Month: February 2017

Vince Beiser delivers talk on how he worked against the grain and uncovered the global war on sand

Multimedia journalism by Mariah Posey | Feb. 27, 2017


Vince Beiser shows how much U.S. Sand and Gravel Production has increased over the years.

By chance, the story that would gain support from the Pulitzer Center and lead him to writing a book on the same topic was one that was only stumbled upon by the award-winning journalist. When Vince Beiser discovered his story on sand, he proved that great journalists are ones who read and follow through.

“I do a lot of international stuff so I just read a lot of off-beat publications and I just stumbled across this study about the sand mafias in India,” Beiser said. “Come to find out in India, it’s a huge story. Every single day there’s some story in the India Press about sand mafias.”

Luckily for him, the pitching process was a simple one due to his established rapport with Wired magazine and his editor.

“They know me and I know them, and it makes the whole process a lot easier,” he said. “Wired is so picky. They don’t assign many stories. I just crossed my fingers and they said yes.”

Since then, Beiser has been cracking away at his on-going project on the deadly war over sand while taking on a number of smaller freelancing jobs along the way. During his career, he has travelled to India, Dubai, China and all of the United States completing in-depth reporting and has written for esteemed publications such as Wired, The New York Times and The Atlantic.


Photo by Vince Beiser | Sand dredgers in Poyang Lake by Hamashu village.

Sand is more than grains of rock


Vince Beiser explains how sand is used in the construction of buildings and cities.

According to Beiser, sand is the most important solid substance in the world. It makes up our concrete, windows, computer chips, phone screens and more.

“It’s the literal foundation of modern civilization,” Beiser said.

It’s all “just sand,” but Beiser said the urban boom is depleting sand worldwide with constant growing city populations. Riverbeds are being destroyed to gather enough sand to support the infrastructure of numerous buildings. Lake Poyang for example, China’s biggest freshwater lake and the world’s biggest sand mine, has 30 times more the amount of sand being scooped out than the amount that flows in from tributary rivers.

Although there are some ways sand can be recycled, Beiser said there isn’t much to be done on a large scale to substitute its use.

“Just the sheer mass we’re talking about, there’s just nothing else on this planet we have that much of,” Beiser said.
beiser-pullBecause of the immense damage being done, governments all over the world are trying to control sand mining. But where there is law and order, there is crime. There has been a rise in illegal sand mining as well as the formation of sand mafias, leaving some unfortunate souls murdered over the valuable resource.

According to Beiser, this lifestyle is bound to be short-lived.

“This whole model of living we have in America is just not sustainable,” he said. “We’re running out of oil, we’re running out of water, we’re running out of fish. We’re just consuming too much.

“We’re just eating this whole planet.”

The American example has also rubbed off on other countries. According to Beiser, with an insanely large and increasing global population, there will never be enough to go around.

“The entire developing world is growing and becoming richer and they want to live like we do, and who can blame them?” he said. “There just isn’t enough stuff on the planet for everyone to live that way.”

The art of freelancing, writing in-depth and self-promotion

Beiser said freelancing “has never been an easy way to make a living,” especially when doing substantive journalism. But it’s still his source of income. Although he said it’s reporting the issues that concern him, he also has to look for different ways to sell it.

“Part of being a freelancer and part of being a journalist is you’ve got to self-promote,” he said. “I’ve got my own little list of radio hosts and TV bookers.”

With enterprise stories such as the ones Beiser takes on, there can sometimes be a competitive nature present. While following his story in India, he bumped into a guy from The New York Times who happened to also be working on a sand story. He knew he had to beiser-tipspick up the pace somehow if he wanted get his out first. Within about three week’s time, he was able to write the story based on the information he had compiled so far and post the story on the web two months before it was meant to be published.

“That one I actually did in a big hurry,” he said.

As a freelance journalist, Beiser explained the challenges faced when trying to determine where to start with finding sources.

“Because I kind of jump from topic to topic, I don’t really build a network of sources like a beat reporter does,” he said.

He suggested reading other stories that have been done involving a particular topic and finding the activists related to them.

“Once you poke your head into that thing, whatever it is, they know the other people to talk to,” Beiser said.

While scoping out the right people to talk to can be difficult, Beiser said that actually sitting down to write everything is typically less stressful. Though he used to overwhelm himself by going over everything before starting to write, he learned that making a bare bones draft and building from there was the best way to begin.

“By the time I’m done all my reporting, I’ve got a pretty good idea in my head of how the story’s going to go,” he said. “I literally go through all my notes and plug stuff in.”

Polar Extremes: Elon Community Connections Panel discusses the effects of America’s two-party system

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 22, 2017


Photo by Mariah Posey | Moderator and panel members (left to right) Naeemah Clark, John Hood, Carrie Eaves, Chris Fitzsimon.

