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. 
 
 
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?
 
 
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":
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.
 
 
Picture
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": Simple, True, Act, Map and People. 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.

 
 
Picture
@EmeraldIslePR photo: "... a wonderful, insightful day at the @prsmsummit! Thank you to all of the great speakers!"
I had the pleasure of joining three journalists for a wonderful panel discussion at the PR+Social Media Summit yesterday at Marquette University. Nearly 250 people looked on as Sharif Durhams of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Kathryn Janicek of WMAQ-TV (Chicago), Andy Tarnoff on OnMilwaukee.com and I generally agreed that social media presents interesting opportunities and challenges for journalists and news consumers.

Major kudos to everyone who helped produce the summit. Nearly 500 people registered for the one-day conference that focused on the convergence of strategic communications and social media. The Diederich College of Communication designed the event for senior executives, marketing and public relations professionals, brand managers, students and leaders and proceeds benefit a scholarship fund for the college's students.

I'm still in awe from having witnessed 250 people seem transfixed during Gee Ekachai's impressive 40-minute, multimedia presentation, "Visual storytelling: How Instagram's become a new social media superstar." Check it out via Slideshare and pay particular attention to the awesome YouTube video about Instagram near the end. (Here's a related blog post about the summit from Tara Vandygriff, a senior public relations student.)

Many thanks to the summit's organizers for allowing my Digital Journalism II students (#loweclass #digital) to attend and live tweet the session, "Corruption of Social Media Discourse: What You Need to Know. Why You Should Care," by David Kamerer, an assistant professor at the Loyola University Chicago School of Communication.

People on campus then saw me rolling deep as #loweclass #digital walked from Alumni Memorial Union to Cudahy Hall to join students from one of my journalism seminar courses (#loweclass #sports) for a panel session titled "Want to Know What it Takes to Make It In Pro Sports?" Sponsored by the university's Circles eMentor Network, the panelists included Milwaukee Bucks General Manager John Hammond and Gord Ash and John H. Steinmiller, assistant general manager and media relations manager, respectively, for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Both classes were assigned to live tweet that discussion, too. By then #loweclass digital was into its second hour of constantly adding to the Twitterverse – and there were rumblings of being held hostage. I cannot win. Some of them moan and groan about spending 3 hours and 40 minutes with me in class each Wednesday. So instead I take them on two field trips and ask them to do a little journalism while there – and they still complain. Students!
 
 
Every now and then, an aspiring journalist sends me an email with feedback or an update that brightens my day. Often, it's from one of my Marquette students (see "Journalism Prospect On His Game"). But I especially enjoy hearing from students or recent graduates of other journalism programs (see "Touched By a Graduate's Email"). Another one of those appeared in my inbox this week – and with her permission I share it here:

Good afternoon, Mr. Lowe. My name is Taylor Shaw. I am a May 2012 graduate of Peace College in Raleigh, N.C. Recently, I accepted a position with The Triangle Tribune, a black community newspaper in Durham, N.C. 

I just wanted to thank you for all that you have done for me and my budding journalism career. You have helped me indirectly through the use of social media. I follow #loweclass to stay in the loop. I am constantly learning how I can become a better journalist. I attended a college where media resources were scarce. I learned a lot about journalism through programs with NABJ and internships. I am happy that I have a go-to site where I can stay engaged.

I attended your "Branding You: Student Edition" session during the NABJ convention in June. As a recent college graduate, I knew a strong online presence was key in finding a career. I took your advice on personal branding. I created a digital portfolio, changed my Twitter bio – you featured my twesume on your blog and article for Poynter (how ironic!) – created a cover letter – I used "Covering the Student Cover Letter" – and revamped my LinkedIn page. I constantly go back to the notes from the session as a reference.

Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. Sincerely, Taylor Shaw @TaylorShaw_427.

