Friday, December 18, 2009

English/creative writing grad loves journalism

SPJ's new edition of Quill magazine has a terrific short interview with award-winning journalist Rosette Royale, whose background is not in newswriting but in English and creative writing.

But today he works for Real Change, a weekly newspaper in Seattle, and enjoys not just the storytelling for which he was educated, but the opportunity to make a difference for society.

"I learned that investigative journalism can be really fun, too," he says. "When you report news, you can still tell stories. As a journalist you can be any kind of writer you want to be."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Senate action moves Shield Law closer to reality

Larry Margasak of the Associated Press reports that the Senate Judiciary Committee last week ended months of inaction on a bill to protect reporters' confidential sources in federal court , clearing the way for a reconciliation with a House version before consideration by the White House.

The bill does not give journalists absolute authority to protect sources. Those rights can be overridden in national security cases.

"After years of debate and countless cases of reporters being held in contempt, fined and even jailed for honoring their professional commitment not to publicly reveal their sources, the time has come to enact a balanced federal shield law," said the committee chairman, Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.).

Conservative Republicans and some in the intelligence community opposed it, citing dangers to national security.

The bill broadly defines journalists to include bloggers, citizen journalists and freelancers. It also relies on court tests to determine whether sources deserve protection.

Most states have either state media shield laws or court cases establishing the protection.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Newspaper readers made iconic Christmas editorial enduring

One of American Journalism's most familiar editorials remains so popular that Macy's is again using it for its holiday advertising and CBS-TV is running an animated prime-time special about the girl who sparked the response by the New York Sun in 1897. However, it was less editors than readers who were responsible for its enduring impact.

“Is There A Santa Claus?” was a response to 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's letter to the editor asking, "Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?" And American University Journalism professor W. Joseph Campbell says it was reader demand that caused the Sun to start reprinting it annually in the 1920s,

“Before then, it was reprinted only sporadically,” Campbell said. “Newspaper editors are not always as perceptive as their readers in identifying and calling attention to journalism of significance and lasting value."

The piece (read it online here -- ) was written is a few hours by Francis Pharacellus Church.

Its popularity continues, according to Campbell, because
• It offers a connection to another, distant time. It is reassuring to know that what was appealing in 1897 remains appealing today.
• It is a cheery, reaffirming story: one without villains or sinister elements.
• The editorial reminds adults about Christmases past and a time when they, too, were believers.
• It has been a way over the years for parents to address children’s skepticism about Santa Claus without having to fib. They can point to the editorial and its timeless answer to an inevitable question.

Campbell, author of Yellow Journalism: Puncturing the Myths, Defining the Legacies (Praeger, 2001), says dismissing that era of Journalism as worthless sensationalism is a distortion of Journalism's value.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Students still hear J 'calling'

Despite the loss of jobs last year -- besides well-known impressions from newspapers, television news jobs dropped by more than 4% in 2008, according to TV Week -- students are still drawn to Journalism as a calling.

"If I were entering the profession — probably going back to the beginning of the 20th century — there’s no time I’d rather enter it than now," said Josh Marshall, Talking Points Memo founder and editor, "notwithstanding the challenges that the profession faces right now, but precisely because of it.

"It’s the people who are entering the profession right now who are going to create the editorial models, the publishing models, the business models, that define journalism in the 21st century," he added.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Women entrepreneurs: New perspectives on news

J-Lab, the Institute for Interactive Journalism, has released a report outlining some of the ways that people who care about journalism are experimenting and even pushing the envelope by reconsidering the concept of objectivity, for example.

Most importantly, the report showcase how four women's groups started ways to re-define news to include real engagement -- connecting the audience to a sense of their peers, neighborhoods, communities, society and world.

“We are beginning to understand that the kinds of news that are evolving in the new media ecosystem are different from the news that was delivered by traditional news organizations,” said J-Lab director Jan Schaffer. “Yet it is responsible and seems to be connecting with people in their communities in interesting ways.”

The report can be read or downloaded as a pdf file here --

Monday, December 7, 2009

'Journalism isn't going away': Columbia Dean

Nicholas Lemann is Dean of Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, so one could be forgiven for considering his opinion self-interested.

However, in a substantive interview with Germany's Spiegel magazine, Lemann shows that he's also an accomplished journalist. The contributor to the New Yorker and working journalist for the likes of the Atlantic, Washington Monthly and the Washington Post, Lemann demonstrates that he tempers optimism and a love of the trade with skepticism and a built-in BS detector.

"From the standpoint of a student who wants to be a full-time employed reporter and find an entry-level job, things aren't so bad," he comments.

Read the whole interview here --,1518,657957,00.html

Elsewhere, Bill Steigerwald in The American Conservative magazine writes, "despite all the headlines and hysteria, exactly 10 of the country's 1,437 daily newspapers have stopped publishing since 2007.

"To put the newspaper industry's losses in perspective [down some 47,000 last year], in September alone, the construction industry shed 64,000 jobs."


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Enjoy Thanksgiving? Remember a Journalist

A journalist is partly responsible for Thanksgiving.

Today’s version of the holiday was created by crusading journalist and pioneer newswoman, poet, novelist and abolitionist Sarah Josepha Hale (right). The holiday resulted from decades of relentless promotion by Hale, editor of American Ladies’ Magazine (1828-1836) and Godey’s Lady’s Book (1837-1877).

She promoted it in columns and stories in her periodicals and appealed directly to U.S. Presidents Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln until Lincoln finally recognized it as a national holiday.

Hale was a New England widow who raised five children by writing and editing. The author of the poem “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” Hale edited such magazine contributors as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Washington Irving. She worked as a journalist until her retirement at the age of 89.

Black Panther artist visits campus Wednesday

Graphic artist Emory Douglas, a member of the original Black Panther Party, is scheduled to discuss how art can raise awareness about poverty and other world challenges when he visits WIU- Macomb in a 7 p.m. appearance in the Union Sandburg Theater on Wednesday.

Douglas’s art established the visual identity of the party in posters, and in the graphic designs, cartoons, and illustrations he produced for the Black Panther newspaper. In an interview with Dossier magazine last year, Douglas told Mitchell S. Jackson that writing itself was more of a struggle than art.

“I was never really a writer,” Douglas said. “I learned how to write while I was in the Party. There were things that I wrote myself that the editors worked on with me. It was always a collaborative thing. I was inspired by people like Eldridge Cleaver, by Huey Newton’s writing. And then there was Amical Cabral, the African brother, who said you have to be able to speak in a way that even a child can understand. That always stuck with me in my art – to draw in a way that even a child could see.”

Douglas continues to produce posters about issues such as children’s health and advancing efforts to address global AIDs.

Here’s a link to a video interview with Douglas:

Cook County prosecutor targeting J students

Groups ranging from the Student Press Law Center to the American Society of News Editors are objecting to a Cook County State's Attorney’s probe into Northwestern University Journalism students and professor David Protess for their part in investigating suspicious cases –- and 11 times freeing people wrongfully convicted.

New State's Attorney Anita Alvarez is looking in to the Medill Innocence Project, founded in 1999 by Protess, because the latest inmate the group thinks is innocent, Anthony McKinney, is having his case re-examined by the prosecutor's office -- including the process that the Journalism students were convinced of McKinney's innocence.

"The State's Attorney's office is trying to save itself from the embarrassment of students finding another innocent man in prison," former Protess J student Evan Benn.

Joe Barrett in the Wall Street Journal wrote a nice roundup/update of the controversial situation. Check it out at --

New report more in-depth, upbeat

Michael Schudson, a professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, said he was struck by "the really stunning enthusiasm and excitement of people engaged in many of these [Journalism] startups, who were just bubbling over with what they were doing."

Schudson co-authored the new paper "The Reconstruction of American Journalism" with Leonard Downie Jr., the Washington Post's former executive editor, who’s now a Journalism professor at Arizona State University.

Conceding changes in Journalism, their report includes all news media.

“The picture isn't much brighter in local television,” comments Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post. “KDNL in St. Louis and WYOU in Scranton, Pa., have dropped their newscasts altogether. At about 200 stations around the country, the local news is produced by other stations.

“Commercial radio stations, except for a handful of big-city outlets, do little or no local reporting,” Kurtz added. “At the same time, ‘only a relatively small number’ of public radio stations offer much on-the-ground reporting.”

The report notes, "The days of a kind of news media paternalism or patronage that produced journalism in the public interest, whether or not it contributed to the bottom line, are largely gone. American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting independent news reporting in this new environment -- as society has, at much greater expense, for public needs like education, health care, scientific advancement and cultural preservation -- through varying combinations of philanthropy, subsidy and government policy."

