Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Writing will forever be in my blood

When I graduated with my Ph.D., I declared I would never again take a test. My goal shortly afterward was that someday I would become accredited in public relations, which would require me to take a multiple choice exam.

Two-and-a-half years later, and having left that desire almost completely, I feel my first declaration may have been on the nose. Heck, I did become a college professor so I could go to school forever. The school part I like; the test part not so much.

I've always hated taking tests. I'm definitely one of those folks who is "not a good test-taker." When I took the GRE to get into graduate school, it was during about hour three that I began guessing without reading the question. At that point I didn't care whether I got my master's degree or not -- I just wanted out of that room! The room was too cold, then too hot, then stuffy ... and never comfortable.

The one thing I will never be able to say is that I've had enough writing. This year, when Gustav decided to hit Louisiana, I wanted to cover the story. I covered my family's stay in my father's mechanic shop, and I covered the fact that people with disabilities have even more special needs than usual when they are in storm situations.

I covered Voodoo Fest for NOLA.com alongside some interns this semester as well. I learned a couple things about myself that weekend. First, I'm not as old as I sometimes feel -- those acts were HOT. Second, I want to learn how to take a decent picture, darnit! I even bought a new camera -- also HOT.

As a journalist, I will never say that I never want to write again. I will continue to love this field until I take my last breath, and I will always want to learn more about it. As for journalism, I think it's either in your blood or not. I'm definitely a bleeder.

The world is your wide web. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thank God for the Internet

This is why the Internet is so special. In May 2007, my hard drive crashed, taking with it all my pictures from Hawaii ... or so I thought.

Earlier today, I was meeting with my new friend from NOLA.com, Milena Merrill. Milena asked me if I had a flickr.com account so I could load photos for my NOLA.com blogs. I told her no.

When I got home, I tried to get an account and was surprised when the site said I already had one. I indicated I had forgotten my password, and it was e-mailed to me. When I logged on, I found 17 of my favorite pictures from Hawaii. I hope you enjoy them; I just about cried!

The World is your Wide Web ... and use it to upload your pics! You'll be thankful if your hard drives crashes and burns.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Never trust anyone over 30...

Last February, I attended the Southeast Journalism Conference at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss. During the conference, Paul Conley, who has held senior positions at news organizations such as Knight-Ridder and CNN, advised students not to trust anyone over 30. At the time, I agreed -- I was 29.

Now, at the ripe old age of the non-trustworthy, I understand what he meant. Those of us in the field of journalism think like dinosaurs at times. While I still think the newspaper is here to stay for the time being, I also know that we must accept the changing times and embrace the new opportunities. Or die trying.

In the fall, I'll be teaching a class that will explore the Civil Rights Movement in Tangipahoa Parish. NOLA.com has donated the use of its "Building a New South" blog for the students. In addition, students will create a website, broadcast and print elements. It's all about convergence.

The world is your wide web ... Enjoy!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taking a breather...

It's important for all of us to take a breather now and again. I gave my last final May 14 and finished grading those exams the very next day. Posting grades is about the most pleasurable moment of my semester -- not because I enjoy inflicting pain, but because I know the next few days will be somewhat peaceful.

And then, I realized I was wrong once again.

The next few days were not peaceful. First off, e-mails slowly began trickling in because students were wondering why their grades were so low. Where had they been all semester?! I had to explain that those assignments they didn't turn in actually still factor in the figuring of the final grade. Some students actually asked for mercy because they had the best sob story of the semester (job, rent, dog ate their homework). Just a note -- the grading scales and all my expectations were in the syllabus, and I told them at the beginning of the semester to read it, know it, and love it.

Secondly, the next few days were not peaceful because I realized my home was in utter chaos. When I began cleaning on May 15 after posting those grades, I found dirt in places I don't even want to mention. The clutter was cluttered. I reached new heights of filthy this semester, and had eight days to hide my filth before my grandfather, aunt, uncle and cousin arrived from England on the 23rd.

