Saturday, July 2, 2016

Video: When your car stops running

(From Twitter:) Waiting for a tow truck on the side of I-69 on my way to present at the HSPA conference. I'll get there yet!

        I'm a veteran of car breakdowns.
       A failed alternator once left me sleeping next to an Ohio gas station off the interstate, waiting for the place to open.
       Near Monteagle, Tennessee, my Chrysler's water pump stopped working. I couldn't understand much of what the mechanic said, but he only charged $40 for the repair, and I could understand that.
       The other day I had the AC compressor replaced in my Nissan Versa, which still runs great at 175,000 miles. That wasn't a breakdown. But driving from my home in Muncie to Indianapolis to speak at a conference, the engine began emitting ominous thumping sounds.
        Every red light on the dash went on - alternator, engine temp, etc. Power steering went out. I'm no mechanic, but the failure of all those systems at once was kind of a clue.
        I was going to speak about mobile video. So naturally, I had to make something to demonstrate video editing on my phone.....

Indiana Weekend-TV: Peru Circus

   The amazing performers of the Peru Amateur Youth Circus - everyday Indiana kids with some uncommon skills.
   We meet some of the students and talk to one of their ringmasters, a former county judge, about how they do it, on WIPB-TV's Indiana Weekend.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Test firing an AR-15 and AK-47 for my job


(I wrote this column for The Indianapolis Star just before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, as tensions increased over safety and security at home.  I thought of it recently because of the debate over civilian ownership of assault-style weapons.)
(Photo: Neil Dorgan/Flickr)

By John Strauss
February 14, 2003

As store shelves throughout the city are emptied of duct tape and plastic sheeting by people concerned about terrorist attacks, other folks think the best defense is a good offense.

Don Davis said gun sales at his Westside store have doubled since the latest terrorism alert. He said the $599 AK-47 is a top seller.

Davis became locally famous a few years ago with endlessly repeated TV commercials in which he cocked a finger at the camera and cackled, "Folks, I don't want to make money -- I just love to sell guns."

It turns out that terrorism sells.

"For me, when times are bad, business is good," Davis said Thursday.

He was at a trade show in Florida this week, shopping for gas masks for customers suddenly nervous about chemical or biological attacks.

At his Don's Guns, manager Ben Chance let me test-fire the AK-47 and a $999 Bushmaster, similar to the military M-16, in the store's indoor range.

The Bushmaster delivers a high-velocity round very accurately with little kick. The AK-47 will give you a jolt, but with that kick you get a larger round.

Just what you need to stop terrorists invading your subdivision.

Of course, some people might end up with guns simply for home protection. And if that's the case, Chance says, an old-fashioned shotgun might do the trick.

"A 12-gauge is a nice gun to have in the house. You don't have to aim the gun. You just point it in the general vicinity, and you're actually going to hit what you're pointing toward, because (the shot) scatters."

Business also was up at 500 Guns on the Westside and at Pop Guns Trading Post on the Eastside. But managers at those stores said that had more to do with the arrival of income tax refund checks than Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.

"There have been a few people come in and express concern," said Mike Hilton, the manager at Pop Guns. "But overall, people tend to be pretty complacent about it, to be honest."

Hilton said he recommends that someone who wants a gun take a training course. Then, once he has an idea of their skill level, he'll suggest a firearm -- often a small revolver.

He's not big on the AK-47 in this case. If used for self-defense, it's likely to "overpenetrate" -- go right through the attacker, through the wall of your home, through the wall of the next house and into somebody there.

Guy Montgomery, manager of 500 Guns, also recommends a revolver -- not a battlefield rifle -- for home defense.

Still, there's a magnetism about the assault weapons. Firing one of these guns is the shooting equivalent of twisting the throttle on a squat Harley -- lots of noise and simple, raw power.

They're fun, but they may not be real practical.

So if you're convinced al-Qaida is down the street and you want to establish a defensive perimeter in the front hallway, do the neighbors a favor.

Just borrow dad's old shotgun.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ball State jounalists win SPJ awards

Jake Fox, Robby General, Casey Smith, Bre Daughterty, Cam Ridle
and Zach Huffman with their SPJ awards

Ball State student journalists won two dozen awards in the annual Society of Professional Journalists state contest, including first-place honors for best website, editorial writing, sports reporting, graphics and continuing television coverage.

The television award went to Cameron Ridle of NewsLink Indiana, who was also named Student Journalist of the Year by SPJ at the annual dinner on Saturday.

Other first-place awards went to Dakota Crawford and Tyson Bird of the Ball State Daily News for sports writing and graphics; to the Daily News staff for editorial writing and to The Ball State Daily for best website. Zach Huffman won first place for radio features reporting.

For the first-place editorial award, judges said the Daily News staff “shows diverse, consistent opinion. The editorials submitted give a clear view of issues that should be important to students. They are the best in this contest because they are clearly, sharply written and well-edited.”

