NCCMA conference 2011

On Feb. 19, 10 students from WKNC, the Technician, the Agromeck and Wolf TV attended the North Carolina College Media Association statewide convention at Appalachian State University in Boone. This was the fourth annual convention of the NCCMA.

The students, Alex Sanchez, Molly Matty, Rich Lepore, Chelsey Francis, Jeniece Jamison, Caleb Van Voorhis, Amanda Wilkins, Susannah Brinkley, Stephanie Doss and Taylor Cashdan all wrote summaries of the sessions they attended so other students who could not attend could learn from the conference. Here are their summaries.


Panelists: Emily Daughtridge, Derek Gagnier, Eric Koontz, Jim Toub Moderator: Megan Stage, Turchin Center for Visual Arts

From Taylor Cashdan — The opening session didn't hold much relevant value to the program as a whole. The speakers were enthusiasts on their subjects, which is great, but I feel as though they should have been slightly more aware of reporting styles. The few points that I was able to pick out from the overall picture was to open your eyes and ears to new outlooks and viewpoints (which should have been implied as a reporter) and to possibly branch out to some of the other entertainment mediums. Though they don't hold a strong influence at State, they'd be great extra content for nights when were running low.

From Jeniece Jamison — The major thing that I learned about covering or critiquing anything is to be honest with yourself in what you are writing. My major criticism on the panelists is that the musician only spoke about his career, which isn’t relevant to the purpose of the convention in my opinion.

From Susannah Brinkley — This session was a panel of four people, who are experts in the arts, and their opinions on how to improve coverage of the arts in student media. The four of them all agreed -- artists need reporters. Eric Koontz spoke about music, and said, when writing reviews, not to discourage the audience but to let them decide for themselves. Jim Toub, an artist, said that the public looks to reporters for guidance on how to see art, but that it was important to be knowledgeable. Emily Daughtridge, a dancer, suggested trying an art before writing about it, because it makes you more knowledgeable about the subject, even if it’s just basic terminology. Derek Gagnier, an actor, said it was best to read a play before seeing it. He said, “Even if you’re not engaged, remember you have a job to do, so focus on that.” That is an important point to remember. Gagnier also said it was a good idea to aim for other story ideas other than just the art or artist, because there are usually a lot more pieces involved. Overall, this was a good session, but the speakers spoke a little long and I wish there had been a Q&A session.

From Chelsey Francis — The opening panel was about different ways of covering the arts.  Because the concentration of the conference was arts and entertainment, this made a lot of sense for the opening panel.  All of the presenters seemed to be knowledgeable and passionate about their concentrations they were speaking on. I feel like the panel would have been more interesting structured as more interactive, but overall, it was informative.

From Stephanie Doss — The opening session of the NCCMA Conference featured a variety of speakers who were affiliated with the arts. Eric Koontz, an experienced musician, discussed strategies for covering concerts. He particularly stressed observing the relationship between the director and the musicians, and to attempt to bring together the theoretical and practical sides of music. Jim Toub commented on writing about the visual arts, and emphasized that writers know the context and background of an event and provide a basis for the audience to make their own judgment. From a dance perspective, Emily Daughtridge provided insight. She noted that to have a quality commentary, writers should see as much dance as possible to have points of comparison, and to paint a picture for readers, describing what aspects contribute to the performance. Derek Gagnier spoke about writing for theatre, noting writers should do plenty of research about a performance by reading other critiques and reading the script ahead of time. All of the contributors underlined being honest, conveying what affected you personally, doing research before seeing the performance and providing context for readers. Most importantly, the purpose of an arts critique is to evaluate if the performers accomplished what they were trying to do.


From Chelsey Francis — Although I missed the first portion of this session because of the critique, it was very obvious that Taylor is very passionate about multimedia as it relates to college media.  This is an area Technician needs to work on.  We don’t do enough “see online for more” or multimedia shows on our website, although I think we are getting better.  Taylor also spoke on the importance of garnering enough information before working on anything multimedia.

