Lake Mills rezoning request ignites debate at Jefferson County Board meeting

JEFFERSON, Wis. — Controversy sparked at the Jefferson County Board meeting this past Tuesday over a rezoning dispute for 3.2 acres of land in the Town of Lake Mills.

The property in question, part of a 40-acre plot owned by Philip and Sandra Bittorf, is located at N7103 Stoney Creek Road. It currently houses the Bittorf’s personal residence and their business—Mid-State Traffic Control, which supplies road construction items including traffic signals and highway signs.

By law, the non-agricultural nature of Mid-State Traffic Control’s business would prevent it from retaining its existing position.

To solve this, the Bittorfs petitioned for their 3.2 acres of land to be rezoned from A-1 Exclusive Agricultural to A-2 Agricultural and Rural Business. The couple also requested a conditional use permit which would allow them to legally store their business’s equipment in three existing sheds within those 3.2 acres.

Under its current business model, the Mid-State Traffic Control site at the Bittorf property serves primarily as a storage location and a supply retrieval center according to a former employee.

Attorney Tyler Wilkinson of Axley Attorneys spoke on behalf of the Bittorf family explaining that the company’s workers only stop there to pick up work trucks and supplies which are brought to external job sites.

In addition to Wilkinson, 12 citizens publicly expressed their support for the Bittorfs’ request. They included Hope Oostdik, Karen Battist, Ellen Rust, Caryn Hansen, Elaine Schallmayer, Erik Halverson, Jean Lenz, Roselyn Bittorf, Aaron Bittorf, Carol Eck, Brandon Wilke and Terry Adams.

Those in favor of the request defended the Bittorfs’ business by explaining the value it has provided the community. For example, one former employee described how working for Philip helped him pay his way through college. Multiple others cited the family’s focus on safety and following proper legal procedures.

Main arguments against the rezoning came from attorney Jay Smith of Neuberger, Griggs, Sweet and Smith LLP, who represents eight property owners on Stoney Creek Road. According to Smith, many residents did not believe the property met zoning requirements.

Some concern was also expressed regarding noise levels and decreased property values. One neighbor, John Phillips, discussed safety concerns due to increased traffic from Bittorf’s work vehicles.

Over time, opinions have changed regarding the rezoning dispute. In August, the Town of Lake Mills Planning Commission and the Town of Lake Mills Board of Supervisors approved the Bittorfs’ rezoning request.  However, upon further review in September, the Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Committee gave its recommendation to the county board to deny the petition.

Some community members expressed their discontent with the changing opinions of committee members. Supervisor Steven Nass, chairperson of the Planning and Zoning Committee, defended the shift stating, “When [the Planning and Zoning Committee] came to our public hearing, there were 13 opposed and zero came in favor of this petition.”

“All the people that spoke in public comment tonight were not participatory in our decision making. We can only make a decision based on the information we have that day and that’s how we made our decision,” Nass said.

The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors voted on whether or not to send the Bittorfs’ zoning petition back to the board. Three supervisors— Donald Reese, Peter Hartz and Walt Christensen voted to deny the Bittorfs’ zoning petition (effective immediately). Two missing supervisors, Amy Rinard and Jennifer Hanneman, did not vote. An overwhelming majority of 24-3 voted to revisit the request at the next county board meeting.

Other items discussed included:

  • With no significant changes, the budget sustained no amendments or discussion during this week’s meeting. The 2016 budget tax levy for Jefferson County will reach approximately $70 million. Debt services will be used to pay for highways and law enforcement. Board members will vote on the 2016 county budget in early November.
  • Henry Gibbemeyer became the first graduate of the Alcohol Treatment Court which serves to promote treatment of alcohol addiction and provide members with the tools to learn from their mistakes and improve themselves after completing treatment. Gibbemeyer explained the rigorous requirements he faced to avoid a prison term. These included mandatory Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, breathalyzers and court dates to name a few. He stated that the program truly taught him about the significant impact his actions can have.
  • Lastly, a new website from United Way called “Get Connected” was unveiled. Its purpose is to connect volunteers with facilities or groups seeking assistance in Jefferson County and surrounding areas. The website is free and available to the public and includes a feature which tracks the resume of frequent volunteers. It can be found at www.volunteermain.com.

 

UWW College Dems “Feel the Bern”

WHITEWATER, Wis. — Approximately 40 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater students attended the UWW College Democrats’ viewing party to watch the first Democratic Primary Debate this evening. The CNN online stream of the broadcast was shown in Hyland Hall 1308 as students enjoyed complementary pizza and soda.

The debate began at 7:30p.m. CST and was held at the Wynn in Las Vegas, Nevada with CNN’s Anderson Cooper as moderator. It featured Democratic presidential hopefuls former U.S. Senator Jim Webb, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and former Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee. Two strong leaders immediately emerged from that list—Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Democratic presidential candidates from left, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee take the stage before the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Democratic presidential candidates from left, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, and former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee take the stage before the CNN Democratic presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Chafee’s incompetency and Webb’s impatience received unfavorable responses among the UWW crowd.

O’Malley was able to retain more respect than his fellow lesser-known candidates.

