Sunday, May 30, 2010

A little flag-waving for our own Dr. Starr

The flags are up for Memorial Day, but I've got a different kind of celebration in mind! Since I missed the real retirement party for Texas A&M's Dr. Douglas Starr on May 21, I'm throwing a little party right here on the blog for him.

He's taught journalism at A&M since 1986, first in the Department of Journalism and then in the Department of Ag Leadership, Education and Communications. That makes 4.8 bajillion of us he's instructed. Feel free to jump in the comments and post a note or story about Dr. Starr!

He was one of the very first contributors to this blog, writing a little bit about himself and a little more about AGCJ.

KBTX recently interviewed him for its Voices of Veterans series, so you can watch the man himself talk about his experience joining the Navy at 17, in 1943. He had to wait until his 18th birthday to be sent into combat, and then "a month later, we were in the Marshalls shooting up the place." Watch Parts One and Two at KBTX.com.

He also vividly described life on an antisubmarine warship for USSNicholas.org:
Even in a calm sea, destroyer sailors eat with one hand while balancing their trays with the other, and walking is always a test of balance. Destroyer sailors develop sea legs quickly—a special roll that, ashore, singles out the destroyer sailor from among other ship crews.
In a rough sea, life takes on a new meaning as the ship rolls and pitches and leaps and falls and slings itself about like a thing alive and berserk.
Normal ship’s work is suspended because it cannot be performed. Ship’s cooks cannot prepare proper meals, producing only beans and coffee as long as the rolling and pitching continue.
Never one to shy away from expressing opinion, he was recently interviewed in a series on the "Future of Journalism," and the true Dr. Starr touch is apparent:

What do you think of the idea being bandied about that governments as a last resort should bail out failing newspapers?
DPS: It's a terrible idea, and it is against the Constitution. The First Amendment in the Bill of Rights states: "Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press."


You have 45 years of experience in journalism and teaching it. From your experience and vantage point, is there anything newspapers can do that they're not doing to improve their chances of surviving? (Editor's note: Prof. Starr crossed out the "45" in his reply and typed in "57 years, 1952-2009.")
DPS: Attract young readers of news by focusing on their age group. Ask young people what kind of news they want and add that to the mix.
Return to the time-honored requirements of reporting. Use the inverted pyramid approach to writing news, giving readers the whole story in the first one or two sentences, because most readers do not read through any news story. Use simple English and simple sentences and proper punctuation and grammar.
Reduce the length of international and national stories by cutting unnecessary detail that people don't read.
Ensure that reporters report accurately and objectively, without opinion and conjecture, except in analyses and columns.
Ensure that analyses and columns draw conclusions based upon stated fact.
Publish more local news, news of what's going on in the newspaper's geographic jurisdiction.

You have said that every time a paper fails, all of us lose a little bit of freedom and people don't realize that. With the prospect now that many newspapers across America are on the brink of bankruptcy, what do you think the effect will be on our society if they don't make it?
DPS: The United States as we know it will disappear; it will no longer be a nation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. One by one, all of our freedoms will disappear; the Bill of Rights, of freedoms, will be meaningless because there will be no freedom of speech or of the press. Without a free press, there will be no one to keep an eye on the government and to tell the people what the government is doing and is planning to do.

"Every time a paper fails, all of us lose a little bit of freedom," eh? I might just have to make a shirt out of that.

In any case, here is a big hearty WHOOP for Dr. Douglas Perret Starr, and for all our veterans. Former students of Dr. Starr, you can still connect with him on Facebook! And if you get a chance to catch up with him in person, a little birdie told me he likes sugar cookies.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Help us build a list for FJSA's Hall of Honor

FJSA President Doug Pils sends the following:

The Texas A&M Former Journalism Students Association is looking for nominations for our 2010 Hall of Honor nominee. If you know an A&M journalism or ag journalism grad who has had or is still having an outstanding career in our field, please send along his or her name, year of graduation and some details about why this person should be considered. We'd like to build a good list of people this year, so we have a strong group to consider in the coming years.

