Controversy With UGA’s Red & Black Staff, SPJ Leaders’ Feud Provide Great Social Media Lesson

This month’s walkout of the editors at University of Georgia’s Red & Black and the disagreement between two leaders of Society of Professional Journalists over how to respond provide a great lesson in the power of blogging and social media.


If you teach journalism, you can appreciate the value of a fresh case study in social media when you’re kicking off a new school year.

It just so happens that this is my 200th blog post on this new WordPress platform, which I switched to three years ago next month, after four years blogging under the Blogger platform.

So I’ll use this post to speak to the power of the blogging platform in a recent  controversy to which I was connected in more than one way.

My beloved alma mater– University of Georgia — and its independent student newspaper, The Red and Black,  (for which I wrote multiple times as a graduate student in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication) are the setting for this lesson in both the power and potential of social media.

Instead of focusing on what prompted the UGA students to walk out and what Red & Black Publisher Harry Montevideo reportedly did when a student videographer attempted to videotape a closed meeting,  I want to focus on the use of social media.

Red & Dead

You have to see the Red & Dead blog that was created by the students who walked out to appreciate the power of this platform for telling a story.

Their mode of communication was not just text, but video and images. Their transparency was reflected in providing readers access to a draft memo that put in writing the policies that they felt were wrong.

Their Twitter account, @RedandDead815  attracted more than 4,300 followers in a matter of days.

“Conversations we’ve had here prove social media can foster meaningful relationships,” the students tweeted from the account, which they stopped posting on last week.

But, the social media power doesn’t just end with the students.

SPJ Leaders Disagree

You’ll want to see how a public disagreement between members of the Society of Professional Journalists national board over how to respond to the events at UGA played out on this same platform.


Full disclosure: As a member of that SPJ National Board, I was privy to e-mails regarding the disagreement and asked to weigh in.   Until now, I haven’t written about or commented publicly on the situation.

Michael Koretsky, our regional director for SPJ here in the Southeast, had one strategy.

But, our SPJ National President John Ensslin had another.    He took a slower, more measured approach, releasing a letter to the Chairman of the Red & Black Board several days after the controversy in Athens occurred.

Both Koretsky and Ensslin explained in great detail their


respective strategies.

They all did it with the same tool I’m using here– BLOGGING.

Even in the last communication between the two, Koretsky used the interactive tool  of reader comments to have the “last word” so to speak in their back-and-forth saga.

Other SPJ members, some who hadn’t previously spoken out on the issue, also weighed in there.

Why Spotlight This?

Journalism students and some journalists wonder why they should be blogging or tweeting or using any of these web-based tools to communicate.  They ask why they should have public comments to the things they post on their blogs.

One of Koretzky’s points is that SPJ is not utilizing these platforms enough to respond quickly on behalf of those whose forums for free expression are threatened.

Whether or not we use them for advocacy, the blogging platform and its multimedia capabilities have a power that many have yet to realize or tap into in doing journalism.

Fortunately, the editors at The Red & Black and some of our most outspoken SPJ leaders have harnessed that power.  And, we’re all the better for it.

Twitter, Wiggio Expand Scope of 2012 Gulf South Summit Beyond Hattiesburg

Twitter and Wiggio each make a contribution to the 2012 Gulf South Summit. Glad we’re using these tools to take the conference beyond the Lake Terrace Convention Center.

HATTIESBURG, Miss–  A few days before the conference, I contacted one of the organizers to find out what our Twitter hashtag would be for this 2012 Gulf South Summit, my first such gathering.

The reply I received was “We’re using Wiggio and you should have gotten an invitation to join,”

I thought “Wiggio” What’s that?  Thankfully a YouTube video explained to me.

Even though I created my account before coming here to Hattiesburg, I was still a little fuzzy on how Wiggio could compete with Twitter in the social media arena,

It can’t.

Groups are not the same thing as social networks.  Each has a place at a conference like this.

