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Welcome to UWIRE's Newest Blog

UWIRE is proud to introduce a blogger who really needs no introduction: Dan Reimold, the former editor of College Media Matters.

Dan's heading up our newest blog: The College Media Beat. Read the first post here.

Twitter founder speaks about innovation, uncertainty

October 2, 2009

Twitter founder/CEO Evan Williams (@ev) kicked off the 2009 Online News Association conference to the sound of hundreds of keyboards. Williams began Twitter as a side project more than three years ago. Since then, the 140-character microblogging service has become one of the most influential social networking tools.

He discussed Twitter’s explosion to the social networking scene and the interplay between journalists and Twitter’s millions of users across the world. He suggested that tweets are clues, not news in themselves. Journalists should then follow up with their own fact-finding and analysis, Williams said.

Williams also discussed how Twitter functions as a network, not a stand-alone site, that allows people to find information that is relevant to them. Today, Williams said, the site will introduce a geotagging function for developers. He didn’t specify when that feature would be rolled out for the public.

Perhaps more important than the specifics of Twitter, Williams addressed the role of innovation in the current media climate and some of his own experiences with failure.

“Create something you want to see in the world,” Williams told the audience near the end of the keynote. He went on to add that would-be entrepreneurs should focus on what they can give rather than conventional notions of “what sells.” He also encouraged innovators to take chances while, at the same time, learning to embrace the idea of failure.

If you’re in San Francisco for the conference, I’d love to meet up with you. Follow me on Twitter (@jmsummers) where I’ll be live-tweeting many of the sessions I attend. If not, many sessions are featured on Livestream where you can send in your questions for all the panelists.

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Young Journalists’ Blog “First Draft” a Must Read for Students

October 2, 2009

The sky is falling.  Layoffs ever-loom.  J-jobs are hard to come by.  And there’s lots of doom and gloom.  But the allure of journalism endures.  All these themes and more are present and accounted for (I’m in a rhyming mood today, what can I say?) in the *fantastic* (recently rebooted) blog “First Draft” penned by young professional journalists for SPJ.

The blog offers current journalism students a glimpse into their not-so-distant futures, as rising journos battle with the career realities, new media craziness and fallacies, and bureaucratic technicalities of being a twenty-something (or thereabouts) newshound in 21st-century America.  Or as the blog dubs them: “Generation J.”

The headlines of some recent posts offer a clue about the content mix: “Can Hyperlocal Save ‘Old’ Media? Should It?“; “Doing the Unthinkable– Turning Down a Job Offer“; “Formulating a Back Up Plan for Your Job“; and “Young Journalists’ Role in the Future of Journalism.”

Here’s a snippet of a sample post penned with grace by a dear friend of mine, Renee Petrina, who until recently was a standout staffer at The Indianapolis Star.  The post is titled, “Surviving a Layoff- A Mental Game”:

I was on vacation, driving down I-20 in South Carolina with my mom and dad, when my cell phone rang. I recognized the work number and knew that it was over. . . . I am proud to say I did not cry. At least not in front of anyone in management. I started texting my coworkers to thank them and say it was an honor to work with them. Thinking about my nightside teammates and how much I’d miss them, emotions bubbled up. My parents got to hear me scream an expletive about Gannett before I bawled my eyes out in the car. . . .

Getting laid off by phone sucks, no lie. But being away from the office helped me in so many ways. Rather than sitting alone at home questioning my worth after the layoff, I was surrounded by family members who love me unconditionally. I got home-cooked meals and desserts. Mom and I went shopping for some interview clothes. . . . Not to imply that I didn’t work to find work. I stayed up to job hunt online while my family went to bed, and ran up my cell phone bill calling past bosses for advice.

Two weeks after the layoff, I went back to the office to get my things. I had more than a suitcase full of editing reference books, family photos and snacks in my desk. Lugging that is tough work, even harder in heels and a suit. But dammit, I wore heels and a suit. For me, dressing up gives me a boost. If I look good, I feel good. . . . I had reframed the issue: I did not leave the paper; the paper left me. I was valuable. I was awesome. It was their loss. A month later, I was moving into a windowed office with my name outside the door. I’m proud to be a member of Ball State’s journalism faculty. Layoffs are a mental game. I’m pretty sure I won.

College Student Sex Column Movement Continues Nationwide

October 1, 2009

The college media sex column movement continues to be among the “most publicized, electrifying, and divisive phenomena in student journalism.”  So says a researcher quoted in a fantastic new Nation feature by Alex DiBranco on the columns’ journalistic, political, and feminist implications.  OK, so the researcher is me.

DiBranco’s original pitch for the piece immediately piqued my interest because (as my quote and some of my past research attest) I truly consider this sub-section of the student press to be of magnified importance that goes far beyond the student sex columns’ and magazines’ obvious entertainment and titillation factor.  These pieces and publications explore *real* issues involving student sex and socialization, the type of information left out of many public school curricula, stereotypical media representations, Internet pornography, and even parent sex talks.

