Monday, December 31, 2007

A Record Year For This Blog!




As much time is it takes to keep it updated, this web log has had a record year. In just a few short hours, we will be turning the page from 2007 to 2008.

I just looked at the number of postings to this Web log this year and I doubled the number of postings in 2005 when it was first established.

I think the improvements by BLOGGER.com have helped to increase the capacity to handle video and other resources.

As 2008 begins, my goal is to develop a separate Web presence for video and audio from the various events to which I travel. That will be exclusively dealing with journalism or media-related events.

We'll see how much time is available to bring that plan to fruition.

In the meantime, on this last post of 2007-- let's just celebrate the success we've had online in this arena this calendar year.

Worshipping with an Old Friend

RICHMOND, Va-- One of the joys of the holidays is catching up with friends and family. In fact, in my case, it’s that much more important since 98 percent my family is here in Virginia—hundreds of miles away from Tuscaloosa.

Last night, I had one such occasion as I ventured back to Moore Street Baptist Church for the official release of a childhood friend’s CD.

Rev. Dr. Milondra Coleman is one who has done many things in her 30 plus years on this earth. But, her biggest accomplishments to date are the release of TWO books in less than three years.

One of these days (real soon), I'll get around to doing a review of Equipping Them to Lead, an indepth treatment on peer youth ministry. In 2008, Coleman's second book, Love Letters, will be in bookstores.

How exciting to know an author who has been so prolific.

In between writing these two books (and working full-time as a world history teacher), she recorded a CD—“Worship with Milondra.”




I haven’t yet received my copy of the CD. But, we got a taste at a service held at Coleman’s home church here in Richmond- the Moore Street Baptist Church.

In the process of experiencing the worship, those of us in attendance were taken on a journey of how one develops as a worshipper.

It reminded me of award-winning recording artist Richard Smallwood’s (a member of our music staff at Metropolitan Baptist in Washington, DC) latest CD.. JOURNEY. Smallwood takes us on the journey from his pre-Howard University days to his connections with artists in the secular and the gospel arena.

While Smallwood included some new cuts on his CD, Coleman used familiar songs that are associated with her own development.

As if the experience of seeing a friend from elementary school (we used to attend Ginter Park and Mary Scott Elementary Schools together), going back to Moore Street was an experience for me as well.

When I was a teen, Moore Street was where I participated in a weekend workshop on leadership and etiquette, sponsored by the Richmond Chapter of Jack & Jill of America.

Security at Church?



WASHINGTON, DC--- As is often my custom when I’m home in Richmond, I’ll venture up to the nation’s capital (only a short 90-minute drive) for church or to visit friends or check on things related to whatever project on which I’m working at the time.

After all, I lived there for four years as a student at Howard University from 1988 to 1992.

It’s always great to return to the church where I was an active member — the Metropolitan Baptist Church—in NW Washington. I always look forward to Sunday services at my beloved Metropolitan.

As I learned at Sunday's service, a big change is coming there.

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times in which we live—As of Tuesday (New Year’s Day), a security policy goes into effect at this Washington, DC church.

Here’s the announcement as it appeared in Metropolitan’s December 30th church bulletin:

Safety in the Sanctuary—We are committed to the safety of all who come to worship God. Therefore, beginning January 1, 2008, no luggage, briefcases, shopping bags, or other personal bags, with the exception of diaper bags and hand bags, will be allowed in the sanctuary during worship services or in any other part of the building. Thank you for your cooperation as we seek to ensure your safety”

This is certainly noteworthy – although not entirely unexpected given recent events.

Earlier this month, two people were killed and two were injured in a shooting at a Colorado Springs Church. It was later linked to a separate shooting incident in Arvada, Colo.

But at the same time, did we ever think there would be a day when one has to be concerned about his/her security in houses of worship? Regardless of your religious or spiritual leanings, there are just certain things that we consider sacred.

Temples, synagogues, houses of prayer—they’re just not places we usually have to be on-guard.

Or, am I being naïve? Yes, we never know who might walk in.. especially in a city like Washington, DC.


As Metropolitan Baptist gets set to move to Largo Maryland (see new site at right) in the next two years, I wonder whether this type of security policy will be necessary in the suburban church like it is in the so-called inner city.

Oh well, it’s something to think about. That’s what this web log is about—a place to comment or reflect on things we experience.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Getting Lost in Hampton Roads

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va-- We finally made it-- to my brother's house in Virginia Beach. But, as many times (well, at least twice) that I've been down here to the Hampton Roads area-- I can't remember missing the exit and getting lost.

We (my parents and I) were supposed to be there by 10am, but arrived nearly an hour late because we missed the Newtown Road exit (off Interstate 64). As it turns out, Newtown Road does not run directly off I-64 West-- so you have to know to get on I-264.

Well, the little out-of-the-way excursion toward Chesapeake (I think) down beyond Virginia Beach was probably good for me to become a LITTLE bit more familiar with Hampton Roads, an area of the state my brother is a lot more familiar with than I.

He's a Hampton Univ. graduate (the OTHER H.U.)-- and has lived either in Hampton, Norfolk or Virginia Beach since he finished his degree in business in the 1990s.

Here's a picture of the Hampton Roads Tunnel, which we went through to get to Va. Beach.

It will be the first of two trips I'll take across waterways within the next week-- That was the Hampton Roads Harbor. Next week, I'll be crossing the Tampa Bay as I journey over to St. Petersburg, Fl. from downtown Tampa, Fl.

Well-- I guess I won't get lost in my own state again. (Don't bet on it.)

Freedom is Not Free-- Attending NAACP Holly Ball




RICHMOND, Va. -- It was a chance to step back in time when I was an active leader in the Richmond Youth Council of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

This week (Dec. 27, 2007) I attended the 2007 Holly Ball, an annual fundraiser for the NAACP in downtown Richmond at the Crown Plaza Hotel. When I was living here as a high school student, that was the Ramada Renaissance.

A lot can change in 20 years.

Nonetheless, it's been more than 20 years since I was president of the NAACP Youth Council. Sad to say, the civil rights challenges of the 1980s have not all gone away.