Throughout the debate, it was evident that Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were fighting for the American people’s attention and approval while the others essentially faded into the background.

Many topics were discussed including the Black Lives Matter campaign, use of military force, wealth inequality and education. The issue of gun control however, appeared to draw a greater interest due to the disagreement between Hillary and Bernie.

Anderson Cooper, moderator of the event, delivered the question “Should we shield gun companies from lawsuits.”

This series of questioning, featuring references to prior votes made by Sanders during his time in office, eventually resulted in what became the real question of this segment, “Is Bernie Sanders tough enough on guns?” which sparked a debate between Bernie and fellow frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

This was their key disagreement from the debate. Bernie said gun manufacturers should not be held liable for mass shootings whereas Hillary expressed her belief that gun manufacturers should experience the same level of liability as every other industry in America.

Ultimately though, they could agree that guns need to be kept out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

Before the meeting, UWW College Dem’s Club Chair Tim Hankes expressed the overwhelming sentiment of the group which favored Bernie Sanders in the debate.

“He’s basically more progressive than any candidate we’ve ever had and calls himself a democratic socialist,” said Hankes.

According to Hankes, Sanders hopes to educate more people on the definition of socialism in order to eliminate the negative stigma surrounding the term.

Throughout the debate, several examples of current services employed by the US government that would qualify as “socialist” were listed. These include Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, police and fire and rescue services to name a few.

Hankes also discussed the nationwide movement for Bernie Sanders that is currently underway. The campaign features two slogans— “It’s all about Bernie” and “Feel the Bern.”

Overall, the support Sanders has gained from young adults is clearly evident after speaking with members of the UWW College Democrats.

Many speculate that this is due to his viewpoint on education that college should be more affordable or even tuition-free.

Various students commented on Bernie Sander’s character saying that he appears to have the interest of the people in mind when taking political action.

Several club members also discussed their concern with the other candidates’ inability to represent the entire population as well as the trending inconsistency of partisan views.

Another student, Nathan Kober, explained that Sanders appears less corrupt because he has not accepted funding from big interest groups or companies. He also said that Bernie Sanders has proven his authenticity in standing by his viewpoints throughout the years.

According to Kober, both reasons contribute to his established trust with the American people.

The overall morale for Bernie Sanders strongly surpassed that of any other candidate tonight.

The majority of his statements elicited a positive response. In particular, he received a great deal of praise for the following comment to Hillary Clinton on her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state:

“[T]he American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.”

Sanders called for more direct focus on crucial issues facing the country instead of focusing solely on insignificant and already overly-discussed topics like the email scandal.

It is this sort of straightforward attitude that is respected by many of his followers, especially young people.

When asked why the group watched the debate together, they agreed that doing so unites students and promotes the movement for Bernie Sanders who they felt deserves continued and improved support.

At this stage, the race appears to be Bernie’s to lose.

Whitewater taxes may rise

WHITEWATER, Wis.—The 2016 municipal budget was presented to the Common Council this Tuesday in a meeting with city manager Cameron Clapper.

The budget has not yet been approved but will undergo further review at their next meeting on October 20, 2015.

With the proposed balanced budget, operating expenses will experience a 3.12 percent increase equivalent to approximately $305,000.

The operating budget will change from $9,472,401 in 2015 to $9,777,798 in 2016. This money comes primarily from intergovernmental revenue and a property tax levy which includes a proposed increase of 1.5 percent.

The third greatest source of revenue comes from public charges totaling $635,757.

Major spending items include general government expenses as well as those for public safety which encompasses 42 percent of the budget. Debt service and sinking funds will also be a key spending area.

To save time, Clapper highlighted various details from both the revenues and expenditures. Key revenue changes include:

  • Whitewater will receive less aid from the state’s Shared Revenue formula.
  • The state’s Payments for Municipal Services (PMS) will increase from $302,642 in 2015 to $379,058 for 2016 which only accounts for 41.23 percent of the actual cost. This is due in part to the purchase of a new ambulance.
  • Transportation aid is estimated to increase by $16,018 making for a total of $732,119 in 2016. All aid packages will be confirmed later this year.
  • The 2016 utility shared revenue will decrease by $32,990 making for a total of $442,879 in 2016.

Clapper also discussed changes to expenditures and gave the following updates:

  • There will be a 4.34 percent General Fund transfer increase equal to $25,965 applied to debt service.
  • Health insurance and worker compensation insurance both increased for Whitewater residents, but the city will contribute less towards the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). Support to law enforcement dropped from 16.68 percent to 16.18 percent and general employees experienced a decrease of 0.4 percent leaving the city with more than $78,000 to work with.
  • Whitewater passed a city minimum emergency fund requirement equaling 1 percent of the annual budget. This means Whitewater must save approximately $98,000 for 2016.

Cameron Clapper expressed concern over the feasibility of the new budget.

“We need to look at ways to fund things, which is always a big issue every year since costs go up and levies stay the same,” he said. “We are bumping up against a ceiling that will require changes to how we fund things if we want to be successful in the future.”

