Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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Journalism Curriculum

Somehow, not being in school anymore just makes me more interested in the evolution of curriculum at journalism schools.

No, it’s not a subconscious desire to teach. I’ve not the temperament for that.

But I’ve been collecting information about what’s being taught, perhaps in the hopes that they’ll teach something I don’t know, thereby giving me an excuse to go back to school.

My, that sounds arrogant. But I only mean that I’ve been through the traditional journalism curriculum, took some online media courses and taught myself a hell of a lot in my spare time.

Bryan Murley updated his syllabus for the multimedia course he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

Most of the syllabus is the same as it was during the last semester, however, I’m spending much more time on audio and video, with lots of repetition and building upon core concepts.

Also, I should note that we’re using Final Cut Express this semester instead of iMovie. I’m done with iMovie until it is more stable and edits audio easier.

Andrew Dunn reports changes to the curriculum at the University of North Carolina, which now requires a class called “Audio-Video Information Gathering.” The UNC curriculum includes specializations choices of Multimedia and Electronic Communication (whatever that is).

Through University of Florida fact-finding professor Cory Armstrong, I found out about a new course at UNC: Public Affairs Reporting For New Media.

As near as I can tell, students in the course pick a topic for the semester and do some in-depth research, including multi-media elements, to develop a package.

The professor, Ryan Thornburg, is blogging about the class.

This is one that I’m really interested in, since I did something similar as an independent study with Professor Armstrong.

Fred Stutzman, also at UNC, has been teaching Online Social Networks for several semesters now.

This course is a primer on the study of online social networks. We will explore the theory, methods and findings of a growing literature on the topic. We will also explore applications and use cases, particularly in the context of education and library/information services. While online social networks are but a subset of social software, this course should provide you a strong set of fundamentals for exploring the multiple facets of our pervasive online sociality.

Mindy McAdams is teaching a new multimedia reporting class at UF as well as updating her Flash class (Advanced Online Media Production).

Students taking Multimedia Reporting will learn to:

  • Gather digital audio and upload it to a computer
  • Edit digital audio and produce an MP3 file
  • Edit, crop and resize photos; optimize photos for online use
  • Create an audio slideshow using Soundslides
  • Shoot simple video suitable for online distribution
  • Edit video with a simple editing program
  • Prepare video for online distribution

Lastly, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, changes are planned.

The new, proposed curriculum shift places a deeper, more thorough emphasis on awareness, understanding and application of online journalism skills and the training begins in the freshman year.

Stories CoJMC students write, photographs, advertising, marketing campaigns, video news reports and documentaries will be produced by hundreds of CoJMC students for the NewsNetNebraska Web site.

For those of us no longer in school and feeling left out, Dave Lee wrote about how journalists can continue their online education, well, online.

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Journalism Schools’ Curriculum

Mark Luckie at 10,000 Words ran the website descriptions from a couple of journalism schools through Wordle, creating a tag-cloud-esque depiction of words found on the sites.

The most popular word breakdown:

Medill Graduate School of Journalism: Reporting.

The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism: Reporting, Writing.

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: Reporting, Immigration, Stories, New

Asian College of Journalism: Media, Political, Issues.

UNC Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communications: Media, Research.

I ran the University of Florida’s College of Journalism site through Wordle, and came up with this:

University of Florida College of Journalism word cloud

University of Florida College of Journalism word cloud

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A journalist outside of j-school

…not quite like a fish out of water.

I graduated from the University of Florida 5 months ago, and it took this long to realize that while I brag that everything I know comes to me from Google Reader and Twitter, I knew a lot more when I was surrounded by other journalists.

I knew who the badass journalists were, I knew when and where the awesome conferences were and I knew where to turn for any other information I didn’t have at my fingertips.

Now I’m 1,000 miles away from that network. I don’t know anybody here, I don’t know where to look for all the things I used to know.

So my question today is, as a journalist learning to be out of school, where do I turn?

I want to know when there are good conferences or panels in the city. I want to forge relationships with other journalists. Where before I was guided by my teachers, I now have to do these things myself.

Any advice?

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Writing from Berlin!

So, after having dropped off the face of the cyberearth for a few weeks, I’m resurfacing in Berlin. I’m taking a Photojournalism class with Professor Freeman and some other students from UF.

And by the way, yes, I did manage to graduate! It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I’m sure some day it will. My move to Miami was anything but graceful, but everyone involved survived.

So I’m in Berlin for 2 weeks, then back to Miami for my internship. I’ll start uploading photos tomorrow and blogging about my experiences here.

So far, I’ve managed to get from the airport to my hotel, find food and walk 3 miles. And realize that my German is even more atrocious than I thought. I can read pretty well, but forget the rest.

