Samford to host second annual Relay for Life this weekend

This article was published in The Samford Crimson on April 27, 2012.*

Samford will host its second annual Relay for Life in Homewood Central Park on April 27. Relay for Life is the main fundraising event for the American Cancer Society.

“It is the world’s largest movement for fighting cancer, bringing together more than 3.5 million people each year. It provides funding and awareness that enables the American Cancer Society to help find cures, get well and fight back,” Relay Event Director for Samford Rachael Sarrett said.

Sarrett, a senior from Nashville, Tenn., first got involved with Relay for Life in high school and was influential in restarting Relay for Life at Samford.

There are 12 Samford teams that have already signed up to walk on Friday including Alpha Delta Pi, Sigma Chi, RUF, University Ministries, University Fellows and Gamma Sigma Sigma.

Last year Samford raised more than $10,000 for the American Cancer Society, and this year the goal is $12,000.

Many teams have done fundraising to help Relay for Life in addition to participating in the walk.

Avery Harrison, a sophomore history major, is passionate about participating in Relay for Life because of what it stands for, the community it brings and because cancer has affected her personally.

“I relay in memory of my father who passed away from brain cancer when I was 16 and I relay in honor of my grandmother and boyfriend who are recent survivors,” Harrison said.

Harrison not only supports Relay for Life through walking, but she also does fundraising for the American Cancer Society through her involvement in Phi Mu sorority.

This past Sunday, Phi Mu raised $200 for the American Cancer Society through a spaghetti dinner fundraiser.

Harrison and the sorority have a goal of raising an additional $1,800. They, along with many other teams, will be selling food and hosting different games and activities during the race, with the proceeds going towards the American Cancer Society.

More than 300 Samford students like Sarrett and Harrison have gotten involved and signed up to walk different time slots between 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

If you have not signed up for a team yet, it isn’t too late.

You can still show up on Friday and walk to support ACS.

There will be music, food, inflatables, dodgeball and Zumba.

No matter what time you show up, there will be people walking and activities going on.

*You can find the article here. All words are my own, but the photos were added in by The Crimson staff.

Media Critique #9

A few weeks ago I wrote a critique on an article from The Birmingham News that focused on Superintendent Craig Witherspoon. At that point, the future of Witherspoon as Birmingham’s Superintendent was very shaky. With some of The Board of Education members wanting Witherspoon to be fired, but citizens of Birmingham wanting him to stay, no one knew what would happen in the coming days.

Yesterday, a new article was published in The Birmingham News by Marie Leech. The article, titled “Birmingham schools: Witherspoon’s future a likely topic today,” discusses what the current situation is. Leech begins by setting the scene. She explains that a meeting of The Board of Education members was recently scheduled and although Witherspoon’s future was not on the agenda to be discussed, it would most likely be added. He is, after all, currently a hot topic. Weeks have gone by while board members have wavered on how to evaluate his performance and it has become the general consensus of the public for a decision to be made one way or the other. Leech includes a quote from board member Phyllis Wyne saying, “We need to let him know one way or the other. That’s the professional thing to do.”

The board called a special meeting on Good Friday at 5:00pm to discuss Witherspoon’s future, but almost half of the board members were “blindsided by the called board meeting” and two members said they wouldn’t be able to attend. A few lines down Leech pokes fun at the board members by pointing out that they canceled the special meeting two hours before it was set to begin. It’s likely that they canceled it after hearing complaints from business and civic leaders, parents and community members. Unfortunately, the board doesn’t seem to realize what people are really protesting. Citizens weren’t upset because of the special meeting; they were upset that Witherspoon might be fired.

Leech includes a quote from Randall Woodfin, founder of the grass-roots group Citizens Are Responsible for Education, saying “‘In fairness from a professional standpoint, they need to make a decision one way or the other…Of course, we hope they extend his contract. And the public needs to remind them (board members) that Dr. Witherspoon’s contract expires June 30, 2013, but theirs expires eight weeks later,” he said, referring to the next school board election.”  This is a very strong point that doesn’t appear to have been covered before. Witherspoon is not the only one that might not have a job soon. Although Leech never says so directly, it is implied that board members should watch out because if they fire Witherspoon, they will soon be jobless as well.

Leech then includes a quote from Tyrone Belcher, one of the board members. “All these folks coming out for him, they ain’t got kids in the school system. But in my community? They don’t give a damn about Witherspoon,” Belcher said. “All he’s doing is going around here — ‘academy here, IB program there.’ But there’s students everywhere.” From a reader’s perspective, this quote casts a very poor light on all of the board members. First of all, the fact that Belcher says “ain’t” is not a good reflection for someone in education, and an even worse reflection on those that are in charge of education. Also, Belcher chose to cuss in his statement. For some people this isn’t offensive, but Belcher should have been mindful that all types of people will see his statement, and many will likely be offended. This quote pushes readers, many of which happen to be voters, away from siding with Board of Education members.

