Sunday, April 24, 2016

Study guide for our final examination in MCOM 101

The final examination for our course (MCOM 101) will be Friday, April 29, at 8:30 a.m. Be prepared, most likely, for a test that will have short answer questions, multiple choice, possibly a few fill in the blank items, definitions, and maybe, (I haven’t decided for sure at this point, but maybe) a few true-false questions.

Because I like to reward class attendance, this exam will cover topics we’ve talked about or touched on in class since I became your MCOM 101 professor. It may also cover any field trip we took (to the campus radio station and to the campus TV station), and there may be a few questions about the student presentations made in our class.

I also like to reward students who have closely read all my blog posts (since I started teaching MCOM 101 this semester in February). So study what I have blogged about for our class. If a blog post includes a video, watch and listen to that carefully. Likewise, if a post has a link or links, click on those links and read. You can find my blog at:

The exam will also cover the following chapters in our textbook “Media Impact: An Introduction to Mass Media” (Eleventh Edition) by Shirley Biagi:

Chap. 3, Chap. 4, Chap. 5, Chap. 6, Chap. 9, Chap. 14.

The following study guide lists key concepts and terms that might well be on the test; however, there may also be other material from these chapters, not listed here, that you will be asked about.

Note: this guide does not include notes, videos or other material presented to you in class; if you have missed class, I would strongly advise you to get the notes from a reliable classmate(s).

Be able to identify, evaluate, define and discuss the following key concepts, terms, or names in our textbook:

Chap. 3:
Yellow journalism
Alternative press
Ida B. Wells
Departments you can work in at a newspaper
National newspapers
Online news content

Chap. 4:
Target audience
Ida Tarbell
Types of magazines
Departments you can work in at a magazine
Saturday Evening Post
W.E.B. Du Bois
Point-of-purchase magazines
Henry Luce

Chap. 5:
File sharing
Online piracy
MP3 technology
Thomas Edison
Rolling Stone Magazine

Chap. 6
Guglielmo Marconi
Station KDKA
War of the Worlds
Satellite radio
Where most people listen to radio
Most popular radio formats
Licensing of radio stations

Chap. 9:
Touch technology
Digital divide
30-year rule
Net neutrality
Social media
Steve Jobs
Search engine
Tim Berners-Lee
Mark Zuckerberg

Chap. 14:
Invasion of privacy (4 ways or torts it is defined)
Prior restraint
First Amendment
New York Times v. Sullivan
Fourth estate
Embedding reporters
Defenses for libel
FCC and net neutrality

Good luck in your preparation for our final examination!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Right to privacy

Happy Wednesday, all of you in my MCOM 101 class!

One of the key concepts in chapter 14 “Law and Regulation” is invasion of privacy.

I think we’d all agree we’re living in an era where there seems hardly to be any privacy. Wherever we go, cameras catch us on video; people with cell phones snap our pictures (many times unbeknownst to us); and sometimes even our conversations are recorded.

Where is the line between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s right to know?

It can be a blurry, murky line, but it does exist. That’s what much of this blog post is about—trying help you understand that everyone has a right to privacy, and that there are legal consequences—for the news media or anyone else—if someone violates that right.

First a couple of quick scenarios to get you thinking about right to privacy.

1. As a staff member of The Whitetopper, you want to photograph a couple of students embracing each other closely on a bench in front of one of the residence halls on campus.. Can you take their picture, get it published and be legally safe from invasion of privacy, without getting the couple’s permission?

2. You’re a freelance writer and photographer walking down the beach at Myrtle Beach, S.C. (Just so happens you have your camera with you, as you should have because, once a journalist, always a journalist!) You notice a young woman (about 25-30 years old) sunning herself on a blanket. She’s lying on her back. There’s a slight breeze. She seems to be napping. Suddenly a gust of wind blows the top of her bikini off. She remains asleep. You snap her picture, hurry back to your laptop at your motel room and write an article, accompanying the picture, which you sell to a magazine at the beach. Your article is about what people might be surprised to spot at the beach. The woman in the photo sues you for invasion of privacy. Does she have a good case?

To further help get you into a legal framework of thinking about right to privacy, here’s a delicate scenario you could encounter as a journalist:

A candidate is running for city council or for some other elected office in your local community. You as a reporter for the local community newspaper hear a rumor that she (the candidate) suffered a nervous breakdown 10 years ago. Upon your nosing around, the candidate’s opponent slips you a document that verifies it. Should you or should you not pursue the story, write it and have it published as an investigative news feature story in your newspaper ? If your story is published, do you think the candidate will have grounds to sue you? And if she does sue you, what would she allege or under what privacy law or tort would she sue?

Think about the possible answers to these scenarios as we proceed with our discussion today–about invasion of privacy, a key area of First Amendment law.

First of all, concerning invasion of privacy or any othe aspect of First Amendment law (libel, obscenity, copyright…) here are a few broad but very good pieces of advice:

1) always get it right–be accurate, truthful and fair to the best of your ability as a journalist;

2) know your legal rights; and

3) know others’ legal rights.

