I am humbled and excited to be in the running for president of CMA. I believe I can offer creative and ambitious goals for the future of our organization to this year’s election cycle conversation. If I were to receive your vote of confidence, I know that I can set us on a path to realizing our goals while growing and fine-tuning the initiatives already in place. Most of all, I know together we will carry on our great tradition of serving our students by supporting our advisers.
I started in journalism fairly young. At 15 years old I was writing and reporting for “The Daily News” of Wahpeton, N.D. My high school journalism adviser, the late John Wall, would give me daily grief about my daily news. His way of showing satisfaction was a gruff, “Not too bad, Listopad.” Yet he was there for me everyday, through thick and thin. It was this mentor-student relationship that set my career path, even though I didn’t know it then. I thought I wanted to be a doctor, even though by my high school graduation I had hundreds of clips and a Resolution of Appreciation from our city council for broadcasting their meetings for four years.
My late teens and early twenties were filled with undergraduate and graduate pursuits, including a variety of media jobs and internships taking me from New Line Cinema in L.A. to the public affairs office on an Air Force base. I truly thought I would never live in North Dakota again, but there’s a Godfather line that sums up the rest of the story.
I cut my teeth in student media advising at the University of Jamestown, Jamestown, N.D., where I served as an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication and the student media director from 2003 to 2014. Over the course of 11 years, UJ’s student media went from a canceled yearbook and nearly canceled newspaper to a converged multi-media organization and facility. When I left in 2014, our student newspaper had won the state competition 5 out of 6 years; we had a 24-hour, 4,000W FM radio station; a 24-hour cable channel reaching 12,000 homes; a website, mobile app and all relevant social media; and a successful media agency servicing clients across the state. Like so many of you, I was a staff of one. Through building strong relationships and inspiring belief in the cause among the student body, faculty, staff, alumni and the community, we were able to accomplish amazing things for a school with less than 1000 students. In 2010, I was honored to receive the Outstanding Multimedia Adviser Award from CMA.
I’ve been involved with ACP and CMA since 2003 – bringing my students, presenting, critiquing, serving on committees, etc. The first convention I took my students to was ACP’s 2004 spring convention in Las Vegas. We attended a session on the Hosty v. Carter case and its implications for college media. That session led to a decade-long conversation on our campus and in our state – and now that conversation has reached the North Dakota legislature as the John Wall New Voices Act. This bill would restore the Tinker standard in our high schools, protect public colleges from Hazelwood creep, and extend First Amendment protections to private college campuses. I am writing this bio the night before we testify in front of our House Education Committee. I have no idea what will happen, but at least this journey has cemented this vital conversation firmly in our public consciousness. You can learn more about our journey at www.newvoicesnd.com.
In 2014 I took a new job down the road at Valley City State University. Like UJ in 2003, VCSU is now investing in their journalism and media curriculum and a student media program. What drew me to VCSU was their vision for a new facility and program, and the opportunity to be a part of that building process from the ground floor. The same inspiration is behind my decision to run for president of CMA. I love to build and I’ve been fairly successful at it. CMA is definitely entering a building phase, and I believe I have the skill sets to both take advantage of the knowns and successfully navigate the unknowns. As vice-president of the North Dakota Newspaper Association Education Foundation for five years, I’ve been a part of watching the market decimate our endowment and actively rebuilding and growing the endowment to twice what it was before the crash. At UJ I chaired the committee that rewrote and passed a new faculty governance system, which was much more challenging than any dollar I’ve ever raised for the foundation.
My Vision and Goals:
I believe CMA is in the best position in the country to be the “go to” organization for college media affairs. We are an organization comprised of experts and educators, and we have a presence in every corner of the U.S. Our current business model requires our constituents to come to us at our conventions and our workshops, but we are fully poised to engage our communities where they live and work. Outreach should be a major focus of CMA as it builds to the future – it fits with our mission and is a financially promising endeavor.
I believe that CMA plays an important and unique role in media education. Our organizational relationships with groups like ACP, CNBAM, CBI and so many others are vital to the success of our membership and the cause. We truly can realize our purpose, our utility, as an organization in such a way that enriches the college media landscape and our relationships with our peer organizations.
I also believe that CMA has a long history of successes that need to be upheld as well as evolved. Our conventions and workshops are treasures, and they are also petri dishes where new ideas can be constantly tested. Our online community, largely through our listserv, is one of the most vital I’ve ever been a part of, but there are always ways to improve communication and transparency.
CMA will not shutter its doors and windows anytime soon. We are the experts and the educators. Together we are stronger than we ever would be apart. We can serve our discipline in a ways no other organization can, we can take risks to benefit our members and students that others cannot, and we can do so while being fiscally responsible.