Whitewater’s current average tax rate is lower than Wisconsin’s mean rate by $1.27. The city also pays $1.34 less than the median rate in this state. That said, some consider increasing taxes an obvious solution to the city’s problem.

Although raising taxes is not typically favored, the dollars could be crucial to the improvement of Whitewater.

Clapper explained that continuing to make cuts without increasing taxes will likely cause the quality of life to suffer because the city will no longer have the resources to provide extra benefits for its citizens.

The Common Council will officially approve all changes in December. They meet the first and third Tuesday of every month.

The city manager also discussed:

  • Fund 205 will receive $160,000 to cover the city’s 27th annual bi-weekly payout for city employees. (While a typical calendar year only has 26 pay periods, a schedule shift produces an extra week after 12 years that is paid through a separate fund saved over time.)
  • With more total units (toters) of waste and reduced state funding, waste removal and recycling costs must increase by $6,701.
  • Whitewater will contribute $50,000 additional dollars to the aging Whitewater Aquatic Center (WAC) which needs renovations. The 15-year-old building is managed in part by the city and must be kept up. The typical annual expenditures of $78,000 cannot cover repairs to the building as well as maintenance.
  • High levels of fluoride were detected in the city’s drinking water, however it was determined that the data was affected by improper testing measures. There is no need for concern at this juncture.
  • Whitewater approved the Wisconsin Independent Network’s bid to expand the city’s fiber optic cable network to the wastewater plant.
  • The city will apply $45,000 towards managing the 2016 presidential Election Day.

Microsoft gives its customers the middle finger!

[Via Mashable: Microsoft flips off Apple and adds a middle finger emoji | Tricia Gilbride]

Mac and PC have been battling it out for years and, until recently, Apple has held a leg up on Microsoft in the mobile technology department. After Apple unveiled its diverse new set of emojis, Microsoft felt compelled to respond. The new Windows icon set includes a variety of vulgar hand gestures to delight many trash talkers here and abroad. In keeping pace with Apple, Microsoft’s users will be able to choose between five different skin tones. Now you can truly show people how you feel with one simple emoji—people are really FLIPPING out about it!

Mac vs PC

[Via Google Images]

While competition can be frustrating at times, it ultimately pushes society to constantly improve itself. The ongoing competition between Apple and Microsoft demonstrates this exquisitely. We won’t get better if we aren’t challenged to try new things. Plus, seeing the progress that other companies are making often inspires innovation. For those working in the field of journalism, this is important to remember. Always challenge yourself, strive to create new things, and learn from those around you when deciding what to create. You can always put your own creative spin on things.

Microsoft Middle Finger Emoji

[Via Mashable]

I have always been a competitive person, but I think looking at examples of how competition has actually spurred advancements in today’s world is very inspirational. If people continue to challenge themselves and others, who knows what’s possible? Also, I think Microsoft has done a great job of giving its customers what they want—something all professionals should consider. They have also been smart enough to make the image more abstract so as to not offend as many people.The Windows 10 update due in mid-2015. Unfortunately, Apple customers will not get to enjoy this racy emoji, but maybe they will come up with a way to outdo Microsoft with their next update. In the meantime, I hope Microsoft users have a fun time flipping their loved ones the bird.

Mobile media and the future of journalism

[Via Poynter How AJ+ reported from Baltimore using only mobile phones by Shadi Rahimi]

We’ve been hearing for a while that technology is the way of the future. It seems that mobile phones are going to play a crucial role especially for journalists moving forward. This is evidenced by AJ+ reporters covering the riots in Baltimore.

Screen-Shot-2015-05-01-at-10.51.02-AM

[Via Poynter]

As we know, people want content fast. They want viral news in their hands the second it is put into the world. While this isn’t always the easiest thing to do, mobile media truly offers the best way to get content out to the target audience as fast as possible.

This topic is so important for us journalists because we need to continually adapt the way we tell stories. We need to be fast and accurate! By shooting on mobile devices, we have the freedom to capture content without bulky equipment and disperse it quickly for those who want it now.

I think that journalists should continue embracing these new forms of technology. However, they need to make sure they are safe about using their equipment and with what they are capturing. If journalists are not careful, they can quickly walk themselves into a lawsuit. Overall though, the ability to capture a crowd’s energy truly is astonishing.

How to excel as a journalist

Last week, I touched on the outlook of various careers in the field of journalist. As showcased by my miniature freak-out, the stresses of being a journalist are all too real. Thanks to Poynter’s Kristen Hare, we now have a few tidbits of advice to help guide us through the tough times each of us will undoubtable encounter at some point or another. After reading her take on the matter, here are my key takeaways:

Press

[Via Google Images]

1. Expect change

The reality of life as a journalist is that change can occur at any time so you must always be prepared for it. In particular, layoffs happen quite often. While this alone might be enough to make you want to run away screaming, don’t! If you establish a strong support system, large financial savings, and remain open to the new opportunities that change can bring, you will survive—I promise!

2. Exchange favors

Although your natural survival instincts may be telling you otherwise, doing favors is actually an excellent strategy! Think about it logically, who are you more likely to do a favor for—someone who treated you like crapor someone who has helped you out in the past. If you are kind to others, they will remember. Relationships matter! Enough said.

