Strengthened Purpose… My Media Use Continued


Since I reflected on my personal media use two months ago, those of us in New Hampshire have been inundated with political messages. I am in the group of more than 40% of voters in our state who are undeclared—often referred to as independent—and not registered as either a Republican or Democrat (Brooks, 2016). We can evaluate each candidate at all ends of the spectrum—and as the first 2016 primary in the nation, there were 58 candidates for us to choose from (Associated Press, 2015). That’s a lot of homework.

I believe that present day New Hampshire lacks the socioeconomic and cultural diversity to ideally represent a cross section of America. But it is our responsibility as influencers, tasked with the honor of voting first, to take extra efforts to try to understand the complexities of the issues of our nation and how they impact all of our citizens. This duty is what affected my recent media use the most, but what remains unchanged is how I approach media with intention.

My TV viewing habits changed. I viewed 3 Republican and 3 Democratic debates to educate myself. It seemed as if candidates could pretty much say anything they wanted in the debates to sway voters without having to be factual. After each, I followed up with research—doing my own fact checking. I was disappointed when news organizations were slow to point out false statements. It was also frustrating that the complexities of issues were not being discussed. During a Republican debate, an answer to the problem of drug addiction was to build a wall to stop drugs coming over the border (Team Fix, 2016). Not discussed—or even acknowledged—were over-prescribed opiates, inadequate rehabilitation options, and many other related concerns that make the issue of drug addiction too complex for a simple answer. The media fails at presenting fair perspectives when it does not cover the intricacies of issues, regardless of the matter, and does not discuss problems and solutions in a greater context.

I read more news about these issues and researched online. I attempted to make sense of the rhetoric coming from the candidates, which was amplified by news outlets; social media campaigns; and expensive direct mail and advertising from influential Super PACs. Cross-referencing information with credible sources—a media literacy skill—is time consuming but necessary to determine if information is factual.

My use of social media changed during this time. Like many, I broke my rule of keeping politics out of my social network. I used the platform to try to counter false information and educate others through easy-to-understand factual data, which I found through my research. My intent was not to sway anyone towards a particular candidate or ideology, but rather offer credible information that others could use to craft their own opinions. This mirrors the role of professional writers and news producers, which should provide information in a fair and ethical way.

We are all influenced by the media. This is one way that we learn. Being media literate helps us to be influenced by facts and truth, which shapes our opinion. But when false information is intentionally provided to influence us, it can be dangerous. Citizens without media literacy skills are unable to filter out these false messages, and will shape their opinion based on them. For example, they may have been led to believe that all Mexicans are rapists or that all Muslims are terrorists, which will influence their behavior, how they vote, and what laws they support.

Although the candidates have left my state, my concerns about the future of our nation continue. I repeat my prior reflection by stating, “I do not have grand ambitions to change the world, but if I help only a few people to think differently—stepping back to look at a new perspective or being more aware of an issue—then it is worth the effort.”


Altmann, G. (Photographer). Hands-1167619. Retrieved from

Associated Press. (2015, November 22). 58 candidates sign up for New Hampshire primary. Retrieved from

Brooks, A. (2016, January 21). WBUR poll: Large share of N.H.’s undeclared voters yet to settle on a candidate or a party

Team Fix. (2016, February 6). Transcript of the New Hampshire GOP debate, annotated. The Washington Post. Retrieved from



How Wine Can Make Your Blog Better

…and Other Multimedia Tips


Blending different grapes in the wine-making process is often used to enhance the aroma, color, and flavor of a wine. The different varieties compliment one another to create a wine that is higher quality than each of the individual components on their own. When you think in terms of what makes your blog effective to your audience, consider different multimedia that can be blended with your words for the most impact.

Visual Varieties

A common statistic used in blogs, articles, and books, is that our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Although that sounds impressive, there is simply no proof of this. The 3M study that is often credited as the source doesn’t even mention speed. It does, however, state that “presentations using visual aids were found to be 43% more persuasive.” (Vogel, Dickson, & Lehman, 1986, p. 3, para. 2). That statistic is much more important that speed. Relevant visuals are more persuasive because they support the written content and give the message more credibility.

Readers are also more likely to remember a message that includes both visuals and text (Sundar, 2000). Visuals can include:

Photos or IllustrationsOur attention span is only 3–8 seconds. (Stelzner, 2014). An image can be used with an engaging headline to immediately grab the attention of the reader. Additional photos or illustrations can be used to explain your content in a visual way. For example, Dr. Vino includes beautiful photos showing tables of bottles lines up and rows of wine glasses to support his blog about a wine tasting.