Regardless of political standing, questions regarding the current state of American politics stump many people. Is it fair? Is it what the Founding Fathers envisioned? When thinking about the results of the last election and how Americans are voting, Carrie Eaves, assistant professor of political science, says she learned we are “extraordinarily polarized” under the two-party system. She described what took place as a “social phenomenon.”

“We did see — and continue to see — because our political debate is so charged, people are hesitant [to voice their opinions],” Eaves said. “It makes it a lot harder to have those discussions.”

To create a safe space for that conversation, Elon University in collaboration with the Burlington Times-News presented a panel themed “The Role of Government and the Future of the Traditional Two-Party Political System” Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. in McKinnon Hall. It was the second installment of their Community Connections forum series, aimed at initiating thoughtful dialogue surrounding the contemporary political environment.

The event ran as a Q&A session where both moderator Naeemah Clark and audience members were free to pose questions regarding government and panel members took turns responding.

Q: What role did third-party candidates play in the election?

Although third parties don’t have a strong history of winning elections, Bernie Sanders (who ran independent during the 2017 election) received more votes than third parties usually get according to John Hood, political commentator and president of the John William Pope Foundation. When Republican leaning voters weren’t sold on Trump and democratic voters lost fervor their candidates, they turned to Sanders.

According to Hood, third parties begin to underperform when they gear their campaigns towards appealing to crowds that are firmly for another party instead of the people who will likely vote for them.

Regarding presidency, Eaves didn’t see room for a third party to win anytime soon.

“The bar is set by the two existing parties, intentionally very high,” she commented.

Hood agreed that the likelihood of a presidential win for a third party was slim, but maintained that they could have a significant effect on politics.

“I think we’re going to see three parties actively competing for presidency [in the future],” Hood said.

Q: Does the Republican party now sign off on Trump’s ideas?

Associate Professor of Communications Naeemah Clark, moderator of the event, identified President Donald Trump as “a third party candidate who was smart enough to join the Republican party.” Afterwards, she posed a question regarding what a future Republican party will look like.

Hood said he didn’t believe Republicans had a singular party anymore.

“I think it’s the Republican parties,” he said, referring to them as the grassroots republicans, capitol hill republicans and Trump republicans. He described the three parties as three wrestlers in a ring.

“One hasn’t thrown the other to the ground yet,” he said.

But Chris Fitzsimon, founder and executive director of NC Policy Watch, disagreed that there were Republican parties and said rather, that Trump was appealing to the other two.

Q: What is the role of the government and different political parties in a non-election year?

Until it became a political liability in the 90s, Hood said that senators used to live in Washington and have families and churches there. They went to church with Democrats. Because that doesn’t really happen anymore, the opportunity for mature verbal exchange is limited.

“That reduces the social ties that allows people to argue with each other without bickering with each other,” Hood said.

Because of this, Hood says the two political parties are more ideologically sorted than they used to be. But Eaves believes it’s the job of the people send them back if they don’t serve our needs.

Q: How is Twitter and the trope of mainstream media changing our democracy? 

People are too able to block out ideas that don’t align with the ones they already perceive to be true according to Hood.

“The internet allows us to cocoon ourselves in our own little worlds,” he said. “People will simply read more and more things that reinforce their preconceived notions.”

The problem with that, Eaves said, is that “people just take in that information and don’t even realize their consuming it.”

Furthermore, the overload of sources gets mixed into the conversation according to Fitzsimon.

“Obviously with the internet, all you need is a webcam and a microphone and you’re a news source,” Fitzsimon said. “We’ve gotten to a point where that’s a part of the debate somehow.”

Q: Would it be better devolve power away from the national government? 

According to Eaves, there’s no clear answer from the Constitution regarding how much power states should have and that laws only work to confuse and muddle them further. But she thinks that giving the power back to the states to determine elections wouldn’t work.

“Some states are very solidly red and solidly blue,” she said. “Other states are pretty evenly split … so devolving power back to here wouldn’t really solve that problem”

Fitzsimon also agrees that giving states too much power could be problematic.

“Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of geographic entities bumped up against each other,” he said.

Q: Is the new protest system sustainable? 


Photo by Mariah Posey | John Hood responds to a question asked by moderator Naeemah Clark.

Clark commented on the new protest system that was emerging as of the latest election and asked whether or not it could last the next four years. According to Hood, its redundancy would eventually lead to apathy.

 “We see it all the time,” Hood said. “Every week there’s a new protest. ‘What’s the cause this week?’ I’m not so sure it’s a trend that’s going to continue in its current powerful form.”

Eaves agreed that four years was a long time to sustain the protests, but recognized their power when they lead more progressive actions.

“One of the things I was intrigued by with the Women’s March is that after the Women’s March, the next few days they held conferences to train women how to run for office,” Eaves said. “So instead, giving people tools to put these things into action and step out and attempt to run and serve … Those sort of kernels and seeds that are being planted, we could see those effects in two to four years down that road.”

