Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Urban RIP tags

Does anyone know how and where the fashion trend of wearing RIP tags came about in inner cities? One of my students is writing about it...

Monday, July 26, 2010 offering free one-day trials. If you're not a member, check it out NOW.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

Great resource

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

2010 Reynolds Institute farewell

This has better sound than the version I posted Saturday. You can download the QuickTime file with a free Vimeo account.

Steve Elliott
Arizona State University

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Two Ts, and a Red Tie

Tracy Collins and Tom Blodgett were a real one-two punch yesterday.

Mr. Collins was very clear about his expectations for good visual design, and possibly the only font evangelist I've ever met.  Full disclosure: anyone who includes Monty Python clips in his presentation is automatically all right with me.  His critiques of our work made complete sense after he'd laid out all the rules and guidelines...and he's right about the "melted text" font (insert sad face here); just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you should.

I especially liked the extreme makeover bit, though my appreciation probably stems largely from the fact that my pages weren't selected for that treatment!  I just thought it was good to see how the same content could be reworked.

It was good to hear that some things are "red tie" issues, and don't necessarily require instant incineration.  (Gotta get a hold of that animation to use in my class!)

Oh, and FYI, to all you non-believers: here's a pic of Mr. Billie Joe Armstrong, in his RED TIE which he wore more or less constantly for the entire "American Idiot" tour.  How DARE you doubt me?  Sam pegged me as "Alt Boy" the first day, and you know it's true.  I own every Green Day CD that has ever been released (even the couple of mediocre ones).

Anyway, I do want to make a public apology to Tom Blodgett for calling him out on the "battle" cliche.  Given the penchant of the various presenters for asking trick questions and messing with us, I really did at the time think he might be testing us.  It was at least irreverent of me, and possibly rude; where I'm from, cheap laughs are sometimes all we get.

There are so many cliches in sports it must be a real minefield to navigate through them all...

Blodgett did have some great ideas for how to keep sports reporting fresh when you don't do daily papers, and I think they will be the first test for some of my new staffers this fall.

Chaplain Favre preaches to the faithful

I can see there is going to be a lot of competition to get in the last word...I guess that's a good thing!

Mr. Favre described himself as an optimist, and referred to his session as "the benediction." I don't know about the rest of you, but I was certainly in need of a blessing this morning. It's also funny how he echoed Milt Coleman asking us for an "AMEN."

"Y'all be good now..." is one of Favre's southern expressions; but he continued, to say that most of us don't like to be told to be good - me especially. I really gotta get back to church.

Mr.Favre described himself as an optimist, and referred to his session as "the benediction." I don't know about the rest of you, but I was certainly in need of a blessing this morning.

"Y'all be good now..." is one of Favre's southern expressions; but he continued, to say that most of us don't like to be told to be good--me especially.

But these days, Favre says "I don't think it is a bad idea to be told to be good."

Favre comes from a time when journalists could be "the drummer," and when those drummers - earlier generations of reporters and editors - had a lesser challenge to capture attention and earn the trust of readers.

He also discussed the very real gulf between "those who have been marinated in technology" and those who never saw a computer until long after they graduated from college.

Favre echoed our other presenters in discussing the crisis in the news business. Having seen firsthand the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, Favre was not mincing words in his metaphor of journalists weathering a storm.

"A mighty surge of fear and mistrust washes through our newsrooms," is how he put it. He later responded to a question about educating our students by saying journalists must actively seek out a middle ground, not just cover the people "who are shouting at each other" over many modern, polarizing issues.

He also directly addressed the idea of plagiarism being such an easy and unfortunately common thing in the digital world, saying "aggregators are growing simply by publishing the work of others."

Favre furthered his benediction when he shared the analogy of planting a peach tree: the little boy says to his grandpa, 'you won't be around when it bears fruit' but the sage grandpa says,'I'm not doing it for me, I'm doing it for you.'

"You are today and will be tomorrow planting the seeds of the future," he said, referring to educating young journalists.

"Listen and respond to the dreams of your students," he advised. Favre also said we should "celebrate their successes, and assure them they can learn from their failures."

"Go home and remember that a [good] classroom is a place of imagination."

