June 2, 2021

About a year ago, I thought, “I should start a newsletter for college journalism educators.”

Imagine my surprise and delight when some of you said, “Yes, that’s a good idea. I will even subscribe to it … and sometimes, I’ll even READ IT!”

Hundreds of you (!!!) signed up, and now this humble little newsletter stands at about 2,000 subscribers.

That’s about the size of a crowd at the Kennedy Center. (That revelation led me down quite a rabbit hole as I searched for a visual representation. I reacquainted myself with Will Ferrell’s acceptance speech for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it — you only need to watch the first minute or so.)

Anyway, that’s how I usually think of you — a resplendent crowd, dressed in your absolute finest, waiting impatiently for me to take the stage and deliver you a performance worthy of at least three-and-a-half stars. Let’s not ruin our illusions of each other — I know that we’re actually usually writing and reading while wearing pajamas on a couch covered in pet hair. Annnnnd our coffee needs to be heated up. Again.

Truly, this has been an academic year like no other. I’m not sure we have the vocabulary yet to truly describe this elongated stress. Suffice to say, I know you’re in need of and deserving of a break.

So in this, my last newsletter until August, I’ll attempt to round up a few goodies that I think will come in handy for fall. I would love to hear from you, though — what have you been looking for but cannot find? What resources don’t exist that should, or that you expect exist but just don’t know for sure about? Put me to work this summer building them or finding them, so I can share with everyone. (To those of you with a full summer schedule, I see you — I *am* you!)

Until we meet again in August, please take care of yourselves, take care of your loved ones and find some time and space to recharge your beautiful batteries.

You gotta get some rest if you’re going to keep changing the world, one bright mind at a time.

First, a job offer for your students

The MediaWise Campus Correspondents program, which empowers college students to teach their peers fact from fiction online, is back for another year. Students accepted into the program will be trained on fact-checking fundamentals and get paid (well) to produce social media content and lead virtual campus trainings.

If you have a student who does well at the front of the classroom and/or has a knack for social media, encourage them to check out this application link.

Applications are due June 6. Many of the students in our first cohort applied after being encouraged by a faculty member or professor. I hope you’ll take a moment to consider top-performing students and send them this link.

Ideas for takeovers and collaborations

I’ve written before about handing over your platform for a takeover. Here’s a recent example from Hamilton College.

Vige Barrie, senior director of media relations emailed me, “Hamilton took a risk and turned its magazine over to a guest editor, alumna and Haitian native Edvige Jean-Francois. She is a veteran producer for CNN. Edvige gathered more than two dozen Black alumni and community members who contributed to the issue. They give voice to what it means to them to be Black in America. As Edvige writes in her editor’s letter, ‘I believe their personal essays are instructive for the anti-racist and pluralistic world we need. … I hope this opens the door for all alumni who want their voices heard.’”

And two weeks ago I wrote about how you might consider a collaboration. I heard from Tom Nelson at Loyola Marymount, who — along with colleague Carol Costello, formerly of CNN — are leading an inter-collegiate collaboration this upcoming year on climate change. Nelson wrote: “‘Project Citizen: Climate360’ is a collaboration between a diverse group of students from across the United States devoted to reporting on climate change — a crisis that is rapidly devastating our planet. … This is a student-driven partnership between Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles; Kent State University in Kent, Ohio; Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; and Morgan State University in Baltimore.”

Costello also emailed me, saying, “It is my hope that by linking different kinds of Americans we can heal our country’s divide — even if it’s ever so slightly.”

Nelson, the director of student media at Loyola Marymount, said that the students are working on their first set of stories now, and are planning a June launch of their website and social media.

Diversity in the classroom

One of the top asks I’ve gotten over the course of the last year concerns diversity, equity and inclusion.

If you’re looking for ways to infuse more DEI into your curriculum (and you should be),

The Chronicle of Higher Education has this special report on being more inclusive in your teaching.

If you’re looking for a regular influx of diverse story topics and authors/creators, check out Richard Prince’s Journal-isms.

Cornell has a paid DEI certificate program, and the University of South Florida offered a free course this spring (the materials and videos are available online). Neither of these are specific to journalism but are generally instructive to workplace settings and can be applied to the classroom.

Some of you attended our recent Diversity Across the Curriculum class, and I’m happy to announce that we’re planning to bring it back in the fall, so stay tuned for more information about that. Please email me if you’d like to be put on an information list.

Style guides

Speaking of diversity, the folks at The Objective routinely run a list of different style guides in their newsletter. With a tip of my hat, here are their suggestions and links:

Beautiful syllabi

I know you’ve got to be thinking, after all this, about what it’s going to be like to be back in the classroom, handing out that syllabus. If you’re looking for some inspiration on how to revamp its design or content, I doubt you’re alone. My go-to design help is Canva, but I found it surprisingly lacking. For inspiration, you might try “Your Syllabus Doesn’t Have to Look Like a Contract,” “Give Your Syllabus an Extreme Redesign for the New Year,” or “Give your syllabus a makeover and watch your classroom transform.”