InfographicsAdobe Illustrator can be used to create visually engaging graphics that incorporate words to explain information or data. Infographics can be more effective than graphics alone (Krum, 2013). A fixed design is the most common, but interactive infographics add a dimension that involves the reader as a participant. Dr. Vino  has a great example of an interactive infographic, which shows a map of wine shops in Paris. When the user selects a map location, a box pops up with information about the shop. Unlike static visuals, interactive infographics are dynamic and are better in this case, because they customize the user’s experience to provide them information that they control. If you are interested in creating interactive graphics, check out D3.js for an open source javascript library that can help you bring your data to life.

Videos The majority of users prefer watching a video rather than reading content (Smith, 2013). Embedded videos are an effective way to present an animated infographic, presentation, or short movie to support your content. This helps your blog to be believable, but can be particularly effective for instructional or tutorial videos.

Audio Varieties

Audio Recording—A human voice on your blog page can tap into the reader’s emotions about your topic and lend credibility to your message.

Podcast—Think of these as mobile audio recordings, which can be listened to at work, in the car, or at home. You can also encourage your readers to subscribe to the podcast to increase traffic to your blog. GrapeRadio is a wine talk show that produces a podcast once a month.

The Finish

There is a great appreciation for the lingering flavor of a wine. Your message, too, may linger in ways that you didn’t expect. A benefit of using multimedia in your blog is that it can also increase traffic to your site. Search engines value multimedia much higher than your written content and a keyword in an image file can direct a user to your blog (Smith, 2013).

Finding the Right Blend

Without the right balance of varieties, a wine may fail to meet expectations. Know your audience and use media that is appropriate for your reader and for your message. Offer a blend of different forms of media, but remember blogs are meant to be simple. Providing an overload of information weakens your message. Limit your words, photos and video to be the most effective.

Wine producers go through many trials and errors to find the right blend to craft their best wines. So, pour yourself a glass of wine and think about what varieties of multimedia will best compliment your message.


Krum, R. (2013). Cool infographics: Effective communication with data visualization and design. Somerset, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from

GrapeRadio (2016, January 29). 2015 World of pinot noir seminar: Latitudes & longitudes [Podcast]. Retrieved from

Langer, R. (Photographer). (2014, May 1). Wine-335672. Retrieved from

Smith, M. (2013, March 28). Why multimedia blog content is good for your site. [Weblog]. Retrieved from

Stelzner, M. (2014, March 7). Visual storytelling: How to use visuals, videos and social media to market your business. Retrieved from

Sundar, S. (2000). Multimedia effects on processing and perception of online news: A study of picture, audio, and video downloads. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. 77(3). ABI/INFORM Global, p. 480. Retrieved from

Vogel, D., Dickson, G., & Lehman, J. (1986). Persuasion and the role of visual presentation support: The UM/3M study. Retrieved from


7 Best Practices for Blogs

blog-1027861_960_720I started this blog site as an assignment for a graduate class in communications and created 7 best practices for blogs, which stem from my purpose as a contributor of social media:

  1. Make a difference—Impact readers by inspiring them, teaching them, or offering them a new perspective.
  2. Include relevant and engaging content—Know your audience and provide value. Don’t publish just to publish.
  3. Keep it simple—Use an informal writing style that is easy to follow and a format that is clean. Proper grammar and punctuation make your message clear.
  4. Includes visuals—Words are strongest when supported with appropriate visuals.
  5. Remember that less is more—More words and graphics weaken the message.
  6. Be credible—Fact check, and don’t include false information. Offering your opinion is okay, but be fair.
  7. Proofread and edit—Nobody gets it right the first time. Taking the time to craft your error-free blog will earn you a growing readership.

If there were an official “Blogger’s Code of Conduct,” then I would be proud to sign my name and adhere to it. I have pretty high standards in my work, and it would help to validate my values for my readers.

As I review the blogs that I created so far, I think that I did a good job following my best practices guidelines, but several could be improved with more visuals. The blogs that had graphics were more appealing and might grab a reader’s attention more than those without.

One thing that I did especially well was making the content relevant to my audience. Some of my blog assignments did not necessarily lend themselves to natural blog content. My blog considered the audience rather than just fulfilling criteria with a simple Q&A, which might not make sense to the general public. I met the requirements, but took the extra time to put the blog in a context that is meaningful and relevant to the reader. For example, rather than a blog about the Oconee County Observations site, which would not concern most people, my Community Journalism blog focused on citizen journalism, and used the Oconee site as one of two examples. In Meet-ups and Mash-ups, the post about my trials of social media tools was more believable framed as a response to a conference that I had attended that same week.

