Herbert Lowe


Herbert Lowe is a professional-in-residence in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. The Camden, N.J., native enjoyed a 22-year reporting career at several newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and Newsday, and is a past president of the National Association of Black Journalists. He served as senior writer/editor for the U.S. Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, helping to produce its final report to Congress, and as communications director at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation during the 2008 presidential campaign.


How to write a Twitter bio that’ll make you stand out as a journalist

It’s well documented that Twitter helps journalists do their work better. I have shared, for example, how journalism educators can teach students to live tweet campus events. Too bad, though, that some current and aspiring journalists waste another great Twitter opportunity: taking advantage of their twesume.

A twesume is the 160 characters (maximum) that make up one’s Twitter bio.

I first heard the term from social media guru Sree Sreenivasan (@sree) at The Poynter Institute’s Teachapalooza conference for journalism educators in June. “Fill out your Twitter bio so it reflects the best, most recent version of you,” Sreenivasan, Columbia University’s new chief digital officer, told us during his presentation. Sadly, too many journalists and students have bios that don’t come close to distinguishing themselves.

Here are seven tips for creating a great twesume:

Start with the basics.

Who are you? Write it down on paper. Who do you wish to be? Write that down, too. Don’t forget, you only have 160 characters, so whittle it down to what is most important. Students and graduates should definitely include your college or university; your major and year in school; your leadership roles and past successes, on campus and elsewhere; and your career aspiration.

Show that you can write.

My best advice to aspiring and young journalists: Abide by the Associated Press Stylebook as much as possible in your tweets and your twesume. Always use correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Remember the adage about doing what’s right even when no one’s looking? Well, demonstrating good writing in short bursts helps prove you take it seriously.

Always consider your audience.

Don’t be cute. One high school journalism student I met this summer had this for her twesume: “Just try to faze me.” How do you think a recruiter would respond to that? Be professional. I tell my students all the time to consider John Maxwell’s “Law of Magnetism.” Maxwell says that “who you are is who you attract.” Will your twesume attract the kind of company you want to work for? Make sure your bio won’t make you squirm if asked about it during an interview.

Show a little of your personality. Use every character afforded. Don’t stop at 135 just because you have cited all the basics. It’s OK to list or note an acceptable hobby or passion at the end. I know that my cat-loving students will rejoice at this privilege. So, too, will those with favorite sports teams. Proclaiming one’s faith is also nice, but using half a twesume to do so could be too much.

Don’t distract from the goal.

Your wonderful twesume might not matter if your Twitter photo and handle are unacceptable. Remember, journalism students should use Twitter to attract and impress a following that includes potential employers. The photo should not include your BFF or seem too silly. Also, having your first and last names as your handle is ideal, even if you must use an underscore or numbers. The more a recruiter sees your name, the more likely he or she might commit it to memory. Isn’t that what every job applicant wants?

“Make your Twitter bio blue.”

This is what Sreenivasan told us educators at Teachapalooza that he tells his students. Allow me to translate: Use Twitter handles for organizations and institutions and hashtags for keywords and topics that can help your bio appear in various and broad searches. You want as many people to see your twesume as possible. You never know which pair of eyes can help you get that job.

Have some place else for them to go.

Every young journalist or journalism student should have a personal website or digital portfolio on the Internet. It’s wise to put a Web link in the place designated beneath the 160 characters. Those without a website or portfolio can put a link to their LinkedIn page. Make yours worthy of others’ attention. Some journalists also like to put their contact information in their Twitter handles so that sources can easily contact them.

Keep it updated.

Remember Sreenivasan’s advice about the twesume reflecting “the best, most recent version of you.” Do you have a new internship or a new job? Then refresh the bio accordingly. Take, for example, recent college graduate Erika J. Glover (@erikajglover), who in late June had this bio: “South Carolina born – Pennsylvania tested Reporter/Anchor for the @CentreCountyRep. PSU Alumna/Journalist/Travel Enthusiast”

We changed it in early July to “2012 @penn_state grad! Aspiring international #journalist seeking first TV reporting job. #NABJ member ready to shoot, edit & write! Purveying #Olympics facts.” Which version was more likely to draw more eyes (from recruiters) her way via Twitter and Internet searches?

