Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sulzberger Salutes Anniston area letter writers

ANNISTON-- In a tradition on the eve of the Harry M. and Edel Ayers Lecture, the publisher of The New York Times spoke of the importance of letter writers to the life of a newspaper even as he hinted at some of the challenges his publication has faced recently and previewed what’s to come in his address here tomorrow.

Arthur Sulzberger,Jr., great-grandson of Adolph Ochs, who founded the New York Times in the late 19th century addressed a crowd of about 100 at the Anniston Natural Museum this evening at a banquet honoring those who have written letters to the editor of The Anniston Star.

For two decades, the Star has held this event each year to spotlight members of the public who engage via their comments in the paper.

Star Editor Bob Davis and Commentary Editor Phillip Tutor took turns reading letters that have been published over the last year. Many of those writers in attendance were recognized by Sulzberger who saluted the writers for their act he says is “critical to democracy.”

“Our country needs more people like you,” Sulzberger said.

The dinner is held the night before the Annual Harry M. Edel Ayers Lecture takes place at Jacksonville State University.

While the Star’s Publisher, H. Brandt Ayers described the dinner as “an informal evening with an informal guy,” Sulzberger appeared to stick mostly to prepared remarks that made brief mentions of his paper’s highly controversial article on Republican presidential candidate John McCain and editorial endorsement of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

In the age of the World Wide Web, where Sulzberger’s paper reportedly broke a story linking New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to a prostitution operation, while circulation of the printed product is dropping, Sulzberger described the role of the newspaper in 2008 as an “authoritative convener of communities.”

He cited four reasons for why he thinks the public is more re-energized: 1) the tumultuous times facing the nation; 2) the search for answers and a desire to move forward; 3) digital tools that allow the public to be more empowered; and 4) recent move toward more inclusiveness.

According a front-page article in today’s Anniston Star, Sulzberger Is expected to address the evolving business realities brought by digital journalism.

We’ll see in a few hours.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Defining "community" in the wake of tragedy on campus

This week we saw images of emotion, outpouring, sadness and determination on the pages of newspapers in North Carolina, Georgia and here in Alabama after two college students were murdered.

The Associated Press photo shown here is just one of the many images that were carried in photo galleries like the one on the Citizen-Times' Web site in Asheville, NC.

Here in Alabama at Auburn University, Lauren Burk was murdered while up at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, SGA President Eve Carson was shot to death.

While not the same degree of loss as the incidents at Northern Illinois University last month or Virginia Tech last year, these latest acts of violent crime remind us of how we may broadly define "community" in our news coverage.

Football rivalries are put aside when something like this happens. Even the geographic boundaries that might divide us are gone. Like no other medium, the local newspaper is poised to reflect this community in its coverage. It has an opportunity to gather the angles that the national media miss.

As much as it's normally considered a metropolitan newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gets the award for drawing together the communities touched by the tragedy. Both Carson and Burk were from Georgia. So, linking the murders geographically for readers was a no-brainer.

Less obvious to the general public are the emotions, feelings and reactions of those who sit in similar places as these victims of crime-- other college campuses.

As journalists, we have to reflect community as we tell the stories of citizens uniting with those closest to the scenes of these crimes.

It's not enough to run the Aassociated Press wire or the played-out "local reax" piece. It's about capturing and reflecting the community in the way we report the news of tragedy.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sulzberger To Come to Alabama

In less than two months, we'll see what the top man at The newspaper of record has to say about journalism in 2008.

Arthur Sulzberger, chairman of the New York Times Company will be the Harry M. and Edel Y. Ayers Lecturer this spring at Jacksonville State University on Wednesday, March 12.

It's ironic that he's coming this spring as we are about to launch an aggressive New York Times in the Classroom effort in the journalism department and several other departments on campus.

As this blog has been somewhat inactive over the last few months. We'll begin to more frequently update as we build up to the March 12th lecturer by Sulzberger.

Starting this Wednesday, students will be receiving a guaranteed copy of the New York Times each weekday. Heretofore, I have been using the NY Times Company-owned Tuscaloosa News as a teaching resource.

We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tuscaloosa News scores touchdown in CTO coverage

I know it's been months since I've updated this community journalism web log. Aside from not being in Anniston, Ala. this semester working directly with the Community Journalism program, I have not had the time to constantly monitor good examples of community journalism.

