Mobile Journalism

Mobile interviews by Tara Knott, Audrey Schaulat, Dustin Stout and Jen Todd

KONY 2012

Written, filmed and edited by Tia Runion

One journalist. One iPhone. Two events.

Using only my mobile device, I covered the screenings of KONY 2012 at Belmont University and Vanderbilt University.

Filmed and edited using MovieCamera and Splice on the iPhone.

Increase in Mental Health Issues Forces Waiting List

Mobile story by Dustin Stout

An increase in mental health crises in the fall of 2011 at Belmont University forced its department of Counseling Services to implement a waiting list, an option the department’s Peg Leonard-Martin calls “intolerable” and a “serious problem.” Belmont Vision reporter Dustin Stout has details on how the university is now working to counteract the problem.


Targeting Children’s Literacy

On February 25, Targets across America hosted readings of Dr. Seuss books for the Read Across American program. The program hosts annual Dr. Suess readings on the author’s birthday.

Can you afford to work for free?

Story by Tia Runion

Internships offer exclusive access and real-world industry experience for college students and graduates, but sometimes unpaid internships aren’t practical, affordable, or legal.

In 2011, more than 1 million Americans worked as interns. Half of them were unpaid, according to an NPR report.

Often companies aren’t willing or able to pay for part-time employees, so they create positions for unpaid interns and push the boundaries of fair labor laws and workplace fairness with excessive work weeks and no compensation.

According to The New York TimesXuedan Wang worked at Harper’s Bazaar  for four months last year as an unpaid intern. She typically worked 40 hours a week, sometimes 55 hours.

Wang didn’t receive college credit because she graduated prior to attaining her position at the magazine.

She filed a lawsuit against the magazine’s publisher, Hearst Corporation, Feb. 2, citing fair labor law violations. Wang and her law firm have asked to make the case a class action suit.

She’s asking for minimum wage, back pay and overtime for the hours she worked with no compensation, according to Reuters.

The United States Labor Department developed a Test for Unpaid Interns with six criteria to determine whether internships act in accordance with The Fair Labor Standards Act.

The guidelines assert, “The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.” Further, interns shouldn’t displace regular employees — they should work under the supervision of existing staff. The work experience gained through interning should correspond with training provided in educational settings.

If an unpaid intern is able to earn college credit, then employers are abiding by the FLSA. However, if they aren’t able to earn college credit, then employers are expected to provide compensation.

“Even though it may be the environment you want to work in, an internship isn’t sorting papers and stapling all day,” said Patricia Jacobs, Belmont University director of career services.

Patricia Jacobs, Belmont University director of career services (Photo credit:

Internships benefit both the intern and the employer.  It’s a learning opportunity for students and graduates, but it also allows companies to develop future employees.

“If everyone does their part, it’s a great situation because there are a lot of students who end up with future employers,” Jacobs said.

Internships — what you need to know

Internships are becoming an integral part of college curriculums, and employers are expecting college graduates to have had real workplace experience.

Katie Boyd, a junior audio engineering technology major at Belmont University, is currently interning at Starstruck Studios in Nashville. Though her internship is unpaid, she’s receiving one hour of college credit.

“It’s a learning experience,” Boyd said. “It’s like a class in that you’re learning from it, so I think it’s worth it.”

With the state of the economy, both students and companies are experiencing financial strain. For Boyd, she understands the challenge facing interns and their employers.

“If they can’t pay you, they can’t pay you,” she said. “And if you can’t get credit, if you can’t afford school credit, then you can’t . . . it’s just difficult when you can’t take an internship because you can’t get credit for it.”

Tyler Whetstone, a sophomore communications major at Trevecca Nazarene University, is interning in Washington, D.C. with The Dailey Caller, a 24 hour news source.

Though Whetstone isn’t being paid,  he’s earning 16 hours of college credit through a program offered by The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

For Whetstone, the work experience and contacts he’s making in journalism is invaluable.

“I think that if you’re gaining college credit for what you’re doing, then that is payment enough,” he said.

Whetstone didn’t know about the internship guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Labor, but he thinks it’s helpful to have regulations “to keep people honest.”

When it comes to the workplace, individuals are responsible for knowing their rights, so research workplace fairness as well as federal and state labor laws to protect yourself.

The death of a movement: Occupy’s last days

Story by Autumn Allison

Tents in varying shades of green and blue line the walls of War Memorial Plaza. Each tent has been strategically tied, zip-tied and bungee corded to with stand even the roughest winds. Duct-taped peace symbols and spray-paint decals give a little bit of personality to the normally bleak abode.

