Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's just like American Idol

By the time they get to the last few weeks of American Idol, when they're down to the ten finalists, you know quite a few things:

You know those ten finalists have all launched a career in the music industry. You know their names, their state, and quite a bit about them as people. You like some of them better than others. It hardly matters who wins, all the finalists are famous. Remember, Clay Aitken didn't win.

The Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge is like that.

There's no doubt that Anna Pogosova, LouLou Quintela, and Kelly Sherman (as well as the other eight students who were finalists) have all launched their careers in the advertising industry.

When that reality show begins airing on CBS.com, all of America will get to know Kelly, LouLou, and Anna as people. They will learn the name San Jose State. And they'll be rooting for Team San Jose.

By the time Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, all of America will know the names of those 11 students and their schools: Savannah College of Art & Design, Washington University, University of Wisconsin, Elon, and San Jose State.

Of course, all we care about is San Jose State! Go SJSU!

MSNBC coverage of Chevy Ad Challenge

The students are not mentioned by name or college in this piece. It's a background piece about why General Motors decided to try consumer-generated advertising for its Super Bowl spot this year:

Click here to watch.

On Super Bowl Sunday, everyone in the country will know the name San Jose State University

These three SJSU students, Anna Pogosova, LouLou Quintela, and Kelly Sherman, have made SJSU famous.

They were one of five finalist teams in the Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge who spent last weekend at General Motors' headquarters in Detroit. You can read all about this story right here, on this website.

This story is far from over. Between now and the Super Bowl you'll be hearing a lot more about SJSU and its participation in this national competition. And on Super Bowl Sunday, everyone in the country will know the name San Jose State.

Over the next few days I'll be posting more photos from last weekend. The next thing that's going to happen is the reality show that CBS filmed will begin airing on CBS.com. As soon as I know details, they will be posted here.

The competition: Washington University

This is the team from Washington University in St. Louis: Hubert Cheung, Shlomo Goltz, and Nathan Heigert. They are students of broadcast and video production.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The competition: Wisconsin

This is Katie Crabb, from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. She is 18 years old, and has been a university student for all of two months now. She's a theater major. Her ad concept was developed as a requirement for a class in writing for the media. And she did it all by herself.

If she can do it, so can any one of you in the advertising program at San Jose State University.

The competition: North Carolina

This is Tyler Lesch and Kiley Moorefield. They're from Elon University in North Carolina.

Their storyboards were made up of cutouts of the Chevrolet cars, pasted onto street scenes, with hand-drawn stick figures to show where the people would be. And that worked just fine — they're here, aren't they?

When you're pitching an ad concept, it doesn't matter what your storyboards look like. What matters is your story.

We like Tyler and Kiley very much. But not enough to let them beat us.

The competition: Savannah

This is Masa and Sean from Savannah College of Art & Design.

They have the most impressive storyboards you've ever seen. But you know what? They're not going to win, because their ad concept is not funny, and I've learned from talking to the advertising executives here at GM and their agency, Campbell-Ewald, that what Chevrolet wants for their Super Bowl ad is the following: funny, edgy, and smart.

Savannah's professor is the gentleman on the left. When their team presented at the meeting yesterday, he did all the talking, which prompted LouLou to pass me a note that read, "I don't think the professor should be part of the presentation." By which she meant, "You'd better stay right where you are, lady."

More about Sunday in Detroit

Kelly, Anna, and LouLou have been given a silver Chevy Equinox to drive for the weekend. Kelly usually drives, while Anna navigates from the back seat. They let me sit in the front because "I'm the adult."

and so that I can take pictures of important landmarks, like this:

and this one, the headquarters of the largest corporation in the world:

Besides participating in this national advertising competition as one of only five teams from the entire United States, Kelly, LouLou, and Anna took time out for other challenges. Here, they discover Canada:

This is LouLou!!!

Hey there!!!! Thanks for all of your support, it's a crazy ride here in Detroit.

Today at GM World

Hi everyone, this is Anna.

We are very excited about presenting tomorrow to Chevy. Our rehearsal presentation went well, we actually decided to go with a totally new idea...we all worked really, really hard and we hope that they choose our ad! :) We learned so much and we can't wait to see you all when we get back. Go Spartans!

What's happening right this moment

Remember it's Daylight Savings Time, and that we're in Detroit, but my blog timestamp is California time.

