Saturday, September 30, 2006

Web Watch 5: Where are you from?

Take a look at the flag of your print edition. It probably contains the name of the publication and the name of your college. It may even include where you are located (the city and state). If it doesn't include the latter, that's okay, the vast majority of your readers know where they are when they pick it up.

Now take a look at the flag of your online edition. Where you are located might be more important. Campus publications focus on campus or local news. But visitors to your site are not like the readers of your print edition. They may be located in Zimbabwe or Syndey, New York or Paris. They may need to know what "local" means to you to put your stories into context. They may have come to your site through a search engine.

For instance, here is a SiteMeter representation of the last 500 visits of the Cerritos College While the college is located in Southern California, look at the distribution of visits from across the country and even around the world.

World map showing last 500 visits of Cerritos College

How do California community college publications do in providing this information to their readers? Only three regular online editions -- Pasadena College, Sacramento and Shasta College -- provide the location of the college on the front page (Pasadena puts it at the bottom of the page).

Okay, six other colleges -- Merced, Mira Costa, Ohlone, Reedley, Diego City and Taft-- that post pdfs of their print editions as their sole online offerings include the addresses, too. They do so on regular college web pages that serve as portals to the pdf links. It is probably less significant here, though, because readers have to download the pdfs to read the publication. Content in PDF versions may be shielded from search engines and readers are more likely to specifically seek out the college before reading. PDF is an ineffective way to have an online presence.

Most JACC schools at least indicate which college they represent, but six of them don't even do that! Bakersfield, Cerritos, Cypress, Laney, Palomar, Santa Monica and Skyline only include the name of the publication. Palomar includes the line "Focusing on Palomar," Cypress includes "The Cypress Chronicle Online," Laney includes "Laney," but unless you know those are college names ....

Now online

Add two more schools to the previous lists of California community colleges going online this semester: American River, which I missed in previous lists, and Rio Hondo, which goes online for the first time.

That brings to 32 the number of California community colleges to get started online this school year. Schools that were still publishing online as of last spring that are still missing in action are Los Medanos, Marin, Palo Verde, Reedley, San Bernardino (MIA since last November), San Francisco and Taft. A few others are MIA a little longer than that and at least seven who were online at one time are dead: Not even a out-of-date page is available any longer.

Also of note this week:
  • Cerritos has added a photo staff list that uses College Publisher's auto portfolio system (see my other post). Only 10 of 27 College Publisher partners in the California community college system use the portfolio system.
  • Crime shows up on campus in a number of publications, but Long Beach City's coverage of an on-campus sexual assault shows unusual coverage. Reporters staked out the assault scene 24 hours after the incident to get a sense of the isolation during the attack.
  • Several schools do good jobs with consumer choice stories, but one wonders how much more effective the stories might be online if presented more visually with infographs or multi-media presentations (see Mindy McAdams' blog for links to examples of multi-media presentations). Not to pick on the students at Cosumnes River --it is early in the school year and few community college teachers are prepared to teach these skills yet-- but take a look at their stories on inexpensive lunch choices and managing time and imagine how much more effective they could be online as multi-media stories. Or Cypress' story on credit cards.
  • Speaking of Cypress, the staff is short on sports writers, but feels sports coverage is important, so editors have created a section online for releases from the sports information department. Giving readers content despite a shortage of staff skills? What a great concept!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Electronic portfolios for students

Sample portfoiloOne of College Publisher's under-utilized tools, for the sake of the 27 JACC schools that have signed with CP, is its built-in electronic portfolio of students' work. Few schools seem to take advantage of it.

While the tool is free and automatic, it requires schools to take TWO simple steps to activate it.

To see a sample of how it works, visit the Cerritos Talon Marks site and click on any byline. You are taken to a portfolio of all the photos and stories that student has taken and written. This portfoilio can be issued a specific URL that can be shared with potential employers or Aunt Sally. A student can write his or her own bio statement, attach a photo and attach a resume for download.

Talon Marks has even added a staff roster photo page with links to the individual portfolio pages.

To create the portfolio pages College Publisher users must do two things: Set up an individual account for each student. (Don't want all students to have access? Just don't tell them what password you assign them. But why wouldn't you want to give them access to upload stories? They don't go online until an editor approves them. Let's talk.)

