Dr. Padgett's Professional Blog (Originally published on Troy University's J-School Server)

Where will the J-School be in 30 years? 
Published - June 28th, 2014

I started teaching college classes 30 years ago. Back in 1985, newspaper circulation was growing and the audience for TV news was peaking at a 50 percent share. The futures for print and broadcast students and for new professors appeared to be bright.

Journalism programs were still growing back then. The movie “All The President’s Men” was released less than ten years earlier and many incoming students wanted to be investigative reporters and shine the media’s spotlight on corrupt public officials.

A quick look at the technology back then shows us how much things have changed during this time. Texas Instruments released the TI-4100 GPS receiver in 1985. It weighed 80 pounds, was accurate to 100 feet and needed two car batteries to power it. You didn’t see too many of these around because the TI-4100 was priced at an amazing $119,000 back then.

One of the new and exciting computers released in 1985 was the Kaypro 2000. This was a laptop featuring the CP/M operating system. It came with 64 kb of RAM and had a 80×25 LCD monochrome monitor that glowed green. The best part was that the Kaypro was only $1,995.

If you wanted to spend more than $2,500 for a desktop computer, Apple had the Macintosh and IBM was marketing its PC. Both of these computers lacked the power to do much more than simple word processing and spreadsheets and neither of these computer systems had enough users to threaten CP/M based systems.

The big news was that Microsoft released Windows version 1.0 in 1985. While this was an improvement over the old PC-DOS system, it didn’t live up to the standard set by the Mac.

Siemens released the Oxford C1 cell phone in 1985. While it was portable, it was the size of a briefcase and weighed 12 pounds. Most of the weight and bulk came from the batteries needed to power the unit.

The Polaroid 600 was an amazing camera back in 1985. Pictures would develop in only three minutes after it was taken. The only negative thing was that at $1.50 per picture, Polaroid film packs were expensive.

The hottest calculator back then was the TI-74. This was a programmable graphing calculator and was only $149.

Looking back at all of these “must have” gadgets from 30 years ago is similar to looking at a room full of dinosaurs. The iPhones and Androids carried by students into my classes have replaced these technology marvels from 30 years ago in one small, affordable and lightweight device.

The media have also changed. The digital generation of today spends an increasing amount of time online and much less time with traditional media and the term “social media” never came up 30 years ago. Newspapers and broadcast stations are struggling to stay relevant with this generation.

Classroom teaching has changed over the years. You cannot find an overhead projector today, but you can find lecture materials on the class Web page. New professors need to know digital technologies, how to use social media to enhance the learning experience and be comfortable teaching in the classroom and online.

Are the futures for journalism and communication students and new professors still bright? The answer to this question depends on many factors.

Too many college programs think the status quo is good enough and they continue to deny the digital realities facing today’s communicators. That is sad because there is an impressive wave of innovation in our fields. Students graduating from these programs are obsolete before they receive their diplomas.

On the other hand, a growing number of programs are following the Hall School’s lead and working the ideas of all platform and multimedia journalism and communication into their curriculums. Students and faculty members in these programs will find the new era of mass communications with a digital orientation to be a rewarding world.

As I review my career on the eve of my retirement, I know that there are more digital battles facing our students and faculty members. I also know that the Hall School is well-positioned to meet these challenges on the undergraduate and graduate levels. Our faculty members have the passion and enthusiasm to make sure our programs are relevant while we remain true to our foundations of critical thinking skills, ethics, clear writing, factual reporting and technical innovation.

A new professor starting out today needs to know that he or she is starting a career at an amazing and exciting time. Problems have never perplexed the Hall School for long and these new professors will find the solutions to emerging problems, just as I did during my career, while helping train the next generation of communicators.

I hope our new students and faculty members know how incredible this journey is going to be.


Driverless programs
Published July 14th, 2013

“There is no way you can get lost.” Those words always spell trouble for me because I usually find a way to get off track.

My wife and I were recently in the San Francisco Bay Area. We had “can't get lost” instructions to our destination plus Google Maps open on an iPhone. As you have already guessed, I found an alternative route that wasn't as direct as the “can't miss” instructions.

What happened?

I found myself behind a Google driverless car at a stop sign. How could I resist following that car to find out where it was headed?

It appears to me that many journalism and communication programs are holding on to what they think are tried and true “can't miss” curriculums. After all, those game plans have worked for the past 50 years and they see no reason to chart a new path.

Suddenly, those programs are facing a new reality. They are having to choose between ignoring the digital revolution and continuing in the same direction or plotting a new course. From the outside, these appear to be driverless programs without the coolness factor of Google's car.

Too many journalism and communication programs are searching for the right directions in today's media world. They want a GPS to point out the best route to success. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers when it comes to building a strong and relevant program. How do you separate fact from fiction or fad from trend?

These unanswered questions are one of the reasons programs resist change and plow ahead as if no one noticed the changes in the public's media useage habits. There are no guarantees when it comes to looking forward.

Another complication is the fact that not everything new in the fields of journalism and communication has lasting value. The latest and greatest thing today may be tomorrow's dust collector.

There are many ways for today's journalism and communication programs to get lost. Too many universities are searching for the path that places them ahead of the new landscape facing communicators and they end up following another driverless program. Instead, they should follow the Hall School's lead.

The Hall School didn't rely on “can't miss” directions and wasn't diverted by following one of the many “driverless” programs when we started our discussion on the future of journalism and communication education. As a result, our students are not left on the side of the road as they start their careers.

Driverless cars are amazing when you see Google's logo on them. Driverless programs are simply sad. I am proud of the direction being mapped by Troy University's Hall School of Journalism and Communication as it is a leader in educating multimedia journalists.


Creating the path
Published March 7th, 2013

My father's undergraduate degree is from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. This college was started by the Methodist church and is consistently ranked by college guidebooks as one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges.