The Daily News earlier won first place in editorial writing in SPJ’s Mark of Excellence regional contest, which includes entries from Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. Crawford also won a first-place for Sports Column Writing in the regional awards. Those first place winners, announced March 30, go on to compete in the SPJ national contest.

Here are the awards won by Ball State student media at the SPJ state contest:

Category: Spot News Reporting 
2nd Place:
Christopher Stephens
“Ball State Professor, Wife Suffer Smoke Inhalation After Morning Fire”

Category: Non-Deadline News 
2nd Place:
Anthony Lombardi
“Muncie's Methamphetamine Dilemma”
Ball State Daily News

Category: Sports Reporting 
1st Place:
Dakota Crawford
“Grown-Man Decision”
Ball State Daily News

2nd Place:
Robby General
“Ball State Pockets $1.2 Million For Texas A&M Game”
Ball State Daily News

3rd Place:
Jake Fox
“Gilbert's Dream Fuels Success Beyond Ball State”
Ball State Daily News

Category: Editorial Writing 
1st Place:
Ball State Daily News Staff
Ball State Daily News

Judge’s comments: “The work of the staff of Ball State shows diverse, consistent opinion. The editorials submitted give a clear view of issues that should be important to students. They are the best in this contest because they are clearly, sharply written, and well edited.”

Category: Column Writing 
2nd Place:
Daniel Brount
“Do You Copy?”
Ball State Daily News

3rd Place:
Anna Bowman
“Film Analysis”
Ball State Daily News

Category: News Photography 
2nd Place:
Breanna Daugherty
“Pence Visits 4th Graders”
Ball State Daily News

Category: Sports Photography 
3rd Place:
Breanna Daugherty
“Women's Volleyball”
Ball State Daily News

Category: Features Photography 
3rd Place:
Emma Rogers
“Benny The Barber”
Ball State Daily News

Category: Page One Or Cover Design 
2nd Place:
Ball State Daily News Staff
Ball State Daily News

Category: Graphics Or Illustration 
1st Place:
Tyson Bird
“A World Without Lafollette”
Ball State Daily News

Judge’s comments: “The best graphics instantly communicate more than one fact with visuals that don't just illustrate those facts but put them into context. All the winners here balanced the complexity of presenting so many facts with visual appeal. And they're all local facts on otherwise mundane topics.”

2nd Place:
Stephanie Redding, Dakota Crawford
“What Cost Of Attendance Stipend Could Look Like At Ball State”
Ball State Daily News

Category: Investigative Reporting 
2nd Place:
Kara Berg
“Sexual Assault”
Ball State Daily News

Category: Best Journalism Website 
1st Place:
Ball State Daily News Staff
“Ball State Daily”
Ball State Daily News

Judge’s comments: “The gap between first and second was narrow, mostly because both regularly cover a lot of ground yet embark on ambitious projects. The third-place winner is equally impressive but gets less credit for not toiling under the daily burden of those who finished ahead.”

3rd Place:
Staff Of Ball Bearings Magazine
“Ball Bearings Magazine”
Ball Bearings Magazine

Category: Best Online Multimedia 
2nd Place:
Alan Hovorka
“Muncie Police Department To Receive Body Cameras”
Ball State Daily News

3rd Place:
Miranda Carney
Ball Bearings Magazine

Category: Television Continuing Coverage 
1st Place:
Cameron Ridle
“Ball State Award Leads To Controversy, Resignation”
NewsLink Indiana

Judge’s comments: “Thorough coverage of campus issue, including nice followup of administrator's resignation following threat to pull a campus organization's funding.”

Category: Best Design Other Than Cover 
3rd Place:
Ball State Daily News Staff
Ball State Daily News

Category: Radio Features Reporting
1st Place:
Zach Huffman
“Fighting The Fire”
Indiana Public Radio

Judge’s comments: “Immersed into the story thanks to the detailed descriptions of the scenes. Great audio to support/reinforce the narrative.”

Category: Feature Story
3rd Place:
Kourtney Cooper
“We Are Coming”
Ball Bearings Magazine

Indiana Student Journalist Of The Year
Cameron Ridle
Ball State University

Judge’s comments: “Cameron has accomplished quite a bit at just 22 years old and simply reading his nomination letter and viewing his clips, it is clear he is very deserving of this honor. I expect cameron to do great things ... Get his autograph now.”

