Posts Tagged ‘Online Journalism’

The UWM Post at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will no longer be published in print.  The culprits?  Cash flow problems, a declining audience, and a hardcore desire to digitally reinvent.

As staff confirmed in a special editorial published on the front page of its current issue and featured on its homepage, “This is our last print issue.  No amount of money-saving or money-generating suggestions or well wishes could save us from this fate.  . . . The truth is, our audience was no longer there. The community we served had moved on without us, and to be honest, it had been so long since we had bothered to check that we don’t even know when we lost them.  When we made the decision to pull the plug on the Post . . . [m]ore than half of the papers we printed we recycled without anyone ever even touching them. Shame on us for letting it get so bad.  That ends here.”

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As I previously posted, the UWM paper had all but predicted its print-less endgame earlier this semester.  At the time, staff took pay cuts and dropped its print run.  But in an open letter online, eds. noted, “Even with these measures in place, we will be lucky if we can keep printing through November.”

Now, at November’s end, the pub’s print luck has run out.  Its next frontier: the online sphere.  And within it, staff are seemingly going for broke.

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To their credit, the Post leadership is thinking big, aiming to present its readers with something they have never seen before from the outlet.  The Post 2.0 will sport “boxes,” “nuggets,” and “scopes” in place of articles, sections, and beats.  And “disruptors” will soon join the staff to tinker with digital tools and keep on top of new online production and consumption habits.

For example, as the Post explains about its rejiggered website, “The entire home page is a real-time feed of the Post’s collective content.  Each piece of content is self-contained within a box, providing the information and easy sharing links.  The boxes float together into the feed and are organized chronologically, with each new piece of content bumping down the old in an endless scrolling stream.”

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A provocative piece published late last week on NextGen Journal arguing all social media managers should be under 25 years old has stirred incomparable levels of rancor and commenting.  NextGen founder and editor-in-chief Connor Toohill confirms it is the most controversial post appearing on the site since its inception in fall 2010.

In the piece, fresh University of Iowa graduate Cathryn Sloane contends social media is a phenomenon embedded most intricately within the DNA of teens and young twentysomethings.  Their innate knowledge of its ins-and-outs, according to Sloane, makes them “the ones who can best predict, execute, and utilize the finest developments to come,” including in the workplace.

As she writes, “I do commend the way companies . . . have jumped on the social media bandwagon and recognized that it is the best way to connect with people nowadays.  Yet, every time I see a job posting for a Social Media Manager/Associate/etc. and find the employer is looking for five to ten years of direct experience, I wonder why they don’t realize the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience.”

From her perspective, individuals middle-aged and older do not fully understand what they’re doing on social media.  In her words, “No one else will ever be able to have as clear an understanding of these services [as younger people], no matter how much they may think they do. . . . To many people in the generations above us, Facebook and Twitter are just the latest ways of getting messages out there to the public, that also happen to be the best.  The specificity of the ways in which the method should be used is usually beyond them, however.”

Soon after the piece appeared online, readers began fighting back.  As of this morning, roughly 450 comments (and thousands of replies and ‘likes’ for those comments) have been posted– many written by ‘older’ individuals belying the naivete or inaccuracy of Sloane’s assessment.

Two examples:

In a follow-up post acknowledging the piece’s virality and controversy, Toohill confirms it even divided NextGen’s editorial board.  But he reasons it is still a sentiment shared by many young people and deserves to be considered.  As he writes, “In conversations across college campuses and with young professionals, these ideas often come up: that young people naturally grasp social media more effectively, that members of our generation are best suited to fill positions in the rapidly expanding social media profession, and that employers too often value prior work experience above all else.

A separate rebuttal from social media guru and University of Maryland prof. Mark Story lays out several points he feels Sloane glossed over or left out.  Among them, as he explains to Sloane directly, “[Y]ou confused familiarity with using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter with the ability to turn that into offering actionable, solid communications advice for internal or external clients.  There is a BIG difference between posting Facebook Timeline updates and telling General Motors what to do with their own social media presence in the midst of a crisis.”

