Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wrapping Up the Day With Cole Campbell

Following the official premiere of "The Teaching Newspaper" video and another ON POINT presentation by yours truly and John Fleming, editor-at-large at The Anniston Star, a much smaller crowd that remains here in the Zannie Theatre talked about what was learned from the presentations and discussions today.

"Even though it is as old as journalism, community journalism is still an emergent concept," said Cole Campbell, director of the Reynolds School of Journalism at University of Nevado-Reno. " Community journalism is a conceptual blend."

"Community journalism is really a conceptual define an idea by pulling from two parent ideas. Teaching hospital pulls from the science of medicine and practice of medicine, he said.

"Conceptual blends are highly selective. Conceptual blends work because it sorts out the attributes of each parent concept that really work, that really make sense," said Campbell.

"One of the touchstone ideas throughout the day is the notion of intimacy," he said.

What are the ideas or the ideas, the theories that we can draw out of our conversation?

Here's a list of the some of the things the group came up as our daylong conversation concluded:
-Coherence, Meaning and Possibility

-Personal Connection
-Cultural Connection

-Community Transcends Geograpphy because of shared experience

-We're not telling a story, we're telling someone's story

-Cover the normal as well as the abnormal

-Interdependence with whom?

-"Hope to get the paper out" is a constraint

-Digital tech. overcomes barriers, offers feedback

-Concern: First responsibility to consumer

-Gathering point, stabilized through community conversation

-Community as a process

ISU Prof Looks At Consequence of Digital Future

Armed with statistics on new media use and technology lifestyle habits, the head of the Iowa State University's journalism school posed some tough questions about technologies such as social networking websites and cell phones.

Michael Bugeya kicked off the afternoon portion of the community journalism conversation with the day's first PowerPoint presentation. It was appropriate as technology was the center of his talk.

"I ask you to go back to Marshall McLuhan. Ask what is the media doing, what does it do best? That's why I have a lot of respect for printing," said Bugeya.

From his soon-to-be-released study of the consequences of administrators avoiding e-mail for two weeks to an upcoming panel on "the Ethics of Facebook," Bugeya posed tough questions about many media habits that are often taken for granted.

In addition to writing several articles for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Bugeya has authored a book entitled Interpersonal Divide: The Search for Community in a Technological Age.

His theory of digital displacement exemplified by such habits as students using technology to socialize during class is an example of the concerns raised about the influence of new media use on everyday life and community and/or societal disagreement.

At this moment, Bugeya is part of an afternoon panel that is responding to some of his ideas.

JSU Prof Draws Link Between Journalism & Academy

He's been one of the figures involved in the discussions about a Teaching Newspaper since the beginning. Today, Hardy Jackson, a history professor at Jacksonville State University made the link between his work as a historian and a columnist for The Anniston Star.

Jackson told his story during today's luncheon.

"Becoming a regular columnist and editorial writer was purely coincidence," Jackson said, who has published work not only in The Anniston Star, but also The Mobile Register.

Before doing his current stint as a columnist, he worked as an editorial writer for the Star.

Since starting his work with the Star, Jackson says the experience in journalism has had a positive impact on his work as a historian making his scholarly work "more accessible, more readable and more read."

But that's not only the old result of his dual work as a historian and a columnist.

"Wearing two hats has strengthened my connection with the community," Jackson said.

Jackson drew parallels between his work as an academic and a columnist in the three core areas of the academy: teaching, scholarship and service.

"Now that I think about it I have two jobs. I just wear one hat."

UA Team Reports Research on News & Community

A University of Alabama journalism research team reported findings of their analysis of what academic researchers have to say about community journalism.

Wilson Lowrey, an assistant professor of journalism, led the team that included two UA Ph.D. students, Amanda Brozana and Jenn MacKay, in analyzing 70 research articles in 16 academic journals including titles such as the Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly and Political Communication.

From their qualitative analysis of the articles, they identified at least nine dimensions of news and community that appeared in the research articles:

1) community
2) Meeting Place
3) Field
4) Interpretive
5) journalism That Listens
6) Civic Leader
7) Advocate
8) Social Glue
9) Awareness of Social Differences

Some of the other key findings from the research-- 71% of the articles focused on daily newspapers while only 30% featured research on weekly newspapers and 12% on web sites.

"Most did not define community journalism directly," said Lowrey. "Many of the articles looked at the impact of community on the journalists or the news organization." Lowrey said.

Lowrey made a 15-minute ON POINT presentation, the second such talk of this day-long intense discussion.

Knight Chair Issues Call for Interdependent Newspapers

In the second major address of today's daylong conversation on community journalism, one former newspaper editor challenged those attending today's conversation to look for new ways to be interdependent with their communities.

"A newspaper can't really be independent until it become interdependent with the community it serves, said Peggy Kuhr, Knight Chair on the Press, Leadership and the Community at the University of Kansas.

Unlike the previous presentations, Kuhr focused much of her address toward those journalism professors and students attending today's event. From turning students on to community as a source for stories to showing them the power of residents in a community to speak to an issue, Kuhr suggested a different strategy that those teaching journalism can use.

