Ohio U. Students, Faculty Share Wisdom From Gwen Ifill Lecture

Some great points about diversity came from the tweets sent from the Schuneman Symposium tonight at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio where Gwen Ifill was the keynote speaker.

  1. .@OhioU Schuneman Symposium on Photojournalism and New Media starts at 7:30p with Gwen Ifill’s #keynote! htl.li/hGgSP #Smitty13
  2. RT @scrippsjschool: Happy birthday to us! At #Smitty13, we are celebrating 90 years of journalism education! http://twitpic.com/c6vdlf
  3. Congrats to the Scripps School on reaching a milestone!  You’ve set the bar high for all of us in the journalism education. Keep up the good work!
  4. RT @tanyatrash: If there’s any single person an aspiring journalist should look up to, Gwen Ifill would definitely be it. #smitty13 http://pic.twitter.com/lvdp7KKDsI
  5. RT @BenClos1: Diversity in a newsroom is very important so there are people who have a thorough understanding of a story. @pbsgwen #Smitty13
  6. “Smitty” Schuneman accepts the 2013 Ohio Communication Hall of Fame award #Smitty13 http://twitpic.com/c6vbzt
  7. @pbsgwen really emphasized the importance of listening–we need to stop shouting and adding to the noise, and listen. #smitty13
  8. At PBS we believe you can decide what you think about what’s going on if we give you the information you need. Gwen Ifill. #smitty13
  9. Diversity has been talked about so much the term has become devalued, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still needed.. @pbsgwen #smitty13
  10. YES– I’m a huge Mary Rogus fan, a fellow broadcast journalist who also teaches multimedia reporting.
  11. RT @JennyHallJones: RT @scrippsjschool: “It’s important to listen, especially if you disagree.” – @pbsgwen #Smitty13

Attention Journalism Students: Bob Woodward Is More Than a Figure in American History

There are some questions about how relevant Bob Woodward is to college students studying journalism in 2013. A capacity crowd for Woodward’s lecture Friday night at University of Alabama included only a few journalism students.

Woodward THEN- in the 1970s as a reporter for The Washington Post. Courtesy: http://www.achievement.com

You couldn’t tell it by the standing-room only crowd that came to hear Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward Friday night.

But, dozens of University of Alabama journalism students missed what for me was a once-in-lifetime opportunity:  A Chance to Hear and Meet One of the Greatest Journalists Ever.

Present and Former Fellows of the Blackburn Institute, a leadership program here at University of Alabama, took the front rows at Friday’s lecture by Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward. UA President Judy Bonner and Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Nelson were also in attendance.

I left the outstanding lecture with mixed feelings- EXCITED and ENERGIZED about what we do as journalists, but ANGRY because so many of our journalism students did not show up.   I saw fewer than 20 of the students in our classes here at the University attendance.

We have more than 300 majors in the UA journalism department.

This was such an important event that we invited students from the Society of Professional Journalists from Auburn University and Jacksonville State University to make the more than two-hour drive to Tuscaloosa for the lecture.

Students from Auburn University’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter took a photo with Bob Woodward after his lecture Friday night at University of Alabama.

And, the AU And JSU students both had delegations at the event, which was sponsored by UA’s Blackburn Institute.

We had dozens of high school journalists in town for the Alabama Scholastic Press Association Winter Convention.  But only one or two schools came to hear Bob Woodward, even though we re-arranged the convention schedule to include the 6 p.m. lecture.

Who is Bob Woodward?

Today as I began a 3-hour videojournalism workshop with 15 middle school students from the Birmingham area,  I asked them what they knew about Bob Woodward.

Most were aware of his work connected to the Watergate scandal.  These 6th, 7th and 8th graders could name all the U.S. presidents who Woodward has interviewed and featured in his 17 books.

These students were really sharp.  But,  I wonder how many of my college students are equally as adept in their knowledge of civics?

A matter of memory and relevance

I don’t remember Watergate.  It happened when I was two years old.

I told the middle school group today that the first president I can remember was Jimmy Carter whose inauguration we watched in the cafeteria when I was in 1st grade at Richmond Mary Scott Elementary School.

But, when you talk about why we do journalism, it’s hard not to point to the stellar investigative work of  Seymour Hersh, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and more recently, Brett Blackledge.

Bob Woodward addressed a capacity crowd in Sellers Auditorium at the Bryant Conference Center Friday night. The event was sponsored by University of Alabama’s Blackburn Institute.

