For as long as I can remember, Saturdays were for the Jayhawks. At an early age I learned to wave the wheat and sing the Rock Chalk Chant. I didn’t know what they meant or why we did it, simply that I was supposed to cheer on KU. In all honesty, I was a Jayhawk before I even knew what it was.
However, as I got older I began to pay more attention. Not just to the athletics programs, but to the Jayhawk network around me. I accompanied my dad to alumni dinners, fraternity reunions, J-School Generations, and many a trip to campus to stroll down memory lane (otherwise known as Jayhawk Boulevard.)
It became clear my dad was not the only one who felt this special connection to his alma mater. Other Jayhawks nationwide were bonded by this shared experience. I could see how much love they had for the university and for the time they spent in Lawrence; many even looked for any excuse to come back to the Hill. It was infectious.
The legacy continues
Growing up, my dad couldn’t be home as often as either of us would have liked. He worked hard to provide for our family, and sometimes that included taking jobs cities, or even states, away. Regardless, he was always passionate about his work and eager to share with the family. With my dad being gone a lot of the time, and with me being a typical teenager, we didn’t always have the kind of relationship I hoped for. However, no matter what was going on in our turbulent world, we always had KU to unify us.
It’s been two years since I told my dad I was going to KU. We were seated at the dinner table on Thanksgiving, and the tears of joy began to stream down his face. I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now. The Hill is a magical place for Jayhawks young and old to gather, share stories, and connect. There is such pride in being a Jayhawk, so it’s no wonder alumni want to give back and help the next generation of leaders.
The power of a Jayhawk connection
Stories like this are common at KU because of the culture of alumni who want to assist other Jayhawks. Students already have the opportunity to connect with alumni at major-specific networking events. However, the new Jayhawk Career Network is open to Student Alumni Network members of all backgrounds. This event on Monday, Nov. 27 will be the first of many, and allows both novice and advanced networkers to hone their skills. Both my dad, Mark Mears j’84, and Portia Kibble Smith c’78, owner of PKS Executive Search & Consulting, will be teaching students how to build their own Jayhawk Network.
Throughout his career, my dad has always been eager to give back to KU in any way he can. In 2012 he endowed the Dr. Tim Bengtson Journalism Faculty Mentor Award for journalism professors who carry on the legacy of mentorship Dr. Bengtson left behind. My dad went to KU with the intention of being a lawyer, and it wasn’t until Dr. Bengtson pulled him aside and acknowledged his gift in advertising that my dad found his true passion.
I’m so proud to have a dad who wants to help others be the best version of themselves. All my life he’s instilled in me to “be the best ‘Brianna’ I can be,” and now I get to watch him help others be the best Jayhawks they can be.
Jenni Carlson returned to her alma mater for J-School Generations, an annual reunion during Homecoming weekend. The event invites alumni back to the William Allen White School of Journalism to reconnect with students and faculty. Carlson, j’97, was a speaker for J-Talk, a TED-style lecture event where she and other alumni shared their stories.
Carlson has served as sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, but she might be most well-known for a column that led Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy to one of the most famous rants in sports history. Carlson shared her story of that experience, the aftermath, and how it shaped the rest of her career. Watch her J-Talk or read the transcript below.
Ten years ago last month, Mike Gundy, the football coach at Oklahoma State, turned a post-game press conference on its head.
Even though his team had just won a big game, he was angry. So angry that he raised his voice. And pointed. And ranted. He was fuming about a column that ran that morning in a local newspaper. He said it was false. He said it was garbage.
His rant became one of the most memorable tirades in sports history. You can Google it right now and find it. Well, maybe not right now. Maybe wait until Kameron gets up here for his J-Talk!
But you’ve no doubt heard the most memorable line of the rant — “I’m a man, I’m 40.”
The rant was long. The rant was personal.
And the rant was directed at me.
Now, there are a lot of things that I could tell you about that day. Truth be told, a lot has been written and said about The Rant here recently because this is the 10th anniversary of it. Also, Mike celebrated his 50th birthday here recently, so while he may very well be a man, he certainly isn’t 40 anymore.
