New Online Magazine Tells GA’s Story

By Scott Spangler on May 28th, 2009

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.

JetWhine_STF_Home In the editor’s note, Joe Murray explains   the magazine’s mission: “The light of the mainstream media often shines brightly on the jet drivers, millionaires and astronauts. But what most people don’t know is that you are as likely to find them here, at the local airfield…Among them are the freight dogs, restorers, crop dusters, mechanics, parachute packers, blimp and balloon drivers, flight instructors, students, sport pilots, and airfield operators. They all feed their families and love of aviation by living and working around the flying machines that most of us see only as specks in the early morning’s blue sky.”

A pilot, Murray is an associate professor of electronic media, and Stories That Fly started as an academic project, “Grass Roots: Digital Journalism in the Nation’s Birthplace of Aviation.” It was recognized as one of the top 10 innovative U.S. community news ventures by New Voices, a Knight Foundation-supported initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at American University. It tells general aviation’s story in words, pictures, and video submitted by students, professional writers and photographers, and participants sharing the narratives of their lives.

Perhaps more important than telling aviation’s story using digital technology is that Stories that Fly is introducing the next generation of journalists to general aviation. One of them is Leila Archer, a magazine major:  “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.”

JetWhine_STF_flickr Readers first meet these passionate people on the home page (above), a rotating panel of 30 video previews that lead to the longer stories (Oh, my! Where has the day gone?). Words and images reside on the Community page. Videos connected to stories, like that of a pilot earning a tailwheel signoff in a Piper J-3 Cub, are YouTube links appropriately placed in the text, and photos are linked to a flickr page. This is only the start of an ambitious lineup planned to include photostories and essays, video and audio for the Web, PBS and NPR broadcasts, and a book project is in the works.

As it does for all things, time will measure the success of this effort. Remembering the creative drive, unflagging endurance,  and hope for the future that coursed through my being when I was at J-school in Missouri, Stories That Fly has a better chance than most. The real challenge will be circulating the online magazine outside of aviation to those with only a passing interest in this aviation life. But that’s something all aviators can help accomplish by sharing it not only with your aviation friends, but every friend that inhabits your online world. — Scott Spangler


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