Thursday, September 28, 2006

Group assignments: stake your claim

Even if you've only got two or three people in your group, if you've chosen a topic stake your claim. That is, send me an email and claim your topic and a presentation date. Remember, it's first come, first served.

If your group wants to claim an evaluation topic, you must email me as well. Also first come first served. I'm not sure why no one has claimed Sex And The City yet; it was so popular as a presentation topic, yet no group has claimed it for their evaluation!

Keep your eye on the schedule. It's right here, and it's updated every time you email me with your group info.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How to write a movie review

I just found this on a Web site called, interestingly enough, How To Do Things. There are some good tips in there to help you prepare for tomorrow and Tuesday's movie watching.

The best way to learn to write in a certain style or format, however, is to read as much as you can in that style or format, and learn by example. So between now and next week, whenever you pick up a newspaper or magazine (or read them online), read the movie reviews. Or watch Ebert & Roper. Better yet, read their movie reviews.

Build a better mouse trap

There's an old adage that goes, if you build a better mouse trap the world will beat a path to your door. Kelley and Jessica had no group, but they had an idea for a topic: Sex And The City. They used their blogs to sell their idea. And more than 20 of you beat a path to their door.

If you're still looking for a group, don't just wait for someone to find you, come up with an idea. Give them a reason to want to join you. Sex And The City is not the only socially relevant television series ever created. All In The Family, Roots, The Jeffersons, Star Trek, CSI, Seinfeld, and Will And Grace are just a few that come to mind. Or what about a magazine, like Ms., for example?

You're probably not familiar with any of the titles I mentioned, and that's perfectly normal, because you are not the target audience for any of them. Don't limit your choices to movies you've personally watched and enjoyed. In the grand scheme of media and society, that's not even a drop in the bucket, it's a drop in the ocean. Get online and do some research. What was the first magazine to cater to a black or hispanic audience? What books and movies fueled the feminist movement of the 1970s? Or think outside the box: I may not have mentioned recorded music in the instructions for this assignment, but if you want to do your presentation on the social effects of punk, grunge, hip hop, jazz, or Elvis Presley, that would be just fine.

And speaking of research, if you don't know why I gave you the suggestions I just gave you, get online and try to find out what was socially relevant about them. When I created this assignment I didn't expect you to base your presentation on your personal experience, I expected you to do some historical research. With very few exceptions (Sex And The City is probably one of them) you simply haven't been on the planet long enough to have experienced, as a critically thinking adult, much in the way of groundbreaking, socially important media.

Midterm blog grades

Since there are only three weeks, including this week, until I give you your midterm blog grades, I thought it was time to spell out the evaluation criteria for both of us. So here it is:

Your midterm blog grade is worth 20% of your final grade, so I will give you a numeric grade out of 20, which I will assign upon evaluation of the following specifications.

- the total number of points, out of a possible 38, for the blog posts that have been assigned up to and including October 12.

- your blog has a title

- your blog has no visible technical errors

- your name (can be first name only, if you prefer) and some sort of description of who you are, or your blog philosophy, appears in the template. An accompanying photo is a nice touch, but is not an absolute requirement.

- your template includes a blogroll with, at minimum: a link to my blog, links to at least three other bloggers in the class, plus at least three other links of your choosing, all organized in some way

Those are the minimum, objective, measurable criteria, but do keep in mind that blogging is a creative activity, and there will be an element of subjectivity in my grading. For example, any blog title will do, but "Blasting My Media" and "Da Kid Doin It Big" are far more engaging than "MCOM 72" or "Fred's Blog." As well, be forewarned that sloppiness such as broken links, unreadable fonts, URLs that are visible in the links, and careless spelling mistakes will cost you points.

I will begin the grading process on Monday, October 16, and I will email you your grade and my comments as I go along. I hope to finish grading all your blogs by Friday, October 20.

Is there an issue?

Elizabeth Foley writes about the woman who fell to her death from the Tenth Street Garage last week, and points out that none of her professors mentioned it in class.