For a nearly four months, those tents have been home to the Occupy Nashville movement but following the seemingly inevitable passage of HB 2638, the tents are coming down and along with it, possibly the entire movement.

For roughly 30 people, the death of the movement signals more than just the end of Occupy. It means a separation from a dream and from the group they call family.

Tom Sweet

Wood strikes the marble steps at the plaza with every step he takes. His cane keeps him steady during the rounds through the tents. Everything about Tom Sweet is methodical, timely and even-keeled. Until he speaks with passion, that is. His whole demeanour changes and his normally soft-spoken voice booms across the plaza.

At 53 years-old, Sweet’s 6 foot 2 inch frame is bent and withered. A side effect from the three strokes he suffered in Montana.

“The doctors say I’m a miracle, and well I already knew that cause I’m walking,” said Sweet.

Crippled he calls himself. A social defect in normal society, but at Occupy he’s a respected individual.

It’s Sweet’s turn on the soapbox during General Assembly.

“Our rights are being violated,” he said. “We need a government for the people by the people. … We must be in unity, but we’ll take this one day at a time.”

He’s a late joiner to the movement but most of the group on the plaza. Sweet is willing to risk jail time for the cause.

“Come back out on Thursday to see the show,” said Sweet. “I’ll be in my tent just waiting for those troopers to take me away, to take the cripple away.”

Sweet sings a gospel tune he wrote himself as he limps off to return to the safety of his tent and home for the final days of the movement.

Andrew Henry

He proudly strolls into the public library, pointing out inspirational photos and quotes as he goes.

“I draw inspiration from this room,” Henry said as he walks into the Civil Rights Room.

A college degree, a championship fighting title and a well-off family all sit in his past. A past that Henry doesn’t talk about much.

Conversations with him center around big-world topics. Corruption in government, education and sports are just a few of his favorite. For Henry, the world is his soapbox.

Occupy Nashville provided the chance for him to take a stand and fight inequalities.

“This movement really comes down to inequalities. Being black, this is a prominent issue for me. This has always been a passion of mine,” he said.

With the certain passage of HB 2836, Henry is not only losing his platform, but his new family.

“You really get to know people out here. You become family,” he said.

Dubbed the “big bad bill” by Occupiers, HB 2638 along with its sister bill SB 2508 were created with the intent to protect the proper use of government property and is aimed directly at the Occupy Nashville movement.

State Representative Eric Watson and Senator Dolores Gresham, the sponsors of the bills have both told several publications, including The Tennessean and Nashville Public Radio, that freedom of speech is not an issue here and are quick to reassure their bill is not an attempt to stop this right to freedom of assembly.

As soon as the ink dries on the bill, Tennessee Highway Patrol can descend on the camp, breaking up one of the last remaining Occupy camps in the country.

During an emergency crisis meeting on Monday Feb. 13, the majority of Occupiers decided to move the encampment to Metro Square, shifting the control from the state to local government. A small group, including Tom Sweet ,want to hold of the move and wait for police action.

Legislature’s decision could come as early as Thursday, Feb. 16.

Is this the end of Broadway?

It’s no surprise the United States economy is dangerously low.

With unemployment at 8.3% and living expenses going up, it’s a wonder Broadway’s lights, and other national theatres, are still bright and glowing. New musicals like Disney’s “The Newsies” and “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and revival shows like “Evita” and “Chicago” are popping up for the 2012-2013 theatre season with positive outlooks. With Broadway tickets ranging from $20 to up to $120 a ticket, it’s a wonder how people are still managing to fit the glitz and glamour of catching a show in their budgets.

The price of tickets is what got Broadway into a slump in 2009 with ticket sales lacking and shows closing because as Marc Shaiman, the composer of Hairspray put it to the New York Times, “It’s like putting a pet to sleep not because it’s sick but because you can’t afford dog food.” In fact, 15 musicals including big names like “Hairspray” and “Grease” closed in January 2009.

“I watched that (sales) line begin to increase and then when the stock market went in the tank it was like everyone pressed pause on their purchase buttons,” Ken Davenport, producer of ‘13’, one of the Broadway shows that closed due to the lack of sales, told Regional News Network.

There was a lot of speculation (and fear) from directors and would-be playwrights if Broadway would continue. Then with the dawn of 2010, theatres and directors seemed to shake off the economic downturn. Ticket sales in 2011 went up, some musicals boasting 100 percent capacity or better, according to the Broadway League.

