Daniels Addresses Tuscaloosa Christian Writers

It’s almost 8 p.m. and I have been talking seemingly non-stop for an hour and so far people are still attentive at the Tuscaloosa Public Library where the Christian Writers Group for Tuscaloosa is holding its January meeting.

Janice Hume is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Georgia. She was in charge of the research competition at the American Journalism Historians Association. She was not at tonight's Writers meeting.

As a member of the organization, I feel right at home, especially since many of the members are close friends, some of whom (Joanne Sloan) I’ve known since I was at the University of Georgia in the last century.

Tonight we are learning about blogging and WordPress.

NPR’s Weekend Edition Provides An Example of a Non-Radio Story In the Multimedia Age

NPR was not at its best in depicting the visual story of an effort by a photojournalist and an artist in radio story during its January 22nd installment of the Saturday version of Weekend Edition.

In the world of multimedia journalism of 2011,  we journalism instructors challenge our students to develop a multimedia mindset– one that helps a reporter/producer know when a story is best told in one medium versus another.

Like most web-savvy media outlets, NPR as a rule typically “tags” its stories with an invitation to go visit its Web site to SEE more information or related elements for one of its on-air stories.

But, what happens when those related elements are a requirement to understand the story?

Even with a photo or a video, some stories are tailor-made  as text stories.

As I had my Cheerios and buttered bagel this morning,  I listened with great disappointment to an NPR story on Scott Simon’s Weekend Edition that I thought miserably failed the “Is this a radio story” test.

I’ve waited a couple of hours for NPR to post the audio so I could listen again, to make sure I wasn’t passing judgment too quickly or missing the real focus of the story.

Now that the audio is online and I’ve heard it second time,  it seems I wasn’t wrong.  This just doesn’t work for radio.  It’s a good story, but for my favorite medium– TV.

It Just Doesn’t Work

The headline on the NPR’s web site says “An Unlikely Pair Pictures Havana”

How do you show pictures on radio?

You don’t.

Well-written radio copy can describe a scene and you can picture it in your mind.  But, that only goes so far.   If visuals and the gathering of those visuals are the story,  the news reporter stretches and likely exceeds the limits of our aural senses.

To fully understand Debbie Elliott’s story about Nestor Marti and Chip Cooper’s collaborative project in Old Havana, you have to visit NPR’s Photo Blog, The Picture Show.

Was this really about Getting You to the Web?

And maybe that’s what the story was about– driving traffic to NPR’s Web site.  Sorry to be cynical.

I looked forward to hearing this story because it featured one of our beloved University of Alabama alums doing a story about one of our great professors, Chip Cooper, who is a colleague and friend.

The Alabama Cuba Initiative is featured and I wanted to hear what others around the world could learn about it.

But when you write works like  he had to “ditch his trusty tripod”   or “you can see that in a striking portrait of an old man,”  these are clues that maybe this is a story you do with a video camera.

Having heard Debbie Elliott say recently during  a return to her alma mater that she is not one for being on camera,  I suspect she would not have done this story if it required video.

No matter how visual of a storyteller you are.  And, Debbie is one of the best, this was NOT the best story for radio.

When you see “shots like this” and we can’t see the shots, the story falls flat.

Elliott tells us about “Havana: Side by Side,” an exhibit that is going to be captured in a book.

Maybe when that book comes out, we’ll SEE The images in a great video story– perhaps one by Debbie Elliott for one of NPR’s TV partners?

There is a Downside to Robert Bentley Becoming Governor

The down side of Tuscaloosa physician Robert Bentley becoming Alabama’s governor is that he takes with him great local residents like Jon and Rebekah Mason.

Most of us who live in Tuscaloosa were elated that one of our own took the Alabama Governor’s Mansion as Robert Bentley won the top spot in defeating Democrat Ron Sparks last November.

Now a week into his administration, Bentley becoming governor is looking not as great as I thought, at least if I were to be selfish.

