Stepping Up The Social Media Teaching Strategies Thanks To AEJMC Magazine Panel

In the effort to help students prepare for a magazine world where publications are shifts from paper to pixels, three professors shared some teaching tips based on their own research that might change the way we teach social media in our journalism classes.

BLACKSBURG, Va– The notion of “save the best for last,” definitely applies to a trio of presentations scheduled for the tail end of  the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium last weekend here on the Virginia Tech campus.

Representing the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Magazine Division, Yanick Rice Lamb, Erin Coyle, and Susan Sivek delivered a set of recommendations for “Going Digital: Preparing Students to Succeed as Magazines Move from Paper to Pixels.”

“This is more than just a shift in the delivery method,” Sivek said. “It’s about changing our mindset as professors and instructors. Audience expectations are changing.”

Continue reading “Stepping Up The Social Media Teaching Strategies Thanks To AEJMC Magazine Panel”

From Pain to Pride to Pedadogy: Alabama’s Schoolhouse Door as a Strategy for Teaching

Today in Tuscaloosa history was made as the place of the infamous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” involving the late Governor George Wallace was officially dedicated as the University of Alabama’s new Malone-Hood Plaza.

The plaza, which includes the Autherine Lucy Clock Tower, named for the first African American student who attempted to enroll here at the University in 1956, has just recently become a center of activity as the building where it’s located, Foster Auditorium has reopened after it was re-modeled to house women’s athletic programs.

The adjective “infamous” has often been attached to Foster Auditorium because it is where members of the National Guard were called in as a governor attempted to block the admission of the late Vivian Malone Jones and James Hood to the University in 1963.   Thankfully, Governor Wallace was not successful.

The brief confrontation, which sparked national media attention, presented one of the South’s best universities with a bit of a black eye.  And, for many, it was a painful experience they would rather forget.

Still, up until this year, this spot on the Tuscaloosa campus of 30,000 students has been absent from the places of which many are most proud. No more. The pain associated with change that happened at Foster Auditorium and all across the South in the 1960s has been replaced with pride because of what the admission of Malone, Hood and Lucy meant for opportunities for African Americans in Alabama and around the country.

I was in class at the time of today’s dedicatory activities for the Malone-Hood Plaza. But, I used the occasion of the dedication of this public space as a teaching tool, a strategy I hope many of my University of Alabama faculty colleagues will employ as we move forward beyond November 3, 2010.  Educating prospective and current students and faculty about the significance of Foster Auditorium will be a little bit easier now.

As I thought about the events of today, another reality came to mind.


My Fall 2010 JN 325 multimedia journalism class is also the most racially diverse multimedia journalism class I’ve ever taught in my eight years at the university. Of the 16 students enrolled in this lecture-lab course, five are African-American, one of whom is the second African-American editor in the history of the campus daily newspaper, The Crimson White.

Some members of the class were featured in an Aug. 18 news report by Birmingham television station WIAT CBS 42.

The racial background of the students has never come up in our classroom discussion. And, why should it? The class is not a class about race or diversity right?


While a student’s racial background is not necessarily important, every class should embrace diversity as a component of everyday teaching and learning. In fact, we’ve already had a unit on reporting on diverse audiences. On Monday, November 8, this class will present a University-wide program to the  on Latino depictions in the media as they have been part of a national project evaluating media coverage of immigration.

The trailblazing that Autherine Lucy, Vivian Malone and James Hood did almost 50 years ago has resulted in teaching and learning experiences like I have today.   That’s the TRUE significance of a Malone-Hood plaza.. to pay tribute to those who started the journey to the rich, diverse learning environments we have in the 21st century.


Today’s lesson was on how to use our new pocket video cameras to shoot an interview story.   I was the guinea pig for their first video interviews and I used that opportunity for answer questions about the significance of the opening of the Malone-Hood Plaza.

The student who volunteered to ask the questions (without a script, I might add) didn’t hesitate to ask about the role of race in her “framing” of her questions.   We also talked about the importance of understanding why Foster Auditorium is a landmark worth visiting when one comes to our beautiful campus.

My answers became an opportunity to share with a new generation of students the significance of  now Dr. James Hood, Mrs. Autherine Lucy Foster and relatives of the late Vivian Malone Jones being on campus today.  But, it was also a chance to talk about how we maintain or increase diversity in both our faculty and student ranks.


The dedication of the Malone-Hood Plaza is over.  But, as we look ahead the public space is an ideal conversation starter for visitors to the campus.  It also is an opportunity for those of us who teach to develop pedagogy strategies that educate students about this period in our university’s history.

