Cool Links #29: Coolness Just Won’t Stop The Bad Economy

This was a really long week.  First week back from spring break and my wife’s campus announced that there would be a RIF (reduction in force).  My wife is on the RIF list.  She can still be retained in the district if enough other English teachers leave and she can then be offered a position.  Of course she can look for another English teaching job outside of her district.  Houston has a lot of schools.  But it is still scary in this economy.

Here’s the coolness:

1)  Learn how to record audio like the pros with the ABCs of Good Audio on mojo.  Good video tutorial, too bad it can’t be embedded.

2) Computer World magazine wants to burn some books – textbooks.  After seeing a video by a student about how textbooks compare to using the internet, I think I agree.  I rarely use any book in my classroom.  I do use a lot of web resources and it really bites when our internet connection is slow or down.  In a related post, one of my best blogger buds says that students need to use more technology.  I can only agree.

3) News organizations of all sizes and levels need to get rid of advertising departments and introduce revenue departments. What a great idea.  It is all about paying the bills to do journalism.  Ads alone probably won’t do it.  Find other services to sell.  Make videos, create desktop publishing products, design whatever might appeal to your client base to help pay for the journalism. Just be sure to keep an understanding that purchasing your products does not give you immunity from hard hitting reporting.

4) Former UCLA coach John Wooden has to be one of the all-time great motivators.  His web site if full of gems and he had a killer TED Talk.

5) Jon Stewart just keeps coming up in this blog. Are he and Colbert replacing traditional journalism?



6) Schools need to stop putting so much focus on testing and do these five things or they could face extinction. My favorite takeaway –

Stop blocking/banning Internet use. This does NOT stop students, and it causes huge problems for teachers who want to engage their students with the social networks.

7) Design guru Shepherd Fairey has posted his own defense of using an AP photo in his iconic Obama poster and claims fair use. In a related fair use case, the barrier breaking docufilm “Eyes on the Prize” about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may never be seen again because of draconian copyright laws that charge $15,000 for tiny incedental use of people singing Happy Birthday.

8 ) NewsU has posted a new course – five steps to multimedia reporting. Looks great.

9) The Poynter Institute has an informative post of 21 ways to generate new story ideas.  Good list.

10) Reuters has a beautiful slide show focusing on the photographic theme of framing.

11)  For all Desktop Publishing, Yearbook and Newspaper teachers – this Typeface Glossary just rocks from anti-alias to x-height.

12) This is just too fun to pass up.  Photojojo has an entry on using oranges and coffee to develop film.  It reminds me of the scene in The Killing Fields where they try to make a photo using common household chemicals.

13) Xark has an interesting and scary post about what news will look like in 2010, 2015 and 2020.  Worth the read.

14) And the Irony Award of the Year goes to the Obama Administration for banning the press from an award ceremony that the press gave to the president.

15) Save the Media has a short list of lessons we can all learn from the Seattle P-I. But the Tech Buzz says that it is OK for Newspapers to Die and they seem to be in the majority on this.

Abandoned Newspaper Racks

Abandoned Newspaper Racks

16) The Nation blames corporate journalism and a loss of family owned newspapers for the demise of newspapers.

17) Adam Westbrook a radio reporter with a video blog talks about capturing media for multiple platforms.

18) Save the Media has Ten Rules of Journalism You Can Break on Your Blog.  Fun post.  Best takeaway –

Link to the enemy: If the nearby TV station has the best video of the bear running wildly through downtown, you can link to that from your news blog or even embed the video. Under traditional journalism rules, you’d ignore that the TV station has the fuller story, and you’d withhold reporting the story to your readers until your reporters got it. With blogging, you can give your readers the best — even if it’s not from your staff — immediately. They’ll be thankful that you’re thinking of them more than your own ego.

19) Need a tutorial for CSS, Photoshop, HTML or Javascript?  Tutorial Today has everything your need and more.

20) Lastly, Marc Silber has a great short, never before seen video of Ansel Adams discussing the Key to Great Photography.  Worth the look.