The second step is then to assign a byline from the drop-down menu that will then appear on any "Add story" page or on the photo upload page. That's it.

Pages will exist forever as long you stick with College Pubilsher and you don't delete the student from the staff list. You can deactivate "Reporter" status without deleting the student.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Put the online editor in charge?

Man popping out of a boxSteve Outing is a great out-of-the-box thinker and his latest online journalism column for Editor & Publisher is bound to get the hair on the back of your necks to stand up.

In his column he shares responses from readers on what's wrong with journalism these days and how to fix it. Among the boldest of suggestions is to change the role of the editor-in-chief. As most of us realize (and love) our teaching of journalism is print based. Learn it here and you can apply it elsewhere. Being the dinosaur I am, I still believe that, though I clearly show the effects of that new media Kool-Aid I've been sipping.

A theme from his readers was:
A huge part of the problem is that newspaper companies are still being run, mostly, by people from the print side -- and who, though they may attempt to understand interactive media and the needs and media habits of young people, aren't effective at moving their organizations in a radically different, and necessary, direction.
which led to the outrageous suggestion:
It argues for putting online at the top of an organization, with the print edition being but one delivery channel for the company's editorial and advertising content, and thus underneath a central news operation that is responsible for "the news" and distributing it out to various channels.
Whoa! Put the online editor in charge of the print edition. That takes some digesting.

But when you think about it, it does make some sense. And Outing's column continues to explain why. Meanwhile, Bryan Murley over at Reinventing College Media has suggested that we consider bringing the concept to our campuses. He ponders whether our online editors should become the managing editors of our entire operation and put the print edition editor UNDER the online editor. I'm thirsty, anyone got any extra Kool-Aid?

As wild as the idea sounds at first blush, there is clearly a logic to the idea and I wouldn't be surprised to see some of us moving that direction before too long.
  • We've broken the barrier of getting online --at least four out of five JACC community colleges have, the other 20 percent need to catch up.
  • Most of us still continue to see the online edition as a mirror of our print editions --my students still see the lead front page news feature on the print edition as the lead story for the online edition, as though the readers of the online edition are the same as the print edition.
  • But a few of JACC member schools are breaking out by posting breaking stories mid-issue, putting full stories online and shorter summaries in print and looking for original online exclusive content (sometimes in new story forms, such as blogs, podcasts, photo galleries, video, etc.)
Of course, the implications of such a move are staggering. First, start with training of editors. While College Publisher allows our online operation to run without a techie, some HTML training eventually takes place for the online editor for any publication wanting to move beyond shovelware. Perhaps more is needed for the entire staff ... and the adviser. Start thinking about it now, folks. Three years from now will be too late.

Related thoughts:
  • Chabot's Bill Johnson reacted strongly on the JACC-FAC listserve recently to the elimination of the on-the-spot headline writing competition for JACC. (See JACC Broadens Contest Scope). He makes a good point that headlines are really important to newspapers. I'd agree and add that they are perhaps even more important to online publications that want to be taken seriously. Oftentimes, your front page of an online edition is mostly headlines. I know as an instructor I'm guilty of not teaching headline writing as effectively as I should. And who teaches counting of headlines any more? I don't, and I'm not sure I should. But I know I write better headlines because I understand the principles of counting units behind them. I sat through the JACC board's discussion of why to eliminate the contest at this time and agreed with the thinking. Board president Paul DeBolt summarized that reasoning well in a followup post to the listserve. It is not that headlines are not important, but that we need to evaluate what we're testing with contests and see if there is another way to do it. Keep the faith, Bill. Think tomorrow instead of yesterday.
  • Steve Outing would be a great speaker for a JACC conference, Tim Harrower great.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Bold move or cutting off your right arm?

Scenario: Your students' editorials are riddled with errors day after day (or week after week). What action should be taken?

Students of the Daily Illini at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign decided that they would just stop running editorials.

Bold move or cutting off their right arm?

The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Ill., feels this was a wrong move, saying among other things:
That’s what we call giving it the old college no-try. […]

You made errors in your reporting (sorry, but there’s no such thing as a “faulty fact”), and you’re so upset about these errors that you quit? And you want to work in journalism?

