All posts by Garrett Ohlmeyer, University of Louisiana at Lafayette

Slimp urges columnists to ‘write like you think’

Kevin Slimp, founder and director of the University of Tennessee Institute of Newspaper Technology, addressed the continuing importance of newspaper columns during the 2016 SEJC conference on the Austin Peay State University campus.

Although newspapers are traditionally known for relaying news, they also feature columnists’ opinions on a multitude of potentially controversial subjects. Even though columns may not be considered news, Slimp said good columns can be highly regarded because of what goes into them.

“They aren’t just a list of facts,” Slimp said. “Columns include other things. They include your opinion, other sources that you pull in, other people’s opinions and things that happen in history.”

Even though columns are based off opinions, Slimp said the important part is backing up opinions with research and talking to experts on a particular subject.

He also said the best columns are the ones that bring light to issues in society. However, Slimp said these controversial topics often scare young columnists away.

“When you’re younger and when you’re starting out, it’s only natural that you don’t want to push too many buttons,” Slimp said. “You don’t want to make people mad. But as you develop the skill of being a columnist, you’ll come to the point just like I did, and it was about 17 or 18 years into it when I figured this out, that you realize if you’re a good writer, and if you’re a reasonably intelligent person, and most people in journalism are, then probably most people think about the same way that you do.”

Ultimately, he advised young columnists to “(not) be afraid to write about what you think, if it’s the truth.”

After choosing a topic, Slimp said the writing process is different from newswriting. While it is important to make sure your grammar is correct, he said you have to be more casual when writing a column.

He said the best advice he ever received was from his high school senior English teacher.

“You write the way you think and people will read it,” he said.

Writing the way you think includes putting more of your personality in it than you would with news writing.

Slimp also addressed the claims that newspapers are dying out, and said those claims were a “load of crap.”

He talked about a column he wrote three years ago regarding large newspapers that elected to go “digital only,” including The Times-Picayune in New Orleans. So Slimp wrote a column about the importance of newspapers.

He said a small group in New Orleans composed of eight individuals who owned about 75 percent of the city’s wealth contacted him about New Orleans losing its primary newspaper with the Times’Picayune going to three-days a week for its print edition and focusing on its website. The group was concerned that the loss of a daily newspaper would drastically affect the city’s economy.

“They were concerned that if New Orleans loses its daily newspaper, then everyone will consider us a second-rate city and nobody will want to move their industries here and it will be a huge economic blow to the city,” Slimp said.

Ultimately, rather than the city losing a newspaper, he said The Times-Picayune just lost its quality. In turn, The Advocate of Baton Rouge swooped in and became New Orleans’ only daily newspaper.

Slimp said this was proof that newspapers will never die, but also partially because newspapers are the most accurate medium for news.

“Really, if you really want to find the truth today about news, you really need to look at a newspaper,m because newspapers check sources and double-up on sources and check facts,” he said. “When you watch TV, like ‘60 minutes,’ they can stick a microphone in front of anybody, and anybody can say anything.

“I had no idea the response that that story was going to have. That week, that story ran in over 2,000 newspapers in the United States. I got thousands and thousands of messages from people, and guess what? Not one bad message. Every one: ‘You were right.’”

Baron: Social media are ‘like white-water rapids’

Among the plethora of presentations at the SEJC convention, one that every journalist in this modern age should have attended was “Rethinking Journalism in the Age of Social Media.”

Austin Peay’s Rob Baron, Ph.D., a communication professor, focused on the ever-changing state of modern journalism, particularly focusing on social media’s role in that evolution.

“There’s a famous quote by John Culkin: ‘We shape our tools and then our tools shape us,’” Baron said. “That idea is that we create technologies, we use those technologies and then we in turn are changed by those technologies. It’s not like technology is some magic genie that forces us to do things. We’re always forced or pushed to do things by how the tools shape us.”

This "painter" in the Austin Peay Student Union, where the professional development panels were held, caused many a double-take.
This “painter” in the Austin Peay Student Union, where the professional development panels were held, caused many a double-take.

