Rich's Musings

This blog is a collection of thoughts about teaching journalism and how I teach journalism at Cerritos College.

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Location: Norwalk, CA

Rich Cameron has been the chair of the Journalism program at Cerritos College since 1997. He teaches a variety of journalism classes and advises the school newspaper, the Talon Marks. Prior to 1997 he taught at West Valley College in northern California for more than 16 years. He has also taught at Reedley and Merced community colleges.

For more information about Rich or Cerritos College journalism, go to the department's home page.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Telling the story in 150 characters

Regular readers of my comments or my blogs may have deduced that I have a hard time being brief. When I've got something to say I've got lots I want to say.

Well, learning social networking using Facebook has me learning how to share the short story, too.

One of Facebook's main features is the "what are you doing now" feature where you are encouraged to tell your "friends" what you are doing now.

A lot of my friends write a lot of unintelligible dribble. Yuck. Even the ones who write an intelligible message, such as "Rich is sad," don't tell you WHY they are sad. If I care about my friends, I want to know.

Being journalistically minded I at least want to put what I am doing into some kind of context so my friends, if they care, can understand what I am saying. I try to convey a short news story about myself.

The challenge is, though, is that you have only about 150 characters of space with that "what are you doing now" tool. I'm finding it good practice for me to say what I want to say more concisely.

Of course, when that doesn't work, you always have other options, including posting a sentence devoid of enough information, and then immediately posting a comment --which you friends can do, too-- that gives additional information, kind of like a subhead to a headline might.

Now, I haven't really delved into Twitter, though I recently have started to see some good journalistic samples so I'm beginning to understand the value, but there you are limited to just 144 characters per message.

Another thing I am trying to do with Facebook and social networking is tell stories a bit more often. As Solano College's Mary Mazzocco shared on the Journalism Association of Community Colleges' listserve when I started eging on JACC instructors to join Facebook, you want to get out and mingle often at the party, not just stay in a corner, but you don't want to overdo. Unless there is a reason, I really do not need to know that you are leaving your office to walk to your car and then get another note once you've arrived at your car.

But I try to share often, at least daily, what is going on in my life. Some of my Facebook friends NEVER seem to share what is going on in their life.

Okay, I've just used up more than 2,193 characters, or about 407 words, so I'll shut for now. I could never have shared all that in 150 characters!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Brazile and Murphy entertain, Dowd asleep at public lecture series

(Feb. 24, 2009) -- Donna Brazile was delightfully folksy, Mike Murphy was amusingly arrogant, and Maureen Dowd was disappointingly detatched as the three lumanaries squared off in a panel discussion on timely political issues Monday night at the opening salvo of the American Jewish University’s 2009 speaker series.

Outspoken political commentator and founder of the Huffington Post online news site Arianna Huffington stood in for missing-in-action news commentator Jim Lehrer as moderator for the discussion at the Universal City Gibson Amphitheater.

CNN political commentator Brazile and conservative political media consultant Murphy controlled the night as the group evaluated the effectiveness of the Barack Obama Administration and, in Huffington’s words, “the upside down world we live in today.” In fact, the two, at times, seemed to be competing for who could produce the most sound bites as they unabashedly represented their liberal and conservative views.

Brazile won the battle for most sound bites and provided some of the evening’s most amusing moments, especially when her stage microphone did not work properly at the beginning. “I knew I’d have problems with it if I put it (the microphone) over my right side (breast),” she quipped. She tapped the mic until the sound crew got the sound levels correct.

When it was working properly she turned to Murphy on her right and, while tapping the microphone, asked him if he wanted to touch it. It became a running joke throughout the evening as she offered to let him touch it and he quickly declined the offer.

Murphy predictably pushed conservative points of view, but was refreshingly self-effacing and practical in many of his answers. If Brazile was popular and funny, then Murphy scored with some his statements, such as pointing out that the Republican Party, nationally, is in big trouble for now as it is has all but been relegated to an unimportant minority in the House of Representatives, Senate and White House. And, he said, things are likely to get worse and stay that way for “four, eight or even 12 years.”

He said the party’s biggest problem is that it currently appeals only only to one demographic: white males. While white males may still be the largest part of a plural electorate, it is shrinking.

Unless the GOP redefines itself to appeal to Hispanics and African-Americans, without giving up its conservative values, of course, he said that it will continue to diminish in importance.

Unless, that is, Democrats “continue to do what Democrats do and go too far and screw up” to give the GOP an opening.

The group gave California as an example. Panelists agreed that California’s state government is considered a joke around the country. Murphy added that he felt it was because the legislature is too dominated by Democrats who act in a dysfunctional fashion. Without party parity there is little hope they will allow the state to become governable.

The whole panel gave Obama good marks for his first month in office, but each felt that he has yet to live up to the potential he has. Even Murphy felt that the president had potential to make significant changes in government, but only if he is “visited by the ghost of LBJ” and learns how to control Congress, which seems to be working its own agenda right now.

NY Times columnist Dowd seemed detached from the discussion all evening. She is bright and articulate and had interesting answers whenever Huffington drew her in to the conversation, but she seemed otherwise unengaged. In fact, she spent most of the evening with her body slightly turned away from the rest of the group. While others were sure what they wanted to say, she had to spend moments deciding what she wanted to stay.

In retrospect, this should not be too surprising. In podcasts I’ve listen to of other lectures she has given, this is her speaking style. She’s a great writer, but less-than-enthusiastic speaker.

Her most memorable moments of the evening were when:

  • Huffington cornered her in to sharing a dinner-table admission that she had twice placed notes in Jerusalem’s West Wall, while on assignment, asking for a Jewish husband. She’s come to the conclusion that God probably doesn’t think pairing a Jewish man with a Black Irish Catholic woman is a good idea; and
  • She revealed that after Obama’s almost embarrassing acceptance on his European trip after securing the Democratic nomination that she asked him if he “needed a cigarette” after the experience, implying that the treatment he got was almost like having sex.
Huffington, after an opening monolog on her take of today’s “upside-down world,” relegated herself to moderator and did a good job mixing it up and making sure Murphy and Brazile did not totally exclude Dowd.

The panel was the first in a series of lectures/panel discussions scheduled by AJU. To come later this year are former New York mayor/Presidential hopeful Rudy Giuiani; an attorney-general faceoff with Janet Reno, John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales; and a Mid-East discussion with Madeline Albright, Jehan Sedat and Dahlia Rabin.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Editors Day at Cerritos College

Thirty-three students from seven community colleges attended the Editors Day held at Cerritos College Feb. 7, 2009.

The purpose of the event was to give editors of student publications a chance to network and share common problems and seek common solutions. The format for the day was simple:

The students split up to assure diversity at each of seven tables and spent the first hour just talking about their programs. Then they were given a bit more direction and asked to prepare four lists:
  • 3 Biggest problems at their publications
  • 3 Things about their advisers (no names allowed and because of diversity at each table no advisers singled out)
  • 3 Ways their publications could/should cover the recession
  • 3 Things about being on newspaper staff
The topics were purposely a bit vague to give students widest latitude in answering them.

After lunch the groups were rearranged so that students were seated with others who had similar staff positions (editor-in-chief, news/other, arts/entertainment, sports, photo, online, etc.) so that they could discuss specific issues related to their jobs.

All Southern California schools were invited and nine responded, but students from two of the schools didn't make it. And because of the poor weather, even schools that did not attend often brought fewer students than they said they would (see budget notes at bottom). Schools that participated were Cerritos, Pierce, Glendale, Moorpark, Southwestern, Riverside and El Camino.

