Saturday, February 28, 2009

Has the Snow Threat Been Under-reported?

It's 1 a.m. on Sunday, March 1 and for the last 10 or 11 hours, I've been combing the wires, looking at news web sites looking for evidence that the Alabama media are getting excited about the forecast for snow.

In the early evening newscasts, most of the Birmingham media were leading with tornado damage from East Alabama.

Maybe we've all gotten geared up for snow too many times and it doesn't happen here.

Within the last hour, the most-watched, trusted, well-known weather personality in the state, James Spann of Birmingham's ABC affiliate WBMA-TV, did his first cut-in on TV.

I'm excited about what he's doing on his blog with this coverage.

And, this will be first winter weather event where TWITTER will be in use.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next 12 hours.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

An update on travel in 2009

This map shows places I have visited thus far in 2009

View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Conference Shifts From Speeches to Solutions

As the afternoon begins, the more than 200 attendees at the Doing What Matters for Tuscaloosa's Children Conference have split into five groups to begin to talk about solutions to some of the problems facing the county's youngest residents.

"Parental involvement is the missing key for us," said Connie Coleman, a counselor at Hillcrest High School and a presenter for an afternoon session on Dropout rates and prevention. "I think parental involvement is the key to student success."

Coleman listed five common characteristics of students who drop out of school

1. Chronic attendance problems
2. Failing one or more courses of reading-language arts and/or math
3. Significant history of discipline issues
4. Being held back in one or more grades
5. Remaining isolated and uninvolved

"A dropout is no an individual problem, it's a societal problem" Coleman said. "Sometimes dropout cannot be avoided. It's our job to provide students options at this point."

Other topics that are being addressed in the breakout sessions: youth depression and suicide, advocacy with legislator, Impact Alabama, Drugs and youth.

Large Crowd Gathers As Children's Conference Begins

More than 200 people packed the Sellers Auditorium this morning as the "Doing What Matters for Tuscaloosa's Children" Conference kicked off on the University of Alabama campus.

The state's leading advocate for children kicked off a line-up of speakers and sessions that will address such issues as poverty, school dropout and youth depression and suicide.

"I think we need to be able to address the needs of children on a continuum," said Marquita Davis, commissioner for the Alabama Department of Children's Affairs.

Davis talked about the state's 0-5 Initiative, Office of School Readiness, Head Start Collaboration and Office of Family and Policy Issues- areas that her department covers.

While her focus was on students before they get to kindergarten, that was the only population Davis addressed during her 30-minute presentation.

"How can we not at the state level address the needs of parents," she said.

Davis complimented Tuscaloosa on its Jump-Start Program, which prepares students for kindergarten. She cited it as a model for the rest of Alabama.

"I want to take that across the state, Davis said. "Children come ready to learn. Our investment should be on the front end."

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

ONA Proves Journalism Has a Future

NASHVILLE-- I realize several days have passed since the Online News Association workshop. But, there's nothing like a head cold to re-order your priorities.

Now that the virus appears to be breaking and I'm not nearly as congested as I was in the hours following the workshop, I can more clearly see the impact of the workshop on what we're teaching students and what's happening in the industry.

First off, it's clear the Journalism DOES Have a Future. But, it's not just because there's the Internet. We have a more sophisticated answer, a fine-tuned vision of that future because of this workshop.

And, what better place for that vision to come into focus that The Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center, which found itself in the Nashville area headlines Friday. A story involving a local judge and some faked invitations made for interesting side story from our gathering.

I think there are five lessons I learned from the workshop:

1) There's a right way and wrong way to blog

I've got to say-- ONA may have saved the best for last. Full disclosure: I missed the keynote speaker, Janet Coats, due to a mid-day conference call. But, I have to say the last workshop of the day on bloggers and journalism was the BEST of the day. Put Tammi Marcoullier and Rex Hammock on a panel together and you have a great combination. It was a pleasure to met the founder of Hammock, Inc. and hear from a blogger from WKRN-TV. Previously, I've always thought of WKRN-Channel 2, the Young Broadcasting Station in Nashville as a distant number-three behind WSMV-4 and WTVF NewsChannel 5. But, listening to BLogger Christian Grantham from the WKRN blog, Nashville is talking, , I have a different impression.

My favorite term of the day-- bloggers are "curators" of the news. I will review my online notes from this session and even change the way I teach my students to blog.

2) Re-purposing video is not just a possibility, but an expectation

Here at University of Alabama, we've operated from the position that most newspaper newsrooms are not investing in high-end video editing software. But, after attending Val Hoeppner's session at the workshop, I'm having to re-think that particular idea. Her three categories of video were a part of my lecture on video editing in class THIS WEEK. But, I have to admit I had not considered talking much about Avid until hearing her story on what's happening at and lots of other Gannett Information Centers (as they're now called)

3) Building an online audience is just as important as being online

If there's one thing I will remember it is the idea that when we post online, we're not just doing it for ourselves, we are doing for an audience who we hope will come back. Tammi Marcoullier's session on link journalism gave me some ideas for how to augment both my home page and my blog site. But, most of all, she emphasized the importance of Publish 2 tool in allowing you to speak to multiple audiences at once.
As I've picked up more followers at these various gatherings I've attended, I want to give them a reason to continue following me.

4) Taking Twitter seriously is a skill

Along the same lines as Number 3 is the idea that being in Twitter is more than just sending Tweets. It's got to be a conversation. I have to admit I have not used my tweets to do much more than one-way communication. So I'm under-utilizing this online resource. Perhaps some of my Twitter followers will want to comment (respond) to this item.

Speaking of followers, Anniston Star Online Director Justin Thurman's tweet last month was what made me decide to re-up with ONA and come to the Nashville workshop. Thanks Justin!

A big plus of making the trip for gatherings like this is finding out what online editors and web directors like Justin are doing day-to-day. Even though Justin and I work together through UA's Knight Fellows in Community Journalism, we're on opposite sides of the state (a 2-hour drive apart). So Nashville was a meet-up for us.
Checkout the candid shot of J.T. on his cell phone.

5) ONA is cool

I've been a member of the Online News Association before, but never attended one event. Having recently renewed my membership, this $25 workshop was a GREAT value for the money. The speakers/facilitators were well-informed in their area and I walked away with tips that I could immediately put to use. Other journalism organizations to which I belong could learn a lot from ONA about how to put on a workshop that have a maximum "take-away" value.

Speaking of other journalism organizations, I can't forget my encounter with Former Society of Professional Journalists National President Mac McKerral, who is on faculty at Western Kentucky University. Before heading back the icy roads of the Bluegrass, Mac took a quick shot with me.

200 posts in Four Years

As I am about to post this update, I realized this is my 200th posts. But I've been doing this since 2005.

By most true bloggers' standards, 200 posts in four years is probably not a big deal. In fact, most true bloggers wouldn't let five days past without a posting.

Get I still have a ways to go with this blogging thing.

Occasional postings are not the way to develop a real following.

But, there are only so many hours in a day.

That's the real deal.