New Miami Hurricane site begins public beta Aug. 1

After months of discussing the new Miami Hurricane site on this blog and Twitter, from our consideration of Drupal to our ultimate selection of WordPress, the public beta version will launch this Friday, Aug. 1.

It’s a pretty sweet site and it’s even better than we expected. I’m tempted to drop the link now, but I will show restraint.

Hurricane webmaster Brian Schlansky has been toiling on the technical side since installing on our old file server Ubuntu in mid-April and WordPress in late April. He’s been manipulating PHP, editing CSS, adding/tweaking plug-ins and doing what ever need to be to prepare us for the beta launch.

We started with this theme and have come quite a long way.

One of biggest hurdles, which Brian cleared with surprising ease, was transferring the Hurricane’s College Publisher archives to the MySQL database for WordPress.

He and I have been in touch almost daily, corresponding for countless hours via instant message and Skype. Incoming editor in chief and longtime blogmaster Matt Bunch has contributed throughout the process, as has returning business manager Nick Maslow.

All four of us spoke on Skype Monday night to make sure we’re ready for Friday’s beta launch.

I will write another post when we launch the beta, giving a general overview. Everything in the site is pretty straightforward, which was part of one of our big goals: ease of use.

Stay tuned…

Thoughts on Fish At Bay interactive storytelling class project and convergence

After a semester of work, my interactive storytelling class launched its site about fish in Biscayne Bay launched last Wednesday: Fish At Bay.

Hats off to our converged class of “print” and visual journalism students: Walyce Almeida, Maria Arroyave, Erica Landau, Brian Schlansky, Jen Shook, Jamie Straz, Alex Thacker and Jason Walker.

Our professors, Kim Grinfeder (visual journalism) and Sam Terilli (print journalism), did a great job overseeing the project — and recruiting everyone. Also, thanks to our TA, Zeven Rodriguez.

To provide some background, Grinfeder and Terilli have collaborated the past two fall semesters with their Web production and in-depth storytelling classes, respectively. I was in the fall 2008 in-depth class.

With this spring’s (experimental) interactive storytelling class, they took it to the next level of convergence. As far as I know, this was the first class at the University of Miami School of Communication to combine the talents of print and visual journalism students in one class.

I took advantage of the opportunity to get more experience shooting and editing video, as well as to become proficient with Final Cut Pro. I particularly enjoyed being able to work in so may areas:

  • Write history story
  • Shoot b-roll and take photos for history video
  • Edit history video
  • Edit and write cutlines for history photos
  • Edit Delicate Balance video
  • Shoot an interview for the Building on the Bay video
  • Copy edit all stories
  • Write about page
  • Add p tags and hyperlinks (plus find links for) all stories

I’m usually critical of the lack of collaboration between the print and visual programs, but I’ve seen some very encouraging strides this semester.

Grinfeder and Terilli get it. Chris Delboni, my online journalism professor, and Michelle Seelig, the spring Web production professor, get it. (More thoughts on the online journalism class and our collaboration with the Web production class to follow).

So, what now?

Without a question, the interactive storytelling class should be a standard course, and it should be required for all journalism students at UM. Yes, that means bringing in broadcast as well. And there needs to be more converged classes, like an introductory storytelling class (more on this to come as well).

Resistance is futile. You must adapt.

Weigh in: What do you think of the Fish At Bay site?

Dousing the Great (Fire)Wall, gradually

When I was in China last summer for a feature writing study abroad class, our University of Miami group discussed the Internet, freedom of speech and censorship with a number of the Chinese journalism students. What we learned and gleaned from their perspectives was quite interesting.

As you can tell from my occasional China posts, I am very interested in these topics, especially speech/press-related issues. (Shameless plug: Check out our class blog and my stories from the trip).

Here is an excerpt from a New York Times article, Great Firewall of China Faces Online Rebels:

“In recent months, China’s censors have tightened controls over the Internet, often blacking out sites that had no discernible political content. In the process, they have fostered a backlash, as many people who previously had little interest in politics have become active in resisting the controls.”

During our stay, I found a few proxy sites to get around some of the censored sites. One of the strangest sites that was completely censored was Wikipedia.

I don’t have a problem with the Chinese people or China in general. I found the country fascinating and the trip the most enlightening I’ve ever taken. My problem is with the lack of freedom: Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to peaceably assemble and to protest the government for redress of grievances.

Journalism and free speech are improving with time, mostly due to the power of the Internet. (mobile phones are also playing an important role). The government may continue clamping down in response, but people are gradually pushing back.

Looking ahead…with meetings galore

It’s been quite a busy week, and we only had one issue! Here’s a quick look at what’s been going on and what’s coming up…

Wednesday: Last deadline day of the semester

Thursday: Last issue of the semester comes out; Web meeting with adviser, professors and select staffers

Friday: Staff lunch with the Ibis yearbook; design and content meeting with visual journalism professor and Ibis yearbook adviser Randy Stano

Saturday: Day off? Nope. Karyn, Matt, Will and I will be helping out at a Florida Society of Newspaper Editors event happening at the School of Communication.

Sunday: The staff say farewell to outgoing editors Stacey Arnold and Bari Lieberman, introduction of incoming editors and a discussion of deas for next semester

Tuesday: Incoming Sports Editor Matthew Bunch and I meet with Michelle Kaufman, an adjunct professor and Miami Herald sports writer who teaches CNJ 523 Sports Reporting in the spring.