3. Expose yourself

Admittedly, risk is scary. However, if you never do anything scary then you probably aren’t doing anything worthwhile. Risks propel us forward. Plus, if nobody took risks, no advancements would be made in the world. Be bold, be open, be original, and don’t worry about failing. Worst case scenario you tried, but then you won’t have to live without regret or a “what if”. You never know where things will lead you, so just hang in there!

This advice is important for those who may be feeling a little discouraged by remaining in this field. There really is a way to sustain yourself in this career. I found the pieces of advice offered by each of these articles interesting because they were so obvious, yet so overlooked. The root of survival really is in maintaining relationships and self-confidence. I think that the prospect of this career track is scary, but worth it in the end. Thinking about these things will definitely be helpful moving forward. What do you guys think? What is the best advice you have heard about remaining in this field?

Why I’m quitting journalism to become a lumberjack

[Via Jim Romensko: Newspaper Reporter is ‘The worst job of 2015’ http://jimromenesko.com/2015/04/14/newspaper-reporter-is-the-worst-job-of-2015/]

Do you have a large beard and a passion for chopping down trees? Well then maybe you should consider a career as a lumberjack! Why you might ask? According to CareerCast’s list ranking 200 jobs, newspaper reporter landed on the bottom of the list, you guessed it—even behind lumberjack! For the most part, our outlooks as journalists are pretty bleak. The study conducted for 2015 factored in the following categories when assessing the rankings: physical and emotional environment, pay and income growth level, stress level, and job outlook. What does this mean for journalists? Perhaps we should consider a different career path.

career

[ #200 out of 200 jobs/CareerCast graphic]

As college students, we are in a sensitive position. The past 4 years will work to shape our entire future. However, according to some, it’s important to know when to give up. CareerCast suggests channeling the skills one gains as a journalist into a job like Marketing, Advertising, or even Human Resources. If you cannot succeed in your own field, doing so seems to be a good solution. We young journalists entering the work field need to consider all of these factors when applying for jobs and deciding which career path to take.

If you ask me, these rankings are more than a little unsettling. After spending thousands of dollars and working our butts off, it would be nice to feel like we didn’t waste a big portion of time, energy, and money.  Although I have been aware of the decline in the print media market for quite some time and have considered the challenges of broadcast, it is sad to see just how bleak the outlook is in the field of journalism. While some of the jobs making the top of the list made sense, others appeared a bit questionable. I still don’t understand how lumberjack has a more favorable outlook than working for a newspaper. It is interesting because when newspapers first emerged, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the way the industry would change. Luckily, Meteorology has made it so that those looking to enter the broadcast field have at least one option that isn’t quite as hopeless. Nonetheless, I do look damn good in plaid, so maybe I’ll have to consider switching my major to lumberjacking. Here is where some popular journalism jobs landed on the list:

18. Meteorologist

91. Broadcast Technician

195. Photojournalist

196. Broadcaster

200. Newspaper Reporter

April Fools’ prank gone awry at Buffalo State

[Via Jim Romensko | Updated: Buffalo State College newspaper’s funding is frozen over April Fools’ issue]

What started out as an innocent prank went horribly awry for the SUNY Buffalo State College newspaper The Record. Deviating from its typical style, the weekly paper published an issue under the name The Wreckard, a play on words based on their actual name, including various phony articles. While some found the edition funny, others petitioned against the paper causing them to, at one point, lose their funding.

buffalostateHallsidewalk

[Via Google Images]

This charge was led by the school’s student government who claimed its right to do whatever necessary to ensure the comfort and safety of all students on campus. The newspaper staff, however, defended the issue. After a great deal of discussion, the decision to cut funding was reversed. It was determined that the students working at the newspaper had their freedom of speech rights violated. Some speculators questioned if the proposed budget cut was simply a joke in response to The Record’s prank.

Nevertheless, there is an important lesson to be learned here. Although we have the right to free speech, there will still be consequences for what we say. As journalists, this is very important to remember because one wrong move can spoil your reputation or credibility and ultimately end your career for good. In my opinion, I think the use of satirical humor is fine, but some readers can become offended by it. It is hard to know an appropriate time to use it. I suppose the best bet if you don’t know how others will react is to play it safe.

Hot lecturer gains fame fast

 

[Via Mashable | Blathnaid Healy: Students discover their math lecturer is also a successful male model]

In the world, there are few things I hate more than math or anything related to the subject. However, purely for the sake of academics, I have nobly chosen to share with you some information on a particular lecturer at the University of London who has taken the world by storm recently.

Purely.

Screenshot 2015-03-27 14.23.53

Academic.

tumblr_mvhpskotox1qg22hlo1_1280

Purposes.

