Life in the J-School

When I first toured the University of Florida during my junior year of high school, I was taken in by the beautiful sights and sounds of the campus. I knew immediately that UF was the right place for me.

They told me about the great journalism and communications programs UF offered. What they failed to tell me was the seemingly outdated technology.

When I started out in my Radio 1 class, the booths had been around since (I think) the 1970s, with few upgrades to the hardware. Sure, the software was up-to-date, but I think it would have been a little more enticing to work six hours a week at a nicer looking facility. Still, I put my head down and worked hard, eventually becoming one of the co-anchors on the Front Page Edition of All-Things Considered, a one-hour presentation from Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM. Regardless of what its facilities looked like, UF’s Telecommunications program remained one of the top in the country.

Front Page with SGallo
Last year, however, the headquarters of the “J-School,” as we so endearingly call it, got a heavy makeover, one that made me wish I was just starting my time at UF so I could fully take advantage of the new facilities for the next four years. Weimer Hall went from dingy and (as my dad phrased it) rotting to sleek, innovative, and forward-thinking, very much at par (and even better!) than the other programs and colleges at the University of Florida. There are study rooms with TV screens for communications research, meeting rooms, a brand new paint job and even an area to sit, relax, and drink some coffee. (Each cup is $1.60 from a nifty little machine.)

My favorite change out of this entire operation is the new Integrated Newsroom Facility, better known to us “newsies” as the INF. Previously at Weimer Hall, the radio and television news teams worked almost exclusively. During construction, the barriers were literally broken down, and the walls that divided the two departments ceased to exist. Now, the INF provides the listeners and viewers of WUFT-FM and WUFT-TV, respectively, the best of both worlds. As a matter of fact, I was a guest on Front Page during one of my TV shifts this semester, and I was brought on to have a live discussion about the story I was working on that day. Other times, Front Page will tease First at Five, our TV news show, by previewing what stories viewers would be able to watch that very day.

Mike Stand-up
It is, in my opinion, the greatest upgrade of all, and I’m very pleased that I’ve had the opportunity to do both radio and TV news during my three and a half years at UF.


The Tipping Point: Book review

“Going viral.”

It’s the goal of every blogger, YouTuber, and .gif-maker. It’s the the phenomenon of becoming an Internet sensation almost overnight. It all happens in (seemingly) the blink of an eye.

That’s what author Malcolm Gladwell attempts to explain in his book, The Tipping Point.

Of course, the tipping point hasn’t always referred to going viral on the Internet. “What is the tipping point?” you may ask. The tipping point, as Gladwell explains it, is the moment in time when something, say, Hush Puppies, becomes popular again because of some hipsters in New York. The tipping point is when something becomes incredibly, impossibly popular, despite its overwhelming unpopularity just weeks, days, or even hours ago. It refers to something that no one would have pictured would be so exceedingly popular, something that we had no idea existed until we saw it on TV or heard it on the radio (like Gangnam Style) or became so wildly unpopular it became unlikely it would ever surge again (Furbys?!)

Gladwell likens the phenomenon of the tipping point to an “epidemic,” going as far as to site the syphilis outbreaks in 1990’s Baltimore to illustrate his point. Like any epidemic, there are three essential rules: The Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context.

Let’s take Psy‘s Gangnam Style, for example. It is, by now, a worldwide phenomenon, a catch Korean pop tune you don’t understand the words to but love to do the dance with. How did you first hear about it? Chances are, you saw it on a social networking site, such as Facebook or Twitter. Maybe a co-worker should you during the lunch break. Regardless of where you heard it, the person you heard it from heard it from someone else, who heard it from someone else, etc. But it had to start somewhere. The Law of the Few emphasizes the importance of transmission through word-of-mouth, and Psy’s recent success is thanks in large part to the initial underground following that led to mainstream popularity. Sure, he wrote the song, recorded it, came up with a unique dance and then posted it to YouTube, but someone else had to do the work. Someone else had to decide this was worth sharing, and since it was so catch, it was indeed worth sharing to everyone they knew.

This leads me to the next point: the Stickiness Factor. Gladwell explains the Stickiness Factor as how well something… well… “sticks.” Think about this for a second. Take, for example, the wildly memorable Stanley Steemer jingle. You know exactly what that company does: “Stanley Steemer gets carpet cleaner!” It’s so easy to remember, in fact, that you can’t help but sing along to it. But that’s just it: you may not exactly know all the words to Gangnam Style, per se, but you do know the moves: the lasso, the phantom horse-riding, the posing. And that’s what makes it stick. So in order for something to get to that tipping point, you gotta stick the landing. Psy did that.

The Power of Context is the last of the three rules, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Epidemics are fostered by the circumstances and conditions of the times and places in which they occur. Turn on the radio–go on, I’ll wait. How many of Nicki Minaj’s hysterical words and Justin Bieber’s high-pitched crooning do you actually understand? Gangnam Style works perfectly in this day and age: There’s an easy chorus, a great bass line, and lots of dubstep-like technology. In other words, it’s just like a lot of American Top40 songs (look, Psy is still at #12!). Psy’s hit song might not have been such a hit ten or even five years ago, but because our culture is conducive to his music, it has become an international sensation.

There you have it. Those are the three major rules of the tipping point. But don’t take it from me: take it from Malcolm Gladwell. After all, he’s the one that wrote the book that’s gone viral.

Branching Out, Part 2: Leaves

Okay, sorry for the super cheesy title. That’s something else you have to know about me: I’m a huge fan of puns and jokes that take verbal cues.

Anyway… I’ve got three more blogs to check you out, all in different taste!