Doug says you can send nominations to him at dougpils (at) aol.com.

This is one of the most important things FJSA does each year -- it brings us together at the Fall Reception, it helps record our history and gives some inspiration to our students. Plus FJSA and Aggie journalism get a lot of much-needed publicity. So please do take time to ponder and help us out! Here are the past honorees, to get your thoughts flowing.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Whoop! Kelly Brown '89 named Eagle editor

Thank you to Scot Walker '90 and Bob Wegener for alerting me. So happy for Kelly! Most of y'all know her, probably because she helped you/taught you/hired you. She is amazing, a really good person, a consummate journalist and a bottomless font of energy and good cheer. She actually is one of my (few) heroes -- she will swat me on the head for saying that, but it's true. HURRAH for Kelly!

Begin forwarded message:
From: "Scot Walker"
Subject: Kelly Brown named Eagle editor

Eagle Staff Report
Longtime Eagle staffer Kelly Brown has been named editor of the newspaper.
She will replace Donnis Baggett, who will become publisher of the Waco Tribune-Herald at the beginning of June.
Publisher Jim Wilson made the announcement Wednesday afternoon.
"I am very excited to have her join our senior management team and look forward to the energy and ideas she brings to the table," he said.
Brown, 43, has served as the managing editor of The Eagle since 2001 and is the first woman to be the paper's editor.
"The Eagle is consistently recognized throughout Texas and across the country as one of the finest newspapers of its size," Brown said. "I'm excited about continuing that tradition, while increasing The Eagle's multimedia offerings."
That Brown already knows her staff and community should make the transition smooth, she said.
"Working with journalists who are passionate about their jobs makes it very easy to go to the newsroom each day," Brown said. "Too, I've been a part of this community for the better part of more than 20 years."
The 1989 Texas A&M graduate has covered courts, police and politics locally, as well as education, business, higher education and communities in north Dallas earlier in her career. She's also been a city editor and for two years was a private investigator.
She has served on a Journalism Studies Advisory Board at Texas A&M, where she was appointed to teach as a journalist-in-residence five years ago.
Brown has won more than 15 journalism awards, including four from the prestigious Headliners Press Club in Austin. She has led The Eaglenewsroom to more than 30 awards in the past five years.
She is the outgoing president of the Texas AP Managing Editors and has been active in other press organizations, including as president of the Brazos Valley Society of Professional Journalists.
Brown is on the advisory board of the Sexual Assault Resource Center after rotating off the board of directors following 11 years of service. She's also been on the board of directors for the Junior Achievement and was a HOST volunteer in the Bryan schools.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Aggie NFL writer, prizewinners among Batt speakers

A&M grads including the president of the Pro Football Writers of America and the creator of "Tubularman" came back to speak with Batt staffers this year, and other speakers brought experience from the Dallas Morning News to tales of a Pulitzer with the Kansas City Star. Among recent grads, Jordan Meserole of KBTX taught about creating a story visually, and Brent Shirley, now at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, talked about his McClatchy President’s Award for sports writing in a community paper.

Thanks to Cheri Shipman for this summary of the journalists who came to speak with the Batt staff this year:

In addition to internal training of legal issues, daily activities and editing, the staff was fortunate to be exposed to some of the top journalists in the industry. If you'd like to do a workshop for The Battalion team, please let Cheri know. Speakers who gave tremendous feedback for Spring 2009 - Spring 2010:

