Thursday, September 3, 2015

Advertising vs. Editorial Content

Today I saw a tweet from my university health center that piqued my interest.
I was interested in this for two reasons: first, the Jasper Clinic advertises with the Western Herald. Second, as a healthcare provider, what was their stance on participating in this medical trial?
I tweeted at them about it.
They pointed out that they had found the medical study through an ad on the Western Herald, which is accurate. The Jasper Clinic paid the Western Herald to buy an ad on our website, as do other organizations, like Hills at Law, a used textbook store, and a textbook rental business. On our website and in our print newspaper, we sell ads, which go to pay for the costs of creating the newspaper. Our ads are clearly advertisements - it's safe to say that no one assumes that "SAVE $$$ RENT YOUR BOOKS" is a piece of our editorial content.
The Western Herald website, with an ad for the Jasper Clinic in the bottom right.
In publishing an advertisement for Jasper Clinic, the Western Herald is not endorsing them. We are merely placing their paid advertisement next to our content, and linking to their website.
However, when the health center tweets about doing a medical study, it's reasonable to assume that they endorse it, and the university believes that participating in private medical studies is an activity that is good for students. To me, this is questionable - they don't know what this study is about, and they don't know what the long-term health risks might be. Would they also tweet a link where students could register to donate their plasma, eggs, or sperm? If they did, would they explain all of the possible risks involved?
Later, they tweeted a link to NIH information about participating in a medical study, which I think is important, and a smart PR move on their part.
All of this brings up an important point - it is hard to predict how people will respond do social media posts on behalf of an organization, and people working in social media have to be aware of that. As a PR student, I will learn from this, and consider if links I am sharing have the endorsement of the organization.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Eight Pieces of Advice for College Freshmen

This is the building that I practically live in during school.
Today is the start of Fall Welcome at Western Michigan University. Campus is flooded with freshmen and their parents, getting everybody moved into the dorms. I'm a senior (halfway super-senior? It's complicated) and I feel like that gives me some authority to give advice to college freshmen about how to excel in college.
  1. Talk to new people. Everyone around you knows something that you don't know. If you don't talk to them, you'll never learn. Also, face-to-face communication is an important skill, and this is a good time to practice, when the stakes are low. Go to guest lectures and talk to the presenter and the people around you - this is a good way to meet interesting people who like the same things you do.
  2. Find out how much your tuition is for the semester. Divide that by the number of classes you're taking. Divide that by the number of weeks in the semester. Divide that by the number of times your class meets every week. For me, this number is $48. That's how much money I am throwing away if I skip class. I'm paying in-state tuition at a state school, so for many other schools, this number is higher. Consider this every morning when your bed is warm and there is a foot of snow on the ground and an economics lecture that you don't want to go to.
  3. Get enough sleep. If you have class at eight, be in bed by 11. Yes, it feels like you are being boring, but you will be so much more functional in class if you have enough sleep.
  4. Get a job. On-campus jobs are great because they're convinent and they have rules against scheduling you to work while you're in class. My freshman year of college, I worked six and a half hours a week in the back of the library, cataloging new books. I made a little bit of money, which helped. When I was trying to get other jobs later on, it helped to have work experience. If you're not working, you probably have at least 10 hours a week that you're spending playing video games or on tumblr. Instead, use that time for something productive.
  5. Be frugal. Unless you are made of money or have mad scholarships, you are probably taking out loans to go to college. Tens of thousands of dollars seems so abstract right now, but it will feel very real when you are sending Sallie Mae $400 a month out of your measly salary when you are 23. Don't borrow more than you need, keep your expenses low.
  6. Get involved, but not too involved. Pick two organizations that you're passionate about, be active in them. Look to the people in leadership roles for advice. When you're a junior, get into those leadership roles. For me, those organizations are the Western Herald and Wesley. Now, as a senior, I am the editor-in-chief of the Western Herald, and on staff at Wesley.
  7. Ask questions. During class, of yourself, of your worldview. Don't stop asking questions. Don't get too comfortable.
  8. Try to get an internship early. Don't be one of those people who thinks "oh, maybe I should consider doing an internship" in the middle of your senior year. Seek out a wide variety of experiences - they will help you learn about the things you like and don't like, and connect with people who are doing what you are interested in.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Links for Friday, August 28

Roxane Gay is amazing, and I just found out that she did at TED talk about being a bad feminist, and the scrutiny that women who are public figures are held up to when they declare themselves to be feminists.
We're coming up on the tenth annivarsary of Hurricane Katrina. I was only 12 when the hurricane hit, but I remember seeing articles online, and reading about it in school. Here are a few articles about Katrina, ten years later. 1, 2, 3, 4.
This week, Chris Guillebeau blogged about happiness as a superpower, and the idea that the ability to make yourself happy is important. Once you find that, you should hold on.
Finding happiness isn’t simple as stating the obvious: sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll—or whatever the short-term equivalent might be—won’t bring you happiness. Hopefully, most of us either know this intuitively or have figured it out without too much damage.
And it’s not as easy to find as some might say, for ultimately happiness is a combination of many things: current state of being, progress toward long-term goals, social environment, family history, and possibly other factors that are hard to identify.
But when you do find what makes you happy, when you finally gain that superpower—try to hold on to it. Try to do whatever it takes, every day, to keep happiness closer to you.
Also, I saw Guillebeau speak in 2013. It was so long ago! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Journalism, Ethics and Violence

