Reinventing, rebranded and reloaded

Bryan Murley of College Media Advisers and the Reinventing College Media crew have, um, re-invented themselves as the Center for Innovation in College Media.

From the send-off post at the old site:

“This new Center will serve as a resource to college journalists and their advisers by sharing information freely online and by providing practical training in the application of emerging media techniques at regional and national workshops.”

I like the sound of “practical training.” More than theory and handwringing and discussion about the curriculum, J-School students — and faculty — need to get their hands dirty with tools like Soundslides, video cameras, and blogs.

Otherwise, all the New Media talk in journalism departments is just that — talk.

Check out the first big post at the Innovation in College Media blog. It’s an interview with the editor-in-chief at the Campus Lantern, a student paper at Eastern Connecticut State University that recently converted itself into an online-only publication, but now is battling with student government, which has threatened to pull the paper’s funding if there’s no print edition.

The Lantern looks like a great case study for papers looking to move from a daily/print publishing cycle to a continuous/online news cycle, not to mention the political issues around taking funding from student government.

I’ve heard some talk in the hallways about changing the way SJSU’s Daily gets funding from students, and the Lantern’s struggle to maintain control of its format provides some strong warnings about what can go wrong when the student government pays for your press run.

So when can we get an Innovation workshop going over here on the West Coast?

More on student media server options

Bryan Murley at Reinventing College Media provides a roadmap of server/hosting options for student papers, including those looking to stray from the College Publisher herd.

There are pros and cons to each choice, and Bryan does a great job of laying out what you’ll need to know, who you’ll need to trust, and what you’ll need to pay for each of these choices.

The Spartan Daily is blogging

Meanwhile, back at the Spartan Daily, SJSU’s student newspaper, Daniel Sato and Neal Waters (I’m guessing they both had a hand in this) appear to have taken a few days off from their redesign of the online edition of the Daily to set up a WordPress blog for the paper.

Sports Editor Andrew Torrez live-blogged the Spartans’ 35-34 victory over Stanford yesterday (Oh, by the way, WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!), and it looks like a staff writer is blogging from the Dew Action Sports Tour meet in San Jose today.

Nice job, fellas. I sure hope you teased all this in Thursday’s paper…

I love this use of a student newspaper blog: Updates on news/sports/etc. over the weekend and between print publications, because you can and should engage your readers every chance you get.

The missing link for student newspapers: Software to support a continuous news desk

When the Spartan Daily made the transition to College Publisher in January, I was struck by just how driven by a daily print cycle an online publishing CMS could be.

Why should it be that way? Why make online production dependent on your print stories being ready for publication? Why wait until after the print edition has been proofed to push the button to publish online?

Most of these questions are answered by the limitations of the software. The newspaper is divided up into dated editions, discouraging students from continuously updating stories. We tried to workaround that by adding a newsticker across the top of the page to use for promos and breaking news. It pulls headlines from a WordPress blog, but little else.

Here’s a question: Many folks, myself include, point to the Golden Gate [X]Press at San Francisco State as a great online student news site. The [X]Press, if I’ve got my facts straight, publishes weekly in print, but updates the online edition continuously, as the stories are edited. The site isn’t run on a conventional newspaper CMS, but on Movable Type, used more often for blogs and other dynamic web content. (Prof. DeVigal, please correct me if any of this is wrong.)

When we talk about redesigning our online edition, the common plea is to “make it look less like a newspaper.”

So how do we do that? And how do we instill student editors with the notion that the Web is the first place they publish, as events happen?

I’m not (just) going to be a part of the handwringing chorus, so here’s a specific, albeit nebulous proposal:

Let’s take an open-source content management system like Mambo or Joomla and craft a few basic templates that don’t look like newspaper front pages frozen in time at 11:30pm last night. Then, let’s offer those up to college papers that can host themselves on university servers and don’t need a hosted solution paid for by national advertising.

Or not. But if you can code a College Publisher template into something that would be useful to a continuous news desk that publishes as soon as the stories are ready, please let me know how it turns out and where I can find one like it.

Actually, that’s what CP really needs: somewhere for coders to exchange information. New Digital Group (aka Digital Partners) had (has?) a message board, and although it was pretty dead by the time I got there, I could read through old posts and find solutions to some problems. That would be helpful.

Okay, I’m off on a rant, but here’s the point: Student newspapers need/want to transition their sites to something resembling a continuously updated news site, and they need a content management system that encourages them.

