Media Convergence, Facebook, Lousy Writing and the Summer of Love

Lots to talk about today, so I’ll try to keep it short.

I’ve had nearly two weeks to think about this return-to-blogging post. But I didn’t. Instead, I hung out on the beach with friends and family, paddled my canoe down the Clarion, and drank a shitload fair amount of beer. But during moments of sobriety, here are a few items that tripped my trigger.

pogue.jpgMedia convergence and the iPhone. While the world suffered iPhone envy these past two weeks, the folks in our School of Journalism were checking out David Pogue‘s video blogs about it. If you haven’t seen these clips (here and here), take the time.

To see a columnist for the MSM embrace a new medium this way, you have to wonder what’s next in media convergence. Of course, if you read Pogue’s bio, you won’t find his stage presence at all surprising.

This ain’t your father’s journalism, boys and girls. But that is your father’s newspaper, the venerable New York Times. Do you think maybe Pogue was celebrating the Summer of Love anniversary in a magic bus somewhere? Far out, Dave!

Update: Our writing still sucks, and it’s getting worse. No, this isn’t a report on a new study, just a short rant from a near-suicidal writing coach. I tell you, if I had a gun, I might end my misery now, but… no wait, I do have a gun. So, never mind.

I try to limit my rants on bad writing, but it’s not easy, because the shit is everywhere. (I only use the ‘s’ word when I rant.) And guess what? The next class of freshman will arrive in about six weeks, and they’ll be less prepared than last year’s bunch. Arrrgh.

So long as our teenagers are left to choose MySpace and X-Box over kids.jpgHemingway and Faulkner, it’s not gonna change. I’m 100% certain that Johnny can’t write because Johnny doesn’t read. So parents, read to your kids every day. Then take a baseball bat and smash the shit out of their Play Stations. And when you pass by, whack the TV, the DVR and the iPod. Then drag their butts to the library.

dutchboy.jpgAt Kent State we saw the decline in writing skills coming a decade ago. We answered with an entry-level (read: remedial) writing class, complete with grammar tutorials and punctuation drills. Pretty sad, but somebody’s gotta fix this mess, right?

Well, the class has helped some, but I still feel like the Dutch kid with his finger in the dike. One class, even two or three classes, can’t reverse 18 years of neglect by secondary schools and inattentive parents. Do your jobs, OK? Raise a writer.

Facebook is aging, but so are we all. My students aren’t pleased with many of the new applications on Facebook, or all that advertising. It means more messages on their news feeds, and more time frittered away in their online playground. Life’s tough, eh?

Students also aren’t happy that THEIR Facebook is now everyone’s Facebook. Since FB opened its pages to any and all comers, the site has become a lot more diverse. In the past two months, I’ve become Facebook “friends” with PR bloggers Kevin Dugan, Kami Huyse, Ed Lee, Paull Young, Luke Armour, Constantin Basturea, and the always beautiful and gracious Amanda Chapel. So my own little Facebook world got richer when they opened the site to those without “edu” addresses.

My advice to students: If you don’t want those massive news feeds, pare down your network. Start by deleting people you don’t know and those you never hear from. You’d be surprised how little most of those folks really mean to you and how little you’ll miss their updates. It’s like editing out noise. When the din subsides, you start to hear conversations. No one’s keeping score.

And if you’ll indulge me, the addiction to on-line social networks like FB is another reason Johnny can’t write. Neither can most of the folks in his network. But let’s not go there again.

ToughSledding up North. A few posts back I mentioned my son’s Trans-Arctic adventure. If you’re interested in following Chris on the expedition, you can check here for updates, which come in periodically (via satellite phone) from trip leader Jeremy Harrison. The expedition spent much of its first 100 miles skidding fully loaded canoes across the Arctic ice on the Hanbury River, just like sled dogs. What are you doing this summer?

oldhippie2.jpgWe’re being hippies! This past weekend Sharon and I chaired the annual Sandy Lake Splash, the Independence Day celebration that’s been part of our little enclave for a half century. The theme was Flower Power: A Flashback to the Summer of Love. And it was seriously groovy. Hell, one retired resident even held a tie-dying party.