Speaking of blogs of different “flavors,” Sarah Samuels‘ blog is all about cooking in college! (Again, I profusely apologize for the awful play on words.) I find her blog very helpful, especially because her blog is catered (catered! You gotta admit, that was a good pun) exactly for people like me: the financially-strapped college student with very little time to actually cook. If you need a quick recipe idea without the time nor money, head on over to her blog.

Another blog I think you should definitely check out belongs to Alexa Padilla. Her blog is also all about–you guessed it!–food, but I’ll spare you the bad food puns this time around. Her posts go in-depth about eating healthy, which, like Sarah’s blog, is equally important for college students since we sometimes (always) forget to do. I like Alexa’s blog because rather than just posting recipes, she actually tries them out herself, and posts the pictures afterwards…. And I must say, they look so appetizing, I’d be willing to try them out for myself in the future.

Finally, my good friend Stephanie Jones has a really humorous, yet grateful, take on what is said to be the end of the world. Her blog, entitled “____ Days Until the End of the World,” uses the title as a countdown to the end of the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012. The content of that blog is something she was thankful for that day. As a matter of fact, you can find my guest appearance on her blog here! (For the record, that was a day I was thankful for as well.)

Those are all the blogs I wanted to share with you… But don’t let that stop you! Go out there and read more blogs. Just always remember: Read mine first!

Branching Out

While there’s nothing I like more than reading my own blog posts over and over (and over), I’ve decided to check out the blogs of some other really cool cats in the UF J-school. I learned some neat things along the way.

My TV partner, Katerina Sardi, is definitely in the right field. She is a self-proclaimed “TV devotee,” and her blog is all about television and related entertainment. Her experiences in various internships, including Radio Disney and NBC in New York, lend a hand to her humorous and insightful writing. Check her blog out for the latest on your favorite TV shows!

Another blog I’ve checked out belongs to Bothaina Saleh, or more fondly known as Beth in the newsroom. Her blog is all about making it as a first generation college student. I can definitely relate to Beth, since I myself am the first in my family to attend an American university. Her blog really puts into perspective how blessed college students, myself included, truly are. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out her blog!

Finally, one of the most interesting blogs I’ve ever come across belongs to my former Front Page “Co-Pro” (Co-Producer, as it were) and co-host, Brittany Wienke. Over the course of our time as co-hosts of Front Page on Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM, I thought I’d gotten to know Brittany pretty well. I still believe that stands true, but one thing I didn’t know about her was that she was such a foodie! Her blog is all about “food and food news,” so if that sounds like something you’d be interested in, head on over to her blog.

That’s it for now… But there are three more blogs I want you to check out! Stay tuned!

Who is Mike Biana?

That’s a really good question.

It’s one that I find myself asking a good majority of the time, but haven’t been able to give a definitive answer for. After all, what does define someone? His name? His interests? His favorite movie or preferred candy? Somewhere in the crosshairs of the  qualitative and the quantitative, I think I may have found a way to describe myself, if only in sharing the things I do and what I care about.

As stated above, my name is Mike Biana and I’m a Senior Telecommunications News student at the University of Florida. I’m currently a TV reporter for WUFT, and I’ve also done work with Florida’s 89.1 WUFT-FM. (More specifically, I’ve been a reporter as well as hosted the Front Page edition of All Things Considered on the local NPR feed. This “local” feed can be heard online on as well as in Alachua County and 22 other counties besides.)

For the last three months, I’ve been the lead play-by-play announcer for Ocala high school football on Real Oldies 104.7. We cover Friday night games around Ocala and Marion County, and it’s been a blast. It’s exactly what I want to do when I graduate from college, so it’s been a blessing and the perfect opportunity and I could not be more thankful for the Real Oldies crew for believing me and giving me this position.

Outside of the newsroom and pressbox, I’m also heavily involved in the UF community. I am a Florida Cicerone, and we are the official student ambassadors to the University of Florida. I have given over 40 campus tours in my time here at UF, and I’ve also served at plenty of other events as a liaison or other ambassador role for the University of Florida Alumni Association. We’re all about choosing your own legacy, and because of the Cicerones, I believe my career at UF is complete.

I’m also a Residential College Advisor at Hume Hall, and I am employed by the UF Department of Housing and Residence Education. It’s truly a unique position to be able to serve as a resource, authority figure, mentor, and friend to some of the best and brightest minds at UF, especially since most of my residents are in the Honors program.

More personally, I like to think of myself as a family man. I’m the eldest of three (my little sister is a sophomore at FSU, and my little brother is in the 8th grade), and since my family moved from The Philippines in 1999, I am the first in my immediate family to attend an American university. My parents are the source of my encouragement, and the rest of my family is very supportive of me and what I want to do. I have a beautiful girlfriend named Hayley and we’ve been together for nearly three years; outside of my mother, I’d definitely say she is my biggest fan. Jesus Christ is my LORD and Savior, and though I am not perfect, I would definitely say that none of this means anything without Him at the center of my life.

Welp. That’s me in a nutshell. (500+ words? That’s a huge nutshell, Mike.)

Signing off ’til next time…


34-19: Knocking the Knights Down a Peg

Judging from the final score of this game last Friday night, Vanguard has hit a mid-season snag. Once the toast of the town, the Knights have lost their last two games, far from the #1 ranking they had just two weeks ago.

That’s not, however, to belittle the Gainesville Hurricanes, arguably Alachua County’s best high school football team. Still, where does that leave Vanguard? The Panthers will no doubt be another challenge, and for the Knights, it’s now or never if they want to stamp their postage into the playoffs.