What’s left unsaid

Amongst the many topics brought up — the role of third-party candidates, the impact of the internet on the election, protest culture— Fitzsimon was most amazed by the one discussion that was missing from the conversation.

“Imagine if I would’ve sat here four years ago and said, ‘Guess what’s going to happen in the election?” Fitzsimon said. “Russia is going to break the law, commit felonies, steal private information and publish it to try to influence our election to elect one candidate or not. You guys would have thought I was out of my mind and you would have said, ‘That would be the biggest story in politics ever and it’ll cause a dramatic national investigation and we’ll have all this huge uproar in America about it.’ It hasn’t even come up tonight.’

“That’s amazing to me if you really stop and think about what that means for our democracy and our republic and our future … It’s unbelievable to me.”

“I’m starting to think this audience is really full of Russian agents,” Hood said.

Fitzsimon nodded before responding. “They might be,” he said.

The world’s deadliest terror group is also the most uncovered — Elon University Boko Haram Panel

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 15, 2017


We know of ISIS, of Al Qaeda, of the attacks in Paris, of the crisis in Aleppo. But what about the massive tragedy that’s been going on since 2009, caused by what the Global Terrorism Index considers to be the deadliest terror group of the world: Boko Haram? In order to initiate necessary conversation surrounding the massive terror group’s impact, the Elon Politics Forum (EPF) hosted a panel Wednesday, Feb. 15 7-8p.m. in the McBride Gathering Space in partnership with Elon African Society.

The panel answered a series of critical questions: what can regional governments and United Nations do to promote female equality; how does the country go about achieving economic equality; what do we tell those persecuted because of Boko Haram? However, amongst these, one question in particular stood out and set the tone for what the major takeaway of the event would be.

“Why aren’t international terrorists like Boko Haram being covered on an international level?” asked sophomore Thomas Armooh, moderator of the event. It was one of the few questions that evoked a passionate response out of each of the panelists.

Expanding our worldly outlook


Photo by Mariah Posey | Boko Haram panel members: (left to right) Bridget Smith, Dr. Ariela Marcus-Sells, David Olatidoye, Muhammad Musah.

“There’s this perception that ISIS and Al Qaeda might come here and hurt Americans … but Boko Haram is focused on first Nigeria and then Africa,” said senior panelist Bridget Smith. Because there’s no direct threat to America, she explained, “They’re easy to discount. They’re easy to dismiss.”

But that dismissal is exactly the problem according to senior panelist Muhammad Musa, who says that in order to see real change, “international cooperation is essential.” As a reporter stationed in Lagos, Nigeria for eight months, Musah was closer to Boko Haram’s threat than most will ever be. He constantly covered the mass killings and wrote headlines like, “14 Murdered in Bomb Blast,” but says even he recognized the apathy around him.

Because the people of Lagos felt distant from the terror going on just north of them, they lacked consideration. When people aren’t connected, Musah said, they don’t care. For him, that is why the educational aspect of Nigeria’s conflict with Boko Haram is so important.

Education is important, but so is money


Photo by Mariah Posey | Senior Prateek Patel introduces topic and panel members

“There has to be an effort to talk to these Islamic teachers and tell them that it’s important to take away any radicalization in teaching,” he said.

One of the issues brought up in the panel was the lack of enforced education in Nigeria and how it perpetuates the negative impact of Boko Haram by ostracizing girls who are kidnapped by them. Because these girls are often raped and end up having the children of Boko Haram members, they are distrusted and rejected. Their infiltration has become so regular that even the government can’t decipher who’s a part of the terrorist organization and who’s not.

“Although education may lead to stability, it does not lead to jobs,” Marcus-Sells said.

Often, Nigerians feel immense financial pressure and view joining Boko Haram as a quick way to get paid. Musah seconded her statement adding that, “In a country like Nigeria, if you’re not connected to power you’re not going to touch money. So you going to school is a waste of your time.”

Marcus-Sells asked why a parent would risk their source of money to send their kids through years of schooling.

“If you don’t have an answer to that question, then none of these initiatives will ever work,” she said. “It almost feels like a disservice to have them spend four years getting that education for nothing to come out of it … In order for there to be that education, there needs to be employment.”

Elon’s Role

When asked what role students can play in aiding Nigeria’s cause, Marcus-Sells advised that whenever we have the means to give, to do so in a way that goes directly to the people in need. According to her, local organizations are more effective than larger ones such as the American Red Cross.

“If you can bypass the large aid organizations and go directly to the people already there … that can be really helpful,” she said.

She encouraged students to take the initiative to further educate themselves on foreign affairs, especially in countries like Africa and post the news that they find.

“For every negative article you post, post three positive ones,” she said. “People assume that all the things happening in Africa are terrible [and] they get exhausted because we all get exhausted by sadness.”