4) know what the relevant law is in your particular state. (Example: the law concerning invasion of privacy might be one way in Virginia and another way in Illinois or S.C.). Not sure what the law is? Get a copy of it and read!

And yes, it’s good for you as students and practitioners of journalism/mass communications, to be savvy about the applicable law, but, as many well repected journalists also caution, media professionals and others constantly have to practice good, common sense judgment; often there’s no one set answer to handling the many (and often murky, sticky) legal or issues that you might encounter.

Take the sometimes sticky, privacy issue of being honest with your sources. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote a book that has become a popular, controversial best seller. It’s called "Nickel and Dimed," and in it, Ehrenreich investigates menial low wage jobs in America.

Dr. Ehrenreich—who as the time she wrote this book was a freelance writer, a research scientist and social activist— actually worked in the low-paying jobs she writes about in her book. Some have wondered whether she should have worked in those menial jobs without identifying herself as a journalist or academic professional working on a book.

Some journalists would see no problem in what she did. Others, however, might assert that Ehrenreich deceived her sources and that her actions were unethical and even may have constituted an invasion of privacy. The book was favorable to the working class, but it’s not inconceivable that in our litigious (overly eager to file lawsuit society) one of those workers would consider suing Ehrenreich for invasion of privacy. Would the worker have a viable (winnable) privacy invasion lawsuit against Ehrenreich and/or the publisher of the book?

Okay, this seems like a good launching point into privacy and what, concerning privacy, journalists and others who work for the news media should be keenly aware of.

First of all, know that courts in the USA have ruled that every American has a right to a REASONABLE EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY.

Sounds pretty cut and dry, right?

It isn’t.

Privacy or the lack thereof can get plenty murky.

Here’s the crucial, ticklish, complex question: Where does one person’s right to privacy begin and/or end, and where does the writer’s (or journalist’s) right to report and publish begin and/or end?

Hard to know the answer to that question in many cases, since, again, privacy is a murky, still emerging area of the law–and not nearly as well defined an area of law as libel.

Here, however, are some good things to remember about privacy.

Privacy invasion has four torts (areas of the law). These torts are:

1. Intrusion

2. Embarrassing facts or information

3. False light

4. Appropriation

Let’s take a quick look at each privacy tort.

1. INTRUSION: Basically this means that everyone has a reasonable expectation of privacy. More specifically, if you as a journalist cross the line and INTRUDE UPON A PERSON’S PRIVACY, you can get into trouble legally. Be VERY, VERY CAREFUL OF taking a person’s picture and/or electronically recording/videoing them when they are in a place where they can reasonably expect to have their privacy protected. Examples of such places: their bedroom, their bathroom, other places inside their home that are shielded from public view; their office at their place of employment; a restroom, even if the restroom is located in public park; telephone or cell phone conversations they have with another party...; the swimming pool in their backyard, especially if that yard is surrounded/screened by a high wooden or otherwise opaque fence. ARE THEY IN ANY OF THESE ABOVE OR SIMILAR ZONE OF PERSONAL PRIVACY PLACES? DO NOT PHOTOGRAPH OR RECORD THEM OR WRITE ABOUT THEM WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION!

2. EMBARRASSING FACTS OR INFORMATION: This means that you as a journalist can write provably or indisputably true stuff about a person and still face a lawsuit from that person. Truth in such a scenario is no defense. This is what you should remember. Are the facts or information NEWSWORTHY or are they in the PUBLIC’S INTEREST? Or are these same facts or this same information, even though it’s true, merely pandering to a person’s morbid or salacious curiosity? Put another way: Is what you are writing about the person truly in the public interest or NEWSWORTHY or is it just hurtful or malicious, juicy gossip?

Let’s go back to an earlier scenario in this blog post:

A candidate is running for city council or for some other elected office in your local community. You as a reporter for the local community newspaper hear a rumor that she (the candidate) suffered a nervous breakdown 10 years ago. Upon your nosing around, the candidate’s opponent slips you a document that verifies it. Should you or should you not pursue the story, write it and have it published as an investigative news feature story in your newspaper ? If your story is published, do you think the candidate will have grounds to sue you? And if she does sue you, what would she allege or under what privacy law or tort would she sue?

In my opinion, applying the tort of embarrassing facts or information to this scenario, the reporter had best ask herself some hard questions before writing about the candidate’s mental illness, which occurred a decade ago. Is this information really NEWSWORTHY in the present campaign? Or is printing it merely going to embarrass the candidate and potentially cost her the election? If it’s newsworthy, what makes it newsworthy? Has the candidate said something critical, possibly while campaigning, about her opponent’s mental fitness for office? Has the issue of mental fitness come up frequently in the campaign debates or ads? Can you, as a journalist, make a compelling case that the candidate’s mental illness ten years ago truly is relevant to the current campaign?

3. FALSE LIGHT: This is exactly what it says–portraying someone in a false light or somehow misrepresenting someone through you (the journalist’s) words or pictures. This can happen more easily than you may think.

