Digital Storytelling: Skills for Journalism’s Future

Dr. Cindy Royal interviews Becca Aaronson of the Texas Tribune

Story by: Wesley Higgins

Texas Tribune’s Becca Aaronson kicked off the third annual Digital Media Entrepreneur Speaker Series with a discussion with Texas State students and faculty on Jan. 29.

Aaronson is the Texas Tribune’s Product Manager and is also a founding member of the nonprofit news site’s interactive data and visuals team. Aaronson spoke to a group of graduate and undergraduate students about the digital side of reporting and how to prepare for a newsroom like the Texas Tribune’s.

The discussion began with Aaronson telling students about how she learned to code and the importance of learning the skill.

“Coding is just like learning any language,” Aaronson said. “You just have to give yourself a reason to use the skills.”

Aaronson played a lead role in rebuilding the Texas Tribune’s website and believes the digital aspects of journalism “gives people more access and transparency.”

Digital Media Innovation (DMI) major Hunter Tigert said he believes the digital skills he is learning today will help him with creating his own content as well as getting a head start on developing his skills. The DMI major was recently brought to Texas State to teach students how to build both strong communications skills along with digital skills for new emerging roles in the digital media landscape.

“A lot of people out in the field today may not think of learning skills like coding and using tools like JavaScript while in school,” Tigert said. “It’s beneficial that we are learning it now instead of on-the-fly.”

Aaronson also spoke about how she stays focused and what it takes to prepare for a career after college.

“Being passionate about what you’re learning and working hard to learn will be helpful in your career,” Aaronson said. “Learning how to think is the most important thing about college.”

Electronic Media major Bryson Hennington felt motivated after the discussion and looks forward to his job search after graduation.

“I took away that being self-motivated and enjoying what you do is important in your work,” Hennington said. “I also realized that getting a job after college might not be that bad.”

The Digital Media Entrepreneur Speaker Series holds discussions for Texas State students with top professionals in digital entrepreneurship and will continue on Monday, Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. in Old Main 320, with CEO of Chocolate Milk and Donuts Ricky Holm.

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Join us for “Deep in the Heart PR”, PRSSA’s 2018 Regional Conference February 9-10

Texas State University PRSSA will be hosting the PRSSA 2018 Regional Conference, “Deep in the Heart PR”, Feb. 9-10, in San Marcos, Texas. We invite you to join students from across the region for an evening welcome mixer, guest speaker sessions, discussion panels, professional development sessions, and a special evening social in downtown San Marcos. The conference will feature guest speakers from some Texas favorites such as H-E-B, the San Antonio Spurs, Alamo Drafthouse, Kendra Scott, the Boys & Girls Club of Austin, and Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts – to name a few!

The conference will be covering the sectors of nonprofits, sports, entertainment, hospitality & tourism, as well as topics such as diversity & inclusion, crisis management, ethics, social media engagement, branding, storytelling, event planning, community involvement, and much more. For more information about the conference schedule, speakers, and parking, please visit our website.

We’re also excited to announce that PRSSA National President, Andrew Cook, and PRSSA National VP of Events & Fundraising, Bryar Keyes, will be attending Deep in the Heart PR! 

Registration cost is $50.00 for non-members, and you can register on Eventbrite. This fee includes registration, food, and a t-shirt provided at the conference. Registration closes Saturday, January 20. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact the conference committee via email at prssatxstate@gmail.com. We look forward to seeing you deep in the heart of Texas!

SJMC’s 2017 Awards Ceremony

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication honored its brightest and best students at the 2017 Awards Ceremony in Old Main on Tuesday. Proud parents, family members, faculty and staff joined in celebrating the scholars’ achievements. Check out the photo slideshow below for a visual recap of the event, and learn about our outstanding student honors!

Congratulations to Veronica A. Polanco!

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Ms. Polanco is the first recipient of the Mary Rose Brown Endowed Scholarship.  She is a freshman Electronic Media major from Roma, Texas.  Veronica was a featured speaker at the Endowment Appreciation Luncheon hosted by President Denise M. Trauth and the Texas State University Development Foundation. The luncheon, held on March 28th, recognized the many donors who make a difference in the lives of our students.

We are proud of Ms. Polanco and excited for her future here in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication!

Texas State’s 2017 NSAC Team Continues Winning Streak

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication and McCoy College of Business is proud to announce that Texas State’s 2017 AAF-NSAC team has placed third at the AAF District 10 Convention and Student Competition for its campaign for corporate sponsor Tai Pei. The team also won the Special Judges Award for Best Media Plan.

