High Expectations For Second AEJMC Trip to California’s Bay Area

The countdown is on for the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), which begins this week in San Francisco.

For those of us who teach journalism at the college level, THIS is the big conference of the year as AEJMC is a “one-stop” shopping place for updates on the cutting-edge scholarship in the field, teaching techniques that we can use to “freshen up” our courses that start in a couple of weeks and a place to learn trends that are influencing what we do as academic leaders in this arena of journalism education.

It will be my second trip to the so-called “Bay Area.”  My last trip was for this same conference in 2006.   My last trip was only for two days, enough time to present a research paper and make a visit to a local television station.

This time I will have an opportunity to do a couple of off-site visits this week in addition to catching up with my fellow journalism and mass communication educators from around the country.

Five Questions I Hope to Answer This Week

googleplex1.  Is Googleplex really all that’s it’s cracked up to be?
The AEJMC Media Management and Economics (MME) Division is gathering for an daylong visit to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. this week.  Looking forward to catching up with MME Colleagues and seeing what the Google campus is like.     Google is definitely as important as any traditional media company in mass communication today.

CLS - Portraits
Tim Wu

2.  What is Net Neutrality Theory and Can Tim Wu Predict What’s Going to Happen Next?
The matter of how to regulate the Internet has been a big topic of discussion in communication policy circles.  The man who wrote the book on Net Neutrality Theory is kicking off our conference.  Reading his book, The Master Switch, now and am looking forward to Professor Wu’s keynote address on Thursday night as the conference officially opens.
3.  How much interest is there in media coverage of race in the wake of recent events in South Carolina?

I’ve been tapped to moderate a “Hot Topics” Roundtable on the recent events in Charleston, SC and the debate over the Confederate flag.   We struggled to get this topic on the conference program at the very last minute.  But, I’m interested in seeing just how many AEJMC members show up to engage in dialogue with our dynamic panelists.

4.  Is The Weather Really Cooler in the Bay Area?

I remember last time in San Francisco it didn’t always feel like summer.  The slightly cooler temperatures reminded me more of fall.   Wonder will it be like that this time?

5.  Which is better San Jose or San Francisco?

With a guest appearance on KQED-TV’s Equal Time later this week,  I’ll have to visit San Jose, California for the first time.  The public affairs program is produced out of studios at San Jose State University.  I’m just curious of the three major cities in this area– Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose, which is best place to live?

A Special Time for U. of Alabama

This will be a memorable AEJMC conference for those of us from “The Capstone of Higher Education” as the University of Alabama will receive the 2015 Equity and Diversity Award.     We are so grateful for the recognition of our diversity efforts here at an institution known as the place where a former governor stood in “The Schoolhouse Door.”

Also, my colleague, Margot Lamme has been nominated for a top book award.   We’ll find out if she’s the winner later this week.

Jennifer Greer
Jennifer Greer

Along with receiving these awards,  we’ll see our Former Interim Dean Jennifer Greer ascend to the position of vice president of the organization.    Greer, who was my department chair in journalism for more than five years,  is now the associate provost for administration here at University of Alabama.

And, on Saturday, I will accept the Robert P. Knight Multicultural Award from the AEJMC Scholastic Journalism Division.   Excited to have a chance to talk briefly about some of ways we have worked here to turn pre-college students on to journalism.

Should be an great week all the way around.   I hope to provide a few updates here along the way.

What 80,000 People, A Small Alabama Town and A National Story Can Teach Your Students

The 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” with events in Selma, Alabama that drew tens of thousands from around the nation provided lessons for students and journalism and mass communication faculty alike.

Students from Roy Park School of Communications at Ithaca College arrived several days before the 50th anniversary to produce stories from the Selma community.
Students from Roy Park School of Communications at Ithaca College arrived several days before the 50th anniversary to produce stories from the Selma community.

SELMA, Ala– On multiple levels, the 50th Anniversary of “Bloody Sunday” presented a gold mine of opportunities for those of us who teach journalism and mass communication.

Hats off to my faculty colleagues at the University of Alabama and elsewhere who spent many months planning reporting projects around this weekend’s Bridge Crossing Jubilee that brought President Obama and the first family along with members of Congress and the national media here to Selma.

I was absolutely thrilled that my former graduate school classmate Dr. James Rada of Ithaca College and his students from the Park School of Communications appeared in the credits of NBC Nightly News last night as they reported on events in Selma for the nation’s most-watched network evening newscast.

Closer to home, University of Alabama journalism students have been reporting for weeks on communities in Dallas County.

