Tag Archives: Philip Merrill College of Journalism

Merrill College Hosts News Engagement Day Activities

News Engagement Day Logo.

(From a Dept. of Communication press release.)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Oct.3) – It’s time to “Engage in the News” as the Philip Merrill College of Journalism and UMD Dept. of Communication hosts News Engagement Day activities on Tuesday, Oct. 4

Sponsored by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), this third annual event has a goal of attracting as many people, both nationally and internationally, to engage in the news, and to remind everyone why news matters.

For the first time, News Engagement Day will be held in the Atrium of Knight Hall – home to the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. The event – which runs from noon to 3 p.m. – will include food, games and prizes.

Student organizers say this year’s event will focus on social media’s involvement in news. A news release asks that participants, “use the hash tag #NewsEngagementDay to get the message of news interaction trending. Additionally the hash tag #UMDisEngaged will support the efforts of news engagement on the University of Maryland’s campus.”

Merrill College Associate Professor Ron Yaros says his 70 Info 3.0 students and 18 senior “Understanding Audiences students will be assigned to go out and tweet mobile videos asking other University of Maryland students questions related to news engagement.

For more information visit http://www.newsengagement.org/ or http://newsengagmentumd.weebly.com/our-story.html.
Use @newsengagement on the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and include the hash tags #NewsEngagementDay #UMDisEngaged.

About AEJMC:

AEJMC (The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication) is a nonprofit, educational association of journalism and mass communication educators, students and media professionals. The Association’s mission is to advance education, foster scholarly research, cultivate better professional practice and promote the free flow of communication.

Communication Dept. Media contact:
Ian Allen-Anderson

FJBlog: Do Presidential Debates Change Millennial Minds?

Associate Professor Ron Yaros and his Info 3.0 Class on Sept. 27.

Associate Professor Ron Yaros and his Info 3.0 Class on Sept. 27.

Fearless Journalism Blog
By Associate Professor Ron Yaros

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Sept. 27) – There is much talk in the media about the importance of the first Presidential debate, ranging from the questions asked to the temperament of candidates, the accuracy of the answers, the number of interruptions, and even the amount of water consumed by one candidate compared to the other. Even if a viewer believes that one candidate “won” the debate, the question is how much do these things really matter to younger voters? I thought I’d conduct an impromptu survey of my 70 undergraduate students.

My course at the University of Maryland is titled “Information 3.0” and is open to all majors and grade levels on campus.  Of the 70 students, 23 (33%) did not watch the debate. Forty-seven (67%) did watch the debate, with 24 watching all 90 minutes. (Figure 1).


Screen Shot 2016-09-27 at 3.46.19 PM

When the 47 who watched the debate were asked whom they thought “won,” 19 said Clinton while 8 thought Trump won. However, the majority (20 students or 43% of the sample) said they didn’t think either candidate “won.”  (FIGURE 2)


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Despite the overwhelming amount of post debate analyses by the news media, only one student changed his/her intention to vote from Trump to Clinton and three students changed from Clinton to Trump. The minds of 91% (43 students) remained unchanged. (FIGURE 3)


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The class includes exactly 25 men and 35 women including 28 sophomores, 19 seniors, 13 freshman, and 8 juniors.

First ViewFinder Class Project Looks at “Faces of the Fair”

ViewFinder student reporter Hannah Burton shooting the pig race for her "Southern Barnyard Runners" feature (with MacKenzie Happe). Photo: Bethany Swain.

ViewFinder student reporter Hannah Burton shooting the pig race for her “Southern Barnyard Runners” feature (with MacKenzie Happe). Photo: Bethany Swain.

By Alexandra Simon ‘17

CROWNSVILLE, Md. (Sept. 27) – With a dozen cameras, 8 alumni coaches, 7 undergraduate students, 4 GoPros, one masters student, a brand-new 360 camera and too many fried Oreos to count, the 7th ViewFinder team spent a long weekend finding unique stories to tell at the Anne Arundel County Fair.   The students in the innovative Advanced Video Storytelling class continued the tradition of teamwork and partnerships.

The action packed visits to the fair were extra special because we had the opportunity to be coached by numerous Merrill College and ViewFinder alumni. Marissa Para (WSET-TV), Alexander Glass (Early Light Media), Alexandra T. Cruz (formerly of Snapchat), Alanna Delfino (WBFF FOX 45), Brianna Hurwitz (WHAG), Tim Drummond (522 Productions), Drew Snadecki (WBFF FOX 45), and Christine Lien (WBFF FOX 45) came to Crownsville to support us through our pilot project. The volunteer coaches came from different corners of Maryland, Virginia and New York to share their time and tips with us.

The “Faces of the Fair” stories are the first of two video journalism projects the ViewFinder team will create this semester as part of PALS – the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability.  PALS is “a campus wide initiative that allows UMD students to get out of the classroom and help solve real world problems with Maryland communities.”

The Anne Arundel County Fair is known for it’s livestock competitions, attractions, and family fun. We met the Poultry Princess, a self-proclaimed tractor pulling “Dirt Diva,” a family-run food truck, friendly camels, and lots of other characters over the course of four days. In between shooting stories the team enjoyed visiting with baby goats and sampled some delicious food, including fried Oreos.

Team members collaborated on several projects, including on a piece about pig racing produced by Hannah Burton and Mackenzie Happe. It took half a day and five cameras to bring the piece together, and is shaping up to be a show favorite.