One of the unique features of that campus is that it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This is the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world and the only college campus designed by him, making Florida Southern College a tourist destination. People come from all over the world to see the campus Wright designed and supervised during its construction.

One of my vivid childhood memories was going to Florida Southern's Branscomb Auditorium every summer for the Florida Conference for the United Methodist Church. During the three day conference, my mother and I would wander around the campus while my father attended the meetings in Branscomb Auditorium, one of the huge buildings designed by Wright.

What I didn't know then was that Frank Lloyd Wright's design for that campus did not include any sidewalks or walkways between his buildings. When questioned about this “oversight,” Wright responded that the students would let everyone know where the walkways needed to go.

Wright saw that form and function should work together. He figured that students would wear down paths in the grass between buildings and these would eventually become the paved walkways wanted by the college.

We are seeing something similar today in journalism and journalism education. For years, journalism students and news consumers have walked along well-established paths outlined by the media. News consumers knew the news cycle to the point that they knew when to expect their newspapers and when the news would air on TV. Journalism educators knew that their biggest worry was making sure their old assignments kept up with the annual updates to the AP Stylebook. Nothing could be farther from today's reality.

It seems that many people are blazing new trails today using their iPads, Android tablets and their smartphones to keep up with the news. People in the media were slow to recognize that the audience left the old media usage walkway and was wearing down the grass to create new paths. The media and J-Schools were trying to package the same old product perfected in the 1950s to a 4G/wi-fi public.

One of the many Hall School attributes I am proud of is our internal drive to carve out new paths in journalism and communication education. We understand the importance of being the leading program in the south and to prepare our students for the digital and multimedia world. While this is off the paved path, it is the road to the future in journalism and communication education.

We get it at TROY. I hope that industry leaders are also paying attention to the new paths being created by their audiences.


Journalism and Communication’s future? It’s exciting!
Published December 24th, 2012

A recent Pew report confirmed what we suspected, the use of mobile digital devices by American adults continues to grow at an amazing pace. The Pew Research Center's 2012 Project for Excellence in Journalism found:
  • 44 percent of U.S. adults have a smartphone. (Up from 35 percent in 2011.)
  • 25 percent of U.S. adults own a tablet computer. Only four percent had a tablet in 2010.
  • Half of all adults now have access to the Internet through a smartphone or a tablet computer.
As if these statistics are not impressive enough, Apple's CEO Tim Cook said that 67 million iPads were sold during that product's first two years on the market. To put that in context, it took Apple 24 years to sell 67 million Macs, five years to sell that many iPods and three years to sell 67 million iPhones. Adding in the number of people with Andriod phones and tablets gives us a clearer picture of the importance of the mobile and digital markets facing mass communicators.

It is obivious that the public is quickly adopting mobile communication devices. Of course, the big question is how do journalists and communicators capitalize on the public's growing use of these devices?

First, we recognize that mobile devices are simply another way to display our content. Any way you slice it, strong content is king in any medium. That means that writing and the cognitive skills associated with reporting remain as the foundation for journalism and mobile communication in both the traditional and digital delivery systems.

Second, we have to acknowledge that people are using multiple media sources in this multimedia environment. In other words, people haven't abandonded conventional news sources and traditional media continue to be strong. Too many people are talking about the death of newspapers. What they are overlooking is that community publications are doing fine in today's economy and competitive environment. Sure, they are having to adapt to this new multimedia world and provide the local content that their readers demand. But the print world has been able to survive earlier competitive threats. I expect newspapers will incorporate the digital and mobile techniques needed to navigate the current communications landscape.

Third, we have to acknowledge that people have different experiences when using smartphones, tablets and desktop computers just as people use newspapers and television differently.

For example, tablet users tend to check news sites multiple times per day while smartphone users tend to focus on the “immediacy” news factor. This is one of the reasons many newsrooms are adopting a “mobile first” philosophy where news is released first to their digital/Web sites. Content providers are having to recognize that a growing number of their audience members are no longer sitting in front of a static computer when looking for information. Instead, they are using mobile devices wherever they happen to be located.

Yes, the future is digital and this is opening a world of exciting opportunities for journalists and communicators. Just as the public's use of digital and mobile technologies are expanding, the industry's need for leaders trained in multimedia journalism is rapidly growing. This is one of the reasons the Hall School has become a leader in multimedia journalism. We want to make sure our students have the tools needed and are prepared for this rapidly changing world of journalism and communication.


The fog is lifting
Published November 3rd, 2012

The recent cover story in USA Today was dramatic as it asked, “Death knell for print?” The story focused on Newsweek magazine’s decision to eliminate the print edition of its publication and move to all digital.

While I doubt Newsweek‘s decision qualifies as the official funeral notice for the print world, a recent Pew study found that only 23 percent of the participants had read a print version of a newspaper the day before they were surveyed. That is a problem.

Here in Alabama, three of the state’s largest newspapers dropped daily publication to favor their Web sites. There is a growing number of former dailies moving to printing three days per week and emphasizing their digital products.

Ad Age magazine stated last month that revenue from digital publications jumped 20 percent this year. Ad revenue for traditional media was flat or declined during the same period.

Ad revenue isn’t the only thing changing in the media world. Employment levels are also changing. U.S. Internet-media businesses now employ more people than the staff levels at TV, radio, cable and magazines. The percentages are about to change more as media outlets are adding approximately 400 Internet related jobs per month. This means that there is a growing demand for journalists and communicators trained as multimedia journalists.

This is one of the reasons the Hall School moved several years ago to make sure all our students have fluency in communication technologies. Students in journalism and communication programs today must clearly understand how to use digital technologies and social media to effectively deliver information while engaging the public in interactive conversations. The challenge now is to make sure our students have a solid foundation in the traditional and cognitive skills needed for successful careers in journalism and communication along with the essential digital skills.

At one time my goals for the Hall School were simply to maintain the direction set by Dean Merrill Bankester when he retired. But society’s acceptance of mobile, social and digital devices forced an ongoing revision in the School’s path. And as amazing as the changes have been during the past decade, the speed of change will only accelerate in the future.