After the Olympics ended, she smartly revised again: “2012 @penn_state grad! Aspiring international #journalist seeking first TV reporting job. #NABJ member ready to shoot, edit & write! Founder of @BlackKidsTravel.” She simply added a new passion.

Here are some other #twesumes that I think work well.

Daniel L. Jimenez (@DMJreports):

Taylor Shaw (@TaylorShaw_427):

Eva L. Sotomayor (@sotomayoreva):

Brianna Stubler (@BriStubler):

Among Sreenivasan’s many wonderful Twitter lists is one called “Effective Twitter bios.” Imagine if he thought enough of your twesume to add it to that list; that would be pretty cool. You can see my twesume at @herbertlowe. Please do let me know what you think. Read more

Bird words

How journalism educators can teach students to live-tweet campus events

Live tweeting is now a standard tool many journalists and news agencies use for breaking news. The Supreme Court’s healthcare ruling and the Freeh report on the Penn State scandal are recent examples in which Twitter was the first source of news, minute by minute.

My journalism students in the Diederich College of Communication regularly live tweet campus events at Marquette University in Milwaukee. The events have ranged from a presidential inauguration to guest lectures to NCAA basketball games. Each assignment includes a Storify component, that is, a mandate to curate related social media.

The students take to the task easy enough. They recognize it helps them focus on their writing; extend their journalism near and far; capture moments not normally found in news articles; and inform and engage alumni, students and others unable to attend the events.

My students and I are equally proud when our collective tweeting causes an event to trend regionally on Twitter. It’s happened for three occasions so far: the inauguration of the Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., as Marquette’s president in September, a lecture by Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg in February, and our college’s annual alumni awards ceremony in April.

From my perspective, having students live tweet is much better than merely having them write 500-word stories that only their instructor will read. Live tweets enable students to interact with their audience — and can act as notes for whatever stories they do end up writing.

Here are four tips on how to teach your students how to live tweet campus events.

First and foremost, focus on the fundamentals.

This might surprise some educators: Not every student is on Twitter. I require everyone in my class to have an account with a respectable handle based on one’s given name. I also have them read two spot-on Poynter.org articles by Mallary Tenore: “6 Ways Twitter Has Made Me a Better Writer” and “The 5 Types of Stories That Make Good Storifys.”

This will surprise few educators: Students will mostly tweet youthful banter unless told otherwise. Class-related tweets should include full sentences, have attribution when needed — and abide by AP style and correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Ban your students from using long or uncomplimentary hashtags such as #aretheyserious or #icouldrantbutiwont. Each tweet must include a class hashtag (for example, #JOUR1550 or #loweclass) and the event’s main hashtag. Be sure to keep the hashtags short, given the 140 characters limit per tweet.

Good reporters research each assignment in advance. The same goes for live tweeting. Students should know before arriving all related hashtags and who among the event’s organizers and key participants have Twitter handles. (Twitter’s basic and advanced search functions are good places to start.) Using these things in tweets will help draw retweets and new followers.

Use class time to show students how it’s done.

One class period is sufficient for introducing students to live tweeting. But how can they practice without causing a ruckus on Twitter? Just use YouTube and Microsoft Word. First, show them this 10-minute video of Earl Spencer’s amazing eulogy for his sister, Princess Diana. Then, tell them to open a new document on a computer and, as the video plays again, type everything they hear, just as if writing a story for class or the campus newspaper.

Next, have a student at one end of the room recite the first sentence or two captured. Each classmate follows suit — one or two sentences at a time — until reaching the room’s other end. Repeat the process until the video’s last words are relayed. Teach that while it’s unlikely they will all report the same things, no one should miss any key moments, and the more attributed quotes the better. Stress that their offerings should be relevant, accurate, interesting and timely.