From Taylor Cashdan — First off, this guy was a great presenter. I loved his attitude and the way he portrayed his info, it kept me awake and interested. Some of the great points that he mentioned was collect as much raw data as possible. It'll help when planning packages and placing them online as well. He also said its good to rely on your programs and let them take the reins every once and a while. He said to also analyze each situation before tackling the job; check: what format the image is in, what it can be changed to and what is it supposed to be in. It's a great sequence and thought process. We as a staff need to do more 'see more online' whether it be story jumps or content jumps. Not only would it increase readership, but our compatibility and skill set as well.

From Jeniece JamisonThe second session was on how multimedia can enhance your story. One major thing that the instructor mentioned is that a pen and pad only gets one side of the story, which is extremely relevant in this age of reporting. He also mentioned that when you are working with multimedia you have to see the end at the beginning. Another point he made was that social media can also be used as a form of multimedia. For example, if you tweet the headline of a story, the link in the tweet could lead to the meat of the story with more details, which can lead to more readers.

From Alex SanchezIn this course I learned about how to think in terms of multimedia and using multiple forms to tell a story, be it text, photos, video, or sound. I also learned the importance of being able to have technical skills in journalism, especially now that multimedia is becoming more of a standard. Another thing to keep in mind when uploading content is to think about where it will be accessed or posted. Things on facebook should be done differently than something intended for a blog or website. Despite all the talk about new media, Taylor reminded us that a good story is still a good story, and good journalism is still key. Multimedia means nothing if it is used to present a weak or poorly written story.

From Amanda Wilkins — Our critique was quick so I dropped in on the last few minutes of this session. It wasn't anything I didn't hear. It was like watching Tyler Dukes, but more engaging with his questions. It was encouraging t see so many people interested in the idea of online and multimedia. Though it has been a hard transition this year, this was a great opportunity to see that we have the potential at the Technician to do it.

CRITIQUE Instructor: Erica Perel, UNC-Chapel Hill

From Chelsey Francis — The adviser seemed to have an obvious distaste for our newspaper as well as our staff.  She was critical of every part of the paper from news to design to features to viewpoint.  One thing she said that was beneficial is the same thing we’ve been trying to work on this year is about the editorial not being written further in advance of publication.  She disliked the briefs that we run, as well as our page 2. However, I do feel the critique would have been more beneficial if Amanda had not continued to try to explain everything away.

From Taylor CashdanThe adviser seemed to show a bit of distaste toward our paper as a whole and only offered criticism. That Chelsey and Amanda were butting heads too much for her to speak. She agreed with me in saying having more promos/teasers would simply tear away from and restrict the design space, which was nice. I think finally hearing an 'official' say that there's no excuse that the edits should be written by budget if not days before finally drive the point home to Amanda. I want to start incorporating alt with every story if possible. Its stuff people like, and it looks great. The adviser also emphasized that we should shorten our features section pieces, which I definitely agree.

From Molly MattyThe adviser of The Daily Tar Heel critiqued WKNC’s website. Her suggestions included making the “listen” link larger. My idea was to maybe make the tower image on the homepage a link to listen (like radio waves coming out of it). She suggested increasing the twitter and facebook widgets on all pages, but love the overall layout of the homepage. I primarily wanted her opinion on the blog and how to improve the content within. She said that there was too much going on the homepage, and I agree. She suggested two columns with content and one column with links to other older posts. I realized we have some posts listed from as late as June. I think to improve the cluttered look of the page, we should make a time restraint on posts to appear on the homepage. Inside each blog post, there should be more multimedia; videos, pictures, and audio files.

From Amanda Wilkins — Erica Perel from UNC did a great job of providing an outside opinion of the Technician. I brought a weeks worth of papers and laid them out. Just looking at them, we are stuck in a design rut. The front pages were all very similar. She enjoyed the diverse sports coverage and the alt information in the left corner. Page 2 was good, but also very hodge-podge. The features section stories were very long to her and she recommended cutting the stories down and using more alt story forms. Having worked with The Daily Tar Heel, she had a different idea of what the paper should look like, but her feedback about our layout was encouraging.

