Archive for January, 2010

I am at the point in my doctoral studies when I can begin my seven comprehensive exams and start writing the literature review for my dissertation. It has been a long but extremely rewarding experience so far. Now, the intensity magnifies.

As a required part of the process, I must blog weekly about the development of my dissertation literature review. I will do this in my education blog, http://lespottereducationblog.wordpress.com/ 

I will document and discuss my literature review progress in this blog. I will discuss the scope of my review, my research strategies, and the progress I am making.

I intend for this to be a dialogue with my colleagues in Towson’s Instructional Technology doctoral program in which we can share our experiences in writing our dissertation literature reviews.

Even though the content of this blog is more narrowly focused, I invite all my More With Les friends to join me there when you can. You are welcomed to comment at any time.


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Spring semester begins January 25, and once again I ask myself what to teach my PR students about media relations as the upheaval in media continues at a rapid pace.

Ironically, a lot of the news these days is about news organizations themselves. And the news is bad, especially about newspapers — bankruptcies, layoffs, and ever-diminishing revenues. It appears that the list of publications that have become extinct grows weekly. Many have gone online exclusively.

According to American Journalism Review, there were 1,408 daily newspapers in the U.S. last year. Most are small, with only 395 dailies having circulation of over 50,000. Gannett remains the largest newspaper company in the U.S., operating 84 dailies, but it only accounts for a modest 12.5 percent of the nation’s daily newspaper circulation.

Historically, many cities had two dominate newspapers, but no more.  Most recently, Seattle, Denver, and Tucson ceased to be two-newspaper cities.

Efforts to save newspapers run from calling for a federal fund for newspapers to underwrite local news reporting to consolidation, thereby further diminishing the number of newspapers.

Highlighting the troubles is the recent revelation that the executive editor of The National Enquirer plans to enter for a Pulitzer Prize the paper’s coverage of onetime Democrat presidential hopeful John Edwards’ scandal. Long dismissed as a mere supermarket tabloid, it was the Enquirer that broke the story of Edwards’ relationship with staffer Rielle Hunter and her baby, which Edwards just admitted was his after months of denials.

As if what passes for journalism these days hasn’t fallen far enough, that this “disreputable tabloid” scooped the big dogs adds insult to injury. Where were they? They either missed the story or chose to ignore it perhaps because of Edwards’ political party affiliation.

True, print journalism is only one part of an effective media mix, but that part appears preoccupied with its own survival. Newspapers’ historical place as gatekeepers is increasingly called into question with the ascension of citizen journalists and bloggers. Social media must now be an essential part of strategic communication/public relations planning and management.

Therefore, I must instill in my students an understanding of and appreciation for all forms of media and how to effectively use them. My instructional philosophy and practice at Towson is built on integrated marketing communication (IMC).  Under an IMC construct, a media mix is essential. The practitioner uses a mix of what works best to achieve his/her goals. It is neither all social media nor all print and broadcast nor all advertising.

Several of my former students have jobs with well-known PR firms at which they are responsible for Word of Mouth, or WOM, departments.  WOM is essentially consumers providing information to other consumers. The agency account reps drive the buzz about a client’s products or services. They facilitate the conversation via social media.

But yet, the traditional print media hangs on. Therefore, it must still be part of an effective media relations strategy.

But how? The cornerstone is the online newsroom, as long as it is set up and maintained correctly. An online newsroom provides journalists with 24/7 access to important information. But to be relevant, it must conform to fundamental, time-tested rules of what makes information newsworthy, such as:

  • It must be timely, for news means new.
  • The information must be important to key publics.
  • It must be interesting.
  • It should have a local angle, hitting close to home for publics.

My students, like working professionals, must learn that effective media relations means understanding the characteristics of all media, how best to use each, and how to select a proper mix. There is a rich mix of media from which to choose these days, but in the end, the basics of sound media relations still apply, even to those newspapers that remain viable.

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Mean-spirited, hate-filled political comments, that’s what.

I am a huge fan of Facebook, but I do not use it as a political forum. I use it to see what my friends are up to. I do not go to Facebook to hear political diatribes from any viewpoint. There are other venues for that.

I respect my friends’ political views, for I have strongly held beliefs, too. But I get tired of the political comments, which are often mean and hurtful.

If you don’t agree with someone else’s politics, fine, but wanting them silenced, marginalized, ridiculed, hurt, or at the worse, dead, puts you right up there with Joseph Stalin, Hugo Chavez, and other despots.

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My inner voice, the responsible, disciplined, professional voice, keeps saying, “You must blog. It’s been too long between posts.”

“Blog about what?” another voice in there says. I feel the pressure to blog regularly ever since I started this thing. But I also do not blog unless I have something to say.

So what am I doing between blog posts? Right now, I am reading and thinking. Like you, dear MWL reader, when I am working, there are so many demands on me that I often don’t have time to think, much less to read anything other than scholarly journals, textbooks, etc.

Now that I am on winter break between fall and spring semesters at Towson University, I love the freedom I have to read books for fun. And I love having the time to think.

Yes, just sit and think. When we are working, it seems like we do not have time to just think. We run from one task to the next with barely enough time to eat, much less to simply think.

To me, winter is a time for hibernation with the major activities being pleasure reading and thinking. It is life-affirming and rejuvenating.

Try it. I think you will like it.

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