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What students need to know about code and data viz

A stunning amount of data is available to journalists these days, and it is growing exponentially. Not surprisingly, the need for data journalists is expanding as well.

Data-driven journalism is a diverse field that involves interpreting data, developing programming code, and creating databases, maps, charts and other visualizations. Some of the skills required take considerable study. But we often overlook the complexity of data journalism and leave our young journalists without the knowledge they need to succeed.

What should students know about code and data visualizations? What skills should be taught to best prepare them for jobs in data-driven journalism?

Northwestern University Medill School professor Jeremy Gilbert, University of Southern California Annenberg School professor Robert Hernandez, ringleader of For Journalism Dave Stanton and I got together to discuss the tremendous possibilities at the intersection of data, technology and news. Our live chat focused on what educators need to teach and students should learn to succeed in computational journalism.

Replay this chat to see the resources we all shared. Find our archives at www.poynter.org/chats.

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Monday, Nov. 04, 2013

The Daily Bruin's reporting on the struggle of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in Malawi to gain health care was supported by the Bridget O'Brien Scholarship Foundation. (DaiyBruin.com)

UCLA reporting honors photojournalist’s memory

In their last year of college, a reporter and photographer spent 24 days in Malawi conducting interviews and taking photographs to create an ambitious newspaper report about a sensitive human-rights story. But to pay for the trip, they didn’t have to hit the lottery or save money by sleeping in their cars.

Presented by the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s student paper, “In the Shadows” is a story of vulnerability, isolation and prejudice. Homosexuality is illegal and stigmatized in Malawi, so all the people who 2013 UCLA graduates Sonali Kohli interviewed and Blaine Ohigashi photographed had to remain anonymous. The three-chapter story details the challenges Malawi’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community faces in getting health care, including HIV prevention and treatment, and obtaining mental-health and addiction services.

Kohli and Ohigashi owe their opportunity to pursue such an ambitious story to the Bridget O’Brien Scholarship Foundation. O’Brien, who died in 2007, was a former staffer at the Bruin, where she worked primarily as a photojournalist. Kelly Rayburn, a board member of the foundation who knew O’Brien in high school and worked with her at the Bruin, said in a phone interview that “she inspired people to tell stories in a variety of different ways. She did everything at the Bruin. She was the photo editor, she was a copy editor, she wrote news stories — she just did everything.”

Nearing her graduation in 2003, O’Brien knew she wanted to travel. She started saving money and thinking about stories she could pursue.

“She was basically living in her truck and on people’s couches to save money to travel,” recalled Rayburn. “Over the winter break, we got this email from her — it kind of came out of the blue, but it was what you’d expect from her. She was always going from one adventure to another.”

The email is reproduced on the foundation’s website. In it, O’Brien thanked her friends for allowing her to sleep on their couches and in their extra beds so that she only had to spend five nights in her truck to save cash.

“I’m leaving in about 20 minutes to drive to the San Francisco airport and get on a plane to Nicaragua,” she wrote. “Sudden, yes. Random, yes. Malaria-ridden, yes.”

USA Today had hired her to cover a story about fair-trade coffee, she said, so she was heading out with a purpose. Her story was published in the Bruin, with her photographs appearing in USA Today. In October 2007, while on tour with her husband and his band, O’Brien was killed in a car accident when a deer ran onto the Ohio Turnpike, her father Kevin O’Brien said in an email.

After Bridget’s death, her friends and family wanted to find a way people could honor her memory besides sending flowers, Kevin O’Brien said. Rayburn and his wife Sarah, who had also worked at the Bruin and known Bridget, suggested a scholarship and offered to work out the logistics.

“The scholarship foundation in Bridget’s name allows us to keep her spirit alive by providing funding and resources not normally available at college publications, and by encouraging and allowing other student journalists to pursue their passion,” O’Brien said, adding that the support of the Bruin’s editors and adviser “help assure the reporting is carried out responsibly and to a high ethical standard.”

The teams are selected by an advisory board that includes Bridget O’Brien’s former Bruin colleagues, friends and her parents, said Tyson Evans, a board member who’s now deputy editor for interactive news at The New York Times.

Many Bruin staffers plan their application for the O’Brien scholarship far in advance. Ohigashi said he started thinking about a project when photo editor Maya Sugarman and her partner Matt Stevens went to Cameroon on the 2010 scholarship. In a phone interview, Ohigashi said he and Kohli first decided what issue they wanted to cover, then looked at countries in which LGBT rights was a pressing issue and to which UCLA had a connection. (In Malawi, UCLA works with Partners in Hope Medical Center to conduct research and provide free HIV/AIDS care.)

The scholarship committee chose Kohli and Ohigashi’s project because the team was clearly committed to the Bruin and because the proposal that became “In the Shadows” matched the scholarship’s mission, Rayburn said — “something with global reach and local consequence.”

Bridget O’Brien made it her mission to report on such stories, and her friends and family have now made it theirs to ensure other students have the same opportunities that she created for herself.

“We wanted to give other people the same opportunity without them having to spend a quarter in their truck,” Rayburn said. Read more

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Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013

searchlights_small

Journalism textbooks have seen their future and it is digital

An animated, thickly illustrated website freckled with hyperlinks doesn’t say “textbook” the way a musty hardcover does. But Eric Newton wants you to see “Searchlights and Sunglasses: Field Notes from the Digital Age of Journalism” as a model for what the textbooks of the future could be.

“There isn’t a name for what it is,” Newton, journalist and senior adviser to the Knight Foundation president, said in a phone interview. “It’s a digital book and a teaching tool – an HTML5 website designed in parallax so you have that 3D immersion. We call it a demonstration project.”

Eric Newton, journalist and senior adviser to the Knight Foundation president, leads a Poynter Institute/NewsU webinar, “Six Things Educators Can Do Right Now to Go Digital,” on Oct. 28.

The combination of Newton’s observations about the state of journalism and journalism education (much of which has been previously published on the Knight Foundation’s blog and in various other places) and assignments, links, and discussion questions that make up the “learning layer” will be available free of charge starting today.

Newton’s central messages are that journalism and journalism educators must prioritize digital innovation not only in curricula but also in curricular delivery; that we must let go of those things we used to do and realize that, like a riding in a recliner on a rollercoaster, adapting to the digital age may be a little scary but we may as well get comfortable with it. Change is inevitable.

“Psychologically, it’s always been okay for the news to change every minute, that’s fine,” Newton said. “But when it comes to how we do it, that’s uncomfortable.”

“Searchlights and Sunglasses” is meant as a proof of concept. “How can you call for digital change in a printed book form?” Newton asked. “It didn’t seem right.”

For those who need or want a hard copy, the site offers three download options, and each page, save the videos and animations, of course, can be printed. Not everyone has access to the bandwidth or technology it takes to really explore “Searchlights and Sunglasses,” but printing the PDFs, including the “learning layer,” which is nearly a hundred pages longer than the core of the book, would result in a stack of over 500 pages.

The “learning layer” activities, assignments, vocabulary terms, discussion questions, examples and links were created and curated by the “team of graduate students, researchers and educators” selected by the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Institute for Journalism, according to the acknowledgments section of “Searchlights and Sunglasses.”

“Searchlights and Sunglasses” is revolutionary, Newton said, in that it is “designed to be able to be updated hourly or weekly or monthly rather than annually or every five years.”

For the time being, Newton and his team will update it, until PBS MediaShift takes it over, he said. PBS MediaShift will make sure that its links and resources stay up-to-date and connected to what’s going on in the social and mobile world of news and at the forefront of the movement to bring journalism education into the digital age.

Newton estimates that “maybe 20 percent” of schools have truly tried to innovate and in “Searchlights and Sunglasses” he pleads with those who haven’t changed the way they think to see the light.