At my newspaper, The Oklahoman – which was my employer when The Rant happened, and yes, by the way, it is STILL my employer! – we did some things on Mike Gundy’s birthday and on the anniversary of The Rant. But really, it’s been interesting for me to watch what OTHERS have done. Their storylines. Their takes. Their analysis.
And one of the things that I’ve noticed is this – I am not central to the story.
Sometimes, my name isn’t even used. Many stories refer to a reporter or maybe even a columnist. But even if my name is used, there’s not a ton written or said about me.
And that is magnificent.
It warms my heart.
Now, don’t misunderstand – I’m not saying that because I want to distance myself from what I wrote. The column that sparked The Rant was about a change that Oklahoma State made at quarterback. That position is a pretty big deal in football, and it was made even bigger at OSU by the fact that the Cowboys had decided to bench a guy who had been – and still is – one of the most high-profile recruits in program history.
But when OSU’s coaches were asked publicly about why the change was being made from one starter to another, their explanations weren’t jiving with what our reporters knew to be true. They said the original starter was hurt, but there was more to it than they were saying.
I believe with every fiber in my being that what I wrote was not only accurate but also necessary for our coverage. OSU’s fans wanted to know why their team was going from a ballyhooed quarterback to a guy who had largely been under the radar, and with the help of our beat writers, that column provided some answers.
The original starter just wasn’t the leader that the coaches wanted. The new guy was, and in retrospect, the change was a great move. The new guy became one of the most successful quarterbacks and most beloved players of all time at OSU.
But no one knew how things would go at the time. Instead, our readers were trying to figure out why the change had been made. My column helped put the pieces of the puzzle together.
So, again, the reason that I’m happy about my name and my role in The Rant fading is not because I want to disassociate myself from what I wrote. Rather, I’m happy about that because I believe it’s a reflection of how I handled the whole situation.
Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that handling the fallout was easy.
It was very, very difficult.
In the days that followed, all sorts of local and national media wanted to talk to me. When The Rant happened, YouTube was only a couple years old. I’m gonna guess that The Rant might’ve been one of the first videos to truly go viral on YouTube. It was everywhere, and weirdly for me, so was I. SportsCenter. Good Morning America. USA Today. On and on.
I only did a couple interviews because after a few days, my editors decided that we weren’t going to discuss The Rant anymore. Again, it wasn’t because we didn’t stand behind what had been written; I actually asked Mike, Coach Gundy, at his weekly press conference a few days after The Rant to outline any factual errors in the column. He’d said that the column was false, and we have a policy of correcting errors that appear in our newspaper, I gave him the chance to provide me a list of errors so that I might correct them.
He offered none.
So, after writing about that, I didn’t write another word about The Rant until last month. TEN YEARS. I can’t say I didn’t casually throw in a catchphrase from The Rant from time to time – “That ain’t true!” is a favorite that appeared in a few of my columns – but I stayed true to the decision that my editors made.
What we did – and I say we because I felt very much part of a team, very much supported by the newsroom in the days after The Rant – we did because we had work to do. We had some really good teams and really big things going on in our sports world that fall. We had to get on about the business of covering the teams, the sports, the games. We had to write stories and columns. We had to do videos and blogs. We had to edit and design.
And that’s what we did.
But even though we stopped talking and writing about The Rant, that doesn’t mean everyone else did. For weeks, maybe even longer, I received emails about the whole thing. I have to admit that while I believe reader feedback is an extremely important part of what I do, I didn’t read all those emails. To this day, I haven’t read all those emails.
There were times when they were hitting my inbox so fast that it was like a Tweetdeck newsfeed during the Super Bowl. One right after the other.
And even though I didn’t read every word of every email, I know that many of them were critical. Some were angry. Some were furious. Some were vile.
There were funny ones. Or at least I thought they were funny! People told me that I needed to go back into the kitchen and bake some cookies. (Joke’s on them – because in our house, it’s my husband who does the cooking. Or at least the cooking that’s edible!) But there were also emails that degraded me, threatened me.
