Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas parties are just another excuse to consume Chocolate

A tenuous link to Christmas, but I’m all about books and food.

So to combine 'em, check out this link to it’s got a great photograph too.

In the spirit of the season, have a
second helping.

Christmas Clip Art

Christmas Clip Art

Christmas Cat

Here is a picture of a cute kitten who loves Christmas!

sample pix

Here's a picture of a deputy sheriff's badge. text

Best Christmas Movie

Here is a picture of the best Christmas movie ever

Master Chief will be coming into town for Christmas!

The Master Chief will be using Santa's sleigh this year for Halo fans. Here is a picture for Halo fans. Have a save holiday and Merry Christmas!
Christmas trees bound for troops' families
EmailPrint Text size – + By Alex I. Oster
Globe Correspondent / November 29, 2007
Besides the nip in the air and the Christmas carols playing in shops, there's another sure way to know Christmas season has come again: the sight of flatbed trucks filled with tightly bound evergreens, destined to become Christmas trees.
more stories like this
Iowa & N.H. early dates mean campaigns compete with shopping ads
Christmas trees grow pricier this year
Stores open holiday shopping season with discounts, expanded hours
Stores open early for bargain hunters

Mahoney's Garden Centers, with locations in Chelmsford, Concord, Tewksbury, and Winchester, among others in the Boston area, is stocking up on those trees because, this weekend, some people may buy two.
Mahoney's is the only retailer in the state participating in the Trees for Troops program, run by the nonprofit Christmas Spirit Foundation. Anyone buying a tree tomorrow through Sunday can spend about $20 or $30 more to buy a tree for a military family. Mahoney's kicks in $5 toward the shipping.
Both grades of tree are about the same height, but $30 trees are heavier and statelier.
FedEx Corp., which sponsors the program, will pick up the trees Monday and deliver them to one of several military bases around the country, where military families can pick a tree for free. The closest military base to receive trees will be Fort Drum in upstate New York, but trees go to bases in Virginia, South Carolina, and around the country.
Flatbeds brought 2,000 trees to Mahoney's last week in preparation for the season.
Tom Mahoney, a managing partner at the retailer, said he was sure hundreds of people, if not more, would participate in the program.
"It's a way people can support the troops in a tangible way," he said, adding that he wants "to make sure their Christmas is what it is to me and my family."
This year is Mahoney's first in the program, which began in 2005. In previous years, smaller Massachusetts tree growers participated. Heavy demand and a drought have left those growers strapped for trees, so this year those growers will make monetary donations to the program, while Mahoney's will supply most of the trees, said Laura Dooley, a manager at Mahoney's who is organizing the program.
The Christmas Spirit Foundation partners with tree farms around the country. The program has grown greatly since its inception. In its first year, 4,300 trees were delivered. This year, the foundation expects to deliver about 20,000.
In addition to delivering trees to military families in the United States, the foundation will deliver several hundred trees to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and aboard ships in Southwest Asia.
Although Mahoney's will be shipping trees only from its Winchester location, tags that will be attached to donated trees will be available at all locations.
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.
more stories like this

Visit the North Pole

Who says it's all work and no play for Santa this time of year? This
website takes you to the Northpole. You can answer questions to see if you are on the naughty-or-nice list, dance with Santa, and even visit the reindeer barn.

Merry Christmas Balls

Christmas Balls

Xmas Picture

Here is a link to a Xmas picture

Christmas Picture

It's Christmas Here

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hooray for Asynchronous Internet!

This is ridiculous.
Okay. According to the third statement in the Principles of Journalism, “journalism’s essence is a discipline of verification”. So spreading rumors like this one is completely idiotic.

Points seven and eight on the ethics site state that journalism, “must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant”, and “must keep the news comprehensive and proportional”. This Clinton-Obama snit is not significant, and by spreading the rumor, Novak and others have blown this issue out of proportion.

If nothing else, Novak apparently is pleased to comply with the final statement from the Principles of Journalism:
“Practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience”

… assuming they have any.

This all reminds me of playground taunting. I know a secret and you don’t!

Libel definition

Here is a definition of libel

1a: a written statement in which a plaintiff in certain courts sets forth the cause of action or the relief sought barchaic : a handbill especially attacking or defaming someone2 a: a written or oral defamatory statement or representation that conveys an unjustly unfavorable impression b (1): a statement or representation published without just cause and tending to expose another to public contempt (2): defamation of a person by written or representational means (3): the publication of blasphemous, treasonable, seditious, or obscene writings or pictures (4): the act, tort, or crime of publishing such a libel

Halo 3 Article

An article on Halo 3 can be found at the Gamespy website.

It includes some quotes on how well some people played the game. For example,

We've all played a stupid amount of Master Chief's final push for victory, and we're here to spill the proverbial beans on our final thoughts and feelings. Were we all just caught up in the hype? Not likely! Read on to hear why we're still totally jazzed to be rocking 12-year-olds in the face with Spartan lasers.

Enjoy the article!
I have taken a quote from CNN discussing Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's cat fight and spots in the poles. Kick her @$$ Obama!!!! It's a pretty factual quote, nobody's breakin' any laws here!