In addition, the movement is blazing a path toward greater openness surrounding all sexual orientations and proclivities.  It also helps balance a still-present gender gap in sexualized media representations, in which females are often left out or objectified.  As one former female student sex columnist declared, “A sex column is a significant statement of female rights. Not only am I a female columnist, but I am writing about a topic considered taboo and improper for a woman.”

The sudden surge in the number of student columns and magazines directly on the heels of “Sex and the City” led many to characterize their existence as a passing fad.  More than a decade later, they still exist, and their numbers are growing stronger and continuing to cause controversy and debates.  As Dartmouth alum DiBranco shares, “This summer Dartmouth saw the launch of a journal of gender and sexuality, Sir & Madam (ahem…S&M), with articles and creative writing covering YouPorn, being a drag queen, a preteen girl’s awakening of sexual desire, and the rainbow of gender and sexuality. Regardless of accusations of unwholesomeness, sex doesn’t seem headed back into the campus closet anytime soon.”

Pitt News Staffers Arrested While Covering G-20 Summit Protest

September 30, 2009

Two Pitt News staffers were arrested while covering a G-20 summit protest this past weekend, a Student Press Law Center report reveals.  According to the report, seven TPN staffers were either pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed or maced and two were taken into police custody on charges of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.

SPLC executive director Frank LoMonte’s statement: “There’s a huge difference between participating in a riot and documenting a riot.  We can’t have journalists frightened to report on a disturbance for fear they will be rounded up and arrested. It will intimidate journalists into avoiding a conflict, which means we’ll all lose out on the coverage.”

According to a Pitt News update on the incident, the student journalists were apparently part of a larger contingent of innocent or accidental witnesses caught up in the hullabaloo, including some Pitt students who allegedly were simply strolling home or walking in the neighborhood in which they live.  Law enforcement is now considering how to handle those particular arrestees.  (Check out this excellent TPN editorial response, “Who says you can’t go home? Overzealous G-20 police.”)

Separately, one of the arrested staffers, photo editor Vaughn Wallace, laid out some of the final photo desk statistics related to the historic week-that-was for Pitt News photogs:

  • 36 separate assignments
  • 31.2 gigs of photos (for reference, the entire 2008-2009 football season photos were 19GB)
  • 9,948 individual photographs
  • 17 photo blog posts
  • 244 images running in those photo blog posts
  • 23,354 unique hits to the photo blog posts (as of 9/28 at 1AM)
  • 7 photographers tear/OC gassed
  • 2 photographers arrested
  • 1 photographer maced in the face
  • 3 photographers (2 current, 1 alumni) pictures featured in a New York Times gallery

College Newspapers Face Controversy for Holding Pro-Life, Free Speech Ads

September 29, 2009

As fall semester speeds along, it has not been controversial editorializing but advertising that has earned the bulk of publicity for a growing number of student media outlets.  The Harvard Crimson‘s recent troubles centered on the Holocaust.  Currently, the issues papers face revolve around free speech and human life.

In Wisconsin, two student newspapers have decided to not publish the high-profile Human Life Alliance 12-page insert ad.  The ad, titled “We Know Better Now,” according to one report, “vigorously argues for the pro-life position. . . . arguing that it is now better known that abortion kills a human being, that it hurts women, and that abortion has a ‘racist legacy.'”  It is arguably the most divisive advertisement delivered regularly to campus newspapers nationwide and has caused problems for papers in the past.

The case at Bucknell University is more interesting.  The Bucknellian has refused to run an ad from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) decrying Bucknell’s recent tampering with student political speech on campus.  A Student Press Law Center report stated that FIRE “submitted the ad as part of a campaign to draw attention to schools on its Red Alert list- schools it says have the least amount of liberty on campus. The Bucknell ad criticized the school’s decision to shut down demonstrations by the Bucknell University Conservatives Club.”

The sponsoring organizations in the separate cases say the ad rejections stem from “a culture of fear” and a lack of common sense.  Editors’ main counters: 1) Having an ad published is a privilege (allowed at the newspaper’s discretion), not a right. 2) They are less inclined to run an ad causing controversy for controversy’s sake. 3) Ads spouting ideologies (especially divisive ones) instead of touting services must be evaluated by different parameters.

The best bet for all student media outlets:

  • Have a basic plan in place for dealing with more controversial ads, so you’re not caught off guard.
  • Embrace transparency in the decision-making process.
  • Communicate with readers and request feedback.
  • Brace for the fallout.  Accept the Catch-22 that controversy at times will be earned either by publishing or pulling an ad.  While you cannot control all the ensuing press or protests, you can facilitate a dialogue- one that can be beneficial for readers and your publication.

Pitt News Editor Speaks About G-20 Summit Coverage, New Media Success

September 28, 2009

The recently-concluded G-20 summit in Pittsburgh featured a slew of international titans enjoying their moment on the world’s stage. Obama. Medvedev. Merkel. Sarkozy. And Singer?! Pitt News editor in chief Drew Singer’s academic credentials are certainly aligned with the event.  He is a political science major and an administration of justice minor.  Yet, Singer’s part in the historic get-together was not borne of politics or justice, but journalism.

