Archive for January, 2013

The advertising revenue of yet another student newspaper is down, down, down– placing it “on a path to utter annihilation.”  Happy Thursday.

The financial troubles– and possible print edition disappearance– of The Collegian at Georgia Perimeter College are especially frustrating because they seemingly have been and continue to be preventable.  According to a guest editorial by former editor-in-chief David Schick, the loss last year of adviser David Simpson– among other things, an ad-revenue-generating machine– has started a downward slide to a $0 account balance.

The cause of the Collegian’s post-Simpson financial collapse?  Schick: “[A]pparent neglect from the new adviser and the administration.”

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Read Schick’s write-up for a fuller version of the events.  The 30-second outline: Beloved adviser is fired along with many others amid budget-tightening mess.  Schick is told selling ads would continue to be primary responsibility of any new adviser hired.  Subsequent hiring ad for new adviser mentions nothing about selling ads.  New adviser doesn’t want to sell ads as part of her job.  Cue heated meetings, financial free-fall, current uncertainty.

The lowest blow, according to Schick, came when the new adviser apparently said she “wasn’t confident selling ads because of our subpar content.”  Hmm.  Former adviser Simpson: “[N]ot once did any advertiser comment on grammar or content. Additionally, this paper was a national Pacemaker finalist a year ago. It has dominated the state contest the last two years, and I expect that to continue this year.  This paper’s website was widely praised by FACULTY this summer for investigative coverage.”

To Be Continued

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Priya Anand is “addicted to coffee, indifferent toward sleep, and obsessed with finding the story.”  To be clear about the first entry on that list, Anand has no room in her life for what she calls “sissy coffee.”  Same goes for her journalism.

The campus newspaper she runs at George Washington University recently earned high praise for its courageous coverage.  As InTheCapital shared, “I can think of no better recent example of a college student newspaper with, well, balls than The GW Hatchet for taking the initiative and airing the issues those who reside on campus grounds have felt most strongly about.”

Anand, the Hatchet’s editor-in-chief, has been taking the journalism initiative throughout her time at GW.  Along with her campus pub. experience and classroom work as a journalism & mass communication major, the 21-year-old Morganville, N.J., native has put in time at the New York Daily News and Houston Chronicle– not to mention the U.S. Senate and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Priya Anand, editor-in-chief, The GW Hatchet, George Washington University

For her diverse journalism experience– and her oversight of a paper with “well, balls”– Anand earns a rightful spot in the CMM Student Journalist Spotlight.  Below, she discusses her questioning nature as a kid, getting into a screaming match with a police officer, and the difficulty of separating herself from a paper she loves.

Write a six-word memoir of your student journalism adventures so far.

Stress is a figment of imagination.

Where does your journalism passion come from?

I can sort of root my passion for reporting back to the fact that as a kid, I constantly questioned my parents about their decisions. But I don’t have one of those romantic stories about how I would roam around with a notebook as a 5-year-old. I fell in love with journalism when I started working at the Hatchet freshman year.  I’m now addicted to coffee, indifferent toward sleep, and obsessed with finding the story.

What is a particularly standout memory from your time at the paper?

About a year and a half ago, a D.C. police officer refused to give me a public record and we ended up in a shouting match at the station. It wasn’t funny at the time, but it is now: He was three times my size and I left with the report.  On a serious note, though, it was incredible to see our entire Hatchet team pool together to cover the Election last fall and then hunker down at our office at 2 a.m. to file stories.

What is an innovative project you are especially proud to have overseen?

I’m still loving our Election grid (shout-outs to Connor Jennings, our head nerd, and Gabriel Muller, our web editor).  A newspaper should be able to capture the pulse of its community, and I think this project did that effectively last November and made it fun.

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What is the most challenging part of being top editor?

I love this newspaper.  That makes it incredibly difficult to remind myself I’m also a student, or that it’s OK to pull away from email for a few minutes during a family dinner over break.

