ST. BONAVENTURE, NY – Baseball season may be over, but a group of St. Bonaventure University journalism students and their professors will be talking about the National Pastime at an academic conference Thursday.

The students and professors will deliver a presentation titled “Baseball, Blogging and Beat Reporting: Using a Spring Training Blog to Teach Journalism Students How to Cover a Beat” at the Mid-Atantic Popular and American Culture Conference in Philadelphia.

Anne and Richard Lee, faculty members in the university’s Jandoli School of Communication who are the co-editors of TAPinto Greater Olean, use the blog in their classes as a tool to teach students how to cover a beat.

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“Because St. Bonaventure is located in a rural area of Western New York, opportunities to cover local governments, school boards and other traditional news beats are limited,” Anne Lee said.

She added that Richard Lee started the baseball blog in spring 2013, three years before launching TAPinto Greater Olean.

The four students taking part in the discussion – Kelly Haberstroh, M.K. Killen, Lucas Sperduti and Jordan Vollmer – all worked on the blog in the Lees’ classes.

For the blogging assignment, students are assigned to follow a Major League Baseball team during spring training and blog about the team. Students are required to keep the blog up-to-date on spring training activities on and off the field. They also are assigned to blog about specific topics as well as to tweet and to conduct podcasts.

Although much of the material is aggregated from other sites, every student must do one piece of original reporting. Students begin work before spring training camps open, and the assignment concludes just prior to opening day of the regular baseball season.

“The assignment involves more than basic reporting skills,” Richard Lee said. “It requires students to become adept at technical and social media skills that include formatting posts and photos, engaging audiences through Twitter and conducting podcasts.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the spring training blog assignment has been a successful teaching tool. Skills used during the assignment have helped students succeed in upper-level journalism courses, as well as in the workplace.Sperduti, for instance, worked as an intern with the Buffalo Bisons, a Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

Thursday’s presentation will be part of as part of a Journalism and News Media panel titled "Evolution of News Media Industries and Practices."

“In our presentation, we will describe the blog assignment in detail, share examples of blog posts, discuss the anecdotal evidence that demonstrates the success of the assignment and outline a plan for a quantitative study to better gauge the project’s impact on journalism students,” Anne Lee said.

“It is our hope that the presentation and subsequent study will inspire other educators to utilize a spring training blog or a similar pedagogical tool in the important responsibility of training the next generation of journalists,” added Richard Lee.