Tag Archives: blogging

My Favorite Student Blogs This Term

As I often do in media writing classes, I required some students to establish or update a blog this semester.

Some student blogs never really take off. Others become more personal to the student, and she or he ends up doing some interesting writing.

This semester, I thought three blogs in particular have content that appealed to me.

Lakin Goodman has turned her blog into more of a personal web site, complete with resume information. She has an interest in photography, and I would like her to use more of her images on the blog, but she does have things to say. She notes that she has no theme to the blog—but that’s not really a downside, to me.


Chuck Uthe is a self-described nerd, writing about film and games. His reviews are not casual—they have some depth and background to them. I appreciate how reflective he is.


Matt Trueblood says he has more caffeine than oxygen in his blood right now—and I hope he can recharge soon. But his writing is honest and has what another blogger once called “emotional nudity,” which is meant as a positive thing. His blog seems to be an honest peek into his psyche—which is an interesting place to be.


I am sure I will continue this assignment in media writing classes. Now and then, a student who is introduced to blogging via the class will own it and continue their online efforts. Today, when students who wish to be communicators need to consider their online identity and the nexus of social media they can use to showcase and promote themselves, a blog gives them something to tweet about and share on Facebook. It also is a minor taste of web writing for students, which is a key skill.

The three that I am choosing to feature here (and it does not mean that other students have not done interesting work, this is a personal and ideosycratic look at blogs that just tickled my fancy) are all visually interesting, too–it’s a feature of this semester’s crop of student blogs that those who seemed to care the most about their writing also cared some about the presentation of that writing, which has not always been true.

I hope you check out and enjoy the writing that these students are doing!

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The Modern Sounds of Writing


From wikimedia commons (commons.wikimedia.org), English portable typewriter of the 1970s. From user Dwight Burdette.

In the 1970s, when I learned to type in high school, typing was a loud process. Manual typewriters had a particular sound—the noise of fingers hitting the levers, the much louder smack of the letter against the inked ribbon and paper and the hard rubber-coated roller, the “ding” when you grabbed that lever and advanced your paper to the next line.

The latest technology in my typing class was the electric typewriter. Its motor hummed, its clack was artificial and less loud than the smack of a mechanical typewriter, but each letter produced a quick “snick.” The ball of letters would spin and hit the paper. It was a still an audible experience, but very different—sort of like the satisfying thud of a wooden baseball bat compared to the ping of its aluminum counterpart.

Today in a writing lab, I am requiring students to write a blog post—it can be about anything. It can be about writing blog posts. It can be about their favorite (or least favorite) professor this semester. I can be about Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Tessa Violet.

But it’s interesting to me that the act of writing, while it is much quieter than decade ago, still has an audible quality. You can hear the fingers dancing across the plastic keyboards.

Several students brought their own laptop computers, a totally legitimate thing to do, although I know from experience that many laptops have quieter keyboards than their desktop cousins. Me, I’m more of a fan of writing at a desktop computer, when I can, because my big, fat old fingers don’t always find their way well on a small laptop keyboard. No tiny orange hands for me!

Don’t get me started on trying to write on a cell phone. A cell phone is Satan’s keyboard.

Anyway, there is a buzz of conversation going on in class, along with the clacking of keyboards. One issue with writing in a lab situation is the distraction factor—I know I do prefer to be by myself when I write, far from the maddening (or annoying) crowd.

But professional writing often takes place in distracting group environments, so dealing with distractions is a good experience for students.


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I assign students to write blogs for several reasons. Mostly, it’s because a professional communicator today should have a web site—blogging and other web content development is usually a requirement of a PR or journalism career. Writing a blog also provides students with a venue that reflects the reality that professional writing is a public act—a performance that is open to the world to view, which makes it different from many other forms of academic writing.

And I know that blogs I have required students to write have, now and then, aided them in a job interview when the interviewer asks about their URL. They have an answer, and original content of their own to show, which can be important.

But today, what I am mostly thinking about, is the sound of writing, which makes me happy. Clack. Clack. Clack Clack.

No dings.

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And Let The Blogging Begin

Students type in their CO 120 lab this morning. I asked permission and was careful not to show faces.

Students type in their CO 120 lab this morning. I asked permission and was careful not to show faces.

I’m launching 8 new bloggers into cyberspace this morning. Student in my CO 120, Introduction to Journalism, course are busy typing away, trying to come up with original thoughts.

I wish them well. I hope that they enjoy the self expression.

And I hope that they learn to use their blogging powers responsibly. Blogs are personal, can be self-indulgent, but can also be insightful and interesting. As future professional communicators, I want my CO 120 students to know about blogging, and having them each maintain a person blog is part of the lesson.

What will I be looking for from them?

  • They should maintain journalistic standards. If a journalist is blogging as part of her role as a writer, the facts should be verified, the names spelled well, the copy written according to Associated Press style, etc. These are not “news stories”—blogging should be more personal and emotional than that—but if a journalist is writing the blog, it should still be journalism.
  • Their blogs should be interesting. A blog lets a writer express his world view. If that view is well thought out, it should be worth the readers’ time. I am not limiting their topics or writing choices. That can be scary for them, but I also hope it is liberating. Anyway, wish them luck.
  • They should have fun. Writing is an activity that is rewarding on its own—to a writer. To write is to think and to organize and to clarify. And that process, while intimidating because a blog exposes you to the world, is also nice.