WRITING THE ARTS Instructor: Ken Keuffel, Winston-Salem Journal

From Stephanie Doss — The speaker for this event was Ken Keuffel, an arts writer who works for the Winston-Salem Journal. He mostly commented on his experiences as an arts writer and some of the performances and acts he has covered. Some suggestions he had were to think outside the box, and not to restrict yourself to covering big acts – give attention to unique performers as well. He also stressed not to cover reoccurring events, like the Nutcracker Ballet, the same way twice. Like the in the opening session, he mentioned doing research beforehand, reading other critiques and if possible going to a rehearsal so as to get as much exposure as possible.

From Susannah Brinkley — This reporter from the Winston Salem Journal talked about the difference between writing previews and writing reviews. He said that a preview is nice for something that only happens once, but a review is better for something that is part of a series. He said it was important to remember that the person you’re critiquing is probably better than you at that subject, so try not to tear them down. Scathing reviews are only okay once in a while. “It’s okay to be ignorant,” he said, because your readers probably are as well. He gave suggestions for interview questions as well.

From Rich Lepore — Keuffel talked about ways of covering events, conducting interviews and making an impression on readers. His focus was in large part on the local music scene, and he emphasized the importance of covering live events in person, as opposed to relying on second-hand accounts. However, when you can’t possibly attend an event yourself, Keuffel said, you can somewhat compensate by gathering tons of quotes from those who were involved in the event first hand. He also mentioned that his paper recently invested in an overhaul of their print edition, but that he still constantly hears that the paper is making no money, or at least very little money, which seemed odd and unfortunate. A quote of Keuffel’s that I took away from the session was, “Information wants to be free, but it is expensive.”

TECHNOLOGIES AND OPPORTUNITIES IN RADIO Instructor: Dan "Vallie" Hill, Appalachian State

From Jeniece JamisonThe third session was on the radio and the new opportunities rising in that medium. Hill spoke on the future of radio with media such as HD radio, Pandora, satellite, and Internet radio. He believed that because of these transitions, radio will remain as popular as it was and even become more interactive with the listener. He also promoted the Kellar Radio Institute on their campus that develops radio talent.

From Alex SanchezRadio is a growing industry, and new jobs are being created all the time. The creation of HD radio has and will double the amount of signals in an area, also doubling the amount of DJs and radio employees needed to keep them on the air. There are about 2000 HD stations in the country and more than 60 in North Carolina. Radio is an established medium that is not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. It is one of the best ways to reach people, as well. More than 239 million listen to radio every week, and 93 percent of persons 12 years of age listen to the radio at least once a week. Radio careers are everywhere and can be lucrative in many instances. The most important thing to remember is that while at a radio station, to learn as much as possible about how it works.

From Molly MattyDan Vallie Hill led a seminar on the information and technology available for radio. He is a radio consultant and helps run the Keller Radio Talent Institute and the faculty manager for ASU’s station.  He spoke about satellite and internet radio bringing radio in to the 21st century, and how the HD radio would continue to advance the opportunities of radio. He cited statistics—239 million people listen to radio every week; 93 percent of Americans listen to the radio, and that more time is spent listening to the radio than on google. He promoted the Keller Radio Talent Institute, which is a 10 day institute to help with radio skills sales and business, advertising, promotions, air talent, writing, and production. This would be something interesting to look up and possibly offer to our budding radio talents at WKNC.

From Rich Lepore — This session was odd in that much of it seemed like and advertisement for HD radio, but as I’m pretty certain that Hill is an educator who doesn’t have a personal stake or interest in this technology aside from its college radio potential, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. The session began with logos for High Definition radio on the overhead projector, and much of the discussion was about this new emergent technology, which Hill foresees as a replacement for typical terrestrial radio in the near future, including on college campuses. HD-radio is broadcast at similar frequencies as regular radio – so 88.1 would still be called 88.1 – however, one must have special equipment to broadcast such a signal, as well as to receive it. The coolest feature is that all HD radio stations have three bands, like 88.1 A, 88.1 B and 88.1 C, each of which can be broadcasting different content at the same time. The other notable feature about HD-radio is that the quality of the signal is far higher, in line with the HD designation. After this discussion, and a bit more about the future of college radio including online solutions, Hill opened up the room to questions. Current online radio solutions such as Pandora were discussed.