Best comment of the day: "I thought this (event) might be boring, but it is awesome." A key to that was scheduling almost all of the time for students just to talk to each other.

Here are some of the thoughts students came up with in their lists:

  • Intervention by student government (shared by almost all of the groups)
  • Getting staff members to meet deadlines (again, shared by almost all groups)
  • School staff not cooperating with the paper (an example of Theater not allowing photos during dress rehearsal)
  • Staff communication
  • Staff respect for each other
  • Determining when to cut stories/pages or to grant extensions when stories are late
  • Getting staff members to want to write news (as opposed to reviews)
  • Working with dedicated staff members vs. non-dedicated staff members
  • Whether or not there should be a newswriting pre-requisite to the newspaper: Most would like to see one, but fear they would not have big enough staffs
  • Getting students --especially new students-- to put in the time needed for the class
  • Getting writers and how to train them if they have not had newswriting first
  • Balancing writing, editing and production in the overall production cycle
  • Adequate editing while also trying to publish news quickly (example: stories posted online with lots of errors that later have to be corrected)
  • Staff attrition
  • Recruiting writers and photographers
  • Balancing online efforts with print efforts
ADVISERS (note: students could say good OR bad things about advisers)
  • Advisers need to back off and let students do the work
  • Advisers don't always fully appreciating the demand on students with full-time loads or jobs
  • Advisers pushing New Media too hard
  • Advisers not knowing when to step back: They can be pushy or hover too much
  • Advisers should be open to questions
  • Advisers need to be up to date with new technologies
  • Advisers should encourage staffs to interact outside class, both with themselves and other students on campus.
  • Advisers can be "bullet sponges," that is, they can be a mediating shield when people complain about content
  • Advisers sometimes push stories too much, stories the students are not interested in
  • Some advisers push design advice and then criticize the outcome
  • Some advisers intervene too much
  • Some advisers will not allow off-campus critical reviews
  • Some advisers review pages before they are sent to the printer and require last-minute changes
  • Students hate it when advisers skip after-issue critiques
  • Students like advisers who give them a free hand with the paper
  • Students like critiques
  • Some advisers cooperate with the editor(s) better than others
  • Students like it when advisers teach them how to do things
  • Overall, students are grateful for their advisers
COVERING THE RECESSION (again students were free to answer this any way they wanted; some listed story ideas)
  • Use infographs
  • Use photo illustrations
  • "Put faces to the stories"
  • Use multimedia packages
  • Write about cutting of enrollments
  • Do stories on alternatives to high book costs
  • Do stories on how campus businesses (i.e., bookstores) are impacted
  • Localize state and national news stories
  • Ask students how cuts have affected them
  • Cover school budget cuts
  • Monitor how well the college spends its money
  • Do features on job opportunities and how to apply for jobs and polish resumes
  • Use diagrams/bullet points
  • Conduct man-in-the-street interviews
  • Talk about unemployment issues
  • Talk about the future (and how the Stimulus Plan will affect the college)
  • Talk to Economics teachers
  • Do stories on how students are coping with cuts
  • One school is preparing a special "cheap" issue; how to do things more cheaply
  • Outline ways to get/keep jobs. Talk to those who have lost jobs
  • Write profile features of students and faculty, focusing on impact of the economy
  • Students need to balance school, jobs and the paper
  • You will make enemies on campus
  • It's fun
  • You get to create/establish new relationships
  • You broaden your horizons when you take on different kinds of stories (news/opinion/feature), especially when you came in interested in only one kind
  • You shouldn't join the newspaper unless they are dedicated
  • You shouldn't be afraid to take on new work/heavier workloads
  • You make friends/connections for life
  • You have creative freedom
  • It is a learning experience
  • You can make collective food purchases and save money (or just mooch off others)
  • You get to share your passion by covering topics of interest
  • There is too much gossip among staff members
  • Romantic relationships on staff always end up badly
  • Communication among students needs to be better
  • Staffs need to determine and communicate acceptable speech and behavior standards (and before the first production night!)
  • Staffs need to work out how they are going to deal with differing music choices (and before the first production night!)
  • You learn a lot
  • You learn responsibility
  • Working on the paper can be all consuming
  • It is good for networking
  • You get hands-on experience you would not get your first years at a university.
Total cost for running the day was about $400-$500. The bulk of that was in food. Our out-of-pocket expenses were minimal, though. We have a caterer advertiser who is taking out his advertising in trade, so box lunches did not take any cash. We ended up ordering too many box lunches because schools told us they were bringing more students than they did. If we do this again we might charge $5 a person, just to help offset cost overages like this. We have found in the past that "free" often is looked at as "I don't really have a commitment." Of course, we could have supplied lunch for half the cost if we had just ordered pizza. Other expenses were for sodas, juice, water, donuts and muffins. It helps that we do a number of events each school year that involve serving food, so we have already purchased many items such as good table clothes, coffee makers, ice buckets, silverware and name tags. The Journalism Association of Community Colleges donated notebooks and a couple of sweatshirts to raffle off as door prizes. The school has adequate meeting space that we have learned to book in ways that costs us nothing. We save on cleanup costs by cleaning up ourselves after events; we're just used to it.

Biggest obstacles in doing something like this:
  • Just deciding to do it
  • Supplying food (but as noted we've got that figured out)
  • Getting people to register by the food-ordering deadline. We had a school call the afternoon before saying, "We just heard about this, can we still come?" Yes, but the food ordering deadline was five days earlier. Those who don't plan/run these types of events don't appreciate that.
  • Getting people to show when they say they will
  • Signage on campus (because of the rain we didn't do anything; some people got lost, but eventually found their way).

Friday, February 06, 2009

New approach to student magazine

This week Cerritos Journalism launched a new version of its Wings magazine. I’m really excited about the new concept.

The new magazine, which will be published in six installments over the course of the semester, has just one story/topic per installment. It is essentially a four-page tabloid newspaper, but it folds down to a 5.5-inch by 6-inch size for the cover. When you pick it up it looks like a story brochure on newsprint, but as you turn pages you start unfolding until the center spread opens up to a double-truck tabloid layout.

”WingsIn years past we’ve tried to publish an annual journalistic magazine along with the Talon Marks newspaper and its online cousin

But there have been problems:

  • We often do not really have enough students enrolled to comprise a full class and attempts we’ve made to spread the net have not always resulted in cohesive teams. I tried to widen the base to involve other campus groups, but the journalism students pretty much revolted and ignored the outsiders.

  • The cost rarely is justified with the distribution we get. We publish it at the end of the school year and it often comes out during finals week, so most students never see it. The cost per copy is expensive, especially when compared, say, to the student newspaper.

  • Students usually seem more interested in design than writing; too many designers and not enough writers or photographers.
  • When they DO think about writing, they talk and plan for weeks, but end up throwing something together at the last minute.

  • And I feel that anything we do these days MUST have an online component. Students keep promising, but because they work so hard just to get the print publication done by the end of the semester, they never follow through with the online.

When students came to me this time and asked if they could do a magazine next semester, I was looking for a kind way to say “no.” But then I walked into Starbucks and walked out with the perfect solution. Mind you, I’m not a Starbucks regular. I just HAPPENED to stop in that day. On the counter I saw a copy of Good magazine, which is really just a weekly ‘zine that covers just one article/topic at a time.

I immediately saw potential:

  • We could do it with fewer students; perhaps giving individuals responsibility for putting together one package every few weeks and staggering issues. While I would encourage a team component, personality problems could be handled easier because individuals would be working on their own projects. I could run the class as a directed studies class, where I can get by with just two or three students. If it become successful, we could start producing more often and perhaps draw enough students someday to support a regular class.