I’m realizing there IS a downside to having a hometown hero running our state–  he takes OTHER hometown heroes with him to Montgomery.

Losing A GREAT Weatherman

Friday we learned that Jon Mason, an outstanding meteorologist who knows Tuscaloosa and has done so much for WVUA-TV now twice  is leaving those of us at the University of Alabama  to become the director of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

After former WVUA-TV meteorologist Wes Wyatt was hired away by another Birmingham area television station last year, I was excited to see Jon return to a position he once held a few years ago.

As The Tuscaloosa News reported Friday, Jon will join his wife, another WVUA alumna, Rebekah Caldwell Mason,who has already survived her first public relations crisis as Dr. Bentley’s press secretary.    Both Jon and Rebekah own a local marketing firm, Caldwell Mason Marketing, here in Tuscaloosa.

Surviving A Crisis

Hours after his inauguration, Bentley made national headlines for comments he made about his faith and connection to other Christian brethren during his prayer breakfast on Monday.

A meeting with Jewish leaders and a few press statements later, it appears all has been forgiven.  But,  Rebekah Caldwell Mason had to manage the situation very carefully.

The irony in the crisis is that it spotlights the importance of FAITH and RELIGION not only to Governor Bentley, a deacon at First Baptist Church here in Tuscaloosa, but also to the media in looking for a good story.

Jon Mason will be wading into those faith and religion waters as he reportedly will oversee a staff of 11 in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

I suspect Jon will be making some of his own headlines with some of his efforts in this new role.  But, that doesn’t take the sting out of losing him on the air here in Tuscaloosa and North Central Alabama, especially as we have a few more weeks of winter weather ahead.


I guess I should be happy that we have highly-qualified professionals like Rebekah and Jon, who can represent our city well as they take on leadership for an entire state.

As Tuscaloosa residents, we have to think of Dr. Bentley, Rebecca Jon and other folks from our city as being ON LOAN to all of Alabama, for four years (or maybe longer).

We know they’ll be home soon.

Facebook Photos Worth Sharing and Remembering

I don’t log on to Facebook very often.

At least, not as of today.   I was talking about social media today in my Introduction to Journalism class and one of my students had the nerve to tell me that TWITTER was a “Waste of Time”

Can you believe this guy?

I finally came around to the fact that everyone has different uses for social media.  I have more of a use for Twitter than I do Facebook.

But, when I logged onto Facebook tonight, I realized that I had several dozen friend requests, including one from my 9th grade Health teacher.

I also clicked accidentally into an area that had photos where I had been TAGGED.

So, it was a chance to reminisce about events in 2010, even as the first month of 2011 is winding down.


As one of the members of the Society of Professional Journalists National Board, I presented Mark of Excellence Awards at our National Convention in Las Vegas last September. This as one of the photos from that event.

Las Vegas has never been one of my favorite places to visit.   I’m not a gambler and I don’t  drink or smoke.  So  I always feel out of place in those smoke-filled gaming venues.

But, this past October, it was different.  I had the chance to play a different role in the Society of Professional Journalists Convention.   As a new member of the National Board of Directors, I had a more active role in the SPJ Convention and it was neat.

The opportunity to present student journalism awards was one of those special places on the SPJ Convention program.

I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t remember the names of most of the recipients.  But, I’m thankful that someone thought enough to share this one on Facebook.

The University of Florida's SPJ President Ashley Hemmy accompanied me to a great night at the Indianapolis Indians baseball game. This was one of the memories from that night out during our Scripps Leadership Weekend in Indianapolis in June. We had a blast. I always love going to Indianapolis.


I made two trips to Indiana’s Capital City in 2010.

One of them was for the spring board member of the Society of Professional Journalists, which is headquartered there.

But, in June, I had the opportunity to return for a fabulous leadership training weekend.   As one of the facilitators for the Scripps Leadership Weekend, I got the wonderful chance to work with college campus chapters for SPJ via their up-and-coming leadership for 2010-2011.