As was evident in much of his address last night, Woodward is very much engaged in the policy issues that confront the White House and Congress today.

In fact, in his remarks Friday night,  he referenced his latest writing this weekend about the sequester, the $85 billion in spending cuts set to take effect March 1.

Members of The Crimson White staff had a separate meeting with Bob Woodward on Friday when the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist was in town for the Blackburn Institute’s Winter Symposium.

There were a handful of UA journalism students there.  A few of the members staff of the student newspaper,  The Crimson White, had a separate meeting with Woodward earlier on Friday.

What could be more important than hearing and meeting Bob Woodward?

Perhaps it’s a matter of relevance.   Sports figures, pop culture icons and other celebrities are more relevant to today’s students.

If they’re not studying public policy or leadership, should students  be engaged with people like Bob Woodward?

SEVEN Lessons I Learned From Hearing CNN’s Don Lemon Speak at University of Alabama

CNN Anchor Don Lemon provided several valuable lessons about life, your career and journalism during a February 21 visit to the University of Alabama campus.

For me, this particular week will be most remembered as one where I had a golden opportunity to hear THREE journalists speak here at the University of Alabama– CNN Anchor Don Lemon, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post and WIAT-TV CBS 42’s Jim Dunaway.

Don Lemon’s talk was the one that provided me, a mid-career journalist who’s now teaching full-time, with some lessons I can apply immediately.

Despite my antics in an earlier post about Mr. Lemon’s name and his book TRANSPARENT,   I think a more serious tone can be taken with the SEVEN takeaways from his visit with my graduate and undergraduate students here at the The University of Alabama this past Thursday.

Don Lemon addressed students in the University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences during a February 21 visit to the Tuscaloosa campus. He also did a campuswide lecture to a standing-room only crowd at the Ferguson Center Theater.

1. You can make it big even if you’re not a good student in college.
Lemon was very frank and open about his story of not being an honors student at either Louisiana State University where took classes in the Manship School of Journalism and Mass Communication or Brooklyn College,  where he eventually finished his degree.

If you consider working on NBC’s “Today Show” or anchoring at CNN “making it big,” then Lemon definitely demonstrates it doesn’t matter where you start, but how you finish.   (And, he’s clearly not finished)

2. You can do a LIVE REPORT from a gay bar in Alabama.

Perhaps the most memorable television news war story was Don Lemon’s account of how he localized the 1997 murder of Italian Fashion Designer Gianni Versace, a virtual unknown to Lemon’s co-workers in the WBRC-TV Fox 6 newsroom, where he worked for 11 months.

Lemon recalled the opening line of his story, which he presented live from a gay bar in the Birmingham area (Versace was openly gay.)


Couched in this story was an important lesson about diversity in the television newsroom, a key focus for my Communication and Diversity course.

“You have to be bold.  You cannot be afraid,” Lemon told the University of Alabama students.

His journey from Birmingham to St. Louis to Philadelphia and then to networks of NBC has been filled with opportunities to offer a perspective the newsrooms where he worked lacked.

3. You can be transformed by writing your story.
As he began his talk, Lemon told the students how telling story in his 2011 book, TRANSPARENT,  transformed him.   He’s finding himself doing a lot more speaking engagements like the one he had this week on our campus here in Tuscaloosa.  This reminds me that I need to finish my own first book.

The words “TRANSFORMED BY BEING TRANSPARENT” seem to be applicable here.

4. You can be inspired by Jean West
Apparently I’m not the only one who was inspired to get in broadcast journalism by those who blazed the trail before me.   In college in the early 1990s, I had posters of former NBC Today Show anchor Bryant Gumbel all over the wall of my dorm room.   I wanted to be the next Bryant Gumbel.

For Don Lemon, a former Baton Rouge anchorwoman, who now works in the Louisville television market, Jean West, was his role model.    Today, West is apparently still showing there’s life after two decades as a local television anchor.  She’s producing Jean West’s Medical Digest and Jean West’s Medical Daily via her own company, Faces West Productions.

Since Lemon’s visit on Thursday,  I’m inspired by just reading about her work.

Lemon talked extensively about his television career, including his 11 months working in the Birmingham (Ala) market at WBRC-TV.

5. The journey to “THE TOP” is better than the destination.

“The top is not that exciting,” Lemon said.  “What’s exciting is the journey and you didn’t realize it.”

I couldn’t have said it better.   Actually, those were almost my exact words ten years ago when I gave the student commencement address at the University of Georgia when I completed by Ph.D. degree in mass communication.

