Today is my birthday. It's a milestone birthday, so more than a few people asked some variation of this question: "What's it like to turn 50!" Well, it's a lot easier than it might have been. (More about that in a future post.)
The day did not begin according to schedule. I boarded a 6 a.m. Southwest Airlines flight from Milwaukee to New York, a half hour before my wife, Mira, got on an AirTran plan from Atlanta to meet me at the same place. Poor visibility caused LaGuardia Airport to shut down while both planes were in the air, so my flight was diverted to Baltimore while hers had to refuel in Richmond. We ended up reuniting in Gotham four hours later than planned.
That's right – Gotham! As I tell Mira, a native of Brooklyn, all the time, "New York is a great place to visit. It's just that I had to visit seven damn straight years." An editor once told me that every journalists should work in New York or Los Angeles at some point in his or her career. After getting to work at Newsday – covering everything from the 9/11 terrorists attacks to City Hall and police on weekends to criminal courts in Queens – I agree. No time now to list here all the reasons it was time to go, but let's just say it's a lot easier living in Chicago, Milwaukee or Atlanta.
Anyway, we're spending my 50th birthday in New York because I'm presenting at the College Media Association's Spring College Media Convention
at the Sheraton Times Square Hotel
. Mira and I first met in the hotel's presidential suite on Dec. 7, 1997 – the day my life changed forever – after the New York Association of Black Journalists' annual awards and scholarship dinner
. We're going to see the premiere of "Motown: The Musical" on Broadway
on Monday. I had hoped to see the Marquette University men's basketball team
play in the Big East Championship at Madison Square Garden
on Wednesday. Alas, #mubb
won't play until Thursday, hours after we leave New York.
As for today, however, more than 250 people – including friends from high school and college, colleagues from my many workplaces, friends from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and my students at Marquette – wished me "Happy Birthday" via Facebook. I always say birthday wishes are the best reason to be on Facebook. The day ended with three friends joining me and Mira for dinner at the Sea Grille Restaurant at Rockefeller Center.
We enjoyed watching the ice skaters circle the famous rink outside our window. Most of them moved with trepidation, with more than a few holding the rail all the way around so not to fall. A few sped quickly and with assurance. One man, especially, moved along carefree, dancing even as he chatted with strangers, as if nothing or no one could bother him. As I start my second half century – yes, my sister and an longtime friend both reminded me today that I have lived one already – my hope is to keep living with the same ease and joy for life. God willing.
Once again this semester, I have assigned each student in #loweclass a media company website to cover as his or her semester-long beat
. They write a blog post each week that evaluates their respective website's successes and misfires, based on either class discussions and the biggest national news story. Their second post, for example, focused on President Obama's second inauguration, while the one due today reviewed Super Bowl coverage.
, The Indianapolis Star
, Orlando Sentinel
and The Salt Lake Tribune
have been added for the first time to the 30 or so websites assigned during previous semesters. Last week, the class and I engaged in a lengthy review of the assignment's opportunities (for example, learning to do media critiques and cover a beat) and challenges (being mindful of not needlessly offending anyone given that blogging is so public and rife with journalistic dangers).
A few students have made it clear they wish to cover a site that interests them personally. I want to be sensitive to such concerns. Aspiring journalists must learn early on they won't always get to cover what they want. Indeed, it's how they apply themselves to lesser beats that determines how quickly they advance to more choice assignments.
Anyway, what follows is a long-overdue effort to help #loweclass produce better media critiques. Unlike with most other journalism education assignments, there isn't definitive help on the Internet concerning rubrics for evaluating individual student blog posts. This is what I have come up with – I'm still tweaking this rubric, but hoping it helps:CONTENT (3 points)
: Either excellent (focused and well organized analysis; succinct and confident writing; engaged with the topic; demonstrates appreciation/awareness of course/assignment objectives); or satisfactory (reasonably focused and or organized analysis; moderately engaged with the topic; fewer connections between ideas; writing for the professor, not a greater audience or community); or unacceptable (unfocused or disorganized analysis; limited engagement with the topic; post consists of one or two disconnected paragraphs or sentences; not really interested or interesting). Excellent, of course, means 1 point, while satisfactory and unacceptable are 2 and 1, respectively.MECHANICS (1 point)
: Avoids errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or Associated Press style; no form errors or obvious layout concerns (line breaks, errant spacing, widows or orphans); demonstrates quality proofreading.HEADLINE (1 point)
: Clear and able to stand on its own with no other context; contains likely search words; compels readers to risk a click. Lacks wordiness; avoids puns and oblique references, obscure words or orphans. Mindful of style issues, creativity and variety; written for people, not Google.VISUALS (1 point)
: Proper use of image(s) or screenshot(s) or embedded media (video, interactive graphic, etc.); effective caption(s) — see headlines; hyperlinked to content elsewhere for additional engagement.HYPERLINKS (1 point)
: Four minimum. Where do they link to? Relevance? Organization? Appearance? Everything that should be linked is. They add to the story without being too wordy. Show – don't tell.
