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, 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.