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COMS 404

Criminal Justice Honor Society Reactivates

A simple line on a resume, over looked by many is what the once inactive honor society, Alpha Phi Sigma was known to be. That is until this Radford University honor society was revived last semester to create a more substantial and rewarding experience for criminal justice students.

“We are trying to make APS more than just a line on our resume,” said Alpha Phi Sigma’s Vice President, Samantha Lynn.

APS’s purpose is to give criminal justice students the ability to experience an in-depth look into the criminal justice system with academic excellence. Through substantial resume building experiences, law enforcement involvement, range practices, introduction to professional members and the ability to interact with students and faculty who are like-minded.

APS offers members the ability to interact with officials from the corrections field, to local law enforcement and even to a federal level to create productive, educational and professional connections.

“I think every Criminal Justice student should consider joining APS. It’s a great way to get to know fellow CJ students, work closely with the CJ faculty, and establish professional skills and connections that will help enormously with the transition from school to the working world,” said Lynn.

With far less resources and individuals available like most organizations, since being reactivated APS has been built from the ground up by a small group of thriving, dedicated individuals who saw a future for the fraternity.

Academic achievement, community service, educational leadership and unity are aspirations set by APS for members to serve and lead within their own abilities while helping their peers succeed as well.  All goals instilled with in APS since January 1942 upon the creation of their national chapter.

To strive means to make strenuous effort toward achieving a goal. That is exactly what APS hopes to achieve with their current and potential members. Current and future members are required to have a:

  • Declared Minor or Major in Criminal Justice
  • Completed 40 General Credit Hours
  • Completed at least 4 Criminal Justice Courses
  • Undergraduate in major and overall GPA of 3.2 or higher
  • And Graduate GPA of 3.4

Along with academic excellence, teaching fellow students and members how to utilize what they have learned from their criminal justice courses by hosting fun and creative activities to interest students  such as mock crime scene investigations, is just an example of the ways APS continues to strive.

APS uses events like mock scene investigations to help their name become known to the criminal justice faculty and students, as well as a way to introduce professional ties with the Radford University Police Department after being in the shadows for some time.

Having been inactive for some time RU’s APS has always accepted members and still continues to open to their doors to criminal justice students who want to have a hand in “making it a fraternity that you can be proud of,” according to  the APS website.

“Even though there aren’t many of us right now we can all count on each other, professionally and personally,” said Lynn.

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Journalism Gets Digital

Carole Tarrant, editor of the Roanoke times, was recently brought to Radford University by The School of Communication to speak at the third annual Communications Week. A room of almost 100 chattering students’ faces illuminated by their cell phones filled the room Monday evening to hear about, “Journalism in the Digital Age.”

With technology advancing like the speed of lightening sometimes it’s hard to stay up to date on the newest evolution of bigger and better technology, no matter how hard the world tries.

Tarrant began her keynote speech with no hesitation; she started with an introduction to what measures The Roanoke Times has been taking to build a future in the digital age. Reaching 200,000 adults, The Times has only skimmed the surface of the digital world by creating etimes, allowing mobile access and sending breaking news alert texts.

As a West Virginia University graduate of 1986 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism, Tarrant has had her share of journalistic experiences over the years. After working all over the United States from North Dakota to Alabama and Florida, she became managing editor of the Times in 2005 and onto editor in 2007. Having always been a part of the journalism world, Tarrant has had a lot of experience in the progression of the journalism field.

“We are looking for answers in digital,” she said.

Many students are looking for answers too, not just for the digital age but for future careers.  Once a student herself, Tarrant came prepared to share her experiences over the years by giving tips about jobs to RU students. Some tips on how to get a job or keep a job that she explained were:

  • Invest in yourself
  • Be and stay flexible
  • Be ambitious
  • Think like an entrepreneur
  •  And always do what your professors say.

“You have to be a continuous learner. Just know you’re in journalism don’t get so focused on what you’re doing now, don’t do just one thing be flexible,” said Tarrant.

Tarrant explained that the journalism field is always growing and creating new jobs, in order to know that there are many jobs you have to be on Twitter and Facebook. “If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, I hope you are, if you’re in journalism you better be,” she said.

With advances in technology many still wonder, is there still a future for print? Tarrant believes that there will always be a want or need for print in the future, most defiantly in the next five years.  She expressed that the journalism world tends to forget what’s really important in print when we are chasing digital.

Many students, the majority of which were communications majors there for credit in their courses, attended but left with more than they had expected.