The Holly Ball is one of the signature "freedom fund" events for the youth council. It's a reminder that "Freedom is not free."

As we move into the period of celebrating the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in January and Black History Month (and the NAACP's 99th birthday) in February, it's an opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to making sure everyone is treated fairly, with respect and dignity.

It's also a chance to revive efforts to build leadership skills in our young people. I would not be where I am today without the efforts of the NAACP and others who opened doors for me.

How exciting to meet the bright, energetic current president, Dquan Love, a tenth grader at Varina High School. Just think, when I was youth president in early 1980s, Dquan was not even born. (Yeh, I do feel a little old saying that)

As I spoke to the nearly 100 youth from Central Virginia attending the Holly Ball, I remembered the times I spoke at Richmond School Board or Richmond City Council-- even to a committee of the Virginia General Assembly. I learned to speak out on issues of concern thanks to the NAACP.

One thing that has not changed in 20 years is the youth adviser, the woman who organized the NAAACP Youth Council in 1971 (a year after I was born)-- Ora M. Lomax is STILL the adviser. Despite recent health challenges, she's managed to keep the NAACP Youth Council going..and inspire yet another generation of youth to be all that they can be.



In 2008, I need to make a new year's resolution (one that I will actually keep) to renew my ACTIVE (not just dues-paying membership) involvement in the NAACP. It's more critical that the organization have actively involved members now more than ever.

Where will I find the time? I'll have to leave that to God.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My First Business Cards and their Great Designer



RICHMOND, Va.-- One more relic of the past – and a chance to remember a friend behind them. I just noticed my box of business cards from THE HILLTOP, the college weekly (now daily) newspaper at Howard University.

When I was editor-in-chief my senior year (1991-92), we introduced the VERTICAL business card for our editors. It was part of our “new look” as we moved to new newsroom in Howard Plaza Towers and began producing our newspaper electronically.

No more late-night trips to the printer to get the paper out. Our staff was the first to send THE HILLTOP over a modem without pasting up the layouts in Quark X Press. Only thumbnails told us how our pages would look when they were printed. I like to take credit for implementing this new technology for our publication.

But, the vertical business card was a first for me, LITERALLY. Being editor-in-chief was my first opportunity to get a business card – as a senior in college.

The designer of the cards, B. Gareth Neely or “Bill” as we called him was a genius. He died suddenly several years ago. Besides the design work on the newspaper itself, these business cards are perhaps the biggest tangible memory of his expertise and talent that aided the HILLTOP and Howard University in advancing.

On the Web, I found an article about Bill’s speech in 2000 about his start-up venture, SingleShop.com. Years after graduating from Howard, he continued to follow his passion for starting ventures.

My old business cards remind me of how much he is missed.

Don’t Sell Those Textbooks--- Build a Library!

RICHMOND, Va.-- It’s Christmas Day 2007!

Aside from all the traditions of opening gifts and welcoming family for Christmas dinner, here at home (REAL HOME—as in Richmond, Virginia) there’s also a chance to reminisce about our days of the past.

As we decorated the Christmas tree last night, we found some lights that my brother and I believe were the same ones that we used some 30 years ago. Some of bulbs were missing and we determined those needed to be discarded.

Christmas traditions are but one topic on which to think about the way things used to be.

For me, the bookshelf in my bedroom is always a chance to reflect and remember.

Every time I come back here (at least twice or even three times a year), I’ll pull a book from the shelf and re-read something that might have been written 10 or 20 years years ago. There are a couple of titles that were handed down by my parents—they’re 40 or 50 years old.

At least half of the titles that are on the shelf are old textbooks from high school and college. I spent so much money on textbooks each semester at Howard that I could not imagine letting go of them as so many students do today. In fact, many of my books are key references for me now as a college professor.

It’s 15 years since I received my B.A. in news-editorial journalism, longer since I’ve used many of these books.

But, the FOUR math books—Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II and College Algebra/Trigonometry—those were all from my high school years. Actually, my high school decided to get rid of some textbooks near the end of my time and I was able to grab copies of my math books.

I never thought math was my strong topic, but I enjoyed the challenge of solving the equations and working the problems. I went on to take an extra semester of “Functions,” a college course at Howard. I often think what would have happened if I had advanced in this area?

After that advanced placement (AP) class in Calculus, I knew I could handle any math someone threw at me. Well, I’m a “WORD” person now—a journalist who happens to be teaching journalism.

But, my old textbooks (because I refused to SELL them) provide interesting pathways to the past and might even help me help ANOTHER generation of students tackling math.

Well, I’ll end this post on the math note. We’ll tackle another subject when I come back here in March on spring break. It will be my 38th birthday—so that will give me another reason to reminisce.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mixed News from Washington on media ownership and FOI

The good news comes from Capitol Hill as the House voted for amended Open Government Act today.

While not unexpected, the bad news comes from SW Washington where the Federal Communications Commission has voted to revise the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule allowing newspapers in the nation’s 20 largest markets to own one radio or TV station.

Unless the change is pre-empted by a vote on Capitol Hill, most observers say this opens the door to more consolidation. We’ll have to see about that.

For now, we can celebrate what members of Congress have done in the interest of free and open government--

“Passage of the FOIA bill will allow not only members of the press but all Americans to hold their government more accountable,” Society of Professional Journalists President Clint Brewer said in a press release this afternoon. “In a time when First Amendment rights are under attack almost daily in this country, this bill is a major step to ensuring America has a free press and a government that is transparent and open.”

Today’s vote comes days after the U.S. Senate passed Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National (OPEN) Government Act (S. 849) last week. The legislation improves the process by which the federal government carries out the Freedom of Information Act.

It creates an independent ombudsman to resolve citizen disputes, helps agencies strengthen FOIA, creates a tracking system for the public to easily track the status of requests and allows requesters to more effectively recover legal costs incurred when agencies improperly deny requests.

As the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership, there are some members of Congress who disagree with the Commission. Last time the FCC tried to change media ownership rules, the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the proposed changes. That was 2003. Today we have a very different political environment and that may make all the difference.

