Region 7 early registration ends today

Region 7 ConferenceToday is the last day for early registration to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Region 7 Spring Conference, scheduled for April 25-26 at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kan.

The student registration rate is $50 through today, while the SPJ member rate is $75 and the non-member rate is $100. After today, the rates go up to $75, $100 and $125, respectively.

Another early bird discount applies to the conference hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton at 10100 College Boulevard in Overland Park. Room rates are $89 until April 10, when they go up to $149. (Mention the Region 7 conference when making reservations.)

SPJ’s regional conferences offer the chance for Society members and prospective members to meet, greet, and share ideas. They close the gaps in distance between chapters, for at least one weekend, and foster a greater sense of community.

The conference starts with a get-together Friday evening at Hayward’s Pit Bar B Que, a Kansas City culinary landmark, at 11051 Antioch Road. Dinner will be covered in the registration fee, but bar drinks are separate.

Saturday’s sessions include advice and instruction on basic photojournalism, basic audio editing, job-searching, ethics, TV news coverage, and tips on dealing with public information officers.

So, register today, and save yourself some money.


Media merger creates new St. Louis news source

St. Louis Public Radio, St. Louis BeaconWith the merger of St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon comes an all-digital nonprofit news-gathering organization expected to do more than draw a new face on both operations.

The merger became official when the University of Missouri Board of Curators endorsed it Friday. Both sides began exploring the possibility with a letter of intent signed in October 2012.

UM owns and operates St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU, 90.7 FM) as well as three other National Public Radio outlets, in Columbia, Kansas City and Rolla. KWMU has been on the air since 1972.

The Beacon, an online newspaper and community engagement site, launched in spring 2008 with the backing of several former reporters and editors from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who had left after the newspaper was purchased by Lee Enterprises from Pulitzer Inc., in 2005.

No name was announced, but a distinct brand on the combined effort is expected to appear in some form starting Dec. 10. For now, the online portal will resemble St. Louis Public Radio’s existing site, said Tim Eby, general manager of the station and head of the new operation. Margaret Wolf Frievogel, Beacon editor and co-founder, will oversee the newsroom.

“Many details remain a work in progress,” Frievogel said in a statement on the Beacon’s website. “But our purpose and principles are clear — to provide the solid reporting and thoughtful discussion St. Louisans need to understand the problems and opportunities we face. Our region is reinventing itself. So are we.”

Expect academia to play a prominent role in the reinvention, says Wayne Goode, chairman of the Board of Curators.

“By combining these operations with (the University of Missouri-St. Louis) College of Fine Arts and Communication and (the University of Missouri at Columbia) School of Journalism, we will maximize the research and academic potential of our journalism and communications disciplines,” Goode said in a news release.

The new venture’s staffing amounts to about 60, including 26 journalists. They will all be University of Missouri employees.

By joining the merger, the Beacon escapes a rough patch. Both the Beacon and the radio station relied chiefly on grants and donations, as will the combined operation. But in 2011, one of the Beacon’s principal donors, the Danforth Foundation, shut down after 84 years.

That year, the foundation gave the Beacon about $1.25 million.

Although the merger constituted a long journey, it ends with a short trip of a few yards. The Beacon’s staff and resources relocate to St. Louis Public Radio’s facilities from the building next door, The Nine Network (KETC, Channel 9), where the Beacon has resided nearly six years.


Jayson Blair’s story is told again in a new documentary

A Fragile TrustWhen reporter Jayson Blair was exposed as a serial plagiarist in 2003, his employer, The New York Times, regarded the admission as “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.”

The resulting crisis in confidence cast a long shadow over not just the Times, but also over all of newspaper journalism and the efficacy of affirmative action hiring.

Blair’s case and its impact re-enter the spotlight this weekend in the documentary “A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power and Jayson Blair at the New York Times,” a featured presentation at the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival on Saturday at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac cinema.

“A Fragile Trust” examines Blair’s case and the course he charted through journalism, which included attacks on his integrity going back to his college days, and the spectacle of his undoing in media nationwide. Woven through the narrative are tales of deception, drug abuse, mental illness, racism, and power struggles at the Times.

The documentary will be shown at 1:30 p.m. Among those interviewed are Blair and St. Louis-native Gerald Boyd, former Times managing editor, who with executive editor Howell Raines resigned in the wake of the Blair revelations. Film director Samantha Grant will answer questions from the audience after the showing.


Gateway Journalism Review needs your help

Gateway Journalism Review logoMedia criticism is alive and well in the Midwest ― but it needs your help.

The Gateway Journalism Review, published continuously in magazine form since 1970, analyzes media behavior across a 16-state region, from Ohio to Oklahoma, from Arkansas to North Dakota.

It appears four times annually in print, as well as on a regularly updated website.

It is one of just three journalism reviews in the country, apart from the Columbia Journalism Review in New York and the American Journalism Review in the Washington, D.C., area.

And GJR depends on contributions for its content.

