Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Online JRNL class?

I've been charged with pondering an online news journalism course for Ferris. It's just in the brainstorming phase right now.

I found this description of an online JRNL course at Michigan State:

Information gathering and reporting in multimedia platforms for online news delivery. Online style, text, headline, video, audio and other interactive elements will be used to produce online news packages for publication.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Doomed from the beginning

So, I learned something new about blogging. My friend Charles informed me its not a successful blog unless there's a "disliked" person on it. Well, I had that person lately. And it got worse and worse and worse and just finally had to end.

Maybe blogging was doomed from the beginning. The idea of open forum is great. The practice is not so easy.... I welcomed countering views, allowed some name-calling and inappropriate language, but then it became just way too much. This blog is not about my political views or the political views of anyone else. It was intended to spark debate primarily about issues as they relate to journalism.

I hope to get back to that..... but it may have been doomed from the beginning.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blogging is curious

Blogging is a curious thing. So is writing, thinking and communicating. They are intertwined. I encourage my children, and my students, to write as frequently as possible. I believe the benefits of writing are far reaching. 

Unfortunately, with blogging and other forms of public communication comes pitfalls. They are difficult to avoid in any public endeavor. I certainly have my share of stories from my newspaper days..... Now, I seem to have an anonymous blogger stalker.

In newspapers, we required identification to publish letters to the editor, quotes, etc,... It is a standard rule: If you're not willing to put your name on it, then it's not worth printing. Remaining anonymous is weak and allows for far too great an opportunity to spout hate and untruths.

The dilemma becomes this: Does a blogger allow anonymous comments? I decided to allow them when I started blogging a couple years ago. I figured it would encourage comments and debate and discussion, outweighing the possible negative effects.

Now, I find myself wondering if I made the right decision. While I enjoy debate - with those I agree and disagree with - I do not enjoy name-calling, generalizations and pettiness.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Checking Obama's progress?

Candidate Barack Obama made a lot of promises during his campaign. Over 500! The St. Petersburg Times, a well-known conservative newspaper in Florida, started a web site tracking Obama's progress on his promises once he became President.

Check it out at

It tracks a number of categories: Promises Kept; Compromise; Promise Broken; Stalled; In the Works; and No Action.

He is our president. Whether you voted for him or not, this web site or something like it should become a regular part of your media consumption. Holding all of our public officials, especially our President, is a vital part of a successful democracy.

So, how do you think he's doing?

Monday, May 4, 2009


Anyone working in newspapers or preparing people to work in the business have heard some form of the question: How do you feel about working in a dying industry?

At Ferris State University, where I teach, this is not as direct and serious a question as some surely face. We do not offer a straight Journalism bachelor's degree. There is a journalism emphasis within Technical Communications, a Multi-Media Journalism minor and a Journalism certificate. However, we are not preparing students specifically for a career in newspapers. While there are some on campus with that career path in mind it is a very small number.

When I do come across a student interested in a newspaper career, I am realistic with that person. I stress the opportunities available at Michigan's numerous smaller newspapers rather than planting in their minds ideas of grandiose positions with the New York Times. For example, the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.

The daily Sentinel-Standard is located between Grand Rapids and Lansing. The paper recently sent out a notice of hiring a full-time entry level reporter. These are the jobs I want my students prepared to land. They can do that through a combination of classroom learning and hands-on learning. Much of the hands-on learning available at Ferris, and on many other campuses, comes from student newspapers. Here at Ferris that is the Torch.

I'm not about to give up on newspapers altogether. I don't think others should either.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ferris Torch becoming student-focused

One of the first things I noticed about the Ferris State Torch when I first became interested in it more than a year ago was the lack of focus on its readership: students. Too many stories were about topics and written in ways that were aimed at faculty and administration.

I believe the Torch made huge strides toward becoming more student-reader focused, particularly during the second half of the Spring 2009 semester. Take a look at some recent Torch stories and pages online and let me know what you think.

MSU to host News Summit: In Search of a New Journalism

New journalism is really nothing new. I heard the same term when I was in school 20 years ago. I've read it in textbooks. I'm not diminishing the importance of this event, just pointing out the fact journalism has changed many times over the years - and like many things it is likely to change more and at a much faster pace now than ever before.

This event is interesting. I was considering attending in person, but when I learned there will be a webcast, I decided saving the driving time, the gas money and the environment was too good to pass up. Here is the basic information:

News Summit: In Search of a New Journalism, 1:30-4 p.m. May 11 at Michigan State University. An RSVP is required to attend in person. The web cast is available at SpartanTV. Check out more information at MSU's journalism program web site or check out this PDF of the press release.