Directors began to adapt movies into musicals like the recent “Ghost: The Musical”, “Once” and “The Newsies” to name a few. They began to embrace social media. Theatres, in turn, went to Twitter, Facebook, promoting shows with discount tickets, backstage and promotional videos posted on Youtube. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, Tenn. offers free tickets to a show for patrons who write a good review they’ve recently seen at TPAC.

See other ways theatres entice audiences. 

Theatres also offer student rush tickets, which fancies Garrett Marks, a junior at Belmont University who has seen his share of shows, about 12 on Broadway or touring companies in various locations.

“I have never spent full price on a ticket,” said Marks.

He snags $20 tickets from TPAC for touring shows. When he lived in New York City for summer 2011, he spent $50 for “Catch Me If You Can” because he “really wanted to see it”.

“When I was in New York City, I student rushed everything,” said Marks. “There’s no reason to spend [$150] to sit in a place that’s no better than the place I sat where I spent $25.”

Because tickets are easy to come by nowadays, Marks argues the value of the ticket has lowered.

“It doesn’t mean anything anymore these days,” said Marks. “You don’t get a medal for saying ‘I bought an actual ticket’ because we all get the same play bill, we all see the same show.”

While that may be, theatres are still offering these tickets. It’s not about the quality of the people coming anymore. It’s about the quantity. Because theatres have opened their doors to wider ranges of audience members via social media, ticket sales continue to rise.

Miss Black USA: A Crowning Achievement in Reversing the American Pageant Stereotype

Multimedia story by Dustin Stout

There she is: naturally beautiful, rich with a cultural heritage, uniquely herself and African American.

Miss Black USA is a scholarship pageant founded in 1986 strictly for African American women. The first of its kind, Miss Black USA is working to counteract what has become the color-limiting norm in American beauty pageants.

White wins – that’s the expectation society has come to accept.

In Tennessee, the highly regarded Miss America organization has never crowned an African American woman in its more than 90-year history, and Karen Arrington, founder and CEO of Miss Black USA, thinks that’s a statistic worth noting.

A self-proclaimed “champion for women,” Arrington calls the Miss America phenomenon of white winners “suffocating to women of color.”

“There are many talented, intelligent and beautiful young African American women who would make outstanding representatives in the Miss Tennessee America system,” Arrington said. “Unfortunately, in mainstream pageants, you are competing in a world where only a certain aesthetic is considered beautiful.”

That’s why she founded the Miss Black USA organization.

“In a black pageant, you can celebrate your unique differences and natural beauty.  You can wear your hair short, long, natural, in locks or twisted. You can be yourself,” Arrington said.

Belmont University junior Natalie Newbill, the Miss Black USA representative for Tennessee, mentions Miss Black USA gives young African American girls – especially ones in Tennessee – hope.

“The Miss Black USA organization gives the African American community a future,” said Newbill. “It gives us a great deal of confidence to go out and really attack anything. We’re making a difference.”

Newbill considers the lack of diversity at the Miss Tennessee America level a disservice to young African American girls watching.

“I think young African American girls not seeing anyone who looks like them in pageants is devastating,” she said. “It makes young girls feel like it’s something they can’t achieve.”

A third independent pageant system, the Miss USA organization, has named African American winners in Tennessee, but those winners have all been fair-skinned.

Newbill doesn’t believe that’s significant. To her, it’s still progress.

“I think that has a great deal to do with confidence levels. I don’t believe other pageants organizations choose their winners based on color,” she said.

But Arrington believes Miss Black USA gives all types of African American women a chance to reward themselves as they are, instead of assimilating to the majority.

“Growing up, I didn’t see women in magazines or mainstream media who looked like me,” Arrington said. “At Miss Black USA every contestant defines her own standard of beauty. We celebrate our curves. We celebrate our dark complexion. We celebrate our natural beauty and we celebrate our rich cultural heritage and experience.”

She’s also quick to note this: Miss Black USA is more than a pageant. It’s a movement, she says.

“We think it’s a post-racial era, but there are still parts of the country where African American women are not respected or appreciated,” Arrington said. “The movement is a step towards erasing the stereotypes and shaping the future.”

To date, Miss Black USA has given more than $300,000 in scholarships to African American women.

Getting Back to Basics: Social Media and Accuracy

Amanda Short, Audrey Schaulat, Christian Rich and Jen Todd were all contributors to this story. 

