Archive for March, 2013

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 burgeoning budget woes at student press outlets and “News on the Go,” a new ebook focused on mobile storytelling.  The main talk stems from the funding woes faced by a pair of top-notch student newspapers at community colleges located on separate coasts: The Sun at Southwestern College and The Centurion at Bucks County Community College.  As the Sun’s beloved faculty adviser Max Branscomb sums things up: “It’s a tough time for college journalism.

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College Media Podcast: 2012 Student Press Year in Review

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It is fast becoming the letter to end all letters to the editor, provoking such impassioned, outsized interest it may have literally crashed the student newspaper website on which it is housed.

The Daily Princetonian published a letter yesterday from Susan Patton, a Princeton University alumnae who is also the mother of a current Princeton student and a young Princeton alum– both men. Patton’s earnest missive, aimed at Princeton women, presents “what you really need to know that nobody is telling you.”

In the letter, she urges female Princeton students to quickly find a suitable husband from among the university’s undergraduate male population.  Noting “If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them,” she writes, “For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.  Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”

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Why is she advising Princeton women to grab a hubby with such haste?  Because beyond the school’s Ivy-covered walls, it seems the world is lacking in brainy gentlemen.

“Smart women can’t (shouldn’t) marry men who aren’t at least their intellectual equal,” Patton contends.  “As Princeton women, we have almost priced ourselves out of the market. Simply put, there is a very limited population of men who are as smart or smarter than we are.  And I say again– you will never again be surrounded by this concentration of men who are worthy of you.  Of course, once you graduate, you will meet men who are your intellectual equal– just not that many of them.”

One other nugget for Princeton Tigresses: Don’t date younger.  In Patton’s words: “As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?”

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The letter has inspired a bevy of snarky and intense putdowns in the press and oodles of online comments.  The entire Princetonian website is currently down (a temporary site has been started in its stead)– a result of a Patton-inspired traffic surge?

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As Nina Bahadur asks in a Huffington Post piece, “Do you really think Ivy Leaguers are the only smart people out there? . . . Princeton students are smart, but they’re not the smartest people in the world. Not everyone in the world applied to Princeton, and admissions criteria is definitely not just about your ‘smarts’ (I hope).  And let’s not belittle the intelligence of people who, for whatever reason, didn’t make it to college, or maybe even through any formal schooling at all.  It’s a big world.”

For her part, in a follow-up interview, Patton expressed surprise at the letter’s virility, while sticking to her guns about the advice it contains: “I’m astounded by the extreme reaction.  Honestly, I just thought this was some good advice from a Jewish mother. It’s not that I’m anti-feminist. . . . I’m just saying, if as a young [Princeton] woman, you are thinking that you would like to have not just professional success but personal success as part of your life happiness, keep an open mind to the men that you’re surrounded with now.  Because these are the best guys.  You’ll meet wonderful men outside of Princeton, but you’ll never have the numbers in your favor the way you do now.”

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Princeton Student’s Column Criticizing Annual Giving Prompts Online Comments War

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The Daily Pennsylvanian is putting “stricter policies” in place for determining the suitability of controversial advertisements.  Top staff at the University of Pennsylvania student newspaper reexamined their ad stances after sparking a mini-hullabaloo earlier this month with an advertisement called “Faces of Islamic Apartheid.”

The ad was created and sold to the paper by the provocative David Horowitz Freedom Center, which says it aims to “[combat] the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror.”  Student newspapers nationwide regularly run ads from the Center, often leading to campus quarrels and consternations– undoubtedly part of the Center’s plan.

The description of “Faces of Islamic Apartheid” (screenshot below): “It shows six photos, as if seen through a sniper rifle, overlaid with the Islamic crescent and star. The photos depict a range of Muslim individuals who have been killed or sentenced to death in recent years, and the ad blames Islam for their deaths.”

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The DP ran the ad in a recent Friday issue.  As a Penn sophomore wrote in response in a letter to the editor, “[Y]our decision to publish such a distasteful, unethical, and downright degrading ad is extremely unnerving and does not deserve any place in our university’s atmosphere. . . . The ad is altogether disrespectful, outrageous, and embarrassing.  To put crosshairs on innocent people, to blame Islam– which has a devout following on campus and in the greater community in West Philadelphia– and to circulate these images around campus is utterly repulsive and disappointing.”

This repulsion and disappointment prompted the paper to reexamine the policies and larger purposes surrounding its advertising arm.