This city has more graffiti than any other place I’ve ever been. Some of it is even extremely artistic, as opposed to just scribbles on the wall. Unfortunately, I wasted most of the daylight hours recovering from bouncing from plane to plane for 15 hours, but tomorrow I’ll be out and about bright and early. (Could I get anymore cliches in there?)

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The Alligator rockin’ at 10,000 Words

Mark Luckie at 10,000 Words isn’t “just a blogger,” he’s a print journalist gone online. Luckie has been looking at college journalism this week, and The Independent Florida Alligator got some awesome mentions:

Online Student Journalism: Best of the Best

1. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida
The Alligator is hands down the best online student newspaper and rivals the pros in its news coverage and use of multimedia elements. Just listing the stellar components that make up the site warrant its own individual post. The Alligator’s standout features are the Gainesville
Explorer , a look at the surrounding city using video and audio slideshows, the use of Google Maps mashups to illustrate problems like apartment overcrowding and rising gas prices, and its 11 blogsthat cover pretty much every spectrum of news. Admittedly The Alligator works on a larger scale than most student newspapers, but it is nevertheless an exceptional example of the possibility of online student journalism.

What a payoff for all the hard work we’ve done!

Online Student Journalism: Outstanding Use of Multimedia or Social Networking

7. Twitter, The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

It seems everyone is Twitteringthese days, but The Alligator is one of very few student newspapers doing so. The site uses twitterfeed to broadcast news stories and links, almost 2,500 of which have been sent since The Alligator began using the service.

Personally, I think we should have gotten more mention of our amazing multimedia, but at least my Twitter obsession has been justified.

Online Student Journalism: Best Site Design

4. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

The Alligator is an incredible example of the potential greatness of an online student newspaper. Its black and white design makes the fine journalism happening on the site look even better. Sections and stories are easily scannable and the site’s headlines are large enough to catch the eye. The Alligator also makes great use of its footer — a contrasting black to
the rest of the page — something that is rare in online student paper design.

That’s so totally what we were going for!

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Convergence and Newsroom Structure

So for the first session of the day, I ended up at a discussion on operating a converged student media newsroom. I can’t really relate; The Independent Florida Alligator, being separate from the university, can’t take advantage of all the available tools and skills at UF. But the ideas from the converged model applied to our print and web publications could make things work much more smoothly and allow us to go farther.

Greg Linch and I got video, using UStream.tv

Now I’m at a discussion of newsroom structure, facilitated by Bryan Murley. We’ve been talking about who takes responsibility for what and how work is distributed through roles in the newsroom.

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Even a match is better than whistling in the dark

A lot of people tell me I’m really good at this Web stuff. Yea, I’m a geek. I love to program and play and diddle around with technology, especially if it can be made useful.

But I’ve really only had 2 years of this. I fell in love with journalism late in my sophomore year. I’m the managing editor for the Web site of a student-run paper and I’m making it all up as I go along.

OK, I spend hours every day scanning blogs, newspapers, Twitter and other Web sites learning as much as I can about this thing called online journalism. For me, there is no ivory.

But rarely do I get a chance to sit down with someone more experienced than I and discuss what I’m doing and how I should be doing it differently. (Maybe that’s a new direction to take this blog in?)

Last week, the Journalism Advisory Council sat down for lunch with us budding journos. It was a really cool experience.

I talked to one member about data potential for B2B magazines.

Another responded to my questions about the Web site by listing the things they do and then shoving me into a conversation with someone else.

I discussed eye-tracking studies and the difference between print and Web design, fairly eloquently for someone who can’t…well, I can design my way out of a paper bag, but it’s not one of my strengths.

Another member wanted to look at The Independent Florida Alligator’s Web site. My baby. No sooner had the site loaded than suggestions for improvements were being made.

Yes, we need to label our multimedia so that readers know what’s what. Yes, we should be publishing online as soon as we know something. Yes, I need to make Opinions, Sports and Avenue headlines as Web-friendly as the News heds have become. Yep, that event on the calendar shouldn’t be labeled TBA, it’s an all day event. Must fix the PHP.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

As soon as school is back in session, I’m going to find some unofficial guidance. The print managing editor and the editor go over the paper with one of the professors once a week. The Web site needs similar help. (Mindy, Dave, you up for this?) And I’m going to make sure the guidance continues, because one simple conversation can change so much.

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Independent Study: Story Idea

My first assignment for my CAR independent study was to get some data from the Alachua County Health Department.

