Assignment #7: Make a Map

February 28, 2019

This assignment builds on what we learned about Google Maps in last week’s class. You’re going to apply that to your personal blog by writing a post that incorporates a map of your own creation. That means the post needs to incorporate a “where” component in some meaningful way: Locations of key events, places to find a thing, cities where a performer has played, and so on.

For the assignment, you will:

  • Write a post for your personal blog with a clear location component. Your blog post will be graded like a typical post (5 pts) and counts for this week’s post. It should hit all the usual marks for content, links, depth, and overall quality.
  • Create a Google Map that adds to the story in your post in some meaningful way. This will be graded independently of the post (10 pts), but it must be relevant!
  • The map should have a least FIVE useful data points (that’s the minimum, so it’s worth the minimum grade). Use the guide on our course blog to make sure it’s set to a useful default view (we probably don’t need to see the whole world), and include useful information in your selection of pins, use of labels, photos, etc.

DUE: This assignment is due whenever you post next week’s personal post, so it must be during normal blogging hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday-Thursday) during the week of March 4-7.


Group Blog Planning Assignment #3 – First Posts

February 26, 2019

First posts?? But I’m not ready!!

Take it easy – this is a planning assignment, after all. I’ll be reviewing and returning your proposal packets this week, and for your next step, I want you to review my notes and pursue what seems like the most viable first post. You won’t be posting anything online yet, so consider this a rough draft.

You’ll need the following:

  • A coherent post. There might still be material to come, but it needs a beginning, middle and end. Don’t forget a compelling hed & lede!
  • Multiple content links. These must be a mix of in-text, media and social). This will probably be the biggest change from your personal blog posts – overall, these should be more richly sourced, so I don’t want to see a paragraph without at least one meaningful link.
  • Meaningful images. Use the strategies we’ve learned so far to bring in photography (yours or free-to-use), graphics (maps and – eventually – charts), screenshots, audio/video, etc.
  • A list of sources. Include this at the end. It should have TWO sections: Sources that are already in your post and sources you still need. We’ll take workshop time to fill in these gaps.

This post will be the first concrete draft of what your group’s blog will look like, but it will likely still have some growing to do. What would your imaginary reader (Rick, Ricardo and their friends) think of it? What would make it better? It should be complete but doesn’t need to be the final version yet, so that should take some stress off.

DUE: You will need to bring TWO printed copies to class on Tuesday, March 5 – one to mark up and one to hand in.


Assignment #6: Blog-a-Day Week!

February 21, 2019

After blogging for several weeks, you should have a feel for what works, what doesn’t, and how to plan your attack. So far you’ve been doing 5Ks but this week will be a marathon. Beginning on Monday, February 25, you will post something EVERY day to your personal blog for a week (Monday-Friday) between regular blogging hours of 10-4. This will not be easy, but you can do it, and at the end you’ll have a newfound respect for those who do this every week.

Some rules and tips:

  • The first rule of Blog-a-Day Week is: We do NOT talk about Blog-a-Day Week! This means no posting about how hard it is to post every day, or other such metacommentary.
  • Likewise, no posting about how you don’t know what to post. Use the skills from previous challenges, ideas from your blogroll, synthesis posts, comments from other students … ANYTHING that leads to a substantive post!
  • As always, good posts will have rich content (links, videos, images, maps, etc.) and be connective. Now might be the time to check out that “Add Poll” button up at the top of your New Post window.
  • Try themes and multi-day posts! Instead of thinking up multiple unrelated posts, consider how you might cover ONE story or issue over multiple days.

Scoring (10 pts total): Your Thursday (Feb. 28) post counts for your required weekly post (5 pts each) and is NOT part of the assignment. The remaining four posts are worth 2.5 pts each (10 total). Same-day and late posts receive NO credit, so make sure they’re up on time!

DUE: Every weekday from Monday, February 25 to Friday, March 1 (five posts in all)

So that’s it. Daunting, but I promise you’ll survive and learn some new skills. THIS is what a full-time blogger does. I strongly recommend writing a few posts in advance to keep from going insane. You might also want to check out the National Blog Posting Month website for advice and support – don’t go it alone!


Assignment #5: Twitter Scavenger Hunt!

February 7, 2019

It’s time! Every year, our class takes to the streets for a Twitter scavenger hunt. Thus far, many of you have probably only used Twitter for personal posting, but it’s a powerful tool for reporting and newsgathering, and the best way to learn about this is to do it. For the remainder of class today (Thursday, February 7), you’re heading out into the world in teams of two (at least one of you needs a phone with the Twitter app) to find 10 things. You’ll need to complete the bulk of this assignment by the end of class.

IMPORTANT: To count, each tweet MUST include:

  • A photo or video
  • The context of what you’re reporting – your audience doesn’t know what you asked, so be clear (e.g., Freshman Jim Jackson predicted a WVU loss to Oklahoma: “They’re just lousy this season.”)
  • The full name(s) of whoever you’re talking to
  • The number you are doing (e.g., 1. Joe Smith: “I love WVU”) – Without these, I can’t guess which entry you’re checking off (which means no credit)!
  • The hashtag: #WVUblogJ

So a sample tweet might look like this:

“3. Asked about the impact of social media on society, Prof. Biggins (Econ) said “It’s made protesting easier, but also more identifiable”. #WVUblogJ

Restrictions: No College of Media students, and please don’t all mob the same professor (I’m off-limits). They can’t all come from the same building, so don’t just hang around Evansdale Crossing or the Rec Center – try heading downtown!

Also: Be ethical – make sure the people you talk to know you’ll be posting their responses!

Let’s Get Started!

Each member of your team must post an introductory tweet with a photo of your team (so two per team) so readers and I know what to expect. Don’t forget the course hashtag for this as well!

And now … the list!