Look for these new bloggers. In the coming week their blogs will show up on this site. Click the link if you want more insight into what a college student in 2014 is doing from the student point of view.

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So, What Do You Want From CRGardenJoe?

I have not posted a “Tune for Tuesday” for several weeks, and the outrage from the blogosphere has been totally not deafening.

It appears that my blog fans do not need me to find and post random songs for them weekly. They don’t use CRGardenJoe as their radio, which seems OK, to me.

I don’t promise I won’t sometimes do a future tune, now and then, should one strike my fancy and mean something to me. In fact, I posted a Led Zepplin song on my bike blog today, because it reflected my reaction to biking in somewhat chilly weather.

But the Tune for Tuesday is officially retired from CRGardenJoe.

Which brings me to another question: What would you like to see more of in this blog? What are your favorite topics? Do you want more “garden?” Childhood memories? Witty political commentary? My reflections on media today as a journalism professor?

Please comment and let me know. Of course, I don’t promise anything. A writer usually writes first for an audience of one. Then again, if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t ask, so please dare to share right there:


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To Blog or Not to Blog, That is the Question

student typing

A student in CO 120 writing a blog post. I asked the students for permission before shooting them and posting these photos.

Should journalism students be required to blog?

These days, with media convulsively changing, who knows what medium future journalists will use to report the day’s events. I’m a journalism professor, and I don’t. Newsweek, the iconic American news weekly magazine, isn’t available on dried wood pulp, anymore. One of the most prominent “newspapers” is the Huffington Post, which isn’t a news “paper” at all.

So it seems reasonable to assume that writing for the web is an important skill.

Another student in lab.

Another student in lab.

That’s my rationale for having journalism students blog. That case against?

Blogging is usually emotional, and personal. Journalism, while it involves and is motivation by emotions, should be neither.

The invitation to blog is an license to opine—and the instinct to opine is exactly what journalism students need to get over. If you’re doing a good job reporting the story for a credible news outlet, nobody should know your personal opinion at the end.

Which means, maybe, that you ought not blog about it since blogs are all about personal opinion.

Still, I think the upside far outweighs the down. Blogging means that students have a public url that exposes the world to their writing, but also means that they become more aware of the “blogosphere,” that odd zone that all reporters need to be aware of. It also gets them, if it works, into the habit of regularly originating and executing their own ideas.

Anyway, my Introduction to Journalism students this semester are even now busily typing away on their first blog posts (or updates for those who already blog). Another semester has begun at MMU.

I have a larger-than-usual class this semester, which, to be honest, feels great. Introduction to Journalism is a writing course that any student of any major would benefit from, since it involves bottom-line, clear writing that is more professional than writing done in many other courses.

What will their blogs bring? I can’t wait to find out.


More CO 120 students typing away. Did you notice how sexually segregated the room is? There is definitely a women’s area and a men’s area. Interesting how students self segregate by gender.


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Welcome to Blogtown

MMU student hands at work

Students typing in the MMU lab. I got their permission, had them approve this image, but it wasn't easy. I had no idea students would be so picky about their own hands being published.

Nine new ships set sail today on a new adventure—well, not really.

For one thing, several of the ships are already at sea. I’m forcing students in CO 120, Introduction to Journalism, to launch their new blogs, but some of them had me in previous classes and so have already been to Blogtown before.

Why should student journalists blog? For lots of reasons:

  • Journalists today report news instantly. They Tweet events, they post live video and they blog. So this, blogging and posting it NOW,  is a skill students must master.
  • Blogging is excellent practice for writing as public performance. It will show, based on the low number of hits at first, how hard it is to draw an audience, but, on the other hand, the world is now open to these students. Will a student blog be “freshly pressed?” It’s not terribly likely, but not impossible, and it will be interesting if it happens.

One of the students, based on a previous assignment in another class, won a statewide journalism blogging award. Congratulations Jenna, and keep writing.

There are, of course, some dangers in having students blog. Blogs can involve libel, like any public writing. It’s not always easy to get students to understand how copyright works, and when and how you can use images will, I’m hoping, be an issue. (I’m hoping because blogs should be visual, too. But you need to use images that can be re-used and credit sources).

Beyond that, there is the saying that Jon’s Microsoft pals oft repeated during RAGBRAI last year. Take it from the pros who run the world, students. “The Internet never forgets.” So don’t do anything on a blog that you don’t want remembered.

On the other hand, the greatest sin in writing is to be dull. And I would rather students be a bit spicy and take some risks and have to be reined in, than simply play it safe.

So have at, brave bloggers. Show the world what you can do—what you can write, what your individual point of view is. Engage in what my blog friend and MMU colleague Jenion calls “emotional nudity.”

Students, share your world with the e-world, and enjoy the experience.

More hands

A male student's hands. He didn't complain at all. Hmmmm. Male hand modles seem less picky.