If I could write about anything, it would be my travel experiences. I admire the Wisconsin couple that are traveling around the world and writing about it in their Getting Stamped blog site, which is a great example of a site that reflects my 7 best practices guidelines. Each blog includes a striking photo and engaging headline on a page that is clean and well-organized. Their text is concise and easy to follow. Their pages include a counter that tracks how many days and hours that they have been traveling, a graphic showing what country that they are currently in, and interesting travel stats, including miles traveled and beds slept in. The site also includes a resources section with travel information and recommendations.

I’m not in a position to quit my job and travel the world as Hannah and Adam have done, but their experiences inspire me to find my own unique travel experiences.


Hannah & Adam. (n.d.). Getting stamped. [Weblog]. Retrieved from

Lachmann-Anke, P., & Lachmann-Anke, M. (n.d.). #1027861. [Photo]. Retrieved on February 5, 2016, from

Meet-ups and Mash-ups

New Social Media Tools that Work Together

At a conference in Boston this week, I met Jason Boucher, the Social Media Manager at the University of New Hampshire, who informed me of some new media tools that might be helpful for me to reach my audience. Boucher said that one way he engages with students and alumni is to ask questions through social networks. A poll or a fill-in-the-blank post can generate many responses. To try this out I set up a quick Facebook poll using a widget—an embedded app—to ask my friends about the 2016 presidential debates that they have watched. This was easy to set up and generated info graphics illustrating the data for me to analyze. The free Polls for Facebook service provides only a maximum of 40 responses. Paid plans for unlimited response data currently range from $96 to $336 per year (“Polls,” n.d.).

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 11.44.16 AM

Debate poll on Facebook timeline

In a 24-hour period my poll had 33 visitors, with 25 participants. Producing quick polls not only engage my audience, but also provide me with useful data about them. For instance, 80% responded to the poll on a mobile device, while only 20% used a desktop computer. The gender distribution of respondents was 74% female and 26% male.

Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 9.06.32 PM

Results of debate poll

Another way to collect data is through a “mash-up” or aggregated social media tool that allows users to manage multiple social media accounts. Analytical data is available and can help refine media strategies. Boucher pointed out that an app, such as Hootsuite, is a powerful solution because combines the useful analytics with the effective functionality of a secure collaborative platform that allows a social media team to track and manage many channels—including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, and WordPress blogs—simultaneously from one place. One benefit of this approach is that a user can determine, through data analysis, the most effective time to post. If a user learns that there are more likes and shares with their audience at 10 p.m., rather than noon, they can create future messages on Hootsuite and schedule them to post at 10 p.m. for the greatest reach.

This promotional video gives an overview of how Hootsuite (2014) works:

I trialed the free version of Hootsuite and can see that the paid plans, which start at about $120 per year, have much more to offer in terms of the quantity of accounts and data reports included (“Hootsuite,” n.d.), which is needed for an accurate evaluation. I have to admit that I was a little overwhelmed by Hootsuite when I tested it out for myself, and I recommend that you take advantage of the numerous Hootsuite tutorials and webinars when you get started.

It is important to continue to learn all we can about how technology is changing so that we remain to be effective in our media-driven culture. I have now connected with Boucher through LinkedIn and have subscribed to his RSS feed to read more about social media on his blog posts found on The Huffington Post site (“HuffingtonPost,” n.d.). An old-fashioned conference session followed by a breakfast discussion led me to discover new tools that will help reshape how I incorporate improving technology into my media strategies.


Hootsuite. (2014, August 21). Hootsuite—Empower Your Business with Social. [Video]. Retrieved from

Hootsuite: Select your plan to get started. (n.d.). [Webpage]. Retrieved on January 30, 2016, from

HuffingtonPost blogger feed for Jason Boucher. (n.d.). [Webpage]. The Huffington Post. Retrieved on January 30, 2016, from

Polls for Facebook: Affordable plans that start at just $8 per month. (n.d.). [Webpage]. Retrieved on January 29, 2016, from


Community Journalism:

One door closes and another opens

The Internet has opened the doors to new ways of sharing information. Traditional news media have struggled to compete, and financial stresses have resulted in many changes, including staff reduction (Rogers, 2015). In the midst of this evolution, coverage of community news has dwindled. The same technology that has crippled mass media has enabled citizen journalism to fill this need—defined as “the reporting of news events by members of the public using the Internet to spread the information” (Technopedia, n.d.). Citizen contributors report on events and issues that are not being covered by mainstream media. Ordinary citizens provide news—many of them professional—and they are held to the same ethical standards as traditional journalists.