This quote was the thrust for the entire panel: Because journalists and their readers use social media, journalism must adapt the way they write, then market the news to how the consumer wants to receive it. Just as journalists in the past had to adapt their styles to radio or television, Baron said, today’s journalists must adapt to the new frontier called the Internet and the new technology called social media.

Citing data, Baron said that in 2013, 47 percent of Facebook and Twitter users used the social media sites to access their news; by 2015, the percentage jumped to 63 percent.

He added that 23 percent of Twitter users and 28 percent of Facebook users discuss the news on these platforms as well, and the need to adapt becomes apparent.

“No one really is just a print journalist anymore,” Baron said. “You have to be involved with audio, video, images, stuff like that. It’s all becoming this big blob of media.”

Some of the key points Baron outlined for becoming successful at using social media to promote journalism were that the “spreadability,” or availability, when the audience needs the information, must be considered along with portability, reusability and its relevance to multiple audiences. Also, the information must be a part of a steady stream of material to keep your audience engaged.

“I don’t know anyone who has given me or given anyone a reason for why things go viral,” said Baron. “If you think about your favorite viral media moments in the last year, I think there are lots of things that go viral, but no one can really explain why that’s the case.”

However, Baron pointed to the work of Henry Jenkins, Ph.D., Sam Ford and Joshua Greene, Ph.D., from their book, “Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture,” as having a potential answer.

In their book, they hypothesize that a piece of medias’ viral nature may come from engaging in a shared fantasy, using parody and humor, activating “cultural production” in audiences, offering an air of mystery, engaging rumors that speak fears or desires and activating civil engagement.

However, Baron said, the most important thing journalists can do is to build themselves as a “brand” they can sell online.

“I think building a social media brand means finding a voice, being able to find out who you are in terms of a coherent identity,” Baron said, “finding like-minded allies that can help you spread your message and inhabiting social media communities.

“All of these different things get at a core question that every journalist or person who is creating content needs to be aware of, and that is the simple question of, ‘Who are you on social media?’ The more you can do to do those kind of things, that’s going to help you to be there.”

Baron closed by telling the audience that social media and the Internet are like floating down a massive river and you’re “along for the ride.”

“It doesn’t mean you’re out of control and you don’t have a role to play in it, but, like white-water rapids, social media is going to go the way it wants to go,” Baron stressed.

“I think the same can be said for those making content for social media,” Baron added. “You can’t direct where the river is going; all you can do it make sure your message stays in line and afloat. So your job as a professional is to ride the waves of social media and make sure you end up where you want to be and at a given moment you’re cognizant of how the river is flowing and how you can navigate that river as best you can.”

Southeast Journalism Conference announces 2016 Best of the South

[Clarksville, Tennessee] – The Southeastern Journalism Conference named Sudu Upadhyay of the University of Mississippi as 2016 College Journalist of the Year, and Austin Peay State University took home the coveted Best College Newspaper award.

The awards, chosen from 441 qualified entries from 35 universities, were announced at the SEJC’s annual convention, hosted by Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tennessee Feb. 18-22.