  • I did the math and if we could sell the right amount of advertising the project could actually pay for itself (sans salaries, of course, but at our level we don’t pay salaries anyway, we give class credit). If we can sell two color ads it’ll pay for full color on all pages.

  • No more “working all semester” for one product that might get out before the semester. With one-topic ‘zines we could set up a weekly schedule if we wanted. (We’re starting with a two-week cycle in the middle of the semester, or six for this semester. If we continue in the fall we’ll try for eight.)

  • The inside of the ‘zine would be devoted to the story and students could experiment with different double-spread designs. And they would not be so overwhelmed with the struggle of wanting different designs but needing to work with a cohesive overall look. The cover and some standard elements would be the same, but each student could experiment with major components. The student in charge would be responsible for the package, but could rely on the help of others to help produce the content; he/she is mostly an editor/producer for the issue.

  • With a multi-issue-per-semester cycle the deadline problem is reduced, though with the first issue the editor put off writing until the end …. again. Still, it was not a whole semester of thinking before doing.

  • And we set a rule that we would not send the print edition to the printer until the multimedia component was done. Well, we weakened on that a bit with the first issue, especially since the printer cannot handle the last fold that we need by machine; we have to fold it by hand. While the student completes the online component we are folding; we won’t distribute until the multimedia component is completed and launched.

There are still issues to work out and well have to wait and see whether the format is popular with readers --we suspect that it will be—but we’re excited. Print is not dead, but it needs to change. And after all the push we’ve been making with multimedia, it is exciting to try something new with print.

Inside view of Wings

Inside layout of Wings ‘zine is essentially a double truck tabloid layout.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Getting ready for leap to new online tool

Talon Marks editors and I have been spending the last few weeks learning the ins and outs of a new content management tool for College Publisher, our online partner since December 2000, is introducing a new, high-end tool for college publications and we're part of the first wave of colleges and universities in the country --and most likely the first community college-- to switch over to the tool. Over the next year or so approximately 550-600 other colleges and universities will join us.

Cerritos College is one of the first to switch over for several reasons: Talon Marks house ad
  1. We embrace change, especially as it helps us train our students best for future media jobs,
  2. I've been instrumental in helping other California community colleges make the leap to online publications, many of them with College Publisher, and
  3. It is likely that as other California community colleges make the switch over the next year, they'll call on me to supplement the great over-the-phone training that College Publisher provides its education partners. The company is located on the east coast, though, and it helps California's community colleges to have a volunteer on the ground that can help them master the new tool. I don't work for College Publisher, but I do spend a lot of time traveling to other community colleges and helping train their staffs, as well as my own, to do online journalism better. And it will take a while of working with my own students to learn the tool well enough to do that.

There are a lot of advantages to the new system, but with those advantages comes additional complexity. We're finding, though, that for most of what needs to be done on a daily basis, students can pick it up pretty easily. The true test will come after this Wednesday when we go live with the new tool. Will our new students, who are still learning to report and write be able to grasp the necessities of the new tool. It was just a week ago or two that we even introduced them to online publishing using the old version of College Publisher that has become part and parcel of what we do in publishing even the print edition.

The new version is still a tool, though, and what matters is how we use it. Developing content --and not just the standard written fare that we prepare for the print edition-- is what is important. But the excitement of new possibilities is already spurring synergy for the changes we want to make. Click on the image above to see the house ad scheduled for this week's print edition that outlines some of the online features we'll have with the new version. And then check in starting Wednesday morning to see the new version when it goes live.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Very funny video

A new Web 2.0 tool that is being touted as one of the possible futures of journalism is Twitter. It is a Web-based instant message tool that allows rapid-fire group story-telling/conversations.

I don't get it.

But the New York Times the other day featured a very funny mash-up video about Twitter that still has me rolling on the floor.

In the video it mentions a culprit by the name of Robert Scoble. Scoble is one of the top Tech bloggers in the world and a former student editor of mine from my West Valley College days.

The video features Adolf Hitler getting upset when he can't use Twitter to share his latest thoughts because Scoble has overloaded the servers again. Very funny.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

'Sprouting' new projects

A couple of weeks ago I learned about a new web-based tool that allows you to create Flash-based multimedia projects without having to actually learn flash. It's called "Sprout Builder." We've been growing multimedia classes at Cerritos College mostly with video, but I immediately see lots of possibilities with Sprout Builder as another way for our students to learn to tell stories in multimedia format.

This week a couple of our multimedia students created our first multimedia sprout using Sprout Builder. You can find it on the Talon Marks web site at It is the Noam Chomsky piece at the bottom of the page. The sprout is embedded into a College Publisher story page.

The sprout covers a teleconference event on campus yesterday morning. There is a lot more the students COULD have done with it, but something has to be first and they wanted to get it out in conjunction with today's print edition. In the last month or so my newspaper students have learned some value in making available audio files of events, but they need next to learn to take those long pieces and build shorter podcasts with a story line. But we take things in baby steps sometimes. It took almost a year and half to show the value of audio connected with the newspaper.

The students included an hour-long audio file, but ran into a problem embedding it into the sprout. Seems you have two options: embed it as a sprout asset or merely link to it. An embedded audio asset cannot exceed 1.5 MB. An hour-long mp3 takes about 57 MB. So they uploaded it elsewhere and just linked to it. It was learning-as-you-go. They also had it completed and then realized that they lacked navigational buttons on secondary pages, so had to go back in and fix it.

The newspaper is just one area where I and my adjuncts see the value of storytelling using sprouts. I've already assigned sprout projects to my beginning newswriting students and expect results from them within a couple of weeks. (the students seemed excited about the projects and didn't show any hesitation to learning to create the sprouts. Good! They have enough to learn about the storytelling aspect of gathering original data and aggregating data.) My adjuncts and I are talking about replacing traditional term papers with sprout research projects to add more fun to the assignments --and to make it more difficult to try to pass off the research assignment with a hastily written essay. And we're seeing lots of possibilities for our multimedia: one of my adjuncts also teaches Anthropology at the college and wants to set up a partnership where we provide multimedia storytelling training for her Anthro students who would then build sprouts.

We are already building a strong partnership with our Political Science department to train students to edit video for that department's MyDemocracy projects. (See the lower half of this previous post.)

We want to do a lot more in introducing not only journalism students, but students from other disciplines to storytelling through sprouts, blogging, podcasting, Soundslides and video. it's exciting, even for an old dinosaur like me.

Thank you Byran Murley of Innovation in College Media for introducing us to Sprout Builder.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What a mess with Iron Man ad

What a mess we had this last week with Paramount Pictures and an Iron Man promotion ad.

Short story: Rather than pony up for a print ad promoting the movie, Paramount wanted a trade ad: It would give us free movie tickets and memorabilia to hand out if we would give them a free full page ad with color. The value of the giveaways would supposedly be what the ad would normally cost.

Iron Man contest imageWe balked at first, but then thought it might be a good way to promote signups for our online Talon Marks and Talon Marks MySpace sites. We could hold a drawing for interested subscribers/friends and maybe pick up some new ones in the process. We tried to get fewer movie passes and at least one thing of greater value that we could use as a First Prize in the drawing. No dice, Paramount would not budge.

Now keep in mind, that a full page ad would require extra pages (i.e. cost to us) and we had no other advertiser with a color ad, so cost for color would come out of our pocket. We finally reluctantly agreed to a half page ad and decided to spend a little money buying a couple of iPod Shuffles to give away and some dinner gift cards: make an evening of it.

