Thursday, November 30, 2006

Wanted: book reviews

Again I call upon my 73 blogging students for your opinions. I am on the committee to choose the campus reading program title for 2007, and our short list was announced today. You, the students, are the target audience, so your opinion is important. If you have read any of these books I would like to know whether you think they would make a good choice for the program.

Here's the short list:

Bel Canto
Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
Farewell to Manzinar
Life of Pi
Midnight at the Dragon Cafe
Oryx and Crake
The Glass Castle
The Sleeping Father
Vernon God Little
Those of you (Amir) who, when the blogging project was announced, were thrilled to learn that there would be no censorship of language on your blogs, will like Vernon God Little. If you liked Borat, and if you understood the nature of the satire in it, you will like Vernon God Little. I think all of you would like that book. It's my pick for the winning title, but I'm going to have a hard time convincing the committe to agree with me. Read the book and you'll understand why.

Looking for a topic to blog about this week? You all read The Kite Runner. What did you think of the appropriateness of that book, as a choice for a campus-wide reading program? What do you think about the concept of a campus reading program in general? How do you think next year's book should be chosen?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

You didn't really think you'd be working at the Merc one day, did you?

If you have any remaining illusions about that, read this.

This is not a temporary situation that will correct itself, the way the stock market does. This is a paradigm shift, and the newspapers still believe the sun revolves around the earth.

What role should blogging play in a journalism program?

I've told you, those of you who are in my MCOM 72 class, that the idea to have you all keep blogs through the semester (and to make it a major assignment for this class) was a new idea, an experiment. That is, it was an experiment for me, to have an entire class blog, and, as far as I know, it was a first for MCOM 72.

I never claimed that it was a first in any other way. What I did not know until a few weeks into the semester, was that a course called Journalism and the New Media (JOUR 163), was being offered for the first time in the School of Journalism & Mass Communications at SJSU.

Whenever a course is offered for the first time, it is under a microscope, and Journalism 163 is under the microscope right now. Steve Sloan, who has been team-teaching the course this semester with Cynthia McCune, has expressed concerns that the curriculum for this course will be forced to change into something it shouldn't be.

Read what Steve says about it here. And what Robert Scoble says about it here.

I would like to know what you, as students in this School, think. I encourage you all to blog your opinions. When I read your blogs next week, I will collect your posts and show them to Steve, and to the powers that be who make curriculum decisions in this school. You, my 73 blogging students, are uniquely qualified right now to have credible opinions on this topic, so make your voice heard. This is your chance to make a difference.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Best of your blogs from last week

Tomoyo teaches us the trendiest words of 2006 &mdash in Japanese! My favorite is the verb, "to guguru."

Kim tells us that these days, the design of a credit card is more important than its interest rate.

Brittany lets us know it's OK to regift.

Brooke identifies what, from the perspective of history, may come to be known as a turning point: the day they started referring to the war in Iraq as a civil war.

Did you know that 80% of new products introduced to the market fail? Cindy has found one that looks so yummy, it might just survive.

Andrea tells us how a traditional symbol of peace and Christmas wishes has been mistaken for a sign of the devil.

Nicole points us to a very clever, and very popular, blog, called Post Secret.

Is it important? Not in the least. Is it pop culture news? Yes, but that's only one reason I enjoyed it. The real reason is, I am a fan of Kelly Ripa. I know, I know, how lame... but ever since she was on All My Children, back in 1990, I've liked her. So there. My secret is out. I'm outed. And it's all Jeff's fault!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Blog assignment: final grading

There are only two weeks left of blogging you must do for this class. Shortly after December 7, our last class day, I will begin the final grading of your blogs. I'll be looking only at your template design, and the blog posts you're written since the midterm point. This grade is worth 20% of your final grade for the course.

In terms of formatting, the requirements at midterm were that you have at least three links to other bloggers in this class, and at least three external links, arranged in some manner that makes sense (both to you, and to your readers). In the final blog grading, I'll be looking for improvements to your blogroll. In your weekly blog posts, what I'm looking for is quality of writing, relevance, and links.

Your final blog grade will be assigned on the following scale: A = excellent, B = goood, C = satisfactory, D = unsatisfactory, and F = failure.

