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Web/Tech

April 23, 2009

Students Stand Up...on Twitter

So, I probably don't need to tell you about the ongoing protests by students and faculty at UVM over budget cuts for next year and the lay-offs of 109 faculty and staff. It's been really captivating to watch the situation unfold (and makes me glad that the biggest controversy at St. Mike's revolves around student government leaders treating themselves to chicken wings).

What I've been most impressed with has been how the UVM student group leading the protests, Students Stand Up, has done a great job presenting solid, well-considered ideas. Even if you disagree with their mission, you certainly can't call them a bunch of college hippie psuedo-activists protesting for the sake of it — the group has a real plan to fix the university's budgetr.

Yesterday I started following SSU's Twitter account (@studentsStandUp), which has been been providing constant updates since the rally/sit-in. It's kind of surreal knowing that there's somebody sitting in Waterman, Tweeting away from his/her phone while getting threatened with arrest for trespassing, but it's been a fascinating read.

And if I may offer a bit of advice to future sit-in participants: Next time the police begin to get involved, just have someone start a pillow fight across Burlington. That will keep them distracted.

December 21, 2008

Student Media Consolidation at SMC

St. Michael's College is served by a pair of student news publications: The Defender, a traditional print newspaper, and The Echo, an online magazine (for which I served as tech editor this past semester). Both publications publish weekly or biweekly, ranging from 7-10 issues per semester in recent years. They also both cover many of the same stories when it comes to on-campus events. Journalism majors at St. Mike's have traditionally had to spend two semesters writing stories for both publications as part of the two Writing for Media classes (typically sophomore year), and then spend at least one semester working as an editor on the staff of one of the two (typically one semester junior year). This is about to change, though, as the spring 2009 semester will see The Defender and The Echo produced by one merged staff.

Defender advisor Paul Beique and Echo advisor Marybeth Redmond will co-teach the combined class, and both have been adamant that neither publication is going away or getting folded into the other — this is very much a merger of equals. Two of the student staff editors from each publication are returning next semester to help lead the merger experiment, as well (including me, again — I'll be the editor of The Naked Opinion, which is sticking around and becoming cross-platform).

The move is largely designed to provide journalism majors with the wide range of media experience they need to graduate into today's journalism world. No longer is it good enough for a reporter to know how to take good notes and write a print story on deadline. The trend now is for "backpack reporters" — journalists who can write, record audio, take pictures and video, and craft a full media package for a story for a print setting and for the Web. While The Defender does have a Web site and multimedia components, it's clear that those elements take a back seat to print stories, in all honesty. Conversely, Echo staff members never have to learn print design. A glance at the Web sites for NPR or The New York Times will quickly reveal just how converged media forms are getting.

So is the merger of our publications at St. Mike's ultimately a good thing? I say yes, but with some qualifications. I personally love new media and multimedia (and that's why I'm a part-time blogger!), so it's good to see my department validating my interests as legitimate. For the journalism majors who aren't as dorky as me and thus aren't as excited to delve into multimedia storytelling, it'll be good to have the department pushing them in that direction. And from a purely practical standpoint, our campus has just 2,000 students, and two publications to cover a campus this small can get redundant. Prominent sources will surely be thrilled to no longer have two reporters begging to interview them about the same story.

At the same time, though, there is something I'll miss about having two wholly separate publications. Though they would both cover major campus events, I always liked how The Defender covered the campus more in-depth, while The Echo tended to gravitate towards more off-campus stories in Burlington or elsewhere in the area. While the publications themselves remain, I wonder how a merged staff will change story-gathering trends. And plus, it never hurts to have an extra voice in the discussion of campus issues. It'll be fun next semester to find out for sure what's gained and what's lost in our student media.

August 29, 2008

Texting: What's Good

I went to college in the pre-cell phone era, way back in the mid-1990s. Now, of course, we're all way more advanced. Not only do we have super cool cell phones, we don't even just use them to talk to each other! They've become mobile data devices.

This shift has been going on for a few years, but I think it took a major step forward in the past few weeks as the Obama campaign promoted its texting service on the national stage. Nielsen Mobile estimates that nearly 3 million people received Obama's "Joe Biden is my veep" text. And then last night, I heard them plugging it from the podium during the convention.

I was excited to hear the Obama people talking up texting, because we're about to start experimenting with it, too. What's Good is debuting its first texts next week. You can sign up to get 'em by texting "wgme" to 21321. Or enter your phone number here.

We'll text you twice a week with discounts, parties and events. You'll be able to get a coupon on your phone, and then you show your phone at the business and get a good deal.

OK, it's not quite as exciting as finding out Obama's veep pick, but it has the potential to be pretty cool.

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