Dr. Lee Becker—a blogger and citizen journalist—demonstrates an excellent example of how citizens can apprise their communities with information that may not be publicized in any other way. A former journalist, Becker currently directs academic research projects on mass media. He has written two books and published numerous scholarly articles (Cox International Center, n.d.). Although he is not a practicing journalist, his background and dedication to the field make him more than qualified to generate the content for his local blog, Oconee County Observations (Becker, n.d.). As a citizen of his county since 1997 (Blogger, n.d.), Becker strives to inform the community of issues and events in an “accurate, fair and transparent” way—indicating that his stories adhere to the standards of the SPJ Code of Ethics (2014). In addition to news, he provides a forum for community members to express their thoughts and ideas. Becker is a responsible, quality blogger, and provides objective news reporting that empowers his community. But is blogging journalism? Andrews writes, “Calling a typical blogger a journalist is like calling anyone who takes a snapshot a photographer” (Andrews, 2003, pg. 63). However, good bloggers—those who verify facts, provide fair accounts, and follow ethical standards—are credible and can supplement the work of professional journalists (Rogers, 2015; Andrews, 2003). Research in this area has shown that community newsreaders value citizen journalists, as well as professional journalists, for local news (Nah & Chung, 2012).

In addition to citizens covering local issues, they can also partner with professional journalists to produce more meaningful stories. The Times-Picayune won two Pulitzer Prizes in 2006 for coverage of Hurricane Katrina (Carr, 2010). Gillmor (2005) credits this to the collaboration of professional journalists and non-professional citizen journalists. In its contest entry, the newspaper noted that they could not have done this work without them, “Our citizen reporters were as essential to this coverage as our staff and more essential than the standard human sources we have always relied on to tell us what is happening and why” (as cited in Gillmor, 2005, pg. 11). As conventional media continue to expand their resources with the use of citizen contributors, this alliance can strengthen the credibility and authenticity of both traditional and citizen journalism.


Andrews, P. (2003). Is blogging journalism? A blogger and journalist finds no easy answer, but he discovers connections. Nieman Reports, 57(3), 63. Retrieved from

Becker, L. (n.d.). Oconee County Observations. [Website]. Retrieved from

Blogger: Lee Becker. Retrieved from

Carr, M. (2010, April 5). The Times-Picayune’s Hurricane Katrina coverage among top ten works of journalism the past decade. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved from

Cox International Center: Dr. Lee B. Becker. Retrieved January 20, 2016 from

Gillmor, D. (2005). Where citizens and journalists intersect. Nieman Reports, 59(4), 11.

Nah, S., & Chung, D. S. (2012). When citizens meet both professional and citizen journalists: Social trust, media credibility, and perceived journalistic roles among online community news readers. Journalism, 13(6), 714-730. doi:10.1177/1464884911431381.

Rogers, T. (2015, September 9). Can bloggers replace professional journalists? Retrieved from

SPJ Code of Ethics. (2014) [Poster]. Indianapolis, IN: Society of Professional Journalists. Retrieved from

Technopedia. (n.d.). Citizen journalism. Retrieved on January 22, 2016 from

Report Now, Apologize Later

In this day and age, the speed of reporting news is often valued more than the accuracy of the news. Technology has enabled news to travel faster than ever before, and competition from social media puts even more pressure on journalists to get their story out first. This has unfortunately resulted in grave errors.

NPR was the first to report the 2011 shooting of Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, but erroneously announced that she had been killed. They compounded this error confirming her death with an email to NPR subscribers, a tweet, and a blog (Shepard, 2011). Because of NPR’s reputation, other news outlets followed, repeating the false death report. Dick Meyer (2011), executive editor of NPR News, later apologized and noted, “in a situation so chaotic and changing so swiftly, we should have been more cautious” (para. 3). This was a lesson for all media outlets, reminding them of their responsibility described in the SPJ Code of Ethics (2014), which says that information must be verified and warns “neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy” (p. 1).

Lessons were quickly forgotten. Two years later, the fast-breaking Boston bombing story challenged journalists once again, with unacceptable results. The New York Post featured two innocent young men and claimed that Federal investigators were trying to identify them (Willis, 2014). CNN, the Associated Press, and The Boston Globe mistakenly reported that an arrest was made, when nobody had been taken into custody. Publicized inaccuracies prompted the FBI’s statement to the media “to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting” (Carter, 2013).