Here is some advice from a place with considerable Daily Illini experience on its resume: Quitting solves nothing. Better reporting, thorough checking of facts, constant striving for accuracy will lead to well-founded opinions. Opinions not backed by facts, or based on untruths, are worthless. […]
Who's right on this? How would your staffs react? It's great to see that even the larger universities struggle with issues that could affect the community colleges. The difference, of course, is that the Illini is a daily and does not have days off between publications to deal with the issue.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Web Watch 4

Fourteen more JACC community colleges have started up their online editions for the school year bringing the total active up to 29 with a couple of new publications join the ranks for the first time. Still leaves almost 20 schools who have had online publications in the past who have not gone online yet this year. Some of those clearly are inactive and need rebirth.

New since the last web watch are Bakersfield,Cabrillo, Cosumnes River, De Anza, LA Valley, Mira Costa (pdf), Modesto, Sacramento, San Diego City (pdf), San Diego Mesa, Santa Barbara, Shasta, Ventura County, and Yuba.

Some highlights from publications this week:
And speaking of first amendment issues, here are some links to papers who are doing stories about the new bills that affect college journalism:
and Citrus has an editorial advocating a national shield law.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Why blogs count

San Jose State University New Media in Journalism students are getting a first-hand view of why blogs are important in journalism today. IT officials at SJSU announced a little over a week ago that they were thinking of blocking Skype communication technology from the campus network. At the time it was a little known story with an interesting angle of a Silicon Valley school looking to ban a Voice over Internet Protocol program.

But blog reports, some from the members of the journalism new media class who are just learning about blogging, have created a firestorm that has bloggers all over the world writing about the story.

SJSU's Steve Sloan has put together a list of just some of the blogs reporting on the plan.

Last year a number of JACC community colleges reported independently on campus IT staffs blocking MySpace on campus computers. Each story was told in a vacuum of the campus. Imagine what might have happened had newspaper-based blogs been more prevalent and bloggers were paying attention to what was going on statewide.

Adding online skills to our classes

Blogger Mindy McAdams has put together an interesting entry on how to include online media skills in our existing journalism courses and invites readers to supply their own suggestions.

She put together a similar list several years ago that is interesting reading, too. Her current entry links to the older list for those interested.

Friday, September 22, 2006

More on adviser's role

I spent the day meeting with the California Journalism Education Coalition, the group that brings together representatives from the state's high school, community college, four-year college and university, California Newspaper Publishers Association and other related journalism education organizations.

legislation cartoon characterDuring a portion of our meeting we met with Jim Ewert, the CNPA staff attorney who was instrumental in writing the newly passed AB 2581 college newspaper censorship bill. Part of the discussion centered about the adviser's role in light of the new bill. Should the adviser regularly read copy before the paper is printed or not, even if it just to copyedit spellings, etc.?

No, he said. He feels that the bill suggests that no prior review of the paper should take place by any college official, including the newspaper adviser. "Anyone doing that is leading with his chin and making the college liable should any lawsuits (libel or otherwise)." That would not prevent a faculty adviser from assisting students --preferably editors-- from helping students who ask for help, but to routinely read all copy before the paper is printed is a slippery slope that makes the college vulnerable.

We didn't get much of this from the wonderful announcements that the bill had been passed and signed by the governor, but apparently representatives from the California State University system tried to mount opposition to the bill on the grounds that they felt that the adviser NOT reading the newspaper content would make the schools more liable as a matter of negligence. The counter presented in committee hearings by Cal-JEC chair Sylia Fox and by Ewert was that a bill that PREVENTS prior review by college officials, including advisers, actually protects the deep pockets of the school. All research on suits against student newspapers showed that the school became liable when it had a finger in controlling content, such as prior review by the adviser or campus policies that limited content.

Wayne Overbeck essentially has been telling us this for years at our Morro Bay conference legal updates. With an actual law in place, perhaps it is time to listen.

Since the bill was signed --it doesn't officially take effect until Jan. 1-- one California community college adviser has been told to review all copy prior to publication and has indicated a willingness to put that order in writing. The president ordered this even after being made aware of the new law. Another adviser has been expecting to receive a similar order, but nothing has happened so far; perhaps the president has re-thought the position after talking with lawyers.

