Are you sick of hearing about “fake news”? I am. The term has been rendered useless, devolving into an empty rhetorical device. People on both sides of the political divide have taken to simply calling something they disagree with “fake news,” as seen in a recent exchange on CNN. Here’s a hint: using that term now labels you as a shallow parrot.
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
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
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
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.
Created by: Masters Degree
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:
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.
…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.
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.
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.