Tag Archives: Philip Merrill College of Journalism

CNS, Viewfinder, Diamondback Take National SPJ Awards


Adapted from an SPJ News Release.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The results are in and Merrill College’s Capital News Service and Viewfinder program, along with The Diamondback student newspaper, have won national SPJ Mark of Excellence Awards for 2015. The MOE Awards honor the best of collegiate journalism within a calendar year.

National Mark of Excellence Award winners are chosen from the category winners in each of SPJ’s 12 regions, and the awards are judged by journalism professionals with at least three years of experience.

SPJ will recognize first-place national winners at the Student Union event during Excellence in Journalism 2016, Sept. 18-20 in New Orleans.

Judges were directed to choose only those entries they considered outstanding work worthy of a national honor. If the judges determined none of the entries rose to this level of excellence, no award was given. Any category not listed has no winner.

School divisions are based on student enrollment, which includes both graduate and undergraduate enrollment: Large schools have 10,000+ students and small have fewer than 10,000 students.

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SPJ Mark of Excellence 2015.Philip Merrill College of Journalism and Diamondback Winners

In-Depth Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Winner: The Brothel Next Door – by CNS Staff.

Best Digital-Only Student Publication
Finalist: Capital News Service | CNSMaryland.org – by CNS Staff.

Television Sports Photography
Winner: ViewFinder: Troops Deploy Game Ball – by Ricky Lasser and Karen Tang.

Television News and Feature Photography
Finalist: ViewFinder: Ballet for Disabled Children – by Karen Tang.

General Column Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: For the love of God, there was Satan, Letter from an Op-editor, The Perfect Human Can’t be Designed – by Yi “Patrick” An, The Diamondback student newspaper.

Sports Column Writing
Finalist: Sports columns – by Ryan Baillargeon and Daniel Popper, The Diamondback student newspaper.

Merrill College Remembers: Debra Schwartz (Ph.D. ’04)

ASU Professor Debra Schwartz (Ph.D. '04)

Debra Schwartz. Photo: LinkedIn.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The Philip Merrill College of Journalism mourns the passing of Debra Schwartz (Ph.D. ’04) whose body was found this weekend below the rim of Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Az. where she had been camping.

Schwartz was an English professor at Arizona State University in Phoenix.

Arizona Central Obituary

ASU Executive Vice President and Provost Mark Searle issued a statement that said:

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of our colleague, Debra Schwartz, who devoted her career to helping others find the joy of newfound knowledge and creative ability.  Her dedication was reflected in one of her last conversations, words of encouragement to a student from this past semester and an offer to stay in touch over the summer. Our hearts go out to Debra’s family, and to them we offer the comfort of knowing that she helped enable so many to learn and understand the world a little better.”

KPHO TV in Phoenix talked with friends at ASU and the community who say she will be missed:

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Schwartz at Maryland

Debra Schwartz graduated from Merrill College with her Ph.D. in 2004. Her dissertation committee included Associate Professors Steve Barkin and Kathy McAdams and Professor Judith Patterson. She worked for a long time as grad assistant to Professor Haynes Johnson, Merrill College’s second Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism.

Her C.V. shows that as a Ph.D. student, she was active professionally, in the community and on campus.  She served as a commissioner for the City of College Park Redistricting Commission, and was the doctoral representative for Merrill College’s faculty assembly. She served on the research and public relations committees for the International Listening Association and provided professional service for the Society of Professional Journalists and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Society of Environmental Journalists.


Sifting Through The Comments: New UMD Research Aims for Quality

Merrill College Assistant Professor Nick Diakopolus and his ischool/computer science team working on CommentIQ project to help moderators find the best news site comments.

The CommentIQ UMD team: Left to Right: Simranjit Sachar, Nicholas Diakopoulos, Niklas Elmqvist, Deok Gun Park.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Reading – or making – comments is a big part of consuming online news. But as anyone who has ever read comments knows, the quality can range wildly from good to bad to ugly. How can a comment moderator of a news website provide readers the best material when there are hundreds – sometimes thousands of comments?

The answer may be a new journalism tool called CommentIQ. Developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park Campus, CommentIQ is an advanced computer tool designed to help comment moderators find and sort the best material for their readers.