Speaking of the last day of class, I really hope I'll see all of you there, since it'll be our last day together. I'm still waiting to hear who the winner of the campus-wide essay contest is (remember your Kite Runner essays?), and if it's one of you, there will be pizza, as promised — after the two presenting groups that day have finished with their presentations.

There's another reason I hope you'll all come on that last day. I have chosen you as my one class this semester to do a course evaluation on me. Faculty in the School of Journalism & Mass Communications are required to choose two classes per year to do these evaluations, and it was suggested to me not to do any in the first semester. I'm not sure why. Maybe they figure that freshman faculty never get good reviews. And maybe they're right. Hmn.

But the thing is, I really want to know what you thought of this course. The blog assignment was an experiment, and, from what I've seen from your blogs, it was a successful one — but I want to know what you think about that.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Best of your blogs last week

Mimi starts this post off with a great cartoon, but what's really interesting is what she writes afterwards, about The City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism being awarded a grant to write an online rule book to educate bloggers about the legal risks to blogging. There's even a link to a list of all the lawsuits involving bloggers to date.

Nicole discovers Harper's magazine, arguably the best magazine published in the United States.

Kelley tells us about a new TV show that's worth watching.

Kim proves she has become a more critical media consumer since this course began.

The kudos list is short this week, because approximately 1/3 of you didn't write anything. Usually I enjoy reading your blogs. In terms of marking and other usually dry or tedious teacher duties, your blogs are the highlight of my week. But this week, it was depressing, because I had to give about 25 of you 0/10 for this week's blog evaluation.

Most of you, when you do write, you write great stuff. You could so easily get an A on this assignment — and I mean all of you. But just one week of no posts, and you've pushed yourself out of A contention. And that's a shame.

Monday, November 20, 2006

General Motors press release, November 10

Here's a link to General Motors' press release titled "Finalists Named in Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge," issued November 10.

GM's PR people also sent me some of the publicity photos taken the weekend of October 27-30 in Detroit. Here's one of all the students:

Blogging as journalism

If you're in my class you may remember I told you that as journalism students, you should blog. Most journalists blog (they just don't necessarily do it publicly).

That is not the same thing as saying all blogs are journalism. Far from it. This one, for example, is not. Blogs-as-journalism try to break stories, or to report on breaking stories.

Robert Scoble puts forth an interesting theory about blog rumors.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Super Bowl ads may be downright amateurish"

That is, according to a recent story in USA Today.

I disagree. I saw the advertising concepts created for Chevrolet by the students from Elon, Wisconsin, Savannah, and Washington University; and, of course, the concept created by SJSU's own Kelly Sherman, LouLou Quintela, and Anna Pogosova. And they were not at all amateurish.

All five student teams created intelligent, sophisticated, original, clever ads for Chevrolet. That's why they were chosen from hundreds of entries from across the country.

That's Ed Peper, the General Manager of Chevrolet, saying hello to Kelly and LouLou. He didn't think the students' ideas were amateurish, either.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Trip to New York City for JMC students

Have you heard about the trip to New York City?

This trip is being organized by the School of Journalism & Mass Communications, and is open to all students in the School.

For more information click on the link or on the graphic.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I don't read comic books, but I'm a science fiction nerd

He said hello to Faith earlier today, and later this evening, Faith, Jonathan, and I will be at Neil Gaiman's reading and book signing in the University Ballroom.

I hope to see more of you there.

I read Anansi Boys, because it's under consideration to be next year's Campus Reading Program title (and I'm on the committe that's going to decide). What do you think about that?

Public relations, or propoganda, show business, and advertising?

This Friday November 17, at 7:00

Unspun: The Problem of Journalism and Public Relations by University of Texas professor Dr. Robert Jensen, is a critical look at the relationship between the news media and PR Firms. Also, a screening of "Truth Masters," a film about the propaganda, show business, and advertising behind the world of Public Relations.

This event will be held at the MACLA Arts Center (Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana), 510 South First Street, in San Jose.

Suggested donation, $5 to $15. Free for students. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What is the point, you ask?

Jason wrote a blog post the other day, questioning the pedagoical reasoning behind the final exam in this course, and asking what was the point of coming to class. I encourage you to read his post, and the comments I wrote on it.