Not only did we have a chance to work, but we had some play time too.  One of our evening outings was to an Indianapolis Indians Baseball game.

It’s a chance for those of us in the Southeastern Conference to put our SEC rivalries aside and have some fun.   I’m always excited to hang out with the SPJers from our other SEC schools— The University of Florida being chief among them.   UF has an outstanding SPJ chapter is a model for the nation.    One day  those of us at Alabama would like to be where UF’s  SPJ Chapter is now.

Hats off to the folks in Gainsville for what they do for SPJ!

Guess It’s Time To Post

I can’t believe I’m supposed to do a blogging workshop this Monday here in Tuscaloosa and I’ve not blogged myself since New Year’s Eve.

What kind of example am I setting?

I have to be honest and say that I am a blogger with a purpose.  If I want to blog and have a specific need to do so, then I do it.

But, if I don’t and I don’t have time, I don’t blog.

That’s not how one builds an audience.

But, it’s reality.  Time waits for no man (or woman) and as a man led by God, I have prayerfully prioritized other things over blogging in 2011.

My prayer at this late hour of January 21 is that I’ll wake up tomorrow morning with some kind of strategy or new insights when it comes to my blogging.

2011 is MY “Year of Recovery”

Pastor Emory Berry of Richmond’s Fourth Baptist Church challenged those attending our Annual Watchnight Service at First African Baptist Church to make 2011 our “Year of Recovery.”

RICHMOND, Va. — As we watched in the new year here at my home church– The First African Baptist Church— tonight, the minister challenged us to make 2011 the year to recovery those things that were lost in the first decade of the new millennium.

It’s a challenge I accept as the minutes in the first hour of the new year (in the Eastern Time Zone) tick away.   Pastor Emory Berry, one of the newest pastors in our city — just became the leader of the flock called Fourth Baptist Church, located in Richmond’s Church Hill Community.

For at least the last two decades, First African and Fourth Baptist have worshipped together on New Year’s Eve alternating between our sanctuaries on the North side and Church Hill.   Both congregations have relatively new pastors, ours– the great Dr. Rodney Waller  delivered his first New Year’s Eve message in the series at Fourth Baptist a year ago tonight.

Tonight, Rev. Berry delivered the message “My Struggle Made Me Stronger” taking Paul’s testimony in his second letter to the Corinthians about the “thorn in his flesh” that reminded him God’s grace is sufficient in his weakness.

As I look into what will happen in this New Year, I am reminded of Rev. Berry’s words tonight that after God gives us a glimpse of our future, he uncovers our faults to keep us humble.  Secondly, we have to discover our faith as we week God in prayer and thirdly, that God helps us recover our future.

For the first time that I can remember, after praying in the New Year,  we opened the New Year by having a candlelight communion service.   I believe this is a NEW TRADITION that the two churches are beginning as we continuing the old tradition of the joint services.

What will I recover in 2011?   Well, first and foremost, I need to recover time spent on things other than work.    I need to recover time to work on my health.    Earlier today I celebrated losing 16 pounds over the course of 2010.   That gave me the very first boost that REALLY needed in my effort to shed weight that is keeping me from being all that I can be.   The weight loss will continue in 2011 because I’ve not just resolved to do so,  I have already begun it and have a head start, and a plan for how to do it in the first days of the new year.

Besides my health and my time,  I will recover order in my own life by having fewer things to do.   That means withdrawing from AT LEAST THREE leadership roles in 2011.  I am looking forward to having order because I have finally acknowledged the limitations that mandate I prioritize and cut from my agenda things that are just not humanly possible to accomplish.   Setting clear boundaries is an important step for me in 2011.

I’ll awaken in a few hours to put these specifics into action even as we gather on New Year’s Day for the Richmond’s Citywide Emancipation Proclamation Service.

It’s a Happy New Year for me, I can feel it already— 2011 WILL BE MY YEAR OF RECOVERY!