Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Break Fever - or is it just another day in the classroom?

Spring Break 2008 is almost over. Again, it was too short. For professors Spring Break usually means an opportunity to catch up on grading, keep up to date with readings and work on any special projects the university assigns. For university administrators, it's a time to concentrate on all those projects without the constant interruption of students and faculty. For students, it's an opportunity to head to the beach, 6th St. in Austin, the Riverwalk in San Antonio, the Hill Country or even Mexico. Right? Not so fast, Sherlock. Increasingly, students are finding that some, in some cases most, of their Spring Break must be relegated to study. Students use this time to also catch up on their reading or assignments and to put that little something extra into the research paper or assignment that is due at the end of the semester. This is the case for many journalism and RTV students at TAMUK. For example, students in the Advanced Reporting case spent much of Spring Break working on their South Texas feature. Those in Editorial writing are working on specialized columns due in April. The Editing and Design students are starting work on their final projects as they hone their newfound desktop publishing skils. With the time off, many of the Advanced Reporting students have time to travel to destinations they could not fit into their schedules during a regular school day and actually complete their South Texas feature story assignment. Others spent time doing research, writing scripts, planning graphics, doing storyboards for TV commercials and running primary research data through a computer as they prepared for the National Advertising Student Competition sponsored by the American Advertising Federation. One student lamented, "I don't have a Spring Break!" But, then, the realization that students at other universities are doing the same thing. Why? Ironically, most of the work these students do during Spring Break has more to do with the future than the present. The extra hours they spend on their education will mean they will be prepared to compete with others for the limited amount of "good" jobs, in their areas of interest, with others from throughout the state and nation. Why, that dedication is enough to inspire an ol' prof to make it through the end of the year. Oh, I know. I know. Somehow most students found time to squeeze in a couple days at the beach and a night out with some friends. That's "The Way of the Student." Heck, they'd find that time during a school week, any way. Ha. But, this Spring Break I know that many of our TAMUK students actually spent time working on school projects. Congratulations to them. The job market is fierce. This will prepare you for the future more than you will ever realize. Oh, and for more "excellent" reading on this issue please visit on the Corpus Christi Caller-Times website caller/com. There you will find TAMUK journalism graduate Adriana Garza's very timely column on Spring Break 2008. Well, enjoy the rest of the "break." See you Monday.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The role of the critic

One of the jobs that a newspaper has is to serve as the eyes and ears of people when it comes to things such as drama productions, musical performances, movies and eateries (restaurants). It is not uncommon for staffers of The South Texan to attend one of the university's drama productions and write a "review." Also, from time-to-time, the reporters will review a university concert or a new album a group has released. It is at this time that many ask, "What qualifies these students as experts?" Well, they are not "experts." They represent the common citizen or student who is being subjected to the performances and they often review the action from a layman's point of view. This is especially true at the collegiate level where student reviewers (critics) are just honing their skills. As they progress into the professional ranks, they become more familiar with what makes a good drama production, good music or even good custom-making and scenery. Reviewing drama or musical productions is just part of the work we do at The South Texan and our students regularly look forward to these assignments. Having said that, it is important to note that the students who are chosen usually have a background in the area they have been picked to review or have been doing this for some time. The Advanced Reporting class offers a section of "critical reviews" for students and prepares them for this chore. In addition, the Structure of the Arts class gives students a background in many areas. Once on staff, students are coached as to what to look for when assigned to do a review. The reviews, while critical, are not intended to be personal assaults on any one and never should reflect that character. From time-to-time student reviewers will assert things such as a certain actor should speak louder or the scenery was not appropriate. Other times the review will ask why sound systems were not improved. All are done in a positive manner, supposedly. The reviews are not supposed to offend, and we hope none have. Also, we have learned that the reviews often help the student actors get better and improve their skills. Whether this happened because of the review or because the student just improved, we can't tell. Also, the reviews serve as a learning experience for the drama students who must get used to "critical reviews." Pictured with this blog is a scene from the Drama Program's last play, "Somewhere in the Middle."
Having said, the last drama production of the season - "Steel Magnolias" - was awesome. It was one of the best that I (Dr. Manuel Flores) have ever since at this university, dating back to the 1950s when I saw a King Lear production. Congratulations to all the cast members.

Let us know what you think of the reviews by our South Texan reporters. And, are you interested in joining our staff to do this type of story? Call. That's all.

