- My primary goal was to improve my Internet presence so that it better brands me as a journalism educator. In other words, redoing this website. Mission accomplished. I amended the main navigation so that my blog is now the home page, and so my biography, curriculum vitae and teaching emphasis are more accessible.
- #loweclass was born! Thanks to inspiration from the Poynter Institute's News University – and Jennifer Lee Reeves in particular – my journalism classes have a combined home on this site and on Facebook, as well as a brand attracting students and educators elsewhere. #loweclass even trended on Twitter once this fall.
- Speaking of students elsewhere, I enjoyed interacting with three young women who sought my help in better branding themselves as future or new journalists. Meet Erika J. Glover, a graduate of Penn State University, Taylor Shaw of The Triangle Tribune and Kouki Collier of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.
- I had two journalism-education articles published on Poynter's website. In July, I wrote a blog about how to make your #twesume count on Twitter. It was so well received that several weeks later the institute allowed me to extend it into a much longer article that was tweeted more than 600 times from its site. Also in July, Poynter published my piece on teaching journalism students to live tweet campus events.
- Yes, live tweeting. That article – and my promoting the concept at major gatherings of journalism educators in July and August – spawned many questions my way about live tweeting and or using Storify. So I created three related blog posts – namely, "Storination: New Tool to the Rescue," "Great Tips on Conference Tweeting" and "Live Tweeting Without a Smartphone" – as well as a new blogroll for all of my live tweeting-related posts.
- I learned some things along the way that have or will be used in the classroom. A blog post, "I Joined Pinterest and Survived," impressed some students while worrying others that I might create a related class assignment (maybe next semester.) Meanwhile, please read "loweclass Live Blogs on Election Day" to see how and why I hurriedly learned to use CoveritLive. Also, some of my students created interactive timelines for class presentations after I showed them my first one, a Dipity.com focusing on my NABJ presidency.
- Two other blogs deserve mention: "Four Words She Can Brand By," about my conversation with Sophia Nelson, a friend and award-winning author; and "Focusing on My Digital Stamp," an endorsement of "Digital Leader: 5 Simple Keys to Success and Influence," the book which inspired this independent study.
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 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."
Students in my sports journalism seminar this semester have learned about the impact of social media from both sides of press row. Don Walker and Sharif Durham, a veteran sportswriter and social media editor, respectively, talked during separate visits about how beat writers at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel use Twitter and blogging to cover major league teams and players. Gord Ash, assistant general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, said during his visit to #loweclass #sports that social media presents challenges for his job that didn't exist 20 years ago.
The students will hopefully incorporate what our guest speakers have shared into a significant class assignment drawing near. According to the course syllabus, "each student will write and submit a six-page, double-spaced analysis (approximately 1,500 words) that considers how journalists covering high school, college and professional sports use social media, and what might journalists do to improve their use of social media to cover all such sports."
They might also draw upon "Sports Journalists' Use of Social Media and Its Effects on Professionalism," an article in the Journal of Sports Media (fall 2011, Vol. 6, No. 2). The research conducted by Sada Reed, a graduate student in the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, begins with this abstract:
"The rise of social media gives sportswriters new avenues for gathering information. This usage raises ethical issues that challenge an already technologically morphing industry. In this pilot study, Minnesota-based sports journalists were interviewed about their use of social media, the effects Facebook and Twitter have on their news gathering practices, the ethics of pulling direct quotes from social mediums, and how these mediums have blurred traditional lines between sports writers’ professional and personal relationships."
"Tweeting With the Enemy? The Impacts of New Social Media on Sports Journalism and the Education of Sports Journalism Students" is another article that might prove useful. Published by Journalism Education (April 2012, Vol. 1, No. 1), the work by three scholars from Sunderland University addresses 1) how are sports journalists adapting to and using Twitter in their work, 2) what do these journalists perceive to be the major benefits and drawbacks for their profession so far, and 3) what lessons does this have for the training of future sports journalists?
