Archive for June, 2006


Multimedia storytelling

June 28, 2006

computerI was talking with Amara Aguilar today about a class we hope to offer next spring on multimedia storytelling. Basically, we’re ramping up our old Internet for Journalists course to have it emphasize multimedia storytelling. So exciting! Wish we had thought of it sooner so that we could have started it as early as fall semester.

It’ll be great to work in the dynamics of audio video, slide shows, intractive Flash and more to tell a large story in multiple chunks. We’ll be a leader in the area in offering such a course. But what we’ll be doing will be more and more common with online publications in the future.

The New York Times does some stuff now and the Poynter Institute offers an interesting roadmap on how to start.


Tis the season for reunions

June 26, 2006

ReunionBoy, is this ever the season for reunions. In the last few months I’ve been to a reunion of my alma mater’s journalism department (see entry below) and three family reunions.

And then there is the Talon Marks 50th anniversary reunion coming up in just a couple of weeks. Whew!

It is going to be fun to have former Talon Marks students back on campus, though it looks like our numbers are going to be fewer than we initially had hoped. It has been a challenge to gather names and addresses. But it IS a start. We hope to do annual picnics after this and build the database of names.

I’ve had a great team helping with the planning of the reunion: John Van Gaston, Amara Aguilar, Alicia Edquist and Egard Aguilar. All are Talon Marks alums.


Local student press issues

June 19, 2006

Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil. You’ve heard it before. But it has manifested itself locally in two recent student press issues –one from a high school paper and one from a college newspaper. All the more reason to strengthen student press laws and improve student press right education. What timely occurrences for my mass communications students who are currently working on First Amendment research papers!

See no evil...The high school case comes from La Serna High School in Whittier where students first saw the high school principal violate the California Education Code by demanding prior review of the June issue of the school paper after the May issue included a story about sexual attitudes of high school students. I haven’t seen the paper, but based on what I’ve read on the Student Press Law Center web site and heard from one of the parents of the paper’s editor, at least the principal cited a questionable word search feature as the grounds for the prior review. Still illegal, but …. Let’s face it. Sex is too rampant at high schools, but the see no evil, speak no evil approach is not going to reverse the trend. High school students –and newspapers– NEED to talk about sex, not just the upcoming prom or last Saturday’s baseball score (assuming the local team won!).

The adviser of the paper has been forced to resign as adviser. She feels she’s too liberal to advise the school paper. And the June issue apparently was not printed. This is exactly why prior review is illegal! It leads to self-censorship or, as in this case, real censorship!

I’ve been trying for over a year to recruit the editor to come to Cerritos (her parents are in the same church fellowship group as I am), but was disappointed to hear a couple of weeks ago that she is now thinking about attending a different community college in the area. Too bad. We love students are bold enough to talk about tough issues in news stories.

Then today I heard from a local community college adviser who was called on the carpet for “allowing” students to run a story about two suicides by nursing students at the college. One of the students was named in the article. I’ve read the article and it appears to be a responsible article. I understand why the head of the nursing program feels that it reflects badly on the program, but I’m sorry, two suicides in one school year in a high stress program like nursing is news. The story quotes nursing program personnel who say that investigations have shown no relationship to the program and that the students were doing well in the program. The story is responsible. One might question naming one of the students (everyone is being mum about naming the other), but putting the name on the story makes it more real and important. Nameless, shapeless somebodies makes for bad reporting.

Sorry that I cannot link to the story on the school’s newspaper web site because the story has been pulled from there. But I’ve read the print edition and think it could/should/would run in any community college newspaper of repute.


The online culture

June 17, 2006

Got an e-mail from an instructor at a community college today about the trouble he is having getting his students to embrace the online edition.

Keyboard insert keyHe can’t get volunteers and has even offered to pay a student to update the site. He is doing what so many schools do; he’s trying to turn the site over to one individual. Been there, done that, found a better way. The WHOLE staff has to be involved with the online edition. It has to be part of the culture of the newsroom. Turn it over to one person and you have to replace that person at some point. Make it part of the culture of the whole product and it self-perpetuates.

Oh, sure, you will want to name an online editor to oversee the site, much as you would name a sports editor to oversee a sports page. But if your sports editor is your only sports writer/photographer, you have the same semester-to-semester problem. All writers and photographers must be responsible for uploading their own content to the web site. Designers need to contribute, too. Only if ALL are involved will they embrace it. The online site CANNOT be an EXTRA activity, it has to be a part of THE activity.

It may take time and effort to infuse complete participation into the culture. Indeed, it probably should. But if making an online edition a part of the educational process is important, it is worth the effort.


More good news for Hersson

June 15, 2006

Just heard good news for Hersson Preciado. He’s in Florida right now at the national convention to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (see entry below). But he has just learned that he has been selected for a prestigious 10-week paid internship at the Santa Maria Times this summer.

Runnerup in the selection process was Erick Galindo, also of Cerritos. Both are talented individuals and I think Hersson’s performance in Florida probably helped tip the scales.


It’s a small world

June 14, 2006

You’ve heard the phrase before. It’s a small world. It just got too small for me.

For several months I’ve been following a situation at Sierra College in Rocklin, Calif. The interm college president there, Dr. Morgan Lynn, had accused the board of trustees president there of overstepping his bounds and, among other things, asking her to get rid of the adviser to the student newspaper there (hence my interest in the story).