Thankfully, someone had posted fliers around the Lake Terrace Convention Center notifying conference attendees to follow up on Twitter using the hashtag #GSS2012

The bigger point here is this gathering is using electronic means of sharing presentations, videos, handouts AND building community online, one that will last long after we leave Hattiesburg.

Patti Clayton facilitated a service learning seminar I attended at IUPUI last summer.

Today’s luncheon keynote with my friend Patti Clayton, involved a Tweet N’ Talk where people could respond to some of the prompts from Clayton either by talking to those at their tables on communicating in 140-character updates.

It was a real neat way to integrate social media into our deliberations.

While most at my table were not on Twitter (and I found myself educating them about this social media platform), it was encouraging how many service learning educators are there– communicating in the Twitterverse.

This afternoon, there were some presentations on social media and service learning.  I hate that I missed them.

But, thanks to Wiggio, I might be able to at least review the slides before the week is out.

Full Gospel’s Social Media Superstars Provide Awesome Advice for Church Media

Robin M. Ware and R. Pamela Adams are the social media superstars at the 18th Annual Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International Conference in Atlanta.

ATLANTA– Usually when you come to church conferences or conventions, the men with the collars and the hollers are the ones who get all the attention.

But, at this year’s 18th Annual Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Conference, we have to shine the spotlight on two women who are helping spread the “Full Gospel Flava” to a whole different audience using social media.

R. Pamela Adams of The BizLynks Center (left) takes questions from the audience while Robin Ware of The Ware Agency listens during a session today at the 18th Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship Conference.

Robin Ware of the Ware Agency and Pamela Adams, better known as “R.Pamela” teamed up to bring attendees at this week’s conference into  the social media age.

Ware’s experience as a certified meeting planner combined with Adams’ background as a technology strategist together can give churches what they need to extend their ministries to an audience that is already frequenting sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

Ware’s Work

“I taught Bishop Morton how to tweet,” said Ware, speaking of her efforts to assist Bishop Paul S. Morton of Atlanta’s Changing a Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church and the International Presiding Bishop of the Fellowship.  “Now Bishop Morton does his own tweeting.”

Ware helped launch the first Full Baptist Conference Web site, which went live in late March.  In a previous post last month, I talked about the significance of this for not just Full Gospel Baptist churches, but the Body of Christ as a whole.

While it was re-designed recently, the Fellowship’s old Web site, does not lend itself to interactivity or put the information about this biggest Full Gospel event of the year out front.

For the first time in the 18-year history of the conference,  there are blog posts and a Facebook Fan page associated with this gathering which typically draws more than 10,000 attendees from around the world.

The Effective E-mail

After sitting under the guidance of these two women, I will never do e-mailing the same way again, especially now that I’ve heard from Adams, who until recently worked as a regional representative for Constant Contact, one of the nation’s leading e-mail marketing companies.

“People don’t read e-mails, they scan e-mails,” Adams said as she encouraged those in her e-mail marketing workshop session to utilize e-mails to drive readers longer articles on their Web sites or blogs.

So far, over the past two days, I’ve picked up lots of tricks and tips to use both in my own blog and as a person working in the Technology ministry that supports the Web site for Tuscaloosa’a  Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church.

R.Pamela Adams

5 TIPS For Churches From the Social Media Superstars

1. You Want People to Tweet During Your Church Service

2. Twitter is Not Just About Promoting Yourself, It’s About Being a Resource for Your Followers

3. Your Brand is More than Your Name and Your Logo, It’s Also YOUR VOICE.

4. The Three Keys to E-Mail Marketing:  Connect, Inform, Grow

5. You Don’t Need Lights, Camera and Action to Get On YouTube, the Number-2 Search Engine.  A FlipCam will do.

Two reasons I’m struggling with news of Osama bin Laden’s death

I know bin Laden’s death is the big news of the day, but what about what’s happening here in Tuscaloosa? Do national media outlets under-inform their audience by putting all their eggs in the “bin Laden basket?”