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The Optimist student newspaper at Abilene Christian University can be consumed in print, online, via iPhone, iPod touch, and soon enough . . . on the iPad.  Student staffers and an ACU faculty and staff support team are optimistic that the paper will be the first iPad-friendly student publication.

As MacNewsWorld reports, “Designing a publication for hardware one can’t get one’s hands on yet can be challenging, admitted ACU Assistant Journalism Professor Kenneth Pybus. ‘It’s like designing a newspaper without paper,’ he [said]. Even with the developer’s kit for the iPad issued by Apple, ‘there are some things that we’re not sure how they’re going to work,’ he noted. ‘We’re deciding, how much of the built-in Apple operating system do we use, and how much do we build on our own?‘”

In a quick exclusive chat with CMM, Optimist editor in chief Colter Hettich lays out a bit about the newspaper’s and school’s iPad plan and the thinking behind it.

How will iPad integration add to the news consumption experience of your readers?

I think the iPad will take readers one step closer to the type of news consumption they want.  It’s textile, it’s customizable, and it’s mobile.

What is the appeal of moving so fast toward integration versus waiting to see how the device catches on?

This is not about the iPad. This is about understanding a new technology and discovering its potential to improve news delivery. The iPad just happens to be one of the latest devices. We expect maybe a dozen students to have an iPad in the fall, and if it turns out to be as popular as the iPhone, then that will be an added bonus.

What is involved in rolling it out?

This project permeates several departments on campus.  Students from the JMC department, the department of Art & Design, and the iSchool are working under faculty guidance to produce an app designed around Optimist content.

Why is it important for student media to stay on the cutting edge of high-technology and new media trends like iPad?

Right now, keeping up with technology is key to a journalist’s survival. Newspapers were once the primary method of delivering print news because it was the only option and people liked it. Now, people would rather not read a 12-square foot stack of paper. They’re using the Web via laptops and mobile devices, they’re following social networking sites, and journalism is adapting. The iPad likely could be a trend, but whether it is or not has nothing to do with our efforts. What we learn while designing for the iPad will be invaluable when we sit down to design for the next device or platform.

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I recently came across an interesting audio interview featuring Davis Shaver and Evan Kalikow, two of the undergrad gurus behind Penn State University’s “unruly news blog” Onward State.  For those who might forget, the pair and their PSU new(s) media machine earned a prominent shout-out in a mid-January Chronicle of Higher Ed. piece.  The lead: “Davis Shaver may be the future of alternative student media. From his room in Springfield- a dorm floor painted with characters from ‘The Simpsons’ the Penn State sophomore battles a storied college newspaper that employs 200 student journalists.”

Late last month, Shaver and Kalikow took a brief break from battle to speak with Kelly Sutton, co-founder and top gun of the crazy cool student betterment and empowerment blog HackCollege (more on him and HC in an upcoming post).  One thing I learned about Onward State through the trio’s chat: It was almost called Keystone!  Fortunately, this brainstorm was quickly nixed during the “alpha” planning stage.  (Onward State, meanwhile, is apparently a phrase popularized on campus through a PSU football fight song.)

Otherwise, along with a very funny exchange about the (lack of) quality of the band Nickelback, my three favorite snippets from the interview are below.

Shaver, discussing his about-face on joining The Daily Collegian, PSU’s student paper, and instead starting OS: “Last fall, I arrived at Penn State and I was planning on joining the newspaper.  I got there and it just kind of felt- I don’t know- like a newspaper. I realized that I didn’t really want to be doing another four years at a paper. You know, because through high school [he worked on a student paper], which is different but still the same kind of thing.”

A quick breakdown of the Collegian/Onward State competition factor:

Sutton: Is there a certain rivalry between you and the Collegian, like do you guys not sit at the same tables in the cafeteria?