(Each student must do 14 media critiques this term; each post is worth seven points toward a possible total of 98.)
That's it. My students' first indications are that they appreciate it. We'll see what happens. What do you think?
I have been dreading this blog post for some time. Early last fall, I made a bet with Diana Dombrowski, a former journalism student now studying communications studies. Here's how this otherwise nice sophomore from Cudahy, Wis. – who seemed to wear her Aaron Rogers jersey to class just to annoy me – explained the wager in an email:
So here's the deal that you are going to lose. :-)
If the Packers make it farther into the postseason than the Eagles, you have to take a picture wearing a Packers jersey and write a blog post about why you should be a Packers fan AND why I'm an awesome Packers fan. If the Eagles make it farther into the postseason than the Packers, I will write an apology letter to you for ever doubting the Eagles. I will also take a picture in an Eagles jersey and you can turn this into a blog post.
No matter who wins, we both will be in the picture so that the winner can gloat, of course. If neither team makes it to the postseason, the winner will be determined by who has the better record. We can decide later in the season how we will determine a winner if both teams have the same record. Diana #GoPackGo
I honestly expected a bounce-back season for the Eagles, given their disappointing 8-8 finish in 2011. Naturally, Dombrowski made herself scarce as my team won three of its first four games, while hers started off 2-2. But the Eagles then lost eight in a row before finishing 4-12
. Meanwhile, Green Bay won 9 of its last 12 to end at 11-5
. Basically, the Eagles' season was over before Thanksgiving. So, too – to the delight of Dombrowski and every other NFL-loving #loweclass student eager to see me in (sports-related) distress – was the bet.
I cannot find the words to explain why Dombrowski is an awesome Packers fan. Let it suffice to say that she is. As for me being a Packers fan? Not going to happen. But as you can see above, true to my word, I donned the jersey.
"I hope you're happy; I hope this brings you joy," I said after Gee Ekachai, a Diederich Colleague colleague, took the photographs in Johnston Hall. Dombrowski replied smugly: "It has. You look so defeated. I like to win. I really do."
It seems like forever since I began pursuing the independent study needed to complete my quest for a graduate certificate in digital storytelling
from the Diederich College of Communication
. Mercifully, today my faculty advisor told me I had done enough to earn those elusive three credits. A recap of "Becoming a Digital Leader and Educator":
- My primary goal was to improve my Internet presence so that it better brands me as a journalism educator. In other words, redoing this website. Mission accomplished. I amended the main navigation so that my blog is now the home page, and so my biography, curriculum vitae and teaching emphasis are more accessible.
- #loweclass was born! Thanks to inspiration from the Poynter Institute's News University – and Jennifer Lee Reeves in particular – my journalism classes have a combined home on this site and on Facebook, as well as a brand attracting students and educators elsewhere. #loweclass even trended on Twitter once this fall.
- Speaking of students elsewhere, I enjoyed interacting with three young women who sought my help in better branding themselves as future or new journalists. Meet Erika J. Glover, a graduate of Penn State University, Taylor Shaw of The Triangle Tribune and Kouki Collier of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
- I had two journalism-education articles published on Poynter's website. In July, I wrote a blog about how to make your #twesume count on Twitter. It was so well received that several weeks later the institute allowed me to extend it into a much longer article that was tweeted more than 600 times from its site. Also in July, Poynter published my piece on teaching journalism students to live tweet campus events.
- Yes, live tweeting. That article – and my promoting the concept at major gatherings of journalism educators in July and August – spawned many questions my way about live tweeting and or using Storify. So I created three related blog posts – namely, "Storination: New Tool to the Rescue," "Great Tips on Conference Tweeting" and "Live Tweeting Without a Smartphone" – as well as a new blogroll for all of my live tweeting-related posts.