But Paramount balked at the dinner gift cards because its movie partner was Burger King; if we were buying the cards, we didn't plan to give away Burger King cards. Not that there is anything wrong with Burger King, but we were looking for something a bit more exotic. "Fine," we said, "we'll not mention where the cards were good for and just advertise it as a dinner and movie." Nope, not good enough. We're surprised that they let us give away the iPod Shuffles!

And then to cap it off, the movie tickets are good for only one showing on one night at one theater. Seems they're trying to pack the press showing. And a ticket is not a guarantee of admission; they've purposely overbooked the theater in hopes of filling it up. Show up after the theater is full and you are out of luck; no rain checks.

Oh, and one more nagging detail. Paramount lied to us and said that it was setting up this promo only with University of California Irvine and Cerritos College --no other area community colleges. Mid-way into the process we found out that it had also set up a promo relationship with Fullerton College.

Hope we get some new subscribers/friends out of the experience. It will be a long time before we agree to a trade ad again. Not much in it for us.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

User-generated content

Everything I read suggests that for newspapers to survive, they are going to have to rethink news and where it comes from. A big push today is for user-generated content.

But do any of us fully understand how to do that at the campus level? Especially when we feel we're overworked just doing what we've always done AND introducing an online publication. It's hard to break out of old mind-sets, even when you know you have to. Well, we're experimenting at Cerritos College. Take the college's most recent literary magazine and a new MyDemocracy project that is about to launch.


Literary magazine coverOur first effort was this spring semester when we forged a three-way alliance with our Graphics Arts and English programs. I've known for some time that the English Department would like to publish a literary magazine. While it is perfectly capable of coming up with lots of content, it struggles with the production process and the finances to publish a magazine.

The journalism depart already publishes an annual magazine and has the tools and resources. What we lack is enrollments. So we've tried to open the magazine to Graphic Arts students. They want a platform to practice design with and we need their time and expertise.

So we forged an alliance: If advanced graphic arts students would agree to join the magazine, we'd fund the literary magazine and give the graphic arts students complete design control. (We had to deal with the fact that journalism students did not want to give up design control for the journalism magazine.) It was a win-win-win deal for the three programs, though in practice there were some culture clashes between the journalism students and the graphic arts students. Hopefully, that won't scotch future deals.

Of course, we're not too experienced at online magazines yet and are struggling to put both the journalism and literary magazines online. Those have turned out to be summer projects.


And then comes a real exciting opportunity from our Political Science program. That program wants to engage its students in putting together short videos on democracy and political science issues. Students in the program's 33 class sections will be encouraged to create videos for extra credit and for a campus-wide contest.

While a lot students know how to shoot and edit students, many do not and that's where we come in. Because of Cerritos Journalism's efforts in the last year to move to multi-media stories, we are in a position to offer Poly Sci students who are interested a one-unit course in how to edit in iMovie and how to craft a story with video. We also have lab facilities that are not fully utilized.

There is potential for a lot of enrollments in a partnership with our Poly Sci program! And they want to start right away.

What makes the partnership attractive to Poly Sci is 1) We have already started down the multimedia road and can ramp up quickly, 2) the Poly Sci folks can buy equipment for check out to students, but lack a mechanism for coordinating that; we have that process in place already, and 3) we have lab facilities available. Students would not be required to sign up for the journalism class, it just would be an option.

What makes the partnership attractive to us is 1) the potential enrollments, 2) the chance to recruit students to additional journalism classes and 3) a ton of video content produced by students that we'll have access to.

There are technical issues to work out, but thankfully, Poly Sci is bearing the brunt of the leg work on that. They supply the equipment and special server and run their own contest. We'll pick up a piece of the work doing what we already know how or are beginning to do. Win-win. We've got a lot to learn on how to manage large quantities of content generated from outside our program, but these projects give us the opportunity to learn.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

High school journalism at Cerritos

Journalism students from 26 high schools from around southern California convened at Cerritos College yesterday for the annual Write-Off competition of the Southern California Journalism Education Association. This was probably the sixth or seventh time in the last 10 years that Cerritos has hosted the event.

Great folks all, but it is a shame Cerritos will not benefit directly from the event. First of all, no high schools in the Cerritos service area participate in SCJEA. They should, but they don't. And SCJEA's outreach program is pretty much non-existent; pretty much only the same schools participate in the Write-Offs each year.

Not that it would matter too much. Few students who participated in yesterday's Write-Offs will end up at community colleges. There is too much emphasis on University of California as the destination point of high school journalism students. Forget that anyone wanting to major in journalism cannot do so, except for the graduate program at Berkeley and a new major in Literary Journalism (writing books) at Irvine. None of the other UC campuses has the major. Students can get a good grounding in journalism at most California community colleges, but community colleges get no respect.

While students were waiting around yesterday to find out the results of the day's competitions, I played a video that promotes community college journalism. Few students even bothered to even look the direction of the screen, let alone pay attention.

In faculty meetings, when the subject of college came up, it was all about making high schools courses acceptable to the UCs.

SCJEA is happy to use community college help for its Write-Offs, but it does not expect its students to take other advantage of community colleges. There must be something wrong if they have to resort to going to a community college for the first two years of their college educations.

Something about that is just not right.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My students are getting creative again: Pt 2

As I reported in my earlier blog entry, my students were getting creative again in putting together a poster ad.

News-Man poster ad simulates X-Men posterTheir latest entry is a takeoff on the X-Men:The Last Stand movie and one of the posters used to promote the movie. In my students' version it becomes News-Men: Be A Part of the New Stand. They entered it in last weekend's JACC Bring-In Ad competition and won an honorable mention. The contest called for an ad promoting the school's journalism program. While it may well have been the most ambitious entry in the lot, I suspect judges either didn't get the tie-in or thought it was a little esoteric, or both.

I think I look more like Citizen Kane that Professor Xavier, but still, I'm proud of them. I really like the various editors shown in character.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Thirty-three awards

Cerritos College students won 33 awards at the JACC SoCal conference this weekend. That's the most Cerritos students have ever won at a single jACC conference. I'm really proud of them and happy for them.

Of course, the true value of winning awards is giving students affirmation that they are growing as writers, designers and photographers.

And what is more remarkable is how they won them. JACC has two types of contests at each of its conferences: mail-in awards that evaluate the work students do year-round in their publications, and on-the-spot awards that test their skills under deadline pressure.

Cerritos students won across the board.
  • They won both mail-in and on-the-spot awards.
  • They won writing, design and photography awards.
  • They won with newspaper, magazine and online entries.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My students are getting creative again

Talon Marks Sopranos adA few years ago a couple of my most creative students started what is becoming an annual tradition. They decided to create a house ad promoting our program in the form of a replica of some famous pop culture image. First up was The Sopranos. The ad was designed for bring-in competition at the Journalism Association of Community Colleges' bring-in competition for student designed ads. I got to play the role of Tony Soprano. Their effort, shown here, blew away the competition. We made it into a poster and gave copies to all staff members as a souvenir.

Talon Marks Journalist adThis effort was followed a year ago or so with a second ad that parodied the TV show The Apprentice where I was cast by the students as Donald Trump. Our version was called "The Journalist." As with the first ad, we could not include the whole staff, so the other roles were cast by select editors and my instructional lab aide at the time.

Grand Talon Marks adThird up was a takeoff on the computer game Grand Theft Auto and was called "Grand Talon Marks: Write City."

The Latest

Today we shot the next in line. My students have warned me against spoiling the surprise, so I can't reveal the pop culture image yet. But I was cast as the lead role again and this time I had to temporarily lose my hair. I look weird bald.

