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International Student Housing at UMass

7 May

By Tyler Manoukian, Melissa Gately, and Remy Schwartz
Drastic changes have been made by the division of Student Affairs and Campus Life (SACL) due to the high demand for on campus housing.

Vice Chancellor and Executive Director of Student Affairs and Campus Life, Jean Kim stated “We have known for a couple years that we would be hitting a crunch for undergraduate housing.”

Student Affairs has become a hot topic in recent Daily Collegian headlines and causing a rift between the undergraduate and graduate student body and the University.

“This is a pressing issue because the SACL decisions are having influential effects on the student body,” according to Katie Landeck, editor of The Daily Collegian.

Student Affairs has decided to raise the rent and move all families out of the Lincoln Apartments to house the surplus of undergraduates who wish live on campus.

The Lincoln Apartments, located on the south side of campus, right behind southwest has been known to occupy graduate students and some faculty workers. There has are no reports of undergraduates living in the Lincoln Apartments at the time of this writing.

But the Graduate Student Senate (GSS) believes the impending SACL changes violate the Wellman Document.

According to GSS Treasurer, Robin Anderson, the Wellman Document is defined as,  “ A governance document, stating that governing bodies on campus that are recognized by the university have the right to have their input heard on any policies changes that directly affect them.”

On April 4, the Graduate Student Senate wrote a formal letter to Chancellor Robert Holub, demanding  him to suspend the new policy so both governing bodies could re-evaluate the new policy and asked for a response by April 13.

There was no response by April 19 when the GSS held meeting and eventually voted 11-2 for no confidence in Vice Chancellor Kim and Executive Director of Residential Life Edward Hull.

Reportedly neither Kim nor Hull have responded but Anderson believes the GSS has made their motives clear to Jean Kim and Edward Hull, who are very much aware of the situation.

“It’s an ongoing thing, a trend towards the erosion of on-campus housing for graduate students” says Matthew Ferrari, Family Issues Advocate for the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO).
Ferrari says the changes allows the University to increase its revenue by 100 percent because it will now be able to charge $750 per person in each apartment in Lincoln. Under the new guidelines for the Lincoln residential area, tenants, which will include undergraduate and graduate students, must adhere to a 24-hour quiet policy.

Occupancy for the Lincoln apartments will increase to 160 students  in 2013, and again to 182 in 2014. The housing shift effectively removes all graduate family housing options from the Lincoln apartments and funnels all families into the North Village apartments next year and beyond.

“With international students, it’s a tricky situation because they are only allowed to work twenty hours per work, they can’t find jobs outside of campus, it has to be within campus. These changes directly impact [graduate students] in ways more negatively than the [UMass student] population,” says Anderson.

“Their housing needs to reflect [these restrictions,]” says Ferrari. “If the University wants to raise our wages accordingly, that’s fine. They either need to do that or lower rent, or keep it where it is at the very least.”

According to Ferrari, “The average graduate stipend is about $14,000 or $15,000 and rent is about 50-60% of that every year  and to put in perspective, Vice Chancellor Kim would be paying about $12,000 per month and Chancellor Holub would be paying about $20,000 per month.”

The UMass Strategic Residential Plan [page 23 of 27], a qualitative and quantitative study done by Biddison Hier, a higher education consulting firm, on residential life in 2002 asserts that nearly all graduate students are dependent on their stipends for a living and are therefore in a price sensitive situation, and the University should provide housing for a cost that is reasonable based on a graduate student’s stipend.

“[The University is] trying to fix the vacancy issues at North Village by evicting families from Lincoln and trying to fill North Village with [those families] because of the 6 to 12 percent vacancy rate,” said Ferrari.

Journalism: The Final Frontier

1 May

When I stepped into Steve Fox’s classroom in January, I wasn’t convinced journalism was dead. I wasn’t convinced it was alive and kicking, either. I knew a few things concretely:

  • Newspapers are dead and dying: I have some friends who have been working for the Chicago Tribune for most their careers. They have been watching mighty fall at their paper for the last five or so years.
  • Facebook is growing exponentially and taking a big chunk of the web’s traffic with it.
  • Print media, for the most part, has become obsolete.

I knew I liked the internet, I liked Facebook, I had recently had a sparked interest in Twitter. I didn’t know how all of those things were tools. I didn’t know that blogging was more than a fad that had died in the early 2000’s. I didn’t know that web journalism was as immense and diverse as it is.

I have learned in the last semester that newspapers may be on their death bed, but journalism is going through a renaissance. The internet has opened new doors that allow journalists to evolve the medium in creative and innovative ways.

The adoption of video and audio, beyond the worlds of broadcast, have changed the way people receive the news on the go. NPR  still publishes their radio stories primarily on the air, but they also offer them on the web and through their mobile application. Because of the new venues for publication, reporters are forced to learn multiple skills. A radio reporter now has to record sound, take photos, and shoot video.

As print news leaves, more and more news sites flood the internet. They are able to attract global niche audiences. They’re no longer confined by their small geographical circulation or limited publishing resources. As the amount of diverse content grows, audiences are able to expand and and explore many different outlets.