"Clinton last week saw a 23-point lead over Obama in September fall to 14 points, according to a CNN/WMUR New Hampshire presidential primary poll. That poll came out a day after another poll in Iowa found Obama first in the state, although his lead was within the sampling error."


Here is the link to a case that talks about libel.

Bloggers Gain Libel Protection
Xeni Jardin 06.30.03 | 2:00 AM
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Tuesday that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can't be held responsible for libel for information they republish, extending crucial First Amendment protections to do-it-yourself online publishers.

Online free speech advocates praised the decision as a victory. The ruling effectively differentiates conventional news media, which can be sued relatively easily for libel, from certain forms of online communication such as moderated e-mail lists. One implication is that DIY publishers like bloggers cannot be sued as easily.

quotes clinton/obama exchange gets nasty

"Clinton also pointed fingers at Obama's health care plan, calling it "confusing," a day after the Illinois senator said his proposal would keep costs down more than any of his rivals' plans. "There's a big difference between Sen. Obama and me on health care. I have a health care plan that covers every single American. He does not," Clinton told reporters Sunday."

Employee rights

The California Survival Handbook was written by David Hurd in 1998. This is what he says about his book:
"We believe that all employees will find this information both interesting and important. Many employees have no idea that they may have rights in the protection of their personal reputation that are much stronger than their rights to their jobs. At will employees can be terminated at any time for no reason. This book points out that even if your employer can terminate you they cannot ruin your good name or your reputation as an excuse for terminating you, or as a side effect of your termination. Pay particular attention to the section dealing with performance reviews. Very enlightening."

Libel law changed forever in 1964 with the United States Supreme Court decision in New York Times v. Sullivan. That decision and others by the Warren Court established a clear concept of libel and one that guaranteed press freedom without eliminating libel entirely.
The Supreme Court held in the Times case that the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment, prohibits a public official from recovering damages for a defamatory falsehood related to his or her official conduct. The court included one qualification: malice, or actual malice. The definition given for actual malice was “with knowledge that it (the material in question) was false or with reckless disregard of whether if was false or not.”.:

The Supreme Court had no other choice in that case. Deciding otherwise would have shackled the press at the very time public debate was needed on important social issues. In the Times case the issue was segregation. Later it was to be the Vietnam War in the Pentagon Papers case, then President Richard Nixon’s right to withhold tapes and so on. Any other decision by the Supreme Court in the Times case would have changed history—and not for the better.

After establishing this new standard for public officials, the Supreme Court used other decisions to limit suits brought by public figures and private citizens.
Two cases were decided in one opinion in 1967. They were Associated Press v. Walker and Curtis Publishing Company v. Butts. In that decision the Supreme Court brought public figures under the umbrella it had created in Sullivan.
The court said that a public figure cannot collect damages unless malice is proved. The court established a guideline, “accepted publishing standards,” by which reckless disregard might be judged.
In 1971 in Rosenbloom v. Metromedia, Inc. the Supreme Court held that a private citizen involved in an event of public interest must prove malice to collect in a libel action.

Grouchy Student Has a Close Call

Here's an interesting story that easily relates to us as students. It's from the The Stanford Daily Online paper.
Listen to what got this dude in trouble:
"All in all, it was the most miserable, sleazy, cheap operation I have ever worked for," former Ampex employee Scott Cargle wrote on a Yahoo! message board in 2001 after he was laid off. "I just wonder how the crooks fooled everyone for so long." Soon after the words were posted, the company sued Cargle for libel.

The California Court of Appeals recently ruled in Cargle’s favor, which was good news for several Stanford students."

The next time you feel like griping online about your employer, think twice and don't overdo it. You may not get off as easy as this guy.

Block Quote

I have taken this quote from Senator Barack Obama's website.
Obama's Website

Quote from the website:

"Senator Obama has been able to develop innovative approaches to challenge the status quo and get results. Americans are tired of divisive ideological politics, which is why Senator Obama has reached out to Republicans to find areas of common ground. He has tried to break partisan logjams and take on seemingly intractable problems. During his tenure in Washington and in the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama has accumulated a record of bipartisan success."


Here is a definition of libel
a written statement in which a plaintiff in certain courts sets forth the cause of action or the relief sought barchaic : a handbill especially attacking or defaming someone.

Sample blockquote -- Obama v. Clinton

Here's a couple of politicians exersising fair comment on the campaign trail. In a CNN report on Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Here's an exchange.

Clinton also pointed fingers at Obama's health care plan, calling it "confusing," a day after the Illinois senator said his proposal would keep costs down more than any of his rivals' plans.

"There's a big difference between Sen. Obama and me on health care. I have a health care plan that covers every single American. He does not," Clinton told reporters Sunday.

Obama was quick to swing back: "Senator Clinton's idea is that we should force everyone to buy insurance," he said in a statement released to CNN on Sunday. "She's not being straight with the American people because she refuses to tell us how much she would fine people if they couldn't afford insurance."
And that's how it goes.

