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Category: Journalism (page 1 of 2)

We’re going to experiment

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I majored in journalism in college for one particular reason: it was the closest I could get to not declaring a major.

See, I was interested in all aspects of human experience. I didn’t want to have to specialize in anything, because I was interested in all of it. But I went to college when the mantra was first started to be repeated that to be successful, you had to specialize (which struck me the same way the famous advice to Benjamin in The Graduate did: “Plastics…. There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it.”). Continue reading

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The most overlooked prep time for speakers

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Looooong experience

Austrian journalist Karl Kraus once famously defined a journalist as someone who has nothing to say but knows how to say it. Journalism students have a tendency to fill a college career with nothing but journalism courses, which can lead to exactly the situation Kraus described. That’s why schools accredited by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication require students to take no more than a certain number of hours in journalism courses–they need to have something to write about when they graduate.

Speakers have related challenges, in that hardly anyone speaks simply to speak. You must have something to speak about. Continue reading

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You can lessen the grip of media-induced fear

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I have heard many cry out in the last few days, “Media! Leave Newtown alone! You’re despicable!” The humane part of me agrees with this cry. But you have to understand something. That media frenzy that everyone decries? It’s all our fault. Continue reading

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Infographic: The Pitfalls of Freelancing

Infographics have become a trend–at least partly, I think, because they’re information-dense means of quickly making sense of a topic, and effectively combine visual and verbal information. This one applies to both writing and speaking, I think, as well as the obvious connections to IT.

Pitfalls of Freelancing
Created by: Masters Degree

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Publishing student work via Flipboard

As I write this, I’m at the Innovative Professor Conference at Austin Peay State University, getting ready to do a presentation about a method of publishing student work for Flipboard, one of the most popular apps available on the iPad.

I have this theory that “out loud” is best for big picture information–establishing context, talking about meaning, etc.–while detail is best communicated via writing. In keeping with this, in the session I’m mostly trying to show what’s possible and point to resources, while developing the details on the “how to” via a public Google doc. I’m also pointing to this post for people to be able to find these resources:

[Edit: Updated with tags.]
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Open government leads to greater happiness

This report by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press might lead to a “well, duh!” response. Nevertheless, it is good to see solid evidence bearing this out. “Citizens who believe their community’s information systems, government, media and such are performing well are more likely to be engaged in their community and are more satisfied with the quality of their community as a whole.”

The report further says that people in such communities are more likely to believe they can make a difference. Again, not rocket science. It occurs to me that there is a segment of the power structure that might benefit from these insights, though. Some in power (in my cynical view, perhaps most?) are interested mainly in power. There is a sizable segment that seeks truly to serve, however, and at least some of them believe they must serve the public by protecting it from knowing too much.

Thus, the power-hungry and the well-meaning elite may join forces to further the nanny state.

The power-hungry will not care, of course. In fact, this may encourage them to close government as much as possible, since the last they want is citizen involvement. The Romans were not the last empire to understand the usefulness of bread and circuses. But for those who really want to serve, the lesson is supported: openness and communication is always better.

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You must be willing to create crap…

…in order to find the good stuff. That’s sort of what Anne Lamott advised in her book Bird by Bird. One of her chapters was titled pretty much that (using a stronger term than crap).

Daniel Pink posits a similar idea in his piece entitled Why you should come up with at least 1 bad idea today, based on a Wall Street Journal piece by Dilbert creator Scott Adams. Believe it or not, Adams (not known as an optimist) puts an even more positive spin on the idea.

Lamott seems to me to be saying you have to write crap to get it out of your system, and if you’re willing to just let it flow, you will find amid the effluence some worthwhile material. Adams, on the other hand, says that coming up with bad ideas a) gets you started on the process of coming up with something good, and b) provides quality raw material for good ideas. Not just fertilizer, in other words, but seeds.

As I watch speech students struggle to come up with “the” right idea, right structure, right approach, I wish I could communicate this principle. Perhaps Mr. Pink will help do so.

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Thoughts on Web 2.0 and Human 1.5

This is for an assignment in the Digital Storytelling course, but I’m happy to share it here, for whatever it’s worth. I was thinking about how differently writers approached things “in my day” with copyright, etc., and today with things like Creative Commons licenses. I don’t know how informative it is, but it reflects my personal process somehow.

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Syllabus for parody course too true

One of the great things about parody, of course, is that it is all at once funny and not-funny-because-it’s-too-true. Robert Lanham has produced a syllabus for a course called Internet-Age Writing, and it makes me laugh and cry, just like those people I heard about in a student’s speech who named their dog “Fungus.” What worries me is the number of people who will not get the cultural references on either side of this thing. Note: if you skim it instead of read it, you are already Too Far Gone.

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Look behind the curtain

As someone who tries to teach students about evidence, support, reasoning, etc., stuff like this just makes me mad, and I”m not sure if it’s because the cartoonist is ignorant of basic background information and economics, or because he thinks his  readers are that ignorant, or because he’s right. (I’m sure he’s right a lot, I’m just not sure how right).

The cartoon is correct as far as it goes, but it leaves out a key point, a point that would establish whatever blame there is in this more accurately.

Even if you didn’t know about the Community Reinvestment Act (which we’ll consider in a moment), a little bit of thinking based on what’s presented here should bring you to a different conclusion than the cartoonist implies, and it’s contained in this statement: “And taxpayers with no connection to the bank had to pay all the money to fix it.”

The eye-opening question should be: “Why?” To expand a little bit, “Why did the taxpayers have to fix it?” Because they told the banker ahead of time through their congresscritters that they would. Continue reading

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