Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A lousy week for journalists -- and j-students

KANSAS CITY - What a week to be at the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention! Here I am with all these eager young college students, many of whom harbor dreams of entering the field of journalism in the next year or two, and there’s nothing but carnage in the industry.

As David Carr writes in The New York Times this morning, “It’s been an especially rotten few days for people who type on deadline."

Just consider:
  • The Christian Science Monitor announced Tuesday it would cease publication of its weekday print edition.
  • On the same day Time Inc., publisher of Time magazine, Fortune, People and Sports Illustrated, announced it was cutting 600 jobs and reorganizing its staff.
  • Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the country, revealed plans to lay off 10 percent of its work force, as many as 3,000 people.
  • On Monday, the Tribune Company announced it was cutting 75 more jobs from the newsroom of The Los Angeles Times, leaving it approximately half the size it was at the turn of this century.
  • And The Star-Ledger of Newark, the 15th-largest paper in the country, declared plans to reduce its editorial staff by 40 percent.

All this came amid news that the nation's daily newspapers saw circulation decline more steeply than anticipated. On Monday the Audit Bureau of Circulations reported that average weekday circulation was 38,165,848 at 507 of the nation's leading dailies in the six months ending in September, a 4.6 percent decline from 40,022,356 a year earlier. Up till then, advertising revenue had risen quarter after quarter.

Here at the Marriott in downtown KC, where nearly 1,800 students and advisers involved in college media are gathered for five days of workshops and panel discussions, we urge students to develop new skills. We encourage them to "think multimedia," we teach them how to create interactive maps, audio slide shows and video reports for the Web so that they'll be able to do things that 25-year veteran reporters and photographers can't. We tell them they need to be flexible, creative and skilled in many areas to survive and thrive.

But even with such new media skills, where are they going to get jobs? News Web sites are struggling too. And online publications do not appear to be the savior of their print counterparts.

As Carr notes in his column, "More than 90 percent of the newspaper industry’s revenue still derives from the print product, a legacy technology that attracts fewer consumers and advertisers every single day."

Two weeks ago, the Times and other news media reported that online revenue at newspaper sites was stalling. In the second quarter, it was down 2.4 percent compared with last year, to $777 million, according to the Newspaper Association of America.

The impact here in Kansas City is palpable. Only three media companies sent recruiters to the convention, down from about 14 in previous years. Why should they meet with potential employees when they have no jobs to fill?

And still we talk here about the power of "capital-J" journalism. We encourage our students to seek out the truth, to expose wrongs, to, as the old saying goes, "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

What will students here be thinking as they head home Saturday and Sunday after sitting through session after session and speech after speech? Will they mull over the words of inspiration and the heartfelt advice from media professionals and journalism educators? Will they pledge to develop new skills and embrace new media?

Or will they simply think about changing majors. Maybe philosophy isn't so impractical after all. At least opportunities for philosophers aren't evaporating before their eyes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Study multimedia in Italy, N. Ireland this summer

In case you're wondering why I've posted so little lately, it's because I've been devoting a lot of time to negotiating an agreement between San Francisco State University and the Institute for Education in International Media to offer multimedia study-abroad programs next summer. The deal is done!

In 2009 SFSU and ieiMedia will co-sponsor month-long programs in Urbino, Italy (June 30-July 30) and Armagh, Northern Ireland (July 15-August 16).

Students will be able to earn 3 units of journalism credit through the SFSU College of Extended Learning. Students and recent graduates from all universities and majors are welcome to apply. The application deadline is Feb. 1.

The institute, a pioneer in converged media education, has been taking students abroad since 2001.

The programs in Armagh and Urbino are a continuation of the ieiMedia philosophy of taking students to communities that are off the beaten tourist track, allowing them to immerse themselves in the local culture. Students will learn various aspects of digital storytelling -- including photography, video, writing for the Web, blogging and Web design -- and will produce an online multimedia documentary about the local community (see and for examples of work from previous years). Students will also study intercultural communication and Irish history and culture (Armagh) and Italian language (Urbino).

The cost of the program is $4,475 plus airfare. For more information and an application for Urbino contact; for Armagh contact

About Armagh, N. Ireland
Situated on the Irish Republic’s border, Armagh is a city rich in culture and history. It was here that St. Patrick reportedly built the first stone church in 445 and two cathedrals in his name still tower over the city. With 15,000 residents, Armagh has a wide range of attractions: museums, national parks, historic castles and houses, a modern theater, a university, Ireland’s only planetarium, and numerous restaurants and pubs. Activities include golf, fishing, bicycling, and hiking. Armagh is served by public transportation and is one hour from Belfast, two from Dublin, and three from Galway.

Classes will be held in the AmmA Centre, a multimedia creative learning centre in Armagh. Students will live in the Armagh City Youth Hostel,a modern facility with private baths. Some meals will be provided, and students will have access to a large communal kitchen, as well as laundry facilities.

About Urbino, Italy

Urbino is a picturesque Renaissance hill town and the capital of the Marche region, a beautiful but little-touristed region of Central Italy. The city’s impressive Ducal Palace houses one of the most important collections of Renaissance paintings in the world. The artist Raphael was born in Urbino (in 1483) and visitors can tour his family home, which is now a museum. Other attractions include a small botanical garden, a medieval church and a 14thcentury fortress offering stunning views of the town and the surrounding hills.

The University of Urbino, founded in 1506, will provide classroom space as well as housing. Students will live in a residence hall; all meals in the university dining facility are included.