Read & Respond week 4: Links and Crowds

August 30, 2018

This week, we’ll be talking about connections: The in-person links that create crowds and the digital ones that create, well, the Internet. Briggs talks specifically about “crowdsourcing;” the term “the wisdom of crowds” was popularized by James Surowiecki, but it’s been around for a while. Some take issue with the idea that crowds actually have any particular wisdom; a crowd, after all is just a thrown rock away from a mob. Here’s a little tune on the subject from Nova:

Moving on to links and linking, consider some ideas from these posts:

Since there’s no class on the Labor Day holiday, you have until 11:59 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3 to make your responses to this post. Keep it concise, relevant, and don’t forget to integrate Briggs!


Assignment #3: Find Your People

August 29, 2018

So far, you’ve introduced yourself, determined a focus for your blog, and made your first posts. This week, you’ll identify sources of information that will contribute to your writings.

Part 1: Refine your focus

This week, you created an “About” page with your blog’s mission statement. In class this week, we assessed these focuses. Based on my and your classmates’ feedback, refine your “About” page and add some depth. Remember these points:

  • It’s not about you. Make sure your focus is a larger conversation, not a diary or “expert advice” (you’re not one) or “my crazy life” blog. How can you connect with a larger community?
    • Remember: No advice blogs, no reviews, no profile-only blogs, no whatever else I decide is off-limits (I’ll tell you if you’re doing it)
  • It’s not about everything. Avoid being too broad (e.g., “pop culture”) – if you say you will write about something general like “sports,” you’ll need to spell out what a reader might get out of reading your site compared to the countless other sports sites out there.
    • Think of yourself as the intersection of a Venn diagram with at least two circles
  • It’s not just links. Links are necessary, but a successful blog needs to add something to the information it synthesizes from elsewhere. Linking to a bunch of stories about the Pittsburgh Penguins is not blogging.

Part 2: Identify sources to help you

Blogging isn’t something you have to do on your own. With your focused topic in mind, it’s time to identify some sources to help you on that path. You will identify at least 10 individual blogs to follow. Each of these should be a spiritual cousin to your own – they do something related to what you hope to do. These can NOT be general, non-blog sites (e.g., ESPN.com) although you may link to an individual blogger on such a site as long as you justify why that writer is an excellent source for you. You have to find people and communities that are talking about what you want to talk about!

Part 3: Identify issues to cover

As we’ve discussed this week, you need to get out of the way and cover your community and the current issues that concern it. After reading your bloggers, you must identify five timely subjects or issues they’re talking about that could serve as the focus of one (or more) of your upcoming posts. Each must include at least one link (more is better) to current discussion on the subject and explain what the focus of your post could be.

You’ll need to complete the following steps:

  • Add a blogroll (Links > Add New > Create a “Blogroll” category) and add your 10 blogs to it (5 pts)
  • Write a blog post explaining (in 1-2 sentences each) each of the five issues you’ve identified and how you might cover each in an upcoming post – don’t forget to include relevant links for each item! (5 pts)
  • This post must have a meaningful title, not a label (please don’t just call it “10 blogs” or “5 issues”) and needs writing beyond the list. At the very least, you’ll need an intro and a conclusion explaining why these 10 things go together. Frame this like an actual post rather than a class assignment!
  • Note: This does NOT count as your weekly post! You’ll still need to make your weekly post on Monday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Due: 4p, Tuesday, Sept. 4 (you get an extra day because who’s reading blogs on Labor Day?)

  • To receive credit for this assignment, you must add a link to your post (with a short description) in a comment to this blog post.
  • Your blog post MUST be made between 10a and 4p on Monday!

Read & Respond week 3: Origins of the Internet

August 23, 2018

You might want to read/watch this week’s links before delving into Briggs as they provide some historical context to what he’s talking about. First: A video clip!

History of the Internet

After viewing that, skim one or more of these links (they’re meaty, reference-heavy sources, so just get an overview):

Is the Internet something invented by an individual? What’s a specific surprising event you found in the timelines? Remember, your response (to these links AND to Briggs) is due as a comment to this post no later than 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, August 26.


Assignment #2: The About Page

August 22, 2018

Your new blog needs a place for readers to find out what it’s about. You could do this as a first post, but over time, this will get hard to find – nobody likes scrolling, after all. Instead, you’re going to create an About page. Have a look at this read from blogtyrant on what makes a terrific “About Us” page – they include examples, too! With those ideas in mind, get started. There are two parts:

Your about page should include the following:

  • What’s the blog about? Well DUH. But this means you’ll need to know that yourself, and that means spelling out the specifics of what readers can expect. You might add some links to similar blogs (while explaining what will make yours different)
  • Who’s the author? Tell us your background. What are you studying? What are your interests and accomplishments? (note: Readers don’t want to hear about YOU until they’ve heard about your blog!)
  • Where can I find you? You’re cultivating an online presence, so let interested readers know where they can hear more from you. You needn’t use an email if you don’t want, but at the very least put up your Twitter handle.
  • First post: Make it a real, attention-grabbing post, not an introduction (“Here’s my blog!”). You’re only printing this out for now, so include links and multimedia (photos, video, etc.) in brackets [url=…] so we can see where they go. Don’t forget to write a headline!

But how do I MAKE a new page??

It’s easy! In your dashboard:

  1. Pages > Add New
  2. Title: “About” or “About This Blog”
  3. Write some appropriate “about” content (you can update this as your blog grows)
  4. Publish!

What’s due

Create an About page on your blog and post the link in a comment to THIS post. Once it’s up, I’ll add your blog to the blogroll on our course blog.