Even as I got a firsthand look today at some of the areas of town affected by the tornado that changed our West Alabama community forever,  I’ve been struggling with how to react to the media shift from the Tornado Aftermath to the bin Laden death as the BIG STORY.

Yes, it’s a lead story, but..

Yes, as a television producer, it’s a no-brainer.  Timeliness, impact, Bizarre, Unusual– all the news values that make this the BIG STORY of the day.   I think ABC, CBS and NBC were correct to field anchor their newscasts tonight from Ground Zero.

But, bodies are still being pulled from the rubble here in Tuscaloosa.  If you’re not in Tuscaloosa, can you really turn your attention away from what’s happening here in Alabama?

How Did You Learn About Osama bin Laden death?

The other issue is how we all learned about this particular story.   One of my newest Twitter followers sent me a direct message asking my advice about how to handle this story.  I was like “what, what are you talking about?”

Then, I preceded to go to my usual pecking order of news sites for verification that this was the big story–,,,

Turns out Stacey Higginbotham has outlined almost exactly my steps in a post last night even as the story was breaking.   Her “7 Stages of News in a Twitter and Facebook Era” just became required reading for my journalism students who will be taking basic news reporting from me next month.

As for the shift away from Tuscaloosa, a question I posed in an earlier post in regard to the national TV networks, I think I can accept that our tragedy here will continue for some time.   It may not be the lead story on the evening news, but it’s still news– a story that will be back on the national radar in the days, weeks, months and YES, YEARS to come.

Clay Duda to Pay His SPJ ACTIVITY “Dues” Today In Birmingham

Clay Duda, an Atlanta-based social media consultant will be speaking at the SPJ Regional Conference in Birmingham today.

BIRMINGHAM– After a dizzying two days of travel in Northeast Ohio, we’re back near home base in Birmingham where later this morning we’ll get to hear self-proclaimed “Social Media Consultant” Clay Duda do his thing.

This baby-faced kid is Clay Duda. He's an Atlanta-based social media consultant who will be speaking today in Birmingham. Hopefully we'll get a 2011 image of him today.

The Atlanta-based journalist and photographer is one of the headliners at the Society of Professional Journalists Southeastern Regional Conference, which is taking place on our sister campus, the University of Alabama at Birmingham this weekend.

(I missed the first day due to my travels in Kent, Ohio)

“I’m an embarassingly inactive member of the Society of Professional Journalists,” Duda said in a posting on his blog last month.

Well, today Duda gets to INCREASE his SPJ activity quotient and pay his dues, so to speak by giving a session on how journalists are using social media at smaller and emerging publications.

He’s the pre-lunch speaker this morning and then will re-appear on a social media and ethics panel with my colleague Chris Roberts later this afternoon.

Should be a great day as we get started here in the “Magic City” in about 90 minutes.

Time to Elevate our Social Media Strategy in Journalism Education

ORLANDO– Three social media sessions in TWO Weeks’ time– an indication of just how important things like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn are to the world of journalism in 2010.

I’m finding myself  knee-deep in social media teaching ideas as I reflect on what was learned at two academic conferences and one professional gathering.

At this year’s Society of Professional Journalists Southeastern Regional Conference here at University of Central Florida Saturday, the wrap-up or closing session was titled “Deploying Social Media.”   It was the OTHER book end to a day that for many of the conference attendees began with “Courage Amid Chaos.”

Etan talks during morning session
Etan Horowitz, digital media producer at CNN International, shares his career path with a standing-room only crowd at the SPJ Southeastern Regional Conference at University of Central Florida.

Both of these sessions were lead by a 28-year-old former technology reporter at The Orlando Sentinel.    I say former because his experience allowed Etan Horowitz to become the social media media coordinator for CNN International.

Horowitz’s experience, as outlined in his final tech column at the Sentinel, is a great case study of how the career path for journalists getting into the profession is changing (or has changed).  The old “farm team” system may not be the way to a rewarding career, particularly if one is planning to work at places where newspapers have traditionally been the core media product.