She previewed a soon-to-be released web site on which she and Ken Harwood are working that will go live next year. Covering will be a resource for showing journalists and journalism students real strategies for the type of community-based reporting that fosters interdependence.

Kuhr also gave a list of three things those in the audience could do to foster interdependence:

1) Connect with expert listerners in your community
2) Join the Credibility Roundtable Project
3) Develop relationships with those on your campus

Evans: Community Newspapers focus on community values

Touting the challenges of empirically defining community journalism, University of Alabama Researcher William Evans listed some of the ways in which content analytic research can assist in the process.

Evans talked about an ongoing project that involved analyzing newspaper editorials. One of his biggest findings was that community newspapers and corporately-owned newspapers appear to differ in the way they discuss community values.

"I think we have a new species of editorial, one that focuses on community valuies," said William Evans, director of the Institute for Communication and Information Research at the state's flagship institution.

He used an example of the different ways in which The Anniston Star and the Tuscaloosa News opined on the recent rash of church burnings in West Alabama. The Star was more direct in explaining why the fires was inconsistent with the values of the state while the Tuscaloosa paper's editorial re-stated the facts of the story and simply suggested that no one should jump to conclusions.

While the example from this week was not included in their newspaper contnet analysis, it did show how community journalism here in Alabama can approach

Evans' findings were based on a pilot study of major newspapers.

Evans gave the first of several brief 15-minute ON POINT presentations where research results or efforts are the focus.

Harwood Launches First Discussion Panel

In a style more akin to a sermon than a lecture, this morning Rich Harwood is preaching a message of hope, not a hope for newspapers but hope for a different type of public life, different role for newspapers in a community.

"When people look out in public life, community life in politics, they don't see themselves, " said Harwood. "When people look out into public life and co mmunity life, they believe their life is being personally distorted, disorted by those in the news media that heightens and sensationalizes the news."

Harwood challenged newspapers to do three things:

1) Engage people on the notion of the public good

2) Invest in Capacity of our communitys to create community

3) In our effort to do good, better journalism, avoid Becoming mechanistic in our respone

As of this moment, the first panel of journalists is responding to Harwood's opening address.

Conversation Begins

The main event for the Conversation on Community Journalism is officially underway at the Zannie Theatre here in on the campus of the former Ft. McClellan.

As of this very moment, Conference Host and Director of the Knight Fellows in Community Journalism has just completed his opening remarks and the first panel has taken the stage.

"We need community journalism now more than ever before," said Rich Harwood, the first keynote speaker of the morning.

"The art of community journalism is to make the civic connections, but to make some money so that you can endure," said Waddle in his opening comments.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Conference Opens with Open House at The Teaching Newspaper

ANNISTON-- We can say with certainty that the crowd has arrived. The First National Conversation on Community Journalism is, in fact, a reality.

The not-so-good digital photo above is our proof that the vision we all had of bringing the brightest minds on community journalism to one place is coming to fruition.

The shot here gives a brief glimpse of the lobby of The Anniston Star, which was transferred into a cocktail lounge tonight. Over the next 24 hours, we'll all talk, break bread, share, brainstorm and do a lot of other things as the mind of community journalism emerges.

Our dean, Cully Clark, Chris Waddle, the conference host, and Josephine Ayers, who did much of the planning for this conference, spoke this evening.

This was a first opportunity for most of those here to see the place that later this year becomes The Teaching Newspaper. Where will the teaching take place? How is the newsroom set up for this? A lot of those questions were answered with the "show-and-tell" that I saw going on this evening.

Much, much more tomorrow morning as everything shifts to the former Fort McClellan, where the Zannie Theatre is all decked out and ready for this major event.

It will be an exciting day.

Knight Foundation CEO in search of new ways to build community

JACKSONVILLE, Ala-- It started as a crystal clear day. You could see clear to the top of the mountain. In fact, going into today's luncheon the former Anniston Star Editor Troy Turner pointed out to me the trail that goes to the mountain that sits in view of the Houston Cole Library on the beautiful campus of Jacksonville State University.

What a way to begin a posting about today's Ayers Lecture Series, which featured the man of the week-- the new CEO of Knight Foundation, Alberto Ibarguen.

I'm not even going to try to format this as a news story (a habit of mine when I'm blogging). I'm just going to note some highlights from the lecture that stuck out at me as I was taking it all in.

Highlight #1- Not Newspapers, New Media

Highlight #2- Community

Highlight #3- New Ways of Doing Things

Now for the details

Highlight #1 Not Newspapers, New Media

Perhaps most surprising to us is that the Knight Foundation is clearly not in the business of saving newspapers. That's the underlying point of many advocates for community journalism. If we can cover our communities, people will buy our papers.

Ibarguen, a former Miami Herald editor, has a different take

"The reach of newspapers is shrinking. to me that creates an extraordinary opportunity for us to identify the community journalism of the 21st century," said Ibarguen. "We're wedded to excellence in journalism, though not newspapers. The world is agnostic to platform and we need to reflect that."