Meanwhile, within weeks of its release third-quarter corporate reports came out, the newspaper chains Gannett (USA Today) showed a $73.8 million profit and McClatchy (Kansas City Star, Belleville Nws Democrat) showed a $23.6 million profit.

The study will appear in a forthcoming issue of Columbia Journalism Review and is online as a pdf file here --

Audiences remain for newspapers

Print editions of newspapers reach more readers than web sites, according to the new Newspaper Research Journal.

"Just when we thought we were over our newspapers and turning our faces into the brisk wind of New Media to blog, learn HTML, Tweet or do whatever else is necessary to stay relevant and employed, say what?" writes Samantha Bennett of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

Online editions of newspapers reach just 15% of local Internet users, the journal shows.

Meanwhile, 171 million American adults read a newspaper -- print or online -- at least once a week, according to Scarborough Research's Integrated Newspaper Audience study.

Pie-in-the-face comic legend was trained journalist

Slapstick comedian Milton Supman -- "Soupy Sales" -- died on October 22, leaving behind him generations of fans who enjoyed some 20,000 pies he said were thrown during his various TV shows in the 1950s and '60s...

... and a start that included a bachelor's degree in Journalism from Marshall College in West Virginia in 1949.

Talk about Journalism's wide-ranging educational background providing a foundation for many careers!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Good news for newspaper journalism

The small type in the Newspaper Project public-service ad above may not be legible in digital format (a tiny victory for print?), but it says, "In these complicated times, life seems to come at us like a game of hardball: full of fast pitches and plenty of curveballs. That's why more than 100 million Americans rely on their local newspapers and newspaper websites to stay on top of their game. So take advantage of everything newspapers have to offer, like top-quality journalism you can trust. For readers and advertisers, newspapers are a guaranteed home run."

The ad alludes to baseball, now one of the good-news stories of the week, as the World Series between the Yankees and Phillies gets underway.

Another bit of good news comes from the newspaper industry itself. Buried in pack-journalism stories about "beleaguered" major-metro dailies owned by corporate chains are successes of mid-sized market dailies and other publications from weeklies to small-market dailies.

Even the Big Guys shows gains, however. Gannett, publishers of dozens of papers including USA Today, reported a net income of $73.8 million in the third quarter, when the McClatchy Co., another chain whose holdings include the Minneapolis star-Tribune reported a third-quarter net income of $23.6 million.

Those are profits, doomsayers, despite the Great Recession.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nat'l Newspaper Week celebrates 69th year

October 4-10 is National Newspaper Week, an opportunity to promote journalism and newspapers launched by the Newspaper Association Managers group in 1940.

Here's a cool ad from the Newspaper Project.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Apple's Tablet could boost print

Book publishers already are lining up, and magazines and newspapers could be next: Apple is negotiating with several media companies to provide content for its Tablet -- or to access original content from the new, multitouch tablet.

"While the idea of print on the Tablet is enticing, it's nothing the Kindle or any E-Ink device couldn't do," comments the Gizmodo blog. However, "Microsoft's Courier [is] far away and Kindle stuck with relatively static E-Ink.

"The eventual goal is to have publishers create hybridized content that draws from audio, video and interactive graphics in books, magazines and newspapers."

Could Google Wave transform journalism?

Mark Milian in the Los Angeles Times has an interesting short column about how journalism could change as a result of Google's new collaborative web tool, Wave.

Here's a list of a few ideas on which he elaborates: collaborative reporting, recording and archiving interviews, live editing, smarter story updates, discuss while you read, transparent writing process, instant polls and Wiki news aggregator.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Barlett and Steele: Still busy after all these years

Writer Larry Atkins update of the investigative reporting team of Don Barlett and James Steele appears in the current Philadelphia Weekly, available online, and it's an inspiring tale.

Barlett and Steele -- 73 and 66 years old, respectively -- wrote the 1992 Philadephia Inquirer series America: What Went Wrong?, which was rewritten as a book that became a New York Times bestseller mentioned by President Clinton in his 2000 State of the Union Address. The Washington Journalism Review called Barlett and Steele “almost certainly the best team in the history of investigative reporting."

Since leaving the Inquirer, the pair have done substantial reporting for Time and Vanity Fair magazines and written book-length journalism such as 2004's Critical Condition: How Health Care in America Became Big Business-and Bad Medicine, which described the flawed health care system and urged reform.

“One of the questions we try to answer when researching a subject -- whether it be bankruptcy, health care, illegal immigration or taxes -- is this: Are people treated equally?" Barlett says. "Is there one rule for everyone, or do government and the big and powerful institutions of society favor one group of individuals over another, one business over another? The function of government in a democratic society should be to level the playing field rather than tilt it so that it favors a few over the many. Yet that’s exactly what happens -- over and over.”

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More to Pew poll than headlines

"Most Americans believe media biased" was a common headline two weeks ago when the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released its updated survey on people's attitude about the news media. However, the survey is deeper than a headline and isn't all bad news for journalists -- or conscientious news consumers

For one thing, the survey doesn't differentiate between journalists and media advocates such as Rush Limbaugh, Amy Goodman or Walter Williams. They all have fans, but they're much more entertainers or opinionated writers than reporters who strive to offer stories that are complete, fair and accurate. Further, only indirectly considered is human nature -- appreciating contents that reinforce one's existing beliefs and discounting material that disputes or disagrees with beliefs as biased.

Finally, buried in the Pew study are tidbits of positives or surprises amid the conventional-wisdom blather:

*"For more than two decades, majorities have expressed the view that a critical press keeps leaders from doing things that should not be done,"

*"Even among those younger than 30, substantially more say they get most local news from newspapers (39%) than from the Internet (21%)," and

*"Young people are actually more likely to say it would be an inportant loss if national news sources such as network TV evening news, cable news and large ntional newspapers shut down.

Elsewhere, the Newspaper Project <> is less than a year old in its mission to "support a productive exchange of information and ideas about the future of newspapers," but its public-service ads are gaining some attention. Here's one --

Friday, September 25, 2009

WIU J grad signs comic for White

Western Journalism alum Chris Ward signed a first edition of his new comic, Bluewater Productions' Political Power: Barack Obama, which was sent to John H. White, the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist who visited the Macomb campus on Sept. 17 -- along with Ed Komenda's nice story about the appearance from the Sept. 21 Western Courier.

A friend of the Obama family, White covered much of the Obama campaign, plus the Grant Park victory celebration on Election Night and the Inauguration.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rolling Stone profiles Fanning from 'Frontline'

The September 17 issue of Rolling Stone has a short but solid snapshot of TV journalist David Fanning (shown at right), the creator and producer of Frontline, the PBS-TV show that's earned Fanning 40 Emmy Awards in 28 years.

This week he won his most recent, for Frontline's episode Bush's War in the category of "Outstanding Continuing Coverage of a News Story - Long Form."

"David takes on big subjects that require real, painstaking reporting and produces work that is smart, gripping and subtle," says competitor Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times.

Having produced more than 500 investigative documentaries, Fanning also led a team of journalists in uncovering what was going on in the economic meltdown that resulted in what's being called the Great Recession -- last winter, in the midst of the crisis.

The RS piece is not available online, but it's definitely worth checking out at a library or a pal's stack of magazines.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Multi-media producer wants news background

The executive producer of, the news-site spinoff from Seattle's Post-Intelligencer, says even the so-called Web 2.0 needs journalists with solid skills in the fundamentals.

"We're leaning toward candidates with strong news background who are not tech-phobic and don't belong in that small class of people who seem to be unable to pick up new technology," Michelle Nicolosi said in a post by Renay San Miguel of TechNewsWorld. "Our experience at has been that most people with a news background can learn basic HTML, pick up our CMS fairly easily, grasp the basics of SEO [search engine optimization] and learn fairly quickly all the other skillls they need to produce the site."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kid reporter shows the zeal

National Public Radio reports, "Rupert Murdoch, get ready for Brennan LaBrie! LaBrie is 9 years old, lives in Washington State, and puts out a newspaper called The Spruce Street Weekly. Learn how he puts out a newspaper without having to fall back on stories about John and Kate and Brittany. Host Scott Simon talks with LaBrie, Time For Kids magazine's 2009-2010 reporter finalist — one of 12 young journalists chosen from across the nation.

Check out this talented young journalist from a video on his blog --

Newspapers still strong: Inland Press Assn.

