Tag Archives: social media

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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Filed under Blog, Journalism, Mount Mercy, Writing

Tackling the evil side of the ‘net in 90 seconds

KGAN CBS 2 :: Top Stories – Cedar Rapids Family Reacts To Young Girls Posting, “Am I Ugly” Videos.

I was interviewed by a local TV station the other day about a recent YouTube fad, young girls posting “am I pretty or ugly” videos.

 What do I have to say on that topic?

 Well.  I am not a foe of social media.  I like that Facebook, for example, makes it easy for me to connect with family and old friends.

And I like YouTube.  I use YouTube links all the time on my blogs—“Casablanca” made a guest appearance in my previous post through a link to YouTube.

Ugy or pretty video screen

I know, painting out information won't keep you from finding this video with a 5-second YouTube search, but here is a screen shot from the original of many videos. I've only seen the one and it was more than enough. 5 million hits and counting. And YouTube is suggesting all kinds of stuff that I won't watch just because I've clicked on this video.

 But, yikes.  A 30-year-old fashion model has serious self-confidence issues if she posted a “am I pretty” video.  From a 12-year-old, it’s unbearably poignant, self-absorbed and sad.

 In communication terms, the internet is too often the Wild West.  If you post a question such as “am I pretty,” you’re inviting, and you’ll get, the surliest, crudest, meanest list of comments.  In a world with billions of people online, there are millions of jerks, guaranteed.  Nobody is perfect enough, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all of us beholders don’t have universal standards.

And no young adolescent has reached the apex of personal physical perfection at age 12 anyway.

 The “am I ugly or pretty” fad is icky on many levels:

  •  You feel bad that kids are posting the question in the first place.  Kids, don’t ask the internet questions that you would whisper only to your closest friends.  The intimacy that you feel with your computer in your bedroom is false—on the internet, you’re playing before the world.  And the internet never forgets.
  •  You wonder how “real” the whole thing is.  Is this a 12-year-old acting spontaneously?  Is there a puppet master somewhere who is prompting this behavior?  Is this a 20-something waif who can look and act much younger?  I’m sure most of the videos are exactly what they seem to be, but “most of” is not “all,” and fakery is common online.
  •  You wonder where the parents are.  A great rule of parenting is this:  No screens in the bedroom.  No cell phones, no computer, no TV.  E devices that connect you to the world can only be used in common living areas around other people.  Sure, your tween or teen will hate you if you make and enforce this rule.  But if you’re going to be a parent, you’ll earn your adolescent’s hate often, so what the heck?  Let him hate you, it’s your job.  Online sites, Facebook and YouTube, often have age rules, which are pretty universally ignored and circumvented.  You can’t (and shouldn’t) try to shield your child from seeing gritty reality, but you can guide his or her behavior and understanding of the world.  And posing a question like “am I pretty” online is stupid at any age, but beyond the pale if you’re still knee-high to a grasshopper.

 Well, that’s just a few reactions.  How did I react to being interviewed?  It felt weird because I didn’t feel that the conversation I had was very substantive, and when the story aired, it was an odd kind of feature anyway—to illustrate the story and give some narrative arc to it, the reporter used a phone to show the video to a random family in the park and then provoked the expected “that’s terrible” and “I would never do that” reactions.

 I and another MMU professor appear in brief guest roles to add, I don’t know, some “expert” commentary.  Well, OK.  Having been a reporter, I try to cooperate with reporters because I know how hard that role can be.  And it’s true, I am also an attention seeker, I don’t mind being on TV.  Because I’m so pretty.  (That’s a joke, by the way, so please don’t feel moved to comment to correct my impression.)

 But, I’m not sure in this case how illuminating I was or how illuminating the resulting story was.  Like beauty, perfection in journalism can be elusive.


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Life and Times of a Student Newspaper

Sometimes, the simple things seem so hard.

April 21 Mount Mercy Times

Front page of April 21 Times. Students aim for a "magazine" look, rather than a traditional newspaper page, and the "Music Fest" graphic was created by our photo editor.

For example, the” Mount Mercy Times” recently ran a letter to the editor that took the newspaper to task because, as the official newspaper at a Catholic college, it does not run ads for Planned Parenthood. Not to get into the specifics of that debate, but publishing the letter sparked some reaction, as you can imagine. One of the reactions was an extremely long, point-by-point rebuttal from a woman in Illinois.

The rebuttal would easily have taken more than a page of newspaper space.

But, space is cheap online. I suggested to the editor that he post the letter. He agreed, and “teased” it in a refer on page 2—but the letter has not yet been posted.

Of course, it’s hard enough just putting out a paper. All the multi-media stuff, the Twitter feed, the Facebook page, student blogs (which seem to languish after a short burst of activity) and updating a web site—the brave new world is not all that easy to manage.

And my current team of students is pretty good and pretty willing to try new things—hence, at least a few original video “Times TV” reports this spring.

But it seems to take so long to post things. Video that should be on line hours after being shot may languish for a week or more. We never did manage to post a play preview video, and, as far as I know, have not yet posted any videos “teased” in this week’s paper.

Well, it took several years for the Times to go from a twice a month paper to a weekly. So I need some patience. But it feels like the media world won’t stand still and wait. It would be better to be a bit more nimble.

Still, the paper has been really cool this year. Brian and company should justifiably be proud. Note the front page—it’s not a poster for the event (although it could become one) it’s the newspaper’s design. Good work, Tom.

See more of the Times here.

Now, back to work for me. Can’t complain too much about students not getting stuff done when I have a backlog of grading to attend to.

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