I also urge the students to read about the role of Twitter in covering sports scandals, how sports journalists use it to develop and promote their stories and whether it can detect bias among them. Meanwhile, Ronnie Ramos and the National Sports Journalism Center offer "Social Media Still Challenges Journalists, Understanding on the Rise" and Four Ways Social Media has Deteriorated Traditional Journalism." And from Yahoo News there's "NBC Sports Journalists Now Using Social Media and Web Video Reporting to Bring NFL Fans Closer to the Game."
Here's hoping that Walker, Durham, Ash and I have given the class enough to get started on their assignment.
Not long before Tuesday, my journalism seminar on campaigns and elections discussed what we would do in class on Election Day. We meet from noon to 1:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I offered to bring pizza and suggested monitoring mid-day elections coverage on major media websites. Junior journalism major Melanie Lawder's body language indicated she wasn't feeling that idea one bit. When I inquired further, Lawder said, in so many words, that the class should do journalism on Election Day. Her classmates signaled that they agreed.
Naturally, I sought to oblige. The students and I quickly considered how they could best interact with voters at polling places at or near Marquette University: Live tweeting. Exit polling. Multimedia reporting. Live blogging. Two factors led us toward the last option. First, Alec Brooks, another junior journalism major, explained how The Marquette Tribune – he is the student newspaper's copy chief – had begun to experiment with live blogging. Second, I know that many journalism educators and media companies use the technique in their classes and newsrooms.
Deciding what to do was easy. Executing the first #loweclass live-blogging experience would be a challenge. (Making things even more interesting: the 10 students in my journalism seminar on sports journalism, which also meets for 75 minutes each Tuesday, would participate, too.) I figured if my students could live tweet a university president's inauguration with only a day's training, learning how to live blog on Election Day was doable. As luck would have it, I attended the national college media convention last week in Chicago – where Jill Van Wyke, an assistant journalism professor at Drake University, expertly taught an audience how to use CoveritLive, a leading live event publishing platform used by mainstream media, educators, bloggers and major brands worldwide.
I alerted the 15 students that they would use CoveritLive via Facebook on November 2. Two days later, we used Facebook again to let them pick which polling site to be at. The next day, Monday, less than 24 hours before the polls opened, I sent a long email that outlined the plan – they were all to live blog for at least 75 minutes from their respective site – offered instructions for the CoveritLive smartphone app and provided tips on the differences between live tweeting and live blogging. I also advised that a related blog post from Steve Buttry could be helpful. Also, they were told to use the hashtag #jelection, in addition to #loweclass, so that their work would be seen and appreciated alongside the many student journalists who were covering Election Day nationwide.
As expected, given the nail-biting presidential election and U.S. senate campaign in Wisconsin, voter turnout was high. Two students – Ashley De La Torre and Ryan Ellerbusch of #loweclass #sports – started the live blogging when they reported at 6 a.m. to Alumni Memorial Union on campus. That polling place turned out to be especially busy throughout the day, and De La Torre and Ellerbusch proved crucial in helping us all figure out CoveritLive.
By and large, the students seemed to appreciate doing journalism on Election Day. As for live blogging and CoveritLive, the reviews were mixed, with some saying, for example, they liked not being restricted to 140 characters (as with Twitter) and that the experience allowed them to focus more on reporting. Others, however, did not think it was an appropriate assignment for a sports class or know what to do when they had finished live blogging. This was all very good feedback for the next #loweclass live-blogging experience.
From my perspective, I enjoyed how live blogging enabled me to interact with my students as they interacted with real people. More importantly, the experience showed where some of the journalism majors were in terms of their reporting skills. The biggest thing is that several of them were hesitant or seemingly afraid to talk with people they didn't know – an essential part of Election Day reporting for journalists. As veteran live tweeters, they are comfortable sharing short quotes from speakers or offering observations about what they see or hear. Live blogging can help them better realize the value of reporting and telling stories in a breaking news format.
It was all worthwhile, though, when the students learned how to get voters to answer their questions. As senior journalism major Michael LoCicero put it in his blog post, "Many people are turned off immediately if you ask for something private like their voting preference, but many people were happy to talk about having the chance to express their views." It's always great when students learn something – even when they don't always want to.