In addition to the team win, advertising and communication design student, Angela Rhys received the Jeanie Ruedy scholarship for $2,500, and Breonna Ruffin was recognized for being selected as one of AAF’s Most Promising Multicultural Students for 2017.

Because the Tenth District is a super district, the 18 entrants from universities across Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas are split into two pods of nine schools each. Led by co-advisors Dr. Rick Wilson and Ms. Jenny Buschhorn, Texas State competed directly with the University of Central Oklahoma, who won first place, second place winner Texas Christian University and other past district winners including Texas A&M.

SJMC alumna and PR professional Jennifer Walsh visits Texas State

SJMC alumna Jennifer Walsh visited Texas State University on Friday morning as a guest speaker in an Intro to Public Relations class. Walsh, who is currently Head of Communications at Covestro, highlighted the importance of writing, personal branding and crisis management as a public relations professional.

Walsh, a former journalism major, said she never imagined she would be working in PR.

“When I was a student, I worked at newspapers and was heavily involved in writing. I never thought I would work with public relations, but now I love it. And I apply my journalism background into everything I do,” said Walsh.

Day-to-day, Walsh is in charge of both internal and external communication for the Bayer subsidiary located in Baytown, TX, including the planning and development of content for electronic billboards, the printed newsletter, the e-newsletter, and even flyers and posters.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re going – you need a foundation in writing,” said Walsh.

Much of Walsh’s job also focuses on building Covestro’s corporate reputation and developing a plan for crisis management. Because most crises can’t be predicted, Walsh explained the importance of being “a good corporate citizen,” saying, “If you haven’t made any donations to charity or you don’t have a presence on social media before a crisis happens, it’s too late.”

Walsh said Covestro has a strategic approach to the events and philanthropies it supports, but it mostly focuses on STEM initiatives, environmental causes, education and workforce development.

“We’re a chemical company, and we have emissions. So much of our strategy is built on how we can offset some of those negative impacts,” said Walsh.

One such initiative is Solar Impulse, a plane that flew around the world last year running completely on solar energy. Covestro not only funded the plane, but its products went into its development.

While Walsh said she loves being part of these positive company-wide efforts, one of the most rewarding aspects of her job is giving back to her local community.

“Especially in this job, I get to do things that benefit the local communities where I live and where my kids go to school,” said Walsh. “It’s things like that that make you feel good.”

Walsh advised students to bone up their digital portfolios and social media. “If I’m hiring someone, I’m looking at your social media,” said Walsh.

Walsh said Twitter, Instagram, Linked In and her personal website have helped her secure her online brand.

Many thanks to Ms. Walsh for speaking to our students on Friday. We love hearing from professionals in the industry, especially SJMC alums!

Alumni Lecture Series, featuring Heloise

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is honored to feature Southwest Texas State alumna Heloise on Tuesday, March 21 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center Recital Hall.

A 1974 graduate, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Education with a double major in Business Administration and Mathematics along with a teacher’s certificate. She is also a recipient of the University’s Distinguished Alumna Award.

Her syndicated newspaper column, “Hints from Heloise,” appears seven days a week across the United States and internationally. She is a contributing editor to and monthly columnist for “Good Housekeeping” magazine, radio host, and author of several books.

Heloise was recognized in 2009 as a Communicator of Achievement by the National Federation of Press Women. She was given the Headliner Award by the Women in Communications and was the first recipient of the National Mental Health Association’s Mental Health Mission Award for her outstanding contribution to mental health education.

The presentation will begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception at 6:30 p.m.. Parking is available at Edward Gary Garage.

Dr. Cindy Royal speaks on integrating digital culture in academia at SXSW

In Saturday’s SXSW Interactive panel “Disrupting J School with Digital Culture”, SJMC’s Dr. Cindy Royal explained how academic institutions can be more nimble by developing a culture of innovation. Joined by University of Southern California Annenberg’s Robert Hernandez, the session started with an introduction to digital culture, then discussed how innovation is happening at each of their respective schools, and ended by providing advice for other academics seeking to introduce digital concepts and topics into curriculum.

Dr. Cindy Royal began by explaining how students have three options when it comes to digital courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. They can either take digital-focused electives, add a digital concentration to their major, or sign up for a Digital Media Innovation major. With digital courses like the Fundamentals of Digital and Online Media, Coding and Data Skills, Social Media and Analytics and one-credit short courses like Digital Tools: 360 Video & VR, any student has a wide variety of curriculum options from which to choose.

At USC Annenberg’s School for Communication and Journalism, Hernandez said he’s not just preparing students for disruption; he’s preparing them to be leaders of disruption. Through innovative courses that partner with leading media companies such as NPR, the New York Times and ProPublica, Hernandez said diversity in his courses breeds creativity.