What has this got to do with journalism? Well, part of what we encourage is experimentation that helps develop the skills we use in putting out our pubilcations. In all the creations so far students have learned about creative ways of expressing a message (albeit by copying someone else), developed photographic and lighting skills and practiced extensive photoshop skills. In each case photos of individuals are taken individually and the final package is put together in PhotoShop. It expands the graphics arts skills. And this time around they shot still and video images of the behind-the-scenes action and I overheard that they plan to put together a video story about the project.

Watch this space for the final project. They hope to have it completed in time for the upcoming JACC Southern Regional Conference next weekend.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Watching my students 7

We're 90 minutes into the interview and a couple of times already I thought it was winding down, but new questions keep coming up.

Comm director calls time. Has to get her to next interview.

All done.

Glad I can type quickly. Nice to be able to do some research on the fly. Hope I learned something I can pass on to my students and my colleagues.

Oh, and she didn't take the pillow.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 6

She's talking about how important young peoples' vote are. Marching is great, but that doesn't change policy. Voting does.

Attacking the MinuteMen now.

No notetaking. No more photos. I think my interruption of the photographer stopped him. I don't think he's taken a single shot since he came back into the room after uploading the photo for me.

Talking about the fence along the border and comm director has to share some specifics on costs. Glad to see her focus on issues and rely on staff for details.

Oooh, The House has just passed a voting bill that would affect students' voting. Students should look into that.

Ahh, one of the women reporters asked a question about whether the wall will work. It'll work at getting people to the polls. First and only question so far from one of the women students.

Dr. Pepper Pillow imageAssemblywoman wants to walk off with my Dr. Pepper pillow. Will have to watch her on the way out.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 5

The students are back to the one questionner. He's asking some good followup questions about how Congress works. Still waiting to see what happens next.

Not too many students writing anything down right now and the assemblywoman keeps tapping the table right in front of the tape recorder. Will probably render that portion unusable.

Next: Who will be the next Democratic nominee. Crowded field, but refuses to share her favorite. Has some good things to say about Clinton and Dodd. John Edwards, too.

"Ladies, any questions?" So far the female students have been silent.

Dau chimes in: Wants to mobile younger students. Biggest difference between 2004 and 2006? Republicans campaign on fear and students are more analytical than that. And while the Demos lost the San Diego election, it was close and that is a strong Republican district. A moral victory.

Immigrants: A sideshow to deflect the real issues. A fear issue. Terrorism is not the issue. All efforts are at Mexico, but the terrorists we've caught sneaking in have been from Canada.

Another student has wandered in and is asking questions on the fly. Not too bad, he's our awestruck cartoonist.

Time 3:27

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 4

Oooh, the strategy changes. The one student is through with his questions and the next hits with questions about Darfur. I noticed ahead of time that one of the students had printed out a news release of Sanchez'. BTW, I'm scrambling to find links on the fly. Ain't Google great.

What can students do about Dafur? She says that it came up on her radar when students asked her about it. She mentioned that student actions got the University of California to change some of its investments in Sudan. She says to get local groups to do the same.

Second student is done with questions.

Time is 3:12.

First student asks if things have changed since the 200 election. Set up the old "Are you better off now" answer.

Took a break to process the photo. Here it is. But a great question has been asked, "Why do Democrats keep losing." Part of the answer is conservative media.

Time: 3:18. I'm faster than my students, but this shows you can work quickly with and while blogging.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 3

So far only one of the students, the one who has been here the longest, and certainly the one most politically savvy, has been asking questions.

Next: Iran and Korea.

(North) Korea is a bigger threat than Iraq was. I'm not writing the story, so I'm not going to go into all the detail. Guess I've been doing too much of that so far. I'm more interested in watching and commenting on the work of my students.

Their strategy seems to be to have one student ask questions and three of them write answers. A fourth snaps a picture every once in a while. Just asked my photographer to take a shot of the table and upload it. Will see how long it takes for him to get it on the server and for me to process it and load it. Time is now. 3:06.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 2

Okay, took a break to post part 1 and send a note out to JACC faculty in case they want to come in and watch my experiment. So I missed a question or two.

Now she is giving the stories a great story on why young voters should pay attention and vote. She found a young smoker who was passing on his chance to influence smoking laws and taxes.

The character of elections is the next discussion. Negative ads about personalities turns voters off, she says. Her communications director points out that one purpose of negative ads is to also make sure that some voters stay home. That affects outcomes, too.

Next question: Iraq.

She has some issues with Bush's reasons for staying in Iraq. He has been stubborn and steadfast. Anyone who has sailed will tell you that if you stay the course and don't make adjustments you'll run aground, she says. More Iraqis have died in the war than under Hussein.

Are Iraq and the war on terror related: No.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Watching my students 1

I'm going to blog sort of live here. Assemblywoman Linda Sanchez, who represents our district is in my office right now and I'm sitting back watching my students interview her while she is on a information swing. Nice of her to include the student press.

Ms. Sanchez was here a year ago or so doing the same thing. One thing I remembered from last time was that no one seemed to take notes on what she was saying. They came up with a fairly accurate article, but I was worried. They relied too much on the tape recorder, though.

This time they are starting off better. The tape recorder is there because we may create podcast, but several have notes.

First question was how important is it that Democrats take back the House. The answer covers several areas, but she got to the Mark Foley issue and she is deflecting the answer as to whether Haster should step down. Have to wait until the investigation is done. But she says there are some fishy elements of the story that seem to have been overlooked. She points out, too, that Foley is beyond the reach of the House Ethics Committee because he has resigned. Even aides who have stepped down cannot be involved. Seems like that is one way to bury evidence.

Five students, including a photographer are conducting the interview. Also present is Jim Dau, Sanchez's communication director from Washington, D.C.

Next question: What will the Democrats do if they take control in the coming election. Nancy Pelosi has put together an agenda for the first hundred days should that happen. Of course, even if the House and Senate pass bills, Bush could block them with vetoes.

Next question: Impeachment. She is real cautious on this. The word is thrown around too much. She would be slow to pursue impeachment, even though she has serious disagreements with Bush.

Added after-the-fact to facilitate reading. Blogs post in reverse order: Watching 1 -- Watching 2 -- Watching 3 -- Watching 4 -- Watching 5 -- Watching 6 -- Watching 7

Monday, October 09, 2006


Spent last Friday at Pierce College helping the staff there understand the new powerful tool they have in a College Publisher web site. They'll launch this week.

challengeBut part of the day was spent talking with colleague Rob O'Neil about how much we can expect of students. I've been amazed over the years at the talent of students and how hard they will work for the student newspaper. When I started teaching I thought I was pushing students hard. But what I expect of them then was no where the expectation I have today.

Rob reminded me of a former Pierce teacher who was the mentor of the day back then, Tom Kramer, who must have challenged me to expect more from students.

Students are so capable of reaching new heights. And perhaps it is the teacher who unconsciously places limits on student achievement by not expecting much that fail to learn. Expect high standards. Expect students to continually learn new things. Trust them to implement them.

For instance, I do not copyedit the work of my students before they publish articles in the Talon Marks. I expect students to learn to copyedit their own stories. I'm there if they really need help. But they are so capable to doing it themselves if they realize that I'm not going to do for them automatically. Sure, they make mistakes from time to time. But we review those and try to help them from making the same kinds of mistakes later on.

Part of my teaching philosophy is to honor students for the work they do well, but then challenge them to work harder next time. I'm an old dinosaur, but I have so many more things to learn about the craft I teach. So I apply the philosophy to myself as well.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Help enough other people ...

You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want. -- Zig Ziglar
Ziglar is one my favorite speakers and I particularly like this quotation. Which is why I was happy to spend part of my day training faculty and students at Pierce College, who are getting ready to launch their new College Publisher site.