Charean Williams shared what the industry was like for her as she began to cover more than jus the NFL. She spoke in March with the staff. She has covered the NFL for 15 seasons, the past nine for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Her peers recently voted Charean the first female president of the Pro Football Writers of America. For the next two years, she will serve as the organization’s liaison between the NFL and the journalists who cover the sport. Three years ago, Charean became the first female selector for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. She remains one of only 44 voters for the Hall. Charean appears weekly on ESPN2’s First Take morning show as an NFL expert and, last year, she served as an analyst for ESPN”s second-day NFL Draft coverage. Charean’s second sport at the Star-Telegram is the Olympics, and she traveled to Beijing last summer. That was the fourth Olympic Games she has covered for the paper. Charean is a 1986 graduate of Texas A&M University, where she worked in the sports department at the school’s newspaper, The Battalion, for two years. She began her full-time career on a three-person sports staff in Orange, Texas, at the Orange Leader. After eight months covering high schools and Lamar University as well as working the desk, Charean returned to Bryan-College Station, where she spent six years covering Texas A&M and the Southwest Conference for The Eagle newspaper. Charean was hired by the Orlando Sentinel in 1992 to cover NASCAR. She soon was promoted to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFL. She left the Orlando Sentinel in 1999 to return home to Texas.

Artist and former cartoonist for The Battalion Boomer Cardinale, Class of 1994, discussed graphics and illustration efforts with the graphics team. He showed them his portfolio and talked about creative ideas to incorporate into The Battalion.

Brad Loper shared video and photo storytelling opportunities with the staff. Brad, 39, joined the staff of The Dallas Morning News in July 2001 as a Staff Photographer following a five-year stint as a Staff Photographer/Special Projects Page Designer at the Arlington Morning News. Born and raised in Amarillo, Texas, Loper moved to the Dallas/Fort Worth area in 1990 to attend The University of Texas at Arlington where he received a BA in Communication with a minor in Criminal Justice in1993. Following graduation, Loper interned at the Topeka Capital-Journal (Kansas) and the Palm Beach Post (Florida) before moving back to the DFW area. During his career as a photographer, Loper covered notable events including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City, the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy in 2003, the Dallas Mavericks through 70 plus playoff games from 2002 through 2006 including the NBA Finals in 2006. In 2006, Loper was one of eight photographers from the DMN awarded The Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for their coverage of Hurricane Katrina. Later that same year he moved into his current role as a Photo Editor. During the last three years, Loper has served primarily as the Photo Editor in charge of daily and Sunday 1A and Metro news coverage. In both 2008 and 2009, Loper was awarded Newspaper Picture Editor of the Year in the National Press Photographers Association’s Best of Photojournalism competition. In addition, two projects for which Loper was the lead editor were finalists for The Pulitzer Prize in Feature Photography (The Bottom Line by Mona Reeder – 2008 and At the Edge of Life by Sonya N. Hebert - 2009). Loper and his wife, Adrienne, have four children: Nathaniel, 12; Ian, 9; Gabriel 6 and Jacqueline Mei, 5; who was adopted from China in 2009.

Mike McKenzie returned to Aggieland from Washington and discussed the art of storytelling to student journalists in the newsroom. He was the special assistant to Texas A&M Athletic Director Bill Byrne. McKenzie worked with external operations (focusing on marketing and media strategies) for Aggie Athletics from May 2003 to November 2007. But his roots extend past Aggie sports and into the world of journalism. A 1982 Pulitzer Prize winner, McKenzie was a member of the Kansas City Star reporting team that covered the deadly Hyatt Regency Hotel skywalk collapse. He would go on to spend decades working for various publications including six daily newspapers and Sports Illustrated.

Jordan Meserole, videographer, showed samples of shot set-up (or "scene composition" if you will), then talked about building a story with the camera. He showed some RAW footage of a story he shot for KBTX followed up by playing the final product to give students some ideas for video projects. Jordan came for two sessions, one on video camera work and the other on editing. He enjoyed working with the staff. The first session in the fall he stayed all day and shot video on construction, then edited the footage with the staff.

Wayne Nelson, executive producer of Dan Rather Reports on HDNet, shared information on documentary storytelling and internship opportunities in the newsroom. Dan Rather Reports is a weekly investigative hour featuring correspondent Dan Rather. Two student journalists — Nicole Alvarado and Daniel Crump — from the spring 2009 semester editing team spent the summer in New York interning for Wayne Nelson after his last visit to Aggieland! Prior to HDNet, Nelson was employed for CBS News for more than 20 years where he was a producer at 60 Minutes, the Senior Broadcast Producer for The CBS Evening News in New York and Washington as well as bureau chief for CBS in Dallas and Atlanta. He was also assigned to London where he reported on the fall of eastern Europe and from Baghdad, the Gulf War. He recently returned from Afghanistan where he completed a documentary on the role of United States and NATO troops in the ongoing war against the Taliban. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has awarded him with four Emmys. Nelson was a member of the "Fightin Texas Aggie Band" and was graduated from Texas A&M University in 1978 with a degree in Journalism. His son Ben was in the Class of 2006. He lives in New York City.

Brent Shirley, Class of 2008 and former editor in chief, returned to the newsroom in the fall to discuss what it was like getting his first job. He talked about what was expected of him at a mid-sized newspaper. He recently joined the sports team at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Brent Shirley won the McClatchy President’s Award for sports writing in a community paper (a $1,000 prize and a crystal trophy). Here are the comments: First Place: Weatherford Telegram. Brent Shirley shows that you don’t have to work at a big newspaper to have big ideas. He gets it – alternative presentation, a different way of presenting traditional news. Shirley submitted a collection of otherwise routine story assignments and turned them into something special through his creative storytelling and presentation. The matching series of thumbnails and small chunks of copy worked on “Kangaroo countdown.” Some of the details were fantastic: “The blaster” helping with a fumble issue, using “upside-down tubs” as opponents, and winning players running a victory lap. Once you read one nugget, you had to read them all, and you were glad you did. “How Brock won state” is another strong example of doing something different. Good journalism starts with strong reporting and great detail, and Shirley came through again.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A&M students fan out for summer internships

The Houston Chronicle, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and ABC-13 in Houston will all get Aggie interns this summer! Others will head to Dallas, Georgia, Arizona and, in one case, to Japan, writing for an NPR affiliate.

Thanks to Cheri Shipman for the following:

Julie Rambin, slot editor and junior English and history major, was selected to participate in the Campus Coverage Project. Competition for the available slots was tight and we would like to congratulate her on this accomplishment! Participation in the program includes attending a workshop from Jan. 7-10 in Phoenix, Ariz. Travel and lodging were covered by the program. She will also take part in online programming throughout 2010. Additionally, she will be asked to use the skills she learned through the workshop and follow-up training, to produce news stories at Texas A&M. Those stories will be shared with program organizers and in many cases will be highlighted, exposing her work to a larger audience. She will be leading the team as managing editor of students who produce "Truth" the literary magazine for the philosophy department in fall 2010.

Laura Sanchez, city desk assistant and communication major, was selected as a summer intern for ABC 13 in Houston.

Amanda Casanova, Fall 2009-Spring 2010 Editor in Chief, spoke in spring 2010 at the Associated Press Managing Editor’s conference in College Station. She walked away with several job opportunities after she shared her experiences in her internship at the Abilene Reporter News. She accepted a summer 2010 internship with the Houston Chronicle.

Meagan O’Toole-Pitts, 2009 city editor and 2010 reporter/copy editor, received a summer 2010 internship at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Matt Woolbright, assistant managing editor and fall 2010 editor in chief, received a summer 2010 internship at the Houston Chronicle.

Beau Holder, sports reporter, received a summer 2010 internship with The Tribune, Camden County, Ga.

Angela Wascheck, lifestyles desk assistant, will be interning in summer 2010 with Neighbors Go, the Dallas County community newspapers.

Katy Ralston, city reporter, received the Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting Award and will take a 10-day journalism study trip to Japan. She also writes for The Invisible Jungle, a student-operated affiliate of National Public Radio. The expenses-paid trip will be led by Bradley J. Hamm, dean of the journalism school at Indiana University and a Roy W. Howard scholar, who has extensive travel experience throughout Asia. Travel begins June 11 and includes excursions in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima, site of the first atomic bomb dropped on any city, where events to mark the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II are planned for the students.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A look back, part 2: Batt/Aggieland staffers' awards

Thanks to advisor Cheri Shipman, here's a review of awards won by Batt and Aggieland staffers in the past year:

Kevin Alexander, now the sports design editor at The Victoria Advocate, was a finalist for the Society of Professional Journalist's Mark of Excellence Award for his coverage of Weathering the Storm, Hurricane Ike.