Small WorldWell, the world was already small because I have a relationship with Lynn, who was a VP of Instruction and Interim President here at Cerritos a few years ago. The world got smaller when I found out that Sierra is bringing in a new permanent president, Dr. Leo Chavez, who was the president at West Valley College who made the decision to eliminate the journalism program there, a move that led me to look for the job at Cerritos. For nearly 17 years I was the journalism teacher at West Valley College. So I have a relationship with Chavez, too.

The world got TOO SMALL when I realized today that the board president with whom Lynn is having issues, Jerry Simmons, is the same Jerry Simmons who is a former West Valley College student of mine. Simmons was on the newspaper staff and was author of some controversial stories in the school paper that may have played a role in West Valley deciding to eliminate the journalism program. I never felt that there was a one-to-one relationship of controversial content and the decision to eliminate the program, but I think the controversial content made the decision easier for Chavez to make.


Former students in the news

June 13, 2006

Robert ScobleI don’t know how many times over the last 30 years a student has told me, “I’m going to be the most famous student you’ll ever have, just wait and see.” But most students who go on to journalism careers don’t make news, they cover it. As I was looking at USA Today online this evening I ran across the name of a former West Valley College student I’ve always been extremely proud of. He’s in the news because he is a well-known blogger who is leaving Microsoft and going to a startup video blogging company.

Robert, or rather, The Scobleizer, was a real go-getter on the Norseman newspaper. Among many great things he did there was to approach Apple’s Steve Wozniack, who was taking a Spanish class next door to the Norseman newsroom, and ask him to donate some computers to the journalism program. Woz did. Robert and I even tried a business venture together a few years later.

Courtney MacavintaAnother former student from West Valley College who has gone on to good things was one of the youngest, but one of the brightest students I ever had: Courtney Macavinta. I still talk about her in my journalism classes as someone who embraced online journalism at the right time and capitalized on it. These days she’s an author of a great book aimed at young girls, Respect: A Girl’s Guide to Getting Respect & Dealing When Your Line Is Crossed. Courtney was perhaps the youngest student editor I had and she had the misfortune to be editor at a time when West Valley was getting ready to close down the journalism program. She put together a team that shamed the college’s board of trustees with the quality product it put out while it was staying the course on its decision, something it really should have reconsidered.

I’ve had many other great and memorable students over the years. It’s been a pleasure to be a part of their lives.


Online in today’s journalism

June 10, 2006

It is certainly clear that the future of journalism includes an online presence, yet it astounds me the number of California community college programs that still do not include an online component in their programs. There are at least two areas they need to catch up quickly: an online publication and online education.

As part of my role as the Online Communications Director for the Journalism Association of Community Colleges, I just completed one of my periodic studies of which schools have online publications and which do not. Of the nearly 75 California community colleges that have print newspapers (out of 109 colleges overall) only 45 have established online versions so far. And of those, five would have to be classified as inactive. That is, no new content has been published for at least a year. pageBut things are changing. I’ve been in communication with the advisers at one of those inactive schools and five of the non-online schools who have indicated that they are in the process of pursing contracts with College Publisher, a commercial third-party content management provider for college publications, to start publications through CP. I’m a big fan of the CMS tool that College Publisher provides, virtually for free, to college publications because I think it removes the barrier of publications being reliant on an in-house techie to design and maintain the site. Instead, journalism programs can concentrate on development of content, which is more important. Currently 22 JACC colleges have contracts with CP; the others develop their HTML to create pages. So, by summer’s end, there should be 50 schools online and only 25 left to go. That’s too many, but we’re improving. I can still remember the late 1980s when only about five journalism instructors in the system even had e-mail addresses.

Healthy programs left to be heard from as far getting online include College of the Canyons, Chabot, Cuesta, College of the Desert, Diablo Valley, East LA, El Camino, Golden West, Grossmont, Las Positas, Orange Coast, Santa Ana, Santa Rose, Solano and West Valley.

Online education is a whole different beast. While studies show a high demand for online education, only Cerritos, Mt. San Antonio, El Camino, Citrus, Cosumnes River and Santa Monica appear to offer anything journalism online –and that includes the CSUs, which have shunned online education. A few schools around the state used to offer a telecourse in mass communications, but I don’t know if they are even doing that any more.


Gotta have vision

June 4, 2006

Mt. San Antonio College will be hiring a new journalism instructor this summer and already a couple of applicants have asked me for advice. Well, I don’t have a cyrstal ball to tell me what Mt. SAC is looking for, but I’ve done pretty good in the past in counselling journalism job applicants. I’ve been on both sides of the interview table a number of times and have learned a few things.

visionI think the biggest thing for any applicant for journalism teacher at a community college needs to keep in mind is that simply being a competent instructor is not enough. What Mt. SAC or any other community college needs to look for is someone who has a clear vision of what the whole program needs to be. Where is the program now and and where does it need to go? How does one get there with limited resources? Show leadership and confidence. Want some clues, read my previous posts. Today a growing program needs to embrace new media while working within the constraints of the basic community college offerings of the mass media survey course, a beginning newswriting/reporting class and the school newspaper.

And any instructor needs to be able to answer the following question, at least to himself/herself: How do you stay current with what is happening in the industry? What professional groups do you belong to? What do you regularly read? Etc. (Maybe one of the steps should be to read Rich’s Musings on a regular basis.)