Adolfo Mendez in the new issue of Inland Press Association's Inlander has a news feature with some perspective on the newspaper industry's health and future.

Titled "Stop the presses: Newspapers have a future," the piece puts into context the strengths of newspapers even in financially challenging times.

"Although our industry is evolving, the foundation of our business is very strong,” Mendez quotes Illinois newspaperman Larry Maynard. A newspaper has “one of, if not the, strongest brand equity” in its local market, Maynard continued. “More often than not, nobody is more familiar with the name of any media than they are with your company.”

Newspapers "have the strongest and longest relationships with advertisers — some of those go back 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years,” he said. “Nobody has longer advertising relationships than the newspapers do.”

Other media don’t come close, he added.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Journalism jobs: Advertising is still hiring storytellers

The Huffingtonpost entry's headline is eye-catching: "Where are the journalism jobs? The answer is ..."

The answer is a little surprising -- and a lot more reassuring that most employment news in what's being called the Great Recession.


That's right, according to Mark Pasetsky, editorial director for, advertising agencies and even big brands are starting to appreciate how valuable solid editorial content is in communicating theuir messages.

Pasetsky, who's also an editorial consultant for OK! Magazine and editorial director for, leads analyses of magazine and catalog covers.

The comnplete story is here --

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

College pays off: BLS

Buried down in Table 4 of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' report on "usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers" through the second quarter of this year are numbers that can be reassuring or chilling to students, depending on their attitudes toward school.

The Educational Attainment breakdown shows that Americans who've earned a Bachelor's degree earn 63% higher pay than high school graduates on average.

High school only -- $630/week.
Bachelor's degree -- $1,031/week.

The report also has breakdowns based on gender, age and race. See it at

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rather advocates for top-level panel on news media

Former CBS correspondent and anchor Dan Rather recently editorialized in the Washington Post that only the participation of President Obama can draw adequate attention to the state of the nation's news media.

"This is the only way I could think of to generate the sort of attention this subject deserves," Rather wrote. "Academia and think tanks generate study after study, yet their findings don't reach the people who need to be reached."

Rather doesn't favor a government bailout for, much less control of, news media, he said. But without wide-ranging and grassroots attention, what's bad could get worse.

For the country.

"We need news that breeds understanding, not contempt; news that fosters a healthy skepticism of the workings of power rather than a paralyzing cynicism. We need the basic information that a self-governing people requires," said Rather, who's now global correspondent and managing editor of HDNet's Dan Rather Reports.

"This is a crisis that, with no exaggeration, threatens our democratic republic at its core," he added. "But you won't hear about it on your evening news."

Read his entire essaya here--

Bing & Twitter could help journalism

Microsoft's Bing search engine is partnering with Yahoo! and Twitter upgraded itself, which not only will challenge Google's hegemonym but help journalaism, according to an interesting post by Causecast contributor Maegan Carberry.

It's search optimization, she says.

Check it out --

Student Journalists Must Create a Personal Brand Name

This isn't an entirely new concept but Alfred Hermida, an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Journalism, the University of British Columbia makes a compelling case for student journalists to create their own personal brand.

He notes "personal branding is becoming increasingly central to the prospects of a young person starting out on a life of reporting." He points out the shift away from big journalism institutions, such as major newspapers and new organizations, toward individual writers and voices.

Check out his essay at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Toot, Toot, Sammy-- Goodbye

Billionaire Sam Zell, who leveraged the Chicago Tribune group of media properties and other subsidiaries into bankruptcy, is being forced out, according to its equally beleaguered competitor, the Chicago Sun-Times.

Tribune creditors are working out a reorganization plan that ousts the real estate mogul, according to reporter David Roeder.

Elsewhere, Crain's reports that the Trib's net revenues for July increased to $508 million from $491 million last July. []

Read the Sun-Times story on Zell's bye-bye here --,CST-NWS-zell14.article

Lee Enterprises launching newspaper promo campaign

The parent company of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Quad City Times aims to fight the "irrational negativity about the future of newspapers," according to Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck, with a campaign promoting the medium as "First. Best. Today. Tomorrow."

"Audiences are huge and growing," says Junck, who notes papers' appeal to younger readers, too.

"We reach 60% or more of 18 to 29 year olds," she says. "Our newspapers alone reach more than 50%."

Lee is weathering the economic downturn, too. Its stock price was recently $1.50 a share -- up from a 24 cents in the last year.

The entire article from E&P is here --

Some magazines prospering in Great Recession

Some periodicals that target specialty or affluent audiences did well in the last year, a time when the magazine industry suffered a significant loss of ad revenue -- and a few titles went out of business.

Organic Gardening, Scholastic Parent & Child and Fitness were a few that benefited from redesigns, stunts and just plain luck, reports Joan Voight.

Read the complete MediaPost news piece here --

Ease up on PR 'flacks,' newsroom 'hacks'!

Public relations professionals are good ethical thinkers, according to research done at Penn State -- contradicting the stereotype of PR practitioners as untrustworthy manipulators who'd do anything for a client.

Check out the news story at the e! Science News blog --

Interestingly, among 20 groups of people, PR folks finished 7th. Journalists finished 5th -- after seminarians, ophilosophers, medical students and physicians. Ranking last were junior high school students, who scored lower than prison inmates.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cronkite wanted to defer to newspapers

Among various anecdotes about the late CBS-TV anchor Walter Cronkite, who died in July at the age of 92, were stories about his lifelong appreciation of newspapers.

On CNN, Tom Watkins reported that Cronkite did not end his first broadcast at the CBS Evening News with what would become his signature goodbye -- "... that's the way it is."

"The first night up, he ended the show by saying -- I'm paraphrasing -- 'That's the news. Be sure to check your local newspapers tomorrow to get all the details on the headlines we are delivering to you'," according to Sanford "Sandy" Socolow, a CBS colleague who spoke to CNN.

But the comment angered CBS brass, who prohibited the remark in the future, reports Editor and Publisher magazine.

Another Cronkite nod to the detail and resources newspapers bring to communications was a widely distributed essay he wrote for Ogilvy & Mather's 1983 advertising campaign for International Paper: "How to read a Newspaper."

Check out this pdf copy from Newspapers In Education --

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

TV's disappointing digital

It's been a month now since the digital conversion of all U.S. television stations, so it's awfully early to be crying, cautiously optimistic or critical of the consequences. However, many stations went digital long enough back that their efforts are creating some consternation after the hype that preceded what some see as a government giveaway of chunks of the broadcast spectrum to appease commercial interests with little regard for the public interest.

Business Week magazine senior writer Tom Lowry did a good roundup piece about the overall disappointing results from local stations' digital spinoffs.

"Most of the country's 1,700 TV stations have created them," he writes. "But only the 10% of U.S. households that receive digital TV over the air can watch the new programming because the cable, phone and satellite companies so far are usually disinclined to carry it."

That ties to disappointing ad sales linked to the new programming, he says.

"Local TV advertising fell 28% in the first quarter from the same period in 2008," Lowry writes. "[So] local broadcasters seem prepared to do an end run around the cable and phone companies. They are pinning their hopes on the next generation of cell phones, which will be able to receive digital TV signals."

(It must have been discomfiting for Lowry to see this published around the same time that Business Week owner McGraw-Hill announced it was losing money on the excellent periodical and would consider a buyer.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

WIU alum covering high-profile murder in Florida

Kris Wernowsky, WIU J grad (2003?), is doing a bang-up job covering the Billings murders in Florida's panhandle.

In fact, he handled CNN host Don Lemon's shallow inquiries effectively Saturday night.

Check it out --

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ex-Clear Channel morning host still connects with people

Connecting with people was generally more important than specific skill sets when Michelle Maloney was coping with getting laid off from hosting a morning radio talk show in Cleveland by media giant Clear Channel, according to a short news feature broadcast on WCPN-FM 90.3 in Cleveland.

The story by the National Public Radio affiliate touches on the experience of three people from TV, a magazine and a daily newspaper -- all now pursuing other opportunities made possible by their talents.

Here's a portion of a transcript dealing with Maloney --

MALONEY: You can’t be worrying about, “Ohmygod, ohmygod, am I going to get fired?" Because that’s no way to live. And then, of course, it happens to you, and you’re blown out of the water. It was hard.

Maloney sent out hundreds of resumes --- to radio stations, ad agencies, public relations firms. Nothing seemed to be working. But, [a Cleveland] Plain Dealer story about her prompted a response that came out of left field. The manager of a local car dealership sent an e-mail, offering her a sales position.

