May 7, 2019, e-Cursor: Students hit ‘home run’ with Daily Star projects; see M.A. projects online; Finley and Gyorke winners; George Ridge dies at 86.

L-R: Erin Thomson, Rocky Baier, Ava Garcia, Michael McKisson, Phillip Bramwell, Rob Wisner, Becky Pallack

As newspapers scramble to develop new business models and products, four UA School of Journalism students are helping the Arizona Daily Star find new ways to engage with the community.
Graduating senior Erin Thomson and senior Phillip Bramwell have created “Tucson Access Guide,” a mobile phone news app that gives people with physical disabilities like themselves details and reviews of accessibility at restaurants, tourist spots and other destinations.
Ava Garcia, a graduating master’s student, and junior Rocky Baier have produced “Tu Salud Tucson” (“Your Health Tucson”), a bilingual mobile website with health resources for Latinx families.
The four conducted more than 100 empathy interviews with the public to develop and hone their projects. In turn, the students hope those citizens will spread the word about the products and remain sources for feedback and information.
“We are getting to a deeper level with people … trying to help the community,” said Thompson, who suffered a spinal-cord injury in 2009.
Baier said “people thanked us for making” the health-care site, “grateful that something like this was going to exist. Health organizations had the same sentiments,” Baier added, “thanking us for our work and even offering to pay us for our product.”
The projects evolved from the school’s Product Development in Journalism class taught by Michael McKisson, a UA assistant professor of practice, and a $35,000 grant that he secured from the national Online News Association.
Each student received $4,700 to work with Arizona Daily Star Product Manager Becky Pallack and Director of Digital Innovation Rob Wisner. The two teams demonstrated their projects to Star Editor Jill Jorden Spitz and other executives at the newspaper on April 26.
“The students really crushed it,” McKisson said. “Unanimously, everyone in the room was enthusiastic about both projects … and there’s interest on the Star’s part continuing the partnership with the school, which is really cool.”
Students are hoping to keep a hand in maintaining the products, which are scheduled to be available to the public this summer.
“I think both of these projects are very viable, useful and helpful — and targeted directly to a particular audience,” said Spitz, a UA Journalism alumna. “What a home run.”

Left: Rob Wisner works with Erin Thomson and Phillip Bramwell. Right: Star Editor Jill Jorden Spitz chats with Rocky Baier.

How each product works
• “Tucson Access Guide”: It opens to a map, where users can click on a location to rate or get a review of accessibility. Reviewers are not commenting on “how the pizza tasted,” Bramwell said, but on five categories: bathroom access, transportation options and parking, staff assistance, ease of mobility inside the location and ease of entries/exits.

• “Tu Salud Tucson”: It has three main sections in Spanish and English: “Get Healthy” (news, info), “Find a Clinic” (including cost, whether providers speak Spanish or require insurance) and “Health Events” (dates for shot clinics, health fairs). “Health is so important, and we want people to know what resources are out there,” Garcia said.

• Read full story on school website or UANews

Wednesday, May 8
Just Desserts student awards ceremony, 4 p.m., Arizona Historical Society. Watch the ceremony live on our Facebook page.

June 2-8
Donald W. Carson Journalism Diversity Workshop for Arizona High School Students. Details

Monday, Aug. 26
Fall semester begins.

Friday, Sept. 20
Zenger Award for Press Freedom reception and lunch, 11:30 a.m., Marriott University Park, honoring Christiane Amanpour of CNN. Tickets and story

  • Prof. David Cuillier 
was elected president of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, which fosters citizens’ access to government records. Story

  • In memory of his wife, alum Sam Ramirez ('80)
donated $2,500 to start the Sandra Ann Kelly Ramirez Memorial Scholarship for Native American students. Story

  • Journalism on Screen paid tribute to community journalism on April 14 with a panel of Tucson Citizen alums. See the Q&A and intro, plus a video retrospective.

  • Rob Alcaraz (’12) contributed to the Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer Prize on national reporting. Other Pulitzers
  • A dozen journalists with school ties placed first at the Arizona Press Club awards, including Paul Ingram (top community journalist).
  • Murphy Woodhouse, Mariana Dale ('14) and Sandra Westdahl (11) won Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards


  • Student/alumni and 
faculty and staff kudos
  • e-Cursor archive

Nine students hold master’s defenses

Nine M.A. students gave their project or thesis defenses. Click on links to their work below.

  • Vivian Colter:People Who Look Like Me.” 
  • Jasmine Ann Demers (above, with her dad, David Russell): “42 Repeats: A Family’s  Battle with Huntington’s Disease.”
  • Ava Garcia: Where Does Arizona Go from Here? Efforts to Mitigate and Adapt to the Effects of Climate Change.”
  • April Lanuza: “Boom: Latinos, The Modern Pioneers.” (May 11, 2 p.m., premiere, Screening Room, 127 E. Congress.)
  • David Martinez: “The Reality of Hate Speech and Social Media.”
  • Shanshan Niu: 
“Framing of China’s Belt and Road Initiative by the U.S. and Indian Media.”
  • Kristan Obeng: 
Compromised Freedoms & Checkpoint Trauma” 
  • Dalal Radwan: 
“Framing Palestine: News Events in U.S. and British Newspapers, 1993-2017.”
  • Jessica Suriano: 
Prove it: The Social & Institutional Factors Contributing to Sexual Assault at UA.”

Finley, Gyorke winners named

Pascal Albright and 
Quincy Sinek (top) captured the Mark Finley Gold Pen Award in the school’s best beginning news writing contest for fall 2018 and spring 2019, respectively.

Marisa Latzman (below) captured first place in the spring 2019 Drew Gyorke Memorial Fund Photo Contest for her image of a cemetery superintendent.

In the Finley contests, 21 students selected by JOUR 205 instructors interviewed Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and wrote a deadline story. James Parisi was second and Jamie Donnelly third in fall 2018. Aiya Cancio was second and Seth Markowski 
third in spring 2019.

In the Gyorke contest, Rebeca Moreno took second and Lexi Horsey third among 12 student finalists from Prof. Kim Newton’s JOUR 203 class. The photos will hang in the Marshall hallway.

Finley story and past winners
Gyorke story/images 
and past winners

Remembering George Ridge, 86  

Professor Emeritus 
George W. Ridge Jr., who helped establish many of the cornerstone programs at the UA School of Journalism as a two-time director, died April 24 in Tucson. He was 86.

Ridge underwent heart surgery in March but later suffered pneumonia. He died peacefully at Northwest Hospital, surrounded by family.

The versatile Ridge was a reporter at the Arizona Republic, city editor at the Arizona Daily Star and an assistant attorney general for the state before beginning his career as a UA journalism professor in 1968.

“George Ridge taught me journalism when that word was universally respected — a calling with ethics and tenets, not for hobbyists,” UA Professor Mort Rosenblum said.

As director from 1972 to 1978, Ridge secured a deal to let students produce the Tombstone Epitaph. He led the school also from 1985 to 1991. 

Full obit and testimonials

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