Q&A with www.Jclassnotebook.com author Andrea Lorenz

This is the second in a series of Q&As we will be running with journalism teachers who run their own blogs or websites separate from what they are doing at school. Our second site is www.jclassnotebook.com run by Andrea Lorenz from Texas.

1. What is your name?
Andrea Lorenz

2. What is your blog/website URL?
www.jclassnotebook.com

3. What is the focus for your blog/website?
The main focus is to bring the best of professional online journalism to the classroom, with a secondary focus to chronicle the transition of a print-only program onto the web. I also share musings on journalism in general but try to always relate it to the classroom.

4. Why did you decide to create one?
I was in the process of creating new curriculum, lessons and resources for an online journalism program, and I wanted to have a site that compiled all of these resources for my future students. I also needed to experiment with different ways to create a blog/website to know which would be the best choice for the student-run site.

5. How did you gain the skills needed to run your blog/website?
I had started a blog when I was a newspaper reporter, so I had experience with that site’s content-management system and with creating content. The tech side came later.

At the newspaper, all I did was ask for the blog, and it was created like magic by the tech people. For jclassnotebook.com, of course, I was on my own. I had muddled my way through helping a group of students build a site the year before, so that was a good introduction. But the majority I learned by sitting in front of the computer over a couple of weekends watching tutorials and reading.

6. What benefits have come from running your own blog/website?
The blog gives me an excuse to interview people and find out what other programs are doing. It’s allowed me to share thoughts on journalism, and on a deeper level, reinvigorated my passion for it. Morale at daily newspapers right now isn’t the highest it’s ever been, as you can imagine, and I left the industry feeling pretty down about my choice of career, which I had once been so passionate about. I thought maybe I’d go teach kindergarten or something where “co-workers” are always happy. The research and networking I’ve done for the blog helped me see all of the innovative things going on out there, which makes me excited for the future of journalism.

7. Would you say your personal blog/website has made you more or less hands-on with the student site in your program? How so?
Next year will be my first with students, so I am not sure. The program I will be joining doesn’t have a website or any web presence, so I imagine I will be hands-on the first year while we get it going. I’m not sure how the blog will influence that, but I will be able to walk students through getting the site started and creating multimedia content, which I learned while working at a newspaper but have been able to learn more about while doing research for the blog.

8. In what other ways has having your own blog/website helped you in the classroom?
So far, it has helped me stay up to date on new technology, which I plan to incorporate into lessons for students to experiment with. It also gives me an excuse and push to try out new tools before introducing them to students.

9. What advice do you have for someone looking to build their own blog/website?
Find a topic you’re interested in because it’s time-consuming, and it shouldn’t be a chore. It’s something all journalism students should know how to do because of the opportunities out there to succeed as an entrepreneur and a journalist at the same time, and because of the increasing importance in all fields to create a personal brand.

Aaron Manfull

Aaron is in his 19th year of advising student media. He is currently the Director of Student Media at Francis Howell North High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He is the Journalism Education Association Digital Media Chair and co-Director of Media Now. He created The Next 26 and is a former Dow Jones News Fund National Journalism Teacher of the Year. He is one of the authors of the textbook "Student Journalism and Media Literacy." You can find him on Twitter and Instragram @manfull and on Snapchat as aaronmanfull. He's a proud father. A transplanted Iowan. And an avid Hawkeye Fan.

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