Book Review — ‘Soul of the First Amendment’

Floyd Abrams’ latest book compares free speech laws in United States and elsewhere

Reviewed by Carolyn Schurr Levin

Attorney Floyd Abrams, who represented The New York Times in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case and is described by the Columbia Journalism Review “as the country’s leading First Amendment litigator,” has published a new book: “The Soul of the First Amendment.”

In 2013, Abrams, senior counsel at Cahill Gordon & Reindell LLP in New York, published “Friend of the Court: On the Front Lines with the First Amendment.”  In 2006, Abrams wrote “Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment,” which focused on cases with which he’d been involved.

“The Soul of the First Amendment,” a 150-page book  published April 25, 2017, may be Abrams’ most significant yet. Abrams focuses on why freedom of speech matters and compares U.S, First Amendment laws with laws governing free speech in other democratic nations. Abrams also looks at “how very much more protective of freedom of speech we are than other democratic nations by insisting on what they view as our rather manic devotion to it.”

Continue reading Book Review — ‘Soul of the First Amendment’

Surveying student media staffs

Data and analysis can aid recruitment, retention—and growth

By Jessica Clary
Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta

Introduction — To get to my office, you have to leave the main classroom building, drive (or walk) to the freshman residence hall (which is a mystery to many at a college with mostly commuters), go through a lobby without signs, past an elevator, then take a sharp turn down an unmarked hallway, past the bathrooms, and then knock on a locked door. If someone is there, they’ll come open it, unless you’re standing too close. The door opens out. I can’t tell you how many people have leaned in and hit the door. If you’re trying to get involved with Student Media at my college, there’s a chance your first experience will be getting lost, then getting hit in the face with a door.

But, nearly 10 percent of students at SCAD Atlanta are involved with student media in some way. Since 2011, I have been trying to figure out how they got here.

I learned early on that my pleas for huge, institutional changes (better office space, a more visible presence for our online-only student media, better racks for our print media, etc.) wouldn’t be easy, but finding out how we recruited and held on to the committed students I saw every day couldn’t be that hard.

Over the past six years, I have gathered and tracked data to be able to explain how, at SCAD Atlanta, our student media recruits and retains students. I can see what has worked, what hasn’t, and what has changed. I’ve been able to use the data to better prioritize and use the resources we do have, to continue to grow these programs within the college.

Research — SCAD Atlanta collects a lot of data about students involved with the program, but most of it is quantitative: dates, meeting sign-in sheets, application forms, etc. Once a year, we do a brief, easy qualitative survey to get feedback from involved students about their experience with the program. The survey is sent through Qualtrics to official university email addresses in April, collected and tabulated in May, and then analyzed over the summer by student leaders to implement changes in the fall.

The Survey and Opinion Matrix — The survey asks some factual, multiple-choice questions about how students found out about student media, when they got involved, etc.: Continue reading Surveying student media staffs

Alternative story formats

Out of the box ideas may sound intimidating, but they’re really not

By Holly J. Morris
University of North Georgia

Students are plenty comfortable with the melding of pictures and words. That’s what memes are (this kind) and, arguably, emoji. So the alternative story form — a broad journalism genre that often combines graphics and text in ways beyond “story block with photo” — seems like a natural idiom for college media.

Or maybe not, based on a scouring of the engagement table at this year’s CMA conference in New York. Most of the examples on offer were traditionally texty.

“My students are becoming really proficient creating that fundamental foundational content of print and broadcast media,” said Lee University assistant professor and student media adviser Michael Finch. (For the record, the Lee Clarion wasn’t on the engagement table — it’s online-only.) “I’ve found a little bit of resistance in moving away from that. It’s actually taken a lot of work to get them broaden the horizons of their imaginations.”

Adding alt story forms to a publication, online or off, need not be intimidating. As shown by the examples below, it helps to have designers on staff. But tools like Piktochart and Canva put infographics, for example, within reach of the non-graphically inclined. Qzzr makes embeddable Buzzfeed-style personality quizzes. Odyssey enables map-based storytelling.

Here’s a look at seven alternative story forms — online and print, simple and design-heavy — and how the publications they appeared in made them happen.

Between its 1949 dedication and 2013 demolition, El Camino College’s original Murdock Stadium (its replacement opened last year) hosted movie shoots, World Cup matches, Olympic soccer and six decades of college football.

