August 2008

  1. Mindy McAdams, the guru of online journalism education, created a terrific blogging assignment for students. I saw her blog post about it just as I was trying to come up with one for my own class. Here’s her idea:
  3. She asked for suggestions about how to get students to read the blogs of their classmates. I also was trying to find a way to incorporate that into my blogging assignment as well, so I wrote this comment:
  4. Great assignment.
    I’m still struggling with an assignment addressing the same issue — getting students to read and respond to the work of their peers. I’m also still learning the technologies I’m trying to teach as well. (Thank you, Mindy, for your absolutely essential guidance!!)
    I’m still thinking it through but I’d like to find a way to create a graded assignment using peer editing.
    This is still in process but my idea is to have each student choose a classmate’s blog and write a thorough review using the rubric I provide as well as their own added criteria.
    For XX number of points they’ll write a response to the blog’s author productively assessing the blog’s content, writing, presentation, creativity, gadgetry, readability…am still coming up with this part.
    I need to build in a way to keep them from commenting mainly on the bells and whistles and not directly engaging with the content.
    Another concern is that this only requires them to read/respond to one other person’s thoughts.
    What if everybody chooses only a couple of blogs? Do I care?
    And, are their comments public? On their blogs? On Blackboard? E-mailed only to their classmate and me?
    Thanks for helping me think this through, and for the excellent model assignment you provided.

  5. August 18, 2008 at 6:11 pm

My students chuckle or roll their eyes when I use the quaint expressions of old fashioned journalism. I try to hippen it up…”Your kicker’s got to rock!” (Meaning: The last line of your story must be powerful, must end with a bang, not a whimper.)

This reminds me of how often I must translate words, concepts, skills from a practical, newsroom setting into the classroom. That reminds me of the differences between the the news business and the college-teaching business. That reminds me that, in my opinion, neither should be a business. And THAT reminds me of the retirement parties I attended earlier this summer, where faculty members ended their 30-year careers at this undefunded, underperforming, underrated, oddly run, land grant state university. The parties were long on the best of Oregon — wild salmon, Pinot Noir, local herbed goat cheese, organic greens picked that day from nearby farms; cool, breezy evenings beneath Evergreens of all persuasions. The parties were also long (winded) on speeches. What’s striking was how civilized these endings were. Folks who’d done G-d’s work for 30 or more years, teaching those 8 a.m. surveys of 200 or more students — many of whom were up all night working at the mill or the local pub just to pay for school, many of whom are the first in their family to got to college, some in their fifth or sixth year because they have to drop out to work for their families, some who come straight from picking in the fields at dawn to hear your take on whatever; writing endless letters to Financial Aid begging for money on behalf of students. After  30-odd years of that, they got toasted. And toasted. And congratulated and celebrated. The pay is for crap. The lifestyle, they tell you, more than makes up for it. But we all raised our Pinot to their good work and big hearts and new lives. That’s their kicker.

And THAT brings me back TO THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. As I’ve mentioned, many of the most revered journalists around recently volunteered to leave after 20, 30-odd years of service. And what was their goodbye? On Friday at 2 pm they were told to pack up and exit the building by 5pm.

Now that’s a kicker.

Posted, July 17, 2008
UF j-school to create “media farm” for innovation, research
Gainesville Sun
A new University of Florida center will be a “media farm” for growing knowledge about digital journalism. The school’s Center for Media Innovation and Research will train students in digital media and house a think tank conducting research in the field, says UF College of Journalism and Communications Dean John Wright. The first phase of the center will be the construction of a “21st Century Newsroom and Laboratory.” || Read the release.

This new media lab/experiment/farm team model sounds like a marvelous answer to the questions a lot of us are struggling with, including the content/technology balance. I was thrilled to read this in the press release:

The CMIR (pronounced “simmer”) will specialize in original, in-depth news reporting on issues of interest to local, regional, national and international audiences, and it will tell those important stories using new, experimental methods…..

I’m eager to keep track of this project.

Voluntary reductions. They are not breasts. They are Democracy.

Tribune embarks on latest staff cuts

By: Ann Saphir Aug. 08, 2008

(Crain’s) — The Chicago Tribune’s managing editor for news, its Washington bureau chief and its public editor are leaving Friday as the paper begins a new round of newsroom cuts.

Hanke Gratteau, who was promoted to managing editor in May; Michael Tackett, who has covered every presidential election since 1988, and Timothy McNulty, who has been public editor since 2006, head a list of staffers who are leaving voluntarily.

“We still must make some additional involuntary reductions,” Editor Gerould Kern told staffers in a memo Friday afternoon. “We now are in the process of evaluating the scope of these reductions. Nothing about this is easy, but it is necessary.”

In an interview published Friday on a Tribune blog, Randy Michaels, Tribune’s chief operating officer, is unsentimental about the changes.

“We are not running a museum. We are running a business in a time of increased competition and economic hardship,” he says. “We should grieve for those who have been downsized. We should NOT be mourning the loss of anything else.”

Read the whole article, if you can stomach it:

     Okay. These “voluntary reductions” are some of the greatest, most heroic journalists in the country.  Not only should we be grieving their loss, but should indeed be mourning the loss, Mr. Randy Michaels, of the kind of reporters who do the kind of reporting that stops innocent people from being executed. Those voluntary reductions did that.

     They were also my colleagues, and many remain my friends, and the loss of their combined brain power and institutional memory and source base and understanding and mastery of the complex societal systems they explored is a grave loss to Democracy. We’re ALL being involuntarily reduced.

Back in the day, when the idea of video telephones was promised as the Next New Thing, I despaired.

You mean to tell me that my phone rings and if I’m half asleep and pick it up the telemarketer or cable guy or school principal SEES me? The intrusion appalled me.

Fast forward to Facebook, one of favorite exits to stop on the Information Superhighway to avoid writing or grading or parenting. I’ve just discovered the same intrusive hitch. Who knows why it took me so long to notice. I’m blissfully chatting away, searching for old high school pals, catching up with old colleagues leaping out  the windows at various newspapers, and suddenly a small box pops up on the lower right side of the blue line on the bottom of my screen  and it’s shrieking “HEY PAM!!!” And I’m like, WHAT?? It’s a former student. I look over and it’s telling me there are 13 of my “Friends” also online. It dawns on me. THHEY ALL KNOW I’M ONLINE BECAUSE I KNOW THEY’RE ONLINE BECAUSE THE LITTLE FREAKIN’ BOX TELLS THEM SO! And I’m in my jammies!!

Quickly closed everything, logged off, turned off, turned out the lights, shut the door. What an invasion.

I’m not on Facebook now. Nobody can find me. Safe at last in the comfort and privacy and peace of my own blog.