Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In-text advertising...what?

I've noticed that I don't tend to blog on very positive things. I suppose I'll keep with tradition and blog about a recent article on the Wall Street Journal Online. "Is It News...or Is It an Ad?" caught my attention immediately. I write press release articles for a few companies in town, and know how much fun it is to try to get them published. I assumed that's probably what the article was about.

I was wrong. New "in-text" advertising is a new addition to many news websites. The ads used to be limited to small niche gaming sites, but more mainstream sites are now featuring the trend including Fox News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Popular Mechanics magazine.
"Journalism ethics counselors decry the trend. 'It's ethically problematic at the least and potentially quite corrosive of journalistic quality and credibility,' says Bob Steele, the senior ethics faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Fla."
I am appalled by this new trend. It's another way for the newspapers to compensate for dwindling profit margins, but putting ads within the text of an article, to me, is despicable. I have problem enough with the pop-ups and flashing ads on the sides of the articles already.
"The brokers say the ads aren't intrusive because users see them only if they move their cursors directly over the highlighted words."
Yeah...right. Too often my mouse scans over an ad and I am bombarded with a movie trailer I don't want to see or a "throw the ball at the target and win" game. The last place I wanted this to happen was when I was trying to read the paper. I suppose I'll just have to stick to the print version.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Woman's Christmas Chores

As the Christmas season descends upon us, I can't help but think of the way media portray women's responsibilities throughout the season. It seems that everywhere I turn there are frilly decorations for the home, Christmas cards to be sent, and cookie recipes galore. Christmas is a stressful time for everyone, but I'm just beginning to get a taste of the pressure placed on women to perform their "duties" during the holiday season.

I come from a divorced home, so I inevitably take on a motherly role when I am with my Dad. Cleaning the house, cooking the meals, and keeping everyone happy is on my to do list. This responsibility has been pushed to the forefront, though, with the holiday season. Christmas with the family will be at my Dad's house, and although I know it isn't necessarily my responsibility, I am feeling the pressure to keep the house clean and prepare for the holiday.

Not only did I respond to this pressure by giving the house a thorough scrub down, but I baked 10 dozen cookies this past weekend. Sadly, I did not get the decorations put up, but I have my plan ready to execute.

I learned this weekend that there is more to Christmas than sitting around the Christmas tree and opening up the presents. I'm no longer a little kid that's satisfied with $10 Barbie. I'm 21 years old now-no longer a child. I suppose I got my own little taste of what it's like to play the adult feminine role at Christmas.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A meeting with the Iowa State Patrol

On my long four hour trek home with my brothers, we stopped to eat at a local Taco Johns in Cherokee, Iowa. As we were eating, I looked up to see three members of the Iowa State Patrol walk into the door, followed by two other women. As the state troopers talked with the women, I couldn't help but chuckle at the flirtation that I thought was taking place. The state troopers received their food and the women followed with their food as well. To my surprise, the women were wearing state patrol uniforms as well.

My brothers and I had all made the assumption that the women were in pursuit of the "men in uniform". I couldn't help but be upset with my false conclusion. We had just talked in class about the ideologies and discourses of gender. I had immediately bought into the idea that the women that had walked in the restaurant couldn't possibly be officers, but rather women seeking a male.

I consider myself a strong, independent woman, that doesn't need a male to validate my worth. I apologize to the women that I made false assumptions about. I was too easily swayed by our cultural portrayals of what feminity and masculinity should be. I hope I learned my lesson this time around.

Monday, November 20, 2006


A recent article by Ameet Sachdev on brought to the forefront a new practice by many lawyers: "blawgging". In the article titled Blogging Lawyers: The Ethics Debate, Sachdev highlights what different states are doing to tackle ethical issues brought about by the journaling lawyers. Many believe that the blogs are being used as free advertising. A large can of worms may have just been opened in the blogging world.
"'If I blog and I talk about the law, why should that be treated any differently from a lawyer who goes to a senior center and gives a free talk about elder care?' said Marty Schwimmer, a lawyer who writes a blog about trademark and copyright law."

