Sunday, January 25, 2009

Time to Celebrate Life, Work of Lionel C. Barrow

This weekend journalism and mass communication education lost a giant and a trailblazer in the passing of Lionel C. Barrow, Jr.

Now in my sixth year as an assistant professor here at the University of Alabama, I know neither my career as a broadcast journalist nor my current full-time role as a journalism professor would have been possible were it not for the hard work of Dr. Barrow.

As a cum laude graduate of the Howard University School of Communications and the 1991 recipient of the Lionel C. Barrow Minority Doctoral Scholarship, I know firsthand the impact Barrow had the lives of so many across the fields of journalism and mass communication.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of this writing on Sunday evening. Barrow's passing was announced on Howard University's radio station, WHUR-TV earlier in the day. I'm told that plans are now in the works for a memorial service to be held at Howard University in mid-February.

For the last few years, Dr. Barrow has lived in the Tampa Bay area as his wife, Dr. Frederica Harrison Barrow, is on the faculty in the School of Social Work at the University of South Florida.

Most recently, Dr. Barrow and I sat on a panel at the 2008 AEJMC Annual Convention in Chicago entitled "State of the Division and Discipline: Re-envisioning Minorities & Communication."

I had no idea that would be the last time I would get to hear him talk passionately about the importance of opening doors of journalism and mass communication education to people of color.

He was dedicated even in the final months of his life to diversifying the ranks of our JMC professorate.

Even as I write this posting, I recall Dr. Barrow's suggestions about the research I presented on the panel. Even though I only got to know him in the last seven years, he's certainly been a mentor to me and countless oithers like me who work in this field.

Established in 1970, the Barrow Minority Doctoral Scholarship honors Professor Lionel C. Barrow, Jr., former Communication Theory & Methodology (CT&M) Division head and Dean Emeritus of Howard University.

Dr. Barrow earned his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has held a variety of leadership positions in industry, academia, and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

His work was noted in a recent article in Diverse Issues of Higher Education on AEJMC's steps to intensify its effort in the area of diversity.

Dr. Barrow was the second dean of the Howard School of Communication, serving from 1975 to 1985, following the tenure of founding dean Tony Brown.

The Barrow Scholarship is intended to aid doctoral students complete their dissertation research and academic studies.

When I received the award at the 2001 AEJMC Convention in Washington, it was my first time meeting the former dean of my alma mater.

Since then, I've become acquainted with his work as Chair of the Commission on the Status of Minorities.

In one of the best ways to honor his work, I recently took a more active role in CSM as the newsletter editor.

It's just one small way I can give back to an organization in which Barrow had such a critical role.

Even now as I await a decision on my application for tenure and promotion, I know that regardless of the outcome, I owe a great deal to Lionel C. Barrow for helping me get to this point.

My life has been richer not only because of my experience as an undergraduate at what is now the John H. Johnson School of Communications in a program Dr. Barrow steered for so many years but also because of the financial support of the Barrow scholarship I completed my dissertation and am making an impact on journalism in a whole other way.

I look forward to the opportunity to continue Dr. Barrow's legacy even as I become more active as a journalism and mass communication scholar and teacher.

Later this year, when AEJMC recognizes the first recipient of the association's Equity and Diversity Award, we will ALL be thinking of Dr. Lionel Barrow. For it was his hard work that helped position the association to bestow such an honor.

Visitors Stop By This Week to See What We're Teaching about Journalism

The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication is sending a team of five professors and working media practitioners to see if we're doing the right thing by our students.    

It's called an accreditation review and most of the best j-schools (journalism schools) go through it every six years.   

An ACEJMC Stamp of Approval is the equivalent of the Good Housekeeping Seal for journalism education. 

The accrediting council looks for such things as class size, placement, labs and facilities, faculty credentials and qualifications, assessment and diversity in making its decision. 

Just 112 programs in the country are accredited by ACEJMC.  The University of Alabama is one of three (Auburn University and Jacksonville State are the other two) accredited programs.  The University of North Alabama in Florence is planning to apply for accreditation in the next few years. 

It will interesting to see what the team of reviewers have to say as they drop in on our classes and chat with us over the next few days.

As if this accreditation review were not enough, we have another team of reviewers arriving at the end of the week to specifically review our Public Relations program.   One of reasons that our public relations  major is one of the largest in the college is its high-quality program that is reviewed every few years by the Public Relations Society of America.