“GJR is a publication whose readers tend to be a mix of media professionals, academics, students and the general public,” explained the editor, Bill Babcock. “The style of all items is professional in nature rather than academic/footnoted.”

That means contributions should be:

  • Media-focused on topics involving journalism, new media, advertising, public relations and broadcast, among others.
  • Critically analytical in nature, rather than first-person or opinionated in nature.

Content is contemporary, too. Recent articles posted online involved reporter access, civil drones, and a debate over impartiality in the Edward Snowden case.

But monitoring the media over a 16-state area requires a wide network of writers attuned to media behavior in their regions, and so GJR seeks contributors who can help extend its reach and awareness beyond the St. Louis area, where the publication was founded.

Babcock says anyone interested in writing for GJR is invited to contact him at 618-453-3262, or by email at The deadline for the next print edition is Dec. 5.



Riverfront Times seeks news blogger

Riverfront Times logoWho says bloggers can’t be journalists?

At the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, a blogger helped keep the 36-year-old weekly newspaper on the public’s mind with his witty and sometimes irreverent Web writing about such topics as Confederate flag T-shirts, email-happy state senators, and the tribulations of a well-endowed bikini wearer at one Missouri water park.

Recently, said blogger, Sam Levin, bolted westward to the Golden State, leaving the 75,000-circulation RFT in desperate need of a reporter/writer at least as witty and prolific (six posts daily, about 30 weekly). No less than the RFT’s editor acknowledges this in his own blog post on the subject.

Chad Garrison, RFT editor

Chad Garrison, RFT editor

“The ideal candidate will be a strong writer whose work doesn’t require advance copy editing and someone with a Mark Zuckerberg-like understanding of social media as both a news gathering and promotional tool,” wrote Chad Garrison.

But above that in the same post, Garrison stressed, “We are looking for a candidate who is first and foremost a reporter ― someone who loves breaking news and picking up the phone to interview the folks involved. (In other words, someone who does more than just aggregate other people’s work.)”

So, if you think Garrison has you pegged, then send him a résumé and samples of your work to his email with the phrase “news blogger” in the subject line. Of course, it would be wise to first look over examples of Levin’s work to see the kind of writing style Garrison wants.

And, yes, a competitive salary, health insurance and 401k are included in the deal.


Kansas’ student TV, newspaper now under one manager

University of Kansas logoFor the first time since their operations were consolidated, the student-run TV station and newspaper at the University of Kansas will have one manager.

Brett Akagi, a former assistant news director at KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Mo., fills a new role created by the merger of two positions: station general manager and newspaper faculty adviser, according to the Lawrence Journal-World.

The move advances the School of Journalism’s effort to create a single multimedia newsroom. That effort began in 2010, when the station, KUJH, and newspaper, the Daily Kansan, came under one roof.

The Daily Kansan’s previous adviser, Malcolm Gibson, did not have a supervisory role with the station. Gibson retired this spring after teaching at KU for 17 years.

Ann Brill, dean of journalism, told the Journal-World that the consolidation addresses market and budgetary considerations. These days, journalists are expected to be proficient with more than one media platform, as they often report for print and digital at the same time.

Akagi’s title is media director and content strategist, according to his LinkedIn page. Before landing at KSHB, he was senior video producer at the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis and taught print journalists there how to convert their stories to multimedia.

At KU, Akagi must balance control with oversight. KUJH is funded by the university. The Daily Kansan, meanwhile, is able to pay student workers and allows more editorial autonomy in the students’ hands than the station does. So, while Akagi may have the last word at KUJH, he only advises the Daily Kansan staff.

Trevor Graff, editor-in-chief of the Daily Kansan this fall, told the Journal-World he and Akagi already have discussed ways the two operations can work closer together on reporting projects. Although occupying the same building, KUJH and the Daily Kansan have separate work spaces.



Regional conference returns to Kansas in 2014

Johnson County Community College logoThe spring conference returns to Kansas in 2014. But the host is unique for Region 7.

Johnson County Community College, based in Overland Park and the largest institution of higher learning in Kansas, with more than 30,000 students. has been selected the first community college to host the conference for the region, winning a bid process that began at the conclusion of this year’s conference in St. Louis.

JCCC representatives first suggested their institution as a possible venue two years ago when the Kansas City Press Club and the national SPJ headquarters co-organized the 2011 conference, also in Overland Park. This year was the first that JCCC made a formal bid.

Corbin Crable, coordinator of JCCC’s Department of Journalism and Media Communications, said he thought it made sense for his school to host the conference because of the diverse curriculum and the attention paid to multimedia in his department.

The journalism program consists of four faculty and seven adjuncts teaching 17 classes that range from video production to advanced reporting. JCCC also has a variety of media internships in the Kansas City area.

“And now that we have the green light, we’ll immediately move forward and have the conference just as we planned,” Crable said upon hearing of JCCC’s selection.