Lastly, she advised to not get caught up in the pressure to act on a large scale.

“My advice to students on all levels,” Marcus-Sells said, “[is] if you think smaller you might actually have a larger impact.”

Profile & feature story writing: the importance of good listening and scoping out the human interest

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 15, 2017
Once a ploy to increase circulation, stories that focused on the “human interest” were deemed as yellow journalism. But in modern times, good journalists have learned that even hard news benefits from elements of a feature—scenes, anecdotes, and voices of the people involved. More importantly, they’ve learned that journalistic integrity does not have to be compromised to evoke a good story. In fact, the best stories are those that are honest, fair, and thorough. They can even “reflect powerfully upon the issues of the day,” according to chapter seven of America’s Best News Writing: “The Profile and Feature Story.”


Graphic by Mariah Posey

Below are distinguished examples of journalists who remembered how to be good listeners and found the human interest in their stories.

Cynthia Gorney – “Dr. Seuss: Wild Orchestrator of Plausible Nonsense for Kids” (1979)20434

When Gorney profiled the acclaimed children’s book writer, Theodor Seuss Geisel, she captured the storybook essence of his character. The precise details she was able to pick up are due to nothing less than pristine attention paid on-the-scene, and it won her the ASNE award for feature writing in 1980. Even more impressive is her ability to jump in and out of the story, finding a neat balance between telling us what we should know and then letting her writing show us for itself. For example, telling us that Geisel had struggled over his Lorax character for a full year, and then showing us through Geisel’s own reflections:

“’I hadn’t thought of the Lorax for three weeks,’ Geisel said. ‘And a herd of elephants came across the hill … And I picked up a laundry pad and wrote the whole book that afternoon on a laundry pad.’” (p. 172)

Saul Pett – “Koch Grabs Big Apple and Shakes It” (1980)

saul_pettPett takes pride in taking the unconventional route and doing more than what’s called for, and it shows in his 1980 piece on popular New York City mayor, Edward Koch. His 65-word lead takes the times describe the many quirks of Koch’s being: “irrepressible,” “impolitic,” “unsexy.” His summary of it all? “Clearly, an original.”

Instead of focusing on mundane facts, he brings Koch’s character to life weaving history and current-day happenings into stream of narrative. It was this skill that led him to win both the 1981 ASNE award for non-deadline writing and a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing.

Mirta Ojito – “A Sentimental Journey to la Casa of Childhood” (1998)

mirta_ojito-e1407185554203In Ojito’s account of life in Cuba, she reminds reporters of the importance of living in the moment. She even said that she could not take much credit for what manifested in “A Sentimental Journey” because she “just sat there and it happened.”

Though untraditional, Ojito chose to write the story in first-person, illustrating the discontinuity between the memory and reality of her childhood home. And though specific to Cuba, she wrote in a way that could relate to readers across the board in reveling the call of an old childhood nickname and the comfort of family household items. Through her point of view, she establishes that Cuba remains undivided despite propaganda campaigns.

Ojito’s ability to let the scope of her experience guide her writing not only earned her the front page of The New York Times, but also the 1999 ASNE award for covering the world. 

David Finkel – “For Lerro, Skyway Nightmare Never Ends” (1985) 


In his 1985 piece, Finkel places his focus on John Lerro, the man who drove a huge tanker into the Sunshine Skyway Bridge the day a big storm hit. He chronicles the day it happened, Lerro’s history and the after.

While interviewing for the story, Finkel mentioned how important it was for him that Lerro not tell him how everything happened, but show him through his movements and actions. The success of his approach is reflected in his writing and won him the 1986 ASNE award for non-deadline writing.

Tommy Tomlinson- “A Beautiful Find” (2003)

tommy_tomlinson1Tomlinson turns math into a thing of beauty in reconstructing the four-year quest of mathematician John Swallow to solve a problem that no one else had yet been able to. He uses an interesting question format to guide his narrative, and uses quotes sparingly in order to highlight the ones that offer “deep insight” into his subject.

With his piece, Tomlinson demonstrates his grasp on the story when he bring it full circle by writing that Swallow’s left eye brow rose up after finally solving the problem, a small detail he planted in the lead of his article. It won him multiple honors, including ASNE award for profile writing.

Blaine Harden – “Life, Death and Corruption on an African Mainstream” (1987)

0lgw1l4rUsing Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” as inspiration, Harden covered the African river trip as a way to educate readers on the country of Zaire and the effect of its leadership. But above all, he made sure his voice shone through countless revisions.

“I spent a tremendous amount of time writing the first 25 to 30 paragraphs of the story I rewrote it maybe 35 or 40 times … I wanted to have elegant language there … I wanted to have some echoes of Conrad there, but I also wanted to have my own writing.”

