Posts filed under ‘Journalism’

Elon students and faculty see the importance of World Press Freedom Day

By Patrick McCabe

Written April 30, 2009

World Press Freedom Day takes place tomorrow all across the world as a way to draw national attention to the role of independent news and information and how it is under attack.

News organizations all across the world help make this day possible and many communications students and faculty at Elon University see this as an important day for all journalists.

Journalism student Noelle Clemente understands the importance of this day and what role it plays for all journalists.

“This day is so important for recognizing professional journalists,” said Clemente. “It’s extremely important to remember how important it is to allow journalists to the freedom and opportunity to openly explain the news as it is.”

Clemente acts as a citizen journalist, reporting on local issues and using a wordpress site to talk about the news that surrounds her local community.

“I think that citizens do have the same rights but it depends on the forum,” said Clemente. “I have a problem when people confuse citizens opinions for fact but I think they deserve the same rights.”

Journalistic freedom has become an international issue and World Press Freedom Day is helping to raise awareness about journalistic oppression internationally.

According to 673 journalists were arrested, 125 journalists were imprisoned and 70 journalists were killed in 2008.

Of the journalists killed four were in Africa, 11 in the Americas, 31 in Asia, nine in Europe and Central Asia and 15 in the Middle East and North Africa. 

It appears that international freedom has put a heavy burden on journalists and journalistic rights are not being seen internationally.

Communications professor Tom Nelson sees an importance in international journalistic freedom.

“I think it’s important to realize that freedom of the press is not a western value it’s a universal value,” said Nelson. “I think it’s important for us to stand up straight ad say that to the entire world.”

This year the annual World Press Freedom Day campaign is sponsored by Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Associated Press, Russian Guild of Press Publishers, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Michel Cambon, Sanjeev Saikia and Tom Callaghan. 

For more information on how you can get involved click here.

See Noelle Clemente talk about World Press Freedom Day and citizen journalism:

See Tom Nelson talk about World Press Freedom Day internationally:


April 30, 2009 at 7:49 pm 1 comment

Elon professor Ken Calhoun discusses storytelling, responsive visuals and conversation with journalism students

By Patrick McCabe

Written April 14, 2009

On April 8 Communications Professor Ken Calhoun spoke to journalism students about the importance of interactive media.

Ken Calhoun

Ken Calhoun

“There are three flavors to interactive media,” Calhoun said. “storytelling, responsive visuals and conversation.”

The restrictions that once existed for different types of media used to tell a story are gone. Interactive media allows the storyteller to use pictures and video to effectively tell their story using all sorts of media entities. 

Responsive visuals are the next key component or flavor are simply online experiences that are visually based.

“They have to be open, organic and fed by the changing world,” Calhoun said.“They’re graphics, info graphics, data visualizations, timelines, maps, stuff like that.”

The final aspect of interactive media is conversation. Through online media people have found a new way to communicate, whether through online blogging sites or social networks.

“These sites set the conditions for conversation while we host a conversation,” Calhoun said. “Whether it is through one of these sites or not interactive media must be a part of conversation.”

Calhoun graduated with an M.F.A. from Emerson College. His professional background includes work in interactive television, corporate and entertainment industry multimedia production and creative writing. 

He will be teaching in Elon’s Interactive Media Master’s program in Fall of 2009. The one year program will prepare students for work in all different media platforms. This program is the only one offered in the state of North Carolina.

To learn more about the iMedia program check out the iMedia blog here.

See Calhoun speak about the importance of interactive media:

April 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm 2 comments

Anderson Cooper gives Elon University “A 360 Degree Look at World Events”

Anderson Cooper shares his international reporting experiences at Elon University. 

By Patrick McCabe

Written April 7, 2009

“I’d never actually studied journalism,” said CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. “But I was always fascinated by news and television.”

Anderson Cooper speaks at Elon University.

Anderson Cooper speaks at Elon University.

Anderson Cooper arrived on Elon’s campus around noon today and spent the day interacting with students and faculty. He visited three classes, met with countless communications students and faculty, took part in an intimate question and answer session and spoke a gymnasium full of students, faculty, trustees and public individuals.

“You are trying to bring people along a journey and if you can find a way to make them fell as if they have walked in another person’s shoes than you have been successful,” said Cooper, on his motivation behind reporting. “My job is to tell the story and I think it is a great privilege to tell people’s stories.”

