By Nick Cahnovsky, Patrick Davet, Courtney Griffin and Jason Rhein
It’s 10:30 on a Monday morning, and Prof. Richelle Rogers’ entire classroom is abuzz. It’s rare to find college students alert, even awake at this hour, but this group of roughly 40 is indivisibly focused, with noses buried in their laptops and discussion flying from one end of the room to the other. There’s something different about this communications class, because the students aren’t just studying the news—they’re creating it.
Students of Prof. Rogers’ New Media class are the content creators and operators of eight new blogs, created by and for Loyola University Chicago students. The blogs, which launched on Oct. 16, each have a unique theme and focus, including fashion, food and fitness.
“When I first started creating the syllabus, my initial question was how could I best prepare my students for the changes that are happening in the digital world,” said Rogers, who began teaching the class in August. Rogers is an award-winning journalist who said she wanted to use her experience in the industry to show her students the intensity involved in creating online content.
“I think theory is important, but I wanted my students to make the mental shift from content consumers to content creators.”
Keeping up with the lightning-fast pace of the digital world has proved to be quite a challenge for the students, who devote each moment of their group time to doing everything from updating blog posts to fixing formatting glitches. This constant process of modification left Sara Kotomski, a senior studying advertising and public relations, glued to her computer while answering questions about her group’s blog.
“I’m going to be talking, but also doing this,” said Kotomski, as she pointed to a laptop screen displaying some of the inner-workings of her group’s blog, “Urban Color.” The blog has a new color-centric theme every week, which anchors the blog’s fashion, drinks, entertainment and sports reporting. “Right now I’m modifying our logo, to make it a little more clear what we’re working around each week.”
The theme has been a creative roller coaster for the group, as they’ve gone through several redesigns in the two weeks their blog has been live. Marina Peric, a junior studying advertising and public relations, said the group has made the shift from written to visual content as a way to boost engagement.
“We were looking at other blogs for inspiration, and noticed that they’re super visual,” said the 20-year-old Peric, who added that the popularity of sites like Tumblr and Instagram have taught her group a lot about communicating with visuals. “We said we didn’t want a lot of words, and every week let’s change the color. No one’s trying to read books here.”
Reader engagement has proven to be a point of concern for many of the young bloggers, who are all vying for the eyes of Loyola students on their sites. Alexis Jammo, a junior in communications studies, said the competition has been challenging but motivating for her group’s blog, “Black Ties and French Fries,” which reports on dining options for Loyola Students around the city.
“There are so many sites out there on the web, so reader engagement has been one of the hardest things to figure out,” said Jammo, who has turned to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic to her blog.
The students will continue to work on the blogs until December. Colin McGauley, an undecided sophomore in the School of Communications, said the experience has already taught him so much about every aspect of communicating.
“It really combines all the fields of communications, from ad/pr to journalism to audio and visuals, “ said McGauley, who was inspired by a television commercial to create his group’s blog, “The Full Circle Effect.” The group sets out on a new mission to “pay it forward” each week through random acts of kindness, and documents it all on their site. McGauley hopes that his work as a content creator will translate into something larger.
“It’s a lot of work, but who knows, maybe we’ll start a movement,” said McGauley, 19. “That would be cool.”
Fashion is an umbrella term that encompasses everything from artful clothing companies to David Bowie circa 1980. Clad is a fashion blog that attempts to define fashion for a younger generation. Clad’s writers don’t just want to target specific trends and styles; they want to shine a spotlight on how students in the Chicagoland area view fashion.
Guy or girl, snob or slob; check Clad out for your fashion fix because as soon as you grasp a trend, it’s already gone.
The Best U
As college students living in Chicago, the temptation to skip a workout and binge on deep-dish pizza is an ever-present threat. The Best U, a fitness blog, focuses on helping students to overcome that pizza craving and everything it represents. With a five-minute ab workout guide, there’s no excuse not to have a chiseled core.
“Look good, feel good, and eat good” are categories that help readers to better themselves physically. Stressing over a midterm? Check out the yoga tutorials that focus on calming and soothing that troubled mindset.
The Loyola Grind
Making it through college in one piece is an uphill battle. Luckily, The Loyola Grind, “makes mistakes so you don’t have to,” in regard to collegiate life in America’s third largest city. These upperclassmen bloggers are passing down their knowledge on both Loyola and Chicago.
The blog is aimed generally at underclassmen, but students of all ages can benefit from these posts. Learn about secret alcoves that are perfect for studying and cheap eats around campus. Saving money is key for any student, so be sure to check out their post on overcoming bookstore blues.
Black Ties and French Fries
Finding affordable and delicious food is not always the easiest task as a college student. Luckily for Loyola University Chicago students, the new blog Black Ties and French Fries is finding that food for them. The blog’s mission is to highlight the best places around the city for LUC students to eat at, and also bring them affordable, easy recipes they can make themselves.
Black Ties and French Fries covers a variety of dining options throughout Chicago, catering to a diverse array of palettes. The blog also has a “Bite of Advice” section, where fans can submit photos of their delicious dishes, and request a post focusing on their favorite place to grab a bite.
Surviving Chicago wants to bring Loyola University Chicago students a personalized “Buzzfeed-like experience.” Each of Surviving Chicago’s tabs on their blog addresses how to survive different aspects of college life. Posts are organized under the categories of “Surviving School,” “Surviving Boredom,” and “Surviving Students,” all giving LUC students intriguing and informative tips on navigating everything from academics to Chicago’s social scene.
North to Howard
North to Howard, a blog that gets its name from the CTA Red Line, provides readers with a variety of information targeted at Loyola students. As its mission statement reads, the blog is “A light hearted mix of news, entertainment, and information relevant to Loyola University Chicago students and all things ‘North to Howard’.” Loyola students can read about how worldly news relates to them and discover new places to check out along the Red Line.
The writers of the Urban Color blog use different color themes to connect all of their stories. “We aim to inform and entertain our readers in a visually stimulating way,” said P.J. Madison, one of the blog’s editors. Selecting a different color as the theme each week, the blog’s writers inform readers about events, trends, and places to see in Chicago that are relevant to the color of the week.
Full Circle Effect
The focus of The Full Circle Effect blog is on community action and involvement. “We want to inspire others to pay it forward through relaying stories of acts of kindness that have been brought to their attention,” said Emily Alderman, one of the blog’s editors. The blog offers readers multiple methods of “paying if forward” in an effort to get more people to perform random acts of kindness in a variety of settings.
Photos by Patrick Davet.