Members tour IU’s tech facilities, meet Big Red II

June 28, 2013
tour at CIB

Thirteen club members toured the IU Cyberinfrastructure Building and the Data Center, which houses IU’s computers, including Big Red II. (Photo by Jack Dvorak)

Bloomington Press Club members saw the state-of-the-art IU Cyberinfrastructure Building and nearby Data Center during a tour of the facilities June 24.

In addition to serving as the location of some of the university’s most innovative technical work, the Cyberinfrastructure Building is the “greenest” building on campus and is certified as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the government’s certification for sustainable construction).  Many of IU’s technical department staffs collaborate under one roof.

The Data Center is where most IU computers are stored, including Big Red II, one of the most powerful university computers in the world.  It is 25 times faster than its predecessor and will enable researchers to carry out their work more efficiently, according to IU’s press release issued when Big Red II was dedicated in April.

The Data Center is mostly underground with no windows and tight security. Dan Miller, vice-president for information technology, led the tour of the building, which was constructed in concrete that should be safe even in an F5 tornado.

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Raymer discusses newsgathering for new book

February 3, 2013
book cover

Raymer’s new book, Redeeming Calcutta, was published by Oxford University Press.

IU School of Journalism professor and club member Steve Raymer showed photos and discussed the five years of newsgathering for his new book, Redeeming Calcutta, published in January.

Raymer, a former National Geographic photographer who has worked all over the world, said his choice of subject matter was based on his longtime fascination with the city, one that many photojournalists have ignored. He said his book, which includes 13,000 words of text and 7,000 words of captions, looks beyond the significant poverty of the city to the paradoxes of modern culture and ancient tradition.

“Few have really looked at the city, so it is nice as a photojournalist to have an exclusive,” Raymer said. “This is one of the largest and poorest cities on the planet, and I wanted to tell its story.”

The book, published by Oxford University Press, is the product of six trips to the city over a span of five years, with each trip designed to seek out more of Calcutta’s story. Raymer used his journalistic skills to  network with guides, to gain access to places such as one of Mother Teresa’s hospitals, notoriously off-limits to journalists, and to show the city from unusual vantage points in order to juxtapose the new and the old.

For example, one photo shows a shepherd leading  his flock through the crowded streets — while talking on a cell phone. Others show children at play in the harshest of slums, majestic buildings in all their sunlit glory, abject poverty among street people and workers in a jute plant.

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Hershey offers thoughts on 2012 elections

September 26, 2012

IU political science professor Marjorie Hershey says three questions hang over the upcoming November elections:

  • Is the presidential race already over?
  • Is the Indiana Senate race competitive?
  • What is the influence of super PACs?

Hershey offered her answers to those questions when she spoke to the Bloomington Press Club Sept. 24.

As a professor and researcher, Hershey focuses on political parties, campaigns and elections, and has carefully considered and studied those three questions as part of her work.

First, the presidential race is not over, despite the most recent gaffes that seem to erode Mitt Romney’s chances, she said.

“Obama has been ahead in some polls, but only slightly,” she said. “What will make a difference are two campaign events, the conventions and the debates. Other events really don’t matter much.”

Hershey studies public opinion and polls of attitudes in her research. Most people make their voting decisions quite early and campaign rhetoric only reinforces their opinions as they listen to the candidates they like.

The race itself plays out at the state level, and then only in some key states, she said. States already solidly in the Democrat or Republican camp won’t get much attention from candidates, but battleground states with high numbers of electoral votes where allegiances are not so clear cut, such as Ohio and Florida, will be the focus.

“This dictates the campaign issues, too,” she said. Democrats will focus on Medicare in Florida, for example, because vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan “worries seniors.” But the focus in Ohio may be jobs or manufacturing because those are top issues there.

Hershey cited predictors such as those from the 538 blog from the New York Times, which suggest that the state of the economy in the third  quarter of the year and the presidential approval rating in June of an election year forecast the election results.

As for the Senate race, Hershey says polling data indicate this is a competitive race,  that Richard Mourdock and JoeDonnelly are in a dead heat. Mourdock’s “extreme” positions have cost him his party’s respect in some ways, she said, but voters don’t always vote on the issues but rather on what the candidate is really like.

And, in that race, voters are seeing the effects of the 2010 Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, which said government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections. This means groups can flow money to campaigns without strict regulations.

“When you are a candidate getting some of the $5 billion spent on political advertising, you have to wonder what that group wants in return,” Hershey said.

The federal election rules changed in the 1970s when the Federal Election Campaign Act set limits on contributions from any one person. In 2002, McCain-Feingold said ads that constituted independent spending from corporations or unions could not run within two months of the election.

Now, thanks to court rulings such as that of Citizens United, groups can give money through political action committees, which can accept unlimited amounts from donors for independent spending. Add to this that 501c organizations, “social welfare groups,” are not required to say who is making donations. So if super PACs flow funding through 501c organizations, no one knows which donors are funding the ads.

“Most of the contributions are concentrated within small groups of people, such as Wall Street, energy and the hotel industries,” Hershey said.