As an English teacher primarly, I could tell that (like myself) Favre was quite impassioned about what good writing can do. "Have I captured the small moments that illuminate the characters?" he asked, and referred to journalism as being a spotlight.

"Go home and teach your students to have respect for ideas that are not their own. There are not just two sides to any given story, there are many."

Favre said that even while we are "being herded into virtual communities" we must not abandon our geographic identities or fundamental understanding that all news is indeed local.

Expanding on the role of journalists, Favre said that people from different backgrounds coming together for a common purpose is the greatest thing journalism can produce. He referred to having seen Dr. King transform the national conversation, and that by comparison these times seem dark, in the quality of rancor that has seeped into even traditional news distribution channels.

Favre deplored "mean-spirited voices on the talk shows" and even meaner ones in online comments and blogs--and basically said that we all must protect journalism from pettiness and partisanship.
"Performing ethically is NOT an aberration," he said, and I'm fairly certain he was covering more than just objective journalism. As teachers, we are on the front lines of teaching that vital bit of wisdom (though occasionally the Cliche Police help out as well).
By the time he was done, I wanted to stand on my chair and say "Captain, my Captain!"

I leave with passion

"Yall be good now" said the mountain top preacher of Journalism, Gregory Favre. During the closing if ASNE Reynolds Institute he fed teachers their passion. Passion to go on, passion to start up and passion to be good teachers. He reminded teachers that they are "planting the seeds of the future" and that they must "embrace the changes that will continue to flow like water falls." And last, but most of all, "write praise and speak criticism." Thank you Mr. Gregory for the mountain sermon.

Elaine Williams
Carl F. Shuler H.S.
Cleveland, OH

Sifting through the information

Today is our last day of this amazing experience. Now that it is almost time to board the plane and go home, I have been trying to think about how I am going to go about sorting through all of the resources I have been given and put them to use in my classroom.

Having said that, this morning Jodie gave me some perspective by asking me what is ONE new thing I can do in ONE day in my classroom? I don't have to move mountains from the start. I just have to take things one step at a time.

Thank you to everyone involved with the Institute. It has been awesome!

Kim Isbell
Humboldt High School
Humboldt, Kan.

My face in the video

As I quickly put on my mic and stepped in front of the camera last night -- to express what this Institute has given me -- I knew I couldn't say all I had to say in those brief moments.

There is no sound bite for the endless gift of education.

I was at the end of my rope as a teacher when I applied for this Institute and now that I'm in the final moments, I can say it has saved my life. I am ever grateful for good teachers, friends and people with a passion for media and its essential role in our democratic society.

Keep the love alive all ...

Nate Thompson
Montezuma-Cortez High School
Cortez, Colo.

Sports writing

The area our paper is probably weakest in is sports writing. We don't have a lot of teams, for one, and I've found that most of our soccer players that make it in the class are also our cross-country teammates as well.

Since we're a small dual credit school, that's about all the teams we have.
But attending the sports session yesterday was enormously helpful. Now I know what and how I can cover things, and it's really opened up some possibilities I hadn't considered before.

The speakers have been so top notch all around. The Reynolds Institute has set the bar high!

Thanks again!!

Meghan Brannon-Reese
Houston, TX

Procrastinations, and thanks

As per usual I have waited to the last minute. I get on my students about this all the time, but am a terrible role model about it. Consequently, you will see two posts back to back from me (and the next one will even have a picture).

I can't express how thankful I am about having this experience with everyone. What I have learned will transform my teaching and the way I map out my classes (English too).

I worked with a fabulous editing team whose generous support buoyed my spirits more than once. And our editing team extended beyond just me, Nate, Leslie, and Nickie. Their expression of thanks is echoed here, with gratitude.

Steve has been a wonderful mentor. His meaningful critiques of my work pushed me forward and instilled in me a desire to give my very best (even when I wasn't sure exactly how to get there).

Meghan Brannon-Reese
Houston, TX

Ten Commandments gone wild!

We are now at the end of our training and it is time for us to complete evaluations and survey questionnaires.

Here is a quick survey:

What, in your opinion, are the two men pictured discussing?

A. The Ten Commandments
B. The Ten Commandments of Type
C. Donuts
D. The Diamondbacks
E. All of the above
F. None of the above

Answer in the comment section. Remember, text message charges do not apply!

