Obama visits UW-Madison

With 26,000 other Madison residents, I waited in line yesterday to see Obama speak on UW-Madison’s campus. It is the first time in 60 years that a sitting president has spoken on campus, although we’ve had our share of presidential hopefuls and former presidents.

It’s interesting that the University of Wisconsin-Madison apparently didn’t immediately say “yes” to the opportunity. And certainly, the logistics of the event were difficult. The campus attempted to minimize the impact to students, faculty, and staff around the campus area for the visit, a difficult feat when the line stretched for 1.2 miles. But despite their efforts, I give the organizers only a passing grade for their efforts. The line was long and poorly organized. It was very easy for lots of people to cut into line. Most importantly, people in line lacked information. The biggest failure came around 4:45, when an official came and told people around us that the Mall was 2/3 full and overflow was available on Bascom. Hundreds of students broke away and ran towards the hill, hoping for a good view. They were to be disappointed – friends told me there was little sound and no view for those sitting there. Even worse – we never got a full story from the official as to what “2/3 full” meant for my part of the line. Were we definitely out? Were we probably in?

My group did get in, among the last people to do so despite being in line since 2:30 or so. The way I found out? UW-Madison tweeted the news just 5 minutes after we entered the mall. More information certainly would have been better – and overflow should have been dealt with in an orderly way, rather than the haphazard effort it became. I wonder: what happened to the people in the front of the line who didn’t get into the Mall, after Bascom Hill was full?

But the event itself was well-worth the effort. I talk about the themes of the speeches on my blog, so I’m not going to rehash them here. Altogether, despite the organizational hurdles and despite the frustrations, I’m glad that UW-Madison got to host a sitting president again. I’m glad that students had the chance to hear the President speak, even if it was admittedly a very partisan speech, and I hope that students here in the Jschool got to take advantage of the unique opportunity.

Friday blog rescue: Launching a nonprofit news site

The Knight Citizen News Network just published an online guide to “Launching a nonprofit news site” co-authored by the leader of the nonprofit news site that partners with our School, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

There’s been an explosion in the number of nonprofit news sites, and now you’re considering joining this exciting movement.

Here’s a word of caution: You won’t just be doing journalism. You will be an employer, a manager, a grants writer, a negotiator and sometimes a bookkeeper. You’ll have a steep learning curve. But if you decide to go ahead, you’ll be in good company: Scores of enthusiastic and dedicated people have gone before you and formed journalism nonprofits that are carrying out good work.

There’s another important UW connection in this report as well.  Section five, “Establishing sound policies,” draws on the work of our own Center for Journalism Ethics.

An ethics policy tells journalists who work for you, as well as the public and donors, about your organization’s values.  Specifically, it addresses such sensitive issues as how you will handle anonymous sources, what you’ll do when a story involves a donor and how you’ll deal with conflicts of interest.

This section is based on our report, “Ethics for the New Investigative Newsroom” released in April of this year.

Ethics for the New Investigative Newsroom is a collaboration of three journalism centers: Center for Journalism Ethics, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Knight Chair in Investigative & Enterprise Reporting, University of Illinois; and Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. It puts forward ethical principles and best practices. It outlines legal considerations and explores nonprofit journalism in Canada. The report warns that newsrooms must protect the integrity of their journalism. Only transparency about sponsorship, clear rules on conflicts of interest, and frank communication with supporters will maintain public confidence in these new experiments in journalism.

Join the conversation — what are the biggest challenges and opportunities for nonprofit journalism organizations from your point of view?

Friday blog rescue: Social Implications of New Technologies

SJMC Professor Young Mie Kim is teaching a special section of J676 this semester called “Social Implications of New Technologies,” complete with a weblog open to all readers.  The other day she alerted her students to an article on Mashable.com that might be of interest here as well:

How to Land a Career in Digital Media

I thought you might find this article useful–How to land a career in digital PR.
Although the title says “Digital PR”, it discusses a strategy to get a job in digital media area in general. A couple of highlights:

* Take any and all new technology classes in communication (if you are in a communication major)

* Take a course emphasizing innovation, not technology per se.

“You can take a class on how to use Twitter (Twitter) or Facebook (Facebook), but soon there will be something else to come along and replace it. So understanding technology shifts can give you some insight to how things may change. It’s about forward thinking, but understanding the history of how it happened can be a big help.” ~Dave Levy, a senior account executive at Edelman Digital


Anyone else care to offer advice on this topic?

Friday blog rescue: Behind the WCIJ

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism has been doing great work — and training lots of our students — for just about one short year. This week the American Journalism Review spotlights the Center with a series of articles, including this one on the path that led Executive Director Andy Hall to strike out on this innovative new turn in his career:

Four years ago, Andy Hall started to think about his dream job, a position that would draw upon two of his passions: investigative reporting and teaching.

He had just been assigned to the education beat at the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison. It was a great job, he says, but when this dream started to creep into his head, he began to think about leaving the paper where he’d worked as an investigative reporter since 1991.

“I simply wanted to create a job that I’d love to do,” Hall says. “As a middle-aged guy whose relatives were having health problems, I was developing a keen sense of how short and fragile life really is, so if we have a dream, we should pursue it.”

Hall’s dream is now a reality; he’s the executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, which produces investigative reports on government integrity and quality oflife issues.

Hall was acquainted with successful national models for nonprofit investigative journalism (see “Nonprofit News,” February/March 2008, and “The Nonprofit Explosion,” page 31), and it seemed to him that Wisconsin might be a good place to build a state-focused center.

By January 2009, Hall says he had quietly incorporated the investigative center as WCIJ Inc. and was ready to take the plunge. “My dream had become an obsession,” Hall says. “I’d often wake up in the middle of the night with ideas about how the center would operate. I’d write them down and go back to sleep.”

So Hall took a buyout from the State Journal, ending 26 years at daily newspapers. For that first month in January, he worked out of his basement, drawing on money from the buyout, until the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation called to say it had awarded the center a $100,000 grant. The School of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison offered office space. Hall began collaborating with students in the school and professional journalists across the state.

“And,” he says, “the center came to life.”

Read the rest of the article here and visit the Center’s web site if you’re interested in learning more.

Welcome back to Mediated Communication

Hi everybody. For those of you new to the School and those of you returning for another year, remember that our informal, collaborative weblog, Mediated Communication, thrives on your participation. Any SJMC faculty, staff, or student may request an account to post to our blog. I’ll try to prime the pump with some news or provocative ideas once a week or so, but the rest will be up to you. Have a good semester and keep reading!