And, of course, JACC faculty have shared thoughts on its faculty listserve recently that they think it is their obligation to read all copy. Ewert would tell them that this is wrong, that instead they need to improve their training of students and have them take more seriously the pre-publication review of their own publications. The law puts the responsibility on the students.

The key to remember (in regards to the Jan. 1 start date), Ewert says, is that this law does not change the status quo. It is already the policy that censorship and prior restraint is unacceptable. This law simply reinforces that policy in light of the Hosty v. Carter decision.

The bill that actually changes things for college papers is AB 2612, the bill that prevents theft of freely distributed papers with the intent to 1) prevent others from reading the paper, 2) sell or barter the paper, 3) recycle the newsprint or 4) harm a business competitor. The law says removal of free newspapers from stands with this intent is a crime. While this bill was not written specifically for college papers, they are included. In my years as a student publication adviser I've seen student newspapers removed for three of these reasons. Most often it is intent No. 1. Someone does not like the content, so the papers disappear. My lab aide last year caught a student removing stacks of papers just minutes after they were placed on stands because he wanted to recyle the newsprint for cash. And I've even seen papers removed because the issue includes an ad for a private textbook store across the street from the campus that competes head-to-head with the campus bookstore.

The trick will be in educating our campus police departments that they should pursue these crimes, even when college officials are involved in the action.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

JACC broadens contest scope

The JACC Board of Directors this weekend adopted three new broadcast/new media mail-in contests for its annual competitions and eliminated or consolidated a number of other competitions. It also adopted a new policy to guide when new contests may be added or should be consolidated or eliminated; the policy sets up a regular review of contests to test their viability.

The changes will go into effect with the next state convention. Material currently being developed by student media staffs, or which have been produced in calendar 2006, will be eligible.

The three new broadcast/new media contests were designed to open JACC to campus radio and television programs, as well as capture the new media work of podcasts and videos that journalism staffs may be producing.

Added were On-Air Performance, Broadcast News Portfolio and PSA/Commercial. Three other proposals recommended earlier this year by a committing looking to expand broadcast offerings were not adopted at this time.

In addition to the three new contests, the board
  • Eliminated the Headline Writing on-the-spot competition from the convention
  • Renamed the on-the-spot Front Page Layout contest to News Judgment/Layout and reduced the number of possible contestants from four to two
  • Consolidated the mail-in Profile Feature and Sports Profile contests
  • Consolidated the mail-in News Feature and Sports Feature non-profile contests to Feature Story
  • Eliminated the Best Use of Photos and Graphics mail-in competition
  • Consolidated the mail-in Depth/News Series and Investigative News contests into one Enterprise News Story/Series contest
  • Renamed the Broadcast/Video Journalism to Broadcast News Story,
  • Renamed the mail-in Line Illustration contest to Illustration, and
  • Clarified wording in several other mail-in contests, including three magazine contests.
Minor tweaks in contest definitions were made in a number of categories.

Rules affecting the Pacesetter sweepstakes competition were changed to include Online Photo and Online General Excellence winners in calculating the award and opened the qualification for the award to those schools which win an Online General Excellence as well as those who win print publication General Excellence awards.

A new class of competitions that will affect how long students may continue to compete was added to accommodate the new broadcast/new media awards. Broadcast/New Media will be recognized with Publication, Writing, Photography, and Editing/Design. Students will be able to compete indefinitely until they win a first-through-fourth place award. After that they will have only two more years eligibility in that class of mail-in, on-the-spot and bring-in competitions. The existing Broadcast/Video News mail-in competition and the on-the-spot Broadcast News Writing competition will join the new contests in that class.

The new policy guiding adoption of new contests and consolidation or elimination of existing contests sets up a regular review process for all contests and criteria for flagging contests that may be under-utilized and establishes a process for determining when place-plus-honorable mention determinations should changed to unranked or “Meritorious” status and how such contests should affect the Pacesetter competition. It also establishes a regular procedure for members of the organization to propose new contests for consideration. New contests will automatically be assigned “Meritorious” status for their first two years of competitions.

Three proposed broadcast/new media contests were not adopted at this time. They include Entertainment Drama/Sitcom, Music Video and Political Commentary Animation. Definitions and criteria for the three new competitions will be available soon on the JACC web site.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Page One News

News hawkerI've got a theory that visiting a web news publication is a bit like perusing which newspaper to buy in a newspaper rack -- you don't get/or want to look inside the publication to make a decision.

