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.
 
 
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."
 
 
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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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 continue 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."
 
 
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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.