So you want to be a journalist in the 21st Century? Lesson 1: Learn to love Social Media

May 7, 2013 Leave a comment

Twitter Handle: @touche_tomshea

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As a consumer of social media, I would say it is a great way to help me write a story. Because the people that I followed were all baseball writers and reporters, their inside information would be a great tool for me to get the scoop on the latest breaking stories, and would offer a variety of different opinions and takes on certain matters. Also, if I were to follow other writers and reporters, then I could get their perspective, perhaps some non-sports perspectives, that would allow for any story that I write to appreciate a macro-perspective. Their ability to retweet where they got their information from would allow me to trust, or not trust, what they are saying, and if their source is trustworthy, I can then follow their source, thereby eliminating the middle man, and helping me get my story out sooner.
As a curator, I wanted to incorporate a mix of both reputable and personal reports from the event. I was glad I was able to use some from places like The Mirror and the Connecticut Post, as that information is more trustworthy than a random student or person saying it. However, I also wanted to get the regular people’s perspectives, as they were eyewitnesses to it all, and proved the quotes and opinions that are good to have in any news story. The transitional paragraphs helped my story flow better because without them, it appears just to be a collection of pictures and videos and tweets, with a general theme, but nothing to really connect them. The way I used the social media components and the transitional paragraphs created a chronological angle for the story, as I was able to explain why I included the video at the beginning, even though it is from two years ago. Then I was able to trace the events of the day by using both the transitions and the social media aspects to describe what was happening at particular times.
As a creator, I have been live-tweeting events and games for The Mirror all year long, so this was nothing really new for me. Tweeting a sporting event is usually pretty simple, as you just have to describe the action in front of you, and they really provide the story, without you having to do much digging or interviewing people. The game went off without a hitch, and it was even Senior Day, allowing for more of a story to come from it. I had no issues at all doing it, and will continue to do it in the future, and encourage all Mirror writers to do it for any event they cover, as it gives the readers a much better and up to date experience.

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Fairfield University’s Swimming and Diving Team’s Swimming Lessons for local kids

April 16, 2013 Leave a comment

Anyone who has ever booked and paid for a trip for a group of people knows how expenses add up quickly.

There are travels fees, hotel costs, meals to be purchased, and any activities done will usually cost more money. Every additional person brought on the trip seems to make it cost twice as much, making travel by large groups seem impossibly pricey.
Now imagine multiplying those costs by 42, or by every member of the Fairfield University men’s and women’s swimming and diving team. And that is not even including coaches.
Every winter break, the swimming and diving teams travel to Hawaii for a few weeks of intense practice. However, as is easily imaginable, these trips get very expensive, and the team must foot the cost somehow.
That is why the members of the team sacrifice four hours per day for about half a dozen weekends in the spring to offer swimming lessons to local children. Junior Margaret Osmulski heads the program for the team, and said that the money earned will go towards their trip this coming January, where they have been going for the past four years, as their head coach used to be a coach in Hawaii, allowing them to get free pool time.

“This is my third session that I’ve done. In the past two, we made about 29,00 dollars,” said Osmulski.

This year, the team brought in more money than ever before though the program, bringing in around 25,000 dollars. The program also saw a record number of kids enrolled, leading Osmulski to believe that the program is just going to continue to grow.

“Pretty much the whole team participates,” said Osmulski, “you don’t have to do it, but most people choose to.” However, the members of the team have learned that it is not just about getting the money brought in; they also develop relationships with their learners.

“I find it to be a lot of fun, and it’s really fulfilling,” said sophomore swimmer Meredith LaBerge. “Like today, when I saw that girl swim for the first time all by herself, and I saw the smile on her face, it was really fun and great.”

“It’s fun team building, because we all do it as a team,” said sophomore Alyssa Acompora, “we all get in the pool together, we all make jokes with the kids … it’s awesome for us to raise money, and be able to go on our training trip, and these build all types of responsibility for us too.”