The fruit of their labor appeared in a special edition of The Selma Times-Journal

Another team of students working with UA Journalism Professor Chip Brantley and Telecommunication and Film Professor Andrew Grace produced a documentary “A Call from Selma” on how the murder of a white minister in Selma was a catalyst in the Civil Rights Movement.   The Digital Media Workshop course gave journalism students a chance to take their multimedia reporting skills to a whole different level.

While these were all planned, multi-day team projects,  what I saw today involved little planning other than students deciding to get a bus with the intention of learning something in a place they’d never really visited.  A smartphone, a digital camera and maybe a pad (Although many of them didn’t have one of those– scary for me, as a traditional journalist) was all they carried along with them.

I was only planning to be on the bus tour as a faculty facilitator.    Low and behold, I had public relations and journalism students and some journalism and communication minors roaming the streets of downtown Selma taking it all in.

While we had viewed and discussed the PBS documentary, “Bridge to Freedom,” this morning,  I had no idea what they would do when presented with the opportunity to do journalism and be more than a visitor to a festival or large-scale event.

Nothing Like a Live Event

As we started today’s bus trip,  I didn’t realize that the team of UA journalism students live-tweeting for The Tuscaloosa News with the hashtag #TuscSelma50 all weekend were on my bus traveling from our Tuscaloosa campus to Selma.

One of the students, Alessandra Delrose, had been in my multi-platform reporting class.   She was tasked with helping to write a story even as she live-tweeted the events.    I got a chance to see her gathering interviews and photos and video, the very skills we teach in our journalism classes.

No classroom assignment could ever replicate this kinScreen Shot 2015-03-08 at 9.59.30 PM Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 10.00.08 PMd of event– with crowds swelling to 80,000 and a lot of things changing minute-by-minute.

Taking Photos Vs.  Getting Quotes

In the midst of a throng of Bridge Crossing visitors,  our students were watching a church service from Brown Chapel AME Church that turned into a Pre-March Rally as speaker after speaker talked about the events at the Edmund Pettus Bridge long before Rev. Al Sharpton got up to deliver the morning message.

One white student admitted having never attended a predominantly black church service before and yet realizing the public relations strategies that were being used by some who got up to speak.

And,  yes, as a diversity instructor, I think it’s relevant and appropriate to mention the ethnic backgrounds of the students in this case.

Another Asian student was furiously taking down notes and whispering questions to me about the speakers as the event went on and hundreds gathered on Dallas Avenue behind us.  She was not aware of some of the players from civil rights history in America.

Some students struggled to figure out ‘do I listen and take quotes and take photos or both?’   How do I balance the two?

Ah, the dilemma so many of us have faced in this era of social media, multimedia and traditional journalism rolled into one.

Reginald Allen, a senior journalism major did live tweeting and reporting from the events at the Edmund Pettus Bridge Sunday.
Reginald Allen, a senior journalism major, did live tweeting and reporting from the events at the Edmund Pettus Bridge Sunday.

Ray Allen, a senior journalism student was working the crowds before and after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge snapping photos and working on multiple news pieces at a time.

This is the same student, who a few months ago would say very little in class.   He would admit today that this was a new experience for him.

But, he rose to the occasion like a champion!    I couldn’t have been more proud.

Allen and Delrose are just two examples of students who gained more experience in doing journalism and mass communication TODAY than they did all semester completing assignments and projects in my class.

They both showed up and showed out in a big way, demonstrating the multi-platform reporting skills that are so important in today’s newsrooms.

But, the events in Selma today and this past week were not just about learning journalism.

The lessons about politics, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and recent Supreme Court rulers that change parts of the Act, poverty and race were endless.

What we’re doing today is offering students a lesson about social justice and that transcends their major, school or college affiliation.    It’s up to us educators to utilize gold opportunities like to be unconventional in the strategies we use to facilitate learning.

Some Lessons I Learned From Selma

So here at FIVE Takeways from Selma for Educators, particularly those who are charged with preparing professionals who want to work in media industries:

  • Lesson #1    Plan, Plan, Plan        While the lessons today happened without much preparation on my part.  Teaching
    moments are often more likely to come when you as a faculty member take weeks or even months to build relationships that can result in great long-term projects.  The New York Times’ mini-documentary was not a spare-of-the-moment “go cover this” decision.
  • Lesson #2    Expect the Unexpected   YES, this is a cliche.  But,  I use it anyway because we as faculty can’t plan
    everything no matter how hard we try.   I didn’t deliberately check the list of students registered for the free bus trip
    funded by University of Alabama to see how many mass media majors were going.    Even if I had,  I couldn’t have orchestrated today lesson.   I have to be ready to look for the teachable moments in the unexpected and the uncertain.
  • Lesson #3   Non-majors Can Learn Media Too      Often we think those who have had our classes, the ones in the sequence that we as faculty have designed deliberately for professional preparation are the one most equipped to learn in a breaking news environment.    But, I was amazed at how many other non-media majors were taking in and picking up today’s event.   And, yes,  I was doing a little “recruiting” for possible minors or second majors among the student group (Never, miss a chance like that)
  • Lesson #4  De-brief, De-brief     I found myself doing a lot of checking in with the students along the way.   It was great to kind of be in that quasi-producer, news manager, media manager role at the scene of a breaking story like the one today.
  • Lesson #5  Be Ready for Questions You Can’t Answer    Today’s 50th anniversary celebration was filled with opportunities to teach history.  I am NOT a historian.  But,  media history inevitably gets integrated into my lessons.  As much I had learned from reading about Selma, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and that era,  there were several questions students asked today that I couldn’t answer.    It’s ok for us Ph.D.s to not be experts in everything, even though journalists like be well-rounded, widely read individuals.

The lessons in the signs and t-shirts worn by attendees were endless.BlackLivesMatterposter

I think this day and this past week Selma became the BEST JOURNALISM and MASS COMMUNICATION Classroom in America!

Headline Headaches, “Old Fashioned” Journalism Spotlighted in Tuscaloosa News Mishap

Letter to the Editor sets the record straight on a home of journalism at University of Alabama.

An incorrect headline about the place where I work and a letter to the editor in today’s Tuscaloosa News raised some interesting points about journalism in the digital age where we post things online and often focus our training on preparing students mostly for content delivery in that online area.

Last week, The Tuscaloosa News included a “staff report” on the new dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Communication and Information Sciences.

The story appears to have been rewritten from a news release published the day before on the University’s web site.

Problem is- the story that appeared in the newspaper incorrectly stated in the headline that Nelson was the new “dean of journalism.”

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only factual error in the way the story was presented.   But, we’ll save those criticisms for another day.

Here's how the story appeared in the June 12th edition of The Tuscaloosa News.
Here’s how the story appeared in the June 12th edition of The Tuscaloosa News.

Headline Dilemma

Most of us who teach journalism suspected the challenge was in the headline writing.

Anyone with experience working in producing newspaper designs knows the most difficult headlines to write are those that must fit over one column of news copy.  The small space does not lend itself to long names like “communication and information sciences.”

Those of us on the UA campus, usually just say “C&IS”   But, that is not a recognizable acronym to the general public.

Even the word “communication” is too long to fit over that column.

So what’s a responsible newspaper designer to do?

Aversa-copy
Aversa

The former director of UA’s School of Library and Information Studies (and a personal friend and colleague) Elizabeth Aversa attempted to set the record straight with a letter to the editor published today.

But, the web version of her letter appears to have been edited down. So one has to see the version in the “print edition” to get the full effect of her critique.  The opening sentences of Aversa’s letter are very telling.

“Although thrilled to hear of the appointment of a dean for the College of Communication and Information Sciences at The University of Alabama, I am writing to correct the impression left by the headline “UA names Mark Nelson as new dean of journalism.” The College that Dr. Nelson will lead is very much more than an old-fashioned “journalism school.”

Aversa is correct that the College consists of five academic units, with the Department of Journalism being the oldest of the units.

But, the irony in her calling a journalism school “old-fashioned” is that those basic print production  skills like writing headlines for newspapers that we have traditionally taught in a copyediting or editing class are claiming less and less attention in our class.

In fact, this fall, our editing classes will be spending a lot of time editing web content in our brand new Digital Media Center.

That leaves one to question– won’t that mean less time and practice in writing one-column headlines?

The answer is probably “YES.”    There are many in our profession who believe newspapers are dying and don’t have much of a place in the “future of journalism.”

So,  it behooves journalism educators to devote more time to instructing students on digital skills that are directed at web-based, mobile platforms as the places where more and more folks are getting their news.

Still, one has to wonder does that mean we will have more editing snafus like we saw last week at The Tuscaloosa News?

REWRITING THE HEADLINE

So, how would I have rewritten that headline?

Well, given that “communication” is too long, I would have focused on the fact that Nelson is Vice President of Student Affairs.  It’s actually somewhat unusual for a vice president to leave that higher central administrative post and take a leadership role in a single unit.

“Nelson to
trade V.P.
title for
dean’s post’

LSU’s Ceppos Encourages SHALA Attendees to “Fill the Gap”

There’s a gap in journalism and mass communication leadership and the dean of LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication knows one way to fix it.