Now for the good part. Have students select the first sentence or two with their cursor, and then go to Tools, then Word Count, in the Word menu above, and note the number of characters with spaces. Of course, 140 is the magic number. Then affirm #Earl #Spencer #eulogy #funeral #princess, etc., as hashtags.

Now have them create as many tweets as possible within the same document — editing as necessary — with the event hashtag, #Diana, and class hashtag in each one. Repeat the student-to-student routine, making sure each new tweet moves the story along.

Make the first experience worthwhile & set goals moving forward.

Many live-tweeting opportunities — large and small — exist on any college campus. Take the class for its first foray en masse to a journalism-related lecture by a distinguished guest speaker. The students will appreciate doing it together. Also, you’ll get to see their mistakes and correct immediately.

After the first class assignment, I require each student to live tweet a campus event once before midterms and then another before finals; both must have an accompanying Storify. I must approve each choice beforehand, mostly to ensure there’s a journalistic value.

Students from my class live tweeting the inauguration of the Rev. Scott Pilarz as Marquette’s president in September. Photo by Victor Jacobo.

Each student should send at least 12 to 16 tweets per assignment; many will tweet more. This bears repeating: Poorly written tweets (AP style and spelling matter!) and those without the class and event hashtags don’t count.

Again, stress that basic reporting habits apply to live tweeting. That includes arriving extra early for a good seat. Draft related fun-fact tweets in advance. Tweeting during lulls is encouraged. So, too, is tweeting photos of speakers, the audience, signage, protesters, etc. Writing quotes and statements on paper first is OK to help avoid mistakes. Keeping pace is ideal. But, remember, focus on quality, not quantity.

Continue encouraging your students.

This effort will have its haters. Some will ask why the students are using their cell phones or laptops. “Are they texting? Are they on Facebook?” Some will fear that tweeting diminishes their intended experience. I teach: “Welcome to journalism. Many times someone won’t want you there. Be respectful. Be mindful of what you tweet. Be sure to tell a good story. Have fun.”

By live tweeting campus events, you and your students will develop fans. Your institution’s public relations office will tout them. Student groups will email you in hopes that their events will get play on Twitter. My dean helped ensure my classes tweeted from the awards ceremony. Also, my students are live tweeting and using Storify at their summer internships.

Finally, beseech your students to make sure their mobile devices are fully charged beforehand. In the real world, editors and followers will accept no excuses for missing the story.

For more about live tweeting campus events, see my related blog posts at http://www.herblowe.com/live-tweeting.html and or email me at herbert.lowe@marquette.edu.
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Provost: ‘Real journalism goes on in journalism classes’

As journalist in residence and a graduate student in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University in Milwaukee, I seek chances to match coursework with reporting and academic pursuits. This week’s assignment in my Humanistic Theories and Methods of Media Studies grad class required me to conduct a semi-structured interview – in which a list of questions must be asked and answered in order – before follow-up quizzing may occur.

An hour before class last week, Poynter.org agreed that I should write about journalism educators dealing with students missing classes to cover March Madness. My reporting led me to an ideal person for the course assignment: Marquette Provost John J. Pauly, Ph.D.

Pauly is a distinguished academic who served as the Diederich College’s dean for two years prior to becoming provost in 2008. Before coming to Marquette, he had been a professor at Saint Louis University for 13 years, including nine as chairman of its communication department. He was a reporter, copy editor and then editor of the student-engineering magazine, “The Technograph,” as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, and later edited “American Journalism,” the quarterly journal of the American Journalism Historians Association.

Here is an edited version of my interview with Pauly for the combined assignments.

Herbert Lowe: What does it mean for Marquette’s men’s basketball team to reach the Sweet 16?