Assistant Professor Nick Diakopoulos is a computer scientist who heads up the Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s Computational Journalism Lab. He is also a member of the UMD Human Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL). Diakopoulos says CommentIQ is designed to create the tools a moderator needs to visually find and sort high quality comments that readers have contributed to news articles. “This type of tool is far more advanced than the tools that are currently available to industry, enabling a new way of moderating comments that doesn’t focus on removing the low quality stuff as much as highlighting the high quality stuff.”

The interdisciplinary research project includes faculty from Merrill College and the University of Maryland’s iSchool (College of Information), a student from the iSchool, as well as a students from Computer Science (College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences).  The CommentIQ research is made possible thanks to a Knight Foundation-funded prototype grant. That support has opened doors to allow the team to begin working with the Coral Project that aims to re-invent commenting for news websites. “We evaluated our prototype in terms of how it would change work practices with real comment moderators from the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times, giving the work much more ‘real-world’ relevance,” said Diakopoulos.

New Paper Focuses on Comment Moderation

The University of Maryland research team will present a new paper on their findings today, May 9 during an ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in San Jose, California. It is considered the flagship conference on human computer interaction research.

“Supporting Comment Moderators in Identifying High Quality Online News Comments” was selected as a best paper honorable mention by ACM (which is just 5% of the papers submitted).

The research paper was co-authored by Deokgun Park, Simranjit Singh Sachar, and Niklas Elmqvist.

A Q&A With Professor Nick Diakopoulos

1) Why is there a need for a tool to help website comment moderators sift through the good – and the bad – comments readers make?

National news outlets routinely publish articles that attract hundreds and even thousands of user comments. These comments often provide valuable feedback and critique, personal perspectives, new information and expertise, and opportunities for discussion, not to mention an occasional dose of profanity and vitriol. The varying quality of comments demands a high level of moderation and curatorial attention in order to cultivate a successful online community around news. CommentIQ helps moderators sort the great from the not-so-great comments at scale by applying visual analytics in a way that helps them work effectively and efficiently.

2) Some news stories bring thousands of comments – would your tools help the best ones “rise to the top” while pushing the worst to the bottom?

CommentIQ is explicitly designed to help identify the top quality comments. This is done interactively and through visualization so that professional moderators can define the criteria that are important in a given community or discussion context. We do not currently provide support for removing the worst of comments, however this could be an area for future work.

3) You’re already working on ways to reinvent commenting. Ideally – what do you think this will look like in five or ten years?

In the future online commenting will inform journalism in a host of new ways. For instance, reporters will have advanced tools for identifying new information sources and experts from the community based on past comments. End-users will have new tools for sorting and filtering commentary based on point of view, topic, or sentiment. And business-people will make use of comment analytics to drive revenue decisions about likely subscribers.

4) What does collaborative research like this (working with Computer Science and the iSchool) say about research going forward here at Merrill College and the University of Maryland? Is this a model for the future?

Most of the world’s problems don’t fit in a tidy box that can be solved by a single discipline. CommentIQ draws on disciplinary expertise from journalism, visual analytics, data analysis, and human computer interaction in order to solve a real problem and advance the state of the art for comment moderators. Interdisciplinarity is in the DNA of the University of Maryland. The CommentIQ project is a model for the future of research in which experts in different fields come together to focus on applying their knowledge to solve specific problems.

Professor Diakopoulos and members of his CommentIQ team are available for interviews. Please contact Dave Ottalini for more information:

Dave Ottalini
Senior Communications Manager
Philip Merrill College of Journalism


Press Uncuffed Campaign Wins Prestigious SABRE Award for Non Profit Organizations

Merrill College alumna and RoseComm President and CEO Rosemary Ostmann and Account Executive Kelsey BaRoss celebrate the Press Uncuffed campaign SABRE award.

Merrill College alumna and RoseComm President and CEO Rosemary Ostmann and Account Executive Kelsey BaRoss celebrate the Press Uncuffed campaign SABRE award.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The PR campaign behind the Press Uncuffed project won a prestigious SABRE award May 3 during a gala program in New York City. Merrill College alumna Rosemary Ostmann’s RoseComm Marketing, PR and Social Media firm oversees the campaign to promote the student-powered project. Press Uncuffed was the brainchild of students in Knight Chair Dana Priest’s public affairs reporting class in 2014. They came up with the idea to sell translucent bracelets with the names of incarcerated journalists as a way to raise awareness and win their release. The continuing campaign is done in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In an email to Dean Lucy Dalglish and Professor Dana Priest, Ostmann wrote, “This is a huge honor and we’re beyond grateful to each of you for your support and collaboration.” The Press Uncuffed campaign won over a number of much larger PR agency submissions.