Check out Rich Cameron’s ideas about a common platform for online student papers, and the advantages of using College Publisher. For now.

Then read Bryan Murley’s chronicle of moving a student paper from static HTML pages to CP, and be sure to peruse the comments as well.

Vanderbilt student media site opens up to the community

In Nashville, Vanderbilt University‘s student newspaper has completely retooled and reimagined what a college media Web site should look like and what its purpose should be in the university community. is the result.

Straight news and blogs written by the staff mingle with reader photos, stories, and blogs.

The site is run with Drupal, free open-source software with a huge user community. It’s easy enough to get started with Drupal that I played around with it sometime last year while brainstorming what we could do to give SJSU’s student body a place for community building and social networking.
You can hear a podcast about the development of InsideVandy thanks to Reinventing College Media.

New campus media blog

Check out CampusByline, a new blog tracking student media across the country.

“I think that students can do top-notch journalism (I’ve witnessed it) and I believe that there’s a need to highlight the positive work being done. With that in mind, I wanted to start this blog. It’s going to start out small, at first, but we’re just a two-person operation right now along with full-time graduate school going on. Despite that, we’re determined to bring attention this overlooked niche of media that directly is affecting the much ignored and much sought after 18-35 demographic.”

It looks like it could be a sort of Romenesko for college newspapers.


10 things I heard at the AEJMC convention today

Let me tell you about my first time … at the AEJMC convention.

Seriously, I had never been to a conference or convention that was about my own field before today. I mean, I’ve hung out with the physicists and the photographers and maybe even the real estate data information professionals back when I was a wee tyke, but this was (obviously) cooler. I mean, as cool as you can expect a bunch of journalism educators to be. Which ain’t bad.

I felt a little awkward about identifying myself, because I kept switching from student to researcher to reporter in midsentence, leaving people asking me ‘Wait, where are you from?’

Wish I could have made it there all week, but San Francisco is far, and there are stories to be filed and thesis proposals to conjure out of thin air.

So without further narrative lede, here’s Ten Things I Heard Today

  1. J-Schools can act as hubs for all sorts of interesting experiments. They can aggregate ethnic news outlets, bootstrap citizen media projects, or develop new news products from the ground up.
  2. The need for media literacy increases right alongside the number of communication channels. This theme was repeated by a few people today, Dan Gillmor among them, who pointed out that skepticism is a requirement to sort out the signal/noise ratio online.
  3. The best pitch I heard on how to teach computer programming to journalism students (which everyone wants to do, but no one knows how to do) came from SFSU’s Andrew DeVigal, who thinks it can be taught online, where the few kids at each school who want to learn it can meet up with someone like Adrian Holovaty all at once. Sign me up.
  4. Keeping journalism students in their silos (print, broadcast, online) and just adding classes might not be the answer, but convergence isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, either. Lots of schools in lots of different spots on the continuum on that issue. Thorny one.
  5. Phil Meyer of UNC has faith that something new is going to develop out of the decline of the print newspaper, and today’s journalism students are going to be the ones inventing it. The job of the J-School is to prepare them to do so. Jerry Ceppos said something along these lines, too: Journalism students should be learning “how to expect change.”
  6. It sure would be nice if journalism students could learn something about business strategies, entrepreneurship, and new product development. Why? Because investment banking firms and media moguls might not have the same principles as journalists. Plus, getting information gathering and business sense on the same team makes for innovative news.
  7. Journalism schools should be leading the profession, and not the profession leading the journalism schools. J-School should be more like law school or medical school, driving changes in the industry rather than always playing catch-up.
  8. Newspapers are still having a hard time finding journalists to build infographics, interactive graphics, and multimedia presentations. Unfortunately, J-Schools are having just as hard a time finding faculty to teach those things. See Andrew’s idea above at #3. Calling Mindy McAdams
  9. J-Schools aren’t going to be able to teach all this stuff on their own. There must be some dance partners out there, whether we’re talking about a magnet high school full of little programmers and web designers or a venture capital company willing to finance an experiment.
  10. Make your journalism school a laboratory and experiment with the future of journalism. Emulating a vanishing medium teaches students how to vanish.

Thanks to all the folks I buttonholed after panels, on elevators, and in the halls today, whether I was acting like a student, researcher, or reporter.

Does your college newspaper cover the blog beat?