“It is [a fun event], and a lot of people do get babysitting jobs, things like that through it, and a sense of community,” said Osmulski.

The children meet with the same member of the team for each lesson, which helps the children establish a bond with their teacher, allowing them to trust them more, which can be key for the younger swimmers who are still overcoming their fears of the water.

“I’ve had the same family since I was a freshman, and I’m a junior now, and I’ll probably have them again next year,” said Osmulski. “It’s nice to see them grow.”

The swimming lessons finished the second weekend in April, and will pick up again in the fall when the students return from break, as they hope their learners use what they taught them all summer long in their own pools.

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Google Mashup Experiment

April 8, 2013 Leave a comment

I chose to use the Google Maps feature for this story because the ground covered by the students I feel like is not well perceived just by reading about it alone. By seeing the distance, and looking at the websites of the organizations that they worked with, as well as seeing the pictures and the video of what their experience was like, the reader can best guess what it was like for the students who went on the trip.

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Five shot method

March 29, 2013 Leave a comment
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Michael O’Keeffe: The man behind the jerseys

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

To many at Fairfield University, the most important part of knowing junior goal keeper Michael O’Keeffe has nothing to do with soccer or his New Zealand accent.

“If you can name me a dozen people on the planet that are more universally well-liked than him, then I’d give you a million dollars,” said junior Tom Freda.  “But I’ll let you know now, you’d be wasting your time.”

Freda has lived with Michael O’Keeffe for two years. By now, most people can name a few things off the top of their heads about their roommates that annoy or confuse them. But when it comes to O’Keeffe, Freda couldn’t come up with a single legitimate thing.

“I don’t think myself a bad person, but compared to Mike, I’m like a despot,” said Freda, with a laugh. “That’s about the worst thing I can think of about the guy.”

O’Keeffe, the junior goalkeeper for the Stags’ soccer team and reigning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, was selected to join the team for the Olympic qualifiers held earlier this month. After the team won the Oceania Football Confederation qualifiers, congratulations poured onto O’Keeffe’s Facebook, many of which coming from teammates, friends and classmates.

This does not come as a shock to many who know O’Keeffe personally however, as he is known around the university for his vivacious personality. WVOF Sports Director and broadcaster Ivey Speight, who has known and worked with O’Keeffe for almost three years, calls O’Keeffe “one of the most dedicated people that you’ll ever meet.”

“I’ve never seen a harder worker than O’Keeffe,” said Speight. “He’s not only a varsity athlete, he’s one of the best soccer goalies to come across Fairfield, and he’s never said to me ‘I can’t do a game because of time commitment’ … I don’t know how he finds all the time to do [all the work].”

O’Keeffe’s hard work is most obvious on the playing field, and those who are around him have taken notice.

“It’s the drive that he has. He’s one of those players who is always here, always putting in the extra work,” said Amelia Zammataro, a Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer who has worked closely with the team over the past two seasons. “He’s just got a real commitment to playing and performing the best that he can.”

Perhaps a testament to O’Keeffe’s determination came after the interview with Zammataro was over, and someone else in the room who is involved in the athletic center chimed in adding, “Did you mention that [O’Keeffe] is the hardest working person we’ve seen here?”

Apparently O’Keeffe’s reputation precedes him.

“He’s a real leader on the team,” said Zammataro. “You can see it in the way that he acts on the field, outside the field, and all the players, and everyone around here has that respect for him as a leader.”

O’Keeffe, the 2011 Fairfield Male Athlete of the Year, will look to surprise some people and bring home some hardware with his teammates this summer in London.

But if you ask Michael, the native of the small town of Blenheim, New Zealand, who unofficially started playing soccer at age three, taking credit or bringing attention to himself isn’t something he likes to do, and credits others for a lot of his success.

“There have been lots of people who have driven me, but coming from a really small town, I’ve pretty much lived my entire career since I was 15 away from home. So the support of my parents has actually gotten me to these places,” said O’Keeffe. “I could have the most drive in the world, but in the end of the day, my parents are the ones who allow me to go to these places. It’s really credit to them.”