Blogging has made it possible for the people that were formerly confined to the role of reader, viewer, or listener to become the newsmakers. The blogosphere has given voices to millions of previously unheard people. Those voices flood the internet with opinions and content, giving readers unlimited options of what to read and how to read it.

Social media constantly changes the medium of how news is delivered. Twitter has become an invaluable tool for journalists. It enables writers to feed readers headlines throughout their days, without picking up a newspaper or opening a news site.

Twitter has also revolutionized the accessibility of the average reader to the reporters themselves. If Andy Carvin tweets something I am very familiar with and I see a problem with, I can respond by tweeting at him. I can immediately send reporters corrections, and if they are valid, the reporter will retweet me and fix his mistake.

Journalism is adapting and evolving at a break-neck pace. It is constantly exploring new mediums and voices. With this new-found tech flexibility, I think journalism will continue to live on in creative and innovating ways.

SEO Ethics

26 Apr

A few years ago, I worked for a small home-contracting company in Chicago, Illinois. Twice a week I would come in to the office, which was the sun-room in the owners condominium. I would spend my hours “link-building” in different creative ways.

  • I would update the company’s blog
  • I would post advertisements on Craigslist.org three to four times a day
  • I would analyze Google AdWords in-depth
  • I would contact other designers and contractors about trading links on our websites

The goal of all this work was to generate traffic to the company’s website. The more traffic, the more business. My title was “S.E.O. Specialist”, I was only money they spent on advertising, and I was 18 years old with absolutely no experience.

In the brave new world of the internet, standard advertising practices are not viewed as the best way to get business. With web-marketing, everything is trial and error. The same can be said of journalism. Without the sale traditional print papers ripe with advertising space, journalists need to re-evaluate their business model.

By doing this, some traditions will have to change. Since the early 1950’s, the AP Stylebook has been every journalist’s hybrid field guide/bible. With annual updates, it has been a state-of-the-art technology for print journalists. These days, people don’t get their papers at newsstands with change, they get it on their iPhones and their tablets while they ride the subway.

With different mediums and formats, the delivery of news and content has to change. The massive growth of web multi-media has complicated a lot of formatting beyond what’s covered in the Stylebook.

That being said, journalists have to be able embrace new methods while still upholding their integrity. Kelly McBride’s Poynter article about the formatting mis-representations of the Mosque built a few blocks away from Ground Zero discusses an important new ethical question: can I tailor my writing to what people are searching for?

As a journalist, high traffic is a reasonable goal. Writing to discuss popular issues and ideas people are talking about is important. However, reporters with integrity need to lift themselves above the rhetoric and influence of the Twittersphere and maintain accuracy and no bias.

Alternative strategies need to be explored, beyond titling your article “The Mosque at Ground Zero”, they clarifying that it’s actually a community center blocks away. McBride suggests that rebuttals that use the same questionable phrasing do not exactly help the cause. The repetition of false wording, regardless of the context, leaves a lasting impression on readers.

Using inaccurate titling is questionably un-ethical. An alternative must be embraced, but I do not see a simple answer to this question. The SEO system is built around how internet traffic works, and web users looking for news are not worried about integrity. It is important, though, to be the level-headed voice in the conversation.

Mark Stencel’s Whirlwind Trip to UMass

24 Apr

When Mark Stencel asked our Multimedia class how many people had already seen him speak on Thursday, almost everyone raised their hands. Stencel, the Digital News Editor for NPR, had been making the UMass Journalism rounds all week.

Not only did he sit in on a number of classes, he also gave a stellar presentation the night before he spoke to our class. On Wednesday evening he spoke in front of a large group of mixed Five College journalism students and faculty in Herter Hall.

He talked the crowd through a Power Point slide show where he talked in depth about the changing trends in listeners and readers media digestion.

“When you look at these cars, you see traffic. When I look, I see listeners.”

After he gathered that most of our class had already heard him, he was excited to change gears away from his usual spiel. He walked us in great depth through a unique piece NPR published last March. The story was about Brock Savelkoul, a returning veteran from Iraq and his showdown with North Dakota State Troopers.

Stencel explained how this story had two unique formats. One was the NPR-patented radio story, which he described as a “format breaker” at over 20 minutes long. The other was an interest buffet of multimedia that was specially built for the website. The online story contained:

  • Photos
  • Video
  • Interactive Map
  • Interactive Timeline
  • A heavier use of found source than the radio story

As Stencel started the video, he joked about how you should never do an internet presentation. Sure enough, the internet didn’t work for him. He had trouble with his site’s map and video and was forced to show us the video on YouTube instead of NPR. He explained the transitional nature of NPR’s digital site and how glitches were still being worked out.

The class was captivated by the story of the traumatized soldier’s fall from glory to madness, that ended in a police standoff. As the video ended, Stencel was visibly moved by it. He apologized,

“I’m sorry, it still gets me every time.”

He tried to deconstruct the video with the class, asking us about our expectations as viewers. Did we think the soldier would be killed? Did we think it would end badly? Stencel kind of slyly proceeded to tell us that without our noticing, they had already alluded to the Brock’s survival through NPR’s highly produced photos of the man.

