11/14/2012 12:41 pm ET Updated Jan 14, 2013

It's War -- Teaching Dynamic New Media


If you Google "Top Journalism Schools", there is not a single article on the first page that doesn't mention UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communication's stellar undergraduate and graduate programs. I am a bit biased as a student of the J-School at UNC, but there's a discussion surrounding the curriculum of journalism schools across the country as the field undergoes massive fundamental changes.

The future of print journalism is uncertain -- the success of The Huffington Post online model and the transition of Newsweek to all-digital content after 80 years in print may be some indication of the future of reporting. As a public relations major, I've been taught that the condensation of beats at newspapers has forced time-crunched reporters to publish press releases unedited, changing the role and accountability of PR professionals and objective reporters. This election cycle has displayed unprecedented involvement through new media and social networking sites -- it's too early to state how these changes altered turnout and participation in the election.

As new and dynamic media begins to take a larger role in advertising, marketing and public relations, journalism schools can begin to modify curriculum to accommodate these transformations.

A coveted class in the UNC J-school is New Media Technology and Its Impact on the Future of Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations (NMTIFAMP). Despite perhaps the most cumbersome acronym of all time, the class investigates current and future markets in media: streaming video, AppleTV, Web 2.0 & 3.0, viral marketing, Pintrest and everything in between. So instead of a standard lecture format, two midterms and a final exam... our class is at war.

Our professor, UNC adjunct professor and founder of rAVe Publications Gary Kayye, assigned both sections of this class to each create a new media campaign and scavenger hunt to show the power of new technologies and its influence over publics. The section with the most participation and best utilization of new media gets secured entry into Kayye's even more selective class "Branding of Me," and everyone in the class gets an "A" for the grade and a Ben & Jerry's ice cream and pretzel party... so the stakes are high!

In order to garner attention on a campus of nearly 19,000 undergraduate students, we've had to identify and target opinion leaders in and around UNC. These have included a wide variety of students, businesses and public officials, such as our all-star tailback Giovanni Bernard, renowned restaurant and bar Top of the Hill and Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt. The campaign, called "The Fuzz," has a little fuzzball as a mascot and has participants use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to compete for prizes by completing a campus scavenger hunt -- tasks include taking a picture of a favorite napping spot on campus or enjoying a famous 32 oz. blue cup of beer at Chapel Hill's oldest bar, He's Not Here. The response has been fascinatingly high; though college students are well-known for the low threshold to acquire free food and swag, the social media response has been huge. The Fuzz has nearly 900 followers on Twitter , 600 likes on Facebook and series of three promotional YouTube videos totaling almost 2,000 views.

The campaign culminates in an event at Chapel Hill bar The Library on Friday, November 16, where participants will have more chances to win prizes. Though the class has had success with traditional media markets such as award-winning student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel for coverage, the power of social media has been thrust in the faces of the wide-eyed journalism students in my class, including myself. It allows for integration across multiple platforms, interaction with campus celebrities and measureable participation from all users of new media. So....Have you heard the Buzz about the Fuzz?