Diversity project creates easy partnerships

The Ford Foundation grant for diversity reporting in Nebraska that I brought to our college with the Asian American Journalism Association and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association is having the additional benefit of helping us form important partnerships

HeartlandRGB_VertThe Nebraska Press Association supports the project, has discussed it in its newsletter and the executive director has introduced our reporter, Bobby Caina Calvan, to newspaper editors. Calvan will speak about diversity reporting at the NPA’s annual convention. Nebraska Educational Telecommunications (Nebraska’s NPR and PBS stations) has invited Calvan to talk to NET’s reporting staff about adding diverse sources and story ideas to their daily reporting.

Calvan has spoken to reporting and multimedia classes and is working with about six volunteer students on a project that an area newspaper plans to publish. He has discussed student projects with a class that is reporting on Lincoln’s refugee community. He’ll work in the summer with a multimedia professor, and in the fall with a multimedia class.

The topic of diversity has done a great job of creating willing partners to give our students more outlets for their work. It’s also given news organizations a mutually beneficial way of working with our college. Diversity reporting has enabled several of our professors to work on a common project.

Comments Off

College works with minority journalism associations to cover diversity in Nebraska

With $200,00 from the Ford Foundation, a unique partnership in diversity reporting and training is occurring at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Asian American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the College of Journalism and Mass Communications have embedded a reporter at the college to focus on reporting diversity stories unique to Nebraska.


Bobby Caina Calvan

Called the Heartland Project, the plan is “to increase media coverage of minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Nebraska.”

Bobby Caina Calvan, who most recently was a national political writer in the Boston Globe’s Washington, D.C., bureau, is working with news organizations throughout Nebraska, with the help of the Nebraska Press Association, to write stories and produce multimedia pieces about minority issues that the news organizations are willing to publish, but don’t have the staff to produce.

Calvan will work with journalism faculty and students to produce stories and multimedia projects that involve LGBT communities and communities of color, focusing on four topic areas: access to health care, economic recovery, immigration and domestic violence.

Calvan also was a reporter at the Sacramento Bee, and he covered the war in Iraq for McClatchy newspapers. He was a foreign reporting fellow for the International Center for Journalists in Laos.

Comments Off

Washington Post, a digital adaptor, looks to digital native for help

Below I’ve republished the press release the University of Nebraska-Lincoln issued with my comments about the sale of The Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

UNL expert alert: Washington Post sale and journalism’s digital future

Officials with the Washington Post Co. announced Monday that its flagship paper would be sold for $250 million to Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos.

The Washington Post logoThe news spells the end of the Graham family’s four generations of stewardship over one of the nation’s leading newspapers. Bezos, to become the newspaper’s sole owner, plans to take it private to avoid shareholder pressure while he experiments with news operations.

The company’s newspaper division, of which the Post was the most prominent part, suffered a 44 percent decline in operating revenue over the past six years. Although the Post established itself as a popular online news source, its print circulation dwindled, falling 7 percent during the first half of 2013 alone.

Gary Kebbel, professor of journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has spent much of his career in online media, including serving as front page editor of Washingtonpost.com during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He was founding editor of Newsweek.com and USA TODAY.com and directed the growth of AOL News from 1999-2005.

Here are some of his thoughts on the Post’s sale:

“I find it fascinating that America’s journalism giants, The New York Times Company and the Washington Post Company, through their respective fire sales of The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, are saying that traditional newspaper companies with more than a hundred years of experience each can only successfully run a newspaper in the analog age.”

“The Washington Post believes in the value of journalism so much that it is willing to say, ‘we can’t be successful in the digital age, so perhaps a digital native can. We hope a digital native can.’”

Kebbel sees the same changes occurring in advertising.

Publicis logoOmnicom logo“Last week, Publicis and Omnicom combined and the respective CEOs said in the Financial Times: ‘The pace of change which is occurring today is going to get faster, not slower.’ (John Wren, Omnicom) ‘What is true today is really not true tomorrow and we have to be prepared for that.’ (Maurice Levy, Publicis)”

“This comes after The (Chicago) Sun-Times company laid off all its photographers, and told the reporters to use their iPhones.”

“All of this taken together implies that with the professions changing as fast as they are, educating for those professions is an arduously unique challenge.”