As executive editor Jennifer Sun shared in a letter from the editor soon after, “The DP’s executive board decided on Friday that we will no longer publish advertisements from the David Horowitz Freedom Center. We’ve also set stricter policies to consider other advertisements more holistically. Any advertisements deemed questionable will be discussed by our executive board before making a decision to publish. . . . We do our best to balance between being a free outlet for all opinions and serving our community by ensuring the newspaper is a place where our readers feel comfortable expressing their beliefs.”

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Part of a Penn doctoral student’s reaction: “In taking this step, the paper recognized– admirably, in my opinion– that the principle of free speech does sometimes come into conflict with other high-order values like tolerance, civility and humanity.”

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Georgia’s Red & Black Runs Full-Page ‘Trash-Talk Ad’ Predicting Florida Football Win

Anti-Romney College Football Ad in Ohio State Lantern Grabs Eyeballs, Press Attention

Novelist Says University of Arkansas Student Newspaper Rejected Ad for Her ‘Big Chicken’ Book

Collegiate Times Editor at Virginia Tech: Paper Does Not Support Anti-Muslim Advertisement

Follow me on Twitter @collegemedia.

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The Daily Lobo at the University of New Mexico is once again publishing a full print edition, a day after literally X-ing out all content in protest of student press censorship at a nearby community college.

As I previously posted, officials at Central New Mexico Community College suspended The CNM Chronicle student newspaper this week almost immediately after the Chronicle published a sex issue.  Officials also removed copies of the issue from newsracks across campus.

To display its simultaneous support for the Chronicle and disgust for CNM administrators’ actions, the Daily Lobo censored itself.  In an excellent front-page editorial in yesterday’s print edition, editor-in-chief Elizabeth Cleary called the mess at CNM “a ruthless and authoritarian display of censorship”– revealing that apparently at one point officials at the college “even pried the issue out of students’ hands if they saw them reading it.”

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Apart from the editorial, the paper ran black Xs in place of all articles and photos, leaving the rest of the issue comprised of only ads.  The symbolic act received bundles of kudos and outside media attention.  Cleary promised the paper would continue running the Xs until the Chronicle was once again allowed to publish without admin. interference.

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Fortunately, CNM apologized and reinstated the Chronicle yesterday, meaning the Daily Lobo is once again running editorial content in print, in full.  The lead story in today’s issue: the happy Chronicle news.

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Central New Mexico Community College Reinstates Student Newspaper After Sex Issue Brouhaha

Central New Mexico Community College Suspends Student Newspaper After Sex Issue

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Earlier this month, in a Manhattan hotel conference room, a student journalist admitted being nervous about an upcoming business reporting internship.  “I’m going to be blunt,” she said.  “I’m 20.  I don’t know about the Stock Exchange.  I’ve never even done my own taxes.”

She asked the featured speakers seated at the front of the room– Business Insider Executive Editor Joe Weisenthal and Deputy Editor Nicholas Carlson— what resources she should check out to learn about the financial world.

Weisenthal responded immediately with a smile: “Start reading Business Insider.”

A bit more than four years after its launch (and six years after the launch of its smaller predecessor Silicon Alley Insider), BI has become one of the boldest business news sites in the world. Its coverage base has expanded from tech and Wall Street to areas such as politics, retail, advertising, sports, science, and military and defense.  It boasts roughly 100 staffers and 25 million monthly unique visitors (though Compete.com pegs uniques at 3.8 million last October). Amid jabs at its editorial and aggregation practices, it is regularly held up as a digital news success story — with hopes its profits will match its web hits in the years to come.

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As 24/7 Wall St. shared last summer, “Operators of traditional sites are left to wonder if they have to copy some of BI’s editorial tactics and give up decades-old values or be trampled by BI as it scrambles to increase its audience and expand into new operations. . . . BI has given readers what few sites do– almost no reason to go elsewhere to get information.”

During the recent Spring National College Media Convention staged by the College Media Association (CMA), Weisenthal and Carlson, two of BI’s chief operators, shared advice with student attendees about web writing, audience building, social media mechanics, and a few old-school journalism fundamentals.

I moderated the pair’s session. Its title: “How to Succeed at Business Insider– and Digital Journalism– By Really Trying.”  Below is a top 10 sampling of their tips and perspectives.

1. A WHOLE SUITE OF STORIES

The most cogent, repeated point made by both editors throughout the session: In the digital sphere, standalone articles should be treated as an increasingly rare species. Instead, focus on information streams, ever-flowing.

