Archive for the ‘Student Work’ Category

Behind the Wheel explores transportation in Alabama

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.

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 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.


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 »

Alabama Newspaper Readers’ Mobile News Appetites

By Gigi Alford
Knight Fellow in Community Journalism, University of Alabama
[Download the research report]

Breaking local news is becoming modus operandi at The Huntsville Times. Following a series of fast-developing events in the early months of 2010, including tornadoes, severe winter weather and two school shootings, the newsroom staff is emerging as a force to be reckoned with on the Internet.

“This has been an exceptional year in terms of breaking news that got us prepared for the major 24-hour news cycle,” said Times social media editor Niki Doyle.

The Times is Alabama’s third largest metro daily newspaper with a daily circulation of 54,675 and Sunday circulation of 74,560, according to the Alabama Press Association. It was the first media source to break the news on February 12, 2010, of University of Alabama in Huntsville professor Amy Bishop gunning down her colleagues in a faculty meeting.  National reports attributed the information to the Times’ story, posted to the Web nearly an hour before local competitors reported on the shootings. Read the rest of this entry »

Untapped: African-American Mobile Users And The News

By Kiri Lanice Walton
Knight Fellow in Community Journalism, University of Alabama
[Download the research report]

In their search for new revenue and readers, news executives can look to an unexpected emerging market: minorities, and more specifically, African-Americans.  In a new survey of about 1,000 Alabama newspaper readers, 90 percent of whom were white and nearly 10 percent were non-white, minority participants more than whites had favorable views toward online and mobile news delivery.

Minorities reported being more likely than whites to download and use a mobile application if their newspapers offered one.  Minorities also reported that they prefer the Web to read their local newspapers more than the print version, as opposed to whites in the survey who prefer to get their local news from the printed newspaper more than the Web.

The Alabama research, an online survey conducted by Knight Fellows in Community Journalism at the University of Alabama, is imperfect because of the small number of survey responses from non-white newspaper readers. Still, the state findings are in line with the results of national research data. Read the rest of this entry »

Forging New Paths to News in Alabama

Wants And Preferences In Mobile Delivery
By Caitlin Bonner
Knight Fellow in Community Journalism, University of Alabama
[Download the research report]

When Oxford senior Erica Deramous was suspended for wearing a prom dress that violated her high school’s dress code, she became a multimedia phenomenon.

The story, written by Patrick McCreless and published in The Anniston Star’s print edition, also was featured on The Star’s website, Twitter and Facebook feeds, and garnered 157 comments on the website. Follow-up tweets from readers kept the story alive on the website for six weeks.

Multimedia director for The Star, Justin Thurman, said it is one of the most shared stories the paper had in early 2010.  “We pick the things we think will have the farthest reaching audience or will generate the most discussion. Anything strange or controversial will get linked a good deal from our Twitter and Facebook sites,” Thurman said. Read the rest of this entry »

Alabama’s Alternate Offerings: Adequate or Lacking?

By Shea Zirlott
Knight Fellow in Community Journalism, University of Alabama
[Download the content analysis]

Most Alabama newspapers so far are failing to use many new ways to reach readers with digital tools such as Facebook and Twitter and mobile apps.

This finding is from a new survey of the 123 member newspapers of the Alabama Press Association that was conducted in early February 2010 by the Knight Fellows in Community Journalism at the University of Alabama.

Not one of the newspapers surveyed was using all the tools on a list that included RSS, Twitter, Facebook, email alerts and mobile applications. In some instances, a tool may be present but not utilized to its full potential. This means, for instance, that a newspaper in Alabama has a Twitter account that is advertised on its website, but the newspaper has never tweeted or followed anyone. Out of the 123 member newspapers of the Alabama Press Association, 97 had functioning websites. Those 97 newspapers were further analyzed for their use of other digital tools. 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.