It's always great when my students really enjoy a guest speaker's presentation. (Sharif Durhams, Mike Gousha, Eugene Kane, Mira Lowe and Sharon McGowan are among those who readily come to mind.) Well, rarely have I seen young people as inspired and enthralled as when reporter Meg Kissinger visited #loweclass to talk about her award-winning journalism career and her coverage of mental health for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Kissinger is in residence this academic year at the Diederich College of Communication and collaborating with Marquette University students as she pursues a series of investigative and explanatory stories focusing on mental health. My Digital Journalism II students had been assigned to review Kissinger's impressive "Imminent Danger" package for the Journal Sentinel – as well as these two stories: "Can Adult Siblings Connect When Mental Illness is Part of Mix" and "At Death's Door, But Living Life to the Fullest" – before her class visit on October 24.
Nearly all of the 16 students wrote their assigned weekly blog posts about what Kissinger revealed about her life, family and career while sitting at the conference table with them and chatting for more than an hour. "Let me just say this: I love Meg Kissinger," began the post by Monique Collins, one of three students who shared how mental health or a serious medical condition has touched their own families. "Meg Kissinger could have spoken to our class for another two hours and I don't think anyone in the room would have complained," Alexandra Whittaker wrote.
"What really struck me about Kissinger was her positive energy," Stephanie Graham offered. David Tukesbrey wrote in his post: "She's somebody that all journalists can aspire to be. When she sits down and talks to you, she looks you in the eye. Although she's a great journalist, more importantly she's a great person." Students also described Kissinger as vibrant, charming, witty, personable, funny, knowledgable, smart, hardworking and passionate.
Caitlin Miller echoed everyone in the class when she wrote that "I am really excited" about the course's final project – in which Kissinger and I aim to dispatch them as teams of two into Milwaukee County to interview people who impact or are impacted by mental health: advocate, family member, judge/court commissioner, nurse, patient, police officer, psychiatrist and social worker. The projects will be similar to those the class are producing for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service this fall. If all goes well, the Journal Sentinel will publish the mental health projects.
I often say in #loweclass and elsewhere that there are two kinds of college students: those who want a grade and those who want a career. I'm so pleased that three of my students recently used key elements of their coursework – blogging and personal websites – to showcase their storytelling gifts after experiencing monumental circumstances. It's important to note that in each case the student did so without the work being assigned or garnering extra credit.
Unable to get back to Milwaukee from New York, where he had covered the Big East cross-country championship for the Marquette Tribune, sophomore Christopher Chavez posted "Stranded in New York: The Hurricane Sandy Story" on the website he created for my Digital Journalism II course this semester. "Yesterday afternoon," Chavez wrote, referring to Monday, "the streets in my neighborhood of Jackson Heights were dark and the wind was picking up. I did not step outside my home at all the entire day. I stayed in my room and had my laptop and phone plugged in at all times, so that when I lost power I would be ready to tackle the storm and stay connected."
On October 22, his classmate, Caitlin Miller, also a sophomore, posted "How My Typical Day at Work Changed in an Instant." Miller described how she and her co-workers in The Children's Place in the Brookfield Square Mall coped as authorities responded to the tragic shooting at the Azana Salon and Spa the day before. "I would have never imagined – and still cannot believe – (that) incidents like this could happen in the small suburban city I grew up in," she wrote. "It is still hard for me to grasp the fact that I was outside, right across the street, with the spa in plain view, when Radcliffe Haughton opened fire inside. Nothing prepares you for a situation like that."
On a happier note, Tess Quinlan, a junior who was in #loweclass #digital last semester, on October 14 posted "My Summer Turned Golden in London at 2012 Olympics." In a blog post that cannot help but inspire other aspiring journalists, Quinlan recalled the "incredible production experience" she gained while interning for NBC in the International Broadcast Centre during the Summer Games in England. "Whenever I talk about something that I accomplished while over there, I realize that it was not just my accomplishment, but one of a group of dedicated people that gave everything they had every day," she wrote. "Everyone I met at NBC genuinely cared about each other, but (also) wanted to create great television, a balance that can be very difficult to find."
