University of Alabama Student Film on Journey to Integration Wins National Award, Showcases Student Journalists’ Role Then and Now

Daniel J. Roth’s film, “Stepping Through,” on University of Alabama’s 50-year-old journey to integration has been recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists at the “Best Use of Multimedia.” It spots the role of UA’s student journalists in 1963 and 2013.

I suppose we should just be excited that UA Telecommunication and Film Student Daniel J. Roth beat out students at several of the nation’s top journalism schools to win the Society of Professional Journalists’ First National Student Award for “Best Use of Multimedia.”

The 17-minute film, “Stepping Through” was chosen as the National Winner in the Mark of Excellence Awards,  an annual recognition of the top student work in journalism.

It was chosen from among 11 other regional winners that included student work at the Missouri School of Journalism, Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State and the Merrill College of Journalism at University of Maryland.

In "Stepping Through," Abbey Crain and Matt Ford recall why they wrote they published their story about Alabama's segregated Greek system in September 11, 2013.
In “Stepping Through,” Abbey Crain and Matt Ford recall why they published their story about Alabama’s segregated Greek system in September 11, 2013.

While SPJ has recognized online student work for several years, this is first time an award is being given specifically for the “Best Use of Multimedia.”

While I did not serve on the awards committee or as a judge this year,  I know there has been an ongoing discussion about the best way to judge journalistic work that is produced online, given that most student publications have a website.

But,  my excitement is not about The University of Alabama being the first to win in this brand new category.

As both a multimedia journalism instructor of 11 years here at UA and an advocate for diversity, I am most excited that this award recognizes a film showing the role student journalists played in the integration of the University of Alabama 50 years ago in 1963 and in 2013 when the University’s Greek system was integrated.

In the film, Hank Black, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White 1963-64 recounts his involvement in the integration aspect of the University of Alabama.
In the film, Hank Black, editor-in-chief of The Crimson White 1963-64 recounts his involvement in the integration aspect of the University of Alabama.

Roth’s film includes extensive interviews with Hank Black, the editor-in-chief of The Crimson White from 1963-64, who spoke of his own personal role in encouraging students from the all-black Stillman College here in town to make the move that would make history.

His words today about showing his friend, the late Dr. James Hood (who Black knew as “Jimmy Hood”) around campus prompted the name of Roth’s film, “Stepping Through.”

“I went through this period of integration frankly shaking in my boots every day.  Yet there was nothing to do except go through it.  You have to just step through,” Black said.  “What I did was nothing compared to what Vivian and Jimmy did in facing their fears and stepping across that line into a world they didn’t know.”

Yet Black’s courage seems to have been repeated five decades later when Crimson White Culture Editor Abbey Crain and Magazine Editor Matt Ford published their award-winning story “The Final Barrier” on the still segregated Greek system.

“It was the right thing to do and it needed to be talked about, ” said Matt Ford.  “These barriers stopping change needed to be addressed,”

Roth’s film also included interviews with Melody Twilley-Zeidan, who was twice denied a chance to be in a traditionally white sorority and Wendell Hudson, the first black scholar athlete at the university.

The award for the best use of multimedia had an unintended impact in shining the light on the University’s diversity efforts and the students here both in the past and the present who are integrally involved in making the University of Alabama an inclusive campus.    I can think of so many other students who are not only concerned about diversity, but also producing media projects that are directed at effecting change.

We have  Daniel Roth to thank for capturing the University’s 50-year journey from integration to Greek system integration on film.  It’s exciting to know his film, which is our story as a University of Alabama family,  is being recognized as THE BEST student multimedia work in the nation this year.

Roth will be presented his award in September in Nashville at the 2014 Excellence in Journalism Conference, sponsored by the Society of Professional  Journalists and Radio-Television Digital News Association (RTDNA).

Photos Suggest Society of Professional Journalists Takes Its Toll on Executive Director

SPJ Executive Director Joe Skeel’s latest photo shows how much he has developed and even aged physically during his role leading the nation’s largest organization of journalists.

Those of us on the Society of Professional Journalists National Board of Directors have the pleasure of working directly with Joe Skeel, who leads our top-notch national staff.

The photo on the left dates back a few years ago when Skeel was the editor of the Society’s membership publication, QUILL Magazine. The photo on the right has been added more recently.