  1. School spirit: Photo and quote from someone (not you or your partner) revealing school or civic spirit (what that means is up to you).
  2. Eating Up: Photo and quote from someone (not you or your partner) at a restaurant, coffee shop or bar anywhere in Morgantown. Why do they eat here?
  3. Professors weigh in. Photo and quote from a professor on campus. Ask them how last week’s snow cancellations affected them. Be sure you include the professor’s title and department.
  4. Student on the street. Photo and quote from a student (not you or your partner). Ask them what they think about how police responded to students celebrating during last week’s snow days. Be sure you include their year in school and major.
  5. Academic excellence. Photo and quote that reveals (you are going to have to be creative) how our university contributes to cutting edge research and/or learning.
  6. Scenic spot. Photo of a distinctive scenic spot on or near campus.
    • 2016 rule: No photos of Woodburn Hall. We get it! It’s in all the brochures!
    • 2017 rule: No photos from the top of Evansdale Crossing. It’s very pretty, but I’ve seen enough of it.
    • 2019 rule: No photos from the PRT overlook. It’s … not pretty.
  7. Little-known fact. Photo and detail of something you think many people might not know about your school or campus or city.
  8. Fanatic fans – Photo/quote from somebody asking for their take on WVU’s basketball season. Why do they feel the way they do?
  9. Extracurricular extravaganza: Photo and quote/detail that exemplify some of the huge variety of clubs, organizations, etc. available to students at our university. What do people have to say about them?
  10. It’s the Arts: Find an example of the arts at work in Morgantown – paintings, sculptures, exhibits, or something more out there. Ideally you’ll still have someone to talk to about this, but if not, make sure to provide specifics about what it is we’re seeing (and where it is)

Extra Credit? Sure, why not? Add something beyond the standard requirements above, and I’ll consider an extra point or so. It should be clearly above and beyond the norm, and determining what constitutes “extra” is solely at my discretion.

DUE: You need to make most of your 10 tweets during our regular class time of 2-3:15 p.m. (one or two stragglers are acceptable), and your team must be done by 4p today. You’re expected to use class time to work on this, so if there’s a long delay to your start, it will affect your grade.

A Few Tips:

  • Think like a reporter. Have an eagle eye for the interesting, the important, the relevant, the unique, and the immediate. Double check your facts.
  • Think like a public relations professional. Show other people what’s cool about WVU.
  • Think like a storyteller. You may only have 280 characters in each tweet (actually less, once you subtract numbers, links and hashtags), but you can say a lot in a few words or using an image.
  • You may use more than one Tweet for each of the items below. Don’t overdo it, though, and don’t forget the #WVUblogJ hashtag for each!
  • 280 characters isn’t much. Try using other apps and tactics to allow you to say more.

This is going to seem a little strange to some of you, but the goal is to reveal to you the journalistic applications of Twitter. You need to be an observer, a reporter, and you can’t be afraid to accost people on the street for their opinions. You’ll provide perspective and voice, and you’ll tell a larger audience something about your subject (WVU, in this case) – make sure you’re thinking of them!


Assignment #4: Explain It!

January 31, 2019

Now that you know how to write an explainer, you’re going to make one of your own. This has a specific due date (included at the end of this assignment), so make sure you’re following directions. Using the posted guidelines, you’ll do the following:

  • Identify a subject in your area that requires explaining (again, see our own explainer for details on this)
  • Thursday, Jan. 31: Bring a subject with 10 links (mostly informational but media will help) that explain the story – UPDATE: There’s no class today, so you’re on the honor system!
  • Tuesday, Feb. 5: Bring (printed) an annotated subject and link list (sentence for each explaining relevance) to class. Ten links are the minimum! (5 pts)
  • Thursday, Feb. 7 (any time between 10a and 4p): Publish your explainer and post a link as a comment to this assignment. Remember again that a minimum of 10 meaningful links is required! (5 pts for use of supporting links and for posting link in comment)

Note that this counts as your weekly personal blog post. You’ll be graded on the usual 5 pts for quality of the post; the 10 assignment points come from your annotated list and the quality of the supporting links you provide.


Assignment #3: Find Your Community

January 24, 2019

So far, you’ve introduced yourself, determined a focus for your blog, and made your first posts. This week, you’ll identify points of contact that will help you stay in touch with your community of interest.

Part 1: Refine your focus

Last week, you created an “About” page with your blog’s mission statement. Now that you’ve had a chance to write some posts in this area, 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 (nobody cares). 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 (don’t worry, 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 2-3 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 individuals to follow: At least five bloggers and at least five social media accounts. Each of these should be a spiritual cousin to your own – they do something related to what you hope to do.

  • Blog Example: Dead Frog is Todd Jackson’s blog about the comedy business.
  • Social Media Example: Josh Marshall is the editor of Talking Points Memo. He tweet regularly about political coverage.

A few cautions: These can NOT be general, non-blog sites (e.g., @NYTimes, ESPN.com), but 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. The point is not to link to news sites you already know, it’s to find people and communities that are part of the conversation you want to join!

Part 3: Identify issues to cover (and the actual assignment)

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 sources, 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/accounts to it (5/10 pts for Assignment #3)
  • 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! (5/10 pts for Assignment #3)
  • This post must have a meaningful title, not a label (please don’t just call it “5 issues”) – you need to write more than just a list. At the very least, you’ll need an intro and a conclusion explaining why these 10 things go together. The end results should look more like an actual post than a class assignment! (5/5 pts for weekly blog post)

Due: 4p, Wednesday, Jan. 30 (due a day early so we can review in class)

  • 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.
  • You can post on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday as long as it’s up by 4 p.m.

Assignment #2: The About Page

January 17, 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:

  • 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.

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, January 20 (must post comment TO THIS POST by this time)