- I learned some things along the way that have or will be used in the classroom. A blog post, "I Joined Pinterest and Survived," impressed some students while worrying others that I might create a related class assignment (maybe next semester.) Meanwhile, please read "loweclass Live Blogs on Election Day" to see how and why I hurriedly learned to use CoveritLive. Also, some of my students created interactive timelines for class presentations after I showed them my first one, a Dipity.com focusing on my NABJ presidency.
- Two other blogs deserve mention: "Four Words She Can Brand By," about my conversation with Sophia Nelson, a friend and award-winning author; and "Focusing on My Digital Stamp," an endorsement of "Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence," the book which inspired this independent study.
I had aspired to do even more as part of this study, including creating a sophisticated story using Final Cut Pro X that involves narration, video and images. (I hope to share just such a story – using the video editing software – by early next month.) That said, here's hoping you will agree that I have earned my three credits.
Click the image to view one of the multimedia packages that my eight students produced for NNS this fall.
I reported earlier that my latest Digital Journalism II (JOUR 1550) class
would pursue community journalism by focusing on local organizations that serve Milwaukee residents. My 16 students wrote in blog posts that they enjoyed the prospect of having the award-winning Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS) publish their work
, especially after its editor in chief and project director, Sharon McGowan
, visited #loweclass #digital.
Today, NNS published "Gamble Pays Off for Snyder, Northwest Side CDC
." It's by Ethan Niquet and Eva Sotomayor and the eighth and final #loweclass effort for the news service this fall. It's also the third consecutive semester my students have these produced two-minute multimedia packages that include a 650-word story. As always, this class assignment take them to new places – literally and figuratively. For example, after once again having to redo some aspect of their project, Sotomayor posted in the class Facebook group that Niquet said: "I feel like I'm running up Bowser's never-ending staircase and I don't have enough stars to get to the top
Anyway, Casby Bias and Jacob Born had their project, "Martin Drive Neighborhood Events Aim to Bring People Together
," published on November 19, well before the rest of their classmates. Among the valuable journalism lessons this pair learned: An assignment that diminishes based on circumstances can be resurrected after a consultation with editors, but then requires expediency so its newsworthiness doesn't expire because of timeliness.
Here are the other #loweclass efforts for NNS this term: "Urban Anthropology Celebrates Diversity, Seeks Artists
," by Stephanie Graham and Courtney Perry; "Menomonee Valley Partners Works to Lure People to 'Discover' Valley
," by Kaitlyn Farmer and Ben Greene; "Dominican Center Combats Lead Poisoning
," by Paulo Acuna and Matthew Barbato; "KANDO Landlords Help Neighbors Feel 'More at Peace,'
" by Christopher Chavez and Monique Collins; "Silver Spring Teen Programs Inspire Students to Dream of College
," by David Tukesbrey and Alexandra Whittaker, and "Northcott a 'Home Away From Home' For Half a Century
," by Patrick Leary and Caitlin Miller.
Let me say again how much my students and I appreciate the wonderful opportunity that McGowan and NNS present #loweclass. Next semester, I will teach Digital Journalism III (JOUR 2100), in which telling stories with video is taught along with using text, audio, images and social media. Noting here that NNS has published work by 13 of the 18 students enrolled. As we c
ontinue to work to make the experience mutually beneficial, me and McGowan agree that we will push the students even harder in terms of their reporting and, especially, writing.
For now, let me share these sentiments McGowan expressed to me via email: "I'm very pleased with the amount of effort that your class put into their projects for NNS, as well as the final products. I enjoyed working with each of the students and appreciate their openness to constructive critique and eagerness to improve their skills."
A year ago, I gave my wife a new self-help book as a Christmas present that she concluded was really for me. It took 50 weeks, but I have finally finished reading "Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence
," by Erik Qualman
, the best-selling author of "Socioeconomics" and one of today's most respected social media experts. I can state without any reservation that it was definitely worthwhile.
I will submit to my faculty advisor a six-page personal assessment that's based on Qualman's book and part of my independent study focusing on my becoming a digital leader and educator
. For now, I recommend the book to anyone seeking to lead others in today's digital world. The author focuses on what he calls "five powerful truths" to establishing a leadership or digital "stamp": S
ap and P
eople. Along the way, he helps us to see how digital titans (for example, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.), fictional characters (Forrest Gump) and others all found their way to success.