Recently, I noticed that even for the baby-faced executive director, working with the 20+ members of the Board (and a separate Board for the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation) and the nearly 8,000 members of the largest, most broad-based organization for journalists can take its toll, to use a cliche.

Skeel, who became our executive director in 2009,  updated his photo on the SPJ Web site  during the last year and we can see that the years and the stress are showing just a bit.

As one who is proud of the increasing number of gray hairs showing up on my head, I am the first to say — aging gracefully is good.

But, Joe,  don’t let the Society make you grow older before it’s time.

Those in the national media have made fun of President Barack Obama graying during the years of his first term.

I guess once in a while, we have to poke a little fun at ourselves– as journalists  (Joe worked as a journalist before joining the SPJ national staff in 2004) when the age starts to show.


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.

WVUA Video of University of Alabama Students At Bama Belle Crossed Way Over Ethical Line

A WVUA YouTube Video showing distraught, emotional University of Alabama students after Charles Edward Jones fell overboard Thursday from The Bama Belle violated the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics code, which requires journalists to minimize harm.

This is a still image taken from the questionable WVUA video that showed the crying students as they exited the Bama Belle, shortly after Charles Edward Jones, III apparently fell overboard.

A WVUA-TV video clip posted on YouTube showing emotional University of Alabama students as they left The Bama Belle Thursday night after one of their own fell overboard went far beyond reporting the news and has sparked outrage among those on social media.

The body of Charles Edward Jones,III known by friends as “Tre,” was found Friday afternoon following hours of searching Tuscaloosa’s Black Warrior River.

Jones, an engineering major from Demopolis, Ala.  had been attending a Delta Sigma Theta party Thursday on board The Bama Belle, a riverboat along The Black Warrior River that’s become one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions since it started offering public cruises in 2001.

While the investigation into Jones’ tragic death continues and family and friends prepare to remember him at an April 11th memorial service,  we must call attention to a journalism mis-step that makes all of those covering this story look bad.

Continue reading “WVUA Video of University of Alabama Students At Bama Belle Crossed Way Over Ethical Line”

Two generations of UA journalism standouts make trip to Gainesville for SPJ regional conference

Five University of Alabama students at the Society of Professional Journalists Southeastern regional conference this weekend in Gainesville, Fla. represent two generations of collegiate journalists, most of whom have worked at The Crimson White.

The UA delegation at the 2012 SPJ Southeastern Journalism conference includes three Crimson White Editors (from left) Victor Luckerson, Ashley Chaffin, Stephen Dethrage and two SPJ chapter officers Laura Metcalf and Amanda Sams (far right).

GAINESVILLE, Fla.– If you want to see the present and the future of journalism, you can usually find it at a Society of Professional Journalists spring regional conference.

Such is the case this weekend as five undergraduate students from the University of Alabama are here on the University of Florida campus where the Mark of Excellence student journalism awards will be handed out later today.

Students from the states of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida will find out whether or not they will advance to national competition for recognition as the nation’s best student newspapers, web sites, radio and television broadcasts.  A host of awards for individual stories and series will also be given.

Continue reading “Two generations of UA journalism standouts make trip to Gainesville for SPJ regional conference”

SPJ Field Trip Yields Lessons For Teacher From Two Groups of Students

Thanks to my experience with the Woodlawn Academy in Birmingham, I learned more from the students than they learned from me.

BIRMINGHAM–  It’s the last of three days of visits to Birmingham’s Woodlawn neighborhood for the Woodlawn Summer Academy.

This day was different as I journeyed from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham with students from the University’s Society of Professional Journalists chapter, for which I serve as co-adviser.

As a faculty-student team, we did a workshop for the 20 ninth graders.

After working with my own team and with the ninth graders, the lessons were plentiful for the teacher on both levels– with College students and high school students.

1. Impressions and Experiences of College Students can sometimes surprise you

As we arrived at the building down the street from Woodlawn High School where our sessions were taking place, one the UA students indicated how important it was to be careful going to Woodlawn and to go WITH someone.

Suddenly, I was concerned that I would be criticized for taking University students from the Society of Professional Journalists chapter on a community visit to an “unsafe neighborhood.”

