Department News

How Temple is helping ensure the future of data journalism

Assistant Professor Meredith Broussard works with junior journalism major Greg Pinto as other students look on.

Assistant Professor Meredith Broussard works with junior journalism major Greg Pinto as other students look on. (Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg/Temple University)

A data journalism class at the School of Media and Communication places Temple University at the forefront of a new wave of programs teaching aspiring reporters how to crunch numbers and find new ways to tell stories hidden in data.

Assistant Professor Meredith Broussard, a computer scientist-turned-reporter, said she created her class to teach “the practice of finding stories in numbers and using numbers to tell stories.”

David Herzog, RTF ’84, the academic adviser for the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), sees a growing trend at the nation’s top universities of classes that target the needs of the changing journalism job market.

“A lot of the classes that had been in place for several years are traditional [computer-assisted reporting] classes” that focused on the number analysis, he said. “What’s happening how is we’re seeing more and more schools who are realizing the value of offering classes that go beyond that. Temple’s class … is in the first wave of those trying to do that.”

Throughout the semester, students have learned how to use databases, spreadsheets and visualization tools and are developing the ability to find and clean data for investigative stories. Students will end the semester by creating an interactive piece of data journalism.

Finding truth in numbers
Marcus McCarthy, 21, a junior journalism major from Charlestown, R.I., said data journalism is one of the best things to come out of the media’s shifting identity.

“Although I appreciate the place for anecdotal evidence, many times it isn’t enough to tell a story since the sample size is typically too small. However, accounting for the bias data can bring, statistical evidence can more accurately portray the larger issues facing our society,” he said. “This means that we can now take on the issues that we were previously unable to accurately report on. That prospect is very exciting to me and I see it making a big difference in bettering our society.”

It seems McCarthy has learned one of the key points of Broussard’s class: the existence of data doesn’t always equal truth.

“We tend to think of data as this immutable object that exists outside of any kind of human intervention – because there’s data, that means it’s true,” Broussard explained. “But the thing is, data are created by people. It’s socially constructed by people who ask certain types of questions and who have certain agendas. Understanding that dimension of data helps us understand the numbers and the social context of the numbers.”

Broussard, 39, brings to students her own history of practical experience in data journalism. As a journalist, she has worked on a variety of data-driven projects that provide insight on the reporting methods students will need to be successful in today’s competitive job market.

Professor Broussard lectures from the front of the class.

The spring 2014 semester marks the first time a data journalism class has been taught at Temple. (Photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg/Temple University)

Using her creative and technical skills, Broussard last year created stackedup.org, a site that showcases an algorithm that mines Philadelphia School District data to determine if schools have enough of the right books to equip students with the knowledge to succeed on standardized tests. The articles she wrote based on her analysis prompted the district to reallocate books to schools with the most need, as well as make some staff changes and financial reforms.

Data leads to a Pulitzer
Dylan Purcell, JOUR ’00, a data journalist at The Philadelphia Inquirer for the past eight years, knows the impact this type of work can have. He was part of the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning team that worked on a series of stories about violence in the city’s schools. Purcell dove deep into the school district’s crime statistics during the investigation.

“No one had ever looked at the district’s crime patterns,” he said. “They were touting a big drop in crime, but they weren’t accounting for the enrollment dropping drastically.”

Without hard numbers to support their reporting, “I don’t know if we would have been able to change as much as we did. The data can reinforce your traditional storytelling.”

Purcell has seen his work evolve over the past decade in the way he tells his part of a story. Much of his work includes interactive online graphics and maps – an encouraging welcome mat for the next generation of reporters now learning how to use this technology.

“There is a either a requirement or a strong recommendation to have at least some basic data skills,” Herzog said of the current job market. “Employers are seeing the value of having journalists who know how to do this kind of work, so there is a premium being placed on these skills. This class is very strong in that regard.”


Media Contact:
Jeff Cronin
jcronin@temple.edu
215-204-3324

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New book edition updates history of black hair in America

Over the past decade, the internet has impacted the way to do just about everything – right down to how we talk about hair.

A headshot of Lori TharpsWith such a game-changing phenomenon, Lori Tharps, an assistant professor of journalism at Temple’s School of Media and Communication, released a new edition of a book she co-authored, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, which chronicles how the conversation about black hair has evolved since the 15th century.