Spring semester internship opportunity

Project Return, an ecumenical social service program that works with mothers returning to the Springfield community from prison, can use an intern to work with the director in creating or updating a flier, newsletter, website or other promotional material. (More details below copied and pasted from their informational flier.) They are expanding their services and community education efforts, and this would a good experience for an intern who already has some motivation toward social justice issues and an interest in public relations. The internship is open to BenU students who have a 3.0 average or better.

The intern would work with my wife Debi Edmund, who is Project Return's new director. Before seeking her master's degree in Child and Family Services at the Univerity of Illinois-Springfield, she was a public relations consultant for the Illinois Association of School Boards and is a former features editor of The Rock Island Argus (where I met her). So she is an experienced communications professional who has combined her mass comm. skills with another line of work.


Our Mission

Project Return’s mission is to help incarcerated mothers reintegrate into the Springfield community by matching each returning mother with a team of trained and supported volunteers for one year. We also educate the public about the barriers these women face as they seek to make a successful re-entry into the community.

Our Program
Paid staff and trained volunteer Partnership Teams help participants address immediate challenges: complying with the conditions of parole, achieving financial stability, finding immediate and permanent housing, accessing health care, reconnecting with family and friends, and resuming parental responsibilities. Without such support, released inmates are at risk of returning to criminal activity, substance abuse, or other self-defeating behaviors. Project Return hopes to break that cycle, benefiting both the clients and the community. Our comprehensive, individualized re-entry services begin prior to the individual’s release and continue for up to a year after release. Services include assistance in finding or accessing short term and permanent housing, employment, education or employment training, child care, health care, mental health care, counseling and addiction support services, reliable transportation and safety net resources. It is hoped that each participant will leave our program with improved self-esteem, better mental and physical health, and increased self-sufficiency, thus reducing the chances that she will re-offend and return to prison.

Libel and HTML: In class Tuesday

It goes without saying, I hope you all keep both your textbooks for future reference. They're the best introduction I've seen to the art (not science, notice) of newspaper copyediting, which sets the standard for most commercial writing in the U.S. But if you do sell them back (or even if you don't), you can find a good introduction to defamation on the web. It's called "Understanding Defamation" and it's put up on the web by journalism prof Dorothy Bowles of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. I went to UTK, so I'm biased ... but I still think it's the clearest introduction to the basics around.

In class today, we'll go over Bowles' website, learning five elements of libel ... the things a plaintiff has to prove you did in order to win a libel lawsuit ... and defenses against a libel lawsuit including the common law defenses that all journalism students memorize sooner or later. Why not start now? There's only four.

We'll also learn why it's not libel to say All UT Volunteer fans are racist hillbillies." Be careful (and remember your instructor went to UT). It's not what you think.

More useful, unless you visit Knoxville a lot, is Bowles' list of dangerous words that are especially likely to get you in trouble.

Your assignment in class (you knew there'd be one, didn't you)? Don't expect Barack Obama to sue Robert Novak for what he said about what Hillary Clinton didn't say about him. (Got all that? It's a non-story, anyway.) I want you to post to the class blog your analysis of how Novak's column stacks up against the elements of libel, and which of the defenses against libel he could plead if Obama sued him. In your post, I want you to: (1) include an indented block quote; and (2) link to a story about Novak's item and an appropriate page on Bowles' defamation website.

Not sure how to do a block quote? Well, here's an explanation from Stanford that shows you a block quote. (Ignore the "p" and "slash p" tags! They set off paragraphs in a pure HTML document, but Blogger does that for us.) The blockquote tags are like any other ... "bracket-tag" at the beginning and "bracket-slash-tag" at the end. You use the blockquote tag just like you use an indented paragraph in a college paper. It sets off quoted matter that's more than three or four lines long. And it's a useful thing for college students to know, because you do a lot of quoting in your papers.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Turkey for me and Turkey for you

When I think of Turkey Day, Adam Sandler always comes to mind.

Trash or Truth?

So far the upcoming presidential race has been pretty uneventful.
That is until Robert Novak decided to create drama. I think sometimes
reporters stray away from the Principles of Journalism in order
to get people to read their articles. Novak had every right to print his story, but in my opinion it was shady.
Ethically, he broke rule number six of the Principles of Journalism. It states,"This discussion serves society best when it is informed by facts rather than prejudice and supposition. It also should strive to fairly represent the varied viewpoints and interests in society, and to place them in context rather than highlight only the conflicting fringes of debate."
If Novak was sure of his sources, he should have waited to print the article until he had solid proof.

Eye candy! Rushing the season ...

In class Thursday we're going to look at some more simple HTML tags you can use, and I'm going to link to a couple of websites that show you how to do stuff on the Internet. One of them is full of eye candy, including crawling marquee-style text, different colors of text and animated graphics. This instead of a lump of coal in your Christmas stocking.

But first, speaking of eye candy, a link to a picture that definitely wasn't eye candy -- especially not to ex-U.S. Rep Charles Bass of New Hampshire, whose picture appeared like this in a national blog last year on election day. Poor guy lost the election, too. Scroll down to where it says, "Update on a completely unrelated matter -- here's a lesson in how NOT to set up a photo shoot if your name is "Charlie Bass." Poor guy lost the election, too.