As I've been telling you in class, a major goal of this course is for you to learn how to be a more critical, thoughtful, media consumer. In fact, this is the first objective of the course, as stated in your course outline: "1. To experience and analyze, and learn to critique, all major forms of mass media communications, and to become a critical media consumer."

My teaching philosophy in general, whatever the subject matter (and I have taught courses in e-commerce, marketing management, advertising, communications, and media; at the highschool, undergraduate, and graduate level; the principle applies to all of them) is to encourage a critical approach.

And yes, that includes criticizing the course itself, and me as your teacher. Recall what I told you here: to criticize something does not mean to slam it; it means to analyze it, and comment, thoughtfully, on the pros and/or cons of it.

You have a right, as students, to ask why you are being required to do whatever it is you are being required to do. And it is our responsibility, as teachers, to be able to answer those questions when they are asked. This is one of the most important lessons I remember learning, as a student in teacher's college. I was in training to be a highschool English teacher (long story), and I remember asking my professor, "So you mean to tell me, that if one of my students demands I justify to them why they have to read Macbeth, I have to be able to give them an answer? I can't just say, because you have to?"

My professor answered, "Yes. That's exactly what I mean."

So, Jason, you are not the first student to ask the sort of question you asked on your blog, and I have no doubt whatsoever that you won't be the last. And I'm happy to answer your question.

The main reason why you should come to this class, MCOM 72 section 3, is because what we do in class is discuss, in more depth, the issues introduced in the textbook. If you had been reading the chapters all along, before class, as I expect you to do (and this expectation is clearly explained in the course outline), you would have recognized when something on my slides, a topic I introduced, or a question I asked of the class, was based on the material in the chapter. The fact that you apparently did not recognize these instances tells me you have yet to open your textbook.

The second reason you should come to class relates to the second objective in the course outline: "2. To learn about the "blogosphere" by becoming an active media blogger." One of the early classes this semester was almost entirely devoted to introducing you to the topic of blogs, and giving you the basic information you'd need to get started on yours. I allowed time for you, the students, to talk to each other about your blogs, and encouraged the students who had blogged before, and who knew the technical basics, to help those who were new to it. From that point on, at the beginning of almost every class session, I showed you a slide with a "blog tip of the day." I set aside time to answer your questions, and, as we progressed, and as you became more competent bloggers, I took time in class to discuss blog-related issues as they arose, such as Anngiely's experience with the comment threatening legal action against her. As well, in nearly every class I suggested at least one, if not several, topics you might blog about that week.

(Though I have not done a formal, statistical analysis I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that there is a correlation between those students who attend this class regularly, and those who got A's on their midterm blog grade.)

Another reason you should come to class is that group work comprises 25%of your grade in this course, and if you don't come to class you'll never meet the other students, and you won't be able to get into a group.

And, the final reason you should attend class — any class, not just this one — is so that you can participate, and show your professor that you are participating. As I explained to you last week, when you were giving your mini-presentations on international websites, in all university courses, regardless of the subject matter, there is some element of subjectivity in grading. When a student is borderline, or when there is a judgement call to be made, the professor must rely on what they know about the student to help them make a decision. If you never come to class, and never participate, and you end up being one of those students the professor is considering, when it's time to turn in those final grades, whether to assign a C+ or a B-, or whether to pass or fail the student, it's that information they will bring to bear. I have never known a professor to fail a student who attended class consistently, participated regularly, and made an effort.

I'd like to thank Jason for asking this question, because I know, from experience, that for every one student who asks a question, at least a dozen are wondering the same thing. So I hope that I have answered, for all of you who may have been wondering, the question "Why should I bother coming to class?"

Finally, I'd like to address the implied question in the first part of Jason's comment: "With the final exam in our class being based on the book alone I think that essentially our time spent in class two days a week has been a waste of time."

I believe I've just argued against coming to class being a waste of time, but I wanted to explain why the final exam is based on the textbook. It's quite simple, really. I'm testing whether you read it, as you were required to do.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The New Yorker: on tour in the Bay Area

Sorry for the short notice, but I just found out about this myself. The New Yorker magazine is doing a "college tour" and stopping at Berkeley this week. The tour features in-classroom visits by New Yorker writers and editors; free daytime, on-campus lectures; and evening entertainment. Today through Wednesday. For more information, click here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Evaluation groups: to be perfectly clear

Just to be perfectly clear, in case it wasn't clear from the instructions in the course outline, both the presentation and the evaluation is a group effort. One group presentation, same grade for everyone in the group. One group evaluation, same grade for everyone in the group. Unless one of your group members is absent without good reason, in which case only he or she gets an F.