Sam Bidleman (left) talking and listening with Tracy Collins (right) of The Arizona Republic

Clarence D. Hooker
Hinds Agricultural High School
Utica, Miss.

Urban mountains

During the taping this afternoon, in answer to the question, "What will you bring back to your school?" My answer was simple, "everything!"

O.k., not as easy as it sounds. Like the backdrop of urban mountains (in reference to the high rise buildings) seen through the window slats of the computer lab, I have my own to climb.

Inner city kids, apathy, limited resources and time, students with limited technological and writing skills along with lack of enrollment are only a few of the challenges I will face. At least I have a grasp of the basics of good journalism and can share what I can with my students. I cannot wait!

It has been a fabulous adventure, the facilities have been wonderful and the speakers and all who assisted most informative and helpful. I enjoyed having a "staycation," of sorts, in my own city. I now have new connections and resources right here as well.

Thank you all,

Jamalee Moret
Alhambra High School


Emotions are mixed. Isn’t that always the way of it when you’ve had an intense experience? On one hand, I’m so eager to get home and back to my regular life – the text messages from my teenage daughters just add to that longing, because you cherish those times when they say “I can hardly wait to see you, Mommy!”

But the collegiality of this group of random souls thrown together for a dozen days of intense learning and collaboration is an experience that stands up next to those life experiences we hang onto long past the actual experience.

I’d like to thank Steve Elliott (“two t’s, two l’s”) first and foremost. I’ve participated in many workshops, seminars, institutes, graduate programs and you name it (please note the lack of final serial comma, Steve) over the years, and this programs ranks way up there. Billed as an intense workshop experience, the institute definitely lived up to that promise. Steve kept us on task with good humor, gentle persistence and consummate professionalism that I would expect from a veteran of the AP and member of the ASU community. I learned a helluva a lot, Steve. Thanks.

Seriously, if someone would pay me to go to school and write stuff for a living while I hung out with cool people, I’d take that job in a New York minute – and I’d work this gig for sure.

Living arrangements and details to our creature comforts have been considerate and filled with obvious attention to detail, and Anita Luera deserves major kudos. The Sheraton, the food (thanks, Chad and gang!), the swag (can ANYone tell me what that acronym means??) – if the devil is in the details, well, there’s a pun about Sun Devils in there somewhere, but it’s past midnight and I’m cooked..…Anita, you rock!!

By the way, about that editing experience for the online pub? Wow. Thanks to Nicki, Nate and Meghan and everyone else who pitched in to make the Cronkite Chronicle a professional publication – we all did it!!

Cheers to all – it’s been a fabulous and inspiring ride. Let’s keep in touch.

Leslie Wolfe-Cundiff
Centennial H.S.
Roswell, Ga.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lessons learned from being a student

Though I’ve always considered myself a solid writer and copy editor, I’ve grown a lot these two weeks through reviewing the fundamentals of news writing, using AP style and most importantly for me learning to write under a strict deadline. These are things I ask my students to do regularly and I have a newfound respect for exactly what that means.

In the writing time crunch after the press conference with Len Downie Jr., I found myself reverting to a stilted essay-style format. I should know better – I teach my students about tight focused leads, short sentences and succinct paragraphs. Yet when facing a deadline, I drew upon my English language training instead of my journalism training.

Last week I initially felt as though I’d stepped into the movie “The Doctor” with William Hurt. For those who haven’t seen the movie, he’s a cocky, inconsiderate doctor who becomes a patient and must learn what it’s like to walk in his patients’ shoes.

Just like Hurt, I’m learning what it’s like to be a “real world” journalist all over again and though at times it’s uncomfortable and stressful, I’m excited by the challenge.

The tips that Steve Elliott shared in his presentation on writing aren’t new to me, but they served as important reminders. My initial graded draft of the press conference revealed to me just how out of practice I am.

It’s one thing to copy edit another’s writing – that has become almost second nature to me in my journalism classes. It’s a completely different experience to go out and report the news in real time and condense that into a cohesive, reader-friendly story under the pressure of a deadline.

As my staff and I switch from a weekly-updated online newspaper site to a more 24-7 news coverage format, reporting well under pressure with more regular deadlines will be our biggest challenge.

Milton Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post, tells his reporters that there’s “no yesterday in the lead.” He said, “We have to make news important to people – it has to be something that they feel they are compelled to read.”

The challenge for my staff is accomplishing that and doing it well in a world dominated by social media and the 24-hour news cycle. We’ll start with the fundamentals and build upon them, learning with each story we cover and write, just as I’ve learned and grown here at the Reynolds High School Journalism Institute.

I will take away with me the lessons about writing I’ve learned and share them with my students. I look forward to showing them the multiple drafts of my institute articles and explaining to them the process I went through to create my final stories.

I want to give a special thanks to Steve Elliott for inspiring and mentoring each of us. The tireless dedication and hours you’ve put into coordinating, teaching, reading and offering timely feedback is greatly appreciated. You’ve modeled great journalism and exceptional teaching. Thank you!

Lisa Edmisten
Woodcreek High School
Roseville, Calif.

Sports Stories

Tom Blodgett, Assistant Sports Editor at The Arizona Republic had some good points for writing sports stories. He explained the challenges and ethics to the job.

I never really thought about the perks with being around professional sports teams.
I can see where journalists could get into unethical situations quickly. Many sporting events have food and publicity items to promote them.
It is important for journalists to protect their ethical image. They need to be honest and not bias to any specific team or organization. If a journalist where to accept gifts and or food from a team or organization it would make the reporter look like they are favoring that team.

It is a really good idea to talk about conflict of interests with young journalism students. They need to understand the value of honesty and personal integrity.

A student publication in a small school would also need to make sure students in the sports and on the journalism staff are not writing stories about the teams they participate in.

Bracinda Blum
Woodbine High School
Woodbine, Iowa

Photo to top right: Tom Blodgett Assistant Sports Editor for The Arizona Republic as he presented at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication for the 2010 ASNE Reynolds Institute high school journalism teachers. ~Bracinda Blum

Here is a link from English teachers about lesson plans for writing sports stories.

It's been an amazing experience!

It feels like only yesterday that we were nervously preparing to take notes at and write our first article about the keynote address by Leonard Downey Jr.  Photo by Nicki Yokota

I'm tired and absolutely wrung out to dry. Volunteering to be a top editor was crazy and I knew it when I sent Steve the email. I know I'm a newbie in journalism and that my editing skills are laughable right now. But I also know I can't ask my students to do something I'm unwilling or unable to do. That was my motivation for volunteering, scary as the experience has been.

That being said, I want to thank my fellow editors - Meghan, Nate and Leslie. It was the best possible team I could've envisioned being on and you guys made the experience a great one.

To those who offered to help in a variety of ways, heartfelt thanks because you didn't have to spend the extra time working on this. I will tell you that your support really boosted our spirits and helped to get everything done in a timely manner.

About Steve. What is there to say? My article was dripping with so much red ink, it even astounded Alan who translated scribbles on the paper.

But I will admit that there is something really caring in Steve's nature that made it hard for me to take anything personally. Maybe I'm wrong but I've always felt that Steve was in my corner thinking that I had potential, and I hope that I've proved him right in some small way.

Huge thanks to Alan, Anita and Monique. You have been there to answer questions, offer support and make sure I didn't have to worry about anything other than what I could fit in between my ears. I really appreciate it.

Finally to the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, to ASNE and to The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU, a huge thank you for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I leave Phoenix with high hopes that I now know what needs to be done to improve the quality of my newspaper class back home and how to make it happen.

Nicki Yokota
St. Margaret's Episcopal School
San Juan Capistrano

Cronkite Chronicle goes live!

Read all about it here.

Congrats to a great editing team and the many people who stepped in to edit copy, populate the site and troubleshoot problems. And congrats to all on creating such lively, relevant content.

Steve Elliott
Arizona State University

What a ride

I suspect you have all received an email that contends that life should be lived so that you slide into the grave at a dead gallop, a glass of wine in one hand, some good chocolate in the other and shouting, "Whoo-hoo, what a ride!"

I feel like that is the life we have had the last two weeks. Meeting some of the big-time movers and shakers in the journalism world. Being taken under the wings of the people at The Republic (and yes, Tracy, I am aware I am using cliches, but that is how I think when I am tired). Being put through the ropes to get real hands-on experience, not just theory. And then today capping it off by learning about typography and how to manage sports writing--two areas I hadn't a hope of teaching before today.