Kebbel, who departs Lincoln on Wednesday for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications annual meeting, can be reached via email at garykebbel@unl.edu or by cell at (703) 582-6758.

– Leslie Reed, University Communications

Comments Off

Creating mobile media demonstration projects

This semester I’ve been working on a demonstration project to show people what a Center for Mobile Media might do. Students with different interests and skills have worked in a team on a mobile media project. I sought journalism, advertising and public relations students to work with computer science and design students. I wanted them to learn teamwork, entrepreneurial skills and presentation skills.

An added incentive was that their work would be presented to editors and publishers at the annual meeting of the Nebraska Press Association.

Because the Ford Foundation funded this semester’s work, the students and I decided to focus on creating a mobile project that we all hoped could be used by Ford Foundation’s “Social Justice” grantees anywhere in the world.

The students worked on a mobile app that could be used particularly during elections in developing countries or in countries with authoritarian regimes. They wanted to create a way for the people to express their opinions and for others to see the true expression of public opinion unmediated by government control of the media. Here’s the team’s presentation to the Nebraska editors.

Their solution was a mobile app that could be used by feature or non-feature phones to create and tag comments that would be aggregated geographically or topically. Users would easily see what people in a given area or country say are the top three issues in their country. They also could read a scroll of all the comments, respond to comments and upload photos and videos. Additional features include background information about the country, its people and government, as well as information about upcoming events like elections.

I started too late to make this project a class or an independent study, so everything had to be extracurricular work. The good thing about extracurricular projects is the students who participate are truly dedicated. The bad thing is that it takes a while for the dedicated students to self-select, and it’s really difficult to schedule meetings outside of classes with 8-10 incredibly busy students.

The project presented to Nebraska’s editors, called Human Hustle, started out as a mobile media “hackathon” in the fall semester. But it didn’t attract the number of students we needed. So we rethought the whole process. Throughout the spring semester, we didn’t use the word “hackathon” to advertise our project because we didn’t want to make students think the project only was for computer science students. We told students they would be learning new skills employers want. And we worked with another campus group, The Hive, to break the new-product development process into separate Saturday meetings about entrepreneurial thinking, creative thinking and project development.

The editors liked the project and realized how it could be used in rural Nebraska communities as easily as in developing countries. Additionally, the editors loved seeing students working on projects like this and were thrilled to realize that they could take their own new-product development projects to the students and could work jointly with them. That was perhaps the conference’s biggest success: editors realized we were setting up a way for them to work with students.




Comments Off

Mobile journalism: It’s not the web only smaller

When more than a billion people in the world are using the same communication tool, it makes sense for journalists to be especially good at using that tool. Those tools are mobile media – phones, tablets and whatever comes next – and they have the greatest chance of connecting and engaging all of us.

Mobile media bridge all the digital divides: young-old, educated-uneducated, poor-rich, rural-urban, national-international. The audience of the future is the audience reached on a mobile device, whether that’s a young, poor, woman in Bolivia or an older, wealthy businessman in Chicago. Youth who have never held a newspaper in their hands still can, and often do, read news every day on their phone.

Mobile devices

Photo credits: Flickr Photos (clockwise from top left) by: Yutaka Tsutano, Tony Buser, johnmuk, eBook Reader, tasharyland41 and compujeramey

News organizations need to go wherever their audience is, using the tool the audience uses. For youth, the audience of the future, that means mobile devices.

The challenge for journalists and news organizations extends beyond realizing that they need to present their work on mobile media. The challenge is learning how to present it natively and effectively on mobile media. Mobile media are not Internet pages, only smaller. You don’t create a mobile site by building a website and accessing it from your phone. You lose audience if your story, photo or video is written and produced for the web, and viewed on a phone.

It’s natural to try to understand a new medium in terms of the old medium, but our understanding has to grow beyond that. Take television news as an example. Originally, it was televised radio news. A giant television camera was wheeled into a radio news booth to televise the radio newscaster reading the news. A more current example is Internet news. In 1995 USA TODAY and The New York Times originally called their websites USA TODAY Online and The New York Times Online. Because that’s literally what they were.