Right now LouLou, Anna, and Kelly are presentinng their ideas to Steve Pitsillos and Andrea Wells, the top creative executives on the Chevrolet account. They're finalizing what to do for their presentation tomoorrow, and getting tips from these experts.

Earlier, they students attended a presentation skills seminar given by Steve, in which he demonstrated his presentation of the "Gas pumps hate us" Chevy campaign.

Of course, the CBS camera crew was there to capture every moment.

Where the other teams are from

The other four finalist teams in the Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge are from the University of Wisconsin, Washington University in St. Louis, Savanna College of Art & Design, and Elon University in North Carolina.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Just another day -- except for the omnipresent cameras

A typical day, when you're a finalist in a national advertising competition, and being filmed for a reality TV show, begins with getting mic'd:

Then, it was for a briefing on the Chevrolet brand by Bill Ludwig, head of Campbell-Ewald, the advertising agency that handles the Chevy account, in the "war room":

The Chevrolet war room at Campbell-Ewald is very hip. And the CBS camera crew is everywhere. That's Marie Standing, our producer, on the left, with the clipboard. Marie has been with us since last Tuesday's press conference at SJSU. She met us at the airport. She does everything but sleep in our rooms at the Marriott — and that's only because there wasn't room for her at this hotel (she's at the Marriott Courtyard down the road) because of the World Series and the junior hockey tournament happening this weekend.

LouLou, Kelly, and Anna present their ideas to executives from Campbell-Ewald at what's called the "creative enhancement" meeting. They're here to get input and suggestions, to help them develop their ideas tomorrow, for their final presentation on Monday. We saw the other teams' presentations, too. They're good, but they're not as good as Team SJSU's!

After Anna, Kelly, and LouLou present their ideas, the cameras focus on reaction comments from Bill Ludwig and Andrea Wells, of Campbell-Ewald.

Next, Kelly O'Neill, national advertising manager for Chevrolet at General Motors, ushers the five finalist teams outside for a "ride and drive."

What's a ride and drive you ask? The teams examine each of the four new Chevrolets: the Aveo, the Equinox, the Cobalt, and the HHR. Then they drive each one around the parking lot — which has been cleared of all parked cars. Of course, the CBS camera crew films every moment:

Next, a photoshoot:

It's been a long, but productive day, and tomorrow begins at 7:00.

More tomorrow...

Pictures coming soon

We're in the "Team SJSU" war room, on the fifth floor at Campbell-Ewald. They call this room the Mojo room, and there's a picture of Austin Powers hanging over the table.

We're waiting for Bill Ludwig, the agency's creative director, to come meet with the team. And after that, I'm heading back to the hotel, to get out of their hair.

My camera USB cable is in my hotel room. There will be pictures posted here later tonight.

Lots of them!

Photo shoots

Kelly, Anna, and LouLou are in the lobby of Campbell-Ewald, GM's advertising agency, having publicity photos taken. There is a bright yellow Corvette parked in the lobby. It's part of the fleet controlled by Kelly O'Neill, the advertising manager for Chevrolet. Earlier, all four of us were driving Chevies in the parking lot -- a bright blue Cobalt, a red Aveo, a copper colored HHR, and a grey Equinox. They're also part of her fleet.

These photos will be used by GM for publicity and public relations, betweren now and Super Bowl time.

And on Monday, LouLou, Anna, and Kelly, will be interviewed by AdAge magazine.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday night: Marriott hotel, Troy, Michigan

Before I tell you what Kelly, LouLou, Anna, and I have been doing all day, I wanted to take a moment to say an enormous thank you to Andrew Balingit,. He accepted the position of P.A. (production assistant) for the day for the CBS camera crew that was on campus Tuesday, to film the big announcement that Kelly Sherman, LouLou Quintela, and Anna Pogosova had been chosen as one of five finalists in the Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge.

That's right, Super Bowl. National advertising contest. One of five finalist teams chosen from over 1,000 entries. ARE YOU LISTENING, EDITORS OF THE SPARTAN DAILY?

(Andrew, why haven't you blogged about this yet? I'm sure it was a very interesting experience.)

Now, let me tell you about today. My day began at 4:00 — yes, I mean San Jose time. My alarm wasn't set to go off until 4:30, but since I was awake anyway, and since the cab was coming to pick us up at 5:30, I decided to stay up and attend to last minute details.