What advice do you have for j-students similarly aspiring to be EICs?

Find stories that matter. News shouldn’t be inconsequential, and if you don’t ask the tough questions, nobody else will. And don’t take any bullshit for being young.

What is one question we should be asking much more often about journalism?

Well, since I have to give up this job in May, right now all I’m asking is, “What can I do to get you to hire me?”  But aside from that, how can we equip budding journalists with all the data skills and news values they need to make a positive impact on the world?  It’s incredibly important for reporters to be unafraid of parsing through hundreds of pages of documents, or thousands of Excel cells– especially when we are often outnumbered by people who want to spin the story.

You wake up in ten years.  Where are you and what are you doing?

Reporting. Ideally, my job will involve a lot of travel. My parents taught me Hindi and Punjabi as a kid, and I took three years of Arabic at GW. I’d like a chance to actually practice those languages. I really hope I can’t predict more about my future life than that.

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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 recent Cavalier Daily digital-first plan and The American Eagle’s possible online-only predicament.  In addition, Bryan introduces Vine, a new six-second-video/animated .gif iPhone app with “killer news tool” potential.

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Hi2

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College Media Podcast: 2012 Student Press Year in Review

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Last week, NBC issued a public casting call for a planned reality show centered on a small town newspaper.  According to The New York Times, more than 150 newspapers responded– one even sent a video of its staffers lip syncing Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”

As the NYT reports, “NBC executives say they’ve been inundated with all types of pitches, from newspaper editors talking about how they are struggling to survive to newspaper staffs eager to show off their talents, sometimes well beyond their coverage of school meetings.”

Yet, one journo told Jim Romenesko, via his Facebook page, the reality of contemporary community journalism may not be quite ready for prime time: “The producers missed out on their chance to follow my dramatic life: Two and a half hours last night hearing about water and sewer rates, followed by a late dinner of cheese, crackers and beer. That, friends, is the reality show about small town weeklies.”

Forget sewer rates and cracker dinners.  I have 10 ideas of my own that deserve attention for the next fall season.  The shows are generally based in reality, at times with a staged or supernatural twist– depending on who I feel is their target audience. In a few cases, they also go beyond just newspapers, small towns, and the professional press.

Some are simply silly.  And others require sincerely high levels of journo geekdom to (even marginally) enjoy them.  But I have to say, if done right, I would actually watch most of these.  So NBC, here you go.

10 TV Shows About Journalism & Media Worth Watching

Zucker

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Plot outline: A powerful media mogul and former top morning show and network executive with a shiny forehead and Harvard roots attempts to turn around a struggling 24-hour news network.  Along the way, he is repeatedly forced to have “Dinner with the Kings.”

Gist: Think “Broadcast News” meets “Live from Baghdad” meets “Page One: Inside the New York Times.”

Guest stars: James Earl Jones as “The Voice” and Kaj Larsen as a former investigative reporter itching to get back in the field for some serious scoops.

Potential recurring sequence: Near the close of each episode, the real Zucker discusses his hopes and fears and gets inspiration from a hologram Zucker.

Cliffhanger possibilities: A love triangle somehow involving Kathy Griffin and Roger Ailes from Fox News; mysterious hijinks eventually connected to Conan O’Brien; and a Piers Morgan two-hour deportation special.

Survivor: Hazelwood

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Plot outline: A small band of journalism advocates fight regular battles against lawmakers, lawyers, judges, and school administrators– all tied to the infamous 1988 Hazelwood ruling that imposed severe limitations on student press and speech rights. Each episode revolves around a case at a different school or with a different student or student media outlet.  And, at some point during each show, people sing.

Gist: Think “The Good Wife” meets “CSI” meets “My So-Called Life” meets “Glee.”

