Stretch It Out; Be Flexible

We returned to school this week after missing 11 days due to Hurricane Ike.  And we were immediately hit with the bad news.  No, I didn’t want it sugar coated, so I was glad to get it straight.

Our auditorium is semi-flooded, so it will be closed indefinately.  This means no photos of choir concerts, drama plays, etc. for the near future.  We also will have to find an alternate place for both individual and group photo days.

We lost our auditorium for remodeling five years ago, so we know the drill.  NEXT

A large number of our students’ parents work hourly wage jobs, so they haven’t been at work or gotten paid for more than two weeks.  I can’t even imagine that horror.  Ike costs most families plenty extra in gas for generators, wasted food from refrigerators, wet carpet, tarping materials for roofs, trips to the grocery store once power was back on to refill the fridge, ice, ice, ice and more ice. Now they will return to school for senior photos, yearbooks and more expenses.  We will do everything we can, but it is not going to be easy for anyone.  NEXT

Just as we are getting the power back on, we turn our TV sets on to see that while we were in the dark down in Houston, Washington and Wall St. were conspiring to ruin the national economy.  How this is going to affect cash strapped families is anyone’s guess, but it surely will not help yearbook sales. NEXT

Nearly every business in our area lost two weeks of productivity or about four percent of their yearly earnings.  I would not imagine that they will be advertising more this year.  NEXT

But, I am going to keep absorbing the hits because my kids, my school and our community need to hear some good news.  They need a return to normalcy.  We have to be flexible.

I know that we will eventually come out of this in a year or two.  We may run a deficit for a while.  (We just got out of the red this year after two years).  Who know what will happen to next year’s budget if housing values plummet?

We will just have to soldier on.  We can do it and we will keep our standards high in the mean time.

Silver lining:

There has been good news:

We will have a great yearbook story about how students manned the POD line and helped out others even when they did not have it so great at home either (flood, wind or tree damage and no power).

We have a much greater sense of community after the storm.  Neighbors helping neighbors.  It was great to see.

We won’t have to make up at least 10 of the missed days and our district won’t miss it’s payroll.

Most of our kids were in class this week and those still without power were able to enjoy both air conditioning and free breakfast and lunch.

Life is returning somewhat to normal, even if we are playing a football game tonight – on a Tuesday.

But, mostly we are thankful that it was not much worse.  We survived Ike and we will rebuild and hopefully in 2-3 years we will be stronger than before.  And in the meantime, we will be flexible and find new ways to do old things.

Absence of Newman

I will miss Paul Newman, who died today.  His great performance in Absence of Malice really made that film come alive to me as a journalist.  The world is smaller today without him.

Cool Links #11: The Future Is Now

Sometimes links come in a bunch and with their own built in theme.  This week they did.  Too many times people in journalism are crying that real journalism is dead.  But I think it is not dead or even dying – it is going through changes.  Painful metamorphasis, but in the end journalism may be more vibrant and powerful.

1) Eat Sleep Publish surely believes that the future of journalism is less about brands (newspapers and magazines) and more about the individual writer or videographer.  We journalists have not been interested in “star power” but we need to get used to it.  We will have to create a brand around ourselves in the future.  That is where the only credibility will exist.

2) The future of our business is with the journalists we are training now.  That is why we must do a good job of giving them all the skills they need to be successful.  And they are creating their own networking tools online that will help them succeed.  Two of these tools are College Media Matters and College Rag.   They are already helping to fight against censorship and giving college journalists a group of fellows to help in any struggle.

Funny Type: Jokes About Typography

I ran across this great collection of jokes about type, typesetting, fonts, etc.  Many are funny, but some are just punny!

Long Time No Post, Ike Came No Power

If you read my blog regularly, then you know I live in Houston, Texas and unless you live under a rock, you know we had a hurricane party this last week.

I just spent five days off-line.  It was hard.  We survived the storm with little damage.  The roof has several spots where the shingles are missing and the fence is down, but the house is mostly OK.  We had a small amount of water damage in the house from the leaks.

The power went out at 2:30 am the night of the storm and we were without power until about 6:30 pm today.

The first three days after the storm were full of clean up and helping neighbors.  We had several homes in our area hard hit.  So, we helped out those who were worse off than ourselves.  We shared batteries, staple guns, ice, water, labor and more.  At least one neighbor passed ice to us after we ran out.

