Category Archives: teaching

Proof Journalism STILL Matters

Journalism matters.

Journalists are still working to hold those in power accountable for their actions. They are still “giving voice to the voiceless,” as the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics prescribes.

For anyone who doubts that, take a look at the New York Times story on a sexual complaint at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the changes it is causing.

Case in point: A group of U.S. Senators from BOTH political parties have agreed on at least one thing — Something has to change. Colleges need to be held accountable for how they handle sexual assault complaints. There should never be another Anna, the name of the gang rape victim in the Times story.

The bill the senators have proposed includes requirements for sexual assault investigations and financial punishments for colleges who fail to follow the rules. 

If you have yet to read the Times story, I urge you to do so for two reasons: It is good journalism and it is written by Walt Bogdanich, a multiple Pulitzer Prize winner.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a fourth Pulitzer Prize for his work on this story.

I’m going to be using this story as an example in my journalism classes. Old school journalism — interviews, records, verification and story-telling — still make a difference today. Just ask Anna.



Teaching copyright law with Buffy and “Twilight”

I teach Media Law, and I always looking for ways to get students excited about it. All of our Journalism and Broadcasting students have to take the class, and as you might imagine, most are not thrilled about it. I tried something new this semester to get the students attention, and it worked far better than I expected. We watched Jonathan McIntosh‘s “Buffy vs. Edward” remix, and then we discussed his Fair Use Copyright battle with YouTube and Lionsgate. The remix takes excerpts from the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” television show and mixes them with scenes from the “Twilight” movies. The result is a biting (pun intended) commentary on gender issues.

The students watched, laughed and even cheered the six minute film. Afterward, even the normally silent ones spoke passionately about the sometimes conflict between artistic expression and copyright law. This led to discussions of copyright and rap/hip hop music and parody. They were far more engaged then they would have been discussing Harper & Row vs. Nation Enterprises (1985) or Campbell vs. Acuff-Rose Music (1994) (although we did have some fun with that last one, too).

Beyond the Newsroom: Blogging and Rethinking

Here are the top three ideas I left Day One of the Beyond the Newsroom seminar with: (The seminar is sponsored by the American Press Institute with The Poynter Institute.)

  • 1. Bloggers and Citizen Journalists are not the enemy. In fact, they could help strengthen newspapers’ bond with their readers and provide valuable content. So says John Wilpers, a veteran journalist who is now working as a consultant. He said journalists shouldn’t think of bloggers as replacements. Instead, think of them as covering something journalists don’t. Journalists are still needed, but so are bloggers. He noted that in his experience, some bloggers he has worked with became the best word-of-mouth advertisers for the newspaper. He convinced me.
  • 2. There are innovative journalists out there taking chances — and succeeding. Susan Goldberg, editor of The Plain Dealer, described how eight newspapers in Ohio share stories and work on projects together. What makes this surprising is these newspapers have different owners. Goldberg described how this sharing has allowed them to pay for state-wide polling and provide more depth of coverage on the state as a whole. They don’t share everything. If there is an area of competition, it remains. However, they do share stories daily and run the stories with the original bylines.
  • 3. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for newspapers and online news providers. Butch Ward, managing director and faculty member of The Poynter Institute, noted that each organization is going to have to explore ideas and take a chance on those that might work for it. There is no easy fix to attracting readers and making money.
  • The seminar continues through Wednesday. I’ll post more highlights here later this week.

    Playing the J-School Name Game

    This story is probably familiar to many of you.

    I have a wonderful journalism student. She’s done everything she’s supposed to do.

    • Internships? Check. She’s had great internships at local newspapers and a regional magazine.
    • School work? Check. She goes above and beyond.
    • Hard worker? Absolutely. She’s a go-getter, no doubt about it.

    The only thing she has not done is go to a journalism school with a top-tier national reputation.

    The school where I teach is not Columbia or Missouri or Syracuse. It’s a good, small, public college in Upstate New York. And now that this stellar student is looking for jobs — or even internships — at larger publications, she’s finding it difficult to compete against the students with the J-School Name.

    Last night this student came to me to ask what she can do. I told her to keep trying, that sometimes it’s about perseverance, luck and timing. I also told her that ultimately, she might want to consider graduate school at a top journalism school. I have no doubt she’d get in and thrive.

    Dear Reader, what should I tell this student? Do you have any advice?

    C-SPAN offers video treasure trove

    Originally I planned to focus this post on a great documentary on the U.S. Supreme Court that C-SPAN has been showing — and which is also available for viewing online. I showed the piece to my media law class, and they were more interested than one might expect for a group of 20-somethings at 8 a.m. in the morning. I definitely recommend it for other media law teachers.

    But while nosing around the C-SPAN site, I discovered a wealth of videos on everything from press conferences to in-depth interviews. I even found dozens of videos featuring one of my journalism heroes, Helen Thomas.

    So if you are looking for clips from politicians, educators, journalists and business people, give the C-SPAN Video Library a try.

    Helen Thomas Video

    Group aims to help mid-career journalists, students

    Amy Moritz, sports reporter and blogger for the Buffalo News, was voted president-elect of the Association of Women in Sports Media recently. The Amy Moritz headshotAssociation works to promote diversity in sports media, including offering scholarship and internship opportunities. (FYI: This year’s scholarship/internship deadline for applications is Oct. 31.)

    Moritz took some time to talk to Journajunkie about ways she hopes AWSM can help both mid-career journalists and young journalists starting out and why a group like this is still needed in 2009.

    Q:  What would you like to do as president-elect?

    A: I would like to get involved in our mid-career grant program. With so many changes in the world of journalism (and public relations for that matter) many of us in our 30s and 40s are needing new skills. While there is no replacement for good writing and good reporting, the nature of HOW we tell the story is changing. And while that landscape is a bit unclear, there are ways that I feel AWSM can help its members be better equipped to use multi-media.