Feed your head, baby. Feed your head.

8 Responses to Media Convergence, Facebook, Lousy Writing and the Summer of Love

  1. Sarah Wurrey says:

    I continue to applaud your demands that everyone up their writing game…Hopefully people will start to listen! Welcome back!

  2. Brian Wooley says:

    No iPod, no DVD, no Xbox… perhaps a reappearance of those old blue Selectrics in the JMC classrooms is the next step?

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    Selectrics? Pshaw. Royal manuals. Type like a man! Hammer those keys! When you finish a 4-page story you should be physically drained. It’s better than sex, I tell ya.

  4. Brian Wooley says:

    Nah… I’ll stick with an Olivetti, like the one I learned on as a kid.

  5. Andy Curran says:

    Whoa, my friend! Your writing rant echoes the lyrics from Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Don’t blame the epidemic of bad writing on today’s students. Our generation -yes, the always perfect “Baby Boomers” – started this downward spiral. After all, we were the “TV generation”, weaned on the “boob tube.” In the late 60s, we stormed the administrators’ offices at universities across the country to demand “relevant” education. Remember? We didn’t want all those boring, “drill-like” courses that taught reading, writing and arithmetic. We wanted stuff that spoke to our generation…”The Zen of Mao”, “The History of the Tabloid Newspaper”, “The Analogy of Three Stooges Movie Plots in the Social Movements of the Western Hemisphere”, “The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill”, “The Chemistry of Hallucinogens”, “The Cultural Impact of the British Invasion”, “The Poetry of Tennis”, and so forth. In time, this trickled down to the high schools, and forty years later, we have a mess on our hands.

    You know very well that many of our peers can’t write a lick. Just check your recent emails and memos and you’ll see evidence of that. I have received correspondence such as, “I hope we don’t loose the money for the grant”, “Your going to cause trouble if you do that”, “This doesn’t effect me”, “The field trip will go on irregardless of the weather”, and “Can you varify these figures?”

    So, yes, you are correct. The typical student of today cannot write very well. By the way (or BTW, as they say), Johnny can’t add or subtract, either. However, they are just taking this cue from us. We did start the fire!

  6. Bill Sledzik says:


    I prefer to quote another songwriter named Haggard when I say writing skills are “rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell.” I’m not sure that makes sense, but I love to quote old Merle as part of my hillbilly persona. Plus, I memorized all those lyrics.

    You’re correct. It all began with TV, and it was our parents who let it happen. But in our time (the 60s), schools still taught grammar and we still wrote a ton of essays. We were held to a higher standard when it comes to the exactness and the clarity of writing. And note than I’m not blaming the kids for today’s mess, I’m blaming the schools and the parents, most of whom are the boomers like you and me, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love. Woohoo!

    And as I recall, many of us did take in the literature that spoke to our generation. And it came in the form of books penned by some very good writers, among them Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, Jack Kerouac. Point is, we read, albeit not as much as our parents. The group I see today isn’t reading much, if at all. So they don’t have those influences.

    As for my colleagues, they’re all pretty good writers. But I work in journalism school, you work in business school. Every time I think my students’ writing is bad, I pick up an old paper from a marketing major and the pain subsides!

  7. Andy Curran says:

    When I said peers, I meant people in our generation. I assume that journalism teachers are good writers. I forgot to add another common writing mistake: the abuse of the possessive apostrophe. The Cincinnati Reds sponsor a handful of college nights throughout the season with discount tickets for students. Our college participates, so a few times a year I am treated to announcements on our website and bulletin boards. These announcements encourage students to, “Buy your Red’s game tickets before Friday.” Now I know why they’re in last place. When they play the other team one against nine, they can’t win!

  8. Shelley Prisco says:

    The war of writing…it just keeps going on and on. If you want a real good example of BAD writing, spelling or grammar, take a look at the Ashtabula Star Beacon sometime. It’s pathetic. This was one of the reasons I never applied at my hometown newspaper. I have other reasons, too. In case you’re interested, the web address is ENJOY!!!!

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