Things I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Those sorts of things are, unfortunately, something that I have to deal with from time to time. Even though this is 2017 – or maybe it’s BECAUSE this is 2017 and the media is under attack these days from the highest elected positions to the lowest common denominators – the media has become a big target.
Big picture – I believe it’s because, right now, people in our country are fearful. Mad. Scared. And lots of times, they take that out on reporters.
Then in my situation, you add in the fact that I’m a woman telling people how they should feel about sports? It only adds to some people’s fears. I truly believe that a lot of the vitriol leveled at women in sports media comes from men who are scared. Scared that one more of “their areas” is being taken away from them. Scared that women writing and talking and pontificating about sports is a sign that “their control” is slipping away.
Listen, I’m all for people disagreeing with me. If they have a different opinion than I do, great. If they see something another way than I do, OK. Let’s talk about it. But when people see a difference of opinion as an opportunity to attack me personally, that isn’t OK.
But here’s the thing – I get to choose how those things affect me.
(The “mute” button on Twitter is a wonderful, beautiful function, by the way!)
There was a time when ugly comments and hurtful emails did affect me. They made me wonder, “Am I any good at my job? Am I qualified?” Or worse, “Am I in this position just because I’m a woman?”
But then I realized that I have a lot of co-workers who like what I do. Same for a good number of respected folks in sports media. They like my writing. They like my ideas. So, why would I allow the words of a reader to carry more weight than their words? Why would the criticism carry more weight than the praise?
It’s human nature, I suppose. How many times have we heard athletes and coaches say they remember the losses way more than the wins? I suppose it’s the same with criticism and praise.
Which brings us back to The Rant.
That criticism was tough. The criticism in the moment. The criticism that followed. But I got to decide how it was going to affect me and how I was going to react.
I didn’t lambast Gundy. I didn’t crucify OSU. I didn’t take a flamethrower to everyone and everything who came after me.
That approach isn’t the way most people want to do business these days. Most people want to fight fire with fire. And hey, I believe that there are times to do that – to fight. You can Google my name and Baylor, and since news of their sexual assault cover-up broke, you’ll see that I’m not opposed to fighting for what I think is right.
But in the aftermath of The Rant, I thought that the right thing to do was to get on about the business of doing my job. I had games to cover. I had columns to write.
Wallowing in what had happened wasn’t going to do anyone any good. Not our readers. Not our newspaper. And certainly not me.
One of my good friends who just happens to be one of my editors tells me regularly that I have the thickest skin of anyone he’s ever known. I don’t know about thick skin, but here’s what I do know – my job comes with pressure and stress, but there’s the pressure and stress that I have and then there’s real, hard-core pressure and stress. Try being a Kansas farmer in the 1980s when prices were taking a nose dive and family farms were drying up. That’s what I saw my parents go through.
I know what pressure and stress really is.
I’m just a sports columnist.
Perspective is crucial.
I always remember that there are way bigger issues in the world than the ones I’m facing. Finding ways to continually get that perspective is vital to me. Tutoring at an inner-city school. Driving a van for an after-school program. Teaching a kids’ Sunday school class.
I can’t tell you how to handle tough situations that come your way, but I can tell you that if you’re in the media business very long, tough situations will come your way. I know it’s difficult right now for a lot of you who are in college to think about anything other than your career. You want to get started. You want to sell out to the job.
I was you once upon a time.
But I have found that being able to handle those critical emails, those mean tweets and yes, even the occasional post-game rant that goes viral, knowing who you are and what matters to you is crucial.
It’s not about thick skin – it’s about being comfortable in the skin you have.
—Transcript of Jenni Carlson’s remarks at J-School Generations. The University of Kansas football team takes on Oklahoma State, coached by Mike Gundy, at Memorial Stadium this weekend in its final football game of the season.
Demetria Obilor is enjoying a career in news like many other graduates from KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism. As a traffic anchor for WFAAF in Dallas, Obilor, j’13, updates viewers on the morning traffic and potential delays.
Instead of ignoring the attack, Obilor chose to respond with a public message addressing those who body shame and the discussing the overwhelmingly positive response she received. The post went viral, with thousands—including Chance the Rapper— offering their support.