“What was magical was the diversity of students from different disciplines and watching them learn from each other. We have students from public relations, communication, gaming, engineering, and each one brings his or her craft to the table. These are different cultures coming together to collaborate, which is what they’ll experience when they enter the real world.”

Overcoming Challenges

Developing innovative curriculum in academia does not come without its challenges. Both Royal and Hernandez explained the disrupting traditional systems is not easy and that funding can often be an issue.

“We do a lot with a little,” said Royal. “Our director Dr. Judy Oskam is great at finding pockets of money for us, and she’s been very open to find funding to support our efforts.”

However, one major misconception about innovation is that it is too costly. While some digital equipment is highly expensive, many tools and hardware isn’t as bad as one might think. The Insta360 camera that Hernandez set up to live-stream the presentation, for example, only cost $199.

“Sometimes, smartphones might be all someone needs for an innovative project.  You can do this with little to no money,” said Royal.

Being a product of a newsroom with a bootstrap budget, Hernandez said he’s used to “hustling with nothing.” Consolidating resources has been one solution for USC, where the school even eliminated some computer labs because so many students already had their own laptops.

Outside of a budget increase, Royal said grants are also a valuable source for funding.”If grants don’t cover equipment, you can set up trips for training,” said Royal. “Get creative, and prioritize your needs.” Both Hernandez and Royal also advised academics to partner and share resources with other organizations and even academic institutions that value innovation.

Building A Culture of Innovation

While a lack of funding can be difficult, affecting the overall digital culture of an organization can be more of a challenge.

“One person can’t do this,” said Royal. “You can’t have that token ‘digital’ person in an organization — you need people who are willing to take their spare time to learn this stuff.”

Hernandez said he often has be his own “hype man” for his projects and goals, especially for those who don’t truly understand what he does.

Overall, the duo’s advice for developing a more innovative culture in academia was to model the behavior first.

“When you show off student projects and successes, people start to take notice. It becomes attractive to other faculty,” said Royal.

Ad Club in San Francisco! Career Exploration: Discover America

The Ad Club at Texas State visited San Francisco for its annual agency tour the week of January 8 – 14. Faculty Advisor Emmeline Aguirre Olson accompanied 21 members on the trip. The unusually rainy weather made the trip to the City by the Bay longer than expected with an extended layover in Denver an unplanned stop in Orange County.

The Club visited a variety of big, global agencies and small, tight-knit companies, including Goodby Silverstein & Partners, BBDO San Francisco, Duncan Channon, Grey San Francisco, Pereira & O’Dell, and AKQA San Francisco. The group went on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, where they met with members of the sponsorship department who provided insight into sports marketing and branding. The trip also included a visit to the Academy of Arts University where students were provided information about the graduate program and online undergraduate courses available to enhance and continue their education.

What made this experience worthwhile was the availability of these agencies. Each agency had its own unique personality and culture. Students met with CEOs, creative directors, account heads, interns, human resources, and office administrators. The group was also able to meet up with Texas State alumna Courtney Horrigan (2015), whose second day at BBDO coincided with the tour. By meeting with such a variety of personnel, the Ad Club was able get a better understanding of all components of an advertising agency.

Story by Victoria Salinas

Texas State announces new NSAC team

Texas State NSAC Advertising teamTexas State is excited to announce the student members of its National Student Advertising Competition (NSAC) Team. NSAC is the premier college advertising competition that provides more than 2,000 college students the real-world experience of creating a strategic advertising/marketing/media campaign for a corporate client.

This year’s client is frozen food manufacturer, Tai Pei. Students from the Advertising, Communications Design and Marketing Sequences will work through the spring semester to create and present a marketing and advertising plan for Tai Pei. Their work will be judged by a panel of advertising professionals at the district, semi-final and national levels.  In 2016, the Texas State NSAC team brought home the District title.  The 2017 team hopes to go all the way to New Orleans for the National Competition in June.

Account Management
Adam Raiford
Vanessa Villescas

Account Planning
Dinesse Dominguez
Katelyn Neu

Media Planning
Ashlee Bilbo
Adriana Bueno
Kalyne Leger
Chelsey Rosine

Copy Direction
Philip Bridges
Kiersta Hoover
Kiley Jones
Zachary Reed

Art Direction
Beau Carnes
Pedro Moreno
Angela Rhys
Christina Rodriguez
Albert Suarez

Production
Tara Dotson
Tyler Weems

Experiential
Breonna Ruffin

Plans Book
Samantha Byrd

Faculty Advisors
Jenny Buschhorn, MA, Assistant Professor of Practice, Advertising
Dr. Rick Wilson, Assistant Professor, Marketing