One of those surprises is the innovative multimedia collaboration that is Newsok.com, found right here in Oklahoma City. This online newspaper is creatively miles ahead of my other hometown paper, The Los Angeles Times, or any other metro online daily for that matter.
But a real shocker is the groundbreaking work being done in creating new media models at Ball State University in the somewhat obscure town of Muncie, Indiana. Much of the funding for this venture comes from a not-so-obscure guy with a very familiar face.
The hub of activity is the state-of-the art, three-building complex housing the College of Communication, Information and Media, overseen by Dean Roger Lavery, a former advertising agency executive.
If you have any interest in the media, or in what it might look like in the future, you should find time to get over and see this place, anchored by the new David Letterman Communication and Media Building. It is funded by, and named for, you guessed it: the Indiana-raised late-night talk show host, himself a grad of Ball State. In many ways, it reminds you of the beautiful Gaylord Journalism and Mass Communication Building at OU, with an even broader focus.
Three in One
But the Letterman Building is only one of three huge structures designed and crafted in the recent past and joined together under one gigantic roof with plenty of glass and skylights that serve as a metaphor for bringing light to the world through more creative and transparent communications.
The other two buildings are the innovative Ball Communication Building (the genesis of this complex) and the equally impressive, and as-yet unnamed, Arts and Journalism Building. Each structure houses cutting-edge classrooms, labs, and student media operations that rival many (and surpass some) professional media facilities.
Best and Brightest
This innovative college is staffed by some of the best and the brightest academics and professional media people who believe in taking their students on a journey of immersive learning through the various media labs, programs, and publications available to them. And some 2,000 students — undergrads and grads — take advantage of this, making BSU’s communication college the seventh largest in the country.
Among the innovations taking place here: One of the first — if not the first — fully integrated print, online, and broadcast news curriculums in the world. It’s a product of three years of collaboration between faculty of the Journalism and Telecommunications Departments, two divisions normally entrenched in turf battles at other universities.
As Ball State promoters say, “To create the best, you need the best. Our college has some of the most high-tech equipment to help you with your many projects.”
Some of the creative and cutting-edge facilities and equipment housed in the three buildings are:
* Five surround-sound editing suites and two surround-sound recording studios for digital cinema and video sound as well as music acquisition and mixing.
* WCRD-FM, a student-run radio station, and IPR (Indiana Public Radio), an NPR affiliate.
* The Center for Information and Communication Sciences, partnering with communication companies to carry out applied research.
* The Center for Media Design (CMD), a research and development facility focused on the creation, testing and practical application of digital technologies for business, classroom, home, and community.
* Two Sony 900 HD cameras—the same kind used by George Lucas and major movie studios—and the same Sony PD-150 camcorders used on the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch and in the field by A&E and CNN.
* The Ball State Daily News newsroom which houses both the print and online edition of the 14,000-circulation campus daily, and even has a platform studio reserved just for podcasts, and an area for its Newslink Indiana operation that provides online and video news feeds for Central Indiana.
* A newsroom and production studio for a full-color print and online magazine dubbed expo and Ball Bearings.
* A suite of offices for Cardinal Communication, the student-run public relations agency which takes on campus and professional clients.
* Offices for the American Advertising Federation, also student-run, in which students compete in national advertising competitions.
* Offices for J-Ideas that recruit and train aspiring high school journalists and which is part of a large, ongoing interaction the Journalism Department has with high school students nationwide.
* Photographic studios, digital graphics labs, and cabinets full of cameras and lenses.
* Eye-Track labs in which regular research studies are conducted on how readers and viewers process print and online pages.
* A visual animation lab, equipped with software and hardware to give students full access to the new field of interactivity.
* An array of audio and video editing software and equipment, including 30 Mac G5 work stations, each featuring Final Cut Pro and Adobe software products such as InDesign, Illustrator, and PhotoShop; three private post production suites; and one voice-over lab for additional/advanced dialogue replacement (ADR).
Following — and Setting — Trends
Much like the famed MIT Media Lab, the Ball State College of Communication, Information, and Media not only monitors and follows the trends in the various media; they are also setting trends and working on applied-research projects that produce demonstrative results. In the world of a media landscape that changes almost every week, facilities like these are needed to help shine a light through the chaos that often accompanies creativity.
The news and entertainment media are all asking the same kind of questions in today’s age of the virtual unknown. These questions come in different forms and may relate differrently to each media sector, but essentially they are the same: What are the killer applications that will make my media product so essential to the reader or viewer that they will choose it from the competition and support it through reading the ads as well as the editorial and entertainment content?
At a growing number of universities and research centers around the country, that question is being taken very seriously, and are the focus of much experimentation. Ball State University is one of the newest and most impressive of these centers.
And you thought Hoosiers cared only about basketball.