SJMC Graduate Student Named Finalist in Online Journalism Awards

SJMC graduate student Becky Larson is a finalist in the Online Journalism Awards (OJA) This prestigious competition recognizes excellence in online journalism through awards in professional and student categories. Becky’s project, LoudAustin, was developed in Dr. Cindy Royal’s Advanced Online Media: Coding and Data Skills course during the Spring semester. The course explored storytelling with data about the music community in Central Texas and was funded through the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education from Online News Association, Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation.

screen shot from Becky's project, located at

screen shot from Becky’s project, located at


For this project, Becky identified noise complaint data through the City of Austin Open Data Portal and visualized the data that was tagged “loud music” in several different ways: by month, top four zip codes and through an interactive presentation that allows users to input their own zip codes. The project demonstrates a strong grasp of programming and Web development techniques that are in great demand in modern media organizations.

“Becky did a fantastic job assimilating a range of new skills and identifying a relevant data set. Her project demonstrates the power of data-driven storytelling and is proof that programming skills can and should be taught in mass communication programs,” Dr. Royal said. “Her project is the only finalist in the category that utilizes data in such innovative ways.”

Other finalists in the Student, Small Teams category include projects from University of California at Berkeley and University of Southern California. The winners will be announced at the 2015 ONA Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet on Saturday, September 26, in Los Angeles, Calif. Good luck, Becky!

Chalk talk with Assistant Director Bowers: A monthly lecture series for students


All events will begin at 3:30 p.m. in Old Main 320.

September 14
All about the SJMC: From admission to graduation and all the stops in between.
Overview: Designed for PACE students and other students concerning a major in the SJMC to learn about entrance requirements, matriculation to full-major status, majors, and academic and co-curricular opportunities in the SJMC.

October 12
Internship, Practicum or Special Topics: Understanding the one-hour media performance requirement required of all B.S. degrees in the SJMC.
Overview: What are the course options? What are the requirements for each of these options? What semesters are the options offered? Opportunities and challenges with each option and planning ahead to maximize opportunities.

November 9
Making every choice count: Concentration options for your major and strategically selecting your MC electives.
Overview: MC electives should not be selected randomly. Strategically selecting electives or a concentration could make a difference in your job search. Learn how to make smart decisions.

November 30
Debunking the Myth: How to graduate in a timely manner.
Overview: Avoiding common pitfalls, understanding prerequisites, maximizing opportunities for academic and career development and positioning yourself to graduate in four years or less.

10 Things I Learned on the SJMC Study Abroad Trip

Story by SJMC Study Abroad graduate student, Aisling Niestroy:

Twenty-nine inspired students. Three encouraging faculty members. Two historic countries. One unforgettable experience. The School of Journalism and Mass Communication sponsored a Study Abroad trip to London and Paris in June, and SJMC graduate assistant Aisling Niestroy shared what she learned during her time abroad.


The best thing about the SJMC Study Abroad program was that the majority of “book learning” was completed prior to leaving the country. We attended classes, conducted research, read articles and turned in assignments the week before beginning our journey. This afforded us the opportunity not only to learn from the scheduled media organization visits, but from the unforgettable experience of spending time in another country.

  1. Customs are different, but not necessarily foreign.
    You might be in a foreign country, but you don’t have to act like it. Respect that people do things differently. If you ask your server to split the check multiple ways, you are likely to receive a dirty look. Pay attention to how people interact, how they carry themselves in public, and try not to stick out like a sore thumb.
  1. People don’t hate Americans.
    If they do, they hide it well. While the French might have been annoyed with my crummy accent, they seemed appreciative I was making an effort to speak their language. The majority of people I met were really nice, especially when I dropped my wallet at the hotel in Paris, or when I left my phone in the back of a cab in Dublin. Both were returned to me. It helped that I tried to hold an honest conversation with every person I came into contact with. When you’re kind to others, they’re usually kind to you.
  1. Conversion rates will get you.
    Believe me when I say you can buy too many souvenirs. It is unfortunate for both your wallet and your luggage. Although the things you buy may seem less expensive, they usually aren’t in the long run. As for the British Pound, say goodbye to half of your money.
  1. The best plan is a flexible one.
    I received this same advice before attending SXSW Interactive. Going with the flow is one of your best options when exploring a new city. You can plan a day down to the minute, but something might happen to derail it, or something better might come along and change your mind.
  1. Tour, but don’t stick to the tourist places.
    I went on a different kind of tour in every city – a bike and boat tour in Paris, a self-guided walking tour in London, and an evening bus tour in Dublin. Tours are a great way to learn about the history and culture of a place, and tour guides are the perfect people to ask for city suggestions. I turned to my tour guides for recommendations of non-tourist spots, and they did not disappoint. Another good way to discover local hangouts and restaurants is to wander and get lost (but not so lost you can’t find the way home).

