The Megaphone Project: Letting small voices be heard

by Cheyenne Meyer:

With the goal of “letting small voices be heard”, a group of Texas State University undergraduate students has teamed up with SJMC lecturer Holly Wise to create The Megaphone. This online publication was created as part of the undergraduate multimedia journalism elective course, and serves as a voice for local groups looking to bring about social change in the community.


The Megaphone team members – photo by The Megaphone

Holly Wise, photo by VoiceBoxMedia

Holly Wise – photo by Voicebox Media

Though Wise spearheads the operation, she believes the students are the true stars of the show. Her goal is to facilitate the project, and guide the students in the right direction. And she certainly knows a thing or two about managing an online publication; Wise is also the founder of Voicebox Media, a group that uses multimedia journalism to tell the stories of nongovernmental organizations.

“She [Wise] gives us the tools, but we have to figure the rest out on our own,” Stephie Figueroa, senior electronic media major, said.

In the class’ first meeting, the students were given the task of choosing a direction for their publication. They had to decide on their project’s theme, identify their audience, come up with a name and design a logo. With the slogan “letting small voices be heard”, The Megaphone aims to highlight groups and organizations in the Austin and San Marcos area that are doing great things for others and for their community.

Lorenzo Almanza, senior print journalism major, explained that working with The Megaphone is like working for any news outlet.

“It’s like a newsroom scenario,” Almanza explained, “where we are all collaborating and pitching our ideas to one another.”


Students pitch their project ideas to their peers and their leader, Holly Wise.

The students meet on Tuesday nights to share ideas for potential feature stories or footage for the website, update one another on the status of their individual projects, and measure the reach of their content. Ally Garcia, senior public relations major, explained that the students are learning key real-world communication skills such as measuring analytics and search engine optimization.

“It’s definitely important to see consumer behavior through Google Analytics, and see how they interact with our content,” she said. “It’s really opened my eyes.”

Brie East, explained that working on The Megaphone has helped her explore new mass media platforms and channels.

“[The Megaphone] is definitely pushing me out of my comfort zone,” said East. “I’m learning more about audio and visual production, and expanding my knowledge of the Adobe applications. It’s a big job.”

Perhaps the most interesting multimedia journalism project the Megaphone students have worked on this semester is “the bug story”. Pitched by Jax Stafford, the story and its accompanying video support Austin local Robert Nathan Allen’s push for Americans to consider insects as a cost-effective and sustainable alternative protein source. In order to better communicate the story, the staff ate the insects and filmed their experiences.

“It was fun, but it was scary,” Mackenzie Steger, senior public relations major, said of the bug-eating experience. “I was mad I volunteered, but I just had to do it because everybody else did. The experience was very eye-opening. They really didn’t taste that bad.”

Wise explained that this project was well received by The Megaphone’s audience and social media following, and that the team should continue to produce content in similar, attention-grabbing ways by incorporating photos, videos and other interactive content.

Describing the semester-long project as “collaboration across the board”, Wise guides each Tuesday night class by promoting discussion and highlighting each individual’s talents.

“It’s not so much about the final project, but the entire process of the project,” she said. “Each student is working toward producing stories, but we are involving everyone in the entire process. The collaboration is truly across the board in this project, because I don’t know everything. I like to make sure each student is exercising what he or she is good at.”

Be sure to connect with The Megaphone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about groups and individuals that are making a difference in the community, and to support these hard-working mass communication students in their efforts to gain invaluable experience in the field.

Founder of Titan Music Group, Austin Music Foundation talks music industry, data with SJMC students

by Cheyenne Meyer:


Cindy Royal (left) and Nikki Rowling (right), discussing music and business – photo by Dale Blasingame

Nikki Rowling, founder of the Austin Music Foundation and the consulting firm Titan Music Group, stopped by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Digital Entrepreneurship Speaker Series on Weds, March 11 to talk music, data and business with the mass comm students. The Q&A style discussion was led by SJMC associate professor Cindy Royal.

Although Rowling is not a musician herself, having a love of music and many friends in the artist class fueled her passion to begin a career in the music industry. In 2002, she and her business partner left the tech world to launch the Austin Music Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on teaching local artists how to make a sustainable living. Rowling realized that she had learned a lot about the tech industry and acquired a lot of skills, but wanted to pour her efforts into something that better captured her interest and passion.