Which made me feel a little embarassed, to be honest. I thought this comment deserved some personal examination. Here's what I think:

Had I heard about it? Yes, but really all I knew about it was the headline; the simple fact that it had happened. I didn't know the woman's name, or whether she had any connection to SJSU. I have to admit I didn't actually read any of the news stories about it. Was it reported in the Mercury News as well as the Spartan Daily? I got the impression, though, from what I heard, that they weren't sure whether it was an accident or a suicide. In other words, there were very few facts to report, other than the fact that the woman was dead.

So, cold though this may sound, to be honest I didn't have enough information to care. Sure, it's tragic, but people die every day. Sure, it's scary that it happened so close to us, but I think what really makes it scary is what we don't know. Was she murdered? Was there some negligence involved, that caused her to fall accidentally? If so, then we might be scared because if it happened to her, it could happen to us.

Remember last week we discussed what makes an issue an issue? Well, it seems to me there's no issue here. If the garage has shoddy lighting, allowing murderers to lurk in the corners and attack unsuspecting women, then there's an issue that deserves discussion, argument, even lobbying for change. If there was, say, an unsafe or unmarked construction area, and the woman tripped and fell over the side, again, there's an issue. If the woman was mentally disturbed and committed suicide due to a lack of community support facilities that might have prevented it, again, there's an issue.

But it seems to me — and again, I admit I don't know all the details, so I could be wrong about this — that there is no issue here, and that that's why people aren't discussing it.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Television: the most powerful mass medium ever created

Do you agree with that statement?

In Thursday's class we're going to watch a movie that's about television and your blog assignment for next week will be to write a review of it, as though you were writing for a magazine.

How's that for mixed media?

The movie is called "A Face In The Crowd." We'll be watching the first half this Thursday, and the rest next Tuesday.

Reminder: next week's topic is film. There are three films listed on the course outline, which you are required to watch by next Thursday's class. (Not Tuesday, as stated in the course outline.) What we'll be doing in that class is an exercise that will prepare you for your group presentations, and we'll be using those three movies to do it. So get Netflixing. Make it a movie night with your friends — or your group members. Use your blogs to find, trade, and share the movies. And a wide screen TV, if you have one.

Read the instructions

Joella wrote on her blog that she noticed "everyone" was doing the same thing for last week's blog assignment. So she decided to be different. She analyzed the layout of the newspaper. Joella is smart. She read the assignment instructions.

The single biggest mistake that students make — all students, everywhere — is that they don't read the instructions carefully, and therefore can't possibly follow them. Every teacher will tell you that.

I didn't ask you to write about the general differences between print and online media. I didn't ask you to write about any newspaper of your choosing. I didn't ask you to compare one article in the two versions of the paper, nor did I ask you to tell me which version you liked better. In fact, late last week when I noticed some of you were obviously not following the instructions, I reposted them. And still, it looks like about half of you didn't do what I asked you to do.

I don't think it was her intention, but Joella has taught you a lesson. Learn from it — you're still going to be students for a while.

Blog assignment for this week

As always, you must write one post after each class and before the next one. This is the rule for the entire semester — one post per class meeting, posted before the next class meeting.

Your Kite Runner essay does not count as a blog post.

One of your two posts for this week must be about magazines, specifically, I want you to examine a magazine and write a brief, but critical, analysis of it. When I say "criticize" the magazine, I don't mean tell me what's wrong with it. I mean, examine it with the eye of a critical media consumer, and make some judgements about it.

Some questions to think about, that will help you with your analysis: How would you describe the typical consumer of that magazine? Are you typical? What type of writers write the articles, and do you think they are well written? Is the content of the magazine, both the advertising and the editorial content, appropriate for the audience? Do you think there are too many ads in the magazine? (And how much would you be willing to pay for it if there were no ads?) How would you describe the editorial "slant" of the magazine? Do you think the editorial affects the advertising, or vice versa?

Please note: You don't have to answer all of these questions. Don't even try. Think about them, though, and then write your critique focusing on one or two of them, or some other relevant question you feel strongly about.