Fortunately, the e-mails have now stopped, my family is here from England, and my house is thanking me for giving it an old-fashioned spring cleaning. Taking a breather isn't what it used to be. Last wek, I actually invited my friend, who also was my lunch date, to join me for after-lunch conversation on a shopping trip to Lowe's. Thanks, Milena, for helping me pick out a garden hose, some ant poison, and a shelf for my garage. I hope we're still friends and that you'll join me at lunch again.

I'm planning on getting better at taking breaks ... one day. I certainly can say that I haven't checked my e-mail as much over the past week, but then again, my computer is in the shop, and my husband brings his laptop to work every day.

The world is your wide web. Enjoy!

Friday, May 9, 2008

The demise of newspapers

Please take the time to read the following article:


It is the thought of this writer that newspapers fund online news. I tend to agree.

I had an old journalism professor tell me once that the reason newspapers won't die is because we can't take laptops to the bathroom (or we shouldn't). Again, I agree. While some people think newspapers will soon come to an end, I'd like the world to experience, just for one day, what it would be without newspapers.

Here are my thoughts on the top 10 reasons the world needs newspapers:

1. Scrapbooks. Yes, we're all able to computerize our scrapbooks now. Heck, there are even places online where we can print, for free, scrapbook pages with the digital photos already implanted. Although I appreciate the technology, computerized scrapbooking just doesn't have the same appeal as spreading out all the pictures on the floor and getting sticky with glue while my daughters carefully craft their pages. It's messier, it's gooier, it's more time consuming, but isn't that the fun of it? The honor roll lists, the team pictures, the great shot of my kid at the park ... that's the true scraps of which scrapbooks are made.

2. Printing out articles doesn't have the same appeal. My journalism students will be the first to tell you that although they get instant gratification out of posting their edited stories online, that limited space aspect of the newspaper makes it more appealing. It makes their placement more special. And, those who are hiring are still looking for those printed clips. Space limitations force quality and competition.

3. Coffee over the newspaper sounds relaxing. Coffee over the computer sounds like work.

4. Newspapers are the local hero. While many of us get our state, national and world news online, that newspaper box still seems to jump in the way when we're going into the store or walking along our city sidewalks. I wonder if many of us would actually pay attention to the local news or go looking for it if it weren't literally in the way.

5. There's something about the front page. Although there is definitely a draw to the stories on CNN's homepage, the front page of any paper still seems like it's the sacred space for news. You never hear someone say that a story was important because it was told first on the broadcast or that it was on the homepage, unless those folks actually are broadcasters or bloggers. What you will hear is the general public discussing what was on the front page of the paper and how that made something important, whether the headline was in bold or bigger type and whether the picture was in color. You can only get so loud on a broadcast, and nowadays, everything online is "breaking news." The Internet seems to have watered down that phrase. People aren't as impressed with it anymore, but put a banner headline in a newspaper -- now you've got attention.

6. Sports. My husband and son open the paper every day, pull out the sports section and treat the rest of the paper like boiled crawfish should be on top of it. They've seen Sportscenter, they've watched the game, but they have yet to see who made the paper. They're looking for the little details. The newspaper has the whole story and only those who are most important, again, get the sacred space.

7. Lifestyles and society. How many times have we looked for the wedding announcements online?

8. Classifieds. Garage sales. Furniture. Jobs. At this point, even if we use the online component of the newspaper to search for this information, we can easily get bogged down in TMI (too much information for those of you out of the text language loop). The classified section seems to put puppies, used bicycles and go-carts in a nice organized package for us.

9. Local events. Our local paper prints an events calendar. In addition, every summer, it includes a fun guide filled with information about summer camps, activities and events that are taking place while the children are out of school. I look for that little insert every year and put it safely on my bookshelf for quick reference.

10. Sale papers. Somehow, online coupons still haven't taken over where the scissors left off. While I use the Internet on Thanksgiving Day to look for the Black Friday specials, those sale papers are going with me at 4 a.m. the next morning. I'm not going to try to find a wireless connection at that time of the morning. I want my sale papers. Comparing prices also is easier when I can lay everything out in front of me instead of having to jump from window to window online.