Special episodes: 1) “In Texas, an appeals court throws out the First Amendment claims of a high school cheerleader who was disciplined after she quietly sat down rather than recite a cheer mentioning the name of an athlete who was later criminally charged with sexually assaulting her.”  2) “In Illinois, administrators at one of the nation’s biggest public high schools force students to produce a ‘sanitized’ newspaper removing articles about student drug use and shoplifting.”  3) “In Missouri, a public high school bans any depiction of tattoos, and briefly confiscates a newspaper over a photo of a student’s anti-cancer-ribbon tattoo.”  (All are actual Hazelwood cases.)

DVD extra: Cure Hazelwood, a site set up in 2012 by the Student Press Law Center.

Potential spin-off shows: “FERPA” and “The Clery Act”

Homicide Watch D.C.

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Plot outline: An impassioned husband-and-wife team start an independent news site to report on every unnatural death in the Washington D.C. area.  While ensuring everyone’s stories are told, they battle their emotions as they connect with the friends and family of the deceased– and at times the alleged and convicted assailants. At the same time, they struggle to produce innovative journalism and earn enough money to keep their crusade alive.

Gist: Think “The Social Network” meets “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

Special episodes: 1) Planted evidence leaves one of the staffers falsely accused of murder– and forces the spouse to cover the police investigation and trial.  2) An episode written by Aaron Sorkin focuses on the outlet’s coverage of President Bartlett’s “West Wing” assassination attempt– revealing it goes far beyond a few white supremacists in West Virginia.

Potential spin-off shows: “Homicide Watch Miami,” “Homicide Watch Las Vegas,” and “Homicide Watch Singapore” (after all, as one of the ad slogans in the country confirms, “Low Crime Doesn’t Mean No Crime”)

The Storm

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Plot: A top New Orleans newspaper attempts to move forward with a much smaller staff and a decreased print publication schedule, under the continued haunting specter of a major natural disaster and their extraordinary coverage of it.  Along the way, the editorial team battles upstart competitors and breaks tons of investigative exclusives.  And every once in a while, they also hunt vampires.  It will air three days a week.

Gist: Think HBO’s “Treme” meets “All the President’s Men” meets “Interview with a Vampire.”

Special episodes: 1) A real-time glimpse at staffers’ on-the-street reporting during Mardi Gras.  2) A look each year at the paper’s Katrina anniversary coverage, mixing newsroom footage with reporters and photographers talking about the tragedy with locals– and discussing its impact on their own lives.  (I’m picturing the latter episode in the vein of the recent HBO four-part photojournalist documentary “Witness.“)

Sex on Tuesday

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Plot outline: An unlucky-in-love female college student and campus newspaper sex columnist writes about her dating exploits, enduring friendships, and search for Mr. (and Ms.) Right.  Over time, she begins to realize the One may be the student sports reporter in the newsroom cubicle right beside her, but there’s a hitch– he’s president of the school’s abstinence club.

Gist: Think “His Girl Friday” meets “Private Parts” meets “Sex and the City.”

Potential show topics faced by the lead character in season one: threesomes, BDSM, interracial dating, sexual assault, bisexuality (including “being a vagina-tarian“), sex-positivity, pornographic video viewing, and how “the thought of being in a relationship scares the living shit out of me.”  (All are actual Sex on Tuesday topics published last semester in the excellent Daily Californian column.)

Potential spin-off shows: “Wednesday Hump” (name of long-running Daily Nexus sex column at UC Santa Barbara) and “Roxy Sass” (name of long-running Stanford Daily sex column at Stanford University).

E-book extra: My book, Sex and the University: Celebrity, Controversy, and a Student Journalism Revolution.

Red & Black & Blue

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Plot outline: One of the country’s top college newspapers rebuilds and rebrands after a digital-first reinvention– and a staff meltdown which made national headlines. Students at the paper also start a journalism fight club, but don’t talk about it– causing an ethical conundrum.

Gist: Think “The Paper” Penn State newspaper documentary meets “The Paper” by Ron Howard meets “The Paper” on MTV meets “Fight Club.”