At Cooper’s speech entitled “A 360 Look at World Events” he talked a lot about the importance of sharing others stories. Through out his career he has traveled to many different countries and has had incredible experiences reporting.

“You can’t allow your own fears to affect what you are reporting,” said Cooper. “We must look into things that scare us.”

Cooper has faced many life-threatening situations. From barricading himself in a hotel room in Iraq to filming his translator fill the gas tank while being shot at in sniper alley, Cooper has really seen it all and reported every step of the way.

He began his career with a forged press pass, a camera and by sneaking into Burma to talk to students fighting the Burmese government. After working for a number of news organizations Cooper has secured a nightly show on CNN called Anderson Cooper 360. He continues to act as a war correspondent and travels to war zones often.

“I insist on going to war zones and conflict zones at least twice a year,” Cooper said. “There is always a story to tell and we cannot be afraid to try and tell it.”

After he spoke he gave the audience the opportunity to ask questions. One of the questions a student asked was how he is able to separate himself from the stories he reports on.

“There are times when you can do something,” Cooper said. “I don’t see a huge conflict with being a human and a reporter at the same time.”

Cooper also commented on the current state of news programming.

“There is this increasing tendency in television to take a political view,” Cooper said. “People expect their news to have a slant but what they should expect is the facts. I don’t think anyone cares about what I think and it isn’t my job to share my views.”

With the current state of the economy and the ever-changing field of communications some students looked to Anderson Cooper for advice on journalisms future.

“I think there is going to be some new outlet for reporting and I am pretty optimistic about the future of it,” Cooper said. “My company would love me to be twitting and web casting all the time. No one really knows what the future holds so it will be interesting to see.”

See part of Anderson Cooper’s speech:


April 8, 2009 at 4:20 am Leave a comment

Woodlief and Wilson share advice with Elon University students on communications future

Elon Communications advisory board shares advice with aspiring journalists on the future of the Communications Field.

By Patrick McCabe

Written April 3, 2009

Entitlement. A word that the millennial generation seems to embrace and see as a way of life. This new generation has never experienced serious economic downfall or a serious conflict until recently.

Entitlement is this generation’s way of life but it is not something that will get them very far in our world’s current economic state.

“Do not own that word,” Debora Wilson, former President and CEO of said. “Come into the work force and think how you can add value.”

Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief share advice with communication students

Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief share advice with communication students

That is just some of the advice that Elon University journalism students received on Friday from Debora Wilson and Graham Woodlief, members of the School of Communications advisory board.

Wilson, former President and CEO of, helped to launch the site in 1995. Wilson is also responsible for developing Weather Channel Radio Network, the syndication of weather pages to newspapers, and the development of next-generation digital television, wireless, and interactive-TV service. In the future she hopes to run another media company and engage in more community efforts.

Woodlief works as vice president of Media General Inc., and president of the publishing division since 1998. He oversees 25 daily and about 100 non-daily publications. Media General owns 19 television properties, including WFLA-TV in Tampa-St. Petersburg and WNCN-TV in Raleigh-Durham, and dozens of daily and weekly newspapers in five Southern states, including The Tampa Tribune, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and The Winston-Salem Journal.

While the work in very different fields of the communications industry they both had a lot of good advice for communication students. They spoke to an upper level reporting course as well as an introductory course.

Both Wilson and Woodlief were given the opportunity to share some of their experiences with students but than turned the mic over to the students. Students had the opportunity to ask them anything they wanted about these two industries however, the main focus seemed to be in what direction is journalism heading and what will await future journalists as they prepare for the real world.

“Newspapers are going to be around for a while,” Woodlief said. “I truly believe a print product will be around for a long time.”

Both Woodlief and Wilson are optimistic about the future of journalism and of continued success for the field of communications.

“We are in an economic recession and that effects everyone,” Wilson said. “But this happens, it will pass and we will continue to be successful.”

While students may fear the challenges that await them in this economic crisis, Woodlief and Wilson see these challenges as opportunities.

“Embrace the challenges that professionals throw at you,” Wilson said.

“Don’t worry about some failures,” Woodlief said. “Everybody fails but with failure comes success.”

While the future may be unclear Woodlief and Wilson hope that students will brace uncertainty and use this as an opportunity to chart their own course and make a mark in the journalistic field.