Hair Story is still the only book that does that,” she said. “No other book talks about black hair so comprehensively.”

Tharps said it’s much more than a book about hair. It’s about history.

“Black hair represents the black experience is this country,” she said. “As a people we were enslaved and systematically told that our physical features were inferior. We have to unpack those ideals of beauty and respectability when it comes to our hair. Until we as a complete society have done that, it’s never going to be ‘just hair’.”

Tharps, who co-wrote the first edition in 2001 with journalist Ayana Byrd, realized that black hair was going through an undocumented renaissance and warranted an update to their text.

A busy decade
“We committed to telling the history of black hair in America from the past to the present,” said Tharps. “The book ended in 2000 and we [caught up] in 2013. A lot of things have happened in the world of black hair since the beginning of the 21st century.”

Leading the list of what’s affected hair the most in the last decade? The internet.

With the rise of YouTube and social media, the conversation about black hair has opened up to the non-black demographic. Hashtags like #TeamNatural, terms like “co-wash,” (the process of washing with conditioner and not shampoo because of the adverse effects of sulfates) and “protective styling” are branching out to the general public. The internet has also encouraged a new wave of entrepreneurship.

“You see the rise of a lot of female entrepreneurs who have launched businesses that they would’ve never made it had the internet not given them a distribution model,” said Tharps. “These are really big changes in the world of black hair that we felt had to be documented.”

Now, hair care blogs, consultants and manufacturers have found a way to build a business and a brand online.

In two new chapters, Tharps and Byrd bring to light the cultural and political questions many now face within the black community. Is she trying to “look white” with her straight hair? Is her natural hair a political statement? They examine how the opinions of black people, when it comes to their hair, are changing and being vocalized.

“The problem has been that black people have always compared their hair to white hair as if white hair was the standard and we’re always trying to emulate that, which makes sense because they’re in the majority and they told us that’s what we should be trying to do. But if you’re always comparing it, it’s never going to meet up to the standards,” said Tharps.

A window into a culture
Tharps said the book’s topic is vital to cultural understanding in America and is often overlooked in race-related dialogue.

“It’s very easy to not know what’s going on in the world of black hair and yet you come in contact with black hair through friends, colleagues, employees or celebrities,” she said. “If you don’t understand the background you’re missing a large part of our culture and you’re creating the potential for ethnic miscommunication.”

Tharps hopes in the future people will read her book with the same level of interest they have in other cultural phenomonon that has shaped American history . She wants them to be in awe of the past generations’ triumphs.

“I would hope that we get to place where we can just celebrate our hair and not have to justify, explain or apologize for it,” said Tharps. “What I hope, is that we will finally make it to a point where black people’s hair is just hair.”

On the web: hairstoryonline.com.

-By Sofiya Ballin
SMC Communications

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When an Owl becomes a watchdog: Senior exposes alleged spy activities in U.S. Senate

A senior journalism major has broken a major national story for McClatchy she believes exposes an example of federal government officials operating under a veil of secrecy away from the accountability of the public eye.

Ali Watkins stands in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Ali Watkins on “the Hill.”

Ali Watkins, 22, of Fleetwood, Pa., co-wrote a March 4 article (“Probe: Did the CIA spy on the U.S. Senate?”) that details an apparent feud between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over a congressional report on the CIA’s “secret detention and interrogation program.” The article cites sources who say the CIA monitored computers Senate aides used to prepare the report.

The story (and several more yet to come) was the direct result of tips Watkins received through unnamed sources with whom she has developed trusting relationships since she began reporting for McClatchy’s Washington bureau as an intern in May 2013. Since December, Watkins has stayed on with McClatchy as a stringer and hopes to work as a reporter in the nation’s capital after graduating from Temple University’s School of Media and Communication in May.

“This opportunity wouldn’t have come about if my professors hadn’t invested in me first,” said Watkins, who has maintained a full course load and a spot on Temple’s rowing team during her time at McClatchy.

A journalist’s duty
Through her education at Temple, Watkins has come to believe that journalism is an important part of American society.

“To me, this story stands as a testament to watchdog journalism,” Watkins said. “It was made very clear to us right from the beginning that if we didn’t dig into this story and chase every lead, the most important elements of the narrative would unfold behind closed doors, and very likely never be exposed in the public forum. This lead was one of those stories that came with a responsibility; we needed to find the facts and report them clearly in order to hold the powerful accountable. And that’s pretty powerful stuff.”