Shaver: There have been definitely occasions where the tension between the two media outlets kind of went over to our extracurricular social lives.  For the most part, it’s a fun, I think, professional kind of thing.  We both want to do a good job and when we’re trying to go after the same students, naturally we’re going to compete.

A back-and-forth on what the future holds for collegemediatopia:

Sutton: As far as I know, you guys are one of the first groups of people to kind of do this successfully.  Do you think these types of things will be more commonplace . . . to the point where student newspapers will just completely go away and you’ll have things like Onward State that just get like handed down from year to year?

Shaver: I think the major question . . . is [after the founders of these sites graduate] how do you transition it to the next generation of staff?  We’ll know the full story in about two years.

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Eight Northwestern University students. A “cheap pizza joint.” Spirited conversation about a shared love of art and architecture. An idea for a publication whose aim would be nothing less than to “provide a forum for greater exchange among an expanding community of students who devote their time to studying, thinking and writing about art.”  The Northwestern Art Review was born.

Cut to three years later.  2010.  NAR 3.0.  Two words on the cover of the current issue say it all, talking about both the art world and the publication’s future, “Now What?”  It is a question NAR publisher Cameron Henderson is sweating– a situation only troublesome because Henderson happens to be allergic to his own sweat.

Henderson, 22, now an NU senior, was at the pizza joint three years ago.  The history and African studies double major has been instrumental in NAR’s evolution and success.  He has seen immense readership growth for the online journal, along with burgeoning crowds and dynamism at related campus events. The pub’s profile is high- and a majority of its staffers will soon be leaving/graduating.  As Henderson told North By Northwestern, “We’re really at crossroads right now. The last three founding members have sought to make NAR more cemented and sustained on campus. We’re at a place right now where I feel comfortable leaving the organization this year in the hands of others, but there are just so many possibilities for our direction in the future.”

Below, in an exclusive chat with CMM, Henderson shares a few thoughts about the past, present, and future of NAR and his own artistic passions.

Cameron Henderson is the current publisher and a founding member of Northwestern Art Review.

Write a six-word memoir of your Northwestern Art Review experience.

College art critics?  We are online.

Standout NAR memory.

During the first year of the Northwestern Art Review’s creation the founding members embarked on our first season of programming.  We secured funds to pay for two buses to charter students from Northwestern’s campus to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s opening party for a Jenny Holzer exhibition.  We fought for funds, worked in conjunction with the MCA, and prepared for what we thought would be a great event.  However, as the buses departed for the museum, I looked from my seat to see only about 20 people on buses capable of carrying 100 students to our event.  Most of the attendees were the journal’s staff.  Thus came the epiphany: There is a long long way to go.

Now the Northwestern Art Review is an established organization commanding crowds of 150 to 200 people for our events.  In just three years we have seen our readership increase 20 fold and our presence in the art community of Northwestern and Chicago become ever more dynamic.  That first event and the inherent difficulty of creating an academic journal have not been forgotten.  It is now a marker of how far we have come and more importantly of the further growth the Northwestern Art Review is capable of.

What does the current issue, NAR 3.0, offer interested readers?

The most recent edition is undoubtedly the most cohesive and polished journal we have published yet.  NAR 3.0 takes aim at the eternal question of the value and purpose of art.  This is a question that has haunted artists for centuries. However, the current era for artists is one even more daunting: There is a seemingly boundless amount of freedom coupled with an extreme pressure to distinguish one’s practice from that of one’s peers.  As my editor Elliot Reichert has said, “Of course, artists of every age have grappled with the fundamental questions of the value and purpose of art, but never with such a self-conscious awareness of the history of art, its social functions, and its potential for significantly impacting the lived experience at a juncture when it appears to have both everywhere and nowhere to go.”  Art and publishing are at a similar crossroads and this departure from the status quo is something NAR and the most relevant artists of today are exploring.

Where does your love of art come from?