Highlight #2- Community

It's probably no accident that Ibarguen spent a good deal of his address to a nearly capacity crowd on the 11th floor of JSU's Cole Library, talking about his experiences responding to Hurricane Katrina,

He talked about how he was able through the Knight Foundation to invest $1 million into helping Mississippi Gulf Coast develp a plan for rebuilding their communities.

Much of his examination of this region was through his experience watching the Sun-Herald in Biloxi continue to publish (via a presenting site in Columbus, Ga.) in spite of Katrina's destruction.

Highpoint #3- New Ways of Doing Things

Perhaps my favorite part of this speech was hearing Ibarguen, a seasoned print journalist, continue to ask for ideas for reaching audiences through new media.

This seemed to be a message not only for JSU and UA students in the room, but also the journalism professors who find themselves looking to the Knight Foundation to fund their NEEDS.

Ibarguen made it clear his foundation, which awards nearly $100 million in grants each year, is thinking more like a venture capitalist "seeding and inspiring" individuals who have new ways of building community.

"We're interested in new ways of teaching and new ways of disseminating information."

Acting as the master of ceremonies during today's luncheon and the lecture that followed was Jacksonville State University President Bill Meehan. At least two former JSU presidents were also in attendance as were a number of the Knight Chairs, who held a meeting on the JSU campus this morning.

This was the 17th year for the Harry M. and Edel Y. Ayers Lecture, an annual address by a journalist for journalism in honor of the former publisher of the Anniston Star and wife.

The clouds rolled in during the luncheon-- but I wouldn't say they had any impact on the clarity of vision that the top man at the Knight Foundation shared.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Former Miami newspaper editor salutes local letter writers

ANNISTON-- For a week of discussions on the “Emerging Mind of Community Journalism” what better way to start things off than with those in the community.

I’ve been to a lot of banquets and dinners, but never one that shined the spotlight on those who talk back to the newspaper. Tonight’s meal was special because I had it in the presence of some of the people born and raised here in Calhoun County, Alabama.

Tonight’s letter writers banquet was about connecting with the people who through their written comments connect with their local newspaper.

“Writing letters to the editor is an integral part of what makes a newspaper a newspaper,” said Bob Davis, editor of The Anniston Star.

Before recently being named executive editor of the paper, Davis served for almost two years as the Star’s Editorial Page Editor. He succeeded John Fleming, who now serves as editor-at-large.

Both Fleming and Davis followed Chris Waddle, who as the Star’s longtime editorial page editor started the tradition of honoring letter writers.

Tonight’s event was the 17th such banquet.

Now Waddle is directing the Star’s new joint venture with The University of Alabama and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The first class of Knight Fellows in Community Journalism won’t arrive here in Anniston until later this fall. But, this week’s conference is the first official event held in conjunction with the journalism graduate program that’s nicknamed COM-J.

Appropriately, the CEO of the Knight Foundation was invited to serve as the keynote for this year’s letter writers banquet. Alberto Ibarguen told lots of war stories about his days as editor of The Miami Herald, an experience that brought him face-to-face with those in a community of exiles where 75 percent of the population was born someplace else.

“This is really what builds community,” said Ibarguen who recounted some of the experiences he had in receiving hundreds of e-mails and letters to the editor.

Tonight he recalled how the Miami community responded with some 8,000 letters to editor after the Herald’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the Elian Gonzalez story.

“Almost none of them were about our coverage. They were just citizens expressing their opinion [about the Gonzalez story],”Ibarguen said.

“I hope you appreciate the privilege you have,” the Knight Foundation CEO told the letter writers at tonight’s dinner.

As we look forward to tomorrow’s events, the audience shifts from residents in the Anniston-Calhoun County (Ala.) community to students and scholars as the Star’s Annual Ayers Lecture features Ibarguen in an afternoon address a few miles up the road at Jacksonville State University.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ready..Set- GO!

Well, folks, this is it!

Years of planning of anticipation, discussion, debate, disagreement-- all to a come to a head this week as the first OFFICIAL event of the Knight Fellows in Community Journalism kicks off in just hours.

Tomorrow the first pre-conference event, the Letter Writers Banquet takes place.

With all that's been going on with the regular semester, I've hardly had time to mentally prepare for this special event.

Today in my freshman-level introduction to journalism course, I showed a short clip from the video The New South Star, part of the Alabama Experience series.

This particular video is more than a decade old. It chronicles the history of Anniston and the philosophical foundations of The Star.

The occasion for our discussion of the Star was a culmination of a unit on the influence of corporate culture on journalism. I use two case studies as extremes-- the FOX News Channel on one end of the political spectrum and the Anniston Star on the other.

Moving beyond the discussion of liberal vs. conservative, I asked students to identify examples of COMMUNITY reporting in last Wednesday's edition of The Star.

They did pretty well with this exercise. We talked about the way the Star localized the Coretta Scott King story, the State of the Union address and the recent awards bestowed on the film Brokeback Mountain.

I mentioned to the students that I would spending most of the week in Anniston at a conference on community journalism. But, that was the extent of my preparation.

I could reflect and report more on today's classroom or I just get ready to trek over to Anniston.

I think I'll choose the latter.

If you happen to be reading this, expect more frequent reports and reflections throughout the week.