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Making the Transition From the Newsroom to the Classroom

By Dr. Sybril Bennett, Associate Professor, Belmont University and inaugural executive director of the university’s New Century Journalism Program

Many journalists have been motivated by fate as well as by choice to seek alternative employment.  First of all, if you are reading this and you only have one stream of income, rush out and get a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad right now.  It is imperative that you have more than one revenue source at all times. In his book, How to Succeed in Business Without Being White, if my memory serves me correctly, Earl Graves talks about making money while sleep.  Whether the income is from book royalties, advertising or renting space on your blog, the stock market (if you’re money is on drug companies, ironic, I think not) or selling merchandise on eBay, it is imperative to diversify your internal portfolio. With that said, many people turn to teaching as a short or a long-term solution for career change.

On Saturday, Dec. 5, local educators and administrators participated on a panel sponsored by the Nashville Association of Black Journalists’ Professional Development Committee led by Tennessean Business Reporter, Getahn Ward (Twitter: NashvilleNABJ) to discuss making the transition from the newsroom to the classroom.  The session was moderated by the Nashville chapter President Harriett Vaughn, a Multimedia Reporter at The Tennessean. On hand were: Drs. Terry Likes, Department of Communications Chair at Tennessee State University, Dwight Brooks, the new program director for journalism at Middle Tennessee State University, and yours truly, Sybril Bennett, Associate Professor at Belmont University.

Although, I did not take notes, here are thoughts from the session:

  • Just because you want to teach, doesn’t mean that teaching is for you.  Teach Sunday School, become a substitute teacher, become a guest lecturer, teach at a community college. Get some experience not only to set yourself apart but also to determine if this vocation is for you. Teaching is a service just like journalism. And like journalism, it isn’t for everyone.
  • Don’t just focus on the colleges and universities, investigate teaching opportunities at private K-12 institutions as well.
  • There are different levels of teaching on the collegiate level:

-Adjunct Professors-They work part-time, do not receive a salary or benefits. Pay per class can range from $1500-$3000 depending on the university and state of course, but that’s a ball park figure to consider.

-Instructors and/or Lecturers may be salaried, could be full-time and may receive benefits, however, they are not on track for tenure or promotion.  Like adjunct professors, they serve at the will of the department chair and/or Dean.

-Assistant Professors are full time, tenure track employees on salary and with benefits.  They are eligible for tenure which basically means that if achieved a person has a right to work at the institution without having their position terminated without just cause. Typically, the offense must be extreme.  On average it takes 5 to 7 years at most institutions to achieve tenure.  This factor may be negotiable based on years of experience. Nothing beats a failure but a try.  An Assistant Professor can receive tenure without being promoted to the rank of Associate Professor.

-An Associate Professor is a faculty member who has been promoted and more than likely has tenure. It is possible to be promoted without it. Faculty usually spend another 5 to 7 years before achieving the rank of full Professor.

-Full Professor’s are normally tenured with promotion obviously given the title change. They are the most stable employees at an institution and difficult to fire and in some cases to motivate as well because they don’t have the fear of termination.

-Professor of the Practice is yet another designation, typically reserved for someone with a lot of professional experience who may not have a terminal degree but fulfills the requirements to teach.

  • Types of Institutions
    • There are different types of institutions of higher learning. For example, Tennessee State and Middle Tennessee State are research institutions. Therefore, tenure-track faculty are expected publish articles in peer-reviewed journals. The expectation is to focus on Research, Teaching and Service in that order of priority and importance.
    • At Belmont University, a private, Christian, liberal arts institution, the focus is on teaching. Therefore, in order to achieve tenure the focus is on teaching, service and research respectively.
    • Teaching Requirements:

For Public Institutions, requirements vary by state.  For example, in order to teach in the Department of Communications in the state of Tennessee, a bachelor’s degree is required and six graduate level courses in communications or journalism that’s 18 credit hours. The rules at Private Institutions are governed by the institution.  Always ask to find out what the rules are.  Most institutions want a master’s degree but many will make allowances. Make no assumptions, find out for yourself.