Bryan Murley at Reinventing College Media lays out some instructions for covering the campus blogosphere.

I think it’s a good idea, but I look at it another way: Reading blogs written by students, faculty, and alumni should be a way to find story ideas — not necessarily a beat in itself — unless, of course, your campus has an exceptionally vibrant blog scene.

But, if you do have the sort of college blogosphere that’s worth including as a once-a-week feature, the only place I would consider putting this in print would be on the opinion page, and I would only include quotes from posts that were on topics the newspaper had covered that week or about local/campus issues. Quote from the campus blogosphere to provide a range of perspectives on a controversial issue, but try to keep things relevant to your audience.

That said, assigning a reporter to monitor campus and local blogs is a great way to dig up stories before they bubble up to the local metro newspaper or the fax machine. Ideally, you’ll find out what students and community members are excited about, angry about, or interested in.

So keep an eye on the blogosphere, bring some different opinions together in print if you can, or just start a blog at your student newspaper and point to your fellow campus bloggers early and often.

The short list of tools you need to do this: Technorati, Bloglines.

Student media under fire

I’ve got a guest column in today’s Spartan Daily that elaborates on the dangers of the Hosty v. Carter decision, what State Assemblyman Leland Yee wants to do about it, and why we’re actually pretty safe on public campuses in sunny California.

Here’s an excerpt from the column:

“College newspapers often boast that they are “independent,” but I’m always a bit confused about what that means. Would we be independent if we accepted no funding from SJSU, paid rent at an off-campus office, and worked on the paper on our own time, without any connection to the school of journalism and mass communications?  Maybe, but that’s not our situation.”


Protection coming for California college media?

In today’s Spartan Daily, the student newspaper here at San Jose State University, former Daily executive editor John Myers reports that a California legislator has introduced a bill in the state assembly that would make it more difficult for university officials to censor campus media outlets.

Myers wrote that Leland Yee, the sponsor of the bill, said it would allow students to collect damages if they are disciplined for comments they wrote or said in campus media.

Yee says the bill is a response to this case at Governors State University in Illinois, in which administrators allegedly called the printer and told him to hold the paper until they had signed off on its content. From what I’ve read about the case, it still seems a little murky as to whether the newspaper was funded by the university or not — I’m guesing it was. And, the student editors appear to have been playing a bit fast and loose with the rules by publishing some bits of opinion — about at least one professor the writer had a class with at the time — in the news section.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to let stand the appeals court ruling against the students was a disturbing one, given that the ruling was based on Hazelwood (484 U.S. 260, 1988). In the Hazelwood case, the Supreme Court ruled that administrators at a public high school could censor the student paper as they pleased.

At what point does the importance of teaching students how to use the First Amendment trump the superficial and temporary concerns of college administrators? I can understand the Supreme Court’s reluctance to give high-school-aged editors, who serve an audience under 18, free reign. College media, however, serves an adult audience, and provides a crucial function in the ecosystem of the press in this country, acting as the final laboratory for journalism students before they are unleashed on the public-at-large.

The new California bill (AB 2581) would protect students from university censorship by prohibiting college administrators at University of California and California State University schools from making any rules infinging on constitutional freedoms for free press protections. The code already protects student “speech,” but the changes would protect student “press.” Also, censored students could file civil suits to combat the actions of university administration.

One catch in the law, as it stands and as proposed, is that it’s talking about communications “engaged in outside a campus.” What exactly does that mean? It sounds like the old “Are we independent?” question. If the paper is funded by the school, can the dean insist on approving content? I’m not sure this bill answers that question, but then again, I’m just a student of media law, not a lawyer. Anyone out there want to give me a clue on that question?

At the Spartan Daily, we’re in a pretty unusual situation (or so they tell me — please correct me if I’m wrong about the details) in that our newspaper is a class. We get credit for it, and it’s the required capstone course for journalism majors on the newspaper reporting & editing track. But, I’ve never heard of or seen or heard stories about any real censorship coming from either the administration or the faculty advisers to the paper. Would the proposed legislation protect us? It doesn’t sound like it, but I don’t think anyone feels unprotected right now. Lucky us.

[Full disclosure: Um, yeah, I write for a college newspaper.]

For more on Yee’s proposal, check out the San Mateo County Times story on the bill, including mention of a recent memo from CSU lawyers to university presidents regarding censoring campus media.