Instructor creates online publication operated by his J/MS students

Robb Crocker . Photo by Max Barna

By Camille Sennett —

“Where the Jobs Are” might be the modern-day incarnation of the old Connie Francis song, “Where the Boys Are.”

Rutgers journalism majors want to go where the jobs are — at websites, blogs, and social media — and the J/MS Department is giving them tools to crack a cranky job market.

In the new Digital Media Writing course, instructor Robb Crocker’s students write for an online publication, The Scarlet Scroll, developed by Crocker himself (scarletscroll.rutgers.edu). The website ap­peals to readers ages 18-34, looking outside the Rutgers community. Students develop stories covering news, business, politics, sports and arts-and-entertainment. There are online polls and opinion pieces.

Crocker built the site last fall, but students enrolled in Digital Writing learn the basics of operating the program, Crocker said.

The Scarlet Scroll is a quasi-continuation of the It’s on Bad website started a number of years ago by former J/MS part-time lecturer Ben Davis.

“I wanted to put my own fingerprint on it,” Crocker said. “But more important, I wanted the students to have their fingerprints on it, too.”

Crocker is a skilled journalist who is enrolled in the Master of Communication and Infor­mation Studies program. His teaching philosophy and the intimate classroom setting allow him to remain involved and familiar with students and their journey in writing stories for The Scarlet Scroll.

“I strive to find a balance between teaching and mentoring as an instructor,” he said. “I try to be involved because as a student, I want my students to be excited about being there.”

Although he misses the ex­citement of covering stories earlier in his career, the academic arena has proved to be a learning experience so far, he said.

“The approach to media has been different all over, and the students teach me new things every day,” he said. “I am increasing my knowledge by seeing what drives media in this region.”

Ten years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, Crocker developed the Digital Media course and teaches Exploring New Media, a class taught online.

As a graduate student, he incorporates techniques per­formed by his professors into his own classes, Crocker said.

“You have to be able to reach the students and give yourself a personality,” he said. “And you need to challenge them because you don’t have them in a classroom.”

Crocker has invited numerous journalism professionals to pro­vide guest lectures to his Digital Writing students. One guest was Gerry Barker, content manager at The Palm Beach Post, who worked for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, one of the first print organizations to produce digital news, Crocker said. Some other guests include Dan Steinberg, Washington Post sports blogger, and Whitney Matheson, USA Today blogger.

Crocker’s passion for teaching journalism stems from his extensive digital writing career. He worked for three years as a general assignment reporter for Richmond.com, where he later became the editor-in-chief, and delivered news to audiences electronically by posting videos and audio at washingtonpost.com.

Crocker lives in North Brunswick with his wife, their puppy, and their cat.