On presentation days I will give a two minute grace period, then I'm locking the doors and there will be a sign posted on the outside reading DO NOT ENTER.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Group presentations, evaluations, and final exam: some reminders

The schedule for group presentations and evaluations is posted on the course website.

Please refer to the course outline (also available on the course website) for detailed instructions about the presentations and the evaluations.

Evaluating groups:

Your written evaluation is worth 5% of your grade. You must watch the movie, or read the book, or familiarize yourself with the media choice of the group you will evaluate. Your evaluation of the other group’s presentation requires a one page (no cover page, just one sheet of paper), approximately 500 word written evaluation, including the grade you would give them if it were up to you. Your grade will be based on your ability to explain and justify your evaluation, in other words, on your critical and writing skills. I'm using the word "you" in the plural here; it's one evaluation report per group. Make sure you put everyone's name on it. You all get the same grade. Your evaluation is due the day of the next class meeting.

An important note for both presenting and evaluating groups: All members of the group must be present in class the day of their presentation, and on the day of the presentation they will evaluate. Any member who is absent that day, barring exceptional circumstances, will receive an F for that part of the assignment.

NO LATECOMERS. If your group is presenting or evaluating second, you still MUST be there at the beginning of the class. It is simply rude, and therefore unacceptable, to walk in or out once a group has begun their presentation. DON'T EVEN TRY to walk in late. I'll just send you back out, and you'll get an F. I mean it.

And yes, you are still required to do your blog entries for every class meeting. That means not Thanksgiving Thursday when there's no class, but the last day of classes when there is. The last day of classes is December 7.

The final exam will be held in the classroom on Thursday, December 14 from 9:45 - noon. The format will be 100 multiple choice questions, based on the assigned chapters in the textbook.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blogs about advertising

One of the great things about blogs is, when you find one that's about something your interested, chances are that person's blogroll has all kinds of other sites you'll be interested in. Here are some fun blogs about advertising I found today:



AdFreak and AdJab (which both reported recently that the Mac guy from the Mac vs. PC commercials has been fired)

Advertising for Peanuts

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Blogging is just writing by another name

Mimi points us to an interesting article that gives tips on how to be a better blogger.

Joella has some fascinating inside information about Bill Gates's house.

Tomoyo writes brilliantly about the difference between reality television and real television.

Jessica rings another 1984 bell by finding a car that parks itself.

Krystyna gives us yet another good reason to drop a few pounds.

Chris shows an aptitude for a career as a headline writer.

Evaline, who is always up on the latest media technologies, has found what I want for Christmas.

And Jason, after receiving his midterm blog grade, decides to grade my blog.

Remind me to unsubscribe

I subscribed to CNN's "Breaking News" email service on their website in the days following September 11, 2001. Back then, they sent important news headlines.

In the years since then I have been of mixed feelings about this service. On the one hand, it alerted me to the fact that Johnny Cash had died. On the other, their "breaking" news too often involves sensational arrests and jury decisions.

Remember we discussed in class the question of what makes news news, and who decides what "issues" are? Well, I've just lost a great deal of respect for the people at CNN who make those decisions. I just checked my personal email and here's today's CNN Breaking News headline:

CNN Breaking News

1:09 pm (1½ hours ago)

-- Britney Spears files for divorce from her husband Kevin Federline, citing irreconcilable differences.

Watch CNN or log on to and watch FREE video, plus live, commercial-free video with CNN Pipeline. CNN - The most trusted name in news.

You might call her the anti-Dooce

Here's a wonderful example of an extreme blog: I Blame The Patriarchy. Twisty Faster, because of her outspoken, radical views, has as many enemies as she has fans. She gets a lot of ill-informed, stupid, and hateful comments. And here's her policy for handling them.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


Metablogging is blogging about blogging.

