Archive for January, 2010

Let’s get social!

January 21, 2010

I’m driving up to Charlotte tomorrow so that I can participate in The Charlotte Observer’s social media conference held at Queens University. Observer Editor Rick Thames is the keynote speaker.

I really enjoy taking part in conferences that focus on social media as a topic because they tend to practice what they preach.  They encourage the coming together of communities and the dissemination of news and information in real time.  Oftentimes, participants at these conferences will live stream, live tweet and live blog the sessions as they’re taking place.  The result, often, is a significant literature of useful information.  So, while physical participation at Saturday’s conference is limited to 200 people, the amount of persons that follow along online or discover information from the event is limitless.

On Twitter, you can follow some of the conference proceedings, as they happen, by searching for the hashtag #cltsoc.

Next weekend, I’m heading to another social media conference, SoCon10, at Kennessaw State University (not surprisingly, you can follow along on Twitter by searching for #SoCon10).

I find these conferences vastly rewarding, both personally and professionally.  At an Atlanta Press Club-sponsored social media conference last spring I met prolific online media producers Amani Channel and Grayson Daughters, among other talented Atlanta area tweeps.  I follow both on Twitter and benefit from the knowledge they share with their followers.

I learned about SoCon at an AEJMC pre-conference in Boston last fall.  At that same event, I got a free copy of Be The Media and met author David Mathison (who was able to use a Harnisch Foundation grant to send free copies of his textbook to my journalism students and also gave me a coveted Google Wave invite- thanks David!).

At the first AEJMC Tweetup, I met wonderful “tweeps” from the journalism and mass communication realm (people like Mich Sineath, Rowena Briones, and Professor Han) whom I look forward to seeing again at the next conference tweetup in Denver.

So, these conferences facilitate social interaction (both online and offline) and continued networking.

I look forward to meeting (and reconnecting with) those attending the conferences in Charlotte and Kennessaw.

Let’s get social!


Tribute to MLK

January 18, 2010

Here’s a column I wrote in The Herald-Sun several years ago. I like to repost it every year as my MLK day tribute. Also, here’s an old Ben Harper performance of “Like a King,” also appropriate for today.

Awakening to the meaning of the dream

The phone rang on an early Tuesday morning, as I lay asleep in bed.
“Hey Ge-off!” my friend Devon excitedly exclaimed. “Guess what we can do on Martin Luther King Jr. Day?”
“Umm … I dunno … sleep?”
“There’s this group that encourages a bunch of service events so you can get involved and do something good for the community on the holiday – like Martin would have wanted it – and not just take the day off.”
“Umm … OK … sounds good.”
Grumble, grumble, grumble.
While I was looking forward to a three-day trip to Washington, D.C.,to visit Devon and a few other friends, I hadn’t planned on doing anything extra special on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.Truth be told, a day before the holiday, I was more interested in a different King – B.B. The “King of the Blues” performed last Sunday at Constitution Hall, and I wanted to go. In a weird way, I thought it would have been an appropriate homage to MLK. Surely the man who fought for civil rights would know a thing or two about the blues.
Instead, I would perform some good ol’ fashioned community service inthe nation’s capital, the same place King delivered his famous “dream”speech.
A Greater DC Coalition, a branch of the nationwide Martin Luther KingJr. Coalition, held a week worth of service events culminating Jan. 21with thousands of volunteers who participated in about 50 projects,
The Coalition encouraged a “day on” rather than taking the day off.President Clinton signed the Holiday and Service Act in 1994 totransform MLK Day into a day of service.Buttons and T-shirts distributed to volunteers proudly proclaimed MLK as a “holiday of service.”
“Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve,” King said. “You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love and you canbe that servant.”
Since I was born after King’s assassination, my only exposure to his life was through media. I read in history classes about his importance. Of course, I listened to the famed “I have a dream”speech. I watched movies about King’s life.I could not fully appreciate the message, however, until witnessing the inequity for myself. My weekend in D.C. provided that experience. Yes, spending time in the nation’s capital – the very place where King uttered those immortal words – opened my eyes and brought the civil rights leader’s speech to life.
D.C. is the very symbolic essence of our nation’s enduring freedom,yet, at the same time, encapsulates like few other places the glaring gap of racial inequality.King’s words delivered on the steps at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug.28, 1963, still ring true today.
“The Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vastocean of material prosperity,” he said.Low-income D.C. communities, for instance, experience among the highest rates of infant mortality, cancer, diabetes and food-related diseases in the country. Ward 8 hasn’t had a grocery store since Safeway closed more than three years ago!
Thus, Devon and I spent the holiday planting onion chives at UrbanOasis, an urban mini-farm located on the grounds of St. Elizabeth’s to provide fresh vegetables, herbs and flowers to residents who have little access to such things.Residents there have one-sixth the access to fresh produce as those living west of Rock Creek Park in more affluent sections of the district.Later in the day, I visited the FDR memorial. One quote stood out in my mind.
“Among American citizens there should be no forgotten men and noforgotten races,” Roosevelt said.
Though a celebratory parade rang out Jan. 21 on nearby Martin LutherKing Avenue, any other day, the people living in southeast D.C. seem lost in the shuffle of humanity. Much of St. Elizabeth’s grounds are abandoned and run down.
Driving home from D.C., I had further time for reflection.
Lyrics froma Tracy Chapman song struck me.The black streets of America kill the dreams of America.A single tear strolled down my cheek. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I felt pain. Pain for our nation’s scars. Pain for the slave’s plight. Pain for a black man’s life. Pain for my white ancestors and the responsibility they bear. Pain for my own prejudices, hatred and racial fears.To truly accept our country’s past – a nation divided in two by black and white – hurts.The black streets of America kill the dreams of America.
Poverty, crime and destitute living conditions crush the illusion o fequal footing.But there is hope. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in D.C. showed why. All throughout Washington, black, white, yellow, red, young, old worked together for a common cause – service. There was more to it than sharing a purpose. Folks actually enjoyed spending time with one another.At the Urban Oasis, jazz music played while we worked. Children frolicked about in the snowy remnants outside. Fun was had by many, a promising sign.
King planted the seed, and while it’s been 34 years since his death,much progress has been made in race relations. Much more is yet to be done.For King’s vision of true equality to blossom to its pure beauty of colorful diversity, we must all confront our fears and step out of our comfort zones. Change occurs, not in the classroom, but in life.
One garden at a time.