“We don’t really think of things we put up as ‘an article,'” said Carlson. “It’s a bit of information conveyed to people. One of my old colleagues used to say that the last sentence of your last post is the first sentence of your next post. Because by the time you reach the end you sort of come to a cliff, ‘Oh I have another thought on this and I’m just going to put it in the next post.’ In a way, it does sort of become a narrative. For sure, I think [that’s] the attraction of reading something at Business Insider. . . . It’s a live medium where the narrative is always coming out with the next thing.”

Weisenthal is often reminded how differently digital outlets such as BI work when it comes time to submit content for awards.  “They have the journalism competitions where they invite people to apply and they always say, ‘Submit your top three posts for consideration that you’re most proud of’ or something like that,” he said. “And I can never come up with the stuff. I don’t think I have a single great post last year that I’m really proud of. Everything I write is part of this bigger stream.”

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He pointed to his real-time blanket coverage of the monthly U.S. jobs report as an example. “If you follow me on Jobs Day, within like 20 minutes of the report coming out, I have a summary posted,” he said. “Then I have another post singling out one detail I thought was interesting. I have another post saying what it might mean for interest rates and fed policy. I have another post talking about the political dimensions and so forth. I’m proud of the fact that it’s this whole suite of stories.”

2. GET IN PEOPLE’S FACE

The mobile and online arenas perpetuate a browse-and-pick routine in which readers stumble across content through a variety of sites, apps, and social media. Simply slapping stories onto a homepage and expecting exposure is almost sickeningly out of touch. Every single story or info stream must be marketed individually and repeatedly, through their headlines and the work of writers and editors to promote them.

“There’s always this ongoing competition,” Weisenthal said. “You have to sell every piece. And we really want to be read. We really want to stand out. We really want every story that we write to get in people’s face. I just think that’s, in general, a really good attitude to have. You want to be the one who controls the conversation.”

3. HOW YOU SHOULD TELL READERS YOU’RE EXCITED

In the ongoing digital content conversation and competition, the most important salesmen are headlines. To shape quality headers, according to Weisenthal and Carlson, start by dropping the journalese.

As Weisenthal shared, “A phenomenon that we see a lot is someone will be like ‘Check out this crazy slam dunk of some guy doing a 360’ or ‘Check out this crazy chart of the price of gold skyrocketing.’ And that’s a great thing. You tell your friend that, and then they’ll put it on the site and [the headline] will be like ‘Gold rises 25 percent in two weeks,’ which is not nearly as exciting. It’s like, ‘Why didn’t you sell it like you just told me on IM?’ How you tell your friend something you’re excited about, that’s how you should tell your readers you’re excited about it.”

So simply put, what should go into a digital news headline? Carlson advised keeping the focus on “the most exciting part of the story, why the story matters, the stakes, the gist, and why anybody is talking about it.”

A sampling of headlines topping recent posts by Carlson and Weisenthal: “The Best Move For Cyprus Might Be To Hold A Gun To Its Own Head”; “Everyone Betting Against The Yen Is Having A Bad Day”; “Here’s Shaq Making Chris Christie Look Incredibly Tiny”; “A Startup Rejected Facebook’s Acquisition Bid, And Now Facebook Is Choking It To Death”; “We Talked To A Mailbox Investor Shortly After It Sold, And He Said: ‘Holy S—! These Guys Actually Did It!'”; “Someone Paid $10,000 To Say The Line ‘Your Check, Sir’ In The Veronica Mars Movie”; “For The First Time In Ages, Apple’s Stock Is Starting To Perform Well”; and “In One Chart You’ll See Why Nothing’s Getting Fixed In Europe.”

4. NOT ALL THAT DIFFERENT FROM IM

Along with selling the excitement, the BI editors stressed the importance of making your suite of stories conversational— and not a word longer than they have to be.

As Carlson confirmed about BI’s editorial style, “What we do is not all that different from Instant Messenger. Except instead of talking to one person you’re talking to everyone who comes to BusinessInsider.com. It’s just very conversational. You write it with the same clarity that you write an IM. I’m just trying to talk to you. That’s how I’m going to write it. The ideas are not going to be super-simple ideas, but the language is not laborious to get through. Short just happens to be a lot easier to digest than long.”

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5. A REALLY GOOD AMBITION TO HAVE

Carlson said one of the core traits of most successful BI staffers is simple, unswayed ambition. As he explained, “They don’t wait for someone to tell them to start having ambitious ideas. They kind of just have them and then pursue them. . . . It’s a competitive spirit of wanting to win and wanting to have your career do really well and actually going after it– instead of being passive about it and seeing what great assignment someone’s going to give you.”

