Author: Cole Lanier

UA Student Films About Justice & Injustice in Alabama to Debut April 23

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama (UA) department of journalism & creative media will host the 13th annual Documenting Justice film screening at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 23, at the Bama Theatre in downtown Tuscaloosa. The screening is free and open to the public.

The event will feature short documentaries created by students who dedicated a year to learning how to document and analyze culture and social experience — and communicate about issues of justice and injustice in Alabama — through nonfiction filmmaking.

The students, who are pursuing degrees in a wide range of fields, produced the documentaries as part of a two-semester course co-taught by award-winning filmmaker Andrew Grace, director of the Documenting Justice program and instructor in the department of journalism & creative media, and Rachel Morgan, creative director for Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival.

“Documentary filmmaking gives out students an opportunity to immerse themselves in a world they might not otherwise come into contact with,” said Andy Grace, director of Documenting Justice. “To deeply research an issue or a problem, to go out and meet subjects, to develop relationships, to have frank and open conversations about the lives of other people, this kind of work required to make a documentary film is a unique experience in empathy that is hard to replicate in the classroom.”

UA has offered the Documenting Justice course since 2006.

The University of Alabama to Host 58 Schools at National Forensics Tournament

The 2018 Alabama Forensic Council team at last year's Forensics National Showcase.
The 2018 Alabama Forensic Council team at last year’s Forensics National Showcase.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) and the Alabama Forensic Council will host the 2019 American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament (NIET) this week in Tuscaloosa. The tournament, which runs from April 4-7, will feature 700 students from 58 schools, including the University of Texas, Ohio University and the University of Florida. The NIET headquarters will be located in the Ferguson Center, with Lloyd, Bidgood, ten Hoor, Morgan, Reese Phifer and North Lawn Halls all hosting individual events.

“It’s a great honor to host the NIET. We have always prided ourselves on our competitive successes at the NIET. Our students compete hard and represent our university with grace,” said Bobby Imbody, director of forensics at C&IS. “To be able to compete on our own campus and show the nation what UA is like only adds to the pride we feel in the Capstone. It will be great to have friends, family and alumni in attendance while we strive for even more national championships.”

The University of Alabama will send 25 students to NIET, competing in 66 events, which is the maximum number of events in which a team can participate. The Alabama Forensic Council is competing to finish as one of the top five teams in the nation for the third consecutive year.

“We are so proud of the Alabama Forensic Council and its national success,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, dean of C&IS. “The coaches and students consistently do great work to ensure that our forensics team carries on the tradition of excellence for which the University is known.”

Founded in 1946, the Alabama Forensic Council is the oldest co-curricular organization at The University of Alabama. Student members of the council participate in the University’s forensics program & attend both the regional and national intercollegiate forensic competition.

SLIS gives over $20,822 in new free books to Black Belt School Libraries

During March 2019,  The University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) will award $20,822 in new, free books to elementary, middle, and high school libraries in Alabama via the SLIS Book Bonanza for the Black Belt & Beyond Program.

School librarians in the Black Belt region were asked to apply for the book give-away program from January to February. We received applications from 30 highly deserving schools. The judges chose 6 school libraries in the Black Belt Region of the state to receive on average $2600 each in brand new children’s and/or young adult books. The judging of the applications was rigorous, as every school exemplified a significant need.

We have selected 2 Book Bonanza Beyond winners. The Beyond winner is a low-income private school in the Black Belt Region of the state, or a public school demonstrating significant economic need in an area of the state outside of the Black Belt. The purpose of this award is to give an equally deserving school library, that is not eligible to be a Book Bonanza for the Black Belt Winner,  a one-time opportunity to address literacy needs in their school community.

Please join us in congratulating the following winning school libraries:

2019 Book Bonanza Black Belt Winners:

Banks School, serving grades PreK-8  (Pike County), Librarian Kim Head
Dallas County High School, serving grades 9-12 (Dallas County), Librarian Amy Reeves
Mt. Olive Intermediate School, serving grades 3-5 (Russell County), Librarian Cyrone Overton
Pike County High School, serving grades 7-12 (Pike County), Librarian Kimberly Dunn
Sophia P. Kingston Elementary School, serving grades K-5 (Dallas County), Librarian Krystal J. Dozier
Sweet Water High School, serving grades PreK-12 (Marengo County), Librarian Patricia Jones

2019 Book Bonanza Beyond Winner:

Thorsby High School, serving grades K-12 (Chilton County), Librarian Vanessa Langston
Woodstock Elementary School, serving grades PreK-4 (Bibb County), Librarian Terri Woodruff

Note: County listed is the county in which the school resides and not necessarily the name of the school system.