“As new Jayhawks arrive on the Hill, it’s hard not to get nostalgic about our four years.”
Before Ben Brodsky walked down the Hill last May, he could sense it was coming. That feeling of nostalgia that all alumni understand was becoming all too real, and Brodsky, c’17, wanted to hit save and preserve his time at KU. Fortunately, the talented film and media studies major had shot hours of footage during his time on campus; timeless scenes that also captured a place in time.
His memories. His journey. But one with which we could all relate.
Brodsky got right to work, even before walking down the Hill. With the help of his twin brother Sam, b’17, he founded Ben Brodsky Films and Photography in 2013, applying his talents and education to projects for clients. As his commencement loomed, one project became more personal.
The result of the effort that he began as a student and finished as an alumnus, was a three-minute and forty-two-second video that was posted on social media this week, as students returned to the Hill to start the fall semester. Almost immediately the video became a viral sensation, with views topping 100,000 in the first three days.
Naturally, this time of year makes all of us remember what it was like heading off to college.
“Feels like yesterday I was jumping out of the mini van, unloading my college dorm room onto the hot Kansas pavement,” Brodsky posted on YouTube. “I remember my mom telling me ‘these are the best 4 years of your life, enjoy every minute of them!'”
Brodsky offered his own advice to freshmen flocking to the Hill.
“To all incoming Jayhawks,” he added, “experience everything you can; there is no limit to what you can do.” On Facebook, he added a shared sentiment.
“New Jayhawks, we hope you love this place as much as we do.”
Brodsky could have been referring to all alumni when we said “we,” but in this case, it was a nod to his project partner and collaborator, Amie Just, j’17, who scripted the video. Her words, which resonate with all Jayhawks, constitute a poem she calls, simply, “Home.” (Read our interview with Amie Just here.)
We love the combination of moving images and words that so beautifully capture the KU experience, drawing us closer together and to our beloved alma mater.
“Through the good times and the stressful ones,” he concludes, “KU was, and will always be, home.”
The following poem was penned by Amie Just, j’17, as an ode to her alma mater, simply titled: Home. Just wrote the script to accompany a video produced by a KU classmate, Ben Brodsky, c’17, celebrating the KU student experience. That video project, titled “KU: A Journey” has been viewed on social media more than 100,000 times by KU alumni, students and Jayhawk fans. And we agree, it is absolutely glorious to view. The images are beautiful, and the words, read by a familiar-sounding announcer, are sure to resonate. We talked to Just about her role in the project, and we’ve reprinted the poem, with permission, below for Jayhawks to enjoy.
This is home.
As tulips and sunflowers bloom, curious minds blossom too.
From Fraser Hall to Wescoe Beach, Allen Fieldhouse to Budig Hall.
This is home.
As tulips and sunflowers bloom,
curious minds blossom too.
Atop Mount Oread, nothing is out of reach.
From Fraser Hall to Wescoe Beach,
Allen Fieldhouse to Budig Hall
This is KU.
The future fills these classrooms.
Growing in expertise and insight,
dispersing elsewhere as the whistle blows.
We’re different, every one of us.
Ranging from business to journalism,
Knowledge flows through this golden valley we call KU
There’s no limit on where we come from or what we do.
From the first night, to the last.
Jayhawks, we are meant to be.
We are KU, born again anew.
Waving the wheat isn’t just for crops.
Seeing The Phog isn’t just for rainy days.
Lottery. Camping. Late Night.
the stories of yesterday tossed in the air as newsprint confetti.
The Rock Chalk Chant and Alma Mater sung loud and clear.
Tradition is KU.
This place becomes a part of you.
And we all become a part of this place.
Champions are born here.
Leaders are cultivated here.
Innovation is pioneered here.
Basketball grew its roots here.
Dreams become reality here
KU is us. KU is you.
But it doesn’t last forever here.
There’s a time to leave the nest.
Descending down the Hill for the very last time,
walking through a tower of remembrance for commencement.
