Com-J students publish “State of Immigration”

The 2016-2017 Com-J special project, State of Immigration, is a special report that looks into the lived experience of immigration in Alabama in 2017. Built in the Atavist platform, State of Immigration was reported, edited, and produced by Masters students Samantha Hill, Thomas Howard, Keith Huffman, Chelsea Jarvis, Cameron Kiszla, and Benjamin Pockstaller.

Shadows of the System now live


The 2015-2016 Com-J special project, Shadows of the System, is an in-depth look at often overlooked factors affecting prison reform is Alabama. Built in the Atavist platform, Shadows of the System was reported, edited, and produced by Masters students Troy Herring, Kayla Howard, Tyra L. Jackson, Lee McCalister and Casey Voyles.


2014-2015 Com-J project wins SPJ awards

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Downstream, the 2014-2015 Com-J special group project, has received Region 3 Mark of Excellence Awards. The project was named a finalist in Online In-Depth Reporting and in Best Use of Multimedia.

2013-2014 Com-J projects are live

This year’s Com-J projects:

Open Arms | (Ryan Phillips)
A Tuscaloosa-area jobs board for people with disabilities.

All About the “G” | (Zac Al-Khateeb)
A profile of southern football culture in Gordo, Ala.

Oversupply: Unraveling the Student Housing Myth | (Taylor Manning)
A piece of explanatory journalism about off-campus housing in Tuscaloosa.

Food Insecurity | (Elizabeth Manning)
A map-based examination of food insecurity in the Tuscaloosa area.

Caregivers | (Laura Monroe)
A documentary project about four families caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s.

Brew Crew | (Elizabeth Lowder)
A video profile of Alabama’s craft-beer community.

Backwaters | (Tim Steere)
A multimedia storytelling project about Alabamians connected to the Black Warrior River.

Shelved project featured in national media outlets


Students in the 2012-2013 ComJ class collaborated with undergraduate journalism majors and The Anniston Star on Shelved, a year-long project to examine book challenges in Alabama public schools. This past Sunday, the Star published the first story in the series, Who decides which books are available in the state’s school libraries?

The Star/University of Alabama team set out last fall to collect all book challenge forms filed in the past five years in the state’s 132 city and county school districts and a few state-supported schools that aren’t part of typical districts. Some districts responded immediately; some responded after multiple requests for the forms, which are public record.

Media coverage of the project includes stories at, the Atlantic Wire, the Huffington Post, and the Daily Mail.

The 2012-2013 ComJ projects are live

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During the fall semester, the 2012-2013 ComJ students each identified a fundamental community problem and then conceptualized an innovative online approach to addressing that problem.

For the first eight weeks of the spring semester, with the assistance of students from the University of Alabama’s Computer-Based Honors Program, they produced first iterations of their projects and then presented them during the department’s annual JDay on March 14.

This year’s projects:

  • By combining written stories, audio, video and still images, Leah Cayson’s What is Beauty is a storytelling website for women on campus who have struggled with body image.
  • Madasyn Czebiniak’s Bike Theft project combines mapping, campus crime data about and tips on preventing campus bike theft.
  • Courtney Davies created MXcluvise to give an in-depth,photo-driven look into the world of motocross.
  • Debra Flax’s Braving the Homefront is a day-in-the-life multimedia series chronicling student veterans on the University of Alabama campus.
  • Sara Milledge’s Piper Place is an immersive narrative that aim to humanize mental illness by profiling a mental health community in Birmingham.
  • For her Eating Tuscaloosa project, Katie Turpen chose food as the lens through which to look at the intersections of UA students and the surrounding community.


The 2011-2012 ComJ Projects

The 2011-2012 Com-J projects covered cyberbullying, arts and the community, the effects of Alabama’s controversial immigration law, the working poor and the efforts of one small Tuscaloosa community to pick up after the devastating tornado of April 27, 2011. For more on the projects, click the links below.

