Research (Vol. 57): Errors, Requests, Apologies…

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A case study of 50 years of corrections in a college newspaper

By Alyssa Appelman, Northern Kentucky University
and Kirstie Hettinga, California Lutheran University

Abstract: Corrections increase transparency and credibility, but college newspapers rarely publish them. This study explores trends in college newspaper corrections. In particular, it analyzes 50 years of corrections at a sample college newspaper and its website. Through thematic analysis (N = 95 corrections), it discusses changes in correction style and content over time. It explores the struggles of college newspapers, as well as the influence of professional news outlets. In particular, the authors identified a shift from early “requests for corrections” to more “modern” corrections that included labels and apologies. It also finds a strong influence of the student editor, who occasionally published specific calls for transparency and accuracy. As student newspapers have significant staff turnover, this study recommends that messages about corrections and accuracy be shared by student media’s consistent forces: relevant classes, publication handbooks, and—perhaps most importantly—faculty advisers.

Keywords: Corrections, Accuracy, Transparency, Classes, Handbooks, Advisers

Method: Thematic Analysis Continue reading “Research (Vol. 57): Errors, Requests, Apologies…”

Top tips for launching a college media research project

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Balancing Act: Launching a research program requires give-and-take

By Carol Terracina Hartman

The description in the NYC09 program for a faculty adviser session appeared pretty straightforward: “Academic Research: Launching a Program.” It drew a packed room.

Research Director Vince Filak, UW-Oshkosh Professor and then-adviser of The Advance-Titan, led the session, and he opened by suggesting looking at one’s own campus media newsroom to start.

The choice begins with deciding whether to pursue inductive vs. deductive research:

Start with a problem in the newsroom and translate to a trend and find appropriate theory, such as social learning theory. Or, start with a theory, such as framing, and develop a measure, “How do we cover X?” with women in sports, climate change, crime, mental health, or other news topics as possible substitutes for ‘X.’ Continue reading “Top tips for launching a college media research project”

College media adapt to online only formats

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Adjustments from COVID-19 may mark permanent changes for student newspapers

By Angel Trinh

While universities across the country have suspended in-person classes to limit the spread of COVID-19, the future for student newspapers remains unknown because being online-only until physical classes resume could create long-term changes.

More than 600 universities responded to a survey conducted by the American Association for Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers to gauge the changes institutions are making or considering in response to COVID-19. According to the press release published April 2, 81% of institutions have moved completely online for the rest of the spring term. Of the universities that have moved online, 23% have decided to keep classes online for the summer and 38% are considering doing so.

Student publications have had to quickly adapt to producing web-only content, and some may not return to printing once classes begin again.

College Media Association Treasurer Steven Chappell said the number of student newspapers that decide to move online-only increases each fall, and he thinks he’ll see a larger number make that decision this year than any previous.

Continue reading “College media adapt to online only formats”

Shoot-out participants continue despite COVID-19

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11 photojournalists document city in crisis

Everything was pretty much ready to go for this spring’s Shoot-out in New York City. Then, as with so many other things, along came COVID-19 and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York issued a ban on meetings of more than 500 people.

“The spread of this coronavirus is not going to stop on its own, and we know that mass gatherings have been hotspots for the virus to infect large numbers of people quickly,” Cuomo said.

Under the guidance announced by Cuomo, most gatherings of more than 500 people were banned, including the College Media Association conference.

“Mr. Cuomo’s decision to limit gatherings of more than 500 people was an especially heavy blow to the theater industry, a crown jewel of New York City’s tourist trade. Last season, the industry drew 14.8 million patrons and grossed $1.8 billion,” according to an article in The New York Times March 12.

Quickly, the conference evolved and Saturday sessions, including the critique of the Photo Shoot-out led by Jack Zibluck, were moved to Friday. Otherwise, it continued as normal with 11 participants. Continue reading “Shoot-out participants continue despite COVID-19”

Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump: Reimagining the Town Square

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Public officials cannot block naysayers from social media

By Carolyn Schurr Levin

The campus quad is a place where students, professors, administrators, staff, and visitors talk, walk, congregate, share ideas, play catch, hawk college newspapers, and so much more. It is a space that has traditionally been open and accessible, with few limitations, not only at public universities, but also at private colleges. In many respects, it is similar to a traditional town square, the open space in the heart of a town where people gather, share thoughts and are entertained.

Because they are open to all, town squares are, by law, considered to be traditional public forums which are given the highest level of First Amendment protection. They are public places that have by long tradition been devoted to speech and assembly. The government has a difficult time limiting speech in such spaces.

A public forum has traditionally been a physical place. But, in the 21st century, we interact in new digital types of public squares. On Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, we meet virtually, instead of in person, to share and debate ideas. Although we don’t throw a Frisbee disc as we do on the campus quad, we toss out our opinions to our virtual communities. What happens then, if public officials try to limit us from access to that online space because they don’t like our opinions? Can they do that? Or is that similar to telling a student that he can’t express his ideas to his friends while traversing the campus quad? Continue reading “Knight First Amendment Institute v. Donald J. Trump: Reimagining the Town Square”

The Big Story: Uncharted territory

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Pepperdine group
Students at the March 12 impromptu banquet, one-day after university officials announced they were moving to remote classes for the remainder of the semester.

College newsrooms shift focus amid coronavirus pandemic concerns

By Elizabeth Smith and Courtenay Stallings
Pepperdine University

“This is big.” That was the reaction of Graphic News Editor James Moore when Pepperdine University announced seven weeks ago the suspension of its international program in Shanghai, China, as COVID-19 spread across Asia. Over the next six weeks, as the virus spread across the world, the university eventually suspended all seven of its international programs and closed the Malibu campus, moving to all-remote instruction. James was right— it was big.