But, rather than  my eight-year television news career, I was talking about the three-and-a-half year journey to obtaining a doctoral degree.

I suppose Lemon’s advice applies to any major effort we pursue in life.

It really is the EXPERIENCE going through the process toward our destination or the  journey to our goal that is most rewarding.

6. The path for diverse newsroom perspectives has already been blazed
While noting that racism hasn’t ended, Lemon urged students to not worry about those challenges now, as the stage for diverse newsrooms has already been set.

“You worry about being excellent,” he said.  “Just be excellent.”

7. Reporters still have to cry (and GET ANGRY) sometimes

I have a new case study for the unit I do each summer on “Journalists and Trauma” in my basic news reporting class.

Having been trained in Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and its link to news reporting by reporters and editors who covered the Oklahoma City Bombing, I had not heard of specific cases of trauma for reporters covering the December massacre in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Lemon told his story of crying on-air while covering the tragedy in Newtown, CT last year.    He says he’s still going through counseling for PTSD.

But, he also stepped out of the role of “objective” journalist to take his own stand.  His statement about assault weapons has been archived on YouTube.

“I was not a reporter in Newtown,” Lemon told the UA students this week.   I was just  a human being talking to you.”

University of Alabama is Looking for a Lemon from Louisiana

CNN anchor and author of TRANSPARENT Don Lemon visits the University of Alabama today in Tuscaloosa, a place where he formerly worked for a short time as an weekend anchor. There are several things we’re looking for in Lemon’s visit to West Central Alabama.

Lemons are usually yellow or pale, sweet, make good lemonade or they’re bad cars.

Depending on how you look at it, only a couple of those descriptors would apply to CNN Anchor Don Lemon, who is making a quick stop on our University of Alabama campus later today.

Don Lemon is weekend evening anchor at CNN.

The native Louisianan is openly gay and he’s a lighter-skinned African American man.   Some might say he’s “high-yellow” and because of his sexual orientation, he’s sweet.

Because he’s so TRANSPARENT, Lemon probably would not be offended by either of those references, neither of which was  meant in a derogatory way.

I purchased his book, appropriately named TRANSPARENT a couple years ago, just days after it was released.

The 220-page memoir has received mixed reviews, but the 19 chapters provided great LESSONS for his readers, especially if you’re an African American working in the broadcast news business as I was for eight years.

Despite all of the media attention surrounding Lemon’s decision to reveal his sexual orientation as he released the book nearly two years ago,   he didn’t talk much about that “coming out” experience in the book.

In the eighth chapter, where he included a section on “Coming to Terms with Myself,”  he provided just as many if not more pertinent lessons about dealing with college professors, some of whom can be more dis-empowering than encouraging.

That’s the kind of lessons I think we’re looking for TODAY here at Alabama.

Looking for Lessons on Persistence, Perseverance 

Don Lemon took classes at both Louisiana State University and Brooklyn College.  He juggled finishing college while launching his journalism career.

Students at UA need to know how he did it.   What strategies were required to be successful in the classroom even as you were making a name for yourself in the newsroom?

Lemon’s first book, TRANSPARENT, was published in 2011 by Farrah Gray Publishing, one of the largest African-American-owned book publishing companies in the country.

Students in my Diversity class here at Alabama were assigned to read Lemon’s opening chapter on “A Lesson in Race and Color.”

In fact, his discussion is a template for UA students on how to tell their own diversity story.

I hope today we’ll get more frank, honest dialogue about race like Lemon provides on his 11 months as a weekend anchor at WBRC- Fox 6 in Birmingham.

Looking for Transparency

In looking for Lemon today, the University of Alabama ought to look for the same transparency this broadcast journalist demonstrated in making news with his own lived experience as he covered a breaking story involving an Atlanta minister accused of sexual misconduct

That Atlanta minister, Bishop Eddie L. Long, was  my pastor during my nearly seven years as a active member of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church while living in Atlanta/Athens, Ga. area.  I still consider him one of my spiritual fathers.  So I was especially interested in all of the interviews and updates in this scandal involving my pastor.

During an 2010 interview, rather than the details on the status of Bishop Long,  what I heard was a very “transparent” Don Lemon disclose on national TV that he was the victim of abuse.    The unusual disclosure is archived on YouTube.Don-Lemonfreezeframe

“I probably wouldn’t have addressed the whole issue of my own experience with childhood sexual abuse during the context of the news story, but the accusations against Bishop Eddie Long, and the things the members of his congregation said in his defense, triggered me, ” Lemon wrote.

