The UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication website is visited by a variety of audiences that include the following.

  • Prospective students
  • Current students
  • Faculty and staff
  • Alumni
  • Donors
  • Reporters
  • University community
  • Local citizens

How is the site used – and by whom?

According to Google Analytics, more than 200,000 individual visitors have come to the site for more than 360,000 visits during the past year for more than 900,000 page views.

The home page accounts for about one-third of the total page views. The next most visited pages are in the faculty and staff directory, suggesting users are looking for background, bio or contact information for school personnel.

After the home page and directory pages, the next eight most viewed pages all contain content specifically for prospective or future students – both undergraduate and graduate.

View the top 10 page view data for Analytics for

Responding to the audience

The analytics demonstrate that the site should consider carefully the needs of prospective and current students.

So, what are the questions these audiences frequently ask? What information do they commonly seek? The school gains some insight on this via the following tools.

  • Google Analytics
  • Common sense and experience
  • Email inquiries from prospective and current students
  • Surveys (admittedly unscientific) of students and staff who work with them

A more systematic approach to identifying the questions and needs of these audiences would enable the school to do a better job helping these very important audiences. Also, a site search function optimized for frequently asked questions would help send a site visitor directly to the information he or she seeks.

FAQs that leverage social media

The following FAQs are designed to assist prospective and current students with answers to their most-asked questions.

Given the power of social media and crowdsourcing to provide effective and timely information, these FAQs offer tools that site users may use to reach sources beyond the FAQ page itself.

Dedicated Twitter hashtags would allow the school’s social media team to monitor and respond to questions while also giving students access to previously provided answers. Hashtags also open the opportunity for students to connect with others who have had similar questions and may offer valuable advice or perspective.

Links steer FAQ users to pages with more comprehensive information than can be included in the FAQs.

Contact information directs users to individual faculty and staff who are best equipped to handle their questions.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Prospective graduate students FAQs

  • What graduate programs do you offer?

The school offers residential master’s and residential doctoral graduate programs in addition to online master’s and online certificate programs. Special programs in interdisciplinary health communication, medical and science journalism, and a joint M.A./J.D. program are also offered.
Contact Cindy Anderson.

  • Do you offer online graduate programs?

The school offers an online master’s and online certificate program.
Contact Rachel Lillis.

  • What funding is available to graduate students?

Graduate student funding opportunities include the Roy H. Park Fellowships,theRichard Cole Eminent Professor Graduate Student Fellowship, and thePeter DeWitt Pruden Jr. and Phyllis Harrill Stancill Pruden Fellowship.
Contact Cindy Anderson.

  • What are the admissions requirements and process?

Minimum criteria for admission to the school’s graduate program include a recognized undergraduate degree and, for doctoral applicants, a master’s or J.D. degree. Visit the UNC Graduate School website to complete an online application.
Contact Cindy Anderson.

  • How much does it cost?

The cost for full-time tuition and fees for the residential graduate program is $12,272 per year for in-state students and $27,203 per year for out-of-state students.
Contact Cindy Anderson.

  • Who should I contact for more information?

Contact Cindy Anderson.

Prospective undergraduate students FAQs

  • What are the admissions requirements?

The University’s admissions office is responsible for all undergraduate admissions regardless of your interests or intended major. All admissions questions are best directed to them. The UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication welcomes your questions about our programs and opportunities.
Contact Napoleon Byars.

  • What programs do you offer?

The school offers a wide variety of programs including specializations in reporting, photojournalism, multimedia, editing and graphic design, electronic communication, advertising, public relations and strategic communication.
Contact Napoleon Byars.

  • Do you have programs for high school students?

The school is home to the N.C. Scholastic Media Association, which offers a variety of programs for high school students and teachers.
Contact Monica Hill.

  • Can I visit the school?

The school welcomes a visit from you.
Contact Napoleon Byars.

  • How do I transfer from another university?

Transfer students must apply to Carolina and follow University admissions office procedures. Make sure you check “journalism” on the transfer application as your intended major.
Contact Marla Barnes.

  • What are the scholarship opportunities?

The school offers many scholarships and awards each year to students in the school or students who will be in the school the following year. The deadline for all awards and scholarships applications is Feb. 1 unless otherwise designated. Apply by using the school’s general scholarship application form.
Contact Napoleon Byars.

Current student FAQs

  • How do I obtain special permission required to enroll in a course?

Some courses require special permission for registration. Please contact the school’s student services office for assistance with special permission courses.
Contact Sharon Jones.

  • Who is my adviser?

Please contact the school’s student services office for assistance with all questions about advising.
Contact Sharon Jones.

  • How do I get in touch with an instructor?

Check the school’s directory of faculty and lecturers for contact information. You may also search the University’s directory.
Contact Linda Peterson.