Even before the plaza was under construction, in Spring 2010, I invited the plaza’s architect to visit our diversity class and discuss what factors went into designing the space.  Students who watched a documentary about the “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” were challenged to write about their reactions to the plans for the Plaza.  They also were introduced to the public debate that occurred in the pages of the local newspaper.

Next semester, as I teach that same diversity course, we’ll be journeying to the Plaza for an “on-location” class so that students can see and appreciate this public space that means so much to what makes this University great.   Our mindset has changed from pain to pride and now in the way we teach (pedagogy).

The end result: the legacy of  determination, courage, and excellence in Vivian Malone Jones, Autherine Lucy and James Hood can be transferred to another generation of students who appreciate the accomplishments of these UA alumni nearly a half-century ago.


Five Things I Want from SPJ 2010

During the Society of Professional Journalists National Convention, I want to learn more about mobile reporting, meet Mark Briggs (author of JournalismNEXT) and visit Las Vegas media outlets.

LAS VEGAS– Greetings from the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” Nevada’s most populous city and the home for the annual gathering of the nation’s largest and most broad-based organization of journalists.

For educators like me, it is always a challenge to stop in the middle of the semester in order to come to an Society of Professional Journalists annual convention,which occurs usually in late September or early October.

But, once we get here and start having exchanges with the hundreds of journalists who attend and taking in the dozens of professional development sessions, it makes the interruption all worth it.   And, our journalism students are better for it. This year, at least two of those students from Alabama will be here.

Besides attending to the business of Society (something you kind of have to do as a national board member) there are at least FIVE (5) goals I have for myself at this SPJ Convention, my second such gathering here in Vegas:

1.  Meet -up with our SPJ 2010 attendees who send Tweets

While I’ve been on Twitter for almost two years, I’ve never been to a Tweet-up.  And, there’s word that we might have one on Monday night.

2.  See what the latest thinking is about mobile

The biggest addition my journalism teaching this semester is this thing called “mobile,”  or helping students learn how to produce news and information on mobile device while considering the end user as receiving his/her news on such mobile devices.   I’m looking forward to hearing some of the presenters like Mark Luckie, Rob Curley and Kerry Northrup

3. Visit the Las Vegas Media

Sometimes the best parts of going to a professional development gathering like an SPJ convention is the chance to see what other media are doing.   Lord willing, I want to check out the studios at CBS affiliate KLAS-TV and the Las Vegas Review Journal, both off-sites that are scheduled this week.

4. Meet the author of my course textbook, JournalismNEXT

After using his great online book, Journalism 2.0, Mark Briggs has released JournalismNEXT, a handbook that has already informed my students’ learning about such things as Cascading Style Sheets, gearheads and the fact that “We are All Web workers.”

5.  Connect with the Native American Journalists Association

Also, this week, we will have the leadership of Native American Journalists Association visiting our gathering.  I’m hoping we’ll become acquainted with some of the challenges we’re facing in covering Native communities and strategies for improvement.

It’ll be a great week.  I hope to be live blogging (and perhaps vlogging) and posting updates from here at The Planet Hollywood throughout the next four days.

Did the First Alabama gubernatorial debate cement your Nov. 2 voting decision?

The first Gubernatorial Debate last Thursday at the University of Alabama left me with more questions than answers about who I’ll vote for November 2.

After much hype and excitement here on the University of Alabama campus last week about us hosting the first gubernatorial debate,  I was very underwhelmed and unimpressed by what I heard from the candidates themselves.

While my journalism students tweeted away and wrote updates about the big event at Moody Concert Hall,  I sat watching the actual comments of the candidates and waited to hear substance, specifics and a real reason to vote for one candidate or the other.

Instead, I was left with confusion.   I don’t REALLY know why one candidate just rubs me the wrong way and the other has so many positions with which I fundamentally disagree.

Later this week, Alabama Public Radio and WVUA-TV are going to provide some programs to feature what others in the audience watching the Tuscaloosa debate thought about the candidates’ positions.

This entire election cycle in Alabama has been a little weird as I thought a lot of the issues have not been quite at the forefront.   Some of the statewide candidates have been unimpressive.

When the results of  the primary elections were finally decided this summer, I thought I had a candidate for whom I could vote.  Now, as the general election nears, I’m not so sure.

Guess I will have to make the trip to Auburn for the October 19th debate to help me make up my mind.

For now, I’ll be visiting the Ron Sparks Web site and the Robert Bentley Web site to research their positions a little further.

Five Reasons You SHOULD Care If President Obama Goes To Church

President Obama attending church for the first time publicly should be of interest to all Americans, and not necessarily for the reasons some would think.

