Stories That Fly Launches!

Photojournalism students exhibited 35 images shot on-location for feature stories.

Photojournalism students exhibited 35 images shot on-location for feature stories.

KENT, Ohio — On Saturday, May 2, 2009, the Kent State University School of Journalism and Aeronautics and Flight Program hosted aviation enthusiasts, faculty, students and members of the general public in a half-day drive and fly-in to celebrate the launch of Stories That Fly.

The event opened with several video previews, including one featuring Lynee Bixler, a local hot air balloon pilot. “It was really strange being interviewed,” Bixler said. “[Videographer] Joe Murray and [writer] Tess Wolfedid a good job capturing what hot air ballooning is about.”

Bixler said the stories on the Web site capture the human side of aviation.”That’s what I’m in it for. The places you travel, people you meet,” she said. “Anyone from bus drivers to doctors to lawyers . . . everybody brings their own personal aspect to [aviation].”

First Time Visitors

Many attendees remarked that it was the first time that they had been to campus and the newly renovated Franklin Hall and they were glad to see the academic and aviation communities come together for this event.

Guests toured the high definition television and radio studios and control rooms and enjoyed barbequed hot dogs and hamburgers grilled up by professors Barbara Hipsman and Bob Springer– who volunteered along with a dozen students and staff to help make the event a success.  Several pilots flew airplanes to the Kent State University Airport and caught a free shuttle provided by the flight school to get to the barbecue on time.

Pilot, Ken Moir enjoys one of the photos in the exhibit.

Pilot Ken Moir is one of the many attendees who enjoyed the aviation photo exhibit.

Attendee Ken Moir, who has been a pilot for 47 years, and his wife, Connie, said their lives revolve around aviation. “I’ve always been around aviation,” Ken said. “The more you can educate, the better it is for everyone.”

Kent State assistant professor Joe Murray, who is the creative force and managing editor of the Stories That Fly site as well as a pilot, said, “Aviation is full of good character — and also good characters.”

After years of trying to teach college students digital storytelling the traditional way – with books and lectures –  Murray says he “only needed to look up” to find a better method.  “Aviation is colorful, interesting, and an important part of our daily lives — but many people confuse general aviation with the airlines.”  “Aviation,” he says,  is a difficult topic for anyone not involved directly to understand, let alone explain.”  The Stories That Fly site seeks to improve the public understanding of aviation.

Dr. Isaac Nettey talks to the crowd about the Kent State University flight program.

Dr. Isaac Nettey talks to the crowd about the Kent State University flight program.

Real-world Experience for Students

According to Murray, story ideas come from students, faculty, citizen journalists, aviators and the general public.  Murray, along with professors Jacquie Marino, Gary Harwood and Teresa Hernandez, incorporate writing, photography and videography assignments into their university courses.

Students gain real-world experience as they collaborate with their professors and join them on location shoots and interviews to produce content more info

for the site.

Murray stressed the multitude of storytelling platforms featured on the site, including video, photo essays and text and said that many of the students who contributed, “were seeing airplanes up close for the first time in their lives, and were genuinely interested in the people they interviewed.”  For them, the topics were so very different that the typical stories they produce for other assignments.

Dr. Isaac Nettey, a former military pilot and current Associate Dean for the College of Technology (the home of the Kent State flight program) introduced guests to an overview of the professional pilot training offered at Kent and a new program that will help students become air traffic controllers.

Focus on People

Murray said he was “thrilled with the work” contributed by student writers and photojournalists   “I am particularly pleased with today’s photo exhibit,” he remarked, “it is obvious that the guests really enjoy seeing the images, and the compositions are a microcosm of the many people and topics that you will find featured on the site.”  But, “if you are looking for technical reviews on engines and avionics, you’ll need to look elsewhere,” Murray says.  “We really want to focus on the people in aviation first.”

Joe Murray joins KSU Chief Flight Instructor Tim Palcho and Contributing Editor Jaqueline Marino at the photo exhibit.

Joe Murray joins KSU Chief Flight Instructor Tim Palcho and Contributing Editor Jaqueline Marino at the photo exhibit.

Looking around the first-floor lobby where everyone gathered for lunch, Lynee Bixler noticed how many students were involved in the production of stories for the site. “It’s nice to see young people interested in aviation,” she said.

Recent Kent State graduate Marcus Barkley wrote a story as part of his Feature Writing class. “What makes the Stories That Fly project special is that it is not just about aviation,” he found. “Beyond the propellers and landing strips lies a sense of community, a feeling of oneness that bonds the stories and the characters together over a unifying passion for flight.”

Interesting Stories

Stories, videos and photo essays on the site feature individuals, organizations and events that largely go unnoticed in the regular coverage of environmental, business, health, economy, technology, agriculture, sports and entertainment news. Users can interact with the content, leave comments for the authors, vote for their favorite stories and submit story ideas and photos of their own.

Five photographs from the exhibit were raffled off, along with a balloon ride with Lynee Bixler in her hot air balloon, The Sublime.

After a lunch, everyone gathered in the FirstEnergy Auditorium for a 10-minute movie that featured the different stories on the site.

“It’s so interactive and colorful — human in all aspects,” Bixler said about Stories That Fly. “Like the story about the [Skyline Diner’s] café . . . it’s a totally different perspective. It lets you look beyond the boundaries of your own cockpit.”

Bev Hartong, editor of Plane and Pilot News, echoed Bixler’s sentiment. “I think it portrays that once you’re a pilot, you’re always a pilot.”

Leila Archer is a magazine journalism major and a copy editor for the Daily Kent Stater.  “I went into this not knowing much about aviation, but quickly learned that aviation is a way of life and people are very passionate about it — there is nothing better to write about than passionate people.”

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3 Comments to "Stories That Fly Launches!"

  1. […] At Kent State University in Ohio, students hoping for a career in two failing industries–aviation and publishing–have joined forces to improve the future of both by starting an online aviation magazine. Its tag line, “Grass Roots. Blue Sky,” summarizes the content of  Stories That Fly. Produced by the School of Journalism & Mass Communication and the College of Technology’s aeronautics program, the website went live May 2. […]

  2. […] At Kent State University in Ohio, students hoping for a career in two failing industries–aviation and publishing–have joined forces to improve the future of both by starting an online aviation magazine. Its tag line, “Grass Roots. Blue Sky,” summarizes the content of  Stories That Fly. Produced by the School of Journalism & Mass Communication and the College of Technology’s aeronautics program, the website went live May 2. […]

  3. Timothy R. Gaffney says:

    This is an innovative concept and a great collaboration between two university departments. A great outcome will be young journalists going into the world with knowledge of and appreciation for aviation. And it couldn’t have happened in a better place — Ohio, the birthplace of powered flight!

    Tim Gaffney
    Editor and Publisher
    AviationDayton.com

Grass roots. Blue sky. The best digital stories in general aviation.