While many journalism programs are stuck in the past, the fog is lifting around the Hall School. We have a clear focus and direction for our programs.

At one time, I wanted the Hall School to be labeled as a traditional program. I have changed my thoughts on this. Today, the Hall School is a leader in training multimedia journalists and communicators and our future is bright.


When did the iPad turn into a Jackhammer?
Published September 3rd, 2012

At the 2010 M. Stanton Evans Journalism Symposium, I stood on the stage at Troy University's Claudia Crosby Theater holding a borrowed iPad. The first generation iPad was introduced only days before the symposium and I had about 30 minutes to test it before I gave a quick demonstration to the audience. I concluded that the iPad was a strong content consumption device and that I would be ordering them for our Hall School faculty members.

The iPad resurfaced on my radar the following year at an academic conference on technology in journalism. A speaker from National Public Radio was giving a presentation on the usage statistics from NPR's Web site. By now you must be thinking that you cannot think of anything more exciting than watching a PowerPoint presentation about the “who” and “when” of NPR's Web site.

The NPR presenter said that their Web site usage spiked around 7 p.m. in the Eastern time zone and continued high until after 10 p.m. in the Pacific zone. One of the professors sitting at my table commented that it appeared to him that the evening newspaper was back.

Less than 40 years ago, most larger communities had both morning and evening newspapers and my father subscribed to both the Florida Times-Union (morning) and the Jacksonville Journal (evening) as I was growing up. Our family wasn't unique as most homes took the local newspapers. This was also a time when newspapers, television and radio stations tried to out “local” each other through their news and public affairs coverage. It was also a time when local media was profitable.

Fast forward to today. Very few evening newspapers have survived. In fact, there is a growing trend of morning dailies cutting back to publishing only three days per week. Local radio is fading into a fond memory as too many stations surrendered their air time to some satellite programmer who knows little to nothing about the community. TV doesn't have any room to boast because too many stations blur the lines between objective news and entertainment.

It would be too simplistic to blame the fate of the mass media on one or two changes in the public's information seeking habits. I think the loss of local ownership was a catalyst setting up the media's plight today.

Owners use to live in the communities and there was a willingness to serve the public. Today, a few mega-corporations own thousands and thousands of stations and/or newspaper groups. In too many cases, content decisions are being made by a corporate executive who doesn't know the community, but understands their quarterly profit reports to shareholders. Contrary to the beliefs of too many consultants, communities are different and what works in Chicago may fail in Troy, Alabama.

Of course, the Internet and the adoption of computers have also altered the public's information seeking behavior. Media outlets now follow a “mobile first” strategy where they send breaking news messages to smartphones before releasing them anywhere else.

The list of factors contributing to the public's drift away from traditional mass media is long, but the current 600-pound gorilla sitting on this fence is the iPad.

NPR is not alone in seeing higher Web usage in the evening. Other newspapers, radio and television stations are seeing similar results after studying their “analytics.” And an increasing number of these visits are coming from people using iOS type devices.

What is an iOS device? Well, a couple of examples are iPhones and iPads.

In three short years, the public has accepted the iPad and maybe they using it as a replacement for newspapers and news broadcasts. While some media professionals and journalism professors are staring at the rubble of their news operations and wondering where the jackhammer came from, savvy stations and newspapers are creating content for tablets.

While it is doubtful that we will see the return of evening newspapers, the iPad and similar tablet devices may provide mass communicators with the vehicle needed to reach news audiences both day and night. Instead of focusing on the rubble, we need to use the jackhammer to rebuild as we reinvent the media. In that light, the iPad may be part of the path to a brighter future for journalism.


Was the medium ever the message?
Published July 20th, 2012

One of the most memorable classes during my PhD program at Florida State University was taught by Dr. Ted Clevenger. Dean Clevenger was the “franchise” faculty member in the College of Communication at FSU during his tenure and he served as my major professor.

Similar to most graduate classes, Dr. Clevenger would assign a couple hundred pages of readings every week. Our class time was then invested in discussing the salient points from those readings. Of course, the students quickly figured out that our discussions needed to link the current readings to the previous ones.

Two of the books we studied in that class were written in the 1960s by Professor Marshall McLuhan. These classic books were The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. In these books, Professor McLuhan proclaimed that a medium itself, not the content it carries, should be the focus of scholarly study. This was radically different from the prevailing academic research at that time.

Graduate programs today continue to study McLuhan’s claim from his books that a medium affects the society by the content delivered over the medium and by the characteristics of the medium itself. His “catch phrase” from his books was, “The medium is the message.”

Chances are good that you have heard his phrase, “The medium is the message.” This is one of the few phases introduced in an academic environment that crossed over and became a pop culture mantra.

McLuhan’s statement is as controversial in academic circles today as it was 60 years ago when he first introduced it. And I remember that Dean Clevenger seemed to find it easy to highlight the flaws in Professor McLuhan’s controversial theories.

There is no denying that the world of communications and journalism has changed during the past 60 years. In fact, we could argue that the landscape in these fields has changed during the past two years. As a journalism and communication professor, I find that I have to re-invent the classes I teach term-by-term.

I started thinking about Dean Clevenger’s class and his insightful discussions about Professor McLuhan’s books while preparing for the class I plan to teach in the Hall School’s new graduate program. I found that I share Dr. Clevenger’s skepticism about McLuhan’s “The Medium is the Message” banner. Content is important and we must be concerned about the message itself. After studying the message, it makes sense to see if the medium alters the impact of that message.

Instead of “The Medium is the Message,” I would argue that “The Message is Multimedia” is more accurate today. Successful journalists and communicators must be able to tell compelling stories and explain complex events across multiple platforms.

Journalism and Communication schools across the globe are having to re-imagine their curriculums because the public’s media usage is shifting.