Noting here that my first job out of college was at the Milwaukee Community Journal, also a black newspaper. Anyway, based on her apparent humility, hunger for learning, and readiness to seize upon advice and resources offered by organizations such as NABJ and Poynter, I am confident that Taylor will realize her journalism dreams. For now, I am equally thrilled and humbled that she finds #loweclass and this website helpful.
 
 
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how to make your twesume count, referring, of course, to the 160 characters (maximum) that comprise one's Twitter bio. After that post became one of the most visited pages yet on this website, Poynter.org accepted my offer to expand on the topic for its site's How To's and journalism education sections. "How to Write a Twitter Bio That'll Make You Stand Out as a Journalist" debuted there last week.

I crafted the article so it featured several tips for creating a great #twesume. They include start with the basics, show that you can write, always consider your audience, use relevant Twitter handles and hashtags, show a little of your personality, don't distract from your goal, have some place else for them to go and keep it updated. The article also includes great twesume examples from Erika Glover (@ErikaJGlover), Daniel Jimenez (@DMJreports), Taylor Shaw (@TaylorShaw_427), Eva Sotomayor (@sotomayoreva) and Brianna Stubler (@BriStubler).

I figured the article would resonate among journalism students and educators. It is about Twitter, after all. However, the response far exceeded my expectations. Indeed, the piece earned more than double the amount of tweets from its Poynter.org page than happened for my previous best-received article for them, about showing journalism educators how to teach students to live tweet campus events. At last look, this new offering has nearly 600 tweets!

A note about the headline: I definitely like it. But I think another reason the piece got so many retweets is because it doesn't just apply to journalists. The title could easily be "How to Write a Twitter Bio That'll Make You Stand Out."

Anyway, not everyone liked everything about the article. Many objected to the term twesume. Why? I'm not exactly sure. None of the dissenters in the comments section made an argument against the term that I can remember now. No matter. The point is we should take every opportunity to use those 160 characters to present our best self. Call it a twesume. Call it a Twitter bio. I don't care. Just use it so someone with a job will want to call you for an interview.
 
 
Picture
Click on the image to visit this semester's JOUR 1550 class page and for quick access to each student's digital portfolio.
This is my fourth time teaching Digital Journalism II (JOUR 1550) in the Diederich College of Communication – and it's become my favorite course. It's the one in which most of my students begin to see themselves as journalists.

Take Brynne Ramella, for example. I loved how she – without prompting from her instructor – crafted a stellar blog post, "The Dark Underbelly of Comedy," about her experience last semester with what's now a course staple: the "One at Marquette" package based on The New York Times' "One in 8 Million" collection. In a subsequent blog post, "Looking Back and Moving Forward," Ramella wrote: "Thanks to everyone who's been involved in the project, listened to my complaints or listened to me gush about my successes with 'One at Marquette.' It's been a blast!"

JOUR 1550's objectives remain the same: producing digital news stories using text, images and audio; focusing on key industry trends, technologies and multimedia reporting techniques; working alone and or as teammates to create journalism for the Web, and using social media to build a following and "brand" as a digital journalist. The course textbook is the second edition of "Aim For The Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia."

Once again, each of the 16 students this semester will pursue a Digital Journalism Basics certificate from the Poynter Institute's News University; write a weekly blog post related to their assigned news media website; produce a Storify from each of two campus events they will live tweet; and partner with a classmate to produce a multimedia package about a local nonprofit organization and assigned by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. The students might also get to work on projects that would be published on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's website.

As in my two journalism seminar courses this semester – one on sports, the other on campaigns and elections – the JOUR 1550 students will share their coursework on their respective digital portfolios created via Weebly.com. These portfolios can be accessed collectively from the same webpage here. Check their progress often.
 
 
Picture
Click on the image to visit the "Outside the Lines" class page and for quick access to each student's digital portfolio.
For the fourth time in my six semesters as a faculty member, I am teaching a new course. It's another journalism seminar called "Outside the Lines: How the Media Report on Amateur and Professional Sports." Disclosing here that I didn't cover athletics full time during my newspaper reporting career. But as a lifelong fan of sports in general, and Philadelphia teams – Phillies! Sixers! Eagles! – in particular, definitely aiming for a worthwhile course.