Dressed in cap and gown, graduating Jayhawks march down the Hill of education and memories.
For one last time, the Rock Chalk Chant hums, for this is now our Alma Mater
No matter where we Jayhawks fly,
No matter how long we’re away,
Our absence is only temporary, as
KU will always be home.
We spoke with Amie Just, j’17, one of the collaborators behind the viral video sensation titled KU: A Journey. Just worked with KU classmate Ben Brodsky, a KU film studies major we profiled here, and contributed the script that would accompany the video footage collected during four years of campus shoots. The script might have otherwise been a stretch for the sports journalist Just. However, with the alma mater as her muse, the writing was poetic, and she titled her poem, which can be read here in its entirety, Home. Get to know the writer behind the behind the video that has resonated with so many Jayhawks in our exclusive interview with Amie Just.
What inspired you to write the poem for this video?
Ben (Brodsky, c’17) texted me in mid-April saying that he wanted to collaborate to make a video highlighting four years of memories at KU. The original idea was that the video and the accompanying poem would be a collage of the meaningful experiences we had in Lawrence.
Ben, the talented videographer that he is, had 1,000s of hours of video that he’d taken over the course of his college career and wanted to create something powerful with some of those clips. I thought it would be a good way to wrap up my time at KU, so I decided to go for it.
I wrote at least 25 different versions of the poem. I reworked some phrases, scratched full lines, changed words to different synonyms, restructured and moved things around dozens of times as well to get something I was proud of. The original piece I worked up maybe has one or two lines that are the same from the final product. I’m definitely not a poet — I’m a journalist. Those two writing styles are quite different, but I’m happy with how it turned out.
How do you want Jayhawks to react after watching it?
I want Jayhawks to feel a full range of emotions. That’s what I was trying to convey with my word choice. While we were at KU, we all had just about every emotion flare up from time to time. I wanted people to smile. I wanted people to laugh. I wanted people to feel a sense of belonging, nostalgia and homesickness. I wanted the words to make Jayhawks fondly remember their time at KU.
Words can be extremely powerful, especially when they’re paired with incredible images. I couldn’t have expressed all the feelings people had when watching this video in words. That’s why I chose to be minimal with them — let the viewers have their own feelings about what they were seeing and hearing. Different Jayhawks have different memories from the Chi O Fountain or Wescoe Beach. Being selective in word choice lets people go back to those memories and relive those feelings. I think that’s why people are having such a positive reaction to it. No one is telling them how to feel; They’re just feeling.
How have people responded after seeing it?
Several of my friends have reached out to me and said that they cried watching the video because it made them really miss their college experience. I never meant to make anyone cry, but I feel really honored that something we created elicits such a powerful response from people.
Other people said they got goosebumps or chills or a feeling they couldn’t explain. I get goosebumps every time I read the words of my poem or watch the video, or, truthfully, every time I think about this project. I’ve done a lot of writing in my day, but very few pieces have given me such a sense of fulfillment like this.
More than 80,000 times this video has been viewed on Facebook with more than 1,400 shares and 1,000 likes (editor’s note: as of this writing, views have eclipsed 100,000). That just demonstrates how incredible KU and the student, faculty, staff and alumni base is. These two recent grads put together a sentimental video about the University of Kansas and it hits home with all of us for different reasons. That’s just how special this place is. That’s the reason we wanted to do this in the first place — just showcase how much KU means to all of us.
Can you tell us about your KU experience?
I was a journalism major with minors in English and Human Sexuality. I spent the majority of my time in Memorial Stadium, Allen Fieldhouse, Stauffer-Flint or the Kansan newsroom in Dole. I didn’t exactly have the traditional student experience since I covered Kansas football and basketball for the majority of my time in school, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Going to sporting events was part of my education. I learned a lot that way and it absolutely prepared me for where I am now.
Because of my work as a student journalist at the Kansan, I had the opportunity to string for the Associated Press, contribute for the Topeka Capital-Journal and intern for the Washington Post all while I was in college.