John J. Pauly: I think the young people on the teams work very hard; this is a kind of recognition of the good work that they do. It’s, for me, not nearly as big as a lot of other things that happen day to day in academic life that we take great pride in. I’m every bit as excited about the fact that our women’s soccer goalie is the Big East female scholar athlete of the year. For me, that demonstrates what we hope comes out of a student athlete’s career, that measure of success and value of a Marquette education.

What is the value for student journalists to cover major postseason tournaments?

John J. Pauly: I think it’s exciting for the students to go to the tournaments when we can afford to send them. They just get a larger sense of what Division I college athletics looks like in its relationship to the media. But, again, there are lots of other stories that have more weight and significance that would I be enthusiastic about their covering.

What is the university’s policy regarding absences when athletes, team managers, cheerleaders, pep band members, and yes, student media, miss classes?

John J. Pauly: The policy is the same as it is for other kinds of co-curricular work. Athletics is one kind and it’s got particularly heavy demands during a season, and the nature of the demands change and is different depending on which sport. We try to give the students a lot of ways to make that manageable. We talk to the students about the relationship that they have to build with their professors to make this plausible. It’s tough at tournament time, but this happens relatively rarely and we just adjust.

What advice do you have for journalism educators who are dealing with journalism students who are missing journalism classes to do real journalism?

John J. Pauly: Real journalism goes on in journalism classes. We hold students … responsible to the same standards as professional work, and we do some kinds of analysis and interpretation and give some kinds of feedback that it’s harder to find time for sometimes in newsrooms.

This is, in part simply, a contractual agreement: when a student says they are going to enroll in a course, and these are the requirements of the course, it’s just a matter of them keeping their word. There are lots of stories that students will get a chance to do that will better demonstrate their journalistic skills than just covering the tournament.

Why stress to journalism students that they need significant experience and then admonish them when they miss class to do it – especially if it’s on the biggest stages?

John J. Pauly: I’m not sure I accept all of the premises in the question. Again, I think that the sports stories that they’re liable to do when covering the tournament will not be among the best stories necessarily that they produce as student journalists. The stage is big, but that doesn’t make the story automatically big.

What of the notion that it’s more beneficial for a student sports writer to cover his or school’s team in the NCAA tournament than listening, for example, to an academic speak for 75 minutes about the value of polling in political campaigns?

John J. Pauly: I think talking to an expert about political polling will have way more value in a student’s career in deepening their interpretative skills than covering a spot sports story.

How can a student best balance classwork and campus media responsibilities?

John J. Pauly: It’s important to talk about that balance explicitly, both with the editor that they work with and with the professor. When students start, everything that they publish feels so precious and special – and so it’s understandable that if they have a chance to cover something, and they know it’s going to be published, then it’s intensely important to them at that moment.

We want students to consider journalism a lifelong profession. So it’s important for them to invest in their own analytical and interpretative skills while in school, to prepare them to do longer and more serious stories throughout their career.

Would you like to make a closing point?

John J. Pauly: As much fun as sports stories are, and exciting as it is for any of us when our team does well, the big stories that need journalists’ closest attention are in other places. And so I think as journalism educators we want to help students keep that in perspective. Read more


What’s a journalism professor to do when his students miss class to cover March Madness?

This is a story about a journalism instructor dealing with journalism students missing journalism classes so that they can do journalism. Two undergraduates skipped my classes in Milwaukee — as well as those of their other professors — so they could report on Marquette University men’s basketball games at major postseason tournaments.

March Madness is a balancing act every year for college instructors and students nationwide. It’s a given that student athletes, cheerleaders, team managers, pep band members, etc., will miss classes as their schools make magical runs, hopefully, to the Final Four. University administrators ask faculty to be understanding and accommodating regarding make-up work.

What about student media, though? The NCAA sponsors commercials seeking to remind us that almost all of its 400,000 student athletes will go pro in something other than sports. Presumably, that’s the same for all those other students behind the benches or on the sidelines. It is more likely that a far greater percentage of college journalists lucky enough to cover such major sporting events will actually turn pro in newsrooms or media-related fields.