Anna and LouLou were able to arrange their own transport to the airport, but neither Kelly nor I have a car, and since we both live downtown, we decided to share a cab. Kelly stopped by my office yesterday and asked if I would please call him in the morning to make sure he was up.

I called him at 5:00. There was no answer.

I called him every five minutes until 5:25, then I went downstairs and called the cab driver. She was outside Kelly's frat house, and reported there was no Kelly in sight. I suggested she come fetch me, which she did, then we headed back to the frat house. By this time it was 5:45.

The cab driver honked her horn, and I stood outside and screamed at the top of my lungs, in the general direction of the windows, "KELLY SHERMAN, WAKE UP!" I kicked and banged the front door.

We kept this up for 20 minutes, and there was not a stirring from within the house. I kept screaming my way around the building, until I discovered an open door around back. Then I went inside and started screaming and banging on doors.

I'm sure I was quite annoying to the boys who live there, and, if they're reading, I'm sorry, but I don't give a rat's ass who I annoyed at that point — it was my responsibility to get Kelly to the airport. Despite the inexplicable editorial stance of our school newspaper, I realized that getting that young man onto that plane — or not — was the difference between national fame for SJSU, and national embarassment.

I got him on the plane.

That was 15 hours ago. He's now asleep in his room, as are LouLou and Anna. They have a big day ahead of them, and we have to meet in the lobby at 7:30 to be driven to GM's advertising agency's offices.

We're being driven in GM vehicles, of course.

We were met at the airport by a much larger camera crew from CBS, who filmed us arriving, then gathering our luggage, then mic'ed us and filmed us again. Then filmed us exiting the airport, talking in the car on the way to the hotel, entering the hotel, entering our rooms, and heading downstairs to dinner.

The trip from the airport to the hotel, normally a 20 minute journey, took two hours. We crawled most of the way, because there had been an accident. So there wasn't time for us to change. We ate dinner in the fancy steak house in the Marriott in Troy, Michigan, in our SJSU sweatshirts.

And we were damned proud to be doing so.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What LouLou, Kelly, and Anna will be doing this weekend

The advertising manager for Chevrolet, at GM in Detroit, just sent me the itinerary. Here it is:

Day 1 Friday
1:00 – 5:00 Arrival and check into hotel (Troy Marriott)
7:00 Dinner at Shula’s (in the hotel lobby)

Day 2 Saturday
7:30 Depart hotel (meet in lobby)
8:00 Breakfast at Campbell-Ewald
8:30 Introductions (Tenth Floor Conference Room #3)
9:00 Tour of Agency/war room assignments
10:00 Ride and Drive in CE parking lot; car assignments to follow
11:15 Conceptual Enhancement (Tenth Floor Conference Room #4)
Working box lunch
1:15 Design Studio Orientation (8th Floor)
1:45 Conference Call with Production (First Floor – Annex)
30 minutes per team; calls at 1:45, 2:15, and 2:45
Teams not on call are refining concepts in war rooms
3:15 Teams retreat to individual war rooms to work
5:00 – 7:00 Access to CE Creative (Art Direction & Writing Experts) available for consultation
6:30 Dinner - Brought in for Teams - 8 Main
12-midnight Design Studio, Graphics Department closes

Day 3 Sunday
Breakfast at Hotel (Julie will arrange)
8:00 Depart for Renaissance Center (park in Beaubain Place)
Enter Renaissance Center at Winter Gardens located on river side of building
9:00 Tour of GM World (Renaissance Center)
10:00 Media Training (Tower 100, 29th Floor, Room A65)
11:20 Depart for CE
12:00 Arrive at CE – Working Box Lunch (pick up in 8 Main)
Teams to finalize presentations in war rooms
2:00 Presentation Skills Overview (Tenth Floor Conference Room #3)
Teams rehearse concepts with CE personnel
4:30 Finalize materials for Presentation - War Rooms, Design Studio, Graphics Center
6:30 Student and Faculty Dinner with EdVenture Partners (TBD)

Day 4 Monday
6:00 – 6:30 Hotel checkout.
6:30 Depart for Renaissance Center (meet in lobby)
7:15 Valet Park on circle drive off of Jefferson Ave. in front of Renaissance Center
7:30 Continental Breakfast
8:00 - 12:00 Presentations (Ren Cen GM University Room)
12:00 Student De-brief, Interviews
~1:00 EdVenture Partners to transport teams back to airport

(Our flight departs at 3:15)

Where else you can blog about the big news

I'll be posting here as often as I can from Detroit this weekend, and I'll try to get Kelly, LouLou, and Anna to write about their experiences too.