Becca Silvas, my study abroad roommate and fellow graduate student, and I thoroughly enjoyed the Fat Tire Bike Tour around Paris. The Eiffel Tower was my absolute favorite sight.


  1. Try everything.
    As a picky eater, I promised myself I would try absolutely everything before deciding I didn’t like it. So I did, and more often than not, I enjoyed it. However, this doesn’t just extend to food. Not a fan of museums, but they’re free in London? Go. You never know what you’ll fall in love with.

The National Museum of Ireland – Natural History was so interesting (and free). I discovered it while walking around alone in Dublin.


  1. Being abroad with friends is fun, but spending time alone is so good.
    I spent my last two days in Dublin by myself. At first, being alone made me nervous, but then I started to enjoy it. Because I didn’t have to coordinate my plans with anyone else’s, I was able to visit more sights and take more time appreciating what was around me.
  1. People love to share their passions with you.
    After listening to the employees at PR firm Weber Shandwick talk so highly of their jobs, I contemplated switching career paths. Even my various tour guides made me envious of what they do. Talking to people about the things they love is a wonderful way to turn strangers into acquaintances.

Weber Shandwick put on quite a presentation for the group during our visit to their offices in London.


  1. Writing is a required skill for any media job.
    Someone mentioned the importance of writing and communication skills at every business visit. It didn’t matter if the company was focused on journalism or public relations. Good writers make better employees.
  1. Everyone has pride for where they come from.
    And they are not afraid to tell you all about it. They’re also often curious about where you’re from (even more so if it’s a recognizable place like Texas). I swapped hometown pride stories with many people I met throughout my trip, including the three Irish Aislings I found in Dublin. They practically convinced me to never come home.

For the most part, I was pretty confident I knew what to expect when I arrived in Europe. Thankfully, I was wrong. The study abroad program changed my life, and I am confident it can do the same for you.

Taking a Tour: BBC in London

Story by SJMC Study Abroad graduate student, AJ Arreguin:

The British Broadcasting Corporation is one of the most recognizable, highly creditable news organizations in the world. From local to worldwide news coverage, the BBC brings the highest quality of news from journalists that reach outlets such as radio, television and social media. Unlike some news companies around the world that are owned by the government, BBC operates by an annual licensing fee, which citizens of England pay in order to run radio, television broadcasts and premiere shows such as Doctor Who, The Office (English version) and many more. corporation

Courtyard at the BBC

Courtyard at the BBC

The BBC headquarters is located in London (between Portland Place and Langham Place) and contains the BBC Broadcasting House with television studios, radio studios, the main newsroom (where some of the BBC program is recorded), and a small theatre boasting concerts held by A-list musicians.

Our Tour
After getting through security and getting our backpacks and purses scanned and checked, we waited in a lobby that showcased TARDIS, the Doctor Who famous telephone booth, in front of a small gift shop overlooking the BBC Newsroom. Our tour guide first provided us a brief overview of the history of the BBC and its mission statement toward the people of Britain and viewers from around the world. During this brief lecture, we stood in front of a wall made of glass that overlooked the hundreds of employees and desk of the BBC Newsroom. As the tour went on, the guide paused and mentioned that a live weather report was happening. Sure enough, we saw the weatherman a few feet away and on the tube. Finally, we traveled from the newsroom to the studio station, which was in another building that had radio and television sets. Along the way, we passed through historical pieces from the longevity of the BBC, from the microphone used by Edward R. Murrow in World War II broadcastings, to all the memorabilia from celebrities. Walking through the Broadcasting House was a mass communication history lesson in itself.

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After viewing the theatre, radio and television studio, it was time for us to have a bit of fun. The tour allows participants to take part in a newscast and small, scripted play. After it was all said and done, the BBC tour was a must-do if you catch yourself in London. It does not matter if you’re a journalist major, advertising major or public relations major, there is something to learn and grasp from the BBC.

Studio One Panoramic

Studio One Panoramic

For more information on how to book your tour in advance for the BBC Broadcasting House, please visit their website at

Kappa Tau Alpha inducts 60 SJMC students

The Texas State chapter of Kappa Tau Alpha welcomed 60 new members — 53 undergraduates and 7 graduate students — at its induction ceremony on April 24.


KTA is a college honor society that promotes academic excellence in journalism and mass communication, and is recognized by the Association of College Honor Societies. Only those students who had grade point averages among the top 10 percent of the May 2015, December 2014 and August 2014 graduating classes were eligible for induction.

Dr. Tim England, Texas State University, is the 2015 recipient of the William H. Taft Outstanding Chapter Adviser of the Year Award. Tim has been adviser of the Texas State chapter for 14 years.  Among his contributions to KTA is serving as a judge for the Mott Research Award. He received a Ph.D. in Communication and Political Science from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he was initiated into KTA in 1992.  In addition to his teaching background, Tim has 18 years of experience in the broadcasting industry. He will be recognized at a KTA-sponsored luncheon this August in conjunction with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference in San Francisco. Kappa Tau Alpha is a college honor society that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism and mass communication.