Monday, September 25, 2006

An issue happening right in our own yard

Have you heard that SJSU is planning to ban Skype from the campus? Go to Technorati and search for keyword like SJSU, San Jose, San Jose State University, Skype, and see what the blogosphere is saying about us.

Blogger shout-outs this week

Though Kelley Lugea doesn't say who else makes up the "we" in her partially formed group, she did an incredible job using her blog effectively to fill up her group. In fact, she says more than 20 people contacted her wanting to be in her group. See what you can do with your blog when you put your mind to it? Obviously, not everyone can be in her group but those of you who don't get in, follow her example and do what she did.

The updated group presentation shedule was just posted here. It's only about half full, so please claim your date and topic as soon as you have a topic. Then you can do what Kelley did, and build your group around it. Remember, topics, presentation dates, and evaluation topics (which no groups have chosen yet) are all first come, first served. (For those 15 students who wanted to do Sex And The City but didn't get into Kelley's group, why not sign your group up to evaluate Kelley's group's presentation?)

Other noteworthy blog reading last week from your classmates:

Mimi Sanouvong discovered something called "Book Crossing." Check it out.

Andrew Balingit finds, and directs us to, a list of ways to build better blogs.

Faith Chihil encourages us to think outside the elephant.

Cindy Diep shares some original propaganda with us — she created it!

Kelley Lugea systematically shows us how George Bush uses propaganda.

Rossa Dono found some interesting propaganda videos... but I can't seem to get them to work on my computer. Maybe you'll have better luck.

Truth Esguerra explains how music can be propaganda.

Andrea Frainier discusses the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as propaganda.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

This week's blog assignment (again)

I've noticed that quite a few of you rushed to complete this week's assignment — which isn't due until next Tuesday before class. I wondered why this was, since more often than not (I've noticed) most of you wait until the last day, if not the last minute.

So I just wanted to direct your attention again at the instructions.

There's a reason why I gave you a week to do this.

I know that the paper version of the paper is on paper, and the online version is on a screen. If that's all you have to say, or something equally obvious or simplistic, well, expect to get 1 point out of a possible 5 for the assignment.

PS: Don't worry, I'm not grading this blog assignment yet. Won't even begin until next week Monday. So feel free to revise, edit, or delete and repost.

The Kite Runner: Essay due next week

Your essay is due on Thursday, September 28, by 5:00 p.m.

The class voted today and decided that the essay will be "handed in" in the form of a blog post. That is, your essay must be posted on your blog, in its finished format, by the deadline.

How your essay will be graded: I will do a quick check between 5:00 and 6:00 on Thursday to make sure your essay is there, and that it's approximately the right length. Then, over the next few days I will read them, and your grade and comments will be emailed to you (so that they are private).

Think of all the trees we'll save. Plus, this gives you an opportunity to really get some practice with Blogger's editing tools.

Note: no links or images are required in the essay. Nothing about the essay assignment changes except the format in which you're submitting it.

Technical help with your blogs

Joella Rochon has found some information that may be of help to some of you. She says:

"Blogger's text formatting buttons only officially work in Internet Explorer 5.5+/Windows, and the cross-platform Mozilla family of browsers (Mozilla 1.6+ and Firefox 0.9+). I only know this because I have writing all my blogs on my boyfriend's computer while mine was being repaired. He has Mozilla, but when I tried to use Safari on my computer, it wouldn't work. There were only two tools, one to add a picture and spellcheck. This may be why some people are having a difficult time adding links. If they have only ever used Safari to write their blogs, they wouldn't know certain tools were even missing. Hope this helps some people!"

I asked her to look into what Blogger's help pages have to say about this, and this is what she found:

"I guess it has to do with which browsers will support javascript (which is what the editing features rely on). It says that Dave Hyatt, one of Safari's developers, blogged that a a new version of Safari, which will support HTML editing, is coming soon, and when it is available, blogger will support it as well. Here is the link to blogger with all the information."

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thursday's class: movie

During tomorrow's class we'll be watching the first half of a movie called Meet John Doe.