Poynter resources

You had to know this was coming. Here’s a list of all the Poynter products, courses and experiences I think could be helpful in your classroom next year. Maybe summer is the right time to give some of these a spin if you’ve been holding off checking them out. Please reach out if you want to discuss a departmental bulk discount, or to know more about the courses.

  • Internship Database: The go-to location for students seeking internships. Paid journalism and communications internships only. (Free)
  • Open Records Success: Strategies for Writing Requests and Overcoming Denials: One hour, self-directed course. How to word requests and overcome objections and denials from public agencies, with examples of real-world requests and their results. (Free)
  • Understanding Title IX: One hour, self-directed course. What it is, how universities rely on it and how to report on it. Designed with student journalists in mind. (Free)
  • WriteLane: The beloved podcast from Pulitzer Prize-winning features journalist Lane DeGregory and her editor Maria Carrillo.
  • The Lead: Weekly newsletter with resources and connections for student journalists in both college and high school. Subscribe to get The Lead in your inbox each Wednesday. (Free)
  • Professor’s Press Pass: Weekly case studies taken from that week’s headlines about the ethical and business problems facing journalists. Includes background information and classroom-ready slideshow with robust discussion questions. ($12 a month or $100 a year per professor)
  • Bonus! Free subscriptions to Press Pass: Thanks to funding from the Scripps Howard and Lumina foundations, we’re offering 25 free subscriptions to our Professor’s Press Pass to professors serving underserved student populations. (Think HBCUs, HSIs and Indigenous-serving schools). If you meet that criteria or think you might otherwise qualify, please send an email to ballen@poynter.org with the subject line “Lumina PPP grants.” In the body, simply tell me the name of your school and which population it serves. If you qualify, I’ll do the rest!
  • Language, Math and News Literacy Certificate: 10-12 hours of asynchronous learning and your students get a certificate at the end of it! ($64.95 per students)
  •  Newsroom Readiness Certificate: Five-hour, self-directed course designed to fill in any gaps that students might have across ethics, law, interviewing, news gathering and diversity so that employers can confidently hire students with this certificate. ($29.95 per student)
  • The Language Primer Certificate: Our most popular primer is tough — tough enough to mean passing it earns you a certification. ($29.95 per student)
  • Math for Journalists Certificate: Revamped and freshened up information that journalists truly need to understand about math and mathematical concepts. Never confuse percentage and percentage points again. ($29.95 per student)
  • MediaWise Fact-Checking 101: One hour fact-checking short course — learn the basics of misinformation, how to quickly fact-check suspicious posts, and how to identify online ads. ($29.95 per student)
  • The MediaWise Fact-Checking Certificate: This hands-on, four-hour course focuses on verifying images and video, practice using dozens of digital tools for fact-checking and honing critical thinking skills. ($99.95 per student)
  • TV News Toolbox for Teachers: A series of 38 microlearning activities organized into eight lessons. From the course page: “If you teach broadcast journalism, you’re always looking for powerful clips to show your students and spark meaningful conversations about the craft.” ($75)

Other resources

25 guidelines for journalists to safely cover unrest” from Poynter’s Al Tompkins has some incredibly thoughtful details and useful ideas that student journalists (and this former adviser!) might not have thought of.

WeTransfer allows you to send up to 2GB for free when you need students to submit big files like video packages.

Knight Lab at Northwestern has some tools that might be helpful as you consider assignments, like TimelineJS and Juxtapose.

Bookmark the Online Violence Response Hub (Coalition Against Online Violence) if your students are covering troll-infused topics.

For podcasting help, NPR and The New York Times both offer concise, student-friendly, non-condescending how-to guides that can be repurposed as lessons for classroom instruction, or sent directly to students. If you read them carefully, you’ll eliminate 95% of the silly mistakes we all make when we start out.

A tipsheet from the Global Investigative Journalism Network and thought you might find it helpful for your students: Tips for Interviewing Victims of Tragedy, Witnesses, and Survivors.

This week’s Professor’s Press Pass

In this week’s Professor’s Press Pass, we tackle a heavy subject with a light hand — UFOs! That’s right. A recent “60 Minutes” story highlighted the existence of flying objects in our midst. We ask students to consider what it might take for them to greenlight a piece on UFOs, and how credible sources make a huge difference in this story. Mostly, though, it’s an excuse to watch 13 minutes of TV news that will blow your mind.

One last thing

Again, Alma Matters is going to hit pause for the summer. I’ll be back in August. Until then, please consider letting me know your needs and wants for the fall.

Have a happy, safe and restful summer break.

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Barbara Allen is the director of college programming for Poynter. Prior to that, she served as managing editor of Poynter.org. She spent two decades in…
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