JMC professor’s Web site soars to greater heights

Rabab Al-Sharif

A Web site created and edited by Kent State journalism professor and pilot Joe Murray is gaining national recognition.

‘Stories that Fly’ wins BEA award

A Web site created and edited by Kent State journalism professor and pilot Joe Murray is gaining national recognition.

The site, “Stories That Fly,” which includes many student contributions, won an Award of Excellence in the documentary and informational category from 2010 Broadcast Education Association Media Arts Festival.

The BEA Festival of Media Arts is an international exhibition of faculty creative activities and a national showcase for student work.

When Murray came up with the idea for the site, he wanted to create an outlet that would stay true to general aviation, but he also had students in mind.

General aviation is under reported, misunderstood and a lot of the writing that’s done about it isn’t particularly factual, Murray said.

Along with that, he said he wanted to give students the opportunity to write about something different.

“I had just reached the limit of stories I had seen that weren’t fashionable,” he said. “Coinciding with that students were turning in more black squirrel stories, and I felt like if I had to read another story about a black squirrel I was going to lose my mind.”

Nick Baker, a senior magazine journalism major, got involved with the Web site when he was in assistant professor Jacquie Marino’s feature writing class.

Baker wrote about an Ohio-based aviation newspaper called Plane and Pilot News.

“For my story I actually got to go out the airport,” he said. “I was really excited when they wanted to meet and do the interview at the hangar and not at their house or over the phone. That was really cool.”

The site launched almost a year ago and covers general aviation in Ohio including Ohio’s 166 public airports, 772 private airfields and 18,000 pilots.

Baker said working on the project gave him a chance to branch out.

“It’s nice to be able to have something published somewhere outside of student media,” he said. “It was a different setting and different environment than being in a newsroom.”

The site has covered things like a woman hot air balloon pilot, the15-year-old daughter of a Hubel repairman learning to fly and a former steelworker from Youngstown who races pigeons.

“The stories are out of the ordinary I guess,” he said. “It appealed to writers; it appealed to photographers because they were getting out and away from campus to see new things.”

Dave Ranucci, a senior visual journalism and justice studies major, said while working on the project he got to fly and the photos he took were later picked up by a national aviation magazine.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s a good experience and it looks good on your resume, too. People like to see that you work on projects.”

Murray said that even if the reporters aren’t general aviation buffs, some of the skills carry over including searching for facts in areas the reporters aren’t familiar.

“If you don’t know something about technical subjects, go talk to the right people,” he said. “Go find the correct answers.”

The site isn’t about gears, technology and engines, he said. It’s about people.

“I don’t want aviation stories; I want stories about real people that just happen to be involved with aviation,” he said. “I always say that general aviation is full of good character, but also good characters.”

Murray said he is very proud that the photos taken for Stories That Fly, made up the first ever photo exhibit in Franklin Hall, and there have been more.

The Stories That Fly photo exhibit is now traveling around Ohio, and Murray is planning a book wrapped around photos.

The students that have worked with the site have generally come from one of the classes Murray teaches or are students of the other faculty members he works with: Marino, Gary Harwood and Teresa Hernandez.

He hopes to get more students involved, he said, and anyone with a desire and some motivation is welcome.

“What’s amazing to me is that the students approach these with very fresh eyes,” Murray said. “They look at it in a way that I typically wouldn’t and I couldn’t ask for anything better, that’s exactly what I want.”

Contact CCI reporter Rabab Al-Sharif at [email protected].