The Hall School’s approach to both graduate and undergraduate education is to blend the best foundations of journalism’s past with the technology, skills, ethics and platforms of its future. As we re-invent our educational focus to retain the Hall School’s leadership in journalism and communication degree programs, we know that the contents of the message are important and today’s messages are increasingly multimedia.


Challenges and Changes in Journalism and Communication Education
Published July 14th, 2012

Just as the worlds of journalism and communication have changed, there is a rush by many colleges to re-invent degree programs in these disciplines. We know in the Hall School that this new vision for the futures of journalism and communication goes beyond adding a few multimedia tools to select classes; it is about understanding communications in today’s digital, global and information-based society.

For more than 40 years, the Hall School has prepared students for careers in journalism and communication. Our approach has always been to blend a rigorous academic program with cutting-edge technologies and skills, learned through the application of hands-on experience on our media-rich Troy campus.

The Hall School has earned a strong reputation in its undergraduate programs. However, we cannot simply rest on our past glories. The scope of the Hall School is being enlarged this year as we admit our first class of graduate students in our Master of Science in Strategic Communication degree program. Now, the Hall School is preparing students for successful careers through our undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

But the Hall School’s programs are not just about knowing today’s tools, they are about understanding how to navigate the terrain of an evolving industry that is changing our world.

The Hall School of Journalism and Communication is committed to ensuring that our students receive a world-class education focused on the future. What we are doing at TROY is exciting as we re-imagine the future of journalism and communication.


Yesterday’s ideas won’t fix tomorrow’s problems 
Published June 15th, 2012

The Hall School faculty members have been talking during the past year about the future of journalism and communication. I doubt there is another field seeing as many rapid and radical changes as we are in our discipline.

We started talking about and adopting the “All Platform Journalism” and “Multimedia Communication” models at Troy a little more than a year ago. It was clear that we could not continue teaching the same content that had been taught in J-Schools across the nation for decades. Times were changing and journalism education had to move up and take the leadership role.

Before we talk about journalism and communication education, we need to discuss if it is important that these fields survive. The short answer is, “yes.” The more detailed answer is, “absolutely yes.”

I cannot over state the importance of fair, accurate and independent information in a democracy. Citizens depend on this information while making their judgments about their elected leaders.

At one point in my career, I worked as a network reporter stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. I quickly learned that media in many countries are owned by the government and news programming appeared to be the daily reading of the government’s press releases. I am not sure how voters in these countries learned what they needed to cast informed votes.

So, there is a real reason for journalism, communication to continue. Do we also need journalism and communication education to continue?

Again, the answer is yes, absolutely yes. But, this will be a different future from the past. Yesterday’s ideas won’t fix tomorrow’s problems when it comes to journalism and communication education.

This is an exciting time to serve as the director of a school of journalism and communication. Our Hall School faculty members are being innovative as we move forward while recognizing that the future is multimedia. We also know and drill into our classes that the standards of good journalism are rock-solid. This means that the Hall School will not be left behind as we set the new standards for tomorrow’s education in journalism and communication.

The future of journalism, communication plus education in these fields is multimedia and the Hall School is a leader in these areas.


What does success look like?
Published June 1st, 2012

My wife and I recently drove to Florida for a wedding celebration. I checked Twitter at a rest stop and was shocked to see the link to a story about the New Orleans Times-Picayune going from a daily newspaper to publishing only three days per week. It was hard to imagine a city the size of New Orleans without a daily newspaper.

About an hour later, Jeff Herring sent me an email saying that the three largest newspapers in Alabama were dropping daily publication and would go to press three days per week. My first thought was that Jeff was confused about the Times-Picayune story. I knew Jeff was on-target when the phone call from Prof. Stewart came in.

What an interesting note to start this trip to Florida on–Huntsville, Birmingham and Mobile will no longer have a daily newspaper starting this fall. They will distribute their news, information and ads via digital and online editions on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The print edition will be published on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

Several hours later, my wife and I were at the wedding celebration that included an amazing barbecue ribs dinner. One of the guests sitting at the table with us started talking about the issues facing college professors. This piqued my interest and I started to tune-in to his conversation.

Finally I asked him if he was a professor. He informed me that he was the chair of a communications department at a regional university.

Small world! What are the chances that the head of a communication department and the director of a school of journalism and communication would meet by chance at a wedding in Florida?

I mentioned to him the news story about the Times-Picayune, the Huntsville Times, the Birmingham News and the Mobile Press-Register dropping daily publication. That was when my colleague said that his communication department added a journalism major last year. Then he added, “Bad timing. What rotten luck.”

Later that night, I could not get the “bad timing” and “rotten luck” comments out of my head. The implication was that journalism is doomed and journalism majors are wasting their time staying in that program.

Not everyone thinks that journalism is doomed. Billionaire Warren Buffett recently spent $142 million to buy 63 newspapers from Media General. Speaking about newspapers, Buffett said, “It’s your job to make your paper indispensable to anyone who cares about what is going on in your city or town.”

Amen. Buffett didn’t become a billionaire by making bad investments.

The Hall School faculty members adopted the All Platform Journalism and Multimedia Communication models a little more than a year ago. These recognize the growing importance of digital and online publications plus the roles of mobile and social media. Maybe my colleague’s comment about “bad luck” and “rotten timing” were more of an admission that his program cannot keep up with the historic shifts we are witnessing in how the public receives news and information. Simply put, we are attempting to communicate in an increasingly complex, multifaceted and online environment. The Hall School’s APJ/MMC move was great timing and good luck for our students.

If you are wondering what success in journalism and communication education looks like, look at Troy University. The Hall School has built a solid reputation as a leader in the move to All Platform Journalism and online communications. We are teaching the skills needed by newspapers, broadcast stations and communication industries as they develop more online and digital products.

I am optimistic about the future of our industries because I know our graduates will help build that future.


