Update: This has been updated to reflect the passing of the early-bird deadline and a minor change in the selection process.

Students may apply starting today to receive mini-grants from the Manship School’s Knight Foundation grant for grants under the Social Media News Challenge.

Manship logoWhat the grants are: Students will receive grants to pay for their expenses and work on social media projects “that bring news to communities using social media.” We’ll give some ideas later in this post, but they are meant to stimulate your thinking, not limit it. The point of these grants is to generate innovative ideas from Manship School of Mass Communication students.

How much are the grants: Students will receive $4,000 for each project, spread out over the duration of the project. The best projects will receive further awards. You may work on a project individually or in teams of up to three students.

Applying for grants

Who may apply? All students taking classes in the Manship School may apply, whether they are mass-communication majors or not. Students may undertake projects individually or in teams (grant money will be split equally among team members). Teams may include students from outside the Manship School but must include at least one student taking Manship school classes. All team members must be LSU students. 

Application deadlines: Students must submit their applications by Monday, Oct. 13. No one applied by the early-bird deadline.

Possible categories: To ensure variety in the projects students must apply for a grant under one of these eight categories:

  • Community news
  • University news
  • Louisiana U.S. Senate election
  • Other election
  • Watchdog (non-election)
  • Sports
  • Entertainment
  • Wild card

Students should specify which category they are applying for. Students could apply for wild card if their project doesn’t fit in another category. Judges also could move a strong second-place finisher from a category into the wild card category. If a category does not receive any worthy entries, the judges may decide to choose two wild cards or two winners in a particular category. But the final result should be a variety of project types and topics.

Faculty advisers: Each applicant must enlist the help of one adviser, who must be a Manship School faculty member. Steve Buttry, coordinator of the project, will not serve as faculty adviser for any single project, but will advise on all of them. Graduate student Will Glass also will be available to coach in all projects. Buttry and Glass will provide feedback on all applications and will be available for consultations with students in advance of the application deadline, as well as through the full life of any project. We will set up a day or two in September and early October when one or both of them will be available all day in the Forum for drop-in consultations with students preparing applications. 

Application process: Students will post their applications publicly on this blog. Students wanting to apply should alert Steve Buttry, (stevebuttry@lsu.edu), and he will add them as contributors to the blog, so they can apply. Application can be in writing (no more than 1,000 words), video or using interactive tools (if an interactive tool won’t embed or play correctly on the blog, you can link to it). Application must state:

  • Student who will run the project
  • Other students involved, if any
  • Faculty member who is advising the project
  • Category
  • Purpose
  • Process
  • How it will use social media, including specific social media tool(s) to be used (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, etc.)
  • How it will engage and/or inform the community
  • How you plan to measure success
  • Timetable (fall-semester project to be completed by Nov. 17 or full-year project to be completed by April 20)

Feedback: Application posts should invite feedback and suggestions. In addition, the Manship School will encourage students, faculty, alumni and journalists beyond the LSU community to respond to the applications. Students should encourage feedback in their personal networks as well. Applicants under the primary deadline will have until Friday, Oct. 17, to amend their proposals in response to feedback.

Awarding of grants

Early-bird approval: No applications were received by the early-bird deadline. If we receive any applications for projects (perhaps relating to the fall election or LSU football) that we’d like to start right away, we will confer with the reviewers and might give immediate approval.

The Pitch: Each applicant (unless early-bird approval is granted) will make a pitch at the Social Media Project Pitch, to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 23, in the Manship School’s Holliday Forum. The applicant or team will have the floor for up to three minutes (perhaps more or less, depending on the number of applicants; applicants will be told the exact time limit on Friday, Oct. 17), followed by questions from the reviewers for up to two minutes more. After all the applicants have been heard, the reviewers will make their recommendations to the dean and he will announce the grant recipients.

