Archive for June, 2007


User-generated content

June 28, 2007

Everything I read suggests that for newspapers to survive, they are going to have to rethink news and where it comes from. A big push today is for user-generated content.

But do any of us fully understand how to do that at the campus level? Especially when we feel we’re overworked just doing what we’ve always done AND introducing an online publication. It’s hard to break out of old mind-sets, even when you know you have to. Well, we’re experimenting at Cerritos College. Take the college’s most recent literary magazine and a new MyDemocracy project that is about to launch.


Literary magazine coverOur first effort was this spring semester when we forged a three-way alliance with our Graphics Arts and English programs. I’ve known for some time that the English Department would like to publish a literary magazine. While it is perfectly capable of coming up with lots of content, it struggles with the production process and the finances to publish a magazine.

The journalism depart already publishes an annual magazine and has the tools and resources. What we lack is enrollments. So we’ve tried to open the magazine to Graphic Arts students. They want a platform to practice design with and we need their time and expertise.

So we forged an alliance: If advanced graphic arts students would agree to join the magazine, we’d fund the literary magazine and give the graphic arts students complete design control. (We had to deal with the fact that journalism students did not want to give up design control for the journalism magazine.) It was a win-win-win deal for the three programs, though in practice there were some culture clashes between the journalism students and the graphic arts students. Hopefully, that won’t scotch future deals.

Of course, we’re not too experienced at online magazines yet and are struggling to put both the journalism and literary magazines online. Those have turned out to be summer projects.


And then comes a real exciting opportunity from our Political Science program. That program wants to engage its students in putting together short videos on democracy and political science issues. Students in the program’s 33 class sections will be encouraged to create videos for extra credit and for a campus-wide contest.

While a lot students know how to shoot and edit students, many do not and that’s where we come in. Because of Cerritos Journalism’s efforts in the last year to move to multi-media stories, we are in a position to offer Poly Sci students who are interested a one-unit course in how to edit in iMovie and how to craft a story with video. We also have lab facilities that are not fully utilized.

There is potential for a lot of enrollments in a partnership with our Poly Sci program! And they want to start right away.

What makes the partnership attractive to Poly Sci is 1) We have already started down the multimedia road and can ramp up quickly, 2) the Poly Sci folks can buy equipment for check out to students, but lack a mechanism for coordinating that; we have that process in place already, and 3) we have lab facilities available. Students would not be required to sign up for the journalism class, it just would be an option.

What makes the partnership attractive to us is 1) the potential enrollments, 2) the chance to recruit students to additional journalism classes and 3) a ton of video content produced by students that we’ll have access to.

There are technical issues to work out, but thankfully, Poly Sci is bearing the brunt of the leg work on that. They supply the equipment and special server and run their own contest. We’ll pick up a piece of the work doing what we already know how or are beginning to do. Win-win. We’ve got a lot to learn on how to manage large quantities of content generated from outside our program, but these projects give us the opportunity to learn.