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A Smokin’ Creative Challenge

by Pat Baldwin:

CountyLine“It is always great to see our future entrepreneurs bringing new ideas to the table,” said Skeeter Miller, owner and president of The County Line Inc.

That table also was laden with barbecue March 3 when graduate students from MC 5326, Seminar in Strategic Communication, met with Miller and the Austin-based barbecue company’s director of special events Vanessa Tobias. Miller said he loves working with students — “truly a breath of fresh air.”

Miller also serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Restaurant Association Education Foundation and is Chapter President of the Greater Austin Restaurant Association. Tobias once attended Texas State and has special loyalties to the Bobcats.

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SJMC students intern, travel with Spurs Sports and Entertainment

by Cheyenne Meyer:

Fans of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team know the excitement of attending a game. Between the loud crowds, the pumped-up music, and simply seeing their favorite players in action is an experience fans sitting anywhere in the arena just don’t want to miss. Two SJMC students are experiencing the games from a whole new perspective. They’re seeing it courtside.

Taylor Hair and Avery Schneider currently intern for Spurs Sports and Entertainment. Schneider has been with the group since last year, and Hair joined the team in August. Larry Carlson, senior lecturer, said these internships were made possible by Mike Kickirillo, the director of broadcasting for the Spurs and SJMC alum (class of ’88).

Photo provided by Texas State SJMC

Mike Kickirillo, SJMC Alum – Photo provided by Texas State SJMC

“Over the years, [Kickirillo] has utilized many of my students as interns,” Carlson said. “A number of them now work for him as producers, etc. Thanks to him, we have a great pipeline from our School of Journalism to the Spurs’ organization. And Mike, just like the players, has collected five NBA championship rings during his time with the Spurs.”

Hair and Schneider recently had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles and San Francisco to work on the broadcast of the Spurs’ games against the Clippers and Warriors. Hair, a senior electronic media major from Lubbock, explained their duties as interns.

“Avery and I have numerous responsibilities on game days and non-game days,” he said, “from making sure equipment is on the truck, setting up the broadcast desk, writing credentials, logging videos, and even thinking up a trivia question to use during the broadcast.”

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


Join Assistant Director Harry Bowers for his special series, Chalk Talk, geared toward SJMC students. All events will begin at 2:00 p.m. in Old Main 320.

March 25
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.

April 8
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.

May 4
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.

University Star participates in Global News Relay 2015

Texas State University’s own student newspaper, The University Star, was chosen as one of 10 universities to participate in Global News Relay 2015, an annual newscast coordinated by the University of Salford, UK. Global News Relay links up students from universities across the globe to produce more than 2 hours of continuous broadcast news.

Poverty around the world, #GlobalNewsPoverty, was this year’s chosen broadcast topic. The newscast included 15-minute segments from six universities in the U.S. and universities and colleges in India, Australia, Dubai and the U.K.

Check out The University Star‘s news broadcast in the link provided below (Texas State’s segment begins at 45:41).


Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith visits Digital Entrepreneurship Speaker Series

by Cheyenne Meyer:

Photo by The Texas Tribune

The third guest to visit the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Digital Entrepreneurship Speaker series was Evan Smith. Smith, the Chief Executive Officer, Editor-in-Chief, and Co-Founder of the digital news source The Texas Tribune visited Old Main on Weds, Feb. 25 to encourage students to endeavor into journalism, tech innovation and entrepreneurship. The Q&A session was facilitated by Professor Dale Blasingame.

Smith’s journalistic roots go far deeper than just the Tribune; he spent 18 years working in various leadership positions at Texas Monthly, but in 2009, he was growing bored. He then decided to take a leap of faith: to quit his job at Texas Monthly and launch a non-profit, non-partisan strictly digital newspaper, focused on providing Texans with information on “public policy, politics, government and statewide issues”.

“A fundamental ingredient in entrepreneurship is a willingness to take risks,” explained Smith, “and to not be afraid of failure. Caution is the thing that kills all awesome ideas. The joy for us [at the Tribune] has been throwing caution to the wind. We learn by doing, and if the things we do don’t work, we learn in failure.”

