The Kansas University School of Journalism has hired a new manager to oversee its student media operations.
Brett Akagi, who has a broad multimedia background that includes three years as assistant news director at KSHB-TV in Kansas City, Mo., will be the first in a newly created position that directs both the KUJH-TV station and advises the University Daily Kansan.
The hire represents another effort by the journalism school to create a single multimedia newsroom where students can tell news stories across platforms and collaborate with their peers in other media.
Akagi, who is currently visiting China and could not be reached for comment, will be the first faculty member to oversee both the KUJH and Kansan newsrooms, which merged into one location in 2010.
The previous faculty adviser to the Kansan, Malcom Gibson, did not supervise the TV station. After he retired earlier this year, Gibson's position was combined with the general manager position at KUJH to create the new one.
Ann Brill, dean of journalism, said that the consolidation of those two jobs reflects industry trends as well as budget considerations.
But Brill added that the school wouldn’t have gone through with the consolidation if it hadn’t found the right candidate. She said Akagi’s professional experience, which includes stints at television, radio and newspaper organizations, makes him an ideal mentor for students at both the Kansan and KUJH.
Scott Reinardy, an associate professor and chair of the news and information track at the journalism school, points out that today’s journalism students will join a media industry that expects them to be able to work across platforms. Modern reporters might, for example, shoot video and post it on a newspaper’s website or do reporting for a TV station.
“Brett brings these worlds together,” Reinardy said.
In the new position, Akagi will have to navigate the different organizational structures of the two media outlets.
KUJH is a teaching tool that is funded through the school and staffed largely by students enrolled in broadcast news classes. Meanwhile the Kansan is staffed by student editors and reporters, many of them paid, who are advised by a faculty member but enjoy final editorial control over the paper’s content.
Where Akagi might have the ultimate say on a story for KUJH, he will be acting in a limited advisory role for the Kansan. However, Brill said KUJH is moving toward more of a student-run model.
Trevor Graff, who will head the Kansan this fall as the editor-in-chief, said he doesn’t anticipate any major problems in the division of authority. “Right now I absolutely feel like I have autonomy,” he said.
Graff said he and Akagi “share a vision” for a more integrated multimedia newsroom. The two have already started discussing ideas to remake the physical organization of the newsroom so that it encourages collaboration between the TV station and the newspaper.
Currently the two staffs occupy distinct physical spaces. Although Graff said they can’t exactly plop the TV folks down in the middle of the room or vice versa, he and Akagi are exploring ways to get producers, editors and reporters from both outlets in closer contact.
The two newsrooms are also searching for new ways to collaborate, share content and perhaps even piggy back off each other with advertising sales, Reinardy said.
Reinardy envisions a cohesive student media operation where if, for instance, there is an accident on campus, the TV station can send someone directly to the scene to shoot video while Kansan reporters work campus contacts to produce more detailed information on the incident, and still other reporters are tweeting developments live to the public. Brill said sports, too, offers many opportunities for collaboration.
Brill, Reinardy and Graff all hope that Akagi’s multimedia background and energy will help bring the two staffs together in a combined newsroom.
“He’s smart. He’s innovative. He’s always thinking. He’s always moving forward,” Reinardy said.