Stephen Fogg and Chris Griffin received Associated Collegiate Press 2009 individual awards in October at the National Convention in Austin. The awards are considered the highest national honors for student journalists. Fogg, a senior marketing major from The Woodlands, won honorable mention in the picture story category; Fogg followed a 2009 student body presidential candidate during campaigning in the spring. Griffin, a graduate student in visualization science from New Braunfels, received $100 in third place in the cartooning awards.

Several staff members from the fall 2008 - spring 2009 enterprise team won second place for the coverage of Texas A&M-Galveston and Hurricane Ike in the Best of Collegiate Design Awards given by College Media Advisers. Doug Klembara, Aggieland photo chief, won third place for his unique cover on the Qatar campus issue.

Ten staff members attended the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association convention in Kerrville. They were among 476 student journalists from across the state and among 47 schools. Samantha Johnson, city reporter, competed in the on-site news writing competition and received third place for her story. The staff members attended sessions and they’ve shared tips and suggestions with other staff members. The staff took home multiple awards in in-depth reporting, design, illustration, and special packaging.

List of winners:
Kevin Alexander 1st place in In-depth reporting, Shattered life April 28-29
Kyle Cunningham 1st place in sports news story, Renewing a Thanksgiving tradition Nov. 25
Kyle Cunningham Honorable mention in sports feature Taking the reins Nov. 6
Nicholas Badger Honorable mention for news photo Service Minded Oct. 19
Patrick Clayton Honorable mention Feature photo Fanfare for the Fourth July 6
Jeremy Northum Honorable mention Sports feature photo Undefeated Sept. 28
Jon Eilts Honorable mention Sports action photo Suiting up March 26
Stephen Fogg & Doug Klembara 2nd place Picture story Songfest Dec. 8
Staff Honorable mention Editorial Protestors pass presidential test Oct. 19
Kat Drinkwater Honorable mention General column Holding back the hate Oct. 27
David Harris Honorable mention Sports column What’s wrong with the Big 12 Nov. 3
Clay Harley Honorable mention Critical review Blast from the past Dec. 3
Osazuwa Okundaye Honorable mention Editorial cartoon Meal plan Aug. 4
Micah Stephens Honorable mention Page One design Obama on the way Sept. 16
Karen Cruickshanks & Chris Griffin 1st place Single Subject design Finding Aggieland June 10
Nicholas Badger 3rd place Single Subject design The past four years May 11
Jason Staggs 1st place Opinion/Editorial page Of dining and dollars Aug 4
Osazuwa Okundaye Honorable mention Illustration Myths and legends Aug. 26
Ramya Prakash 3rd place Information graphic Bonfire Memorial Nov. 17
2nd place Special section Staff Bonfire: Remembering the Stack Nov. 17
3rd place Overall excellence Staff Oct. 13-15, 2009
1st place online multimedia package Bonfire
2nd place online interactivity Obama coverage, overall
1st place best online video Christian Hughes Rudder’s Rangers
1st place best slide show Stephen Fogg Belief in Ben
2nd place general web site excellence

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A look back: Saluting the Batt 2009-2010 staffers

It's Reading Day at A&M, soon to be followed by final exams and commencement. We wish all our student the best of luck! And thanks to info provided by advisor Cheri Shipman, we will spend the next few days honoring the Batt and Aggieland staffers of the past year. Great work, guys.

Coming up soon are details on students' summer internships and their recent awards. Today, we'll start with a general salute to the past year's Batt staffers. (Matt Woolbright '12, a sophomore sociology major whom we've written about before, will be leading the Fall 2010- Spring 2011 teams, and those leaders will be announced in June.)