They received training from College Publisher, but there is nothing like a little extra help on strategy for implementing the tool into the infrastructure of the program.

One of the important tips I gave was to make sure to give everyone on the staff a "reporter" account (at least) so that they can submit their stories and photos for the print edition through the CP site. Too many advisers I talk to cling to the old style of having stories submitted separately and then uploaded to the site. What a waste of time. A common comment I hear is that the staff does not have the time to update the web site. Of course not when you insist on creating extra work in the process.

Fortunately, the advisers and staff saw value in that first step.

I had to laugh inwardly, however, when one of the students who has HTML knowledge started asking about majorly redesigning the site. I get that a lot. The techie wants to immediately monkey with the template when the staff needs to learn to focus on developing content. Never fails.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New media day

Tuesday was an interesting day at the Talon Marks newspaper. Tuesday is the day we normally toil all day putting together a print edition and preparing the next online edition (got to get away from that structure one of these days). But for a variety of reasons, including not wanting to overload my students, we scheduled in an off-week.

It is interesting to see what the students do when they don't have the print edition to dominate. A lot of my photographers did not bother to show up at all. But the core editors and page designers who are used to living here showed up and worked on videos and slideshows for the site. They all are still trying to learn the software. We're learning where our skills are and where we need to improve. The results are adequate to good, but the exciting part is that they got so excited about learning and trying. Note to self: Must stop praising them so much; they might let it go to their heads. While the early efforts may have flaws, they'll get better over time.

Some examples: Video of hotel workers' protest and photo/sound show from Marine Corps. Band performance. More are in the works, but not quite done yet.

News is just a click away

"Do you like to write or take photos?"

That was my opening line last night as I reached out to a couple of hundred high school students at the annual Cerritos College University fair held in the campus gym. While the goal of the event is to stage a university fair emphaszing four-year colleges and universities from around Southern California, the entire state and the nation, each year the college opens up a few tables for Cerritos programs to let high school students know we offer a good first two years of study. I was there to promote the journalism and radio-tv programs.

If students replied (often in front of their parents) that they like to write, I pitched writing for the student newspaper here. If they like to take photos, then I needed photographers. And then the stronger pitch followed to get them thinking about coming here. If they didn't like either, I asked if they like to design things (we need page designers) or if they ever wanted to be on radio. If I struck out then I simply suggested they needed to follow campus news in our print or online edition.

Each pitch, regardless of outcome, ended with our outstanding web site where they could keep up on campus news. My table was infamous for the evening because I was handing out free clicker noisemakers with the web site address printed on them. "Cerritos news is just (click, click) a click away." Always gets a smile and everyone wants a clicker.

The other vendors don't like them, though. Imagine hundreds of people walking around in a closed environment clicking away. Drives them mad. I got three faux death threats. Of course, at the end of the evening, the vendors all came by my table wanting their clicker, too.

I also got the opportunity to connect with head counselors from feeder high schools and sell my program. "I'm the one responsible for all the noise," I'd say. And immediately I had a bond with them.

Pile of Talon Marks clickers
Photo courtesy Cerritos Photojournalisim class

Monday, September 25, 2006

Want to play a game?

A fellow journalism instructor at another community college hurled a criticism my way this weekend for all I write about the role of new media in journalism. Good instructor, but like many may be behind the times a bit. Not only have I tasted the new media Kool-aid, but I'm worried that I need to start gulping the stuff to catch up.

Kids playing video gamesFor some time I've been thinking that with the shift of young audiences from news to online games that the next step will be to incorporate news delivery into games. I've been told it is in the works. Here's the latest salvo: Nintendo intends to introduce its next game control unit with the weather channel incorporated. If a big rich company like Nintendo thinks that gamers who would rather stay glued to their hand controls need to know the whether can real news be far behind?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Counting time on TV

Cerritos broadcasting student Gayle Parks does a regular community action talk show for local Media One/ATT/Comcast/Time Warner (whoever owns it this week) Cable of Downey cable access.

Thursday I was invited for a second time to talk about the Cerritos College Mass Communication department in general and the journalism program in particular. And, boy, did I have to do a lot of talking.

The original invitation was for eight minutes. When I got there I learned I'd have to share the time with another Cerritos College program. But the other guest speaker did not show up. As we were mic-ing up, Parks nonchalantly commented, "Well, it looks like you have the whole eight minutes."

The director looked up and said, "Umm, you had eight minutes scheduled for each of them. He has 16 mintues."

Yikes! Turns out that 16 minutes is a lot of time on TV when the host does not have enough questions lined up.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Adviser's role in a free student press

What is the role of the faculty adviser in a free student press. This has been on my mind a great deal lately first because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just signed AB 2581, a measure that guarantees that the student press is free from administrative censorship and because a couple of colleagues at California community colleges have been under a lot pressure from their administrations to take a bigger role in "editing" student newspapers.

Through the years I've had my moments of pressure when people on campus have been unhappy that I don't play a bigger role in filtering content in the student newspaper. While I cannot say I've been pressured to censor content, clearly my hands-off I-don't-edit-student-stories does cause concern for some of my higher ups. I long ago developed a philosophy that I don't read stories in the student newspaper until after the paper comes out ... unless asked to by an editor. I am an agent of the school and feel that if I read over stories before print, then I am in a position to be a censor, even if all I am doing is pointing out a spelling error. My philosophy is designed to make the students responsible for their content and their mistakes.

Police dog stopping traffic is a form of censorshipIt is a controversial policy, but one I accept after careful consideration and conviction. Even industry professionals who don't fully understand journalism education, even though they may have gone through it, don't always agree. They are for freedom of the student press, but see no problem with the faculty adviser performing an editorial function. Here is the argument I propose: If I insist on reading content before publication, I am implying that no content should be printed unless I read and approve it. What happens if I don't approve; if the reporter WANTS to spell something wrong or interprets a fact differently than I. Am I going to say, "No!" If I do, as a government employee, I am doing exactly what the First Amendment is designed to prevent.

While hands-off is the general philosophy of the journalism association I am most closely associated with, the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, even there it is controversial. A snapshot survey completed a few years ago backs up the philosophy: advisers proclaim that they practice hands-off. But there are plenty of advisers in the state who will proclaim that policy publically --or at least keep their mouths shut in conversations and imply they agree-- and then routinely copyedit the newspaper pages before they are sent to the printer. They are the students' final safety net. I think that does more harm than good for the students in the long run, but it sure makes life easier in the short run. Still, at the same time, I have respect for some of these instructors, even if I firmly believe they are wrong on this one issue, albeit a pretty important issue.

Let me reiterate that advisers who do not read stories before publication are not just being lazy. It is harder to do what we do than it would be to give that last copyedit of pages. We DO care about quality, but feel it is the students' responsibility, not ours. I DO read stories and give advice, including with spelling and grammar, if the editor asks. And I cultivate a relationship with my editors so that they will feel comfortable approaching me. Newer students, especially older newer students twice the age of the editor, would PREFER that I read and copyedit their stories before print, but I refuse unless the request comes through the editor they don't trust. I prefer to develop those teamwork skills and do my teaching after publication. My predecessor at Cerritos had a different philosophy: he would fight loudly for a free student press, but routinely re-wrote most or all of the students' stories before publication. Students called him "chief."