The Hall School at 40
Published April 14th, 2012

What a great time to be a Troy University Trojan. We are celebrating our university’s 125th, the Hall School’s 40th and the Journalism Alumni Association’s 20th anniversaries. And we have lots to be proud of here in the Hall School of Journalism and Communication.

During our first 40 years, our outstanding faculty members helped build our strong programs. Now we are looking at the next 40 and educating the communication leaders for tomorrow.Our M. Stanton Evans Symposium this year was about the rich heritage of our school’s namesake, the Hall family. The Halls were leaders in journalism and it is only fitting that our Hall School leads the way in journalism education.

We know the next 40 years are going to be very different from our first. We are watching a historic change in the public’s media habits. The digital revolution is here and that is why we are talking about the concepts of all platform journalism and multi-media communication in our classes. We know that the industry expects journalists to possess critical thinking skills, the ability to write strong stories then be able to translate those stories into audio for radio and podcasts, video for television and online media, and text for online publications. In other words, we are erasing the traditional lines that separated our broadcast and print programs and merging communications into our degrees because we are now all platform journalists and multi-media communicators.

There is another change that is also exciting. During the past couple of years, our faculty members holding terminal degrees have earned graduate faculty status at Troy University. On June 8, the Alabama Commission on Higher Education will vote on our proposal for a Master of Science degree in Strategic Communication. This program is being supported by many newspaper publishers and broadcasters in Alabama.

This is exciting. The documentation to change our status has been filed with SACS, our accreditation agency. The council of graduate deans from Alabama’s public universities have voted to recommend to ACHE that it approve this proposal. In fact, no Alabama university voted to reject our graduate degree proposal.

Pending approval, our fall schedule will contain the first two classes of this exciting graduate degree.

According to legend, Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes issued a rather interesting order to his men as they began their conquest of the Aztec empire in the early 1500s. The order was simple: Burn the boats. He wanted his men to realize that they had no opportunity to retreat, so they had to give this fight everything they had.

There is some debate about the legitimacy of this story. Regardless of the accuracy (this is a phrase you will never hear in one of our Hall School classes), it illustrates an important point which can be applied to what we do in the Hall School. We are not afraid to burn the boats on the beach because we must succeed. We know we must lead. We know we must relevant.

We have never been afraid of innovation, we have never been afraid of the move to digital technologies and we not afraid of the future.

Burning the boats doesn’t mean that we are going to walk away from the foundations of journalism and communication. The cognitive, communication and writing skills that are the hallmark of the Hall School will continue with equal importance. The change is that we now include a core of digital competencies to help position our graduates for the changing world of communication.

This is an exciting time and a great time to be a Troy University Trojan, a Hall School student or alumni and a member of the Journalism Alumni Association. And we are excited about our next 40 years.


Core Values in Journalism and Communication Education in Times of Change
Published March 4th, 2012

Is the value of your degree from the Hall School of Journalism and Communication increasing? If you are not sure, we need to look at what is happening in the industry and at Troy University.

Journalism and Communication are going through a time of rapid and profound changes. Digital technologies and the overwhelming acceptance of the Internet have changed the ways that information is communicated to the audience. In addition, the relationship of the media to social and political institutions plus the economics of information are all in transformation.

Traditional boundaries among communication modes are being blurred by technology. Newspapers have digital editions and are using social media to attract readers. The electronic media have World Wide Web sites that appear to be similar to electronic newspapers and are also investing in building strong social media and mobile sites. Poet Bob Dylan’s observation from the 1960s holds true, “the times are ‘a changing!”

Things are also changing at the Hall School. We have an exciting and dynamic proposal for a new graduate degree in Strategic Communication under consideration by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education. I strongly believe that this is a powerful proposal that focuses on the leading edges of communication issues and positions graduates for immediate responses to the new realities facing today’s communication industries. It will prepare students to develop, implement and evaluate communication strategies in an increasingly complex, multifaceted and online environment. This degree program will move our students to the forefront of this new world of all platform journalism and multi-media communications.

While we are seeing fundamental changes in how our industries operate and how the public interacts in the communication process, some things remain rock steady. The Hall School of Journalism and Communication continues to believe that we must focus on certain fundamental values and objectives while forging new directions in communications studies.

We have not lost sight of our goal of providing a world-class education to all Hall School of Journalism and Communication students. We want to make sure that our students graduate as critical thinkers, skilled writers and ethical communicators capable of both using the latest communication technologies and productively using the reporting, writing and communication skills learned at Troy University. It is exciting that our proposed Master of Science in Strategic Communication degree program will uphold the Hall School’s standard of being a cutting-edge program that is positioned to move into the leadership role of graduate programs in our region, if not the nation.

To reach this goal to and enhance the excellence of our programs in print, broadcast, communication studies, public relations and advertising, we make a continuing major investment in new media technology. At the same time, we know that our faculty and students are essential for a bright future.

The addition of a graduate degree brings new challenges to the Hall School. Drs. Colaco, Diggs, Hoppin, Padgett and Spurlock have earned graduate faculty status at Troy University. We are currently searching for a new faculty member and the successful candidate will be expected to quickly qualify for appointment to Troy’s graduate faculty.

If approved by ACHE, the addition of the graduate program will also increase the number of faculty members in the Hall School during the start-up phase. I am confident that our Hall School of Journalism and Communication will stick to the school’s core values and find faculty members who will build on the foundations established by Prof. Chamberlain, Prof. Hamner, Dr. Mayer, Prof. Hall, Prof. Brown, Prof. Wagnon, Prof. Natale, Prof. Cobb, Prof. Buchanan, Dean Bankester, Prof. Evans, Prof. Campbell, Prof. Maynard, Prof. Joseph, Prof. Arnold, Prof. West, Prof. McKerral, Prof. Adcock, Prof. Fordan, Prof. Clark, Prof. Schubert, Dr. Padgett, Dr. Kenney, Prof. Bozeman, Dr. Spurlock, Prof. Felton, Prof. Giglio, Prof. Warden, Dr. Diggs, Dr. Vickrey, Dr. Dye, Prof. Durko, Prof. Young, Dr. Colaco, Prof. Kirby, Prof. Adams, Dr. Hoppin, Prof. Reif, Prof. Gallagher and Prof. Stewart

We know that the value of your degree only increases as the quality and reputation of our program also increases. We are committed to making sure that the Hall School of Journalism and Communication offers the strongest degree programs and has the best and brightest faculty members. While our programs and degrees may change so that we will continue being the leader in journalism and communication education, our core values are rock solid. This means that the value of your degree from the Hall School of Journalism and Communication continues to grow every day.