I was also a member of Omega Phi Alpha. That was a huge part of my collegiate life because giving back to the communities I live in is really important to me. That’s also why I gave my time as a Journalism Student Ambassador and served as president and public relations director and gave back on the Journalism Student Leadership Board on the diversity committee. I was really fortunate to have the opportunities that I had within the J-School and sharing those experiences with others was something I enjoyed. Recruiting future Jayhawk Journalists to a journalism school that I helped make better is something I’m really proud of. Going to KU was the right choice. No other place in the world could have given me the experiences and opportunities that the KU J-School did.
What are your plans after KU?
After graduation I accepted a job in Missoula, Montana, covering University of Montana football for the Missoulian and all Lee Montana newspapers. I tell people that Missoula is an alternate universe version of Lawrence. I get a lot of the same vibes by walking around downtown and on campus. But there just happens to be mountains on all four sides with rivers skirting through.
I’ll try to get back someday soon. Maybe Kansas football can schedule the Grizzlies as a future FCS opponent? One can hope.
Yes, one can hope! Thanks for sharing your KU experience and this wonderful poem with KU alumni, Amie. We hope to see you come back “home” soon. Rock Chalk!
Mike Plank of Rock Chalk Talk sat down with Todd Reesing, starting quarterback of the 2007 Orange Bowl champion football team, to reminisce about that season and share what he’s been up to in Austin. Read full article.
Shala Mills was awarded the Barbara Burch Award for Faculty Leadership in Civic Engagement, which was established in 2014 to honor exemplary faculty leadership in advancing the civic learning and engagement of undergraduate students. Mills, l’88, is chair and professor of political science at Fort Hays State University. Read full article.
The Office of Administration announced that Governor Greitens has appointed Guy Krause as Director of the Office of Administration’s Division of Personnel. Krause, l’90, has worked for the Office of Administration in various human resource and personnel positions since 1995. Read full article.
Michelle Larrabee-Martin and Greg Martin, owners of Kolo Collection in Atlanta, are featured in this article. The couple offers materials and design services in their business. Greg is a Kansas native who holds a law degree from KU. Read full article.
Kristi Rivera, d’08, g’10, always knew she wanted to be a teacher, and she has taught at Delaware Ridge Elementary in the Bonner Springs School District since 2009. Her brother nominated her to be recognized as the Blue KC Sporting Samaritan. Read full article.
Three new Ethics Commissioners were selected and sworn in August 3 in Wyandotte County, including John J. Bukaty, Jr., who holds a juris doctor degree from the University of Kansas School of Law. Read full article.
Nearly 10 years after the 2007 Kansas football team became the winningest in program history, members of the squad will see their names become permanent fixtures at the university. The entire team will be inducted into the Kansas Athletics Hall of Fame, and Aqib Talib, ’09, Anthony Collins, ’09, and coach Mark Mangino will be inducted as individuals. Read full article.
Barry Slatt Mortgage has appointed Thomas Cohen as senior vice president in the firm’s San Diego office. Cohen, l’85, has more than 20 years of experience in the mortgage banking industry. Read full article.
Shala Mills has been appointed assistant vice president for graduate and extended learning at SUNY New Paltz, according to the college. Mills, l’88, will join the college administration on Aug. 28. She currently is director of liberal education and the political science chairwoman at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. Read full article.
Kansas City’s culinary soulmates – barbecue and beer – are headed to the Power & Light District next spring in the form of a new locally owned restaurant. County Line Ice House is owned and operated by a newly-formed LLC that includes Jeff Stehney, j’84; Zach Marten, b’02, l’05, co-founder of Back Napkin Restaurant Group. Read full article.
Some phenomena in the ocean can only be witnessed after dark. Matt Davis, assistant professor of biology at St. Cloud State University explains “milky seas” in this article. Davis earned a PhD in ecology and evolution from the university in 2010. Read full article.
Grey Group promoted Michael Houston to Worldwide Chief Executive Officer. A 10-year veteran of Grey, Houston, c’15, has served since 2016 as Global President and becomes only the fifth person to hold the CEO position since Grey’s founding in 1917. Read full article.
