Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stillman, UA Students Focus on West Tuscaloosa

A few days have passed, but the enthusiasm hasn't waned about a new community journalism effort in the city of Tuscaloosa. Specifically, the focus of this venture is the West side of Tuscaloosa, where stories are often overlooked.

This past weekend, about 50 students from the University of Alabama and Stillman College participated in a two-day Diversity Weekend Workshop at Stillman's Wynn Center.

Most observers would agree the gathering was unprecedented in both the number of students from both campuses who participated and the nature of the gathering.

It was not only about learning about covering news in a cross-cultural setting, but melding the cultures of a large traditionally state institution and a private historically black college with students from all over the country.

The difference in the student bodies was readily apparent on Friday evening as UA Professor Samantha Briggs facilitated a kick-off session on our assumptions about race.

We each had to write down jokes, stereotypes and adjectives used to describe blacks and whites. I learned some new ones while at the same time talked about an issue that's not so easy to discuss in a cross-cultural or interracial setting.

Instead of the polite discussions ending and students going their separate ways, the University of Alabama students stayed overnight Friday on the Stillman campus.

By the end of the session on Saturday, students from both institutions had picked a name for the new West Tuscaloosa newspaper that will debut in less than a month.

Look for stories about West Tuscaloosa in The West End Journal, a project to be produced by three journalism classes at Stillman and two at the University.

A special thanks to Luke Buckley from TUSK Magazine for taking the photos from the event.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Studying We The Media

Today in our Media Management and Operations class, the Knight Fellows heard a wonderful report on the Dan Gillmor's We the Media Book.

It's a treatise on citizen journalism.

Gillmor's blog continue on the Backfence Web site.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Storytellers to headline conference here in Anniston

ANNISTON-- This web log has actually already passed its first anniversary. It started in November 2005 as we prepared to host the first National Conference on Community Journalism here in Anniston, Ala.

But, I am reminded of the central day of the conference, February 9, 2006, when I posted more than I have the entire 15 months of the blog-- the third day of the conference.

Now, we are gearing up for our second community journalism conference, which is scheduled for March 6-8, 2007. The focus for this conference is on Storytelling.

This year, we will be co-hosting the event with the Society of Professional Journalists, which has posted a details of the conference on its Web site.

Death of a Newscast?

This question caught my attention on the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)' Website. At first, I thought it was a story about a local newscast that was going away. When I clicked on Deb Wenger's article, I found it was a fresh piece (just posted this month) from a colleague at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of Mass Communications about a subject near and dear to my heart-- local TV news.

She interviewed Terry Heaton of Audience Research & Development (AR&D), a consultant for dozens of local TV stations. In fact, AR&D was the consultant at one of stations where I produced local news more tha 10 years ago.

The thesis of the articlce is that if 28 percent of the coveted 18-49 demographic cite the Internet as the place they get their local news, the over-the-air, appointment-style local newscast is becoming a dinosaur.

I'm not sure that's a surprise. TV newscasts, like their legacy media cohort, the newspaper, have become somewhat irrelevant to millions of Americans.

The context for this article is the relatively new SPJ Journalism Education web blog.

The message in the article was aimed at educators, many of whom are still stuck in training print journalists and broadcast journalists.

I think Terry is right! (Did I say that about a consultant??) But, the real question is how do we convince our colleagues in journalism education circles that this is the case.

So the big news (besides the fact I agree with a consultant) is that local broadcast journalists have to think beyond the shows they produce, anchor or report for each day.

That's the old way of thinking about local news.

This is kind of line with the current issue of the RTNDA Communicator, which focuses on survival strategies for the 24/7 newsroom.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Community for Political Junkies Open for Biz

It’s launch day for a much-anticipated multimedia venture, Politico is coming on the scene just in time as the 2008 Presidential campaign buzz kicks up with the recent announcements by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and several others.

Here's their welcome note.

They were out the gate with a great welcome video.
Tonight is the President’s State of the Union and Politico is supposed to be up and running to cover it all.

