Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Journalistic ideals

It has been a very, very long time since I’ve written here. I write almost daily on Facebook and Twitter, but haven’t wandered over to this blog. I’m not sure why, exactly, though the modern urge to communicate in 140 characters is beginning to be the norm. And yet, I’m feeling the need to express myself in a more complete – if less concise – form.  In any case, if you’re still with me, thank you.

I’m teaching at the local high school this week. I’ve been a visiting presenter at the invitation of the English teacher, and we’ve been talking to the students about research and how it may be more intense in college. In addition to the things I usually talk about, the teacher has asked me to talk about blogs and journalism and how the two may differ, and when it might be appropriate to cite a blog.

This took me on a path to research what blogs are out there these days, and I was a bit surprised at the “legitimate” organizations that now have blogs as part of their media reach. I’ve been blogging for a while now, and when I first started (cue the, “Why, back in my day…”) blogs were dismissed as being the ramblings of people unknown. Blogs were considered entertaining and perhaps informative, but in most cases not authoritative. That seems to have changed.

A thousand years ago, I switched majors in college from music (voice) to journalism, largely because of the influence “All the President’s Men” had on my young crusading spirit. (On a side note, I have discovered that I am descended from real Crusaders…but that’s another post.) I loved the idea of researching stories, uncovering misdeeds, righting wrongs, saving the world…you get the idea. Journalism rode in on a white horse, saving the day from tyranny and preserving the American Way. In my mind, the Fourth Estate was essential to democracy, ensuring that the other three branches of government were doing the things they were supposed to do and bringing to light abuses of power.

I’m not sure I believe that the Journalism I admired as a young woman exists any longer. These days I see the mainstream media as part of an entertainment complex rather than as a heroic and patriotic enterprise. The biases in media are insidious, and are all the more dangerous because – for the most part – they are hidden. When I teach students about research and biases and how to determine whether a source has an agenda, it’s difficult to talk about the mainstream media.  In doing a search on NBC, Fox, and CBS news channels, all three talk about entertainment, rather than journalism.

In contrast, news-related blogs – especially those that are politically driven  – tell the reader what their bias is, without equivocation. Daily Kos tells us that, “This is a Democratic blog, a partisan blog.” Right Wisconsin (as if the name isn’t enough of a hint) tells us that, “We are a new distribution channel for conservative ideas.” This, I tell my students, is exactly what a site should say. It’s okay to have a bias, as long as you tell the reader up front that you have this lens through which you’re seeing the world.  If a site doesn’t tell you what their bias is, if they purport to be unbiased in their views but have a tendency to lean one way or the other….that’s when you should be a bit suspicious.

This all makes me think that the growing trend of citizen journalism will continue to grow, and perhaps is closer to the ideal as put forth in the constitution. I still believe that the Fourth Estate is essential to democracy. I’m not sure who inhabits that Estate, however, and who will take it into the future.

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Spell it out

There have been website updates recently for a couple of organizations with which I am associated. In one case, the web person forgot to put the name of the organization on the main page. (Oops.)  It’s too soon to tell with the other as it has yet to launch, but I’m sure there will be something.

Why?  Certainly not because the person in charge of the site is slipping. It’s simply that these sites are so big, it’s hard to see the details when you’ve been slogging through them for weeks and months.

It is imperative, therefore, to have someone that isn’t you or your staff or your web person take a look at your site to see where you might have missed something. Case in point, I’m doing some research for MPOW involving higher education conferences. In my research I’ve come across a number of sites that are Exceedingly Acronym Happy. One of these EAH sites has an acronym for its name….and never says what the thing means. I have no idea, even after looking in the “About us” section and the “FAQ” section and the “Contact us” section.

There’s something about this that makes me suspicious.  Perhaps you’re trying to sell me something and you’re hiding your real identity for unknown reasons. (Perhaps I’ve been reading too many mysteries and thrillers.) In any case, if you have an acronym on your site, at some point early on you need to spell it out.  This is one of those times when having an outsider take a look at your website would be helpful, especially if they’re not in on the acronym game. The first time someone says, “What’s that?” you have a clue to something that needs to be clarified.

Rant over. Back to searching for swell higher ed conferences. And, by the way, if there’s a conference you’ve attended that you recommend, please let me know!

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Books, books, everywhere

I am back from a magical weekend in New York.

I attended, for the first time, the Book Expo America at the absolutely enormous Javits Center. For those who haven’t attended this behemoth of a book conference, it’s All Things Book – publishers, sellers, and over 700 authors. Those authors were giving away copies of their books, and were signing copies for those interested.

There were a lot of people interested.

The conference is for book professionals, including librarians. The last day of the conference they open the doors to the general public, who can get tickets to come and see their favorite authors and get signed copies of books. (One of the “authors” was Grumpy Cat.  There was a huge line of people waiting for books and a chance to see the cat. Who knew.)

This thing is absolute book crack for people who love books; the day the conference opened to the general public 7,000 people bought tickets. It was crazy and exhilarating and great fun.

While I am a book lover and librarian, of course, I was not there in either of those roles. DBF has written a wonderful novel that’s being published and it was introduced at BEA. I was there as her entourage. It was wonderful to be there as my dear friend first saw piles of her books, saw the posters announcing her book, and signed her first autograph. We both shed a few tears of absolute joy.