Quickly, however, we learn to use the new medium with its natural capabilities. With television, we learned to use multiple cameras, to cut from camera to camera, to take cameras into the field and to add graphics. With online news, we learned to use the native capabilities of the online medium by adding audio, video, interactive graphics, polls, chats, discussions and games. With mobile news, we’re learning to use apps, and particularly the geo-location abilities of smart devices. We’re learning to find things “near me.” We’re learning how to use that to find sources. We’re also learning about the need for responsive design that recognizes what device – laptop or phone – we’re using at the time.

Mobile media are an increasingly important tool for journalists. They can deliver a new audience if you learn to adapt your content for that audience. If you’re not sold, yet, on why journalists need unique mobile skills consider a few tidbits:

  • 62% of U.S. respondents get news from their phone weekly (Pew Research Center’s, State of the Media 2013)
  • 36% get news from their phone daily (Pew Research Center, State of the Media 2013)
  • 88% of U.S. adults owned a cell phone of some kind as of April 2012, and 55% of these used their phone to go online (Pew Internet and American Life Survey, “Cell Internet Use 2012”)
  • People with less education and income (some college or less and household incomes less than $30,000) use their cell phones as their primary means of accessing the Internet (Pew Internet and American Life Survey, “Cell Internet Use 2012”)
  • 17% of cell phone owners do most of their online browsing on their phone, rather than a computer or other device. For some, their phone is their only option for online access. (Pew Internet and American Life Survey, “Cell Internet Use 2012”)
  • U.S. tablet adoption: 12% in 2011 (28 million); 31% in 2012 (74 million users); 47% (117 million) expected in 2013 (Online Publishers Association, Census Bureau, eMarketer June 2012; download report)
  • Top tablet activities: 64% get news weekly; 37% get news daily (Pew Research Center, State of the Media 2013)
  • “The improved availability of high-speed Internet access has significantly enhanced the average user’s media consumption experience, contributing to a rapid uptick in mobile media consumption.” (comScore Mobile Future in Focus 2013)
  • Tablets have emerged as one of the fastest-selling devices in history. (comScore Mobile Future in Focus 2013)
  • “Tablet owners show a higher propensity to browse and engage in more involved media behaviors. (comScore Mobile Future in Focus 2013)

(This has been cross-posted to Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas blog)

- Gary Kebbel

Comments Off

Syllabus for Mobile Media News and Conversation

The class I’m teaching this semester is known to my students as Journalism 902, but I’m calling it Analyzing Mobile Media News and Conversation. Although the syllabus is published on the university’s Blackboard class management system, my students don’t have to log in to Blackboard if they save this quick blog post.

Below is the 1) full syllabus, and shorter sections about 2) assignments, 3) grading rubrics and 4) class policies.

Mobile Media News and Conversation Syllabus

Mobile Media News and Conversation Schedule

Mobile Media News and Conversation Rubrics

Mobile Media News and Conversation Policies

– Gary Kebbel








Comments Off

Let’s stop piling on and remember Knight Foundation is quality journalism’s best friend

It’s time for the journalistic digerati to call a halt to piling on after Knight Foundation admitted it made a mistake by paying plagiarist Jonah Lehrer $20,000 to speak at a Knight Foundation conference. I’m not going as far as Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin saying that he is starting to feel sorry for Lehrer. But it’s time to accept Knight Foundation’s apology and remember all the incredibly good things it has done for journalism in the past 60 years.

Knight Foundation logoMany of those who rightfully criticized Knight Foundation before its apology also seem not to know about all the great work Knight Foundation does. As a former employee of Knight Foundation (I used to administer the Knight New Challenge.), and as a professor at a university that is a member of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative and the News21 Program, and as the person who wrote a successful proposal to the Knight Community Information Challenge, I have a unique perspective on Knight Foundation’s work.

No one else in philanthropy is funding work like this:

Training and innovation: News University, with more than 225,000 registered users, offers free training for journalists, students, teachers and the public. That includes training in the new digital tools created by the Knight News Challenge, like Document Cloud, now used in hundreds of newsrooms.