The money often is spent on key races, targeting those such as the Mourdock-Richard Lugar primary. Sometimes, she said, these groups run ads that are harsher or more negative than the campaigns they support are comfortable with.

With the conventions over, the next notable events for voters are the debates, which Hershey said do gain attention, though often as theater rather than a source of political information.

“This could restore Romney, whose coverage so far has been negative,” she said. “It won’t be hard for Romney to do better than expected.”

Hershey is author of two books of research and a number of articles in journals such as the American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly and Political Communication.


Journalism students explain SXSW, share internship experiences

April 29, 2012

Members of Bloomington Press Club heard a bit about the next big wave in technology from IU students and the journalism professor who teaches their class, Devices of Wonder.

IU journalism assistant professor Hans Ibold and students talked about the class’ visit to the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, in March, where they attended workshops led by leaders and innovators in communication technology.

Ibold described “South by” as a venue for creative people working in media and technology who are hungry for ideas. The come to show their work and look for the “next big thing,” he said. For example, Twitter was unveiled at the 2007 conference.

“It’s the place to experience what’s unfolding in the world of media and technology, and it has a global reach,” said Ibold, who recounted several of the international gurus and company reps at the festival.

And what of the “next big thing”? He said social media tools continue to lead the way, and the future may bring a “social discovery,” or way of integrating all sorts of info as soon as one arrives at a place of venue. You’ll receive data in layers, he said, as you walk into a business, restaurant or airport, based on your needs.

Of course, all that depends on data, which is the driving force behind many new developments, he said. This data comes from social media users, for example, who are willing to put much of their personal content online. This will bring to the forefront privacy issues, which already are contributing to social change through technology, Ibold said.

Students in the class who attended the conference talked about their experiences. Stephen Hicks has been exploring his interests by taking informatics courses to complement his journalism major, and said SXSW was an open forum for people to “crowdsource,” or glean ideas or solutions to problems from one another while at the conference, and to network for partners or mentors for work long after the workshops.

“Technology is impacting our storytelling as much as our stories are impacting technology,” Hicks said.

Graduate student Yanqin Lu said his work focuses on social media’s use in political campaigns, and he sought workshops relevant to topics such as online fundraising and the Web’s influence on people’s decision making.

Emma Grdina’s experience in the class and the conference changed her career goals. She’s now interested in working in design of social media and learning about how people interact electronically.

Other students at the meeting included the two press club interns who reported on their year-long experiences with nonprofits. Amy Bishop worked with Boys and Girls Clubs, where she said she learned to work independently and was gratified that her supervisors allowed her such freedom. Daniel Byrd worked with Options and said it was rewarding to see his work used in a meaningful way.

Next year’s interns are journalism students Lis Klisser, who will intern at People and Animals Learning Services (PALS), and Jamie Kamen, who will work with Stepping Stones.


Land describes his job as ‘face of IU’

March 2, 2012

If there is such a thing as a “typical day,” Mark Land hasn’t had one in his seven months or so as IU’s associate vice president of university communications.

And that’s just fine with him.

“One of the things that attracted me to this job is the wide range of tasks on the plate,” he told members of the Bloomington Press Club and their guests at the regular meeting Feb. 26. “For example, this week I’ll be in Franklin Hall’s audio studio with IU President (Michael) McRobbie, who will do two podcasts. Then, I’ll be in Indianapolis working on some projects with the IU School of Medicine. Each day is different, each day is always interesting.”

Land formerly was corporate communications director at Cummins, Inc., in Columbus, Ind., a job he took in 2003 after many years as a reporter or editor at several newspapers. He is a 1985 graduate of Indiana University, where he majored in journalism and worked at the Indiana Daily Student.

He said the switch from a corporation to a university setting has not been without adjustments. At Cummins, he said, everyone had the same goals, to see the company prosper, and were interested in information about that. At IU, “it’s a challenge sometimes to get everyone to care about what we are saying.”

He oversees IU Communications, an integrated group that provides services to IU units and departments who need to get their news and information out to the public. A recent rebranding effort is aimed at unifying the messages that come from IU.  Land also deals with media requests, provides support to the president’s office and often is spokesman for IU when news breaks.

“We try to be proactive instead of reactive, to get out in front of news instead of caught by it,” he said.

Land said being the spokesman for IU – and all the work that entails – is the only job that could have lured him away from his career at Cummins.

“IU is the path that led me to all good things: my career, I met my wife and many good friends here,” he said. “To have the opportunity to be the face of the university at a time when things are moving the right direction is really a privilege.”

BPC president Jim Bright also welcomed Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan and state representative John Gregg, a gubernatorial candidate, as well as members’ guests and several IU journalism students.

The next meeting is March 26, when IU assistant professor Hans Ibold and some of his students will recount their spring break trip to the South by Southwest interactive conference in Austin, Texas.


Wood explains Super Bowl ad strategies

January 29, 2012
Craig Wood addresses the Bloomington Press Club

Craig Wood addresses the Bloomington Press Club on the high prices and questionable effectiveness of Super Bowl advertising. (Photo by Gena Asher)

Of the 10 most-viewed television shows in history, nine are Super Bowl games. So no wonder advertisers pay millions for just 30 seconds of air time during each year’s big game.