I have always possessed an inherent fascination with color, texture, and the other characteristics of invigorating design.  At a young age I did not realize that my interests could be summed up as an interest in art and design.  Rather, new basketball shoes were not only pragmatic purchases to assist in my passion for sport but were adventures in architecture and craftsmanship. Cars were loved not simply for the power and vigor found in the engine but for the strength and beauty found in the lines of the car’s grill.  Simply put, I have always had a fervent attraction for aesthetic endeavors.  Additionally, I have been very fortunate to have parents who have not only encouraged my pursuit of the arts but have been passionate examples themselves.  Museums have always been places that we have visited together and art, music, theater and more have all been abundantly discussed.

NAR is at the forefront of art journals moving online.  What are the advantages of the online medium for a publication like NAR?

When the Northwestern Art Review was first created three years ago publishing was yet to be in the doldrums that it is in today.   However, being that NAR was just born and we had to create a sustainable business model, we were forced to completely analyze all costs and options objectively without prior precedent. We examined the costs of publishing on paper thoroughly.  For the level of image quality that we deemed necessary the costs were completely out of reach.  For the kind of readership we were striving for, and most importantly the quality of appearance, we would have had to raise roughly $15,000 just for our first edition.  We had about $2,000 in our coffers to start.  Thus, the online format not only became attractive but a necessity.

When NAR was first founded the general sentiment was that as we became more relevant nationally we would begin printing on paper.  However, now as NAR is more established the benefits of existing online are now fully apparent. Firstly and most importantly, we are capable of exhibiting only the most high-resolution images for the journal.   The artist’s work is done much more justice on the glossy screen of a MacBook than on newspaper quality paper. Furthermore, publishing online has enabled us to reach a much broader audience then if we were disseminating paper copies.  Our readership is international and this would have been a foolish dream if we were using a printing press.

Finally, functioning as an Internet based publication allows us to incorporate many more features than if we were publishing a journal quarterly.  We have an active blog, serve as the epicenter for undergraduate criticism, and use the myriad of social networking sites to promote our work.  We are more significant today within the art community than we ever would have thought possible simply because we are accessible online.

What is the most challenging part of running a student art journal?

Undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of leading the Northwestern Art Review is establishing a dedicated and consistent reader base.  Furthermore, since we are publishing an academic journal, we have to abide by a higher standard of scholarship.  Not only do we need to attract readers by publishing exciting and pertinent information, we have to satisfy the academic portion of our readership that demand only the most immaculate scholarship.  Thus, we are forced to confront a dual-natured readership. However, this is an exciting challenge.  The blending of academic art criticism and more general art enthusiasm creates a product that is applicable to all.

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

I will be serving as an attorney specializing in the intellectual property aspect of artwork. I will be working on a daily basis with artists, publishing houses, museums, and creative agencies.   Such a job would enable me to pursue the myriad of interests I possess all which are focused on the beauty of artistic practices.  Furthermore, I will be contributing essays to publications like Art Forum or Art in America as a fresh voice presenting a different perspective on the art market and its trends.  Most importantly, I will be working in a field that I am passionate about and will be surrounding myself on a daily basis with the most invigorating and original individuals possible.

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As undoubtedly many student newspaper staffers now already know, the main servers for the uber-influential and widely-used College Publisher online hosting service suffered a major security breach in the middle of last week.

As a trusted source confirmed to me, “The site was hacked Wednesday night and people started deleting database and archive files for lots of student publications. It was a huge attack that caused many problems for student publications. . . . The site is back up, their Web site redesign is back, but a lot of their recent improvements were wiped out entirely.”

A statement from College Publisher defined the hack job as a denial-of-service attack, noting, “In essence, this is basically a malicious attempt to make a computer resource unavailable to its intended users. . . . Fortunately the front end of the sites continued to serve without interruption, but the admin area was rendered inactive (resulting in newspapers inability to log in and post new content). . . . Since about midnight on February 3rd, our developers have worked to verify the database’s integrity.   By working through the night, we recovered the data from the database and learned that no data was lost or compromised, but the structure of the database remained in need of significant repair.”