At the April ceremony, former SJMC Director Bruce Smith was also recognized for outstanding service. The complete list of honorees can be found at

Top 5 reasons to join the SJMC Graduate Program

Many Texas State University students in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, as well as students from other undergraduate universities, will be graduating within the year. Preparing to graduate can be exciting but also very overwhelming. For students who do not have a post-graduate job secured, entering the real world can seem scary, as graduates are expected to make big, life-altering decisions for their futures in just a short amount of time. If you are looking to take your education one step further, have a leg up on the competition in your professional life, or simply to take more time to figure out what you want to do next, graduate school in the SJMC might be the right fit for you.


The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is housed in beautiful and historic Old Main, located at the top of the hill on the Texas State Campus. (Photo by SJMC Blog)

Here are the top five reasons why you should enroll in the SJMC grad program: Read more of this post

SJMC receives re-accreditation by unanimous vote


The ACEJMC accreditation team visited the SJMC in November

The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) voted unanimously to re-accredit the Texas State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication on May 1, 2015 at its national meeting in Phoenix, AZ. The School’s undergraduate program was found to be in compliance with all nine standards.

The ACEJMC site-visit team was generous in its praise of both Texas State University students and faculty.  Evaluators noted “an impressive record of student accomplishment in national, regional and state competitions.” During their site visit the review team found “a lively student body proud of its work ethic and can-do commitment to professional performance.” The team wrote in its report that the Texas State School of Journalism and Mass Communication has “a faculty well balanced in academic and professional experience and expertise and committed to educating and mentoring students for productive careers in the digital world.”

The Texas State University School of Journalism and Mass Communication is one of only three ACEJMC accredited public university programs in Texas.

We would like to thank faculty and staff, especially SJMC director Dr. Judy Oskam, who worked diligently to make this happen.

International Communications graduate students present findings at Southeast Asia Conference

asiaconferenceTexas State students participating in the graduate-level International Communications class, a hybrid class made up of International Studies and Mass Communication grad students, presented their research at the Southeast Asia Conference last week.

charlotteconferenceWorking in teams, the students singled out particular events, countries and media outlets in order to examine the complex communications landscape in Southeast Asia.

The groups presented thoughtful conclusions concerning freedom of the press, political interference and cultural differences based on analysis of translated or English-language media coverage of their chosen topic or event.

Topics researched ranged from coverage of violence against journalists in the Philippines to the different ways in which Vietnam and China represent their ongoing struggle for dominance in the South China Sea.

Sandhya Rao, who heads the class, spoke briefly about the difficulty the students faced, and extra effort required when conducting research on topics and cultures one is unfamiliar with. She emphasized repeatedly how proud she was of the level of analysis the students were able to achieve.

Burnie Burns of Rooster Teeth visits Digital Entrepreneurship Speaker Series

Michael Justin “Burnie” Burns visited Texas State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication as the seventh and final speaker of the Digital Entrepreneurship Speaker Series on Weds, April 22. Burns is the co-creator of the internet video series “Red vs. Blue” and co-founder of the production company Rooster Teeth.

IMG_3679 (1)

Digital media professor Jon Zmikly began the Q&A-style discussion by asking Burns to give a history of his career in digital production. Though he started as a biology pre-med student at the University of Texas in Austin, he switched his major to computer science during his senior year, due to his interest in the rise of the Internet in the mid-90s.

Burns also became interested in filmmaking. But instead of taking classes to learn film production, he grabbed and college buddy and decided to learn as they went.

“It took us 13 months to shoot and edit our film,” said Burns. “And that was just the beginning. The real challenge was the distribution, like getting the film into an independent film festival. You send your film in, and a committee of eight or nine people determine if your film can be screened in a room full of 200 people at a festival. We got a lot of nice rejection letters.” Read more of this post

Digital Speaker Series features SJMC graduate and NY Times staffer Maira Garcia

by Becky Larson:


Maira Garcia at TX State’s Digital Speaker Series

Maira Garcia is a senior staff editor at the New York Times. She works to organize, strategize and push content for the paper’s homepage,

Interviewed by digital media graduate student Jordon Brown and speaking to what felt like a hometown crowd, Garcia, who is a Texas State graduate, returned to the university this past week as the most recent speaker in the SJMC’s Digital Entrepreneurship Series.

“I learned a lot at TX State…”

Garcia earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree with Texas State and was one of the first to matriculate under the graduate program’s Digital Media concentration.

It was this skills-focused digital concentration that she told the audience was one of the most important aspects of her time at Texas State.

Read more of this post


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