Inspiration and dedication

By Stephanie Hays

I may be a bit late posting my final thoughts about the Austin convention, considering we got back three days ago. But I think the timing still worked out alright considering The Pendulum came out today, the first one we’ve printed since we’ve gotten back from Austin. The first paper that has all the inspiration and excitement that came from the coffee fueled, student-media driven weekend.

Personally, I think it turned out pretty well. I talked to my design team about taking risks and making visually dynamic pages. We leafed through the nearly 20 different papers I picked up while I was there before sitting down to design our most recent paper. But it’s hard to convey the same enthusiasm and inspiration I picked up from the convention to my team. I can only hope that they felt the same way that I did (and still do).

Overall, Austin was such a valuable trip. I learned about typography, color theory, branding, and an awful lot about chicken salads. But almost more imporant than the sessions was that I got to look at so many different papers from different schools across the nation, and look at the lessons I had learned put into print. There were many front pages with great visuals, interesting design, and thoughtful presentation. I can only hope that The Pendulum also inspired some journalists there.

We also had the incredible experience of winning a Pacemaker, the second one The Pendulum has ever won. The shock and excitement I felt when they announced our name was a feeling I have rarely, if ever. And seeing the other schools, designs, and stories that won only furthered the ambition and drive to win another Pacemaker next year.

I think I ended up realizing that I love journalism more than I initially thought. And I loved being around people who felt the same way.

Credit where credit’s due

By Michael Bodley

About 48 hours ago, I sat mouth-open inside a ballroom in Austin as The Pendulum was selected for a 2015 Online Pacemaker Award. It still hasn’t quite sunk in.

The Pendulum has been nominated for an Online Pacemaker — considered one of the most prestigious honors in college media and awarded by the Associated College Press — for three years before this, and we’ve come up short each year. In 2009, and also in Austin, The Pendulum won its first (and only, so far) Newspaper Pacemaker.


Pendulum staffers in Austin after the award. 

It’s humbling. It’s fulfilling. And it’s proof-in-plaque-form of the endless hours logged by Pendulum staffers. From interviewing to designing, tweeting to color-correcting, staff members of The Pendulum constantly work toward making this a better organization. Much of that happens out of sight.

But it never happens out of a soon-to-graduate editor’s mind. In the above picture, I’m holding the plaque. But the recognition shouldn’t go to me. Please extend the congratulations to the dozens and dozens of staffers who have toiled to tack The Pendulum toward an online-first direction. Please thank them for making this a better news source with each passing semester.

I can’t wait to see what The Pendulum goes on to do after I’m gone. Expect great things.

Everything’s bigger in Texas

By Tommy Hamzik

ELON, N.C. — A day later, I’m still readjusting to being back in North Carolina because everything is so much smaller than it was in Texas.

[insert awkward silence after bad joke here]

It was a pleasant, fun and energizing weekend in Austin for the ACP/CMA Conference. I felt like I benefitted from most of the sessions I attended, and left with a lot of ideas and thoughts about The Pendulum and student media moving forward.

The trip itself was fun from the onset, and I feel fortunate to have been able to travel with Pendulum staffers and our wonderful adviser, Colin, again. I really did enjoy it.

Oh, and that extra hardware with the phrase “Online Pacemaker Award” on it isn’t too shabby, either.

Thanks for a good weekend, Austin. See you next time — at Champions, of course.


It’s a major award

By Tommy Hamzik

Inevitably, the response from my mother when told The Pendulum won a Pacemaker was “What does that mean?”

No, it has nothing to do with your heart.

It’s incredibly humbling and rewarding to bring back an Online Pacemaker Award from Austin. It’s the first for The Pendulum as an organization, and it comes six years after we won our only newspaper Pacemaker Award — also in Austin.

We’re constantly striving to be a digital-first news organization, with heightened focus on our website and social media opposed to the print edition. This award shows we are making progress in that regard (The Pendulum had been nominated for the Online Pacemaker three other years before this).

This was a full effort from countless staff members who have put in a lot of work, largely with no reward in return. I’m proud to be a part of it, and I’m proud to work with everyone who’s helped to make this happen.

Rethinking formats of sessions

By Tommy Hamzik

I went to a wider variety of sessions this year, with many focusing on broad student media issues and ways to be a better editor opposed to all the sports ones I went to last year. While it was good to hear from other editors about the issues they face and how they handle them, I felt like most of the sessions were largely unproductive.

They followed a very similar pattern: presenter speaks for 15-20 minutes before someone’s hand shoots up with a question, and then the floodgates open with more hands raised and more questions. Before long, the sessions would turn into students presenting their problems — most of which were unique to their school and situation, so not pertaining to the majority of the group — and asking the presenter for advice.

There’s absolutely a time and place for this, and this conference is a perfect spot to seek help from other student journalists and professionals about how to handle tough situations. But during a session, unless prompted, isn’t the best time. It wastes the time of other students who don’t face such issues and would rather hear more from the presenter about the topic of the session.

So talk to them after the session and get their contact information. Or mingle around in the lobby or near the table with all the newspapers. That way, it’s on your time, not others’.

Critiques (oh, critiques)

By Michael Bodley

I’ve been to three different College Media conferences now, and (counting website and newspaper) I’ve had six very different experiences with critiques. That’s mostly been a bad thing.

A disclaimer: A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to organize these critiques. And that’s a thankless process that the majority of complaining students don’t take into account. There are also logistical suggestions later that may not be feasible (though I think they are, but then again, I’m not in your shoes.) So, sincerely, thank you.

Critiquing a publication in less than an hour when seeing it for the first time simply does’t work, whether it’s a newspaper of a website. The comments are either simply superficial, or else design-oriented. It’s possible to make smart design suggestions in that time-frame, and we had one critique which did just that. He (names omitted to protect both innocent and guilty) came with real experience, and he was able to offer us advice on re-designing our paper that was both helpful and welcome.

Then, there was the other critique (again, name omitted). Our person showed up late, and she sat down and asked for a copy of the newspaper. This was for a website critique. Taken aback, we gave her one. The next 30-ish minutes (she left early) were full of pointless suggestions, painfully poor comments and assertions that were simply concerning.

Point being, the critiques at these conferences are subject each year to criticism from this blog and from our fellow attendees. A lot of work goes into setting them up, and I’m grateful for the idea. But to really make them worthwhile, critiquers need access to the publication beforehand. It’s as simple as a website link submitted with the signup form, or else a PDF or link to ISSUU for a print product.

We’re begging, College Media.

Sessions highlight room for improvement

Hali Tauxe

I think the appropriate word to describe today’s homecoming from the ACP/CMA Convention would be “downer.” Not that I’m not thrilled to be back in my own bed, but coming back from three days of high-minded reflection about the rewards and challenges of photojournalism to the minutiae and stress of actually trying to put images in the paper is a little bit jarring.

I filled my weekends with sessions devoted to photography. I tried to branch out, go to some sessions on writing, broadcast, and other lessons from the industry, but invariably they would be cancelled. And by cancelled, I mean I would wait in a room for 15 minutes until a general consensus was reached that no one would be coming to speak to us. This was the most frustrating part of my experience. And not all of the PJ sessions were as helpful as I wanted them to be, some were redundant, some entry-level, but taken together they gave me a pretty good impression of what I knew and what I still needed to learn –especially the latter.

My biggest take-away from this weekend was how hard good photojournalism is, but also how worthwhile. It’s going to take more work on my part, and the part of the staff photographers, to realize the goals I have for our paper, but I really think we’re up for the challenge.