The Tennessee Journalist

January 28, 2008 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: news web sites.

The Tennessee Journalist is the news web site of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee. was created in the fall of 2006, soon after I joined the faculty at UT. This news site is part of the curriculum of the School and is operated by a student staff. They make the editorial decisions about what is posted on the site every day. You can find out a little more about the origins of at its About page. And if you want to be entertained, watch a promotional video about TNJN that was produced by one of our students.

The purpose of this news web site is to help the School teach a variety of aspects of web journalism and to give students the opportunity to practice and develop their skills and understanding of this new form of journalism., I think, serves as an excellent model for what a journalism/mass communication program can do to get itself into the convergence world. The site cost very little to establish and does not require much out-of-pocket cash for the School to maintain it. The students have taken to it with energy and enthusiasm.

Here are a few facts:

  • The site was established in October 2006.
  • The site is a part of the curriculum of the School.
  • The site is run by a staff of students, and editorial decisions rest with that staff of editors. The staff operates independently from any class or course, and anyone may join the staff.
  • The site is operated with a content management system developed specifically for This system (which the students have named “Ochs”) is built on the Django open-source framework. It was developed by Johnny Dobbins and Staci Wolfe and is owned and can be licensed by the University of Tennessee.
  • Students doing work in any of our courses can contribute their work to the site. Some courses give students the option of completing some course requirements by working with the site.
  • Advertising space can be sold on the site. (We have not done this yet, but we are planning to begin this semester.)
  • The site is equipped to handle almost anything our students produce: news and feature stories, pictures, audio, video, audio slide shows, etc.
  • The site is updated on a daily basis and can be updated immediately when breaking news occurs.
  • A unique and important aspect of the site is that every student who contributes to the site automatically gets a profile page. This page can contain a short biography and picture of the student. It also contains links to all of their work on the site. A good example of a student’s profile page is this one.

The student staff holds a weekly staff meeting on Thursday evenings, and about 30 students regularly attend these meeting. Probably twice that number (or more) make regular contributions to the site. is gathering an audience. Through the fall semester, the site attracted about 2,500 unique visitors every day. Since the beginning of the spring semester, the number of unique visitors has averaged more than 3,200 each day.

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