Nonetheless for those of us who follow convergence activity in the media, this new development from the FCC gives us a new topic for discussion and exchange.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Semester ends, Fifth anniversary approaches



Well, it's been a memorable fall semester for those of us in the Department of Journalism at the University of Alabama-- memorable in that we have moved forward under the direction of a new department chair.

The television world is quite different from academe in that change happens so much faster. In five years, one is likely to have at least two managers as people move about from station to station.

Here at Alabama, we've had an acting/interim department chair or coordinator for three full academic years (2004-2005, 2005-2006, 2006-2007). Finally this past summer, Dr. Jennifer Greer joined us from the University of Nevada-Reno. Since coming on board, we've successfully revised our undergraduate curriculum and begun searches to fill one current and one anticipated faculty opening.

We even have new faculty Web pages on the University of Alabama Web site. I love my new photo.

It's worthwhile reflecting on what might otherwise appear to be internal business.. But it's not really internal if it involves one of the best journalism programs in the Southeast. Good news travels fast. So, I'm just helping it travel faster.

I've learned how important leadership is to the success of even an academic department. We had a leader for several years who retired and without an immediate replacement, we didn't move forward, per se.

Nonetheless, the fall semester ended December 7 with a wonderful holiday luncheon at which time we recognized the outstanding students who assisted us in the department this semester.

You can see more photos on my Flickr site.

With the end of each fall semester, I'm reminded of my move to Alabama, which occurred just after the Fall Semester 2002 ended for me at the University of Georgia.

I've now officially been in Tuscaloosa five years-- as long as I was in Athens-- the only other place outside of my hometown of Richmond, Va. where I've lived that long.

In 2008, that tenure in Athens falls to 3rd place in locations George Daniels has lived the longest--and Tuscaloosa moves up to 2nd. I suppose it IS the stability that I was seeking as I transitioned from the world of television news to the world of higher education.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Did Rehema Ellis cross the line?



This week NBC Nightly News has been running a series of special reports on the status of African-American women.

Last night (Wednesday), the story focused on the number of single mothers in the African-American community.

Near the end of the report, NBC News correspondent Rehema Ellis, an African-American woman herself revealed that she herself is a divorced single mother with a young child.

In the tag (the live portion of a news report that followed the pre-recorded portion), she articulates her struggle with doing the series as a black woman.

I thought this was a bit odd for a reporter to step out of her role as a reporter and begin to reveal her own experience. I wondered if, in fact, she crossed the ethical line of reporting in an objective fashion.

It just so happens that we're doing an journalism ethics unit in BOTH of my classes this week. So, for my overwhelmingly female senior-level course for journalism teachers, I played the report.

The mostly female audience thought Rehema added a degree of authenticity to her report by first being a black woman and secondly providing that as a part of her story.

It brings to mind the whole issue of whether a person of color brings more authenticity to a story that focuses primarily on the experience of those from an under-represented racial group. Would an objective white male be able to see more CLEARLY what these women were saying -- by asking the TOUGH questions instead of commiserating with the other black women who have had trouble finding a mate.

As a single black male,I, personally, was troubled by some of the comments of the women in the piece. So, perhaps I am not in a position to OBJECTIVELY evaluate whether Rehema's link to this particular topic cROSSED The ethical line.

As I told my students today, by disclosing her own experience to viewers, Rehema, in fact, did let viewers know exactly where she stood in doing this report. That disclosure is important part of what we consider to be ethical way of doing journalism.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Video edited on a PC- not bad

Checking out this new video camera, I feel like Mike Wendland, "the tech guy" formerly of Detroit's WDIV-Channel 4. (The self-proclaimed tech guy now is the convergence editor and technology columnist at The Detroit Free Press.)

Honestly I don't think of the Windows machine as the best place for video editing or multimedia production. I know thousands use the Adobe Premiere and other applications on the Windows machines to do video production. But, I've been partial to the Macintosh when it comes to video.


video

With this second test of the Flip Video camera on the PC side-- using Windows MovieMaker, I'm convinced it's a workable alternative.

Yes, the audio is very scratchy. That REALLY bothers me. But, one cannot expect much from a very low-end piece of equipment. The idea is to have moving video to EXPAND what one can do just with text.

Today most of our students come to us relatively familiar with the PC or Windows machines. Macintosh computers are NEW for them. Most of them will work on a Windows machine at home (as I do). But, what I wanted to show is a workable way to capture and work in multimedia on the Windows side, if you happen to be in that situation.

Make no mistake: I still think Mac's iLife package (with iMovie) and other applications built for the Macintosh like Final Cut Pro Express and Final Cut Pro are superior.

But, with MovieMaker and an inexpensive camera like the Flip video camera, quick video capture and editing is do-able. Additionally, with the audio editing program Audacity, the audio editing program, one can also do audio editing relatively easily.

$119 Camcorder In Service





As I get ready for my Reporting and Writing Across Media class in the Spring, I've been checking out the latest digital media capture tools. Every time I teach this course, the tools are more and more accessible.

The number of students with digital cameras is its highest ever. In fact, I think it's fair to assume most students know how to get digital images-- either by taking them with a digital camera or having film processed to CD.

At the beginning of this year, Former Tuscaloosa News Online Director Dwayne Fatheree predicted video would be the NEXT BIG THING.

video

With this $119 video camera, I can see what he means. Today, I unpacked the video camera, gave it try on the deck behind my house.

I just realized today that BLOGGER allows us to upload videos directly to our blog.
So we're trying that feature in this particular posting.

WTVR, WWBT to Switch Owners




Big news that I just read last night-- my old TV station-- my HOME STATION WTVR-TV in Richmond is being sold.

This picture was taken in the 1980s when I was an intern (Summer 1989). But, you can see the old WTVR newsroom-- Martha Quinsenberry (spelling?) producing a newscast behind me. I was just finishing my freshman year at Howard University when I got this internship.

As reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch earlier this month, Montgomery, Ala.-based Raycom Media is purchasing my former competitor, WWBT-TV, which is being sold by Lincoln Financial Corp.