I encourage you to check out her book and order a copy. Or five. You can find it on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

In any case, I was thinking about the weekend on the way home. In the last few years there have been a number of articles mourning the death of the book, of readers, of reading in general. Given what I saw this past weekend, I would beg to differ. The people who were there were from all walks of life (judging on appearances, granted) and were of all ages. They were giddy at the prospect of meeting and interacting with authors, and in discovering new books to read and cherish. The book, for them, is very much alive and well. To paraphrase Twain, the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

I don’t think we’ll see the death of the book anytime soon. And I’m glad.

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Newbie

DBF is a beautiful writer.

This has always been one of her talents, whether it’s a letter or a thank you note or a beautifully crafted speech. She has a way with words, and I have been nudging her for years to jump into blogging so that we all might enjoy.

It has finally happened. North of the Tension Line is her new blog, with some exquisite essays posted that she wrote a few years ago. (Note: tissues may be helpful. Trust me.) And by the way, North of the Tension Line is the name of her new book,  which will be published by Beaufort Books in September. You’re gonna love it.

Wander on by and visit.

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New Baghdad library

Baghdad has designs for a new library, which is the first to be built in the city since the ’70’s.  While I’m not a fan of most modern architecture, the design of the library is interesting and quite beautiful. Its sinuous shape is meant to resemble the Arabic word for “read.” Cool.

You can read more about it and see pictures on Curbed.  Take a look.

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Lollipops

I recently came across a powerful video on leadership. I love the message that we’re all leaders, that it isn’t something grand but is something universal. But even more meaningful to me was the idea of the lollipop moment. Since it has had me thinking ever since I saw it a few weeks ago, I thought I’d share.

Have you had a lollipop moment?

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Humor

I’ve been reading various posts of late that are instructing people on how to be successful in social media, either for themselves or for their organizations.  At some point, many of them tell you to be clever. Or be funny.

Hmmm.

Now, people have often told me that I’m funny. I think my sense of humor is one of my strengths, and is one of the things that make me a passable speaker. My sense of humor is deeply ingrained – and if you met my family, you’d know from whence it came.

Humor.  I has it.

However. Librarians, as a group, do not tend to be enthralling presenters, sorry to say. I have been to many, many presentations where the presenter was stultifyingly dull. And at some point, they attempt humor because, you know, you’re supposed to be funny. It’s not pretty. And I feel bad for the presenter, because it’s incredibly uncomfortable to throw what you think is a laugh line out there only to have it crash at your feet.

Here’s the thing: if you’re not a funny person (and you probably know who you are) don’t force it.  You can be engaging and interesting and informative….and that’s more than enough.

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Generation shift

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. I’ve written before about Howard Kane, one of the victims of the World Trade Center attack.  Most of us, I would imagine, have the details of that day seared in our consciousness.

It occurs to me in working with our new freshmen that they most likely don’t have a memory of where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. They were seven years old at the time.

An event that is one of the most seminal events of our age is something that may be a vague memory for most of our students, most likely of how the adults in their lives were reacting to what was happening.  (I feel that way about the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. I was ten at the time and while I knew something bad had happened, I really wasn’t cognizant of the gravity of the events. I just knew my parents were upset.)

I suppose this generational disconnect is what our grandparents felt when our parents barely remembered Pearl Harbor. Or for our parents’ generation, when we barely remember JFK. (I have vague memories of a funeral on television. I was five.)  These students were born after the Challenger disaster, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and they were only four when the first Gulf War happened. I hope that the seminal event for this generation is something universally wonderful, rather than awful. We can all pray that it’s so.

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Mindset, 2012

It’s that time of year again. It’s two weeks before the beginning of the semester here at MPOW, and I’m starting to think the quiet is feeling more like the calm before the storm.

To that end, Beloit College has again given us a list of the things that help to form the Class of 2016:

3.        The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them.

Interesting. I wonder, then, if we use the term “Good Samaritan” if they know what we’re talking about?

9.        They have never seen an airplane “ticket.”

13.    They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it.

I remember the first time I saw a piece of luggage with wheels on it. Thought it was the Best. Idea. Ever. All this as I was schlepping my luggage through the airport.

48.    They grew up, somehow, without the benefits of Romper Room.

Frankly, I would have thought this applied to many classes before this one.  It didn’t go off the air until 1994!

Have a look for yourself. It’s a fun trip down memory lane, if nothing else.

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Phone phishing

I got a phone call on my cell this morning, from a ‘blocked’ number. I took it because I was curious, wondering who would call me with a blocked number?

I was informed, via a robotic voice, that my credit card information from Somewhere Community Credit Union (I missed the first word) had been stolen. If I would please press 1, I would be directed to a security representative.

Yikes.

Needless to say, I did not press 1. I don’t have a credit card from any community credit union. What makes me nervous, though, are the people that do have a card with a credit union and are frightened into pressing 1…..where I’m guessing some slimeball will ask for sensitive information.

I have no idea how these people got my cell phone number. I have no idea how many cell phones are being called, especially if it’s robotic calling. You don’t even need to be doing the calling yourself; you simply wait until some unsuspecting person presses “1” and the game is on.

Please pass this story around, especially to those who may be a bit naive to scams like this.

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