about this sitesee Meranda's resumesee clips and work sampleskeep in touch

Archive for the 'Akron' Category

ABJ managing editor’s departure strikes a chord

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

The managing editor at the Akron Beacon Journal is leaving to be the editor at the Evasville Courier-Press.

Mizell Stewart was the top editor at the Beacon since last fall when they randomly announced the editor would be leaving. This after being sold by Knight-Ridder, then bought and then sold, all which were followed by a round of lay-offs that cut about a quarter of the newsroom.

Though I’ve never worked for the Beacon, I have had many friends who did, including several during or since that transition. And from my understanding the morale of the newsroom is pretty much non-existant these days; their belief in the future of journalism is in question. I’m sure there are exceptions to that rule, but from what I’ve been told, of late it became a depressing place to work.

So, when my editor pointed out this announcement on Friday night, it made me sad. The Beacon needs stability and strong leadership now more than ever. He didn’t understand why it would trouble me to hear of another shake-up. But I grew up reading the Beacon Journal. The ABJ is my hometown paper, and everybody has a soft spot for their hometown paper. I was extremely fortunate because my paper was so high quality. The journalism they produced mattered, and the stories they chased changed things. It’s the paper that made me believe in quality journalism and the nobility of pursuing this as a career. It’s still the place I go to find out news about the people and places I grew up with, but sadly, it’s not at all the same paper I grew up reading. So my sincere hope is this is the last change in editorial leadership for awhile, and the new editor, Bruce Winges, who is apparently a long-time newspaperman (much of it at the Beacon), can turn around not just the morale but the decline. And I hope he redesigns the Web site, too.

(Oh, I added that last comment and then read the whole story which says there’s an Ohio.com redesign in the works for July! Thank you journalism Gods.)

FYI: Evansville, according to the job posting for the editor position, has a circulation of about 67,000 daily and 89,000 Sunday. The Beacon Journal’s circulation is about 134,000 daily and 174,000 Sunday, according to the Beacon’s article.

(As an aside, I would like to see paper’s including their online viewership / unique visitors per day in these things. It’s interesting to me, just from what I’ve heard from other friends at different papers and comparatively here, how the online numbers can be really disproportionate to the print circulation. Some smaller papers have online viewerships on par or even higher than papers twice their size.)

More on the announcement:
The Beacon’s take and new editor announcement or The Courier-Press’s really long story about Stewart’s arrival.

Profs play ’20 questions about your new job’ game

Monday, April 16th, 2007

Sorry for the lack of updates. The last few weeks, especially last week for some reason, have been pretty hectic and draining on me. I think it might be my attempts to squeeze way too much into too little time. Perhaps that is why it seems time has sped up rather than slowed down as I get more into my job. On the bright side, I had my 90-day review and it went well. Looks like I don’t suck too bad; they’re keeping me around. ;)

A few quick updates, just to catch everyone, including myself, up to speed.

I went home this weekend. Home, home, to Akron, Ohio. It was my mother’s birthday, and I surprised her with an unannounced visit (that took a lot of maneuverability on my part and included working Easter).

The highlights of the weekend included surprising my mom at dinner with flowers (that should have been delivered to her office but the company lost my order!); catching up with my sisters, mom and dad; seeing the Monet in Normandy exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art; hearing a ridiculously funny comic at a comedy club; not dying in perhaps the most narrowly avoided high-speed, late-night highway covered in snow accident of all time; spending time with my dog; hanging out with all my Stater friends; finding out the Stater/KSU student media did awesome in the SPJ regional competition; catching up with all the JMC professors; finally seeing my diploma — four months after graduation.

This morning/afternoon I made the rounds in Taylor Hall talking to all the professors. I swear I was asked at least half a dozen of the same questions related to the Gannett “information center” and how it applies at my paper. Who posts to the Web? Does it go through an editor? What do you post? When? Do you write the same or different for online/print? Who writes the headlines? Are you doing video/shooting stills/doing Podcasts/blogs/etc.? Why/why not? Are other people/citizens doing those things? Who edits them? Do you have all those different “desks”? How does that work? Is it really 24 hours? and so forth.

Then there were the questions more pertinent to me/my daily job: Do you like it? The city? The paper? Your roommates? How about your co-workers — mostly older or younger? how many reporters? who’s your editor? do you like them? What all are you responsible for covering? Is it mostly assigned or school board meetings or do you do more enterprise and issues? What’s a typical day for you? How many hours do you work each week? How many stories do you write? What’s your favorite that you’ve done so far? How long do you think you’ll stay? Where do you think you’ll look next? (The last two questions, just in case my editors happen to read this, which I don’t think they do but you never know, are very premature. I’m about to sign a 12-month lease. This means I intend to stay for at least another year. So relax. I’m not jumping ship.)