At the end of the article Mayor William Bell, when talking about Witherspoon and the board, says “I think they’ll be able to work something out to be on the same page.” This sounds like a nice way to wrap up the article, but in actuality it left me very confused. Why will something be worked out? Is there proof that board members have changed their minds? If so, why aren’t there any quotes from those members? I will say, though, that Leech provided many good quotes from varying sources including direct quotes from Wyne, Woodfin, and Belcher. She also included indirect quotes from State Superintendent Tommy Bice and former federal Judge U.W. Clemon.

Overall, the article was a good “update” story on what has happened concerning Witherspoon and The Board of Education. However, in the middle of the article Leech spends way too much time discussing whether Birmingham should have charter schools or not. At the end of the day, the reader is not interested in the future of charter schools in Birmingham. What he or she wants to know is the latest news on Witherspoon. The space taken discussing charter schools would have been better used for interview quotes from additional board members. In my opinion, the end of the article was also poorly written. Leech had many great quotes and it would have been better for her to end on a powerful quote instead of one from Bell that only confused readers even further. On the whole, the article had a lot of good information but it took too long to find the information and it ended on a dull note.

The article can be found here.

Editor and Publisher

          Editor and Publisher is a trade publication that has been published since 1907. However, E&P claims that they began in 1884 when their predecessor, The Journalist was founded. In 1907, Editor and Publisher merged with The Journalist, and have continued to merge with many other publications since then. E&P is currently published by the Duncan McIntosh Company, which also publishes Boating World, Sea Magazine, and The Log newspaper.

          Editor and Publisher is a monthly magazine that covers the North American newspaper industry. E&P describes itself as “”the authoritative journal covering all aspects of the North American newspaper industry, including business, newsroom, advertising, circulation, marketing, technology, online and syndicates.” Clearly, they pride themselves on covering everything related to newspapers. Because they cover so much information, they have many subscribers. There are over 4,500 digital subscribers to their website (http://www.editorandpublisher.com/), and their daily e-newsletter (which is published each weekday) has over 25,000 subscribers. E&P is trying to get more digital subscribers by offering this perk: If you subscribe digitally, you receive the publication through email before print subscribers. In total, they have more than 250,000 print and online readers. When it comes to their website, in a typical month they have “more than 80,000 visitors who view an incredible 2,000,000+ pages a year.” Even though all 80,000 don’t subscribe, that is still a substantial amount of readers!

Subscribers pay $125 for a two year subscription, $65 for a one year subscription, and $50 for a one year digital edition. Although some money is made through subscriptions, E&P does sell advertising. A newsletter ad ranges from $750-$4,000 while a website static banner ad costs between $480-$2,400. E&P also makes money from E&P Yearbook and E&P Market Guide.

Comparing Editor and Publisher with People magazine (a popular press publication) shows a very stark contrast. People began in 1974 and has expanded to People en Español and People Stylewatch. People.com, the online version of People magazine, is incredibly popular. In 2011, People had 13.5 million readers in the month of March alone. This is abundantly more than E&P, which has around 80,000 readers.

Although People is published monthly, the similarities between People and Editor and Publisher really end there. E&P is focused only on newspapers, and the stories reflect that. People, on the other hand, is focused on current drama and popular people in the news. A typical story from People would be “Marc Anthony Files for Divorce from Jennifer Lopez” or “See Anne Hathaway’s Drastic New Hairstyle.” E&P’s audience is those that work in the newspaper industry, while People’s audience is typically teenagers and those that are style-conscious. Stories are told with these audiences in mind, and are written by professionals in many cases, although with People those professionals are probably style experts.

The major difference between People and Editor and Publisher is the different genres. As a trade publication, Editor and Publisher is meant for more intellectual people. On the other hand, People is meant for those that are more outwardly focused. This isn’t to say they aren’t intellectual, or vice versa, but in general, the different publication types hold true. It is also important to point out that there are probably some readers who read both magazines, and are therefore both intellectual and interested in gossip or the newest clothing trend. Overall, the similarities between Editor and Publisher and People are few, while the differences are many.

Media Critique #8

Craig Witherspoon is becoming more popular by the hour in Birmingham. The Birmingham Board of Education was expected to discuss yesterday whether or not the Superintendent should be fired. The Birmingham News editorial board wrote an article with their opinion on the situation. The editorial board believes Witherspoon should not be fired and should in fact be given an extension on his contract.

In the article, the editorial board lists many things that Witherspoon has done well. He reorganized the school system’s boated front office, lowered the school system’s legal fees, and brought in a team of Teach for America teachers. In addition, he initiated career academies, started a dropout recovery program, and started Parent University, an “idea he brought from the Charlotte, N.C., school system, where parents are taught how better to interact with their children’s schools and teachers.”