Throughout his article, Harden references Conrad and the imagery displayed in his novel while weaving in his own observations and discussing the changes. He relies heavily on two archetypes according to ABNW: “the river as a symbol of the flow of life, and the ship as a microcosm for the world.” Though literary in nature, Harden’s writing won him the 1988 ASNE award for non-deadline writing.

Ken Fuson – “Ah, What A Day!” (1995)

kenfuson_lr1Weather has proven to be one of the most symbolic tools in storytelling and Fuson uses it as a tool in his 1995 piece to reflect deeply on the human experience. Challenging himself to write a truly short story (as a reporter used to long, in-depth pieces), he succeeded in writing efficiently, yet impactful. As a reporter, he reminds us that all forms of short writing including headline, photo captions and news briefs when mastered can act as small gifts to readers. Even his lead is simple and to-the-point: “Here’s how Iowa celebrates a 70-degree day in the middle of March.” However, how Fuson propels his challenge to the next level is by continuing to write the rest of the article in one seamless flow of narrative, compacting it all into a single sentence. His is the type of writing that reminds others of the daily surprises a day can bring, and gets them to enjoy it.

More Examples of Feature Writing

Sam Anderson – “The James Franco Project” (2010)

In Anderson’s06-samandersonphoto-articleinline piece, he draws from one of the first tips of feature and profile writing: find the human being behind the celebrity. In his in-depth following on James Franco, he does exactly that, using a series of quotes as the format to break his coverage up and move the story along. He also uses quotes sparingly choosing rather to depend on narrative, but makes use of meaningful dialogue when relevant.

Julia Keller – “Part 1: A Wicked Wind Takes Aim” (2004)

unknown7Keller also knows the value of a good weather piece as shown in her article covering the 2004 tornado that ripped through Utica, Illinois for 10 seconds. Her telling is the opposite of Fuson’s in many ways: it’s long, it isn’t a bright retelling, and it makes use of several quotes and perspectives. But it works. She pays particular attention the logistics of the event, using it depict the horror that can happen in a simple 10 seconds: “It’s a long, deep breath. It’s no time at all.” Her reporting won the 2005 Pulitzers Prize for feature writing and serves as yet another reminder than nothing beats shoe-leather journalism.

Gene Weingarten – “Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out.” (2007)

As weingarteng0-van experiment to test just how busy the people a part of D.C.’s rush hour are, The Washington Post got professional violinist Joshua Bell to play the violin posted up on a wall of the Metro. Though Bell is considered one of America’s great musicians, many passerby ignored the stellar performance or offered chump change before moving on with their day. Weingarten was able to capture the nerves of Bell as well as the general atmosphere felt in the Metro as many D.C. residents felt too preoccupied to stop and enjoy the classical tunes. His chronicling of the event won him a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2008.


A ‘light-hearted’ card making event at the Maker Hub

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 13, 2017


Photo by Mariah Posey | Valentine’s Day cards created by Maker Hub staff using a vinyl silhouette cutter.

What better way to tackle complex machinery than to make Valentine’s Day cards with it? To celebrate the heartfelt holiday and kick off the 2017 year, the Maker Hub hosted their Crafty Cards event 7-8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13 in Harper Hall using a vinyl silhouette cutter to create fun Valentine Day cards.

“It’s the best piece of equipment in here for making cards and we figured Valentine Day cards were something that a lot of people would like to do based on what people have come to for past events,” said Maker Hub employee senior Sabrina van der Gracht. “The two seemed to go together and it was a good way to bring up that piece of equipment.”

To get attendees familiar with the equipment and software being used before jumping in, the event began with a step-by-step tutorial displayed on an overhead screen.

“It just shows a grid which is how the program works,” said sophomore Anthony Fraden. “There’s also a grid on a pad where you place the paper so it shows you how to size in one-square inch. Then it’d be basic cutting tools and basic ways to design shapes and different card styles so that we could make cards. We just go through the process doing some trial and error with different images and ultimately got some really cool cards out of it.”

Fraden described hub events as a “light-hearted space where everyone can be welcomed.” Although some of the equipment available in the hub can be challenging and require skill, he says that for the most part everything is open and accessible to everyone. While some things may require minor supervision, nothing is explicitly off-limits.

“Sometimes there [may be] little aspects about it that people don’t quite connect but after a bit of explaining and showing hands-on, people usually pick it up right away,” he said.

Senior Kat Westover was one of the attendees who was able to get the process down pretty quickly, even managing to manipulate a design into the computer software.

“I think it went pretty well,” Gracht said. “Kat’s been working on the silhouette cutter and at first it was a little bit rough, but after a couple of tries she’s basically doing it by herself.”


Another attendee, junior Sarah Hennenkamp, also ended the event feeling accomplished. She decided to make a card filled with cinnabons based on a running joke between her and her boyfriend. She says although she didn’t have many expectations regarding what she wanted to create, she likes how they turned out.

Gracht recognizes the Maker Hub as a place of humble beginnings for many event attendees and welcomes the learning process.