Andrew Mendelson, chair of the Journalism Department, said a “small, but dedicated” group of students pursue investigative journalism at Temple.

“They are among the most driven and inquisitive of our students, relishing in their role as aggressive watchdogs for the public,” he said. “Ali is one of those amazing students who has both the passion and the talent to pursue complicated, hard-to-access stories and bring them out for the public. She has done this at The Temple News, in classes and now for McClatchy. She shows no fear in tracking down reticent public officials or obscure records or data sets.”

Watkins first landed the McClatchy internship through the connections she forged interning at Philadelphia media outlets, including the Philadelphia Daily News.

“Philadelphia is an awesome place for journalism and making journalism connections,” Watkins said.

As one of five McClatchy interns last year, Watkins was immediately thrust into its coverage of Edward Snowden, a story that broke just a week after she started.

“It was a trial-by-fire learning experience,” she said.

Key to journalism: Show up
The most important thing she learned – to which she credits landing the CIA story – is the importance of being a constant presence on Capitol Hill and around the intelligence community. She would wait outside of locked doors and elevators for government officials to pass by.

“Some people call it stalking. I call it the relentless pursuit of truth,” Watkins said.

But it was her constant presence that built the trust between her and her sources that led these people  to offer key tips that kicked off a two-month McClatchy investigation, resulting in the March 4 story. McClatchy was the first to break the story, leaving renowned media outlets like The New York Times scrambling to catch up.

“In my experience, it’s being genuine,” she said when asked about the key to building these kind of relationships. She noted, however, that there’s “a really challenging line to walk. Where do you draw this line between personal and professional? They need to be able to trust you. You need to show a genuine interest in people and that you’re not going out just to promote yourself. If you just get to know them, people can have really interesting things to say.”

Concrete details
Watkins immediately went to her editor when she received the tip to say, “I have this and I need help because this is going to be huge.” After two weeks of additional reporting, Watkins and the team of reporters with whom she worked were certain they had a solid piece of news. They worked hard to ensure every detail of the story was confirmed.

“Even after we had it watertight, we wanted to make it more watertight,” she said.

Amid classes, studying and rowing practice, Watkins will head down to D.C. every time she has a spare 12 hours to continue working the story; her editors promised to keep her in the mix as it develops.

“Stay tuned,” she said. “It’s going to keep moving.”

- By Jeff Cronin, SMC Communications
jcronin@temple.edu

 

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Temple journalists win 22 statewide student Keystone Awards

Arts and Entertainment editor Patricia Madej and Managing Editor Jenelle Janci make some final edits on a recent production night.

Arts and Entertainment editor Patricia Madej and Managing Editor Jenelle Janci make some final edits on a recent production night at The Temple News. (photo courtesy The Temple News/Andrew Thayer)

By Jeff Cronin
SMC Communications

Temple University’s student journalists dominated the 2014 Student Keystone Press Awards.

Submissions from The Temple News and PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com earned a total of 22 awards, marking the most ever in the history of the awards, which are presented annually by the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

Among the highlights are a first-place win for best website by PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com and two first-place awards in general news and ongoing news coverage for senior journalism major and Editor in Chief Joey Cranney and the staff of The Temple News for coverage of the elimination of seven intercollegiate sports at Temple. Additionally, Max Pulcini, JOUR ’13, won three top prizes (for feature story, public service/enterprise package and sports story) for Rise of the Tigers, a piece he and Matthew Albasi, JOUR ’13, created for PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com on the Kensington football team.

While Andrew Mendelson, chair of the Journalism Department at Temple’s School of Media and Communication, wasn’t there assigning stories or helping with copy editing, he feels this program’s curriculum provides his students the tools to dive deep into the stories of Temple’s campus and its city.

“I am so proud of our students. The number of Keystone Student Press Awards for The Temple News and PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com shows that our approach to journalism is rich and diverse,” says Andrew Mendelson, chair of the Journalism Department at Temple’s School of Media and Communication. “Every day, we try to inspire our students to tell stories that reflect Philadelphia’s complexity through excellent writing, photography, multimedia, illustration and design.”

‘Noteworthy’ year for news
The Temple News
newsroom was buzzing with pride after the announcement of this year’s winners. Its 17 awards eclipse the newspaper’s previous record of nine Keystones in 2007.

