Monday, March 31, 2008

Aggies win big in APME awards

The Texas Associated Press Managing Editors presented their annual awards this weekend, and numerous Aggies are on the list! Here are Aggie winners (if you spot names I've left off, which no doubt there are, please write me and I will gleefully add):

STAR INVESTIGATIVE REPORT OF THE YEAR, Class AAAA: Team including Holly Becka '91, Dallas Morning News; Class AA, Second place, Rhiannon Meyers '05, Galveston County Daily News

STAR REPORTER: Class AA, Honorable mention, Sara McDonald '05, Galveston County Daily News

STAR PHOTOJOURNALIST OF THE YEAR: Class AAAA, Second place, Jay Janner '91, Austin American-Statesman.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, Class AA: First place, Rhiannon Meyers '05, Galveston County Daily News; Honorable mention, Sara McDonald '05, Galveston County Daily News.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION, Class AAAA: First place, team including Holly Becka '91, Dallas Morning News.

FEATURES, Class AA: Second place, Sara McDonald '05, Galveston County Daily News; Honorable mention, Rhiannon Meyers '05, Galveston County Daily News.

SPOT NEWS PHOTOGRAPHY, Class AAAA: Second place, Michael Mulvey '90, Dallas Morning News.

Class AA: First place, Stuart Villanueva '02, Bryan-College Station Eagle

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Paperwork signed for Leabo scholarship

After careful discussion and consultation with the Leabo family, FJSA has finalized an agreement with the Texas A&M Foundation and Student Media to administer the C.J. "Skip" Leabo scholarship each year to a deserving student filling a position of responsibility at the Battalion. Whoop!

The new parts of this are:
  • The Foundation officially handling the money now, which is much better for all involved and the way we wanted it to work from the get-go -- just took a while to set up. Now folks can donate straight to the Foundation (details here) and it's all tax-deductible. Simple and clean. FJSA treasurer Jerry Cooper has done a lot of work in getting this set up right and in handling the donations that've already come in.
  • The scholarship going to a Batt student. Many Aggie journalists out in the field now got crucial practical experience working at the Batt, and Kathleen Leabo says that Skip enjoyed working with the students there. The Leabo family wants the scholarship to go to a student who is "serious about learning the craft" of journalism. Bob Wegener, as head of Student Media, has agreed to take on the work of awarding this scholarship and I'm both grateful to him and very confident that he knows the type of student being sought.
Several years ago, FJSA successfully got a scholarship endowed honoring Bob Rogers which is awarded every year to a journalism minor. We are looking forward to the day when we can start handing out Leabo scholarships too.

Our goal is to raise $25,000 within five years to endow this scholarship. We are exactly one-tenth of the way there already, with $2,500!

1933: 'Little Possibility of Beer Being Sold'

Just 75 short years ago today! Again, digging the deco nameplate. Click below for dramatic interpretation of the article headlined

"Little Possibility of Beer Being
Sold on A&M Campus If Texas
Should Repeal Prohibition Law
Students Will Have To Go To
Bryan Or Welborn To Get

More old Batt pages:

1912: Old Main burns; "Valiant Fire Heroes"

1966: "Aggies In Saigon Muster"
1914: "Spirited Contest Against Plucky Opponents"

Thursday, March 27, 2008

$15 ransom for photo of Loren's billboard

Now offering the princely sum of $15 cash on the barrelhead and one Aggie Gernalist bumper sticker to anyone who has a photo of the billboard featuring Chron writer Loren Steffy '86, which I am told was up on I-45 for some period of time.

Note: Members of the Steffy family are completely eligible and encouraged to claim this fabulous prize!

How the copy desk at the NYT works

What do copy editors do? And how do they do it at The New York Times? NYT director of copy desks Merrill Perlman gives a snapshot and some clear explanations in this installment of "Talk to the Newsroom" (a column that recently featured editors and reporters responding to reader outcry over the paper's John McCain/Vicki Iseman story).
In journalism history, the copy desk has always acted as the last line of defense, the final gatekeeper before the news reaches you, the reader. It consists, in the case of The Times, of more than 150 people who get an article after it has been written by the reporter and has been gone over by a “big picture” or assignment editor, called a backfielder. Of course, not all 150 are here at once. The earliest copy editor arrives around 9 a.m., and the last one leaves around 2 a.m., seven days a week.
Perlman talks at length about exactly what their copy editors do, touching on issues such as editing blogs, and fields other questions about apostrophes, acronyms vs. initialisms amd more.

She also says, in an independent clause to gladden the hearts of both prospective and currently employed copy editors, that these days, "it’s harder to find people who know what good copy editors need to know."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Thank you! Some great stories from you all

I am so grateful to everyone who's written and posted about how they use their Aggie background on the job. What a great peek into some different careers, as well!

News anchors John Oakey (in Omaha, Neb.) and Lisa Dalzell Spooner (in Tyler) were kind enough to
post about being 'on-air Aggies' and helping straighten folks out on sports and other coverage; the same thread has Sara McDonald's thoughts on the benefits to A&M of journalists using A&M sources and Frank Smith's recollections of helping cover the Bonfire collapse, which Oakey, Spooner and many others I spoke to also mentioned. As Frank wrote,
"It was a terrible day, and nothing mitigates that. I do think the fact that Aggies were in newsrooms across the state helped people understand the dynamics that were at work." Click here to read more on the forum.

Here are a few more of the responses y'all were kind enough to send -- and do send more if you got 'em:

"I can't begin to count the number of times I have caught and corrected an error about A&M before a story was published -- particularly about the Corps of Cadets, but also about Bonfire, traditions, sports, geography, names and more."

"On the first-day coverage of the Bonfire collapse, AP referred to the student redpots (etc.) as 'pot heads.' I called AP Dallas and got it fixed."