A couple of tutorials

The gold standard of tutorial websites, in my opinion is W3Schools, which we've looked at before. W3C -- the World Wide Web Consortium -- sets best practices standards for Web users worldwide. But there are a couple of others I think you'll find useful, too.

One is Joe Barta's Page Tutor. I have no idea who Joe Barta is, but he really gets the hay down to where the mules can reach it. His stuff is written for newbies, and it's good. "First, if you have any of them fancy HTML editors and have an inkling to break em in now... forget it. The worst way to learn is to use one of those things." He's right. And he's right when he says you can come back to the Web editor later, too. I'll even forgive him for leaving the apostrophe off of 'em. I'll bet you caught it, too, didn't you? Correct placement of apostrophes is the meaning of life.

Another website I like is headed "CHEATS." (I am not making this stuff up.) It's part of a website called Cedge's HTML Cheats put up by Creative Edge Design, which appears to be a British firm. It has all kinds of eye candy. You can get into "Edit HTML" (the closest Blogger will let us get to plain ASCII text like you'd get in Notepad), and go wild copying and pasting the simpler ones into your blog text. Have fun with it.

Your assignment today: Write me something on the blog that's kind of Christmas-y, and link to some websites that sound a Christmas-y theme. Like this one about a well-known character in a Christmas story and a sentiment he expresses that we also all know well. You can upload pix, too. Like this. I'll tell you how below.

One word of caution: Be careful not to upload any copyrighted pictures to the blog. You can search under keywords "clip art," though, and upload pix to the top of the page by clicking on the "Compose" tab in the Blogger dashboard and following some very user-friendly instructions.

Here are the steps: (1) copy the non-copyright clip art pix to the desktop; (2) click on the little picture of, well, of a picture in the header; (3) when the "Upload Images" prompt comes up, click on "browse" under "add an image from your computer" and click on the upload button; and (4) Go back and delete the image file from the desktop. You can link to pictures on the SCI/Benedictine website, but please don't link to other clip art pix.

"Dirty" Politics

The Robert Novak story is about the two primary leaders and candidates who are running for president in the Democratic party. This story has a few principles that relate to the Statement of Principles for a journalist to use when he or she writes a story for a local or state newspaper.

The story represents the Ninth principle because Novak is voicing his view on both Clinton and Obama, but also, he is trying to "dig" the truth out of both politicans and make a statement to the public with the information he has from both politicians about the election. Basically, he went to both camps to get information from both leaders and combined them together to create his own agenda to draw readers in on a political debate.

The other principle that Novak used was the Fifth principle because it allows journaltists to serve as a "watchdog" with unlimited power. In this case, Novak served as a "watchdog" for Obama by finding out that the Clinton campaign used shocking information that would humilate Obama and ruin his chances of winning the election.

This story can be found on the London Daily which is a summary of the event. It will also provide quotes from Senator Clinton and Senator Obama about the story Novak issued to the public.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gooble Gooble


It's Aliiiive... Well, not quite

Here's another option for your traditional holiday bird.

If you are a hunter and want a reasonable deal on your bird from a local taxidermist, contact Chris Musser at Feather Perfect Taxidermy. Or, keep an eye out for the new taxidermy business her apprentice will be opening soon in Chatham.

Halo 3 Video on Youtube

To view a video of a cutscene with the Master Chief and the Arbiter from Halo 3, go to Youtube/Halo3.



Gobble Gooble

MMMM.....delicious"Butterball'>">Butterball Turkeys.

history of thanksgiving

This is a link to a great thanksgiving website.


Here is the link to the breeze-courier newspaper out of taylorville.

edited test

Here is a link to the SCI home page. And I can edit to my heart's content.

Happy Thanksgiving: thanks to HTML

Today we'll go to W3Schools for a further introduction to Web publishing. We've been there before, in October when you were first introduced to Hypertext Markup Language. Today we'll review the basic structure of an HTML tag ... especially the hypertext tag that creates a link ... and go over some of the other tags that allow you to publish to the Web. I hope the review will lock in what you've learned before about making links, and the other things we look at will give you some idea of how much you can do on the World Wide Web.

We'll end up at an HTML Quick List that summarizes what we've seen so you can look it up in a hurry rather than tie up precious brain cells memorizing HTML tags. I'm no great role model, but all I use consistently are the "a href=" tag for links, the "blockquote" tags for an indented graf, the "ul" and "li" tags for a bulleted list, and the formatting tags for italics and boldface. The rest I look up when I need them. Hence the link to the Quick List.

W3Schools is an electronic learning portal that educates people to World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, standards. W3C is an international consortium of Web users that sets standards, engages in education and outreach, develops software and serves as an open forum for discussion about the Web.
As of March 2007, according to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, W3C had 441 members. It is always open for new organizations to join. It is is headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the primary author of the original URL (Uniform Resource Locator), HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) and HTML specifications, the principal technologies that form the basis of the World Wide Web.

W3Schools is a project of Refsnes Data, a software development and consulting company in Norway. Hege, Ståle, and Jan Egil Refsnes are the authors. Somewhere in the stuff we look at today, they say you can get *WYSIWYG programs for Web publication but you're better off if you learn the common tags and put them in yourself. Don't ask how I know this, but believe them! They are absolutely right. So as you cut into the turkey on Thursday, offer some extra thanks that I'm making you wade through all these numbers and letters. They will put money in your pocket and cranberry sauce on your table someday.