Education initiatives: The Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education helps leading journalism schools make the digital transition. Thousands of journalism students are taught each year by a network of Knight Foundation-endowed journalism chairs. Centers at universities are developing entrepreneurial journalism, researching digital journalism, building areas like environmental journalism, training tens of thousands of Latin American journalists and providing help to thousands of high school journalists and teachers through hsj.org

Freedom of information: Funding Sunshine Week and the National Freedom of Information Coalition, which in partnership with news organizations and journalism groups reaches millions of Americans and helps fight for freedom of information laws. Student journalists receive help through the Student Press Law Center and freelancers and other journalists through the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

International journalism: Funding hundreds of projects to improve journalism worldwide through the International Center for Journalists and helping journalists through the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Community information: Getting community foundations to invest millions of dollars in local news and information projects.

A mistake was made. Stuff happens. And Knight Foundation remains quality journalism’s greatest advocate and benefactor (not beneficiary as originally stated).


Comments Off

What can you learn from a ‘hackathon’ that didn’t work

The nice thing about crafting a Center for Mobile Media is that there aren’t models of what it is or what it isn’t. In the past several months, I’ve been working with colleagues on a demonstration project to show what such a center could do.

I’ve learned a lot from the failure of some of my ideas and plans.

The goals for a Center for Mobile Media are that it should have students and faculty working in multidisciplinary teams to create new mobile products or processes. Some of the skills needed would be programming, data management, design (of systems and user experience), journalism, advertising, marketing and entrepreneurship.

Students would learn to work in teams with people whose education and skills are entirely different from their own. They would teach one another and learn to talk one another’s language. A journalism student and a computer science student would be able to discuss features in the final product and each understand what was possible. They would learn by iterating. They would study the market and study the audience to create something needed and scalable. Ultimately, this should be a public-private partnership.

I thought the best way to embody these ideas and goals would be with an 18-24 hour “mobile media hackathon” spread over Friday evening and Saturday. The goal was to create a mobile app that journalists or philanthropists could use for their work in the social justice field. I thought a mobile media hackathon – that intense combination of teams of people with various skills working to create a mobile application – would perfectly exemplify the type of work that would be done in a Center for Mobile Media.

While the idea and goals still seem right, the execution did not work. Here’s what I learned, and how I’ll iterate the process for the next attempt.

  • Calling the event a “hackathon” might have scared away some students without technical skills. Next time, we’ll be marketing it as a way to learn new problem-solving skills and new technical skills that will help students get a job.
  • Having the event on a Friday and Saturday required too much commitment from the students who already had weekend plans.
  • Offering $3,000 in prizes wasn’t as huge of a draw as I thought it would be.
  • Marketing would need to be longer than six weeks.
  • We would need to be more active in personally recruiting people and in making sure the students had a mix of skills.

My student assistant, Cody Elmore, and I think we’ve fixed all these issues, as we now plan for a mobile media creation contest for mid-April 2013. We’ll be partnering with a campus IT group called The Hive, whose charge is to work across disciplines and focus on mobile media. We’re also working with the state newspaper association and the local chamber of commerce to showcase students’ work and to help students make professional connections.

The broader goals remain: teach students skills beyond those we’ve historically taught so well. We know how to teach researching, writing or producing a story. With events like the hackathon, we also can teach bringing down academic silos, problem-solving, working in nondisciplinary teams, studying the audience, doing market research then making it all real by partnering with professionals and businesses to produce a product.

-Gary Kebbel


Comments Off

Creating a Center for Mobile Media

General thoughts on what a Center for Mobile Media should do:

The Center for Mobile Media at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will be the hub that unites the disparate efforts of academic and industry researchers, professionals and students. It will create a focused and disciplined way to pull together multidisciplinary research projects from across campus for greater impact in mobile media research and practice. It will be a vehicle driven by academics, students and industry, all working together on common problems and concerns, with input from the end user.

Mobile devices are the most ubiquitous communication devices in the world – they outnumber televisions and reach a larger audience than radio. They bridge all the digital divides: economy, age, geography, education, race, religion and ethnicity. No matter which side of the divide you are on, you are more likely to have a mobile device than any other communication tool. Mobile devices also are the best way to communicate internationally. They have the greatest opportunity to unite people in a worldwide conversation. However, their use for news and information is still relatively new, basic, and open for development – particularly in the United States.

More and more, the conversation that matters is the digital conversation – the conversation of youth, as well as opinion leaders, business leaders and government leaders. If you are not part of that conversation, you risk becoming an uninformed, second-class citizen. If we want to create a global conversation, the way to do it is through mobile media.