Have another great week.  Lots of links!  Enjoy.

The Power of Video

This is why some stories need to be told in different ways.  This story would not be as powerful if told via text.  A news story in a paper or online would not have the power or the emotion of video.  This got the attention of the President of the United States.

Check out this story/blog in the LA Times.

Cool Links #28: Cool Floor Edition

I now have a new floor in my house and I’m glad to get rid of the old carpet.  The yearbook is finished for one more year and we are in the down slope of the school year.  So, I’ve been inspired to issue an additional cool links post!  Two days trapped in the breakfast nook will give you a lot of time to surf the net.

1) This is a sad photo of the offices of the Rocky Mountain News after the shutdown.  And another one that shows that they may be down, but they’re not out.

Rocky Mountain News Aftermath

Rocky Mountain News Aftermath

Sarcastic Comments - Journalists Love Em

Sarcastic Comments - Journalists Love 'Em

2) Journalism education shouldn’t be about just one medium anymore, the BuzzMachine says CUNY is getting it right by doing away with media tracks.  Everyone must learn it all web, video, audio, writing, interviewing, etc.

3) Kevin Kelly has Eight Things that are better than free.  This is a great list: immediacy, personalization, interpretation, authenticity, accessibility, embodiment, patronage, and findability.  I really want to share this with my yearbook staff an see how we can apply this and the lessons from WWGD to improve our yearbook for next year.

4) The New Republic has an interesting article CORRESPONDENCE: A New Era of Corruption? by

“What he did that night was undoubtedly journalism, at it’s best you might say. Whether that makes him a journalist or not. . .” –joshhalljourno

Read more at Innovation in College Journalism

What Would Murrow Think?

What Would Murrow Think?

12) Blogush asks the question to all tech type teachers – Are You A Geek? And if you are, find a way to get the “cool kids” to adopt your coolest tech stuff and let them show others they way.

13) This tiny camera is just too much fun to resist. Here’s a whole article about the tiny cams.

Fun Tiny Cameras

Fun Tiny Cameras

14) Here’s a post from another journalism teacher Mediamum on what we need to teach our students so their next job does not contain the phrase “Do you want fries with that?

15) The 10,000 Words Blog has this interesting site called Journalism Is Dead.  Reload it and it changes.  It appears to be Twitter tweets with the key phrase in it.  Cool mashup.

That all came from two days with nothing to do but listen to a band saw, watch movies and surf the net.

Cool Links #27: Busy Week Edition

It has been a busy week.  We are on Spring Break right now, but I will likely have to go in to the school tomorrow and resend eight yearbook pages to the plant.  But even still, we are done with the book.  Happiness will now ensue.

On a personal note, we are getting new floor at the house this week and will have finally finished our Ike and post-Ike repairs.  At a cost of nearly $40,000.  Thank goodness insurance paid for more than half of that. Now, on to the links.

1) I really enjoyed this video from such an earnest young voice.  The only difference is that people go to the library by choice and go to school by force. Maybe that’s part of the problem?

2) Here’s a fun site to show students the power of photoshop without needing photoshop.  InStyle magazine has a Hollywood Hair Makeover flash game.  It is incredible the power of this little flash game.  I’m still not sure if I want to show my yearbook girls where it is though.  LOL

3) has an interesting post of 100 photos taken at unusual angles.  It is fun, but not all are safe for school.  I do plan on sharing some of the better ones with my students to demonstrate how to look for humor when taking photos.  And I am adding the site’s blog to my Google Reader feed.

4) I don’t currently have Adobe Photoshop CS4, but I am hoping to get it next year.  Unfortunately PS7 does not work with the next tip.  But I want it on my blog for that someday…  The digital Photography School has a wonderful post on how to keep track of your steps when creating a cool effect.  I know I wish I could do this already.

5) This one is just plain fun, but I think can also be used as a teaching tool.  I plan to use the Period Table of Typefaces next year when teaching font families to my desktop publishing kids.

