Category Archives: Bryan College

My journalism: a look back and some news

It’s been a big year for me and journalism. When the ball dropped last night, the mind didn’t have the whole picture. Standing there with a plastic cup with half-melted ice cubes, I had that experience of not fully realizing what had gone on the year before, no idea what will happen in the future.

A lot happened. I had not kept time from Jan. 1 to Jan. 1. Moments early on were forgotten and re-remembered again. This post is to chronicle what all went down this year.

  1. Sandy Hook — I still have not visited Newtown, Conn., but the effects of Dec. 14, 2012 carried over into the new year. There were the stories of how other Connecticut towns responded, stories about school security upgrades and an anniversary piece that I’m quietly proud to have written. Just kidding. I mentioned it on here.
  2. Bryan College — In May, I walked. In August, I finally finished all the required courses and got the paper that said I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Communication with an emphasis in Journalism. The diploma represents a chapter in life, of struggling through student media, late nights of despair as we pulled together paper after paper, censorship and The Washington Journalism Center.
  3. The Berlin Citizen — From freelancer in January between semesters at college to reporter, this year has been the year of The Citizen. In May, I worked as reporter for Town Times, then moving beats to North Haven and eventually back to The Berlin Citizen. It’s been a full circle, writing for my hometown paper.
  4. Freedom of Information Act Requests — In November, I worked on the story of the anniversary of Sandy Hook where I served six FOIA requests. Having never written a FOIA letter in college, this was all learned in the school of hard knocks. Mistakes were made, which may or may not be recounted in a future post.
  5. A licence… to drive — People were always shocked to learn I did not have a car. No so any longer! My stick-shift Nissan Sentra carries me to stories and is dear to my heart.
  6. Code — At the end of college, I watched a video on the importance of coding. A few weeks later, I was eking out my first few lines of HTML. I read that knowing code is a skill journalists should know. However, I didn’t see much application, working at the paper. It wasn’t until I was talking to another co-worker and he showed me his free WordPress website, showing me what he did with SEO and code that I realized the potential. Code is the way to own a website. In a way, it’s customizing and creating your printing press.
  7. Photography — In a way, nothing has changed. I still take photos on the same point and shoot that I purchased freshman year of college. A few days ago, I pressed the shutter for the 20,000th time. I know more about light, composition and timing. Still waiting for the DSLR, though…
  8. Town Elections — This year, I was able to cover a full election season in Connecticut, from the first primaries, to political theory, to the final outcomes. These lessons in the fight for power could not be learned by reading about it in a book, but experienced on the front lines.
  9. This Blog — In January 2013, I started this blog, telling readers and myself that this would be the blog that I keep for a while. I have not abandoned it yet.

And now, on Jan. 1, 2014, I set out on a new adventure. Yesterday was my last day at the paper that gave me the chance to start doing local journalism. I am moving to Chattanooga. I know not yet what I will be doing, although I have some leads. I’m going down to live closer to my fiancee, who said yes on Aug. 17, 2013 and made that moment by a lake in Connecticut the best moment of the year.

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Reason for email edits not about language

Soon after I wrote the post on Feb. 18, I emailed Mike Sapienza, vice president for enrollment management, the person who made the final decision to cut the outside links to my stories. I asked him directly why the cuts were made.

It was not about the language.

No, the person who usually sends out the mass emails to the school asked Sapienza about the article with the language and he decided to cut the outside links for another reason: “I don’t see any reason for us to include other stories,” he said.

Michael Sapienza's response

He never read the stories which he deleted and he never bothered to see what the precedent was when it came to sending out email blasts.

I met with him a few days later to discuss his decision and to clarify what he said.

I brought along copies of email blasts of other news organizations such as The Daily Caller, The Washington Post and The Politico, that have links to other, outside stories. I wanted to show him that what I was doing was not unusual.

However, he said he didn’t want to bother the student body with extra information. Everyone on campus gets the emails, he said, and some have complained about getting the mass emails from the college.

This is where Sapienza and I disagree. He sees the email as an advertisement for Triangle links. I see it as another way to inform students. Faculty, staff and students can have a working knowledge of the campus even if they skim the headlines and read one story.

If they don’t want the email, they can delete it. That’s the beauty of free speech.