SAVING THE COLLEGE YEARBOOK Instructor: Bradley Wilson, N.C. State

From Susannah BrinkleyI helped Bradley Wilson teach a class about yearbooks. We talked about the Agromeck’s marketing techniques, like postcards, online and ads, which have helped us advertise in the past. We also discussed team-building, an important component for keeping morale alive and well. And we discussed coverage of the actual book and talked about quality versus income, and decided that a happy medium was best.

From Taylor CashdanThe most critical point of the presentation and the crux of any yearbook is to recognize the purpose, or intended purpose, of the product. Once that is done, the boundaries, goals, expectations, management etc can all be established. Another good point that I hadn't considered is that yearbooks are truly the only hard copy historical document that shows the student point of view. It's an interesting and very true concept. I like also that our yearbook has migrated to partially online. Similarly to a newspaper, marketing and staff retention are two other extremely important aspects.

From Chelsey Francis — This session was about why a college yearbook is an important aspect of college media.  The yearbook at any college is, in essence, the only historical record in the future.  Bradley Wilson and Susannah Brinkley led this discussion about how the college yearbook can be saved and what is important to include in it, as well as how the yearbook has changed over time.  College yearbooks now have more content and are a better historical record than they were in the past.

From Stephanie Doss — The third session I attended at NCCMA was undoubtedly the most pertinent, as it covered yearbook survival tips. I found it an especially interesting (and accurate) observation about how yearbooks have progressed through the years, like how yearbooks in the seventies seemed to lose their essence of being a historical record and never featured captions. I also thought it was interesting how some schools had showed no correlation between the number of people featured inside and how many books were sold, which I believe would have been true at my high school as well. The most important aspect I took away was that each school should focus on its priorities for its yearbook, which means making N.C. State’s book a year’s worth of history from a student viewpoint.

MEDIA LAW UPDATE: FERPA Instructor: Paul Gates, Appalachian State

From Rich Lepore — This was a very dry session about the legalities of Student Media, but it didn’t cover the subjects I was really interested in, which are fair use and copyright laws. FERPA stands for the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, and it applies to all state educational institutions, and relates to all students over the age of 18. FERPA is a federal state law and it can be found at title 20c in the U.S.C. regulations, located under title 34, part 99. Gates got into a great deal of minutiae about FERPA, but in short, it is a group of rules concerning student records that say three primary things: 1, that students have access to their own records, 2, that students have the right to seek to have the records amended, 3, that schools must have a student’s permission before turning their records over to anyone. Gates also mentioned that crimes are not student records.

PHOTOGRAPHY: KEEP IT SIMPLE Instructor: Jeff Willhelm, The Charlotte Observer

From Jeniece JamisonThe fourth session that I went to was on photography. Despite the fact that I am extremely inexperienced with photography I still found it interesting. The only thing that the instructor did was play a slide of some photographs, I was able to find the artistic value in it. The main point he made was to know your equipment and trust it, which is relevant to any aspect of the media that you work in.

From Susannah Brinkley — Charlotte Observer photographer Jeff Wilhelm showed a slide show of his and others’ photographs that ran in the paper. He gave tips on shooting, like “Use what God brought to the party,” and “know your equipment.” He suggested looking for patterns or shooting from the hip to achieve interesting shots. He also gave suggestions for certain types of situations, like funerals or kids. He said it was important to let things happen around you, and to always stick around after things are over. Look for little moments, he said. Overall, this was an interesting session and it would be great to have this guy teach a Student Media training session.

From Stephanie Doss — Although I am not chiefly a photographer, photography is a huge part of both publications I am involved in and so is an important topic for me to be knowledgeable about. Jeff Wilhelm, a photographer from Charlotte Observer, mostly presented a list of photos and offered a critique along with some suggestions. He emphasized especially having clean, natural backgrounds that let the people in the photo stand out. Wilhelm also mentioned several times the importance of planning ahead, arriving early and keeping your eyes open for good shots and unusual situations.