In my opinion, CNN has been on the leading edge of broadcast journalism’s true embrace of social media.   In my previous blog, almost two years ago, I noted how CNN’s Rick Sanchez had broken ground on true integration of social networking into coverage of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

At that time, Etan Horowitz was pounding the pavement  (Sorry for a very bad cliche) here in Central Florida gathering technology stories and producing a column on tech issues.

Today, he’s the man behind the scenes at CNN International as that worldwide news organization seeks to remain relevant in an age of fragmenting audiences, which include those who live on the social networking Web sites.

As a former full-time television news producer, I could identify most with Etan’s experience as he shared examples of breaking stories where he had a role in lining up social media content to share on what some of us like to call “CNN-I”

Horowitz did what I consider to be THE BEST JOB articulating a strategy for television (and potentially newspaper) Web sites’ use of the interactivity and virtual community-building that distinguishing social media from the traditional (AKA “old”) media prepared FOR an audience.

Time to stop the panic

What I’ve heard at so many conferences like the SPJ gathering is how news reporters and anchors HAVE To be on Facebook and Twitter.  News reporters and editors brag about being on the site.

Only a handful of presentations have gone beyond the “we have to be there because we need that audience” argument.

While this may be true, traditional media practitioners have to move beyond the “do it because our audience is there” argument.     There must be a BETTER reason.

I think many people have been able to see that Facebook and Twitter can be used as a great reporting tool.  Advertising and Public relations practitioners note how these can help in getting the word out about a message, product or event.

What Horowitz did was explain HOW journalists, specifically, can take what is on these social media Web sites and produce BETTER journalism.

His very focused presentation on Saturday gave me a reason for using the sites in my classes.  I was so glad that two of my students were in the room when Horowitz introduced concepts such as crowdsourcing, location-based social networking and crisis mapping.

If you don’t know what these terms mean, stay tuned– we’ll define them as we lay out a strategy for elevating what we teach on social media.

Time to think about what we teach

One week ago at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I joined more than 100 other journalism mass communication educators and graduate student researchers for the AEJMC  (Association for Education in Journalism Mass Communication) Southeast Colloquium.  During that conference, there was a session on the role of social media in our mass communication teaching.

Most of the discussion centered on how we communicate with students who are constantly on these Web sites.

A week before that at the AEJMC Midwinter Conference, one of the last sessions during the weekend of research presentations was an entire panel of emerging research on Twitter and News.

Taking the sum total of  these two sessions plus what I learned from Horowitz, I now have a sophisticated strategy for what students need to know.

An Elevated Strategy looks like…

Horowitz mentioned crowdsourcing– a way of using what we learn from a gathering of people around a certain topic or issue as a place to find interview subjects.   The cluster of users in a social media environment yields a seed for a news story that often is not otherwise known to the journalist.

Crowdsourcing is certainly not anything new.  It’s a much broader term that has been used in business.  Jeff Howe has written about it in WIRED years ago.

But, in the context of a social media strategy, it’s at least one step beyond just being on Twitter or Facebook.

Likewise, examining the tweets (those 140-character micro blogging posts on Twitter) for WHERE they are can yield yet another important detail on the location of a possible story.   Horowitz explained how he used various Web sites to research tweets and get a better handle on the reaction to various news stories.

“The key now with Twitter is the location,” Horowitz said.

How many of us journalism instructors even mention location when we talk about Twitter?    That’s what I mean by “elevating our social media strategy.”

But, it’s not just about crowdsourcing or location-based social networking, we also have to realize that those locations are critical when reporting a crisis such the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile.

Our charge as journalism educators is to convey how social media mapping tools can elevate a flat, traditional story with an entirely new dimension.

At the end of the day, what we teach about social media — and YES, we MUST TEACH it.   Most of the students, who took up the greatest number of seats here at the SPJ Regional Conference, were unaware of the tools that Horowitz shared.

That means if we educators take these tools introduce them as we teach, our students will be that much better prepared to work in newsrooms that are figuring out how to use social media.