In the media, if you’re not first, you’re last.

Unless, of course, you’re JUST PLAIN WRONG…

The issue:

Journalism is available and ready for anyone, by anyone in unprecedented ways, particularly through consumer-fed social media platforms.  A 2010 CNN study showed that 43 percent of people used social media to share news online.  Users can access their information instantly through the platforms, but recent events have proven the unreliability of the social platforms as a viable source for information.

How has this affected journalism?

Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s death is the most recent example of news organizations and the public taking news found on social media at face value.  Craig Silverman of the Poynter Institute argues with regards to Paterno, “There’s no glory in being first.

Unreliable news surfacing online is nothing new, as information has been misused since the rise of organizations such as Wikipedia.  John Seigenthaler, a nationally acclaimed journalist and assistant to Attny. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy, was linked to the deaths of Robert and John F. Kennedy on the website by an anonymous writer.

The incident raised questions as to the reliability of user-generated sites.  In an editorial written in USA Today, Seigenthaler said,

“And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research — but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects. Congress has enabled them and protects them.”

Social media spurs this process further.  Death reports are common on Twitter: NewsOne came up with its top 11 fake deaths on twitter in 2011.  Ronnie Ramos of Indiana University’s journalism program cites multiple issues within the Indianapolis Colts football organization’s handling of the firing of coach Jim Caldwell.

What can be done to maintain credibility?

Media and consumers face reliability issues daily, and they are not going away anytime soon.  However, Geneva Overholser of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard says in “What is Journalism’s Place in Social Mediavalue-focused journalism will be the key for maintaining its integrity.

Social media are not so much mere tools as they are the ocean we’re going to be swimming in—at least until the next chapter of the digital revolution comes along,” she said. “What needs our attention is how we’re going to play roles that bring journalistic values into this vast social media territory.”

Click to view our live-blogging of John Seigenthaler’s Belmont visit.  Using Cover it Live, we were able to aggregate tweets, quotes and wisdom from an amazing journalist.

Thank you for taking the time to view this presentation. All feedback is welcomed and appreciated.

Low-cost diplomas may have a higher price to pay

Dustin Stout, Carrie Chalker, Kayla Becker and Tara Knott contributed to this multimedia story.

If a simple little lie could get you your dream job, would you tell it?

The answer to that question has made educational fraud into a billion-dollar business. Diploma mills are everywhere, and like a game of global Whac-A-Mole, as soon as you find one, it disappears and pops up somewhere else.

What’s a diploma mill?

Steven Reed, former director of postsecondary education for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, said diploma mills provide “no educational content for a credential.  That’s the simplest definition.”

Clients pay these mills a fee and receive a degree in return.  And the more you pay, the better your degree – many mills now offer masters’ and doctoral degrees.  For an additional charge, some will even provide you with a false transcript.

But why would anybody purchase a fake degree?

Imagine this.  You dropped out of high school to work at your family’s business and have been making good money, but with the economy in shambles, you have to close.

“You might have even legitimately tried to go back and get your GED and not passed.  But you need to feed your kids,” Reed said.  “What do you do? Spend a little money, get a diploma, get a job.”

For this reason, most customers of diploma mills don’t see themselves as victims – that is, until they get caught using a phony degree and are charged with fraud.   The diploma mills generally escape all responsibility because of four little words on their website: “For entertainment purposes only.”  This allows the mill to claim they were just providing the customer with a service and had no idea it would be used for illegal activities.

What is the government doing to stop diploma mills?

Diploma mills one of the hardest criminal industries to track because most people who purchase their products know what they’re getting into.

“They’re not walking in blind. They know that they’re paying a fee, and that fee means no educational content and you give me my credential,” Reed said.

But on occasion, an unknowing consumer might be browsing the web for a way to earn an online degree and stumble into the hands of a diploma mill.  And when that consumer realizes they’ve been duped, Reed said, that’s when the government can hunt the mill down.

Many mills hide behind a religious disguise, so some states, including Tennessee, have laws that allow the government to get involved with a religious school because that school is providing a secular degree to its students.

Still, catching and closing a mill isn’t enough – the biggest problem is keeping it closed.

“If [diploma mills] get caught, they just simply shut down and they move somewhere else. It’s a game for them, in a way,” said Reed. “They know the laws, and they probably know them even better than some of the state administrators.”

To shut them down for good, he said, “it really takes some folks that are constantly in the game keeping up with it.”