Read & Respond week 3: Origins of the Internet

August 29, 2019

This week, we’ll go back to where it all got started. As you learn to be a more effective online communicator, it helps to know more about where online communication came from. First: A video clip!


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

From the early internet, the road leads to the social Web, and that road is littered with the corpses of early efforts (hey, remember Yik Yak?). Ever hear of Friendster? It’s arguably the first major social networking site … and it’s dead now. MySpace is still out there, populated by some hardcore oddballs, but it’s nothing like it once was. And we predict The Death Of Facebook pretty much every year. The argument has been made (seemingly every year) that social media as we know it is about to change. What do you think?

Is the Internet something invented by an individual? What’s a specific surprising event you found in the timelines? What do you think keeps a social media site alive, what do you think will be the next one to die, and what might take its place? Remember, your response is due as a comment to this post no later than 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 3 (note later deadline due to Labor Day holiday).


For week 3, your personal post must be connected to a news item from this week and should use the strong headline and lede tips we’ve discussed in class. As always, it must be relevant to your personal blog concept and must include:

  • At least three links to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., or general sites (e.g.,
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

You will post it on Thursday some time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Assignment #2: The About Page

August 28, 2019

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 (well, kind of). 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, let’s get started…

Your about page should include the following sections IN THIS ORDER:

  1. 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)
  2. 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!)
  3. 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.

In addition to these sections, you’ll need to include the following:

  • An image: Images encourage engagement. This can be a personal photo or something otherwise relevant, but don’t just give us a wall of text.
  • Links: At the very least, you’ll need links to some contact information (Twitter, LinkedIn), but you might also include links to your work so readers can get a sense for you.

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

  1. 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.
  2. Add the Calendar widget to your blog (Appearance > Widgets), then drag the Calendar widget to your sidebar). This is required for grading, so if your blog theme does not display the calendar after you’ve added it, you’ll need to select a new theme (Appearance > Themes)

Due: 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 1 (must post your link as a comment TO THIS POST by that time)

How-To: Setting Up Your WordPress Blog

August 28, 2019

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 (
  2. Click the “Sign up” link (at top) – you want the free version!
  3. Enter the required information (username, password, email)
  4. Give your blog a name
    • The format is (unless you’ve got a killer name in mind, using your real name is just fine)
    • 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”
        • Important! To access the main menu, enter your blog’s URL and add “/wp-admin” after it (example: There should be a BLACK bar at the top, not a blue one.
      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
        • It’s preferable 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). Make sure you have permission to use the images you do, and include a source credit!
      • 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:// (your links should look like this)
      • 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
        • This is a great tool for writing posts on your own time to post during our 10a – 4p Monday-Thursday requirement
      3. Don’t like what you have? Open the post in its own window (click the headline), scroll to the bottom, 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…

Your first post should not be published until Thursday, Aug. 28 (between 10a and 4p). 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.

Any special requirements for your week’s personal blog will be included in the previous week’s Thursday post, but in general posts need a minimum of three meaningful links and three relevant media content (pics, video, social posts) embeds. Headlines should be specific and relevant; first-paragraph leads should be about 25 words.

Assignment #1b: Planning Your First Post

August 26, 2019

Now that you’ve got a concept settled on (or at least close to settled on), you’ll plan out your first post. First, there are some general requirements for ALL posts in this course:

  • A specific and relevant headline
  • A clear and concise (aim for around 25 words) lead.
  • At least three links to meaningful sources (a good rule of thumb is every graf after your first should have at least one link – otherwise you’re just talking to yourself!). This University of Maryland guide is a great resource for evaluating online content.
  • At least three embeds of relevant media (e.g., photo, video, social media posts)

You’ll receive a handout for planning your first post in class today during our prep workshop, but here are the details of that handout for your reference. You’ll need to complete this before writing your first post!

  • What is your blog concept (in one sentence)?
  • What is the subject of your first post (in one sentence)?
  • Why is this a good, timely fit for your blog?
  • Write a headline for this blog post:
  • Write a lead paragraph (25 words or less) for this blog post:
  • List at least three links to specific stories or discussions that you can build this post on:
  • List at least three links to media (photos, videos, social media posts) that illustrate this story:

After completing this, you’ll write a draft of your first post (on paper, not WordPress yet!) for our next class. Include content links in [brackets] where they belong in the text, and underline the words you’ll link. Bring the completed planning sheet and TWO copies of your first post, printed, to class at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28. This part of Assignment 1 is worth 5 points.

Read & Respond w2: Getting Started

August 22, 2019

How do I do these?

First, an overview of how these will typically work. I’ll put up a post here every Thursday afternoon with a Readings section and a Personal section.