20150329_94234_pietro-boselli-7

Pietro Boselli, 26, has been working with the university’s Mechanical Engineering students for approximately one year. Boselli was discovered by Giorgio Armani and has since been living a double life as a lecturer and a male model. This did not go unnoticed, as one of his students—Arief Azil immediately took to Facebook upon realizing Boselli’s identity. So, if you’ve ever wondered, models are people too. [See below]

Math Lecturer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is this beautifully chiseled man so important you might ask? This all ties back to our conversation on viral sameness in news. Like #TheDress and several others, this story has generated a lot of buzz very quickly. This story reinforces the need for us as journalists to create desirable content. I found this story interesting because of its ability to draw in viewers. When thinking about it, a news organization could probably post a story called “hey, look at this hot dude/chick” and it would instantly gain tons of views. In my opinion, hard news cannot compete with these viral, otherwise unimportant stories.

(No offense Pietro)

Screenshot 2015-03-27 14.26.39

I think it would be funny to do a bait and switch story strategy. Post a story called “What Obama would look like with abs” (or something to that effect) and then have that shown at the end of a story about budget reforms or something important. I’m just looking at the options, people. Okay, maybe this drastic move isn’t necessary, but in my opinion, we should consider simplifying our content so that more readers can understand major news stories. I think most times it is hard to follow major stories because if you miss a piece of the story or don’t know the full history behind it, it doesn’t make any sense. How can we solve this problem? Post a comment with your thoughts!

Also, it is with a heavy heart that I announce this will be my last post seeing as I will be moving to London to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Just kidding….

 

Facebook this week | Nipples: Do or don’t?

[Via Mashable | Stan Schroeder]

Recently, the question to end all questions has been—should I show my nipples on Facebook? According to recent updates made to the Community Standards page, no. This answer came after a set of clarifications were defined on the social network’s nudity and speech policies. The BBC has stated that the new list now spans 2,500 words and includes four sections including safety, respectful behavior, privacy and security, and lastly intellectual property.

Community Standards Facebook

As is to be expected in this highly sexualized world we live in, the policy regarding nudity has been quite popular. Formerly vague, the new guidelines go into explicit detail regarding banned behaviors including posts that display genitals, fully exposed buttocks, and female breasts with the nipple included. Facebook does however allow content displaying breastfeeding, nude art depictions, and post-operation photos. Although it may go without being said, Facebook also stated that people must not post explicit sexual activity or write about sexual acts in great detail.

In addition to these rules, Facebook also explained they will not allow for violent/graphic content or anything that promotes hate or racial, ethnic, religious, sexuality, gender, or other forms of discrimination. They will however allow commentary on these topics if in the form of humor or satire. Moreover, site says it will continue working with law enforcement to maintain legal standards online.

This topic is important because as journalists, we too must be careful about what we post online. One cannot post something that could be deemed offensive regardless of intent. In particular, I think of the campaigns for breast health awareness that included female breasts with nipples showing. This still isn’t allowed even if it is for a good cause. I found this particular segment of the policy interesting because men do not experience the same physical restrictions. Also, I have to wonder how they plan to monitor the abundant amount of content posted to Facebook each day. In my opinion, I’d rather see a female breast than a hairy man nipple, but that’s just me. Nonetheless, I do understand that need to avoid objectification of women and the risk of exposing younger users to inappropriate content. As for monitoring content, I believe a lot of things will slide through the cracks. They cannot be everywhere at once. We will simply have to wait and see.  Until then, check out the new Community Standards page here.

Breaking up with Facebook

[Via: SocialTimes Feed | David Cohen]

Whether you’ve given up Facebook for lent, or you simply need a break from all of the notifications, there is a solution for you. According to David Cohen’s article on SocialTimes, the website is using a new deactivation strategy in order to lure back previous users. Essentially, the new Facebook feature will allow users the option to automatically reactivate their recently deactivated accounts within a 28 day time frame.

FB Screen Shot Deactivate

[Screenshot courtesy of MarketWatch]

A study by Cornell University showed that approximately one-third of Facebook’s users deactivate their accounts at some point in time.  The mindset behind this strategy is to keep all profile data in-tact in order to ensure that users can return to the account if they so choose. Although University of Vienna studies have shown that those most like to deactivate their accounts were males aged 31 with privacy concerns, there are many others who deactivate their accounts for various reasons.

Facebook appears to be well aware of this and its changing role in the social media marketplace. With that said, I think it is important to examine the ability of a business, whether journalistic or otherwise, to recognize its role and adjust its strategy. Luckily some news networks are catching on to this and changing their own strategies as a result.  If news outlets were more forgiving and gave their readers more of a chance to venture out and find their way back naturally, maybe they wouldn’t lose as many readers/viewers. It’s like dating—sometimes you have to date some toads to see the good in what you had.

In another sense, it is interesting that Facebook has essentially allowed its users to become the prodigal son—even if they leave, the website will welcome them back with open arms and pretend they never left.   It may seem like a waste of space, etc., but I think this is genius. Realistically, people change their minds. To assume they might never come back isn’t always correct. By storing the data, they may be able to regain a member they would have otherwise lost.

