I had the very good fortune of joining 400 attendees at the National Association of Black Journalists' annual hall of fame induction ceremony and reception Thursday evening at the Newseum in Washington. The star-studded event was co-hosted by Joy-Ann Reid, managing editor of theGrio.com, and John Ridley, who earlier in the day became an Academy Award nominee for best adapted screenplay for the heralded motion picture "12 Years a Slave."

NABJ inducted seven legendary black journalists as charter members of its hall of fame in 1990. They remained alone until 2004, when one of them, Dorothy Butler Gilliam, also a past NABJ president, helped to revive the hall of fame with 13 new inductions – including 10 historical figures (Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Frederick Douglass, Ethel Payne, etc.) without whom the hall of fame would not be legitimate. There have been inductions every year since but one.

This year, NABJ added eight distinguished journalists to its hall of fame. Herb Boyd, Maureen Bunyan, Jay Harris, Moses Newson and Bernard Shaw were each present to accept their awards and offer poignant remarks. Ernest Dunbar, Zelda Ormes and Lee Thornton, Ph.D., were also inducted posthumously. Also at the event, NABJ helped to bestow the 2014 Ida B. Wells Award to Sheila Solomon, a leading newsroom recruiter and diversity stalwart.

The theme for this year's induction and reception was "Honoring the Past – Building the Future." Well, after hearing so many great things about all that the nine honorees had done for the industry and their communities, it was another pleasure spending all day Friday and this morning with the NABJ board of directors as it focused on the association's present and future. After mistakenly managing to get myself quoted in Richard Prince's Journal-isms about an agenda item – Oops! to those who I didn't let know I was in town – I helped to update the board on the NABJ Constitutional Commission's progress in significantly refreshing the association's primary governing documents.

More on that progress to come. For now, congratulations to this year's honorees and those who put on a great show.
 
 
While visiting family in North Carolina the weekend before Christmas, my sister, Tiffany Lowe-Payne, led my wife, Mira, and me into a kitchenware store new to us, Sur La Table, at the Streets at Southpoint shopping center in Durham. In a back room we saw several couples enjoying a date night cooking class. "I'm so into that," I told Mira.

Guess what Mira got for Christmas! That's right, a gift certificate for "Date Night: New Year's Eve Dinner" at the Sur La Table at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta. Last night, we joined six other couples and two girlfriends in a two-hour class led by Chef Nealey Dozier and three cooking assistants. Coincidentally, Mira and I were paired with a couple also named the Lowes (no relation). Here's what Mira posted on Facebook as soon as we got home:
Date night with Chef Nealey at Sur La Table. In tonight's class we prepared crab cakes with horseradish and dill cream, pork loin stuffed with spinach and feta, asparagus with tomato-caper vinaigrette, and honey panna cotta with fig compote. Good tips. Good food. Good time.
Now, I know you're wondering: What did Herb contribute? I applied taste and season to the horseradish and dill cream with salt and pepper; helped fold the crabmeat and placed batches of it on a baking sheet; sliced down the center of the pork loin through the middle to butterfly; quartered the tomatoes for the vinaigrette, among other things.

For Mira, Chef Nealey's "tip of the night" and "life changer" was using vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract. Why, I cannot explain. These tips from the chef suits me better: "I'm of the belief that if you pay a lot of money for a piece of meat, you should not overcook it" and "If you have no idea what I just did and you just watched me do it – I recommend YouTube." Anyway, no denying what Chef Nealey called "happy silences" as we ate ample portions of what we all had just made. One of the girlfriends had to cancel a dinner reservation, there was so much to eat.

This morning, Mira reported that there were four or five more Sur La Table cooking classes she must attend. I'm definitely interested in learning how to make four distinct homemade sauces for my pasta. Who wants some?
 
 
Just like many millions of other Americans yesterday, before getting out of bed I reached for my iPad to check my email and see who was sharing what on social media. I quickly saw on Facebook an incredible photo (see above) of one of my most go-getting journalism students at Marquette University situated beneath the following status:
Spent the last four days talking to Harley guys from around the world about their rides and Pope Francis. Here's my recap of Harley-Davidson's 110th anniversary celebration in Rome published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:http://bit.ly/11TmK6k
Harley guys? Their rides? The pope? Sarah Hauer, a senior from Plymouth, Minn., published in the Journal-Sentinel? From Rome? Of course, I clicked the weblink and eagerly read this front-page article online: "Hundreds of Harley Riders Revved Up As Pope Francis Blesses Bikes." The byline: By Sarah Hauer, Special to the Journal Sentinel.

