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 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, 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.