National College Media Convention 2007 – Day 1

Since I’m on sabbatical leave this semester, I wasn’t originally planning on going to the National College Media Convention. But after thinking it over, I decided a couple of days before the convention that I would go after all. The convention was just a short train ride down to Washington, DC. And it would be good to see my student editors from The Quad, West Chester University’s award-winning student newspaper.

I’m glad I went. On Thursday afternoon, I enjoyed the keynote address by Rob Curley. I heard Rob three years ago when he was doing great things at the Lawrence, Kansas Journal-World. In particular, he was a pioneer in developing deep, rich content for the web, and saw early on the importance of the web for local newspapers. Last year he took a dream job as vice president for product development at Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive. In this position he has helped guide an extensive team of “convergence journalists” who create content for the Washington Post-Newsweek family of web sites, including most notably,

I’m not sure how many in the audience truly appreciated how rapidly Rob Curley rose in his profession, or how amazingly prescient his advice was a few years ago when he spoke at the College Media Convention in Nashville in 2004. But I hope that at least some of the students who heard him speak Thursday afternoon take heed of his suggestions…

  • Local newspapers must own local breaking news. Newspaper staffs are typically the largest news staffs in any market, easily outdistancing the resources of local broadcast news outlets. Yet when it comes to breaking news, people often turn to broadcasters. Newspapers need to realize that the web can help them in the effort to be the authoritative voice for breaking news.
  • Newspapers should embrace platform-independent delivery. The most important part of the word newspaper is news, not paper. Most journalists today write for both print and web, and many create audio and video content as well. Newspapers can and should be the dominant sources of news content in any platform. Convergence journalism isn’t just a trend; it’s today’s reality.
  • Newspaper websites should be about dialog, not monologue. Too many newspapers ‘t just “shovel” their print content into a web template. But that’s not how the web works…at least not effective web sites. People want to be able to participate. Give readers a voice on the web. Use the web to connect with your audience.
  • Embrace change with the right mindset. There are plenty of people in the newspaper business who resist change, who pine for the “old days.” But change is inevitable, and those entering the journalism field would do well to position themselves for change. This means having both a broad skill set and an open mindset. Having a variety of talents can open a lot of doors, but having a bad attitude can close a lot more.

Although it was a very fast-paced keynote, and at times a bit overwhelming, I left feeling good about what I’ve been telling my students for years now. And it made me feel good about advising student media. Journalists really do make an important contribution to the world. I’m honored to work with students who may be someday become the next Rob Curleys of the world.

Farewell, Ruth Bell Graham

Billy&Ruth.jpgRuth Bell Graham died today at the age of 87. She was the wife of evangelist Billy Graham and the mother of their five children. The obituary from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reports that Billy and their children were all present by her bedside as she passed away in Little Piney Cove, their expansive homestead in Montreat, North Carolina. The Los Angeles Times reports that Ruth will be buried at the foot of the cross in the Prayer Garden of the recently-opened Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.

My wife and I visited the Billy Graham Library just this past Tuesday, stopping by on our drive home from Florida. We took a number of pictures, including this one of the Prayer Garden where Ruth will be memorialized. It is a beautiful, peaceful setting, adjacent to the Library and the recreated Graham Family Homestead.PrayerGarden.jpg

Among the many exhibits in the Library is a special room devoted to the life of Ruth Graham. She was a remarkable woman who led a full life. She was born in China as the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries Dr. Nelson and Virginia Bell. Early in her life, Ruth had dreamed of being a missionary in Tibet. But then Ruth met Billy while they were students at Wheaton College in Illinois. They were married in 1943, shortly after they graduated from Wheaton. I took the picture below of Ruth’s diploma from Wheaton, which is on display in the Library. Next to the diploma is one of the tin cans she made into light fixtures in the Graham home in Montreat, North Carolina. Apparently she was a very resourceful homemaker.RBGDiploma.jpg

The Billy Graham Library is really more of a museum than a library. For scholars, historians and others interested in Dr. Graham’s papers and writings, a more academic library is located at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. Nevertheless, the Billy Graham Library is certainly worth a visit if you’re in the Charlotte area. There are numerous multimedia exhibits in the Library, as well as a bookstore and a small cafe. If you take the complete tour, you can expect to be exposed to some mild proselytizing, including the traditional “invitation” in the “finale” theater, with the obligatory “Just As I Am” music in the background and a group of counselors waiting to pray with you as you leave the auditorium. But to anyone who has attended a Billy Graham crusade or watched one on television, the evangelistic flavor of the closing moments of the tour seems entirely fitting. Indeed, I remarked to my wife as we were leaving how I thought today’s preachers could benefit from the simple, direct and positive approach that was Dr. Graham’s hallmark.

The Billy Graham Library is located at 4330 Westmont Drive, just off of Billy Graham Parkway, and not far from I-77 and the Charlotte airport. Admission is free, and the complete tour takes about an hour or so. If you would like to see more pictures from our visit, I’ve posted some in a Picassa Web Album.

Corzine says “buckle up”

In case you have yet to see it, below is the public service announcement recorded by New Jersey governor Jon Corzine in which he encourages people to wear seat belts.

Corzine wasn’t wearing seat belts when he had a near fatal accident on the way to the Don Imus apology session with the Rutger’s women’s basketball team. I’m wondering if the authorities will bring any charges against Corzine. Not only was he not wearing seatbelts, but one would think that he must have also disabled the seatbelt warning beep that I believe is required now on all passenger vehicles.

The price of gas…

…keeps going up and up. But is it enough to affect my travel plans this summer? Maybe. Here in Southeastern Pennsylvania, the price of gas is well over $3 a gallon, and it doesn’t look like it’s coming down soon. So maybe I should stay home, blog more, and travel less.Below is a video about how gas prices may be affecting travel plans this Memorial Day weekend. Essentially, people are saying they still plan to drive, even though it will cost more. Makes me glad I own a Prius.

By the way, the video player above is from TheNewsRoom, a service that provides ad-supported content for web sites. When you click on the video, you’ll see a short ad before you see the story. This is the first time I’ve done anything on this blog (or any blog I’ve written) where I have incorporated “monetized” content. I’ve been exploring some of my options to help pay for the hosting costs associated with and the other web sites I own, and I’ve finally decided to take the bait and see if I can earn a few pennies. I don’t think I’ll get rich from it, but if I can at least cover part of my hosting costs, I guess it will be worth it.