“I think that I just wanted to listen to all of the changing technologies in journalism. I am not very tech savvy, so I think that this was a pretty neat experience,” said Keelia McCaffrey, Journalism Major.

However there will always be differences in the world of digital and the world of print, for some it may come easy and for some it may come harder to catch up with advances but ultimately it’s all journalism.

“You don’t get into journalism for the money, if you don’t love, don’t do it,” she said at the end.

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Student Alerts Get Technical

After the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings that left 33 dead and 25 wounded, many universities have amped up their emergency alert notification systems.

A September 2007 study by the National Association of Attorneys General on the shootings brought to light many prevention- and response-related issues, which in turn sparked a revision of emergency plans and the implementation of crisis communication systems.

Virginia Tech began updating in fall 2006 and was in the last stages of vendor selections when the shootings took place.

Emergency phone keypad on Radford's campus. Photo by Brian Hollingsworth.

There are many forms of emergency notification systems used on Virginia campuses today. Radford University is one of many schools that have increased their alert notification systems. RU has nine ways students can be notified in the event of any form of emergency.

  • RU Alert notification
  • Campus IP Telephone   Reverse Announcement System
  • RU Active Crawl Computer Messaging
  • Campus Siren and Verbal Notification System
  • Campus Signage System
  • Campus Cable Television Interrupt System
  • RU Website
  • WVRU Public Radio
  • Facebook

Many of these are used whether it is threat to the campus or an extreme emergency. Multiple communication systems help inform, educate and ease rumors.

Media tools such as newspapers, social networks, television and radio are a quick way to release information into each college community. This is similar to the nationwide Amber Alert system.

“These technologies are a great asset to emergency management by allowing for timely notifications of all persons signed up and save us time and resources,” said Radford University Office of Emergency Preparedness Emergency Coordinator Todd Branscome.

Virginia Tech’s emergency notification alert systems have many similarities to RU’s. In the event of an emergency, the primary aspect is to protect and inform the faculty, staff and student body.

Each university is equipped with a set of Emergency Notification System Protocols, designed to give emergency personnel guidelines to the lowest level of decision makers possible.

These emergency alert systems can let both commuters and residents know if there is an emergency before arriving on university property. They can contact the entire student body and faculty.

There is always a fear that technology may fail when it is needed most. Even though there has been extensive research and many hours have been put into each of these systems, nothing is flawless.

“I think it’s a good thing to have when they work correctly,” said senior Rebecca Hallett. “Sometimes I’ll get the texts from them, but it will only be half the message. … But overall I think it’s a good way to let the students of Radford know when something is wrong, or if there’s a school closing.”

Implementing new technology varies between campuses within the testing and configuring stages. After measures are taken to alter these systems to the particular needs of a specific campus, they are launched to distribute timely and accurate information.

Will this abundance of notification systems increase anxiety within the university’s student body?

“No. As a community we have a keen desire for information,” said Virginia Tech Director of Emergency Management Michael Mulhare. “We do not use them for events, only … in event of emergency. The challenge is to get the message into 140 characters.”

This desire for information is a main characteristic in daily life on a college campus and is tagged with a price that varies throughout each university.

The cost of notification systems can be determined by many features, such as user fees and yearly costs with advancement of technology.

Virginia Tech has spent a substantial amount on this technology. With technology constantly changing, there are always new things springing up. They are working on a possible future application for smartphones, as well as voice-over technology that will allow students to hear what is occurring in the event of an emergency.

Social media is a rapidly developing source of communication in which many universities are looking to distribute information via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and other websites that are available to anyone who may or may not be linked to that university.

Many universities such as Virginia Tech encourage parents to stay informed about what is occurring on campus by encouraging parents to download VT Desktop Alerts.

According to a Nov. 2009 study by the TriData Division of the System Planning Corp. of Arlington, there were numerous problems in the way Virginia Tech responded on April 16.

Ultimately the hardest thing to do that day was to ensure that every person was safe. That resulted in new emergency alert technology, as well as future advancements, that will continue to improve to protect people on college campuses.

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Writing for a Lifetime

From writing stories about deadly car crashes to a woman named Elvis Presley, reporter Bryan McKenzie has experienced quite his share of stories in his 33 years of writing.

Once a full-time columnist, McKenzie now writes two articles a week for The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Va., covering just about anything.

Originally from Lansing, Mich., McKenzie enjoyed reading his local newspaper at an early age. With role models like Mark Twain, local professional journalists and his father, McKenzie always had an idea of what he wanted in life.

“You have to have integrity, boy,” his father always said.