This shot taken in the 21st century shows the Channel 6 set today-- as part of the Raycom Media family.



This might not mean a lot to most people-- even those from Richmond, Va. or IN Richmond, Va. Fifteen years ago (when I was employed at WTVR, the CBS affiliate) if you had told me that we would be up for sale and our arch competitor was going to be bought by our parent company, I would not have believed it.

But, it's a different day and different time. In 1992, there was a passion at the South's First Television Station that perhaps is not there now. In those days, Elliott Wiser was the news director and as tough of a boss as he was, we REALLY competed with our friends/rivals at Channel 12.




Nowadays, when I go home and watch Channel 6, I don't see that same passion. Perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps I've gotten the "big head" after working in larger markets in Cincinnati (WLWT from 1993 to 1995) and Atlanta (WXIA from 1995 to 2000).

Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised to read on the Alabama Broadcasters Association weekly e-mail about Raycom Media's decision to purchase WWBT-TV from Lincoln Financial, the latest owner of what were Jefferson-Pilot TV stations, WBT-TV (Charlotte) and WWBT-TV in Richmond.

Hey, it makes sense-- WWBT is s dominant number-one station... in part because of its stable talent. After I left the Richmond market (and sometimes when I was there), my own parents became faithful WWBT-12 News viewers. So, if you own folks don't watch your station, it's no wonder that it becomes a less valuable property.

What will be interesting to watch is WHO will buy WTVR. As the cliche goes, "ONLY TIME WILL TELL."

Friday, October 12, 2007

Al Gore, MySpace top Day 2 panels


COLUMBIA, SC-- "An Inconvenient Truth" is making the headlines today for more than one reason. Early this morning, we learned that Vice President Al Gore is sharing the latest Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the documentary.

But, here at the convergence conference, it was Al Gore's acceptance of an Academy Award that was the focus of at least one presentation on convergence and pop culture.

Two different papers were presented on the hot topic of social networking. MySpace, in particular, was the subject one graduate student's study at University of Central Florida.

And, the big news that I learned just moments ago, there's now a blog for The Convergence Newsletter. Check it out.

It's lunchtime and we still have three afternoon panels to go.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reflections on Day 1

COLUMBIA, SC-- Well, it's approaching midnight and it's taken me an hour to capture the highlight of today-- the Gannett presentations.

What will I remember most from today-- well it depends on whether you're talking about research or teaching.

The highlight of the day researchwise was my colleagues-- Tim Brown and Tim Bajkiewicz's research on convergence efforts at local stations and specifically at Tampa's News Center.

These guys are playing in an area that directly relates to my scholarship-- and I know they share my interest in what's happening with television newsrooms. Their research is very fresh, current and relevant not only to those in the academic community, but those in the industry.

The "Writing Across the Media" half-day workshop left me with a different impression about my goal in teaching cross-media reporter.


Stressing the importance of being able to take ideas back to our classroom that we can implement NEXT WEEK, Augie Grant's review of the core concepts of this area of instruction was just what I needed.

His list of "basic technical skills" was accompanied by a more nuanced view of what our priorities ought to be in teaching students how to report NOW and more importantly, in the future.

"The Fisher Grid" is a takeaway method for immediately putting my students into the cross-media reporting mindset.

My head is already full-- even if I got back on I-20 and went back to Tuscalooosa right now, the trip would have been well worth my time.

But we still have two more days.

2007 Conference Features Convergence the Gannett Way



COLUMBIA, SC-- It’s all about the consumer—that’s the word from the top man at the Gannett Co, who was the keynote speaker at tonight's dinner for the 2007 Convergence Conference.

My former boss, Craig Dubow, shared the company’s strategic plan which has as its centerpiece a makeover of all of its television station and newspaper newsrooms into information centers.

“Our world is truly platform agnostic at this point,” Dubow said. “This industry has really shifted.”

A former head of Gannett broadcasting and general manager at Atlanta’s WXIA-TV (where I worked more than seven years ago), Dubow took over as chairman of the nation’s largest chain of newspapers and more than 20 television stations and dozens of Websites within the last two years.

“What the information center concept is all about is hyper-local,” Dubow explained.

As Dubow explained, the four components of the plan are digital delivery, innovation, the information center and leadership and diversity.


Along with Dubow, several top managers from his company including the general manager of the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate here in Columbia, WLTX.

Earlier this afternoon, Dubow’s person person on new media, Jennifer Carroll, gave conference attendees a tour of the many local microsites that have launched in markets such as Cincinnati and Indianapolis that augment and facilitate community conversations.

Carroll shared concepts such as “crowdsourcing” and Web sites built around databases that expand the online user’s experience beyond reading news.

Gannett's News-Press in Fort Myers has won an award for its crowdsourcing concept from the CinciNavigator and http://www.indymoms.com/http://www.indymoms.com/http://www.indymoms.com/ has drawn unprecedented Web traffic.

“Let’s keep it about the journalism, but let’s do it with an engaged audience, more clarity and more immediacy than ever before,”Carroll said .

Panel 1: Looking Back at the Past 5 Conferences


COLUMBIA, SC-- As the first panel ends, we’ve been taken back to the last five convergence conferences—with a retrospective that reminds us of the common themes that have come from these gatherings.

Having worked at multiple institutions, Jeff Wilkinson, now working as coordinator of the International Journalism Programme at United International College in China, provided 18 lessons learned from previous conferences. His presentation, “May I have a bandage please,” focused on the bleeding edge of teaching convergence at three institutions.

“When you say students know the technology, be careful, because they may surprise you,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson was followed by Tony DeMars, now at the University of Houston, who explained how his own teaching has transitioned from a traditional way of teaching media to a whole new perspective back to a mix of old and new.

“ The six years I’ve been involved have drastically changed my teaching,” DeMars said.

DeMars tied into his presentation research that came from his experience at WGEM-TV and a faculty internship at KHQA-TV in the Quincy, IL market.

Culture of change is the topic that Kolodzy focused on in her presentation.

