Saturday, October 8, 2011

Losing newspaper is like losing friend

The Denver Post notified me last week that it will no longer deliver newspapers to Laramie as part of a cost-cutting effort. Sunday papers will still be delivered for $1.50 a week, but I wonder how long that will last. For an extra 10 cents a week, The Post will give me full access to their online version.
I've subscribed to The Post for 21 years and really like getting a large, metro newspaper with a great sports section, occasional investigative reporting and lively editorial section. I enjoy the leisurely pleasure of flipping through its pages while savoring my morning coffee or evening beer. Reading it on my laptop will take away that pleasure of physically turning pages, wondering whether the next page will contain a story or photo that catches my attention.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big advocate of online news. I read numerous online stories every day and regularly follow two or three online newspapers. I teach an online journalism class and began the first online news site in Wyoming in 1995.
I still subscribe to our local newspaper, the Laramie Boomerang, which is fine for providing superficial coverage of local events, overkill coverage of high school and UW sports, and the daily police log where I sometimes find the names of people I know. It's not a very good newspaper.
That's why I appreciate getting The Post so much. It provides most of what I expect from a newspaper - good writing and photography, indepth reporting, solid coverage of breaking news, entertaining columns, wide-ranging sports coverage, and thoughtful analysis.
I understand the need for The Post to cut costs. The newspaper industry is in big trouble with declining readership and advertising. The Post also announced this week that it is offering early retirement buyouts to its news staff and may have to lay off employees if the buyout doesn't work.
But cutting delivery does a disservice to loyal readers who count on The Post for indepth information on local, regional, national and world affairs.
I will be getting the Sunday edition while delivery lasts, but I'm passing on the daily online version. My morning coffee and evening beer just don't taste as good with digital news.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Taos: Visual communication in New Mexico

The Visual Communication Association's 25th conference is over, after four days of presentations, scenery and great weather at Taos Ski Village, N.M.
My presentation was Symbols of England: The Archetypal Images of British Football Club Crests, if anybody is interested.
For me, conferences are all about the local cuisine and sightseeing. We had Friday afternoon off, so Debby and I toured the area and had a fantastic dinner of southwestern-style Mexican with friends Rob and Toni Dean from Santa Fe.
Next year, Viscom will be in Utah. I'll see you there.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wiltse and His Bowling Trophy

Academics isn't all about teaching, research, committees, advising, vacations.

Sometimes it's about bowling.

Let me preface this blog post by stating that bowling is not really my game. In junior high and high school, I played football and baseball, skied, fished and hunted. These days, I mostly do the latter three.

But bowling has been on the periphery of my life. My junior high school was next to a bowling alley. When I worked at a newspaper, a bowling alley was across the street. So I've spent some time on and near the lanes.

Not much time recently, though. The COJO Department used to have a bowling team when there were lanes in the student union. But I haven't bowled much since then, except occasionally at kids' birthday parties.

Earlier this semester, however, COJO students organized a bowling night to raise money for Professor Frank Millar's cancer battle. Even though bowling is not my game, I somehow managed to get high score for faculty and saw my name placed on the faculty bowling trophy. I am the third winner, along with Cindy Price and Ken Smith (pictured).

This is only my second athletic trophy and the first since my baseball team won the local Little League championship in 1966.

The trophy is on display in the COJO office until I can raise funds for a pedestal display case with ceiling and floor spotlights.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Academic professionals bring teaching skills to UW

Serving on the college's tenure and promotion (T&P) committee this year is an opportunity to see how well other faculty are doing their jobs. As a journalist, I like to stick my nose into other people's business. T&P committee service gives me access to vitae, comments by faculty members, their department chairs and the dean.
Of course, all this information must remain confidential, but the committee spends plenty of time discussing faculty behind closed doors during our meetings.
I only sat through the decisions to rehire or promote academic professionals. Most people aren't aware that there are two strata of faculty at UW. Professors can attain tenure and must conduct research. Academic professionals, who mostly are lecturers (APLs), don't get the job protection of tenure. Their job duties usually emphasize teaching, not research. Professors in most departments must have a doctorate, while lecturers usually only need a master's degree.
UW gets a good deal with lecturers. Their salaries are lower than professors, and they teach more classes than professors. In exchange, academic professionals get to work in higher education with just a master's degree, and, if they do a good job, generally are rehired every year.
On T&P committee, we reviewed 29 packets from APLs going up for promotion or trying to be reappointed for another year. While there was some debate on a few candidates, all 29 passed the committee vote.
After reading their packets, including their self-assessments of their job performance, I was impressed with the quality of teaching done by APLs at UW. Many of them have won major teaching awards. Student evaluations of their teaching were downright glowing in many cases. Their self-assessments demonstrated a keen insight into the classroom environment, the effectiveness of their teaching, and their concern for student learning.
Overall, I came away very proud of the work done by APLs and am proud to be among them at UW.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Technology makes breaking news easy to report