Obviously, the editorial board raved about Witherspoon and all the great things he has done in just two years. “In the two years Witherspoon has been on the job, he has shown himself a capable leader. He is not perfect. But he is easily the most capable.” However, they did mention two issues that help the other side of the argument. Witherspoon hired a director who then resigned before starting the job – all because of a past scandal. Also, Witherspoon dismissed the popular Principal Spurgeon Banyard. These two mistakes certainly didn’t gain him any friends in Birmingham.

But after all the good he has done, are those two mistakes important enough that he should be fired? The editorial board, assuming that the reader would ask that question, says, “…the reasons listed by board members to oppose him are petty: The city’s athletics program is lousy. Witherspoon is talking to the “wrong” people. A school had a textbook problem. He doesn’t communicate well.” What a horrible view of the board members! It appears that they want Witherspoon fired for their own purposes, because the reasons are definitely petty and could easily be resolved. If the board members decided to help Witherspoon with the little things, like a textbook problem, then perhaps bigger things like hiring mistakes would never occur. The editorial board obviously wants the reader to be for Witherspoon and against the board members, and listing these petty reasons drives their opinion home.

As an article, the story is very biased. Obviously, when critiquing an opinion piece the article will be slanted heavily in one direction. The editorial board did attempt to show a little bit of the other side of the story by listing a few missteps, but it’s clear from the beginning how they feel about Witherspoon. It’s also important to note that this piece is written as if The Birmingham News is stating their opinion on the matter. When a big company shares their opinion, many people that are on the fence will probably lean towards the shared opinion. This is great for the cause, but The Birmingham News has to be very careful when writing pieces that speak for the entire company, because they’re likely to face more backlash this way.

If I could change anything about this article, I would definitely include a few quotes! There wasn’t a single quote given throughout the entire article. This does make sense, though, since it’s an opinion piece. The closing sentence of the article was strong, though. Once again, the editorial board bluntly stated their opinion by saying, “For the schoolchildren of Birmingham and for the school system’s future, the Board of Education must not make this grave mistake.” Overall, I was disappointed, especially by the lack of quotes, but for an opinion piece The Birmingham News did a good job.

The news story can be found here.

Media Critique #7

I recently heard someone talking about the problems in Jefferson County and it peaked my interest, so I did a little research. John Archibald, of The Birmingham News, wrote an article earlier this morning with up-to-date information on Jefferson County. The article, titled “Dissolve Jefferson County? What’s left to dissolve?,” is a mini-debate with himself on whether the county should be dissolved or not.

In the beginning, he is a bit sarcastic about the problems and possible solutions for Jefferson County, but then he goes straight into a quote from lawyer Kenneth Klee, who says dissolution is “extremely unlikely.” Archibald states his opinion: the idea of dissolution is “all talk,” a way to put pressure on the Legislature, and a quick-fix for the time being.

Archibald moves straight from his opinion into a conversation he had with County Manager Tony Petelos. The conversation is confusing because Petelos says that he’s optimistic that dissolution can happen, and is hopeful that it will. For a minute it seems like a shocking statement, but Archibald is quick to point out their failure to communicate well. “While I was talking to Petelos about “dissolution,” Petelos was talking to me about “this solution.” It’s obvious how this mistake could be made, but it reflects very poorly on Petelos and all those involved with this important decision. If Archibald was trying to embarrass Petelos, he succeeded.

The conversation, which at first appeared to be unimportant and ‘filler’ for his story, turns out to be a key point when Archibald says, “That conversation may have been comically ill-fated, but it still summed up the county’s dilemma. When we try to talk of solutions, the meaning gets lost in translation. It dissolves into misunderstanding.” He says dissolution is not the solution because we don’t know what it would do, cost, or if it’s even possible.

He does, however, look at the issue from the other side. He points out a few positives of dissolution, including being free of the notoriety of “the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy” and putting them “at arm’s length from the baggage of [their] history.” But as soon as he finishes this short list of positives, he launches into what would be lost and how Jefferson County would appear in the future. Archibald says that, in his opinion, “a post-apocalyptic Jefferson County is desperate and divided. It is unable to perform governmental functions, and unwilling to pay for them.”

This leaves the reader right back where he or she began: with his or her own opinion. Quotes have been given from a lawyer (which was a weak quote because we don’t know how he is part of this issue) and from the County Manager (which only made Petelos look dumb), and both sides of the dissolution issue have been shown. How is the reader supposed to decide how they feel?

Archibald answers that question with his very last sentence. “That [post-apolcalyptic county] sounds strikingly like today’s Jefferson County: Maybe we ought to look into this dissolution thing after all. Desperate times, really, call for more than just desperation.”

Go big or go home, right? What a way to end his story! The entire time it was assumed by the reader that Archibald was against the dissolution of Jefferson County. In fact, he bluntly said that multiple times! But in a very sly way, he brings the reader around to see it from a totally different view. The best part is, the reader has no idea the punchline is coming, but it in fact makes complete sense! Minus the random quote from Klee, Archibald did a very impressive job.

The news article can be found here.