I still don't have much time. But, I had to pause to give Kudos to The Tuscaloosa News-- which has "OWNED" (as we say in the business) the coverage of Tuscaloosa's Central High journey to a state championship.

This morning, I couldn't wait to run outside and grab the new commemorative section that appears in today's edition.

I promise you it's not as YELLOW as it appears here (a lighting issue). But, you get the idea of what they were trying to portray -- even using the letters "CTO" (Central Taking Over), a rallying cry that comes from a rap developed by one of the Central High players. You can read more about that, in fact, in a story in The Tuscaloosa News' TV partner, WVUA.

The Tuscaloosa News also provided an audio slide show with the song and the lyrics.

But, today's special section is just the latest in outstanding coverage online-- which included photo galleries and minute-by-minute reports of the championship game against Deshler at Legion Field, which the Central Falcons won 24-7.

On Thursday night, Executive Sports Editor David Wasson did an official "In the Game" thread on the TNews discussion board. At the end, I saw at least 7 pages of postings that started at 6:14 p.m. and ran more than three hours to 9:17-- when it was clear that Falcons were going to bring that Class 4A home to Tuscaloosa.

I've worked in Atlanta television when the Falcons went to the Super Bowl and when the Braves went to the World Series. It's big news when your home team goes to a championship.

But, this story has a much greater significance outside of football. Take, for instance, the sharp contrast between a perfect 10-0 season and the 1-9 season Central high just a couple of years ago, following the split of the old Central High into three neighborhood schools.

Then, there was the whole debate about Central's new building -- whether it would be at the old site-- or in West end of Tuscaloosa. Then, there are often negative reports about how Central stacks up against the other high schools in the Tuscaloosa city schools in meeting AYP (Average Yearly Progress) goals .

For ONCE-- Central was in the spotlight and the whole city could rally around the high school. Even though it's a NEW (much smaller) Central High School-- the community could embrace the school as an athletic powerhouse again...the way it used to be when the much larger school was the largest in the state of Alabama.

The newspaper-- or the local information center (as newspapers today are called) played a role in rallying the community with its cross-media coverage in print and online. The video highlights from the game available on TuscTube are something one can't find ANYWHERE else. There's even an interview with Mayor Walt Maddox, who was at Legion Field for the big game Thursday. So, there's a community built around those who come to the Web site to see these videos-- and re-live this historic event.

Community-building-- an example of the influence a community news organization can have.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

SPJ Region 3 Conference- Welcome to The Sun!

GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- Community journalism in a college town is what we're seeing this weekend as we attend the Southeastern regional conference for the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

Technically, It's called Region 3. SPJ members, mostly college chapter members from the states of South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Alabama are gathered here in the home of Florida Gators.

This afternoon we had a chance to see the inside of The Gainesville Sun, a 50,000 circ. paper that is part of the New York Times Regional Group. It's actually kind of exciting to be here as the Florida Gators-- an SEC rival nonetheless, are playing in the Final Four in Atlanta. So you can feel the excitement.

Yes, I told the rental agent at the Gainesville Airport today--- "you gotta support the conference!" Love 'em or hate 'em, the Gators represent the Southeastern Conference and it would be nice to see them win two NCAA basketball titles in a row.

More interesting for this gathering of journalists is the role the outcome of tomorrow's game will have for The Gainesville Sun.

As editors held their afternoon meeting today, we were reminded how much revenue the paper generates based on this story. Apparently the morning after the Gators beat Ohio State for the Football National Title game, people were lined up outside the Sun's office to buy a commemorative copy of the newspaper. The paper sold other paraphernalia with the story on it as well.

Hey, The Sun's sister paper, The Tuscaloosa News, would do the same thing as would any newspaper.

But, it's interesting to hear that nonetheless.

More from Gainesville tomorrow as a full day of sessions on a wide range of journalism topics is scheduled.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Alabama’s temple of convergence?

The folks at Media General rolled out the red carpet for the Knight Fellows today as my JN 503 Media Management & Operations class visited the Opelika-Auburn News and WRBL-TV3. I didn’t realize the grand opening for the new building was just last week. The new facility in some ways, resembles the News Center in Tampa and was designed by the same architect who did The Anniston Star.

