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.”


Bob Metcalfe talks innovation, creativity at Digital Entrepreneurship speaker series

Photo by Dale Blasingame

Photo by Dale Blasingame

by Cheyenne Meyer:

Robert “Bob” Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet and Professor of Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin, visited Texas State University’s Digital Entrepreneurship class on Weds, Feb. 11. Metcalfe was the second speaker in the series sponsored by the School of Journalism Mass Communication, designed to bring distinguished entrepreneurs to the school to discuss communication and business with mass media students.

The question and answer session, moderated by associate professor Cindy Royal, began with a discussion on Metcalfe’s most memorable experiences in business. He explained that the most stand-out events were inventing Ethernet, starting 3Com, the manufacturing company, and growing that company into something much larger.

From Xerox to 3Com

Metcalfe began working at the Xerox Research Center in 1972. There, he was able to apply what he had been learning at Harvard University about packet switching and ARPANet. He served as Xerox’s “networking guy,” pegged with the task of interconnecting the personal computers within the office.

Living in Silicon Valley and rubbing elbows with the likes of Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard and Steve Jobs, Metcalfe decided to write his resignation letter to Xerox and open his own company.

“Everyone was doing it,” he said. “And if my new company failed, I could always go back to Xerox. I’ve [since] learned that it is easy to start a company, but much harder to grow it.”

Metcalfe’s new prototype for Ethernet was not immediately recognized as the standard for packet “plumbing” at its initial release; Metcalfe explained that he was involved in a ten-year, dirty local access network (LAN) war.

Secrets for Successful Selling
Metcalfe explained to the aspiring digital entrepreneurs in the audience that selling is “every bit as complicated as electrical engineering”; entrepreneurs must know how to sell, communicate effectively, and tell their company’s story.

“And the secrets to selling are these: learn to listen,” he explained, “and make promises, then keep them.”

And much like the professors within the SJMC, Metcalfe stressed the importance of knowing how to code.

“How can people think without knowing how to code?” he asked. “Coding is like calculus; one of the fruits of civilization,” he said. “It equips you for life.”

Photo by @i_amscarymonsta

Photo by @i_amscarymonsta

Learning to code, he explained, teaches two important lessons that can be applied in a multitude of areas, especially inventing and innovating. For one, when something goes wrong, you learn to look back at the last thing you changed. For another, when you’re trying to experiment, you change one small thing at a time.

“You don’t have to be a programmer to benefit from these skills,” said Metcalfe.

Net Neutrality
When asked about the controversial topic of net neutrality, Metcalfe had a very strong opinion.

“There are people in Washington who want to re-regulate the internet,” he said, “and I am against it. Net neutrality is deeply ideological, and as we all know, those problems never get solved. The solution to net neutrality is competition – not regulation.”

Though Metcalfe thinks differently on this topic than many in the audience, that didn’t bother him.

“Very few people agree with my opinion on net neutrality,” he said, “but I’m used to being the only one right.”

Invention vs. Innovation
From studying at Harvard and MIT to working at Xerox in Silicon Valley, to eventually inventing Ethernet and starting his own tech manufacturing company 3Com, Metcalfe has had plenty of experience in both inventing and in innovating. He explained, however, that the terms are not synonymous, and that innovating takes much more focus, business skills and patience.

“Invention is a flower; innovation is a weed,” he said. “Everyone loves innovation until they’re innovated upon.”

When asked how to protect an idea in its early stages, Metcalfe explained that ideas must have the resources adequate behind them in order to be put into action.

“An idea is just an idea until you execute it,” he said.

The True Meaning of Entrepreneurship
While many describe entrepreneurship as simply “business”, Metcalfe explained that it is much more than that. It’s about taking risks.

“Entrepreneurship is all about ambition, creativity, and selling,” he said. “And all of those skills can be taught.”

Finally, Metcalfe shared that, while entrepreneurs may face many unforeseen obstacles and challenges in growing their businesses, there is a secret to getting past them.

“It’s like tennis: when you make an error, you can get upset and make a worse error,” he explained, “or you can calm down, learn from your error, and recover.”