I spent two hours waiting in line at our POD – point of distribution – set up by FEMA.  The line moved and it was set up well.  Police kept line jumpers out and they had plenty of ice, bottled water and MREs (meals ready to eat).

I also spent 2.5 hours Monday and 45 min Tuesday in line at Wal-Mart for groceries.  The first day I got in the store and 5 min. later the power went out.  We only got what was in our carts and it was cash only.  The next day I actually got canned and boxed goods we needed – and a little indulgence McDonald’s.  McD’s was open and so I brought home some hot food not from a can or box.

MRE’s are not so bad.  And FEMA was generous with the ice too.  I know that there have been frustrations with FEMA in Houston, but once they set up the POD in my area it was working well.  It was difficult to find out where the PODs were at first.

I know that there are still more than 1 million residents in Houston without power – I hope they get it back soon and start getting their lives back too.

My Kindergarden Cop Moment

I had such a Kindergarden Cop moment this week.  If you remember the movie, Arnold “The Governator” is a cop acting as a Kindergarden teacher.  He has a great day when his students actually respond to a new technique he tried.

This week it happened to me.  My kids have really responded to my new concept of giving them 97 percent control over their publications/media.  They have really taken ownership and seem to want to see it succeed even more.

“My Little Deputies” are doing a great job – I just hope they keep it up all year.

Cool Links #10: Boy Do I Need Java

I do want coffee – even at 10 pm.

1) Starbucks secretly gives away free coffee to teachers.  Sounds too good to be true.  But there’s the link to the “secret” Starbucks blog.

2) The Invisible Inkling has a really good selection of web tools for online journalists.  Great selection – my favs are Wordle and Slide.

3) And Six Revisions has 28 Cheat Sheets for Web Designers – my favs include web safe color guide, points to pixels conversion chart and the megapixel chart.

Bristol Palin and the Fabulous Feeding Frenzy

I just haven’t been able to keep up with posting since school started.  It has just been a whirlwind and sucked the life right out of me.

But we did have a really great discussion in my Newspaper Production class the other day.  We were covering the four levels of making an ethical news decision as per the SPJ’s recommended four criteria:  1) Tell the truth 2) Act independently 3) Minimize Harm 4) Be Accurate.

Of course the best news story of the week to use in class was the story that the Republican Vice Presidential candidate’s 17-year-old daughter was pregnant.

We went over each of the four criteria and my newspaper kids decided that the story failed on all four.

They said: 1) The media did not focus on the facts of the story.  They wandered into the realm of opinion as to Sarah Palin’s fitness as a mother and the kinds of values Bristol Palin was given by her family.  2) The media was most likely being used as a stalking horse – willingly or unwillingly by the opposition party.  3) They failed to minimize the harm that would most likely be caused to a 17-year-old girl who is not running for vice president.  4) They were not accurate in many cases because quite a few of the facts in this case were confused or not well understood by the public.

So – my students give the media a huge FAIL for their coverage of the Bristol Palin pregnancy.  It is a class of 8 girls and one boy all in the ages of 15-17.  They understand exactly the kind of pain the media inflicted on a 17-year-old.  They see it all the time in their own school, but when the media did it – they did it in front of 300 million Americans.

Can Kids Teach Themselves Using IT?

This is a great video, with bad sound.  But the premise of this TED talk is that kids can self organize to educate themselves.  I am presently trying to test that premise in my advanced journalism classes this year.  I’ve decided to do what a great number of really good educators before me have been brave enough to try – let the kids run their own publications.  They are 95 percent in control, and I am only 5 percent in control – mostly standards, ethical and otherwise.  But this video is really great.

Cool Links #9: Neatorama

1. has an excellent post with NINE Essential CSS Skills that you just have to know – or in my case teach.

2.  This is just a great idea.  Buy a one time use camera.  Tie it to an object, like a park bench with a note telling people to just take pictures.  Go back later and develop the roll.

3.  This is sad.  Only 19 percent of US Internet users download podcasts.

4.  10,000 words blog – PRINT IS NOT DEAD.

5.  The Buzz Machine has a cool web slide show titled:  The fundamentals of interactive journalism.

6.  Black Star Rising wants to save Photography from the Evil Empire (aka Microsoft).

7. And the OJB has a pithy post on how Ad People can save newspapers.  Maybe they can, and maybe they can’t.