QUESTIONS FROM THE MEMBERSHIP
What is your vision for CMA?
I believe that College Media Association does three things exceptionally well: 1) It creates a community for advisers, faculty, professionals, and students around the vital discipline of media education, 2) it educates and supports advisers as they work with our nation’s students, and 3) it advocates for advisers, their students, the discipline and the profession.
These activities can come in many forms, including, but not limited to conventions, workshops, listservs, educational materials, etc. And CMA does so many of these activities with gusto and precision. Our conventions and workshops, our online community, truly are things to be envied. The care, thought and work put into these activities by so many dedicated members and friends is something we should be proud of.
But I do believe there’s one area we’re missing out on: Outreach. You’ll hear me say that word a lot, but I want to make sure we’re not just giving the notion lip service. I don’t want to change what CMA does now. I want to replicate some of what we do best at conventions and workshops in the newsrooms all around our country. I believe that we can grow our community exponentially by shifting the focus from the convention Mecca to the spaces where our people live and work.
Yes, it’s true, conventions and workshops energize students and advisers alike. I love having an excuse to travel to NYC or New Orleans or Austin. I cherish watching my students arrive at a convention burnt out only to head back home on fire again. But think of all those that can’t afford to travel. Think of all those that never get rejuvenated. We are a community of teachers, advocates and experts, and yet we cloister our skills and knowledge in major markets – never to be experienced by 98% of college media students and advisers in our country.
I envision a CMA that is out there in the world. That is helping our advisers and our students where they live and work and play. We don’t work for the airlines and we don’t work for hotels. We work for journalism and media education, and we’re missing the boat by pretending there is no other viable educational, organizational or financial model beyond forcing our members to spend thousands of dollars on airfare and hotel rooms.
My vision is that CMA charts a new course of ambassadorship. No one else in our industry is doing this. But other industries are, and they are reaping the benefits of hyper-local education and relationship building. This Ambassador endeavor, I believe, will grow our membership considerably in the first several years. And I believe that conference and workshop attendance will increase – not because they are the only mechanisms we offer for training – but because we’ve grown our community organically across the country.
I will share a complete proposal in NYC next week. It will be a first draft, and it will need some work, but you’ll have a better idea of how this might work for us.
And I want you to know, you don’t have to vote for me to like the plan and move it forward. But I assure you that I’m also well qualified to organize, to lead, and to inspire. I’ve had a lot of practice lately in North Dakota. North Dakota, a small, red, backwards state that is on the verge of passing the most comprehensive and progressive student journalism protection bill since Hazelwood landed on us. We might be red, but there’s nothing small or backwards about us.
So, in a nutshell, I believe CMA keeps doing what it does so well – build community, advocate and educate – but we do it out there.
What are your specific goals that will ensure that vision is completed?
Goal 1: To draft, reach consensus, and launch an Ambassador program, putting our trained and vetted advisers to work in the field on behalf of CMA.
Goal 2: To bring our organizational partners back to the table and discuss new, mutually beneficial, terms. When we are not solely in the convention business, ACP and others will truly be allies, not competitors.
Goal 3: To double adviser memberships by Austin, and triple adviser memberships by Atlanta. (Ambitious, but within reach if we create value for Advisers on their home turf.)
Goal 4: Create an Ombudsmen position on our executive board with the purpose of rebuilding trust through open doors and engagement.
Goal 5: To refine, improve, and evolve the things we do well now – ever conscious of the valuable activities we already do.
Goal 6: To inspire in the membership the belief that we can do great things when we work together. We can effect real change that creates positive, nurturing environments for student journalists and the journalism industry.
Goal 7: We need to keep expanding our content expertise into film, video games, and other media beyond journalism – but we need to always remember that journalism is central to our mission.
Could you provide details about how you are going to accomplish your goals?
I talk about transparency in another question, so I’ll just briefly expand on the Ambassador program here. More detail will be provided in NYC.
My concept for moving out into the world is based off the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Tennis Service Representative (TSR) program. Over the last ten years, the TSR program is responsible for hundreds of new community tennis associations, state associations, tournaments, league play and so much more. To be involved in these activities and receive the benefits, individuals and groups needed to become USTA members. Now, you might say this sounds like a flimsy scheme. You are right to be skeptical, but the approval ratings and community growth should counter any disbelief. What made the USTA’s recruiting plan work was that they put experts that cared in our communities – the TSR’s. These were full-time jobs for the USTA TSR’s. Our TSR covered Western Minnesota and all of North Dakota. We can’t afford full-time staff (not yet anyway). But we do have several CMA members in North Dakota – we’ve got CMA members everywhere. We develop a curriculum to certify volunteer members as Ambassadors. We send our Ambassadors back to their homes with a region they are responsible for. The Ambassador reaches out to the student media in their region, let’s them know about CMA and how he or she can help if they need it. The Ambassador is there, on the ground, making eye contact with member schools and new schools. And the Ambassador is bringing the full expertise and force of CMA with them wherever they go to lend a helping a hand. The Ambassador gets their travel covered by CMA and a modest stipend – a drop in the bucket compared to the travel costs incurred by student media programs to get any benefit out of CMA. And this also allows our Ambassadors to tailor training to the students’ needs in their home environment. Sure, the convention fire is great, but having one of our advisers help you solve a problem on your home turf is infinitely more effective and therefore efficient.
