Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Role Reversal: My S + C Podcast

As a student journalist and an intern, I conduct usually 5 - 10 interviews a week. But now the tables have turned!

While in Boston for the RCC Convention, my mentor Shirley Paulson, who conducts podcasts on her blog, Spirituality + Christianity, interviewed me in Episode 21. Enjoy listening (it's about 20 minutes long).

Shirley is a Christian Science practitioner in the Chicago area. As my mentor, she has given me great insight into the role of communicator with a faith-based mindset.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Convergence Does Not Signal "End Times" for Journalism

It's near the end of the semester, and I'll be finishing up a pilot course in the Eugene S. Pulliam School of Journalism. It's a course I was super-excited about: Online Journalism. The result was pretty cool. The department bought enough Flip Cameras for everyone in class, which we used to go out and get "man on the street" interviews, and then uploaded to the computers. We learned about writing for the online medium, and ended the courses with a multi-media project about how the recession has affected Butler University.

Next year will be a year of transition for the department. There will be new course offerings like Convergence Journalism and Web Design. For the first time in Butler's history, our two news media, The Butler Collegian (print) and Dawgnet News (online) will follow the industry trend and converge to become one staff.

I began at Butler as a media arts major, with a video production emphasis. Then I decided to sharpen up my writing skills, so I added journalism as a secondary major. In doing so, I've found many similarities between the two departments. True, they each have their own uniqueness and wonderful faculty, besides. 

But in an effort to better understand why the two departments have not come together as a college of communications (see Ball State University's and University of Missouri's programs as examples) I wrote an editorial about it. I interviewed Dr. Nancy Whitmore, head of the journalism department and Dr. Ken Creech, head of the media arts department. Their responses accurately reflect the state of media today and the dilemmas it faces.

Written for Marc Allan's Editorial Writing class (JR317) on Tuesday, February 10:

All that separates the Media Arts Department and the Journalism school is a flight a stairs in the Fairbanks Center. There shouldn’t even be that much separation. Merging the departments would strengthen academics and keep curricula up to date with the real world.

Journalism is part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, while Media Arts is considered by some to be the “stepchild” of the Jordan College of Fine Arts. Journalism seems lost within a college of many different majors, while TV producers don’t bear any resemblance to ballerinas or musicians. 

Attempts have been made in Butler’s history to merge the two departments. In the early ’90s, former President Geoffrey Bannister encouraged monthly meetings to discuss the possibility. Former Provost Bill Berry organized a task force to examine how other universities were embracing changing media and technology.
Neither effort led to anything of substance. 

If we examine the curriculums of both departments closely, it is evident there is an overlap of courses. Journalism offers JR426 – Mass Communication Law – while Media Arts offers MDA432 – Law and Regulation of the Electronic Media. Sound the same? Maybe because they are.

Both departments also offer core classes in ethics, as well. This repetition forces students, who want to learn from both areas, to take repetitive courses. The separation of the two departments puts students at a disadvantage when trying to explore the convergence of print and broadcast journalism.

One step has been taken, however. This semester, the journalism department is offering online journalism, a pilot course that will get students acquainted with the basics of writing for the Web and demonstrate how to incorporate video into the new medium. 

Larger schools, which benefit from more resources, have been able to create individual colleges that encompass public relations, advertising, radio, TV, print journalism and online journalism. However, as Media Arts Department Chair Ken Creech pointed out, creating a whole new college would cost a lot of money – something that is not available in these tough economic times.

Creech said there has been discussion about how to best accommodate students in both curriculums, and said the best way might be to create a collaborative program that would allow students to more freely take classes between departments.

“Both [departments] went our own ways and so it’s hard to bring things back,” Creech said. “We all agree with keeping curriculum fresh, especially given [the industry’s] changing nature. At least media and journalism should be looking for ways to collaborate more formally.”

Both departments worried that a merger would eliminate job security. Creech said his staff would be worried about not earning tenure, and Dr. Nancy Whitmore, head of the Journalism department, said both departments develop faculty with different mindsets. 

Still, with more traditional publications being revamped with video and websites, Butler curricula needs to reflect the changing industry. If the cost of hiring a dean for a brand-new communications college is too much to ask, then the departments should still find a way to implement each other’s material into the classroom. Convergence is the future, and if the curriculum isn’t preparing students for the reality of that, then it isn’t doing its fundamental job.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dance Like No One's Watching

At my sorority's chapter meeting tonight, we talked about servant leadership. I'd heard the term before, but something about the discussion resonated with recent events in my life. 