As a news reporting instructor who teaches public relations majors often in my classes, I'll get a chance to visit with that particular team of visitors as well. 

Of course with any review, you always want to put your best foot forward.   But, at the end of the day, what these visitors should see is the good work that we're doing every day in our classes. 

The week for me will end in Nashville as spend the day at the Online News Association workshop at the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center on the Vanderbilt University campus.    

Like those of us in the Society of Professional Journalists and those of us who teach have been saying all along-- JOURNALISM HAS A FUTURE, ONA has made that the topic of what looks to be an exciting day where those in the online world can focus on how we do good journalism in the current environment.  

More on "Journalism Has a Future" in future blog postings.   

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stovall Does It, Now The Real Work Begins

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- As I watched him listen to all the exchange between the faculty and industry voices in the room, Jim Stovall, the Edward J. Meeman Distinguished Professor in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, who organized ICONN, was clearly proud of all that we accomplished in a short time.

Jim has been talking about this idea of a wire service and a network of journalism educators who are teaching Web journalism for a good while. On Friday as the two-day meeting here wound down, his vision was finally coming into view.

We talked a great deal about organizational issues for ICONN-- who's going to be in charge? will students and faculty be working together? What about those who were unable to be here for this meeting?

Those logistical issues are certainly important.

But, equally as important -- and more daunting for most of us without a programming or computer background is getting this web tool, OCHS, to work for us as a content management system. It's an interesting challenge. I often am the person who is considered by some to be the "techno enthusiast."

However, in a room with Joseph Agreda, the Tennessee Journalist operations manager and Jay Baird from Mochi Media as well as Bob Benz from Radiant Markets (formerly of Scripps Interactive), I felt like the one who needed to bone up on his technical skills.

This re-tooling and retraining that we faculty will have to do to make this Web tool work is exactly what makes bringing digital into our teaching such a challenge.

As I leave Orange Country, I will have to say that Knoxville will be the place where I realized I could do this Web thing-- the technical side. I developed a new level of confidence that a Content Management System is no longer something that I leave to "tech staff" to do for me.

iConn represents a new beginning for me as a journalist operating in the multimedia age. And, for that, and to Jim Stovall, I'm eternally grateful.

Let the real work begin. Joseph

ICONN Sparks New Faculty Friendships

MY NEW FRIEND FROM HARDING U-- The Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN) Founders Conference afforded me the opportunity to meet another j-school professor. Dr. Jim Miller, the man behind Jim Miller's Menial Musings, is starting a web journalism class at his university in Searcy, Arkansas.

Harding is not a university I would have thought of first when I think web journalism. Thanks to ICONN, this school is now on the radar as we look at places that are on the cutting edge of teaching multimedia and web journalism.

OTHER FACULTY COLLEAGUES-- Jon Glass, Syracuse University (in the white sweater), suffered through my constant jabs about him being from "Newhouse" (the school I once dreamed of attending as a high school journalist).

Jon has a dual background as a technical staff person who is supporting the digital instruction at SU. (He's also a Florida Gator and a native of Alabama-- who has loose ties to Auburn U., but we won't hold that against him)

Meanwhile at my alma mater, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia (where I received both my master's and doctorate),there are two advocates -- Mark Johnson (see below) from the faculty and Harry Montevideo (In the gray sweater) from the award-winning student independent study daily, The Red and Black.

Even though I was from Alabama, I was VERY PROUD of my school, UGA, having two very vocal and leading voices in making ICONN go. I look forward to working with Jon, Mark and Harry! I think this gathering was a little heavy on the testosterone. Still there were people like Lyn Lepre, a former UT-Knoxville faculty, who brought insights from her experience at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY.

A CLEAR VOICE FOR DIGITAL JOURNALISM-- I take nothing away from all the attendees at ICONN. But, this guy, Mark Johnson, who is leading the digital news instruction at University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism, was most memorable in his articulation of the challenges we have ahead.

His frank assessment of what is needed as we move forward is something on which I know I will reflect again and again. My only regret is that Mark and I missed each other by two years (He joined the Georgia faculty two years after I completed my Ph.D. in 2002).

Friday, January 16, 2009

Knoxville Brings Memories of What Was My Personal Life

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.-- As we begin the second day of the Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN) Founders Conference, it's as good a time as any to depart from the professional and share some personal thoughts about this city and what it means to me to be part of something new in a place with so many personal memories.