As editor in chief of The Pitt News, Singer led a crackerjack team of student editors, reporters, videographers, photographers, bloggers, and tweeters whose aim was simple: to cover G-20, 360.  As Singer says, “No other news organization in the world was providing as thorough and expedient description of things as they happened than we were.”

Student journalists have long risen to the challenge of covering breaking news of international heft alongside the professional press (exemplified in recent weeks by the exemplary Yale Daily News reporting on the killing of graduate student Annie Le). The Pitt News has been the latest, greatest contributor to this student press legacy with its 360-degree coverage of the G-20 summit held in its hometown.  In an exclusive Q&A with College Media Beat, Singer shares the challenges and successes of covering such a momentous happening, along with providing a glimpse of the new media awesomeness that helped TPN along the way.

What went into planning for the G-20 coverage?

Planning our G-20 coverage took months. We had to request press passes a long time ago, and deciding how many credentials to request, as well as which reporters we should request them for, took a lot of strategic planning. While we wanted to give our reporters the experience of covering the actual G-20, the main goal of our coverage was to not cover the Summit itself, but rather its impact on our community.  We deployed reporters, photographers and videographers across town, while other editors remained in the office to receive reports and move our people around town as necessary. We also reviewed First Amendment law, the proper protocol for interacting with the police during demonstrations as well as general safety practices if a demonstration turned violent.  No one on our staff was allowed to cover any of the G-20 without going through this review.

What did Pitt News provide as a student or hometown outlet that other press could not match?

Some of the most intense interactions between demonstrators and police occurred on Pitt’s campus, which gave us a huge home field advantage over all other outlets. I’m under the impression that we had more reporters and photographers on the ground than any other news organization Thursday and Friday nights. Because of this, our knowledge of campus and our strategy of having reporters regularly updating editors in the office, we were able to give a play-by-play of everything happening throughout our campus on our website and our Twitter page. No other news organization in the world was providing as thorough and expedient description of things as they happened than we were. We saw our Web traffic increase by about tenfold during those two nights of coverage.

What was the new media plan of attack for TPN’s G-20 coverage?

Like all breaking news, we’re very active on our Twitter page. Last night, I also did a “Cover it Live” live blog during some demonstrations on campus. Not only was it a way for us to break news on our site (in addition to our off-site Twitter page), but I was able to answer a lot of questions readers had, as well as let them share comments on things that have happened. We also had people with Flip Recorders and other video recording devices on the streets, so we’ve released and will continue to release footage recapping everything that happened.  We’ve been getting thousands and thousands of visitors to our photo blog, which has tons of incredible images from the past few nights. You also have to see the video packages we’ve put up so far.   You can also visit pittnews.com/g20 for a compilation of everything we’ve done to cover the G-20, including our multimedia features.

What was the toughest part of covering the event?

Covering an event of this nature brings with it an element of danger. Our reporters were mixed in with the demonstrators and other spectators. While that let us capture some incredible stories and pictures, our reporters were exposed to the same dangers of demonstrator-police interaction that everyone else on the ground faced.

A memorable behind-the-scenes production moment.

Some media outlets reported that a lot of the damages done were committed by students. While we don’t know for sure who these people are (they were wearing masks), it’s likely that they were from out of town. We believe this because the people who got violent seemed to be from a group that often got lost while navigating around town. Following these demonstrators as they tried to find their way was interesting, to say the least.

What is your role as top editor when an event like this happens in your coverage area?

I trust our reporters, photographers and videographers on the ground to remember their training and make safe decisions. My role was to provide that training and safety tips prior to the events. Once they began, my role was primarily to stay in the office and make sure we were reporting accurate information as efficiently as possible. As reporters called into the office to report what was happening around them, I also helped other editors move our people around toward the happenings that most needed coverage.

What advice do you have for j-students seeking to tackle a similarly enormous news event?

Make sure you know all relevant laws and the protocol for interacting with police during a demonstration. The Student Press Law Centerand the American Civil Liberties Union both let us speak with their lawyers as we did our research. Also, our generation has a better understanding of Web 2.0 than older generations. Use this advantage to provide something to readers that your local paper cannot do as well.

Innovative Internship Application Deadline Drawing Near

September 27, 2009

Student journalist superstars, step up! The application deadline for the college media universe’s most innovative internship is drawing near.

College media innovation is at the center of professor Bryan Murley’s academic existence, and he also operates a center bearing its name.  He is seeking an intern 2.0 to assist him with the Center for Innovation in College Media blog and beyond- possibly including work with podcasts, video streams, and online maps and databases.   In return, the lucky student receives a stipend, a glowing reference letter, and the chance to explore the college media craft with a master.

According to Murley, he is looking for an American or international student with the following skills: “social media savvy (Twitter, friendfeed, etc.), video and audio (soundslides, mogulus or ustream), blogging (WordPress), college journalism (worked as a college journalist, familiar with college media environment).”

October 1st is fast approaching.  Click here.  Learn more.  Be the next Lauren Rabaino. Apply now.

Have an internship or academic opportunity of interest to j-students? Let us know!