MALONEY: I e-mailed him back and said, “That’s really sweet of you. I appreciate it, but I know nothing about selling cars.” And he said, “That’s okay, you don’t have to, we’ll teach you that. The big thing is connecting with people. And you’ve been doing that for 18 years, in radio”

SOUND : (PA system at Lexus dealership “Bob, pick-up line 7 please.")

The waiting room of the Classic Lexus store in Willoughby Hills looks like the lobby of a posh hotel, with comfortable couches and a big plasma screen playing the afternoon soaps. To the right and left, new model cars glisten in the showroom. This is Michelle Maloney’s new workplace.

MALONEY: My first month I sold five cars, (laughs) which they say, in this economy, isn’t bad.

She says she misses radio, but finds it hard to listen to her old station any more. It’s just not the same. Right now, she’s cautiously optimistic about her new circumstances.

MALONEY: Somebody said, “What are you driving?” And I said, a pick-up truck. And I’m going to drive it into the ground. I make my last payment in August. So…that will be nice to have a little relief for awhile.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ex-J Day speaker wins national award

A Springfield editorial cartoonist who spoke at WIU's Spring 2005 Journalism Day has won the 2008 Sigma Delta Chi national award for editorial cartooning, SPJ announced this week.

Chris Britt, who works out of the State Journal-Register and syndicates his work through GateHouse Media, was described as "fearless" by judges.

"Britt invariably presents points of view that are simultaneously contrarian and obvious," judges said.

Britt commented, "I love my job."

Here's a link to a pdf file of Quill magazine's page 41, showcasaing Britt and his work --

Economy affecting TV as well as print: CNN/NBC vet

Journalists who assume they'll escape anxiety by concentrating on broadcasting instead of newspaper are missing the big picture, according to former CNN and NBC News video editor and camera operator David P. Burns.

The recession and expansion of consumer choices for media is affecting journalists and news companies across the board, Burns writes in the new Quill magazine.

"Studio production crews are getting smaller, forcing technicians to compete for a handful of jobs in a single market," Burns writes in a piece about moving from newsrooms to classrooms.

Susan Kirkwood, a special-projects producer for Baltimore's WMAR-TV until she was laid off, has started teaching part-time at Towson University, where students don't realize the reality of 21st century broadcast journalism.

"They always seem surprised to learn it's not glamorous," she said. "I told them about working overnights, and they couldn't believe that schedule existed."

Friday, July 3, 2009

Chicago news legend dies; leaves 'lessons'

Longtime Chicago journalist John Callaway died last week after suffering a heart attack in Racine, Wisc. He was 72.

Besides leaving behind thousands of viewers, listeners and readers and his wife Sandra, the host of WTTW-TV 11's news program Chicago Tonight, originator of WBBM-AM 780 and CBS Radio's all-news format, and former City News Bureau reporter also leaves a legacy embodied in his dedication to journalism, common sense and decency.

NPR's Scott Simon tweeted about Callaway's advice to journalists.
"What I learned from John Callaway about journalism --and life," Simon recalled:
Be persistent.
Be kind.
Be fair.
Be interesting.
Try to do something different.
Call people back.
Give people a break.
Assume nothing.
Remember people's names.
Write thank you notes.
Tip the bartender.
Try to do something every few weeks that scares you at least a little.
Go to the bathroom just before you go on.
Most of all: Remember that it's a blessing to be a Chicagoan, and a privilege to come into people's homes with the news."

The Chicago Tribune 15 years ago wrote, "It has been said that John Callaway, who has won more than 60 awards -- including seven Chicago Emmys -- is the best interviewer on television. He can be tough, like when he told Sen. Paul Simon he hadn't mastered his own campaign material. He can be sensitive, like when he delicately asked director Gordon Parks about the death of his son. He can elicit quotable sound bites. Mike Ditka, when he was Bears coach: 'My motives are right, even if my methods stink.' Rich Daley, when he was state's attorney: 'I could subpoena you overnight if you became my enemy.' He made the Frugal Gourmet cry. When Johnny Carson asked William Buckley who was the best interviewer, Buckley answered, 'That chubby fellow in Chicago.' "

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Woodward, Hersh stand up for content, St. Louis newsman reports from IRE

By Don Corrigan
Webster-Kirkwood Times
After months and months of bad news for journalism, it was a great morale boost this past weekend to go to the IRE Convention in Baltimore.

Investigative Reporters & Editors is headquartered at Missouri's School of Journalism, but its heart is all over the country - wherever there are journalists who believe in public service and trying to right some wrongs.

One of the profession's deans, who sought to rally the troops, was the man who helped uncover Watergate. Bob Woodward laid it on the line:

"Social media? It's noise. Twitter? Facebook? It's all a diversion. Good reporting is always going to be about hard work; about waking up every morning with the thought: What are the bastards hiding today?"

Woodward conceded that journalism has had major setbacks this past decade. He wasn't talking about the salary cuts, unpaid furloughs, layoffs or newspaper shutdowns. He was speaking of the failure to expose the phony weapons of mass destruction (WMD) justification - before America was marched into a war against Iraq.

Lest one think IRE's meeting was just another venue for Bush-bashing, plenty of skepticism was expressed about the Obama Administration.

James Bamford, who has detailed the intelligence failures that resulted in 9/11, said Obama is in danger of simply being "Bush with charisma." That thought was echoed by Pulitzer-prize winner Seymour Hersh, who criticized Obama for moving too slow to get us out of Iraq and for digging us deeper into war in Afghanistan.

"I was like many people who went to bed on election night thinking we had elected the virtuous prince," said Hersh. "It is becoming apparent that it was just another frog."

I don't buy a lot of what Hersh and Woodward have to say, but it's good to see their "fire in the belly." It's good to see the watchdogs still barking.

At the IRE awards banquet, I sat with reporters from conservative papers, who are digging into scandals erupting with the Wall Street bailouts and abuse of stimulus package money. Good for them! Keep digging!

At the banquet, it was gratifying to watch TV clips of news stories outing public safety officials who shirked their responsibilities to protect school children or city water supplies. It was inspiring to hear about The Seattle Times' work in exposing lax procedures at health facilities that resulted in the spread of staph infections.

Leonard Downie, another dean of American journalism, told reporters to buck up. He said journalism was changing, but not going away. He said the old model of big news companies with lots of advertising is dying.

News will be done by non-profits, by universities, by community papers, by partisan Web blogs with impartial investigative units. Downie said people are finding new ways to find news and it's time to embrace a new era.

One-time reporter, 'Wired' creator testifies about newspapers, blasts new and old media as short-sighted

Former Baltimore Sun journalist David Simon is now better known as the creative force behind HBO's series The Wire, and that helped him gain some attention when he testified about newspapers this spring on Capitol Hill.

Simon didn't mince words in leveling blame at "old-media" ownership more than changes in technology, although he scoffed at the notion of "new media" bloggers and citizen journalists somehow replacing well-trained, dedicated and competent professional journalists.

"Readers acquire news from the aggregators [for free] and abandon its point of origin – namely, the newspapers themselves," he said. "The parasite is slowly killing the host."

And old media? Here's an excerpt:

“When you hear a newspaper executive claiming that his industry is an essential bulwark of society and that it stands threatened by a new technology that is, as of yet, unready to shoulder the same responsibility, you may be inclined to empathize. And indeed, that much is true enough as it goes,” he said.

“But when that same newspaper executive then goes on to claim that this predicament has occurred through no fault on the industry's part, that they have merely been undone by new technologies, feel free to kick out his teeth. At that point, he's as fraudulent as the most self-aggrandized blogger.

“In short, my industry butchered itself and we did so at the behest of Wall Street and the same unfettered, free-market logic that has proved so disastrous for so many American industries. And the original sin of American newspapering lies, indeed, in going to Wall Street in the first place.

“When locally-based, family-owned newspapers like The Sun were consolidated into publicly-owned newspaper chains, an essential dynamic, an essential trust between journalism and the communities served by that journalism was betrayed.

“Economically, the disconnect is now obvious. What do newspaper executives in Los Angeles or Chicago care whether or not readers in Baltimore have a better newspaper, especially when you can make more putting out a mediocre paper than a worthy one? The profit margin was all. And so, where family ownership might have been content with 10 or 15 percent profit, the chains demanded double that and more, and the cutting began – long before the threat of new technology was ever sensed…

“Absent this basic and belated acknowledgment that content has value -- if indeed it still does after so many destructive buyouts and layoffs – and that content is what ultimately matters, I don't think anything else can save high-end, professional journalism."