Still in the race?
Published January 29th, 2012

During the recent term break, I commented to our son about two fast-food restaurants sitting side-by-side on Taylor Road in Montgomery. The first is always packed, except on Sundays when it is closed. The second attracts only a small handful of customers throughout the day. That was when Jeremy said that it appears all restaurants are in a race these days. Some are in a race to the top while others are in a race to the bottom. Then he added that those electing to compete in the race to the top seem to be winning through premium service and products while those at the bottom only have price and size of portions to attract customers.

It seems that this race to the top or bottom has invaded the state of journalism today. Too many stations and publications are in the wrong race. Instead of becoming the “premium” news service in their community, more and more traditional media are electing to cut back or eliminate local news service and opting for more entertainment type programming or content. While some people would say that entertainment programming cannot be classified as “the bottom,” it would be hard to say this is in the top tier of community programming.

Before moving forward with this line of thought, let’s backup for a moment and talk about a recent incident in my family. My wife and I were driving home one afternoon while towing our three-ton RV behind our truck. The local weather along our route was quickly becoming stormy and we were concerned as to if there were any storm watches nearby. My first reaction was to switch over to the AM radio band then scan for a strong AM station. This turned out to be a mistake.

Sure, I found several strong AM signals on-air, but it quickly became apparent that no one was actually at their studios airing local information. The voice I heard was probably a thousand miles away and providing programming to hundreds of stations through a simple satellite circuit. When judged on a scale of community service, these stations were winning the race to the bottom.

We did find out that we were driving through an area of sever storm warnings. Our iPhones gave us the detailed information I wanted to find over the local AM radio stations.

It is easy to find newspapers, radio and televisions groaning about Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and smart phone apps becoming the new face of journalism. After all, the media has been at the heart of the communities for many years. In some markets, the media is still serving the community with news and important information and these newspapers and broadcast stations are in that strong race to the top.

There are other communities who are now served by media outlets in the race to the bottom. The idea of community service is being replaced by a corporate formula to maximize the return on the investment.

Sure, we know that newspapers and broadcast stations are businesses and that they must make a profit in order to succeed, but many successful media outlets in the past were successful because they elected to both serve the public and to be leaders in that market. They became successful and profitable by winning the race to the top and not by surrendering the signal or presses to some outside content source.

Instead of complaining about the new digital services that are stealing the thunder from media outlets, stations and newspapers need to learn from Chick-fil-A and get involved in the community, provide a premium product with premium service and start competing in the race to the top. Otherwise, the media will find that smart phone and tablets have replaced them as community leaders.


Leap into the New Year
Published January 2nd, 2012

The start of a new year is here and 2012 presents us with the gift of 366 days as it is a leap year. Leap years probably remind most people of pending presidential elections in the United States. My personal interest in leap years is because my maternal grandfather was born on February 29, 1880, making him either 132 or 33 years old this year.

If you do the math, we have 8,784 hours this year. That translates into 527,040 minutes or 31,622,400 seconds during 2012 and this is exactly 86,400 more seconds than we had in 2011.

While leap years are interesting, the start of a new year causes most people to think about new beginning.

New beginnings are common in academia. We get to start fresh every term. That means we have three new beginnings every year on the Troy campus and five fresh starts every year on the eTROY campus.

Before talking about the fresh start being given to us this year, let’s take a look back at 2011.

2011 was a tremendous year for the Hall School. Our programs continue to grow and our faculty members worked hard to improve the value of Troy University’s Hall School of Journalism and Communication degrees. We added new courses and refocused many existing classes in order to make sure our programs remain relevant and cutting-edge.

The concepts of APJ/MMC (All Platform Journalism/Multi-media Communication) became the focus of our programs during 2011. You will see that APJ/MMC will continue being a driving force during 2012.

2012 is filled with great possibilities for the Hall School and our students. I hope that everyone will try harder to do the most with his or her time this year.

One of the realities of time is that what we do with our time matters. Make the most of your opportunities this year. Get involved with Troy’s student media. Attend meetings of our Hall School’s student organizations. Make sure that you understand the concepts and technologies we use in class instead of simply trying to slip by with a minimal effort.

I can promise you this for the 2012:
The impact on your time in the Hall School will be positive if you learn how to thrive and not simply survive.
Technology is here to stay. Embrace it.
The Hall School’s standards will continue to be high.
Get involved and be a student leader as this will help you set the course for your career.

I hope that you invest your time this year in things that matter and that you don’t waste your bonus day or the new year.


The Journey to Sartain Hall
Published December 8th, 2011

It takes fewer than 1,000 steps to move from Wallace Hall to Sartain Hall, current home of Troy University’s graduation ceremonies. Most students invest at least four years to make it into Sartain for commencement. For the majority, getting into the graduation ceremony is a challenging and emotional journey.

One of the emotional components of this journey is the feeling that you are moving away from a school and faculty that have been major elements in your academic career. While the Hall School of Journalism and Communication will always remain your “academic home,” challenges of the workplace replace concerns about Media Law exams.

Graduation forces a change in our student/faculty relationships. It also opens new doors and creates alumni/faculty friendships. It gives you a new role in helping shape the Hall School of Journalism and Communication’s future.