“If the news community doesn’t adapt, we may lose an entire century of professional journalism development,” Newton warns in the text. “The watchdog tradition, the courage, the ethics — all of it — will be as useful as a flashlight in Miami’s bright summer sun.”

Calling the project a demonstration and a model doesn’t necessarily mean that Newton or Knight wants every textbook to be parallax-scrolling, HTML5, multi-layered, or 500-plus pages.

There are countless ways to publish content online and to make it interactive, Newton said, and “Searchlights and Sunglasses” is just one example of how it can be done. The platform and the programming aren’t miraculous, he said.

“The hard part is getting into people’s heads with an image, an idea, that sparks a different way of looking at things – when it’s suddenly okay to be uncertain about the future and it’s okay to be in a culture of continuous change.”

For someone looking to produce a tool like this for the first time, the key is to “surround yourself with talented digital natives who want to tell stories,” Newton said in an email. “In my case, that was our creative director, Eric Schoenborn, who took the idea and made it real.” Innovation for the digital age doesn’t have to be expensive and shouldn’t feel impossible, he added.

“Overcomplicating change is what people do to avoid change,” he said. “We did it in the easiest way that was available to us – for somebody else it will be even easier.”

“Searchlights and Sunglasses” is one of three digital initiatives unveiled by the Knight Foundation. Read more about today’s announcements.

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Wednesday, Oct. 09, 2013

Serious student working with a computer

Journalism program takes lessons from teaching hospitals

What’s happening in journalism education sounds eerily like what’s happened to the newspaper industry over the last decade-and-a-half: While the talk in academia is of adjuncts and buyouts instead of freelancers and layoffs, professors are hearing more and more that commentators predict serious trouble for the journalism degree.

Meanwhile, every year for the last seven years, a small paper in Anniston, Ala., has been able to afford to devote six to eight reporters to yearlong, multimedia enterprise stories. And the University of Alabama boasts a job-placement rate above 90 percent for its community-journalism students.

How have these young Alabama reporters bucked grim trends in journalism? By following a model of education patterned after teaching hospitals.

The Alabama model

This fall, seven students began their master’s coursework in Alabama’s community-journalism program. They’ll graduate in July after completing two semesters of coursework, a yearlong group enterprise story, a yearlong multimedia feature project, writing countless local news stories and completing a three-month, full-time newsroom internship.

At first glance, the program doesn’t look all that different from what you’d expect from a journalism masters program.

“We know we have to teach communication theory, ethics, media law, and we do,” said Jennifer Greer, the chair of the University of Alabama’s journalism department, in a phone interview. But she added that Alabama’s journalism program always has an eye on its mission of improving community journalism: “We might think about agenda-setting as ‘What does it mean to set the agenda in your community?’ ”

What is unusual about this one-year journalism masters program is that it combines on-campus coursework with a full-time residency in a newsroom. 2012 graduate Ana Rodriguez said the Alabama program shows that a master’s in journalism doesn’t have to neglect hands-on journalism or theory but can combine both elements.

“That helped me and my class get just as comfortable writing a story as we were sharing it on social media,” Rodriguez said in a phone interview. “We had that same desire to use all the social-media things we are taught, and get out in the community, using traditional journalism skills.”

Community-journalism students complete in-depth, multimedia stories on an array of topics important to various communities they belong to or are interested in. They work on individual projects and contribute to a group project under the supervision of their professors and staff at The Anniston Star.

Rodriguez, now a reporter for AL.com, chose to do her masters project on HB 56, the immigration law Alabama passed in 2011, which opponents called the nation’s toughest.

“I didn’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of ‘This is what this law does,’ ” she said. “I wanted to go out and tell the stories of the people who were going to be affected. And I went out to try my best to tell the story through writing, through photography.”

While she was working on “They Are Us,” Rodriguez said, her professors encouraged her to immerse herself in the community. She attended a Spanish-language Catholic mass and met people who introduced her to friends, family and neighbors who had stories of trying to fit into American culture, dealing with domestic violence, and coping with fear in their own communities.

A number of student projects have attracted attention, Greer said. “Air War,” a group project in which students worked with Anniston Star reporters to collect and analyze documents from Birmingham, Ala., television stations during campaign season, won first place in investigative reporting in the 2012 Alabama Associated Press Managing Editor awards, Greer noted — the third straight year the award went to work done by community-journalism students at the Star.

Sara Falligant’s work on “Piper Place,” a collection of multimedia stories about a community mental-health facility, got an honorable mention in the Society for News Design’s 25th annual College News Design Contest. Falligant, a 2013 graduate, now works for the Opelika-Auburn News‎. A history major, she had no prior journalism experience before starting the program, which she said she chose because she knew she needed practical skills and experience in the field right away.

Reached via phone, Falligant said the step-by-step learning process of the program’s first nine months prepared her for the “faster-paced” environment of the Star, where the graduate students “got in pretty deep, pretty quickly” once assigned their beats.

Newspaper mentors

In Alabama’s model, the students are more like fellows or residents than interns, said Tim Lockette, The Anniston Star’s capital and state correspondent and an Alabama adjunct instructor. Editors and staff at the Star mentor the students, but few need much handholding.

“You give people tools to get the job done, you send them out to do it, ideally they rise to the occasion,” Lockette said in a phone interview.

Lockette and Star Editor Bob Davis have embraced the teaching-hospital model of journalism education.

“In a teaching hospital, there’s two big missions,” Davis said in a phone interview. “Like any hospital, you treat sick people. Secondary mission: You take students and teach them how to treat sick people.”

This is the program’s eighth year, and its structure has changed somewhat since the beginning, Greer said. At the outset, the program had students part-time in the Star newsroom and part-time at the university.

That meant the students were always “pulled in two different directions” between coursework and reporting, Greer said, a problem exacerbated by the two-hour drive between Anniston and Tuscaloosa. Now, instead of commuting, the students spend three months embedded in the newsroom and nine months taking graduate courses and working piece by piece on longer, in-depth projects.

The program was initially funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation but is now self-sustaining, Greer said. Students work as teaching assistants and receive stipends during the school year and get paychecks from the Star during their time at the newspaper.

Alabama’s graduate experiment hasn’t come at the expense of its undergraduates. The new Digital Media Center at Bryant-Denny Stadium will open its doors in 2014, housing the university’s WVUA-TV, Crimson Tide Productions and the Center for Public Television and Radio. The center will give undergraduates hands-on experience similar to what their graduate student counterparts get in Anniston.

“Departments are working on plans to move classes over into the real-world newsrooms,” Greer said.

The teaching-hospital model and a focus on community journalism aren’t the only ways to shake up journalism education, but the Alabama graduates are passionate about the program’s promise.

“I hope that other journalism programs and papers realize that the only way we can sustain journalism is to make ourselves the experts in our community,” Rodriguez said. Journalists, she added, should be “people that people can talk to, that they want to talk to.”