I felt like I should have prepared a handout with frequently asked questions. (The last time I felt like that, incidentally, was when I was going through my round of job interviews and I felt as if I was being asked the same half dozen questions or variations on them from every single person.) It was funny because they all asked almost identical questions at first. They all seemed really eager to see how I was faring in the real world. I’ve said before that I think I’m their guinea pig in terms of “how does a KSU graduate with the talents and skills employers say they’re looking for fare when she leaves the confines of college and starts working for a newspaper company?” Sometimes it makes me afraid to answer because I think they might take it at face value and alter their curriculum or something crazy based on my personal experience. At the least, I know from my own classes and hearing about other grads, my job will become an anecdote for their future students.

But I guess, as Jan put it when we met for coffee, they are all journalists — former reporters and editors. Asking questions is what they do best. But seriously, I felt like we were playing 20 Questions about your new job. Still, it was nice to catch up with everyone and hear about the Franklin Hall excitement/confusion/concerns.

It’s also very surreal to be back in the Stater newsroom, a place where I spent the majority of my collegiate career, and not be a part of the paper. When they were all upset about some headline on the Forum page, it was nice to be able to sit there and say, “Ha. Not my problem.” Probably not nice to them. But it was a nice feeling for me not to be responsible for everyone else’s mistakes. I will say having been editor, managing editor and campus editor in college makes me much more appreciative of the work my editors do every day. And I’ve told my editor on a few occasions that I don’t think I’d ever want his job. His response was, “Get one crappy assignment too many, and you’ll change your mind.” We’ll see about that. In the meantime, as much as I loved being editor and being able to execute my vision for the paper/Web site, I really appreciate that my job now has me answering for me not 100+ other kids who may or may not care as much as I do.

OK. Bed time. I’m heading in early Tuesday to catch up on e-mail and messages from Friday through today before my day really picks up. I promise to try and do a better job updating this week.

Scratching my head about ABJ video

Friday, April 6th, 2007

OK. I haven’t seen much video coming out of the Beacon. I haven’t been watching as closely lately because I’m not around as much and primarily just skim the front page online and in the RSS feed. But, today a little video icon caught my eye so I clicked on this story: “Middle school student charged with groping teacher

My first impression when I clicked was, wait, where’s the video?! Then I realized it was there. It was just a text link. No screen capture. No images. Just the text link just below the byline. Did you see it? I probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t looking for it.

Then, I was kind of confused by the video itself. It’s surveillance with some guy (he’s never identified!) talking about it at the end. OK. But it has commentary in a voiceover on it. Whoever is talking (the omnipresent narrator is never identified), it sounds like something I’d hear on, like, Real TV or something.

It’s different. I’m not sure how the approach worked. I mean, it was helpful to have an explanation of what was going on in the video. And it was professionally recorded and edited, I suppose. But I’m kind of left scratching my head at a number of things: why the video link was just text, who the guy talking at the end is and how he’s relevant and who the person narrating is, why he was randomly talking about the kid’s past at the end without any context around it, to name a few.

:shrug: Still. It’s good to see them doing some video work. I know that was an area they wanted to move into, and were training staff members for. This seems atypical newspaper video though, and maybe that’s a good thing. Or maybe it’s completely normal and I’ve just been looking at the wrong news sites. Either way, something to watch.

Medina Gazette multimedia

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

I have to say, I am impressed by the multimedia the photographers at the Medina Gazette are undertaking.

Medina is the county just west of Summit, which is where Akron is. It’s mostly rural. The paper is about 15,000ish circulation, if I recall correctly. I know a few people who’ve worked their part-time or as interns, but I’ve never really looked at it or its Web offerings. Today, I saw one of the projects linked at MultimediaShooter. Although I liked the presentation of that story, I was also impressed with the way they’ve collected their multimedia. It’s very streamlined and user friendly.

I just checked it out. It says Rami is their photo intern and web designer. He’s a KSU student. (Not sure if he’s graduated yet?) Seeing his name makes sense. He’s definitely talented. He was the CyBurr webmaster who preceded me my freshman year. But, as you’ll notice, he rocks (and knows Flash and has photo skills I only dream of). And I well, have a long way to go.

A fugitive’s path, a moving experience

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

I just saw this information posted at the Beacon:

What: “A Fugitive’s Path: Escape on the Underground Railroad.”
When: Fridays and Saturdays through March 10, also March 30 and 31.
Where: Hale Farm & Village, 2686 Oak Hill Road, Bath Township.
Who should attend: Ages 13 and up.
Cost: $15
Information and reservations: Call 330-666-3711 or visit www.wrhs.org/halefarm.

I had the opportunity to experience this program when I was a senior in high school. Quite honestly, it is one of those experiences you never, ever forget. And it is something I almost think should be required of anyone studying American history, especially the period of slavery.

You start your evening in the visitors building reading wall after wall of wanted posters advertising for missing or runaway slaves as well as billboards for slave auctions with lots of adjectives such as “likely” and “sturdy.”