“The issue is not the nirvana of convergence,” said Janet Kolodzy. Acting chair of journalism at Emerson College in Boston. “It’s the journey not the endpoint that is convergence.”

Kolodzy talked about the risk-averse culture of the academy.

“Our entire point is what we’re trying to do is to peer over the horizon,” said Augie Grant, the coordinator and convenor of each conference, which next year will focus on the participatory Web. “The reason we’re here, the reason we’re doing the research is to understand what is the next step”

Having recounted some of the problems or challenges from the past five conferences, Kolodzy was very optimistic about the next step and the progress made.

“We are beginning to figure out what you need to keep, what you need to throw away and what we need to modify, Kolodzy said.

Convergence Conference Begins!

COLUMBIA, SC--After a morning session on "Writing Across the Media," the sixth convergence conference formally begins this hour at Scuth Carolina ETV.

At the University of South Carolina's Newsplex, we are getting things started with a panel from three people who have attended all five previous conferences.

I'll be posting throughout the next three days from this gathering.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

First Amendment Issue or Publicity Stunt?




I can't believe on a night when I have a million things to do-- several deadlines approaching and classes for which to prepare, I've spent nearly an hour looking over the media coverage of Andrew Meyer's treatment at the University of Florida.

Earlier this evening, I watched CNN air and re-air and re-air (as cable networks do) the tape of Meyer being Tasered during a speech by Senator John Kerry yesterday.

The "Day 2" story was the protest at UF by several students outside the UF Police Department and a newser by UF President Bernie Machen.

The Gainesville Sun gets the BEST COVERAGE award for this story. Their multimedia, up-to-the-minute stories online are quite comprehensive.



One of the things provided on the Sun's Web site is a link to a Facebook page set up by the UF Students who staged today's protest.

Now that I'm on FACEBOOK, I was able to log in and read some of the student comments about the whole case.

One of the UF students, who did his own checking around about what happened at the forum wrote on FACEBOOK:

"It should also be noted that the officers were NOT the ones responsible for having Meyer removed. They were the ones to ENFORCE the rule, but the guy in charge of "Accent presents John Kerry" or whatever it was called, specifically requested that the officers escort him out. That incident was the SECOND TIME that the police had to talk to Meyer about calming himself down and being respectful to the others present at the forum."

Nathan Ogden's comments were the first time I've heard anyone say that Meyer had been talked to earlier in the forum.

Now I have no way from Tuscaloosa to independently verify (as a good journalist would) the detailed minute-by-minute accounting of what took place last night.

But, a late evening report (on the Sun's Web site) notes that the police report suggest that Meyer was playing up for the cameras. The officers filing the report suggested that Meyer himself told the police they didn't do anything wrong.

I say all of this to say when you watch that video on YouTube. I (like many of my colleagues) have viewed the LONG version and the short version, which was posted by CNN-- and one version on Jacksonville CBS affiliate WTEV Channel 47's Web site, it would appear that the tasering is uncalled went WAY over the top.

But, it appears to be a stretch to suggest this is an issue of one's First Amendment rights being trampled.

When a person is removed for being disruptive during an event, the disruption is the issue-- NOT the content of the person's speech. Should the police have tasered him at all? Well, that's another issue.

As a journalist, I'm more concerned about the tendency to attach a "First Amendment" label to ANYTHING that happens to involve someone speaking out.

While we are entitled to the Freedom of Speech, once given the time to speak our mind (ask our question), we also have to remember that our rights should not impede the free speech of someone else.

Some students have suggested Meyer was seeking a bit of publicity. Well, he got it.

I haven't looked at his Web site. But, I would imagine it's gotten a lot of hits as well.

And, I'm going to help ADD to those hits, but providing a link to it in this posting.
The Web site apparently has been updated by his friends.

Whether or not there's a First Amendment issue at play, the whole incident (and the media frenzy) is a GREAT case study for my introduction to journalism class. I certainly intend to use it.

Stay tuned for more developments on this.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

First ride on CrimsonRide


If you're in Tuscaloosa, Ala, you probably have seen the new white transit buses with the Univ. of Alabama signage on them.

Welcome to CrimsonRide, the biggest change in transportation in decades for Tuscaloosa and the University.

All summer, I've had students in my reporting class doing assignments on the debut of the system, which has been under discussion for more than a year.

Today, the first day for the 2007-2008 parking decals, those of us who work at the University adjusted to new parking arrangements.

For me, it was a bit frustrating not being able to access the Campus Drive Parking Deck from what is a PARTIALLY COMPLETED Hackberry Lane. The much-publicized traffic switch for Hackberry Lane is NOT yet done. So, you have to access the Campus Drive lot from a different street. I'll have to figure that one out tomorrow.

After driving through some construction zones, I ended up parking in front of the AIME building this morning and hoofing it across campus to Graves Hall, where I am in a two-day workshop this week.

This afternoon, I rode the GOLD bus for the first time- back to the Ferguson Center stop-- across from my parking lot. I passed a lot of traffic -- at 4:45pm. I worry that this could be a MAJOR problem-- too many cars still on campus along with 15 transit buses.

I couldn't help but think what it will be like NEXT Thursday, the first Tues/Thurs class day. I'll have a late afternoon class and be leaving campus around 6 p.m.

As the cliche goes, only time will tell.

For now, I'll just say Welcome CrimsonRide!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

WNBC's "Live at Five" Dead




What does a guy in Tuscaloosa, Ala. care about a New York City newscast going off the air?

Well, I used to watch "Live at 5" on Channel 4 as a kid whenever I visited New Jersey where my cousin (now in Richmond, Va.) used to live.

Much of my great affection for local television news came from viewing it in what is still the nation's number-one media market-- New York City.

I remember even before going to college at Howard Univ. watching WNBC's Live at Five broadcast with Sue Simmons and Jack Cafferty. That would have been in the 1980s.

Now Jack is on CNN and Sue is still anchoring the program... well until September 10 when a new schedule begins on WNBC-TV.