The complete list of winners is as follows: **

Best News Writer/ 35 entries

  #10 Rebekah Barnes, Louisiana Tech University

  #9 Alyssa Newton, University of South Alabama

#8 Riley Wallace, Belmont University

#7 William Hadden, Belmont University

#6 Holly Duchman, University of Louisiana – Lafayette

#5 Becca Risley, Lipscomb University

#4 Lauren Booker, Georgia State University

#3 Chelsea Pennington, Samford University

#2 Sarah Grace Taylor, Middle Tennessee State University

#1 Jonathan Capriel, University of Memphis

Best Feature Writer/ 34 submissions

#10 Tori Roper, Troy University

  #9  Connor Raybon, Southeastern Louisiana University

Tied #7  Danica Smithwick, Union University

Tied #7  Brianna Langley, Lipscomb University

Tied #5  Ashley Lyons, University of Louisiana – Monroe

Tied #5  Holly Duchmann, University of Louisiana – Lafayette

Tied #3  Matthew Wolff, Georgia State University

Tied #3  Patrick Lantrip, University of Memphis

#2  Clara Turnage, University of Mississippi

#1  Joshua Cannon, University of Memphis

Best Opinion/Editorial Writer/ 27 entries

  #10 Adam Quinn, Samford University

  #9 Megan Boyanton, Northwestern State University

#8 Jasmine Fleming, University of North Alabama

#7 John Sadler, Louisiana Tech University

#6 Kyle Waltman, Mississippi State University

#5 Alexis Hosticka, Harding University

#4 Elena Spradlin, Austin Peay State

#3 Mitchell Oliver, Georgia State University

#2 Seth Dickerson, University of Louisiana – Lafayette

#1  Meagan White, Middle Tennessee State University

Best Arts & Entertainment Writer/27 entries

#10 Miranda Brown, Tennessee State University

#9  Natalie Franklin, University of South Alabama

#8  Rachel Brackins, Harding University

#7  Jimmy Lichtenwalter, Samford University

#6  Stephanie Schiraldi, Lipscomb

#5  Zoe McDonald, University of Mississippi

#4  Gus Carrington, University of Memphis

#3  Andrew Wadovick, Austin Peay State University

#2  Stacy Reppond, University of Louisiana – Monroe

#1  John Connor Coulston, Middle Tennessee State University

Best Sports Writer/ 33 entries

 #10 Todd Dean, Tennessee State University

#9  Michael Shipma, Troy University

#8  Ben Wellham, Northwestern State

#7  Matthew Emery, Arkansas Tech University

Tied #5  Sam Chandler, Samford University

Tied #5  Katherine LeJeune, Louisiana State – Shreveport

#4  Omer Yusuf, University of Memphis

#3  Kadin Pounders, University of North Alabama

#2  Samuel Cowan, Belmont University

#1  Dylan Rubino, University of Mississippi

Best Special Event Reporter/Editor/ 16 entries

 #6  Kaleb Turner, Harding University

#5  Jonathan Capriel, University of Memphis

#4  Sean Keenan, Georgia State University

#3  Ethan Steinquest, Austin Peay State

#2  Tierra Smith, Grambling State

#1  Logan Kirkland, University of Mississippi

Best Press Photographer/ 26 entries

#10 David Parks, Union University

#9 Mikalla Cotton, Union University

Tied #8 Logan Kirkland, University of Mississippi

Tied #7 Greg French, Middle Tennessee State University

Tied #4 Erin Turner, Lipscomb University

Tied #4 Hunt Mercier, University of Southern Mississippi

Tied #4  Shelby Watson, Austin Peay State

Tied #2 Courtland Wells, University of Southern Mississippi

Tied #2 Jacob Follin, Mississippi State University

#1  Andrew Hunt, Belmont University

Best News Graphic Designer/ 12 entries

#5 Taylor Bowser, Troy University (ADD)

