Do they know it’s freedom?

I’m frankly disturbed by the latest survey reports regarding teenagers’ take on the First Amendment. This USA Today article details the results of the U. Conn. survey. Key highlights include one-third of the 112,003 saying the government should approve newspaper stories before the public sees them. Thankfully a majority of students say the press shouldn’t be subjected to government censorship.

What are they teaching these kids in school? The teachers and principals in the USA Today story say that they’re teaching kids about the First Amendment, but is the message getting across? What’s the message?

I think part of the problem might lie in that the First Amendment isn’t seen as relevant to today’s youth. It’s sad on many levels because the need for freedom of speech and expression has never been more important. Perhaps the best way to help demonstrate the relevance of the First Amendment is to include discussions of how it’s in their daily lives. Some ideas — Howard Stern getting fined by the FCC and his move to satellite radio, students’ blogs being censored by schools, students wearing Pepsi shirts getting suspended on a school-sanctioned Coca-Cola appreciation day. The point is there’s a ton of examples, they just need to be pointed out.

Part of students’ apathy toward their first freedoms may be due to the fact the groups that strongly support the First Amendment, such as the Society of Professional Journalists, aren’t developing persuasive arguments for their cause. When I was actively involved in SPJ, they were sponsoring writing contests with an essay prompt along the lines of “What does the First Amendment mean to you?” Doesn’t your brain bubble with thoughts with such a scintillating question?

Unfortunately the problem I see is that many modern discussions involve how the First Amendment is limited by some practical concerns. Broadcast regulations, active combat concerns and the fact that primary and secondary schools can limit student newspapers are all issues that muddy the First Amendment picture. At the same time, a greater comprehension of the Bill of Rights would only help students and adults navigate their way through such muddy waters.

Gazette wins!

The Daily Mining Gazette was in top shape in the recently announced Better Newspaper Awards from the Michigan Press Association. Staffers, past and present, from the newspaper won seven awards including three first place wins. Based points from the paper’s awards, the Gazette won third place honors in the General Excellence category.

Former staff writers Erin Alberty and I won a first place award in spot news for our package of stories entitled “The Ultimate Sacrifice.” The two stories told the story about the death of Staff Sgt. Paul J. Johnson and its impact on his family and friends.

In the same category, I won a third place award for my coverage of the Michigan Tech University Board of Control’s removal of President Curt Tompkins. I assembled three stories on deadline about the decision and its effect.

Results from the Michigan AP awards

This is my first “number one” award from the Michigan Press Association and the first time I’ve won more than one award in a competition. To date, I’ve won a total of six awards from the MPA and the Michigan AP Editorial Association for my work at the paper. To see the award-winning stories, please click here.

Here’s a breakdown of other Gazette award-winners:

  • The paper won first place in Special Sections for the annual magazine entitled Copper Country Snapshots. The magazine included short stories and photos sampling the different walks of life and activities in the region. I contributed several stories to the section as well as other reporters and photographers.

  • The professional walleye championship was another winner for Gazette writers who earned a first place award for its coverage of the pro walleye trail. Writers included writers Garrett Neese and Jim Junttila as well as former Gazette writers Kevin Colbert and Erik Johns. The series previously won a first place award from the Michigan AP for sustained coverage of a single sports event.

  • Gazette Writer Brad Salmen won a third place award in feature writing for his profile on Stephen Dresch of Hancock.

  • Former staff writer Zac Anderson won an honorable mention award in enterprise reporting for his series “The Final Bell” about the last days of White Pine High School. Anderson’s series previously won the sweepstakes award from the Michigan AP.

I’m extremely pleased by the number of awards that the newspaper has received. During my tenure at the paper, I always believed that The Gazette was the best publication in the Upper Peninsula. I was always willing to go the extra mile to make sure we were.