At age 6, he dreamed of a career in law enforcement, like his father. Then, seventh grade brought new dreams of stardom as a rock star or novelist.

“If I could be a cop [or a] rock star who writes, that would be great,” he said.

By eighth grade, McKenzie knew exactly what he wanted to do in life and that was to write.

The Daily Progress. Photo by Creative Commons

“I was nosey … I liked to BS people and write, so I knew I could do all of this together,” McKenzie said.

After obtaining an associate’s degree at Lansing Community College, he went on to receive his bachelor’s in journalism and political science at the University of Minnesota.

Living in many different places after graduation, McKenzie never thought he would write for the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, where he has lived for the last 21 years.

“I thought I would be working for the Washington Post,” he said.

When preparing for an article, McKenzie does a Google search of the topic at hand. Depending on the subject, he might do a criminal history check to gather more information. Before the rise of the Internet, he used to sit down and make a list of questions to ask individuals.

“I hoped to be doing something fun like this,” he said.

Other than writing, McKenzie enjoys teaching others by instructing tai chi classes at the senior center and teaching Harley Davidson motorcycle classes in Albemarle and Staunton. Also, during his downtime McKenzie enjoys playing bass guitar, cooking and practicing other forms of martial arts.

“I think that when people remember what you do [that] is a good accomplishment,” he said.

Through his work, McKenzie is remembered by his readers.

“I really enjoy reading his work online,” said Kelley Cutshall, reader of the Daily Progress. “It’s easy to find and fulfills my news needs.”

With hopes to stay employed and retire in the future, he feels that there isn’t much he hasn’t covered. He said he will always look for that one thing that he hasn’t done and to say, “Hey! I know something about this.”

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Crime Shares a Story: Jorge Valencia

From the 4-foot cubical to a crime scene, it’s not a typical 9-to-5 career.

For Jorge Valencia, 27, it’s another day of exciting reporting. As The Roanoke Times’ primary dayside police reporter, he has covered many crimes that occur in or around Roanoke, including stories that range from the murder of a former Roanoke police officer to a pet ferret lost in the mail.

He said he got into a lot of music, like rock and roll around age 13, so with a new interest in music, he knew a career in media was a must.

Growing up in Maryland, he always knew he wanted to go other places, meet new people and explore, so he sought out journalism. Valencia said that his job gives him a license to talk to people about what they do and share it with others. He gets to see firsthand what people want to share.


Jorge Valencia. Photo by Creative Commons

After being accepted to the University of Maryland, Valencia joined the entertainment section of the school newspaper, The Diamondback.

“I initially wanted to do media, so I did entertainment,” he said.

Before landing a spot at The Roanoke Times, Valencia interned with many newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore Sun, The Miami Herald and The Akron Beacon Journal.

While he originally set out to write about media and entertainment, Valencia fell into crime reporting. He has been at The Roanoke Times for three years and has spent the last three months in the position.

From his third-floor cubical equipped with a pocket law dictionary, domestic violence handbooks, crime statistics books and Roy Peter Clark books, Valencia dedicates 40-50 hours to research, reporting, writing and exploring new ideas out in the field. Once a week, he contributes about five hours to working with local high school teens to coordinate a page called The Edge.

Reporting crime can be an emotional and challenging experience.

“There are a few challenges that I’m constantly working to overcome,” he said.

These particular obstacles are not to vilify certain areas as stereotypical and to not let the crisis of others affect him deeply.

Valencia uses music and running as a coping mechanism to deal with crisis.

“If one doesn’t have a way to deal with these emotions, it can affect the report directly because you’re regularly talking to people in crisis,” he said.

Keeping up with current music, meeting new people and hanging out with friends are a few interests he has outside of reporting.

Crime reporting is a process that can last a great deal of time, with cases lasting from anywhere between several days to several years. Valencia’s advice to aspiring journalists is to establish connections and relationships, such as joining a journalism conference or network in which you will come in contact with potential employers. This will give them a chance to gain knowledge from these employers in order to hone their technique for future employment opportunities.

When preparing for a story, Valencia said journalists should go in with an idea of a story on the particular subject at hand. When he prepares for a story, he goes in with open expectations doesn’t set a guideline on what the story will be about. He takes along his notebook and phone for pictures.

The most important thing for journalism students to look out for is that “people aren’t always going to like you; if you’re good at what you do, you’re not going to be very popular. Sometimes the hours will be long and news might happen when you’re not planning to be at work. The pay’s not amazing, but it’s a fun and gratifying job,” he said.

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