Stencel talked in depth about the importance and abilities of a good photojournalist, and how impressed he was with the photos from this story. He went on to discuss the differences between the radio and the video version. The radio story focused on a personal interview with the troubled soldier, whereas the video followed the police.

We compared the end of the radio piece to the video, and the use of Brock’s newly adopted dog, ‘Lucky’. It was at this point that Stencel gave us one of the best tips I’ve ever been given by a journalist: When you talk about a dog, you must tell your audience the dog’s name.

Will McGuinness: Huffington Post Higher Education Editor

8 Apr

When Will McGuinness started speaking to our class on Thursday, the reoccurring pattern of UMass alumni’s success became clear. Will is the second UMass Journalism alum we’ve heard from this semester. Like his predecessor, Eric Athas, Will is doing impressive things.

Will graduated from UMass Amherst in 2010. While on campus, he was editor-in-chief at The Daily Collegian. He also tried his skills at a number of other publications, including the Daily Hampshire Gazette and a Los Angelas magazine.

Jobs after Graduation

When he left Amherst he was awarded a fellowship that funded his time working for the Dow Jones Newswire. Will spent much of his time in college covering activism and civil rights, which was a stark contrast to the business-centric news at Dow Jones. He was adamant that a reporter’s ability to cover different beats is an imperative skill.

When his fellowship ended he landed a job as digital editor of his hometown newspaper, The Herald News in Fall River, Massachusetts. While at the Herald News Will started to delve deeper into the world of social media. He helped establish an online presence for the paper. Unlike larger papers, the Herald News’s organized its social media around the brand instead of individual reporters.

Using basic web tools, Will helped turn the Herald News’s online content into more than a newspaper. The paper became a hub for community organization. They provided tools to show the town where potholes were. He also established program where elderly people could request shoveling service by the local high school’s football team.

Marie Joseph Drowns in Fall River

While Will was working for the paper a major national story broke in Fall River. The body of a woman named Marie Joseph was found dead in a town pool, three days after she drowned. The accident led to the resignations and firings of people at a number of different levels.

Will utilized the paper’s online elements to build a relationship with the family:

  • They used information on the woman’s Facebook as preliminary leads.
  • With the family’s permission they also published photos from the website.
  • The used Facebook’s Chat feature to set up an early interview with the family

When the national media flooded into Fall River the day after the accident, The Herald News had already established a strong relationship with the victim’s family and were the upmost source on the situation. Will attributed the paper’s ability to break that story to a combination of their social media tools mixed with old fashioned reporting.

Reporting News on the National Stage

While at the Herald News, Will resolved himself to apply to three jobs every day. He left his position at digital chief in Fall River and moved to New York to report nationally for CBS News. He was happy and successful at CBS, but he never missed a chance to pursue an opportunity.

When he saw a tweet about how the Huffington Post was hiring people to work in their higher education, he sent Arianna Huffington an email. He was asked to come in for an interview, and was offered a position within the hour.

Multimedia News Review

6 Apr

The Chicago Tribune published this article about the death and serious injury of two motorcyclists who were killed last night. The story covers the basic details of the accident:

  • It was just before midnight on Thursday, April 5
  • It occurred on the northbound Kennedy Expressway near Canfield Avenue.
  • The two men both licensed and not driving recklessly.
  • The man who lived was not wearing a helmet, it is unknown whether the man killed was.

This is a simple story that published all of the information that was known shortly after an accident’s investigation. It does not have quoted statements from police or witnesses, nor do we hear from either victim’s family. The story does, however, have an accompanying video. The video is titled “Raw video: Scene of a fatal motorcycle accident”.

And it is just that. Raw video of the scene. There is no footage from the crash, or even footage or wreckage. Just 26 seconds and four shots of Illinois State Troopers ambling around the scene of the accident, their cars parked with their lights on. The only shot that clarifies this footage is even from last night’s accident is the one dark, semi-out-of-focus shot of a motor cycled parked on the shoulder.

This kind of article is standard news. It is a brief accident report with little details and no other voices than the reporter. It is short, tight, and seemingly accurate. However, the video attached to it is nothing but short. It is non-descript and contains no information. It depicts slow-moving police officers with flashlights. Nothing about the video helps the story in any way.

Yes, this is what an accident looks like on the highway.  The ‘raw’ video is just that: raw, un-produced, and unnecessary. The 26 second video requires it’s users to watch a 30 second advertisement for Citibank. The advertisement plays every time you hit the play button, regardless if you have already seen it. The Citibank ad turns this useless video into a 56 second experience, that is a majority about credit cards.

The use of multimedia elements in news is exciting in many ways. Videos can show us what words cannot, but video can also show us nothing. The use of video in stories that are already light on content makes stories look like they are merely there to fill space on the homepage. Some stories should not have video in them at all. I chose this story because I was initially bewildered by the fact that it had a video. It seems like a lot of raw video is attempting to meet viewers’ demand for media, but really it is just being used as an outlet to sell more advertising space.