The same student later in the day told me that the student’s grandmother had attended Woodlawn High School.  So, there was an indirect connection to University of Alabama  of which I was totally unaware.

2.  Provide iMovie and pocket camera instruction? — maybe NOT.  

One of the UA students who had never taken our multimedia class was able to show the high school students how to view video in the program that’s part Apple’s iLife 2009 suite without ANY guidance from me.

So maybe video editing software is intuitive?  At least when it comes to a program like iMovie, I may not need to stress out about making sure I’ve demonstrated how to do everything with the software.

Minutes later, I found one of the rising ninth graders taking, selecting and deleting photos with the Kodak zi8 pocket video camera– again without having ever been shown HOW to do it.

These (College and high school students) are digital natives — and their experience is totally different from mine or other adults who would need a “lesson” before using the hardware or software. 

3.  “We can take notes on our cell phone”

So I’m providing instruction on doing video stand-ups and giving students background information that I would normally have written down on a pad.

They didn’t have paper handy.  So, these ninth graders pulled out their cell phones and started typing notes as text messages.

One of the young men decided to use his phone as a makeshift teleprompter.  He typed out his standup and had a friend hold his phone under the camera lens.

This picture shows an earlier iteration of this cell phone/teleprompter experiment (beside the camera).

I haven’t yet viewed the video that will be edited for the standup, but I can’t wait to see what this final product looks like.  It was my first time using a cell phone  in doing a video standup

My lesson for the ninth graders may have been how to do a standup for on-camera presentation.   But, the lesson for me, the teacher– be familiar with what students coming into your class who LIVE on cell phones can do.

I’m never been a big cell phone person.  But, I’m quickly realizing if I am going to have this generation of students showing up in my journalism class in the next four years (or at our high school workshop sooner than that), I have to change my method of instruction.

4. Eating lunch IS a big deal

Yesterday before our recording studio visit, one of the students from Woodlawn Academy asked the program director, Chip Brantley,  if we were eating lunch at school.

I thought ‘why is that an important question now? Who cares about lunch?  You’re going to a recording studio.  That’s the big news of the day.’

Today I visited the lunchroom at Woodlawn High School and see why our catered lunch of pulled pork barbecue and barbecue chicken, baked beans and potato salad WAS indeed a big deal.

Let’s just say the lunch menu in the cafeteria today was reminiscent of those days when I would BRING my lunch back in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia.

No offense to the cafeteria staff at Woodlawn.  The soft tacos, toss salad and corn on the menu today were not exactly what I was expecting for lunch.

SPJ Chapter Leaders Laura Metcalf, Matt Conde (center), and Daniel Sparkman were the team that made the Woodlawn Experience work.


I can’t thank my colleague Chip Brantley enough for inviting us to work with the Woodlawn Summer Academy.   I know, I personally can say these last three days have done FAR MORE for me as an Alabama transplant from Virginia than I’m sure I could have done for the students at Westlawn.

This is why institutions like the University of Alabama HAVE to reach out to connect with students, especially when they are in communities in our backyard.

When I began this morning’s presentation, I polled the rising ninth graders about their college plans. Almost all of them raised their hands indicating they are looking to pursue a degree after they graduate four years from now.

Two of these ninth grade students already have plans to major in engineering, another psychology and a fourth student has plans to be pre-law.    These hopes and dreams WILL COME TRUE because of efforts like the Woodlawn Academy.

I have a feeling this is NOT the last time I’ll be journeying to Birmingham’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

Daniels Seeks Second Term on SPJ Board

George Daniels announced his bid for re-election to the Society of Professional Journalists National Board of Directors.

ATLANTA–  It is somewhat ironic that from the city where I spent much of my career as a broadcast journalist, I am announcing today my bid for re-election to the national board of the nation’s largest, most broad–based organization for journalists.

It’s been my pleasure to serve the last two years as the campus adviser at-large for the Society of Professional Journalists National Board.   And, I want the opportunity to continue to serve the more than 8,000 members of this great organization another two years.

Over the next two-and-a-half months, I will provide some additional updates on my plans for another term.  As a broadcast journalist, I love using the tool of video to share my thoughts on different issues.   Nowadays I am able to do that even from another gathering here in Georgia’s state capital as I am in town talking with social media enthusiasts at a church convention this week.