Mine is a firmly held philosophy, and many of my students come to appreciate it. I've paid a price more than once for holding it. I lost my last job partially because I held to this philosophy. It wasn't the official reason given for eliminating the journalism program, but clearly made the decision to eliminate it for budget reasons easier for administrators to swallow. When I was deciding whether to leave my last job for good or stay and try to rebuild, I was encouraged to leave because the school was "not going to go down the journalism road again." Two years later --about as quickly as these things take place-- they hired a new journalism teacher. Whether or not the school got an adviser who will read and edit stories ahead of time with their next hire or not I do not know; she and I have never talked about it."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What I like about our new design

We implemented the new design this week. It is not working completely --still needs some tweaks-- and, boy, do we have a lot to learn to keep it looking the way it should from week to week. But here is what I like most about it:

  • My students came up with the design on their own (last semester students no longer with us, unfortunately) and presented it to College Publisher with "Can we?"
  • It shows the flexibility of College Publisher in that when you are ready you can go with a custom design, and
  • Its weekly requirements will force us to ramp up some of what we should have been doing all along, or at least what we should have been doing next. It requires us to think how stories and photos will be presented online. And we have to think beyond the print edition AS WE WORK ON the print edition.
I was perusing through the JACC papers online today and it looks like Cerritos and Citrus were the two first California community colleges out of the chutes this school year ... at least the first ones to get new editions online.

The Citrus College Clarion Online is looking good. Good variety of content and the lead story is a podcast of the president's opening speech to the campus. Okay, that's a snore of a topic, but the staff is really thinking new media and learning by doing. is essentially doing the same by including repurposed campus radio shows as its first podcasts. Dr. David Young's 58-minute radio shows are probably too long for a newspaper site podcast, but it is a start. We also hope to podcast Cerritos College football games, which might have an audience despite length.

While every other student newspaper is sporting last spring's issues (or later) I think the LA Valley publication and the Sacramento City College deserve special attention for their outstanding quality lead photos. True, LA Valley needs to learn to size photos to the design, but geez, what a great quality photo.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Developing the blogging habit

Abstract image showing the passage timeOne of the reasons I started this blog last March was to learn by doing. And one of the things I learned in the process is that it works best if you post new content on a regular basis. I knew that before, but it was reinforced.

But lately I've been bitten by the tsetse fly of blogging: No new ideas. While it has only been a couple of weeks, it seems like an enternity and I fear losing the zeal.

How am I responding? By starting my third blog. In addition to this blog, I also regular contribute to the JACC blog. And now I'm going to start a blog just for the Talon Marks newspaper. I have only a vague idea of what I want to do with it, but if you'll dig into the archives of this blog you'll see that my attitude is to just get started. I don't want to wait until I figure it out to get started because that kind of procrastination leaves you in the dust. And one learns by doing.

Friday, August 11, 2006

OldThink vs. NewThink

Ran across an interesting column about the shift of media taking place that requires a NewThink when most of us are used to OldThink ideas. The author says:

The media shift isn’t just about small vs. big. It’s also about a new way of thinking, or perhaps bringing back an old way of thinking that’s been lost in the era of big media mergers and the bottom-line focus on profits over serving people.
He then goes on to give some examples and calls on readers to add more. Here are just a few of the examples he gives:

Oldthink: Relying on mainstream media TV coverage to follow wars and conflicts.
Newthink: Reading bloggers or citizen journalists who are eyewitnesses to wars, or soldier bloggers who are participants and can share their own stories in words or video. Seeing photos from people with cameraphones at the scene.

Oldthink: Reading, listening or watching media on the schedules set by executives and programmers.
Newthink: Getting the information, news and entertainment we want, when we want it, on the device we want it, with or without commercials.

Oldthink: Turning on car radios to hear the music or radio shows we enjoy.
Newthink: Getting satellite radio or plugging in portable MP3 players to our car stereos so we can listen to hundreds of commercial-free stations on satellite or thousands of podcasts downloaded from the Internet.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Convergence at Washington Post

First slide of Washington Post presentationOne of the blogs I read regularly is called Reinventing College Media. The blogger, Bryan Murley, helped run a college media adviser's workshop in Washington, D.C. last week. One of the scheduled speakers was Washington Post editor Jim Brady. He didn't make it because of a scheduling error. But he shared his PowerPoint slides with Murley and you can view them at

Of course, you've got to make sense of the slides, so Murley has also created a link to an mp3 file of a speech on the same general topic that Brady made last October date. The two together give a fair sense as to all that the Post is doing.

MP3 link:

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

I want my mtvU, err...College Publisher

mtvu logoWord is out today that College Publisher has a new owner: mtvU, a division of MTV, which a division of Viacom.

I think this is a good thing. College Publisher is already the largest network of college newspapers, with some 450 or so partners, including The hookup with mtvU/MTV/Viacom makes it even more of a solid host for college papers and, as the news release says, brings to the table a plate of blue-ribbon advertisers anxious to reach the college market.

"This acquisition is in line with our business strategy of moving forward in the digital space and continually expanding our online portfolio of music, gaming, news and entertainment," said Judy McGrath, Chairman and CEO, MTVN.
Now, the Cerritos College Talon Marks might see a little bit of the ad revenue MTV brings to the table somewhere down the line --I hope so-- but even if we don't this is still a good turn of events for us.

  • It means the continuance of a stable platform for our online edition. In days past when I tried to log on and for some reason could not connect, I was momentarily hit with the fear I had when the first online host we signed with --Campus Engine-- went belly up and and left us high and dry. If something happens now, I'm assured that it isn't because the money dried up.
  • It emphasizes the seriousness and importance of college publications, especially the online editions.
  • It likely will help grow the audience for our online site as the network strengthens. That's more potential readers for my students' work. That can only be good. And,
  • Perhaps with a broadcast-oriented owner, College Publisher will branch out and start hosting college online radio stations and television stations and we'll be able to interconnect to grab even higher numbers of readers/viewers/listeners. That would fit in just nicely with the partnerships we're trying to forge on the Cerritos campus.
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LATE ADD: As further proof that the college market is important, a Florida daily has purchased a Florida State University student-run newspaper. This is believed to be the first instance of a commercial paper buying a student newspaper.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New content = new recruiting avenue

As we're getting ready to launch a new format for, we're hoping to ramp up some new content, mostly video, podcasting and blogging. We contacted two on-campus content producer partners --the radio program and the film program--to see if we might incorporate their student-produced content on the student-produced site. They both jumped at it.

In fact, film instructor Steven Hirohama, an interesting innovator himself, countered with proposal to have his students partner with Talon Marks students to create news videos as part of their class assignments. Great!

But going video has also produced a new recruiting avenue, too. I met yesterday with student Ricardo Ramirez, who once shot photos for Talon Marks, but left because his heart was in video. He's coming back as a news videographer and was talking about recruiting some friends. He'll be valuable, too, in helping establish video guidelines and standards for the paper, too.

We'll be in a pickle if we get too many videographers right away. We're just getting started and the new stuff cannot get in the way of the primary missions of producing content for the print edition and online edition. But wow! Glad our infrastructure allows for recruiting from various skill groups.

BTW: We're one of the few community colleges in the state that have abandoned the circa 1960s version of the all-in-one newspaper class. We offer a course just for newspaper reporters, one for production/photographers and one for editors. Students can choose which or as many of the courses as they want. This allows us to market the writing class to writers and the production class to desktop designers and photographers. If we ever build a large enough population of photographers/videographers, we can split photo off from the production class (as long as we meet minimum enrollments). Takes faith by an admin to let you go that way because numbers are short the first few years, but it makes sense in the long run.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Straight and narrow serious vs. edgy fun

Most journalism teachers I know, present company included, teach a pretty straight and narrow serious approach to newswriting. And appropriately so.

