Monday, February 28, 2011

Byerly '99 again is NASA's voice on shuttle launch

Josh Byerly '99, right, who visited A&M this fall to talk with journalism students, served Thursday as the ascent commentator for Discovery's final launch. Video below.

At left is Byerly with Buzz Aldrin and NASA flight director Ron Spencer. (Photos courtesy of NASA)

Byerly spoke to students in September and again in November – he even brought an astronaut helmet with him; pretty cool :) If you'd like to have Byerly come speak to a group, you can contact him through his Web site, JoshByerly.com.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Steffy '86 signs BP book March 5 at A&M

"A carefully and powerfully written story."
Financial Times

The Houston Chronicle's Loren Steffy '86, all-around good dude and a past president of FJSA, will be signing copies of his book about BP, "Drowning in Oil," in College Station on March 5. He'll be at the Barnes & Noble on Texas Avenue across from campus from 1-3 p.m. (Map)

Booklist says:
"Steffy, business columnist for the Houston Chronicle, first began covering British Petroleum in 2005 after the deadly explosion at their Texas City refinery killed 15 people and injured 170 others. His investigations reveal a corporate culture of cost-cutting initiatives that put profits ahead of workers' lives and the environment."

More good words (I got all this off the book's Amazon page. Look, it's only $14.87 on Kindle!):

"When an author uses a loaded word like 'reckless' in a book's title, the burden of proof is high. . . . Steffy meets the burden by demonstrating that corporate behemoth BP . . . could have prevented the 11 deaths on April 20, 2010, aboard the Deepwater Horizon."
San Antonio Express-News

"Steffy has produced a fascinating, gripping, revealing account. . . . The book details events aboard the Deepwater Horizon in April of 2010 to start, but it digs deeper into what is revealed as a culture of cost-cutting boiling over within BP. Steffy documents years of incidents and poor management decisions."
Seattle Post Intelligencer

Get more Loren on his Chronicle blog, on Twitter and at this index of his blog posts.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Update on A&M's nascent SPJ chapter: events, trips

Head of Texas A&M Journalism Studies Dale Rice e-mailed me this nice bit of info about the students who make up A&M's SPJ chapter, which was revived in fall 2009. These are folks who are seriously interested in journalism careers, and seeking internships and jobs in the field:
Sixteen students came to the last SPJ meeting earlier this month. Small? Yes. But that's great when we didn't have a campus chapter a year and a half ago. They're co-hosting events, getting together socially, talking about careers, going on fieldtrips. They're even participating as a group in the Big Event next month.
I've asked Dale to extend an invitation to these students to join our LinkedIn group (at http://bit.ly/AJlinkedin), where they can maybe prowl around and make connections with Aggie professionals in the areas they're interested in.

Here's the A&M chapter's home page, Student Activities page and Facebook page.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Update on journalism at A&M: More classes coming

At the Fall Reception, head of Journalism Studies Dale Rice gave FJSA an update on the program that includes a Pulitzer-winner's visit, a high-tech political reporting class for the 2012 election cycle, and my new favorite fact: "We will have 16 journalism courses in the catalog next year, compared with eight a year ago." Read on for more!

The 2010-2011 academic year is off to a great start for Journalism Studies. Here are some examples of our progress:
  • We’re continuing to raise the profile of Journalism Studies within the College of Liberal Arts and the university at large. We co-hosted, with American Studies, Pulitzer Prize winner Sonia Nazario in September. Her book, “Enrique’s Journey,” was selected by the college as this year’s Common Ground read for all incoming freshmen. Besides exposing a wide audience to an award-winning journalist, Sonia’s visit allowed time for her to spend several hours with journalism students, both in and out of classroom settings.
  • Our newly reformed student chapter of SPJ has been officially recognized by both the national organization and the university. SPJ members are working hard to recruit new folks and build the organization. For example, they are meeting next week to build sandwich boards to place on campus, one of the perks that come with being an official student organization.
  • We’re working to broaden the Journalism Studies program. We currently have six new course listings winding their way up the approval chain. They include five cross-listed courses (one of which is the blogging course I created with that purpose in mind) and a new course in political reporting.
  • With two courses added to the books this year, we will have 16 journalism courses in the catalog next year, compared with eight a year ago.
  • I am working now with Charlie Madigan, a former journalist at the Chicago Tribune and now professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago to jointly teach a course in political reporting via videoconference, with half the students in the class from Roosevelt and half from A&M. It was the suggestion of Charles Middleton, president of Roosevelt, who I met when he was here as the keynote speaker for a conference on campus. We will launch the course in the 2012 election cycle, which should offer lots of great reporting opportunities for the students.
  • We are exploring with the university and Rick Dunham, the Washington Bureau chief for Hearst Newspapers, the possibility of placing a journalism student in Washington each semester as part of the Public Policy Internship Program. Working with Dunham, the students would report and write stories dealing with public policy issues for the Hearst wire.
  • Finally, on a personal note, I’m really excited to see interest growing in journalism on campus. I’m teaching a one-hour freshmen seminar on food writing, part of the university’s effort to provide a small-class setting for first-year students who are mostly in very large classes. On Wednesday, after class, two of the students stayed behind to discuss the program and said they were going to apply now. That’s what makes this job fulfilling: to see freshmen joining Journalism Studies because they’re interested in a career in the profession. In just a few years’ time, you are going to look at those students who came into the program early and made use of our expanded offerings to obtain a first-rate journalism education and you are going to be very proud of them. FJSA’s support of the program has been a critical factor in our rebuilding effort, and we can’t thank you enough for that.

Recapping the flap: A&M System re-examines FOIA rule

Toward the close of 2010, A&M journalism was in the news in a negative light: An A&M System policy suddenly became a source of controversy when the System's general counsel wrote a letter interpreting the long-dormant rule to mean faculty could not direct students to file FOIAs on System schools.

System officials are taking another look at the ruling, which brought angry rebukes from former students as well as Texas newspapers and national journalism groups.

For the full story, I encourage everyone to read San Antonio Express-News writer and past FJSA president Roy Bragg's examination of the issue.

Where has your blogger been? Pretty much underwater

Hey guys, I'm writing this to apologize for getting behind with the blog here. It's been an unusually busy December/January for me both personally and at work. So I'm going to catch up quickly on a couple items I should have posted long ago (see next two posts).

And after that, I will get back in touch with some of the great people I've asked for interviews for the blog... and then failed to follow up with. Kind people like Anthony Andro, who covered the Rangers' amazing ride to the World Series; Joe Ruiz, a Texas State grad who agreed to share the story of how his online coverage helped the Seattle Times to a Pulitzer; and Aggies who are starting all kinds of successful endeavors online and off.

So I hope these folks forgive me too, and I will be scrambling to catch up!

Yours from somewhere underwater (but rising to the surface!),