Example: While living in Iowa years ago, I learned about an author who had written a book about street preachers. (Street preachers being evangelists with Bibles who go out onto the streets, usually of major cities, and try to convert bystanders or walkers to Christ.)

Well, as fate would have it this one particular author had conducted research and interviews (and taken photos for his book) on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. When the author’s book came out on the racks in religious book stores, there, on one page of the book, was a picture of a woman–we’ll call her Janie O. Smith, with others, listening to a street preacher on Bourbon Street. No one was named in the picture caption, but the caption read something along the lines of: "The Rev. Billy Ray Miller III, noted New Orleans street preacher, takes his message about Jesus to sinners and prostitutes on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street."

It so happened that one of Janie O. Smith’s close friends happened along one day in a religious book store and picked up the author’s book about street preachers. The friend, thumbing through the book, noticed a picture of Janie O. Smith, along with the caption suggesting that she was a sinner or prostitute.

You can imagine what then happened.

Janie O. Smith learned from her friend about her portrayal in the book about street preachers.

Janie O. Smith purchased the book.

When she saw her published picture and the accompanying caption, Ms. Smith was angry, hurt and embarrassed, to say the least,

She sued the publisher, book store and author for false light invasion of privacy, seeking millions of dollars in damages.

Did she have a case? What do you think?

4. APPROPRIATION: This means, in a nutshell, that you as a writer or practitioner of mass communication (journalist, PR professional, advertising copywriter…) are not allowed to appropriate (take or use for your own purposes) a person’s picture, likeness, signature, words, testimony or endorsement, WITHOUT THAT PERSON’S PERMISSION, if the appropriation is for your (the writer’s) commercial gain and/or if it could deprive the source of the signature, words, testimony...of commercial benefit.

Simplistic example: It would be appropriation, and therefore a violation of Tiger Woods’ privacy, if someone put his likeness or picture or words on a T-Shirt and sold the shirts to help boost membership in your golf course.

Aother example of appropriation: It would be appropriation, and therefore a violation of Opra Winfrey’s privacy, if you as a writer reprinted in whole or in part, without Ms. Winfrey’s permission, statements from Ms. Winfrey about the value of libraries, put them in an article you wrote about the benefits of reading books, and sold that article to a magazine or newspaper.

But also consider this: you take pictures of a bunch of runners, at the start of a marathon race, and one of your photos just so happens to focus on a runner who tripped and is grimacing and lying in pain on the pavement.

The photo clearly shows the runner wearing a Nike cap with the Nike swoosh symbol on it.

Can you publish this photo without Nike’s permission?

Yes, because the photo is part of a bonifide news event–the marathon race. And you as a journalist/photographer are not depriving Nike of any money by publishing the photo. Nor are you as a journalist gaining any special money (other than your normal compensation) for having the photo published.

Before we leave privacy, it’s good to mention a new aspect of privacy, still emerging, called "practical obscurity."

What’s the meaning of "practical obscurity"?

It has to do with the idea that as recently as about 20-25 years ago, when you wanted to research a person’s past, you as a journalist or researcher painstakingly combed through library books, scoured articles stored in dusty, moldy back issues of newspapers, perused, till your eyes almost went blind, old documents or microfilm of old documents. You might have also went to a lot of time and trouble to track down old, almost forgotten forever or misplaced forever files.

Laborious and time consuming to say the least!

Information was hard to find. Sometimes it could not be found, regardless of how hard you tried.

As a practical matter, the information was obscure.

Of course, a lot as changed today.

In 2016, with the Internet, nothing seems to be "practically obscure."

With the touch of a few fingers and with powerful search engines like Google, it takes only a few seconds to dredge up a person’s past.

Nothing, it seems, is hidden or private anymore. Everything, just about, is out there for the taking.

Make a mistake (such as breaking the law) when you were 18 years old and now you’re 30 and you want that youthful transgression to not become public? Good chance just about anyone with a computer and Internet connection can read all about your early sins.

And what about cameras on cell phones? Everyone seems to have a smart phone with a camera! Think about the consequences for personal privacy, or the lack thereof, for people living in our camera/YouTube cell phone society.

We’ve all read or heard about people taking pictures with their cell phones of pages of books at bookstores; of women’s underwear while they relax unawares reading or lounging; of students snapping pictures of their professors while they’re picking their noses and then putting those pictures on gossipy websites; of YouTubers capturing video, and then posting in on the Internet, of persons taking showers in public restrooms.


Invasion of Privacy. We as journalists should learn as much about it as possible. We have to be smart. We have to know how far to go with our pens, cameras and recorders and when to pull back.

And we have to know that two wrongs don't make a right. Just because the whole world seems to have gone anti personal privacy, we still have to respect who we are capturing with our words or images.

Enough for now.

Think deeply about privacy.

(Oh by the way, concerning scenarios 1 and 2 at the start of this blog post: The reporter/journalist/writer is on safe ground in both scenario. No one in these situations has had their privacy invaded because the subjects of the photographs/media coverage have no reasonable expectation of privacy. They are in a public place where anyone could see them.)

Below is a short video clip of a few of the points I touched on in this blog post.

Larry Timbs

Monday, April 18, 2016

How much do you know about the First Amendment?

Quick Snappy First Amendment Law Quiz

1. The First Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights. How many other amendments are in the Bill of Rights?

2. Name the five freedoms protected by the First Amendment.

3. Define who a PLAINTIFF is in a libel court case.

4. Define who a DEFENDANT is in a libel court case.

5. Who has a tougher time winning a libel case—a public official or a private citizen?

6. What, in First Amendment law, is PRIOR RESTRAINT?

7. What, in First Amendment law, is the FOURTH ESTATE?

8. Name one of the top three reasons, according to the American Library Association, that critics try to challenge content.

9. What is the name of the U.S. Supreme Court case that gave high school principals the authority to censor school newspapers?

10. What is the best defense against libel?

11. Invasion of privacy is defined four ways. List two of those ways.

12. What law protects intellectual property rights?

13. What is a shield law?

14. What is a legal definition for obscenity?

15. Is published material that offends or insults or angers a person protected by the First Amendment?

Libel: What it is and how to avoid it

Welcome back, everyone in my MCOM 101 class.

We’ll be focusing this week on chapter 14 “Law and Regulation.”

Part of that chapter covers libel law.

But what is libel? And why do we look at it in the context of First Amendment law?

A quick bottom line definition of libel is this: Libel is defamatory, false, published information about a named or otherwise identified person.

In libel cases, we have a plaintiff and we have a defendant.

The plaintiff is the person who thinks he/she has been libeled or damaged by the media.

The defendant is the person who wrote the article about the allegedly defamed person; the defendant can also be the medium (newspaper, magazine, movie, website…) where the expression/article appeared.

When a plaintiff files a libel suit against a defendant, the plaintiff must prove four things before he/she can prevail or win in the lawsuit:

Publication. Means the material had to be published somewhere. Publication has been defined loosely by the courts to mean that if THREE or more people read/see material, then it is published. Does material appearing in an article in The Whitetopper (the student newpaper at Emory & Henry College) constitute publication? Yes! What about an e-mail that student A sends to student B (but Student B does not share with anyone else)? That would not be “publication” because only two people saw the message. But if student B forwards/shares student A’s e-mail with at least one other person, well, that’s a whole different kettle of fish, ladies and gentlemen!

2. Identification. Means that in addition to proving that material was published about her, the plaintiff has to prove that she was IDENTIFIED, by name or otherwise, in that published material.

Example: Say someone thinks they have been defamed (humiliated or embarrassed) through an article published in The Whittopper. The article in question is about gays and lesbians at Emory & Henry College. It mentions no one’s name and in no way identifies anyone in particular. It is a general overview article about gays and lesbians at our college. Someone quoted in the article says something very, very degrading against gays and lesbians. Ralph Z. Ralphson, a gay student at EHC, reads the article and really becomes angry at The Whitetopper and at the student who wrote the article. Ralph sues for libel. Will he win this lawsuit against the newspaper and the writer?

Then, again, still focusing on the element of identification, consider that The Whitetopper runs an article about cheerleaders at EHC. The article mentions no one’s name on the cheerleading squad, but it does assert that at least one of the EHC cheerleaders is a prostitute. Here’s where the situation concerning I.D. gets tricky. Small group of potential libel plaintiffs? If the group is relatively small, even though no one is named in particular in an article, careful! (How many cheerleaders are there at the ball games at EHC?) All of the members of the small group might sue the newspaper for libel (or maybe only one member will sue.)

There’s great risk here cause the group is relatively small.

You may be wondering what happens if the newspaper reporter accurately quotes someone (and has that someone on a recording) saying that one of the cheerleaders is a prostitute. Yes, the reporter has been accurate, but the quote still might be held as grounds for a successful libel suit. Keep reading to understand why.

3. Defamation: (rhymes, curiously, with defecation) Means in essence that the published article about a person identified in the article also defames that person. Defames means that the person was greatly humiliated, hurt, embarrassed or had his/her good name or reputation damaged. Defamation also might mean the published material caused the plaintiff to lose wages or friends or business customers or even his/her job.

The Whitetopper (or any other student newspaper) could possibly defame a student. But how could the student PROVE that he/she had been defamed? Think about that question for a moment. If you thought you had been defamed, how would you go about proving it in a court of law?

Remember: Probably the most precious thing we have in life is our good name or reputation. We work to protect that every day of our lives, don’t we? And then along comes a reporter who writes a defamatory article about us. Bad news all the way around!

4. Falsity: In addition, to PROVING that published material about him/her is defamatory and identifies her/him in the article, a libel plaintiff must prove, to win a libel case, that the material published is false. If, on the other hand, the published defamatory material is true, the libel plaintiff can’t win the case. But she may be able to prevail in an invasion of privacy lawsuit. (More about invasion of privacy in another blog post).

Summary: To win a libel case, the person suing the media and or reporter for libel must PROVE the following elements: Publication, Identification, Defamation, Falsity. Lest all those are proved by the plaintiff (person bringing suit) the plaintiff cannot win.

Okay, one more thing (and it’s a big thing that everyone should read about in the AP Style book or some other good reference book on First Amendment law.)

When it comes to public officials or public figures, these sorts of people must prove something called “actual malice”
to win a libel case against the media.

Public officials or public figures must ALSO, of course, prove the same things that private (nonpublic) people must prove: Publication, Identification, Defamation, and Falsity.

So the burden of proof, to win a libel case, is higher for public officials/figures as opposed to private individuals who pretty much keep to themselves.

What, for purposes of libel law, is a private person?

For purposes of the law, what’s a public official or public person?

(Do some research and reading and find out!)

So what is “actual malice.”

Actual malice means knowledge of falsity OR reckless disregard for the truth. Does not have to mean both. It means knowledge of falsity OR reckless disregard for the truth.

Okay, so what does knowledge of falsity mean?

What’s the meaning of reckless disregard for the truth?

Do some research and find out. (Or remind me to explain these terms in class).

Also, while you’re at it, look up the famous court case titled:

New York Times v. Sullivan

It’s probably the most famous First Amendment law case in history. It established the “actual malice” standard that public officials must prove to win a libel case against the news media.

Enough for now about libel.

More about First Amendment law in another blog post.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Webby blogging assignment

We went over this today in class, but I’ll write it out just in case…

By the way, as announced today, we will NOT meet as a class this coming Friday (April 15). I have to attend a funeral in S.C.

I divided you up today into teams for this assignment. You are to do your own assignment independently, but the team idea is for you to receive guidance, technical support and constructive feedback on your blog post, so that you can rewrite or improve it BEFORE you send your blog post link to me for my assessment.

Everyone needs an editor. Take advantage of your teammate(s)!

Here are the teams:

Team 1: Miohn, Brad and Jack

Team 2: Rod and Cameron and Josh

Team 3: Trevor and Caelan

Team 4: Kayla, Ashleigh and Brodyn

Team 5: Dre, Susan and Chris

Team 6: Raven, Kevin and Alexandria

Next, see my blog post from April 12, 2016, titled “Critical questions about the Internet”

Today in our class each one of you selected TWO numbers. You wrote down your TWO numbers on a piece of paper and handed in that paper to me. (You also made a copy of the two numbers you selected)

The two numbers you selected correspond to the numbered items on my list of 15 critical Internet issues in my April 12th blog post.

Example: If you selected numbers 1 and 8, your potential topics that you can blog about would consist of number 1 on my list (online dating websites) and number 8 on my list (Net neutrality).

You are to focus, for this blogging assignment, on ONLY ONE of the numbers you selected.

Here are the numbers each person in our class selected:

Chris, 13 and 6

Kevin, 3 and 7

Rod, 1 and 2

Miohn, 7 and 13

Kayla, 7 and 13

Caelan, 8 and 13

Dre, 13 and 3

Brodyn, 5 and 15

Cameron, 7 and 12

Brad, 5 and 8

Susan, 7 and 12

Ali, 7 and 13

Ashleigh, 2 and 13

Jack, 8 and 9

Note: If you were not in our class today, you may select two numbers from my list that were not selected by anyone else OR that were rarely selected by anyone.

Also, even if you were in our class today, I’ll give you a little wiggle room on the number selection. No one selected the following numbers: 4, 10, 11, 14. If any of you want to choose one of the above unselected numbers for your blog post, I am fine with that.

Again, you are to focus, for this blogging assignment, on ONLY ONE of the numbers you selected from my list of 15 critical Internet issues.


Create a blog—if you don’t already have one. You can create a blog acccount at or at or at other places on the Internet.

Write a blog post about ONE of your selected numbers from my list of 15 critical Internet topics.

Within your blog post, cite information (quotes or paraphrases) that you obtained in an in-person interview about your selected topic. The person you choose to interview is up to you, but try to find someone willing to talk to you and who would be at least somewhat informed on the selected topic. In your blog post, mention the interviewee’s name, age, occupation and hometown (if not a student). If a student, include his/her name, age, year in school, major and hometown and home state.

Your blog post will also include information you pull (on your assigned topic) from the Internet. Do this but try to be brief. Summarize or paraphrase what you learned about your topic from the Internet. Be sure to cite the source of information on the Internet (name of website, URL…) DO NOT JUST COPY AND PASTE BIG CHUNKS OF TEXT THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS WRITTEN!!

Your blog post must also have:

—At least one picture (related to your assigned topic).

— Two links (words you can click on that will take you to another website)

—One video (related to your assigned topic)

(See my my April 12 blog post for examples of links, pictures and a video).

When you are done with your blog post, send it to your teammate(s) and ask for their comments and constructive criticism. Do for the same for them when they send their post to you. Then edit and work on your blog post and make it better.

Send your post to a few of your friends or family. Make sure they can open it and have no trouble reading/viewing it. Do the links work? Does what you’ve written make sense? Does the video play? Can you hear the sound?

Send them the guidelines for this assignment. Get their take on whether they think you’re in good shape with your blog post.