Advice from Alabama

Here are 10 pieces of advice for journalism educators that Alabama’s university and newsroom mentors have accumulated over nearly a decade of working with the teaching-hospital model:

  • Find the right people. Not all professors are going to want to be in the newsroom, so find the ones who will love the role, Greer said.
  • Like the newsroom, the academy has its turf wars. You can get buy-in for a project by pitching it the right way, Greer said, such as emphasizing that resources for one project are good for the entire department. At the Star, Davis recalled the need to “prepare everyone in your newsroom for what might be a different model.” When the program began, Davis said, some in the newsroom worried it would jeopardize their jobs. “It took a long time to just say, ‘No, that’s not what’s going to happen.’ ”
  • Plan for the student’s whole career. At Alabama, graduate students work on small pieces of a larger project over multiple semesters, picking up skills that help them in the newsroom. Greer sees that as more effective and integrated than “cramming it all into one class,” adding that this model has led to some of the most impactful investigative stories and “showpieces” produced.
  • Be open to changing what you teach, even while teaching the same courses. Students “look through scholarly stuff and theory” and study how that relates to community, Lockette said, adding that “they use that in the way they build their website — how news media actually works in their community.”
  • Be open to changing who teaches in your program. Many tenured professors have worked in newsrooms, Greer said, and the department makes an effort to bring professional voices into the classroom through in-person and Skype visits from prominent journalists across the world.
  • Be open to changing how you teach. Alabama’s undergraduate program has two fully online classes, but relies mostly on what Greer calls a “hybrid delivery model.” But, she said, the university knows more online efforts will come, “because that’s the way the world is going.” Also, Greer said, the program has moved away from trying to teach skills in one or two classes and towards building a skill-set through smaller projects that students incorporate into their masters projects.
  • Be clear about your expectations. “Ours is a complex program,” said graduate program director Wilson Lowrey in a phone interview, adding that it’s important to have an “explanation for the students, have sufficient material that explains things to them, effective orientations, one-on-one conversations.”
  • Don’t get caught up in the latest tech tools for storytelling – technology is changing so quickly that it can feel impossible to keep up. Instead, Lowrey said, “you have to teach them to fish rather than give them fish. … We want [students] to come up with their own solutions, innovate, and critically assess what they’re doing.”
  • Be open to collaborations with other departments. The community-journalism students work with students in the computer-based honors program, Lowrey said, and this collaboration has meant higher-quality work than the community-journalism students could produce on their own.
  • Reporters and editors should remember to be inspirational as well as instructional. “I think of journalism as a calling – you’re spreading the good word,” Davis said, adding: “Be prepared to tell them why you do what you do and why it’s important. We all are in a process of learning about this profession.”

Related: Journalism schools need to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant | Rebooting journalism education means constant state of change | Knight report on training shows journalists want technology, multimedia, data skills

Related training: Six Things Educators Can Do Right Now To Go Digital (NewsU) Read more

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Wednesday, Sep. 18, 2013

SONY DSC

How editing processes are evolving at college-media outlets

A guest lecturer told my students last month that one of things he was most excited about in his new job covering Ohio State athletics was working with editors again.

Thinking I’d misunderstood him, I asked if his stories were edited before being published online.

The answer was no.

This was a recent alumnus working for an online-only outlet that required dozens of stories per month, but I was still surprised. Surprised, but also reminded of an exchange with the sports editor during my first summer as adviser for The Lantern. He had been posting content — often well-done stories and commentaries — without anyone else on staff seeing it first.

As adviser, that made no sense to me for journalistic and legal reasons. The more editors involved the better, for everything from copy-editing to fact-checking. There’s also the fact that in this learning environment the only way to get better at editing is to edit.

After some initial pushback, the Lantern editors and I agreed on a minimum of two edits for everything, even in breaking-news situations and even if an editor is producing the content. For print, there are always at least five edits on every piece and often more, and at least one page proof, with two common.

I reached out to a half-dozen college-media outlets to see how their editing processes differ between online and print, including the number of edits and personnel involved. For the most part, print processes were similar, though many are works in progress. Online editing ranged from no editors required to two or more, while multimedia elements often received fewer edits than traditional print pieces. (For a look at how college-media outlets can work to prevent plagiarism and fabrication, this Poynter piece is excellent.)

Print edits extensive, evolving

George Washington University in Washington, D.C. saw its twice-weekly paper become a weekly earlier this month. Cory Weinberg, editor-in-chief at The GW Hatchet, said that conversion has given his staff even more time to edit print pieces.

Typically, the section editor takes first read for a day or two, then the managing editor and Weinberg take a look, all before production. During production, those three edit again, along with a copy editor. Once stories are on the page, the copy chief, managing editor and editor-in-chief all edit again, Weinberg said in a phone interview.

At the University of Kansas, everything starts with a section editor who reviews stories for style, structure and bigger-picture issues, said Trevor Graff, editor-in-chief of The University Daily Kansan, in a phone interview. The article then goes to the copy chief to assign to a copy editor for a comprehensive edit, including AP style and grammar. After that, it’s back to the copy chief for a cursory look and then to the design desk for laying out on the page. The issue is printed on 11×17 paper for page proofs.

As editor-in-chief, Graff doesn’t need to see all articles before publication. He said he takes on the bigger stories, which often cover more-sensitive subjects. One recent example was a story about students from Syria that had obvious political and religious tensions.

“It’s on me to coach reporters and editors through the tougher situations,” Graff said.

The biggest change at the Daily Kansan this year is that the same copy editor takes the story through the whole process. Last year, there were different people copy-editing, writing headlines and photo cutlines.

“We did that to enhance consistency and make sure the copy editors assigned the story can see every element of the story,” Graff said. “We missed some headlines last year.”

Brittany Horn, editor-in-chief of The Daily Collegian at Penn State University, said in a phone interview that the process is similar there: She doesn’t edit all stories, but focuses on the most important and potentially controversial ones. The managing editor and copy chief read everything before publication.

The Opinion section is different, however: Only that section’s editor and Horn read the columns before publication. The Daily Collegian also recently debuted two sex columns written anonymously. For those, the paper’s adviser and Horn are the only advance readers.

Casey Fabris, editor-in-chief of The Daily Orange at Syracuse University, said in a phone interview that all print stories get at least six edits — including her own — before publication. It’s a similar set-up here at The Lantern, where the process begins with the section and copy editors and ends with the editor-in-chief, managing editor for content and the copy chief, all of whom read everything before publication. Stories are often proofed twice on the page.

Online, multimedia editing standards vary

While there are deep, structured print-editing procedures at these college-media outlets, the online-editing workflow varies, especially for breaking news.

At Syracuse and Ohio State, all online articles get at least two reads. Once the item is posted, editors will look again to ensure no obvious copy-editing or other issues exist. Here at Ohio State, a multimedia editor and two assistants are responsible for the editing and quality of the video content. The Lantern photo editor and assistant work on individual shots and slideshows, while captions get at least two additional edits.

Fabris said The Daily Orange created a video-editor position this spring, with that editor shooting much of his own content but also helping edit other submissions. The managing editor and Fabris look at those video packages as well, she said.

At Penn State, Horn said reads by at least two editors is standard for online articles, but major breaking news could be done with one edit, though that rarely happens. If editors are geographically spread out, they edit via an email chain.

Sam Stites, editor-in-chief of the University of Oregon’s Emerald Media Group, said the staff tries to be strict, “but in breaking-news situations sometimes only two pairs of eyes (reporter, editor) see the story before it’s published online,” with a copy-edit after posting.

“We actually have been playing with a new feature that sends a status update to the next editor, copy editor or manager whenever the status of a story is changed on our website,” Stites said via email. “This allows us to be notified when we need to look at something for quick editing.”

Graff said for online stories it’s “not as many eyes, but more-experienced eyes,” as the staff attempts to recreate the print workflow without the traditional structure. Stories rarely go out with only one edit because the Kansas paper has a handful of paid reporters who are supposed to be on call.

The photo editor in Kansas plays the same role as any section editor, working to select the best sports and news images to illustrate that day’s stories. The copy editor assigned to the story also can see those images while editing, Graff said. The photo editor reads captions for online-only shots, while any cutlines in print go through the normal editing process.

Weinberg said only four people have online-publishing power at the GW Hatchet; it’s OK for one of those top editors to post something and then have it read online by other editors. Typically, the section editor and then the managing editor or Weinberg reads a news article before it’s posted. They are trying to determine where a copy editor should fit in that process.