Looking for Disclosure

As Don Lemon talks to the University of Alabama community tonight at 6 p.m. at the Ferguson Theater,  we’re looking for disclosures that reveal a truly transparent journalist.

More than a decade after anchoring the news here in Alabama, when he probably covered at least one story here in Tuscaloosa,  Don Lemon returns today with a much higher profile.

The timing of the Emmy award-winning author and anchor’s visit could not have been better as the University marks the 50th anniversary of its welcoming its first black students.

As for me, I hope not only to hear a great presentation, but GET my copy of TRANSPARENT autographed.

Got My Grocery List of Goodies I’m Seeking at Journalism Interactive

In downtown Gainesville, Florida for Journalism Interactive 2013 with a list of things to get from a two-day conference focused on preparing journalists who are on the cutting edge (as the cliche goes) in the this age of digital news reporting and production.

GAINESVILLE–  For the second time in less than a year, I’m waking up in the hometown of the Florida Gators in the very same hotel room.

The venue for most of the events today at Journalism Interactive is the historic Hippodrome in downtown Gainesville. Seems like it being there will be a story in and of itself.

So, what would possess a two-time Georgia Bulldog and 10-year Alabama professor to do that?    Well,  I’ve come with a grocery list of things I need to pick up at what I see as a fairly unique digital-intensive two-day journalism conference.

It’s called Journalism Interactive (J/i).   Because of a conflict with the Convergence Conference in 2011, I only got to attend one day of the first  J/i at The University of Maryland.   So, even though the SPJ Regional was just here in March, I’m back in Gatorland to get some journalism goodies,  things you need if you’re in the business of preparing journalists.

Here’s what on my list:

An understanding of the unicorn
Apparently, I missed the memo that journalism instructors are supposed to be creating journalist/designer/coders in our programs.  Clearly I’m behind as I thought we teaching cross-platform journalism who could negotiate print/online/broadcast.   This lead session this morning ought to be worth the price of registration.

Cairo’s Connection to Graphics Journalism
I’ve never taught graphics journalism per se, but I certainly have a different view of it after reading part of Alberto Cairo’s book,  The Functional Art  recently.   A lot of stuff about how our brains work.   His session this morning should give me some goodies to take back to cross-media reporting.

Data Viz Competition
I have no idea what Data Viz is.  So, my friend Jake Batsell from SMU (who also has been to the  Convergence Conference) is goign to teach me all about it at the Teach-a-Thon this afternoon.

The lowdown on 4-D Storytelling
Ginny Whitehouse from Eastern Kentucky, was among those of us at the first Journalism Interactive.  She’s on the program this year talking about 4-D Storytelling.  I teach about preparing media message with the “4 Screen Strategy.”  But is that the same as the 4-D Storytelling?  I’ll find out this afternoon.

Instructions on how to teach computer hacking
Well, I never thought I would be teaching my journalism students how to hack.  But, Gary Kebbel from University of Nebraska has a demo on Teaching Computer hackers this afternoon.  Professor Kebbel was on the program at the first J/i talking about curriculum issues as a dean.  Now he’s into doing hackathons at his Center for Mobile Media in the town of ‘Big Red.’   Guess that’s what happens after you do journalism administration?

Pictures of Florida’s new digital newsroom
When we here for the SPJ Southeast Regional Conference last spring, there was lots of construction going on in Weimar Hall on a new digital newsroom.  A picture of the finished product is on the back of our J/i program.  So we’ll get a chance to see it tomorrow

More Entrepreneurial Journalism Insights
It’s only been a month since the Scripps-Howard Journalism Entrepreneurship Institute.  But, even as I teach entrepreneurship in my Assessing Community Journalism class this semester, Jim Brady and David Cohn, who spoke last month in Phoenix, are on the program here.  I really look forward to hearing more from them not only only entrepreneurship, but intrapreneurship (a new word for me that I introduced in class last week)

Everything starts later this morning.   This is a multi-venue event, meaning things are happening at lots of different places around Gainesville.  That’s good.   Usually when I come here I spend all my time in Weimar Hall, Florida’s j-school.   But, they’re showing us some of the other great places this time.    More to come!

So, while the hotel where I’m staying in Downtown Gainesville somehow placed me in the same room where I stayed in 2012, I’m expecting something VERY DIFFERENT as I get these journalism goodies today.  Stay tuned!