“Take this opportunity to step up and lead,” Wilson said. “The industry needs for independent thinkers who are ready to take charge and take action. Do not wait for an opportunity to approach you, look for the chance to create you own opportunities.”

See Debora Wilson share her advice:


April 6, 2009 at 2:27 am Leave a comment

Investigating the Educational System

By Patrick McCabe

Written March 31, 2009

Investigating Education

The first thing education reporters should focus on is the quality of learning. This is the most important component in education. One must ask themselves is a child’s education being hindered by tradition, politics, prejudice, bad teachers or poor administration? Reporters have often found that public schools face the issue of politics over children’s needs.Top 10

The first think to look at when measuring the quality of a school system is student test scores. When analyzing test scores a reporter should always ask, who decides which tests to use and which to reject, how much do the tests cost to acquire and score and are comparable school districts using tests that yield more sophisticated results? While some investigations have proven low income predicts low test scores, others have found the responsibility for these low scores falls on the teacher or administration.

Another factor to look at is school violence and discipline. A journalist should look at security measures and question how effective they are at discouraging violence and what sort of stress do these security measures cause students in the classroom? Some teachers single out students as a way of punishment but this often results in low self-confidence, resulting in poor classroom performance.

The curriculum is an important thing to look at. Does the curriculum seem based on race, gender, ethnicity or class? Are students in lower tracks given the opportunity to advance to college preparatory courses? Does tracking benefit gifted students while hindering slower learners? A good journalist should investigate the text books and assignments when analyzing a school’s curriculum to fully understand it.

Class size is another factor to analyze. It has been found that the larger the class size the harder it is for students to learn. A reporter should ask how is the class size affecting students learning?

Advanced technology at schools often yields to higher test scores. How is the school striving to provide its students with the best and most recent technology? This plays a big role in determining if the school is looking out for the child’s needs or for the politics of the school district. 

Special-needs students face a lot of issues in many school districts. These students need extra care and attention and it is up to the school district to provide them with that. A reporter should ask is the school district neglecting special-needs children, forcing them to redistrict or forcing them into the private or home school sector? This is one of the biggest areas for investigative reporters to find good stories that will capture an audience.

Race, gender and class equity is always an issue in schools. School districts should be doing everything in their power to make all students feel equal. A reporter should analyze performance based on schools with a lot of racial, gender and economic diversity and compare it to schools that are less diverse. This could help determine if race, gender or class really play a role in higher test scores or if these schools prepare their students differently.

The final factor to look at is school choice. Should a family be able to choose where their child goes to school? Does increased competition among schools motivate students to have a higher-quality education? What happens to schools not chosen by many families? These are all important questions that come up when looking at school choice.

In Montgomery County, Md. students have a variety of schools to choose from. In each district student have three different schools they can choose to attend. If a student lives close to the school they desire they are guaranteed a spot but if they do not they must compete against other students. Each school has a different specialization and this makes some schools more desirable than others. James Huber Blake High School was designed as a school specializing in the arts and humanities. It was highly desired by many students and highly competitive. Due to it’s competitive nature the school was only able to admit the best of the best from the district. It quickly became referred to as the “free private school” that you could only attend if you were “rich and white.”

This caused a lot of issues in the district and county officials felt they needed to change this perception. They moved the English for Speakers of Other Languages(ESOL) program that had once been at another school in the district to Blake in hopes that it would make the school more diverse.

Was what the county officials did ethical? How will moving these ESOL students to Blake affect the current students learning environment and how will the teachers and administration react? These are all questions a good investigative reporter should ask and they did.

The Gazette, a local newspaper, found that test scores and performance of all students at Blake High School dropped considerably when the ESOL program was brought to the school.

March 31, 2009 at 12:29 pm Leave a comment

‘The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook’ Summary Chapters 10-11

Written By Patrick McCabe

March 16, 2009

Investigating the Judicial System

Investigating the judicial system can be some of the most important an rewarding work a journalist can do. Within the judicial system a reporter has the ability to help change the lives of the accused, whether it is helping an innocent person go free or reveal harsh prison sentences to the public. Investigating the judicial system allows a journalist to expose government corruption and problems within the United States legal system.Top 10

There is a simple method to investigating the judicial system. “The judicial system has clear junctures were documents are produced, decisions are made and rules are sharply defined,” said “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook” author Brant Houston. “At each one of these junctures, there are numerous investigative possibilities and previous stories from which to learn and build new stories.”