Weinberg said he thinks the balancing act between prioritizing stories and “absolute, minute carefulness” is a struggle for many college newspapers, adding that “we are still trying to figure out the right balance, the right mix.”

Weinberg also said the Hatchet staff realizes the need to quickly put structure around the online editing process before a major gaffe forces the issue.

That’s smart — while these college-media leaders are some of the most-talented journalists in the country, everyone needs an editor. It may sound great to work without one, but like the recent Ohio State alum who spoke to my class said, you miss editors when they’re gone. They force you to get better. Read more

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Wednesday, Sep. 11, 2013

2013 Cover

University of Oregon students embrace iPad-only publication, challenge traditional storytelling methods

Nathan Wallner is punching me in the face.

Again and again, the mixed martial arts fighter jukes, jives and aims jabs directly at my jawbone. Or so it seems, thanks to an eye-opening, interactive reading experience courtesy of OR Magazine.

Conceived and assembled each spring by upperclassmen at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, OR is the first and most prominent student publication produced exclusively for the iPad. It’s also one of the most innovative student-media and journalism-education initiatives in the U.S., an effort that seeks to “challenge the traditional approach to classroom instruction” and pioneer new methods of content production.

Or, as a student staffer on the magazine put it last year, “I really feel like I’m working for The Daily Prophet from Harry Potter.”

The Wild West of a learning curve

The reader’s journey with OR doesn’t begin in a cupboard under the stairs but in the iTunes store on the iPad. A little patience is required – depending on your connection, downloading an issue can take about 20 minutes. And navigation is an interactive adventure in its own right, involving horizontal and vertical scrolling, occasional rotating, tapping at various speeds and levels of intensity, and uncovering the multimedia extras waiting to be digested.

As I discovered, those extras can pack a punch.

For example, the video of the MMA’s Wallner delivering digital blows at the screen is a teaser for a profile focused on “the interiority of the fighter’s mind, what it feels like to step into the cage and get beaten up or beat somebody up in front of a lot of people.”

The multimedia package, titled “How to Be a Badass,” includes video, a photo slideshow, and a write-up about how Wallner balances a brutal MMA training regimen with university classes and work as a bouncer. At one point, an image of Wallner in mid-punch is meshed seamlessly with time-lapse video of his own shadow sparring against a wall. While he remains still in the foreground, his shadow can be scrolled into action, fighting on, a metaphor for how omnipresent MMA is in his life.

The main feature by Ben Kendall concludes with a glimpse inside the sport’s famed cage, recounting a bout pitting Wallner against a hometown favorite. To win the fight, Wallner unleashes a “flurry of left-right combinations,” a left hook, and a chokehold known as the guillotine. He earns a championship medal and belt, while losing a filling. As Wallner puts it, “The whole experience is kind of a rollercoaster in your mind.”

Which isn’t a bad description of how OR came to be.

Soon after Apple’s Steve Jobs unveiled the iPad in late January 2010, Ed Madison jump-started a course on the tablet’s emerging technology.

Ed Madison

At the time, Madison, a veteran journalist and a founding producer of CNN, was a UO journalism teaching fellow and doctoral candidate. He put together the 400-level invite-only lab class – called Mobile Media Production – with advertising professor Deborah Morrison. After receiving approval from School of Journalism and Communication dean Tim Gleason, it premiered only two months after the Jobs announcement.

“The class started and iPads weren’t even in the stores yet,” said Madison, now an assistant professor and media partnerships manager at the university. “We had no textbooks or anything. We created it as an experimental course.”

The experiment centered on not running from what Madison called “the wild west in terms of our learning curve.” Instead, they embraced it.

“It’s really a question of how do we define what teaching is,” Madison said. “Is teaching that I’m supposed to be in front of the room, have all the answers, and show you something that I have mastered? Or is teaching an exploration I do together with students? I think the students are more interested in the exploration.”

With iPads barely out of their boxes during that first course, students explored apps. They collaborated with several Portland-based media companies to develop app prototypes, including one for a gardening book that sought to enable users to learn more about plant life.

The experience planted the seeds for OR Magazine, which was created in spring 2011 during the course’s second go-round. As Madison put it, “If that [first] year was about apps, 2011 was about publishing.”

The 2011 cover.

Part of the beta

Since 2011, the course has also been about student control, based on a philosophy Madison advocates: “Empower leaders to be leaders.”

For each spring course, he recruits upperclassmen with a variety of skills, including reporting, copy editing, photography, videography and design. During the first weekly session, the students vie for various staff positions, and are voted in by their peers. They then make all the decisions about the thematic concept and specific content of each issue, with Madison, Morrison, and a number of experts on and off campus advising, evaluating, and teaching along the way.

“Our strength was in guiding from the sidelines, as opposed to the kind of front-of-the-room instruction that was more traditional,” Madison said in late 2011, roughly five months after students published the first edition of OR. “That by no means was meant to indicate this was a free-for-all. It’s important to have a structure in place to allow us to achieve.”

Along with structure, timing has been essential to the course’s success. Madison has repeatedly scheduled the class for 8 a.m. on Fridays, as a means of weeding out the less motivated. That bit of timing was engineered on purpose, but the timing of the most significant game-changer for the class was serendipitous.

Six weeks before the spring 2011 term began at UO, Adobe debuted its Digital Publishing Suite (DPS), which enables the creation of a more interactive, tablet-specific audience experience.

Madison read about the software and contacted Adobe staffers, asking if they could provide DPS to students prior to its public release so they could put together a magazine for the iPad. Adobe said yes, making UO’s students, in Madison’s words, “part of the beta.”

At the time, Adobe didn’t even have an instruction manual for DPS. The company asked the students to report back on anything they stumbled across that needed fixing or expanding.

While working on the magazine, students only had access to DPS for the final five weeks of the 10-week term. Functions accessible one day were suddenly gone or shifted the next. And the software was available in a single computer lab that was free solely on weekends and after 4 p.m. on weekdays.

The students soldiered on. “It’s not ‘Oh, I threw it together [at] midnight before it was due because it was just a grade,’ ” said Scott Landis, the issue’s co-editor-in-chief. “This was truly about being professionals and producing something we can be proud of and that can make a difference and change the way people view magazines, and the university.”

Bells and whistles

The first OR magazine aimed to inform readers about UO’s many accomplishments beyond what most people associate with the school – think football, Phil Knight and Nike.

A play button on that first cover brings readers to a black-and-white video depicting a campus library. On screen, a bespectacled student is slowly pushing a cart of books when a hardback title on a nearby shelf grabs his attention.

Once opened, the book flings the student – and by extension the viewer – down a colorful rabbit hole displaying many facets of the university. The images that speed by in time-lapse fashion – and against a techno-beat – appear through a tilt-shift filter. The Adobe After Effects editing option blurs and hyper-focuses certain parts of the photos, suffusing the whole proceedings with what video editor Scott Uyeda called “a figurine movement look.”

On the pages that follow, similar innovations accompany features on campus glass-blowing workshops, the school’s world-class zebrafish breeding facility, the ultimate Frisbee team, and UO professors studying Congolese apes and quantum physics.

But nothing is presented for innovation’s sake. Madison and the students describe a constant tension between experimenting with what is possible and doing what is best for the content and audience.

In a video interview conducted this spring, OR staffer Melanie Burke said that “the temptation to make everything spin and flip and turn and mirror and rotate and pop alive when you touch it is really, really strong because it’s cool and it’s new and we’ve never been able to do this kind of thing before.”

But according to Madison, “just because we have all of these bells and whistles doesn’t mean we want to gratuitously use them.”