The course objectives include learning the basics of media coverage of sports on the high school, college and professional levels; developing critical thinking skills about issues and dynamics impacting and caused by sports; gathering and curating social media to tell and present stories about sports and athletes, and evaluating how these highly paid performers use the media to shape their public persona and legacies.

The 10 students will also discuss sports journalists' ethical obligations and the business implications that technology brings to the media's coverage of sports. They also will develop a blog with regular posts that analyze a topic or task assigned by me, and take stock of their respective news media website's sports coverage.

Each student will do two Storifys demonstrating their capacity for live tweeting. They will also each research and write a 1,500-word analysis on social media and sports journalism; and do likewise related to media coverage of a sports-related issue of their choice as well as offer a 15-minute presentation on the matter in class.

Here are the issues the students chose: cheerleading, concussions in hockey, track and field between Olympics, double standards related to male and female sports journalists, compensation for college athletes, the black quarterback, the Miami Heat's "Big Three," fantasy sports, sports scandals and paralyzing injuries in football.

The course textbook is "Field Guide to Covering Sports," by Joe Gisondi, who has a fantastic blog, "Sports Field Guide: Tips and Suggestions for Covering Sports." The course will also take advantage of helpful and relevant modules offered by the Poynter Institute's News University, including "Introduction to Sports Reporting." Here's hoping my misguided students rooting for the Jets, Packers, Raiders, Rams, Seahawks and Titans enjoy the course – even as they scheme for seats on the Eagles' bandwagon as my team moves toward Super Bowl XLVI.
 
 
Picture
Alec Brooks
Picture
Joseph Kvartunas
Picture
Melanie Lawder
Picture
Brynne Ramella
Picture
Alex Rydin
Click on each student's image to visit his or her blog for this semester's #loweclass #elections (JOUR 4932) course.
I am again teaching a journalism seminar course that focuses on how the media report on political campaigns and local, state and national elections. Last semester, I taught the class with a Diederich College of Communication colleague, James Scotton, and we had 12 students. This time, I'm on my own and have just five students. I had hoped for more given the focus this fall on the general election between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, instead of the lackluster GOP primaries last semester. Then again, this is the third time each of the five have had me for a teacher at Marquette University, so we are all well acquainted.

The course objectives are much the same as last time. They include developing a journalistic blog that offers fair and balanced commentary about media coverage, gathering and curating social media to tell and present stories about campaigns and elections; and analyzing how candidates use the media – and money – to shape their campaign messages. There's no course textbooks this time. However, I have negotiated with the Poynter Institute's News University to provide the students with access to some interesting and relevant course modules. They will include "Reporting on Religion and Political Candidates," "Social Media and Your 2012 Election Coverage," "Political Fact-Checking: Tips and Tricks for the 2012 Election" and "How to Work With Campaign Finance Data."

The students have individually chosen to monitor election news coverage from CNN, NBC News, Politico, The New York Times or The Washington Post as weekly beat assignments. They have also each picked a U.S. Senate race – in either Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri or Ohio – from which to analyze in a 1,500-word paper and to make a 15-minute class presentation. They will also similarly analyze and offer a presentation on one of these traditional campaign concerns: abortion, education, family values/civil unions, health care and homeland security.

I hope to again present relevant guest speakers. Last semester's group greeted, among others, Sharif Durhams, Mike Gousha, Charles Franklin and Eugene Kane. Also proud to say that a student from the spring, Tessa Fox, used the course as a springboard for a wonderful opportunity with The Washington Post.

Finally, this semester's class schedule better matches when "On the Issues with Mike Gousha" – the public affairs program that brings newsmakers and policy shapers to campus – is held at Marquette's law school. My students are excited to get to witness and live tweet from the "On the Issues" event featuring former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) on October 4, the morning after the first presidential debate between Obama and Romney. So am I.