The Temple News staff obviously had a lot of newsworthy stuff to cover, including the elimination of seven sports and a standoff at an off-campus residence,” says Student Media Program Director John DiCarlo, JOUR ’98, BTMM ’06. “What I’m most proud of is the staff’s continued commitment to outstanding and thorough reporting. They take a great deal of pride in what they do and it shows.”

Don’t expect The Temple News staff to become complacent as a result their success.

“With recognition comes more responsibility, and I think we now have even more of an obligation to keep delivering top-notch content every week,” says Managing Editor Jenelle Janci, a junior journalism major. “I think our staff can continue the rest of the year with an added confidence without losing an ounce of work ethic. I hope that we keep outdoing ourselves week after week.”

Strong leadership
Janci says a lot of the credit for this year’s showing at the Keystones should go to Cranney and his leadership of the newsroom.

“I’ve never seen anyone more dedicated about the paper in my time working there. Joey was in the office almost every day over the summer, working with our design editor on a layout overhaul, and implemented more structured beat reporting,” Janci says. “Under Joey’s leadership, we also added a new weekly meeting to discuss what content goes on the front page, allowing content other than general news to be on the front page for the first time since my time here. There’s been an added scrutiny on content with Joey at the head, but that’s only made our content better – and I think our performance at the Keystones proves that.”

Cranney said it was as simple as committing to what he calls “true journalism.”

“The first thing I did as editor was to bring back our mission statement and put it in its old spot underneath our flag on the front page,” he says. “Now, next to The Temple News at the top, it reads, ‘A watchdog for the Temple University community since 1921.’ I made it clear to our staff that being a watchdog to the community was our primary mission and they’ve responded.”

Janci says the devotion to excellence runs throughout the staff, calling her section editors, “the best of the best. I’m consistently impressed with the content that everyone is generating. You can tell your staff members a million times that they’ve done a great job, but it’s always nice to have that outside recognition.”

Five more for journalism capstone course
Down at Temple University Center City and the PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com newsroom, another five Keystones were collected by the online news site, which is the capstone course for all journalism majors.

Students gather around a computer in the PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com newsroom.

Students gather in the PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com newsroom. (Photo by Neil Ortiz)

Professor Chris Harper, who co-directed the program with Associate Professor Linn Washington until this year (when Assistant Professor George Miller took the helm) says the website stands out from other collegiate news sites because it covers communities outside of campus.

“That’s what sets it apart,” Harper says. “It doesn’t just focus on college students and works as a bridge between the university and the neighborhoods.”

The site was redesigned this past year by Neil Ortiz, the department’s technical support specialist, and Todd Broadbent, SMC’s senior web developer.

Harper wasn’t surprised to see Rise of the Tigers receive accolades in three different categories.

Rise of the Tigers takes place in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city. It is so uplifting to see what can be done when residents come together. People in places like Kensington want what everyone wants–a safe neighborhood and a better future for their kids. That is what makes the story of the football team resonate on so many levels,” Harper says.

To Washington, the awards reveal the importance of the hands-on learning that takes place in the Journalism Department.

“The real-world experience that students receive in PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com provides tangible skills and intangible insights that aid them in life whether they pursue journalism or another career,” he says.