Leadership team
Fall 2009-Spring 2010 Editor in Chief Amanda Casanova
Fall 2009 Managing Editor Mattie Williamson
Spring 2010 Managing Editor Jill Beathard
Fall 2009-Spring 2010 Assistant Managing Editor Matt Woolbright
Fall 2009-Spring 2010 Opinion Editor Ian McPhail
Fall 2009 City Editor Meagan O’Toole-Pitts
Spring 2010 City Editor Vicky Flores
Fall 2009 Sports Editor TD Durham
Spring 2010 Sports Editor David Harris
Fall 2009 Lifestyles Editor Jill Beathard
Spring 2010 Lifestyles Editor Megan Keyho
Fall 2009-Spring 2010 Graphics Chief Evan Andrews
Fall 2009 Photo Chief Nicholas Badger
Fall 2009 New Media Chief Calli Turner
Spring 2010 Video/Photo Chief Megan Ryan
Desk assistants
Kyle Cunningham, Jeramie Heflin, Laura Sanchez, Sam Smith, Angela Washeck
Copy editors
Brandon Earman, Rachel Latham, Meagan O’Toole-Pitts, Julie Rambin, Jason Staggs, Micah Stephens, JD Swiger, Tracey Wallace

Summer team
Editor in Chief Vicky Flores, junior management information system major
Graphics chief Evan Andrews, junior visual studies major
Page one/copy editor Rebecca Bennett, senior English and communication major
Sports/Lifestyles editor David Harris, junior economics major
Opinion editor Ian McPhail, senior history major
Managing editor Megan Ryan, junior English major

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mattox '03 blogs in her flooded hometown, Nashville

In photos and words, Denise Mattox '03 blogs today on the Nashville flood. Here's a photo; following are excerpts from her blog and more, including where to send donations.

A Joe's Crab Shack restaurant is underwater on Second Street in downtown
Nashville, two blocks up from the Cumberland River, which crested at 51.8
feet in that area, where 'flood level' is 40 feet. DENISE MATTOX photo

In case you haven’t heard, which is very possible given the lack of national news coverage, Middle Tennessee was hit hard by storms this weekend and much of the Nashville area is severely flooded.
I’ll start my account with an email I sent out to family late last night/early this morning:

I thought I’d take a moment to let everyone know that Craig and I are okay up here in Nashville! This has been one of the craziest weekends and experiences. Never in my life did I think I’d live through something like this flooding.

There has been storm predictions leading up to Saturday, but our biggest concern was the chance of tornadoes. In fact, Saturday, Craig and I were under a warning several times. At one point, they listed off streets in which rotation was being seen by Doppler radar… and all those streets were just blocks away. We had pillows and blankets in our guest bathroom tub, ready to take cover any second. To say I was beside myself scared would be an understatement.

As we watched on TV, the interstate that we take into town every day turned into a lake. A portable classroom literally floated down the interstate, and LaVergne (where we live) was declared a disaster area. We couldn’t have gotten out if we had to… all exits out of town were flooded. Luckily, we had food, electricity, and a sense of humor. Our foundation did get over saturated/flooded and our garage had about a quarter inch of water in it… but opening the garage door released that and we were fine.

The storms subsided, but we had more coming our way Sunday morning.

She goes on to describe the vigil that Sunday became for her and Craig, and to describe the damage and loss of lives in Nashville -- I strongly recommend going to her blog, Musician's Widow, and continuing to read.

Also, while she acknowledges that there are other important stories on the national agenda right now, she calls out the media for their lack of coverage on Nashville's crisis. A particularly painful example she cites: One newscast gave the floods the same amount of time as a lost cow in Indiana.

But there are bright points, too: Mattox told me via Twitter: "A call out to know if any Mid-TN Aggies needed help was replied with only more offers by Aggies to help other Aggies. Did my heart proud," she said.

"People can donate online by visiting www.nashvilleredcross.org or by sending a text message to 90999 to donate $10 to the American Red Cross relief for Nashville," Mattox says, and she gave me this link for people who want to help (most on this list are for locals, but a few addresses to donate are included).