O’Keeffe is quick to credit his coaches he has here, especially his goalkeeping coach Javier Decima, for “always [being] out there early with me.”

The decision to travel almost 9,000 miles from New Zealand to Connecticut would be one that not many people would make simply for college. But for O’Keeffe, the decision was made a little simpler.

“I was at a crossroads between going pro, or scrapping the football side of things and just going to university,” said O’Keeffe. “And coming to the states in general allowed me to merge those roads together.”

After talking to a former assistant coach at Fairfield, O’Keeffe was prepared to make the trip, a decision he does not regret in the least. “Just being at Fairfield, I get kicks out of it,” said O’Keeffe. “I’m here most of the year, so for me Fairfield is home. I still get a buzz when I come back to Fairfield.”

For a man who will be competing with and against some of the greatest athletes in the world in a matter of months, O’Keeffe is still a college student at the core, describing some of his favorite memories as the times he’s spent at the campus cafeteria with his friends and teammates.

“I used to love Barone [the student cafeteria]. I used to hang out there for hours. I’d eat my meal, and the soccer team would just hang out and chill.”

And spoken like a true college student, the one thing that O’Keeffe is most excited about the Olympics is not the high-end hotel or the time spent in a foreign country. Instead? The 24/7 McDonald’s  in the Olympic Village.

“You wake up at 3 in the morning, and really want a Big Mac, you just walk outside into the Olympic Village, and get yourself a Big Mac and go back to bed.”

All the recognition that O’Keeffe has received has also not deterred him from what he views as his current goal: graduating from Fairfield with a degree in New Media. When asked if he would leave Fairfield this year if a professional team came offering him a job, O’Keeffe said “probably not.”

“That was a big reason for me coming over here [to Fairfield], was to get what my parents call a parachute, something to fall back on, if the soccer doesn’t go well. For me, finishing my degree is obviously as important as playing on the world stage, and one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been here is balancing those two.”

O’Keeffe said that he has learned a lot from his experience with the New Zealand team, especially from fellow goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, who plays professional in the MLS for the Portland Timbers.

“One thing that I really learned from Jake [Gleeson], now that he’s fully pro, he’s really gotten me to enjoy football again, as crazy as it seems. You sometimes get yourself into a hole, training every day, it becomes monotonous, just doing things for the sake of doing them,” said O’Keeffe. “He really got me to get the enjoyment back. That’s the biggest thing I learned from that whole tour. I’m glad, because it takes a huge weight off your shoulders.”

O’Keeffe has every right to boast about his accomplishments. He was the best goalie in the MAAC all season, and one of the best goalies in the country. He was arguably the best player on a team that was ranked in the top 25 poll at one point this season. He will be in the Fairfield Hall of Fame at some point in the future.

And yet, when someone like Speight thinks of O’Keeffe, those are not the first things that come to mind. They may not be among the first ten.

“Those [accomplishments] are the things that you shouldn’t forget about, and yet you do because of his personality,” said Speight.  “He does not have that ‘I’m better than you’ mentality.

“He brings a lot of energy. He is one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. Sometimes you can’t help but smile. He has that effect on people.”

O’Keeffe certainly has a lot to look forward to in the coming months. However, his goal here at Fairfield has not changed: Repeat as MAAC champions, and go further in the NCAA tournament.

“After the Olympics, it’ll be our season at Fairfield,” said O’Keeffe. “There’s some unfinished business to handle there…As much as I’ve let it go, there’s still a bitter taste in my mouth.”

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Fairfield University bomb scare, 10 years later

May 9, 2012 Leave a comment

A shoebox, tin foil, and some wire. That was all that was needed to send panic through the region and destroy a university’s sense of security.

Canisius Hall, the site where Arbelo took a whole class hostage for about 7 hours.