  • How do I get on the list to receive JOMC News, the school’s weekly e-newsletter for students?

Send an email to requesting that you be added to the list.
Contact Morgan Ellis.

  • How do I get access to J-link, the school’s online alumni directory?

Sign in or register at J-link. If you encounter any problems, please contact the school’s assistant director for development and alumni relations.
Contact Robin Jackson.

  • How do I minor in journalism and mass communication?

Interested students must apply to the school’s senior associate dean by Jan. 15 of their sophomore year. Download the application.
Contact Marla Barnes.

  • Are there scholarships available, and how do I apply?

The school offers many scholarships and awards each year to students in the school or students who will be in the school the following year. The deadline for all awards and scholarships applications is Feb. 1 unless otherwise designated. Apply by using the school’s general scholarship application.
Contact Napoleon Byars.

  • When are the computer labs open?

Labs in rooms 58, 59, 60, 67, 141 and 142 are open Sunday 1 p.m. to midnight, and Monday through Thursday 5:30 p.m. to midnight, unless classes are scheduled in the room. Labs are also open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, but are subject to closure for maintenance.
Contact David Alexander.

  • How do I get an internship for credit?

The school and allows students to earn 1 hour credit for an internship via the JOMC 394 course. Students may be paid while earning internship credit.
Contact Jay Eubank.

  • How do I get information included in the school’s newsletter or other publicity materials?

JOMC News is published weekly during the fall and spring semesters. Submit news items to jomc_news@unc.eduThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  no later than noon on Thursdays.
Contact Morgan Ellis.


The real estate website and mobile app, Zillow, has undervalued homes sold in the past six months in three popular Durham neighborhoods by an average of $35,568.

Zillow provides home value estimates it calls Zestimates for 100 million homes based on an algorithm that includes publicly available information on a home’s physical attributes, tax assessments and comparable sales transactions.

An analysis of 47 homes sold in Durham’s Watts-Hillandale, Forest Hills and Trinity Park neighborhoods from May 8 through Nov. 2, 2012, revealed that Zillow undervalued 38. Only two of those were undervalued by less than $5,000.

(Method of analysis: Home sales dates and prices were provided by the Prudential York Simpson Underwood Realty company’s Durham office. Zillow valuations were collected via the Zillow iPhone app and website. The sales price to Zillow valuation comparisons were calculated for each neighborhood individually and collectively.)

Eight of the 47 were overvalued, with an average of $16,500 per home. Three of those were overvalued by less than $5,000. One home’s Zillow estimate matched its sales price exactly.

The Watts-Hillandale neighborhood – bordered by Hillandale Rd. on the west, Broad St. on the east, Interstate 85 on the north and Englewood Ave. on the south – showed the greatest variation in home sales prices to Zillow’s estimate.


  • 20 homes sold in the last six months
  • 17 undervalued by Zillow
  • 16 percent overall under-valuation of homes sold
  • $64,000 average under-valuation

The Forest Hills neighborhood, located southwest of Durham’s downtown, showed the least variation in sales prices to Zillow’s estimates.

Forest Hills:

  • 10 homes sold in the last six months
  • 7 undervalued by Zillow
  • 6 percent overall under-valuation of homes sold
  • $36,400 average under-valuation

The Trinity Park neighborhood, located northwest of downtown Durham, was near the average variation in sales prices to Zillow’s estimates for the neighborhoods analyzed.

Trinity Park:

  • 17 homes sold in the last six months
  • 14 undervalued by Zillow
  • 12 percent overall under-valuation of homes sold
  • $42,800 average undervaluation

Zillow did not respond to emails and phone calls seeking clarification on home valuation methodology, known shortcomings and gaps in the valuations, and how the Durham market compares nationally in Zestimate accuracy.

However, Zillow does offer accuracy data on its website that shows the Durham market as a whole with its highest rating of four stars with a median error of 6.1 percent.

It offers a value range feature that shows the high and low estimated values of a home. The wider the range, the less sure Zillow is of its estimate’s accuracy. Their website states that the value range “can vary in magnitude depending on our historical ability to estimate similar homes.”

Homeowners who find errors or omissions in their home’s Zillow profile may update facts about their home, which can affect subsequent valuations.

Matthew Slotkin has owned a home in the Watts-Hillandale neighborhood since September 2007. He said he uses Zillow to familiarize himself with sales trends in the neighborhood and that he doesn’t use Zillow valuations to make decisions about re-financing, buying, selling or making home improvements.

“I don’t find it particularly accurate,” Slotkin said. “Watts-Hillandale is full of distinctive properties. Some are more highly valued because of special renovations. The nuances in such values aren’t reflected in Zillow.”