A servant leader, one sister said, was doing something willingly and not needing recognition for it. 

But our society is obsessed with recognition. We want everyone to know what we've accomplished, who we know, where we bought our clothes from and so on. Many leaders may simply be in a position because it looks good on the resume. That's bad motivation for any organization!

I also participated in an all-campus sports competition this weekend. It was a ton of fun, and I will totally do it again next year. But what I heard repeatedly after the event was the question everyone's always wants to know:

"WHO WON??" 

Or better yet, "Did I win?" How about, instead, asking, "Did I have a good time?" and "Did I learn something from this?" How about being a servant leader and supporting fellow teammates in their competition or volunteering to do something no one else will? 

I think it was friend who told me recently (or maybe I heard it in a sermon) this: It's not about what you don't do (i.e. I won't lie, steal, cheat, etc.) It's about taking opportunities when they arise. I see this in my life everyday and I know I don't take those opportunities as much as I should. In this past week alone, I saw so many chances to glorify God. We need to ask ourselves: are we rising to the challenges when they are presented?

And when things don't go as we plan (which has been truer now than ever before in my life), we need to know that God's plans are bigger than ours. Sometimes that's tough to accept, but I know I can rest in the knowledge that GOD's timing perfect.

Psalm 16 addressed glorifying God even when we've been hurt. 

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; 
even at night my heart instructs me.

I have set the LORD always before me. 
Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

This can also be a great reference passage for when you've been a leader and haven't been given (what you think is) due recognition. 

One of my journalism professors would probably say I need to organize my thoughts more clearly. But that's how I see things - a string of events with a related theme. That seems to be how God teaches me. Right now he teaching me that servant leadership glorifies Him...that recognition is an earthly desire...that sometimes I may not get the recognition I think I deserve, that winning isn't everything. 

And you know what? It's not about the final destination; it's about how we make the journey to get there. One of my friends has on her email signature:

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here, we might as well dance.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Perfection is My Enemy

"Sometimes I believe that I can do anything/Yet other times I think I've got nothing good to bring/But You look at my heart and You tell me/That I've got all You seek." - Francesca Battistelli, "Free to be Me"

The last four days have taught me a lot about my own ego. That's funny, because I don't tend to think I have a fragile one (ego, that is). But I must have been on a pedestal because I came down from it really quick. Recent efforts to apply for scholarships have fallen through, making me doubt my writing ability and doubt the effort I put into my extracurriculars. Even more recently, peers (whom I respect) have administered constructive criticism of my work. 

Ever felt like everyone's out to get you? Like you can't do anything right? That's about where I'm at. It happens when I put my life on cruise-control, and I think everything is going swimmingly. Then...SMACK! I've hit a brick wall and I'm about to start bawling. 

I look at my work sometimes and see so many flaws. Writing's different from anything. When the writing is perfect (or near perfect) readers don't notice; they simply enjoy the story. But when there is a mistake, it sticks out like a sore thumb, and seems to be all anyone can concentrate on. 

I just finished reading some criticism the other day and felt about ready to just say, "Can I just take a break from writing? Maybe I'm tired of doing that 24/7. How 'bout that, God?"

But that's when I have to put it in perspective. I wouldn't be getting criticism of my work if I didn't need it. And if I didn't need to improve, that would mean I'm perfect. And if I was perfect, I would be like God. And I am certainly not God. 

Plus, I know that writing is a passion God has given to me. And he wants to use it for Him. So even if the process of writing is painful, frustrating or tiring, I know it will be put to use for Him someday (and even now as you're reading this!)

It's ironic, too, with Easter right behind me. Jesus atoned for all those times I am jealous, frustrated and that constant drive of perfection. I will never be perfect, and all my efforts will be futile. So maybe its not the attempt to be perfect that God wants from us, but rather the humility to accept our faults as they are.  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Power in Film

Last year I spent Good Friday watching The Passion of the Christ. There's a reason its rated "R" because I was definitely not prepared for what I was about to see. I'm really not okay with violent movies or TV shows. It makes me edgy, upset and has probably been the cause of nightmares I've had. 