I realized yesterday as I was driving up I-75 from Chattanooga how familiar the road signs and exits were to me. That's because I actually had driven this stretch of interstate so many times in another life.

You see there was a certain female to whom I had taken a great liking and who lived in this city back in mid 1990s when I was working as a television news producer at WXIA-TV, NBC's Atlanta affiliate.

She was a friend from college with whom I had worked so closely and connected so well, I just knew that this was a person who would always be in my life. I consider(ed) her my best friend.

Sidebar: When we teach blogging in our journalism courses, one of the things we have to help our students understand is the opportunity that blogs can play for less formal writing that extends, expands and even personalizes a story.

This posting "personalizes" my whole experience here at ICONN

This was the campus where my friend and I used to hang out. She lived only a mile away from the UT-Knoxville campus. She worked part-time at one of the local hospitals and took classes at both Roane State and Pellissippi State Technical Community College.

I remember driving about 30 miles west of here to surprise her at her graduation from Pellissippi State Technical Community College. I remember driving up from Atlanta on Valentine's Day with a surprise care basket one year. I even remember taking a memorable shopping trip with her out to Sevierville, Tenn. (She worked for a short time in Sevier County, just east of Knoxville).

On the UT-Knoxville campus, she and I would go to the Health Sciences Library and hang out. She would study while I would read periodicals. But, at the time, I had begun to ponder the idea of graduate school.

I had even visited the NBC affiliate here, WBIR-TV, wondering about the opportunities in this television market, which was much smaller than either Atlanta or Cincinnati, the city in which I worked before moving to WXIA.

I attended my first academic conference here on the UT-Knoxville campus as UT hosted what's now known as the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium. (AEJMC stands for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication)

I watched research presentations at the conference at the Knoxville Hilton wondering if I could actually do that one day. (Of course, I eventually did do it lots of times as I worked on a master's and Ph.D. degrees)

Years later-- in this century -- the woman, who I identified as my best friend, married someone else in this town. To this day, I have not met face-to-face with the groom.

She invited me to the wedding. Ironically (or maybe not), I was in Chicago presenting a paper at an academic conference the same weekend.

Some have suggested that I intentionally missed this turning point in my best friend's life.

Perhaps this trip back to Knoxville, the place that holds so many memories, is not only about being a part of something new for my students learning Web journalism, but also about coming to terms with something old that happened in my own life.

As I reflect today, I bring "closure" (that's become a bit of a cliche) to what was and look to open what WILL BECOME in both my personal life and in my work with students in journalism via ICONN.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More Pictures from Day One

DOWNTOWN KNOXVILLE-- The view of the World's Fair Park is spectacular from our hotel, the Cumberland House Hotel. This is a vibrant campus and its proximity to downtown gives it a unique feel among schools in our beloved Southeastern Conference.

IN CLASS WITH Dr. Stovall-- James Glen Stovall is a legend in journalism and as the adviser for The Tennessee Journalist, the host for this gathering. This afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting and briefly addressing his Writing for Mass Media class. To my surprise, one of my former students at University of Alabama, who transferred to UT-Knoxville, was there and came down front after class to make sure I knew she was there. What a nice surprise.

VIEW FROM THE TOP-- Mike Wirth, dean of the UT-Knoxville College of Communication and Information addresses the attendees at the ICONN Founders Conference dinner. I had the pleasure of sitting across from Dean Wirth and his lovely wife this evening.

UPI Reinvents Itself With New Generation of Students Online

KNOXVILLE, Tenn-- That "other" wire service-- the one that you heard about one day in school, but rarely saw- United Press International (UPI) is back!

As the Intercollegiate Online News Network (ICONN) is born this week here on the University of Tennessee campus, it appears an older journalism player is going through its own reincarnation. Tonight, we got a view of that as Michael Marshall, editor of UPI, shared a little bit of the vision for UPI-University, a major initiative of the soon-to-be 102-year-old news agency.

"We're finding a way to adjust our traditional values to a totally different environment," said Marshall, who plans to give more concrete details about UPI-U during his presentation tomorrow. "We're no longer a news agency in a traditional sense."

Today's college students are a big part of an effort by United Press International to shift the focus to more serious journalism.

