, Students Still Read the Campus Paper in Print…

Save the Racks!: University of Florida, Alligator Newspaper in Standoff Over Campus Newsstands

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The video is called “Stare of the Gator.”  Now boasting more than 160,000 hits, the mini-viral phenomenon premiered earlier this month on YouTube.  It features a University of Texas at Austin freshman nicknamed “Gator” staring creepily at other students “as they try to figure out what he is doing.”

A Daily Texan photographer filmed the student’s stares surreptitiously– Gator was in the know but not those he stared down– to submit to a talent show staged by the fraternity both students were pledging.

As the student photog told the Texan, “We got the best reactions . . . when a woman tried to get him to get out of the street before the light changed to green and when a group rode up the escalator in the UTC to see ‘Gator’ waiting at the top.  They couldn’t turn around, so it was like they had no choice but to wait and hope he would move. Little did they know, the ‘Gator’ doesn’t just move.”

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Milking: Latest Student Viral Video Craze is ‘Legen-dairy’

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The mid-December shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, continues to garner immense news coverage worldwide. But the student press overall has not produced many stories or commentaries touching on the tragedy– simply because many outlets had already stopped publishing for the semester prior to its occurrence.

At the start of spring semester, college media should at last offer an array of related Sandy Hook reports and perspectives for their student readers. Here are five story ideas to help get them started on their coverage.

The ideas are tied to a few campus newspapers that– much to their credit– have already published news pieces and op-eds.

1) To start, tell the stories of any students, faculty, staff, alumni or nearby community members who are Sandy Hook grads or have a connection of any sort to the school or Newtown– including through a sibling or a friend. For example, The Daily Orange at Syracuse University recently tracked down three SU students and Newtown natives, providing glimpses into how they are dealing with news in which the word “horrifying barely even scratches the surface.”

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As an SU senior from Newtown, whose mother is a teacher and younger sister a student at Sandy Hook, told the Orange, “I’m just hoping people realize that this town is a lot more than what’s been displayed on the news for the last day and a half or so. It still really is an idyllic New England town with good schools, and good athletics, and good people.”

2) Along with remembering and honoring the dead, do not forget those still in mourning. As Caleb Hendrich, the editorial editor of The Rocky Mountain Collegian at Colorado State University, writes, “In the coverage and discussion of shootings, and the eventual discussions surrounding gun policy, the lives of the victims and their families need to be held sacrosanct. These are not statistics to be used and exploited. These are not examples to be thrown around lightly. These are people’s lives; their grief and their loss must never ever be forgotten in the wake of these tragedies.”

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Using the Newtown shooting as a foundation, explore the larger infrastructure and set of routines surrounding grief and mourning on your campus.  What related services and staff are available for students in mourning over personal and national tragedies? How do students and staffers of different faiths and from different parts of the country and world deal with their grief? And what is life like for those enduring post-traumatic stress disorder related to an event of this magnitude?

3) In the wake of the shooting, The Michigan Daily published a story on a University of Michigan alumnus– and a past graduate of Sandy Hook– who has raised more than $100,000 for the Sandy Hook Parent-Teacher-Student Association. As he told the Daily, “I immediately started this fund within like 20 minutes of finding out that this had happened, in order to try to pool some financial resources to help these families heal.”

The Daily‘s focus on his act of kindness is an appropriate complement to the larger coverage of murder, mental illness, and guns. It is also a nice way to spotlight at least a sliver of positive news amid the tragedy.

Follow the Daily‘s lead by exploring the charitable and volunteer efforts carried out by individuals and groups at your school connected to Sandy Hook– and to other, perhaps more local, tragedies that have recently occurred.

4) Due to the enormity of their presence in Newtown and their endless stories dissecting various aspects of the shooting, the news media have inserted themselves into the Sandy Hook narrative– and prompted an impassioned public response.

As Calvin College junior Ryan Struyk writes for the Chimes student newspaper, “People on Facebook, Twitter and blogs have sounded off against these journalists, calling them insensitive and heartless, while calling the work they do intrusive and unnecessary.”

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But in his view, the journalists’ work– while at times intrusive– is necessary and can bring about needed catharsis, conversation and change.  In his words, “[A]s I watch the coverage, I see parents willing to struggle to find words for the immense loss they feel. I see children trying to share their pain with a world that feels the brokenness of sin daily. I see [the press] reaching out for support from politicians, charities, and Christians across the country. I see them sparking a critical and much-needed conversation on gun control in America. I see them willing to do anything to make sure this never happens again. How could we not tell this story?”

Gauge the reactions of students and staff at your school about the post-shooting media coverage, possibly both in the immediate and long-term aftermaths. Determine whether they noticed a difference in the content or quality of the coverage provided by local and national outlets and among those in print, on TV and online.

5) The last idea is perhaps the most obvious– and most necessary– candidate for related coverage. As Molly Stazzone, news editor of The Impact at New York’s Mercy College, writes, “Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Colorado Cinema, and now Sandy Hook School in Newtown. What do all of these places have in common? These places and their communities have been destroyed by massive shoot-outs from deranged gunman [sic]. . . . For me the problem is gun control.”