If you attended the University of Kansas or lived in Lawrence during the early 2000s, you might remember the radical politics of Solidarity. The ECM has housed the Solidarity Library for about 10 years now, according to Ailecia Ruscin, a local photographer who helped found Solidarity as a KU graduate student around the dawn of the millennium. Read full article.
Former Kansas point guard Aaron Miles, who got a crack at the NBA and spent eight years playing overseas and later coaching on KU coach Bill Self’s staff, officially was named the head coach of the NBA G League’s Santa Cruz Warriors on Wednesday. Read full article.
Clay Barker, the executive director of the Kansas Republican Party, on Monday joined the staff of Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer in anticipation of Gov. Sam Brownback’s resignation. Barker graduated from the KU School of Law in 1997. Read full article.
Jessica Nelson has been selected for the KC Chamber’s ATHENA Young Professionals Leadership Award. Nelson, j’11, is the current president of the Greater Kansas City Network of the KU Alumni Association and is the managing director for TeamKC:Life+Talent with the Kansas City Area Development Council. Read full article.
Holly Teeter, l’06, has been nominated by President Trump to be a federal judge in Kansas. Teeter currently works in Kansas City, Missouri, and her background includes work at the Shook, Hardy & Bacon law firm’s Kansas City office. Read full article.
The University of Kansas will soon have a new interim vice chancellor for public affairs. Reggie Robinson, director of KU’s School of Public Affairs and Administration, will assume his new role effective Aug. 14, KU announced earlier this week. Robinson, a KU alumnus, has led the School of Public Affairs and Administration since 2014. Read full article.
In her new position at the AAG office, Emily Fekete will lend her expertise in communications and media geographies to the communications team through new content curation, social media and program development. Fekete holds a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Kansas. Read full article.
Jenifer Ashford, a Prairie Village resident who current serves as prosecutor for the cities of Shawnee and Lake Quivira, has been named to fill a 10th judicial district magistrate judge opening. Ashford, who graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law, will be sworn in later this month. Read full article.
Russ and Linda Sims, e’79, have sort of made it their signature move to take a bright blue flag that reads “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” to all of the historic and scenic places they’ve traveled to both capture the moment and represent the Jayhawks. Read full article.
The Institute for Energy Law is honoring Houston partner John Bowman, l’80, with its Lifetime Achievement in Energy Litigation Award, which is given to one energy litigator each year whose achievements “have won the admiration of his or her peers,” according to the organization. Read full article.
Judging simply by what page he was on, Kip Reiserer knew what his major should have been. Every time he came to the “Hitler and Nazi Germany” class led by Instructor Sam Newland, g’81, PhD’83, Reiserer drilled further into the textbook—and further away from his classmates.
“I had friends in the class, and nobody else read it,” Reiserer says. “I read really, really close to the whole thing.”
Reiserer, j’10, now combines the degree he did earn (broadcast journalism) with the interest he could not leave (World War II) for a social media following that has reached more than 150,000. On most days, Reiserer post two to four World War II photos and captions to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, illustrating for the young minds of the 21st Century the conflict that ripped humanity in half 75 years ago.
He has yet to monetize any of his accounts, but he posts at a heavy volume because what he broadcasts feels crucial to him, especially at a moment in history like the present.
“I do it because I think it’s important,” he says. “I don’t fully understand how the majority of an entire country could be swept by madness and change the world that much.”
A native of the Dallas suburb of Copell, Reiserer has long been enthralled by what may have been the most significant conflict in history. Although he did not want to make a career out of teaching its history, Reiserer found he had talent in the field of social media advertising and used his online feeds to merge the two.
In all three of his accounts, Reiserer posts a single photo or short video, accompanied by matter-of-fact captions. He never inserts an opinion and does not engage in political banter. His followers supported both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton last fall, and Reiserer’s posts leave room for readers to make their own comparisons between past and present leaders.
Reiserer’s interest in WWII began when he watched “Saving Private Ryan” as a young teenager. His appetite grew after viewing other films about the conflict and his mother started buying documentaries on VHS tape.
“There was a running joke in high school, that it was all I would watch on TV,” he says. “It was so foreign to me, and I didn’t know anything about Europe or the Pacific.”