“I knew how important the stadium was to so many,” said Jessica Martinez, who in 2014 was a second-year student at El Camino College when she started building an interactive chronology of the stadium. “I created the timeline as a way to preserve and remember some of the many things that had happened there.”
put together the Murdock interactive, Martinez used Knight Lab’s TimelineJS, an open-source tool that generates timelines from Google spreadsheets and assorted sources of multimedia content. There’s no need for coding skills (though if you have them, you can do some serious futzing).

Martinez worked on the timeline for much of her spring semester, going to the school’s library and unearthing newspaper clips marking milestones in the stadium’s history. The finished timeline won CMA’s Pinnacle Award for Best Online Infographic in 2015.

Martinez, now a senior at New York University, encouraged journalism students to give TimelineJS a go.

“We worked with [it] in my advanced reporting class at the beginning of this semester,” she said via email. “I impressed my professor and classmates with how much I already knew about it.”

The Lee Clarion is taking the tried and true “get to know an average freshman” story from static profile into innovative UGC (user-generated content) territory. That “average freshman” is creating some content herself through a series of vlogs; the Clarion staff will write/produce some segments; and the #FreshLee hashtag will tie it all together.

Finch, the Lee professor and adviser, said the format was inspired by Clean & Clear’s “See the Real Me” campaign, in which teens — the non-celebrity kind — talk about their lives and challenges in short videos.

“I was looking for ways to engage with the students in a completely digital world,” Finch said. “If we have a freshman going through x, y or z, her narrative would be something that could be instructional or help students feel like they’re not alone. That’s a different thought process than legacy press thinking.”

Giving the freshman the chance to speak her own mind gets at another value integral to communicating with the college audience: authenticity.

“A real reason that the user-generated content works and can be a valuable part of a student media content strategy is because Gen Z and millennials value authenticity to such a high degree,” Finch said.

Molly Morris’ totally tubular flowchart was inspired by her formative years in the 80s and 90s.

“I’m like a ‘borderline’ millennial,” said the graphic design student at Savannah College of Art and Design’s Atlanta campus, via email. “Most students who work at SCAN (and attend SCAD) have only heard about these decades as some alternative universe of pegged pants and Aqua Net,” she said.

After research that required watching episodes of “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Full House” and “Step by Step,” Morris created a spread rooted in ‘90s pop culture’s splashy aesthetic, rather than “a modern design that served a different time in history.”

SCAN magazine’s editors always try to add a visually driven spread to each issue, Morris (or “Homeslice,” according to her flowchart) said. The staff’s creative process lends itself to the approach.

“As an art school, I think we’re different than most publications in that the people creating the content see how something looks first, and build the story to match that visual inspiration,” Morris said.

Infographics and visually driven layouts abound in Ball Bearings Magazine. Its Fall 2016 issue, for example, included graphics illustrating the horrors of climate change, an easy-to-parse one-page table of voting data and an annotated illustration showing how the human brain makes decisions.

The chart above, which uses landmarks from Mid-American Conference universities to compare annual student expenses, accompanied a Spring 2016 story about rising costs and the university’s lack of financial transparency. The designer created the building illustrations and the chart in Adobe Illustrator.

Roth Lovins, the art director of Ball Bearings when the chart was created, said the staff approaches story format by asking first, “Would it be easier for the reader to interact with this information in a visual format or in a traditional story?” The art director takes it from there, usually working with a designer who does both the research for and the layout of the graphic, Lovins said via email.

Graphics draw readers into a story — or might be the only thing they read. “So we make sure that [a graphic] doesn’t explode information at them, but shows them something in a simple-to-read format,” Lovins said.

  • Item 5

The Rice Thresher’s energetic layouts and plentiful visual elements make it a standout in a field of college papers with more demure aesthetics.

“We’ve been striving to emphasize design elements in the past year,” Christina Tan, art director of the Rice Thresher, said via email.

Ideas flow both directions at the Thresher: Editors can request graphics and illustrations, and designers can suggest graphic treatments. The staff look to Behance and Pinterest “to generate ideas on aesthetics and flow,” Tan said.

For example, the content of the “Constitution in Brief” graphic, above, Tan said, “as a story would have been rather dry — so instead, we made it into a fun infographic that highlighted the word count changes, who helped make the changes, and more.”

An image and a bit of text can be as effective as a full-fledged infographic, Tan said. (It’s also easily doable by a non-designer.) Take the starting quarterback story, above: “Sometimes placing text in an appealing manner over a photo makes the graphic interesting and explains content in a concise manner.”

