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Video: Journalist digs deep in ISU’s social media hub

Kristi (O’Connor) Demonbreun was already on track to graduate Illinois State as a well-rounded journalist, ready for her first full-time job in broadcast media.

But thanks to Illinois State’s new Social Media Analytics Command Center (SMACC), Demonbreun will also graduate with a new digital skill set that will make her resume stand out from the crowd even more.

As one of the first big student users of SMACC, the senior broadcast journalism major is using sophisticated data visualization software to analyze and explain what’s being talked about on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. She’s one of several ambitious TV-10 students who tapped into SMACC this fall to launch The Bottom Line, a new weekly show that’s powered by social chatter.

Students in a COM class

One of the classes using SMACC is Carpenter’s Social Dynamics of Communication Technologies.

“SMACC has really helped me look at the big picture. Why does this matter? That’s where the name of our show, The Bottom Line, comes in,” said Demonbreun. “We have to come to a bottom line. All of this information we’re getting from social media users, what’s it all boiling down to?”

The Bone Scholar from Manteno has made the most of her time in the School of Communication. She started working as a reporter at The Vidette her sophomore year, later becoming editor-in-chief. She’s also made time to become a director for Redbird Productions in Athletics, and a TV-10 anchor. That hard work has already led to a part-time associate producer job with WMBD 31, the Peoria-based CBS affiliate.

The School of Communication launched SMACC this fall, making Illinois State one of only a handful of universities in the U.S. with such a space. SMACC helps student journalists synthesize information—one of their top responsibilities—said TV-10 News Director Laura Trendle-Polus ’87, M.S. ’00.

“We are always looking for ways to expand and meet what is going on in the industry. We go to the newsrooms, we talk to alums all the time, we go to conferences, and we know that that’s what they’re doing,” Trendle-Polus said. “So our students have to do that too.”

SMACC is being used across the School of Communication, for classes, research projects, and media outlets such as TV-10.

“We’re using this space to help our students find new ways to tell the news, as well as to find new sources of information in the social web,” said Nathan Carpenter, assistant director in the School of Communication. “The fact that we’re able to combine analytics along with all of our other media production makes us very unique compared with other schools of communication across the country.”

Bob Tomaski can be reached at rdtomas@IllinoisState.edu. Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.

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