“For events in here, it’s usually people who have never used the equipment before,” Gracht said. “Because these are kind of starters to get people’s feet wet in how to use the equipment, it’s a good way to start with something simple that way they can come back in later.”

Elon University President Leo Lambert expects 2017 to be an exciting year as he plans to step down as president

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 13, 2017


Leo Lambert

Since 1999, Elon University has seen enrollment grow from 4,000 to more than 6,700 and full-time faculty more than double under the leadership of President Leo Lambert. But even great success is deserving of great change.

For Elon, that change looks like Leo Lambert.

During his board of trustees meeting Feb. 10, President Lambert announced that he plans to step down from his presidency sometime next year after Elon’s ninth president has been hired.

“I expect 2017 will be an exciting time at Elon,” Lambert said. “We have important goals to pursue and much to accomplish in the months ahead.”

He assures that in recruiting a new president, the continuity of leadership for Elon’s key initiatives will not be lost as his team anticipates what the university’s next strategic plan will look like once created and implemented.

Program assistant for fraternity & sorority life Margie Watkins says the succeeding president will have large shoes to fill, but is confident that Lambert will make sure the selection is done properly.

“I’m hoping and I’m sure that he will help to guide that selection process so that his vision and the university’s vision will continue in what we already had accomplished,” Watkins said. “And I’m sure he’s looking as well as the selection committee for someone who will broaden the vision and take us further.”

In order to find Elon’s ninth president, a 15-member search committee consisting of eight trustees including one young alumnus/alumna, three faculty members, two students, one staff member and one member of Elon’s senior staff is being formed by Elon’s Board of Trustees. Set to chair the committee is trustee and former board chair Wes Elingburg.

“President Lambert has helped create an optimistic and collegial culture that promotes continual progress and innovation,” Elingburg said. “Our goal is to find a leader who is ready to embrace the exhilarating challenge of building an ever-stronger Elon, continuing to expand our university’s influence as a leader in higher education.”

Since the start of Lambert’s presidency Elon has risen to the No. 1 ranked Southern University by U.S. News & World Report, up from its No. 16 spot. He has also been a huge proponent of the university’s campus expansion with more than 100 buildings having been added during his tenure.

But with that expansion has not come a loss of focus. Lambert has remained a dedicated advocate for the highest levels of academic excellence. With a priority to fund increased student financial aid, the university’s endowment has quadrupled to $230 million. The number of endowed scholarships has also more than doubled to a total of 613 since Lambert’s presidency.

Though Lambert has undoubtedly remained busy during his years at Elon, he’s still been able to form important connections with both staff and students alike. Senior Sophia Berlin says that having attended some of his dinners, she recognizes his large impact.

“He’s super personable and I think he’s a great leader for Elon,” Berlin said. “It’ll be a big change … People are very accepted in his presence.”

Once he has officially stepped down, Lambert plans to take a sabbatical year dedicated to writing and afterwards continue serving Elon as president emeritus and professor. From his new role, he will work primarily to back the university’s advancement office and alumni engagement efforts.

“We have created a nationally distinctive university renowned for experiential and engaged learning, with a premium on the quality of human relationships,” Lambert said. “Our success has been a team effort, the result of a committed Board of Trustees, brilliant faculty and staff, loyal alumni and generous and supportive parents — everyone working together with a shared belief that we are building a university that is making a profound impact.”


Walking and talking on beat: the importance of shoe-leather journalism, reporting beats & local reporting

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 10, 2017

Both the newsroom and process of obtaining news have changed drastically as things settled into the digital age, but the old-fashioned term “shoe-leather” still describes the best kind of reporting done in America, according to chapter two, “Local Reporting and Beats”, of America’s Best News Writing (ABNW). Shoe-leather reporting requires the reporter to leave the crutch of telephones and computers behind. Instead, they have get out and interact with the community, hear out concerns and create the opportunity for those stories to be told. It’s the act of walking and talking.

In the conversation of beat reporting — or a specialized area of in-depth coverage for a reporter — shoe-leather goes hand-in-hand. Regardless of the beat, the need to develop sources, form a relationship with the community and continue learning as you broaden your horizons is always important.

Below are some examples of reporters who figured out how to walk the walk and talk the talk successfully.

Rick Bragg – “All She Has, $150,000, Is Going to a University” (1995)


Thomas Boswell – “Losing It: Careers Fall Like Autumn Leaves” (1980)


Jonathan Bor – “It Fluttered and Became Bruce Murray’s Heart” (1984)


Mitch Albom – “Mackenzie Football Star Another Gunplay Victim (1995)


Russell Eshleman Jr. – “Even for Trees, Age Could Have Its Privileges” (1991)

“Domino’s Bites Back at Tax” (1991)


Dan Neil – “Caught Up in the Crossfire (2003)

Jump into Spring Convocation, stumble upon Daniel Gilbert’s guide to happiness and success March 30

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 10, 2017


Daniel Gilbert

Popular TED Talk lecturer and Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert, will be speaking at Elon University’s Spring Convocation at 3:30p.m. March 30 in Alumni Gym. His 2007 book, “Stumbling on Happiness,” was one of New York Times’s Bestsellers for six months and has been translated into more than 30 languages.