Shortly after graduating from KU, Reiserer moved to Kansas City. Needing a job, he put his broadcast degree to use in an unexpected way by starting a Twitter account for other journalists seeking employment; @KCJournalismJobs grew to 1,349 followers, and he quickly found that part of the key to social media success is specificity. He would put that lesson to use for his next online hobby.
Reiserer says he never read much, until his mother gave him a copy of a 655-page tome of WWII trivia. He started devouring Don McCombs and Fred Worth’s World War II: 4,139 Strange and Fascinating Facts, and was so excited about what he was learning that he wanted to share his findings. In summer 2012, after moving to Chicago, where he works in social media advertising, he realized that he could.
“What if I just created a Twitter account, and just started tweeting facts and photos?”
So he tweeted his way through most of the Strange and Fascinating Facts, then began looking for new sources. No problem: The internet is overflowing with people who want to talk about World War II.
“I had a seemingly unlimited amount of content that appealed to people all over the world,” he says.
Much of what he published came from other World War II-themed sites, but his journalism education reminded him that plenty of the material floating along the bitstream is dubious. The list of followers was growing, and fact-checking before tweeting became a boring but rewarding task.
“You can go down rabbit holes on Wikipedia,” Reiserer says. “Or, I’m looking at somebody’s crappy WordPress blog, but it’s got one great photo—but where did it come from?”
Maintaining a healthy tweet rate, keeping his facts reliable and declining to rant have made Reiserer’s internet identity valuable to promoters. The film company Lionsgate gave him tickets to Mel Gibson’s “Hacksaw Ridge” to disperse to followers; a book publisher in New York, Simon & Schuster, handed him five copies of its latest WWII publication to give away (plus one for him to keep and tweet from).
What about promoting some product that’s not related to World War II? In the modern world of advertising, marketers are vying for relationships with influencers like Reiserer.
“I’m not going to be retweeting cosmetics just to be making money,” he says, and thus, his accounts have yet to realize any profit.
WW2Facts and WorldWar2HistoryPics are hobbies, but Reiserer would love to turn it into a career. The dream job: Sponsors would pay him to visit historic sites and tweet about what they hold. A professional World War Twourist.
Reiserer hopes to repeat for others the experience he felt in Newland’s History 341 class and help someone an answer to the question that drives him as he digs up another online rabbit hole: “How could it happen?”
—Ronnie Wachter, j’00, is a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a freelance writer in Chicago.
Tips for social media success
One of the crucial rules of building a social media following is an ironic juxtaposition against the entire concept of social media: “You have to be patient,” Kip Reiserer says. “I’ve seen the process and the patience it takes to actually build a following.”
Working in Kansas City in 2010—a time when many journalists were early Twitter adopters—Reiserer earned more than 1,000 followers and strong interaction with a feed devoted strictly to media job opportunities in that area. After moving to Chicago, he began a far more successful run in 2012 with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts that drill into a completely different subject: World War II. For those trying to elbow out some room in the “Look at me!” mosh pit, Reiserer offers a few tips:
Stick to one, narrow subject. Although his subject spans the globe, affecting nearly every culture on earth at the time, and involved countless facets of life (economics, sports, entertainment, religion and more), all of Reiserer’s photos and captions connect directly to the subject’s core: armed conflict between two sets of nations.
It helps tremendously if your subject has deep emotional appeal, even if that appeal is to a small group of people. Even today, WWII arouses a potent mix of responses; with his Kansas City account, the hunt for a job is the hunt for money and status.
If you can find a niche, grab hold of whoever visits it. Reiserer says he monitors his feeds’ comments, watching as readers reply to each other and new conversations branch out. “If you’re going to do it organically, it’s the same concept, which is …”
“… You have to have a bottomless pit of content.” Reiserer stresses the importance of regular posting, which keeps an audience from drifting away to other attention-grabbers.
And keep working when the fans do not show up. “I’ve known several people who tried to create this account, or something like it,” he says. “It didn’t happen in a month and they gave up.”
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