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Network shows glitches

1/31/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Midway through its first year, Tiger Media Network, Fort Hays State University's convergent media distribution outlet, is a work in progress.

TMN includes print, broadcast, and Web journalism and social media.

After the 2012-13 Student Government Association funding cuts to the campus newspaper, the University Leader, FHSU President Edward H. Hammond formed a dissemination of news and information task force.

Last spring, the task force recommended the Leader, KFHS radio and KFHS television remain separate entities for this school year, and the new multimedia organization begin operation the fall semester of 2014.

That would give the university time to get TMN professional staff in place.

Rather than following that recommendation, TMN was unveiled in the fall of 2013.

"We didn't exactly do a phase in," said Scott Robson, communication studies chairman and TMN board member.

James Bell, one of two news writers for the Leader, said it would have helped to wait another year to converge.

"The Leader staff assumed they would be printing this year in the same way that they were last year," Bell said. "That would have been a big help."

More students from the broadcast team returned to join TMN than those from the Leader staff, resulting in just a couple of staff members with experience in print media.

"It's a different skill set. Functionally, it's still very segmented," Bell said.

"Being an organization that's never existed before on campus, there is no model. There is no road map. It does just kind of create challenges."

Some unexpected events have made the transition more difficult, Hammond said.

"We knew this year would be a transitional year," Hammond said.

Stephen Schleicher, informatics chairman and member of the TMN board, is leaving FHSU at the end of the school year.

"(Schleicher) has been in a critical role," Hammond said. "His leaving will be a setback."

A second setback came when the person offered the executive director position turned it down, he said.

The university will continue to search for candidates to fill the executive director slot and other professional positions.

Interim Provost Chris Crawford, who chairs the TMN board, said he is optimistic those positions will be filled.

It's just a matter of "finding the right person for those positions."

"I think we're moving in the right direction," Robson said. "It will be better when we have the professional staff."

Student involvement in the project also was low for the first semester.

Robson said he expects that to change this semester as students in the news reporting and editing classes begin to contribute.

FHSU still is committed to the project and "confident it's going to work," Hammond said.

"There are some good things happening," Bell said. "Years from now, this is going to be like a shining example of what journalism can be in a college level. ... Now, the growing pains are there."