Recently I had dinner at Gordon Biersch with my friend and former colleague Tim Bray, who is currently the Director of Web Technologies at Sun Microsystems. Tim's blog is published outside the auspices of Sun, however, he is the author of Sun's policy on blogging. Employees at Sun are encouraged to blog, and are given web space on the company's servers to do so.

Microsoft and many other tech companies in and around Silicon Valley encourage their employees to blog about the work they're doing. You may remember, doing so is what made Robert Scoble famous.

As Tim and I discussed the pros and cons of corporate blogging, and the challenges of writing effective marketing blogs, I mentioned that I'd heard that Apple doesn't have a blog policy, and that I found that surprising. How could such a large, tech-savvy, beloved company not have blogging employees?

So I decided to do a little research on the subject. I found a very interesting — and, be forewarned, very long — conversation on this very subject on Scobleizer.

On this particular blog post, the comments are far more interesting and revealing than Scoble's original post on the subject. I encourage you to read it, and blog your thoughts on the issues under discussion.

The main question being debated is whether Apple should encourage, or even permit, its employees to blog. But there's a secondary issue that I found extremely interesting, and that is, how much latitude should bloggers allow their commenters? You'll find that many of the comments on Scoble's post are ill-informed, rude, and downright nasty — yet not only does Scoble not delete these comments, he responds to them, politely, smartly, and with dignity.

I admire Scoble's fortitude, yet I know that, if I were him, I would have ended the conversation about half way through those comments. As a blogger myself, I draw the line at allowing people to insult me in my own home.

You are all bloggers, too. What do you think?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What it's like to work at an ad agency

LouLou Quintela, Kelly Sherman, and Anna Pogosova spent four days in Detroit last week as finalists in the Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge. In the photos below, LouLou, Kelly, and Anna work with graphic artist Dave Chow, and Vice President Art Supervisor, Mark Freeman, at Campbell-Ewald, the advertising agency that handles the Chevrolet account.

Want to know more about what it's like to work at an ad agency? The School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University is organizing a trip to New York City during spring break in March, 2007. This is your chance to get a taste of what Kelly, Anna, and LouLou experienced at Campbell-Ewald. To find out more about the New York trip, click here.

Is there something you'd like to ask Anna, LouLou, or Kelly? Scroll to the bottom of these photos, click on "# comments", and under "Choose an identity" select "Other" and type your name. One of the students will answer your question in the comments. Please remember that anonymous comments will be deleted.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

This story is far from over

When LouLou, Kelly, and Anna arrived at SFO on Monday night there was a small but enthusiastic welcoming committee awaiting them — complete with flowers and a sign. (That sign is outside my office, DBH 104, if you'd like to stop by and see it.)

Though our trip to Detroit is over, this story is far from it. Between now and Super Bowl Sunday you'll be hearing, and seeing, a lot more about Kelly, Anna, LouLou, and SJSU. You'll also get to know Katie from U-Wisconsin Milwaukee; Nathan, Hubert, and Shlomo from Washington University; Kiley and Tyler from Elon; and Sean and Masso from Savannah. All eleven students have made their universities proud — and famous. And all now have a launching pad for a career in advertising.

The reality show will begin airing in a couple of weeks. I'm keeping an eye on Advertising Age magazine for mentions. There might be a trip to New York for the students to appear on The Today Show. Who knows, Katie Couric herself might want to interview them.

In the mean time, I'll be posting some more pictures from last weekend here. So keep watching and reading. As soon as there's something to announce, I will announce it here.

In three months, on Super Bowl Sunday, during the pre-game special on the greatest Super Bowl ads, everyone in America will learn the names Kelly Sherman, LouLou Quintela, Anna Pogosova — and San Jose State University.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What it's like to be filmed for a reality show

Cameras follow you everywhere, except to the bathroom. This is Marie Standing, Team SJSU's producer, and the rest of her team. Each of the five finalist teams had a dedicated camera crew.

See all those wires Marie is wearing? She was in constant contact with Ted, the producer of the reality show, as well as with Eric, the sound guy and the cameraman. And she could listen in on what all of us were saying, too.

This is Ted, talking into his shirt, probably to Marie.

Being shadowed by a camera crew all day for four days straight has its frustrating moments, but when we realized it was time to say goodbye to Marie, we were all sad.