The Center for Mobile Media will organize cross-disciplinary research efforts and projects by giving grants to professors or students in any disciplines who want to add to the knowledge or practice of using mobile devices to spread news, information and commerce.  We will seek innovative and effective uses of mobile media and then publicize those ideas and best practices. We will also consider commercial applications of these ideas and practices.

Using mobile media for news, information, advertising and social networking is still new and developing. We have much to learn about the interconnectedness of mobile media and social media as they are used to spread news and information effectively.

The Center for Mobile Media will work on these tasks by helping research professors, professors of practice and commercial businesses plan together to answer different questions ranging from: What’s the most effective user interface, to what is opinion leadership in mobile social networks, or how do we determine credibility of messages on different devices? Professors of practice will create practical research questions that stem from their use of devices in the field. Answers to those questions will help us use mobile devices to better inform and engage more people and to spur research questions.

How will it work?

The Center for Mobile Media will be a multidisciplinary re-granting center. The Center will seek larger grants to subdivide for smaller faculty or student projects. The Center will issue worldwide requests for proposals that help innovate or scale the use and understanding of mobile media for news, information, advertising or transactions. It also will help other innovative mobile projects get grants in exchange for public dissemination of the knowledge gained. The center will consider all of these pieces as building blocks that can be aligned and realigned for different and future purposes. The Center has minimal overhead costs because it doesn’t need a building or a large staff.

Examples of Center for Mobile Media Research Projects

1) Does the credibility we associate with a video news message vary according to the size of the device on which we view the message? For instance, is greater credibility associated with a message on a 72-inch screen than a 2-inch mobile screen? If there’s a difference, does it vary by age, with young people perhaps giving the smaller screen greater credibility? Should this affect the types of messages we use to reach different audiences on different devices? What’s the best device to use if you want to get political information to a 20-year-old American male or a teenaged Egyptian woman?

2) Students at the Raikes School of Computer Science and Management at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and the College of Journalism and Mass Communications created an iPad photojournalism app designed to encourage user engagement with the people in the photos or the issues they depict. This app will be used for future photojournalism projects. It was field-tested by UNL students working in India in May 2012. Because of that field test, we know what additional changes and improvements need to be made.

Comments Off

Major journalism funders call for updating journalism education

Knight Foundation is serious about the fact that Colleges of Journalism and Mass Communications need to reform and become the engine on the train of change. They’re serious because they don’t see reforming journalism education as just something that should concern educators. They say education in journalism is at the core of a healthy democracy. And, of course, they are right.

Is college journalism education the caboose on the train of change? (Stock photo)

If education is sick or stuck in the skills and issues of a lost era, then more is threatened than a relevant education for students. Our democracy is threatened.

Knight Foundation says,

“Simply put, universities must become forceful partners in revitalizing an industry at the very core of democracy.”  “Schools that favor the status quo, and thus fall behind in the digital transition, risk becoming irrelevant to both private funders and, more importantly, the students they seek to serve.”

In an open letter to university presidents signed by executives at six foundations that fund journalism, the six foundations stated,

“We believe journalism and communications schools must be willing to recreate themselves if they are to succeed in playing their vital roles as news creators and innovators. Some leading schools are doing this but most are not. … We are calling on university presidents and provosts to join us in supporting the reform of journalism and mass communication education.”

Other key points:

  • “Schools that do not update their curriculum and upgrade their faculties to reflect the profoundly different digital age of communication will find it difficult to raise money from foundations interested in the future of news.”
  • “Journalism funders agree that academia must be leading instead of resisting the reform effort. Deans must find ways for their schools to evolve, rather than maintain the status quo. Simply put, universities must become forceful partners in revitalizing an industry at the very core of democracy.
  • “We also agree universities should make these changes for the betterment of students and society. Schools that favor the status quo, and thus fall behind in the digital transition, risk becoming irrelevant to both private funders and, more importantly, the students they seek to serve.”

This is not a new issue for Knight Foundation. For years it and the Carnegie Corporation have funded journalism education innovation through the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education. (While at Knight Foundation I helped administer this program, and while Dean at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, my school was a member.) These comments from journalism funders come at a time when Knight has issued a report about journalism education reform and the “teaching hospital” model of education.

Comments Off