“He’s a great example of Elon’s priority on bringing world leaders and scholars to campus giving students, faculty, and staff a chance to interact with people who have challenging and inspiring ideas,” said vice president of university communications Dan Anderson.

He aims to teach people the importance of discovering their own happiness and understanding its effect on business strategy, sales and marketing, and understanding customers. In 2013, Gilbert launched a series of television commercials in partnership with Prudential Financial, a life insurance company, to encourage Americans to save for retirement in preparation for their futures. According to his website, the advertising campaign has been one of the most successful in the history of the financial services industry.

“Gilbert is widely known for his research into having a great quality of life,” Anderson said. “His best seller ‘Stumbling On Happiness’ and three popular TED Talks have popularized his work as a professional psychologist.”

His TED Talks have gained traction of more than 20 million views and his first one is the 15 most popular of all time. Gilbert has also been named one of the world’s 50 most-followed scientists on social media in 2014.

Tickets for Spring Convocation will be available as of March 9. General admission is $13 or free with an Elon ID.

Deadlines: the ultimate “ally and enemy” of a writer’s success in reporting and storytelling for the public



Graphic by Mariah Posey

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 03, 2017

Fast, not formulaic is the key journalistic writing. Reporters come across several story ideas in a day, but the only way to cover them efficiently in a way that is meaningful to the public is to write on deadline. A deadline is a writer’s best friend as well as the annoying voice in the back of their mind pestering them to get a move on. It’s what inspires them to get things done, but also the one factor that can hold them back.

Because of this, Roy Peter Clark and Christopher Scanlan in chapter one of their “America’s Best Newspaper Writing” (ABNW) assert that all journalists must learn to write quickly. In order to best do this they must stay well prepared, turning the entire process of reporting into one continuous flow.

Below are some distinguished examples of reporting by journalists who tackled deadline writing while remaining superb narrative ability.

Richard Ben Cramer – “Shiva for a Child Slain in a Palestinian Raid” (1978)

cramer1“I can’t tell too much about how the story was structured,” Cramer said, “because it was written in a kind of white heat of frustration.”

Still, what he accomplished was a synthesis of stories from the Hadani family of the bus attack that had taken the life of their 9-year-old daughter, Na’ami. His in-depth coverage of the family’s shiva led him to hear about how a mother desperately tried to save her daughter while holding her family together, and how the family was reminded of their strength.

Because Cramer let the story lead him, he was able to let the story tell itself through the people who felt and witnessed it first-hand.

Leonora LaPeter – “Jury Sends Santa Claus Killer to Electric Chair” (1999)

leonora_10593977_8col1Her ability to cover an intense murder trial as a relatively new reporter relied on her attention to detail and drive to start early. LaPeter began conducting interviews even before the actual trial and arrived to the courthouse every morning ready to find her lead. By making use of exhaustive reporting, she avoided the deadline trap of waiting until the last minute to write.

“When court was out, I would go to the hotel, and it wasn’t, ‘How am I going to write this?’” LaPeter said. “It was, ‘What am I going to write? What details am I going to use?’”

Her variation in pacing allowed her to capture the courtroom drama while presenting the contrasting viewpoints without bias. According to ABNW, LaPeter used the “hallmarks of good narrative” to distinguish her trial coverage—“characters instead of sources, scenes instead of summaries, dialogue instead of disembodied quotes.”

LaPeter’s timely reporting of the murder trial paid off when it won her the 2000 Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline News Reporting by an Individual.

David Von Drehle – “Men of Steel Are Melting with Age” (1994)

f12von-drehlew-2jdntkd1Despite the shivers Von Drehle received when the minutes to deadline were ticking, he was able to write a powerful piece recounting the day of Richard Nixon’s funeral that encompassed all elements of a story: setting, weather, and a cast of characters all brilliantly illustrated through description.

And while the imagery present in Von Drehle’s piece was strong enough to stand on its own, it was his ability to make meaning of it all that set his writing apart. The article he wrote was one that focused on transition—the change from titans to weathered old men; the difference between what was once a frontier and now a run-of-the-mill suburb.

His colorful reporting of the dreary event led him to be runner-up for the first Jesse Laventhol Prize for Deadline News Reporting by an Individual in 1994.

Francis X. Clines – “In Belfast, Death, Too, Is Diminished by Death” (1988)

Portrait of the creatorsAfter four decades at The New York Times, Clines earned himself the reputation of being the most versatile and gifted writers known to the paper. As a reporter in an age before reporting from the desk was possible, Clines’ legacy is one that reminds reporters that reporting is best done on the scene.