6) I also hope to add some journalism content to the Quizlet site if it is not blocked at my school.  This site lets you create flashcards online so kids can learn vocabulary terms quickly, easily and at their own pace.  The site was featured on the Seedlings podcast and was created by a high school student when he was 15.

7) The GenoPal Pic2Color scheme creator is definitely going to be added to both my web design and desktop publishing tool bags.  It makes a color scheme in Hex colors from a photo.  Simple, but effective.

8 ) If there is only one survivor of the online news recession, let’s hope it is the New York Times.  They have such great interactive graphics, like this one about immigration patterns.  That is how you display complex data sets in an easy to understand manner.

9) This is how I feel sometimes –

Clean Cables - You're Doing It Wrong!

Clean Cables - Your Doing It Wrong!

this week I spent about four hours after school cleaning up all the cables of our macs in the lab.  Too many kids had come to me in the last month or so and complained of a lost project due to a cable being kicked loose or an Ethernet connection lost.

10) Again we go back to the digital Photography School for an article on panning.  I find this as useful for my photography students as I do for my broadcast journalism kids. Panning and follow shots are a touch skill to master for both still and moving photographers.

11) John Costilla shared this on Classroom 2.0, but I found it hard to read, so I’m going to repeat it in text.  It is seven guidelines for educators for the 21st Century.

-Don’t throw technology into the classroom and just hope for good things to happen.

-Cut back on lectures

-Empower students to collaborate

-Focus on lifelong learning, not teaching to the test

-Use technology to get to know each student

-Design educational programs according to the eight norms

-Reinvent yourself as a teacher, professor and educator

I like the last one the best.  Most of the others are good, but the last one is probably the most important.  We have to keep learning if we are to be authentic as teachers.  We can’t expect our students to be learners until they see that we too are continuing our learning.

12) As a teacher from a Title I school (nearly 80 percent of our students get free or reduced lunch) I understand how important it is to make sure that students get everything they need to be ready for school.  The Blessings in a Backpack program is not one I had heard of before, but it looks like a cool idea.  Give kids food to take home for the weekend, so they and their family can have real meals to eat.  This will only improve the student’s ability to focus on school work come Monday morning, but also give the school a positive connection to the home.  I am not the biggest Sammy Hagar fan alive, but I think it is very cool that the Red Rocker is giving his time and money to this worthwhile cause.

13) Maximum PC has a great post called Six Totally Essential Photoshop Skills Even Your Mom Should Know.  So of course we should be teaching them to our students.  The six skills are:  Using Action Scripts to Batch Resize, Making Friends With The Pen Tool, Using Levels To Color Correct, Removing Red Eye and Flash Spots, Restoring Scans of Old B/W Photos, and Using The Clone Tool.

14) The Telegraph has a wonderful article about the artist Caravaggio, who they now believe used a Camera Obscura and a primitive photo sensitive mixture to record images he would later paint.  Very cool.

15) The Music for Media blog has a list of tips for improving your voice over recordings.  Mostly about keeping the noise out.

16) Video2Zero has a great list of 7 ways to edit your footage better.  My favorite is numero uno – Cut Tight.

17) This looks like so much fun.  I’ve seen this meme several places on the Internet.  It could be a fun project for the yearbook staff to do in the Spring when the book is done.  Take old photos of your town and hold them up, find the right angle and the right street and then shoot a new shot of the street as it is today.

18) BarelyFitz Designs has several interactive and easy to use CSS lessons like how to use CSS positioning.

19) I thought this was an interesting article about charging for journalism online, from the Neiman Journalism Lab called If They Won’t Pay For Facebook

20) I ran across a new blog PLOMOMEDIA by Stephen Thompson and the best part is Steve’s short videos on Grammar.  He is young, hip and fun – and still cares about grammar.  He is also on YouTube.

21) It seems strange that a comptuer magazine is the one that has to tell journalists to get local.  Computerworld has a well thought out article on how local is the new global.  Basically another retelling of niche.  Niche is everything.

Wow, I hope I haven’t bored anyone to death.  What a long list.  Now, I have cleaning to do before Tuesday – new floor day!

Is Journalism Education The Problem?