Manship School of Mass Communication Dean Jerry Ceppos hosted a Welcome Dinner for the 17 participants in the Scripps Howard Academic Leadership Academy Sunday evening in Baton Rouge.
Manship School of Mass Communication Dean Jerry Ceppos hosted a Welcome Dinner for the 17 participants in the Scripps Howard Academic Leadership Academy Sunday evening in Baton Rouge.

BATON ROUGE–  There’s an acronym in journalism and mass communication education that perhaps  everyone should know- SHALA.

SHALA stands for  Scripps Howard Academic Leadership Academy.

Tonight the 2014 edition of SHALA began at the home of the dean of the Manship School of Mass Communication at Louisiana State University.

Jerry Ceppos and his wife, Karen, welcomed 17 of us from around the country to Baton Rouge as we begin an intensive examination of what it means to be a leader of a journalism or mass communication (JMC) program in the 21st century.


shalalogo
In his brief opening remarks, Ceppos noted the large gap at JMC programs in need of qualified talent to provide leadership.  He sees SHALA attendees as the ones who will “fill the gap” as they step up to the plate as department chairs, directors, assistant and associate deans and deans.

He challenged those of us in attendance to get involved in helping our institutions identify what we see as our signature programs or things we do the best.

Over the next three days, we’ll tackle topics such as inclusive leadership, institutional diversity, strategic planning, assessment and leading change.

 

 

I’m Beginning June at Journalism Leadership Camp in the Bayou

Heading to Baton Rouge for the Scripps Howard Academic Leadership Academy hosted by Louisiana State University. It should be a great week.

It’s a new week and new month and I’m starting it all in “The Bayou State.”

Later this afternoon, I’ll be joining 16 other journalism and mass communication administrators, professors and communication professionals in Baton Rouge for the 2014 Scripps Howard Academic Leadership Academy.

It’s kind of a summer camp for college administrators in journalism.

For the next three or four days we’ll be talking about what it means to lead journalism programs like mine in an environment of rapid change both in media industries and in higher education.

“We started the academy to help the nation’s journalism and mass communication schools fill an increasing number of leadership positions,” said Mike Philipps, president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation. “It is gratifying – and encouraging – to see so many alumni at the helm of these institutions where they are distinguishing themselves and improving the profession.”

I’m looking forward to re-connecting with several who I’ve gotten to know in national organizations like the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Broadcast Education Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists and making new friends at mass media programs around the nation.

HardinM2014
Marie Hardin

Among those speaking this week is the newly-appointed dean of the College of Communication at Penn State Marie Hardin.

At the same time, I’ll be rubbing shoulders with giants in the journalism field like Ken Paulson, who led USA Today and now is communication dean at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro.  There’s also former editor of Montgomery Advertiser Wanda Lloyd, who in another life led the Diversity Institute at Freedom Forum.

Today Lloyd is leading the Mass Communication program at Savannah State University.

As new college administrators, Paulson and Lloyd are joining me as academy participants.

Nearly 100 participants have graduated from the academy and hold various administrative positions at institutions around the country including the University of Florida, the University of Maryland, Elon University, The Pennsylvania State University, Hampton University and Northwestern.

“Nothing is more important to mass communication education than developing future leaders. That is the sole purpose of the academy, and its results already are apparent in dean, director and chair offices around the country,” said Jerry Ceppos, dean of the Manship School at Louisiana State University.

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Jerry Ceppos

In a previous life, Ceppos was an editor at the San Jose Mercury News and an executive at what was Knight Ridder Newspapers.

Tonight he’s hosting all of the academy participants for dinner at his home.

It should be a memorable week!

 

In Its 8th Year, University of Alabama’s “Documenting Justice” Still Shining Spotlight on Injustice

Now in its eighth year, “Documenting Justice” continues to bring attention to injustices in the state of Alabama. The latest round of student films was screened Tuesday night at Tuscaloosa’s Bama Theater.

When it comes to teaching students about diversity and difference, few exercises are more powerful than having students to research and produce their own films.

We are fortunate at The University of Alabama to empower non-media production students to do exactly that while at the same time bringing much-needed attention to cases of injustice right here in our state.

After eight years,  Andy Grace and Rachel Morgan deserve applause for sustaining a rather unique program known as “Documenting Justice,” where students labor for two semesters to learn the practice and process of making movies while  using the tools of an anthropologist to engage in indepth study of an issue or a community here in our state.

The end product of the two semesters of work is shared in a public screening in downtown Tuscaloosa at The Bama Theater.