Celebrating Results

The Press Uncuffed campaign is celebrating the release of seven journalists featured on its bracelets during the first year of operation. The seven freed since the campaign began in April 2015 were imprisoned in Iran, China, Vietnam, Swaziland, Bahrain, Mexico and Ethiopia. The other Press Uncuffed journalists who remain in prison are: Ilham Tohti, China; Eskinder Nega, Ethiopia; Mahmoud Abou Zeid “Shawkan,” Egypt; Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Uzbekistan; and Mohamed Ould M’Kheitir, Mauritania.

“I am beyond gratified to celebrate the freedom of more than half the journalists whose plights were highlighted by Press Uncuffed this past year,” said Priest. “Purchasing Press Uncuffed bracelets, which honor both those who have been freed and those still imprisoned, supports the crucial need of fundraising for this extremely important cause.”

Sign up here to receive updates from the Committee to Protect Journalists on the status of imprisoned journalists and to learn how to take action to support their release.

About the SABRE Awards

The SABRE Awards, which recognize Superior Achievement in Branding Reputation & Engagement, now attract more than 2,000 entries from across North America each year, and provide the premier showcase for the best that public relations has to offer. The awards are overseen by The Holmes Group, whose website says “is dedicated to proving and improving the value of public relations, by providing insight, knowledge and recognition to public relations professionals.”

About Press Uncuffed

Press Uncuffed is a campaign to raise money to free imprisoned journalists around the world by selling bracelets bearing their names. Journalism students at the University of Maryland and their professor, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter and Knight Chair Dana Priest, created the campaign, which benefits the Committee to Protect Journalists’ emergency assistance campaign. Additional information about Press Uncuffed is available at PressUncuffed.org.

About the Committee to Protect Journalists

CPJ promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. CPJ ensures the free flow of news and commentary by taking action wherever journalists are attacked, imprisoned, killed, kidnapped, threatened, censored or harassed.


Knight Chair Priest Named 2016 Zenger Press Freedom Award Winner

Dana Priest headshot

– Adapted from an Arizona State School of Journalism release by Mike Chesnick.

TUCSON, Az. – The University of Arizona School of Journalism will honor Merrill College Knight Chair and Washington Post investigative reporter Dana Priest with the 2016 John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Award for her work exposing secret prisons and the poor treatment of wounded soldiers.

Given by the school since 1954, the award honors journalists who fight for freedom of the press and the people’s right to know. Priest will accept the award at a gala dinner to be held Oct. 14 in Tucson.

“Dana Priest epitomizes what journalism is all about – courage, truth-seeking, holding those in power accountable, and providing people the information they need to adequately self-govern,” said David Cuillier, the UA School of Journalism director.

Past winners of the Zenger Award include Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Bill Moyers, Walter Cronkite and Associated Press foreign correspondent Kathy Gannon, who returned to reporting this year after being wounded in a 2014 attack in Afghanistan.

World Press Freedom Day

Priest appeared on The Diane Rehm Show May 3 in honor of World Press Freedom Day. The U.N. General Assembly proclaimed the day in 1993 to celebrate and assess press freedom, defend the media from attacks on their independence, and recognize journalists who lost their lives in the line of duty.

“Today (May 3) is World Press Freedom Day, which makes me particularly grateful to be receiving this award from the UA School of Journalism,” Priest wrote in an email. “The school’s award-winning work is an example of American journalism at its finest and a reminder of the power of investigative reporting to change lives.”

During that interview, Priest also talked about her public affairs class at Merrill College that created the award-winning “Press Uncuffed” project to help focus world attention on jailed journalists around the world.

About Dana Priest

Dana Priest is currently the John S. and James L. Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and continues reporting for the Washington Post. She won a 2006 Pulitzer for uncovering secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe and a 2008 Pulitzer (with Anne Hull and photographer Michel du Cille) for reporting on deplorable conditions for veterans at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington.

A three-time Pulitzer finalist, Priest is an alumna of the University of California, Santa Cruz and is the author of two bestselling books: “The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military,” published in 2003; and “Top Secret America: The Rise of the National Security State,” published in 2010. The first book was a Pulitzer finalist and is still used in military academies. The second, developed into a Frontline documentary, covered the buildup in top-secret intelligence organizations in the aftermath of Sept. 11.