Many states are beginning to try to regulate what is posted on the lawyers' blogs, bringing about concerns of freedom of speech and professional ethical conduct. It seems to me that regulation of online content is becoming a large problem. I do agree that there should be some restrictions online, but I think that regulating anyone's blog is a direct infringement on a person's rights.
"The New York state's office of court administration has proposed some requirements that may pose a burden to lawyer bloggers. One amendment would require attorneys to provide copies of all ads. The definition of advertisements would include Web sites, e-mails, blogs and speeches."

I am ok with some online regulation, but to me, a blog is a personal journal. Bloggers don't have a whole lot of control over who reads their blog, unless they want to. If lawyers can get some free "advertising" out of the deal, more power to them. If regulations are going to be put into effect, they will need to be very specific and much less broad than what New York is proposing. It's not as if the blogs are being shoved in people's faces--many go out looking for them.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Don't like a story? Just steal all the newspapers...

With the plethora of good news in the media world, I decided to try and find something more uplifting to blog about. I had no such luck, but I did find something quite interesting. A link on Romenesko lead to a story about The Univesity of Kentucky newspaper and a recent controversial article they ran in their newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel. Over 4,500 copies of the paper were stolen, likely because of the content of one of the stories.

The story in question is about a two students and an alumna who had died earlier this year in two separate incidents. The toxicology reports on the late students stated that they were legally drunk at the time of their death.
"'A lot of people have different opinions about how drinking is dangerous for students," Poore said.' I don't think there should be any argument about why that information should be out there for everybody to discuss. 'These are the kinds of issues that student papers need to cover if they're going to be vital to the campus community.'"
I've written a few controversial stories for our student newspaper, The Simpsonian, but nothing to this caliber. I do think that the families would have wanted the stories to be known, though, to possibly prevent another tragedy from becoming reality.

I congratulate Megan Boehnke, the writer of the story as well as editor in chief of the Kentucky Kernel, for standing her ground and running the story even after receiving numerous calls and emails. I do think it is sad that someone, or more likely some people, stole the newspapers. I hope those responsible are caught and are charged with the felony that they committed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Borat was a Bummer

I went and saw Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan this weekend with my family, and can't say that I was impressed. We had talked in class about documentaries and about how in filming the producers may, in fact, take advantage of those being filmed. This is something I believe to be very true in the mockumentary.

Don't get me wrong, I did laugh many times throughout the movie. I found it quite humorous when Borat tried to hug and kiss the New Yorkers. I laughed as Borat showed the ignorance of many of the attendees of the rodeo. I did not laugh as he and his friend fought naked. I found it disturbing and sad, though, as the people of Kazakhstan were filmed, as I'm sure they had no idea what was going on.

I felt very sorry for many of the people being taken advantage of. Many, if not all of those filmed believed that Borat was a true person--not an actor. Sadly, I was one of them, until I was told otherwise in class. Maybe I'm too empathetic to those that were duped, but people lost their jobs because of a man pretending to be Borat.

I guess just felt sorry for the man he called "retard" and woman he basically said was ugly, as well as the many others he offended. Those he did offend were polite because they thought he didn't know any better. I just don't feel that people should be blatantly and unknowingly mocked on film without knowing it, for my personal entertainment. Although there were points in which I laughed, such as the buying of a bear, I was appalled at many of the things Borat said and did for a few laughs.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Reality TV is 'Dumb'

I can't say that I've always loved reality television. I was among the many that were obsessed with the first season of Survivor and I have to say I enjoy watching Nanny 911 as I'm a nanny myself. Now and again I'll watch Laguna Beach, but does watching this genre of television really contributing to the dumbing down of the American culture?

Our fascination with reality television, I believe, is rooted in the idea that we can escape from our own monotony and can identify with someone else. Lets root for Sally on Deal or No Deal, dream of being Brenda on The Bachelor, or dream of having an all expense paid makeover on Extreme Makeover.

I do believe, in some sense, that viewing these shows does dumb down our culture . Reality television is by no means the Discovery channel, and serves no other purpose than to entertain. I may learn how to better handle the children I nanny for on Nanny 911, but I watch the show in order to laugh at the parents that can't control their children.