The team tries to keep the final file size of each digital issue small enough that readers won’t become frustrated by a long download and give up before giving it a look. They also work to stay true to their editorial vision.

“We’ve had situations where we had video shot for something and went ‘You know what, this is really better told with a slideshow,’” Madison said. “Or ‘This is more oriented around the visuals instead of a lot of copy.’ It’s kind of letting the integrity of the story drive how we go about telling it.”

Dare to adventure

One last decision that has been integral to OR’s success is upending what Madison calls “the old paradigm of workflow, where a person writes an article and maybe a photographer comes out with them and then they turn things over to a design team and the design team decides how to visualize the story and how the page is going to be laid out.”

With OR, everyone is involved in every inch of story planning and execution – the brainstorming, reporting, editing, imagery, multimedia, layout, and interactivity. For this spring’s issue, this collaboration produced a set of gear guides linked to stories on Oregon kayakers, mountaineers, and mountain bikers.

The guides include head-to-toe visual rundowns of what these athletes wear and employ while paddling, pedaling, and climbing. The OR crew interacted from the get-go on the content, visual concept, and background research. They communicated throughout the subsequent reporting, including while staffers gathered audio of the adventure junkies explaining each piece of clothing and equipment. They coordinated a professional photo shoot. And they dabbled with the look and interactive elements of the final layouts, which display the supplies on their own and also attached to the individuals describing their utility.

“It’s a process that is somewhat organic, but everyone’s involved,” Madison said. “It’s not sort of handing it down a conveyor belt, if you will.”

In that spirit, one of the teaser headlines featured on the cover of the spring issue could apply to the magazine itself and the students and faculty members behind it: “Thrillseekers: Those who dare to adventure where others won’t.”

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Friday, Aug. 16, 2013

Emailinterviews2

College media outlets work through evolution of email, social media interviews

“I don’t allow email interviews in any of the classes I teach — except one. If I didn’t allow email interviews in the class tied to The Lantern, we’d never put out a paper.”

I’ve recited those lines to students and others here at Ohio State many times in the three years I’ve served as student media adviser.

Am I being dramatic? I’ve been told I can be.

Am I exaggerating? No.

Some college newspapers have made headlines in the last year for “banning” email interviews: This Poynter story has a nice roundup of bans announced by three of them.

Reading about such edicts, I wondered how the papers could truly ban email interviews and continue to function. With that in mind, I spoke to and, yes, emailed with the editors of 10 prominent college-media outlets. When discussing interview preferences, all ranked email a distant third behind in-person and telephone calls by staff writers, treating them as a last resort.

That’s as it should be — but problems enforcing these standards persist, notably high-profile sources that insist on email interviews. The college papers also have differing views on conducting interviews via social media.

“Incredibly frustrating” — but better than nothing

I spoke with editors at Ohio State, South Florida, Syracuse, Penn State, Harvard, Princeton, Oregon, Wisconsin, Iowa and Maryland and the reality is that none of those college papers has actually banned email interviews. What they have done, though, is clearly defined the order of preference for communicating with sources and pledged transparency on the occasions when email is used.

From those conversations, a number of reasons emerged for why sources in and around universities continue to insist on email interviews:

  • They say they have been misquoted and burned in the past.
  • Their office/department/college requires it because of perceived legal liability or other concerns.
  • They know that email interviews are the only way to completely control their messages.
  • College journalists often don’t ask for in-person or phone interviews, and/or gladly accept when offered email as an alternative.

Divya Kumar, editor-in-chief at The Oracle, the University of South Florida’s paper, said email interviews were banned earlier this year, sparking a reaction she called “interesting.”

The editors at the Tampa-based campus decided to act after noticing an increase in the number of sources requiring written questions in advance of an interview and then using the answers as the interview.

“We felt that was a way of prior review so we decided not to do it,” Kumar said in a phone interview.

Kumar said the high turnover rate among reporters has made it challenging to ensure all contributors know the policy and understand the reason for it, something she said will be a main focus for the upcoming year. Kumar said that after the policy was announced, Oracle editors spiked a story that relied solely on email interviews.

In the rare cases where email interviews are used, Kumar said editors let readers know that the quotes came from emails and why — for example, email is sometimes needed because a source is traveling.

At Princeton, the previous editorial board noticed that too many sources were declining in-person or phone interviews, “putting the reporter in a difficult negotiating position,” said Luc Cohen, editor-in-chief of The Daily Princetonian.

“An interview should be a conversation … we tell our reporters never to leave an interview until they’re sure they’re confident they fully understand the source’s perspective and comments, which isn’t possible in a medium devoid of meaningful, real-time interaction,” Cohen wrote in an email. “Over email, sources often skipped over certain questions on the list, or ignored the reporter’s questions altogether in their response.”

Brittany Horn, editor-in-chief of The Daily Collegian at Penn State, said in the past the paper limited email interviews to its dealings with former president Graham Spanier, noting that email was “the only way he would communicate with us.”

“However, in the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky case, we’ve seen many more professors and administrators turning to email-only correspondence, citing fears of being misquoted or wanting to be able to think more about what they’re saying before speaking to our student journalists,” Horn said in an email. “Obviously, from a journalism standpoint, this is incredibly frustrating.”

Despite that hindrance, Horn said there are no changes planned to the paper’s interviewing polices, “mainly because some members of the administration won’t speak with us any other way, and I’d rather have some comment versus none at all.”

Casey Fabris, editor-in-chief of The Daily Orange at Syracuse, said email interviews are usually conducted by reporters when one source is the authority on a certain subject and will only answer written questions. The paper will then try to ensure that other email interviews in those stories are limited, Fabris said in a phone interview.

Banning quote review

Cohen said The Princetonian’s new policy “emboldened reporters to conduct in-person or phone interviews when sources were initially reluctant.” Sources that complained generally cited concerns over being misquoted or difficulty finding a mutually beneficial time to talk.

“We made it clear that we would continue to allow sources to see their quotes before publication upon request to ensure that there are no factual inaccuracies in what they said and that they have not been misquoted,” Cohen said. But he added that this is not quote review — the paper maintains sole discretion over the quotations published.

Cohen said reporters have tried to avoid email by conducting interviews with administrators early in the morning and using Skype to talk with sources in foreign countries late at night. The Daily Princetonian allows email interviews only in “extraordinary circumstances, as determined by the news editors and the editor-in-chief,” he said.

Rebecca Robbins, managing editor at The Harvard Crimson, said email interviews are “highly discouraged.” That point was reinforced when editors banned quote review last fall.

Email interviews had many of the “same problems that precipitated the quote-review change,” Robbins said in a phone interview, adding that email quotes often weren’t frank and lacked “insight and reflection on what are often complex issues.”

Crimson editors allow email interviews, Robbins said, but mostly limit them to discussions with spokespeople who are stating facts, not opinions.

Policies differ on social-media interviews

While email interviews are clearly discouraged, college outlets have differing views on whether interviews conducted via social media are acceptable. Editors thought interviews via Skype and other video messaging were fine, but opinions differed on interviews conducted using Facebook or Twitter.

At The Lantern, editors don’t use information from Facebook or from Twitter direct messages, since verifying the identity of the sender is more difficult than with an email. (Think about how many times your Facebook or Twitter page has been open in a room that you left, even for a few minutes.)

This story about a man wanted by police in multiple states who had been spotted near campus came to mind as an exception to that rule. But I thought the editors handled the issue well by letting readers know why a Facebook interview was used.

Kristen East, editor-in-chief of The Daily Iowan, said her reporters haven’t used Facebook interviews often, “but I think of it the same as email … as a way to make initial contact.”

“We used Facebook messaging as a prominent source during the events of the Boston Marathon bombings to find and communicate with sources in the area,” East said in an email. She added that Iowan editors caution against Twitter because source verification can be more difficult.