Full list of Temple’s winning entries

  • Website First Place – PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com
  • Website Honorable Mention – The Temple News
  • General News, First Place, Joey Cranney (JOUR) – University to eliminate seven intercollegiate sports. The Temple News
  • General News, Honorable Mention, John Moritz (JOUR) – Student recovered alive from Willington after 17 hours. The Temple News
  • Ongoing News Coverage,  First Place, Staff of The Temple News – Temple eliminates seven Division I sports.
  • Ongoing News Coverage, Second Place, Staff of PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com – Philadelphia School Closings: A Special Report
  • Public Service/Enterprise Package, First Place, Max Pulcini (JOUR) – Rise of the Tigers. PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com
  • Feature Story, First Place, Max Pulcini (JOUR) – Rise of the Tigers. PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com
  • Personality Profile First Place. Erin Edinger‐Turoff (JOUR) - Her sister’s keeper. The Temple News
  • Personality Profile Second Place. Claire Sasko (JOUR) – Eight-year vet returns to classroom. The Temple News
  • Personality Profile Honorable Mention. Luis Fernando Rodriguez (JOUR) – Traditional methods breeds contemporary topics. The Temple News
  • Sports Story, First Place, Max Pulcini (JOUR) – Rise of the Tigers. PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com
  • Editorial Second Place. The editorial board of The Temple News
  • Column First Place. Grace Holleran (BYR). The Temple News
  • Column Second Place. Jenelle Janci (JOUR). The Temple News
  • Column Honorable Mention. Jerry Iannelli (ADV). The Temple News
  • Review Second Place. Brendan Menapace (JOUR) – Fans and family. The Temple News
  • Review Honorable Mention. Dave Zisser (JOUR) - Aussie band adapts to U.S. scene. The Temple News
  • Cartoon/Graphic Illustration Honorable Mention. Katie Kalupson (Community/Regional Planning). The Temple News
  • Sports Photo Honorable Mention. Hua Zong (JOUR) – Hurdle. The Temple News
  • Photo Story Second Place. Kara Milstein (FOX) – Rowing practice. The Temple News
  • Layout and Design Honorable Mention. Staff of The Temple News – 2013 Temple basketball preview

 

 

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TABJ president hopes to mold future journalists

TABJ president Courtney Burrell

TABJ president Courtney Burrell

By Sofiya Ballin
SMC Communications

Courtney Burrell, 21, of Baltimore is a senior journalism major and the current president of Temple’s Association of Black Journalists (TABJ). As we celebrate Black History Month, we talked with her about the role the organization plays within the SMC and Temple community.

What made you join TABJ?
I switched to journalism from education my first semester of my junior year, I realized I didn’t know a lot of people in SMC. I thought TABJ would be the best way to get to know people and network.

How’d you like the switch?
I liked it. The teachers seemed very helpful and wanted to make sure my writing was perfect. When I started TABJ, I applied for an executive board position. I was programming co-chair. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle it, but everybody was just so welcoming. They made me feel like part of the family and it was great way to get my feet wet with journalism.

How’d you become president?
We had a lot of people graduating last year and Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown (TABJ president 2012-2013) basically asked who wanted to step up to the plate. I didn’t necessarily think I would be able to do it.

What kind of role do you feel TABJ plays within SMC?
We can play a larger role when it comes to reaching out to students but we’ve reached out to a couple of professors and they like what we do. Dean Boardman is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and we’ve reached out to him. He’s very supportive of us.

He really wants us to go to our national conference in Boston this summer. One of our co-advisors, Professor Maida Odom, is really helpful. She came to one of our programs last semester and she said it was one of the best things she’s been to on Temple’s campus.

What does TABJ offer to students of color?
We offer networking with a lot of professionals at PABJ and NABJ who are always looking to help students of color because they know how hard it is coming up.

TABJ has won a few awards. Tell me about them.
We won student chapter of the year for 2013 and we’ve won it multiple times in the past. It’s one of our biggest accomplishments because it’s on a national scale under NABJ.

Do you think that black journalists get enough recognition?
It can definitely be stressed more in the classroom. Professors don’t really go in-depth, unless you’re in an African-American studies course.

Who in your field do you aspire to be?
Honestly, Haniyyah Sharpe-Brown she is just… IT. She has two kids, she’s married and she has her own communications company. She shows that a woman of color can excel in the field if you are dedicated to it. If you network, if you put the time into it, you can make it happen.

And she was TABJ’s president last year?
Yes, she was pregnant and still president. She left and had the baby, we had e-board meetings and she would be on the phone calling from the hospital. She doesn’t let anything stop her.

What are your plans for the future?
Currently, I want to go back into the education field, but I want to teach kids the importance of writing. I want to incorporate my journalistic skills. In SMC’s high school journalism workshop class I was helping kids with their school publication and I want to incorporate that in whichever school I teach in. Eventually, I could see myself being a journalism professor but I want to start smaller. I want to give students of color the education that I had. It’s not fair that just because of someone’s zip code they can’t have a better education.

Tell me about the TABJ newsletter, The Legacy.
We basically write about things that happen in the Temple and Philadelphia community. Anything that’s going on that we think our readers would want to know about we try to highlight in The Legacy. We like to have a bunch of different writers.