Whoo-hoo, let me at 'em! I've been bit by the journalism bug and am ready to pass on the disease. I will miss all of you, and send you off to your own homes with my love.(And now I will make a serious effort to clean out the cliches and write right.)

Nunn Winship
Warden H. S.
Warden, Wash.

1984: Big brother may be just around the corner

Its amazing how fast technology advances. A decade ago the World Wide Web was in its infancy. Granted the Internet has been in one form or another since 1969 when 

Jason Manning, Director of Student Media and managing editor for Arizona State University's News21 project spoke about where technology is perceived to be headed with web 3.0.  

The design of the web has evolved from being a one-way conversation of looking up information to a two way information of Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites.  The need for an understanding or media literacy is crucial on multiple levels. As advisers we need to be certain that our students are literate in knowing that a post is truly forever.  Additionally, as seen by the News21 project forever can be innovative, thought provoking and trend-setting. 

Manning emphasized the need for parents to be informed of what changes in technology are out there. Advocating for students and parents is a great thing because then everyone is on the same page. 

The Center for Media Literacy has a nice booklet that helps teachers introduce media literacy to their classes. It is available in English, Spanish, and Turkish (for those will large Turkish populations).

Brent Manuel
Pleasant Valley High 
Chico, Calif.

Pearls before Swine

These last two weeks have been packed with excellent speakers and presenters.
With my limited knowledge of journalism, I felt like I was only able to comprehend and really appreciate a fraction of what was presented. All this wonderful instruction was right there in front of me, like pearls before swine.
I took in what I could, and I will continue to use the resources I have received to improve my instruction and my own knowledge. I have been very impressed with this institute!

Chris Braun
Reedley High School
Reedley, Calif.


Boy, Steve Elliott found out that I wasn't lying in my application when I said I really don't know anything about Journalism. Though I fake it pretty well, I continue to bounce between surviving and thriving.
Steve certainly displayed some fatherly patience with me while helping me write, rewrite and rewrite again, my article. I admire those who can continue to practice what they preach, and Steve is certainly one of them.
This experience will hopefully allow me to thrive as an adviser rather than just survive.

Ryan Ludwig
Spanish Springs HS
Sparks/Reno Nev

Tracy Collins discussion on design and typography was one of the most brilliant of the week.  Looking at the styles of design. There are basic errors that we tend to make in our publications on a regular basis.  He discussed moving toward a modular design element similar to the Arizona Republic and away from the traditional dogleg and dutch wrap approach.

When creating a design for a newspaper there are things to keep in mind.

1. Balance - There must be a natural balance of images and text

2. Hierarchy of Type - Make it progressional as the size of the type. The largest at the top then smaller and          
3. Visuals - Make your visuals tell a story.  It needs to convey a message.  Collins states we should avoid photo data dumps.

The second have of the presentation was on typography.  There are many things that I learned about type and what makes a good font.  Below are some of the key components of typography.

For more information on fonts checkout

I Love Typography


Brent Manuel
Pleasant Valley High
Chico, Calif.

Almost finished . . .

Well, I'm finished. My story is approved, blogs are finished, comments made, sessions (almost) completed, file downloaded, and friendships established. It's a bittersweet time because I have learned so much in the past 12 days. I will return to my school with a plan of action, a list of dreams and enough confidence to make it all happen. I know I'll need support once the school year starts, and the reality of life sets in . . . but I know that I have 34 allies (not to mention all the journalists) to help me through the rough patches. Now for some ice cream . . .

Sarah Geyer
South-Doyle High School
Knoxville, TN

Thou shall use color appropriately in my newspaper

Tracy Collins, senior director of operations at The Arizona Republic, gave an eye-opening presentation on design and typography this morning.
It was very humbling to see my school's pdf's of the big screen. I knew we overused color, but seeing it pointed out was helpful. I have been letting my students decide was colors to use, but now I will be able to guide them better in making choices that are appealing to the readers' eye.

Loved the 10 Commandments of Type. The video clips and effects were hilarious. I learned many technical terms about type that I never knew before.

The Newseum's Front Pages is very valuable source for good ideas. My staff and I often look to them for inspiration.

Leona O'Neal
George County High School
Lucedale, Miss.