Your Assignment

You knew there would be an assignment, didn't you? I want you to read up on a story that involves an issue of journalistic ethics, and post a link to the story and a very good Statement of Principles adopted by the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Over Thanksgiving, please read about the ongoing political catfight over an item by Republican newspaper columnist Robert Novak saying Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was sitting on a nasty rumor about fellow Democrat Barack Obama. Here's an article in The Guardian that pretty well summarizes it. (The Guardian is a London daily, and I like to follow American elections in the British press ... they have a little more perspective sometimes.) I think it's going to blow over, so you won't have to spend long at it.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism, headquartered in Washington, D.C., based its Statement of Principles on four years of research, including 20 public forums and survey research with working journalists. So the statement represents a good consensus of working journalists nationwide.

Your assignment: Read about the Novak story, some of the reaction to it and his defense of what he did. Then evaluate the ethical standards he showed in this story in light of the PEJ's Statement of Principles. Post a couple of paragraphs to our class blog, and include working links to the Novak story, the Principles and whatever else you read. This assignment is partly about the discussion of law, ethics and responsiblity in the last few chapters of our textbook, and partly about getting experience posting to the blog.
* WYSIWIG = What you see is what you get, i.e. computer displays that look like a printed page. To see the difference, click on the "Edit HTML" and "Compose" tags in the Blogger dashboard. I almost always click on the "Edit HTML" tag.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Here's a valuable website ...

A website I think we'll see a lot of available on line at <> in the next couple of weeks -- I
"Googled" into it -- oops! how would you change that?

Aha ... performed a Google keyword search ... right?

Why did I correct myself?

Back to the website. is the website of The Project for Excellence in Journalism, a think tank that "specializes in using empirical methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press. It is non partisan, non ideological and non political." Originally affiliated with the journalism school at Columbia University, located in New York City and one of the best, PEJ is now part of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. I like it because it deals with hard fact gathered by a research method known as content analysis -- basically a way of counting references to something and analyzing the data statistically to see how important it is. Says the PEJ website:
Our goal is to help both the journalists who produce the news and the citizens who consume it develop a better understanding of what the press is delivering. The Project has put special emphasis on content analysis in the belief that quantifying what is occurring in the press, rather than merely offering criticism and analysis, is a better approach to understanding.
The website has other resources as well:
Directed by journalist Tom Rosenstiel, PEJ's broadened research agenda will include a new series of continuing content studies of the news agenda, plus tracking of key industry trends, and timely commentary and analysis of that trend data. At the same time, PEJ will also continue its existing research, including publishing the State of the News Media, an annual report on American journalism, conducting "opportunistic" content studies on press performance of key events, offering occasional analysis of press behavior and publishing the Daily Briefing, a digest of media news. PEJ's new website is designed to be an archive of that research and a place for people to conduct their own inquiries through the searchable and customizable functions built into the site.
We'll be writing some heads on material available at

State of the media in Springfield / READ

This morning's issue of Illinois Times has a cover story and a couple of sidebars on the state of the news media. They fit in with the discussion we're having in a couple of my news-editorial classes, and they're important enough I'm assigning them to all of my mass comm. students. Read them, and be ready to cite them in class discussions, on your blogs and/or your final exam essays. You can pick up a free copy of IT from the newsrack next to the Quiet Lounge in Dawson, or read it on IT's website They tell about the pressure of declining circulation, ownership changes and a gloomy job outlook at The State Journal-Register and WICS Channel 20. All this makes it difficult, according to some of the people quoted, to do a decent, ethical job of covering the news -- writing "the best obtainable version of the truth" in Carl Bernstein's words -- in the dominant media in town. More specialized, or "niche," media in the African-American community and public radio are doing better, according to the sidebars.

There's nothing new in the doom and gloom. Ben Bagdikian, a former Washington Post editor now dean emeritus of the journalism school at the University of California-Berkley, summed it up 40 years ago when he said, "Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach's St. Matthew's Passion on a ukulele: The instrument is too crude for the work, for the audience and for the performer."

True enough. But you've got to try.

This week's stories in Illinois Times tell how things are shaking out here lately, and they're not just for students who want to go into the news business. The trends are national, and they're important for everyone who deals with -- or reads, watches, listens to or surfs -- the media. Which is all of us.

A sidelight. In Amanda Parsons' story on local TV news, there's a little preview of what Benedictine students can expect from Nathan Mihelich, who will teach TV production spring semester. Formerly a Channel 20 reporter, Mihelich is now information director for the Dominican Sisters of Springfield. Says the IT story:
Mihelich will teach a new television-production course at Benedictine University/Springfield College in the spring, and he says he will use his experiences at WICS and other news stations to teach students about the value of investigative reporting, the importance of quality rather than quantity, and how to turn a story into a presentable piece that people care about and may act upon.
Read the IT stories and be ready to discuss them in class next week.


Marqueta's post -- for COMM 337? -- moved from last year's COMM 207 blog. -- pe.