“In Belfast, Death, To, Is Diminished by Death,” Clines wrote like an artist while staying true to his job as a reporter. And he decided skillfully which quotes and details were important to his story, a step that can challenge many new reporters.

“Don’t let a crowd in a story,” Clines advises. “You’re interviewing them for your telling of the story, and not for their telling of the story.”

According to Clines, the mastery of journalism and writing is tied to reading. It’s a self-taught learning process that is self-adjusting. As you learn what you like to read, it begins to rub off on your own writing. The mastery demonstrated in his 1988 Belfast piece was rewarded in 1989 with an ASNE award for deadline writing.

Other Examples of Deadline Writing

John Simerman “Watching Williams Die” (2006)

47_731192744b1From beginning to end, Simerman lets the narrative of his reporting take lead. Through his observations, he is able to retell the events leading up to Stanley Williams’ execution with precise detail such as how Williams’ body reacted to the drugs injected into his veins.

“Williams lifted his head,” Simerman wrote. “He held it there, tilted slightly left. It fell back and he raised it again, refusing to lay still. His breathing hitched. His stomach convulsed, lurching upward. Light shone across his damp temples.”

Though on-scene quotes are only used twice throughout the entire piece, the reader can wholly take on the weight of the minutes before this man’s death. This is only further enticed with Simerman’s addition of exact time marks.  He paints all the necessary characters and paces his writing so that it reads quick and suspenseful much like the reality it’s describing.

Kevin Simpson & Michael Booth ­­“What first seemed part of show turns to horrific, chaotic scene” (2016)

Denver Post Blogger portraits

Michael Booth


Kevin Simpson

Simpson and Booth in their covering of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado show the power of interviewing. Through their speaking to many different people at the scene of the shooting in all age groups, they were able to synthesize how the shooting unfolded. They let their writing relive the horror their own eyes had not seen.

Clearly skilled, the duo didn’t allow themselves to get lost in the sea of interviews and recounts of the event. They even started and ended with the same interviewees, bringing their news story full circle. They employed a skill all great journalists should have: they made sense of the chaos.

Jennifer Brown “12 shot dead, 58 wounded in Aurora movie theater during Batman premier” (2016)

0dda188d0f5c058d553e9fa9bc5c0dc6_400x4001Brown in her piece on the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado decided to go the more traditional route using the inverted pyramid style to lay out the immediate facts first and then getting to the details that helped bring the report depth. She made use of the facts to help her make sense of a situation many could not fathom reasonable. Through subheadings, Brown works her way from the immediate shooting, to immediate reaction, to interviewee analyses of the shooter.

Wisely, she ended on a quote that summed up the horrific shooting with a quote from a previous Batman movie that people had been throwing around in relation to the incident:

“Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

More importantly, she provided resources for those affected—all while working on a same-day deadline.

Apocalypse now and again: upcoming Elon symposium to explore apocalyptic belief throughout culture

by Mariah Posey | Feb. 02, 2017

Photo by Elon University

Beginning next week Thursday, there’s only one way to miss the apocalypse: class. Otherwise you’re in for three jam-packed days of lively discussion from scholars on the topic of apocalyptic thought and practice.

From February 9 through the 10, Elon University’s Center for the Study of Religion, Culture and Society (CSRCS) will be sponsoring a symposium titled “On The Edge of Apocalypse: New Directions in the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion” in the Numen Lumen Multifaith Center on campus.

“Elon is committed to educating the community about the role of religious ideas in society and to advancing research—by both students and faculty—about the role of religion in society,” said CSRCS director and professor of religion studies Brian Pennington. “This symposium is an opportunity for Elon faculty to collaborate with other academics from the U.S. and Canada on a common research project.”

The three-day symposium will feature 11 scholars from all over North America and also provide students with a chance to receive feedback on their individual projects during its poster session.

Pennington defines “Apocalyptic thought” as the idea that refers to the world coming to an end through “violent, cataclysmic causes,” especially in its relation to religion.

“Often this kind of thinking involves God appearing on Earth or sending deputies to crush evil-doers and reward the righteous,” Pennington said.

According to Pennington, one main purpose of the symposium is to demonstrate how various and widespread apocalyptic ideas are.

“Therefore we have scholars who study many religious traditions—from Christianity to Islam to Hinduism—as well as those who study popular culture,” he said. “The topics of papers is incredibly varied: we have scholars speaking about Christian theme park The Holy Land Experience, Hindu fans of Donald Trump, the television show ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,’ and Black Lives Matter.”

Though Pennington acknowledges that some of the presentations and discussions may not appeal to a general audience, he says the keynote address to be given by David Cook of Rice University on February 9 is “definitely something we want Elon students, faculty, and the public to attend.”

For more information on the symposium and schedule, you can visit