  • Google is your friend.  Use it to read job descriptions and find out exactly what each institution requires.  In addition, look up syllabi and use the templates provided to create your class. Don’t copy, remix. In other words, get inspiration from others but create your own class based on the requirements of your respective department.
  • Get on Twitter and follow journalism professors like Drs. Serbino Sandifer Walker (a board member of the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force),  Barb Iverson Mindy McAdams and Dr. Syb. (Please respond to this post and add more)
  • Get online and strengthen your multimedia and storytelling skills.  Try taking courses at:, the Knight Digital Media Center or take a course at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute in Nashville, Tenn., all are worth your time.
  • Partner with journalism schools now and create positive relationships.
  • The biggest change from the newsroom to the classroom for the panelists was speed. In the newsroom clearly, deadlines were important. In the academy, not so much. They typically move much more slowly than the industry, although some private institutions may be more flexible than some public ones.

I know your time and attention are scarce so I’ll end there. If you want more, we are all happy share. The session was a huge success and hopefully many of you with determine whether the classroom is really for you. This is Dr. Syb, The Multimedia Maven signing off, Peace!!!

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Mediaite List Shows Why Diversity Is Needed

By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair,

Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group

Last week, the Federal Trade Commission held a 2-day workshop: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?   One of the speakers was National Association of Black Journalists President Kathy Times, who stressed the importance of having a diverse workforce, no matter what form journalism takes in the future.  “Without diversity, stories and events that are important to the African-American community are less likely to be covered and more often misunderstood. The Obamas’ triumphant FIST bump was one of those moments,” she observed.  You can read her entire speech here.

Unfortunately, Times’ point was made glaringly clear in a Dec. 4 post on the Mediaite Web site entitled “A Retrospective: 28 Media Leaders Who Died This Decade.”  Writer Danny Groner offered up what he called he “the most prominent members of the media who passed away over the past 10 years.”  There was just one problem — not ONE person of color — any color — was included on the list.  Names that came up in the NABJ Listserv that members felt should have been on the list included Gordon Parks, Ed Bradley, Michael Jackson, John H. Johnson and Richard Pryor, to name a few.

Former NABJ President Bryan Monroe was one of the first to spot the omission, so he sent an email to Mediaite editor Rachel Sklar.  And to her credit, Sklar immediately wrote an apology post, and Groner added the names of Shirley Chisholm, John Johnson, Richard Pryor, Ed Bradley and Michael Jackson.   You can see St. Petersburg Times’ media critic Eric Deggans’ take on it here.

But the point is clear — if a person of color had been on staff, maybe these, along with the names of Hispanic and Asian contributors, may not have been missed.   It’s important that readers, no matter the color, get a true view of all those who contribute to this thing we call the media.

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Using Google Maps to Enhance Your Story

By Vanessa C. Deggins, Reporter/Videographer, The American Press,

Reporter/Anchor, KYKZ-FM Lake Charles, La.

I love Google Maps because you can do as little or as much as you want with it. You just need a Gmail account and once it’s embedded, any updates are automatically added on.
As a cops reporter, a thumbtack with a single location and short blurb, lets me give the reader an idea of where an incident happened.
But my first foray into Google Mapping was to supplement another reporter’s work. And it began as something simple and thanks to flexible bosses, they let me experiment and steadily add more.
In Southwest Louisiana, there have been eight women murdered in the same parish (county) over a five -year period. All are believed to be connected to one person.  I decided that a Google Map would provide some context.  The reporter had written about the multiple connections between the women. They are all from the same area and most knew each other or ran in the same circle of friends.
When I arrived at The American Press, seven bodies had been found and this reporter had been covering the situation the entire time.
I got with her to make sure my markers were in the correct place  and added just the name of the victim, date and location she was found.  When the eighth body turned up, I started experimenting with all of the other things Google Maps lets you do. I also went into our archives and added the womens’ pictures.
On a slow news day, I started linking all of the articles under their name. And once the FBI, got involved, I added another marker to include links about the overall investigation.
As a Knight Digital Media fellow, I am always pushing this program. Here is  their tutorial on Google Map basics. Feel free to browse through the other tutorials.