Professor Armstrong charged me with getting all current salaries, as of Jan. 1, 2008 for nurse practitioners and physician assistants working in the Alachua County Health Department, both full and part time. It took a couple of tries to get someone on the line. Then they asked me to send an e-mail. But in 3 business days, I had the data. Much easier than I thought.

I know all data requests won’t be so easy, but it’s good practice in asking for it. The experience was similar to what I did to get a gas prices map on The Independent Florida Alligator’s Web site: Figure out who has it, find a contact number or e-mail address, and ask.

My next assignment was to decide on a story I wanted to do the data analysis for. I had a lot of trouble with this, because I had to choose something that was timely, accessible, etc.

After going through a bunch of ideas

  • location trends for car accidents in the gainesville area. are holidays/game days a factor?
  • something about uf sustainability. the website was basically a bunch of press releases, but i bet if i went and asked they could dig me up some data.
  • I looked at http://earmarkwatch.org/ and found that all the earmarks for the state of Florida are for defense bills. UF and some other Florida universities were getting some cash too.
  • go back to crime or poverty :( i’m trying to avoid these because they seem too obvious/easy.

I finally hit on something:
Given that Crist just put out the budget for public universities and UF is apparently not getting any help, I think that would be a good direction to take. I can compare funding for public universities in Florida and maybe other states, compare growth in attendance, that sort of thing. Look at how funding for UF has changed now that we have fewer people in legislature and other schools are building strength. (UCF, SFU) Is UF still the “flagship” university? I’ll also be looking at tuition.

So the next step is to figure out how far back to look. I’ll start at 10 years, hit up Lexis and see what I can dig up.

I’m much more confident now that the topic is locked down.

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First week of the last semester

I survived. Again.

As usual, the first week of school was accompanied by lack of sleep and an increase in Mountain Dew purchases.

I find myself in a position to look forward to a time beyond school; I will graduate at the end of this semester. As I said to several people during the week: “I look forward to a time when I’m only doing one job.” Juggling the roles of student and employee, especially with multiple points of employment, is more tiring than spending the same amount of time on one area.

This semester I am taking an independent study on Computer-Assisted Reporting. I blogged about this last week, but to recap briefly: I will be learning how to find, clean and analyze data. At the end of the semester I will produce a data-driven story package.

I’m also taking the online capstone for the journalism program at UF. This class will focus on interaction with a CMS and producing video, as well as an independent project (I am hoping to start working with Django here). And just to get past the part-time student level, I am also taking a professional practice class (a.k.a. how to get a job, negotiate salary, etc.)

While I am continuing as Managing Editor at The Independent Florida Alligator, my title is not the only difference from last semester. (We changed New Media to Online.) Many people this semester are new either to The Alligator or to their positions. Although we got off to a rocky start, I think everyone is becoming acclimated and it can only get better. As for the online staff, two out of the three are back, and a total of nine responded to a call for more staff members. This is the most interest that has been shown in a long time.

I am also continuing to update the Citizen Access Project Web site, as well as preparing a newer incarnation for launch. Over the break I started working at the Admissions office at UF, recoding their Web site.

Just writing about my different responsibilities makes me look forward to May. But I know I’ll enjoy every minute that I’m learning, creating or teaching something.

In the last week, I started a new semester, launched a website with a new CMS and design, stayed awake for 48 hours, got sick, got well, spent an unjustifiable amount of money on books, cleaned my apartment twice, turned 21, interviewed three people, and caught up on the summer backlog.

But thus far, I have met with success on all fronts.

This semester is really exciting for me because I am the New Media Managing Editor at The Independent Florida Alligator, 9 months away from graduation, and my various connections and activities are going places and getting results. Awesome. It’s also very stressful, for the same reasons. Trying to sync up schedules at three different jobs during the first week of classes results in a lot of mayhem, but that should be settled now. All I have to do is not fall behind.

My responsibilities for this semester include:

  • · Bringing more people, news and multimedia to The Independent Florida Alligator web site
  • · 4 classes: Photographic Journalism, Problems and Ethics in Journalism, Reporting and Writing for the Web, and Advanced Interactive Reporting
  • Advanced Interactive Reporting is a brand new class governed by self-directed learning in which we will be designing a converged newsroom. At least, that’s what the syllabus says. So far, I’m still not sure what we’re doing, except that it will involve multimedia and teamwork. Fun.

  • · Consulting at the UF Computing Help Desk
  • · Updating and upgrading the Citizen Access Project Web site
  • · Writing a weekly post for Angela Grant’s News Videographer blog
  • · and of course, keeping up my own blog!

I know that looks like a lot of work, but I’m confident that I can get it all done with my usual determination and of course, endless bottles of Mountain Dew.

The beginning has passed, and I just have to keep going.