When you’re completely satisfied with your blog post, email it to me by the early morning (BEFORE our class) of Wednesday, April 20. My email is:

Good luck!

Oh, by the way, here's a short video about blogging. Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Critical questions about the Internet

Where does one start to list all the critical issues or questions involving the Internet?

Here's my short list. We'll be focusing on these very soon in MCOM 101.

The Internet: Critical Issues

1. Online dating websites (Connecting with your future spouse or partner). Frequency of use. Popularity. Differences between the various online dating websites. Commonalities. Pluses and minuses. Testimonials. Horror stories. Happy endings.

2. Using Facebook as a tool for reporting a story when something big breaks and you are under a strict deadline to get the story written. Ethical? Legal? Recommended? Often used? Examples of how journalists have turned to Facebook to find out something.

3. “I’m afraid my employer will Google my name and see your story. Can you take this information (about me) down from the Internet, please?” Requests for the media to “unpublish” information that is embarrassing or hurtful or damaging. Examples of what has been done. What can be done and what cannot be done with such requests.

4. Texting while driving. Laws? Guidelines? Do laws vary from state to state? Consequences. Real-life examples of what has actually happened to those who text while they drive. Your personal take on texting while driving.

5. Touch technology (upper left hand corner of page 199 of our textbook). Using the Internet to enhance your five senses. What are some of the latest developments regarding touch technology? What does the future hold? Is touch technology already here? Practical uses of touch technology. Fun uses. Strange uses.

6. Policing or controlling or censoring the content of a website. Examples of what has been done in this regard. Filtering software and how it works. Control of the content of a website a good thing? Bad thing?

7. Intellectual property rights (copyright) and the Internet. Are the copyright rules the same, since the invention of the Internet, as they’ve always been? What are some common misconceptions about “borrowing” or sharing material (words, pictures, videos, podcasts) found on the Internet?

8. What’s all the fuss about “Net Neutrality”? (See page 195 in our textbook and do some additional research). What’s the latest development (in 2016) with Internet Neutrality? Should the common ordinary person become informed about this issue? Explain.

9. The “Digital Divide”—a big critical issue in 2016 or has it been overblown/exaggerated? What exactly is it? What can be done to remedy it? What currently is being done, if anything? What’s your personal take on the “Digital Divide”?

10. What’s the latest development with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)? Page 199 of our texbook. Do some research and find exactly what these are, whether they are being signed up for, what people think about them. Tell us about a few examples. Any drawbacks to taking a MOOC? Are they a good thing? Bad thing?

11. Increasingly, a growing number of divorces are attributed to Facebook. Someone has said that Facebook is a divorce lawyer’s best friend or tool. Do some research and explain with a few concrete examples.

12. “Citizen journalism” and the Internet. Do some research and find out what this is exactly, how it works, what people think about it. Track down some examples of outstanding or excellent “citizen journalism.” What are some of its pluses? Minuses? Is there a controversy about it?

13. What exactly are Internet “hackers” up to? What, for that matter, is an Internet hacker? What is a recent example or two of a serious Internet hacking scandal? What are the legal penalities, if any, that a hacker faces? Do hackers ever perform a positive community or business service? Explain.

14. In countries that don’t have freedom of the press (as the U.S. knows it), what are bloggers doing to help the citizens of these countries? Give some examples. What risks (legal or otherwise) do dissident bloggers take? Have dissident bloggers ever really made a difference in such countries?

15. Are search engines such as Google and Yahoo tracking our buying or consumer or lifestyle habits? How can a search engine learn so much about us—and especially how and where we spend our money? What should we as consumers do to protect our privacy—when it comes to search engines or any other aspect of the Internet? Examples.

Okay, enough for now. Here's a short clip on a couple of hackers and what they did to a Jeep Cherokee. Glad I have a Subaru Outback!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Be smart about the Internet

How much do you REALLY know about the Internet?

Quick Snappy Test of Your Knowledge of the Internet
MCOM 101/April 2016

1. What is the shortened name for a Weblog?

2. True or False? Teens spend more time texting than talking on their phones.

3. Name the software or website designed to let people communicate with their friends, family and coworkers using messages no longer than 140 characters.

4. The ________________ is a diverse set of independent networks, interlinked to provide its users the appearance of a single, uniform network.

5. In terms of the Internet, what is IP? What does it stand for?

6. Name the man who invented the World Wide Web.

7. What is the world's largest social media network/website?

8. ____________ (hint: 3 initials) is the address of content placed on the Web. An example is

9. _______________ (3 words) is the programming language used to create Web pages.

10. Why is broadband Internet service more desirable than narrowband service?

11. Aggregator sites, such as ___________ attempt to bring order to the inherently unorganized Web. (Hint: these aggregator sites are also known as search engines).

12. What is a Zine?

13. True or False: Half the world’s populatin has yet to make a phone call, much less log on to the Internet.

14. In terms of the Internet, what are cookies?

15. Name the best known wiki.

16. What is touch technology?

17. With regard to the Internet, why is the issue of protection of intellectual property rights so important? Explain.

18. What is a podcast?

19. Name the computer genious who said this in his commencement speech (shortly before he died) to the graduating class of Stanford University: “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.”