Why should someone join TABJ?
If you want to join a group of people that are the same major as you, it’s a good way to bond and get closer with the Temple community. If I wasn’t a part of TABJ I wouldn’t have known a lot of journalism majors. In journalism you have to have someone to lean on, it’s good to have friends that you can talk to about the crazy stuff you have to go through in classes.

Do you think that people think TABJ is exclusively for black people?
YES. People ask me that all the time. We’re not just for students of color, we welcome anyone. Any major. Any ethnic background.

For more information on TABJ:

Web: http://tabj.weebly.com/
Twitter: @TempleTABJ
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/113077024862/

 

 

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Be who you are: SMC duo to document their cross-country trip to spread positive message

Click to view slideshow.

Two best friends, one a current student at Temple’s School of Media and Communication and the other a young alumnus, are in a better place nowadays.

It’s the result, they say, of self-discovery; of finally being comfortable in their own skin.

As a teenager, Levi Schenk, a senior media studies and production major, worked hard to be able to afford going out with people he thought he wanted as friends. Overweight and uncertain of his place in the social confusion of high school, he tried hard to be someone he wasn’t.

Now 120 pounds lighter, and much more comfortable in his own skin (even though there’s less of it), Schenk exudes an aura of confidence.

Jon Ristaino, JOUR ’12, too, tried to be someone else. A gay man, he exclusively dated women through college and nearly married one.

“I had been lying about who I was my entire life,” Ristaino said. “I could do so much more once I let that go. I’m a lighter person. The way I walked, the way I talked, the way I moved—everything was calculated so as not to come off a certain way.”

And now, they’re taking their message across the country and back again during the semester break, creating a documentary of their personal journey and other Americans who have decided to be who they truly are.

Road trip!
In recent weeks, they have planned out their timeline to be able to make it to Los Angeles and back in just 26 days (Schenk has to be back in Philly for the start of the spring semester). They’ve searched newspapers, have reached out to community organizations and have hit Craigslist looking for people who have overcome a major life obstacle.

Schenk and Ristaino hope their efforts can result in more than a documentary; they think it can be a movement.

“We want to remind people that the little things you can do for one another make the most impact. I was on campus and somebody gave me a balloon that said ‘I would hire you.’ It’s dorky, but it put a smile on my face and put me in a good mood for the rest of the day,” Schenk said.

On Dec. 5, they spread their message of “Be Who You Are” with flowers. They recruited some friends and passed out flowers in Center City tagged with their mantra and their website’s URL. They gave each person two, so that they could pass on the joy to someone else. Schenk called it “a flash mob random act of kindness.”

The documentary, which will be filmed by journalism major Aaron Stevens, begins on Christmas night. They shove off the next morning from their hometown in Chester County.

Schenk says this documentary is just the beginning.

“Once we’re done with this, what else will we not be afraid to go after? Each time you learn things and then you continue to go for bigger things. Most people live in fear of it.”

To follow their journey, visit jonandleviadventure.com. To support their efforts, click here.


Media Contact:
Jeff Cronin
jcronin@temple.edu

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Pulitzer winner: Multimedia skills learned at Temple key to journalistic success

Kurtis Lee recounts the night he and his colleagues produced Pulitzer-winning journalism. (by Daniel Pelligrine)

Kurtis Lee recounts the night he and his colleagues produced Pulitzer-winning journalism. (by Daniel Pelligrine)

A Pulitzer Prize winner and Temple alumnus said breaking into journalism shouldn’t be a fearful prospect for Temple students, as long as they market themselves in the right way.

Kurtis Lee, JOUR ’09, was part of The Denver Post team that won journalism’s biggest prize in 2013 for breaking news reporting for coverage of the July 2012 movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. The eighth School of Media and Communication alumnus to have won a Pulitzer returned to campus Nov. 14 and 15, speaking with five different classes along the way.

“Everyone should brand themselves as a multi-platform journalist,” Lee said in a session with Professor Chris Harper’s “Journalism and the Law” class. “The key to getting into the industry is having more than one skill.”

Lee’s ability to tap into a diverse skill set was called upon on that tragic night as he gathered information in the aftermath of the shooting.

The second Post journalist on the scene as people were still coming out of the theater, Lee sprang into action with his smartphone.

“Instead of grabbing a notebook, I grab my phone,” he said. “I’m tweeting the news right there.”

One student asked Lee if having his nose in his Twitter account all night was detrimental to conducting interviews. Lee admitted to focusing on his phone people recounted their experience, but said it’s just another skill that journalists need to have.