I encourage you to write about SJSU in the news in your own blogs. Follow the Detroit media online — there might be a story about us this weekend. Keep your eye on the Chevrolet website, in their "news" section, too. Try Google News, and Yahoo News, for press releases and other items related to the Chevy Super Bowl College Ad Challenge.

(I don't even know yet who the other four finalist colleges are. Do you?)

Cynthia McCune is the JMC webmaster, and she's following the story too. She encourages you all to watch and comment on the School of Journalism & Mass Communications blog.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Here's the thing about public relations

The thing about working in public relations is, you do your best to tell a story to the members of the press that you think they might be interested in covering, but you have no control over any of the following:

- whether they choose to cover it at all
- if they cover it, what slant they might put on it (that is, whether their story will be favorable, in your estimation, or not)
- if they cover it, what importance they give it, relative to other stories

All you can do is tell them your story, give them the facts, try to make sure they spell your name correctly, and hope for the best.

You cannot call a journalist the day after his article about you appeared in the paper, and say, "Hey! You made me look really bad in that article!" Well, you can, but his response will be, "Tough."

Yesterday, we had a press conference at noon, during our class period in DBH 133. You all know that, because you were there. The story we had to tell the members of the press was this: Three SJSU students were chosen as finalists in a national Super Bowl advertising competition. The students were chosen from among nearly 1,000 entries from every university and college in the United States of America.

This is a story of national interest.

So, was I disappointed that the editors at the Spartan Daily felt that the most important story of the day on Tuesday was a car accident on Fourth Street? A story that involved no one even remotely connected to SJSU, did not take place on the campus, and in no way involved the university at all? A story which emphasized that point by stating, "According to University Police Department Sgt. Mike Santos, the University Police are not handling the incident."

Was I disappointed that even a story about trick-or-treating deserved, in the estimation of the Daily's editors, front page above-the-fold placement, when our story about SJSU students thrusting SJSU onto the national stage was relegated to page 3?

You bet I was disappointed. And embarassed, to tell you the truth. Not embarassed about my efforts at public relations, but embarassed in exactly the way that you are embarassed for a friend when she gets drunk at a fancy restaurant and throws up on the waiter's feet.

Was I further disappointed by the fact that the Mercury News sent no one to cover the story at all? Of course.

Was I extremely disappointed by the fact that Lloyd LaCuesta, who is KTVU Channel 2's South Bay Bureau Chief, and who is also a lecturer right here in the School of Journalism & Mass Communications at SJSU, deemed our story unworthy of coverage?

Yes, at first. But having him drop in at the end of our news conference and see that the local CBS and NBC affiliates had sent camera crews and on-air reporters to cover the story?


(Click here to watch the video of CBS's coverage.)

And now I've swung the P.R. pendulum back the other way. Inevitably, the Daily and Mr. La Cuesta will be offended by what I've just said here. And you know what I have to say to them?


Addendum: the state of Indiana apparently thinks it's newsworthy just to have their students enter the competition. I'm no journalism professor, but it seems pathetic to me when the best you can do for a headline is to say "we tried!"

Public relations and the media

Here's a link to a blog post on a blog called "Online Marketing Blog." The article talks about how public relations people can effectively use blogs to promote their clients. (Unlike, say, how Wal-Mart and Edelman did it.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Press conference in class next Tuesday

Next week's topic is public relations and the media, and for this occasion I am arranging a press conference for next Tuesday's class.

This is the one class of the semester you won't want to miss. Put on your journalist's cap and bring your laptops, notebooks, and podcast recording equipment.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Canadian Politician Gets Dooced

Garth Turner, Member of Parliament (MP) for the riding of Halton, in Ontario, was turfed from the Conservative Party caucus this week because of his blog. Seems he called our prime minister a "Bush clone." Tsk, tsk.

The moral of the story: before you blog about your job, read Dooce.

Group presentations start in three weeks

Apologies for what will sound like nagging to those of you who have signed up for a topic and have already begun working on your presentation. Feel free to ignore this.