There is a lot to learn in mastering the inverted pyramid, consistency of style, accuracy and objectivity. But to survive in tomorrow's news world and to appeal to younger audiences, I think we have to start paying attention to the edgy presentation of news. Note the success of the Daily Report with Jon Stewart and how many young people consider that to be more appealing "journalism." Shoot, when CBS was looking for a replacement for Dan Rather Stewart's name kept cropping up in the speculation. And the White House Correspondents Dinner roasting of George Bush by Stephen Colbert keeps cropping up still months later on Editor & Publisher's Most Popular Stories RSS feed.

And when I look at the work of one of my best designer students, Benedict Orbase, I realize that part of his appeal comes from a willingness to take an edgy look at serious news. It works. And I think as we look more and more at the role of online journalism we have to look at ways to separate ourselves from the vanilla world of online newspaper sites. Shoot, we probably need to do the same with the print edition.

I'm fast becoming a fan of zefrank's "The Show" and Rocketboom, who like Stewart take a more fun, edgy look at news presentation (if you can call Frank's work journalism, which I think you sometimes can; why he hasn't been signed by the Daily Show yet is a mystery to me).

But news is serious and we need to maintain a balance. For the short run, at least, the student who leaves my program without understanding how and when to write the straight and narrow serious news story is going to have a hard time finding a traditional job in the media.

Sure would like to hear from some of my fellow journalism teachers on this one.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Are college journalists ready for digital age?

Are college journalists, or even journalism teachers, ready for the digital age? Apparently not, according to Leonard Witt, president of the Public Journalism Network:

Yesterday I gave a talk to some 50 college student newspaper editors and managers about Reinventing Newspapers. Most had not heard of citizen journalism projects like OhmyNews, Northwest Voice or MyMissourian. The editors, from small colleges to major universities, were at the annual Management Seminar for College Newspaper Editors hosted by Cox Institute for Newspaper Management Studies at the University of Georgia's Grady College.

I would say their colleges, journalism schools, communication departments and advisors have some catching up to do. These are tomorrow's newsroom leaders. They are not under the gun because one advisor told me that college newspapers are doing incredibly well. They are free. They have a captive audience.

I've got to admit, I've not heard of some of those projects either and have not introduced my students to them. And I think I'm further along than many advisers when it comes to online journalism. Yikes!

So, why should students get serious about online journalism? Aside from the obvious that it is becoming a bigger part of the industry, that's where the money is going. This last year online editors were among those who got the greatest pay increases.

Small town journalism

Great story in today's LA Times about small town journalism in Atwater, Minn. The Column One feature tells about a small town left without a newspaper a decade ago. People wanted a paper, so they started one.

For nearly a decade, Atwater had no newspaper. The only way for the town's 1,047 residents to find out about fires, summer festivals and the latest births was to eavesdrop on conversations at Vern's Town & Country grocery store.

"Do you know how frustrating it is to be able to get up-to-the-minute information about what's happening in Lebanon on CNN, but not be able to know what was said at the Atwater City Council meeting?" asked Connie Feig, a registered nurse and chairwoman of the Sunfish Gazette's 12-member board of directors.

There's an old joke that in a small town everyone knows what everyone else is doing. They subscribe to the local paper only to see who got caught at it.

But there's a point here for college publications. When we hear so much about declines in readership, consolidations of media operations, cutbacks in newspaper jobs, we have to remember that people want local news. That's where our stengths are. If we fall into the trap of covering the same stuff that other, larger publications do, we are doomed. But if we provide news about our community in our stories, in our blogs and on our website that our readers cannot get anywhere else, we will do more than survive, we'll thrive.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Advertising and college web sites

We don't really look at the Talon Marks as a source of ad income, even though half our operating expenses in a school year come from advertising and those numbers have been dropping in recent years. But here is some interesting news for us to pay attention to.

A new survey of 7,500 university students found that they would like to see more local advertising on their campus' newspaper websites. 64% would appreciate more local restaurant ads, 51% more entertainment, and 50% more ads from local stores.

This comes as no surprise as colleges are a boon to local businesses. What is surprising is that local advertisers haven't picked up on the priceless medium of a local college's newspaper website yet. It just seems too obvious.
See the story Score One More Advantage for Local Online Newspapers for more details.

RSS feeds for updates. I finally get it.

RSS sample imageOkay, forgive me. I'm a dinosaur. An enlightened dinosaur, I hope, but still a dinosaur. But I finally get RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

I saw it before, but didn't understand it. I even bookmarked some feed sites without realizing what I was doing. Soon after my bookmarks bar started including numbers that I couldn't understand. The browser was looking at those feed sites and telling me how many NEW entries had been made since I last checked the site.

I'm going feed-happy with many of the sites I like to read regularly now so that I don't waste time checking a site that hasn't been updated. Likewise, I don't want to forget to check up on a site that may have interesting updates.

Gotta learn more, but this is cool. Oh, by the way, there is an RSS site for this blog and for the Talon Marks and for the Cerritos College Journalism web site.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Web is dominant media, study says

Computer imageWeb media is the dominant at-work media and No. 2 in the home, according to a June report from the Online Publishers Association, according to this CNET article.

The article and the study are interesting for a number of reasons. For one, what time of day do you think most newspapers and magazines are read? Another interesting thing about the article is how CNET handled an update to the online story.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Tomorrow is just a day away

I know the lyrics for the song "Tomorrow" from the musical "Annie" say that "tomorrow is ALWAYS a day away," but it is also ONLY a day away. So I like to keep in touch with my student newspaper staff during semester breaks, especially the lon-g-g-g-g summer break, and keep their thoughts focused on the coming semester.

I met with a number of returning students for lunch today to get them started thinking on goals for the semester. Among the goals expressed:

  • Move AMPED, our op-A&E opinon that morphs to a full page editor column, to online only and replace that page with our defunct Life feature page.
  • Redo the the online site front page. (See blog entry below.)
  • Include more online forums and promote them within each story in the print edition. Do more overall in the paper to promote online.
  • Include more online videos (maybe every other week).
  • Increase the use of blogs.
  • Move more reviews to online and focus a main package on the A&E page on on-campus arts. Extend campus arts coverage.
Good start.

Wish I could get some of them to attend JACC's Editor's Leadership Camp, but in absence of that it is important to keep them focused yourself.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

It's so ugly

ugly web sites with zefrankA little bit of crude language, but this web video about ugly web sites on MySpace is as funny as it is informative about how much we take for granted that new technologies provide. The amount of work involved in creating a newspaper page or a web site is made so simple for us with today's technology.


Mindy McAdamsMindy McAdams is quickly becoming one of my "must read" bloggers. She has included an interesting summary of a PEW Intenet and American Life Project study on blogging.

PEW is a good source on how Americans use the Internet.

Reuters also has a story on the report.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Multimedia storytelling and artists

Mindy McAdams writes a really interesting blog on teaching online journalism. I found this post about interactive artists particularly interesting. I think it defines an element we are hoping to capture in our Internet for Journalists class.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blogging requirement?

question markI've been thinking about how to infuse my journalism courses with blogging so that my students can learn. One thought is to require all returning newspaper staff members to develop a weekly blog that focuses on some aspect of the college or student life.*

Ran the idea past incoming editor Tanya Bermudez the other day and she wasn't interested in it.** Still, I wonder...

* The more I read about online publications the more I see that we need to focus on content that cannot be found elsewhere. I've always known that and emphasize that we should 1) cover campus news first and 2) off-campus news that affects our student readers. I've always suggested that for columns and sports coverage. Makes sense to emphasize it with blogs.

** I also read that many journalsts, including student journalists resist learning new media. Yet, can I in good conscious continue teaching ONLY old media? Much of what has developed with the online publication has taken time to infuse into the culture of the Talon Marks. Requiring blogs might not be popular at first, but will be considered normal after several semesters. The trick is to introduce it correctly.