After becoming thoroughly enthralled (as I was) or disgusted (I was that, too) by the posters, you are literally corralled with the others at the program and made to go to auction. I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but myself, it was humiliating and gross. We had to hold this freezing chain and march through muddy, unpaved paths holding it while the slave driver yelled at us like a drill sergeant. And that’s only the beginning.

You will then, after being sold (and made to stand on the platform and move around, side to side, jumping jacks, etc.), you will be taken to a small house where a not-so-nice slave driver will tell you he’s got another job lined up and wants to get the owner back. So he’s letting you go. But don’t look back because once the owner finds out, he’ll be after you.

You are told not to run, but walk quietly and cautiously, and don’t look back, no matter what you hear.

But then, you hear the guns and the dogs and you’re not even halfway across the field to the village where you’ll meet other runaways who will help guide you. And you run, because, it’s human instict to run from dogs and guns. And you know it’s pretend, but something in you tells you, well what if it’s not? And you hear one person, a girl, scream and the shots stop for a moment. And you glance back but can’t see anything in the pitch black. And you run even harder. And, if you haven’t already, you forget that it’s pretend.

So begins your journey.

It is a moving experience. I took away from the evening an entirely new understanding and appreciation of what people, not just the slaves but the abolitionists as well, went through to attain freedom.

I once wrote the experience out almost minute by minute as a dramatic narrative for my honors newswriting course. I would LOVE to see the Beacon or someone take a video camera or even an audio recorder and do a soundslides and get this experience in multimedia so everyone else who isn’t in the Akron area could experience it. Wow, even just imagining how moving that could be makes me wish they would.

Until they do, if you’re in the Northeast Ohio area, you definitely need to attend this annual event.

The Beacon’s missed opportunity

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

I cringed when I clicked on the graphic packaged with Jim Carney’s Frigid weather to grip region story on Ohio.com.

Now, as I’ve stated before, I love the Beacon Journal. It was the paper I grew up reading, and consequently, it’s the yardstick to which I hold all other papers. And perhaps that’s why I hold it to a higher standard, which in turn is why that graphic disappointed me.

I know they are trying. They have embraced video and SoundSlides. (The quinceanera ones in particular impressed me as an excellent example of what SoundSlides should be.) Their Akron’s War Dead project, while maybe not the least confusing design, succeeds in humanizing the statistics. And they even came, editors and reporters alike, to Kent State for some on-camera training last semester. They are moving forward.

But the graphic only serves as a reminder of how far there is to go.

It’s not that it was poorly designed. It wasn’t. The information was supplementary to the main story as it should be.

What bothered me was the clear and utter disregard for the medium in which it was presented. They literally exported the same graphic from the paper and pasted it up on the Web. How do I know? First, it isn’t integrated as a photo might be or as a graphic should. It came up on its own page, just a .gif with no context or links (requiring me to hit back if I wanted to return to the story/site). It had about five points in one single image; many of the points are text heavy and should have been presented in, well, text on the site. And the kicker, it still has refers to page E1 and B3.

When MySpace is front page news

Thursday, January 25th, 2007

I once had a detailed conversation with a reporter and the now former public editor of the Beacon Journal about why Facebook wasn’t front page news. At least, I didn’t think it was. I talked it through and came away realizing, well, OK, maybe old(er?) people are just slow on the uptake.

So, is MySpace front page news? It is today at the Beacon.

And you know what? I think that it’s a fine place for that story. (And not just because my own loathing of MySpace.) That is a story that needs to be told.

I suspect that the Beacon had more teenage readers today online and in print than any time in the last century. Why? Well, partially for the glory. (Did my friends get a plug? I wonder if I can deduce whose profile he points out. Hey that’s my bondage bear he’s knocking! and so on.) And partially for the “pissed off” factor. I imagine they raced home to post in their MySpace blogs little messages about how now their parents are breathing down their necks, and to sum up the point of the story in the words I suspect will be used most frequently: “F— the Beacon Journal.”

Akron teens, you have a lot of explaining to do.

The thing is, these kids are not stupid. They should know better. Anyone who posts anything on the Internet, whether it’s photos of them passed out with beer bottles beside them or attacks on fellow classmates or coworkers, should assume it’s publicly available. It’s part of the new world order.

I particularly liked this article. I have read what seems like a million stories about the horrors of MySpace and Facebook. This one was different. Why?

It doesn’t preach. It doesn’t make any pretenses or tell parents or teens how horrible they are letting these pages exist. Nope. It just lays it out there. It says this is what I found when I was surfing MySpace. I wasn’t a college admissions clerk. I wasn’t an employer. I wasn’t a pervert. I was just looking to see what was out there. Here’s what Akron teens have to say about life.

And by letting teens incriminate themselves, it is a far more effective story than any I’ve seen on the topic in the past.