Visiting a College Online Journalism Class

Posted on Thursday, November 8 2007 by Heather Brandon

Bay Path CollegeI’m spending part of today with an online journalism class at Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, at the invitation of professor Christian Nelson.

In advance, Professor Nelson relayed to me a number of questions that the class may be keen to discuss. These include covering topics such as:

How does Urban Compass relate to the Valley Advocate and earlier, the Republican, in terms of the relationship between mainstream and citizen media?

What are my experiences as an entrepreneur? Students may want to learn how they might be successful journalistic/blogger entrepreneurs.

What is my understanding of my role as a journalist, and treatment by mainstream journalists and newsmakers, given my status as a blogger?

What are my experiences as a female blogger/journalist, and how that identity has affected or enabled my work?

How do I deal with legal issues? Do I have libel insurance? Do I follow certain procedures to check whether I am libeling someone?

The class read Dan Gillmor’s We the Media, which prompts other questions: how do I deal with the issue of anonymity for those who comment on my blog entries?

What do I do with trolls, if I’ve had any?

How do I deal with copyright issues? Do I worry about what is fair to use, or do I have cause to worry?

Do I have a policy about whether and how I cite published sources?

Do I have a policy or opinion about altering images I publish?

In response, I also sent Professor Nelson a short list of questions for his students to consider in advance of my visit. I asked them to look at all three iterations of my blog—the first on, the second at, and the third here at

A few questions for students to consider as they look at these links:

Is Urban Compass a political blog? If not, what kind of blog is it?

Who do you think reads Urban Compass, and why?

What is Urban Compass doing that seems somehow unique from what traditional media offers? What is it doing that seems somehow the same?

I’m interested to know if any readers have any reflections to share about these questions, or related matters.

5 Responses to “Visiting a College Online Journalism Class”

  1. Sheila McElwaine

    It will be interesting to compare ideas from this experience with those from last spring’s forum at the Springfield City Library when traditional journalists, under siege from community members and bloggers, defended superficial, formulaic coverage of local issues,citing the AP Stylebook as a kind of professional bible. What an unimaginative self-protective bunch!

    I hope your Bay Path students turn out to be just the opposite.

  2. Herb

    Any chance you could post of podcast (assuming you record it) of the class? I’d be interested to hear the discussion.

  3. Heather Brandon

    Sorry not to have recorded the class. It went well, the students asked good questions, and I got to tell my story to a captive audience and encourage them to go forth and succeed in whatever they’re going to do next.

    One of the students is keen to do an internship at, which I said would be a really good thing to try, since it offers great experience and a solid, talented team of people.

    All the same I talked about the difficulty in journalism where local interest is blurred and passed over in the search for regional appeal. The future of journalism is in local stories, if funding models can be generated.

    Another student talked about wanting to break into the marketing field, but not knowing how to start. It seems like there’s a dearth of entry-level jobs – she said everything out there appears to require eight years of experience. I told her to find someone doing the work she wants to do and then ask how they got there, how they started out. (That’s a standard line, I know, but it really makes a difference.)

    I also reminded the students several times that I do not make money. My work may be valuable to all ten people who read this blog, but that’s not a successful economic model to follow.

    The main thing to take away is the value of making meaning in doing one’s work, and the responsibility corporations may or may not acknowledge in how that meaning is integrated into their products, offerings and services. Being an independent voice is one way to shortcut through the large corporate sphere and instead go straight to whatever makes meaning for you as an individual.

    If more students emerging from school had the courage to go it alone and not worry so much about having a “legitimate” job and thinking about “getting ahead,” the world would be a more interesting place.

  4. Christian Nelson

    Thanks so much for visiting my class, Heather. Your words were far more inspiring than mine can be about the subjects you addressed, not only given your personal experience but also your eloquence. I just wished I’d scheduled you for two days rather than one. We’ll have to correct that next year! Thanks again, Christian

  5. Heather Brandon

    Thanks for the opportunity, Professor, and I look forward to coming back.

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