It is a shame that there are so many former staffers from the paper (including myself), but I hope these awards are a tribute to the hard work everyone contributed to the newspaper. When I think of these awards, I’ll always remember Archy, Barry, Beth, Bruce, Cathy, Dan R., Dan S., Dave, Elliot, Erik, Erin, Garrett, Ginger, Jeff, Jesse, Julie, Katie, Kevin, Mark, Marshall, Matt, Michele, Mike, Olivia, Pat, Peter, Roger, Serg, Steve, Will, Zac and everyone else.

DMG reloaded

Although I don’t visit this site as much as I used to, I’d like to note that The Daily Mining Gazette’s Web site has been relaunched.

I’m not going to comment too much on the new design, aside that it’s very similar to other Ogden Newspaper Web sites. I think a site refresh was needed — the old design was kicking around for awhile.

On the other hand, four years of excerpted Gazette articles have disappeared. A one-month archive takes its place.

Closing the blog…

With this year’s UNITY fading behind us, I wanted to close the book on my UNITY blog. I hope for many positive returns from the convention, and I want to stay in contact with the numerous wonderful people I met during those four days in August.

A note on the last update — I’ve transferred the posts stored on my eMate, but wasn’t able to immediately enter because of a lack of Internet access. To keep the entry dates straight, I’ve kept the original post dates but added a note that these posts weren’t uploaded until later.

Please direct comments to ryan -at- Thanks to everyone that made this convention such a wonderful experience.

Down to the wire

I was in a mad dash to the finish of the career fair Saturday morning, but coming under with a cold didn’t help matters much.

I think I did pretty well — I met a lot of great people and I think there’s some prospects out there. Finally there’s a couple of hours to catch my breath before I get to a seminar — hopefully it’ll be more vital than the broadcasting panel I found myself in on Wednesday.

Dinner with Connie

At the AAJA Gala Banquet at the downtown Hyatt. Although he didn’t speak, Chef Morimoto got a great reception.

Connie Chung dazzled the huge crowed with her take on the upcoming presidential election set to the tune of Love and Marriage. Although she’s no Sinatra, her lyrics were on the mark and the crowd responded appropriately.

I was very impressed with Chung after her speech, more impressed than I thought I would be. Her remarks were right on regarding how race and gender are portrayed in the media.

This post was originally created on Aug. 6, 2004. It was uploaded later.


I’m busy as a bee, but I’ll try to get back to this later.

I relaunched the blog with a standard template because it’s still not showing up on IE for XP. I’m none too pleased, but I need a quick fix until later.

Entering journalism arena

I’m writing from an Internet kiosk with many eager journalists waiting in line, so I’ll be brief. Kerry gave a well-received speech this morning. His speech was a good blend of his current campaign talking points and addressing the concerns of attendees. I hope Bush does this well tomorrow.

So far, the media and career fair is very useful for me — primarily for making contacts although the critique I received for news writing gave included some good pointers and positive feedback.

It’s fun trying to balance my time at the fair with the workshops and everything else I want to do in the Beltway. There should be some fun tonight at the convention hotel — many receptions will be underway.

I’ve jotted down many thoughts on my eMate. I’ll be updating the blog with these entries whenever I can.

First off: Journalism Arena

Why didn’t I sign up for UNITY six months ago? I found out yesterday that Iron Chef Morimoto would be at Friday’s AAJA gala. However, there’s a considerable waitlist with the show “sold out.” I also found out that he wouldn’t be speaking, but “attending.”

In addition to the Iron Chef, someone named Connie Chung is supposed to be speaking. However, seeing Morimoto in person would’ve made my day.

More later.


I can’t see the blog from where I’m posting at the career fair. I’m kinda hoping that it can be viewed elsewhere. I don’t know why it’s a big deal — IMO blogging typically means far more for the author than for the intended audience.

On the floor

On the floor of the career expo. Working on this entry while balancing the computer on one hand and typing with the other. It’s kinda awkward, but it’s working out.

Making good contacts that I’m definitely going to follow up on. Ran into former Guardian editor Grace. Still trying to develop my schedule, but there’s still a lot of people I want to meet.

Kerry gave an excellent speech this morning. Look forward to seeing Bush speak tomorrow.

This post was originally created on Aug. 5, 2004. It was uploaded later.