20. Name the world’s biggest international online store.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Quiz/presentation on chap. 9 from Kayla and Raven

Thanks to Kayla and Raven for creating the following quiz and presentation on chapter 9. Good, helpful guide in our study of this chapter!

(And some questions on a test or quiz from me might be taken from their work).

Tips on capturing video

Some of you might choose to create a short video clip of the minority who is featured in your profile. The video is an OPTIONAL component of the minority profile writing assignment.

REPEAT: The video is optional. It does NOT replace the required minority profile writing assignment.

But if you do choose to create a short video of your minority interviewee (and then post it on YouTube and email the link to me) strive for QUALITY OF PICTURE AND SOUND.

Nothing’s worse than a video that viewers have trouble seeing or hearing.

Here are a few quick tips on shooting video:

1. Get in close, VERY CLOSE, to the person you are filming. This is so we all can see and hear him/her clearly when we play your video in class.

2. Hold your camera (or smart phone) steady. Make a tripod with your hands/arms to steady yourself while you shoot. Or steady yourself, your hands (and your camera) against a solid object while you shoot.

2 a. Very important to frame the shot carefully before you press the Record button to start shooting. Frame your interviewee—very closeup is best! Then freeze solid. Then press the Record button.

3. It’s okay for you (the interviewer) to talk a little, but refrain from talking or interrupting while your subject is speaking.

4. Look for a hook in your interview with your minority—something catchy, unusual, unexpected or visually interesting. Try to capture this with your camera. Your clip is going to be very short. Make it count!

5. Try to avoid capturing, in video, something that is boring, dull or predictable. You don’t want to make your viewers/listeners yawn. Perhaps the best way to avoid boring material is to first interview your minority—without turning on your camera. Take notes. Anything stand out as striking or interesting or unusual to you? If so, turn your camera on and ask your interviewee to repeat that segment of the interview.

6. Limit your video to 60-120 seconds. We’re not interested here in a long, drawn out video which will bore us to death! A short video clip is much more effective.

7. Lighting—Nothing spoils a video shoot as much as poor lighting. Best to shoot video with the light source behind you, shining on the subject. An example is an outdoor shot where the sun is shining. Make sure the sun shines on your subject and not on your camera lens.

Likewise, if shooting indoors, experiment with the lighting before you actually train your camera on the subject.

8. Be conscious of sound! BEST TO SHOOT A VERY CLOSE-UP VIDEO OF YOUR SUBJECT WITH THE SOUND OR VOLUME ON YOUR SMART PHONE OR CAMERA TURNED ALL THE WAY UP. In addition, a “close-up video clip” provides a sense of physical intimacy; it gives insight into the emotional state of your interviewee.

Not experienced with shooting video that has good sound quality? Practice on your roommate or friend or whoever. Play it back and have a listen.

Good luck!

Minority profile writing assignment

Hello everyone in my MCOM 101 class.

Over the next few days, we’ll be focusing on chapter 9 “Digital Media: Widening the Web.”

But for this blog post, I want to share with you guidelines for a writing assignment that will be due at the start of our class on Wednesday, April 13. I will be going over these guidelines in class but here they are in writing just in case…

You will be researching and writing a Minority Profile.

This assignment is consistent with the language in our syllabus that: “The course emphasizes that the most effective mass media entities express diversity of thought and opinion through their workforces and their messages…”

Our course syllabus also notes: “Some assignments in MCOM 101 will focus on the connection between mass media messages and racial or ethnic minorities. A sampling of writing or presentation assignments will focus on diversity and global awareness—embracing the broadest possible range of people and perspectives.”

You might recall that recently we noted in class that the mass media (especially the movie industry, but not limited to movies) has come under fire for lacking racial and ethnic diversity. Newspapers, magazines and television have also been recently criticized for NOT reflecting the diversity and composition of the American population. Television, for example, has been attacked by some for not having a sufficient number of African-Americans or Latinos as main characters for entertainment (or news anchors or on-air reporters for news progams).

In general, these same critics condemn many branches of the mass media of communications in the U.S. for falling short of reaching out to non-whites (or to the non-mainstream segment of the American population) in a meaningful way.

So all this is the background for this assignment—which you will be working on for the next few days.


Deadline: Due at the start of our class on Wednesday, April 13.

Length: 2-3 pages, typed, double-spaced, 14-point font size for type.

What you will do: You will be writing a minority profile. Select and interview a person who is a minority on campus.

What do we mean by a minority? He or she could be a member of an ethnic minority; racial minority; religious minority; sexual preference/lifestyle minority; person with a disability (mental or physical)…
Be sure to include in your minority profile whom you interviewed and what qualifies him/her as a member of a minority group. 

Need to weave your interviewee's full name, age, and hometown and home state/country into your writing assignment.  (If a student, include his/her year in school and major and hometown and state.)  If not a student, include full name, age, and hometown and home state/country and his/her occupation. YOU MUST HAVE A NAME FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT. If a minority will not give you his/her name, then find one who will.