I am a both a journalism educator and the product of journalism schools.  And I wonder if the current problems facing newspapers in particular and journalism in general are a product of that education?

I’m not out to slam any j-profs or j-teachers.  I am one and know a great many.  They are all great at what they do – teach the theory and practice of news gathering and news product creation in all its many forms.  What they are not good at is teaching business.

When I was in college and when I worked in the professional media world (newspaper, TV and radio) there was almost always a wall (both figuratively and often literally) between content and advertising.  Most newsroom types didn’t want to get their hands dirty dealing with the business side.  The newsroom’s conception of things was that it is the ad department’s job to pay the bills and it is my job to report the news.

I even remember several ethics classes and discussions where we talked about how important it was to keep a distance from our advertisers, so that we would not be tainted when they were involved in a story we were covering.

When I worked in broadcast, lenslingers usually detested “sales” as the ad department was known.  They were usually creating havoc for us by creating promotional campaigns that required the production department to create promo spots and other materials.  Or they were complaining because we didn’t shoot a local commercial correctly.

The only place I ever worked where there was a certain level of connection to paying the bills by the content creation department was at PBS.  I worked for a medium sized PBS affiliate in Texas and when you work at PBS, you learn about pledge drives, actions and other types of fund-raising.  Everyone understands that their own job is partially supported by that fund-raising.

But even after working at a PBS affiliate for more than two years, it was a shock when I was now in charge of a yearbook and a newspaper when I started teaching.

As the journalism teacher, you are held accountable for the bottom line of every publication you sponsor.  I was terrified.  I did not have an accounting background.  As a college student I had overdrawn my checkbook – twice.

I will say that I was a quick study.  In 15 years, we have only gone into the red twice on the yearbook.  Our newspaper has never done well financially, but we’ve kept it out of danger.  This has always been a struggle for me, both as a journalist and as an educator.  I was not given any professional training in either my journalism classes or my education courses for purchasing equipment, dealing with vendors, approaching advertisers or fund-raising.  And even if I wanted to learn such things in college, there were no courses designed to teach this information.

We need to do a better job of integrating the business department into the journalism curriculum and the education curriculum.  Both journalists and teachers need more business skills than they are given (which is zero).   We should invite the business departments at major universities to teach a course in media funding and revenue creation.  They should also create one for educational purchasing, fund-raising and budgeting.

I think this would go far to change journalists and educators expectations and ability to create funding streams and manage resources based on cost analysis and not pie in the sky, wishful thinking.

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

In the last year I’ve really had to get out of my comfort zone.  It really started when I went to the ASNE Reynolds Journalism program last summer.  When I went to that program, I was stuck in my old ways of thinking.

I was the sage on the stage.  I also forgot what it was like to sit in my student’s seats.  And lastly, I wasn’t learning new things.

This year, I’ve tried to change all that.  Of course I haven’t succeeded at everything, but I’ve seen some successes.

First, it was great to be a student again.  I think we should all do it at least once every five years – go back to school.  Of course it is great if someone else will pay the bill, so I highly recommend every journalism teacher who is serious about teaching journalism – fill out the application for the Reynolds Program.  Time is running out – it is FREE.  They pay for it all, travel, room and board, classroom experience.  It is two weeks of the best training at great universities.

I enjoyed my time as a student.  I miss my fellow ASNE teachers and would go again if they would let us.  We keep in touch and it is great to hear from them, but it is not the same as spending 12-14 hours a day with them.

Second, I’ve tried to become more the “guide on the side,” and less the sage.  Sometimes my students don’t know what to make of it.  They often want me to TELL them what to do, but through gentle guidance and a little pushing, I’ve gotten them to slowly take more of an active role in their own publications.  Some have embraced it more than others.  I hope that next year they can take more control of it.

Third, has been to learn something new.  I’ve ditched iMovie and we’ve gone totally to Final Cut Express.  It was scary at first.  We’ve used iMovie for years.  It was familiar and comfortable.  FCE was harder to get at first, but now we are doing it.  I have also learned the basics of CSS.  HTML is still somewhat new and CSS feels even newer.  I hope to add JavaScript next.