WNBC's 5 p.m. newscast was the ORIGINAL "Live at Five." This week the management at WNBC announced they're replacing the afternoon newscast with an Entertainment program, EXTRA.

Station management says viewers have longer commutes and they can get the news at that hour lots of other places. There's the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN. Essentially the early afternoon newscast is not where the viewers are.

The television station where I worked the longest, WXIA-TV, Atlanta's NBC station realized this years ago when it nixed 11Alive News at 5 (a newscast I helped produce for a short period) and debuted "Atlanta's Evening News" at 7 p.m.

The end of "Live at Five" is big enough story that it made The New York Times today. The means history will record that an era in local television news has ended.

The piece in the New York Daily News, though, came out a day earlier.

Well, maybe it's not THAT dramatic. But, it's worth jumping on my blog to comment on this change.

The next time I go to New York, I'll only be able to see Sue on the 11pm news with her late night news partner, Chuck Scarborough. Chuck will be anchoring WNBC's new 7 p.m. newscast that will follow NBC Nightly News.

Hey-- the one thing in life that is constant is CHANGE.

Monday, July 23, 2007

From Ideas to Action- Scripps Institute 2007


Six weeks after the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute in Indianapolis on the Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus, our local efforts to step up professional development, keep government open and promote ethical newsgathering are just now hitting.

For most college chapters, the Society of Professional Journalists chapter activity is rather low this time of year.

At the moment, I’m preparing for a planning luncheon for our chapter officers.

Topping that agenda will be the plans/goals that I drafted for the chapter following the Institute, which took place the first week of June. The key word is “drafted.” These strategic goals are only ideas that the officers and the chapter’s other co-adviser need to embrace even before putting the vision before the entire chapter membership for a vote.

Leadership styles and management strategies were among the topics on which we focused during our three days at the Scripps Institute. It was refreshing to see how many other journalists had the leadership style as I. But, it’s just as important to realize htose leadership styles in the other chapter officers.

Just as important as the strategies, goals and vision for our chapter is having a firm understanding of the national organization and where it’s going.

One of the highlights of the Scripps Leadership Institute was the question-and-answer session with the top national SPJ officers. President-Elect Clint Brewer (from the City Paper in Nashville) delivered a “State of the SPJ” address and took questions from Institute attendees.

Caring about the future of journalism is a reason why one might be involved in SPJ. The Scripps Institute helped me get a view of how we can make this all-important organization even better.

The Institute wasn't all work. We had a little "play" time on Friday night as I had a chance to go "duck-pin" bowling for the first time. Sue Porter from the Scripps Howard Foundation probably bowled better than I.




It may have taken six weeks fro me to write this summary of my experience. But, my enthusiasm for what I do as an SPJ co-adviser is no less intense now than it was when I attended the Institute last month.

Now the real work begins.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Update on MJW

Like many other streams of thought or promises to POST-- this one appears to have gone un-addressed.

The MJW program is moving into it's second week tonight. I hope to post some photos I took soon.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Diverse group arrives for MJW 2007


Diversity of places, diversity of people and diversity of experiences are just three ways to describe the 17 students who make up the cohort of high school students attending the 2007 Multicultural Journalism Workshop here at the University of Alabama.

This is the first in a series of postings over the next 10 days from “MJW,” as the program is affectionately called. I’ll be among the faculty members working with this talented group selected from the nearly 200 inquiries the University initially received about the workshop that is in its 24th year of existence.

I'm planning to use this particular blog posting as a "teaching tool" tomorrow (Monday) as I'm talking about multimedia and multi-platform reporting. You'll notice I have NO QUOTES and a lot of first names in this posting, two characteristics of the first-person, casual writing style of many bloggers.

During tonight’s opening banquet and orientation on the University campus, I had a chance to meet all 17 students and hear about some of their experiences and backgrounds.

I think I probably connected in some way with most of them. There was Alex from Montgomery who is attending the workshop after just completing the tenth grade at Montgomery’s Booker T. Washington Magnet High School just a few blocks from the Alabama State Capitol.

I remember being in the tenth grade when I attended UJW, the Urban Journalism Workshop in at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. in 1986.

Like Alex, I had not done much journalism writing, but was just simply loved to write.

Then there was the “ATL” crew, the three students from Metro Atlanta, where I lived for two years and worked for five as a news producer at WXIA-TV’s “11 Alive News.”

One student is a rising junior at Grady High School, which shares the name “Henry Grady” with my alma mater, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Grady High School is a magnet program for communication while The Westminister Schools is home to an athlete attending our workshop. Carrington Jackson plays basketball, football and tennis. Now he’s going to add newswriting to his portfolio.

According to Wikipedia Web site, The Westminster Schools has the largest endowment of any non-boarding secondary school in the United States. The school's expressed mission is "to develop the whole person for college and for life through excellent education."

Closer to home, we have students here from every region of Alabama including the Shoals Area, the Anniston/East Alabama, South Central Alabama (including Selma and Montgomery) and Mobile as well as Sumter County in the far western part of the state.

Did I mention one of our students was part of the scrapbook team that took first place at Alabama’s Beta Club Conventions?

I told Brooke that we know we will have a great scrapbook from the 24th Annual Multicultural Journalism Workshop.

As one who scrapbooks or blogs from every trip I take, I know Brooke from Winston County High in Double Springs, Ala. is going to teach me a thing or two about chronicling one’s experiences.

This year’s class has students from as far away as Camden, South Carolina and as close as Tuscaloosa’s Northridge High School. In fact, I met Adelaide O’Neal at another journalism workshop here on the UA campus just about a year ago. She’s going to the editor of state and regional award-winning Northridge Reporter in the fall.

Some of the students are on a mission—to go back to their high schools and revive or reinvigorate their school papers. Aaron, a student a Cordova High School in Walker County, plans to go back and inspire the rest of his Blue Devil schoolmates to get their newspaper going again.

Aaron is one of three students from the Birmingham Metro area. We also have students from Ramsey High in the City of Birmingham and Briarwood Christian High School.

After spending most of this past academic year working in the Knight Fellows program based at The Anniston Star, it was great to see one from the Anniston-Oxford area. Ashley is a student Faith Christian School.