Monday, September 18, 2006

News and news media: blog assignment

This week, as usual, your minimum blog requirement is to write two posts, one after each class but before the next class. You have only one topic assignment for the week, though, which means the second topic is of your choosing.

The assignment for one of your two posts is as follows: Read one day’s edition of the Mercury News. Then, read the paper’s Web site for the same day. Pay attention to the differences, and how you feel about them as a consumer of news. Blog about your experience.

When I grade your blog posts for this week I’m going to include an element of quality. That is, you won’t get full points for saying just anything about the topic. I’m going to grade you on a 5 point scale for this week’s entries. You’ll get 5 points if, at the end of the week (that is, before next Tuesday's class) you have on your blog:

  • a well-written post (entry) that makes a point about the differences between print and online newspapers

  • is well written and free of careless errors

  • contains at least one link to an external (outside of this class) Web site

  • a second post that is about something interesting and relevant. That is, something "blogworthy" to do with the media — and which is also free of careless errors and contains at least one link.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Suggestions for forming your groups

I've been doing the math and there are 73 students, seven class periods scheduled for presentations, two presentations per class at a half an hour each. That means you need to form 11 groups of five people, and three groups of six people.

I know most of you are strangers to each other, and you don't have much time before/in/after the class to try to work out your groups, so I encourage you to use your blogs to hook up. Here are some suggestions for how to go about it:

If you have what you think is a really good idea for a media topic, post it on your blog and invite others to contact you if they also want to do that topic.

If you have two or three in your group, and you've picked a topic, post that on your blog and say how many others you're looking for.

Browse the class blogs and see what others have posted, and contact them. All the links are in the blogroll on my blog.

Make sure to give people a way to contact you! You can include your email address in your blogger profile, or in your template. Or you can make a "mail-to" link in your post, so that people can just click on it and email you. One caveat: posting your email address on a Web site makes you succeptible to spam trawlers or robots. One way to avoid that is to disguise your email address. Say something like, "You can contact me at debbiesue at Gmail." Humans can understand that, but spam robots can't.

Blog assignments and grading

Some of you have asked me for more formal feedback on your blogs. I can't give each of you individual feedback every week (there are just too many of you), but I can explain my grading process so that you know what it is I'm looking at, and how your blog is being evaluated.

For the first couple of weeks, I was grading you on more or less a binary system: either you had a blog (good) or you didn't (bad). Either you wrote a post after each class, a minimum of 200 words, or you didn't. The last few classes I've given you specific writing assignments and I'm marking those the same way -- either you wrote a post on the given topic, during the prescribed time period, or you didn't.

Starting with yesterday's blog assignment (What propoganda have you encountered recently?) I'm going to add an element of quality to my evaluation. That is, it is no longer sufficient just to write anything on the topic, now, how well you write it will count, too.

As we go along, I will increase the criteria. For example, I'll require you to include a link to at least one external source, or I'll require you to link to another student's blog, or I'll require you to comment on someone else's blog. That sort of thing. But I will always give you specific instructions when I'm going to be looking for something specific on your blog.

So, basically, if you do everything I assign you to do on your blog, and you do it well, you'll get an A for your midterm blog grade.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Blog shout-outs this week

Blogger shout-outs this week to:

Chris Bausinger, for the hilarious "Mac vs. PC" cartoon. Finally, someone brave enough to challenge that which has been proclaimed cool.

Faith Chihil, for telling us about Sellaband.

Andrew Balingit, for Digg-linking his stories. If you don't know what Digg is, click here to find out.

Nicole Lieurance, who had Scoble comment on her blog, and her inner geek has emerged. I think she gets what I meant now, about U2. This is kinda like having Bono autograph your CD.