Focus in your interview on these questions:
What’s your opinion of how minorities (such as yourself or others) are portrayed in the mass media? Explain.
Related to #1, what do you think of the criticism by some people that the mass media of communication has NOT done a very good job of reflecting the composition and diversity of the American population?
Have you ever been covered in a news or feature story by the mass media (newspaper, magazine, TV, radio…?) If so, were you covered accurately and adequately? Was your experience good or bad? Explain.
What advice would you give media professionals on how better to portray or cover minorites?
Do you ever think of yourself or fellow members of your minority as being unfairly stereotyped? Explain.
How do you prefer to be addressed in normal, everyday life? Have you ever experienced insensitivity or prejudice because you are a minority? Explain.
In addition, for purposes of this assignment, describe briefly what it was like for you to interview your selected minority person. Positive experience? Negative? Was the interviewee cooperative? Did anything he/she said surprise you?

TIP: ENGAGE your interviewee in a conversation.  Avoid asking questions that can be answered simply with yes or no. Put him/her at ease. Get the person to talk about the assigned subject.

What I'll take into account when I evaluate your minority profile assignment:

A. How well your interview-based minority profile writing assignment compares with those of your fellow students in terms of quality (Does it catch and hold my attention? Did you follow the guidelines for the interview? Address all the above questions? Did you seem to get him/her to open up with you about the assigned topic?)

B. How much attention and care you paid to mechanics--spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, sentence structure and graph structure (short graphs are best). Get all gremlins out of your writing before submitting your assignment into me.

OPTIONAL: Do you really want to go the extra mile and enhance your minority profile writing assignment? Create a 1-2-minute video of your profiled minority (maybe featuring him or her answering a few of those above questions.



The video is NOT a required component of this minority profile writing assignment. Nor does it replaced the required minority profile writing assignment. But if you want to impress the old blogster (and perhaps boost your grade on this assigment just a tad) go for it!

Larry Timbs

Monday, April 4, 2016

Webby world

Happy Monday (April 4) to all in my MCOM 101 class.

Please get started, if you haven’t already done so, with your study and reading of chapter 9 “Digital Media: Widening the Web.”

Here are some notes/comments related to that chapter. 

The man who invented the World Wide Web, widely known as the eighth major mass medium of communication, keeps a pretty low profile. Some have described British physicist Tim Berners-Lee as a kind of geeky genious.  Bet few if any of you had ever heard about him before taking our course. Nevertheless, know who he is and what his motives were for inventing this revolutionary new mass medium of communication. 

The inventor of the World Wide Web, in my opinion, deserves as many plaudits as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell or the Wright brothers.  But for Berners-Lee, you wouldn’t be reading this message from me right now!

If you’re Web savvy, and I presume that many of you are, you’ll become reacquainted (through reading chapter 9) with such important terms as HTML, HTTP, convergence, links, public domain, SMS, social network, podcast, blog, Net neutrality, intellectual property rights, file sharing, cloud computing, data compression and touch technology.

Other important material/areas covered in this chapter are noted in the list of “Key Terms” at the bottom of page 202 and at the top of page 203.

Be sure, too, to be able to answer the “Critical Questions” at the end of this chapter on pg. 201.

Providing a technological framework for the World Wide Web have been: Media convergence and how miniaturization and digitization technology came together; fiber optic cables; and broadband (high speed) online service.

Important public policy issues connected with the World Wide Web include: 1) whether the government should guarantee everyone has Web access; 2) whether the Web should be policed/filtered for objectionable content; 3) whether the Web crosses the line between the public’s right to know and the individual’s right to privacy; 4) creating a false sense of intimacy and interaction among users. Some also refer to this as high-tech/low touch society or culture: and 5)copyright/intellectual property rights (Time permitting, we may briefly discuss these crucial public policy issues during class.)

No one really knows where the Web is going and/or what it might morph into in the coming years.  Some scientists are hard at work on digitizing sense of touch or smell or tactile sensation (see discussion of Touch Technology on page 199.) What of the possibilities concerning slipping into some sort of special garment, hooking our garment-dressed selves to a Web-connected computer and then . . .?  This is not pie in the sky stuff.  It’s already under development. 

Oh, by the way, notice how “Web” is always capitalized. Make sure you always capitalize this important medium of mass communication. 

How many of you use social media? Here's a brief clip of how social media have rapidly evolved on the Internet:

Enough for now.

More about the Web in another post from me. Keep checking my blog.

Larry Timbs


Our "Mass Media and Society" class took a short field trip to EHC-TV a few days ago. Teresa Keller general manager of the station, gave us the ins and outs of what EHC-TV is all about.

Here are a few scenes from our visit:

One of the interesting things that EHC-TV does is allow students to have a Rant. Some of the Rants are posted on YouTube. Here's one from a few years back. Accompanying the rant was this:

EHC-TV presents the Rant. Chris Sills rants this week about loud music in the dorms. The program was originally broadcast on October 26 and 27, 2011 on Comcast Cable Channels 70 and 95. EHC-TV is a product of the Mass Communications Department at Emory & Henry College.