His complete testimony is online at --

Monday, June 22, 2009

Ad Age Columnist Says 'Walled Off' Content Won't Save Newspapers

Why 'Going Galt' Isn't the Solution for Newspapers
Experts Say Walling Off Content Would Damage Outlets, Boost Aggregators

By Nat Ives

Published: June 22, 2009

NEW YORK ( -- The Newport Daily News in Rhode Island has a new digital strategy: close its free, ad-supported site and sell an electronic edition that costs more than twice as much as getting the print paper in your driveway. It's a bold move that just might work. So why isn't every newspaper so brave? What if every newspaper gated off everything tomorrow? What if newspapers embraced the idea of "going Galt"?

Well, it would be suicide.

"Going Galt," a defiant notion getting new attention in some quarters, refers to Ayn Rand's novel "Atlas Shrugged." Protagonist John Galt advocates that creators should cease creating so that the government, painted as a parasite, can't impose taxes on the profits from their creations. Today some libertarians and conservatives want to protest the federal tax burden by "going Galt" and reducing their earnings. Their frustration is echoed in the newspaper business, where executives regret making all their content free online -- only to see aggregators and other sites get traffic and ad revenue by posting their news stories.

Print-ad revenue sank 30% in the first quarter to $5.9 billion, a quarterly mark not seen since 1985, according to the Newspaper Association of America. But newspapers aren't switching dollars to their websites. Online revenue fell too, 13% to $696 million -- still nearly an order of magnitude smaller than print.

So why shouldn't newspapers starve the web tape worms? As the CEO of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News said recently, "We can't spend $53 million on newsroom costs and give it away on the back door."

Ineffective protests
But neither tax protestors nor newspapers have enough leverage to hurt anyone but themselves.

First and foremost, newspapers would be abdicating to everyone from CNN to the Huffington Post, said Ken Doctor, a newspaper veteran who's now an analyst at Outsell. "If you're those companies, you say, 'This is our chance to finish those guys off.' CNN's not going to put up any pay wall. They don't need to."

"Going Galt" would be "the greatest boon for native internet journalism and content producers that there could be," said Michael Wolff, founder of Newser, a site that aggregates and summarizes news from around the web. Politico would keep reporting original news and publishing it free; Newser would keep rewriting and condensing articles, both from behind the papers' pay walls and elsewhere. And there's plenty of "elsewhere" for Newser to choose from. At its start 20 months ago, Mr. Wolff said, it got 85% of its material from traditional news sources. Now it gets about 55% from traditional sources. That's because the competition keeps growing.

"This is not the experiment that I would recommend," said L. Gordon Crovitz, former Wall Street Journal publisher -- and, before that, head of electronic publishing for Dow Jones. Mr. Crovitz and Steve Brill have started Journalism Online, which offers services meant to help newspapers get paid for digital content.

But they're not advocating a high and wide wall for everyone. "It's now possible for news publishers to use online usage data to have their cake and eat it, too -- to have plenty of inventory to meet advertiser needs while also generating significant subscription revenue," Mr. Crovitz said. "The opportunity is for publishers to focus closely on what their brand and journalism truly stand for -- and what differentiates their offerings so that they can migrate their most engaged 10% of online users to become paying subscribers. As more news publishers pursue this hybrid or 'freemium' strategy, they will benefit from the added bonus that advertisers are delighted to pay a premium for page views by paying subscribers, whose engagement with the site is highest."

That model, which Journalism Online is discussing with undisclosed news publishers, could generate "tens of millions of incremental profit per year for many publishers," Mr. Crovitz said.

The Newport Daily News experiment might work mostly because it comes in a market with little competition for local news. That actually reinforces the fact that newspapers got almost all their leverage from near-monopolies. The strategy also highlights advertising's central place in the story, despite the hopes pinned on new circulation revenue online. Why is home delivery of the Newport Daily News in print cheaper than the electronic edition? Because the price of the print paper doesn't cover the cost of producing and delivering it; advertising covers about 85% of those costs.

"The real crux of this is that the next couple of years are going to be about experimentation," said Andy Ellenthal, CEO of QuadrantOne, a joint venture by some newspaper companies that sells sites' local inventory packaged into multimarket buys. "No one expert or pundit or thought leader or someone like myself can say, 'This is what's going to happen.'"

"It's unlikely that newspapers will throw all their content behind a pay wall," said Randy Bennett, senior VP-business development at the Newspaper Association of America. "The bulk of the revenue newspapers will get will continue to be from advertising. And that means aggregating a mass of eyeballs."

"So it's more about: Is there some incremental revenue? Are there ways to protect the print franchise? And is there a way to gain a fair share of revenue from advertising that is placed against newspaper content outside of their own sites?"
What to do (and not to do)

* Pay walls for all: By establishing subscription-only news, newspapers will open the doors to aggregators and other news sites who will pay for subscriptions but then rewrite news and disseminate for free.

* Limiting eyeballs: By walling off all of their news content, newspapers would be limiting the number of people they can attract to their sites, thereby making them even less attractive to most advertisers.

* Added value for some: Not everyone will pay for everything a newspaper has to offer, but some truly avid and interested readers will pay for added information, more in-depth reports and access to community information not available elsewhere. Charge for that.

* Get ads to follow content: Newspapers need to find a way to get credit for all the audience their content attracts, even outside their own sites. Rather than taking all their content away, they should be working on a model to get those who use their content to pay for it, either by sharing ad revenue or charging syndication fees.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Check out the Western Courier Alumni Network on Facebook

The Western Courier, the student newspaper at Western, now has a Facebook group for former staff members. Called the Western Courier Alumni Network, the group serves as a way for former staffers to re-connect and share news.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Good news for recent J-School grads

From: DailyFinance web site (

Surprise! J-school grads are finding jobs
By Jeff Bercovici
Jun 11th 2009

Filed under: Economy, Media
It's a baffling phenomenon: As the job market for journalists has gotten worse and worse, enrollment in journalism schools has gone up and up. How to explain this?

As it turns out, there's a fairly simple, if surprising, explanation: As bad as things are in the media industry, j-school grads are, far more often than not, finding jobs. And not as subway buskers or strip-club managers, but as reporters, editors and fact-checkers. At least that's the case for recent graduates of two New York journalism schools, one of them venerable, one young.

Of the 306 students who earned degrees from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism last month, 197, or 64 percent, already reported having jobs or other post-school plans (such as internships, fellowships or continuing education) lined up by May 28, according to Elizabeth Weinreb Fishman, the school's associate dean for communications. Adds Fishman, "Many of our students have gotten job offers in the last couple weeks, so 64 percent is lower than the actual number now employed." It's also better than last year's graduating class was doing at the same time.

And the places where Columbia grads have found work include some of the same institutions that have made headlines recently for laying off employees: The New York Times, NPR, CNN.

New degree-holders from CUNY's Graduate School of Journalism have found a similarly welcome reception in the workforce, according to Stephen B. Shepard, the school's dean (and former editor-in-chief at BusinessWeek). The most recent class of graduates earned their diplomas in December 2008; of those 45 students, says Shepard, 60 percent have full-time jobs in journalism, while another 15 percent have quasi-full-time internships or freelance gigs.

"Times are indeed tough, but our students are doing very well under these circumstances," says Shepard.

He believes CUNY's curriculum, which focuses on teaching students to practice journalism across all media platforms, has helped them to find spots in rapidly-digitizing newsrooms. Fishman, meanwhile, credits her school's success in placement to the prestige of the Columbia name and "the truly prodigious efforts of our career services team."

My guess is at least some of it is a direct result of the massive staff cutbacks just about every media organization has enacted in the past couple years. It's a corporate cliche to lay people off and euphemize it as "restructuring," but you can be sure that some of the companies that are letting go well-paid editors and writers in their 40s and 50s are quietly stocking up on fresh j-school grads whose lack of real-word experience is at least partly made up for by their effortless fluency in the ways of the web -- and their willingness to work for $35,000 a year.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Western alum writes comic on POTUS

WIU Journalism grad Chris Ward has written a new comic, which is getting decent media attention -- perhaps because of its subject: President Obama.

MTV's Rick Marshall of its Splash Down web page writes, "This August, Bluewater Productions will publish Political Power: Barack Obama, one of several comics featuring notable figures from recent U.S. elections. Along with the Obama comic, Bluewater also has comics in the works featuring Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and, well… even the Obama’s dog, Bo.