As I surf through the various online publications I relish in the modicum of diversity of design, even among the schools in JACC. I've already discussed in previous posts my concern about those schools who present their publications only as pdf downloads of the actual print edition. Nice for archiving, but not so reader friendly.

But what about those publications that incorporate a design where only SOME stories appear on the front page or have any display (such as headlines) on the front page. Most of those sites have navigational links to various news, opinion, sports, feature, entertainment, etc. sections, where you can find more stories or headlines. I wonder how many readers take the time to look on those section pages to see if there are any additional stories they might want to read.

I appreciate organization, but I suspect that the front page is where it's at. Publications that use a design that gets lots of stories or headline links on the front page work best. Top stories need to have some drawing power with summaries and photos, but give readers a good headline for each of the rest of the content.

Web Watch 3

Mid-week in the middle of September and there appear to still be a lot of schools that have not started with their online editions. Starting a new school year is tough and first priority goes to getting out the first print edition. In the meantime news that could be covered in a timely fashion online goes uncovered. Such a shame.

Looks like newcomers who have started their online publications include Chaffey, Glendale, Long Beach, Palomar and San Joaquin Delta. Mt. San Antonio College, which under new adviser Toni Albertson will not publish its first edition until October, already is updating its site. The six new schools brings the total of JACC colleges that have started their online editions to just 15.

The online publication has to be an integral part of process, not an add-on. Involve the whole staff, not just one or two specialists.

In viewing the various sites an interesting question has come up. You've heard Robert Mercer argue that stories should be posted online first and in print last (rather than the other way around most of us do). Certainly for those publishing less than weekly (daily?) this is even more important. But how does your site date its content? Most of us think in weekly (or less often) issues. But it is interesting to decipher when sites have been updated. Most of us use "Issue Date" to date our sites. The Cypress folks do not like that and put "Today's Date" on the front page. You have no clues how long the stories on the front page have been there.

Then there is LA Trade Tech, which uses "Today's Date", but hasn't been updated for three years. And there is the Lassen and City College of San Franciso and Shasta, which have no date on the front page, so you have to deduce from the story content that they have not been updated since spring. Which works best? An issue date, today's date or no date?

This week's notables:
  • Glendale, which is probably one of the last publications that signed with Digital Partners and hasn't been migrated to a new format by College Publisher, includes a El Vaquero blog that contains info on the newspaper-pulling saga of last spring.
  • There are a number of 9/11 memorial stories in papers this week. Cerritos includes a slide show.
  • Palomar has an interesting story many of us can all do. Does the Nov. 4 statewide education bond measure contain money earmarked for a project on your campus?
  • Sacramento has pulled all of its content off the front page while it builds a new issue. A blank front page?
  • Hopefully, it will be fixed by the time you check, but SJ Delta's lead photo is pitch black. This was caused because the jpg image is in CMYK instead of RGB format. Some web sites can handle that, but College Publisher sites need to make sure that their online images are RGB before the compress them.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A boost for student press

California colleges really benefit from two new laws recently signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The first, AB 2581, dubbed by some as the Hosty bill, specifically addresses colleges and universities and makes it illegal for college officials --presumably even newspaper advisers-- to adopt rules that restrict student press freedom or seek to punish students for content in student publications.

The second, AB 2618, or the newspaper theft bill, would make it illegal to take more than twenty five copies of a freely distributed newspaper if done with the intent to recycle for cash or other payment; sell or barter the newspapers; deprive others of the ability to read or enjoy the newspaper; or harm a business competitor.

The first became necessary after the disastrous Hosty v. Carter decision that ruled that the 1989 Hazelwood v. Kulmeier rule applied to college press as well as high school press. Not in California it doesn't! Actually, high schools here were protected even before Hazelwood. That's not to say that high school papers don't get censored or subjected to prior review all the time here. An ignorance of the law or an unwillingness to rock the boat and have newspapers disappear allows for both to happen.

And that could happen at the college level, as well. Already, just since the law was signed, at least two community college newspaper advisers have been pressured to subject their students' publications to prior review. And some advisers perform ad hoc prior review on their papers anyway. Ummm, newspaper advisers are school officials, too. (See my views on this at my blog).