Ten years ago this month, Patrick Arbelo walked into Dr. Elizabeth Dreyer’s “Voices of Medieval Women” class in Canisius Hall, and with an apparent bomb in his hands, held the class hostage for over six hours. More than a dozen TV trucks set up satellite links on campus, news helicopters buzzed overhead, and Fairfield got a dose of unwanted worldwide publicity.

“The first experience was surprise,” said Dr. Dreyer, talking about how she felt when Arbelo came into her classroom, “The second feeling was disbelief. We were thinking ‘Is this really happening?’, because it was so out of the ordinary.”

With the help of Fairfield Police, as well as federal agencies like the FBI, all of the hostages were eventually released, and Arbelo was brought into custody shortly before 11p.m.

Since that day, there have been no incidents that have garnered nearly as much state and national attention here on campus. Police say they learned some lessons that still guide their actions today, and several questions remain.

How effectively was the last hostage situation actually handled? What could’ve been better or what could have changed? Is Fairfield ready in the event that another hostage situation occurs on campus?

“We are much better prepared for a crisis situation today than we were back in 2002,” according to Todd Pelazza, the Director of Public Safety at Fairfield University.

Despite being overall pleased with how the negations went and how the situation turned out, Pelazza did admit to some areas that could have been better handled. “First and foremost, we would’ve gotten the message out,” says Pelazza. “For example, we told our dispatchers to not give out any information. We realize today that is not the right method. You want to get the word out as soon as you can and as accurately as possible.”

The switchboard for both Public Safety and Fairfield Police were inundated and overwhelmed, according to Pelazza, which added to confusion. And as a result of the incident, Public Safety now utilizes unified command system in which streamlines communication between the different branches of authority in the event of another crisis.

Lieutenant James Perez of the Fairfield Police Department, who was on the scene back in 2002 as a member of the SWAT team, shared Pelazza’s regrets about not having a plan already in place. “The one thing I wish we had done is I wish we had a protocol in place for that type of situation,” said Perez. “We would have had the press better informed and at a distance. We also had politicians come down, and they were able to walk freely, almost within 300 feet from the bomber, and we’ve learned that’s not a good thing.”

Fairfield Police have also trained a special team for that kind of situation, said Perez, and they have a great relationship with state and federal agencies, allowing them to work more quickly in times of crisis.

However, not everyone praised police handling of the case. One long-time critic says the police over reacted in the aftermath of the Twin Towers bombing in New York, which occurred five months earlier.

“It was the most disgraceful overreaction, and Patrick Arbelo was a victim of 9/11. It was the hysteria of 9/11 which caused this,” said Dr. Donald Greenberg, a politics professor at the university who witnessed the incident. “People knew that it was Patrick in the room, and anyone who knew Patrick knew what a troubled young man he had been. He was legally blind, there was no way on God’s good earth that Patrick could’ve put together a functioning bomb, and people should’ve known that.”

“I don’t care what they say about ‘We couldn’t take any chances’ or any stuff like that, we knew who the person was,” said Greenberg. “Patrick needed to be dealt with medically, not criminally.”

Greenberg was especially unhappy with how the authorities were quick to label what Patrick had as a bomb, considering his background. “He was legally blind…he had no technical skills whatsoever, he had no science courses. If you looked at the box, which you could see through the window, you would’ve realized what a joke it was,” said Greenberg, “…he had this silly little box that no more could be a bomb than I could be Mr. America. It was just an absurdity.”

Arbelo, pictured above, was committed to a mental hospital for 6 years before being released in 2009.

Arbelo was later found not guilty by reason of insanity of 27 counts of first-degree kidnapping and one count of possession of a dangerous weapon, according to the Mirror. A judge ordered Patrick be committed to a maximum security mental hospital, where he stayed until he was released in 2009.

Pelazza feels law enforcement was justified when they acted the way they did. “We did not know this at the time, but it was a facsimile bomb, which was in perfect working order, but did not contain any explosives. We had to act as if it was a real bomb.”

In addition to being critical of how the situation itself was handled, Dr. Greenberg attacked the administration for not handling the events that followed any better.