In my Online Journalism course, I emphasize that one of the advantages of online media over print media is the ability to post news quickly and to update previous stories as new events unfold.
The advent of social media such as Twitter and Facebook has broadened the news-reporting process so that stories and photos are quickly available to various audiences.
Cell-phone cameras have made photojournalism more convenient, since journalists always have a camera with them now.
I used my mobile device last week while on a trip to Montana to take several photos that could be used as news or feature shots. I then uploaded them to my e-mail and also sent them to friends and family.
A fire broke out the morning after I arrived. (I am not a suspect). I walked downtown and shot several photos of the firefighting effort.
A few days later, I spotted a bassett hound with his head stuck in a catfood bag. The poor guy was running into fences and cars. I took a quick photo and then caught him and freed him from the bag. I hope he got a catfood snack for all his troubles.
Then we saw a Hutterite girl riding a horse across the prairie. She was dressed in a bonnet and a long dress with pants underneath. The scene was straight out of Little House on the Prairie, and I couldn't resist getting a photo of her.
The photos aren't as high resolution or in-focus as I would get with my old 35mm Nikon, but they work fine for publishing on the Web. And my mobile device is a lot easier to lug around.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Oregon is overcast, damp and beautiful

I just got back from Viscomm24 in Portland, Ore., where I presented a research paper: "Archetypes, Mandalas, Collective Unconscious: Jungian Analysis of Newspaper Flags." Yeah, it probably was as boring as it sounds.
However, I reunited with an old college friend who lives there, Michael Fellows, who drove me around after the conference ended.
We visited the Columbia Gorge and the Oregon Coast. We hit a lot of Oregon's wonderful breweries. In fact, I tried 27 different beers on the trip.
Even though it was cloudy, drizzly, cool and gloomy every single day, the lush beauty of the state still shined through.
I love the hypnotic quality of waterfalls, and we saw plenty along the Gorge. At the coast, I spotted a seal swimming in a bay. The trip to the coast actually saw some sunshine, too, although it was overcast and drizzly at times.
If you haven't been to Oregon, go. Allegedly, there are some spectacular mountains there, too, including views of volcanic peaks Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens. That is, if you can see them through the drizzle.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Ayers Affair: Embarrassment for UW

After all the controversy over former radical turned professor William Ayers' talk at the University of Wyoming, I have to wonder what was the big deal?

Ayers spoke last night at UW following Tuesday's federal court ruling that UW officials were wrong to cancel his speech. His speech did not try to indocrinate impressionable college students into a life of firebombing or anarchy. Rather, he rightly criticized the U.S. educational system and urged major reforms.

That's hardly radical thought for those of us in education who every day witness the weaknesses of a public education system that has failed to produce young people prepared for the rigors of college.

Some reflections on the whole messy affair:

I am proud of UW student Meg Lanker for pressing a freedom of speech civil case against the university. Lanker came to my office the day after UW canceled Ayers' speech soliciting donations to bring him to Laramie. I doubted she would succeed, but was impressed that she would take the initiative to raise funds in the name of protecting the First Amendment. Lanker also started a new campus organization, Students for Free Speech, and organized a rally last week. Few students have that kind of gumption any more. I hope her professors give her extra credit in some classes.

I am ashamed of UW officials for allowing their attorney, Tom Rice, to bring up Lanker's past during the trial. Her actions in the past were not on trial. UW's actions were. Rice's tactic is often used by sleazy defense lawyers in rape cases who attempt to put the victim on trial. UW should have more respect for its students than to subject them to unethical harassment.

I also am embarrassed by the president of UW's Conservatives, Brian Profaizer, who exercised his freedom of speech by making personal and insulting attacks against Lanker on Facebook, rather than sticking to the issue of UW canceling Ayers' speech. Profaizer has a future running attack campaigns for conservatives, but he has a lot to learn about becoming a citizen in a democracy.

UW also blew it by bending to the threats of donors. The court case revealed that one big donor, John Martin of Casper, threatened to stop giving money because he didn't want Ayers on campus. When I worked for newspapers, we received similar threats. For example, an advertiser threatened to pull his ads unless we would agree to not run the name of his son, who was arrested for drunken driving. Our response was that advertisers don't control our news coverage. Sometimes, businesses would cancel their advertising, but usually they didn't.

UW needs to use the same response with disgruntled donors. Their money cannot dictate the educational process at the state's only four-year university.

Finally, if UW hadn't cancelled the original appearance by Ayers, maybe 50 people would have shown up. Because of the national controversy that erupted over the cancellation, more than 1,100 people showed up last night. Ayers couldn't have bought that kind of publicity.