Established in 2009 by Dr. Jamie Naidoo, the SLIS Book Bonanza for the Black Belt (& Beyond) is an annual program that provides free new books to school libraries in the Black Belt region of state. Schools in the Black Belt region are encouraged to apply again in January next year for a chance to receive free books for their school libraries during the next SLIS Book Bonanza for the Black Belt & Beyond Program. Low-income private schools in the Black Belt Region or schools in economically disadvantaged areas of the state outside the Black Belt are encouraged to apply next year (in January 2020) to be a Beyond Winner.  If you need additional information about the program, please contact Dr. Jamie C. Naidoo at jcnaidoo@slis.ua.edu or SLIS at 205-348-4610. Information is also available on the program website: http://blackbeltbookbonanza.weebly.com.

First Informers Documentary Showcases Local Broadcasters During 2018 Hurricanes

Dr. Chandra Clark with students and faculty from The University of Alabama and the University of Oklahoma standing with a bear statue.
Dr. Chandra Clark and Professor Scott Hodgson from the University of Oklahoma with students from The University of Alabama and Oklahoma.

Assistant professor of journalism and creative media Dr. Chandra Clark just released new videos about covering Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which struck North Carolina and Florida in 2018. They’re part of a larger documentary series named “First Informers” which highlights the role of broadcasters during disasters.

A collaborative effort with the University of Oklahoma (OU), the award-winning series documents the valuable role broadcasters play in times of emergency following severe weather events. Viewers hear directly from news anchors, field reporters, meteorologists and local officials who live and work in communities affected by the weather events.

“With the spotlight on journalists right now, it’s very dear to my heart to highlight the crucial role that they’re playing and how many of them are affected by these disasters, too,” said Clark. “They’re experiencing the same pain and going through the same adjustments as the people they serve.”

The First Informers videos are shared with regulators at the Federal Communications Commission, the White House, members of Congress, and state broadcast associations, to demonstrate the unique role broadcasting fulfills during times of emergency. To that effect, the Omnibus spending bill, which passed into law in March of 2018, included an allocation of $1 billion dollars for radio and television broadcasters for the spectrum repack, and it broadened the definition of “first responders” to include these broadcasters. This provides special consideration for broadcasters in times of emergency, including access to necessities such as emergency generators crisis areas.

“These videos served as a reminder to Washington lawmakers and regulators of the enduring ‘first informer’ role that can be played by local broadcasters in times of crisis,” said Dennis Wharton, Executive Vice President of Communications, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). “In the final analysis, it is generally the local radio and TV station that ‘gets the word out’ and saves lives in Tornado Alley, in California wildfires, during Superstorm Sandy and when there is an Amber Alert. NAB is proud of our partnership with Chandra and University of Alabama students who have performed exceptional work capturing the depth and breadth of local broadcasters’ work during ‘life or death’ situations.”

The First Informers project series has documented local broadcasting in several notable severe storm events over the past 8 years. Together with Clark, Prof. Scott Hodgson of the University of Oklahoma and a collective of students from Oklahoma and Alabama have partnered with the National Association of Broadcasters and the Broadcast Education Association to produce 31 videos (or mini-documentaries). These include the 2011 EF4 tornado in Tuscaloosa, the 2011 EF5 tornado in Joplin, the 2012 hurricane known as “Superstorm Sandy,” a 2013 EF5 tornado which struck Moore, Oklahoma, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and Hurricanes Florence and Michael in 2018.

“There is no way projects of this magnitude can be done without a team effort,” says Hodgson, who serves as director for these projects that Dr. Clark produces.  “The time from when the weather emergency hits until boots hit the ground from our crew is incredibly short.  It takes an exceptional producer to pull off what Chandra is able to do. Her vast wealth of industry experience combined with her innate storytelling ability and leadership skills is the only reason we can do these projects.  Chandra is extremely unique and one of the best nationwide in academia today.”  The effect of these documentaries goes beyond their intended target audience.  Hodgson notes, “The impact Chandra has had on the students working on these grants has been immense.  There’s a group of exceptionally successful alumni from both our schools that point to Dr. Clark as a key Influence in their educational experience.  She has such a reputation at OU that I have students fighting for who will get to work with her.”