Kumar said other ways of interviewing don’t come up often at The Oracle, but recalled a Facebook interview conducted because a student was studying abroad without a reliable phone. Kumar said she would probably prefer Facebook interviews to email exchanges “because there is a real-time connection and less of a filter.”

It’s a different story at Syracuse, where reporters — particularly in sports — have received information from sources via text or Twitter message. But Fabris said Daily Orange staffers then work to verify that information through normal reporting channels.

How does your college newspaper handle email interviews?

Related: How journalists decide whether to interview by phone, email or face-to-face Read more

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Friday, Aug. 09, 2013

Serious student working with a computer

Journalism schools need to adapt or risk becoming irrelevant

The scary thing about a disruption is that you don’t know where it will go.

Forty years ago, we didn’t realize the first cellphone call would lead to mobile computing and smartphones. Twenty years ago, we didn’t realize that Amazon would transform retail shopping. Ten years ago, there was no Facebook or Twitter.

You just don’t know where disruptive innovation will lead.

What we do know, however, is that the future of journalism education is at a critical point for two reasons.

1. Time is running out. Disruption, driven by economics and technology, is coming to the university system much more quickly than most administrators realize.

2. Journalism education will undergo fundamental shifts in how journalism is taught and who teaches it. Those who don’t innovate in the classroom will be left behind — just like those who chose not to innovate in the newsroom.

For more than a year, a heated discussion has raged about the future of journalism education. Academics, foundation leaders and professionals are still debating what the future of j-education will look like, just as we are all arguing about what the future of journalism will look like.

These discussions have been fueled in part by a survey that Poynter’s News University conducted in the spring of 2012, in preparation for a speech I gave at the European Journalism Centre. I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that the positions of both educators and professionals haven’t changed much in the past year.

A new Poynter NewsU survey conducted during the past three months shows no shift in attitudes for either group. With more than 1,800 responses, equally divided between professionals and academics, there is still a wide gap — more than 40 points — between the two groups of survey respondents.

Today, 96 percent of those who identify themselves as journalism educators believe that a journalism degree is very important to extremely important when it comes to understanding the value of journalism. That’s almost identical to the 2012 result.

Professionals — editors and those who work in journalism — have a less favorable opinion, with 57 percent saying that a degree is very important to extremely important when it comes to understanding the value of journalism. That’s unchanged from last year’s survey.

Also unchanged is the gap between educators’ and professionals’ view of the importance of a journalism degree when it comes to “abilities in newsgathering, editing and presenting the news.” Almost all educators (98 percent) say a degree is very important to extremely important when it comes to newsgathering skills. But only 59 percent of professionals share this view, with almost one in five saying a degree is not at all important or is only slightly important in terms of newsgathering.

There is a big disconnect between professional journalists and the academic community. But even journalism educators worry that journalism education isn’t keeping pace.

Thirty-nine percent of educators said journalism education is keeping up with industry changes not at all or a little. Newsroom leaders and staffers are even harsher, with 48 percent saying the academy isn’t keeping up with changes in the field.

As for whether a journalism degree is valuable when it comes to getting a job, the gap between professors and professionals is smaller. More than half (53 percent) of educators think a journalism degree is very to extremely important to getting a job. Forty-one percent of professionals share that belief.

But those who identify themselves as “working on their own” hold an even lower opinion of a journalism degree; only 38 percent say that a journalism degree is very important to extremely important to getting work.

That means that, even though attitudes haven’t shifted from last year’s survey — or maybe because attitudes haven’t shifted — we need to redouble our efforts to rethink journalism education.

Last year, I said “journalism education can’t teach its way to the future.” That’s still true.

What’s important is that journalism degrees are in danger of becoming perceived as irrelevant. This is reflected in the elimination of journalism programs or the incorporation of journalism into the wider communications curriculum in many universities.

Let me emphasize this critical point: I worry about the future of journalism degrees (and programs) more than I worry about the future of journalism — and, by extension, journalism training.

The real disruption that colleges and universities face is that degrees are declining in value — even while education and training remain important to an individual’s future. In the near future, I believe, there will be a huge economic challenge facing our educational institutions: convincing prospective students and their parents that the traditional degree still has value.

College administrators face the same dilemma as their news-industry counterparts. Trading tuition dollars for digital or e-learning dimes might be the only way to survive.

That, however, is only the beginning.

The disruption

The same disruptive forces that battered the media industry are threatening the economics of private and public universities. The traditional media players were slow to recognize how their business model was going to be undercut by technology and how the Internet would transform a precious commodity into something with little or no value.

News was a valuable commodity because it was scarce. The Internet turned scarcity into abundance by providing new outlets and new platforms for consumers to access news and information.

The same thing, I believe, is about to happen to education.

More and more parents, students, government officials and education pundits are questioning the wisdom of spending six figures for an education that doesn’t provide a clear economic return. This isn’t just a journalism-education issue but a broader challenge, a questioning of the orthodoxy that highly values a college education.

Even though on average, the benefits outweigh the costs of a college education, a Brookings Institution report released in May argues that “a bachelor’s degree is not a smart investment for every student in every circumstance.”

The cost of tuition, the students’ personal attributes, the major they choose to study, and their likelihood of graduating all factor in to the calculation of whether college is worth the investment.

“College is a not a homogeneous thing, and a degree is not a uniform ticket,” Brookings’ Isabel Sawhill told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Jill Tucker. “There are lots of different types of tickets, and some of those tickets take you nowhere.”

All of this is playing out during a period in which journalism and communications enrollment is embarrassingly high, and the traditional hiring by legacy media organizations is at an all-time low. When it comes to value for dollars invested, journalism degrees may have much less value than they did in the past.

The technology shift

What journalism schools or programs do in the coming years to combat this perception will be critical. Time is not on the side of the established institutions during periods of innovation. Time and momentum are on the side of the disruptor.

Disruptive innovation in the news industry means journalism created and distributed on new platforms by independent entrepreneurial journalists. It means journalism outside the traditional business model of mass media.

“To teach journalism in the digital age you have to teach both journalism and the digital age — and use modern tools to do it,” the Knight Foundation’s Eric Newton argued earlier this year. “That’s why the schools that are serious about this are getting bigger, not smaller.”

E-learning is one obvious new way of teaching. Even within the confines of an ivy-covered building, j-schools can also explore other methods, such as:

  • Innovations labs, such as the one run at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
  • Hybrid learning programs that mix e-learning with classroom work
  • Classroom sessions that are discussions of online training materials rather than lectures

Schools are trying other innovations as well. They may or may not be successful. Two that come to mind are massive open online courses [MOOCs] and the digital badge movement.

Most journalism educators — 84 percent — say they are at least slightly familiar with MOOCs. Yet only 22 percent think journalism should be taught as a MOOC. Slightly more educators, a little more than one-third of respondents, said they would be willing to teach journalism via MOOCs. An equal number said they weren’t sure and 28 percent said no.

There are big questions and doubts around the effectiveness of MOOCs. I’m slightly skeptical about the power of public MOOCs, given dropout rates quoted as high as 90 percent. But, with journalism education, that’s not the issue. Public MOOCs are open and free, and sometimes people just want to see what’s being taught.

MOOCs are valuable because they give us the opportunities to experiment. This form of delivery helps us figure out new ways to teach using technology. We need to find out what works and why.

San Jose State University experimented with the MOOC format and has learned some hard lessons with the five online courses it offered in partnership with Udacity. The courses were elementary statistics, college algebra, an introduction to programming, entry-level math and introductory psychology. While completion rates were very good at 83 percent, the majority of students (56 percent to 76 percent) failed the final exams.