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication would like to thank Bob Metcalfe for visiting the speaker series. The next speaker in the series is Evan Smith, the co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief at the Texas Tribune. The Q&A will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Old Main 320 on Weds, Feb. 25, with a short discussion about net neutrality starting at 5:00 p.m.

A video of the Q&A session with Metcalfe is available on the Digital Entrepreneurship Speaker Series YouTube channel.

Bobcat Promotions team back from New York


MIDTOWN — Lighting up the town in midtown Manhattan. Photo by Paige Vaughn

by Chuck Kaufman:

Senior executives and staff members with Bobcat Promotions recently returned from the group’s first professional development tour to New York City. They returned to Texas enriched with industry knowledge from the world’s media capital and fun experiences that took advantage of both their senses and pocketbooks.

Most of the 14 participants called the five-day visit, Jan. 5-10, a “trip of a lifetime,” an experience that will have an impact on them forever in many ways.

“Maybe in a few years I’ll move to New York,” said Erika Hauer, who is looking to start her career.

Senior Emily Kellar, BPR’s financial manager, said, “Before this trip, I definitely had tunnel vision. I think that approach would have limited my opportunities if I didn’t learn from this trip to broaden my horizon.”

Dominique Mercado, another senior and BPR’s web director, said, “I’m already looking to apply for internships in New York after graduation.”


Texas State logo lights up CitiField, home of the New York Mets. Photo by Morgan Moritz

Visiting Firms
The students and BPR adviser, Chuck Kaufman, met with a wide range of public relations organizations, from large firms Burson-Marsteller and OgilvyPR to niche firm Boneau Bryan-Brown, Inc., New York’s largest firm focused on theater productions. They also learned about sports public relations by visiting CitiField and New York Mets communications and marketing officials. The students gained insight into international media relations at the United Nations; and learned about issues facing a museum that attracts a world audience, the recently opened 9/11 Memorial Museum.

“We participated in history at the UN by attending the noon briefing on the day Islamic terrorists attacked and killed journalists at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris,” Kaufman said. “In fact, on a day filled with grim news, the conference began with Stephane Dujarric, director of communications for Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, welcoming a group of public relations students from Texas State University. We led the news of the day. You can watch the press conference on the UN website.

“The students who entered CitiField through the Mets dugout witnessed not only a snow-covered field but the scoreboard lit up with a welcome message and the Texas State logo. Very cool – the weather and the scoreboard.”

Learning From the Best
The United Nations experience and major PR firms made the biggest impression on the students. Dujarric joined the students at the end of the noon briefing for a 30-minute discussion.

Kellar was impressed with the way Dujarric skillfully handled a wide range of questions and managed pressing follow-up questions. “I loved when Stephane was discussing how he handles questions that he might not have the right answer at that moment and that he would get back to the reporter with an answer. I think it is very important in public relations, especially as we go on to represent businesses, to remember that, as he said, ‘It’s better to look stupid than to say something stupid.’ I will remember that forever.”

Kellar also learned greatly from presentations from employees at Ogilvy, particularly as they discussed their job searches. “I think it’s the ‘Go-get-‘em’ attitude that will get me furthest in my career, rather than shooting for what I think may feel more safe and practical,” she said. “I also found it really interesting how Mr. Burson, even at 93, is still in the office every day, being part of what goes on. It’s comforting to know that regardless of his status and how big his name might be, that he’s still making sure his company is doing its job.”

The Power of Internships
The Burson-Marsteller presentation involved five new employees, all of whom joined the company after their internships. Mercado said that they were all recently students. “It was nice to hear advice from people who were recent graduates and had vivid memories of the emotions they felt immediately after graduating college and entering the real PR world. It was reassuring.”

These were graduates whose careers began as interns, not as full-time employees. “I always assumed that after college the most important thing was to find a full-time career,” Mercado said. “After hearing that most entry-level employees in New York have had a variety of internships after graduating, I understand that there is still time after college to find what I really enjoy most.”

Working Together
From the large PR firms, particularly Burson, senior Morgan Moritz appreciated how “they emphasized working together as a team and the importance of having fun on the job. Also, I was struck by the perspective that no two days at work are completely the same; that you always have to be at the top of your game, and you always have to be prepared for everything.”