If you need to set laughable goals, or wish to know how to unclutter your email, or could use 20 tips for digital video stardom, or want to more proactively promote your personal brand – then rush to buy your spouse or significant other Qualman's "Digital Leader" as a holiday gift. I'm looking for my wife's next book.
My seminar students should find this Yahoo News article helpful as they develop and complete their class assignment.
Students in my sports journalism seminar this semester
have learned about the impact of social media from both sides of press row. Don Walker
and Sharif Durham
, a veteran sportswriter and social media editor, respectively, talked during separate visits about how beat writers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
use Twitter and blogging to cover major league teams and players. Gord Ash
, assistant general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, said during his visit to #loweclass #sports that social media presents challenges for his job that didn't exist 20 years ago.
The students will hopefully incorporate what our guest speakers have shared into a significant class assignment drawing near. According to the course syllabus, "each student will write and submit a six-page, double-spaced analysis (approximately 1,500 words) that considers how journalists covering high school, college and professional sports use social media, and what might journalists do to improve their use of social media to cover all such sports."
They might also draw upon "Sports Journalists' Use of Social Media and Its Effects on Professionalism
," an article in the Journal of Sports Media (fall 2011, Vol. 6, No. 2). The research conducted by Sada Reed, a graduate student in the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, begins with this abstract:
"The rise of social media gives sportswriters new avenues for gathering information. This usage raises ethical issues that challenge an already technologically morphing industry. In this pilot study, Minnesota-based sports journalists were interviewed about their use of social media, the effects Facebook and Twitter have on their news gathering practices, the ethics of pulling direct quotes from social mediums, and how these mediums have blurred traditional lines between sports writers’ professional and personal relationships."
"Tweeting With the Enemy? The Impacts of New Social Media on Sports Journalism and the Education of Sports Journalism Students
" is another article that might prove useful. Published by Journalism Education
(April 2012, Vol. 1, No. 1), the work by three scholars from Sunderland University addresses 1) how are sports journalists adapting to and using Twitter in their work, 2) what do these journalists perceive to be the major benefits and drawbacks for their profession so far, and 3) what lessons does this have for the training of future sports journalists?
I also urge the students to read about the role of Twitter in covering sports scandals
, how sports journalists use it to develop and promote their stories
and whether it can detect bias among them
. Meanwhile, Ronnie Ramos and the National Sports Journalism Center
offer "Social Media Still Challenges Journalists, Understanding on the Rise
" and Four Ways Social Media has Deteriorated Traditional Journalism
." And from Yahoo News there's "NBC Sports Journalists Now Using Social Media and Web Video Reporting to Bring NFL Fans Closer to the Game
Here's hoping that Walker, Durham, Ash and I have given the class enough to get started on their assignment.
Not long before Tuesday, my journalism seminar on campaigns and elections
discussed what we would do in class on Election Day. We meet from noon to 1:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I offered to bring pizza and suggested monitoring mid-day elections coverage on major media websites. Junior journalism major Melanie Lawder's
body language indicated she wasn't feeling that idea one bit. When I inquired further, Lawder said, in so many words, that the class should do journalism on Election Day. Her classmates signaled that they agreed.
Naturally, I sought to oblige. The students and I quickly considered how they could best interact with voters at polling places at or near Marquette University
: Live tweeting. Exit polling. Multimedia reporting. Live blogging. Two factors led us toward the last option. First, Alec Brooks
, another junior journalism major, explained how The Marquette Tribune
– he is the student newspaper's copy chief – had begun to experiment with live blogging. Second, I know that many journalism educators and media companies use the technique in their classes and newsrooms.
Deciding what to do was easy. Executing the first #loweclass live-blogging experience would be a challenge. (Making things even more interesting: the 10 students in my journalism seminar on sports journalism
, which also meets for 75 minutes each Tuesday, would participate, too.) I figured if my students could live tweet a university president's inauguration with only a day's training
, learning how to live blog on Election Day was doable. As luck would have it, I attended the national college media convention last week in Chicago
– where Jill Van Wyke, an assistant journalism professor at Drake University
, expertly taught an audience how to use CoveritLive
, a leading live event publishing platform used by mainstream media, educators, bloggers and major brands worldwide.