#4 Lewis West, Austin Peay State

#3 Cina Catteau, Harding University

#2 Kali Daniel, University of North Alabama

#1 Maddie Richardson, Georgia State University

Best News-Editorial Artist/Illustrator/ 8 entries

#4  Seth Nicholson, Troy University

#3  Joey Plunk, University of Tennessee-Martin

#2  John Miller, Georgia State University

#1  Jake Thrasher, University of Mississippi

Best Newspaper Page Layout Designer/ 19 entries

#8 Nicholas Davison, Xavier University

#7 Madisen Theobald, University of Mississippi

#6 Taylor Bowden, Mississippi State University

#5 Sean McCully, Austin Peay State

#4 Caroline Carraway, University of Mississippi

#3  Emily Lasher, Georgia State University

#2  Carmen Blackwell, University of Louisiana – Monroe

#1  Shilo Cupples, University of North Alabama

Best Magazine Page Layout Designer/15 entries

Tied #6 Jared Pekenpaugh, University of Tennessee – Martin

Tied #6 Gopal Gurung, Louisiana State – Shreveport

#5 Clair Per-Lee and Rebeccal Terrell, Samford Univeristy

#4 Jordan Knox, University of South Alabama

#3 Andrew Graham, Union University

#2 Brion Eason, Florida A & M

#1 Braxton White, Florida A& M

Best Magazine Writer/ 9 submissions

#4 Ali Renckens, Union University

#3  Cady Herring, University of Mississippi

#2 Cody Sexton, Louisiana Tech University

#1 Sydney Cromwell, Samford University

Best Television Hard News Reporter/ 9 submissions

Tied #4 Ashleigh Burton, University of Tennessee – Martin

Tied #4 Haley Greathouse, Troy University

#3 Leslie Newman, Lipscomb University

#2 Breana Albizu, Georgia State University

#1  Kelly Savage, University of Mississippi

Best Radio Hard News Reporter/ 4 submissions

#2 Ashley Parmer, Tennessee State University

#1 Sydney LaFreniere, University of Tennessee – Martin

Best Television News Feature Reporter/ 13 submissions

#9   Brittany Clark, University of Mississippi

#8  Jake Jones, Mississippi State University

#7  Tierra Robinson, University of West Alabama

#6  Emily Proud, Belmont University 

Tied #4  Brittany Robinson, Southeastern Louisiana University

Tied #4  Ben Goodman, Austin Peay University

#3  Tyler Wayne Smith, University of Louisiana – Monroe

#2  Alex Ro, Georgia State University

#1  Caroline Saunders, Samford University

Best Radio News Feature Reporter/ 9 submissions

#4  Morgan Burger, University of Mississippi

#3  Natalie King, University of Tennessee – Martin

#2 Riley Mueller, University of Mississippi

#1  Erin Thomas, Middle Tennessee State University

Best Radio Journalist/ 6 submissions

#3 Tori Seng, University of Tennessee – Martin

#2 Steven Gagliano, University of Mississippi

#1 David Caddell, Troy University

Best Television Journalist/ 12 entries

Tied #6 Yvonne Thomas, Samford University

Tied #6 Dominique Brogle, Southeastern Louisiana University

#5 Kristen Gautreaux, Nicholls State

Tied #3 Jamal Goss, Georgia State University

Tied #3 Browning Stubbs, University of Mississippi

#2 Ryan Renfrow, Troy University

#1 Heather Black, Mississippi State University

Best Advertising Staff Member/6 entries

#3 Danielle Shearer, Southeastern Louisiana University

#2 Kelsey Shumate, University of Mississippi

#1  Katelyn Clark, Austin Peay State

Best Journalism Research Paper

#4  Hailey Lange, Southeastern Louisiana University

#3 Hayley Taylor, University of West Alabama

#2 Anna McCollum, University of Mississippi

#1  Rachel Stanback, Samford University

College Journalist of the Year/ 18 submissions

#10 Sarah Grace Taylor, Middle Tennessee State University

#9 Danica Smithwick, Union University

#8 Erin Turner, Lipscomb University

#7 Tierra Smith, Grambling State

#6 Emily Featherston, Samford University

#5 Ciara Frisbie, Georgia State University

#4 Grishma Rimal, Troy University

#3 Holly Duchmann, University of Louisiana – Lafayette

#2 Eric Craig, Xavier University

#1 Sudu Upadhyay, University of Mississippi

Best Multimedia Journalist/ 9 submissions

Tied #3 Brianna Champion, University of West Alabama

Tied #3 Sarah Grace Taylor, Middle Tennessee State University

#2 Taylor Slifko, Austin Peay State

#1 Erin Turner, Lipscomb University

Best Public Service Journalism/ 9 submissions

#4  University of Mississippi

#3  Charles Bailey, Georgia State University

#2 Katelyn Clark, Taylor Slifko, Sarah Eskildson, Austin Peay State

#1  Cardinal & Cream, Partnership with Lane College, Union University

Best College Audio News Program/ 5 submissions

#2 University of Louisiana – Monroe

#1 University of Tennessee – Martin

Best College Video News Program/ 11 submissions

#5 Lipscomb University

Tied #3 Southeastern Louisiana University

Tied #3 Georgia State University

#2 Belmont

#1 Troy University

Best College Magazine/11 submissions

Tied #4 Georgia State University

Tied #4 University of North Alabama

Tied #4 Samford University

#3 Louisiana Tech University

#2 Florida A & M

#1 Union University

Best College Newspaper/ 23 submissions

Ranked #10 Grambling State University