    Q: I see that AWSM does a lot to help students interested in sports-related communication careers. Can you tell us  a little about what you do and why?

    A: We think it’s so important to reach out to young women who want to get into sports communications, whether it be a form of journalism or public relations. In part, it’s our way of paying it forward because along the way, someone helped us out with an internship or scholarship. But also, we want to help talented young women get their foot in the door and get the experience they need. To that end, we’re working on grants to fully fund internships at media outlets as the industry feels the economic pinch and can’t afford to hire as many interns, if any at all.

    Q: What would you say to people who think and/or would argue that in 2009, we dont need a group like Association of Women in Sports Media?

    A: Just because things are better doesn’t mean that they’re good. Women still are vastly under-represented in management positions (especially as sports editors). And sadly, issues still do arise over the treatment of women in sports media. The case of Erin Andrews demonstrates that women still face barriers which can be not only detrimental to the ability to do one’s job but brings up safety issues as well.

    Q: What advice would you give journalism teachers about helping to prepare women and men for careers in sports media?

    A: Sports journalism is still journalism. The explosion of sports talk radio and various opinion and sports/entertainment shows can blur the line for students who think being loud with an opinion is the way to go. You have to have experience and credentials. Don’t succumb to the lowest common denominator. This would be the same for aspiring political journalists who watch the attack shows on cable news networks.

    At the end of the day, we’re telling stories that entertain, inform and perhaps inspire. The cliche that sport is a microcosm of society means that there are plenty of stories, and types of stories, to tell. And not all of them will be the ones that lead SportsCenter. In fact, the best ones are usually the ones that would never make SportsCenter.

    Q:  Is there anything youd like to say to journalism students or teachers?

    A: The advice I give is the same as the advice I received as a journalism student: Read as much as you can and write something every day. The medium is not as important as the ability to communicate what you have learned and observed, but take advantage of learning as many skills as possible.

    Food for thought: Job of the journalist

    These were powerful, insightful words.

    “Right now, part of the job of a journalist is advocating for the job of journalist.”

    Kimberly Humphreys, a journalist with the Rocky Mountain News when it closed in February 2009, should know.

    She now works for the Rocky Mountain Independent, an online news site started by some former Rocky Mountain News staffers. She’s also director of, an ambitious initiative orignally started to save the Rocky Mountain News that now is trying to save journalism itself. (See what IWantMyRocky wants to do here.)

    Last week she spoke  as part of panel called “Journalism at the Crossroads: After Newspapers, Then What?” aimed at journalism educators. The session was part of the national convention for  the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication held in Boston.

    Humphreys noted that traditionally the editorial and business side of newspapers have been separate in the name of objectivity. Journalists did not want an appearance of conflict of interest when writing stories. She argued that the time to change that tradition has come  because this separation means journalists have no voice in what is going on in their newspapers.

    “We need to pull up a seat at that table,” Humphreys urged.

    Her message is an important one for journalism educators to keep in mind.  As we prepare students for the changing world of journalism, we should make them aware of this responsibility.

    Good journalism depends on it.

    Knight News Challenge winners may help students

    Twitter is abuzz with the announcement of the 2009 winners of the Knight News Challenge, a project that funds news experiments with the goal of helping communities.

    Some interesting ideas got funded — ideas that have the potential to help journalism teachers and students.

    My favorite is DocumentCloud, a non-profit effort by the New York Times and ProPublica to offer an online place where the public can access and share documents. Very cool. Can you imagine the stories students can do if they can easily access documents? FOIA and FOIL requests are great, but even if you get what you want, they take a while. The DocumentCloud documents will be there for the taking, and hopefully inspire journalism students to add to the collection. What a great learning experience.

    Other ideas funded also lend themselves to classroom use. Take Mobile Media Toolkit, an idea to make it easier for people to get the applications and tools needed to do reporting.

    One of the things I like best about this is it has the potential to allow my journalism students to get excellent experience without having to spend a fortune. I teach at a state school, and we simply don’t have the resources that larger, private journalism schools do (and quite frankly, neither do most of our students). Thanks, Knight News Challenge and Knight Foundation, for an effort that could help many future journalists.

    Applications for the 2010 Knight News Challenge start being accepted in September.

    What are you still doing here? Get to work on that application! Journalism students everywhere need you. 🙂

    Project for Excellence in Journalism site must see

    If you’ve never been to the Project for Excellence in Journalism web site, you are missing a lot.thumbsup

    I’m hooked on the Weekly News Coverage Index, which examines what stories get the most coverage. But there’s so much more there for journajunkies like me.

    For researchers, downloadable data on close to 71,000 news stories are available. For journalists, teachers and students, a list of journalism resources. For the curious, an annual State of the News Media report.

    Page after page is full of information about journalism and what gets covered. It’s a journajunkie’s dream.

    Advanced Media Writing course

    I’m teaching an old class with a new outlook this fall. It’s called Advanced Media Writing, and in the past, its topic was determined by the person who taught it. That meant it could be journalism or PR, depending on the teacher.

    Now, the course is supposed to be a hybrid course that teaches all types of writing to all types of people. The problem is finding materials that are neither too basic nor too advanced. It’s a higher level course, but the broadcast people have never written for print and/or online, and the print people have not written for broadcasting.

    My struggle is, as the field becomes converged, is teaching set styles for set mediums an antiquated notion? I worry that what this class really should focus on is writing and packaging stories — whether they be print, broadcast or PR — for online.

    I guess I better stop dallying and choose a plan of action. Book orders are already overdue. Shall I throw a dart and predict the future?