If you look back to a blog post two years ago this month when I announced my intentions to run for the SPJ Board of Directors, I expressed a desire as a candidate in 2009  to be “actively engaged in discussions about how SPJ can collaborate with our journalism organizations to keep our members on the cutting edge with jointly-sponsored training events and conventions.”

I’m excited to see those discussions that involved our SPJ National officers and staff and those of us on the board result in Excellence in Journalism 2011.   The joint convention is REALLY special for me as I have been a member of both the Radio-TV Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.

I’ll address some of the other initiatives I want to pursue in the coming year later this summer.

SPJ Business Prompts First Visit to the National Journalism Center

SPJ National Board is holding its spring meeting at the National Journalism Center in Indianapolis.

SPJ National Board Meets Saturday at the Society’s national headquarters at the National Journalism Center in Indianapolis.

INDIANAPOLIS– Some might call this the nerve center for journalism– the National Journalism Center is the home of the Society of Professional Journalists and it’s where I’m spending the weekend as the SPJ National Board and Sigma Delta Chi Foundation Boards hold their Spring meetings.

Meridian Street is a main roadway through Indiana’s state capital.  In fact, according to Wikipedia, parts of this north-south road are considered the “most prestigious” in the state of Indiana.   3909 North Meridian Street is the location for SPJ National staff working on the business of the nation’s largest, most broad-based organization.

During lunch, I had a chance to walk a few blocks down the street to see a little more of this community that is north of downtown Indianapolis (hence, “NORTH” Meridian Street).    Broadcast news enthusiasts like me also would be interested to know both Indianapolis’s NBC station, WTHR-TV and CBS affiliate, WISH-TV are located down Meridian Street, not too far from here.

Bill Oates received an applause from Dana Neuts, an SPJ regional director from the Northwest, and other more than 20 members of the SPJ National Board, who were all in attendance at our Spring Meeting this weekend.

Today’s meeting was the first for SPJ’s Region 3 Director Bill Oates, who stepped in to fill the unexpired term of Jenn Rowell, who left our Southeastern Region earlier this year.

I wrote about Bill’s first regional conference last month.

We’ll have more from the National Journalism Center here in Indianapolis on Sunday.

Former Miami Herald International Editor Debuts As SPJ Board Member

Former Editor of the Miami Herald’s International Edition gave a presentation on “Journalism in Latin America” Saturday at the Society of Professional Journalists Region 3 Conference in Birmingham, Ala.

SPJ Region 3 Director Bill Oates gave a talk about the status of journalism in Latin America during the Region 3 Conference in Birmingham, Ala.

BIRMINGHAM– Besides the great programming that the Society of Professional Journalists offered at its Southeastern Regional Conference this past weekend, there was the change of characters on stage.

Bill Oates, a former editor of the Miami Herald’s International Edition and adjunct professor at the Indiana University School of Journalism hosted his first Regional conference here in the Magic City April 1-2, 2009.

Oates succeeded Former Region 3 Director Jenn Rowell, who left the region to take a job in the DC area.

Those of us already on the SPJ National Board welcomed Bill to the leadership fold, but also watched as he was thrown in head-first to swim in the waters of leading an important training opportunity for our SPJ membership.

Bill did more than swim. The regional conference had lots of great information and his own presentation on “Journalism in Latin America” was eye-opening and a refreshing change from all of the talk of social media that dominated the conference.

As SPJers, we also have to take a more global perspective on what we do.

In his presentation, Oates drew a connection between the Latin American countries that are stable democracies, progressing toward democracy, and “headed in another direction” and the Press Freedom Index of 2010.

He explained that the countries with a “perfect score” were many of the Nordic countries.  Noticeably absent from that group of countries with perfect press freedom is the United States.

“We have this idea that we’re the best and we’re not,” Oates said.

So when it comes to press freedom, we still have some work to do in our own borders even as we look to places like Columbia and Mexico, where journalists are under attack.

Two journalists were killed March 25 in Mexico.

“This is very current, ” Oates said. “It continues to happen.

Within SPJ, as the Region 3 director, Bill will play a big role in helping us “globalize” our thinking about journalism.

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.