Weisenthal doubled down on those words of wisdom, stressing, “That sort of hunger to know something and to establish yourself as someone who makes people say, ‘Yes, they’re awesome on this subject’ is a really good ambition to have.”

To read the rest, click here or on the screenshot below.

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Central New Mexico Community College administrators have reinstated The CNM Chronicle, roughly a day after shutting it down.

As I posted yesterday, school officials suspended the student newspaper this week almost immediately after the publication of a sex issue.  They also removed copies of the issue from newsracks across campus.

The issue includes features on BDSM, abstinence, local classes on “sexual violence, G-spots or how to give a great blow job,” sex toys, and sexual identification– the latter a centerpiece spread spotlighting “a group of people with varying sexual backgrounds . . . discuss[ing] what life is like for them as people in Albuquerque.”

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Initially, CNM officials said they were censoring the issue and temporarily closing the paper because the sexually explicit content was “offensive and not appropriate for the educational mission of CNM.”

Yet, at an emergency meeting of the Student Publications Board earlier today, college president Katharine Winograd said that in reality “[t]he reason that we pulled this issue from the newsracks around campus was that a high school student was included in this issue and we needed to check on the legal ramifications of information on a minor in a publication of the college.”

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According to the Student Press Law Center, “a 17-year-old was included in the newspaper, but . . . there are no legal problems with including a minor.  Further, as part of [Chronicle editor-in-chief Jyllian Roach’s] personal policy, parental consent had been obtained before the minor was included.  Roach said she thinks communication could have kept the situation from becoming so severe.  ‘My first reaction was, ‘Oh, well, you could have just asked me,’ Roach said of hearing Winograd’s explanation today.”

Winograd’s other bit of news: “I am authorizing the CNM Chronicle to continue operations immediately.”

My Take: Huh?  Since when is it illegal to quote a 17-year-old in the press with their full knowledge and consent?  Either Winograd is lying about this being the reason for the censorship or she oversees a school built atop overreactions, legal confusion, shifty explanations, and a lack of communication.

I’m happy to see CNM officials have partially come to their senses.  But they still need to apologize for their removal of the issue from the newsracks, an act Roach rightly describes as “so far beyond censorship it’s heartbreaking.”

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Central New Mexico Community College Suspends Student Newspaper After Sex Issue

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Update: Central New Mexico Community College Reinstates Student Newspaper After Sex Issue Brouhaha

Administrators at Central New Mexico Community College have suspended The CNM Chronicle student newspaper in response to a sex issue published yesterday. Officials also pulled copies of the paper off campus newsracks, calling the content “offensive and not appropriate for the educational mission of CNM.”

The 12-page themed issue includes features on BDSM, abstinence, local classes on “sexual violence, G-spots or how to give a great blow job,” sex toys, and sexual identification– the latter a centerpiece spread spotlighting “a group of people with varying sexual backgrounds . . . discuss[ing] what life is like for them as people in Albuquerque.”

A separate man on the street rundown spotlights six student responses to the question “What is your favorite sexual position?”  (Doggy style, 69, missionary, and the figure eight, for those scoring at home.)

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A statement released by the administration: “CNM is temporarily suspending the operations of the CNM Chronicle pending a full evaluation of the structure and oversight of the student newspaper with hopes of being back up and running by the summer term.  The Chronicle staff will be reassigned to other work-study positions during the evaluation. . . . CNM is going to re-evaluate how students can be trained, educated and supervised in operating a widely disseminated student publication.”

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Earlier this month, the college publicly praised the paper in an online news release, noting, “The CNM Chronicle student newspaper earned a third-place finish in the Associated Collegiate Press ‘Best in Show’ category for two-year colleges in the United States and Canada.”

Sex has apparently complicated things.

My Take: CNM officials, as a bona fide expert on this slice of the universe, I can confirm this issue is incredibly tame by student press sex edition standards.  Now here’s the real news flash: Students in college sometimes have sex– and they’re almost always making decisions related to it.  (Even abstinence is a sexual decision.)

Public expression and a smidgen of enlightenment about it– involving different practices, orientations, choices, resources, and safety methods– might compel students to be more responsible, confident, and knowledgable sexual creatures.  Go a tad bit higher-minded and it can easily be argued the issue isn’t about sex at all.  It’s about student exploration– of their public, private, past, current, and future selves.

So to review, the buzzwords: Expression.  Enlightenment.  Responsible.  Confident. Knowledgable.  Exploration.  See anything that doesn’t fit in with the higher ed experience?  Stop treating sex like a dirty word.  Censorship is the real dirty word.

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