“They put the kid in jail, and let him rot in jail for close to two years….Our university and our president [Kelley] and our upper administration did nothing to stop that, they did nothing to interfere,” according to Greenberg. “Not only did we not act courageously, we acted in the most despicable way possible.”

“Any attempt we make to argue that we needed to do it because it was the age of terror, is somewhere between mendacity, hypocrisy, and just trying to cover yourself for behavior that you knew was despicable on your part. I think it was handled terribly.”

Dr. Dreyer was not critical of how the situation was handled, calling it “amazing”. However, she brought up another point: how many students are actually aware of this event happening 10 years ago?

“Most of our students don’t even know this happened,” said Dreyer. “I had one class where I brought it up as an example, and two out of 30 students had heard of it.”

No matter if students have heard of the Fairfield University bomb scare or not, Lt. Perez wants students and everybody associated in the community to be aware, so that it doesn’t have to be relived.

“Everyone must be security conscious…to prevent something like this from ever happening. Nothing actually happened [in 2002] but it could’ve been horrible,” says Perez. “ It is important that if students see something that is not normal, then let us know.”

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Student Voting: Apathy or Ignorance?

May 4, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Tom Shea

Young voters, especially college-age students, swooned for Kennedy in the 1960 election. Will that kind of support ever happen again?

In the 1960s and 1970s, college students promoted democracy in action, with protests and sit-ins to let Congress know they had a voice and they planned on using it.  Today, it is those same radicals who are now begging the voting-eligible youth of this country to exercise their right to vote.

But the message is apparently falling on deaf ears.

According to the United States Census Bureau, there were over 28 million college age men and women eligible to vote in the last presidential election. Less than half reported they voted in 2008, and just 19.5 percent said they voted in the 2006 Congressional elections.

Why are the numbers so low? Many experts point to political apathy on the part of the students.

Dr. Donald Greenberg, a politics professor at Fairfield University, believes in the theory that there is a “total lack of interest” on the part of student-voters. “There is no relevance (for elections) in the minds of students,” said Greenberg, “and many have little knowledge regarding candidates or the elections in general.”

Dr. Greenberg associated the lack of knowledge with the small number of students who get their information from reputable or reliable sources.

“How many (students) read good newspapers or watch political talk shows?”

One look at the demographics of networks such as CNN and FOX NEWS will show that despite decent ratings overall, mostly older people watch news channels, as younger people watch more sports and television dramas than anything else. They would rather get their information from Jon Stewart rather than Wolf Blitzer.

“The media tries to encourage (student participation), even networks like MTV attempt to raise awareness,” said Greenberg, “But it has little to no effect, because (students) simply don’t pay attention. There are many shows completely dedicated to politics, but they just don’t get watched.”

Further proof of student apathy was given when the candidates for Connecticut governor Dan Malloy and Tom Foley came to Fairfield for a debate. The response by the students was lackluster at best, as there were barely any students in attendance to begin with, and most of them were only there because their professors told them to go.

Candidates for Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy and Tom Foley debated at Fairfield University in the Fall of 2010, but did the students did not seem to notice.

Some political groups, such as the College Republicans, believe that there is some sort of social stigma attached to voting and political activity. “Many students don’t want to talk about politics, because it’s somewhat of a taboo issue,” said Gabriella Visconti ’12, the Senior Political Advisor for the College Republicans at Fairfield University, “It’s a risk to talk about it because not many people really care, and even those who do, you risk not being on the same side of the argument as them.”

Connor Wolfarth ’12, the Chairman of the Fairfield University College Republicans, agrees, and believes most people who do bother to bring it up just agree with their parents.

“Students either don’t have the time or don’t care to make their own political opinions, so frequently they just identify themselves as whatever their parents are,” said Wolfarth, “they lack strong (political) convictions.”

A voter registration drive, sponsored by the College Republicans, in the fall semester was met with “moderate success”, and Wolfarth noted that there was still “lots of room for improvement” when it comes to awareness on campus.