Several of the students have already learned how to use Adobe InDesign and at least a third of the students brought their own digital cameras.

I can already predict this will be the most visually-skilled of the classes we’ve had in recent years.

Over the next ten days, these students will learn the journalism craft as they put out an edition of Tuscaloosa’s newest community publication, The West End Journal.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Closing Out Seven Cities, Six Weeks



Unfortunately, both my iBook and digital camera were stolen enroute to Columbia last month. Hence, the reporting on the Seven Cities, Six Weeks tour had to be cut short.

It was when I stopped to take photos at the South Carolina State Capitol in Columbia June 21 when I realized the camera was missing.

It, along with my laptop computer (and nearly two years worth of production work) were removed from the backseat of my automobile.

No, they should have been left there. That has turned out to be a VERY EXPENSIVE mistake.

It was the most devastating loss of equipment that I've ever experienced. Two weeks later, I can at least write about what happened here.

Reflecting on Fourth of July Worship


Thanks to a unique worship experience today, Independence Day 2007 will always stand out in my mind.

What was called “A July 4th Morning Celebration of God” didn’t draw a standing-room only crowd at Tuscaloosa’s Cornerstone Full Gospel Baptist Church.

But everyone who needed to be there was present. The 150 or so of us in addition for the unprecedented two-hour service heard some of the best preaching on freedom this side of heaven.

I couldn’t continue on with my holiday activities without pausing to report and reflect on them.

Like the Bible says, seven is the number of completion and today’s 4th of July celebration would not have been complete without each of the seven ministers’ sermonettes that focused us on our freedom that comes from being a son or daughter in God’s family.

The senior pastor, Bishop Earnest Palmer, who developed today’s service only within the last two weeks kicked off the tag-team preaching by introducing the scripture from first four verses of the 12th chapter of Genesis. He was followed by our youth pastor and our executive pastor and our director of protocol.

Even as a member of Cornerstone for about two years, I don’t remember a time when this many members of the church’s ministerial staff shared God’s Word in a single service.

“Our independence must be radical,” said Elder Lionel Grant, director of youth ministries. “What we’re doing today is radical.”

Grant’s remarks were echoed by Elder Tomalisa Washington, who noted that despite it being Independence Day some people still don’t “feel very liberated.”

“In order to get what God has for you, you have to release what’s in your hand,” Elder Washington said.

Her husband, Freddie Washington, who also is an elder and serves as Cornerstone’s executive pastor echoed her comments.

“One of the hardest lessons to learn is when it’s time to get out,” he said.

While the first three sermonettes focused on the passage from Genesis, the latter four messages used Biblical passages from the New Testament to explain our liberation by faith.

“We’re in transition,” said Minister Tschalla Jerido, who explained the significance of the 4th of July coming at the midpoint of the year, a time for us to reflect on how we are progressing toward those goals we set for 2007 and what lies ahead in part-time of the year.

There was so much of God’s Word preached today that it’s hard to recount it all. Those were some of the things that stood out in my mind.

Admitting that she was not as focused on her freedom as an American because she was “born free,” Elder Arleta Riley challenged those to focus on that freedom we were not born with”

“I wasn’t born saved,” she said. “When you’re freed from something, you’re released to something.”

As I reflect on this morning’s service, I feel released to not only report on what occurred, but to think differently and appreciate the freedom that comes in being released to do greater things not at new level (a phrase Bishop Palmer doesn’t like).

Instead, Bishop Palmer has encouraged us to go to a “new dimension” in our thinking and our way of operating this year.

The work continues.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Back to Jackson

It wasn't a long trip, but the odometer tells the story-- 389 miles between Tuscaloosa and Mississippi's Capital City.

This time it was a doctoral dissertation defense that took me back to the city.

The re-visit reminded me of the original journey about six weeks ago. In many ways, it seemed shorter than before. This time, I stayed in Pearl, Mississippi where regular unleaded gasoline was 2.78/gallon, some of the least expensive gas I've seen in while.

I topped off my tank before heading back this morning.



While it wasn't my cup of tea, the Jubilee JAM was going on this weekend in Downtown Jackson. This photo of the big crowds was taken earlier today and posted on the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau site.

Now that we're back from Jackson, it's time to prepare for Columbia, South Carolina, which comes later this week.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Six Down, One City to Go


We're back in Tuscaloosa tonight as we complete City #6 on the "Seven Cities, Six Weeks" tour.

I gathered a lot more images in Indianapolis than I've published on this Web log. I hope to have a way to display those shots within the next few days.

As summer school begins this week, our travel opportunities will be decrease significantly.

The seventh city-- also a state capital-- will be Columbia, South Carolina where I will be participating in a Narrative Writing Workshop on the University of south Carolina campus.

Memorable Visit to Indiana Statehouse on eve of big changes




INDIANAPOLIS— From seeing the relatively cozy chambers of the Indiana State Senate to standing behind the speaker’s desk in the Indiana House of Representatives, an unusual close-up view of center for government capped my weekend here in Indianapolis.

Today's visit occurred just a day before new tighter security measures take effect at the Statehouse. When the building opens tomorrow, visitors will have to walk through metal detectors and screening devices that will check for guns, knives and other weapons.

I ran into one videographer from WTHR-Channel 13, the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, shooting exteriors of the capitol, presumably in connection with this story.

You can read what WTHR has on its site about the story here.

According to the Associated Press, visitors will not be allowed to bring in firearms or other weapons that can cause serious injury, such as certain knives, Taser guns, other stun devices, explosives and various chemicals.

But things were as open as they've been for the last 120 years at what some state lawmakers here in Hoosier State called "the people's building."

Maybe it was the fact that I went to four different entrances before getting to the right one for a Sunday afternoon tour. Since I was the only one in place for a guided view of Indiana Statehouse, I got to ask all the questions I wanted

Austin, the part-time tour guide made sure I knew every interesting detail about the construction of the Capitol, which took almost 10 years to build and was completed in 1888. He provided a great historical view of the stained glass ceiling which sits under the dome, including the manner in which crews keep it clear and why there is so much blue stained glass.