Wow! "Look at Sarah – a foreign correspondent," I said to myself while resisting the urge to wake up my wife so she could assure me it wasn't a dream. I went back to sleep. Why? If it wasn't a dream, how was my Sunday going to get any better than this? Anyway, still beaming a few hours later, I returned to Sarah's Facebook page and found another surprise. On Friday, she had posted another pretty picture of her in Rome along with this status:
Felt like I was playing dress up yesterday as a foreign correspondent for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at Harley-Davidson's 110th anniversary event in Rome. Read my story here: http://bit.ly/10hlDPy
Turns out Sarah from the 'Sota had another article – "Harley-Davidson's 110th bash takes a detour to Rome, Italy" – related to the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer's international anniversary celebration. That means she now has two published by the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper while studying in Rome this summer. I also love that Sarah is credited with taking several images within the accompanying photo galleries. Yes, she's a digital journalist.

Many journalism students in the Diederich College of Communication – and at other colleges and universities across the United States, I'm sure – take advantage of study abroad opportunities each summer and semester. Perhaps soon on this blog we can look more closely at how these students can maximize their international experiences, that is, so they don't stray too long or far from pursuing an internship that could later help jumpstart their careers.

For now, I urge all aspiring journalists, particularly those studying abroad, to read Sarah's blog post, "Becoming a Foreign Correspondent in Rome." She shares how forgoing an internship in favor of world experience ended up providing her with valuable journalism experience. "It felt pretty surreal to be a foreign correspondent and to be published by a daily newspaper – one of my longtime goals," she writes. Well done, Sarah from the 'Sota. Well done. 
 
 
Check out this video profile of Kal Riebau, a student manager for the Marquette University men's basketball team.
Perhaps final projects show how well students have been taught as much they have learned each term. So I was quite worried about the projects the 18 students in my Digital Journalism III course would produce this semester. OK, I expected nothing short of a train wreck. But as is often the case, my students exceeded my expectations.

Each student had to do create a multimedia package focusing on anyone of their choosing within the Marquette community; it could be another student or an administrator, faculty member, employee, etc., on or near campus. The New York Times' "One in 8 Million" collection of audio slideshows served as inspiration and the projects were to each consist of two parts: a 650-word profile and a three-minute video created using Final Cut Pro X. The videos were uploaded to YouTube, then embedded above their text stories on a page on their individual Weebly websites.

The class focused considerably on writing profiles this spring, but spent just a couple periods on using video. One day we looked at examples from TheMorganList.com, a collection of videos about people at Morgan State University and produced by students taught there by my friend, Jerry Bembry; another day we reviewed "Al's 10 Video Commandments," a presentation on the do's and don'ts that Al Tompkins shared atthe inaugural Teachapalooza in 2011.) The class also had the "Video Storytelling for the Web" and "Reporting, Writing for TV and the Web: Aim for the Heart" modules as part of a certificate program offered by the Poynter Institute's News University.

Making me even more nervous: The students insisted on using the higher-end cameras they could sign out from the Diederich College of Communication's technology center instead of their smartphones. Good for them! Unlike in past semesters, though, we spent no class time learning how to use the equipment. Anyway, after turning in three full-fledged story ideas each – just in case a preferred one fell through – the students went about doing their projects.

After three weeks of working on them, the class helped me critique each effort. To my relief, they all were credible, if not more so. Several focused on Marquette peers, including the state governor's son; one focused on serving othersa theater set designer; an international student; a Muslim; a hip-hop dancer; one hundreds of miles from his family still reeling from superstorm Sandyone with cerebral palsy and one needing a guide dog because of blindnessThe other projects featured the owner of a popular eatery; a diversity counselor and social justice instructor; a music curator and three faculty members who teach lawpolitical science and German, respectively.

Two of the projects particularly stood out and deserve a look from anyone reading this post. Benjamin Greene profiled Kal Riebau, a student manager for the men's basketball team despite having only one arm. Given that his video was done after basketball season – that's why there's no footage of Riebau doing his manager duties or engaging with the team – Greene's classmates and I agree that any criticism from this instructor would be nitpicking.

Then there's Christopher Chavez, who is always trouble. "I know we're not supposed to use music," he said to me the week before the projects were due, "but I made it work." After watching his piece on Tyler Leverington, a track team member who is also a first-year law student, I agreed: Chavez made it work. The music level could be reduced some more, but just like with Greene's effort on Riebau, the editing quality in the Leverington piece is outstanding. 