KUDOS for March 11 issue

Some of you may not have noticed it, but the March 11 issue (which was missing a folio on the front page) was published at a new site. The South Texan staff, under the direction of editor Dominique Garcia, decided to try Kingsville Publishing Co. this week after a four-year stay with Alice Publishing Co. The results are not visible to the untrained eye but, overall, the quality seems better. It is up to Dominique and her staff to decide whether to publish there at the rest of the semester. Poor production from the previous publisher was only one of the issues on the switch last week. Other factors involved delivery time due to the trip to and from Alice and failure to get our FTP process to work properly. The cost of gas was also getting prohibitive. So, for having the courage to make a switch and try something new, KUDOs this week goes to our editor - Dominique Garcia. I'm sure she will share this with her staff. Congratulations Dom, you are in the pot for the $100. Featured on this post is a photo of Mariachi Javelina by staffer J.R. Quintanilla.
Also, this week, KUDOs is being awarded to Bob Pena, our website editor. If you haven't seen our website at, you are truly missing a treat. Over the past year, Bob has been working on improving our site and finally, this semester, he has it at a point where it has to be one of the best student newspaper websites in the state and nation. The site features not only archived PDFs of past issues, but also photo galleries, a radio newscast in conjunction with KTAI and video. It's excellent. For that, Bob is in the pot for the $100 scholarship to be awarded during the Javelina Press Club's and The South Texan's "-30- Party."

Congratulations to Dom and Bob for their efforts and thanks for the hard work of all the staff.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Journalism, RTV students attend NAHJ Regional Conference; Dr. Flores speaks on history of Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S.

On the left of this posting is the logo of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. The organization has become increasingly important to communicators and journalists in our nation as the Hispanic population increases. For that reason, Texas A&M-Kingsville journalism, radio-television and design students have become actively involved with the organization. Through the Javelina Press Club and help from student engagement funds from the university, nine Texas A&M University-Kingsville students attended the Region V National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in San Marcos, Texas, Feb. 29-March 1. At the convention the students listened to presentations and panel discussions on a variety of news issues impacting Hispanics and the nation, as well as received updates on a variety of new software for everything from blogging to podcasting. The students who attend were Ellie Tamez, Rubi Reyes, Roberta Flores, Catherine Myers, Adriana Garza, Carlos Alvarado, Edwin Vasquez, Bob Pena and Jaime Gonzalez. They were accompanied by Dr. Manuel Flores, associate professor of journalism/communications, at TAMUK. Dr. Flores opened the conference with a presentation on the celebration of 200 years of Spanish language journalism in the United States. Dr. Flores explained that in 1808, the first bi-lingual Spanish language newspaper was published in Louisiana. It was called "El Misisipi," which is featured at the top of this posting. Dr. Flores said that the tradition of Hispanic journalism in the United States is one that has been constant since those dates and that in the 19th century more than 1,000 Spanish language newspapers were published in what is now the United States. Today, there are Spanish radio stations, television stations, newspapers and magazines - many of which use a bi-lingual format - that flourish and continue to serve the nation's Hispanic population. Dr. Flores said is important for all journalism students in college today, in particular Hispanic students, to realize the contribution of Hispanics to the journalism traditions of the United States. "Many people think that Hispanics are Julios come lately to the journalism scene in our country. That's the furthest thing from the truth. The Spanish influence of newspapering in the new world has been with us since the 16th century and, in what is now the United States, dates back to the early 19th century. Hispanic journalism is evolving as our language becomes more acceptable. But, make no mistake about it, Spanish-language journalism in the United States has a long and honorable history."

KUDOS for Obama issue

Usually, KUDOS is reserved for one or two top quality performances by student journalists on The South Texan staff. However, after reviewing the Feb. 26 (Obama) issue, that trend will change. The issue was one of the best produced by TAMUK student during the past two years and congratulations are due to all. Add the stories of the search for the new student president, plus the excellent columns and endorsements of the editorial page, as well as solid sports coverage and you have a solid newspaper that had local, state and even national impact with its writing, layout and design and photography. Good job by all. There were some disappointments, however. In spite of the solid editorial double truck design and the excellent columns and comments on this page, I would have preferred for the endorsement editorial to be a little longer. Perhaps, however, that's all the room we had. In that case, Juan Carlos Reyes, ed-ops page editor, did a wonderful job. So, after much consternation, here are the KUDOS winners for this issue: Juan Carlos Reyes, Javier Quintanilla, Michelle Leal, Dominique Garcia, Roberta Flores, Mary Beth Cleavelin, Edwin Vasquez and Sabrina Salinas. However, if we had to single out some people, it would be the photographers. The baseball photo by Sabrina Salinas was excellent. Better yet, however, was Roberta Flores' striking photo of the Obama supporters by Corpus Christi Bay, which is featured with this posting. Roberta caught the moment and got all their names (not always an easy task). The photo carried the back page spread and, surprisingly, reproduced well. Congratulations to all of these students. Hard work pays off and I know