September 29, 2010

Journalism students to focus on Cobden, Alto Pass

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Students in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Journalism will again hit the streets this weekend to highlight two local communities.

From sunrise, Friday, Oct. 1, until sunset, Sunday, Oct. 3, approximately 30 students will chronicle the Union County villages of Cobden and Alto Pass with the multi-media workshop, “A Weekend in Cobden/Alto Pass.”

Mark J. Dolan, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism, said last year’s successful “A Weekend in Murphysboro” helped provide the impetus for this year’s workshop.

Cobden and Alto Pass are smaller communities than Murphysboro, but Dolan also sees many similarities, particularly when looking to tell a story.

“There are great stories everywhere. You don’t have to be in a big city to find good stories. I think what the students will gain is the intensive interaction with professionals who are there … to help improve their skills. It’s invaluable.”

Media Advisory

For more information on the “A Weekend in Cobden/Alto Pass” project, contact assistant professor Mark J. Dolan at 618/536-3361 or 315/882-2446, or by email at

The story settings are still developing but Dolan anticipates the communities’ strong agricultural history, including orchards and vineyards, to be a focus in the project. Residents of the communities seem to be very excited about the students’ efforts and “we are very excited about the potential for it.”

Cobden Mayor Molly Beckley and the Cobden Business and Community Association have been really receptive to the project, Dolan said.

Beckley said the project is “absolutely exciting.”

“We have a lovely town, a beautiful town. All we ever want to do is promote our village,” she said. “I love the idea that students will be involved.”

Students will use digital still photography, sound and video to document the communities. Students will bring their work for editing to a community center in Cobden -- a former feed store west of the railroad tracks. Some of editing work will also take place on campus, Dolan said.

Students will shoot their assignments, have the work edited, and receive immediate feedback for improving their work from SIUC faculty and the volunteer professionals, Dolan said.

“The ‘Weekend in Murphysboro’ project last fall was a terrific success in all respects -- for the students and for the community,” said Gary P. Kolb, dean of the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts. “The resulting images and stories have been widely exhibited in the community and showcased on the ‘’ website. It is a great way for the University to reach out to the region and produce something of lasting value for the communities involved.”

The Murphysboro project, which includes the website and traveling photo exhibit, has been very successful, Dolan said. A journalism class is designing and will publish an 80-page coffee table-style photo book of photos from that weekend, he said.

Kolb, Dolan, and William H. Frievogel, director of the SIUC School of Journalism, all said they hope the upcoming workshop also results in a website and book.

The weekend workshops “provide our photojournalism students a unique opportunity to work with some of the country's best photojournalists,” Frievogel said. “They also are a chance for the School of Journalism and the College to give back to a Southern Illinois community.”

Dolan became interested in profiling Cobden while working with students this summer on a documentary project on the migrant community.

Dolan hopes the community photo workshops become an annual event, with students then working on the website and book each spring. The workshops are not possible without the contributions of visiting professionals.

“That kind of intensity, coaching and editing that students receive is what makes it possible,” he said.

Budget concerns and reduced funding resources almost prompted organizers to postpone this year’s workshop. But several students who participated in the Murphysboro project expressed support for another project this year, Dolan said.

“We decided to try and do it on our own,” Dolan said. Some of the volunteers are coming at their own expense, and several are coming for a second year, he said.

“The photojournalism community is so good about giving back to the community and, in particular, things like this project that help the students, Dolan said. “We’ve got this incredible lineup of professionals who will be here as editor and coaches coming in to work with our students.”

Graduate student Julia M. Rendleman is one of several students who participated last year and persuaded Dolan to continue with the project this year. What students receive from the intense three-day workshop is beneficial, said Rendleman, who will graduate in December with a master’s degree in the Professional Media and Media Management Studies program specializing in photojournalism.

“It’s compact learning,” she said. “It’s a way to learn what you would over the course of a semester in a weekend.”

Rendleman said one benefit is visiting faculty discussing with students their initial photographs, offering ideas and suggestions how to improve them, and then allowing students to back and improve their shots right then.

“It was a great experience,” she said.

The visiting faculty newspaper photographers are: Chris Berry, The State, Columbia, S.C.; Elizabeth Conley, Detroit News; Jay Drowns, The Sporting News; David Grunfeld, Times-Picayune, New Orleans; Danese Kenon, Indianapolis Star; Erin McCracken, Evansville Courier; Chuck Novara, The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale; and Todd Panagopoulos, Chicago Tribune. Other visiting faculty include Scott Allen, regional director for public affairs, U.S. Department of State, Chicago, and Sean Gallagher, freelance photographer, sponsored by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.