Special episodes: 1) A real-time glimpse at the making of Ampersand Magazine, the Red & Black’s full-color newsmag.  2) A “To Hell with Georgia” fall two-parter featuring the Georgia Tech student paper aggressively mocking UGA– until journalism fight club fights back.

Potential spin-off show: “Ink and Fangs,” a dramedy about a group of students at a Florida university who launch an independent online news outlet after school administrators unconscionably shut down their campus newspaper and fire them.

News Mob: The Real OC Register

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Plot outline: Amid drastic cutbacks throughout the journalism industry, a single daily newspaper– in the real Orange County– goes on a massive hiring spree.  The paper is left with so many staffers, no one knows what to do.  News mobs– and actual violence– ensue.

Gist: Think “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” meets “The Insider” meets (an actually good) “State of Play.”

Special episodes: Real-time glimpses at the paper’s innovative news mobs– covering everything from Major League Baseball’s opening day to a day at Disney Land (“OC Disney”).

Out of Eden

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Plot outline: Renowned veteran journalist Paul Salopek spends seven years walking and reporting– retracing “the path our human ancestors followed out of Africa and across the world, ending at the southern tip of South America.  Along the route, Paul will report on the stories he encounters and share his experiences with students around the world.”  He also solves crimes, rights social injustices, delivers babies, and not only travels across countries but also through time– including to the future.

Gist: Think BBC’s “Doctor Who” meets anything on the National Geographic Channel meets “MacGyver” meets the middle of “Forrest Gump.”

Challenges Paul might face during the seven seasons: border trouble, getting lost, sickness without proper medical care, trouble at home, and a Skype video #epicfail.

Linkbait

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Plot outline: A competition regularly pits two reporters or reporting teams against one another, putting them on the same story or providing them with the same topic. The challenge: produce a digital package with higher traffic and social media shares by the given deadline– while also impressing an expert journalism judging panel.

Gist: Think “Project Runway” meets “60 Minutes” meets “Tosh.0” meets BuzzFeed.

Possible story prompts for season one: online love hoaxes, stair racing, Subway sandwich lengthslip syncing, and female soldiers in combat.

Season finale: Top reddit users brainstorm the story prompts and subsequently comment and vote on the posted content in real time.

Potential spin-off show: “Internet Famous Class

Paper Cuts

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Plot outline: A look at the lives of young and veteran journalists who are soldiering on, living with regrets or finding success after taking a buyout or being laid off from their job at a mainstream old-world media outlet.  Each week features a new post-employment narrative.  At times, top newsroom executives don disguises and report and edit alongside the editorial staff to see who is excelling and who needs to be laid off or bought out.

Gist: Think “Extreme Makeover” meets “Celebrity Rehab” meets “Undercover Boss” meets “The Apprentice.”

Potential spin-off shows: “No Raise This Year: A Comedy,” “No More Free Coffee in the Newsroom,” and “M.S. ASAP: Gimme a Journalism Master’s Degree So I Can Teach.”

DVD extra: Newspaper Death Watch— “Chronicling the Decline of Newspapers and the Rebirth of Journalism”

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The Cavalier Daily is going digital-first.  Beginning in August, the University of Virginia student newspaper will offer an expanded slate of online and mobile offerings and premiere a twice-weekly newsmagazine in place of its daily (four-times-per-week) print paper.  A new logo will even be unveiled.

With this leap, the CD joins other A-list student pubs undergoing full digital reinventions, including The State Press at Arizona State University, the Emerald at the University of Oregon, and The Red & Black at the University of Georgia.

It is also the second digital-first announcement of the semester, following one made by The Eagle at American University.  Yet, while the Eagle’s possible online-only transformation is being considered due to financial duress, the Cavalier Daily’s push is simply a matter of “riding the wave of contemporary journalism.”

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In a press release Friday confirming the switch, editor-in-chief Matthew Cameron explained, “Much of our audience is now getting its news online, and the print frequency reduction will free up time and resources that we can devote to producing digital content that is better tailored to our readers’ preferences.”