I was surprised at the access I was given to the floors of both houses of the Indiana legislature. Austin just took me right in and I was able to take photos at the front of the Indiana House of Representatives. He even posed for a picture.

Along the way, I learned that this part-time tour guide is a student at Marian College majoring physical education. You might think with all the historical and political trivia that he has to remember to give a tour of the Capitol, he must aspire to be one of those politicians walking the halls.

Actually, Austin aspires to be a high school coach.

After a great weekend attending the Ted Scripps Leadership Institute, it was nice to get outside of the hotel and conference center and see some of Indiana’s capital city.

Even though I walked two of the four floors of the Circle Centre Mall and even picked up a souvenir t-shirt, seeing the seat of Indiana’s state government was the most memorable event of this day.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Finally in Indianapolis




INDIANAPOLIS-- After an unplanned four-hour layover in Atlanta Hartsfield, I finally got on an AirTtran Airways flight to Indiana's State Capital.

I arrived in Indianapolis about 2:45pm, and got to the Leadership Institute about 5 minutes late.

More to reflect on later as I post this evening.

More now, this view of the IUPUI campus will have to do. Gotta go to dinner.

Kicked off AirTran for Taking Notes




ATLANTA-- It’s now 10:27 a.m. I was supposed to be almost in Indianapolis—City #6 on my SEVEN CITIES, SIX WEEKS summer tour. But, I am still in the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport for taking notes on the flight.

Sounds bizarre?

I thought so.

In these jittery post-911 days, flight crews like the employees on AirTran Airways Flight 419 have to be on the lookout for suspicious passengers.

I suppose taking copious notes about my first travel experience on AirTran in almost 10 years could be construed as suspicious.

AirTran has apologized for the inconvenience and given me a free pass for another flight. They’ve re-booked me on an afternoon flight that will get me to Indianapolis in time for the start of the Society of Professional Journalists Scripps Leadership Institute on the Indiana University-Perdue University Indianapolis campus.


But, the bigger story here is that something as harmless as taking notes might get you kicked off a flight.

Fortunately, I as a journalist did not have to surrender my notes and I don’t think I was the cause of the flight being about 10 minutes late taking off. The AirTran Airways attendant who escorted me off said the flight was held up also because they were waiting for ice.

For now, I’m happy recounting the strange experience as perhaps the most memorable event in my “Seven Cities, Six Weeks” tour.

More later.

At least this gives me time to blog about what I experienced getting into the Atlanta Airport this morning. I’ve been gathering elements for that posting.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bayou LaBatre, Ala.-- More than Mobile


MOBILE, Ala.-- After a l--o--n---g drive from the northernmost point of Alabama down I-65 to the southernmost point-- Mobile, to Interstate 10-- we are now in City #3 on our "Seven Cities, Six Weeks" tour.

Specifically, I was going to Alma Bryant High School where students there have received a grant from the Radio-Television News Directors Association to bring podcasting to their broadcasting program.

As the author of a soon-to-be-releaesd "Teaching with Podcasting" DVD, I wanted to use Alma Bryant as a place to pilot-test some of ideas for the DVD. Well, I got an eyeful.

First of all, I didn't realize how big the Mobile area really is.

On Sunday, I stayed in Saraland, Ala. before venturing down to Bayou LaBatre (I just learned how to spell that word)

Because of its distance from Tuscaloosa (about 3-4 hours), Mobile is one of the few cities I have only visited a couple of times-- both before I moved to Alabama.

On each of my previous visits, I was enroute to either New Orleans or Tallahassee (long story, I'll explain that one another time).

This time, I ventured well off Interstate 10 down to an area that is right in the "line of fire" so to speak (how's that for a cliche) when hurricanes come ashore.

Alma Bryant is a beautiful high school and folks there were S--O nice. I plan to make a return visit in the fall semester.

As for the rest of the Mobile area, well my second stop of the day was at the Mobile Register, where the Business Editor, K.A. Turner, gave me a quick tour of one of the nicest newspaper facilitiss in Alabama.

My photos are really bad. But, I did get an ok shot of the distribution room where all the Press-Register newspapers are assembled.


All in all, this first visit to downtown Mobile was a quick, but good one.

Later this summer-- in July-- I will go back to the area-- to Orange Beach, Ala. for the Alabama Press Association's Summer Convention. I plan to get some better shots of the newspaper building then.

City #2- Nashville, TN


NASHVILLE-- Even though Nashville is listed as one of those datelines that does not require a state abbreviation, I thought it was important to remind you that I'm in Music City.

I few years ago when I visited Indiana University, I learned there is also a Nasvhille, Indiana There is a Nashville, Indiana located in Brown County just miles from the IU main campus.

On May 5, I made the three-and-a-half hour drive from Tuscaloosa to Nashville for the Society of Professional Journalists Green Eyeshade Awards program. It's one of several opportunities we have to see some of the BEST journalism being produced.

The Green Eyeshade program is a regional competition that involves states in the Southeast.

I'll have to make a separate posting on the ceremony itself. For now, I'll share some of the sites.


The Tennessee State Capitol is one of the first sites I'll share. I didn't get a chance to go inside. But, before leaving town on Sunday, I drove downtown to see the building located on a high hill. This area was a federal fort during the period of Union occupation. The building was completed in 1859.


Also on Sunday, I attended church at Mt. Zion Baptist where Bishop Joseph Walker is the senior pastor. I've been blessed before by Bishop Walker's teaching via the Trinity Broadcasting Network.

It was a totally differenr thing to be in worship with the thousands who are members of his church, which three locations in the Nashville metropolitan area.

You can see from the sign on the church's marquee that it's a church that ministers to all of the needs of its congregants.. even those who are divorced.


After church, I briefly drove through the Vanderbilt Campus, which one of the only two SEC (Southeastern Conference) schools I had not previously visited (the other is in Oxford, Mississippi). Well, actually, I had been to Nashville closeby before-- but it was not as extensive as my trip this time.