The GIF listicle (as massively popularized by Buzzfeed) is one tool in Grand Central Magazine’s repertoire of multimedia and visually compelling stories.

“For particularly broad, ‘wow-this-is-so-relatable’ type stories, our audience seems to engage better with listicles over, for example, a long-form written piece with stories from other students relaying their back-to-school horror stories,” said Grand Central staffer Tessa Harvey, who created the listicle above.

Such shareable content is “particularly important to building a following early in the school year,” Harvey said via email.

Gif listicles are relatively easy to create: Just grab some Creative Commons gifs off and go crazy with the gifsticles.

Not too crazy, though. “Too much, and our audience won’t take us seriously,” Harvey said.

Holly Morris

Holly J. Morris is a lecturer of journalism and the student media adviser at the University of North Georgia. She worked at the Washington Post Express for 12 years, as well as National Geographic and U.S. News & World Report. She holds a master of science degree in journalism from Columbia University and a couple of wholly unrelated degrees from Emory University.



Improving sports coverage and presentation

Advisers provide tips on serving a college audience

Quality sports journalism, be it print, broadcast or web-based journalism, involves much more than routine coverage of who won and who lost.

It includes investigative reporting, as Eastern Illinois University journalism professor Joe Gisondi notes in the link below:

Gisondi’s second edition of his book, “The Field Guide to Sports Reporting,” comes out in June. Writing on Sports Field Guide | Author of “The Field Guide To Covering Sports …, Gisondi says the second edition “dives deeply into digital, mobile and social media approaches and includes new and expanded chapters on advanced metrics, game coverage, features, interviewing, fantasy sports, sports media ethics and prep coverage.”

Continue reading Improving sports coverage and presentation

Research (Vol. 54) — The Digital Generation Gap

How Student Journalists Transition from Personal to Professional Uses of Mobile Devices and Social Media

By Jean Reid Norman
Weber State University

Introduction: Current college freshmen have never known a world without cell phones and the Internet.  For them, mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablet computers, and social media, such as Twitter™ and Facebook™, are highly personal and an extension of themselves (Dover, 2012; Heverly, 2007; Turkle, 2005, 2011).  At the same time, mobile devices have changed the way both professional and student journalists do their jobs, untethering them not only from their offices but also from their laptops and even from the need for a plug and an Internet connection (“Articles,” 2014; Walck, Cruikshank, & Kalyanko, 2015).  Along with new technology that makes an office optional, journalists are now expected to engage readers through social media. (Spyridou, Matsiola, Veglis, Kalliris, & Dimoulas, 2013; Mico, Masip, & Domingo, 2013).

New staffers have not yet adopted the culture of the journalism profession (Mensing, 2010), and their experience with digital media (Turkle, 2011) and expectations for how to get and interact with news (Enda & Mitchell, 2013) differ both from professional journalists and from the college media advisers who are teaching them to become professionals. These students reside on the consumer side of the news-making process and represent the trend of how consumers seek news: socially and through multiple platforms (Enda & Mitchell, 2013; Miller, Rainie, Purcell, Mitchell, & Rosenstiel, 2012; Pew Research Center, 2016).

The position of college news media staffers as deeply interested, young consumers who have not yet internalized professional biases presents an opportunity to research the integration of digital media into journalistic practice and the new paradigm in news-making that digital media have created.  This study explores these in the context of a practicum-style lab in which eight undergraduate students created content for a student news website at a Western university.

The purpose of this study is to analyze the experience of college journalists who are learning to transform digital media from a personal mode of expression to a professional one. It can help college media advisers understand what type of training in social media and mobile devices may be needed as they bring newcomers into their organizations. It may also make advisers sensitive to a digital divide among students coming to their institutions. Continue reading Research (Vol. 54) — The Digital Generation Gap

The Nitty Gritty About Networking

From the editor’s desk…

Perhaps now, more than ever in a highly competitive print, web and broadcast news industry, it is important for journalism students to network in order to land the internships or full-time jobs they seek.

But do they really know how to network, and do they realize its importance?

Journalists can’t be shy on the job, and the same applies to getting one,” says the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism on its website.

To read more about what the CUNY school says and other websites, visit the following sites.

Continue reading The Nitty Gritty About Networking

New Voices brings First Amendment issue to New Jersey

Student press rights topic at NJ statehouse

Holly Johnson and Tom McHale’s compelling essay first appeared in New Jersey as a guest column in the Times of Trenton.