  • Readings will consist of links on the week’s theme. You are required to post a response to these readings no later than 11:59 p.m. on Sunday. You’ll post that response as a comment in reply to the week’s Read & Respond blog post (like this one). If there are no readings, this section will say so. There’s no set word count, but they should be long enough to meaningfully address the week’s subject. You don’t need to cite ALL the links, but you do need relevant material from several of them.
  • Personal will explain any requirements (specific content, structure, due dates) for the next week’s personal blog posts. If there are no specific requirements, this section will say so.


As you work to develop your blog’s focus, consider a suggestion from Mark Briggs’ “Journalism Next“: “It’s not about you” (remember: “Nobody Cares”). What can you write about that gets beyond yourself and meaningfully adds to the ongoing conversation? How can you identify a community with issues that you can participate in and cover? See what examples you can draw from the links below to bolster your ideas.

Now read The Case Against News We Can Choose. This is a classic piece from 2010 by journalist Ted Koppel that gets into those filter bubble and “Daily Me” issues that persist today.

After that, pick a few blogs from this list. Focus on structure, not subject: 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?

  • Coal Tattoo (this WV blog has been dormant since mid-2018, but it’s still one of the best examples of covering a community and its issue, and its author, Ken Ward Jr., is a WVU alum! Check out his Twitter account)
  • The New York Times’ blog directory (pick one or two)
  • Talking Points Memo (politics)
  • Deadspin (sports news without access, favor or discretion – feel free to explore the other Gizmodo blogs linked at the top instead)
  • Footnoted (corporate filings, but don’t automatically skip for that reason – great example of mining a REALLY specific focus)
  • DailyKos (VERY liberal and opinionated but also one of the oldest blogs still thriving today)
  • SCOTUSblog (law blog about the Supreme Court and its decisions – they’re on Twitter too)
  • AP Style Blog (fewer links and more expertise-driven than you’ll be doing in class, but notice how timely its posts are – their Twitter feed is often funny)

I’d like you to identify some techniques from the blogs you’ve read and discuss how they could be applied to your concept and first post. In addition, are there any other blogs you’d suggest? 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 25. A few things to make sure of:

  • You’ll be posting from your WordPress account, so make sure you’re logged in! If your name isn’t clear from your username, please add it in to the post (so you can get credit).
  • Remember that your first comments won’t show up until I approve them, so don’t panic (but feel free to email me if you’re concerned).
  • Specifically address the readings, but don’t just summarize – build on them!


Your requirements for your first personal blog post will be consistent for the entire semester (we will develop these in our week two classes). The post must be relevant to your personal blog concept and must include the following:

  • At least three links to meaningful content. This means news stories, relevant posts, and substantive material, NOT to homepages (e.g., or general sites (e.g.,
  • At least three content links: Images, video, social media posts, etc.

We will develop these posts in Monday’s class, and you will bring TWO printed copies with links and content indicated to Wednesday’s class. We’ll then create our blogs on Wednesday, and you will post on Thursday some time between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Assignment #1a: Getting Started

August 21, 2019

From the list of concepts we came up with in class today, narrow down to TWO that you think are strong. For each, list five specific, timely posts (that’s 10 in all) that you think you could write.

A few ground rules. Your blog must have a clear MEDIA focus that goes beyond your own opinions – it can’t just be a diary or your movie reviews. To that end, some restrictions:

  • No diaries
  • No cat/dog/cute animal pictures
  • No recipes (yes, I’ve gotten this)
  • No sports, entertainment, fashion/health advice, tips, recommendations, recaps or reviews. You CAN use these subjects if your focus is clearly on their media angle – for example, if you covered issues in sports journalism – but your opinions on the Dallas Cowboys are not relevant here.
  • Seriously, no advice. Ever.
  • No pink dragons

Post your list as a comment to THIS post by 5p Friday, Aug. 23. This part of Assignment 1 is worth 5 points.

Welcome to #WVUblogJ for Fall 2019

August 21, 2019

Hello, future bloggers, and welcome to the fall 2019 semester of JRL 430: Social Media Journalism. This blog serves as the mothership for your work in this class: It will link to your personal and group blogs, detail your assignments, provide your online readings, and promote your fine work. There’s even a syllabus and schedule in the links at the top.

Check this blog regularly for the most up-to-date information on our class (those tabs at the top will provide syllabus, schedule, and other information). If you’re not sure when something’s due, come here first! I’ll be posting your first assignment (for next week!) soon, so check back. Your first read and respond will be posted as well (every Thursday; due Monday night). Get ready, come up with some good ideas, follow me at @thebobthe on Twitter so I can follow you (and get that account created, Twitter holdouts), start using our #WVUblogJ hashtag, and let’s get started!