So why was I – a professional in residence at my alma mater, with 22 years experience as a newspaper reporter and many years of helping aspirants as a past president of the National Association of Black Journalists – questioning my students for seizing real-life experience?

Senior Mark Strotman, a sports reporter for The Marquette Tribune, missed one of my classes so he could cover the Golden Eagles at the Big East Championship in New York, and two more as he traveled to Phoenix for the team’s Sweet 16 game in the NCAA West regional. He spent his spring break covering Marquette’s two second-round NCAA wins in Louisville.

“It’s not a good thing that I miss class – but I think it’s the closest reason to a good reason to miss class, if that makes sense,” Strotman, 21, a journalism major from Deerfield, Ill., told me when I called him in Phoenix. He said he much appreciates that Marquette funds his trips. “It’s real-like experience from the second we get to the airport to the second we come home.”

Sophomore Tess Quinlan missed two classes to cover the Big East tournament as co-sports director for MUTVSports.com. She also reported from Louisville, but didn’t go to Phoenix because she had exhausted her department’s travel budget. That’s because she covered road games at the Jimmy V Classic in New York before finals week in December, at Georgetown and Syracuse during winter break, and at Villanova in February.

“For the rest of the year, I’m not missing class,” Quinlan, 19, a broadcasting and electronic communication major from Montclair, N.J., assured me this week. “I’m at every class.”

That’s easy to say now. Both students would have missed two more classes each had the stars aligned right and the Golden Eagles reached the Final Four next week in New Orleans. Regrettably, the season ended after our third-seeded team lost to seven-seeded Florida last night.

Honestly, March Madness is helping me to become a better instructor. (This is only my fifth semester teaching.) Before this week, my absence policy was simple – no distinctions between excused and unexcused and more than three missed classes results in severe grade penalties.

And, OK, while it’s bad enough that the Big East tournament also always seems to come during midterms week, I knew that Strotman would miss two great speakers I had secured for our seminar on how media cover elections and campaigns; and worried that Quinlan might not be concentrating on her multimedia projects in our digital journalism course.

That is, it was about me. Not them. Thinking about this further, and talking about it with mentors and colleagues, and yes, even the students, I can find ways to more proactively help them to use their road trips to not only keep up with their assignments, but also enhance the great networking and job-searching opportunities that present themselves during March Madness.

Blogging is an essential aspect of both classes. Strotman and Quinlan are each required to blog about a news media website each week this semester. He is assigned the Kansas City Star’s website, but could have blogged about news coverage of politics in Arizona this week. Both could have written about their experiences covering the NCAA tournament or their dealings with professional media. Quinlan is assigned NPR’s website, so she could have interviewed the NPR correspondent she sat beside in Louisville. “I didn’t make the connection until just now,” she told me. “That’s because I didn’t hold you accountable,” I replied.

Both students are wonderful young people destined for great careers in journalism. The Diederich College of Communication honored Quinlan with a sports journalism scholarship moments before Hall of Fame broadcaster Dick Enberg lectured at Marquette in February. Last semester, Strotman conceived and helped create the extraordinary blog “Paint Touches,” in which he and other sports reporters and editors for The Tribune spent the season offering game recaps, news and feature stories, and columns about the Marquette men’s basketball team.

I called Michael Anastasi, a managing editor at the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah and president of Associated Press Sports Editors, an organization representing 500 news agencies, for his opinion on the matter of student journalists missing classes so they get that real-life experience.

Just like for student athletes, Anastasi told me, “You understand that they have this unique opportunity to go do it, but it’s incumbent upon them to work with you to meet their academic obligations.” He added: “There’s no substitute for academic experience and there’s no substitute for professional experience, and so I think the whole object of education holistically is to prepare the student to become gainfully employed.”