Zillow recommends that buyers, sellers and homeowners supplement the information it provides with additional research including working with real estate agents and appraisers.

Susan Hertz, a Durham real estate agent for more than 25 years, said Zillow is a good source of general information about real estate, but that multiple listing service (MLS) data — real estate information compiled for realtors — is more detailed, accurate and reliable.

“However, the MLS does not include private sales, so I use Zillow from time to time when I am looking for additional data in my real estate practice, or overviewing general values in an area,” Hertz said. “Most of my clients have probably gone to it to look at neighboring properties and other extensive information Zillow provides.”

Hertz said that she has found Zestimates to be highly inaccurate because Zillow does not have access to the condition or particular circumstances of many properties such as charm and functionality of floor plans.

Sara Davis Lachenman, a Watts-Hillandale resident who is selling a home in the neighborhood while also renting there, said the accuracy is hit or miss.  “I find looking at the sales data plus the Zestimate tends to get me a reasonable picture,” she said.

“As a quick place to get some information about a house, it is a pretty efficient way of getting the tax data fast,” Lachenman said. “And I very much like using it to see the asking price of other houses in the same neighborhood.”

Hertz said her clients sometimes get a mistaken impression of property value from Zillow. “But they understand Zillow’s limitations when I explain it,” she said.“In my experience there is no substitute for MLS data interpreted by a real estate professional who understands the various factors affecting value.”




For this story, the sources I attempted to contact included Zillow media relations staff, Durham real estate agents, appraisers and residents of the neighborhoods covered in the story. I sourced the data on recent real estate transactions through an agent who provided links to MLS data on Durham home sales within the past six months. Zillow data was sourced from searches of


The questions I posed to Zillow media relations included:

  • Explain the Zillow methodology for valuing homes.
  • Where are the shortcomings and gaps in the valuations?
  • How does the Durham market compare nationally in terms of accuracy and application of Zillow resources?
  • What explains large variations in Zestimates and actual sales prices?
  • What companies, organizations or services do you see as your competition?
  • Does Durham provide adequate data to Zillow? Is there Durham market data you don’t have but wish you did?

The questions I posed to Durham realtors included:

  • Do you use Zillow, and if so, how do you use it?
  • Do your clients use Zillow, and how?
  • How do you feel about Zillow?
  • Are there other resources that you think are more accurate?
  • How does Zillow have an effect on your clients’ expectations, etc.?
  • Does Zillow effect the market by setting buyer/seller expectations?
  • In general, what is the state of the Durham housing market?

The questions I posed to appraisers included:

  • How do you feel about Zillow?
  • Does it have any effect on home values?

The questions I posed to neighborhood residents included:

  • How do you use Zillow?
  • How do you view it in terms of accuracy and usefulness?
  • How does it factor into your thinking about re-financing, selling, buying, making home improvements, etc.?
  • Do you own or rent in the neighborhood, and for how long you’ve owned or rented?

Facts checked

For this story, I checked facts on home sales prices by comparing MLS data to Zillow data, and I found that the data matched in 100 percent of the cases.

Intended audience

The intended audience for this story would be residents, real estate agents and potential buyers/sellers of real estate in Durham.

I chose three desirable Durham neighborhoods, but the analysis and reporting could be easily replicated to include neighborhoods anywhere for which Zillow provides valuations.The story could be distributed via social media with a Zillow hashtag to draw in a larger audience interested in Zillow’s accuracy.

This particular story would be appropriate for publication in the Durham Herald-Sun, The Independent Weekly and Durham edition of The News & Observer.

If the story was to be micro-targeted, the listservs for the three neighborhoods analyzed would be an ideal audience.

Possible additions

This story could be strengthened by providing a widget that gives readers the ability to compare Zillow valuations with MLS sales data for neighborhoods not analyzed specifically in the story.

An interactive map of the properties included in the analysis could allow readers to drill down and see property-by-property the variations in Zillow valuations to sales prices.

Crowdsourcing could also enrich the story by allowing readers to contribute their own experiences with Zillow and similar websites/apps to help other readers refine their understanding of how to use those services most effectively.

As online media attract increasing numbers of news and information consumers, organizations that value their journalistic reputations must develop online correction and clarification policies that serve their audiences and burnish their credentials as arbiters of truth and accuracy.

Competitive pressures to publish news online quickly invite mistakes. But the online media environment also enables news organizations to correct errors promptly and visibly so that readers find information that has been vetted by a large audience and fine-tuned by its publishers.

Mistakes can be forgiven if the publisher owns them and corrects them publicly.

News organizations should give readers ready access to tools to provide feedback and corrections. Each story should include a prominent link for corrections. The news site’s search function should be optimized for searches with terms such as “correction” and “error.”