"I don’t think that we are going to have such a salutary view of what happened in the Clinton presidency. Clinton’s transgressions have little in common with Watergate, which was about a vast and pervasive abuse of power by a criminal president, who ordered break-ins and firebombings, who impeded the free electoral process, who instituted illegal wiretaps and used the Internal Revenue Service as a force for personal retribution...

I was talking about, about what we do. The rise of idiot culture, which we must resist, is taking place at a time when other institutions in this society, particularly our political institutions, particularly the American Congress, have been failing us, pandering even more shamefully to polls instead of engaging in problem-solving; responding to campaign contributions instead of to the real problems, fears, needs of the people of the country; surrendering too often to demagoguery and irrelevance instead of leading the people"

Berstein is a very 'real' reporter. He speaks on the things that Elite America runs from. Berstein talked about context. I believe that context in this sense deals with 'the given'.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

For Thursday -- read and be ready to write

We've looked at a speech by Carl Bernstein, who covered the Watergate story for The Washington Post and is now an editor at Vanity Fair, on the state of the news business. Here's another. It's by David Leigh, an assistant editor of the Guardian in London, with special responsibility for investigative reporting. His headline sums up the tone of the speech: "Are reporters doomed?" His answer. Read it for yourself and make your own conclusion. But I'd say his answer is yes, probably.

But you can write a better head than that. Right? Make it a 1-36-4. That looks like a fun challenge. How many columns is that? How big is the type (in points)? How many lines?

Says Leigh:
I fear that these developments [various forms of online publication and blogging] will endanger the role of the reporter. Of course, there will always be a need for news bunnies who can dash in front of a camera and breathlessly describe a lorry crash, or bash out a press release in 10 minutes. There will probably be a lot more news bunnies in the future. There will probably also be hyper-local sites — postcode journalism fuelled cheaply by neighbourhood bloggers. But not proper reporters.
You probably figured out how to translate from the British yourself. But a "lorry" is a truck, and British "postcodes" are like our ZIP codes. "News bunnies" needs no translation. But "high street" might be less familiar -- it's like "Main Street" in small-town America.

Bernstein: 'Best obtainable version of truth'

Carl Bernstein, one of the reporters who broke the Watergate story during the 1970s, has a definition that I've liked ever since I first came across it in our copyediting textbook, Modern News Editing by Mark Ludwig and Gene Gilmore (5th ed. Ames, Iowa: Blackwell, 2005). Journalism, according to Bernstein, is "the best obtainable version of the truth" (231). Ludwig and Gilmore add it's "an acknowledgement that the full truth is hard to grab hold of and may shift over time as more facts are revealed."

Turns out Bernstein has been saying it for years. Especially after he and fellow Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward were portrayed in the Hollywood movie "All the President's Men" (1976), Bernstein has been a fixture on the rubber-chicken dinner and lecture circuit. And he gives this definition of journalism to audience after audience. Usually he says it's being undermined by celebrity news and cost-cutting in U.S. newsrooms.

It makes sense to me. I think it makes sense to a lot of people who have covered the news, and who know from the experience how elusive the truth can be. I like it because it doesn't promise too much. It doesn't promise The Truth with a capital "T."

"Truth is the word that summarizes many journalistic ideas," say Ludwig and Gilmore. "But what, philosopy has always asked, is Truth? Working newsmen and newswomen know what truth means on the job and don't worry too much about the big picture, so far as they can discover and portray it." The best obtainable version, in other words, of truth.

Ironically, Bernstein credits Woodward with the phrase. When the two were interviewed by Larry King of CNN, they said:
... it -- but it -- it -- you know, and our concern is that -- and Carl makes this point, and it's a critical one, that the business of this kind of journalism, trying to get to the bottom of something complicated, hidden, scandalous, or important decisions by people who have lots of power, involves lots of sources. Not one source, not 10, but dozens or even hundreds.

BERNSTEIN: You know, Bob said right after Watergate, that really, what this story was about, like all reporting, or good reporting, is the best obtainable version of the truth. And that phrase has always stuck with me about what real reporting is. When we did "All the President's Men," it turned out unintentionally it was maybe a primer on the basic kind of police reporting and slogging and knocking on doors.
They went on from there, on Larry King Live. But for me the best obtainable version of truth has something to do with "the basic kind of police reporting and slogging and knocking on doors."

In seeking the best obtainable truth, Ludwig and Gilmore look for several things.

The most important is accuracy. "Newsrooms rightly develop a fixation on accuracy about names and addresses. But reporters must be at least as careful about accurate quotation, or about the accuracy of the impression that results from the way facts are put together."

Almost as important is objectivity. Ludwig and Gilmore cite the conventional wisdom: "Reporters should keep themselves out of the story, and editors should see that they do."

Closely related to accuracy and objectivity is fairness. Ludwig and Gilmore have a simple standard for editors: "They treat everybody alike."