Scholastic, collegiate journalism can fill a void in youth news coverage

January 9, 2010

Newspapers are cutting, scaling back or significantly changing their youth coverage.  Collegiate and high school journalism programs can help fill the void.

Newspapers are no longer willing to devote substantial resources to creating youth content.  High school journalists at outstanding school newspapers already produce quality journalism.  College students assigned to cover youth issues can provide free labor.  By putting content online, newspapers don’t have to worry about the print costs.

I propose three solutions for newspapers to fill the void left from cutting youth content:

1)Turn to your local high school journalism papers. Offer to publish select content from area student newspapers on your Web site. Student journalists get a wider audience, and a clip in the daily paper. You get free content at no cost. is an excellent repository of online high school journalism papers.

2)Look for partnerships.  The Teen Appeal is a perfect example of a longtime successful collaborative effort.  The teen section is a partnership between the Memphis Appeal, the University of Memphis, Scripps Howard Foundation and area high school journalists.  Other newspapers can turn to foundations for funding and follow this model.  The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation funded a collaborative youth effort between the University of North Carolina, North Carolina Central University and Durham, N.C.- area high school students. There’s no valid reason why a local newspaper, like the Durham Herald-Sun or the News and Observer, couldn’t also be a part of the Durham Voice project.

3)Go to college. Colleges with journalism students can produce content free of charge that your publications can print or post online.  Students in my intro. to news writing and reporting lab produced a four-page youth publication last semester.  College sophomores and juniors cover issues of area high school students for a class assignment.  If the Athens Banner-Herald wanted to publish aThEENs, that’d be great.  Other journalism instructors could incorporate a youth article assignment into their curriculum, and newspapers could reap the benefits. Many colleges have high school press associations with summer journalism camps, where high school journalists produce newspapers and lots of youth-oriented stories. Why not provide an outlet for this work?  Newspapers could publish these papers or stories from them.

Other thoughts? Ideas? Please share.

Redefining Youth Readership

January 9, 2010

This afternoon I’ll be presenting “Redefining Youth Readership: A Study of Resources Newspapers Use to Attract Teen and Child Readers“ (.docx file), at the AEJMC Scholastic Journalism Mid-Winter Meeting in St. Petersburg, Fla. Read about what newspapers are doing to attract young readers.