  #9 University of Tennessee – Martin

#8 Troy University

Tied #5 University of Southern Mississippi

Tied #5 University of North Alabama

Tied #5 Mississippi State University

#4 Middle Tennessee State University

Tied #2 Louisiana Tech University

Tied #2 Georgia State University

#1 Austin Peay State University

Best College Website/ 26 submissions

#10 University of Mississippi

#9 Louisiana Tech

#8 University of Southern Mississippi

#7 Lipscomb University

#6 Florida A & M

#5 University of Louisiana – Lafayette

#4 Belmont University

#3 Austin Peay State University

#2 Arkansas Tech University

#1 Middle Tennessee State University

Best College Radio Station #10/ 4 submissions

#2 Southeastern Louisiana University

#1 University of Tennessee – Martin

Best College Television Station/ 8 submissions

#4 Samford University

#3 University of Tennessee – Martin

#2 Troy University

#1 Southeastern Louisiana University

Lecturer/Assistant Professor position available at UT-Martin

The Department of Communications at The University of Tennessee at Martin has an opening for a lecturer or tenure-track assistant professor to teach Public Relations and additional courses, beginning Aug. 1, 2016. A master’s degree in public relations, strategic communication, mass communication with an emphasis in public relations, communication with an emphasis in public relations studies, or related field is required.

A minimum of 18 graduate hours in speech communication or communication studies is required. A Ph.D. is required for assistant professor rank. An ABD is required for instructor rank.

The person holding this position will teach Public Relations primarily and/or Public Speaking courses. Salary is negotiable.

Interested persons should apply online at and attached a letter of interest, curriculum vitae, a statement of teaching and research philosophy, name and contact information for three references and copies of transcripts. Any questions may be submitted to Dr. Richard Robinson at Deadline for applications is January 15, 2016. The department will begin a review of applications on January 19, 2016 and the search will continue until the position is filled.


The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/ Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status.

2014, University of Louisiana-Lafayette

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAddressing a crowd of aspiring journalists, John Georges, owner and publisher of The Advocate in Baton Rouge, La., predicted a “bright future” not only for his newspaper but for all news media as the younger generation enters the industry.

“Don’t listen to anything they’re saying about your futures,” Georges told the nearly 300 students and faculty members from 31 colleges at the SEJC Onsite Awards Luncheon in Lafayette on Saturday, Feb. 22. “It’s going to be really exciting.”

Although print readership has been in decline, Georges said, he believes the newspaper industry is entering an age of “revolution.”

“We have young people with technology, video and social networking – all these things that are breaking through the norm and breaking the model,” he said. “I think we’re going back to those revolutionary people that started journalism in its earlier days.”

Georges, 53, purchased The Advocate, the largest daily newspaper in Louisiana, from the Manship family in May 2013.

As a New Orleans businessman, Georges said, he’s confident in his ability to turn a business around and sustain it.

The Advocate is already seeing progress. Under new ownership, it has become one of the few publications in the U.S. to expand its coverage and circulation.

“The Advocate is in a unique situation,” Georges said.

The paper has separate editions in Baton Rouge, New Orleans and Lafayette, which are all surrounded by prosperous suburban areas, he explained.

When the New Orleans Times-Picayune cut its print edition to three days a week in 2012, The Advocate, then under the Manships, came out with The New Orleans Advocate, an enhanced and rebranded edition to compete as a daily newspaper. The company was also able to pick up employees who lost their jobs at the Picayune, Georges said.

“We knew the New Orleans readers wanted to read, and they wanted to read the paper they had grown up with,” he said. “They couldn’t have the Times-Picayune. It’s the paper by name but no longer the paper they’re accustomed to.

“They’re accustomed to reading the seven-day paper,” he continued. “We were able to provide them with seven-day delivery with many of the writers they were accustomed to.”

The New Orleans Advocate is actually making money, Georges said, which makes up for any money the paper could be losing at home in Baton Rouge.

With the same initiative in mind, the company also rebranded the Lafayette edition to become The Acadiana Advocate.

Georges said in both Lafayette and New Orleans, the paper is competing with nationally owned chains, which aren’t as flexible as a locally owned newspaper like The Advocate.

