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Hello Franklin Hall, future of student media

When I was home last week, Stater adviser Carl Schierhorn gave me a personal tour of Franklin Hall. (In hindsight, as in right now that I’m finally penning this post, I should have taken photos and video and given you all a bird’s eye view. I’ll chock it up to stupidity and the fact that I was officially “on vacation” and instead just send you over to the JMC Franklin Hall slide show about move-in progress and the archived stories about the building at the site.)

Tomorrow (er, it’s midnight, so Today), is the first day of classes in the new journalism building. The Stater is continuing production from it’s Taylor Hall hub for at least the next few weeks, while the converged newsroom is being finished. Meanwhile, TV2 has set up shop in the former Student Media business office next door to the Stater newsroom. Not a perfect situation, but a much closer relationship than was even a pipe dream a decade ago.

This is the beginning. No more StaterOnline. No more tv2.kent.edu. Welcome to the future of student media, Kent State students: Kent News Net. One product, always on, always improving.

Though the layout looks a bit rough right now and hiccups pop up throughout the site, the content of which is mostly the annual orientation issue, you get the idea.

There’s Black Squirrel Radio podcasting and TV2 newscasts right alongside the Stater’s stories. Even prominent linkage to the Burr (student magazine). Add to it helpful links to other key KSU sites — like Flashline (the all-important hub of Student resources online) — and Stater.you action on the sidebar, and it’s definitely a winner.

As I walked the dusty halls of Franklin with t-minus a week to classes in the building, I was more than a bit jealous. I want the big collaborative classrooms and shiny new computer labs. I want the converged newsroom, with its conference rooms and single assignment desk. I want windows in the journalism classrooms (there were NONE in Taylor Hall, the faculty and Stater hogged all the windows on the first floor of the building). Amazing things are going to come out of those rooms. And though I’m excited about the opportunities for future KSU grads, I’m a bit sad I wasn’t able to partake. (And no, as I told every single person who saw and subsequently asked me during my tour of Franklin Hall, grad school is not on my horizon for a very, very, very, very long time, if ever.)

Though the new building is amazing, there are some things that will be missed:

  • Taylor Hall is central to campus. Franklin’s out in BFE comparatively, at the very corner of campus. (But, it’s a heck of a lot closer to Starbucks and Chipotle, and even the bars for those after-a-long-night-of-production celebrations.)

  • The faculty are in what Carl called “pods,” and though they might like their bigger offices off the main drag, I think the relationship with their students will change as a result. How many great conversations did I have from the hallway door of my professor’s offices while I was on my way in or out of the Stater? How much great advice did I happen upon because I stopped in to ask a non-pressing question or simply say, “What’s new?” as I meandered past. Professor hallway is no more. Now, students will have to deliberately go out of their way, to another floor even, to talk to the professors. Likewise, it will be harder for the profs to track down students who won’t be hanging down the hall in the Stater office or in the JMC office reading room area (which is now in an entirely separate area). How many mentor relationships won’t be sparked? I don’t know. But this seems like probably the biggest loss to me. Then again, the professors will probably be more productive with fewer student interruptions, so who knows.
  • The Stater loses its window to campus. Not only is it in BFE, it doesn’t have a window overlooking the commons. I never realized how important that wall of windows was until I worked in an office without a single window to the outside. Now, granted, this isn’t the case for the new newsroom, but there will be some loss in identity to student media when thousands of kids on their tours of campus aren’t marched past the Stater newsroom on their way to the May 4 memorial. There’s something to be said of walking past the newsroom. Even for non-readers, you couldn’t help but notice the Stater existed because you saw it every time you went past.
  • There’ll also probably be fewer pick-up games of football, frisbee, four square or kickball — and when the weather was ripe, lunch tray sledding down Blanket Hill — than there were when I was there. This was an amazing de-stresser, not to mention a good way to get to know each other beyond the confines of class and work.
  • And finally, there will be no 100 Taylor Hall. I know it’s silly to be sad about that, but I am. The next time I’m on campus, the room where I spent more time during college than anywhere else combined won’t exist. At least not in the way I know and love it. It was hard for me to be there last week and think about that. All the amazing fun times and friends I made, all the great stories we produced, all the days I was proud and the conversations I wish never had to happen, but which made me stronger. All I’ll have the next time I walk past those windows is my memories.

I realize that list seems longer than the benefits. I assure you it’s not. I’m just a bit nostalgic, that’s all.

And on that note, I’m out.

Good luck to all the Stater staffers, who probably haven’t even sent tomorrow’s paper and as is tradition missed deadline by a long shot tonight, the first night of daily production. And Godspeed to the next generation of student media at Kent State.

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