This video previews the six films that were screened this evening at The Bama Theater:

The six films screened this evening provided SIX Important Lessons about Injustice in our own state:

  • Lesson #1  Birmingham’s Norwood community shows what happens when white flight collides with Interstate highway development.
    In “Norwood,” Filmmakers Myranda Bennett and Kelly Konrad took the ongoing discussion about urban blight to a new level by showing us what people in Norwood think about the abandoned homes in their neighborhood.  This could have been any community once on the cutting edge, but in latter decades has “gone down” as people have moved away.    The variety of interviews was what made the lessons in “Norwood” real.  I think this was the one of the top two films of the evening.
  • Lesson #2  Sexual assault is still a problem in 2014 and should be examined through the lens of those recovering from the assault.As unfortunate as sexual assault is, there’s been so much attention paid to it , you might think “Why is this still happening?” Abbey Pint and Megan Dillard didn’t just tell another story about rape based on the experience of the one who was assaulted.  They identified a range of female assault victims who focused on telling stories of how they are recovering, not just on the details of what happened.
  • Lesson #3 Disability and race are under-covered and can be depicted by looking at the experience of hearing impaired in the African American community.
    How do you negotiate the two types of difference of being black and not being able to hear?  Filmmakers Gabrielle Taylor and Johanna Obenda tackled this subject in an usual film with lots of sub-titles and silence.
  • Lesson #4- Alabama has a REAL PROBLEM with its laws for animal spay and neutering.
    My favorite film of the evening was “Fixed” where Connor Towne O’Neill and Kenny Kruse took their cameras inside the local animal shelter here in Tuscaloosa and the shelter in Shelby County.   But, they didn’t stop there.  They contrasted the situation in New England where many animals are transferred from Alabama and here in our community where there are not enough laws governing spay and neutering of animals.   I’m not a big pet lover.   But,  I found this particular film so informative.  It increase my sensitivity to a major injustice here in our state.
  • Lesson #5- You can tell a story with no interviews and narration.
    Filmmakers Kyle Leoparda and J.L. Clark may not have intended it.  But “Run of Mine” about the coal mining community is a good example of how to shoot a film and leave out the talking or the interview clips.   The natural sound of the coal mining in Brookwood provided an interesting twist on how to make a movie in a non-traditional fashion.
  • Lesson #6-  There is a ministry for an openly-gay Southern Baptist minister
    The final film, “Sanctuary” spotlights the difficult challenge facing Christians who are openly-gay.   Filmmakers Rachel Arnsen and Myah Wilder interviewed members of The Spirit of the Cross Church in Huntsville.   While a brief mention was of Leviticus, this film focused less on the theological debate and more on the spiritual lives of those who are living their Christian lives often away from their families.

Hats Off to the Chattanooga Times Free Press and Two-Time University of Alabama Alumna Joan McClane For Noteworthy Reporting

Those of us on the journalism faculty at The University of Alabama are smiling today as one of our two-time alums was part of a team named a finalist Monday for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 6.37.25 AMIt’s a pleasure to start the day by reading one of the top three examples of local reporting in all of journalism and to know it was produced, in part, by one of your former students.

Joan Garrett McClane completed her bachelor and master's degrees in journalism at The University of Alabama.
Joan Garrett McClane completed her bachelor and master’s degrees in journalism at The University of Alabama.

That’s what I am doing this morning as I check out the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, which we learned Monday was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, the highest award in journalism.

It seems like only yesterday Joan Garrett (now Joan Garrett McClane) was sitting in my classes as part of the Knight Fellows in Community Journalism at the University of Alabama.

Now she’s spending nine months researching a story analyzing homicide cases and learning, among other things, that fewer than half of shooting suspects in Chattanooga are caught.

According to the story “Speak No Evil, ” 58 percent of open homicide and shooting investigations in Chattanooga are at dead ends because of witness silence.

This gives me a whole different impression of that community surrounded by mountains off Interstate 24.  You see it as you travel between Atlanta and Nashville or going from North Alabama up to Knoxville, Tenn.

The Pulitzer committee recognized    McClane, Todd South, Doug Strickland and Mary Helen Miller  “for using an array of journalistic tools to explore the “no-snitch” culture that helps perpetuate a cycle of violence in one of the most dangerous cities in the South.”

Today I recognize McClane, in particular, for developing the multimedia skill set as a student and putting it to work in way that brought national recognition to her news organization and great pride to those of us here in the journalism department at The University of Alabama.

Having done research at the Chattanooga newspaper several years ago, I know what a top-notch news operation they have there.  Now the world knows by another example of the work the staff there is producing.

I’m just excited that one of our graduates is among those producing such work.

Way to go Joan!