Dean Emeritus Merrill Bankester often said that our present success is not a guarantee for the future. His point was that we must always work to make sure that the Hall School of Journalism and Communication is the best program in the region. He showed us the importance of alumni support as he spearheaded the Journalism Alumni Association’s creation.

Increasing numbers of our graduates are discovering that joining the Journalism Alumni Association is a natural way to nurture the ties with their alma mater. It is a way for you to help build the school’s future and at the same time enhance the value of your degree.

Our school is brimming with talent and confidence. Its reputation, pride and alumni are its strongest recruiting tools. Our adoption of the APJ (All Platform Journalism) and MMC (Multi-Media Communication) models are making sure our graduates for prepared for the future. This coupled with the help and guidance given to the School by the Journalism and Communication Alumni Association continues to motivate and move the program to new heights.

If you have not joined the Journalism Alumni Association, please accept my invitation to become a member. I am sure that you will find it to be an honor to be involved with this vital group. Plus, your energy and dedication will help set the course as we move into a society where the roles between the media and audience are always changing.

The distance between Wallace and Sartain Halls is small. What is learned along the way prepares our graduates for careers in journalism. With your help and guidance and the JAA’s support, I am confident that the Hall School of Journalism and Communication will continue to celebrate the success to which we remain committed.

(Dr. Padgett published an earlier version of this posting in the Fall 1997 Hall Monitor.)


Changing or Improving George’s Ax?
Published November 14th, 2011

There is an old Vaudeville skit about George Washington’s ax. The basic premise is that the comedian holds up an ax and proudly states it is the very one used by George Washington when he chopped down the cherry tree. At that point, the comedian adds that the head of the ax has been changed six times over the years and the handle was changed ten times, but this is the actual ax held by Washington when he was a child.

I found myself thinking about this routine at Troy University’s Homecoming last weekend. There is a desire to reassure our program’s graduates that the Hall School of Journalism and Communication continues to stay-the-course and that we continue to balance academic content with our practical hands-on approach. While this remains true, the emphasis of our hands-on approach has switched to a digital model.

Yes, we remain the J-School and we are focused on being a relevant and cutting-edge program. That means we have adopted the All Platform Journalism (APJ)/Multi-Media Communication (MMC) models for our classes. While this may not be the “secret sauce” newspapers are currently searching for, it will help our students be prepared for the changing landscape facing today’s mass media.

A recent article in the New York Times talked about John Patton, the leader of the nation’s second largest newspaper chain. He met with his publishers, who were probably looking for a silver bullet to turn their corporate fortunes around. That didn’t happen. Instead, Patton talked about community involvement, cutting costs and going digital. That is a partial definition of APJ/MMC journalism.

Patton’s NewMedia properties are giving their reporters small video cameras and expecting them to create Web pages and to blog about their stories. While reading the report in the New York Times, I found it interesting how this major chain is paralleling our current direction in the Hall School. All students are involved in creating Web content and video is no longer the exclusive domain of broadcast students. We are APJ/MMC.

The founder of a well-known recreational vehicle company once said, “Let’s not make any changes – let’s only make improvements.” While talking with our graduates at homecoming, I was reminded that we haven’t changed our program, we have improved it. While some people may see it as nothing more than George Washington’s ax with a new handle, we are positioned so that our graduates are ready for the industry’s new APJ/MMC digital directions.


Old school, new school
Published October 16th, 2011

The Hall School of Journalism and Communication will mark its 40th anniversary on Dec. 16. It is interesting that our old school is turning out to be a new school. If you are able to look around today’s Hall School, you will see that the evidence supports my conclusion.

Old school J-School was full of electric typewriters, which were used in the early 1970s through the early 1990s. The new school J-School replaced the typewriters with computers that are more powerful than the ones used by NASA to reach the moon.

Old school J-School had the distinctive smell of assignments printed on blue ditto sheets is gone. New school J-School has most assignments delivered in electronic form to students over the World Wide Web.

Old school J-School was full of analog video cameras, editors and studio equipment. New school J-School is nonlinear, digital and HD. If you haven’t walked back to the TV studio, you will be amazed at recent upgrades benefiting the Hall School and Troy University.

Old school J-School drew defined lines between print and broadcast students. New school J-School is erasing these lines. In fact, you would notice that all journalism majors now must know how to shoot and edit video, create Web pages and use emerging technologies.

Old school J-School was home to three or four faculty members and 65 students. New school J-School is home to nine full-time faculty members and 350 students.

Old school J-School taught only print and broadcast journalism. New school J-School adds communication studies, public relations, advertising and sports information.

Old school J-School taught courses only in Wallace Hall on the Troy campus. New school J-School is teaching classes online through eTroy to students all over the world, including soldiers serving in Afghanistan.

Even the Tropolitan, our most traditional form of mass communication, cannot escape the growing role of technology in our society and the march to the new school J-School. Hundreds of people from all around the world read the Trop every day from the Web. It’s a different world and none of our programs can linger in the light of old school technologies.

While technology has forced many changes in how we teach journalism and communication during the Hall School’s 40-year history, the old school emphasis on teaching real-world skills by a dedicated and strong faculty remains intact. New school J-School remains strongly committed to providing the best possible education and hands-on opportunities for our students.

What is going to happen during the J-School’s next 40 years? Computer programmer Alan Kay said that the best way to predict the future is to invent it. While we may leave inventing the future to the computer engineers, new school J-School is immersed in technology and is leading the way in teaching all platform and multimedia journalism and communications. Because of this, I am confident to predict that your old school will continue to produce the best new school graduates in the region, the state and the nation.


Searching for a purpose
Published September 25th, 2011

My wife and I have a family tradition of reading aloud to each other while on trips. The book we recently completed was A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron. If you love dogs, you will enjoy this book.

I was reminded of that book when a young lady sat in my office searching for a major. She had eliminated nursing, education, social work and criminal justice and was thinking about sampling journalism or communication studies as her next major. It appeared to me that she is a young woman searching for a career purpose in her life.

