Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Saturday, February 28, 2009

JACC Blog has moved

The JACC blog has moved.If you have bookmarked this site or its RSS feed you will want to change your records. The blog can now be found at www.jacc-blog.com, which forwards to jaccblog.wordpress.com.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What should a journalism student learn?

What should a student who has gone through a community college journalism program and either got a degree or transferred to a university be able to do or have learned?

That's one of the questions California community college journalism programs will be having in the future as part of their Student Learning Outcome discussions associated with their college's accreditation.

Most California community college journalism programs probably already have developed Student Learning Outcomes for their courses, but the next step will be to develop program-level SLOs as well. Presumably, they will evolve from the course-level SLOs.

(Note: Some campuses, such as my own, are defining "program" much more broadly, such as "general education," or "transfer." But if you approach SLOs as more than a compliance issue and embrace it as a way to evaluate and improve your own programs, you may want to ask the question above whether your school requires it or not. It certainly will help come Program Review time. College programs must periodically review just what it is they are doing and where they are going.)

So, what SHOULD a student be learning? Can you articulate what you know in your gut? Can you define it to outsiders and do you have a way of measuring whether you've succeeded?

Let's start a discussion on this and see if we help those who may be having trouble articulating them. Here's my BEGINNING list of 10, in no particular order. It would be interesting to hear if there are others you think are important.


1. Be able to take a list of at least five facts and write a news lead.

2. Be able to develop a story from idea to research/interview, to story, through editing and publishing stages.

3. To develop a basic awareness and understanding of media law issues, especially libel and copyright.

4. To develop an awareness of the operation of and history of traditional media and discuss the changing environment of mass media.

5. To develop a portfolio of written articles suitable for publication in a newspaper or for a news organization web site.

6. Be able to analyze the elements of design of a newspaper page, a magazine layout and a news web site.

7. Be able to write a cutline/caption for a news, feature or sports photo if given basic facts about the photo.

8. Be able to write a headline for a news, feature, sports or opinion article.

9. Be able to post a story or upload a photograph to an online publication content management system.

10. Develop a portfolio of multimedia projects that tell journalistic stories. The portfolio could include video, audio, visual storytelling (slide shows), blogs.

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).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The future of journalism education

I gave a workshop last Saturday at the JACC SoCal conference on how community college journalism programs could enhance their online publications by aggregating content from other sources.

At the end of the workshop one student in the audience asked me a philosophical question about the alienation of geographical communities that the Internet causes and whether the newspaper industry had a role in that.

I deferred answering the question directly because it doesn't matter, especially at the community college level. What matters is that
  1. Audiences the ages of our students typically do not read printed newspapers,
  2. The newspaper industry is experiencing a transition that many in the industry are not comfortable with, but are powerless to stem, and
  3. We in journalism education have a responsibility not only to serve our campuses with the printed publication they desire but train our students for this new world.

But how do we do that? What is the role of journalism education of the future? Despite all the negative news about layoffs in the industry and the deconstruction of venerable traditional media I remain optimistic for the future of journalism. Demand for news and information does not seem to be abating, just transforming. The question is what kind of product that transformation will lead to.

I believe it will involve some kind of electronic presentation, but it clearly will be more than that. It appears that traditional media outlets, long used to being dominiant content creators more and more will find content aggregation part and parcel of what they do.

Now, that's not a completely new concept. For almost 150 years newspapers, at least the bigger ones, have supplemented their locally produced content with wire service and syndicated content. What's different now is that these specialized media companies are being joined by micro-content providers, such as political or entertainment blogs. A column by Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub articulated it more clearly for me. He points out the growth of non-profit sector blogs and news sites. The future role of "newspapers" may be more steeped in aggregation of news than creation of news.

I find that exciting for journalism education, and a bit scary. It will be important to make sure we in journalism education do our part to train future journalists for this kind of role so that
  1. There are trained reporters who can provide the content, and
  2. The creation of news is not left solely to public relations operations who may give a biased look at the news.

How do we best prepare students for this new model of news? I wish more people had attended my workshop because far too many student publications still see their role as publishing only their own content. But even my workshop did not address the fundamental mindset changes that must take place. We need to unbundle our programs and encourage other groups on our campuses to help us tell stories, and we need to accept those stories. And we need to stop preparing our students solely to work for an odld-newspaper model and prepare them for entirely new careers in a new New Media model.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Carnival of Journalism: Incremental Changes

A number of the journalism blogs I follow participate in a practice they call Carnival of Journalism. Someone comes up with a common question for each to discuss. This month's topic is "What are small, incremental steps one can make to fuel change in their media organization?"

In a student newsroom I think the biggest little step that needs to be taken is to stop thinking of the print edition as the tail that wags the dog. When I watch students they make assignments and set deadlines around the schedule of the print edition of the paper. That's got to change. Most often we refer to it as "post first, print second." But students don't do it very often or easily.

Don't get me wrong. The print edition is still the most significant product we produce. Especially at the community college level our programs exist because the college wants a print edition, not because of some altruistic belief that journalism is important to teach. They accept that it is worthy and goes along with having a student newspaper.

But if we look around at the industry and the revolution/evolution taking place we HAVE to consider new methods of production in what we teach. Up until now the effort has been with online publications, but even as some are still just now embracing that idea it is evolving into more, such as mobile delivery.

Both we and the industry have to understand that readers, especially younger readers, are going to want news and news delivery redefined. For some of us old dinosaurs, that is different to swallow at times. I saw that last weekend at JACC's annual NorCal conference as some of the advisers reacted strongly against a keynote presentation that focused heavily on deconstruction of traditional news into information bits that are delivered through a variety of technologies and involves the reader as a participant in the news creation process.