If college administrations try to test this by requiring advisers to proofread papers it'll take a gutsy student to challenge it in court.

The newspaper theft bill was aimed at a wider press and just happens to include student newspapers, most of which are distributed without cost on college campuses. In many ways this is a bigger problem for the college press than administrative censorship. (College administrators, for the most lot, are not dumb; they know censorship is wrong.) Disgruntled readers often perform their own brand of censorship by removing newspapers from stands. And shoot, we even caught one person on our campus who saw nothing wrong with lifting entire bundles of the school paper and recycling them for cash.

The problem with this bill will be in getting campus police to pursue the crime. El Vaquero at Glendale College found that to be a problem last school year when campus police said that the college would end up prosecuting itself in a newspaper theft there and that just wasn't going to happen.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Thinking small, but not small thinking

A really big guySteve Outing's latest Editor & Publisher column tells newspapers that the new "big" for newspapers should be to think small.

Most community college newspapers already think of themselves as small, but we probably aren't. Maybe we're medium. I mean, a weekly newspaper with 20 or so reporters? Come on, most weekly papers across the country are smaller than that. But that is not what Outing is really talking about in his column. He's talking about being accessible to our audiences.

Many of us would qualify, but when you think bigger about what he's saying, we're not all that small. How many of us open our columns or web sites to content produced by our readers, where we become merely the hub for news? We still want to control the news and let only material produced by OUR students into the paper.
Time out: Okay, we HAVE to accept that we are more than just campus newspapers. We are classes and a major role of the campus newspaper is to be a lab for our students. We are in the education business as much as we are in the news business. Yet, we may need to rethink what we need to teach based on what is happening in the industry. I will go to my grave teaching inverted pyramid (and other forms), AP style, etc., but I'll also look at how other technologies must be introduced. Simply teaching students how to publish a printed edition may be irresponsible, if not self-defeating. And we DO have a dual role. We DO publish our campus newspapers and have some obligation to inform our readers and to turn them into consumers of news media. Time back in.
Among the suggestions Outing gives:
  • Changing the corporate brand from being a monologue with readers and allowing limited feedback looks, to a dialog.
I am still thinking about what that one means for the print edition, but the inclusion of forums, blogs, and more can be a part of the online situation. What excuse do we have --aside from fear, which I still harbor, too-- in not opening our electornic editions to members of the campus community NOT enrolled in our classes.
  • Blogging from the top
Here we go again with the blogs. He's suggesting that editors need to blog. I suggest that advisers need to blog. Maybe not as part of their publications, but as part of their educational efforts. They need to blog so that they can understand blogging. There are subtleties to be learned by doing rather than by reading about it. We've had that conversation on this site in the past, or was it in our faculty listserve. But who among us blogs. I stumbled across a blog by Alan Lovelace, but it appears he stopped at the end of last school year. (Mine are Rich's Musings and Talon Marks blog.) Blogging requires a continual effort. Or join me here. I started this blog, but I'm glad to open it to others. Got a blogger account? Let me know and I'll add you as a poster.
  • Newspapers should enter seemingly small, unusual new businesses
Again, we've got another mission, education. But, oh, could we get creative by linking our publications together. And we're going to HAVE to look for ways to draw our campuses to our online editions. Our online editions have to become portals rather than mirrors of the print edition.
  • Stop being afraid to innovate.
Robert Mercer both intrigues and scares us with his full convergence attitude at Cypress College. But he's probably the only one among us trying to innovate, except maybe those few schools that are looking at distance education. We risk making ourselves irrelevant. What if our schools no longer need a newspaper because other methods of sharing campus news develop around us? All that core teaching of journalistic values might not survive. Will your college replace you in x years when you retire?
  • Don't hire people just to complete tasks; hire innovators
Yuck, innovative students can sometimes be described as high maintenance students because they push the boundaries and don't want to fit into your program of what YOU learned in journalism school. Reminds me of a line from a children's show called "Reading Rainbow" that my daughter used to watch. Host LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge of "StarTrek: Next Generation" fame) often warned his young viewers, "Be careful, you just might learn something."