 

 

#TheDress

[Via: Poynter | Benjamin Mullin—‘The Dress’ illustrates ‘viral sameness’ among news organizations]

On occasion, media consumers find themselves asking some variation of the following question—why in the bloody hell am I reading this? This is news?? Often times, this question is followed by, if this is news….I should be famous by now…what the heck!? Why aren’t I a billionaire yet, seriously? This past week, a few readers were feeling this way after constantly hearing about a now infamous dress. The quick background for those who have been living under a rock lately is this—there was a dress that surfaced on social media and now everyone is obsessing over its color (black and blue or white and gold). Spoiler alert: I don’t care what science says….the dress is still #WhiteAndGold.

#TheDress

 

[Via Wired: The original image is in the middle. At left, white-balanced as if the dress is white-gold. At right, white-balanced to blue-black. Read their article THE SCIENCE OF WHY NO ONE AGREES ON THE COLOR OF THIS DRESS here.]

The more important topic this dress has brought to light is that of viral stories and news coverage. When the story of the dress was initially released, it became a viral sensation essentially within a 24-hour time period. This was due, in part to social media use. Also, many news networks, including some very prestigious ones, were providing their own coverage of the story. According to Mullin’s article, shortly after being published, the original BuzzFeed post about the dress had already received 26.3 million views and 6,500 comments. This brings us back to the original question—why is this news? The answer is pretty simple…these news networks are just giving the people what they want. It appears as though many news websites are releasing these copied stories primarily to drive traffic to their pages.

The Poynter article brings up a few good points. Essentially, Mullin explains that with such a variety of news sites posting these same stories, it is causing them to lose their unique identities and news is becoming too similar across a broad spectrum. In order to describe the phenomenon he used the term “viral sameness”. This topic is so important to discuss because as journalists, we must make these sorts of decisions every day! Do we go with what the crowd is doing or listen to Frost’s advice and take the path less traveled by?

The-Road-Not-Taken

To me, it appears to be a question of viewership/popularity versus maintaining your news network’s integrity—it feels like high school all over again! As journalists, we are supposed to tell the truth. In this case, they technically are…but is it immoral for news networks to take stories and slightly alter them and claim the credit? In my opinion, it sort of seems like stealing. I think in school this would be considered plagiarism. But, at the same time, I understand how important it is to keep up with demand! I find this interesting because it is so difficult to find balance between the two. At the end of the day, most people got annoyed with the overabundance of the same story. With that being said, ultimately, I think entertainment news should keep reporting on this kind of stuff and maybe The New York Times and such should stick to hard news. If they want to keep up with demand, maybe it would be best to make the story their own somehow. After all, maybe Frost had it right.

 

Man dies due to uppercut from Batman

Image

[Via: jimromenesko.com]

Now for those of you who know me personally, you’ve likely learned that I have the social disorder in which I laugh at times I shouldn’t. However, this time, I was not the only one laughing hysterically at what would typically be an inappropriate topic. What in the world am I talking about you might ask? An obituary.

bat

Before you condemn me to the fiery bowls of hell, listen to the story. After the death of a 31 year-old Floridian man named Stephen Merrill, a legendary obituary was posted in the paper to honor his memory. The posting started out typical, citing his date of death as February 12, 2015. However, the cause of death wasn’t so typical.

According to the obituary, Merrill died according to, wait for it, an “uppercut from Batman”! According to WFTS-TV, Stephen Merrill’s family created the tale because they were unaware of his cause of death at the time. Also, the Lakeland Ledger, also known as the local newspaper who published this masterpiece, has a policy which requires an official cause of death in order for an obituary to be published.

So why an uppercut from Batman you might ask? A source close to the family stated that Merrill was a huge fan of comics and they thought this would be a fun way to honor his memory. One family member stated that Stephen was the type of guy who would not want people to be saddened by his death but rather get a chuckle out of reading his obituary. I have to commend the family on staying so positive during such a tragic time.

As for the Ledger, many have questioned their policy that has forced people to make up stories. The newspaper’s editor, Lenore Devore, state that the policy requiring an official cause of death has been revised. Devore went on to say that Merrill’s obituary could have been published without the Batman comment. Nevertheless, family and friends of Merrill have said they are pleased with it.

Batman Uppercut

This topic is important because it asks the question—why would a news publication, formerly or presently, enact a policy that might force people to lie? Wouldn’t they want to ensure that their publication is 100 percent representative of the truth? Isn’t that the job of journalists? Also, if you were the paper’s editor, would you publish this story? Sure it provides a great deal of entertainment, but is wasn’t technically truthful (from what we know).

I found it interesting mainly because it made me laugh. But also, it got me thinking about whether or not it is more or less moral to publish this obituary. I actually would have to side with the decision to publish it. This is especially respectable if the family gets a brief break from grieving to honor their loved one in a humorous manner that was very true to the individual who died.

 

 

Inmate gets 37.5 years in solitary confinement for 38 Facebook posts

[Via SocialTimes Feed by David Cohen: Read the Original Article at http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/south-carolina-department-of-corrections-inmates-punished-facebook/615210]

Well folks, there is yet another reason to be careful about what you post to Facebook…especially if you are an inmate. According to an article published to adweek.com by David Cohen, prisoners at the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) are facing huge repercussions for posting to the social media site Facebook. The article went on to explain that more than 400 cases have been brought against inmates of the facility since it made “creating and/or assisting with a social networking site” a level-one offense.