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New Years Blog Resolutions


Leaping into leap year. Tristan hops over his mom. Yes, I'm sure grandchildren (and plants) will continue to be features of this blog in 2012.

I’m not really big on New Year’s resolutions. Not that I’ don’t buy into the ideal of self improvement or making changes for the better, but the whole New Year’s thing is so artificial anyway.

We celebrate an arbitrary day when the sun’s tilt on the horizon is frankly not at any astronomically significant point. We’re past a solstice, long away from an equinox, and thus we are noting another orbit from a really odd point in the planet’s journey.

So be it. Rather than make any general life resolutions, what do I resolve for this blog?

  • I will update at least twice a week. That’s an easy one, since I’m pretty much on that pace anyway. I absolve myself in advance for any travel weeks—the week in March I plan to spend in England, or if I do RAGBRAI again this year, don’t count—but otherwise I’ll share my life’s journey at least twice a week. Last year, WordPress tried to encourage daily updates, but I didn’t’ attempt that in 2011 and won’t in 2012. But I won’t let the blog languish, either.
  • I will crack 12,000 views in 2012. Not a lofty goal—plenty of bloggers have tens of thousands of views each month—but I had more views in 2011 than in 2010, and have had just over 9,000 this year so far. Unless there is a huge spike, I won’t make 10,000 this year. Next year, let’s see if I can get 12,000.
  • I will leave Sarah Palin out of it. Unless Mitt Romney picks her as his running mate, I think her moment in the sun, which lasted surprisingly long, is starting to pass. Let it go.
  • I will write one blog post in Spanish. Just for Nalena. And I promise it won’t be about bananas. I have to work up to that one. I hope to take another Spanish course at MMU, probably in fall 2012, and will try to write something in Spanish that makes sense. I’m sure in the years since I took a Spanish course my skills have rusted, but on the other hand, there’s still some Spanish lurking in my skull and I’ll try to shake some out.

Anyway, I hope I can at some point in 2012 make you laugh, make you mad, make you glad that you share this journey on planet Earth. I started this blog as an experiment just to see what blogging is like and for.

I guess I feel that the experiment is worth continuing. And I hope some of you, my readers, agree.

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These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

I have a class of new bloggers who will be starting their own blogs soon, and I’ve posted some sample blogs for them.

I am no blog expert. I’ve not attracted thousands of followers nor been able to quit my day job or have a book/movie deal resulting from one of my blogs.

But, I’ve written a few hundred blog posts, and in the interest of maybe giving my new blog students some ideas, here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite posts:

There you have it, my personal “best.” I didn’t review my blog archives very carefully and may have missed a post or two that should be here. Blog fans, any of my posts or posts from other blogs that are worth noting to give my students ideas?

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Don’t Be A Log, Get Online And Blog!

The MMU Times swept the blog categories of the recent ICMA contest, which was nice.

We won even though many of our student blogs appear “dead.” That is, when absolutely forced to blog by a mean old professor, some students grudgingly blog now and then, maybe 3 times a semester.

MMU Times Blogs

The MMU Times Blog page. The top middle blog, by Zach D'Amico, won best in Iowa in the ICMA contest.

It’s not enough. Any student who wants to be “a writer” of any capacity has to have more personal thoughts to articulate and share.

WordPress issued a 2011 challenge to its bloggers to try to post every day. I have not taken that challenge—I feel I’m not ready to do that much blogging.

But ,I update this blog at least twice a week, and it’s not the only blog I update, either.

Why is blogging so important? Well, for one thing, we live in a 7-days-a-week, 24-hours-a-day communication cycle, and any PR or Journalism or Multi-Media Design student needs to think about working in that kind of “instant update” environment.

Blogging provides students with a URL to share when looking for an internship or job.

Most important, blogging is regular, public writing performance.

So, how should students blog? Ideas:

• Make a time to blog. A regular few minutes each week when you collect your thoughts and share them.
• Write your blog posts in Word and edit them before posting. You are your own web editor.
• Be careful of what you post. You can get sued for libel over a blog, and you are creating a public image of yourself. If you copiously drop the F bomb, you may be positioning yourself as a coarse writer with little respect for the power of that word or it’s appropriate place, for example. I think it’s not only OK, but a good idea to blog about political topics—but that does , again, create a public persona for yourself. If you rant about Sarah Palin, don’t apply for a job at the 2012 Palin Campaign.
• Make it readable. A blog may not be the place to post class assignments, particular if you’re replying to 7 questions that the blog reader does not see, for example. Try to have something to say, and say it in a way that readers would enjoy.

Anyway, that’s all of my wisdom for now. Blogosphere—do you have ideas about either the value of student blogs or rules for student bloggers?

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Here is a post, yes it is

The home page of the MMU Times, go there, times.mtmercy.edu

Just showing my students how to post in WordPress—many new blogs starting today! Most will end up on my blogroll, so watch for those links.

Students are watching me type, which is embarassing because I’m not so hot at it, and must be really, really, really dull for them to watch. So, soon I will stop. Maybe more later, we’ll see.


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