Friday, September 08, 2006

Web Watch 2

Looks like a few more JACC schools have started the semester with their online editions. Joining Cerritos, Citrus and Cypress are Fullerton, Laney, Ohlone, Palomar, Pasadena, Riverside, and Skyline.

It will be interesting to watch sites for stories about the new AB 2581 and what students have to say. So far, none of the papers above have online stories, though I saw one in a print editon of the Contra Costa Advocate that was printed and I've been interviewed by a couple of students from other schools about it.

Interesting stories to watch this week are Fullerton's 23-year-old's guide to growing up and getting out of Fullerton, Palomar College's delay of a nursing program expansion because it can't find teachers, and Pasadena's suspcious hiring of a new football coach and a story we might all look at: a drop in enrollments of international students post 9-11.

Cerritos has added video to its list of podcasts and blogs and I hear that Santa Barbara and Laney are working on podcasts.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Not reading blogs yet?

So, you still haven't figured out what this blog thing is all about. You wouldn't be reading this blog if it weren't for the subject matter. You don't read blogs.

Well, you are not alone, according to a survey completed by the Scripps Survey Research Center of Ohio University this summer. The survey showed that only one in eight residents in the United States currently uses Internet blogs to get news and information. That's it! You are justified! Forget all this hype about blogs!

There is more to think about, though. First of all, when you consider that the numbers of people who actually read newspapers is not all that much better, the one in eight doesn't look so bad. Also, the survey showed that almost a quarter of young adults read blogs at least once a week. It's the older folks, 65 and older, who are at the 3 percent level.

Other important findings:
  • Blogs are more popular with whites than minorities.
  • Those who are single (lots of time on their hands?) and who live in urban areas are most likely to read blogs.
  • And while blogs are most popular among well-educated people, they are also popular among people who are most likely to believe in conspiracy theories
But one thing not in the survey that I think is important. So what if only one in eight people read blogs for news and information? It wasn't all that long ago that only one in about eight adults even used the World Wide Web. I can remember when only one in 10 JACC advisers even had an e-mail address.

lemonade standTechnorati, the company that tracks the blogosphere, reports that there are more than 52 million blogs worldwide and that the number doubles about every 200 days. The numbers and usuage is going to grow the way e-mail and Web usage did. People who know me have probably heard my analogy of the guy who builds a lemonade stand in the middle of the desert. He's not selling much lemonade today, but when the road comes through he's going to be the one who gets to hang the sign that says, "Been in business since ...."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Multimedia: I'm afraid it's time

I know that I've been beating the multimedia drum all summer and I suspect some of my colleagues across the state are nodding their heads and saying something like, "Looks like Rich has gone over to THAT side." Yeah, I have, but not necessarily because I want to.

Learning new tricksWe've had prophets in the organization telling us for some time that convergence and multimedia is the new thing and that we need to get on board. And while I clearly am closer to an earlier adopter than a middle-of-the-roader, I am somewhat of a dinosaur, too. I'm an old dog who has to be persuaded that learning new tricks is worth the effort.

And I just think the time has come for us to learn about multimedia and incorporate it in our exisiting courses --and when necessary to create new courses. I feel this way because I keep reading more and more about the industry moving this way. Journalism instructors who never learned this stuff in school have to learn it now so that they can add it to their repertoire of what students need to learn from us.

If we don't do it now, we risk becoming irrelevant. And, yes, I understand that we STILL have the primary responsibility of teaching students to gather news from a variety of sources, synthesize that information and prepare it for dissemination. And we must teach objectivity, fairness, completeness and responsibility along with the technology of the day.

Editor and Publisher published another story along those lines today that is worth reading.
As demand for online content grows, acquiring online media skills have become more than a personal hobby for me -- this stuff is coming in handy at work. Reporters who can produce an edited MP3 clip or a video clip can become a valuable asset to any newsroom. Here are seven tips to get started.
I struggle to understand the hows and whys of multimedia intruding into what we do, but it just is time we learned.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Common platform for online

Interesting story on the Editor and Publisher web site about the need in the newspaper industry for a Marshall Plan like manifesto for the industry.

When I read stories like this it is hard to keep the eyes from glazing over because so much of it is based in the finances of journalism and the more alturistic quality of journalism I am more interested in. I know the finances are important, but in my academic encased cocoon finances are a really small part of what I'm concerned with. We get a pretty good subsidy from the school's student government. Still, the extra income we generate through advertising makes like a lot easier than if it weren't there.