Everyone else, listen up:

The group presentations will begin in three weeks and what I don't want to see happening is groups or individuals scrambling at the last minute.

There is still one group (the Puff Daddy presenters) on the signup list that has six people, and needs to be five people. You need to tell me who the final five people in your group are. I will not "kick" someone out of your group for you. And I will not accept you coming to class on November 28 and saying, sorry, we didn't know we couldn't have six people. So don't try that approach. I simply won't allow you to do your presentation that day, which means you won't be able to do it at all, which means you'll all get Fs. Sound harsh? It's only harsh if I end up having to do that, but I'm sure it won't get to that point.

Now that we know that one of the students on the class roster is an "Other," as Faith put it, I've done the math again and there's going to have to be one group of four people. Whoever emails me first and says "We are a group of four" gets it; the remaining groups not yet formed will have to be five. Incidentally, Puff Daddy people, you might want to spin off two of your members to form another group, leaving you with four. Think about it, but decide quickly.

Some of you have been changing your topics, and that's fine, but there will have to be a line-drawing point after which no more changes are allowed, and I think what that's going to be is this: Once a group has signed up to evaluate your presentation, you can no longer change your presentation topic.

So, if you are one of the nine students whose name is not on that signup list, this is my final reminder that it is up to you to get yourselves into groups of the appropriate number, choose a topic, and tell me what it is. I will not put you into a group, and I will not assign you a topic. If the "T.B.D." day comes and no group has given me their information, well, it'll be an early class for the rest of the students and an easy marking job for me. Much though I might enjoy the break, I know you won't enjoy the F, so please don't let that happen.

More from yesterday's AdAge

"Planes, Trains and Steamrollers: New-Media Juggernaut Powers On
Old Media Delivers Signs of Its Own Demise" by Scott Donaton, October 19, 2006.

I hereby claim this blog

I have just registered with Technorati to claim this blog, and what I need to do to make that happen (according to their rules) is write a new post and insert this link. So, here it is, my Technorati Profile.

Public relations and blogging

In yesterday's AdAge there's an article titled "Edelman Eats Humble Pie." Read it. (I won't link to it because you have to register on AdAge.com to be able to read it, and the link is only active for a week.)

Edelman is the largest public relations firm in the world. Wal-Mart is one of their clients. On behalf of their clients, Edelman set up a blog called "Walmarting Across America" and hired professionals to write it, but presented it as a "real" blog. They've been unmasked, and the blogosphere is in an uproar about it.

Here's a link to the press release, ostensibly issued by "Working Families For Walmart," announcing that "Jim and Laura" would be driving their RV across America, stopping at Wal-Marts along the way, and blogging their experiences.

Jim and Laura have been revealed to be freelance writer Laura St. Claire and Washington Post photographer Jim Thresher, hired by Edelman.

Pete Blackshaw, of Nielsen BuzzMetrics, is quoted in the AdAge article as saying, "Everyone wanted to co-opt the conversation. [The industry] wanted to make it a marketing vehicle and not a listening vehicle. I hope the marketers internalize what this means for best practices."

Read the article in AdAge. Look at the Edelman Web site. (The head of Edelman, Richard Edelman, writes a blog on it, and used his blog to post an apology for the scandal.) Read the press release and, if it's still up, look at the Wal-Mart blog. Then form an opinion of this issue and blog about it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Anansi blogs

Someone in the class wrote about Neil Gaiman on their blog... but I can't remember who it was. Remind me in comments, please. I just finished reading Anansi Boys and I discovered that Neil has a blog. The next day, in a strange small world sort of way, I saw that one of my favorite bloggers, Scaryduck, has written a book, and guess who wrote the introduction? I hear Gaiman's coming to our campus. Clearly, he's stalking me.

Kelley Lugea points us to an interesting article bout the evolution of television as a medium, and how it learned from the mistakes made by the music industry:

"TV industry latching on to evolving technologies" by Charlie McCollum, The Mercury News, October 16, 2006.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Spam comments

You know what spam is, when you find it in your email inbox. Well, what's new in spam is not the black pepper flavor, it's spam in your blog comments.

One of the downsides of allowing anyone to be able to comment on your blog is that spammers will leave comments. They employ troll programs to find new blogs, much in the same way as they employ troll programs to find and create email addresses.

