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.
 
 
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.
 
 
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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.

 
 
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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 scandalshow 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.
 
 
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Dr. Adams and alumna Julie Clark McKinney confer with Plainsman editor Robert Lee during Auburn Journalism Day.
It's always exciting to attend a conference that helps prepare journalism students for the jobs and responsibilities awaiting them after graduation. It's just as nice to see lots of professionals and alumni taking the time to share career advice with aspiring journalists. I saw all of this and more at "Auburn Journalism Day" on Friday in Alabama.

Many of the estimated 150 majors in Auburn University's journalism program sat in on one or more of the 10 sessions held in the campus student center. Having only been to Alabama twice before – both times in Birmingham, once for a NABJ regional conference, the other for a wedding – I'm grateful that the program's director, Jennifer Wood Adams, invited me to sit on two panels and to attend its advisory council's meeting and luncheon.

A key component of Auburn Journalism Day: several panelists were Auburn alumni. Indeed, those who joined me on the multimedia storytelling panel – Julie Clark McKinney and Wes Sinor, both of al.com (the Web hub for the Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times and Mobile's Press-Register), and Maxwell Newfield, a production assistant at CNN Documentaries, have all graduated from Auburn within the past few years. "When you're doing broadcast, silence does just as much as talking does," Newfield told the audience while discussing interviewing.

McKinney – who admirably says she considers the live chats that her website does "my baby" – also joined me on the social media reporting panel, as did Anthony Cook, also of al.com, and Bill Barrow of The Associated Press. I loved hearing her share these wise words with the students: "If you are a journalist, you should be reading other journalists" and "you don't want to put anything out there that can come back to bite you. Just keep it professional." 

Journalism Day ended with several professionals and alumni meeting with Editor Robert Lee and other staffers in the newsroom of The Auburn Plainsman. The pros spent an hour offering critiques and tips for the young journalists as Austin Phillips and Judy Riedl, the adviser and general manager, respectively, looked on happily. Congratulations to Dr. Adams and everyone else who helped produce the day's events. By all accounts, it was very worthwhile.
 
 
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Click the image to see the essays by me and other MU faculty focusing on key issues of this presidential election cycle.
Very pleased to share that the latest edition of Marquette Magazine is out – and that I (finally) have a byline in it. Yes, there may be some bias, but I believe that my university has one of the best alumni magazines around. I imagine all of the 130,000 MU alumni and friends worldwide who get each quarterly issue enjoy it just as much.

In an email suggesting a focus on the election climate and process, Editor Joni Moths Mueller wrote: "Given the subject matter and the fact that our alums belong to both major parties, but also second-tier parties, the issue would not take a left or right slant but be an informative and thought-provoking issue that shares the expertise of some faculty. ... I saw in your blog that you taught a class on social media as it affects campaigning, which got me wondering whether you would be comfortable writing an essay as one of our expert authors – in your case speaking to the impact of social media and the 24-hour news cycle on both candidates and voters?"

Of course, I readily agreed to contribute. Please read my essay, "Campaigning in 140 Characters," which spotlights efforts by The Washington Post, Pew Research Center, NM Incite and others to promote greater interaction between voters and candidates via social media. (I also cited and particularly recommend "Ten Ways Social Media Can Improve Campaign Engagement and Reinvigorate American Democracy," by Darrell West of the Brookings Institution in Washington; and "25 Ways to Use Facebook, Twitter and Storify to Improve Political Coverage," by Mallary Tenore of the Poynter Institute in Florida.) You will find the related faculty essays by Charles Franklin (who visited my elections class last fall), Christopher Murray and Amber Wichowski on the same webpage as mine.

Again, this is my first writing contribution for Marquette Magazine. I must say that it is as gratifying as being featured in one of the publication's alumni profiles in the winter 2006. Reminds me of when the magazine featured a Twitter posting by one of my journalism students, Ceili Emma Seim, in its winter 2010 edition: "I'm having my class assignment critiqued by Pulitzer Prize-winning alumna Jacqui Banaszynski. @Marquette U is seriously amazing."
 
 
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@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!