Although SJSU “paused” this experiment, I think the real wisdom comes from Udacity’s CEO, Sebastian Thrun, who wrote on the company blog:

In our pilot, we stuck to a traditional, 15-week semester timeframe. While that schedule may work for full-time students on campus, we know it doesn’t for everyone. As we broaden the base of students we reach with these classes, we should broaden our perspective on what a “semester” looks like. Imagine a world where you could take these classes for credit, while setting your own pace and deadlines to fit within work schedules, within times when you have access to computers, or within high-school classes schedules.

That’s the spirit of a startup: Launch, fail/learn, iterate and relaunch. Then do it all over again.

Changing skills, changing journalists

Much has been written about how the thousands of independent journalists are creating new outlets and opportunities. And we have written extensively about the new tools journalists need to use in this ever-changing environment.

What’s less known, however, are the specific skills that journalists will need to be successful in the future.

Two-thirds (66 percent) of the educators who responded to our survey believe their schools or departments are responsive to changing curriculum. This is an exciting finding, because journalism education can remain relevant only if it takes the lead in anticipating the skills that will be needed and ensuring that students learn these skills. But the finding also raises the question of why there aren’t more experiments. Are schools open to change but just don’t know what to do?

Part of that strategic rethink involves closing the gap between professors and professionals. And it probably means letting go of some of the current thinking about what is taught in the classroom and what journalism education is.

What skills, attitudes and knowledge will make a journalist successful in the future? We can all speculate, but we don’t have much data to look to for the answers. So, NewsU producer Lauren Klinger and I created a new survey about the future of journalism competencies.

We’re asking educators and journalists to help identify what’s important in four areas:

  1. Knowledge, attitudes and personal features
  2. News gathering skills
  3. News production skills
  4. Technical/multimedia skills

We don’t know what we’ll find with this survey, but I expect there will be new ideas to help us rethink journalism education.

What we do know, however, is enough to get us working to reinvent our future:

  • We know that technology is disrupting how education is delivered.
  • We know that technology is disrupting the economics of education.
  • We know that journalism is changing more quickly than journalism education.

It is not too late to reshape journalism education. But time is not on our side. I know many educators will struggle with the idea of giving up parts of what they love — such as teaching in a classroom — and others will struggle with learning new technologies and approaches to the craft of journalism.

Dealing with disruptions means we can either mourn the past or we can work together to invent the future.

This article is adapted from a report on the Future of Journalism written and edited by Howard Finberg (@Hif) and Lauren Klinger. To download a copy of the report, which includes additional data from the 2013 survey, visit Poynter NewsU. Read more

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Women working in office.

In many college newsrooms, women hold top leadership roles

The story is that men control the media, with surveys of professional newsrooms continuing to paint a bleak picture for women and minorities — especially those who aspire to hold leadership positions.

But in college newsrooms, the story is different, as I found in discussions with representatives from 11 schools — Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Oregon, Harvard, Iowa State, Tampa, Maryland and Wisconsin-Madison. At those schools and others, women increasingly lead — and the gap may be widening in their favor.

“I’ve had some females in the newsroom I would put in a bar fight with a guy any day,” said Laura Widmer, general manager at the Iowa State Daily, who previously worked as director of student publications at Northwest Missouri State University for 29 years. “But the difference in leadership with the females I’ve had the pleasure of working with is that they tend to take a more interactive, more nurturing approach. Managing from the heart as opposed to from the desk, and they realize that leadership comes from their personality and knowing the personality of the your staff.”

Widmer, who also previously has served as president and New York convention director for the College Media Association, said in a phone interview that yearbook editors have skewed female since she began working in the 1980s, and in the next decade “we started seeing more females moving up the ladder and taking those roles” at newspapers. (While there are more women pursuing and earning college degrees than men, I found no reliable statistics on female leaders in university newsrooms. College Media Association executives also weren’t aware of research in this area.)

Exploring gender breakdowns

I decided to explore the gender breakdowns in college newsrooms after seeing the number of women editors explode in the last year at Ohio State University, where I teach and serve as student media director. We typically have about 16 paid editors on staff at The Lantern. Last spring, 11 were women. In the fall, there will be 14 female editors. At Buckeye TV, women hold three of the five paid positions, including that of station manager. The four men at the paper and the TV station hold the four sports positions.

Our experience isn’t unique. Sports sections are one of the few areas where men still dominate — and when women have taken the reins in sports, some readers have reacted badly, levying online attacks and making personal threats.

Dan Reimold, an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Tampa and adviser to The Minaret student newspaper, said in an email that his “best-educated guess as a college-news nerd is that there are more female editors-in-chief of student papers nationwide than men, something I would not have posited even a few years ago.”

The rise in female student enrollment within journalism schools and programs has played a part in the gains for women, Reimold said, as has college media expanding its scope with more candid stories, features, and special editions focused on sex, relationships, and LGBTQ issues.

Reimold said that while researching a book, “I came across countless young women who joined their student newspapers mainly to produce such content — and at times moved up the ranks from there.”

“Overall, we are seeing more women not being afraid to step into leadership positions,” Widmer said, adding that there were two-thirds female editors at the Journalism Leadership and Management Conference at Iowa State in June. (Sources for stories are a bleaker gender-equality picture. This story from Poynter has more on that.)

Jim Rodenbush, who came to The Daily Collegian at Penn State University as news adviser in January 2011 from Webster University in St. Louis, said in a phone interview that he’s had six straight female editors-in-chief, including the last five at PSU.

A glass ceiling shattered

“There’s always talk of a glass ceiling [in journalism], but this is a great example of a place where that doesn’t exist,” Brittany Horn, editor-in-chief of The Daily Collegian at Penn State, said in a phone interview.

This summer, 15 students were accepted into The Daily Collegian’s staff-writer candidacy program. Ten were women. And Horn said she has interned at three different newspapers in Pennsylvania — the Lancaster Sunday News, Harrisburg Patriot-News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. All had women as either editor-in-chief or second in command.

“Journalism gets a negative rap,” Horn said, adding that “I think it’s neat to watch the leadership changes. … Women in power, I’m all for it.”

More women are seeking sports reporting positions, which are ultra-competitive at Penn State, and in the past two years, out of nine crime reporters, two were men.

“Truly, most of our competitive reporting positions are also held by females,” Horn wrote in an email. “This shift could explain why we’re seeing so many female editors. I also think that a lot of women refuse to not be taken seriously anymore, especially in higher level beats, which gives a great jumping off point for leadership positions.”

Rebecca Robbins, managing editor at The Harvard Crimson, said that organization’s “Superboard” of editorial and business leaders has been pretty evenly split between the genders for the last two years.

But The Crimson’s News Board, which includes the editors and reporters, has been “overwhelmingly female, something that’s definitely been noticed at the organization,” she wrote in an email. “I’m not sure how to explain it, but we’re happy that the News Board’s glass ceiling has long since been shattered.”

Abby Becker, editor-in-chief of The Daily Cardinal at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the 31 editor positions were about evenly split last spring, but will include 23 women in fall. That is the most women since Spring 2011 when it was 19 females and 12 males.

“We actually talk about it in the office,” Becker said in a phone interview. She studies the history of journalism, and is aware that women weren’t allowed to write or report for decades — “something I love to do.”

Still, it’s not always easy or fair.

“There are still signs it’s not completely an equal work place,” Katie Burke, summer editor-in-chief at The Michigan Daily, said in a phone interview.

Burke mentioned this story from Politico about New York Times editor Jill Abramson, which included anonymous sources slamming her management style. “What I took from that was women are not expected to have a hard, authoritative style,” Burke said.

But Burke said when it comes to eventually getting a journalism job, it’s not her gender that concerns her — it’s the availability of jobs.