How interesting on a Sunday when I was not able to attend church, the President of United States does.

It’s a “Trending Topic” on the Web this Sunday– President Obama attends church publicly.

Was it just PR?   Or, did the President wake up this morning and decide he needed to have a spiritual encounter today?  Well only Mr. Obama, or perhaps his press secretary, could answer that.   (I’m sure someone will ask it about it at Monday’s White House briefing)

Back when I worked as television news producer in 1990s,  there was the video that the White House press corps would shoot and uplink via satellite news feed to all the local stations of “Presidential Arrivals” and “Presidential Departures” for church.

At the time, it was former Presidents Bill Clinton and his family who were going and coming from church.

When I was assembling early morning news on Sundays (and some Mondays), we would have those pieces for “fresh video” of the leader of the free world to use in our newscasts.

Some might ask– SO WHAT– WHY SHOULD WE CARE if President Obama Goes To Church?   Does This Prove He’s Not Muslim?

The question is much broader than that.   Besides the obvious reason that it’s newsworthy that President Obama attended church publicly for the first time in six months, there are FIVE REASONS why WE SHOULD CARE If President Obama Goes To Church.

I’m not talking about him going to church to make a speech or do something “presidential.”  I’m talking about President Obama, the man of faith (that I personally believe he is) sitting in the pew to receive what the man or woman of God in the pulpit has to say to him and other parishioners or members gathered.

We should care about that.. and HERE’s WHY:

1.  We should know how much faith plays into the thinking of our elected officials

It would be irresponsible for us journalists not to take note of this trend and draw a connection between the incident and the political polls that reflect voter unclarity about the President’s faith.    Still more important,  it’s how much faith plays into the thinking of those who we elect.

I tend to agree with Damon Linker, who wrote in today’ Washington Post about a “Religious Test Political Candidates Should Take.”

“Depending on where believers come down on such issues, their faith may or may not clash with the requirements of democratic politics,” Linker said. ” To help us make that determination, all candidates for high office should have to take the religious test.”

As the saying goes, “Actions Speak Louder.”

President Obama has set up an Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and appointed 26-year-old Pentecostal pastor Joshua DuBois as what TIME  Magazine “Pastor-in-Chief” to head that office.

DuBois served as director of religious affairs for Obama’s Presidential campaign.  The Boston Globe did an interesting profile on DuBois.

This interest in faith-based initiatives extends beyond our U.S. borders.

Earlier this year, the White House sent its deputy director Mara Vanderslice to participate in a half-day conference on “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad.”

2. President Obama’s church affiliation is NEWS.  It’s that simple.

I recall weeks before his inauguration, there was a lot of speculation about which church President Obama would make his new church home.  (Seems like THAT should have quelled the rumors about his spiritual background)

He is said to have visited more than one church, including my own DC church, Metropolitan Baptist Church in NW Washington.  ( As a Baptist believer, I was an active member of Metropolitan while a student at Howard University in early 90s)

Down the street from Metropolitan’s former R Street location, at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, President Obama  made a passionate address earlier this year around the holiday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But, to my knowledge, he’s not a member of either congregation.    His membership in Trinity United Church of Christ back in Chicago would lead one to believe he might choose a unit of that denomination in Washington, DC area.

When and if a decision is made, it will be MAJOR news.     That’s just a fact and I think we should embrace this step that the President may take in spite all of all the questions about his faith.

3. It’s not about whether or not he’s Muslim.

Some would shine the focus on the naysayers or critics who want to make President Obama a Muslim simply because of the way his name sounds on where he grew up or his family background.

But, let’s advance our understanding from a media standpoint beyond that.

Moreover, understand how important it is for the President of the United States to celebrate those of all religions.

As was the case with a recent celebration of Ramadan at the White House, religious celebrations create an opportunity for the President of the United States to go “ON THE RECORD” on issues of religious freedom.

The President’s remarks made a lot of news (some reports of which were terribly misleading) and reminded us of how statements at such celebrations can create national debates, discussions and dialogues.

4.It’s good to know how much the President is or is not like the rest of us.

Like or it or not, we all like to have elected officials who are like us.  The latest data from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life show 78 percent of Americans are classified as Christian. Only 16 percent of the 35,000 Americans interviewed for U.S. Religious Landscape survey were called as having “no religion.”

I would say this underscores that we are still “One Nation Under God” even if we also have a right to freedom of religion.

It’s good for us as American to know the President falls in that same “nation under God” based on his own personal choices of worship and congregational affiliation.

