ASU journalism school simplifies technology

Arizona State University journalism students once jumped from workstation to workstation, reporting on PCs and editing on Macs, which delayed production in a fast-paced newsroom until college IT officials installed virtualization technology that allowed the operating systems to run cohesively.

The 300 digital workstations at the university’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication were simplified in 2006 when technology administrators purchased a desktop solution that let students access every high-end writing and editing program they needed on Macintosh computers, keeping students at a single type of workstation.

Before installing the solution, the students had to use PCs when their class work required Associated Press Electronic News Production System, but they had to move to another computer to finish work on Final Cut Pro, which is only available on Macs.

The move to a one-system solution cut the journalism school’s IT costs and allowed officials to increase the number of Cronkite School computers from 280 to 580, officials said.

Sasan Poureetezadi, the school’s director of computer services, said students being trained to work in a high-pressure newsroom with looming deadlines had their story production stalled because they had to hustle back and forth between the Mac and PC workstations.

"If you’re tied to one system and you have to physically move to another system, it becomes cumbersome," said Poureetezadi, who worked with Washington-based IT company Parallels to install the software that made it possible to run Windows-based software on a Mac. "We’re trying to prepare the next generation of journalists in an ever-changing world, and the kind of technology you implement is very important in how you reach that goal."

Converting the journalism school’s IT solutions allowed the university to consolidate servers and save energy and money, said Bill Portin, vice president of sales and operations for Parallels. The cost savings, he said, are seen primarily when IT officials no longer tend to two entirely separate operating systems, such as Macintosh and Windows. Before the desktop virtualization at Arizona State, 40 percent of the journalism school’s computers were PCs.

"Going from two to one [operating system]–that has some pretty simple economic purposes to it," Portin said, adding that about 2,500 U.S. and Canadian colleges and universities–including Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences–use Parallels products.

Conserving massive amounts of energy used to cool servers that run all day and need constant air conditioning to keep from overheating also fit Arizona State’s efforts to institute more environmentally-friendly policies in recent years, officials said.

"There’s a push here to become a much greener campus," Poureetezadi said.

The Cronkite School’s $71 million facility opened last year and became one of the most expansive journalism colleges in the country, with 14 digital newsrooms and computer labs, two television studios, and a theater in the six-story, 225,000-square-foot building.

Poureetezadi said the faculty’s work, too, was bogged down by using two operating systems before switching to Parallels products three years ago. Professors and other staff members were given both a PC and a Mac because they often had to use Microsoft Office, Microsoft Visio, and Arizona State University’s financial software, all of which were accessible on PCs only.

Since installing the school’s virtualization program, students can remain at the same Mac computers and use software that was once accessible only on a PC–a key development for a school molding reporters and editors to react to late-breaking news with top-of-the-line reporting and editing programs and software, Poureetezadi said.

"You can do the creative work that you really want to do," he said. "[Students] can master the technology in a way that they could not have done before."


Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication


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