Project Review: Projects completed in the fall semester will be reviewed in a program in the Manship School Forum, tentatively scheduled for the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 18. Each project will get five minutes for presentation, followed by questions from the judges and audience. At the end, judges and the audience will vote on the best projects, with the winning projects receiving cash awards beyond the initial grant. Votes will be tallied at the event, with the winners announced and plaques awarded. Students selecting full-year projects will compete in the spring, possibly with students doing spring-semester projects if the spring plans include a similar competition.

Selection of the projects

Dean Jerry Ceppos will choose the award winners, guided by recommendations from three reviewers and by peer voting.

Peer judging: Except for the early-bird applicants, each phase of the judging will include a public vote. After completing the application, students will post a tweet about the project, with a link to their application post and the hashtag #ManshipKnight and the words “RT 2 vote”. The peer votes will be forwarded to the dean for consideration in awarding the grants.

Selection criteria: For the most part, the decisions will be made simply on the good judgment of the dean and the reviewers. If an application doesn’t meet the requirements of the grant, Buttry will send them back for more work (or seek Knight approval if he thinks they merit consideration anyway). So the dean and reviewers will not have to decide whether an application meets the requirements, but may judge a project on how well it meets the requirements. Beyond that, we will encourage consideration of how creative and innovative a project is and how strong its engagement potential is. The dean will have discretion in moving projects among the categories and into the wild-card category. For instance, if he wants to award the grant in the community-news category to a state-focused project, the judges have that authority. Or he could move it to the wild card. We will not penalize a project in one category because of its similarity to a project in another category. Success in both topic areas might underscore the value of that approach. Or it might work better in one category than the other, also a helpful lesson to learn from these projects.

Selection: We will forward the judges’ selections and the peer vote to Dean Jerry Ceppos, who will make the final decisions on awarding grants. He will decide on winners in the other categories before deciding on the wild card.

Wild card: The wild card category will be decided last. The category will include any applicants whose projects didn’t fit other categories, plus losing applicants from other candidates that we want to give a second chance (including all tie-breaker losers). Applicants who originally applied as wild cards will have their full time to make a pitch. Applicants who have already pitched in an earlier category will have one more minute to review their pitch (or improve it, based on feedback from the earlier round).

Project guidelines

Examples: Examples are provided here not to limit the thinking of students, but to stimulate it. So if you come up with a project that doesn’t follow any of these suggestions, that’s probably a good thing if it meets the project requirements. Some examples of types of project types or features:

  • Curation of social media around a particular topic.
  • Social media chats or contests around a particular topic.
  • Invitation of submissions from the community of particular types of content or of content of any type around a particular topic.
  • Verification or other assessment of social media content around a particular topic.
  • Fact-checking.
  • Use of high-profile social-media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or Instagram.
  • Use of rising social-media platforms such as Snapchat or Tout.
  • Use of specialized social-media platforms such as SlideShare or Pinterest.
  • Use of curation or live-coverage tools such as DocumentCloud, Storify, Spundge, RebelMouse, ScribbleLive, Superdesk or blogs.
  • Collaborative tools such as Google Drive or Spundge.
  • Development of a new social or curation tool.
  • Mashups using multiple tools.
  • Varying types of content, such as news reporting, commentary or humor. 

Standards: All content for projects should be public, although a project may allow a delay between submission and publication, to allow for assessment. All projects should promptly correct errors as students learn about them.

Reports: Each project must provide at least two progress reports during the project, in addition to a final report completed by Nov. 16 for fall-semester projects. Reports can be in writing or use multimedia. The final report must be at least partly in writing, describing the process and results for the project and how well it achieved the purpose, with some measurement of community engagement.

After fall 2014

We will assess how the fall projects go and make adjustments or perhaps decide on an entirely different approach for subsequent years. Full-year projects started in the fall will continue into spring, but we may make tweaks or try a whole new approach for new projects for the spring and for 2015-6.

Thanks to Taylor Trahan for our header

We need a better header for this blog. To contribute a student-designed header, please contact Steve Buttry: stevebuttry@lsu.edu.

Manship senior Taylor Trahan designed the new header for this blog. Thanks!