5. I want to know where my president is on Sunday morning

If all the aforementioned reasons aren’t good enough, there’s the matter of as a citizen, I just want to know what the President does on Sunday morning if he’s not traveling out of the country or doing something “presidential.”

When you’re a public official, it goes with the territory.

So, I would tell the White House Press Corp. — GET READY to shoot a lot more Obama Sunday Church Arrivals and Departures.    I have a feeling we may be seeing a lot more of what we saw today.

When we see those pictures again, we shouldn’t be shocked.

NPR’s Debbie Elliott Prepares for Lights, Camera At Alabama Debate Tonight

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott visits broadcast news class hours before moderating the first Alabama gubernatorial on the campus of University of Alabama.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott spoke to broadcast news students Thursday hours before she is set to moderate the first debate between Alabama's two gubernatorial candidates.

Hours before she is set to query the two men who want to be Alabama’s next governor, Debbie Elliott stopped by one University of Alabama class to give students some pointers  on how to query elected officials.

“Don’t ever be intimidated because they’re just people,” she said.

While she encouraged the students not to be intimidated by the politicians, she admitted she is not used to the lights and cameras that will be pointed at her tonight as the Alabama and nation watches the first gubernatorial debate featuring Republican Robert Bentley and Democrat Ron Sparks.

The debate to be held at University of Alabama’s Moody Music Building,  will be televised live on Alabama Public Television and Alabama Public Radio. C-SPAN will also pick up the live feed and share it with viewers around the nation.

“I don’t do television. So it should be very interesting,” said Elliott, who arrived back in Tuscaloosa last night.  Now an NPR National correspondent based in South Alabama, Elliott was the news director at Alabama Public Radio.

Even as she’s produced numerous stories about the Gulf Oil spill and other events in Alabama,  the former anchor of NPR’s Weekend All Things Considered is looking forward to tonight’s event.

“It will be good to get them on the record on the issues,” she said.

Getting lawmakers on the record is what Elliott does best.    Before moving back to Alabama, she covered Capitol Hill for NPR.

Her alma mater included a short feature about her experience covering politics on the debate web site.

She covered the Alabama legislature right out of college.

Tonight’s debate is the first of two such meetings of the men who want to succeed Bob Riley in the governor’s mansion. The second debate will be at 7 p.m., Oct. 19 at Auburn University.  At both schools, the student government associations have taken the lead in gathering questions and organizing the events along with the League of Women Voters of Alabama.

Time to evaluate CNN’s All-Platform Journalists

MARIETTA, Ga.–   There’s a story to be told about the stories being told by some of the newest additions to the staff at the oldest of the three major cable news channels, CNN.

While there was no shortage of naysayers when CNN announced in 2008 that it was hiring 10 all-platform journalists,  there has been little done to examine their  journalistic work product.

The Questions

Does it matter that these s0-called APJs are shooting television news content differently?

Does it matter that they create a video news product that looks more like that of a newspaper employee doing video than a polished, broadcast “package” (a term often used for self-contained news report)  even though they represent a newsroom whose core product is broadcast?

Are these journalists producing content that is worthy of journalistic recognition as examples of good storytelling?

The Man Implementing the Plan

Victor Hernandez, director of coverage for CNN Domestic operations, talked about All-Platform Journalist at a 2009 management seminar sponsored by the Radio-Television Digital News Foundation (RTDNF). Courtesy: Advancing the Story blog

These are questions that came to mind as I listened Saturday night to Victor Hernandez, who coordinates domestic news coverage for CNN.  That includes directing the content of five so-called “all-platform journalists,” who essentially are one-person bureaus in various cities around the U.S.

Hernandez was the keynote speaker at the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Green Eyeshade Awards Saturday night at a campus near here- Kennesaw State University.

Every time I come back to Kennesaw State, which is in Cobb County, my former residence,  it’s like a homecoming.    I spent the majority of my  broadcast  journalism career producing newscasts in this market, which at that time was the tenth largest in the nation,  at a station that now is hiring what used to be called “one-man bands.”

For those non-journalists reading this post, a “one-man band” is a reporter who also shoots, edits his or her own content.

While Hernandez readily admits he “hates the term one-man band,”  he clearly loves what his network is doing in creating reporters who create content that “move past the 1:30 quick and dirty.”  (reference to the traditional one-minute, 30-sec television package that viewers have become accustomed to seeing in local and network newscasts).

Instead, the all-platform journalists may produce blog pieces like this, a video report exclusively for CNN’s highly successful Web site,, a photo gallery with still images  or all of the above.