As what Marshall termed 'a national and international showcase for young journalists," UPI-U is one way the agency is responding to respond to citizen journalism with news and information that is credible and reliable.

Formerly a news agency for afternoon newspapers, which began to go away in the 1980s with the proliferation of afternoon newscasts, UPI has been under serveral ownership changes before its purchase by News World Communications.

According to the Web site, News World Comunications' owns the American news agency United Press International (UPI), acquired in 2000. Its flagship newspaper is the Washington Times, founded in 1982. Other newspapers published by News World include The Middle East Times (Egypt), Segye Ilbo (Korea) and Sekai Nippo (Japan). It also publishes magazines (Insight, The World & I, and Washington Golf Monthly).


The one thing that bothered me about Marshall's remarks tonight was his assumption that there's something wrong with Citizen Journalism.

"The problem with citizen journalism is the whole issue of credibility," said Marshall.

I don't happen to subscribe to the view that all or most citizen journalism is unreliable. Instead, I happen to believe that it is our role as journalists in 2009 to embrace the role that citizen journalists can have in our information gathering. Properly trained, they become our co-laborers in the practice.

What some have called the "pro-am" model of journalism is a cutting edge way to re-shape our view of citizen journalists.

To the extent possible, we should help those citizens who want to do journalism to know how to practice it in a ethical manner.

I hope we'll engage Marshall on this issue as we continue or deliberations and discussions tomorrow.

UT-Knoxville Students turn out for ICONN

KNOXVILLE, Tenn-- The launch of the Intercollegiate Online News Network has provided a place for journalism students in classes to come and have contact with industry professionals.

Follow the live blogging from this event on Twitter!

ICONN Begins with Faculty-Student Exchanges

KNOXVILLE, Tenn-- My Journey to Orange Country has reached its main destination- the University of Tennessee main campus where already we've seen some vigorous exchange between students and faculty pondering the future of journalism classes.

The Intercollegiate Online News Network Founders Conference is now into its third hour. One panel focused "Web journalism and education: What do our journalism programs need?" has concluded and second panel is about to begin.

So far, I've been reminded that I need to be teaching some skills that I may not feel like I'm the expert. One of the biggest news items-- Gannett has implemented a Furlough program, which mandates five days of unpaid leave for all employees.

The idea that emerged from this first panel-- use this as an opportunity for digital training. In exchange, those journalists who are trained can come back and help our journalism students.

The struggles of academics took centerstage as did a slight philosophical difference between those who believe focusing on the fundamentals/standards (or the lack thereof in students) and those who believe the Web MIGHT introduce a different tolerance for the old standards of journalism.

I think the issues that opened the conference will come back up as we have some more concrete discussions about the establishment of ICONN and those of us who will be member institutions.

The second panel is beginning. Gotta go! (Live blogging resumes)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Three-Day Trip to The Volunteer State Begins

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn-- I've been in and through this great city lots of times, but I often don't stop. Tonight I'm parked in Chattanooga, my stopover point enroute to a meeting on the University of Tennessee campus.

I've called this trip my -- "Journey to Big Orange Country" because it's a little weird visiting the home turf of one of the biggest rivals of both my present employer and my alma mater. At University of Alabama, we have the third Saturday in October circled on our calendar. Whether it's in Tuscaloosa or in Knoxville, the matchup between the Vols and the Crimson Tide is always a grudge match.

Likewise when I was at my alma mater, The University of Georgia, we knew The Vols were always one of our biggest barriers to an SEC East Championship.

But, football season is over. The Vols have a new coach and both UGA and UA beat them this past year. (Thanks for that!) So, at least for 11 months, we can be on the same side -- working toward educating students about web journalism and how to deal in a world of journalism that is changing seemingly by the hour.

I've been looking forward to coming to UT-Knoxville for a few weeks. It's actually a nice campus, one I visited even before deciding to go to graduate school.

I'll save the trip down memory lane-- and look ahead to the inaugural meeting of the Intercollegiate Online News Association (ICONN), a group of advocates for and instructors of online journalism.

Our friends at the Tennessee Journalist are hosting us. I'm just in awe at what the Tennessee Journalist has accomplished in a few short years. It will be great to meet some of the students beyond this Web site.

One of the outcomes of this gathering we hope will be the establishment of the Intercollegiate Online News Network, a wire service to which my students at University of Alabama will be able to contribute and draw from as they work on our Dateline Alabama Web site.