But I digress. Several statements in the article did hit home. Things like:
Not only is the shift towards online; it is, in tandem, a shift away from print. Not dramatic yet, perhaps—but clear. And the impacts continue to ripple.
Newspapers gain by moving onto common platforms
While that last one is largely based in finances again, it also talks about the value of networks in getting more readers. True, at community colleges we are more interested in training our students to report and write than we are in building large audiences, it is imperative that we let our students know that audiences DO count. And we are so far behind with online.

I like the idea of a common online format so that we can build on what we already do. And while Robert Mercer has problems with a common platform like College Publisher that still thinks in terms of issue-to-issue rather than minute-to-minute (he's not wrong!), most of us still think in those terms, and so do our students.

Whether College Publisher is the right common platform or not, if we are to look at some kind of common platform, it really is the only one out there for us. (Sorry if I sound like a shill for CP, but I really am thinking about what's best for JACC schools.) About 50 JACC schools are online and half of those through College Publisher. If the other half were to join today we'd account for 10 percent of all of the schools using the platform. While that would not translate into 10 percent of the online traffic because bigger universities draw far more online traffic than we do (and thus generate more $$$ from ad views), we'd be a significant 10 percent. We could go to College Publisher and have a basis for asking for network-within-a-network tools. So our reporter fails to get that baseball story, maybe the other college did and we at least link to it. Our readers win.

golferNow, I believe in diversity, too. Really great ideas come from it. But at some point diversity narrows to standardization, which allows for a new form of diversity to grow. Some days when I'm playing golf I like to play scatter golf. That's where everyone hits and then moves the ball to whereever the best shot landed. That way the lagging shot does not put you perpetually behind. You get to catch up and try from an even platform again. I'm thinking that's what we need to do with online platforms. We still have room for diversity from the new vantage point.

Infrastructure: The adviser's most important job

When I was a young adviser I felt my obligation was to put out a error-free student newspaper. It was my job to tell students what they should write about. It was my job ...well, to be editor. I didn't understand that an adviser's job was to build an infrastructure that allowed students to learn by doing.

It took a while before the words of the venerable Warren Mack (DeAnza) to "train 'em and trust 'em" to sink in. I listened to a lot of advice from such outstanding instructors such as Tom Kramer (Pierce) and I was so convinced that my situation was so different that they just didn't understand. Every school IS different, but the situations are not so unique after all.

The student publication adviser's most important role is to establish and help maintain an infrastructure that allows students to grow and learn. Fortunately for California community colleges, we have a lot of tools. It is recognized that the best structure for a student newspaper/magazine/online publication, etc. is through a course where students receive academic credit while they learn. Further, state education code allows for courses like the newspaper to be repeated for a maximum of four times so students can hone their skills to greater levels. We still have issues with the units students earn doing this being transferable to the California State University system, but at least students can get practice. And, of course we have JACC and all it brings to the table.

But if the adviser serves as editor, the students don't learn, or rather they learn the wrong lesson that there will always be an authoritative safety net and they don't need to learn responsibility.

A successful infrastructure is one that puts experienced students in the role of helping train newer students and one that helps talented students explore and hone their skills. That is not to say that the adviser is not also responsible as a educator, but advanced students learn by having to explain the craft to newer students. The adviser can concentrate on stablity --academically and financially-- for the publication and let the students concentrate on content and production. And the adviser can concentrate on leadership training. An infrastructure that does not develop future staff leaders is failing. Identify potential leaders early and move them to editor positions so they can learn. Give lots of opportunities.

Oh, yeah, and one more thing: The chemistry of the newspaper staff changes every semester, even with the same student editor in place. The adviser needs to see that there is some basis for consistency. I recommend starting with the proposed policy manual on the JACC site. Have STUDENTS alter it to your school's needs. Let it be fluid, one that students can change, but one that is solid enough that you can follow and one that doesn't change from week to week.

The whole concept of infrastrucutre is something I know mostly from gut, but I sense that JACC advisers need to develop a public discussion on it so we can all get better at it. I invite my colleagues to share an aspect of infrastucture that they think is important. Simply click on the "Comment" link.