The speed with which the CP support team has sprung into action and the smart decision to provide public updates on the homepage is impressive.  As of now, it appears it will simply mean a few more hiccups for student press staffers logging in and a mountain of work by the CP tech gurus, but no permanent harm.  If you serve on or advise a student pub that has been affected or have some knowledge about what’s going down, additional information is appreciated…

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This past February at New York University, NYU Local reporter Charlie Eisenhood embedded himself inside a cafeteria at New York University to document a highly publicized sit-in staged by a fringe student group, Take Back New York University (TBNYU).

For more than forty-eight hours, without much food and even less sleep, Eisenhood reported basically nonstop through real-time blog updates, video interviews, and photos, many of them exclusive, leading to an unprecedented spike in Web traffic and interest in the new media upstart.  Literally, unique visitors to the NYU Local site more than sextupled in a single month– from 7,000 in January to nearly 47,000 in February– a rise that publisher Cody Brown attributes directly to interest in the reports filed by Eisenhood, now known as “everyone’s favorite liveblogger.”

As one student blogger opined, “[T]here is at least one clear winner in this standoff: my alma mater NYU Local, and more specifically . . . Charlie Eisenhood, whose been providing, bar none, the best news coverage of any media outlet on this story from inside the occupation. Hats off to him and the rest of the NYU Local team for owning this story and getting well-deserved plugs from everyone from Gawker to, oddly enough, The American Spectator.”

Below, UWIRE 100 honoree Eisenhood (whose DJ name is just fantastic, DJ Eyes In Hood) chatted exclusively about the ups-and-downs of what I absolutely nominate as one of the top student reporting feats so far in 2009.

NYU Local Reporter Charlie Eisenhood

NYU Local Reporter Charlie Eisenhood

According to Eisenhood, this shot is "a terribly blurry screen grab of me from the live stream [that the student protest group] had running during the occupation."

According to Eisenhood, this shot is “a terribly blurry screen grab of me from the live stream TBNYU had running during the occupation.”

1) How did you originally learn of the sit-in and what made you decide to embed yourself inside?

I was tipped off by a friend who heard about it from one of the higher-ups at TBNYU.  He told me, “They’re gonna take over a building” about a week before it happened.  What you have to understand is that NYU Local had a history with TBNYU. Some of our writers called them out for being obnoxious at a town hall meeting with NYU President John Sexton. So they hated our guts and we didn’t like their attitude. So when I heard about the takeover, my spider sense tingled. I told Cody [Brown] and [top editor] Lily [Q] the night before, “I know about the biggest story of the year.”

2) Your reporting displayed a wonderfully personal, opinionated slant that really made me feel like I was there on the inside. What led you to go that route versus the detached, objectivity-only option?

That’s what NYU Local is all about. We don’t pretend to be objective in our coverage and I wasn’t about to start during such a strange and hilarious event.

3) An especially memorable reporting moment during the protest.

When TBNYU decided to accept food from NYU dining staff.  They bring out an entire pan of chicken, mashed potatoes, and vegan sandwich wraps (very popular with the protesters). I ate the chicken- it was my first real meal in almost 24 hours.

4) What was the toughest part of the experience?

Trying to stay focused during the last three-four hours. Your brain starts acting weird after almost two days without rest.

5) What is one thing you would do differently if you had the chance to relive it all?

Honestly, I would have stayed until everyone was rounded up. I wish I had been the one to capture this footage. One hundred thousand views?! You can call yourself a YouTube star at that point. I could have also started my own “corporate water” brand and made millions. I might still do that. [Ed. note: No water companies have yet been registered in Eisenhood’s name.] :-)

6) What’s your advice for future student journalists seeking to make an impact through similar embedded-style reporting?

Don’t back down from hostile situations and make sure to bring lots of batteries for your camera. And bring your own food!

7) What tools did you find indispensable for your reporting and general survival during the ordeal?

I really only used two things: a laptop and a digital camera. I took notes on my computer and kept in touch with the outside via IM. And, big thanks to NYU for keeping the Internet connection on. That was key.

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