“When news happens, it happens on Twitter,” he said.

Twitter was the best way to break the news, since the next print edition of the Post was more than a day away.

Lee said he fully realized the importance of a diverse skill set on the day his colleagues were being taught how to use Final Cut Pro. He found a new confidence “when you’re in the newsroom and they’re bringing in people to teach skills I already know.”

‘We’re all humans’
His conversation with the students soon segued from technology to matters of covering life and death when one student asked about the human element in reporting tragedy.

“When you’re in the moment of reporting, adrenaline kicks in,” Lee said.

That doesn’t mean the weight of the event didn’t press on the minds of those covering the shooting.

“We’re all journalists, but we’re all humans,” he said, noting the Post offered counseling services to its staff.

In the months since the shooting, Lee has been covering gun legislation in Colorado. He was asked if witnessing Aurora’s aftermath first hand has affected his work.

“I have feelings on gun control, but I don’t put it out in my reporting,” he said.

 

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Prof. Creech explores media’s role in covering military action

During the Vietnam War, the American military performed a series of secret military campaigns over Cambodia, dropping more than 2 million tons of bombs. But, according to a new article by Brian Creech, assistant professor of journalism, the American public didn’t know much about it because of the way mainstream media, specifically Time magazine, covered the war.

Creech2Web“A sense of mystery surrounded mainstream American reporting from the country,” Creech writes in “The Rising Tide of War: Discourses of American Military Power in Time,” which was published in Communication Review. “Officials denied military operations and cast a fog of uncertainty upon the military operations there that journalists tried to penetrate at their own peril.”

As a combined result of the government’s unwillingness to open up, and some media outlets’ unwillingness to dig deeper, “the mainstream American press, as exemplified by Time, served as a field of discourse whose conventions and practices shrouded military operations in a continued secrecy that prevented a sustained critique against U.S. military power from emerging,” Creech writes in the article.

Creech first became interested in Cambodia while working in the country as a teaching and program assistant for a University of Georgia travel-writing course.

“When in Cambodia, you can’t help but be struck by the way in which violence and war have impacted the culture, politics and daily life of that country,” he says. “Tourism is the main economic driver of the country now, and a significant portion of that tourism is dedicated to sites like killing fields, secret prisons and memorials dedicated to mine victims.”

He wondered how these bombings were portrayed in the American press and if they continued because the American people didn’t truly understand what was happening.

“For contemporary journalists, Cambodia is an important cautionary tale, where government obfuscation and a focus on military tactics obscured the scale and possible long-term consequences of the bombing,” Creech says. “For war reporters and international correspondents alike, transparency about the news-gathering process shifts public knowledge and debate around military intervention, allowing for more nuanced and careful analysis than what Time was writing about Cambodia.”

-Jeff Cronin, SMC Communications

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SMC Aspiring Scholar: Lora Strum

This Q&A by SMC student Lauren Ruhnke, a communication studies major, is one in a series of interviews with the School of Media and Communication’s top scholars. SMC Aspiring Scholars are students recognized for their scholastic achievement through university-wide or SMC admissions scholarships, majors of distinction or membership in Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communication Association Honor Society, or Kappa Tau Alpha, a college honor society that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism and mass communication.


Lora StrumLora Strum is a freshman journalism and political science double major, and is presently pursuing a French minor. Hailing from Washington, D.C., she has an extensive background of civic involvement and philanthropic efforts within the local community. She is a Ron Brown Scholarship recipient, and is presently the chapter leader of the program’s Philadelphia branch. She was recently honored at the 2013 Emmy Awards, where she was presented with the National Academy of TV Arts and Sciences Mike Wallace Scholarship.

 

LR: Why did you choose the School of Media and Communication?

LS: My mother was a journalism major, and I love the excitement of breaking a story, of being the one who knows the information first. I also strive to tell the story of those who can’t otherwise speak up, and get out what people like to ignore. This is why I am especially interested in broadcast journalism, I think it is a very personal way to connect with people, since they are getting the story by reading your words or looking at your face.

 

LR: What are you passionate about?

LS: In the field of journalism, I am passionate about the injustice of inequality, and I hope to shed light on the social interactions between races that are often ignored. It should not take a tragedy like the Treyvon Martin case to accentuate race conflict. I also believe that there is a need for more diverse female representation in the news media, people need to know you can be a woman and still do this job.