We must continue to teach the values of journalism, and even continue to teach some of the old methods. But if we gloss over the emerging technologies, we shortchange the education of our students. Most of us are continuing to focus on the traditional methods in our classrooms and reserving the new methods to "also rans." Hence JACC's (and my) continual push of online technologies, sometimes seemingly to the exclusion of traditional methods. Sorry about that if you interpret this to mean that we don't embrace the traditional values and methods in the overall process. News is new, otherwise it would be called olds.

So what incremental change would I make? As a journalism instructor and faculty adviser of a student newspaper I'd like to see big changes. But an incremental change that I think would help would be to help students understand that they don't have to wait until they have the whole story to publish part of it.

In a workshop I did at last week's NorCal conference I talked about a three-paragraph concept that I picked up from someone else's blog a while back. (Sorry to the originator, but I've lost track of where and don't give you proper credit for the idea.) If covering an event, which tends to be a large part of what my students do, post A story within minutes of the conclusion of the event. It doesn't have to be THE story; you can do a follow-up when you have had more time to flesh it out. But in the short term, follow this three sentence/paragraph format:

1. Summary
2. Secondary key point
3. Quote

As an example, in my workshop I created a three-paragraph story about my workshop:
College newspapers can do a lot more to enhance their online publications with quick stories, blogs, podcasts, videos and other interactive multimedia elements.

This was the main message from Rich Cameron of Cerritos College when he spoke at the JACC NorCal Conference Saturday.

“You’ve got to get beyond ‘shovelware’ and give your readers a reason to come to your web site,” he said.
Such a summary can be written in just a couple of minutes and posted to a web publication or blog easily. It could even be created on an iPod or cell phone and shipped out/posted immediately using mobile distribution technology, which I am learning more about (see a great article on easy-to-use tools at www.10000words.net/2008/10/6-ways-to-create-mobile-version-of-your.html), though this sample would be a bit long for something like Twitter or SMS messaging.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Is your online paper worthless? Pew Study results

The last few years a lot of JACC programs have put more and more effort into developing online editions. But is it doing them any good? Probably, but not by much if you extrapolate results from the latest PEW Research Center for the People and the Press' study of public consumption of news.

The report showed that online papers only modestly boost newspaper readership. It also found that online-only publications probably are not a good idea.

The full report can be found here.

There are too many numbers in the report --boy, are there numbers!-- to adequately summarize the report. Plan to read it multiple times as there are lots of interesting factoids in there that you will want to sprinkle through your mass comm classes. But you are not going to want to print out either the full 121-page report or even the 54 pages of non-tables portion.

Major sections covered in the report include attitudes about wathcing reading and listening to the news, challenges for newspapers, attitudes toward the news, audience segments and media credibility (perceived as most credible: FOX news!).

And because the report was researching mainstream media, it is hard to extrapolate it accurately and apply it to college media.

But if you try, there is a lot of bad news and some good news. There are some interesting clues on what we might do to make ourselves more relevant.

For instance:
Even online news consumers who mention content as setting the internet apart focus on the speed of the medium. You can “get alerts as things occur,” said one, while others offered similar comments – the internet is "frequently updated," and “more up to date” than other sources."
Clear is the fact that those who are not publishing online are already irrelevant. Any colleges not putting effort into at least an online edition to supplement the print edition simply are behind the times. Likewise, if all publications are doing is presenting online only what they provide in their print edition, they also are behind the times.

The study showed that newspaper readership declines have leveled off some because of the addition of online versions, but that they are still going down. Those more likely to read online editions are those who are also reading the print editions, but of online-only readers, more are likely to be younger audiences. The number of young online readers is small, though.

What IS working is a multi-approach to delivering news: print, online, broadcast, cell phone/PDA, iPod, etc. While even that number is small, for college audiences, especially diverse community college audiences, there is some good news:
A relatively small number of Americans – about 7% of the general public – are getting news via one or more of these types of electronic devices, with just 4% doing so at least a few times a week.

But among some groups in the population, the numbers are substantially higher. For example, among young men (ages 18-29) nearly one-in-five (19%) report getting news this way, as do 15% of African Americans and 13% of Hispanics."
Some other interesting findings that might affect how we develop our community college publications:
  • The only sections of the newspaper that younger readers spend more time on than their seniors are features such as comics, puzzles, games and horoscopes.

    Yuck, but it is one of the reasons we include comics in some of our Cerritos College Talon Marks print editions AND our online edition.

  • Roughly two-thirds (64%) who visit a newspaper website on a typical day go to a paper’s homepage to browse or look for something.

    Four-in-ten (39%) report following links to specific newspaper articles from other websites or search engines, most of which bypass the paper’s homepage and go directly to the story of interest. Fewer (12%) report reading the newspaper yesterday based on e-mailed links from friends or associates.

    Many who read newspapers online arrive there through more than one of these routes, though as many as one-in-four on a typical day read access newspaper websites only through links from other sites or e-mails, rather than going directly to a newspaper homepage.

    Thank goodness for Web sites that have "e-mail this story" links and "most e-mailed" lists and for those with RSS feeds. (I reach about half of my online news through RSS feeds, especially blogs, though I DO visit home pages when I affirmatively seek out one of the major online news sites just to see what is going on.) BTW, the two-thirds of JACC publications online that use College Publisher have these features built in.

  • Blogs that discuss news events have become a destination for a significant number of young people, especially those ages 18-24. About one-in-ten (9%) in this age category say the regularly read these types of blogs, while another 10% say they sometimes do so.

    Nearly a quarter of those who say they went online for news yesterday say they read news blogs regularly (10%) or sometimes (12%). Yet even among these online news consumers, 62% say they never read news blogs.