Remember that you have the ultimate control over your blog. If you find spam in your comments box, excercise your power to delete it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Group presentation topics

I've just updated the schedule again. If your group has six members and it doesn't say "6 member group OK" beside it, that means you have to turn yourself into a group of five. There's one group of four that needs to find another member. And there are still two groups that need to materialize.

At this point, it's basically a process of elimination. Look at the names over on the right side of this page, under Student Blogs. Compare them to the names on the schedule. Find each other. Use your blogs!

Oh — there's a student on the roster who seems to be M.I.A. — Jonathan Engquist. He doesn't have a blog, and I don't know who he is, do you? If no one knows him, that means there can be one group of four people. (Caroline, Nicole, Rossa, and Molly, let me know.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Blogcademy Awards: Best of your movie reviews

The blog assignment for last week was to write a movie review of "A Face In The Crowd," the 1957 that made Andy Griffith a star, and which paints a dark picture of the power of the mass media that's even more relevant today. Fifty five students wrote reviews, and published them on their blogs. Here are my picks for various ad-hoc Blogcademy Awards:

Best title of a review: Joella Rochon and Megan Palermo

Best alternate title of the movie: Jessica Chavez

Best comparison of Lonesome Rhodes to another famous Arkansas boy: Andrea Frainier.

Best Lonesome Rhodes namecalling: Jeff Macias

Best comment on Lonesome Rhodes's annoying laugh: Kim Tsao

Best use of the word tryst: Kelley Lugea

Best research: Ryan Kunis

Best Paris Hilton burn: Danny Pham

Best wrap-up sentence: Mimi Sanouvong

Heineken USA advertising competition: call for entries

Another national advertising competition for college and university students was just announced. If any you — any of my students in any of my classes — would like to take part, I would be happy to help you as a faculty advisor.

This one has a few more rules and seems a bit more complex than the Chevy contest, though. It's a public service advertising competition sponsored by Heineken USA. Teams must create a campaign: print, radio, and Internet ad. And you must be 21 yers old by December 1 to be eligible.

More information is here. Let me know if you're interested.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Blog assignment for this week

This week we'll be looking at broadcast media: radio and television. You have two blog writing assignments, one on each topic. It doesn't matter which one you do first.

1. What is your opinion of Howard Stern, and his influence on the development of radio as a communications medium?

2. What, in your opinion, are the three most important television programs ever created? Explain and defend your choices.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I'm Skyped

Actually, I'm stumped. Well, let's say puzzled.

When my blog tip of the day in class a couple of weeks ago said, "Why not join in the conversation about Skype?" what I meant was, blog your protests about our very own SJSU making national news because of its plans to ban Skype from the campus.

I wasn't sure whether you knew about the proposed ban, or the fact that the story had made national news and that the blogosphere was all agog about it, but I assumed if I made you aware of those facts, that you would want to protest the issue. Because I assumed you all knew what Skype was — just as you all know what MySpace is, and just as you all know how to download music less than legally.

Last week, I was surprised that I wasn't seeing more SAVE OUR FREE LONG DISTANCE PHONE CALLS types of posts on your blogs. And this week I was surprised to learn that it's because many of you don't know what Skype is.

This is not meant to be a criticism. I'm just sayin', I'm surprised, is all. If you want to blog about why I'm wrong, or why I shouldn't be surprised.... please do!

If you like pizza, why not hang on to that take out menu?

Isn't that what you think to yourself, when you see that pizza, or Chinese food, or Taco joint's menu in your mailbox? It can't hurt, and it doesn't take up much room in your catch-all drawer.

I'll be emailing you individually with your grades and comments on your Kite Runner essay, and on some of them I've included a specific note encouraging you to enter the campus-wide essay contest.

The purpose of this post is to encourage all of you to enter it. Because it can't hurt. And, like I said in an earlier post, if the first prize winner comes from this class, the pizza's on me. (And you get to be a hero in the class!)

The contest rules are here. All your essays already meet the requirements. All you have to do is print them out on paper and submit them. Oh, wait, actually, you don't even have to do that. You can email it. But on behalf of the pizza lovers in the class, I'd encourage you to spend some time polishing your work before submitting it. But do submit it. What have you got to lose?