 

LR: Are you involved with any community, philanthropy or student-run organizations?

LS: In my hometown I was a volunteer for the Alexandria chapter of the Obama campaign, I worked closely with the local domestic violence shelter and I was a volunteer dance teacher in D.C. rec centers. I feel it is very important to expose children to the arts regardless of their economic status. At Temple, I am the Greek life beat reporter for The Temple News, the publicity chair for the Temple Association of Black Journalists, and I work various positions and anchor for Temple Update.

 

LR: If you could change one aspect of media today what would it be?

LS: I would change the way modern journalism is using social media. I don’t want to see a tweet on CNN; that’s not news. I hope to reevaluate and improve the “civilian journalism” filter.

 

LR: Tell me about one of your weekends this semester.

LS: I attended the News and Documentary Television Emmys at the Lincoln Center in New York City in order to receive a scholarship for a piece I worked on in high school. The title of my project is “Poverty 2.0,” and it was awarded the Dr. Cornell West multimedia award. It is a human-interest long form documentary journalism piece that exposes the impoverished area that is often overlooked within the rich town of Alexandria, Va.

 

LR: What do you consider to be your super power? What is your kryptonite?

LS: My super power would be to read minds—I finish peoples’ sentences because I’m impatient and I can’t wait for them to finish. My weakness would probably be my impatience—I never wait, which works in news, but sometimes works against me in other aspects of life.

 

 

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Student photographers document South Africa experience with exhibit

Click to view slideshow.

As senior journalism major Ian Watson prepared to study abroad in South Africa, he realized how little people know about the country in which he would spend his summer.

“Do they have Internet there?” they asked.

“Don’t get eaten by lions,” they warned.

It was the rampant misconceptions about South African daily life that inspired Watson to document the everyday people of Johannesburg with his camera.

He is one of four student photojournalists who have compiled their work from their study abroad experience into an on-campus exhibit entitle “Johannesburg,” which runs Nov. 13 to 20 in the Tyler School of Art’s Triangle Gallery, 2001 North 13th Street. The gallery’s public hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

A special reception is set for Wednesday, Nov. 20, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., during which Watson, junior journalism majors Meaghan Pogue and Kelsey Dubinsky, and Rebekah Flake, a graduate student in photography at Tyler, will discuss their work.

Thirteen students from throughout Temple participated in the South Africa program this summer, which is run out of the School of Media and Communication Study Away Office. Their work was part of the South Africa program’s social media coverage, which won a professional EPPY Award this fall from Editor & Publisher magazine. (See related story.)

Through the lens
Each photographer chose his or her own theme for the projects.

Pogue used South Africa’s Hare Krishna temples as a way to showcase the post-apartheid era.

“Despite its transition to a racial integrated society, South Africa is still plagued by crippling segregation,” she says. “It seemed to me that inhabitants of neighborhoods were still determined by skin tone, and consequently wealth. It was very rare to see people of more than one race in one area. Inside the doors of the Hare Krishna temples however, all this was vastly different.”

Her images reveal people of all walks of life worshiping together.

Pogue says it was a “form of unity that appeared unique in such a compartmentalized, segregated country.”

Dubinsky’s photos document a youth ballet program, as well as the people of Johannesburg suburb of Kliptown, “both focused on showing the ways that people were making the best of their lives even though they were not from the best situations or living environments.”

She says practicing photojournalism in South Africa, “made me feel more comfortable with my subjects in photography, and also just made me more aware of myself, because for once I was the minority. I really feel like it was able to take me out of my comfort zone.”

In turn, the people she photographed welcomed her into their community.

“I fell in love with Africa, and how friendly the people were that I met. They really just wanted to show me what their lives were really like. They were very open to me,” Dubinsky says.

Their work in South Africa impacted the students both personally and professionally.

“I felt like I was in a photographic slump before I went, and it helped to shake me out of it,” Watson says.

A student of both journalism and anthropology, Pogue says she combined her skills from each of her interests.

“I couldn’t even fathom limiting these brand new images and sights to the four corners of a frame. I had to submerge myself to understand the experience before I could reduce the information into a picture,” she says.

The 2013 South Africa Study Away Program was led by faculty directors Karen M. Turner and Linn Washington of the Department of Journalism.

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