Pennsylvania’s The Intelligencer Record wrote a story about four men who were all wrongfully accused of a crime. They all faced consequences due to the crimes they allegedly committed but following further investigation the Montgomery County District Courts office dropped the charges.

In this story reporters had so many options in which direction they could take their story. The judicial system has so many key players that interview possibilities are endless. In this story reporter Anne Freedman interviewed, the district attorney, a defense attorney, assistant public defender and the innocent victims. Each one of these key players gave different insight into the story and the flaws in Montgomery County’s judicial system.

Juvenile cases and family court are governed by their own set of standards. “It’s good to keep an open mind that those cases,” Houston said. “[Juvenile] and family court are often intertwined and that despite the barriers you can get inside both of these systems.” 

The New York Times wrote an article about a 7-year-old  and 8-year-old who were falsely accused of murder. The two spent a month in a detention facility but were later found innocent. The wrongly accused were rewarded $2 million settlement in a lawsuit that asserted the boys had been framed and falsely arrested.

This case exemplifies how the judicial system can be flawed and how juvenile cases are harder to tackle than other judicial hearings.

Investigating Law Enforcement

“In the United States alone. there are about 18,000 local and state law enforcement agencies,” Houston said. “Dozens of federal government law enforcement units, plus thousands of specialized police departments for universities, subway systems, airports, parks and public housing complexes.”

In order for a journalist to properly monitor a police officer and asses whether they are a good officer, a journalist should follow this technique:

  • Observe officers directly
  • Study incident and arrest records and rates
  • Track day-today prevention efforts
  • Know the leaders of the police unit
  • Study budgets and expenditures
  • Read available personal files
  • Check for investigation by Internal Affairs Unit
  • Follow law suits in local courts
  • Check to ensure that the agency has all of the proper accreditations

Every aspect of law should be investigated differently. From the officers to the evidence room, each piece of the law enforcement agency is important to an investigation and should be handled carefully and with great skill.

According to Houston covering law enforcement can be a great challenge for journalists because “each type of crime has different roots, different types of perpetrators and victims and different investigation techniques,” A good investigative journalist will be able to cover all sorts of law enforcement cases and do so with expertise and precision.

March 16, 2009 at 11:41 am 1 comment

Mac DeMere speaks to Elon University students about the future of online journalism

By Patrick McCabe

Written March 13, 2009

His hands trembled, clutching his notebook; he tapped his toes and began to speak on the future of journalism.  Mac DeMere spoke at Elon University earlier today, addressing reporting classes and sharing his personal journalist experiences as well as gaining insight into what university students saw for the future of this changing field.

Mac DeMere speaks to university students about his own journalistic experiences.

Mac DeMere speaks to university students about his own journalistic experiences.

“The whole journalism media is [currently] in a war and we don’t know how it is going to end,” said freelance writer and automotive journalist Mac DeMere.

DeMere has worked for a number of automative magazines and also works as a race car driver instructor. His love for the automotive industry has remained apparent in his career, whether serving as a teacher or journalist.

He began working in the automotive career as a journalist but as technology developed he had to conform and now does some work on air, whether in commercials or segments for online content.

“I was driving a car at 210 miles per hour and I get out of the car and they stick that glass lens in my face. My heart raced to 160” said DeMere about his first experience on camera.

As a seasoned journalist, DeMere had a lot of advice to share with students. There are four major things that he focuses on when reporting a story. These include accuracy, timeliness, length and interest.

“You have to be correct and know what you are reporting on,” said DeMere. “it is much more of a challenge if you don’t know the intricacies.”

Friend and colleague, Bill King, joined part way through DeMere’s discussion, sharing his insight on the industry and looking for students opinions about online content.

King told students that the automotive company he works for,, has found that video content has one hundred times the hits as opposed to written content.

“In one respect I am not all that surprised that our written content is down” King said.

When questioning student on their opinions about online content King found most students find both video and written content important.

“I don’t have twenty minutes to watch a video,” said Elon sophomore Camille DeMere I need the information immediately and I can’t get that from a video.”

While students appreciated online video, many agreed that written content is much easier to quickly process and grab information from.

It appears that journalism is quickly moving towards online media and multiple forms of media. For seasoned journalists like Mac DeMere and Bill King this means learning new technology and as for university students it means learning a new journalistic style.

See Mac DeMere talk about the journalism war

March 14, 2009 at 12:59 am Leave a comment

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