Journalism 133: Prof. Craig: Editing a Longform Story
Editing a Longform Story
The following story is roughly 1500 words. Reorganize and rewrite it so you think it works better. You may cut anything you like, as much as you want, but do not rephrase quotes. There is no fact checking required for this assignment.
You walk into a bar, and several patrons gathered around a table hoist their beer mugs and launch into a heartfelt rendition of "Hail Spartans Hail! Hail blue and gold! We pledge our hearts and hands to keep thy colors every bright...."
A drug-induced hallucination?
Not necessarily. But San Jose State University students who donít even know their school song, let alone their school colors, arenít alone.
SJSU serves some 29,000 students from a wide variety of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, with a broad array of interests and goals. Sixty percent are transfer students. Forty-one percent attend part time. Nearly half have permanent residences outside the county.
Such diversity breeds fragmentation and, given the sheer size of the student body, creates an environment many believe is poorly suited to development of a strong school identity.
The challenge faced by campus leaders struggling to unify students still enrolled at the university is multiplied for those whose interests lie in building and sustaining the relationship between graduates and their alma mater. On a campus where the ties that bind may be tenuous at best, alumni groups must also grapple with time and distance between SJSU and its graduates.
University groups spend "tremendous time and resources tracking down alums," said Janet Redding, assistant to the president, alumni affairs.
Redding, who received her teaching credential from SJSU 22 years ago, oversees the Alumni Association, which serves as an umbrella group for alumni organizations specific to individual schools within the university.
Presumably, public promotion by the alumni associations of SJSU enhance SJSUís image, generating pride and greater willingness to contribute time, money and talent, which nourish the institution, which enhances its image, and so forth. In a perfect world.
But in reality, Redding and her colleagues in the Alumni Association face a bumpy trail, though they greet it with optimism.
Frank Bisceglia, a graduate of the School of Business, shares interest in fostering positive perceptions of the university. Bisceglia is current president of the Spartan Foundation, a group of SJSU alumni and friends who raise funds for athletic scholarships and team travel benefiting more than 350 student-athletes.
Both groups face a "chicken and the egg" situation, where alumni must first feel pride in, and connection to, the university before they can help create the kind of image that inspires others to support it.
For some SJSU graduates, that emotional tie is elusive. And the problem may be as simple as low self-esteem.
"Our alums, for whatever reason, when theyíre in a room full of people ... SJSU people kind of hang back," he said.
San Jose, long in the shadow of San Francisco, has struggled against an inferiority complex of its own, and that sense of inadequacy has rubbed off on SJSU, according to Bisceglia.
And then, there are THE OTHER SCHOOLS.
"We live in the shadow of Stanford," Bisceglia allowed, and U.C. Berkeley is "another fabulous university," he said.
Though SJSU produces achievers and wins awards, the proximity of more prestigious universities make it "difficult for us to receive some of the accolades," he said.
Mercury News columnist Leigh Weimers, an SJSU graduate who has served on the Alumni Association board of directors and is now an adviser for university publications, said those educated at SJSU are viewed as well-qualified, well-trained individuals who are able to do the job.
For his part, Bisceglia would like to see the media help publicize positive aspects of the university.
Local media outlets consistently report the negative side of SJSU life, he said, while other newspapers throughout the state actively promote universities in their areas and even treat SJSU more kindly.
"I try to be objective" when comparing coverage, but "I think that they look for the bad going on at the university, instead of the good," he said.
It does, however, add to the challenge of inspiring alumni to support the university.
Redding, in fact, believes the makeup of SJSUís student body is the major reason for the shortage of graduatesí allegiance.
The average age of SJSU students is 27, according to the most recent numbers available, and many students find themselves juggling schedules to accommodate jobs, families and classes, Redding said.
As at other universities, SJSU students are taking longer than the traditional four years to complete college programs because of time conflicts and the trend toward completing courses not required for degrees, Redding said.
The fact that SJSU graduates are "not uniformly 22 or 23" means they may not identify themselves as class of 2016 or í17 or any other year, she said, and thus they are less likely to feel an emotional link to their classmates or their alma mater in general.
Because so many SJSU students work their way through college, they donít have time to participate in extracurricular activities that tend to a tie a person strongly to the university, Bisceglia said.
Both the Alumni Association and the Spartan Foundation, which share some members, hope their efforts to unify alumni through social and recreational activities will help promote support for the continuation of that tradition.
But Bisceglia, Redding and others would like alumni to view their contributions to SJSU as the real reward.
Weimers is a case in point.
"Iíve always had a soft spot in my heart for San Jose State," and working with the Alumni Association is his way of giving something back to the university, he said.
Financial contributions also enter into the picture.
But because it is funded by the state, SJSU has had trouble persuading would-be supporters that it needs contributions from alumni and other private sources, Weimers said.
Increased budget limitations have forced public universities to follow the lead of private institutions, Weimers said, which means using alumni contacts to solicit funding for grants, awards and endowments.
But SJSU and other public schools got into the money game late and are having to play catch-up, he said.
For the Alumni Association, recruitment of new graduates is the first step.
Upon graduation, students are given one free year of association membership and subscription to SJSU Digest, the monthly publication that serves as the primary voice of the Alumni Association and the university. Each year, about a third of the 4,400 or so graduating students accept the free membership, Redding said.
Thereafter, they are asked to pay annual dues of $25, which includes membership in alumni groups for specific schools. Somewhere between 11 percent and 20 percent pay dues the first year they are asked, but a "much higher percentage" join the second year they are billed, she said.
As of April 1, there were some 4,000 members paying annual association dues and 2,300 lifetime members, who joined with a onetime fee, according to Redding.
About 2,000 new graduates are expected to sign up for free membership this year.
The Spartan Foundation has membership problems of its own.
As of early April, members numbered just more than 1,000, said Angelo Aguiar, development director for the Spartan athletic program. That was down about 4410 members, according to a March 21 Mercury News report.
Bisceglia did not give reasons for the drop in membership but said, "A good portion are expected to renew this year" when they are contacted during the annual spring fundraising drive.
Regardless of the outcome, the challenge to garner strong support for the university will continue to exert pressure on Bisceglia. The foundation looks for help from local business leaders and others not already affiliated with the university, and therefore image plays a much larger role.
Even before the recent show of dissent and accompanying publicity, Bisceglia expressed concern about the foundationís ability to reach beyond the university.
"There are those, I think, who are benefiting from the university without putting anything back down," Bisceglia said.
Bisceglia. Redding and others try to fight apathy by encouraging students and alumni to take advantage of university offerings in the areas of theater, music and lectures to remind themselves of SJSUís value.
And people are attracted to academic events, she added, citing the standing-room-only crowd that turned out to hear author and SJSU alumna Amy Tan read from her best-selling novel, "The Joy Luck Club," in Morris Dailey Auditorium last year.
Both the Alumni Association and the Spartan Foundation also recognize room for improvement and acknowledge the tendency for others to view them as "closed clubs." To improve membership, they continue to make changes, such as bringing in development personnel and broadening publications. Both hope soon to have student representatives on board to increase communication with the student body and generate student interest.