Senior Babie Spain learned the importance of research as it affects the various teams involved in public relations work. “One thing I learned from visiting the different PR firms was the relationship between different teams working on a project, and just how many different teams are needed to successfully follow through with a PR plan,” she said.


9/11 MEMORIAL — An iced over fountain enhances a chilling experience at Ground Zero outside the 911 Memorial Museum. Photo by Paige Vaughn

Crisis Management
The visit to the 9/11 Museum was emotionally challenging as the overwhelming exhibition with twisted steel pieces from the collapsed World Trade Center and artifacts from the nearly 3,000 innocent workers and first responders opened up feelings that were untouched since elementary school days.

Anthony Guido, director of communications at the museum, described how he works in collaboration with so many different local, federal and international requests and issues. He witnesses a collision of emotions whether it involves family members of victims, world leaders or journalists from every corner of the world.

Kellar said, “Even in a museum setting there are crises. I’ve learned that in communications there is always someone who will be offended or interpret messages in a wrong way. For that reason, there must always be a plan for when miscommunication occurs.”

From Guido, Mercado learned that “tough work comes easy if you love what you do.”

Meeting Alumni
During the first evening in New York, the students met with 15 SJMC alumni from all sequences who are working in New York. Among those attending were Monica Apodaca with Ogilvy & Mather; Natalie Schorn with Talent Management at 247 Seven Inc.; Christopher Henry with the Brunswick Group; Albany Leunsmann at Rpr Marketing Communications; Gabe Carrillo with Viacom; Maira Garcia and Jacqueline Baylon with The New York Times; Adrienne Enderle, a freelance production assistant; and, among others, Amanda Gordon, a digital marketing and social media strategy consultant.

Spain learned from the alumni gathering the importance of networking.

Mercado added that she found the alumni to be extremely positive and encouraging as spring graduation approaches. “They are really rooting for you to succeed,” she said. “If you have the drive to do something, there are people out there who will help you reach your goals.”

Kellar worked with BPR alum and former executive director Chris Henry for a couple of years. “Honestly, it’s been really cool watching Chris grow as a person,” she said. “He has taught me to aim high and not be afraid of absolute change.”


Central Park. Photo by Paige Vaughn

Senior account executive Lemondia Hobbs said she is planning to move to New York after graduation. She found the alumni “super helpful and an important resource” for her. “I made a lot of great connections.”

Naturally, part of the education in New York involved soaking up the atmosphere, experiencing the vibe of the city.

The students shared a variety of highlights and anecdotes. Here they are . . . anonymously . . . only in New York:

  • “One crazy visual on the subway was watching a man who looked like Hagrid from Harry Potter walking through the cars singing for money.”
  • “After leaving Harlem late one night, I noticed a man waiting for the subway who was shuffling around talking to himself.”
  • “I’ll never forget looking up at John Lennon’s old apartment and thinking of all the lyrics he wrote that influenced my life.”
  • “While walking down the street, minding our own business, a man looked at us and said, ‘Use your powers for good, witches.’ He was totally serious and I was a little scared.”
  • “There was a guy carrying a guitar, a violin, a backpack and another bag. He was 50 years old and talking to himself under his breath. He sat down and pulled out a paperback book that was almost completely folded in half and torn to pieces, pages hanging out with part of the cover missing. I looked a little closer and as he pulled out his pencil to underline something, I noticed it was the Bible. Never have I seen a Bible in such terrible condition or someone more dedicated to scripture. I’m not religious but it was pretty inspiring.”
  • “I was looking from my hotel window at the fifth story of an office building across the street. I saw the figure of a man in his office. He was facing our hotel and, just for fun, I waved. To my surprise, he waved back. My travel companions proceeded to call him ‘my friend’ throughout the trip. A stranger I will always remember, HA.”