I alerted the 15 students that they would use CoveritLive via Facebook on November 2. Two days later, we used Facebook again to let them pick which polling site to be at. The next day, Monday, less than 24 hours before the polls opened, I sent a long email that outlined the plan – they were all to live blog for at least 75 minutes from their respective site – offered instructions for the CoveritLive smartphone app and provided tips on the differences between live tweeting and live blogging. I also advised that a related blog post from Steve Buttry could be helpful
. Also, they were told to use the hashtag #jelection, in addition to #loweclass, so that their work would be seen and appreciated alongside the many student journalists who were covering Election Day nationwide.
As expected, given the nail-biting presidential election and U.S. senate campaign in Wisconsin, voter turnout was high. Two students – Ashley De La Torre
and Ryan Ellerbusch
of #loweclass #sports – started the live blogging when they reported at 6 a.m. to Alumni Memorial Union on campus. That polling place turned out to be especially busy throughout the day, and De La Torre and Ellerbusch proved crucial in helping us all figure out CoveritLive.
By and large, the students seemed to appreciate doing journalism on Election Day. As for live blogging and CoveritLive, the reviews were mixed, with some saying, for example, they liked not being restricted to 140 characters (as with Twitter) and that the experience allowed them to focus more on reporting. Others, however, did not think it was an appropriate assignment for a sports class or know what to do when they had finished live blogging. This was all very good feedback for the next #loweclass live-blogging experience.
From my perspective, I enjoyed how live blogging enabled me to interact with my students as they interacted with real people. More importantly, the experience showed where some of the journalism majors were in terms of their reporting skills. The biggest thing is that several of them were hesitant or seemingly afraid to talk with people they didn't know – an essential part of Election Day reporting for journalists. As veteran live tweeters, they are comfortable sharing short quotes from speakers or offering observations about what they see or hear. Live blogging can help them better realize the value of reporting and telling stories in a breaking news format.
It was all worthwhile, though, when the students learned how to get voters to answer their questions. As senior journalism major Michael LoCicero put it in his blog post
, "Many people are turned off immediately if you ask for something private like their voting preference, but many people were happy to talk about having the chance to express their views." It's always great when students learn something – even when they don't always want to.
Meg Kissinger's "Imminent Danger" package inspired #loweclass via the Web as much as she did in the classroom.
It's always great when my students really enjoy a guest speaker's presentation. (Sharif Durhams
, Mike Gousha
, Eugene Kane
, Mira Lowe
and Sharon McGowan
are among those who readily come to mind.) Well, rarely have I seen young people as inspired and enthralled as when reporter Meg Kissinger visited #loweclass to talk about her award-winning journalism career and her coverage of mental health for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Kissinger is in residence this academic year at the Diederich College of Communication
and collaborating with Marquette University
students as she pursues a series of investigative and explanatory stories focusing on mental health. My Digital Journalism II students
had been assigned to review Kissinger's impressive "Imminent Danger
" package for the Journal Sentinel – as well as these two stories: "Can Adult Siblings Connect When Mental Illness is Part of Mix
" and "At Death's Door, But Living Life to the Fullest
" – before her class visit on October 24.
Nearly all of the 16 students wrote their assigned weekly blog posts
about what Kissinger revealed about her life, family and career while sitting at the conference table with them and chatting for more than an hour. "Let me just say this: I love Meg Kissinger
," began the post by Monique Collins, one of three students who shared how mental health or a serious medical condition has touched their own families. "Meg Kissinger could have spoken to our class for another two hours and I don't think anyone in the room would have complained
," Alexandra Whittaker wrote.
"What really struck me about Kissinger was her positive energy," Stephanie Graham offered. David Tukesbrey wrote in his post:
"She's somebody that all journalists can aspire to be
. When she sits down and talks to you, she looks you in the eye. Although she's a great journalist, more importantly she's a great person." Students also described Kissinger as vibrant, charming, witty, personable, funny, knowledgable, smart, hardworking and passionate.
Caitlin Miller echoed everyone in the class when she wrote that "I am really excited
" about the course's final project – in which Kissinger and I aim to dispatch them as teams of two into Milwaukee County to interview people who impact or are impacted by mental health: advocate, family member, judge/court commissioner, nurse, patient, police officer, psychiatrist and social worker. The projects will be similar to those the class are producing for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service this fall
. If all goes well, the Journal Sentinel will publish the mental health projects.