"And it’s that last comic, Puppy Power: Bo Obama, that prompted one of the funnier exchanges I’ve ever had with an interview subject — in this case, Barack Obama author Chris Ward.

“ 'This Bo Obama comic book really burns my ass,' laughed Ward. 'Now I have to work twice as hard to make sure my Barack Obama comic sells more copies, or I’ll instantly shame my entire family. I’m not kidding. My grandmother’s dying words were, "Chris … outsell that godd—ed puppy comic".' "

Ward was a Western journalism student and Courier writer before graduating and working for Wizard magazine, among other publications.

In an email, Ward said, "I'm going to be on WGEM pretty soon, which will be the first thing I've actually done with my broadcasting degree. I'm also going to be in the Eagle and the Courier, so I have now seen the mountain top."

Ward also helps run the "Worst Cartoons Ever" web site at

For Splash Down's full feature on Ward's comic, go to

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Millennials Not Atwitter about Microblogging

According to Media Post:

Millennials Among Those Who Don't Appreciate Twitter

By Laurie Sullivan

Millennials -- 18- to-26-year-olds -- don't see value in Twitter, although they spend hours daily texting friends and communicating on social networks in real time, according to a study released Monday from the Participatory Marketing Network (PMN).

The study suggests that only 22% of Millennials use Twitter, the real-time microblogging site that allows posts of up to 140 characters. Of those young people who use Twitter, 85% said they follow friends, 54% follow celebrities, 29% follow family, and 29% follow companies. That's not great news for marketers and companies trying to reach this demographic through the site.

"Twitter has a problem on their hands if they want to become a long-term viable player," says Michael Della Penna, PMN co-founder and executive chairman. "Part of that communication of value must speak to Gen Y and show them the benefit of using Twitter."

Some might suggest that Millennials aren't the only ones who don't see the value in Twitter.

When asked about social networks, nearly all who participated in the survey revealed having an active profile on at least one site. Eighty-nine percent have downloaded an application to their profile page; 89%, photos; 53%, games; 51%, entertainment; 32%, news; and 29%, weather.

Mobile social networking is heating up for Millennials, too. Thirty-eight percent have an iPhone or iPod Touch. More than 50% have downloaded games; 35%, entertainment; 31%, lifestyle; 28% have downloaded free financial applications, and 7% have paid financial applications. More than one-quarter -- 26 percent -- indicated that they have not downloaded any.

PMN conducted the study in May 2009 with its research partner, the Lubin School of Business' Interactive and Direct Marketing (IDM) Lab at Pace University, by questioning 200 PMN panel members and consumers between the ages of 18-24.

Monday, June 1, 2009

75% of U.S. population reads news

Rochester, N.Y., Cleveland, Ohio and Buffalo, N.Y. are the top cities for online/print newspaper readership in the United States, according to an analysis of Integrated Newspaper Audience (INA) data from Scarborough Research, which finds that most areas of the country have a healthy level of newspaper readership at the local level.

Cities that place at the top of the list have the highest INAs and highest percentages in the US of adults reading newspapers in print, online or in both formats. At 87%, the INA of Rochester means that 87% of adults in the Rochester DMA read a printed newspaper, a newspaper's website, or did both during the past week. Following closely behind Rochester are Cleveland and Buffalo, each with an INA of 86%.

Few other products or services have such a reach, obviously.

In fact, in the 81 local markets measured by Scarborough, the group finds the 75% figure at odds with the recent spate of negative newspaper-business coverage.

"This data begs the question: Is the constant negative news feed on the industry warranted when newspapers are actually being read by three-fourths of the adult population? When you look at audience data, it seems irrational that advertisers are leaving newspapers because the numbers speak for themselves," said Gary Meo, SVP, print and digital media, Scarborough Research. "If you are an advertiser seeking to reach a large, upscale audience, newspapers are among the most effective media for doing so."

Scarborough states that this data indicates that readership rates vary market-by-market and often defy generalizations about declining audience.

"In order to obtain an accurate, in-depth portrait of newspaper health, in print and online, one needs to drill down to the local level," Meo said.

The research also shows that more than half of the adult population reads the newspaper in those cities with lower than average INAs. For example, in Bakersfield, Calif., and Las Vegas, Nev., (the two lowest ranking markets for INA), 59% of the adult population read some form of newspaper during the last week.

The data from Scarborough did not break out the number of print-only vs. online-only readers.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Martz: J-Schools Must Change, Add 'Specialization' and Second Major

An interesting essay, which appeared in Editor and Publisher:

Martz: J-Schools Must Change, Add 'Specialization' and Second Major
By Ron Martz

Published: May 15, 2009

DAHLONEGA, GA. -- (Commentary) Over the next few weeks, hundreds of colleges and universities will send thousands – if not tens of thousands – of aspiring, but ill-prepared, young journalists out into a communications environment that already is over-populated and under-resourced.

As the number of traditional communications vehicles decline, and the need for large numbers of workers with journalism or mass communications degrees declines with it, it might be time for colleges and universities to re-think their approach to preparing students for the new news business.

In the four years since the current crop of journalism graduates began their degree pursuit, the business has changed so radically as to be almost unrecognizable. While some schools may have had the foresight to begin preparing their students for the challenges ahead by offering multi-media courses, the harsh truth is that the news business can no longer support the number of journalism/mass communications graduates being produced each year.

By continuing to offer journalism or mass communications majors in which students train almost exclusively in the particulars of news gathering and writing, colleges and universities are doing the students, and the news business, a disservice.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2005 and 2008 the newspaper business eliminated 20 percent of its work force. Thousands more jobs have been axed this year as newspapers, radio and television struggle to find their places in the new news universe.

Journalists have been taught in school to be generalists and the news industry to a great extent encouraged generalization over specialization. How many times in how many news organizations have reporters settled into a beat only to be told they are being moved to another beat because a “fresh approach” is needed?

The new news business should encourage specialization among its reporters and editors rather than generalization. By extension, colleges and universities should do the same thing by making journalism or mass communications no more than a minor degree track or, at the very least, require a second major – journalism and another discipline such as the law, business, psychology, military, criminal justice, or any number of other disciplines.

Specialization brings expertise that often has been missing in the news business. It has been my experience that those who bring outside expertise to the news business produce far more interesting and in-depth work.

My thoughts on this began to crystallize last year after I took a part-time job teaching writing for the media and serving as the adviser to the student newspaper at North Georgia College & State University, a school of about 5,500 students 65 miles north of Atlanta.

The school has no journalism program, no journalism facilities and no budget for a newspaper. Yet, I was asked to get students to produce a campus newspaper on a regular basis. During the previous school year only two editions of the student paper were produced – both in print.
I had five students in the newspaper class the first semester. Four were English majors, the other was a sociology major. Not a single one had ever written a news story. But it was then that I began to discover the value of the outside expertise and experience that students brought to class.

One student in that first class frequently used graphics in her job outside school and she designed a masthead for us. Another student had magazine layout experience and helped us with page designs. Another had interest in marketing and she went to work looking for local advertising. Still another had experience and interest in fine arts and she wrote extensively on that subject.

It took us two months of planning and preparing but we finally published our first edition on Oct. 30 through a national Web site that publishes about 650 other college papers. We did it all at no cost to the university because of the national advertising on the site. We have been publishing online exclusively every week since then, except over winter break and now over the summer break.

This past semester, I had 12 students in the newspaper class. A number were English majors but brought other skills to the table. One worked as the sales manager for a construction company and reported and wrote with great expertise on school expansion and new construction.

Another was a history major who had written for a sports blog and brought that expertise to the staff. One student was a computer science major who was also studying Chinese. He worked on technical issues related to the paper. I also had a psychology major, a business administration major, and a studio art major, all of whom contributed significantly to the growth of the paper that first year because of the expertise in other disciplines they brought to journalism.

As society and business have gotten increasingly complex, journalism has failed to keep pace by failing to properly educate, or insist that reporters be properly educated, about the intricacies of what they cover. The basics of journalism – interviewing and doing the who, what, when, where, why and how – can be taught. And as my students and many others have demonstrated, it is something that can be learned by those willing to make the effort.

What traditional journalism students cannot learn is expertise in another field, unless they bring that with them or are required to learn it in school.

Until traditional news outlets become more demanding of their reporters in terms of what expertise other than journalism they bring to the job, and until major colleges and universities stop pumping out journalistic generalists by the thousands every year, the industry is going to continue its free-fall into irrelevance.