Over the past few weeks, university presidents have announced campus closures in rapid succession. While these closures pose unprecedented challenges for classrooms and campuses, they are uncharted territory for student newsrooms, too.

Continue reading “The Big Story: Uncharted territory”

Research (Vol. 57): Social Media Use and Yearbooks

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How award winners deploy social media

By Robert Bergland

Northwest Missouri State University

Abstract: The Internet and social media have transformed all college media outlets, and the yearbook is no exception. But, while there have been some studies on the impact of these technologies on commercial and college newspapers, yearbooks have not received such scrutiny. This study of award-winning yearbooks attempts to shed light on how yearbooks are using social media to promote their events, their staffs and their content. Using the 22 yearbooks that have been named a finalist in the major competitions in the last three years, this paper examines the number of followers, the number of posts, the content of these posts and the follower response to those posts during the Fall 2018 semester. Continue reading “Research (Vol. 57): Social Media Use and Yearbooks”

Book Review: ‘The First Amendment in the Trump Era,’ by Timothy Zick

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Unique time in First Amendment orthodoxy

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Watching and listening to Donald Trump both at his rallies during the 2016 presidential campaign and then after he became President, Timothy Zick, the John Marshall Professor of Government and Citizenship at William & Mary School of Law, felt that he wanted to chronicle the onslaught of attacks on the First Amendment that he was hearing. Although previous presidents had certainly had terrible relationships with the press, the assaults on journalists as “enemies of the people,” denying reporters access to press briefings because of negative coverage, blocking critics on Twitter, vowing to “take a look at the libel laws,” suggesting that flag burners be jailed, the war on truth, and so much more, felt decidedly different to Zick. He was observing systematic efforts “to undermine the press’ credibility and to turn the public against the media.” And, so Professor Zick set out to chronicle those First Amendment assaults. The result is his recently published, comprehensive and highly readable new book, “The First Amendment in the Trump Era.”

Lest you have tuned out the noise, the book is highly critical of the Trump administration’s approach to the First Amendment. No matter what side of the political spectrum on which you fall, though, this book can truly educate you about this unique time in First Amendment orthodoxy.

Unlike Professor Zick’s three previous books, which primarily targeted an academic audience, this book is pitched to “a wider audience and a broader discourse” about its subject matter. Not only is it intended for those interested in the attacks on freedom of the press in the last several years, but also for those who want to learn more about the history and social benefits of dissent in the United States. Indeed, I found the chapter dedicated to dissent to be the most enlightening.  There are “many serious challenges to protecting dissent and maintaining a culture of dissent” now, Professor Zick writes, and “we need to have a plan of attack to deal with [President Trump’s] anti-dissent agenda and to preserve a culture of dissent moving forward.” Democracy thrives “when there is noise and disagreement, not conformity and consensus,” Zick says, arguing for the “active facilitation and encouragement” of the tolerance for dissent. Rather than feeling compelled to “choose sides,” people “must feel free to speak out” without being labeled “disloyal enemies.” Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The First Amendment in the Trump Era,’ by Timothy Zick”

Book Review: ‘The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, The FBI, The Media, And Richard Jewell,’ by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen

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Jewell ‘Caught In The Middle’

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Journalists sometimes get it wrong. When they do, there are clarifications and corrections, new or revised newsroom policies, and a lot of hand wringing. There may also be lawsuits. That was the case when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) named security guard Richard Jewell as the suspect who placed the bomb in Centennial Park in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics. Many other news outlets followed the AJC in naming Jewell as “the suspect.” Jewell was not, in fact, the perpetrator of the crime. But the FBI had identified him as a suspect, and the media willingly and enthusiastically picked up on the storyline. After being cleared of any wrongdoing, Jewell sued the media outlets, settling with some (NBC paid $595,000, CNN paid $350,000) and engaging in protracted litigation with others, including a 15-year court battle with the AJC.

For many years, I have used Richard Jewell’s prodigious litigation to teach about republication liability in libel cases (one who repeats a defamatory falsehood can be held liable to the same extent as the original speaker). In doing so, though, I did not address, or in fact think much about, the human impact of the error – on the wrongfully named individual, on the journalists, or on the source. In “The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, the FBI, the Media, and Richard Jewell, the Man Caught in the Middle,” authors Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen provide a powerful, in-depth and highly personal account of what happens to a human being when the FBI and subsequently the news media erroneously name him as a suspect in a high profile crime. As Salwen said during a recent phone interview, “whether you are in the FBI, or the media, or the news consuming public,” this book reminds you that “there is a human being on the other side.” Continue reading “Book Review: ‘The Suspect: An Olympic Bombing, The FBI, The Media, And Richard Jewell,’ by Kent Alexander and Kevin Salwen”

Legal analysis: Sarah Palin v. The New York Times Company

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A compelling lesson in libel law

By Carolyn Schurr Levin

Sarah Palin’s libel lawsuit against The New York Times is not a new case. It was initially filed on June 26, 2017. But, as the case continues to wind its way through the courts, it offers a compelling lesson in libel law.

Here’s what it’s all about: In 2010, former Alaska Governor and Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin’s political action committee, SarahPAC, published an online map with crosshairs over congressional districts of some Democrats, including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. In January 2011, a gunman opened fire at a political event in Tucson, Arizona, killing six and wounding 13, including Giffords. The gunman who shot Giffords pled guilty; there was no evidence that he had seen the SarahPAC map. Several years later, another U.S. Representative was injured when a gunman fired at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia. The night of that attack, which injured U.S. Representative Steve Scalise, the New York Times published an editorial on its website titled “America’s Lethal Politics,” tying the two shootings to the SarahPAC map. The June 14, 2017 New York Times editorial asked:

“Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah

Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. Continue reading “Legal analysis: Sarah Palin v. The New York Times Company”