And last, but not least, to Amir, just for having a terrific blog. Everyone else in the class: I want you to click on that link and look at his blog. Read his post about books. The way you learn to be a better writer is to read good writers, and the way you learn about blogging is by reading good blogs, so start with Amir's. Notice, in his post about books, that he has an opinion and he's not afraid to state it, and get behind it. He does research, and links to it to show you; he gives detailed examples to illustrate what he's talking about. And, on top of it all, he has an engaging writing style and he knows how to use an apostrophe. I don't see a single spelling mistake in that post, do you? That's what gives you credibility as a writer of any kind, and especially as a journalist.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

They're calling it "a new narrative form"

For your bloggerly consideration:

A story was published on today titled "LonelyGirl15 Unmasked." (The link may not work unless you register as a member.) What do you think about this media issue?

(This is a suggested, not a required, blog post topic. Please don't write your opinions as comments here -- write them as blog posts on your own blog.)

Say it isn't so

I have to tell you, I was extremely disappointed in the poor turnout at Robert Scoble's presentation yesterday afternoon. And terribly saddened by this comment from a professor who's been here longer than I have: "Our students don't do anything unless they know they're being graded for it."

Friday, September 08, 2006


Do you want to know where your blog ranks in the blog universe? Go to Technorati, and search for your blog's URL. Be prepared for a humbling experience.

This blog is currently ranked 163,404.

Robert Scoble's blog, Scobleizer, is ranked 29. That's right, twenty nine!

Who is Robert Scoble, you ask? He's an A-list blogger who began blogging about Microsoft, when he worked at Microsoft. He left Microsoft, and wrote a book. And to think, just a few years ago, he was sitting right where you are. That's right, he's a graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications right here at SJSU. (Click here for proof.)

And he's coming back to visit. Next Tuesday, September 12, Robert Scoble will be speaking to the Journalism 163 students, and we, that is, me, and all my students, are invited to attend. It's at 6:00 in DBH 226. Better come early if you want to get a seat.

Thousands of bloggers around the world would kill for the opportunity to listen to an A-list blogger talk about blogging, for free, to a small audience. It's the blog world's equivalent of having U2 perform at your local bar. So don't miss it!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

New distribution strategy from established media

Interesting news from The New York Times. You have to register (it's free) to read this: "Magazines Going to the Web to Get Students to Read."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blog shout-outs this week


Jason Goldstein, for the hilarious and spot-on satirical South Park video.

Amir Massood, for writing, "If you don't consider Paris Hilton releasing a music record an injustice, you should stop listening to music."

Chris Bausinger, for pointing out an interesting new Web site and business idea called Turn Here.

The Blog of Faith, for finding and sharing clever blog satire on Wired. Oh, and for telling me about Deadjournal. Who knew?

I'm looking forward to reading your ideas for how to fix what's wrong with the music industry. (If you want to listen to the show again, or to some of the other episodes of The Ongoing History of New Music — there's one called "Why Musicians Hate Their Record Companies" — click here.

P.S.: I emailed Alan Cross and let him know what we're doing. Who knows, maybe he'll read your blog and leave a comment!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Watch TV Tonight for this "Media Milestone"

Hot blog topic of the day: Katie Couric debuts tonight as the host of the CBS Evening News.

Monday, September 04, 2006

What's your take on the RIAA?

Have a look at what Andrew Balingit has to say about the RIAA, and join in the conversation. What's your opinion? Did you know that making copies of music for your friends, even if no money changes hands, is illegal? The position of the recording companies (who speak on behalf of the artists) is that every copy made is money not given to the artist. What's your take on that? How are artists to make money, if not through the sale of their work?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Seeing as how you're writing that essay anyway...

One of your assignments for MCOM 72, other than blogging, is to write an essay considering the novel The Kite Runner as propoganda. You already know that The Kite Runner was selected for this year's Campus Reading Program at SJSU.

Your essay for me is due September 28. If yours is especially good, I'm going to insist that you enter it in the campus-wide essay contest. In fact, I encourage all of you to submit your essays to this contest. Why not? You have to write them anyway! The deadline for the campus-wide contest isn't until October, which gives you plenty of time to revise and polish your essay before you submit it. Click here for details about the contest.

Three winners will be awarded 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize. The winners will be announced on December 4. If the 1st prize winner comes from this class there will be a pizza celebration after our last class on December 7 — my treat.