The All Platform Journalists

Jim Spellman

This summer Jim Spellman spoke with Gary Faulkner who went to Pakistan to look for Osama Bin Laden.  He produced an edited interview and then did what’s commonly referred to as “talkback” with CNN anchor Drew Griffin.  This would appear to be very traditional broadcast news.   But, it was the type of story that he turned that was different.

Spellman’s work on homeless children was highlighted by Victor in his discussion on Saturday night.

Another example of  Jim’s work was a story about medical marijuana, which was a news package shot with a little unconventional, “edgy approach”

Is Katrina Five-Year Mark Really A Big Deal?

In fairly predictable fashion, news organizations are providing “milestone” updates on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

In the news business, we commit entire teams of reporters, photojournalists, videographers to look back and look forward on anniversaries.

But, with such a catastrophic event as Hurricane Katrina ordeal, we mark the anniversary every year.   So yet another anniversary seems like no big deal, or at least no bigger deal than the fourth anniversary or the third anniversary.  So what?

I suppose it’s useful to look at some of the projects that are on-air, in print and online.

FIVE Notable Examples of Katrina Anniversary Coverage


Even though I did not get a hard copy as it does not circulate in West Alabama, USA WEEKEND used CNN’s cover guy and frontline anchor, Anderson Cooper to “front” its cover story “Katrina 5 Years Later.”

Writing in the first person, Cooper gives a personal perspective to this story using the words of his father in his lead.   While I wonder how much of this piece he actually  “REPORTED” and how much was just a quite write-up from his many visits as a CNN anchor, his closer words are worth repeating.

We all must continue to bear witness to what happens here. We must visit New Orleans, walk the streets, hear the music. This still-great city has much to teach us about survival, resilience and moving forward while still remembering the past.

2. USA Today

While USA Weekend magazine appeared in millions of Sunday papers, days earlier Gannett’s flagship national news product, USA Today offered several noteworthy pieces, available on its Website:

Asking the provocative question “5 years after Katrina: Can it happen again?,” USA Today’s editorial board offered THREE (3) improvements needed to make the city safer: flood protection, natural barriers, and urban planning.

Elsewhere, the paper’s Thomas Frank explains in a USA TODAY cover story that FEMA’s flood insurance program is “running deeply in the red.”  Why?

Frank reports that  the program has paid people to rebuild over and over in the nation’s worst flood zones while also discounting insurance rates by up to $1 billion a year for flood-prone properties.

Even if you’re interested in marking a five-year anniversary, this news makes Katrina relevant to all of us.

And, USA Today editorial board opined on this later in the week.

3. Montgomery Advertiser

Here in Alabama, the Montgomery Advertiser put together a really good example of how to use multimedia to package the BIG STORY.

Anchored by a story by Rick Harmon, which was the centerpiece on the  today’s Sunday paper, the special section is a companion to a three-part series, fhe first of which ran this morning.


Backed by the resources of a sister newspaper, The (New Orleans) Times Picayune, brings together much of its coverage from five years ago in a special section similar to the Montgomery Advertiser.

The biggest value of this section is its reflection of the multimedia approach we as journalists can take to our coverage.  From transcripts of key speeches to interactive graphics and photo galleries, there is much to keep people on this site for more than just a brief visit.

5. The Weather Channel

Not exactly known for its Web-based news coverage, The Weather Channel’s Web site, even as it covers multiple hurricanes that are brewing this week, did devote some space to marking the anniversary.

I learned a new term, “editorial meteorologist” as I read Jonathan Erdman’s coverage.

NPR goes the distance with Katrina

Even as we watched the television networks like Brian Williams and his top-rated NBC Nightly News anchor their coverage from New Orleans many, many times after the tragedy five years ago (NBC opened a bureau there),  National Public Radio gets the award for its continuous coverage of this story.

Even when stories like the earthquake in Haiti or the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico took centerstage, I would hear stories on NPR’s signature programs, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, from New Orleans on how the city was moving forward post-Katrina.

This is a commitment I don’t believe  this is a commitment other news organizations matched.   (Of course, it might be that I just missed what the other outlets did)

NPR’s  Katrina and Beyond section reflects that “continuous coverage” strategy even now, on this fifth anniversary.

UA’s textbook rental program makes Crimson White

It’s the first day of school at the University of Alabama and like clockwork, we’re talking about textbook prices, again!

This has become a bit of a cliche for the “back-to-school” edition of the campus paper.  But, I understand if you are a student, textbook prices are front-and-center on the first day.

The Crimson White, which publishes four days a week will have two editions this week and chose to position a textbook story on its front page.

As a member of the University Textbook committee, I know how much the Bookstore is excited about its textbook rental program, which allows students to access books at lower prices provided they are returned in good condition at the end of the semester.