To tell these stories, Ryan Eskalis had the opportunity to test Merrill’s new 360 camera to capture the fair from all angles, and several of our stories used GoPro cameras. These innovative tools challenged us, and advanced our storytelling and captured some incredible, and normally unseen viewpoints, of the fair.

Special thanks to our faculty mentor and advisor Bethany Swain and again, our ViewFinder coaches for spending the better part of their weekends working with us. The pieces were released on the Capital Gazette in an online “Face of the Fair” series.

ViewVinder - Anne Arundel County Fair. Photos by Bethany Swain.

Susann Shin shoots video for her story about the Anne Arundel County camel ride.

ViewVinder - Anne Arundel County Fair. Photos by Bethany Swain.

Karen Castillo with the fair queen; Alex Glass ’14 with Mya Green; The 360 Video rig. All photos by Bethany Swain.

Election Watch Class Has Unique View of Election 2016

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Sept. 26) – Merrill College students are getting a unique perspective on the 2016 presidential election this fall – and the coverage of it by the three major broadcast networks.

Thanks to a new Merrill College class by Eleanor Merrill Distinguished Visiting Fellow Tom Bettag, students enrolled in “Election 2016 – Managing a Broadcast” are taking a serious look at just how NBC, CBS and ABC are covering the candidates and the issues.

Bettag said, “This course will produce play-by-play commentary of this network competition during the climactic stretch of the campaign. The goal is to understand what makes great coverage and a compelling broadcast.”

Bettag told Merrill journalist Simone Thomas his broadcast and multimedia students will get practical experience in all aspects of journalism:

Analyzing How the Networks Inform Voters

Bettag’s students have a simple assignment: watch every weekday evening news broadcast and contrast the coverage. They will be asked to examine the reporting, writing, ethical decisions, statistics and graphic presentation, studio presentation, and utilization of supporting web materials.

And they’ll be blogging about it all on their new “Election Watch” website – hosted by Merrill College’s Capital News Service. After the election, the students will produce a final site to address “lessons learned.”


Student Becca King ’17 says she was excited about the class last spring when it was first proposed, adding it was a “perfect fit” given she’s a journalism and government double major. “I really think this blog is going to be fantastic. Tom is working with us to develop and perfect our writing skills, which is something some broadcast majors lose track of in the midst of turning day-turns (broadcast news stories). I can’t wait to have a product I, and the rest of our team, are proud to show off.”

Students in the class also have a group of 27 professional journalists to talk to – to get their assessment of what is best journalistic practice. The experts include Candy Crowley, Jeff Greenfield, Connie Chung and David Folkenflick.

Bettag said, “I hope this will help our students look at election coverage more critically. I hope those covering the election knows someone is watching.”

“Brothel Next Door” Project Best in Nation

MOEy "Best of the Best" SPJ Award.

Photo by Jessica Evans.

NEW ORLEANS, La. (Sept. 29) – The second annual Society of Professional Journalists’ MOEy award, “The best of the best in collegiate journalism,” goes to the Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s Capital News Service and its in-depth “The Brothel Next Door” project about human sex trafficking in Maryland.

The award was announced Monday night during the SPJ annual  “Mark of Excellence” awards ceremony.

Dean Lucy Dalglish said, “The project by our incredible students would not have been possible without the guidance of our faculty members Deb Nelson, Sandra Banisky and Sean Mussenden. We are so proud of the powerful reporting our students did on a difficult, ugly topic.”

The Mark of Excellence contest is the biggest student journalism contest in the country and includes both multi-platform and broadcast categories.

SPJ Release About The Award

Sex Trafficking in Maryland Report a First

The Brothel Next Door,” was the first in-depth, data-based analysis of human trafficking in Maryland. The report was published online by Capital News Service and by local news outlets, including in Spanish by The Washington Post’s El Tiempo Latino.

Five classes collaborated on the project: Media law classes submitted public records requests to every county. Capstone classes searched court files for details about how victims become trapped, traffickers operate and authorities respond. They obtained chilling audio of victims’ testimony and a state database never before released. Their analysis found authorities had uncovered extensive evidence of trafficking but struggled to win convictions. They conducted scores of interviews to understand why.

Brothel Next Door
Associate Professor of Investigative Journalism Deborah Nelson said, “This is great recognition for what was truly fearless journalism by Merrill students. The project involved an extraordinary collaboration by nearly 100 students from five classes at Merrill — and the support of the university through a grant from the Mpowering the State initiative, a research partnership between the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.”

“Of all the investigative reporting projects I’ve had the honor of working on with students and two amazing colleagues — Deborah Nelson and Sandy Banisky — at the Merrill College, this one affected me the most,” said CNS Digital Bureau Director Sean Mussenden.  “It’s tragic that thousands of women and girls (and a smaller number of men and boys) are victims of sex and labor trafficking every year. It’s shameful that it’s happening in our own backyard, and we — you, me, our elected leaders — aren’t doing more to stop it.   In marshaling dozens of young journalists to shed light on a local, national and international problem in desperate need of attention, this deeply meaningful project was a success.”

Merrill Placed Two Productions in Top Five Finalists

Along with the CNS in-depth report, an award-winning Viewfinder video called “Troops Deploy Game Ball” by Merrill students Ricky Lasser ’16 and Karen Tang ’16 also made the final five. It did not go away empty-handed however, as SPJ awarded it the top national honor in the Television Sports Photography category. The long form video was part of a project for lecturer Bethany Swain’s ViewFinder class that went behind the scenes at a DC United soccer game. It has already won numerous other national student journalism awards.


Correction: Lede updated to reflect that the MOEy was awarded last year for the first time.