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 Makes Tuscaloosa One of the BEST Places For Young People?

Tuscaloosa County has won the distinction of being one of the 100 Best Places for Young People, for the third year in a row.

I’ve been in Tuscaloosa for a decade now.   But,  I have not always believed we had the absolute best schools. That’s primarily due to the lack of funding for education.

Still, despite my own perceptions,  Tuscaloosa County continues to rank among the America’s 100 Best Places For Young People.

Tomorrow, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox,  Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon and Judge Hardy McCollum, who was recently elected to his seventh term as  Probate Judge of Tuscaloosa County, will gather for an official presentation of the national award.

This is the THIRD YEAR in a row Tuscaloosa County has won the award.

The only other Alabama communities to win such as distinction in 2012 are Sylacauga and Mobile.


According to the 100 Best Communities for Young People Web site,  Tuscaloosa  County was recognized because it hosts programs to support healthy youth development such as FocusFirst and the Maude Whatley Health Clinic mobile van.

Professor Stephen Black from FocusFirst, will be among the speakers at Tuesday’s gathering at the Bryant Conference Center.

Community partnerships such as one between the Tuscaloosa district attorney’s office and the local sheriff’s office and the Tuscaloosa City Schools.

It’s called Helping Education Linking Parents, a program designed  to decrease students’ discipline problems and improve their retention and graduation rates

The venue for the presentation of this latest award Tuesday will be the  Doing What Matters for Alabama’s Children Conference, the seventh such event.

During the conference, I look forward to hearing more about the state of our community’s efforts to help children in 2013.

Panhandler Encounter Highlights Day 1 Experience

On the first day of my work with Woodlawn High School in East Birmingham, a panhandler interrupted my television interview.

BIRMINGHAM–  It’s Fourth of July, but I have just had an interesting experience conducting an interview outside of the Woodlawn High School in East Birmingham.

The goal today was to gather some “Fresh” video that could be used in a video exercise for the students.

I met my interview subject at the school at the appointed time.

We set up the camera and proceeded to conduct the on-camera interview.

Suddenly about two minutes into the recording, the woman I was interviewing looked away to someone behind me.

I looked back and a man with a dog was there.  He asked “Excuse me, you from the cable company.  I’m looking for a job.”

When I explained that I was not from Birmingham and that I didn’t work for the cable company, he proceeded to ask if I could spare some change for him to get some food.

When I declined, he walked on down the street.

The woman, who went to Woodlawn High School explained that is very common here in the East Birmingham community.

The interview went well, at least I thought.

When I returned to Tuscaloosa, I discovered the windy conditions had seriously affected the production quality of my video.

But,  perhaps there was something we could salvage from the video.

Maybe the lesson learned on this first day was NOT about the interview, but the residents in this community in which I was a visitor.

Alabamians Pause for Day of Prayer, Look for Way to Worship

Alabama churches pull together for worship as state pauses for “Day of Prayer” May 1, 2011.

This Sunday morning not only marks the beginning of a new month.  Four days after a tornado swept away many of Alabama’s communities, it’s a new day for dozens of Alabama’s churches where parishioners will be saying more prayers than usual today.

Gov. Robert Bentley

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has proclaimed May 1, 2011 a Day of Prayer for entire state.  Perhaps no place will those prayers be especially poignant than in churches in cities of Cullman and Tuscaloosa.

Cullman Churches All Impacted

Last week, ABC News’ Steve Osunsami visited four churches in Cullman that were all heavily damaged or destroyed in Wednesday’s tornadoes.

Eastside Baptist Church, First Baptist Church, First United Methodist Cullman and Christ Lutheran Church were all affected by the storm.

As Osunsami reported, church services won’t be taking place at those churches.

But, I’m sure those parishioners in Cullman will find a way to worship somewhere on this May 1st.

Osunsami noted Cullman was the place where “God did not spare his own house.”

Two Tuscaloosa Churches Move in Together

Here in Tuscaloosa, the West Highland Missionary Baptist Church, which before Wednesday afternoon was located at 628 29th Street,  was also destroyed.

Today, members of West Highland Baptist will hold their services at our church, Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church, which the tornado missed by ONE BLOCK.

Both of these churches will be worshipping and holding weekly events in the same quarters for at least the next few weeks and months.

It’s not only a new month, but a new day for these two congregations who realize their call to pray and worship is as strong on May 1st after the storm as it was just a week ago before a tornado changed our community forever.

I’m happy to be among those Cornerstone members who will be welcoming our friends at West Highland to our quarters on University Place & Brooksdale Drive.

Conveying the Scope of the Tuscaloosa Tornado’s Devastation to the World

Convey finer points to the international media trying to cover the devastation in the wake of the tornado that came through Tuscaloosa Wednesday.

It’s now 7  a.m. in the Central Time Zone and literally the whole  world is waking up to what happened here in Tuscaloosa yesterday.  After my earlier blog list, celebrating the return of electrical power to my home, I got a call from the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).

Joined by a University of Alabama student, James and another resident of Birmingham, (that would be the largest city in Alabama), we took questions about asked to share our perspectives on what happened.

The conversations about the tragedy of a tornado are different from the news reporting of death tolls, street closures and relief efforts.

Right after the BBC Interview,  I went on to talk about the situation on John Hockenberry’s The Takeaway. which airs on WNYC here in the United States.

In doing these first two interviews, it’s interesting to note the following:

The importance of being accurate about what the tornado did and didn’t do

Some have reported that the tornado left destruction on the University of Alabama campus.  But, no UA buildings sustained structural damage

Explaining the geographic landscape to  those unfamiliar with West Alabama

The pictures taken along the roads like Veterans Memorial Parkway or McFarland Boulevard might give the impression that the entire town was leveled.  This is not a small town with one traffic light.  As the commerce center for West Alabama with more than 80,000 residents, Tuscaloosa City and County are largely intact except for tree damage.   The parts where the storm hit are heavily damaged or destroyed.

Those of us talking to the rest of the world have to convey these finer points.

Showing that we DID prepare for the possibility, but can never be prepared for the impact of  a tornado

It’s hard to believe, but for those of us who live in this neck of the woods.  we know how to prepare for a possibility of severe weather.  The University did that.  The local meteorologist told us two days in advance that Wednesday would be a rough weather day.  The local schools closed in anticipation of the severe weather warnings.

in a breaking news situation, especially driven by tweets and text messages, it’s important for those of us on the ground to be the source of accurate and reliable information.

Alabama’s Election Day 2010 Ends Not a Moment Too Soon

If you’re like me, you are tired of all the robocalls with all the nasty attacks, the reminders from everyone from President Obama to State Senator Hank Sanders.

Did they actually think I would forget to vote?

Perhaps so since this was a rather low-key election cycle for those of us here in Alabama. None of the candidates for statewide office made this a very bitter or newsworthy race. The end result was predictable.

That’s why minutes after the polls closed. there were projections that our Tuscaloosa homeboy Richard Shelby had been re-elected. Duh? Did we really expect he wouldn’t be sent back to Washington?

Alabama was never really “in play” as the political analysts like to call states or places where the political control could shift from one party to another.

So, the yawner of a 2010 election cycle in Alabama is over. While I’ve had my ear to the cable news channels listening to returns, I’m not all that focused on Alabama.

I will be interested to see who won some of our local races in the West Alabama/Tuscaloosa area. But, then, it’s on to planning for the 2011 legislature, putting these candidates to the test to see if they will do what they said they will do.

We’ll know the names of the players in a matter of minutes.

Stay tuned.