That’s why colleges and universities should re-think journalism and mass communications as a sole major course of study and insist that those with interest in the news business acquire expertise in another discipline as well.

Continuing on the current path is not helping the news business, or those who would be part of it.

Ron Martz is a former reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who now teaches writing for the media at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, Ga.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

'Newspapers will be around for a long time'- Foreman

In the Illinois Press Association's monthly Presslines publications, Champaign News-Gazette publisher John Foreman pens a succinct defense of the Chicken Little outlook on newspapers.

"As recently as two months ago – on Feb. l, to be exact – more people read a newspaper than watched the Super Bowl," Foreman writes. "And as long as we’re on the subject, while not as many people may have been talking about the newspaper advertising the next day, a much higher percentage actually acted on those ads, buying something based on advertising they saw in their paper. That’s another story for another day, of course. But, still in all, it wasn’t a bad performance for an institution everyone knows is dead."

Presslines adds some insightful comments from around the state, too, such as Jake Krob's piece in the Galena Gazette:“… The full story isn’t being told. The real story: We small-town papers aren’t ‘the media.’ — we’re small-town businesses working hard to make a living.”

Check out the whole guest column and accompanying "buzz" from Illinois newspaper people here --

Journalism fine and fun: Ken Paulson

The president of the Newseum, ex-USA Today editor, lawyer and one-time head of the First Amendment Center (who visited WIU a few years ago with a musical-journalism road show) encouraged varying interests and reassured young journalists in an interesting Q&A in the new Quill magazine.

A couple of excerpts:

How have you balanced journalism and law?
There’s a lot that overlaps. When you think about it, both professions attract people with strong verbal and writing skills. And in both professions, people gather information, distill it down to its essence, and then present it to an audience. The only difference is journalists present that information even-handedly to the public, and lawyers present that information with a spin to a jury. They are tremendously compatible. I think a law degree is a tremendous asset if you’re a journalist. The best thing you learn in law school is critical thinking. Journalists have much more fun than lawyers.

Do you have any advice you’d give to journalists?

To anyone entering the field, you should really shake off the doom-sayers; the notion that newspapers are dying is a myth. There are literally hundreds of newspapers in this country and, especially [those] in smaller markets, they are weathering the recession just fine.

Check out the whole conversation --

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

newspaper audiences increase -- online

Newspapers can once more exploit their reporting skills with breaking news since the World Wide Web provides them a platform as immediate as radio.

That's one of the findings of an annual survey from the Center for the Digital Future -- which also found that the source of most journalism -- newspapers -- have an increasing audience, but they're not print customers but online consumers.

Significant bright spots remain for newspapers, said CDF director Jeffrey Cole, including “the greatest opportunities in their existence.”

Read the news release and summary of the survey here --

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

'Don't give away your newspaper on the Web'

Gary Sosniecki is a regional sales manager for specializing in weekly newspapers. He owned three weekly newspapers and published a small daily in Missouri during a 34-year newspaper career. This appeared in the newsletter of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

By Gary Sosniecki

I cringed when I saw a publisher friend's new Web site.

That's because my friend is giving away his entire newspaper, page by page, on the Internet.

Why would anyone pay 50 cents for his newspaper when every word can be read free online?

Metro newspapers have closed in Denver and Seattle, others are in bankruptcy, and part of the blame rests with Internet strategies that removed the incentive for readers to buy their print editions.

Every newspaper needs its own Web site if for no other reason than to protect its franchise as the community's purveyor of news and advertising. And until the masses are willing to pay for online content, which won't happen anytime soon, access to that Web site needs to be free.

But giving away all the content of your core product is foolhardy if you still want readers to buy that core product.

What's the solution?

Community newspapers should strive for a balance between print and online. Your Web site should have enough content that you can sell advertising to support it and, hopefully, make a profit. But it should complement your newspaper, not compete with it.

Yes, some content will be duplicated. A community newspaper's Web site should include a couple of stories from your front page, an editorial, obits and some local sports. But don’t give away too much.

Instead, post content that you don't have room for in your newspaper: Extra photos from your school coverage. Columns from your legislators. Full text of speeches. Church sermons. Consumer tips from your university's extension service. Reader-submitted photos.

Remember to post online updates between your print editions: Death notices. Sports scores. Boil orders. School closings. Candidate filings. A few paragraphs of breaking news after a fire, traffic accident or school-board meeting, always promoting that a full report can be found in your next print edition.

Learn how to post video clips. It doesn't take much expertise or fancy equipment to upload highlights from a football game, city-council meeting or news conference to your Web site.

In effect, make your Web site a separate product from your newspaper while creating reader and advertiser demand for both.

If, as my publisher friend did, you choose to do an e-edition – posting full-page pdfs of your newspaper online – make sure that it's password-protected so readers can’t access it without a subscription.

Otherwise, the only readers your print edition will have are those without Internet access.

And that number shrinks every day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Jobs, internships are out there

It may be late for this summer's part-time work, but the Chicago Headline Club and Illinois News Broadcasters have a lot of tips for full-time job seekers and a few internships that remain open.

Check out the opportunities --

Also, keep in mind that you can create your own opportunities and internships by approaching a local news operation and offering to work for what the Journalism program may be able to credit you.

Check out the catalog description: "404 Field Work in Journalism. (1–12, repeatable to 12) Credit for internships at newspapers, magazines or other publications, or in advertising or public relations offices. By arrangement. See department chair or journalism coordinator. No more than 6 s.h. can be used in the Journalism major, and no more than 3 s.h. of that can count toward the 400-level elective requirement. Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing."

Friday, April 17, 2009

L.A. Times Reports that Journalism Schools Thrive Despite Economy

As newspapers decline, journalism schools thrive
Young people are flocking to graduate school programs, driven by the thrill of deadlines, the lure of a good story and a belief that they'll play a role in shaping the evolution of journalism.

By James Rainey

April 17, 2009

Maybe this is what it feels like to be a minister returning to the seminary, an officer back at the academy, an old ballplayer joining the rookies for another spring training.

I'm at a journalism school talking to young people and they are affirming the faith: the thrill of chasing a story, the queasy high of deadline, the satisfaction of getting it first and the enduring hope it all might matter.

Those forces may be intangible, but they're powerful enough to lighten an old news hound's heart and to keep pumping up enrollment at journalism schools, even as newspapers fold, TV slashes reporters and radio outlets combine staffs.

Applications jumped more than 20% this year for the graduate journalism program at USC's Annenberg School for Communication. Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism got 44% more applicants this year than in 2008. Other J-schools reported similar increases.

For almost $100,000 (including room and board) over two years, USC's graduate journalism program will prepare you for a profession that features low pay, long hours and an uncertain future. You'll learn to produce video, to blog and to write a tight news lead. (I don't think they're yet offering the section on responding to e-mails that begin "Hey Moron.")

So what are these nutty kids thinking?

"It's like an adrenaline rush. Every day is different. Every story is different," said Annenberg student Adrianna Weingold, 24. When she added, "There are very few careers that let you get out in the world and talk to people and learn something new every day," an old flame within me leaped anew. Really.

Chris Nelson, 29 and a refugee from a DVD production job in Hollywood, told me Annenberg students aren't so naive that they've overlooked the sickly media job market. But they've embraced an axiom: Crisis=Opportunity.

The young ones may not have the same reporting and writing chops, but they tend to beat the stuffing out of old-timers in their facile use of the Internet for reporting and writing and with their entrepreneurial spirit.

"They are much less afraid of change," said Jonathan Kotler, an Annenberg professor and chairman of graduate admissions. "Start-ups don't scare them, they excite them."

"I don't think people are feeding us a line when they say this is the most exciting time to be in journalism," Nelson said. "It's a ground-floor opportunity to shape how journalism is going to be. . . . We are sort of setting the rules right now."

At any good university, the students end up teaching their professors a thing or two. That adage couldn't be truer than in journalism today, when students' ability to ply social networks and dig information out of online databases often outstrips their teachers'.

Bill Grueskin, a dean at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, gave an example when I called Thursday. The school's Bronx Beat weekly paper had already moved online.

But as he sat in class Thursday morning, students added a feature so they could post instant Twitter feeds to supplement their already exhaustive coverage of the Yankees' home opener at their new stadium.

"They just said 'Boom, let's do it' and it was done," said Grueskin, who previously ran the Wall Street Journal's website. "So the faculty teaches the core. But the students drive a lot of the process."

Political animosities ("The press is too liberal" or "It's too corporate") overshadow almost any discussion about the future of the media. But the future journalists talk much more passionately about stories.