But for some reason I couldn't let Easter pass me this year without watching a clip or two from the movie. If I think it's so violent, why did I want to watch it again? As you'll see in this interview with Jim Caviezel (he plays Jesus Christ in The Passion), he says that people get upset with watching the scene of Jesus' beating because that's "their sins." With every whip and every chunk of skin ripped off his back is another one our earthly sins. And Jesus took it. He took it all. Every last sin of the past, present and future. I think that's probably why I want to cry when I see that event. 

Caviezel proposes that people want to look away because they don't want to admit their own sins. (Theoretically) it would be hard to see a best friend getting whipped by a master, when you were the one who messed up, right? So if your friend took all the blame, selflessly, how would that make you feel? I'd initially feel guilty, and then sad. But if that whipping took care of every mistake you ever made and would make in the future, how freeing would that feel? And how much would you want to honor your friend for carrying that burden for you? That's how it is for Jesus. He took the pain so we didn't have to.

But back to my main point. If you watch a clip from the movie, you'll see how powerful film can be in conveying the message of Christ. This morning I read the four gospels' accounts of Jesus's death and resurrection. I could let my imagination run wild. But watching a film is different. It makes the events come alive - you can see how the event might have played out because there are "real" people and raw emotions. Caviezel even says in the interview something like, "I don't know how anyone cannot watch the movie and not be a believer." I'll let the movie speak for itself.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Is This Friday Really 'Good'?

Today marks Good Friday, the day in the Christian tradition when Jesus died on the cross. 

In honor of this day, Butler University's group of ministries offered a combined ecumenical service at noon in Robertson Hall.

I think I've gone the last year or two, and it has been an enriching experience each time. What's neat about it is that it brings together students from the Butler Catholic Community, Campus Crusade for Christ and Grace Unlimited (Episcopal faith). The service is usually a combination of hymns, a message and  time of reflection. 

In a sense it brings me joy to see that, despite our different worship styles and 'differences' we are bound together by Christ's sacrifice for us. It's times like this when I wish there were no barriers between denominations. Why can't we just live under the same umbrella of God's love? 

Pastor Jeff Krajewski, of Common Ground Christian Church, asked of us, "Do you trust the pattern of the cross?" I guess what he's saying is, "Do I trust that God is faithful?" Fr. Charles Allen, of Grace Unlimited, said that most of the time we don't trust the pattern of the cross.

"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Wow. Until Jeff read those words aloud, I didn't really understand the weight of that statement. To listen to a friend's troubles means to help carry their burden. But God calls us to do that. Part of carrying those burdens allows us to enter into a deep relationship with fellow Christians - and that's what Go calls us to do!

So the final question Jeff left us with: 

Do we trust the pattern of the cross?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Check this out! The Indianapolis Museum of Art just launched ArtBabble.org, the destination for video content about art. I have always loved art as a form of expression (though fine arts are not my specialty, I have a strong appreciation for it). As with most institutions and organizations, the IMA has jumped on the social media bandwagon to appeal to the online community. Looks pretty sweet!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Swirling Questions

This journey of media and faith seems to be following me everywhere. 

Just a few nights I had a celebratory dinner for the Center for Faith and Vocation. Since I am completing my internship through the CFV, I was invited and mingled with supporters of the CFV and CFV scholarship students. At my table, I sat with Sally Click, Dean of Student Services,  and Tom Weede, VP of Enrollment Management. There were a few others at my table (but I apologize for not remembering everyone's name!) Sally asked me about my major and our table began discussing the state of journalism today. 

Also this week, my chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (of which I am VP), hosted a "Pro Panel" of media professionals. It was a great turnout and I think the other students learned a lot about the state of media today.

The positive thing is that, though some may be claiming the "gloom and doom" of American newspapers, etc., one thing we can be excited about is that there will always be a need for news consumption. It's just that the format is changing. I think "our" generation is ready to embrace that. Recent changes I've seen include using flip video cameras, news organizations using Twitter to post news updates and creating interactive news sites, like CNN.

I also subscribe to Google Alerts, which are a godsend! I currently have Google Alerts for my university, the city I live in and "higher education." The alerts email me once a day with links to any site that has used the phrase or word I have an alert for. It's been really helpful in giving me story ideas for the campus newspaper, and even ideas for this blog!