And, never one to miss an opportunity, Chavez has taken his coursework international. "Had a little too much fun with my One @Marquette project that I extended it to eight minutes and released it as a feature on Flotrack," he wrote in a status update in the #loweclass Facebook group last week. As of Saturday, that version had 4,465 page views from www.flotrack.org, a website dedicated to news about track and field. Once again, that's making it work.
 
 
The 24 students gathered in a Diederich College of Communication conference room last night – including three Skyped in from overseas – knew they were embarking on something momentous. “We all know it’s going to be a challenge for next year,” said Erin Caughey, a junior journalism major. “But also it’s going to be an opportunity.”

The 75-minute meeting of student media leaders followed months of restructuring to enhance greater collaboration between the Marquette Tribune, Marquette Journal, MUTV, WMUR and interactive and advertising branches. It’s also ushering in a digital-first mindset aimed at better matching the realities expected of professional journalists. 

For decades the student newspaper, magazine, television and radio staffs have operated separately. However, a newly created group of executive editors will coordinate newsgathering and opinion as well as integrate reporters, photographers and copy editors. Caughey will lead the operation tentatively named NewsCenter as general manager.

Not everyone welcomed the changes approved by the university’s student media board. Indeed, the Tribune’s final editorial of the year warned they would keep journalism students from becoming specialists. The criticisms were muted, however, as those at the meeting foretold awaiting opportunities and challenges. The opportunities include expanding skill sets and coverage of the university and students; learning to decide which medium – print, broadcast or online – is best to cover a story; greater presence for blogs and opinion, and more resources for breaking news. The challenges include communicating, coordinating, ensuring quality amid change and adapting to learning curves.

All eyes were glued to Greg Borowski as the board’s alumni representative encouraged the leaders. Borowski, an assistant managing editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, noted that his and other newsrooms nationally had already gone through such changes and urged the students to be patient with each other, collaborate, keep an open mind and trust the process, share successes and learn from their mistakes. “I'm not all that nervous about it,” he said. “All the challenges that you listed can be anticipated and can be resolved.”

For me, as my few months as interim student publications advisor draws to an end, it was the best 75 minutes since returning to my alma mater as a journalism faculty member seven semesters ago.
 
 
My wife, Mira Lowe, senior editor for features for CNN.com, keynoted the opening session of the 2013 Midwest Journalism Summit that NABJ-MU and the Diederich College of Communication co-hosted this past weekend. 

Mira surprised her audience, which mostly included dozens of journalism students from about a half dozen universities from Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and elsewhere by delivering her keynote, "How to Be a #Fearless Journalist," tweet by tweet. She had created 20 tweets altogether in advance, each with the hashtag #fearless, and revealed them one at a time – along, of course, with plenty of inspiration and encouragement.

I have captured Mira's tweets in a Storify so you can become #fearless, too. You can view "How to Be a #Fearless Journalist" in a Web browser or the slideshow embedded above; click the play button on the left to let it move forward itself, or the arrow to the right of the numbers to soak in each tweet at your own pace. Enjoy.

Updated: Here's another Storify about Mira's presentation, "CNN Digital Editor Teaches Young Journalists to be #Fearless," by NABJ-MU Secretary Monique Collins. She did the Storify as a #loweclass assignment.
 
 
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.
 
 
Those new to my website may not know that my journalism classes in the Diederich College of Communication – otherwise known as #loweclass – have become adept at live tweeting campus events. Last summer, I wrote a lengthy article for Poynter.org that explained how that came to be and shared some tips. (I also have a number of blog posts about live tweeting events and my students success at it at herblowe.com/live-tweeting.html.)

Always looking for a new challenge for #loweclass – and myself – my two classes last fall combined to live blog from polling places on and near Marquette University during the general election on Nov. 6. Afterward, I was generally pleased with the students' efforts, especially since it was their first time using CoveritLive and live blogging and, as I shared before, the experience was eye-opening in terms of their uneasiness in approaching strangers.

Yesterday, my Digital Journalism III (JOUR 2100) class live blogged from a campus event that was part of the university's annual weeklong devotion to the exploration of its Catholic and Jesuit mission. This particular event's title: "Caring for Our Neighbors Locally and Globally: Addressing Health Care Disparities and Community Health Initiatives." It promised to have eight Opus Prize winners and representatives as panelists on stage for 90 minutes.

It was the first live blogging experience for most of the 18 students. I'm still forming my thoughts about the class' performance. However, at first blush it seemed that too many of them forgot about the greater audience witnessing their activity via the official #MissionWeek hashtag, not to mention all those who know about #loweclass ...

More to come ... 
 
 
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 BBC, The Indianapolis StarOrlando 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."