We all need to get out of our comfort zones and try new things.

I Do Read Magazines

Last month I wrote about how I don’t read the newspaper, (the actual printed kind) but today I picked up my skinny magazines from my school mailbox and I realized how much I would miss them if they fold.

I do enjoy reading magazines in their real printed forms.  I can’t imagine reading magazines online in the same way I read paper magazines.

I use magazines in class for so many things.  We talk about fonts, design, photography and usability all via a magazine.  Of course you CAN teach this via online, but it is not the same.  The photos in magazines are bigger and better.  They don’t take any time to download.  Magazines require no batteries and don’t disappear when the Internet connection goes down.

Magazines are more relaxed.  Just flipping through one seems to make the day better.

Magazines are also niche publications.  You read one because you like sports, tech, fashion, cars, or whatever.

So, of course I am sad to see magazines getting thinner by the day.  I can only hope as we head into summer, magazines will start picking up some weight.  (Ads, page count).  Because I’d hate to see one of my favorite magazines shutter forever.

Money Does Make A Difference In Education

I’ve worked in education for more than 15 years both at a junior college and a high school.  And I’ve heard the old canard repeated over and over again, that we have to stop throwing money at education because it doesn’t make a difference.  I’ve come to believe that it is bull-o-ney.  Money makes ALL the difference.

How did I come to this realization?  I’ve taught journalism and media at the same campus for the last 14 years.  The campus is in a working class section of a major metropolitan area.  The students come mainly from blue-collar homes.  Their parents are pipe-fitters, truck drivers, electricians, carpenters, janitors and secretaries.  They are not poor, but they are surely not wealthy.  They can not provide their sons and daughters with private lessons or expensive extras for school.

There are a number of schools in our metro area where the majority of the students do come from wealthy homes.  One school has a two-decade long record of winning a major academic competition both at the state and national level.  Many of their tennis players play on full sized courts in their back yards at home.  And of course their journalism/media lab lacks for nothing.  It has all the most up-to-date hardware and software.  Is is any wonder they dominate the state journalism competition?

This year, our school was able to win a silver medal at CSPA and just missed a gold medal.  We just won a national photography award.  I am very proud of my students, but I am also mindful that our recent success is due to better facilities and funding, especially in photography.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that my students don’t deserve the awards or didn’t work hard to earn them.  They did, but so did many of the students who came before them, but lacked the proper resources to do the job.  And there is the rub.

I’ve had talented photographers before, but they were forced to use equipment that couldn’t get the job done regardless of the talent of the photographer.  Fourteen years ago, my staff had four, tired, old computers and little in the way of software or photographic equipment.  Today we have enough DSLRs to equip all of our staff photographers.  We have a full lab of 20 computers.

We have the tech.  We may not always have the most up-to-date software, but we have tools that are new enough to give my students a chance to learn how to create compelling media.

But it takes a sustained effort and a sustainable money stream.

Too many times in education, we think that equal is what we should be aiming for, when in reality it will never be equal.  What we really need is funding that will give each student the chance to make up for the inequities they bring with them to school.  So many students can’t read the alphabet when they come to kindergarten.  Others don’t speak English.  Many don’t have two parents at home, which means that the one parent they have has less time to help them with homework.

Schools can overcome these problems, but it is not cheap.  It requires money to hire qualified staff, to train or retrain staff, to keep competitive salaries to retain staff and more money for technology, both up to date hardware and appropriate, well-designed, easy to use software. But lower-income, urban schools are often give the same or even lower funding than schools in well to do suburban neighborhoods.  And many teachers flee urban schools for “better” schools as soon as they have sufficient experience, even when pay is less.  Teaching in urban schools can be challenging, when you have so many students who need more help, not less.

But anyone in business knows you don’t get any results you don’t pay for, and too often we are getting exactly what we pay for in education.  And we can’t blame it on local school boards.  They can only work with the resources they have.  It is the states and the Federal government who seem hell bent on starving poor schools, while sending them marching to the firing squads of mandated testing.