With Alabama Immigration (, Kristin Shaulis aims to dispel rumors and present clear and concise information about HB 56, the tough immigration law that went into effect in fall 2011.

In a town dominated by football, Sarah Cole hopes her Arts Gang project ( will establish a greater link between local artists and the broader Tuscaloosa community.

Katie Wood’s Cyberbullying site ( will serve as a resource for parents, teachers and children on the realities and dangers of cyberbullying.

Through her Juanita Drive project (, Michelle Darrisaw will tell the stories of residents on one Tuscaloosa street that was “Ground Zero” during the tornados that devastated Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011.

Ana Rodriguez’s They Are Us project ( is an attempt to focus the conversation about HB 56 on the everyday lives of the immigrants most deeply affected by the new immigration law.

Alabama ranks sixth in the nation when it comes to people living below the poverty line. Erich Hilkert’s site about the Working Poor ( will broaden the discussion by exploring the idea of a living wage.

ComJ 2010-2011 “New in News” projects

Welcome to “New in News,” a roundup of digital news projects created by 2010-2011 students in UA’s Community Journalism Master’s program. Explore the four projects below, each of which informs and helps create community around specific topics.


Alaware: For her Alaware project, Kristen Klayko has digitized and added meaningful metadata to the entire Alabama state constitution — all 340,000+ words of it.

The project is fueled by the belief that in order to have a meaningful conversation about reforming the constitution, citizens of the state need to have easier access to it and more context to its content.



CrowdToPublic: Alison Smith’s CrowdToPublic takes journalists and other community storytellers through the step-by-step process of building an online news space. Covering everything from hosting to content management systems, from plugins to site analytics, CrowdToPublic gives an overview of options available to community journalists and suggests a “best practices” approach.



Overuse Injuries: Allyson Angle’s Overuse Injuries site is meant to serve as a community forum where parents, coaches, medical professionals and athletes can share experiences and information about a serious but underreported problem in youth sports.

Users can submit injury reports and use Google’s Body Browser to navigate through layers of injury hot spots. The site also provides resources and links to stories related to youth overuse injuries.




Blue Laws: The goal of Brian Anderson’s Project Blue Laws is to provide the Tuscaloosa community with context for the debate over laws that have traditionally governed alcohol sales.

The project aggregates work by Tuscaloosa-area news outlets, as well as opinions of Tuscaloosa residents, to look closely at all the angles relating to blue laws, and give easy access for an audience to look at these angles in depth.

This project is under construction and is coming soon.


ComJ: Master’s Program in Community Journalism

Do you want to explore new ways to serve communities through the constantly evolving practice of journalism?

Do you want to think more critically about the role journalism plays in the communities it serves?

Do you want to develop writing and visual journalism skills and learn more about digital media and news innovations?

Do you want to intern in the newsroom of the acclaimed Anniston Star newspaper?

Do you want to do all that in one year?

Learn more about ComJ.

Age Differences For Alternate Media Use

How Different Age Groups Use and Want Their News
by Howard D. Gaddy
Knight Fellow in Community Journalism, University of Alabama
[Download the research report]

When I was a general assignment reporter for a small daily in Jasper, Ala., the entire newsroom staff was called into the managing editor’s office to get our legs striped about wasting time on Facebook.  Had someone told me this extremely effective time-waster would be a major news tool in the next few years, I would have smiled politely and started slowly stepping away.

Shortly after I left the newspaper, however, that’s exactly what happened.  The assistant managing editor, James Phillips, got a promotion, and he started using the site as a way to provide breaking news to readers.

Within a year the small newspaper gained 2,699 Facebook followers, compared to the 4,071 Facebook followers of, the online home for Alabama’s three largest newspapers. Read the rest of this entry »

About ComJ

The University of Alabama’s one-year Master’s Program in Community Journalism, or ComJ, encourages students to think critically about the role news plays in community and to explore new ways to serve communities through the evolving practices of journalism.

Read more about the ComJ program.