Without the integrity of ethical standards, journalism will fail to inform and empower the public and be reduced to mere entertainment. For the news media to provide accurate information, we must lower our expectations for speed and raise our standards for quality.


Carter, B. (2013, April 17). The F.B.I. criticizes the news media after several mistaken reports of an arrest. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Meyer, D. (2011, January 9). Editor’s note: On NPR’s Giffords coverage. NPR. Retrieved from

Shepard, A. (2011, January 11). NPR’s Giffords mistake: Re-learning the lesson of checking sources. NPR. Retrieved from

SPJ Code of Ethics. (2014) [Poster]. Indianapolis, IN: Society of Professional Journalists. Retrieved from

Willis, O. (2014, October 1). [Blog]. NY Post settles lawsuit over infamous Boston bombing “Bag Men” cover. Retrieved from

Elvis Is Alive, and Other Claims

u-1-10runningforpresidentI remember, before the Internet, reading the outrageous tabloid headlines in the supermarket check out lane that made claims that Elvis is alive and there was scientific proof that Adam and Eve were really astronauts. We knew that photos were manipulated and that the stories were false. It was a form entertainment that was—and still is—supported by a niche group of readers. But a reader, who might have believed a story, could do no harm beyond telling a friend or two.

In the 21st century social media has become a powerful vehicle for individuals to share information exponentially with others. The ease of hitting the share button has led to the distribution of loads of misinformation. False claims and deceptive stories have gone from the supermarket check out lane into the news feeds of our personal devices. Sharers of information often do not take responsibility to do a credibility check for themselves and continue to spread this information to others.

A Credibility Check

With immigration being a popular issue being discussed by presidential candidates, my interest was sparked when I came across a Huffington Post article that countered common concerns. I wondered if the article was factual. Roque Planas (2015) makes the claim in his story, “One Of The Most Popular Anti-Immigrant Talking Points Just Keeps Falling Apart: Border walls never seemed so pointless,” that immigration from Mexico to the United States has decreased since 2008. He goes on to say that more Mexicans are actually leaving the U.S than immigrating. That’s not the message being sent during recent presidential debates. Surprised, I decided to take a closer look at the story.

I began my evaluation by confirming that the author is credible. Planas, who earned two master’s degrees and published academic research on Latin American Politics and U.S. Latino history, writes about Latinos and Latin America (Fellow Bios). He was recently appointed as a regional director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (Medina, 2015) and has written numerous articles as Editor of the Latino Voices section of The Huffington Post (The Huffington Post: Roque Planas).

Planas provides links to his reputable sources, which support his story, and includes data from the Pew Research Center and the United States Border Patrol, which I reviewed. He also offers incite from a policy analyst. This credible information backs up his message. I trust the information provided in this story and felt comfortable sharing it with my friends and family on Facebook.

A Disclosure of Biases

In addition to news, The Huffington Post offers blogs from 1,600 unpaid bloggers (The Huffington Post, 2016). Bloggers may not be professionals, and it is important for readers to evaluate the credibility of the information before believing it as fact, and discussing it or sharing with others.

Early blogs had been compared to talk radio because this new technology gave individuals and groups an opinion platform outside of mainstream news (Johnson & Kaye, 2004). Glenn Reynolds described a blog as “a disclosure of the blogger’s biases” (Johnson & Kaye, 2004, para. 12). I have found blogs to be informative, but it’s important to remind ourselves that blog writers are not bound by the same principles as traditional journalists and do not necessarily present accurate, fair information. As more journalists and large media outlets have begun to blog, this is starting to change, and more credibility can be found in blogs—but it’s up to the consumer to ascertain if this information, as well as all other forms of news, can be trusted.


Elvis Is Alive. [web photo]. Retrieved from

Fellow bios. Retrieved January 4, 2016, from

Johnson, T. J., & Kaye, B. K. (2004). Wag the blog: How reliance on traditional media and the internet influence credibility perceptions of weblogs among blog users. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly [H.W. Wilson – SSA], 81(3), 622-642.

Medina, M. (2015, November 17). NAHJ board appoints four regional directors. Retrieved on January 4, 2016, from

Planas, R. (2015). One of the most popular anti-immigrant talking points just keeps falling apart: Border walls never seemed so pointless. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from

The Huffington Post. (2016). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

The Huffington Post: Roque Planas. Retrieved on January 4, 2016, from