Bernstein's rubber-chicken dinner speech, as he gave it Sept. 26, 1998, at the annual convention of the Radio and Television News Directors Association, is available on line. In it he says:
The truth is often complex, very complex. “The best obtainable version of the truth” is partly about context and this is perhaps the greatest single failing of our journalism in media today. For too much of it is utterly without context. Facts by themselves are not necessarily the truth. Thus the gossip press, the tabloids, too much of what we see on the air, even when the facts are somewhat straight, they are often a form of misinformation, because their aim is to shock, to titillate, to distort, to give grotesque emphasis.
How did journalists in the good old days -- which happen to coincide with Bernstein's reporting days -- find the best obtainable version? Bernstein suggests they looked for "thoroughness, for accuracy, for context." Hard to do, he adds, when an "idiot culture" demands 24/7 coverage of celebrities and political foodfights:
The hunger for gossip and trash and simple answers to tough questions in our culture today is ravenous and the interest in real truth, hard, difficult, complex truth, that requires hard work, digging, reporting, is waning In America our political system, and I think we are seeing it now, has been failing and with its failure we have been witnessing as well a breakdown of the comity and the community and the civility, that has traditionally allowed our political discourse to evolve. The advent of the talk show nation, not just on radio, but on television especially, with its standards of the grotesque and people screaming mindlessly at each other on the air is part of this breakdown.
Does Bernstein overdo his critique? Probably. But does he have a point there? Probably. His speech has been covered by the Lawrence (Kan.) Journal-World and the Daily Texan, student paper at the University of Texas in Austin, among others.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Creativity soars ... like a drowsy mammal!

In class Thursday we took a half-baked flier for The Sleepy Weasel, brainstormed heads for it and wrote a few. I'll post some of the more creative heads below. But first, time out for an experiment.

The Blogger dashboard tells me if you click on the "Compose" tab and go to one of those picture icons in the header, you can post pictures you have stored on your computer. I'm going to try, by clicking on the little icon that looks like a photo.

Browse. Click.

Well, I'll be darned! It worked!

There it is.

A lot easier than it used to be.

Now, for the heads you wrote. The envelope, please. Let's take them in alphabetical order:

  • Lauren wrote: "The Sleepy Weasel Prowls Again." I really like "prowls." It sounds like something a weasel would do. When I'm using display type, sometimes I'll put "Weasel" in italics, and sometime I won't. Depends on what the letters look like in that face, especially if the ascenders get to pointing in different directions. With me, it has nothing to do with the rules for italics and Roman type -- it's entirely visual. Good head, anyway. Look for it on bulletin boards around campus.
  • Jessica: "Hey! You little weasel. Let's go weaseling in the SLEEPY WEASEL (except she used another typeface we don't have in Blogger).
  • Alyssa wrote: "Wake up the Sleepy Weasel with your creative stories or poems!" Not bad, not bad at all. Look for a shorter version of it on bulletin boards around campus, along with Lauren's.
  • Claire brainstormed several ideas that have a lot of potential: "What do you call a drowsy mammal? A SLEEPY WEASEL." Another: "If the weasel wakes and sees his shadow, we know it's time for the SLEEPY WEASEL." "My favorite: "Here we go a-Weaseling!" Get into Microsoft Word and try setting that in Old English Text, and you'll see what I mean. Ho ho ho.
  • Becky's was sheer poetry: "Roses are red. Violets are blue. Our Weasel's out of stories ... so we need YOU!" Right now we've got plenty of stories in the can, but Becky didn't know that. I think it will be an effective head the next time we are hard up for copy (it happens every year).
  • Zach: "Weasel Your Way In" and "Whistle for your Waking Weasel." Or this: "Waking Early for Weasel's Easel." I don't know what any of that means, but I like thealliteration, rhyme and wordplay.

As long as we're talking about The Sleepy Weasel, by the way, all of you are eligible to submit copy, too. A lot of the stuff in the magazine started out as a paper for somebody's class, in fact. Help us recycle, and help yourself to get a start on your portfolio. Here's a link to the gate page. Take a look around, and see what you've got on your hard drive to contribute.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Weasel flier -- exercise in class 11/8

Linked to my faculty page is a draft of an 8-1/2 by 11 *flier I want to get people to post around campus to solicit work for The Sleepy Weasel, campus arts and letters (and **journalism!) magazine for SCI/Benedictine. Rather than make myself crazy trying to write an imaginative headline for the rather un-imaginative copy I've written below, I decided to put it up on the web so you can copy and paste it into Microsoft Word and make yourselves crazy writing a head for it. Tweaking the copy, too. Doing whatever it takes to make people notice it.

We need to have the types of writing we're looking for -- journalism, fiction, poetry, recycled term papers (altho' we don't call them that) and so on, and the contact information. And we ought to use the weasel picture. (It's by Beth Zink, sophomore in fine arts at SCI.) And, of course, the flier has to fit on a standard sheet of typing paper. Otherwise, the sky's the limit. Use your imagination.

You can work individually or in small groups. I'll copy the best pieces and circulate them as fliers.



* Why am I spelling "flier" that way?

** This would count as publication when you start gathering stuff for your senior portfolios, by the way.

COMM 393: Reminder on Senior Portfolios

A copy of an email message I sent out this morning to students registered for Communications 393. I'm posting it to my blogs for communications students as well. I have great respect for the Benedictine/SCI grapevine, and I'll appreciate your assistance in getting the word out. -- pe.

A reminder: The end of the semester is only a month away, so it's time to pull together the material for your senior portfolios.