The National Association of Broadcasters is the voice for the nation’s radio and television broadcasters. As the premier trade association for broadcasters, NAB advances the interests of its members in federal government, industry and public affairs; improves the quality and profitability of broadcasting; encourages content and technology innovation; and spotlights the important and unique ways stations serve their communities. For more information, visit nab.org.

The College of Communication and Information Sciences’ faculty and students at The University of Alabama conduct cutting-edge research that creates knowledge and provides solutions to global issues across the full communication and information spectrum. To learn more about the College’s research initiatives, visit cis.ua.edu/research.

C&IS Faculty and Student Team Produces Nationally Recognized Music Video

Led by Nick Corrao, a team of University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) students produced a music video for singer-songwriter Tim Higgins and his song “Blight.”

Corrao, who served as a producer for the video, and Higgins have been friends for years, so when Higgins wanted to create a music video to promote his new album, he approached Corrao. However, Corrao wasn’t sure his schedule would allow for him to fully commit to the production as much as was necessary, so he turned to one of his students, Reagan Wells, a senior journalism and creative media student from Galesburg, Illinois. For Wells, the project was an example of great timing.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to take on, artistically, everything that the project was going to demand,” Corrao said. “I like to get my students involved in whatever I’m doing, whenever possible. Reagan and I had worked together earlier in the summer, and we had a really good working relationship, and I knew that he would be up to the task.”

“It was funny to me, because we went out to eat one night, and I said, ‘I’d like to do a music video,’” said Wells. “He said, ‘Well, I’ve got one for you.’”

The opportunity presented a new challenge to Wells, who had never directed a film before, but wanted to add portfolio experience before graduating.

One Day in Greensboro

“Blight” is an ode to Higgins’ affinity for antiquated things, as well as a lament for the destruction of those same things. The video captures that feeling and was mostly shot in an antebellum mansion owned by a friend of Higgins.

Filmed in various locations around Greensboro, Alabama, south of Tuscaloosa, Wells said he wanted to capture Higgins’ vision for the video more than anything else. While the shooting only took one day, brainstorming began two months before the cameras ever were rolling.

“If it looks cool, it will probably work. This was not just a directing thing, this was coming up with a concept. The sky was the limit, but you just didn’t know where to start,” Wells said. “We had three very talented shooters and an assistant director. We had 40 gigabytes of footage, and it was just like, ‘What do you do with this, where do you start?’”

Like a Rolling Stone

“I wanted to give Reagan the freedom to sort of explore creatively and give feedback on the cut,” Corrao added. “This is what we want to do in the (JCM Media Production) program. We want our students leaving here with work that has received some kind of professional recognition and exposure.”

In November, the video was highlighted in “Rolling Stone” magazine as one of its 10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week alongside country and Americana mainstays such as Jerrod Niemann and The Revivalists.

Wells said he could not have made this project work without his team, made up of fellow University of Alabama students: Alex Cherry as an assistant director and Jeb Brackner and Rhianna Israni behind the cameras. He also cited the importance of “trusting all ideas” in the process and knowing how to delegate duties.

“It feels so good to walk away with those videos in hand, and I can say to potential employers, ‘I was here doing work, I wasn’t just sitting in a classroom for four years,’” Wells said. “It’s this thing where I can say, ‘Here’s this, here’s what Reagan can do.’”

The music video for “Blight” can be viewed below.

Retired Marine Lt. Colonel Greg Ballard to Speak at UA on Alternative Energy

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Retired Marine Lt. Colonel and former Mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard will be speaking to students at The University of Alabama on February 18.

In conjunction with a special topics class in the College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) Department of Communication Studies, COM 295: The Forum, Ballard will be speaking to students about national security and the need to invest in alternative energy. This debate is the subject of his new book, “Less Oil or More Caskets: The National Security Argument for Moving Away from Oil.”

“We are thrilled to have Lt. Colonel Ballard speak to our students,” said Dr. Darrin Griffin, C&IS assistant professor and instructor for COM 295. “In The Forum, we focus on debate and communication, and this is a great opportunity for the students to learn.”

“Today, when we send our young men and women off to war, we pat them on the back and thank them for their service,” said Ballard about his book and presentation. “We throw parades and homecomings upon their successful return. We sadly salute the caskets as they go by. Then we drive down to the neighborhood gas station and fill up – and nobody makes the connection; nobody sees the irony.”

The presentation is open to the public and will begin at 2 p.m. in Doster Hall Room 104. Ballard’s visit is sponsored by the Department of Communication Studies, a part of the College of Communication and Information Sciences. For more information, please contact Dr. Darrin Griffin at djgriffin1@ua.edu.

C&IS Announces New Board of Visitors Executive Committee

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS) announces the 2019-2020 Board of Visitors Executive Committee. These three executive members will create vision and provide leadership for the Board.

Debra Nelson, President of Elevate Communications, LLC, will serve as chairwoman. Barry Copeland, President of The Copeland Strategies Group, LLC, and Robin DeMonia, Executive Vice President of Direct Communications, will serve as Vice Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer.

“We are humbled and excited to have such an accomplished and driven group of industry leaders on our executive committee this year,” said Dr. Mark Nelson, Dean of C&IS. “I have known Debra, Barry and Robin for many years and am confident they will serve our College well.”

Debra Nelson is recognized among the leading public relations and diversity and inclusion practitioners in the U.S. She has held executive positions at industries spanning media, higher education, automotive manufacturing, construction, and gaming and hospitality. Today Nelson leads Elevate Communications, LLC, a firm dedicated to delivering professional development and communication services. Her clients include large and small companies located throughout the U.S. Prior to founding Elevate, Nelson was Corporate Director and Head of Communications for Brasfield & Gorrie, a leading construction firm based in Birmingham, Alabama. Her prior executive appointment was Vice President at MGM Resorts International where she steered the diversity initiative to national prominence and helped the company increase revenue and profitability.

Barry Copeland is a retired business executive who spent most of his 42-year career in business in the Birmingham area. Today, he is president of The Copeland Strategies Group LLC, a company he founded in July of 2014 to help non-profit organizations’ boards of directors develop and implement strategic plans and targets. Copeland spent 13 years at the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), where he was a part of the senior management team that created the BBA in 2009 from a merger of the former Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and the Metropolitan Development Board.

Robin DeMonia is executive vice president of Direct Communications, a public relations firm based in Birmingham. Her previous experience includes 25 years as a journalist in Alabama, including seven years as a state government reporter and 10 years as a member of the editorial board of The Birmingham News.

About the Board of Visitors:

The University of Alabama College of Communication and Information Sciences Board of Visitors serves as an advisory group for C&IS. Our Board of Visitors are established communication professionals and industry leaders who work closely with senior administration to effect positive change in the College’s curriculum, experiential learning opportunities and advancement activities.

Directors of MLK Documentary from NBC Screen Film for C&IS Students

How have monumental changes in media affected activism in the digital age? A new documentary, “Hope & Fury: MLK, the Movement and the Media,” tackles this question by looking at the roles the media played and continues to play in the civil rights movement, from the March to Montgomery to demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri.

“Hope & Fury” directors Rachel Dretzin and Phil Bertelsen were present at Gorgas Library on Monday, January 14, for a special screening of part of the film and to answer audience questions. Hosted by The College of Communication and Information Sciences (C&IS), this event was part of a greater, university-wide celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

“We look at the movement through the lens of the media,” Dretzin said. “We also expand that lens to look at the way the media covers civil rights today.”

The film is narrated by NBC anchor Lester Holt and features interviews with prominent journalists and civil rights figures like Al Sharpton, Tom Brokaw and John Lewis. The screening was the first of 16 events during January at the University celebrating the life and legacy of Dr. King.

“The idea behind the events that we’re having on campus is to engage more students,” said Dr. George Daniels, Assistant Dean of Administration for C&IS. “Sometimes that means learning about what happened in the past, and sometimes it means understanding where we are in the present. Students need to be engaged, front and center.”

100 years ago, newspapers and radio stations were the only news media. 50 years ago, television news became king. Today, news is an instantaneous process, thanks to the rise of social media. Higher-quality smartphone cameras can broadcast around the world in a matter of seconds by millions of amateur photojournalists. As a result, the nature of activism has changed significantly.

As civil rights demonstrations continue nationwide in places like Ferguson, Missouri, social media has become the most popular and immediate outlet for news to break. Facebook Live streams, live-tweeting and other methods of sharing that would have been alien to marchers in Selma in 1965 have brought the modern civil rights movement back to the public eye. However, due to the global audiences of social media, the eye belongs to the entire world.

“All of our students in the College are focused on building messages, learning how to build messages, analyzing messages—all of those are tied up in this documentary,” said Daniels. “It was a really good example of the power of documentary as a form to convey a message about Dr. King.”