One novel approach to corrections is to offer a link a story with tracked changes since it was first published to the site.

Not all mistakes are equal. Some mistakes may change the arc or premise of a story, while others are technical and benign. All mistakes deserve to be corrected, but they call for different remedies depending on the degree to which they affect readers’ understanding of the story covered.

When an error is identified, a site publisher must decide whether it requires a retraction, a correction or a clarification.


A retraction is the proper course when a major assertion of a story is found to be false or questionable. This requires highly visible and overt action such that a reader cannot reasonably view the erroneous information without knowing that it is incorrect or challenged.

A retraction should appear at the top of a story along with an apology for failing to verify the accuracy of the information in the story. The story should not be removed from the site. This signals to readers and critics that your organization owns the mistakes it makes.

While retractions may be uncomfortable and embarrassing, it sends the message that your goal is accuracy and that you hold yourself accountable if you do not meet your goal.


Corrections are appropriate when there is inaccuracy in a story that does not change the point of the story but nonetheless misinforms readers.

Mistakes that call for corrections include the misspellings of names, mischaracterizations of a subject’s nuanced position on an issue, and other details that are incorrect and should not be allowed to remain a part of the online record of a topic. A correction should seek to prevent inaccurate information from proliferating on the Internet.

A correction should acknowledge that the original story has been modified, but it should be done in a way that a first-time reader never consumes the incorrect information.


Clarifications are called for when a story fails to provide context that is important to a reader’s understanding of the issue being covered in a story.

A clarification is a response to an error of omission, not to a factual error.

Clarifications should be made parenthetically within the copy of a story and labeled as such.

Read more about corrections policies:

One of the great opportunities of online media is that it can leverage the “wisdom of the crowds.”

Online stories exist within the context of a vast online community. The most effective online stories tap into and engage the audience that cares about the issue being covered.

Online content producers can increase the exposure and impact of their stories by inviting participation from the audience and by associating crowdsourced content with the story. This may also include linking to or embedding related content from other sites.

It’s important to provide proper credit when referencing content produced by others.

Crowdsourced content attributions ideally should include:

  • First and last name
  • Username
  • Location
  • Publication time and date
  • Email address
  • Link to original content

If soliciting crowdsourced content that will be posted directly to your site, provide forms or clear guidelines that enable the individuals in the crowd to create their own attribution in a way that is consistent with other attributions on the site.

If pulling content from another online sources, contact the content producers to ask for their permission and their preferred attribution style. If unable to make that contact, include as much of the above-listed attribution information as possible.

The minimum standards that must be met are that the reader:

  • Is not misled about the source of the content
  • Can access the original content
  • Can comment on the content

Never use content without attribution.

@XYZ Media Co. seeks a creative, collaborative and open-minded analytical thinker to lead its social media strategy.

The ideal candidate will have experience helping organizations effectively adopt and wisely abandon new media platforms.

Responsibilities include:

  • Inspiring and maintaining a culture of online engagement for XYZ Media Co.
  • Maximizing XYZ Media Co.’s relationships with the communities that form around news
  • Applying data and analytics to formation and adjustment of social media strategies
  • Ensuring adherence to social media best practices as they evolve
  • Establishing close monitoring of social media channels to enable responsiveness and accountability
  • Enabling early adoption of new social media platforms while maintaining sustainability in each platform
  • Deciding when and how to transition away from a social media platform that is not delivering a return on investment of time and resources

Review sample job descriptions for executive level social media positions:

11:54 p.m., Oct. 11, 2012

As the dust settles on the debate, TV pundits are analyzing who did well on what issues and overall who won and who lost.

FOX News is hailing Paul Ryan as the winner and hammering home a narrative that Joe Biden’s debate style was unruly and disrespectful.

MSNBC is framing the debate differently, saying Biden reassured the political left by fighting harder than President Obama did in his debate with Mitt Romney. MSNBC pundits are saying that Ryan took a “do no harm” strategy, and was therefore less aggressive and unwilling to “take the bait” that Biden offered. MSNBC reported the results of “flash polls” that indicated undecided voters believed Biden won the debate, but also that all voters believed Ryan won.

This analysis comes from news organizations oft-accused of bias, and it illustrates how citizens might be swayed by the media they choose to consume.

Read the transcript of the debate or watch the video, and make your own judgments.

10:32 p.m., Oct. 11, 2012

Biden starts with his closing statement. He thanks the moderator and the debate hosts.

He says that Romney says 47 percent of Americans won’t take responsibility for themselves, and he says some of those people are his family, and that all they want is a fair shot.

Ryan thanks the moderator and debate hosts and Biden. He says that Obama’s policies have not worked and that Americans deserve better. He says that he and Romney are uniquely qualified to create jobs in America.