Alison Parker and Adam Ward, Source
This morning, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, two reporters for WDBJ 7 in Virgina were murdered during a live broadcast. My heart goes out to their families and friends. It's always incredibly difficult to lose someone close to you, and I imagine that pain is multiplied when it is so violent and meaningless.
As journalists, we sometimes are taking major risks in publishing stories. We don't know what people will think, we don't know who we might hurt, and we don't know who might come after us. We're taking a risk by being in this profession. Journalism is vital to democracy, and this sort of violence against journalists erodes the freedom of the press to publish the truth.
I have no idea why the shooter did what they did. I will probably never know exactly why, and people will probably interpret it differently depending upon their race - if they're white, they're mentally ill, if they're African American, they're a thug, and if they're Arab-American, they're a terrorist. That kind of race-dependent interpretation is wrong, but it seems overwhelmingly likely that the conversation will be dictated by it.
As I write this, police are chasing the shooter down a freeway. Hopefully they will catch them, and bring justice to the victims families.
Because this murder took place while they were on camera, there is video footage. Some people have shared that video footage online. In journalism classes, there's often a discussion of graphic violence. It's generally considered unethical to show photos of maimed bodies, or dead bodies. Personally, I would ask myself "is this a photo I would feel okay letting an eight-year-old see?" before posting anything questionable online. Some have posted the video to twitter, where it can autoplay in unsuspecting user's twitter feeds. As a journalist, this is something I would never do. It can be okay to make sensitive material available to viewers who want to see that, but it's vital to give people warning beforehand. Please consider that, prior to sharing photos and videos that are violent. Tell the truth, and uphold ethical standards.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Links for Friday, August 21

Design For Action - design thinking, in it's murky, undefinable glory, is on the cover of Harvard Business Review.
As design has moved further from the world of products, its tools have been adapted and extended into a distinct new discipline: design thinking. Arguably, Nobel laureate Herbert Simon got the ball rolling with the 1969 classic The Sciences of the Artificial, which characterized design not so much as a physical process as a way of thinking. And Richard Buchanan made a seminal advance in his 1992 article “Wicked Problems in Design Thinking,” in which he proposed using design to solve extraordinarily persistent and difficult challenges.
But as the complexity of the design process increases, a new hurdle arises: the acceptance of what we might call “the designed artifact”—whether product, user experience, strategy, or complex system—by stakeholders. In the following pages we’ll explain this new challenge and demonstrate how design thinking can help strategic and system innovators make the new worlds they’ve imagined come to pass. In fact, we’d argue that with very complex artifacts, the design of their “intervention”—their introduction and integration into the status quo—is even more critical to success than the design of the artifacts themselves.
I saw David Kelley speak in Grand Rapids in 2012, and he was fascinating. Also, wicked problems are something I've written about before.

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace - as a journalist, I'm fascinated by the response that this article has garnered. People are questioning if the sources represent common experiences at Amazon, they're questioning if other companies treat their employees the same way, and what should be done about it. The New York Times published a few follow-up articles, Jeff Bezos and Amazon Employees Join Debate Over Its Culture and Was Portrayl of Amazon's Brutal Workplace On Target? As a public relations student, I'm watching closely to see how Amazon handles this, and how the situation plays out. Amazon has a history of being harsh toward businesses in a way that completely upends norms. Will the competitive edge gained by being harsh toward their employees become the new norm? If things are so bad at Amazon, why do smart, talented people keep working there? I have a feeling this will come up in one of my PR classes this fall.

Can You Design Innovation? - We know that cities foster innovation, through a sort of interpersonal friction, but is there a way that you can engineer that effect?
An innovation district can be planned from the ground up or areas within cities can evolve into one. At its broadest, an innovation district is composed of cutting-edge research (usually from of a major academic institution), business incubators, startups, advanced technical networking, commercial spaces, housing, transit accessibility, social spaces, and amenities. It goes beyond generic "mixed use" construction to embody a recipe of specific attributes that, in theory, fuel innovation. Moreover, everything is packed into a dense area. The idea is that when you mix all these things together, people, who in the old model of city building might remain siloed, have the opportunity to mingle. And being the social creatures that they are, then spark conversations with those outside of their direct discipline and potentially come up with incredible new ideas. In theory, innovation districts are the antithesis of the isolated business parks and corporate campuses that define Silicon Valley. 
Lawn Order - the most recent episode of 99% Invisible is about the strange obsession that we have with lawns. I hate lawns and because they're a waste of space and terrible for the environment, and I felt like my beliefs were vindicated by this podcast.

Building a Chair Simple Enough for a Pope - I'm fascinated by the way furniture design and ornamentation intersect with the structures in which people practice their faith, and how the built world influences the way that faith is practiced. After all, is a church service different in a cathedral with a massive pipe organ than it is outdoors in the woods? Of course it is, but how and why? I can't wait to see the finished chair.