Will schools, advisers and students want this service? The research for other industries says resoundingly yes – they crave it. But only research and trial will tell us if we’re unique – that journalists don’t want face time. But what do we have to lose? We’re hemorrhaging partners and confidence, and we’re not doing everything we can to evangelize for our own organizational value… Our value – our community – our expertise – our passion.
I’ll be happy to share more details next week. In the meantime, consider the very little that we’d have to lose, and all that we’d have to gain by taking on this new direction.
Will you mimic other journalism organizations and conspicuously post both meeting agendas and minutes?
Agendas should be made available to the membership at least a week prior to any meeting, but there is always room for changes to the agenda up until the meeting starts. However, meeting schedules should be posted for the year in the CMA calendar of events.
Minutes should be made available to the membership no more than 10 business days after the meeting. (Sooner if an additional meeting is scheduled within a two weeks of the current meeting.)
I also think there are ways to enhance the website/homepage experience for membership information:
- making membership news more prominent
- making the member login more prominent
- having more opt-in options for member e-mail announcements that include the posting of minutes and agendas
Will you announce bylaw votes before asking the membership to vote on them?
Yes. I believe that, for the most part, the recent leadership teams have done this. But I think there are:
- More effective ways of distributing vital information and requestingfeedback.Some of which I’ve already addressed.
- More effective ways of creating the perception of openness and forthrightness. No matter what anyone says, perception is important. All the information that we’ve taken issue on has been made available to us in the past, but the perception says otherwise. Any leadership team needs to provide vital information to its membership in routine and forceful ways. There can never be any doubt that the leadership team has done everything it can to educate and inform the membership. I would rather get made fun of for obnoxiously taking up members’ inbox space than be criticized as reclusive and opaque. Unfortunately, there is rarely a good compromise when it comes to transparency: the board does everything right all the time, or it doesn’t.
What else will you do to ensure that the CMA Board becomes more transparent to its members?
- I will ask the board and the membership to approve a new, elected, ex-officio board position – Ombudsman. This position would be non-voting, and would provide the membership with a routine analysis of the business and decisions of the board. The Ombudsman is a position in news organizations that we are familiar with. This person is free from retaliation, censure, and marginalization from the board. This person can say what they want to say (re: Sara Bareilles), what they need to say, and they answer only to the membership. Not only will this function improve transparency, it will change the way the board converses amongst itself, and it will add a human element to often mundane and technical communications from the board (hopefully increasing member engagement in board activities). At this moment, I believe the Ombudsman should be allowed into the executive sessions as well, to give him or her complete context. But there would have to be some contractual understanding of the position that would limit release of sensitive information regarding our personnel and organizational partners. This will need to be discussed further.
Will you vote to partner with ACP again for a fall convention even if it means returning to the previous contract terms?
- Without hesitation. I believe the current leadership made the right decision based on the convention-centric model of our organization. I believe we need to adapt and change our model, not alienate our partners because our model is not big enough for the both of us.
- This will require study and careful analysis. We need to be well on our way to seeing positive growth in new endeavors like my proposed Ambassador program before we are capable of being in a position to negotiate new terms with ACP, CBI or any other partners. We will not go back to the table until we can offer our partners and the industry a unique advantage of partnership – but we will go back to the table.
Why or Why not?
- See #7
What's your philosophy on the future of CMA: Compete with other organizations or partner with them?
- See #7
If you want to partner with other organizations, which organizations would you want to partner with?
- See #7
Please add anything else you think can help our members know you and your leadership style.
As the current chair of the Adviser Awards Committee, I have the privilege to spend many hours engaged in reading nominations and letters of support. I’ve watched countless hours of Soundslides, and I’ve heard you and your students speak about what it means to be an Adviser.
If there was ever any doubt in my mind about what an Adviser should be, you, my colleagues and friends, have utterly erased that doubt. Of all my committees, this work has been some of the most rewarding. Not because we cured cancer or built a house for a family in need – but because, through you, through your triumphs and tragedies, through your successes and your failures, I have identified those qualities and events in my own life, I have assigned value, and I have found definition. I know what I am… I am an Adviser.