From Taylor CashdanThis session was more of a picture slideshow session. The photographer just put on a powerpoint and showed us some of his past assignments, not much to learn from though interesting to look at.

From Alex SanchezThis class was essentially a critique, but it was nice to see different styles of photography. One thing to remember is to carry your camera wherever you go. He carries 2 bodies, 1 with 14-28 and 1 with 70-200mm, and it’s all he needs. Something to remember in photography is to visualize your shot and be patient, waiting for it to happen. The shot will be much better if you anticipate and plan for it. Awareness is also key. There are tons of things going on at events, and it is your job as a photographer to catch the best ones. One thing the instructor said to try was shooting low and from the hip, which I could definitely try out more.

From Molly MattyWillhelm shared his knowledge about taking good photographs. He claimed one of the most important parts of photography was getting during, getting on your belly, and working for your photograph. He said to always have your camera on you and have your “head on a swivel.” He showed photographs paying attention to the backdrop and cited the sky being a great one to use. Patterns make a simple photograph outstanding.  His presentation was simply a slideshow of pictures that he and his peers have taken while he explained why the photographs were pieces of art.

From Amanda Wilkins — Although I disagreed with him on some of the picks for photos, overall I agreed with the presenter. He had a different way of looking at assignments that I can clearly tell we are lacking in our own staff. Getting there early, trying to find the story and staying late, just to see if there is something everyone else might miss. I wish our photography staff believed in it.

TYPOGRAPHY Instructor: John Craft, Appalachian State

From Taylor CashdanAside from the complete disregard for ethics, the other staff members and I learned nothing from this session. He simply went over the what kerning meant and showed us a tool in Adobe Photoshop.

From Susannah Brinkley — John Craft, an Appalachian State professor of graphic arts and imaging technology, talked about the very basic fundamentals of typography. He talked about the parts of words and types of spacing. Then he gave a breakdown of kerning and tracking type, as well as condensing type. He showed the class how to make paragraph styles in Adobe InDesign, and he showcased the content aware tool in Adobe Photoshop. I was not impressed with this session. I felt like I could have taught it, too.

From Alex SanchezThough it did not focus so much on typography, I learned a little bit about indesign and photoshop techniques. The instructor showed the basics of fonts and type and typographic terms such as serif, sans serif, etc. He also showed how to use the content aware fill to work around difficult situations when designing. In a situation with less of an ethical obligation, it might be handy. Another neat thing we learned was how to put photos inside of text, which might be cool for different designs at some point.

This session, taught Appalachian professor John Craft, was only partially educational. At the beginning he offered some useful information, such as a clarification on the names for certain types of fonts and what the anatomy of typography. He also gave some history of typography I was not aware of, like how the term leading originates from the original lead printing of publications. Afterward though, he made some suggestions that I thought were suspect, like showing how to use the “content aware fill” feature in Photoshop to “make a vertical photo horizontal if you’re coming close on a deadline.” Overall, I think I learned the least in the session and was the most disappointed.

LAYOUT AND DESIGN: REDESIGNING YOUR EFFORTS Instructor: Larry Taylor, Appalachian State

From Chelsey Francis — This session was about how the internet is changing reporting and news delivery.  Because more and more people have smart phones and access to internet, we, as reporters, need to start to concentrate on delivering the information in a method that most people will get it in.  As Taylor showed us during the session, how the newspaper is designed is changing dramatically.  In the 1800’s the paper was almost entirely text with no graphics.  As time has progressed, graphics have gotten a lot easier to do. As well, with the economy and the changing times, advertising and circulations within the news industry are decreasing greatly.


From Molly MattyJake Seaton’s presentation on keeping entertainment news entertaining was enlightening. He works for NBC 17 and music.myNC. His presentation involved explaining ways to make content viable for the web. He said streaming online is the first step, but a good website engages the reader. It includes album art, track listings, videos, and pictures. He said a music review goes beyond words. Multimedia gives the patrons reasons to come to the website. Videos from youtube can be embedded, but adding a human element like an short interview makes it even better. Words can only go so far to explain the feeling at a show—why not show part of the show itself. Jake explained that many promotion coordinators will provide media with 30 seconds of each live song from a show. Jake spoke of how many large news corporations are dropping critics of film and music and it is “up to college media to fill the gap."

