What is your professional background?
I spent several years as a sports reporter for the Los Angeles Times and made a leap to online journalism after getting a master’s degree at Northwestern. I’m an early adopter of the web, having helped found ChicagoTribune.com
DePaul’s a great fit for many reasons. I like the students, and the curriculum here allows us to experiment with technology and try new things more than any other university at which I’ve taught.
What is your teaching style and philosophy?
I use a "tough but fair" approach. I was taught by veteran journalists, both as an undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska, and as a graduate student at Northwestern. They prepared me to work for major media outlets in a competitive environment at a very young age.
I use their “tough but fair” approach in my reporting and editing courses. With that approach, students have produced award-winning
work on a national level. In the Journalism program, I teach the fundamentals of the industry while having students experiment with technology. It’s a tricky balancing act, but it makes a difference for our students.
When we moved the College of Communication to the Loop campus in 2010, Dean Jackie Taylor stressed ways we can make Chicago a classroom. And I think The Red Line Project
does that. It sends our students out into the community to find interesting people, news and events. Then they tell those stories using cross-platform reporting techniques.
Talk about the Red Line Project.
The Red Line Project was founded by a group of my Online Journalism II students in the Winter Quarter 2011. It was a special group of 17 people who worked hard to make it happen. The students had that entrepreneurial spirit that’s hard to find in any journalist, young or veteran.
The site covers local news and trends in neighborhoods bordering Red Line El stops. I always use this analogy with students of how the Internet is the train tracks and the Web is the content that flows on those tracks. As it turns out, Chicago has the perfect layout with the El to cover those kinds of stories. I ride the Red Line to our Loop campus just about every day, and thought it would be a great way to organize a site.
The goal of the site is twofold. First, it provides a great way to showcase student work and teach them multimedia skills. We use video, slideshows, audio, photos, stories, links and social media tools like Twitter and Storify to tell stories. Second, we try to cover stories in neighborhoods that might be missed by mainstream media or go uncovered because of reductions in staff and resources.
Several mainstream sites pick up on our work and link to it, which tells me that they respect what we’re doing. It’s great exposure for the students and for DePaul. Students seem to really take to the site. They really go after it, and you can’t ask anything more from them than that!
What courses do you teach and which are your favorites?
I have to say I haven’t taught a subject I didn’t like at DePaul, and that’s rare. I’ve taught nine different courses over three and a half years. If I had to pick a favorite undergraduate course, I would say Online Journalism II because it’s the class in which we founded The Red Line Project. At the graduate level, it would be Reporting for Converged Newsrooms because it’s such a challenge to teach. We produce compelling pieces, like the 9/11 project
last fall and the NATO summit
coverage in the spring. You are heavily involved in the field of journalism outside of DePaul. How do your involvements impact students?
I always tell my students the first day of class that I don’t ask them to do anything I can’t do myself. That means if they have to edit video on Final Cut Pro or produce an audio slideshow on SoundSlides, I’m going to demo it in class and show them how to produce it.
I’m heavily involved with the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). They own a website that I created in the late 1990’s, The Journalist’s Toolbox
. The site shares thousands of links and tools for reporters and editors. My relationship with SPJ helped us found the first SPJ DePaul student chapter. We launched with 61 members and were named the national, regional and local chapter of the year in our first year. My relationships outside of DePaul can really help open doors for our students!
The field of journalism is constantly changing due to new technology. How do you prepare students to enter such an evolving profession?
It’s important to be a practicing journalist as well as a teacher. I blog part-time for NFL.com
. I also studied at the Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, in 2009 and 2010. I’ve also built a strong following on Twitter (@journtoolbox). All of these experiences help keep me up-to-date on trends in the industry, particularly with technology issues and challenges.
I have to keep my toe in the water, so to speak, to keep up with emerging technologies in the industry. I have to stay on the cutting edge while maintaining timeless ethical and reporting standards to make our students competitive in a tough job market.