But doesn’t real-life experience help them get hired? “That’s not going to matter to me,” Anastasi said. “I’m going to look much more broadly. I may very well hire someone who’s never worked at a tournament if they demonstrate other types of skills and experiences.” Read more


New Pew study confirms digital divide in mobile news interest

Someone once joked that my wife and I, then still both working for Newsday, were bridging the digital divide all by ourselves. Between the two of us, we own an iMac, two MacBook Pros, an iPad and two iPhones.

As black journalists with relationships forged in newsrooms and media organizations, most of our friends and associates, like us, are news junkies – and use mobile devices to stay informed, connected and productive.

But a report released this week by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, “How Americans Use Their Cell Phones,” suggests that most African Americans don’t use their cell phones for similar reasons.

Yes, the study says, blacks and Latinos have higher usage rates, compared with white owners, across a wide range of mobile applications.

As other surveys have found consistently, however, most blacks and Latinos primarily use their cells for texting and for entertainment. Even if their phones make it easy to access the Internet, it’s not news they’re after.

Some say it’s still about content.

Monica Rhor, a Houston-based freelance writer who writes about education for Latino Ed Beat and Mamiverse, says media companies face the same conundrum getting people of color to view their offerings on mobile devices as in getting them to read a newspaper or watch the evening news.

“There isn’t anything in there that appeals to the Latino community,” Rhor said. “Too often, portrayals of Latinos or stories about Latinos are reduced to immigration or crime or the annual Latino festival in your city – and not becoming part of the fabric of every story.”

Others say it’s about simplicity.

Even appealing or essential news stories can be hard to view, let alone appreciate, on most cells, said Melanie Eversley, a breaking news desk reporter at USA Today and a contributor to The Grio.

“It’s not easy to get breaking news on the phone unless you have an iPhone,” said Eversley, also a vice president of the National Association of Black Journalists’ digital journalism task force. “Entertainment apps seem to be a lot more easy to use.”

The other morning was typical for me: Wake up, say a quick prayer, then reach for my iPhone on the nightstand. Check what’s new in my three email accounts – one asks me to write this article. Next, see what’s interesting on Facebook and Twitter. Then tap screen icons taking me to ESPN.com and blogs about Apple and media diversity. Return to the email invitation and tap the link to read the Pew study. All before sitting up in bed.

How do we make this happen in more black and Latino bedrooms?

Media companies must better engage people of color as content creators and producers, not just users, said Chioma Ugochukwu, Ph.D., an assistant dean and my colleague in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University.

“When you have more minority developers/producers, you are also likely to have greater interest in creating mobile news apps that target minority audiences,” she wrote to me in an email.

Ugochukwu introduced a new media course at the University of South Carolina-Upstate and recently received a grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to study how college students use social networking sites.

Creating business models that target and attract black and Latino mobile users to news is only a start, she said.

“There is also the fact that minority kids need to be socialized early enough at home and in the classroom to value technology and news,” Ugochukwu said. She cited Intel’s Computer Club House program as an after-school model capable of creating developers from communities of color.

Rhor, who taught at a high school in suburban Houston for 18 months, agreed. Saying most teenagers want only to download mobile apps that show what they would look like if really fat or really skinny, Rhor said media companies should develop more access points with teachers seeking to present news in their classrooms.

“Every history teacher I know uses CNN Student News,” she said.

Then, again, Rhor said, it will remain hard for teenagers to develop a mobile news appetite when many schools ban them from using their cells during the day.

There is hope, of course. Educators have told Rhor that at least one Web-based publication is contacting high school journalism programs with online capabilities to see about aggregating their content.

“I think it’s really smart,” she said. “If kids’ stories appear on a national website, you’re going to have lots of kids reading those stories that wouldn’t read them otherwise. They’re creating a new generation of readers that way.”

Eversley and Rhor said mobile news appetites could increase as more black and Latino online news and opinion sites better utilize social media.

“Not just tweeting links to their stories, or posting them on Facebook, they’re doing a lot of engagement, asking people, ‘What would you do with this story?’” Eversley said of The Grio. “Even when it’s quiet, they’re encouraging conversation and getting people to come to the site.” Read more


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