“They have to be profit-driven,” he said. “They can’t do illogical things; they can’t invest in ideas that may or may not pan out because they have to make a profit.”

Louisiana has more than 100 newspapers. Georges said he believes they will consolidate over time and print editions will survive, but the economic side must be left up to business people.

“We’re delivering the newspaper to your home for $1 or less,” he said. “It’s the best bargain in America, and I believe over time people will pay more for that.”

Asked about the relationship between the business side and the editorial staff, Georges replied that the general manager and editors at The Advocate run the paper and control the content because, as journalists, they know best.

“A strong paper never folds over to an advertiser,” he said.

Despite the skeptics, Georges remained hopeful and excited about what’s coming next for the journalism industry.

“I think your future is safe,” he said to the students. “I think it’s going to be different. Everything’s different, but I’d much rather be a journalist today than a med student or a lawyer.”

Elliott instills the value of original reporting

Elliott 1NPR reporter Debbie Elliott detailed the success the public radio network has seen in recent years, saying it provides “perspective about what’s been happening in journalism in the last decade.”

Addressing the Best of the South Awards Banquet during SEJC’s 28th annual convention in Lafayette on Friday, Feb. 21, Elliott, NPR’s Southern regional correspondent, said NPR has about 34 million listeners each week, 27 million of whom tune in exclusively to the station’s news programs. Even though journalism has declined nationally — with newspapers losing 22 percent of their readers and news networks losing 29 percent of their viewers over the last 10 years — she said NPR has seen a 19-percent hike in listeners.

“Why?” she inquired, holding a jar of tar balls and a tooth from a nutria rat. “These help us answer that question.”

The two props helped illustrate the significance of the kind of stories NPR produces, said the 51-year-old reporter based in Orange Beach, Ala. She called them “evidence I left my computer screen, hung up my telephone and I went somewhere,” telling the more than 290 college students and faculty in attendance that that is “90 percent of your success as a journalist.”

“Your very best work is going to happen when you’re out there on the ground and adapting to what you’re learning and seeing,” said Elliott, a former NPR Capitol Hill correspondent and weekend host of the popular program “All Things Considered.”

Elliott, an Atlanta native and University of Alabama alumna who has worked at NPR since 1995, has extensively covered the 2010 BP oil spill — from which she acquired her collection of tar balls. She said she has produced 136 stories on the subject, covering its lingering, widespread effects that include damage inflicted on economic, ecological and legal levels.

The experience gained through the coverage, she said, has made her a relative expert in oil spills. Because of that, Elliott said, NPR is sending her to Alaska to cover the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill, which was considered to be the biggest in U.S. history until the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — as the BP spill is often called — dethroned it four years ago.

“I can tell you the difference between a tar ball and a tar patty,” Elliott said. “There’s a vocabulary to this, and I can tell it to you because I experienced the story.”

Elliott laughed when she said she did not kill the nutria from which the tooth came, but she said she “covered the man who did because they were eating up the marsh in Louisiana.”

With animated imagery, Elliott recalled reporting on nutria “chompin’ up all the marshes,” partly causing Louisiana to lose its wetlands at an alarming rate.

“I actually took my microphone into the swamp to see what they do, and I was able to explain to our listeners in a very vivid way what this issue was,” Elliott said. “That’s something I think NPR does better than just about anybody.”

The Atlanta native explained NPR has 15 U.S. bureaus and 17 foreign ones. Saying that NPR listeners “actually get to experience” what they hear, Elliott described the network’s stories as ones “you can actually touch, feel and smell.”

“It’s important to have people all over the country to reflect the people all over the country,” she said of NPR’s wide coverage. “If people are actually in those communities, it’s much easier to tell real stories about real people.”

Elliot — who has reported only for radio since her first job as a sophomore at the University of Alabama’s public radio station —used these examples to “instill the value of original reporting” in her audience.

“You’ll find there’s not just this side and that side to a story,” she said. “There’s history, there’s context, there’s nuance to a story. See for yourself, look for yourself what the real story is.

“There’s always more to a story,” Elliott continued, “and that’s your job as a journalist to get at that.”