Here are the Daily News winners in the regional SPJ contest from March 30:

Best All-Around Daily Student Newspaper
Winner: The Daily Northwestern - by staff, Northwestern University
Finalist: The Ball State Daily News - by The Ball State Daily News, Ball State University
Finalist: Indiana Daily Student - by Staff, Indiana University

Breaking News Reporting (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Student describes experience on Purdue's campus during shooting - by Emma Kate Fittes, Ball State University

Editorial Writing
Winner: Our View: Daily News Editorials - by The Ball State Daily News Editorial Board, Ball State University’’’

Feature Writing (Large) 10,000+ Students
Finalist: Liquor store Frank - by Christopher Stephens, Ball State University

Sports Column Writing
Winner: Full-Court Press - by Dakota Crawford, Ball State University

Full list of regional Mark of Excellence winners:


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Donuts and social media

An Anderson, Indiana, baker has a Facebook page and benefits from cross-promotion from the city-sponsored FB page in this post:

“We stopped by Deluxe Donuts today, on Scatterfield Road. Jim Pancol started the family business in 1969 and they've been going strong ever since. Now three generations of the Pancol family work there, where son Lee is the owner. Mr. Pancol is seen here putting the sprinkles on cookies. Yes, they sell cookies too (and delicious muffins!). #‎Andersoncomfortfood”

The journalism instructor in me loves this — more uses for the skills we teach our students every day.

But I also wonder if this isn’t a hint at a new organizational structure / workflow for local online content: The possibility of “newsrooms” of young writers and photographers who serve groups of businesses.

Instead of each entity - the donut shop, mayor’s office, car-repair place, etc. - having someone responsible for their posts, a local agency or group of content creators could shoot photos, do write-ups and otherwise produce the work.

I know this is happening with larger agencies in PR and advertising. How might it work in small and medium-size communities?

I’m sure we’re headed that way. If you’ve seen examples, please share. This model turns the traditional idea of a newsroom on its head, and leaves out the accountability part of the current model in which independent observers are watching school boards, the city council, and so forth.

But it could also be a midpoint in the evolution of content. Maybe these new groups of producers, once they establish business lines of support by “covering” companies for social media, will turn to accountability journalism as a public service, loss-leader, audience builder. And this is a natural for newspapers to tackle.

Again, maybe there are examples of this and I’ve missed them. Let me know!

- John

(Photo: Deluxe Donuts, Anderson, Indiana)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

For student job-hunters, the details matter

Cristi Hegranes, founder and CEO of Global Press, has written a terrific reminder for job-seeking students that ought to be taped up on dorm refrigerators everywhere.

"I want to help you," she writes. "But you aren't making it easy."

An Open Letter to Journalism Students Who Want Jobs

February 15, 2016
By: Cristi Hegranes Founder and CEO

Dear J-School Students,

We’ve been hearing for a long time that the market is tough for you guys.

Opportunities are few and far between. Salaries are low. Traditional jobs don’t exist like you thought they would.

Times are tough. I get it. And I want to help you.

But you aren’t making it easy.

Over the last few years Global Press Institute and our newer brands Global Press Journal and Global Press News Service have hosted more than a dozen college interns. And we’ve hired about 16 percent of them. As an organization, we are committed to providing high-quality, inspiring employment. I think the team would agree when I say this work is challenging, fun and unique in today’s industry. Our work spans two dozen countries and confronts very real questions about journalism innovation everyday.

So when we posted an entry-level newsroom coordinator position last month, we were all excited to bring in a young, talented go-getter to help coordinate our ever-growing team of international journalists and to participate in reader engagement, fact-checking and other newsroom tasks. Senior members of the team agreed: This is a job we would have killed for when we were just starting out.

Over the last four weeks we’ve received 41 applications via a variety of job posting sites and through our own organic channels.

I’m sad to report that the quality of the applications has been abhorrent....
Read the entire letter here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Daily News wins Gold Circles for digital work

Kara Berg won first place for single spot-news photo with
      an image taken at a candle-light vigil at Ball State 
honoring protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

The Ball State Daily News has won a dozen Gold Circles for digital media, including first-place honors for news writing, in-depth news / feature writing, sports and sports commentary.

The awards by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association were chosen from among 4,232 entries from colleges, universities and high schools across the country.

Anthony Lombardi won the top national collegiate award in the news and in-depth categories for his look at meth abuse in Delaware County, where Ball State is located and a place that has led the state in meth-lab busts. Lombardi profiled a meth addict who lost everything to the drug except for the clothes on his back - and a Bible.

“Meth is my demon,” the man told Lombardi.

Former Editor-in-Chief Dakota Crawford won first place for sports commentary, and Sports Editor Robby General took a first in sports news for his look at what Ball State earned for playing Texas A&M in football - what’s known as a “guarantee game”:

“Ball State pocketed $1.2 million this weekend for playing a game in which it didn't stand a chance,” General wrote.

Elsewhere, News Editor Kara Berg won first place for single spot-news photo with an image taken at a candle-light vigil honoring protests in Ferguson, Missouri. And Emma Rogers won the top feature photo award for a picture from the “Pretty in Pink” fashion show to promote breast cancer awareness.

The 2016 awards are from work produced between Oct. 11, 2014 and Oct. 13, 2015. The Gold Circle winners for digital work were announced Feb. 4.

Full list of Gold Circle winners: