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Future of media program discussed

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Few attended the town hall meeting -- a discussion of the dissemination of news and information at Fort Hays State University -- but several who were there stepped up to the microphone to weigh in on the issue.

The town hall-style meeting was called by the task force appointed by FHSU President Edward H. Hammond to make recommendations after the Student Government Association cut funding for the student newspaper, the University Leader, for the current school year. SGA restored the Leader's funding for the 2013-14 school year, and the student-run publication tentatively plans to resume printing in the fall.

The town hall meeting is a "complement to the symposium when experts gave their thoughts," Paul Faber, task force chairman and College of Arts and Sciences dean, said of last week's event that included educators and professional journalists as panelists.

Chapman Rackaway, associate professor of political science and task force member, served as moderator for the town hall meeting.

A Web-based survey was answered by approximately 1,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni, he said.

Most responded they get their news from television, with newspapers as the second source for faculty, staff and alumni. Students listed online as their second source of news.

"People want campus news," Rackaway said the responses showed.

They also want news delivered in text and video versions.

Informatics instructor and task force member Ron Rohlf said mobile applications could be developed to tell individual stories in an interactive way, and students and faculty already are discussing creating those apps.

Bringing the print, television, radio and Internet activities together gives each medium access to more resources and able to determine the most effective manner to present news, said Ryan Ross, an FHSU student.

"I would love to read a news article on the website that has a video that accompanies it, whether it's a video of an interview from somebody or footage from an event," said Jessica Tormey, who wrote for the Leader as a freshman.

Tormey recommended there be a full-time adviser for news media, as well as alumni mentors "to help (students) become the professionals they want to be."

Several students echoed Tormey's idea of a full-time adviser, whether it's a faculty member or someone else.

There needs to be a "full-time adviser to coordinate all activities across all mediums and make sure that our students are learning what they need to learn," said Tyler Thompson, an FHSU student.

It's most important through oversight and training "to produce people who can create relevant and accurate content. ... If we fail to do that, I don't care how bright and shiny an item that we might create, it's not going to serve the purpose of passing information along to a relevant audience," Department of Communication Studies chairman and task force member Scott Robson said.

Other members of the task force are Jennifer Robinson, graphics and animation specialist in the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning Technology; and students Gentry Heimerman and Matthew Whitmore.

Recommendations are due to the administration April 19.