• UC’s new Journalism Department in the College of Arts & Sciences — promoted from its historic status as a program within the college’s English Department — will have a new head: Jeffrey L. Blevins, late of Iowa State. He succeeds my longtime friend and colleague, Jon C. Hughes, the key figure in the growth of UC journalism education.
When he read the recruiting ad, Blevins, 43, said in a telephone interview, “This would be a perfect opportunity for me.”
Unlike many j-schools, UC’s department is growing, it’s a happy blend of traditional and new media values and skills, and it’s a chance to be in charge, Blevins said.
A St. Louis native, he said “another” urban river town with a diverse population also is appealing. He starts Aug. 15. Until then, Hughes is interim head.
Blevins doesn’t yield to doomsayers who damn expanded journalism education while jobs vanish. Many papers — especially family-owned — still are profitable, and despite highly publicized bloodletting in traditional news media, Blevins said, there are jobs for UC grads because “there’s still a great demand for news media.”
He was impressed by the students’ critical and entrepreneurial thinking and how they expect to make changing markets, technology and opportunities work for them. Blevins also was pleased by UC students who want to work with the news media without making journalism their careers.
Blevins’ 2001 Ph.D. is in telecommunications from Ohio University. His teaching and research have been in communications law and policy and electronic media industries. Newspaper experience came in Illinois as a sports reporter.
• Jon Hughes built UC’s journalism program within the English Department over three decades. Rather than retire, he stayed until the Board of Trustees approved independent department status and Jeff Blevins’ contract as the new department head. Hughes also took care of new department’s shift from quarters to semesters as part of a wider campus change. Hughes is staying through Fall semester to ease the leadership handover, and after a sabbatical, plans to return to teaching. (Disclosure: I’ve taught for Hughes as a visiting professor and adjunct instructor.)
• Rob Portman’s record as a federal appointee and senator make him fair game for analysis and/or criticism. Letters to the Enquirer display biases that readers brought to what Enquirer reporters wrote in a major profile. Some say it’s a hatchet job. Others say it was a blow job. As in so many divisive issues, readers biases dictate their reactions rather than the content itself.
• Portman made page 1 of the New York Times too. The opening anecdote, about his effective role playing as the Democrat in GOP presidential debate practice, was delightful. And John McCain has a sense of humor.
• A recent, major Economist story found a lot that isn’t up to P&G’s image or aspirations, especially when compared to global competitor Unilever. If our local news media suggest problems in P&G’s executive suite, the Economist suggests why. Among the biggest problems, it says, are P&G’s inability to innovate and adapt quickly to foreign, and especially, emerging markets where poor people buy little packets of stuff that we buy in bulk at discount warehouses. A subtext is a question: can P&G cope with changing multinational markets from Cincinnati (as opposed to, say, London, where the Economist and Unilever are based ...)
• The New York Times devoted a recent Tuesday Science section cover to a fascinating suburban Cincinnati company that designed a famous roller coaster that’s not at Kings Island. The Times focused on the 6,500-foot-long Voyage at Holiday World theme park in southern Indiana because it’s the crown jewel of Gravity Group and the key elements still are made of wood. It’s a great read with F-forces and “air time” and all of the other roller coaster goodies.
• Cincinnati will be host to a major Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. This is the public face. Behind it are decades of bitter international academic infighting over right to see, read, translate and publish scroll texts. And, of course, they have a Cincinnati twist.
From the scrolls’ discovery in the 1940s and 1950s, a small group of Christian scholars controlled access and the ability to publish them. Faculty at Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union College were not among the favored few. However, HUC accepted photocopies of the scrolls lest anything happen to the originals. As it was explained to me years ago when I still was reporting about religion, HUC promised that it would not make those photocopy images available to anyone not approved by the original group of scholars.
Then-president Alfred Gottschalk was firm; HUC’s word was its bond. Frustrated HUC faculty included Ben Zion Wacholder.