I know that there are better things I could be doing with my time than watching 16-year-old girls spending ungodly amounts of money and backstabbing eachother or people competing to win immunity for the week. I justify my viewing of the program as my guilty pleasure. I may not learn anything of any value, unless you count knowing the latest fads, but sometimes we all need an escape. I'll take that escape, even if it is through Tessa on Laguna Beach or Candice on Survivor.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tribune Company to change hands?

More news regarding the Los Angeles Times, but this time it's not about reinvention through the Manhattan project or the controversy surrounding editors. Two Los Angeles billionaires, businessman Eli Broad and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, have joined up to submit a bid for the Tribune Company. According to CBS Breaking news, the two would like to return The Los Angeles Times to local ownership.

Nobody was willing to talk about the money aspect of the deal, but I can only imagine the zeros involved.

"Tribune's holdings include 11 daily newspapers, 25 TV stations, the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and Internet ventures as well as sizable stakes in the Food Network and the online classified advertising venture CareerBuilder."
The Associated Press reported that theTribune Company expected multiple bids for the Los Angeles Times, but was surprised by a bid for the entire company.

I am excited that the billionaire businessmen are thinking about giving the The Los Angeles Times local ownership--it may be just what they need. I've been following the ups and downs of the Los Angeles Times for the past few months, and think that the exchange of hands could be good for the paper. As far as what the businessmen plan to do with the rest of the company--I have a feeling that intentions are completely focused on money.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Inevitability of Saw III

I bought into the hype this week and attended Saw III Halloween night. The movie grossed $34.4 million it's opening weekend, so it had to be good, right? The useless murder and gore proved to be too much for many British fans as the BBC reported sick and fainting fans in an article titled "Film fans faint at Saw III show."

I didn't faint or get sick, but I could have. The movie was disturbingly violent showing disgusting and heinous murders. I turned my head and closed my eyes more than a few times, but not because I was scared. I thought I was going to vomit.

The binary opposition of good versus evil was all inevitable in the movie. The ending, although I normally like knowing what will happen, was all too predictablle. The gore continued until only one character was left, mourning the loss of his wife due to his own stupidity.

The scary movie genre has never really done a whole lot for me. To me, scary movies don't really follow the narrative structure, and I can't say I've ever really learned a lesson from a scary movie. I suppose you could say that in Saw III the moral is to be a good person or Jigsaw will come after you, but that's not really a lesson.

To me, though, any movie that causes people to get sick or faint has some problems. I like something that I can learn from. Maybe I should stick to the independent films I enjoy.

Tabloid Time

According to a recent Top 25 list posted on, only three of the top 25 daily newspapers in the U.S. reported circulation gains in a six month period. The rest of the dailies experienced losses--some significant. Not very uplifiting news for the print medium, yet again. So which newspapers gained while the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe lost readership by over three percent? The tabloids.

Louis Hau of responded to this information by writing an article titled "Is it the tabloids' time?". The three dailies that were lucky enough to gain readers included The New York Daily News, The New York Post, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In his article, Hau poses the question, "Do the New York Post and the New York Daily News represent the future of the U.S. newspaper industry?"

One of the main reasons that Hau sites as to why the tabloids are succeeding is the local coverage they offer.
"Readers turn to the Post and News to read compelling stories about what's going on in their own town, and from the perspective of the average citizen."

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the local coverage my hometowns' Siouxland Press and Warren Town and Country News offer me, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy getting my news from a tabloid. I can't help but think of The National Enquirers I saw on the news stands as a child with the aliens and christ-like figures emblazoned on the front cover.

Hau makes a disturbing assertion, though, when he talks of Britain's many newspapers switching to tabloid formats.
"Could the next step be to shift to a tabloid format? Leading newspapers in Britain, such as The Times of London and The Independent, have already made the change. And while such a shift would have profound implications for how much news and advertising they can run, some newspaper executives have spoken openly about making a similar move."

Maybe I'm boring and all too serious in thinking that such a move would be ludicrous. I do read the paper online knowing that I am contributing to the declining print medium, but I certainly don't want the tabloids to overtake the newspaper. I'll be sticking with The New York Times and The Des Moines Register, thanks.