"I was recently asked by the sports department to describe what was happening in a photo of a bunch of freshmen who were whooping. I explained that besides the fact that the students were clearly in violation of the wildcatting rules of order, there were no hidden messages in the photo. I added that if he could find the offending Aggies, he should require them to push. I got no response to that."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Used your Aggie background on the job?

I'm looking for examples of when Aggie journalists have used their knowledge of the university on the job. Big or small, funny or serious -- Can you name a time when your own Aggie background prevented an error or enriched a story?

These are being collected for use in building a case that it's good for the university to have A&M graduates working in the media. But examples can be positive or negative, anonymous or identified by name or organization -- your choice.

You can e-mail them to me or post them (anonymously if you choose) on our forum, here.

UTA seeks student publications ad manager

The University of Texas at Arlington is hiring for a student publications advertising manager, salary $3,583 monthly (negotiable based on experience) -- primary job description: "Provide a comprehensive advertising and marketing program for The Shorthorn student newspaper and other Office of Student Publications projects that provides training and experience for students and meets revenue needs of the department."

For full details, here's the job posting.

(Thanks again to Cheri for this!)

Texas Public Information Act in action

This American-Statesman story pegged to Sunshine Week talks about how AA-S reporter Mike Ward (who'll be at A&M next month) used open records requests last year to shed further light on "state government's biggest scandal in a decade" as the Texas Youth Commission story unfolded.

During his Journalist-in-Residence week April 21-25, Ward will teach A&M students about digging out an accurate story from a variety of public records, how to cultivate confidential sources and how to investigate using the Internet, phones and shoe leather.

'Wire' writer says journalists missed the big story

The ex-journalist writer of HBO's "The Wire" points out with quite a bit of glee (warning: strong language) that nearly all the journalists who were critiquing whether the show's final season accurately depicted a newsroom completely missed the larger, meta-criticism: Its fictional Baltimore newspaper missed every single major story in its city throughout the season. Corrupt mayor/police department. Schools teaching the actual test questions. Politics hampering prosecutions. Drug wars and killings. All of it, he says, goes largely unreported in the fictional paper while the journalists there busy themselves with other matters. And all of it "pretty much happened" in the real Baltimore and didn't much appear in news coverage, he alleges.

He decries the slide into " 'impact' journalism, special projects and Pulitzer sniffing," saying that even before the pressures of the Internet, the paper was losing relevance because of these trends.

And he talks about how difficult, time-consuming and expensive "good, probing journalism" is -- developing sources, pawing through records.
But absent that kind of reporting, we will all soon enough live in cities and towns where politicians and bureaucrats gambol freely without worry.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A&M journalism scholarships deadline looming

Just a heads-up: I'm pretty sure these A&M journalism scholarships' application deadline will be in April again this year. There are seven scholarships, all open to journalism minors, ranging in size from up to $650 to up to $2,300.

Watch the J-Studies home page for updates.

(Note: The Skip Leabo scholarship will, in the future, be open to students at the Batt, not just j-minors, but it's still in the fund-raising stage.)

And, on an unrelated note, BTHOBYU!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Opening at national college press organization

The National Scholastic Press Association/Associated Collegiate Press has an opening for Member Services Director. This job appears to involve running conventions, managing meetings and the organization's membership plan, recruiting and other duties. Full description here.

Thanks to Cheri Shipman at the Batt for the heads-up on this.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Photographer Janner '91 wins Headliner award

The Austin American-Statesman's Jay Janner '91 has won first place for Photography Portfolio in the National Headliner Awards. Congratulations, compadre!

'Brand' yourself to survive in online journalism

Don't quit your j-job just yet. Via Romenesko: Online Journalism Review editor Robert Niles writes about how to "ensure that you will be one who survives this competition" -- that is, the renewed competition brought about by the Web.
I could teach an entire course on preparing yourself to compete in online media (and I do work this topic into every course I do teach here at USC Annenberg). But for those of you staring at imminent layoffs and buyouts, here's the quick guide to what smart journalists need to do to survive, and do great work, in the Internet era.
The short version: Create content readers value, pitch it to the right readers and "make yourself the brand." But he puts it a lot more constructively -- and specifically. For example, on making yourself the brand:
You want to ensure that the value you've created with your content and your promotion of it is associated with you. Yeah, it is selfish, but you're trying to save a job here. Blogging gives you a stronger brand on a website than tiny bylines do. (A blog gives you your own URL, much larger font-size byline and usually a head shot.) A strong Facebook or MySpace following amplifies your brand. Sending personal e-mail alerts to fans sustains your relationship with them. In-bound links to your name (or, if you are a solo publisher, your site's name), creates enduring value by boosting your brand's search engine value.
And when your name is more valuable, that makes you more valuable to employers, investors and advertisers.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hiring/J-degree: Galveston County Daily News

Part of a series in which professionals answer the question that students often ask me: Do you need a journalism degree to get hired in the field?

Many thanks to
Heber Taylor, Editor of the Galveston County Daily News, for his answers.

When you hire a reporter or a copy editor, how important is it for an applicant to have a journalism degree?

Very. I've hired people without a journalism degree, but not many.

Why do you look for a journalism degree, or what do you look for instead of that?

I want people to be mechanically sound. Some editors have time to teach reporters the stylebook, how to write a good lead, how to handle a second-day story to emphasize fresh angles, rather than dated material. But I don’t. People who come out of good journalism programs don’t require remedial work.
Also, people who come out of good journalism programs have had some experience. Speed is important at all papers -- maybe especially important at smaller ones.

Is the picture different for entry-level applicants vs. experienced applicants?

I don't think I've hired an entry-level reporter who didn't have a journalism degree.