Dr. Nolan receives NPPA Robin F. Garland Educator Award

Senior Lecturer Dave Nolan teaches sections of Visual Storytelling, Visual Communication and Media Design in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Dr. Dave Nolan teaches sections of Visual Storytelling, Visual Communication and Media Design in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Dave Nolan, as he has just been awarded the National Press Photographers Association Robin F. Garland Educator Award! The award is given for outstanding service as a photojournalism educator. Dr. Nolan was a military photographer in the Air Force before his teaching career, and in addition to teaching in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he also hosts the NPPA Advanced Storytelling Workshop held at Texas State University every year. This year’s workshop will be held March 29 – April 3, 2015. For more on Dr. Nolan, check out this video by SJMC student Micah Bustos:

Bob Garland, the award’s namesake, was a picture editor and war correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post until he joined Graflex Inc. as press technical representative after World War II. The NPPA has given the award annually since 1974. You can read more here.


Faculty Spotlight – Vianna Davila

by Becky Larson


Vianna Davila joined Texas State in ’14 as an adjunct faculty member. She also covers Transportation for the SA Express-News.

Starting Out…

Vianna Davila, when looking at her path to a career in journalism, said, “You never know, so put yourself out there.”

A native of San Antonio, Davila studied English at Rice University in Houston as an undergraduate. Her introduction to journalism came between her junior and senior years when she got a summer job at one of the San Antonio Express-News’ community papers.

“I cold-emailed the editor at the time and said, ‘you should hire me for the summer,’” she said, laughing. “I did not know any better. I shouldn’t have had that job, but if I hadn’t got it…”

Davila worked as an editorial assistant and community reporter that summer but would return, post-graduation, to a full-time reporting position – first covering the city’s West Side and then crime.

“It was good that I had done a lot of writing,” she said when recounting the experience of becoming a reporter without a journalism background.

“That was the thing that saved me. That and very patient editors. But I’ll say this again for my students, if you can write, you can really do a lot for yourself.”

When asked why, after five years working as a reporter, she decided to get her Masters in Journalism, Davila shook her head.

“The media wasn’t nearly as crazy as it is now. But I could already see it…I wanted more skills.”

Choosing a focus in documentary film, Davila left San Antonio for California, where she would spend the next two years at UC Berkeley.

Her thesis project, a 25-minute documentary titled “In His Blood,” followed a father-son team of freelance news videographers in San Antonio. It would go on to win best documentary short at the San Antonio Film Festival.

From Beat to Beat

After returning to San Antonio, Davila moved from covering crime to transportation, where she has written extensively about San Antonio’s controversial, and recently torpedoed, streetcar project.

The area was not one that Davila had realized would be as politically charged as it was. But the transportation beat, covering, for instance, new highway exchanges and a lack of efficient mass transit downtown, often brought wealthy suburban dwellers and lower-income downtown residents into direct conflict, and was “full of adrenaline.”

The Changing Industry

Although Davila has spent the better part of the past decade at a single paper, she says the changes in the industry have been dramatic.

“When I started nobody was asking me, ‘what is your web background? What are your interactive ideas?’ Now you have to be comfortable with that.”

She adds that she still firmly believes traditional journalistic skills are necessary and that new skillsets aren’t replacing them. That instead, “it’s about weaving them together.”

When asked about the role of social media and its importance, Davila says she sees it as a form of career capital.

“Absolutely, it’s important. Whether for networking or just to be out in the community. I don’t want people to go elsewhere [for this information]. I want them to come to me. Because that is job security.”

Passing It On

This is Davila’s third semester teaching an advanced reporting class at Texas State. She credits her desire to teach as one of the reasons she pursued her Masters.

“I’m passionate about the news and [high] standards and I like imparting that to students. Even if you don’t go into journalism, you should leave as good stewards of the news. We need educated people who know what’s happening.”

Asked about her hopes for the industry’s future, Davila said, “I hope that reporting – real, thorough reporting – doesn’t get lost in the drive for online page views. And I hope there is a change to stem the tide of information fragmentation – the fact that it’s so easy to get bits and pieces of news on social media and online worries me. I think that means it’s easy to ignore, say, the news happening in Africa, or the news coming out of Congress, if you only follow publications on Twitter and Facebook that don’t care about those things.”