The student handbook says that every announcement to the college must go through the Office of Student Life. Maybe all notices must be tailored to the student body, maybe not.

But the result of this edit is still the same: censorship.

I provided information which I thought would enlighten and benefit the student body. Someone made a decision that the campus did not need that information.

Free newspapers!

Eight free papers in Philly

Eight free papers in Philly

I love checking out the free newspapers in a new city.

Philadelphia was a special treat because, while I can usually find only one, maybe two, free tabloids in a city, I found eight.

I traveled to the city of brotherly love to attend the Justice Conference as part of a class I am taking at Bryan College. The Justice Conference is a gathering of Evangelical Christians talking about issues surrounding social justice.

The free-newspaper deluge began at 7:30 a.m. as I opened the hotel room door to discover complimentary copies of USA Today. Perhaps I shouldn’t term this as a free paper because I did not find it on the street, but it did provide a lot of information and a sense of sophistication as I carried it to the lobby.

Throughout the day, I would go to the rusted newspaper stands marked with tags and stickers and peel back the doors to collect another paper.

Because I was attending sessions all day, I have not had the chance to look at the papers closely. I glanced at headlines and looked at newspaper design.

The papers are diverse. Some have a local-newspaper look Other papers are put together more like magazines. I’m sure the writing will differ as widely.

These alternative papers will provide a street-view of the city, providing a window into the concerns of each sector of the community. And there are diverse communities. Among the papers, I picked up a LGBT paper, a campus newspaper, a Spanish paper and an arts paper.

However, I’m not quite done. When I was walking to the Liberty Bell with the rest of the Bryan students, I saw a Chinese paper, and I know there is Street-Sense-type paper also sold in Philly.



So there’s a zero tolerance policy towards language?

Last Friday, I compiled the links for Triangle’s email blast. Every week, I have been trying to compile a list of stories that the writers at Bryan Triangle wrote during the last week because it gives the stories more publicity.

Besides just making the email a summary of what is on the Bryan Triangle website, I also want to include links to outside stories, stories that may challenge readers, stories that talk about the big news of the day or stories that I find entertaining. I was trying following the model that Mike Allen uses when he creates the Politico Playbook, one of the email blasts for The Politico.

So far the emails have been going well. The editor-in-chief of Triangle has told me he liked how the emails looked. Friday afternoon, I sent out this email:

Triangle Weekend Briefing Original

Normally, the email is sent out to the students, faculty and staff a few minutes after I send the email to the office which coordinates the mass emails on campus.

This time, the mass email did not arrive in my inbox on Friday. I didn’t think much of it. I sent it out at the end of the day and I thought the office might not have had time to send it out before closing.

Next Monday, however, the email came like this:
Censored Triangle Weekend BriefingHalf of the links were deleted. The headline talking about the meteor over Russia which sent hundreds to the hospital, deleted.

I don’t know exactly why half my email was gone. My first guess is that they found the story about the Navy Seal who shot Usama Bin Ladin inappropriate because of language.

There are 18 uses of the F-bomb, 20 uses of Sh*t, in the story. In every instance except one, the author is quoting the Navy Seal.

I decided to include the story because I thought the story was more important than the language. The story was a profile about a man that we would never know any other way, a man whose military action changed the world.

It was an excellent story. Phil Bronstein, former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, worked with the Center for Investigative Reporting to create this story. The story had both a compelling narrative and sharp, sharp research.

By leaving the course language in his story, Bronstein created a picture of gritty realism.

I admit, not many publications print stories with language. Most newspapers shy away from works like ‘sh*t” and ‘f*ck’ in order to create a professional tone in the paper. Some readers don’t like reading stories with language.

That is why I warned readers of the language in the story. I wanted to let the readers choose whether or not to read the story which I found notable.

I don’t use language myself when writing stories, but I also recognize that those words, like any other words, can describe situations with the most precision.  If a source says something important using language that may offend polite society, I may  quote them anyways because it accurately describes the situation.

But why did the college delete every single link to outside publications? The Wall Street Journal video about the meteor was straight news reporting. The First Things blog post about JRR Tolkien and the Beatles was harmless.

I know the college is the ultimate publisher of everything Bryan Triangle, that we have almost no legal right to operate as conventional journalists. I get that.

But compiling that email and choosing all its links was my job. Getting censored still stings.