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Whether considered a problem or a solution by various factions of the public, it is fair to say gun control is a front-and-center issue that will undoubtedly spur high-profile debate throughout 2013.

From a reporting perspective, suss out the post-Sandy-Hook opinions of student gun owners and gun-control advocates.  Observe the activities of campus and community pro-gun and pro-gun-control groups. Check in on the campus concealed-carry weapons debate. And investigate and share the gun control stances and voting records of local and state legislators.

In addition, search for connections between your school and guns.  For example, as The Daily Californian has uncovered, “Through its retirement plan, the University of California has invested millions of dollars in the manufacturer of the assault rifle used in the shootings at Sandy Hook.”

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Welcome to the latest installment 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 an array of helpful and innovative sites, programs, and tech tools.

In our current episode, we chat about the most popular, controversial, and unexpected trends and incidents within collegemediatopia over the past calendar year.  Among the topics: The Red & Black staff’s temporary mass resignation at the University of Georgia; the April Fools’ issue bloodbaths at several high-profile student newspapers; the rise in student press digital-first reinventions; and the increasing limitations being placed on student and professional journalists covering major college sports.

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Below is an updated list of the 20 most indispensable national-level get-togethers being held in 2013 for those who are practicing, teaching, and learning the craft of journalism.  They focus on a variety of skills and media and cover both the educational and professional sides of the field.  (Click on each image for more information.)

Journalism Interactive, February 2013, Gainesville, Fla.

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Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference, Feb.-Mar. 2013, Louisville

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ACP National College Journalism Convention, Feb.-Mar. 2013, San Francisco

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CMA Spring College Media Convention, March 2013, NYC

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ACES National Conference, April 2013, St. Louis

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Broadcast Education Association Convention, April 2013, Las Vegas

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International Symposium on Online Journalism, April 2013, Austin

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Investigative Reporters & Editors Conference, June 2013, San Antonio

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Poynter’s Teachapalooza, June 2013, St. Petersburg, Fla.

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Native American Journalists Assoc. Convention, July 2013, Phoenix

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NABJ Convention & Career Fair, July-Aug. 2013, Orlando

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CMA Summer Advisers Workshop, summer 2013, TBA

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AEJMC Conference, August 2013, Washington D.C.

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Asian American Journalists Association Convention, August 2013, NYC

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NLGJA National Convention, August 2013, Boston

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SPJ/RTDNA Excellence in Journalism, September 2013, Anaheim

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Society for News Design Conference, October 2013, Louisville

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Online News Association Conference, October 2013, Atlanta

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CBI National Student Electronic Media Convention, fall 2013, TBA

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ACP/CMA National College Media Convention, October 2013, New Orleans

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Please let me know, politely: What other conferences should be on this list???  Depending on their merits, I will add them immediately.  (To be clear upfront, I did not include regional conferences.)

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In the end, womyn won outThe Daily Bruin at UCLA ultimately decided to run a recent letter to the editor containing the word “womyn”– a feminist variation of “women.”  Its publication represented a reversal of the editorial team’s initial decision, one the paper’s editor-in-chief now confirms was a mistake.

The 30-second recap: Members of a student group at UCLA recently pulled a letter to the editor they had submitted to the Daily Bruin after the paper’s editors declined to run the group’s favored alternative spelling for the word “women.”  According to Google, womyn is a “nonstandard spelling of ‘women’ adopted by some feminists in order to avoid the word ending -men.”

As they explained in an editor’s note, Daily Bruin staff felt “use of the word ‘womyn’ in our newspaper would represent a social and political stance that we, as a news organization, should remain neutral on.”  The group ran the letter on its blog instead, criticizing the Daily Bruin’s decision.  Subsequently, after deliberating internally and gauging public reaction, the paper accepted the letter for publication, complete with the group’s favored “womyn” spelling (partial screenshot below).

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In an email, Daily Bruin editor-in-chief James Barragan explained the paper’s decision to reverse course:

“After we made the decision we paid close attention to the comment boards, which always have very strong insights into any editorial decision we make. After seeing the conversations that were occurring on there, I began to rethink my decision and seriously think that we had made a mistake. So I sent out an email to our editors asking what they thought of the decision.

“The majority of our editors thought that the word should run because it was an opinion submission and the word represented the opinion of the group, not ours, something that should be understood since the piece is running in the Opinion section. After confirming that the staff felt the same way as I did, we got to work preparing to run the submission and wrote the editor’s note explaining why we had changed our initial decision.

“As the editor’s note says, we felt that the spelling of the word ‘womyn’ was essential to an identity that was central to the opinion they were expressing in their submission, so we decided to allow them to spell it that way.

“We try really hard to be a community newspaper here at the Bruin, so we valued the input the community gave on our comment boards and then talked about it amongst the editorial staff to make sure we made the right decision. In this case, we decided the best thing to do would be to allow the word to run. . . .

The one very important thing I’d like to point out for people to remember is that we’re all students. Yes, we run college newspapers, but this is our education in journalism, especially at UCLA where there is no journalism major. So mistakes are bound to happen, and I think I, at least personally, learned a lot from this incident and I hope to keep learning from the things that happen here at the Daily Bruin.”

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UCLA Daily Bruin Loses Letter to the Editor Over Dispute About Spelling of Word ‘Women’

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