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, aptly called it “inspiring” and said it “resoundingly sets forth the challenges that students and advisers are facing up against  by image-obsessed institutions and howstate legislation can make all the difference.

Johnson and McHale remind us that legislation protecting free high school and college presses involves protecting First Amendment rights—and the rights of students to grow and learn as independent thinkers and decision-makers.

The authors write, in part: “When administrators act as editors, speech is chilled; students learn to self-censor rather than exercise their constitutional rights responsibly.

The result? Students lose an opportunity to develop into the ethical, inquisitive citizens their administrators had hoped to nurture.”

The Student Press Law Center offers guides that can help advisers navigate what can be, as the center notes, “a tightrope.”

Among the many resources on the SPLC website are these guides:

  • SPLC tip sheet for student media advisers — A guide to fighting (and surviving) censorship.
  • Student media advisers and the law — A legal help guide for surviving what is often the toughest job in school.
  • Also advocating for free speech rights for students is New Voices USA, a group of students, educators and professionals from around the country working to protect student speech rights through legislation. Here is a link to New Voices USA and the New Voices Campaign: New Voices USA | Facebook

Want to develop better news consumers and citizens? Protect student journalism

New Voices aim: expand protection in New Jersey 

By Holly Johnson and Tom McHale

Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth, but these days we see legitimate news organizations being called liars on the one hand, and shadowy organizations spreading fake news stories on the other. We need a generation of citizens with a heightened aptitude for telling the difference between fact and fiction. Our democracy depends on it, and those of us who teach journalism to the next generation are doing all we can to ensure our students have that capacity. Our lessons emphasize research, fact checking, ethics and professionalism.

Student journalists who are trusted to make editorial decisions about what their readers need and want to know, and how best to handle controversial topics, develop a capacity to communicate effectively and to think critically. They foster a culture of civic discourse amongst their peers.

Unfortunately, many administrators, worried about the image of their school, have opted to exert editorial control over student newspapers. While their intentions may be good–to cast the school in the most favorable light, to ensure students don’t read about topics that may seem too sensitive for some–the results are often calamitous for all involved. The pedagogical process is undermined, and the administrators open themselves up to criticism from all quarters.

Continue reading Want to develop better news consumers and citizens? Protect student journalism

From Writing for the College Newspaper to Multi-Media Journalism

Originally titled “Writing for the College Newspaper,” a Harford Community College class has transformed to “Multimedia Journalism.” (Photo:Stephen Smith)

The Evolution of a Classroom Approach to MC 208

By Claudia Brown
Harford Community College

In nearly 15 years of teaching at the college level, I have developed a successful formula for most of my classes that may be adjusted based on the student population, current events and a variety of other factors. However, MC 208, a class I began teaching in 2010 at Harford Community College, near Bel Air, Maryland, has proven the exception.

I have taught this course 10 different ways and plan for a new approach next semester.

Changing trends in the field have mandated these modifications, which have proven successful with students and led to national recognition for our college’s publication.

I started teaching MC 208: Writing for the College Newspaper in the spring semester of 2010. I had just taken over the position of newspaper adviser to “The Harford Owl,” a monthly newspaper at Harford Community College. Students wrote articles, took photos and sketched out newspaper design on paper. About half of the newspaper’s content was generated by faculty and staff contributions and the other half produced by students with the adviser/course professor writing headlines, taking photos and designing the publication in InDesign.

Continue reading From Writing for the College Newspaper to Multi-Media Journalism

2017 more like ‘1984’ than 1984

Survey details collision in classrooms between literature and reality

By Bradley Wilson
CMR Managing Editor

Lynn Neary with National Public Radio said George Orwell’s 1949 novel, 1984, again topped the Amazon bestseller list and had become, in her words, something of a political barometer.

Neary reported, “A spokesman for Signet Classics, which currently publishes 1984, said sales have increased almost 10,000 percent since the inauguration and moved noticeably upwards on Sunday. That’s when Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway appeared on Meet The Press. When host Chuck Todd challenged the Trump administration’s assertions about the size of the Inauguration Day crowd, Conway responded with a phrase that caught everyone’s attention.”

“Alternative facts,” Conway said.

Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, tells Chuck Todd that the Press Secretary used ‘alternative facts’ in his first statement to the Press Corps.

Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty on CNN’s Reliable Sources said the phrase reminded her of phrases from Orwell’s classic: doublethink, ignorance is strength, war is peace, freedom is slavery. Continue reading 2017 more like ‘1984’ than 1984