From Jeniece JamisonThe fifth session was on writing entertainment stories, but I was able to take away a lot of information from the session. He focused on how to make traditional entertainment print content good for the web. The main thing I learned from is how to include multimedia such as the artists’ song or a video that allows the reader to see the artist. Also, other aspects of additional information, such as the track listing and the album art could also enhance the story and encourage your readers to buy the album.

From Rich Lepore — Jake Seaton, a online media content producer for NBC-17, covered the many interesting aspects of his job, and how he produces content that is compelling and brings in readers / viewers / page views on the web. He started out by playing a song from the new Radiohead album which had been released the day before, and therefore, which none of us had heard yet. The song he played is called “Lotus Flower,” and Jake then tasked us with writing a 2-3 sentence review that would convince people to buy the album. My review was as follows:

“Radiohead, always on the cutting edge of the alternative scene, have produced a new record of moody and emotionally moving alternative electronic, and you should be listening. On the album’s first single, “Lotus Flower,” lead singer Thom Yorke’s dulcet mutterings lead the band on a sonic journey to the edge of the 21st century and back, bringing us news of what lies on the dark side of understanding. If you want to reach a state of musical enlightenment, this album is a must buy.”

Following this exercise, Jake had the group brainstorm a list of other multimedia content that could accompany our mini reviews online to flesh out the story, bring in readers, and help them to really understand what “Lotus Flower,” or any other reviewed material for that matter, is all about. The ideas included an mp3 stream of the song, links to other Radiohead resources on the web, and some sort of interactive element such as a poll or contest. Oh, and if possible, video content.

Video content, about music in particular, was the focus of the rest of the presentation, and Jake showed us many videos from the website he created for NBC-17 to cover local music. He showed us packages that included interviews with bands that included reporters and were more traditional, and also a type of package he seemed to prefer which let the bands do the talking through interviews (just the answers, no questions) and live music clips. The content was compelling and really demonstrated to us the value of creating entertaining online content that goes far beyond print or simple online reviews and text pieces by absorbing the viewer and giving them a complete and immersive sense of the story.

From Amanda Wilkins — Jake had an interesting outlook on covering local music. What he talked about could be expanded into other areas though and definitely opens the door for niche coverage. Rich and other members of Student Media responded well to what he had to say and I hope they bring this back to their respective sections and outlets. Multimedia was a big part of the presentation as well and I hope people saw the possibilities of covering stories in their sections.


From Chelsey Francis — After the problems the Western Carolina University student newspaper faced earlier in the year, an understanding of the First Amendment and how it applies to my life and working at the Technician has become increasingly important. This session was initially supposed to be led by the editors of the Western Carolina paper, however they did not come.  Instead this session was spent talking about times when the First Amendment comes into play on college campuses.  This was one of my favorite sessions because of the very relaxed atmosphere.

From Amanda Wilkins — This was a very informal discussion and not at all what I was expecting, though I believe something happened so it was improvised. With this in mind, it was a great discussion about different scenarios and how they play out under various laws and case rulings. I learned a lot just by listening to all the considerations you have to make when estimating its legality.


From Jeniece JamisonI attended the bonus session where the contest winners were displayed. I read some of the winning sports stories and I found that all of them included more quotes that had emotional value while maintaining a good amount of concrete information. I also looked at the design layout for Winston-Salem State University football game day paper and I was impressed with the concept of the anatomy of a champion and game day information put together. Hopefully Technician sports could also bring something similar from a creative aspect to the sports page.


From Susannah Brinkley — I had my resume critiqued by members of the App State Career Center. The women said my resume was well done and made some pointers about diction. They also criticized my logo, but when I showed them that it was sort of a self-brand and that my website and e-mail address also showed my entire name, we decided it was okay. This was a nice session to have. I would have liked to have seen other people utilize this service.