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New SJMC Speaker Series brings in top names in entrepreneurship

by Becky Larson:


Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith

If you’ve been checking in with this blog or if you follow the department, or any of its faculty, on social media – chances are you have heard about the prestigious lineup of speakers visiting Texas State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The third voice, following Bob Metcalfe and Rodney Gibbs, to join the heavy-hitting series is The Texas Tribune‘s co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief, Evan Smith. Smith helped launch the Tribune in 2009 and has been a key part of its rousing success ever since. Prior to the Tribune’s creation he worked at the helm of Texas Monthly, which twice won the National Magazine Award for general excellence during his tenure.

New Lessons

Each event was brought to Texas State as a part of the Digital Media Entrepreneurship Speaker Series, a new class whose goal is to introduce Texas State students to successful and innovative digital entrepreneurs.

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Alexandra Pernice, SJMC senior and USA Wrestling intern

Growing up both playing and watching her younger sister play sports, senior public relations major Alexandra Pernice of Plano always had a passion for athletics. Today, she is able to combine her love of sports with her educational concentration by serving as an intern for USA Wrestling in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Interning with USOC

USA Wrestling, a non-governing body with the United State Olympic Committee, enlisted Pernice to work as its communications intern. It is her responsibility to write and report everything about the sport.

Pernice, a senior public relations major, is currently interning with the United States Olympic Committee at USA Wrestling.

Pernice, a senior public relations major, is currently interning with the United States Olympic Committee at USA Wrestling.

“Daily, I create releases for updates on rankings and news concerning wrestling and the community,” she said. “I write feature stories about wrestlers from each style (freestyle, women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman), as well as general feature pieces. I also work on updating our website and tracking our activity on Google Analytics to ensure our productivity.”

Pernice stumbled upon the internship opportunity during her junior year at Texas State. Though she initially declined the position, she re-applied this year was offered the internship a second time. A highly coveted position, each USOC internship position has upwards of 200 applicants each semester.

A History of Sports Involvement

While Pernice competed in softball, volleyball, track and cross country throughout high school, it was her younger sister’s wrestling career that helped her to understand the ins and outs of the sport.

“Being related to wrestlers makes you a part of the wrestling community,” she said, “so it was easier to fit in here at USA Wrestling.”

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SJMC student uses drone technology to encourage San Marcos river conservation

by Becky Larson:


Senior SJMC student Kelsie Frommel used both a GoPro camera and a friend’s drone in her project on the San Marcos river.

At peace on the river

“I knew I could make it great because I’m passionate about it.”

Senior Kelsie Frommel shared this thought while discussing her Fall semester Web Publishing final project, in which she used a GoPro camera and a drone to capture dramatic footage of the San Marcos river.

TX State lecturer Dale Blasingame’s class culminates, each semester, in a final project meant to be “a marriage of classic storytelling and digital tools.”

Students are expected to report on an issue or story of their choosing and build a website and incorporate multimedia components that present their work.

Frommel said her decision to highlight San Marcos’ river, and the conservation efforts around it, came from her deep love for the watercourse.

“I chose the river because I love being out there.  I feel most at peace when I’m [there].  And, I really liked the different aspects I was able to capture.”

Bring in the drones

While for many, when tasked with taking a video the first choice of apparatus often comes in the form of a smartphone – Frommel said she immediately thought of a GoPro camera.

“I always had the GoPro out at the river and was always taking different videos,” she said, adding that her experience with the camera was part of her inspiration for her video-based project.

Taking a step further, Frommel asked a friend if she could borrow his DJI Phantom drone for aerial footage, after checking with her professor.

“I first wanted to confirm it would be all right with Dale.  I wanted to make sure he would believe it was my video!”

One can understand her concern when they see her final product.  The video pans across broad expanses of the river with incredibly smooth action and a crisp picture quality not always possible in student work.

The four-propeller drone weighs less than three pounds and is controlled through an app on the user’s phone.  Frommel said the operation was simple and that the hardest part was keeping a steady hand.

While the senior said the Web Publishing class introduced her to digital tools she found challenging, she added that, “it really helped me find my path – I need to be creative.”

Protecting the future

In her piece Frommel highlights some of the native flora and fauna endangered by river pollution, such as the Texas salamander and Texas wild rice, a rare species of grass.

She ends her video entreating students and San Marcos residents to safeguard the river for the future.

“To protect the river and provide future generations with the opportunity to visit this beautiful place, do your part to keep the San Marcos river clean and beautiful.”



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