Faculty presentations demonstrate innovative thinking

Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media and Design hosted two events on Tuesday to celebrate the creation of the new college. Instead of attending Professor Kennedy’s class, he invited us to the morning event. After Dean Xavier Costa’s welcome, 14 faculty members from the college’s disciplines each gave short presentations about their current research and project developments.

Professor Kennedy spoke about the New Haven Independent's non-profit and online-only model.

My favorite presentations came from two professors in the School of Journalism, of course. Kennedy, an assistant professor of journalism, spoke about his book in progress that will focus on the New Haven Independent (tagline: “It’s your town. Read all about it.”). The “newspaper’s” model is working as a non-profit, online-only publication supported by grants. Costs are kept low because of its online-only component. Five staff members travel the city on bicycles with cameras and notebooks in hand. As a result of the small staff, though, there are few in-depth investigative stories on the website.

Kennedy: If the public doesn't care about the news, then journalism is endangered.

When civic engagement declines, so does the public’s reading of newspapers, Kennedy said during his presentation. If the public doesn’t care about the news, then journalism is endangered. The New Haven Independent has a small readership compared to the city’s daily, the New Haven Register.

Another engaging presentation was given by Distinguished Professor Walter Robinson, who discussed the investigative journalism reporting class he teaches. Before beginning his teaching career at Northeastern in 2007, Robinson (commonly referred to as “Robby” by his students) was a member of The Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team. Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in his investigative reporting class have provided The Boston Globe with 18 page one investigative stories since 2007. In fact, I enrolled in his class during the fall 2009 semester. The class, consisting of four other students, produced a page one story about former Massachusetts Treasurer Timothy Cahill tapping firms to the state pension investor.

Professor Robinson's investigative students have produced 18 stories for The Boston Globe.

Robinson called his investigative seminar a “younger version of the Globe’s Spotlight Team.” Students “immerse themselves in the kind of journalism that changes people’s lives, and demonstrate Northeastern University’s commitment to involvement in the city,” he said. In the past, students have investigated Boston firefighters’ work shifts and pensions, which Robinson said has not created a friendly relationship between the School of Journalism and firefighters:

“If your wastebasket catches fire and no one responds, call the School of Journalism. We won’t necessarily extinguish it, but we’ll write about it.”

Other presentations I enjoyed included Justin Townsend’s speech about using light to shape scenes on theater stages. Townsend, an assistant professor of theatre, said he is interested in using real objects to light a space. Hilary Poriss, an assistant professor of music, shared her work that is focused on the history of Italian opera and product endorsement. Richard Strasser, an associate professor of music industry, spoke about the importance of social media when developing a brand image. Ann McDonald, an assistant professor for the Department of Art + Design, informed the audience about a project she is working on that teaches sixth to eighth graders about the effects of their transportation choices on the natural world. Murray Forman, an associate professor of communication studies, has focused his work on hip-hop. He concentrates on the longevity of hip-hop, which has existed longer than many people believe.

From the event, I learned that faculty in the College of Arts, Media and Design are engaged in intriguing projects. Northeastern has several masterminds working on different projects in various departments!

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