Okay, so the last five were easy for me. Obviously, those are the sections of the paper we all know and love. Those are the pieces we definitely would miss. Although we can get sports off ESPN.com, ask sports enthusiasts where they like to take their newspapers. My husband really was thrilled when I got a subscription to our local daily paper.

There should be another good reason newspapers will remain -- they were here first. Well, so were push lawn mowers, and my family no longer believes in those. While this may not be a great reason, it may be part of a great reason. Newspapers still hold a certain rank in our society, a respected tradition. They're certainly the most arguable piece of media. We are outraged when newspaper reporters make mistakes, and we expect them to in other media. While it is important for newspaper managers to adopt the idea of convergence, I don't see the printed piece going away any time soon. And if it does, I think it will make a quick comeback.

The world is your wide web. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rewarding success

Tonight was the Southeastern Louisiana University Department of Communication's annual banquet. It was an honor to recognize those who have made significant contributions during their time at the university. There was one strong theme of the evening -- service. Students who were recognized were overwhelmingly those who were heavily involved in student organizations and internships representing the university.

One student, Melissa Biehl, was given the first ever award for service to the department. As the founder of the official chapter of the Public Relations Student Society chapter on campus, and a student who attended several conferences related to her field, Melissa was deserving of this award.

Another, Ericka Johnson, is the student body vice-president, works internships and has also attended several conferences.

Finally, Clayton Cutrer spent much of his time at the university at the radio station, and worked hard to raise money for a local charity. He, along with Adelita Gomez, won recognition from KSLU radio station for their hard work.

These are just a few students honored at the banquet this evening, and I know I'm leaving out several individuals. My point wasn't necessarily to drop names, but to introduce a theme -- hard work and service. It's not all about the grades anymore. Sure, an A is great, but an A up against experience will not fare well.

The world is your wide web. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Citizen Journalism

Today in Hammond, there was a false alarm hostage situation at the train depot. Although it turned out to be nothing more than a "prank," as reported by WAFB news, it still presented the opportunity for citizens to share (and declare) news. WAFB aired pictures sent in from a viewer's cell phone, and a reporter conducted a phone interview with a citizen who was at the station waiting to pick up his son.

Of course, this isn't the first time citizens have "reported" the news. Citizen journalists broke the story about the Jet Blue airline holding passengers on the tarmac for 10 hours. During the Virginia Tech shootings, citizen journalists were using their cell phones to video the tragedy as it unfolded.

Is it no longer acceptable for journalists to set the agenda? It may now be up to citizens. Agenda setting is the thought that the media tells us what is important. For example, when newspapers print stories on the front pages on the top half of the page, we think those stories are most important. Thus, we talk about those stories at the water cooler. Many scholars have studied agenda setting, and I enjoy reading studies performed utilizing the theory.

With new technology, however, it seems citizens are setting the agenda for the media. With modern technology, timeliness has taken on a whole new meaning. Are citizens setting the agenda? Well, today, the Hammond hostage story is on the front page of WAFB's website. Is it now citizens' responsibility to set the agenda, or will the gatekeeping media still be in charge? I feel a study coming on...

The world is your wide web. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Need to know

I see journalism students every day. They are all asking me the same question right now -- how do we get web skills? Two answers. First, you schedule a class on web building to learn it the hard way, then you log on and create a free website and/or blogspot. Viola! It's done.

By the way, you don't have to take the class before you start exploring online. The class helps in the development of your skills.

This blog literally took three minutes to put together. Why Whosiwutzits? In journalism, we stress the 5 Ws and the H. In order for me not to constantly have to say "the 5 Ws and the H" or "who, what, when, where, why and how," I always say "whosiwutzits." Students laugh at first and probably get tired of it as I go along. I say it a lot during the semester.

Lesson number one: get online and do it now. Keep it clean and informative. You will be "googled" when you apply for a job. Go ahead, give yourself a Google and see what you get. If you find something you're afraid might show up in an interview later, see what you can do about getting it down. Cleaning up the Saturday night party pics on Myspace and Facebook will not ruin your life-of-the-party reputation, and it may help first impressions later.

The world is your wide web. Enjoy.