Breaking News … About Third Eye Blind?!

A post yesterday on the blog “journajunkie” by College of Brockport journalism professor Marsha Ducey caught my eye.  She wrote in praise of the new media acumen of The Stylus, Brockport’s student newspaper, for working over the winter break (when no print editions are published) to send a breaking news e-mail alert to students and staff about a concert the band Third Eye Blind has scheduled on campus in the spring.

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Third Eye Blind Still Alive

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As she wrote, “These students realize that journalism is a 24-hour-a-day job, regardless of the medium, and that when they find out big news, they can’t wait for the print edition or even, in their case, for when they return to school.”

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I like the idealism in the sentiment, but I’m left wondering: Could this news *really* not wait?  I’ve been out of the states for close to six months now.  Has Third Eye Blind magically reemerged as an A-list (or even B-list) band in that time?  Update the newspaper Web site certainly.  But even at a smaller school like Brockport, is an announcement of a planned Third Eye Blind concert at Tuttle North Ice Arena in April truly worth clogging the in-boxes of every student and staff at the school?

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It reminds me of a research presentation I once attended while a doc student at Ohio University.  A candidate for a j-professor post was talking about his research into the use of breaking news e-mail alerts by CNN, at one point noting that he’d found it was an underused presentation option simply because CNN only sends out a few per month.  I think the research may have merit but I disagree with the premise vehemently: I think it’s the LACK of breaking news e-mail alerts that shows how effective they can be.  When I receive a breaking news e-mail alert, I want it to matter.  E-mails about the latest updates in Barack Obama’s Blackberry fight, Oprah’s weight gain or Amy Winehouse’s rehab makes me lose trust and then interest in what constitutes important breaking news.

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New media are only as effective as journalists’ decision-making on when (and when not) to use them.

Comments
2 Responses to “Breaking News … About Third Eye Blind?!”
  1. Amanda Seef says:

    I find it interesting that my attempt at updating the students of Brockport over break has been so widely talked about in multiple blogs now.

    While I agree that Third Eye Blind is NOT an A-list band, the spring concert is something that many students look forward to the announcement of. With social networking sites posting information about the planned appearance on campus, it seemed fruitful to post something on the student newspaper Web site — someplace that many students will turn to when they have exhausted the firsthand source of the bands own site. The student government, who plans the concert, released a statement yesterday which was included in the article, also posted yesterday.

    With no other office on campus releasing information about the concert, an event most anticipated by many students, it is the job and duty of the student media to produce the information sought after by the students. For a college newspaper, news values are certainly different than for a metropolitan daily.

    The part that bothers me about your post is you say my article “clogged the inbox” of students, faculty and staff. The only students that receive the e-mails of the breaking news are ones that wish to receive such e-mails. Admittedly, this is a small portion of our campus.

    For college media and students, this concert is breaking news. This is what many care about, more than politics or administration changes within the college. Additionally, the breaking news box was used to bill the article at the top of the page, something that is not always done easily with College Publisher. This is standard practice for stories that “break” when a print edition is not nearby (for The Stylus staff, that is more than three weeks away.)

  2. Dan Reimold says:

    Amanda,

    Thanks so much for your response. First, absolutely, as I mentioned in the post, an update to the Web site seems like a very smart move and Professor Ducey offers justifiable praise in her post for your efforts to get it live online over your break. Well done. Now, does it deserve the seemingly uber-serious blood red “Breaking News” box? That, I’m not sure. It truly is an interesting discussion. On the one hand, it is of course an effective way to grab students’ attention. On the other hand, I worry that it diminishes its importance when a truly important breaking news event happens, such as a fire or a major national tragedy to which you feel students should be made aware ASAP.

    I agree that one of the toughest things about being a student journalist is the strange timing of the news cycle. Suddenly, we’re on a one-month break and of course even on a quiet campus it’s not like all news suddenly ceases. What’s the best way to get the word out about something you feel is worth students’ time to read or watch? No easy answers.

    Otherwise, just to refer to the problem you mention with the post about all Brockporters getting the e-mail. I based that reference on Professor Ducey’s own post, in which she mentions the e-mail was received by “the rest of the Brockport community.” If I read or understood that incorrectly, I apologize.

    Just on a side-note, per your comment about no other avenues existing to report such news to campus other than the paper: An official announcement about this type of event seems more the purview of a student life or student union office. The Stylus is really the sole voice for sending out e-mails or providing previews about upcoming campus events? Seriously, think about it. If tickets for the concert went on sale right away, it seems like an official body of the school should e-mail students even during break. If they didn’t, that’s a story in itself!

    Best of luck, and well done on capturing and presenting the story quickly. The discussions held here on CMM are all in the spirit of gaining a better handle on what new media mean and how they can be harnessed by impassioned j-students like yourself. – Dan