Week 5 Blog QUOTE

 

On average, SCDC inmates receive 512 day sentences. But, three men received sentences totaling 24.6 years, 34.5 years and 37.5 years respectively. They also lost privileges including telephone use and visitation rights. Although these cases often don’t include any Facebook Terms of Service violations, the company has complied with SCDC requests to remove user profiles created by inmates.

This article brings up the topic of social media’s role in society. At a glance, it may seem unimportant. But, social media is SUCH a powerful tool. That is what makes this topic important to discuss. As this article shows, the use of sites like Facebook truly is a privilege. In the wrong hands, these types of websites can become very dangerous.

FB screen shot Prisoner

I found this article interesting because it got me thinking about punishment strength for such a crime and how that correlates to the societal importance of social media. In my opinion, the punishment seems a bit harsh. But, ultimately, I understand how necessary it is to send the message to inmates that it is NOT okay to be doing this. It seems as though the SCDC is simply trying to make an example of these prisoners.  Nevertheless, one lingering question still remains—how are they getting on FB in the first place??

Tips on giving the best HEADlines….

[Via Poynter: 50 shades of word play: Getting beyond first-level creativity READ THE ORIGINAL STORY HERE http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/318421/getting-past-50-shades-of-bland/]

Headlines are the foreplay of news stories. Some find them unnecessary and just want to jump right into the story. But, any good writer knows you need to build the anticipation before diving in.  This week on Poynter, Roy Peter Clark discussed the importance of maintaining creativity when writing headlines, tweets, and more.

How is one supposed to accomplish this? A little thing called “second-level creativity”. What is “second-level creativity” you might ask. Essentially it is the practice of avoiding clichéd jokes/references when naming a story in order to avoid turning off your readers. Think about it this way—if you use what you consider to be a funny headline, but 50 others have also used this title, it will not be funny.

Fifty Shades Boring Meme copy

 

One example of this occurred when an NYC blizzard turned out to be a dud. A few too many writers wrote of a “nopacalypse”. In most cases, writers only reach the first level of creativity. The problem is that many others are also at this level. The challenge is to extend to the next level of creativity.

In order to reach that level, Clark suggests this. First, challenge yourself. If you use the first title you come up with, it probably won’t be super creative. But, if you brainstorm and compile a list as you go, there is a better chance of really wowing your audience. When it comes down to it, writers must play around with words in order to find the perfect title, phrase, etc.

It is so important to have good titles and maintain creativity! Who wants to read boring content? I’ll answer that, no one. A great story could be completely ignored if it doesn’t have a good enough title. Clark’s tactic is interesting because it is so simple yet often overlooked.  Making a list of options for titles a good way to start. However, Clark makes creativity seem easier said than done. I think a way to ensure that you are actually being creative would be to do a simple Google search of your proposed story title. If Clark’s claim of widespread use of the same titles for stories is true, then adding this step to the publishing process might prevent a writer from mistakenly using a title that isn’t creative/new.

I took my own advice and brainstormed quite a few titles before coming to a decision. Here are a few of the runner-ups:

  • 50 shades of grey-t Titles
  • Leave your readers in ecstasy
  • Play with her titles
  • Going down…in writing history!
  • Talk wordy to me
  • Improve your oral skills
  • How to use your wood (pencil)

Okay, this is getting bad. I’ll stop now. But, the point is you have to really explore your options when writing headlines. Practice makes perfect right?

 

 

My Top 3 Blogs

When I say the word blog, what comes to mind? For many, this question warrants a different answer. Being a journalist and a college student, it is difficult to select a blog. The journalist in me wants reliable news from reliable sources, while the youngster in me wants to unwind with some comical reading material. With that being said, I have chosen to analyze a few of my go-to “fun” blogs. I will leave the hard news up to the major news networks. In the meantime, let’s take a look at my list.

#1JENNA MARBLES’ VLOG

https://www.youtube.com/user/JennaMarblesVlog/featured

Jenna Marbles Vlog

For those who haven’t heard of Jenna Marbles, allow me give a brief introduction. Essentially, she is a comedian from New York who quickly rose to YouTube fame. Most people either love or hate her vulgar style. Many criticize her for her excessive use of expletives, but what most don’t know is that she is highly educated with a B.S. in Psychology as well as a Masters in Sport Psychology and Counseling.

Nonetheless, she is obviously doing something right considering her YouTube Vlog channel alone pulls in more than 1 million subscribers. I believe the key strength of this vlog is the flexibility provided by the platform on which it appears—YouTube. News anchors always have to be professional. While there is a time and place for professionalism, sometimes it is nice to deviate from societal rules and political correctness. YouTube is a great place for this.

She plays to this strength by providing content that is relatable and humorous. As I mentioned in my previous post, our society loves seeing famous people in their regular lives. This exposure helps to create a loyal fan base. Jenna Marbles posts videos of her pets, boyfriend, and friends—things most people also post and can therefore relate to. Her blunt nature furthers her relatability. Real people swear, have controversial opinions, laugh, and do/say silly stuff.