I will need to meet with each of you in order to: (1) inspect your professional portfolio; and (2) receive a Senior Portfolio Folder containing your self-reflective paper and copies of four pieces of work (artifacts) you have done for class, for internships and/or off-campus publications. You will keep your professional portfolio for use in job hunting, but Benedictine University will retain a Senior Portfolio Folder from each student for program assessment purposes.

I am developing a more detailed set of instructions, which I hope to email to you over the weekend, but I wanted to send out this reminder so you can get started how.

THERE ARE THREE parts to the Senior Portfolio procedure:

I. SELF-REFLECTIVE ESSAY. To be turned in, as part of the Senior Portfolio Folder, during a conference with me before the end of the semester.

The self-reflective essay will be 10 to 12 pages in length, in which you reflect on your experience as a communications major at Benedictine in terms of: (a) your progress toward developing or furthering your career goals; (b) your understanding of the profession, its ethics and its role in society. In this essay you should address the following program objectives of Benedictine's mass communications department:

1. Prepare graduates for careers in advertising, electronic and print media, journalism, public relations, publishing, writing or other careers requiring sophisticated communications skills;

2. Prepare graduates for continued study in graduate or professional school;

3. Develop the student's critical and imaginative thinking, reading and writing skills;

4. Develop skills to empower the student to communicate ideas effectively, through speaking, writing and the use of technology;

5. Develop skills for critical interpretation of the media;

6. Foster aesthetic understanding in both production and interpretation of media texts;

7. Develop knowledge of the methods to make responsible social and personal decisions;

8. Develop primary and secondary research methodologies;

9. Develop an understanding of the history, structure and operation of the mass media;

10. Provide an understanding of the impact of mass media industries and messages on the individual, society and culture;

11. Develop professional-level skills in written and oral communication for a variety of media and audiences;

12. Develop professional-level production skills for both print and electronic media;

13. Encourage the development of creative expression; and

14. Help the student develop a professional media portfolio.

II. PROFESSIONAL PORTFOLIO. To be inspected by me during our end-of-semester conference and returned to you. This will be a collection of your best work, preferably gathered in a presentation folder, that you can take with you on job interviews.

III. SENIOR PORTFOLIO FOLDER. To be turned in to me during our end-of-semester conference and retained by Benedictine. Since we will keep these folders, I will accept them in an inexpensive pocketed folder; you can find them in an office supply store or the school supplies aisle of most drug stores. In this folder, you will include: (a) the the self-reflective essay; and (b) at least one copy at least one piece of work (artifact) from each of the following categories:

1. A 300-level research paper written for a 300-level theory class (including COMM 317, 385, 386, 387, or 390, and 391 if it is a theory class). It must contain proper annotation, structure, evidence, and methodology. The student must have attained a grade of at least a “B” on the paper in its original form for it to be accepted for this requirement.

2. A print-based publication, defined as an original written or produced work fixed in a printed and published medium (including newspapers, magazines and newsletters). If you do not have print publication credits, class work for COMM 207, 208, 209, 253 (equivalent to SCI's COM 221), 254, 263 (equivalent to SCI's COM 222), 264, 337, 381 or 382 can be accepted.

3. A web-based publication, i.e. creation that has been exhibited on the World Wide Web and is created for a departmental publication, internship, or work-related experience. The Sleepy Weasel counts as a web-based publication. Any other web-based artifact, including blogs or personal Web pages, must be approved by the instructor prior to the submission of the full portfolio.

4. Brochures, fliers, memos or other work product, including advertisements, pamphlets, brochures, letterheads, scripts or other copy prepared for broadcast, memos, creative briefs, campaign plans or other tangible material written in connection with a college course or an internship.

I will send you a formal assignment sheet in a few days, and there is more detail available about the senior portfolios on the COMM 393 syllabus linked to my faculty page at

If you have any questions or comments, please don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

-- Pete "Doc" Ellertsen, instructor

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Media bias in eye of beholder?

Cross-posted to my mass communications blogs. -- pe

There's a story in yesterday's Washington Post that we need to read, even though it relates to material we covered earlier in the semester and/or will come back to at semester's end. It's a column by media critic Howard Kurtz on right- and left-wing perceptions of bias in the news media. To sum it up briefly, maybe a little too briefly, Kurtz thinks the media are taking fire from both sides. And he implies, without coming right out and saying it, that's about where you want to be if you're covering the news.

Kurtz has been on the talk show circuit plugging his book on network news, and he said the talk show hosts "appear to be living in parallel universes." His column is a good overview of the issue, concluding:
Bobbing along on this swirling sea of opinions, I became increasingly convinced there is a place for newscasts that at least attempt to provide viewers with a straight set of facts. To be sure, these programs make subjective judgments, sometimes miss the boat and appeal to a demographic keenly interested in all those segments on back pain and hip replacements. But it would be a shame if, in an age of infotainment, the new generation of anchors can't find ways to keep their broadcasts vital as well as balanced. Without them, after all, there would be fewer targets for "The Daily Show" to mock.
Read it. Might be a good one to print out for later use, in fact. I don't know how long The Post archives its stories on the open website.