Undeterred, Wacholder and Christian doctoral candidate Martin Abegg obtained a book with every word in the scrolls and their contexts. They realized it could be used to deduce what the originals said without violating the letter if not the spirit of HUC’s promise of secrecy. Abegg applied his computer skills and the two men reconstructed highly accurate texts of the unpublished scrolls on their Macintosh computer. Abegg later referred to that as “reverse engineering.”
Or as Abegg put it in a letter to a celebration of Wacholder’s life, their first book meant that “a 40-year embargo to the access of the Dead Sea Scrolls became a curiosity of history in two short months. There are very few today who would not agree that Ben Zion Wacholder’s decision to publish was just. An entire and unique generation of Jewish scholars had been denied the privilege of studying what amounted to an important new chapter in the history of ancient Israel and Ben was not about to see such an injustice continue.”
I remember the photo that accompanied my scoop on their achievement: Wacholder looking at hugely magnified images of letters on the computer screen; it was the only way he could see them. Wacholder died last year. Abegg now is co-director of the Dead Sea Scrolls Institute at Trinity Western University in British Columbia where he holds the Ben Zion Wacholder Professorship.
• I hope the Enquirer’s misleading headline Tuesday doesn’t dissuade anyone from going on a commercial river rafting trip. The headline said a Cincinnati Public School student drowned on a rafting trip. According to the Enquirer, the rafts were beached and the teenager walked into the river and drowned. Like so many Tristate residents, she apparently was clueless about the power of rivers and risks of dropoffs. Whether she could swim was not clear. The rafting trip only put her on the beach and, I’d bet, if she wore a life jacket on the raft, she took it off on shore. Bad mistake. Deadly things can happen within a few feet of the shore line once someone goes into a river. In our Miami Group Sierra Club kayak and canoe schools, students and instructors must wear a fitted life jacket anywhere within 10 feet of the waterline. That’s true of lakes and river where we offer instruction.
• It’s no longer news that a trivial local story can attract national news media if there is sufficient buzz on social media. The latest is the life guard in Florida who was fired for leaving his assigned patch of beach to help a floundering swimmer nearby in the surf. What’s curious is the New York Times misdirected exercise in discretion. Neither its print edition delivered in Cincinnati nor its online version of the same story named the “private company” that fired the lifeguard. Curious. Other media showed no such reticence: Jeff Ellis Management.
• Long ago at the start of the New Media Age, a friend warned against putting anything in an email that I would not want to face in court. Since then, of course, the news media have been busy reporting emails that, on reconsideration, never should have been written or sent. Tweets deserve the same scrutiny but happily for the rest of us, they, like emails, don’t get that scrutiny.
So I enjoyed this from jimromenesko.com: “I posted an email from a SheKnows.com editor who told writers to click on ads next to their stories ‘100 times if you want to.’ Another editor’s email encouraged staff to click on Panera ads because ‘we want to keep them around.’
“Sorry, SheKnows, but Panera isn’t sticking around. ‘As soon as Panera was made aware of this issue, we immediately pulled our advertising from SheKnows.com,’ says a spokeswoman. ‘Panera is strongly opposed to practices of this kind.’” Romenesko added that both editors were suspended for their emails.
• Nothing encourages humility like learning how few people know anything about what we report. So given how few people watch network TV news or read daily papers, it’s no surprise how few knew that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare’s individual mandates were constitutional under Congress’ taxing powers.
Poynter Online’s Andrew Beaujon said 30 percent of Americans surveyed didn’t know how the United States Supreme Court ruled on the Affordable Care Act. Another 15 percent thought the law was overturned, says the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Nineteen percent of Republicans, 13 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats thought the court had struck down the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional.
Age factored into knowledge of the ruling, too, Poynter and Pew reported: 24 percent of those younger than 30 followed news about the court’s health care decision very closely. That compares with 42 percent of those 30 to 49 and majorities of those 50 to 64 (56 percent) and 65 and older (62 percent). Just 37 percent those younger than 30 know that the court upheld most of the law’s provisions; majorities of older age groups know that the court upheld most provisions.
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