Men as the minority

So what’s it like for the men who run the new female-dominated newsrooms? At the University of Oregon’s Emerald Media Group, there is a slight female edge among editors and reporters. But editor-in-chief Sam Stites said in a phone interview the gender breakdown makes no difference in his leadership style.

“No one here I really need to coddle — everyone is a team player, everyone is willing to improve,” he said, adding that when he has needed to be harder on someone, “for the most part, most of the females take that criticism better.”

Tony Wagner, editor-in-chief of The Minnesota Daily, said there are more women at the reporting level, but the editor ranks are pretty evenly split, with the last six editor-in-chief slots going to three men and three women.

“At the end of the day, I’m just looking at the stories and the papers we put out,” he said in a phone interview, and not the gender of the bylines on those stories.

At the University of Maryland, Mike King will start his fourth year at The Diamondback in the fall, his first serving as editor-in-chief. Of the 18 editor positions, the majority have been women during his time there — including the three top editors before him. There are also noticeably more women in his journalism classes, he said in a phone interview.

“On a college campus and at a student newspaper, people are more willing and able to break the mold,” King said, adding that gender disparity is “not really a topic of discussion…and in my opinion, that’s for the best. It’s 2013, the people who do the best should get the best positions.”

Sports ‘fraternity’ can be ugly for women

Despite women’s gains as editors and reporters, sports shows signs of remaining a male bastion.

“In my 30 years advising, I have not had one female sports editor,” Widmer said.

At The Daily Collegian, staffers for the campus, news, and arts sections tend to be women, but Penn State sports coverage is still mostly produced by men.

“We joke that it’s the fraternity at the paper,” Horn said.

But it’s not always a laughing matter. Whether at Penn State or elsewhere, numerous editors I spoke to said when women have covered major sports, they’ve heard about it from readers through online comments, email and social media — sometimes in threatening ways.

Kristen East, editor-in-chief at The Daily Iowan, said in a phone interview that the paper had a female sports editor last year who was “not treated nicely.” While she said many anonymous comments and calls focused on a single column, some of the people who emailed and commented on stories “just didn’t like the fact that a woman was running the section.”

“That was kind of hard to see,” East said. “I don’t think it should matter either way.”

But this too may be changing. At Harvard, Robbins said sports has had male leadership for several years, but added that a strong group of female freshmen sportswriters are “very likely to change that.” Read more

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Resume Fill Opening New Position Job Interview Experience

Why students who want to land an internship next summer should start preparing now

Whether currently interning for a news organization, taking classes or enjoying a vacation, journalism students seeking some of the best internships next summer need to start planning — now.

That preparation should include meticulously researching markets where you may want to intern and establishing portfolios with examples that show you’ll be ready to start producing professional-grade content from day one.

I talked with journalists from The Columbus Dispatch, The Dallas Morning News and the Indianapolis Star for their insights on what aspiring journalists should be doing this July to give themselves the best shot at an internship next July. Here’s what they had to say…

Get some experience, clips

Even if you didn’t have an internship this summer, apply for a position at the school newspaper and start building an online presence. That means regularly using social media in professional ways and perhaps creating a blog to highlight your skills. Eventually, you could create an online portfolio to showcase your best work — clips, graphics, interactives and whatever other work you do.

Russ Pulliam, associate editor at the Indianapolis Star and director of the Pulliam Fellowship program, said students should embrace chances to hone their skills in smaller markets before working in a larger city.

“It lets reporters really see how things work and is not as overwhelming as major metro assignments,” Pulliam said in a phone interview. “If you don’t see stories in smaller towns, you’re probably not going to see them in larger markets. Great reporters see stories other reporters miss.”

Ben Marrison, editor of The Columbus Dispatch, which typically offers about 25 paid summer internships, agreed and said intern applicants should “look for any opportunity you can to get published locally.”

“If you like sports, cover something for the local paper, website or weekly. That shows commitment and that someone really, really cares about what we do and wants to do it,” he said in a phone interview.

Alan Blanchard, Pulliam Journalism Fellowship field representative and a professor of journalism at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich., said it’s not too late to get some more experience this summer.

“In the ‘Web first’ model, there is an insatiable news hole online that many papers have trouble filling with existing staff. Journalism students, from freshmen on up, can really help them fill it,” Blanchard said in a phone interview. “There are opportunities out there, but students must take the initiative. Don’t wait for a posting on a bulletin board.”

Putting your portfolio together

Once you have some experience, you’ll be better positioned to get internships at larger news organizations — which expect more from applicants.

“Do a lot of work. We’re looking for people with a body of work, not just a handful of stories or photos. We’re looking for somebody who can show us they will hit the ground running,” Marrison said.

The applicant’s portfolio needs to be “legitimate, thick,” Marrison added. “It should show creativity, curiosity, passion, commitment; a strong work ethic.”

Selwyn Crawford, intern coordinator at The Dallas Morning News, said an applicant’s clips should be varied since most summer internships are 10 to 12 weeks and rarely include a specific beat assignment. That variety should include breaking news, features and examples of previous beat coverage, like courts, cops or school board meetings.

“These are things news organizations are going to need at some point,” Crawford said. His paper offers 15 to 25 paid summer internships for college and high school students.

The Pulliam Fellowship offers 20 paid journalism fellowships annually, with 10 interns at The Indianapolis Star and 15 at The Arizona Republic. To be sure, internships at the Dispatch, Dallas Morning News and through the Pulliam Foundation at two of Gannett’s largest papers are highly competitive and require prior experience. But students who applied previously and did not make the cut should not be discouraged.

“We typically hire juniors and seniors. If a go-getter sophomore applies and doesn’t make it the first time around because of lack of experience, I always tell them to apply the next year — and get as much experience and good clips in the meantime as they can,” Ruth Hanley, assistant city editor at the Dispatch, said via email. “We hire lots of [students] the second time around. I find it amazing how much more they can accomplish in a year, if they’re really dedicated.”

Making sure your application is clean & complete

Still, a proactive portfolio loaded with the best clips in the world won’t save students who make almost unforgivable mistakes on their applications.

“My name’s not Morrison,” said Marrison, who has seen that error made many times.

Crawford’s name is mostly spelled correctly, but many applicants get the gender wrong.

“It gets addressed to ‘Ms. Crawford,’” and while he said that is a not a deal breaker, a simple Google search would show anyone the correct answer. “Instead of taking a step forward at the starting line, you’re taking two steps back,” he said.

Pulliam has seen “Indianapolis” spelled wrong and also noted that applicants using a cookie-cutter resume and cover letter quickly become obvious.

“Really study the news organization. Be truly familiar with it in an honest way,” he advised, adding that students may not have the passion to work at the Star if all they know about Indianapolis is the Colts, Pacers and the Indy 500.

Another piece of advice: make sure the application is complete. If it calls for a resume, cover letter, five clips, a short bio and references, include them all. Incomplete applications send the message that “you’re too busy, not hearing well or not reading well,” Crawford said. (You can find some tips from an earlier Poynter.org story here.)

Follow up — but within reason

Once the application is in, one follow-up call to ensure the materials have been received is fine. But that’s enough.

“Our assumption is everyone who applies really wants it,” Crawford said. The one exception would be if the follow-up call is to inform a potential employer of another offer. In that case, students may learn that there is someone else interested in hiring them, he added. (Some more great tips from Poynter on refining your application can be found here.)

When this summer ends and students return to campus, Marrison sounded like equal parts editor, journalism professor and coach with his advice on ensuring the strongest possible internship application.

“Get to work. You can’t waste time. You have to be on it.”

Correction: This article has been updated to reflect the correct number of Pulliam fellowships at the Arizona Republic. Read more

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