I just learned today that Allbritton Communications, a privately-held company that owns Birmingham’s ABC 33/40 is a major backer for this new venture. That means we’ll see it draw on the resources of Washington DC’s WJLA-Channel 7’s and their hyperlocal. NewsChannel 8.

Politico is not just a Website, but a newspaper and a web-based TV program. It’s going to be awesome to follow this as it launches.

I can’t wait to see it all unfold.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A New Montgomery TV Newscast?

It's a trend happening all over the country-- one television station does a newscast for another.

This time the trend takes us to Alabama's state capital-- Montgomery where there are currently two local television news operations, NBC affiliate WSFA and CBS affiliate WAKA-TV.

It's worth mentioning that Montgomery-based Raycom Media purchased Liberty Corporation, which owned WSFA.

But it's WAKA-TV that's in the news now as it offers the state's newest local newscast-- a 9pm newscast for a new CW network-affiliated station, WBMM, which is owned by SagamoreHill Broadcasting.

"We are excited to be working with Jim Caruthers and his team at CBS 8," SagamoreHill Broadcasting President Louis Wall said in a story posted on WAKA's site. "They are true professionals and we appreciate their vision in working with us to provide the River Region's first prime time news," he said.

Like similar agreements in other markets, the newscast is branded with the station that is providing newscast's brand. The station's talent produces an extra half-hour or hourlong program.

While some markets will take the late newscast and offer it an hour earlier on the second station, many re-run stories from earlier news programs. In markets like Richmond, Va, which has been doing a primetime newscast for Sinclair Broadcast Group's FOX station, WRLH, an entire anchor team was identified to staff the 10pm program.

In Montgomery, CBS 8 is owned by Charlotte-based Bahakel Communications, which did its own centralcasting between Charlotte FOX affiliate WCCB and Columbia, South Carolina ABC station, WOLO-TV.

I call these types of newscasts where one station does one for competing station, CONTRACTED newscasts. They're also known as news share agreements.

Do they provide MORE local news? Technically, on the station where the contracted newscasts airs, YES. But, there is no real NEW reporting staff that is informing the community.

So, on this web blog that focuses on community journalism, we have to ask whether this latest news share agreement really adds to the community journalism available in the Montgomery-Selma market.

For a while this same concept was tried in the Birmingham media market as WIAT CBS 42 did a 9pm newscast for WTTO WB 21. That was, of course, after Sinclair Broadcast Group stopped using its own centralcasting concept to produce local news.

But, it only lasted a few months. Recently, I got the following e-mail from CBS 42 anchor David Lamb:

We are no longer doing the news on CW21. We discontinued those broadcasts a while back. As always, you can check us out on CBS 42 and 10pm. Sorry for the inconvenience but I hope you will watch us at 10.

While two years, WTTO 21 promoted its anchor team that was a mix of local talent and national news personalities from the Sinclair NewsCentral operation, today the WTTO Website has been totally re-done as a primarily promotional site for the entertainment programming with the new green CW 21 brand and a tiny section devoted to CW 21 News Video, which is really the Associated Press Video service that available free to members.

So, we will watch to see what happens with Alabama's newest local newscast on WBMM CW Montgomery. Currently only Birmingham's WBRC and Mobile's WALA, both FOX affiliates offer primetime newscasts, which is 9pm in the Central Time Zone.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

FOI Audit Not Just for Sunshine Week

RICHMOND--- Usually around the month of March, newspapers around the country publish articles and editorials on the topic open government and fredom of information.

This week, the Richmond Times-Dispatch is running results of a Freedom of Information Audit of Virginia's 142 cities and counties.

The articles are part of a four-day series, OPEN & SHUT, that started on New Year's Eve and concludes tomorrow (January 3, 2007).

Today's article focused on the area where reponses were most problematic- official business conducted via e-mail.

A few years ago, I was part of a similar test spearheaded by the Alabama Coalition for Open Government (ALACOG).

Each state has different laws. Here in the Old Dominion, the Freedom of Information Act dictates what documents are to be made available.

The Virginia Coalition's Web site is especially well-done and up-to-date.

The audit by reporters from 20 newspapers and the Associated Press was conducted last September.

It's refreshing to see this topic get coverage in my home state.