YouTube also serves as an amazing tool for audience building. Starting with an entertainment channel on YouTube allowed her to accrue many followers in her target demographic rather quickly. Also, the platform is easy to understand partially due to its widespread use across the United States and world as a whole. She further utilizes the advantages of YouTube by linking to her other websites and social media accounts.

#2 PEREZ HILTON’S BLOG

http://perezhilton.com/

Perez Hilton Screen shot

While my reputation as a journalist may be slowly dwindling as my list continues, I stand by my choices. Perez Hilton’s blog made the number two spot for a few specific reasons. Like Jenna Marbles, he gives the people what they want! This is an important strength because people read content they find entertaining. Most people have no clue what ISIS is, but they sure have an opinion about Jelena and the Kardashians.

Case-in-point, which picture do you think most people have seen before?

Beiber Calvin Klein ISIS Al-Qaeda Militants Fighting Syrian Civil War

 

[Photos courtesy of Google Images]

Perez Hilton plays to this strength by providing lots of pictures and buzz word tags for stories. Many people are visual learners or simply enjoy looking at images. That is a no brainer. However, Hilton picks pictures that people want to see and makes it easy to find them. Rumors have been circulating that Bruce Jenner is transitioning into a woman. Hard to believe, right? Well, Hilton’s blog readers can view the pictures and form an opinion on their own. Miley Cyrus was spotted naked on the beach with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s son? Who doesn’t love nudity? This might make some people lose faith in the USA, but this is the cold hard truth—people love this stuff!

Miley Boobs Google Search

The importance of those tags really comes into play when it is time to draw in an audience. Sure, the media consumer might start out simply wanting to see what Miley Cyrus’s boobs look like….but they might gain so much more than they could have possibly imagined! Tags are such an important tool when it comes to gaining readers. If your blog is the first result when they type something in, there is a far greater chance people will stumble upon your page.

#3 TASTE OF COUNTRY

http://tasteofcountry.com/category/country-music-news/

Taste of Country Screenshot

The last, but not least, blog I’d like to cover is called Taste of Country. While I recognize that country music requires selective taste, I maintain my right to enjoy it. If you don’t like country music, this is not the blog for you. But, if you do, you’re in luck! Taste of Country is a user friendly, visually appealing blog. Its content spans across multiple web platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and others in addition to its main website.

The main strength of this blog would have to be the access it provides to exclusive content like interviews and musical performances from various country music artists. Moreover, any news related to a country music star can be found on this website. Taste of Country plays to its strengths by providing links to stories and other content people might be interested in if they themselves can’t provide the content. This is very important for any media website whether its purpose is entertainment or news.

Taste of Country employs a lot of great tactics in order to gain readers. For example, they often offer incentives to follow them. Some past ones have included the chance to win prizes like concert tickets and signed merchandise from various country artists. Many people can respect the mentality of “I’ll do something for you, if you do something for me”. Plus, you can always unsubscribe to their pages/channels/what have you once you lose the contest that enticed you to join their site in the first place.

Something that these blogs all have in common is successful use of tags, lots of visuals, links to other social media accounts, and a place for readers to come together and start discussions. Any blog can pull in an audience, but it takes a great blogger to truly build a web community! The biggest thing I have taken away from analyzing these blogs is that bloggers must create a place where people will want to stay and eventually return to. I chose these three blogs/vlogs because they have gotten me to return time and time again. So what do you guys think? What makes a good blog? What makes you come back to a blog?

 

HIMYM star turned Twitter pioneer: Neil Patrick Harris first to use new Twitter feature

[Via Feedly: LostRemote Feed]

When it comes to Twitter, we’ve seen it all—right? Wrong. Now admittedly, I haven’t used Twitter in about a year. But, thanks to my ever-expanding How I Met Your Mother obsession, my attention was immediately captured when I saw that Neil Patrick Harris was the first person in history to use the new mobile video feature unveiled by Twitter earlier today.

You can view Neil Patrick Harris’s Oscar-related video tweet here:NPH Screenshot Twitter

https://twitter.com/ActuallyNPH/status/560049149836808192

Essentially, the product feature will allow users to create, edit, and post 30 second videos in their tweets. This can all be done through the mobile Twitter app. Watching videos takes only one click or tap. The website claims its feature is very easy to use and is available across multiple cellular companies’ devices. iPhone users will even be able to upload videos directly from their camera roll.

Twitter says it envisions users capturing and sharing clips of important life moments like a baby’s first steps. While an endless stream of cat videos and advertisements might be a bit more likely, it will be interesting to see where this new features leads.

I imagine the video tool will also be used to make journalism more personal and help capture larger audiences. As we know, journalism is becoming increasingly web-based. Social media websites like Twitter allow journalists to stay relevant and produce and distribute content fast and easily. It’s going to be legen……wait for it…..dary!

We live in a celeb-obsessed time. With that being said, people want to follow those who they feel a personal connection with. So, if journalists are smart, they will allow their followers/viewers to get to know them as an actual human being. A 30 second Twitter video may cause the public to trust them more as a journalist. After all, if it works for Neil Patrick Harris, why can’t it work for us?