Visconti agrees. “On FUSA election day, people walk through the BCC and see the voting machines, and are like, ‘What’s going on?’, and that’s sad and needs to change.”

National Picture

The lack of student participation in campus elections is not an isolated accident by any means. An article on the University Wire revealed that in the early to mid 2000s, the University of Arizona was getting percentages in the teens for most years, but it has been slowly increasing ever since.

In a related University Wire article, at Iowa State University officials were thrilled to be getting 25 percent of the students out to vote. Their excitement may be due to the fact that ISU only expects to get about 12 percent of the student body each election.

Both of these universities are much worse off than Fairfield in terms of student participation, but the national picture in regular elections is not much more inspiring.

Despite the down numbers, the number of college students voting on a national scale has remained rather balanced over the past decade or so, according to the Census Bureau. There is a slight increase in participation among men age 18-24, jumping from 31 percent to 41 percent between 1998 and 2008.

That is where the good news ends, however, as overall student participation in national elections has diminished significantly over the past 40 years. In 1972, 50 percent of all 18-24 year olds voted; today a little over 25 percent vote.

How Fairfield Measures Up

Fairfield University is no exception when it comes to campus elections. In the 2001 FUSA elections, about one third of the student population participated in the vote, equating to about 1100 students. In 2003, that number dwindled to 974, just below 30 percent of the student population, and then fell to 892 in 2005, which is about 26 percent participation.

The record low was in 2007, when Hutch Williams ran unopposed for FUSApresident and just over 700 students came out to vote. That’s only 21 percent of all students.

Many voting booths like this remain empty on election day for FUSA

Since then, a goal of 1300 student voters has been the norm for FUSA elections, according to a past Mirror article, with about 1100 showing up each year, or approximately one third of the student population.

Jim Fitzpatrick, the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, has noticed a change in political activism among students throughout his years at Fairfield. “There used to be more activism lead by students, which would then be covered by the newspaper (The Mirror),” said Fitzpatrick, “Now a journalistic piece will create a reaction out of students, which will sometimes lead to activism.”

“There’s something that has changed. It feels as if students are more comfortable with things the way they are than ever before, so there’s no need for activism and politics.”

Fairfield Students’ Thoughts

Fairfield University students have mixed opinions regarding voting. Freshman Chris La Greca was in favor of voting in national, state, and even local elections, but viewed campus elections as “a meaningless gesture.”

“I just don’t see the use in voting in an election where I don’t even know what the candidates stand for,” said La Greca, “It’s basically comes down to how many people you know and how many people know you.”

In a poll of Fairfield University students, about 38 percent of students said they did vote, or would have voted if they were of legal voting age, in the 2008 elections. However, only 25 percent said they voted in the 2010 Congressional and Gubernatorial elections.

In addition, approximately 30 percent of students confirmed they voted in the FUSA elections.

One student who proudly utilizes his right to vote is senior Peter Sweeney, who has voted in FUSA elections in each of his four years at Fairfield. “Voting is just one of those things that makes you feel like your opinion matters, no matter what level the election is taking place on,” said Sweeney.

“If everyone held such a low opinion on voting so as to not go out and vote, our government as we know it would stop functioning, and we could essentially enter another Dark Age.”

“I think one reason one people don’t vote is to avoid being labeled,” said Meghan Hamel ’11, “because no matter how you vote, republican or democrat, you’re going to be labeled as that type of person and viewed differently.”

Dr. Greenberg did offer one way for the numbers to improve: social networking.

President Obama, embracing social networking, taking questions from Facebook users in a Town Hall format. Video below

“Barack Obama appealed to the younger generation in 2008 through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as, and if he hopes to continue to get the young people’s vote again, he will have to keep appealing to their likes,” said Greenberg.

One thing is for sure—if you are looking to see some improvement in student participation in national elections, it would be better to wait until 2012, as odd-year elections are less attended, for every age group.

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