Late last year, in a wonderful show of support from UVA, the school’s Parents’ Committee provided $20,000 to help the paper’s digitization and rebranding.

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Financial Troubles May Force American University Student Newspaper to Go Online-Only

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The Eagle at American University may have to drop its weekly print edition if advertising revenue does not improve and another infusion of cash does not appear.

In a letter to readers published earlier this week, editor-in-chief Zach Cohen confirmed a post-print Eagle is a strong possibility come fall 2013– at least temporarily.

As Cohen wrote, “Following many years of declining ad sales, the increase in free advertising options elsewhere and the crunch on small businesses in the recession, printing the Eagle every week has become a burdensome cost, leaving our writers to increasingly work with fewer resources. . . . As we move forward with more focus on digital journalism, the future of the Eagle in print is unclear.  If it does disappear, this does not mean the Eagle is abandoning print forever.  We may be able to raise the money necessary to bring back a print edition in a different form, perhaps once a month or even weekly again.”

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The Eagle is in the minority within collegemediatopia for being solely reliant on advertising.  Two plans of attack to help offset its current and forecasted financial strain: joining the school’s student media board, funded by student activity fees (“No matter what, editorial independence is still safe.”); and upping its fundraising/endowment game.

In addition, Cohen says the paper “will be boosting its online presence both on our newly redesigned website and on social media.  We’ll be improving our work in video and continue to bring the news to you as it happens on live-blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.  Rather than you going to the news racks to pick up a copy of the paper, you’ll get more of the news from your laptop, tablet, and smartphone. . . . Change in journalism does not mean its end.  We’re just getting started.”

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American’s Eagle Forced to Clip Budget, Print Run

Student Journalists at American University Speak for First Time About Breast-Feeding Story Controversy

American University Student Body President Announces Gender Switch in Campus Newspaper Op-Ed

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The Beacon staff are hitting some brick walls— and they’re reaching out publicly for help.  In an editorial prominently featured in its first issue of the semester, the University of Portland student newspaper is taking a few UP officials to task for their lack of availability and the pre-reqs they throw out to Beaconites seeking interviews.

As the editorial– overtly headlined “An Appeal to the Administration“– shares, “Beacon reporters call administrators to include their voices in stories that directly involve them. Yet some administrators and staff members consistently make it difficult for us to do our jobs.  Some say they are simply too busy to meet with a reporter for a 15-minute conversation.”

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Along with the “sorry, I’m busy” excuse, the paper cites other administrative roadblocks including individuals who require an advance list of questions, opt for email-only interviews or hold back due to fears of being misquoted.  One last legitimate concern: “Some potential interviewees simply do not even respond to interview requests, or, even worse, do not show up to scheduled interviews.  Now, that’s just rude.”

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The bottom line: “[L]eaders in the UP community, administrators, and staff members have an obligation to the students, staff and faculty to be honest about issues going at the university that directly affect our lives.  By refusing to speak about these issues with the Beacon, they are shirking this obligation.”

I’ve emailed Beacon editor-in-chief Liz Tertadian for more context on what spurred the editorial and accompanying “less than ideal” cartoon.  I’ll post an update if and when she responds.

Update, from Tertadian: “[T]here was no one big incident that caused this.  Rather, it has been a chronic problem our staff has to deal with every year.  Especially this year, when some interviews were actually for light profile pieces.  To be given the runaround is frustrating, and so we decided it was time to push back.  I think a key thing is that we wanted to give a shout-out to those who do engage with us on a regular basis.  Most people on campus, especially professors, are really great with interviews.  It’s only a select few in the administration that make it much more difficult than it really has to be.  We just want to engage in open, face-to-face discussions with everyone on campus.”

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Portland’s Ministry Director on Student Newsroom Takeover: ‘Not Trying to Gloat, But We Won This One’

At University of Portland, ‘Campus Ministry Forces Student Media Out’

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