As we celebrate the Hall School of Journalism and Communication’s 40th anniversary, I cannot help but reexamine our School’s purpose.

It is easy to say the J-School’s purpose is to train journalists and communicators and I am sure that point is in our mission statement. But the J-School’s purpose goes beyond simply training the skills needed for today’s communication and journalism models.

Even casual observers know that the worlds of journalists and communicators are changing. As technology is becoming a key element in our fields, we could say that journalism is rebooting to Version 2.0.

Some of the changes are amazing! Former Trop editor Tony Harris recently visited Troy and it was fun reminiscing about the labor-intensive techniques we taught about newspaper design when he was a student. Both the Apple Macintosh computer and Adobe’s InDesign products have made it easier to build strong pages. The production map that existed just a few years ago when Tony was a student no longer exists and the Hall School was a pioneer in teaching full pre-press pagination.

Not all of the changes in our communication fields have been positive. The consolidation of media ownership created a myopic focus on the bottom-line that often ignores the long-term concern for communities served by the media. Maybe I am showing my age or I’m naive, but I think communicators need help people prepare for tomorrow by connecting the past to today. And while showing people today’s news in context serves the community, it doesn’t always maximize short-term profits.

While profits are a purpose for all businesses and the mass media are businesses, the long-term dividends earned serving and being a part of the community should be considered when building a business plan. The purpose for journalists and communicators has to include serving the community by explaining, clarifying and connecting the audience.

The purpose of the Hall School is to train the journalists and communicators with the ability to synthesize information then to present it in a practical, understandable and ethical way to the audience via multiple platforms. While this is a rigorous process, it is critical to the future of our profession. As we know, journalism and communication matters.

That begs the question, “What is your purpose?”

Nineteenth century mathematician William Shanks thought that his purpose was to calculate the exact value of pi. He spent 15 years calculating pi via hand division to 707 digits. Unfortunately, he made an error at decimal place 528 and that made his calculation wrong. Whoops!

The J-Lab iMacs can calculate the value of pi to 707 digits in a quick moment.

What we know now and what Shanks didn’t know then is that pi to 11 digits is accurate enough to calculate Earth’s circumference to a millimeter. I would hate to think that William Shanks purpose turned out to be to provide comic relief to amateur mathematicians everywhere.

While we cannot predict the future by waving our hands over a crystal ball, we know that journalists and communicators must be smart, connected, online and capable of telling the story via multiple and digital platforms.

Instead of spending years working from an incorrect model, journalists and communicators must be able to apply the core values and skills of the industry to the communication tools used by the audience. We cannot afford to make a mistake, as did Shanks, at some decimal point in our new communication model, which is being forged as we speak.

I hope that the purpose of students today is to connect with their communities and to help make the citizens better people. I hope that our students are curious and have a burning desire to uncover “truth” then have the skills to bring this message to the public through multiple tools and platforms.

I hope that your purpose is to be a journalists and a communicator because there is a strong and growing need in these areas.


Got talent?
Published September 10th, 2011

I talked with three Hall School graduates last week. Two dropped by my office and the other conversation was via Facebook. While talking with all three, I kept thinking about the special honor and privilege I have to work with so many students at Troy University.

Two of our former students were talking to me because they are in positions of responsibility in their careers and were looking for talent to hire. The third was discouraged because he hasn’t found the “right” job since he earned his undergraduate degree.

It was while talking to the third alumnus that these three visits came together in my mind. There has been a subtle change in how people are hired in the communication and journalism industries. Companies are no longer hiring people for positions, they are hiring talent then using that talent to solve problems.

That brings us to this question: What is your talent? What do you bring to a job interview that will help you stand out from the multitude? How will you help your potential employer solve the company’s problems?

During the years I worked in radio and television, on-air personalities were called “talent.” I discovered that the people who appeared to be absolute naturals on-air worked harder at being “natural” than the second-rate types that never found their niche in the industry.

While there are probably a few rare individuals who were blessed at birth with multiple talents, most talented people earned their talents through hard work and practice.

This line of thought ties in with our College of Communication and Fine Arts (CCFA) Reading Initiative for this academic year. Our book is Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin and it details that talent isn’t a DNA thing as much as it about work and practice. If you haven’t read this book yet, you need to move it to a higher priority. It will help you realize that your talents are earned by working on skills and this translates into hard work.

College is a wonderful opportunity for you to earn and hone your talents. The time you spend beyond your classes developing your talents will be important when a potential employer starts sizing up how your talents will help him or her solve problems. It is a cinch that if a potential employer cannot see how you will help solve problems, you will not be hired. Also, don’t be in the situation where you are going to job interviews with nothing more than a resume filled with items you want to do. Instead, show potential employers your talent developed while in the J-School. This means that you need to get involved beyond your classes to build the talents employers need today.

Got talent? If so, it is because you are applying the lessons learned in class to our student media, professional media, online communications, volunteer organizations and you are taking advantage of many other opportunities available to our Hall School students.

Got weak talent? In the words of our CCFA reading initiative, start developing your talent before you find yourself sitting my office discouraged about the finding the right job for your career.


It is all about APJ/MMC
Published August 20th, 2011

It is no secret that the worlds of journalism and communication are changing. As both journalism and communications are being re-invented, the Hall School’s faculty members have been revising the curriculum to incorporate the digital technologies at the heart of the industries today.

Our journalism programs adopted the APJ (All Platform Journalism) model. This means that we incorporate a strong digital emphasis in our programs. It also means that we recognize the importance of media convergence and cross-train our print and broadcast programs.

Our communication studies students are moving to a MMC (Multi-Media Communication) environment. We will revise the communications program this year to make sure our students are prepared to work in a world that is increasingly digital and online.

The Hall School has a rich tradition of excelling in academics and the hands-on application of communication technology. The adoption of the APJ/MMC foundation means that our programs will continue being the leader in journalism and communication education.


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