Archive for April 2011

Computerworld Laureate

April 23, 2011

Congratulations to the Imagining the Internet Center and its director, Professor Janna Anderson of the School of Communications, for being named a laureate in the 2011 Computerworld Honors Program. It recognizes the use of information technology to promote positive social, economic and educational change.

The Imagining the Internet Center was selected as a laureate in the education and training category from more than 1,000 nominations. Laureates will gather for a black-tie awards gala on June 20 in Washington, D.C. At the ceremony, five laureates in each category will be named finalists for a 21st Century Achievement Award.

The center, an initiative of the School of Communications, admirably involves students in its activities. For example, students travel abroad each year to cover the Internet Governance Forum under the direction of a faculty member. Their coverage of these global events both serves the public good and can be a transformative experience for the students.

A Collegiate Emmy in Hand

April 18, 2011

We had quite the happy event in our television news studio a few hours ago.

Elon’s newly acquired collegiate Emmy exchanged hands from the staff of student newscast Phoenix14News (represented by executive producer Kirsten Bennett) to the School of Communications (represented by me) for display in the school’s lobby.

After we all applauded, it was right back to work for everyone. After all, Phoenix14News had a live 30-minute newscast fast approaching.

In Los Angeles nine days earlier, five Elon students and faculty adviser Dr. Rich Landesberg enjoyed the moment when Elon’s name was called as the national recipient of the collegiate Emmy for student television newscast. Bennett, Drew Smith, Nick Ochsner, Jasmine Spencer and Mallory Lane went on stage in their tuxes and gowns to collect the award. Afterwards, they went backstage for photos and a walk on the red carpet.

“What a fantastic achievement for this talented team of aspiring broadcast journalists,” Professor Landesberg said. “I always tell my students never to work for awards but to always do award-winning work. Once again, they have all shown just how good they can be.”

You’re Staring at a Screen Right Now

April 16, 2011

Every day, the average American spends 8 hours and 11 minutes consuming radio, television and the internet, according to a survey by two media measurement firms reported in The New York Times.

This represents a 20 percent increase from 2000, when the average American spent 6 hours and 50 minutes with these media.

Yes, more Americans have internet access today than a decade ago. But we’ve also seen the demise of what once were silent spaces.

For instance, Tom Webster of Edison Research told the Times: “This morning, a colleague in the cab with me spent 20 minutes checking e-mail and listening to things online. These are times and places where media were not consumable before.”

Brian Williams at Elon

April 9, 2011

Williams with students Jason Puckett, Adrianne Haney and Sophie Nielsen-Kolding

Our students sure did enjoy two days with Brian Williams this week.

On Thursday, the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” moderated an event on campus titled “We Can Be Better: Courageous Voices Confront Our Greatest Challenges” that relied on experts to talk about education, energy, the economy, religious pluralism and the political will to do something about them.

Williams spent Friday in the School of Communications as the national chair of the school’s Advisory Board.

He was a trooper during his time at Elon — a Q&A with hundreds of students, a video interview, student media, photo shoots and NBC affiliate interviews. He did it all with wit and humor.

We’re already hearing from students about the impact of his visit. He spoke about the need for passion, integrity and a hunger to get the story right. It’s a message that we teach, but frankly it sticks better when a Brian Williams says it with conviction.

Captain Planet

April 9, 2011

Back in the ’90s, “Captain Planet” was a popular animated television show about the environment. Five youths from different continents were dubbed the Planeteers and given the task of defending Earth from pollution and disasters.

In situations that the Planeteers could not resolve alone, they combined their powers to summon Captain Planet, who possessed magnified powers and also exhibited a lot of wit when confronting evildoers.

My son, John David, enjoyed the show while growing up. So when he attended Thursday’s Convocation at Elon featuring Brian Williams and five others who sought to confront Earth’s problems, he created this visual representation.

In the role of Captain Planet, Brian Williams leads (from left) Shirley Jackson, David Walker, David Levin, Eboo Patel and David Gergen on their Elon quest

Media Law Comes to Twitter

April 4, 2011

When an NBA referee whistled a foul and the Minnesota Timberwolves coach complained, an Associated Press reporter covering the game sent this tweet:

“Ref Bill Spooner told Rambis he’d ‘get it back’ after a bad call. Then he made an even worse call on Rockets. That’s NBA officiating folks.”

Now, the NBA referee has filed a $75,000 libel lawsuit against the AP reporter.

NBA referee Bill Spooner (US PRESSWIRE)

When established law comes face to face with new media, we have to think deeply about how to apply the law in the new situation. Good law can be applied consistently in almost all situations.

Let’s analyze this case: Libel law protects both truthful statements as well as opinion and fair comment. So if the referee did say this to the coach, then it’s not libel. But if he didn’t say it, then the tweet clearly is a statement of fact rather than opinion, and it could harm the referee’s reputation and perhaps even his livelihood. That’s what libel law protects.

Now let’s say the AP reporter states that he may have misheard the ref, and he’s sorry. If the NBA referee is a limited-purpose public figure (which I think he is as a professional referee), then an apology probably would deflate the lawsuit because public figures must prove “actual malice” — the telling of a deliberate falsehood to cause injury.

From this analysis, the only way the referee could win a libel suit is if a court decided that an NBA official is a private person who must only prove negligence instead of actual malice, that the statement never was made, and that the AP tweet caused the referee real injury. It’s possible, but not likely.

Ironically, if the AP reporter instead had tweeted something like “What an awful officiating job in this game,” that would be a statement of opinion protected under established law.

April Fools Issues

April 1, 2011

Fighting Christian mascot in action

On this April Fools Day, I remember this delightful piece published in Elon’s student newspaper, The Pendulum, two years ago. It takes a special imagination and wit to craft such an enjoyable piece.

I came to Elon in the early days of the “Phoenix” replacing the “Fighting Christian” as the university mascot. It befit Elon’s history as an institution that burned to the ground in 1923 and then rose from the ashes, like the firebird of mythology.

While I never saw the former mascot shown in this photo, I appreciated the spoof about his troubled times since being replaced by a mythical bird.

Personally, I’ve never liked April Fools issues of student newspapers because they abrogate their real function for pure whimsy. I’d rather the staff simply publish a good satire now and then, not devote an issue to fabrications. This example of satire would have been delightful to read any day of the year. No need to save it for April Fools.