Nelson recalled vividly what he learned visiting a home for emotionally disturbed teens. Weingold enthused over putting together a video report explaining an LAPD debate over the use of emergency lights and sirens by squad cars.

Rachel Hunter, 24, looks forward to enrolling in the fall in an Annenberg program in urban ecology.

How can you not admire a young woman who said she got "a glow" out of doing a story about a program in which businesses plant gardens and donate the harvest to local food banks?

"There will be a need for people who tell stories in the right way, with depth and context," said Hunter, who now freelances for the Jewish Journal and Los Feliz Ledger.

No, not all of the roughly 60 students who join the next graduate class at Annenberg will find jobs in journalism. Some will make their way to law school or other businesses.

But some appear hopelessly smitten. News slaves.

Weingold flips from CNN to KCAL 9 to NBC and beyond every night. She takes a half-hour break to watch "Jeopardy" with her roommate

Initially focused on a future in television, she still hopes for an on-air position.

But she realizes her video might as easily be streaming via computer as coming from a TV set. And she's ready to write in every medium.

"I think we're headed for a complete convergence," Weingold said. "And I'm just headed for journalism, in whatever form it decides to take."

Knight Voted Best Professor in Student Newspaper Poll

WIU Journalism Professor Bill Knight has been voted Best Professor in the Western Courier's 2009 Best of Macomb reader survey.

According to the Courier's story:

Bill Knight spent over 16 years as a full-time working journalist before returning to his Alma mater to teach. Among his many experiences, he has functioned as a beat reporter, entertainment critic, columnist, editor at several weeklies and dailies in cities such as Washington D.C., San Diego and Peoria.

Even as a tenured professor, Knight continues to contribute work to various publications and commentary to a local radio station. Over the last decade, Knight has also been involved in the publication of several books as both an author and editor.

"Obviously I'm flattered, because I enjoy students, but at the same time I'm humbled, because I know a lot of excellent teachers at Western," Knight said.

Knight tried to pinpoint just what students might see in his teaching strategy that appeals to them.

"In the classroom, I try to be accessible and flexible," Knight said. "I also try to be demanding, but maybe protective, too, as students prepare for what's to come and for what I like to call the joy of life-long learning."

Congratulations, Bill.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Western Courier Staffers Reap Illinois College Press Assn. Honors

Three current and two former staffers of the Western Courier, Western Illinois University's student newspaper, were recently recognized for their contributions to collegiate-level journalism.

WIU students Adam Sacasa (senior, journalism, Skokie, IL), Ken Woods (junior, journalism, Broadview, IL) and Jon Oakley (junior, journalism/broadcasting, Plainfield, IL), who are pictured above, as well as Zach Wingerter (B.A., journalism, Macomb, IL) and Brent Busby (B.A., broadcasting, La Prairie, IL), who both graduated in December 2008, were recently bestowed with honors from the Illinois College Press Association in the ICPA's annual student journalism competition.

"I'm extremely pleased by the Western Courier staff's honors in the 2008 ICPA student journalism competition," said Rich Moreno, director of student publications at Western.
"I think the most important thing the students learned during ICPA's annual conference, held earlier this year, is what they need to do to get better. Everyone came away from the conference filled with a renewed sense of purpose."

Western Courier staffers' winning entries included:

First Place, Best Sports Column for "What's in a Name? Maybe Everything," by Zach Wingerter (available online at

Second Place, Adam Sacasa, Best Sports Photography (Sacasa's award-winning photo is available for viewing online at

Second Place, Brent Busby, Best Critical Review (Non-film) for "Slipknot—'All Hope Is Gone'" (available online at

Third Place, Jon Oakley, Best Headline for "Hunt Nails Down Hammers"
(available online at

Honorable Mention, Ken Woods, Best Sports Feature for "Parental Control" (available online at

"Zach's first place showing for best sports column was particularly deserving, because he's a very talented writer with a real flair for humor," Moreno added. "I'm also gratified that Adam was recognized for his hard work and talent as a sports photographer. Adam is one of those shooters who really lives and breathes photography -- he's always got the police band radio blaring next to his desk -- so it's nice to see him win."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Documentary filmmaker visiting J program April 16

At 11 a.m. on Thursday, April 16 in Simpkins Room 027 , journalist, author and documentary filmmaker John De Graaf will speak to interested students.

Here's a biographical sketch of him:

John de Graaf is the national coordinator of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME, an organization challenging time poverty and overwork in the U.S. and Canada (see and a frequent speaker on issues of overwork and over-consumption in America. He is often a guest lecturer on college campuses.

John is the co-author of the best-selling AFFLUENZA: THE ALL-CONSUMING EPIDEMIC (Berrett-Koehler, 2001/2005—now published in eight other languages as well.). He is the editor of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME (Berrett-Koehler, 2003) and of the children’s book, DAVID BROWER: FRIEND OF THE EARTH (Henry Holt, 1992). He also wrote the first chapter (“Childhood Affluenza”) of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ seminal book on childhood, ABOUT CHILDREN (2004). His articles have been published in dozens of magazines.

John has worked with KCTS-TV, the Seattle PBS affiliate, for 24 years, as an independent producer of television documentaries. More than 15 of his programs have been broadcast in Prime Time nationally on PBS. He is also the recipient of more than 100 regional, national and international awards for film-making, including three Emmy awards. He produced the popular PBS specials, RUNNING OUT OF TIME, an examination of overwork and time pressure in America, and AFFLUENZA, a humorous critique of American consumerism. His other national PBS specials include FOR EARTH’S SAKE: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF DAVID BROWER; VISIBLE TARGET; A PERSONAL MATTER: GORDON HIRABAYASHI VS. THE UNITED STATES; BEYOND ORGANIC; ESCAPE FROM AFFLUENZA; IT’S UP TO US: THE GIRAFFE PROJECT and CIRCLE OF PLENTY.


Prior to his work in TV, John was Public Affairs Director for KUMD Radio in Duluth, Minnesota. He has taught documentary film production at The University of Washington and The Evergreen State College. He has also taught on Time, Consumerism and Sustainability issues at Evergreen. He is the founder of the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Festival and former president of the Hazel Wolf Environmental Film Network. He is also the recipient of the Founders of a New Northwest Award for his work in environmental media. The de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award, named in his honor, is presented annually at the Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival in Nevada City, California.

He is also a member of the steering committee for the Simplicity Forum, a national think tank for the Voluntary Simplicity movement. In 2005, he was the World Food Day George McGovern lecturer at the FAO in Rome. He is a member of the Balaton Group on International Sustainability, which meets annually in Hungary, and a member of the steering committee of the Forum on Social.

Panel to talk about newspapers

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, April 15 in the Union Sandburg Lounge, Journalism faculty Mohammad Siddiqi, Mark Butzow and Bill Knight, and Professional Writing professor Bradley Dilger will take part in "Not [Yet] The End: A Discussion about Newspapers."

The loaded title may be slanted, but the discussion may be more interesting than the conventional wisdom, which is derived from the well-publicized experiences of about 100 debt-laden major-metro daily papers in an industry of more than 1,300 operations.

"In our time 'information wants to be free,' but journalists want to be paid and shareholders want to see black ink and not red," said Mark Butzow, assistant professor of journalism at Western Illinois University. "For either of those to happen, newspapers need to make money."

Newspapers are not the only ones hurting, he added. Television newsrooms across the country are cutting back on reporters.

"The point of the panel is to address what is happening -- and what is not happening -- with newspapers in particular and news in general -- and what it all means for the future of our democracy, which, after all, is in no small part founded on the Freedom of the Press," he added.

The panel discussion is open free to the public.

Here's the complete university news release --

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bagwell scholarship open for this semester

Through arrangements with the family of the late Dameris Bagwell, the WIU journalism student killed in an auto accident last semester, the first $250 Dameris Bagwell Scholarship will be awarded this semester.

Wednesday, April 22 is the deadline to submit applications to department adviser Ellen Poulter (Simpkins 130).

Journalism faculty will review applications on Monday, April 27, and the winner will be announced at the First Annual National Association of Black Journalists/Dameris Bagwell Awards Banquet at Sapphire restaurant, 127 E. Carroll St. in Macomb on Saturday, May 9.

The scholarship is open to WIU journalism majors or minors students who:
• are minorities of at least sophomore standing;
• have a 3.0 GPA in the major or minor or a 2.75 overall GPA;
• are active in at least one professional student organization.

In future years, applicants must submit one letter of recommendation and apply through the department scholarship committee.