He said the tentative conference dates are April 25-26, and overnight accommodations would be at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, 10100 College Boulevard. A pre-conference get-together would be that Friday at Hayward’s Pit Bar B Que, about a mile west of the hotel.


Muslim group works to reduce stereotypes in St. Louis media

A Muslim advocacy group is taking steps to curtail stereotypes about the faith among St. Louis area media.

But the group also urged media to do their part and research Islam well before running up against a news deadline.

Faizan Syed speaks during media breakfast in St. Louis

Faizan Syed discuses Muslim stereotypes in media Wednesday in St. Louis.

The St. Louis-based Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced it soon will release a media guide containing contact information for Muslims with knowledge of the issues and cultures around St. Louis and who have experience or training to deal with the media.

CAIR-St. Louis’s outreach began in earnest Wednesday during a special breakfast with invited media at Grbic Restaurant and Banquet Center in south St. Louis. CAIR also promises more media meetings like this one.

“The only time the media really try to cover the Muslim community … is when there’s an incident,” then the media leap to conclusions, explained Faizan Syed, the CAIR chapter’s executive director and leader of the breakfast discussion.

“Something happens like the protests in Egypt, then they want to contact the Egyptian Muslim community because (they think) they obviously they have connections with what’s going on in Egypt,” he said. “Or, if something happens in Pakistan, they want to cover the Pakistani community because obviously all of us have a say in how the Pakistani government works. But that’s not the case, and we want to make the experience better.”

Another problem lies in the broad belief that each Muslim can speak for every other Muslim. Syed said the city has large Albanian, Bosnian, Somali and Turkish populations that hew closely to their own cultures, while there are also large Arab, Bangladeshi, Nigerian and Pakistani populations stretching into the suburbs.

Adil Imdad, a Muslim chaplain and funeral director, underscored the importance in understanding these cultures as well as the faith.

“Because the culture of a Pakistani is very different from the culture of a Bosnian versus the culture of an African,” he said. “These are very different people joined by a single faith.”

Syed said estimates of the number of Muslims living around St. Louis range from 80,000 to 100,000, though the precise number is not known. CAIR wants to raise money for a census to answer that question.

Syed said he recalled a news conference where he asked who among the journalists knew the tenets of Islam and was answered with silence.

“This is the fundamental problem, is that you’re covering a religious community without really knowing what the religion stands for,” he said.

Indeed, the Muslim community can do more itself to meet the media’s needs, said Dr. Noor Ahmed, who’s affiliated with the St. Louis chapter of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America.

“I think it’s up to us Muslims to reach out to these people and help them understand us,” he said. “We have failed in that objective.”

But it helps for media to take initiative and recognize stereotypes before advancing them, especially regarding terrorist or extremist acts by Muslims.

Dr. Anjum Hassan, a professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University, explained that “people practice their faith different. People have different understandings of their faith. And that’s why people’s actions are different. … People should judge the action by the action itself and not in the context of Islam.”

Syed underscored this with the media’s persistent use of the word “Islamist” as a blanket descriptor for all Muslims no matter their behavior. He said that using the term without nuance attaches suspicion to people who are not deserving of it.

“Our first recommendation is to get rid of this word altogether,” Syed said. “Rather, if you are covering a story of terrorism or a story of extremism, you should refer to that specific person or group responsible, like ‘al-Qaeda ideology,’ or whatever the group, instead of saying ‘Islamist.’”

Doing this goes a long way toward putting a crisis in context, he continued.

“What happens after an incident is that there is no discussion among the media about what is the political reasoning or underlying factors creating these terrorists and extremists,” Syed said. “If you don’t mention the political reason, the logical assumption Americans make is that it’s the religion” that’s responsible.


St. Louis Media History Foundation awards first Pollack scholarship

Tabitha Williams, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A St. Louis University student is the first recipient of the Joe Pollack Scholarship established by the St. Louis Media History Foundation.

Tabitha Williams, a 2012 graduate of Mehlville High, studies occupational therapy. The $4,000 award she will receive honors the former St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer, critic, labor advocate and local radio commentator who died in 2012.

Pollack was also a lifetime member of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter.

Despite its focus on preserving local media history, and Pollack’s media prominence, the Foundation elected not to restrict the scholarship to just media students.

“Joe wouldn’t have wanted it that way,” said Dave Garino, Foundation president, speaking at the time the scholarship was established. “He was for every student getting an equal chance.”


Now is your time to shine in Kansas City

Kansas City Star logoHere’s the optimum opportunity to prove you know Kauffman from Kemper.

The Kansas City Star seeks a new assistant managing editor for its award-winning Features department.

The AME/Features leads a staff of 25 in producing 10 newspaper sections plus assorted digital products. Coverage topics include Arts, Entertainment, Faith, Food, Health, House & Home, and Lifestyle.

Candidates need at least seven years’ experience in newspaper journalism and an extensive background in features coverage. Exceptional people skills and a knack for knowing what works better in digital than in print are premium traits.

Interested? Contact Mike Fannin, editor and vice president, at


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