Craig Wood, advertising lecturer at the IU School of Journalism, shared his expertise with Bloomington Press Club members at the annual lunch meeting Jan. 23. Because Indianapolis is hosting the Super Bowl this year, the board decided to invite Wood, a former executive vice president of Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency in New York, to explain the business of Super Bowl advertising.

Using slides to illustrate key points, Wood gave the background of Super Bowl advertising trends. During the first Super Bowl televised in 1967, a 30-second spot sold for $40,000. This year, the price is $3.5 million. What do advertisers get for their buck? About 150 million viewers, according to estimates, with nearly one billion to eventually see the game as it airs in 40 countries and in 23 languages.

Wood broke down those numbers into gender and income demographics. While men and women viewers are about the same in number in the 20-29 age group, more men view than women in older populations. By income, 61-73 percent of people earning more than $250,000 are likely to view, whereas only about 30 percent of those earning less than $10,000 are likely to view.

Still, taking your message to Super Bowl viewers doesn’t guarantee success. Wood said there are no statistics that track effectiveness of ads, but advertisers seem to think the sexiness of ads such as Go Daddy work.

“Never mind that surveys don’t bear that out,” said Wood, who added that children and animals continue to be sure-fire attractions in ads. “Expect to see more sex in ads this year as Go Daddy has set the pace.”

And the ads my not come from well-known companies. Of the top 10 brands according to Business Week, none are in the list of top spenders on Super Bowl ads.

The ads will be critiqued, loved and hated, though. As advertisers save ads for debut during the game, and some advertise only during the game, watching the ads has become a sport itself, conversation for Twitter and Facebook during the game and at the office water cooler the next day.

Wood showed a retrospective of 30-second ads from the last 30 years, evoking laughter and groans from the audience, and talked with insider’s knowledge about those that were failures or successes. One hit from last year, an ad from VW in which a child in Darth Vader gear tries to zap his mom, his toys and his dog before finally getting the lights to blink on the family VW, brought forth a lot of “awwws.”

“But we have no way of knowing if people will remember what the ad is selling,” said Wood. “Do you remember that this is a VW ad, or just that it is cute? Often, people remark about the ad and then don’t recall the product, which is not a very good return on investment for these companies.”


Wittmeyer describes evolution of ‘converged’ newsroom

October 31, 2011

WTIU/WFIU's news director Sara Wittmeyer spoke to the club Oct. 24 about the changes in the stations' news programs since her arrival in 2010. (Photo by Gena Asher)

The fledgling integrated newsroom at Bloomington’s public radio and TV station is making strides toward keeping the public informed whether they are watching, listening or using the Web to get their news, according to WTIU/WFIU’s news director Sara Wittmeyer, who spoke to the press club Oct. 24.

The newsroom brings together reporting and news production for both stations and the news website, Indiana Public Media. In just over a year into her tenure as the first director of the converged newsroom, Wittmeyer said the project is off to a running start.

“In a year and a half, we have added three reporters, a master’s program and have tripled the story content,” said Wittmeyer, who came from a converged news environment at the University of Missouri’s public broadcasting stations. “But we have a long way to go until people start thinking of us as their ‘go-to’ news source.”

The master’s program, in collaboration with the School of Journalism, supplies several students whose course work feeds that tripling of news content. Wittmeyer also takes on volunteers and interns, both undergradaute and graduate level, who learn while working as reporters, videographers or audio producers.

Wittmeyer plans to add to her total of about 40 students working in the newsroom both as a way for students to learn and get experience, and for the station to continue to increase its news coverage.

A converged or integrated newsroom depends on this, she explained. “Converged” means a reporter may prepare a video report for the WTIU news show, then edit a shorter clip to post to the website. This new clip may be accompanied by a text story, podcast or still photos. Website readers have access to stories with varying multimedia components, and reporters and producers have to think in terms of several media platforms, not just a radio piece or a Web story.

Sara Wittmeyer

Though she's tripled the number of news stories and added reporters, Wittmeyer said the stations have a long way to go to become the 'go-to' news source in southern Indiana. (Photo by Gena Asher)

Wittmeyer said she hopes to have enough people on staff to focus on creating more documentaries. She said station managers know the news divisions don’t necessarily bring in money, but projects such as documentaries provide in-depth examinations of news issues. A documentary about I-69, the interstate highway under construction across southwestern Indiana, is in production now.

WFIU/WTIU also received a grant earlier this year to work with NPR and other affiliates on covering education. State Impact Indiana is a collaboration between WFIU, WTIU, Indiana Public Broadcasting and seven other public broadcasting stations around the state to report on education issues.

Wittmeyer said new programs, along with existing favorites such as Noon Edition and Ask the Mayor, are geared to keeping people informed through whatever media they choose.

“We know that some people have no satellite or cable,” she said. “Our news may be the only news they get. We want to be sure we fulfill that need.”