I think this also goes far to explain why the US is slowly losing its grip as a world leader.  First, as the tools of technology become cheaper, more of the developing world will have access.  But, if we don’t help our own middle class, working class and working poor rise – we are bound to see our own fortunes fall.  It all starts in the classroom – with teachers and with parents.  If there is one thing that our new president can do to improve our long term economic health – it is improve education.

Cool Links #26: The Recession Edition

Wow – in a really bad way.  February was a bad month with more than 600,000 jobs lost in the US in a month.  Not to mention the Seattle PI and the SF Chronicle talking about or moving towards total shut down.  Everyone is feeling it – education is not exempt.  Budget cuts, hiring freezes, RIFs are all we hear about.  So, lets hope some of these cool links can be a small respite from these woes.  There are some good things out there and lets try to keep looking for the good.

1) The first link is more of the bad though – it seems that a major metro area can be covered with 22 journalists.  I partly agree with this and I also partly disagree.  Part of me says, that really once you strip out a state desk, national, international, fashion, entertainment, financial, etc. – and filter down to just local government, courts, etc. – really, how many journalists do you need to cover what is basically city government?  I think you do need a few more for local sports coverage – but I also think that can be covered with more social networking and building a real community to help cover it all.  But I don’t think ALL of those other journalists will become permanently unemployed.  I think that there are so many underserved, niches out there that a small 2-8 person operation can create all kinds of new information products that will serve those niches.  I think that what we are really seeing is not the death of newspapers, but the shattering of them into their many parts.  No two people ever bought a newspaper to read the same parts and in the modern world they don’t have to and more importantly don’t want to buy or even deal with all the parts they don’t want or need.  Unfortunately this is a painful transformation.  A related post is that we all need to remember that Newspapers Don’t Own Journalism – it can, will and is surviving without newspapers.

2) Mark Hamilton’s been away from his Notes from a Teacher blog for a while, but maybe it was a good break.  He’s back with a powerful post about how we need to change journalism education.  I think he is on with almost all 8 of his bullet points.  But I love #5 the most:

5. We do not put enough emphasis on students trying and failing. The college system (especially scholarships) relies on GPAs; many students are fixated on grades and terrified at the thought of failure, which is where all the interesting learning takes place.

I’ve always thought that too many teachers don’t get this, not just in journalism.  Sometimes we HAVE to fail in order to learn.  It is not about how we fall down, but that we get back up and try not to fall down the same way again. Thanks Mark.

3) If you haven’t seen the destruction of CNBC by Jon Stewart, then you need to.  How scary is it that Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Matt Drudge, the Huffington Post and Real Time are telling us the truth more than the “Real Media.”  Why didn’t the media tell us about these toxic loans before now?

4) The digital photography school has added lesson six about shutters to their excellent Photography 101 site.  The graphics that show the shutters actually working are excellent.

5) The has a really good basics of Javascripting for HTML page.  I am hoping to learn how to do this next summer, so I can add it to my web design class.  Right now I’m teaching HTML and CSS plus using a GUI editor and a CMS.  But we haven’t touched Java yet.

6) We live in a time of sea change, we really have moved from the industrial model to the internet model.  And Steve Yelvington has a post where he really states this well.   This quote really sums it up for me:

Everything is a special case. Get used to that. We can’t get our heads around everything being a special case. That’s far too difficult.

7) Well known Flickr contributor Kris Krug has a really fun conference talk about how to take better photos.  Best take away – set the F$%@n white balance.  Some off color language – NSFS.

Short list this week.  Hope everyone out there is well and keeps a positive outlook.

Yay Us!

If I was London Tipton, I would shout Yay Me!  But it is for our yearbook, so yay us.  Our 2008 yearbook staff won a 2009 National Taylor Publishing “Yearbook-Yearbook” Award of Excellence for Photography, Layout and Design.  Only 240 of the thousands of books that Taylor publishes made the national publication.  My editor this year won for one of her outstanding girls soccer photos.