And honestly, I have a feeling that if you all do submit an entry, the laws of probability alone will mean the winner will come from this class.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Jonathan Swift was right

Note to my students: I don't have any more experience writing movie reviews than you do, so I thought I'd give it a try as well. What I learned is, the task of having to formally review a movie makes you a much more critical consumer of that movie. So, a valuable learning experience for all of us.

They had to cast an actor who could tapdance to play the part of Billy Flynn in the movie Chicago, so that, in the movie's climax, when Flynn is called upon to dap dance — metaphorically, to save his client — Richard Gere could do it for real.

This is a movie that is rife with heavy-handed metaphors, but their glamorous and stylized presentation makes their lack of subtlety forgivable. The movie gleefully harpoons the American frenzy to bestow celebrity status upon cold blooded killers, but by setting the film in jazz era Chicago, the audience is permitted, in a corner of their minds, to say to themselves, "Look how stupid people were back then. We would never be like that today!

(Of course not. Not with O.J. Simpson, or Robert Blake, and certainly not with Scott Peterson — who, for weeks was the lead story on Entertainment Tonight. As a Canadian, I was appalled by that.)

The film instructs us that we are fools, fed lies by oblivous newspaper journalists who themselves are nothing but puppets in the hands of a smooth talking lawyer in a sharktooth suit. Of the six murderers in the women's prison (Pop, Six, Squish, Uh Uh, Cicero, Lipshitz) only one is innocent, and because she can't speak the right language — English, or truth, depending on your perspective — she hangs. The only character with honorable intentions, Amos, is shown to be a fool for having them. And journalist Mary Sunshine, played ironically by the usually cyncical and sarcastic Christine Baranski, happily laps up the lies fed to her by Roxy Hart and her attorney, but can we really blame her? After all, wasn't it hard for you, watching the movie, to impune Roxy?

"He had it coming, he had it coming, it was a murder but not a crime," sing the prison six. Who among us men and women alike, hasn't felt that way, at one time or another?

As Roxy rehearses her fabricated life story, a story not one of the journalists bothers to verify, she avers that alcohol and jazz were her downfall. She plays to her audience. That's what American society wants to hear: that she didn't do it, and if she did, it wasn't her fault.

Jonathan Swift wrote, "Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own." In Chicago's final dance number Roxy and Velma capitalize on their sins: they dance with rifles to the adulation of the crowd. And Roxy says, "Thank you! We could not have done this without you!"

Oh, how true.

Publisher of L.A. Times Fired

Isn't it interesting that Jeff Johnson, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, was fired today — and that they've already found a replacement?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Your blogging assignment for this week

This week I'm assigning only one blog entry, which is due on your blog before next Tuesday's class. You are, of course, free to write as many blog entries as you like, but this is the only one that will "count" as far as my evaluation goes.

Your assignment is to write a review of the movie "A Face In The Crowd."

As I pointed out here, the best way to learn to write in a particular style is to read that style, and try to imitate it. So, read some movie reviews before you write one. Another tip: if you need to look up details, such as a character's name, use The Internet Movie Database.

Write your movie review as though it were being published in a national magazine such as Newsweek or People. Use appropriate language for a mass audience.

You may write the review from one of two perspectives, but you must choose one or the other, and make sure it is clear to me, as your reader, which perspective you have taken. Either write your review of the movie from today's perspective, as a classic, for example, on the occasion of a 50th anniversary release of the movie on DVD; or write it from the perspective of a movie reviewer in 1957, when the movie was first released in theaters.

When you post your movie review on your blog, give it a title similar to the titles given to movie reviews in magazines. Something like, "Kazan's 'Face' a Slap In The Face."

(No, you can't use that one! Make up your own. :-)

Monday, October 02, 2006

School of Journalism & Mass Communications: The Wiki

Professor Stephen Greene has created the first wiki for our school. It's called JMC Friends.

He says:

It is intended for use by alumni, faculty, staff and students. I hope you will contribute to it as well as encourage others too do the same.

Anyone can help with a wiki, add/change/delete entries. That's the fun part of wikis, but also their potential greatest liability. I hope that as this wiki grows some of you will assume responsibility for certain pages so we can maintain continuity amidst the change.

I can't predict what will happen with JMC Friends. It may flourish or flounder. That is largely up to your efforts. We all profess to be mass communicators. This wiki is a chance to work on the cutting edge of our field.