University ground zero for CNN’s college tour

CNN and the National Association of Black Journalists will launch their first “Black in America” tour on the campus of Florida A&M. The tour, which will hit campus April 8, will feature an iReport student contest.

The contest calls for a citizen journalism product or video essay. The contest begins for FAMU students March 26 and ends April 1. It is an initiative CNN created to allow students to address overlooked issues within black communities.

It is also a way to promote CNN’s 15-day Historically Black Colleges and Universities mobile market tour.

The tour goes from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication building, where they will announce the contest winner.

“We are using iReport to engage students in our ‘Black in America’ programming and to get them excited about the tour that will be coming to each campus,” said Lara Hurst, senior marketing manager for CNN.

Hurst said students will have nine days before each “Black in America” HBCU tour stop to submit a one to 10 minute iReport entry responding to topics that CNN provides. Participants will have the chance to win a digital camera that will be used to document the tour and a pair of grand prize tickets to the Essence Festival in New Orleans.

“(Students) can make of it what they want,” said Hurst. “It is a lot of flexibility. They can do video iReports talking into their iPhone or editing something more elaborate.”

Some of the footage entered by students may appear on CNN’s “Black in America” documentary program that will air for two nights in July or on CNN’s Web site.

“We want to get content that may be on and possibly on CNN’s air,” said Keisha Taylor, CNN marketing manager. “We want to get honest feedback on what college students feel about being black in America today.”

Of the seven HBCU campuses selected in the South and Southeast including North Carolina A&T, NC Central University and the Atlanta University Center, FAMU was chosen as the first campus to kick off the tour.

“It is very significant that FAMU is the first stop on their tour,” said Gina Kinchlow, a visiting assistant SJGC professor. “We have some of the best and brightest African-American students.”

Other faculty members are also delighted that CNN selected FAMU as its initial school and said this is a great opportunity for students and faculty to share their experiences attending and working at a HBCU.

“I think it will strengthen the perception of what life is like on an HBCU campus,” said Dorothy Bland, director of the Division of Journalism at FAMU. “I think media literacy is incredibly important. It’s an incredible opportunity to tell our story.”

FAMU students are eager to enter the contest and be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

“This a great chance for FAMU to be seen in a good light,” said Georgia Dawkins, the president of FAMUABJ, which is the school-affiliated chapter of NABJ. ” It’s a chance for students to have something to boost their resume as well.”