Due: 11:59 p.m. Sunday, August 26 (must post comment TO THIS POST by this time)


How-To: Setting up your Wordpress blog

August 22, 2018

We set up our WordPress blogs in class, but it’s helpful to have a guide available for troubleshooting, so here you go! Follow the handy steps below to get started – feel free to stick with me or dash ahead.

  1. We’ll be using WordPress (http://wordpress.com).
  2. Click the “Sign up” link (at top)
  3. Enter the required information (username, password, email)
  4. Give your blog a name
    • The format is YOURNAME.wordpress.com
    • May take a couple tries to find one not taken
  5. Once you’ve got a blog …
    • Post!
      1. Log in & in the top infobar click “New Post”
      2. Enter a title in the top box, enter your text in the lower box (we’ll delete it later)
        • For more detail, go to your dashboard (link in top left of infobar > WP Admin) – in left menu, Posts > Add New
        • You may want to compose your posts in a word processing program then paste them into the blog box
    • Add value! (in dashboard view only)
      • Images: Make sure you know where the image is, then click Add Media > Upload Files > Select Files. Find your image, and decide where you want it in the text (left, right, or center)
      • Links: Select the text you want to make into a link. Click the little chain link icon above the text window and enter an address (or cut and paste) – it MUST begin with http://
      • Tags and Categories: Tags and categories (in the right menu) help index your posts. Just type a new one and click “add”.
    •  Publish!
      1. Click the big blue “Publish” button in the right menu
      2. If you want to save a post for later, click “Save Draft”
        • Log in later and publish manually
        • Set a specific time for it to publish automatically
      3. Don’t like what you have? Scroll to the bottom of your post and click “edit” and make the changes you want.
  1. Publicity (Publicize > Settings)
    1. You can link your blog to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Path accounts
    2. Linked blogs can publish automatically to these
  2. NOTE: Whenever you make an assigned blog post, be sure to check the assignment for where to post the link (typically as a comment to the assignment post but sometimes as an email or tweet)

And remember…

Regular blogging hours are from 10a-4p, Monday through Thursday. Posts (one required every week) must be made within this time to receive credit! That doesn’t mean you have to write them then – write when you want and save it as a draft to post later – but they MUST be posted then.


Read & Respond week 2: Getting Started

August 16, 2018

First, an overview of how these will typically work. Just about every week has an assigned reading from the Mark Briggs textbook, Journalism Next. In addition, I’ll typically put up a post here (usually by Thursday afternoon) with some links to online readings. You are required to post a response to these readings no later than 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. You’ll post your response as a comment in reply to the Read & Respond blog post (like this one).

Your response MUST address the week’s Briggs chapter and should add some elements from the online readings. You don’t need to cite all the links, but you need to connect them (or other examples) to Briggs for full credit. Keep these short and to-the-point (they’re only worth 2.5 points), but do cover your bases.

Now on with this week’s assignment.

As the syllabus says, you’ll be reading Briggs’ introduction. As you work to develop your blog’s focus, Briggs offers some suggestions. Chief among them: “It’s not about you” (remember: “Nobody Cares”). What can you write about that gets beyond yourself and meaningfully adds to the ongoing conversation? See what examples you can draw from the links below to bolster your ideas.

The Case Against News We Can Choose – this is a classic piece by Ted Koppel that gets into those filter bubble and Daily Me issues we discussed

After that, pick a few blogs from this list. The content might not be your interest, but look at the structure: How do they use sources, and what kinds of sources do they use? How do they build their stories? How visible is the author’s opinion and voice? Are they single-authored or group blogs?

For your response, consider the questions above. I’d like you to identify some techniques from the blogs you’ve read and discuss how they could be applied to your first post. Be specific – even though may not have settled on a concept yet, write about some of the options you’re considering and suggest what you could do for a first post.

You will need to respond to these readings in a comment on this post no later than  11:59 p.m. Sunday, August 19. A few things to make sure of:

  • You’ll ordinarily be posting from your WordPress account, but most of you don’t have one yet, so however you choose to post, make sure it’s clear to me who you are (so you can get credit).
  • Specifically address the readings, but don’t just summarize – build on them!

Assignment #1: Developing a Concept

August 15, 2018

For your first assignment, you’re going to think about how to cover some aspect of our new media world. We’ll start this one in today’s class, and you’ll bring the finished product on Wednesday.

Your personal blog must focus on mass and social media coverage of some area of interest. More specific is better – politics, entertainment, sports, etc are all good starting points, but stronger blogs will focus more narrowly. For example, instead of “entertainment,” you might consider “coverage of minority issues in theatre.”

The bulk of each post must be focused on the coverage and conversation about your subject, not be a long list of your personal opinions. In fact, there’s a list of off-limits content lovingly compiled over years of teaching this class:

  • No reviews
  • No diaries
  • No advice
  • No tips
  • No recipes
  • No anything else I say is off-limits!

Whew! Despite that list of forbidden subjects, you’ll find a lot worth writing about. In fact, that’s our first assignment. Here’s what you’ll do:

  • Come up with TEN blog concepts (write these as a bulleted list) that are interesting enough to cover for fifteen weeks (one post a week, including Thanksgiving break!) – we’ll start this in class!
    • Must have a mass media angle
    • Must be more specific than “sports” or “fashion”
  • Choose your TWO best concepts
    • Do they follow the rules?
    • Can they be linked to timely and newsworthy events?
    • Can you find an active online community to connect with?
  • Write FIVE one-sentence story pitches for each (that’s ten total) – Again, bulleted lists are fine, but they must be complete sentences explaining why the pitches are relevant and timely.
  • Print TWO COPIES and bring to Monday’s (August 20) class – If it’s not printed at the start of class, it’s late!