Please take the time to read all three blog posts. Chavez, Miller and Quinlan won't get a grade for their efforts. But it's easy to see that they are serious about earning something much more lasting: a career. Warms my heart.
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."
Journalism students at Marquette University and elsewhere are essentially running eight laps around the having-a-job-at-graduation track, with pit stops after the second, fourth and sixth intervals. The laps are, of course, semesters and the pit stops are summers between freshmen orientation and commencement. Any student serious about a career in journalism knows that newsroom internships are as important as campus media experience.
Marissa Evans, a senior in the Diederich College of Communication, has already interned on the metro or business desks at four newspapers: The Union-Tribune (San Diego), The Star Tribune (Minneapolis), Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Washington Post. To her credit, she has helped several of her friends and classmates by letting them know about opportunities and deadlines for internships and offering advice on cover letters and resumes.
Now, Evans, as they say, has gone national! The Poynter Institute on Friday published a wonderful and insightful article she wrote, "10 Steps Young Journalists Can Take to Get a Great Internship." The tips include starting to look now, sticking to the professional experience you want to have, keeping your (paid and unpaid) options open, having a Web presence (beyond social media) and, regardless of the outcome, find ways to practice journalism. I particularly like this tip: look locally and nationally. That may seem obvious to newsroom veterans and recruiters. But I am always surprised by the number of journalism students who are set on staying close to campus in the summer.
Actually, this is the second time a national journalism organization's website has published an article by Evans that offers advice for aspiring scribes. Check out "8 Reasons Student Journalists Should Consider Business Journalism" – she wrote it for the Reynolds Center (businessjournalism.org) in April.
Anyway, to those students and graduates still circling the track, I also recommend my blog post "Covering the Student Cover Letter," and these Poynter articles: Matt Thompson's "10 Ways to Make Your Journalism Job Application Better Than Anyone Else's" and Joe Grimm's "Your Job Application Shows Your Skills." Good luck.
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!
"Stop typing! Look at me!" The 16 #loweclass #digital students had been live tweeting nuggets from Sharon McGowan's accounting of the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service's origin, mission and success as she met with the class recently. McGowan demanded their full attention as she stressed the following: "Don't think that you can know multimedia and not have to write. Trust me – because everybody has to know how to write."
This is the third semester the news service and my JOUR 1550 students will team to pursue community journalism in Milwaukee. Based on the successes and lessons learned from the first time in fall 2011, students from last semester's class said they found their NNS projects to be among their biggest learning experiences.
As editor and project director, McGowan also noted that the news service has earned national recognition and support. It includes a regional Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association, and a $192,000 two-year grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, matched by grants from two Milwaukee foundations. The grants will allow NNS to expand its coverage area to 12 more local neighborhoods, she said.
McGowan had the class watch and discuss a compelling NNS multimedia package about young mothers organizing to create children's activities on Milwaukee's North Side. "What makes it a good story?" McGowan asked. Student Alexandra Whittaker replied, "Even if I don't know their story, I can understand where (they're) coming from." The editor agreed and added, "The reason I like this story is because it exemplifies the kind of story we want to do."
Another student, Monique Collins, is interning at the news service this semester. "This is the best thing," she told her classmates. "I have lived in Milwaukee my whole life and I have learned so much (about it) I didn't know." That led McGowan to say her job allows her "to do everything I love and all in one place" – teaching and editing.
Each student afterward wrote a blog post about McGowan's visit and the news service. Several reported being excited for the chance to move outside their comfort zone. "I can't wait to find out what our assignments will be," Stephanie Graham wrote. "I think everyone can benefit from these projects, since we'll get some experience doing journalism in Milwaukee, rather than confining ourselves to news on campus and downtown."
Those eight team assignments will come from among the additional neighborhoods the news service is now covering. I will, of course, reveal toward the semester's end how it all goes.
My journalism DNA remains strong as I learn and teach new ways to tell and present stories, especially via digital and social media. This blog is where I share what happens in my classroom and my life and, from time to time, offer my views on current events. I appreciate your feedback – either as comments herein or in an email to herbert.lowe [at] marquette [dot] edu.