Archive for June 2009

The Value of Teacher-Scholars

June 29, 2009

space-coverBooks on the space program, terrorism and the internet’s future are the latest intellectual contributions         by professors in the School of Communications.

In recent weeks, associate professor Harlen Makemson presented a signed copy of his book on media coverage of NASA and our quest for the moon, associate professor Brooke Barnett brought by a copy of her new book on the uneasy relationship between terrorism and the press, and associate professor Janna Anderson presented a copy of her third book on the internet’s future.

The first two books were edited by Elon’s Fletcher Professor, David Copeland, who is general editor of the “Mediating American History” series by Peter Lang Publishing in New York. The internet book was co-authored by Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project and a member of Elon’s School of Communications Advisory Board.

We place a copy of all faculty-authored books in a bookcase in the School of Communications lobby, and the glass shelving is now beginning to groan from the weight of more than a dozen faculty books. Because these authors are excellent teachers as well, the bookcase serves as a testament to the value of the Elon teacher-scholar.

As teachers, we want learning to come alive for our students because knowledge, analysis and creative thinking are vital to their futures and to our national future.

As scholars, we become creators and aggregators of knowledge, analysis and creative thinking ourselves.

The Elon teacher-scholar connects a love of teaching with a love of discovery.


Finally, Digital TV

June 12, 2009

Imagine handling more than 1,000 phone calls in the span of a few hours.

As a public service, Elon’s School of Communications set up a call center today for the people of North Carolina who still need to convert their TV sets to a digital format.


Elon's DTV call center during a January 2009 test, with an FCC officer on hand

Nationwide, estimates are that more than 2 million homes — representing about 2% of the U.S. population — were unable to receive TV signals when the nationwide conversion occurred today.

By mid-afternoon, our call center had logged more than 1,000 calls from people across the state. The student crew, including a staff member from the Federal Communications Commission, will be back all day tomorrow as well to assist would-be TV viewers.

“I’ve been waiting for this for 13 years,” said Dr. Connie Book, associate dean of the School of Communications who directed the public-service initiative. “Congress passed the digital legislation in 1996, and it took 13 years to get digital TV into every living room.”

Digital television enables broadcasters to offer better picture and sound quality as well as multiple programming choices (called multicasting) and interactive video and data services.

By involving students in this way, Connie Book gave our students a valuable hands-on experience in understanding how technological change can impact people in their homes and businesses. Not only did North Carolina citizens benefit from this public-service initiative, so did our students.

A Fish Story from San Francisco

June 7, 2009

gyllenhaalWhat a delight to be sitting next to Elon’s Randy Gyllenhaal on the evening when he was named the best collegiate TV journalist in the nation.

In San Francisco last night, Randy received the $5,000 prize at the Hearst Foundation Journalism Awards banquet. A student at the University of Southern California finished second, a University of Florida student placed third, and Arizona State students finished fourth and fifth. The five finalists were selected through year-long competition involving students at more than 100 accredited schools.

The finalists were brought to California and given two days to conceive, shoot and edit a TV news story of up to two and a half minutes on an economic topic of their choice in the San Francisco area.

Randy’s winning piece focused on the fishing industry in the Bay Area. He found that seafood restaurants have lost their customer base during the tough economy because seafood is more expensive than burgers. In turn, this has driven down demand for fresh seafood, causing fishermen to lose business.

Randy’s piece featured dockside and restaurant interviews, on-the-water video and natural sound, an interview with an economic specialist on the seafood industry, impressive graphics, and a humorous closing that involved seagulls.

When I saw Randy’s piece prior to the awards ceremony, I was blown away at how good a story he told in such a clear way. One of the professional judges came up to me afterwards and said Randy’s piece was ready to air on San Francisco television. Here it is:

Recalling an Anniversary

June 4, 2009

Twenty years ago today, Chinese tanks rumbled through Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, with tanks and soldiers killing hundreds of students and other pro-democracy advocates who had occupied the public square for weeks.

The anniversary brought back memories of when I worked at China Central Television (CCTV) in 1993, on the fourth anniversary of what is called the Tiananmen Square massacre.

My wife and I and our two children had moved to Beijing for a year in my role as a Fulbright Professor at the China School of Journalism. In addition, I periodically worked as an “English polisher” at CCTV when an American friend in that job was traveling. The “polisher” edited copy for the daily English newscast and guided the Chinese anchors on English pronunciations before they went on air.

We also watched the worldwide news feeds as CCTV editors decided which international stories would be part of the English-language newscast. On the evening of June 4, 1993, the leading international story happened to be a massive student protest in Germany. But we didn’t air that story on CCTV that evening. The editor warned that if we aired the German student protest story, his superiors would think he was trying to bring attention to the anniversary of the Tiananmen incident, which was to go unmentioned on CCTV.

It’s an important illustration of the difference between government media and a free press.

The night of the 1989 government crackdown; Chinese photo

Tiananmen Square on the night of the 1989 government crackdown (Chinese photo)

Can You Raed Tihs?

June 1, 2009

Go aeahd.  Gvie it a try.

A uinervtisy rsceraeher fnuod taht it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.  The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wihotut a pboerlm.  Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

And I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!