Some have called that facility with WFLA-TV, TBO.com and The Tampa Tribune the Tample of Convergence.

Here in Alabama, eventually the newspaper’s sister TV station, WRBL-TV 30 miles away in Columbus, Ga. will have a FULL SET in the newspaper newsroom to do news programs out of East Alabama. Their lobby is equipped with flexible furniture so that it can double as a studio for the TV station.

From the time we started just before 10 this morning until 3:30pm when we had to bring things to a close in order to get the Fellows back to Anniston, we had managers from all the different units both in Columbus and Opelika as well as working reporters who do print, broadcast and online visit with the Fellows. I took a few photos and am assembling a little photo gallery that I’ll probably post online.

Like many newspapers these days, the OA News is publishing an alternative weekly tabloid for the college crowd with a small staff in Auburn. The Corner is actually reversed-published content from the Web. It also has a new women’s magazine that is reaching its first anniversary next month.

The OA News rounds out a list of SEVEN dailies in our state with new (Tuscaloosa, Mobile, Anniston, Talladega, Birmingham, Montgomery, Opelika) facilities. Three of these have opened within the past year. It’s a great time to be a journalist in Alabama with places that should attract NATIONAL attention. The publisher, who spent the most time with us today, is hoping to win BEST SMALL DAILY again when the APA awards are announced later this spring. They claim to be the only paper in the state that has had INCREASED circulation over the past THREE consecutive years. (I recall The Mobile Register also had increased circulation)

And, the best news of the day, I had a near 20-year reunion today with one of my high school classmates from Richmond, Va. who is a photojournalist at the OA News. You never know who you’ll run into on a class fieldtrip.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Journey to Cole Campbell's school

RENO, Nev-- This posting from the Silver State comes a day after a two-day journalism conference highlighted by a tribute to Cole Campbell, the late dean of the Reynolds School of Journalism and former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Campbell was, in fact, looking forward to welcoming the more than150 people who attended the AEJMC Midwinter Conference here on his campus this weekend.

As a kickoff to the event Friday night, one of Cole’s friends, John Pauly, dean of the Diedrich College of Communication at Marquette University, gave the keynote address that was preceded by remarks from the president of AEJMC and the provost at University of Nevada-Reno.

“Dean Campbell was an impressive leader and his loss certainly saddens us all,” said Wayne Wanta, who teaches at the Missouri School of Journalism and serves as president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Cole had many dreams for this school, some of those are actually coming to fruition this spring,” said John Frederick, executive vice president and Provost of University of Nevada-Reno.

The hosting of the conference was one of those plans that had been two years in the making as the annual event is designed as an informal gathering for presentations of research-in-progress and reunions for friends in the world’s largest organization journalism educators.

While most of the day and half conference consisted of research paper presentations and panel discussions on industry issues, Pauly’s Friday night keynote was a chance to remember Campbell and consider the state of the field of journalism.

You can read more about Campbell's appointment as deah here.

Drawing on the work of some of Campbell’s public journalism cohorts such as Jay Rosen or Gil Thelen, Pauly criticized journalists as be “indifferent to process.”

“Public journalism wanted to make the profession more relational and less positions,” Pauly said. “Cole always thought of journalism as something done in collaboration with citizens.”

Pauly’s address, which was appropriately titeld “Journalism Matters,” a mantra that Campbell had posted on his Web page,” also included some frank reflection on Campbell’s sometimes tumultuous days at the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

Campbell’s tenure at the Post-Dispatch coincided with Pauly’s term as head of the journalism program at St. Louis University.

Pauly criticized the 280-person staff at the Post-Dispatch as being “stodgy” and “resistant to change” with top reporters and a publisher he says undermined Campbell’s efforts to nudy a “lazy, under-achieving newspaper.”

“He just persevered in spite of this,” Pauly said. “Cole believed journalism was our shared rehearsal for public life and with enough practice we’d get it right,” he said.

Nearly two months after his death, Campbell, I suppose, would want those of us teaching journalism to do what we can to continue to try to “get it right.”

It’s an appropriate call for action as we leave this city where Cole Campbell ended his life and career prematurely.

The struggle continues.

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