Monday, April 3, 2017

I am constantly amazed at the perception those outside the communications or media industries have of those who work in them.

While my "day" job is outside of that realm and has been for five years, I am still part of the media world thanks to my Iowa Press Women and National Federation of Press Women involvement.

It's interesting to hear my co-workers and non-industry friends talk about #fakenews and other media happenings.

I'll often relate something I spotted on Twitter during our lunch break, and we'll discuss its relevance or irrelevance. It's no surprise many of these events involve the White House or government officials. I remind my colleagues that without the media, government could run unchecked.

Another way to put it - think of all the shenanigans that we aren't hearing about - based on those we are clued into. Telling a reporter not to shake her head at a response to a question? #ohnoyoudidnot
But sadly, this did happen.

Hopefully it won't happen again.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Mark your calendars for Sunshine Week 2017

This may be the most important Sunshine Week ever! Mark your calendars for March 12-18, 2017.
Begging her forgiveness, I'm going to share what my fellow Marsha had to say. Marsha Shuler is the co-director of the National Federation of Press Women's First Amendment Network and is also a former NFPW president.

I couldn't summarize  the history and meaning of Sunshine Week any better myself, so I'm letting our expert do the "talking" (thank you Marsha!):

It's time to observe "Sunshine Week."

March 12-18 is the annual national celebration of access to public information sponsored by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Knowledge is power and access to public records is critical to the democracy we so cherish.

So it is during this week the NFPW leadership team encourages members to do their part in stressing the importance of government openness and accountability through opinion columns, letters to the editor, staging events such as panel discussions and workshops about the latest developments in freedom of information resources and what threats exist today to public access to information important to people's lives and their communities.

The week coincides with the March 16 birthday of U.S. President James Madison, an architect of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights who championed the First Amendment.

Madison said: “A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Marsha also sent me this item about another important event:

April has a notable day as well as April 2 is International Fact-Checking Day. International Fact-Checking Day is coordinated by the International Fact-Checking Network in partnership with fact-checking organizations around the world. The International Fact-Checking Network, launched in September 2015 is a forum for fact-checkers worldwide hosted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. It has some suggestions for activities - among them a "factcheckathon" exhorting readers to flag fake stories on Facebook and a "hoax off" among top debunked claims.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

There's a new circus in town

The recent announcement that The Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus was shutting down after nearly 150 years was met mostly with applause by observers, indicating the time for a traveling roadshow and spectacle had passed.

One of the best tweets I saw said that it was OK for Ringling to close down as there's a new circus in town - Washington, D.C. - to be specific.

This tweet came before the Inauguration and President Donald J. Trump's first two weeks in office. Since then, here's the Trump presidency via hashtag:


Those are only a few of the top trending hashtags. To say these past two weeks have been polarizing is an understatement. We've had millions of women marching around the world, and for some reason, having to justify or explain why, repeatedly.

Then, thousands of Americans showed up at airports to protest the #Muslim ban.

If you're pleased with Trump's presidential performance, that's fine. If you're not, like many others, it's heartening to see Americans standing up not only for their rights, but for their fellow man or woman. It's seems the masses are leaping off their couches, mobile devices in hand, finding their voices, and letting it be known they will be heard.

Social Media has played a hand in both a planned demonstration like the #WomensMarch, and spur-of-the-moment protests at the airports this week.

How will it all play it out? Only time and Twitter will tell.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017's arrival welcome after rough end to 2016

It's hard to believe that it's 2017 already!

Twitter users will no doubt have noted the disdain many were feeling toward the year 2016. This was because of the deaths of George Michael, Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, in the waning days of the year.

To be fair, many celebrities, musicians, actors, and sports figures were lost in 2016. One fan of 90-something Betty White even started a Go Fund page to place her in bubble wrap for safety until the end of the year. On the surface, that makes about as much sense as being mad at the year 2016.

We'll just have to hope that 2017 is kinder to all.

On a different note, I always enjoy looking back at the year just ended to see what I had done for the first time. It's a bit like a bucket list, but doesn't necessarily include fun things:

1) My plane was deiced in Minneapolis on my way to Richmond, Va., to meet with Admin Concepts, NFPW's new management team for the first time in person. It was an interesting start to what turned out to be a very productive weekend.

2) My sister and I attended our first NASCAR Sprint Cup race outside of Kansas Speedway or Daytona International Speedway. I had won the tickets in 2015 in an online NASCAR fantasy game, so we had our choice of any 2016 race to attend. We chose Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race in NASCAR, over Memorial Day weekend. We were treated to one of the most lop-sided races of the year as Martin Truex Jr. smoked (and I mean SMOKED) the field. That was fine, as he is one of our favorite drivers. We also visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame and enjoyed visiting Charlotte.

I'm sure there are more 2016 firsts, but I am drawing a blank. If I think of any, I'll add them later.

Happy New Year to all!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's amazing how connected we are via Social Media.

I was talking to a friend whose 17-year-old son, a high school senior, is being recruited to play college football. Although he has been invited to visit several NCAA Division I schools, none have offered him a scholarship ... yet.

A Division II university, did offer him a scholarship. The father's response? I hope you already sent out a tweet about it. The goal of the tweet wasn't just to share the good news with the senior's friends, family and followers, but to let those other schools know there is potential confidential for the young man's athletic skills.

I had to chuckle at this whole premise. Back in the day, when I was being recruited to play collegiate volleyball and basketball, I received letters in the mail and phone calls from coaches. I still remember the time I was on the phone with a coach, and call waiting chimed in. I asked to be excused to take the other call, thinking it was my sister (this was pre-caller ID and cell phones). It was another coach calling to recruit me, who didn't appreciate it when I asked to be called back because I was on another call with a coach. I guess the oops on my part was admitting who was on the other line!

Today, there may still be snail mail contact letters, but email, Twitter, recruiting websites, and all of the video options available today certainly make the process I went through seem antiquated.

Who won my recruiting war? I played a year of volleyball at Northwest Missouri State University. I loved my teammates, but the coaching wasn't up to par. It's definitely a situation of "I wish I knew then what I know now." But NWMSU had one of the best Division II journalism programs in the country (and still does!), so I stayed for the academics.

That's the other piece of advice I've given my friend's son - you're probably not going to play football beyond your college years (despite my sister hoping to ride his "gravy train for years) - so be sure that you choose your college for the academic program you want to pursue as much as for the football program.

So next time you see a tweet that an athlete has been offered a scholarship, there's probably more to the message than what you would think.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

It's a busy time of year for the National Federation of Press Women - membership renewals will begin and the online Communications Contest will soon kick off. Stay tuned for more information!

But before we go there, this is my pitch/reminder/plea for everyone to go vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

I must admit that one area I don't miss about no longer working in the newspaper industry is the length of elections. As an Iowa resident, I can attest to the fact that elections last too long. Have Hillary and The Donald been at it for two years or three? OK, we've been down to those two major party candidates for only several months now, but before that, we had a plethora of potential presidents parading through our state.

In addition, there are always local and state races that deserve our attention. The election can't all be about the race for the White House.

Like me, you are probably ready for the election to be over and for America to move on, whether we have our first woman president or first millionaire reality TV competition show host as president. Either way, it's our duty and honor to vote. In the immortal words of Nike, Just Do It!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Every once in a while, something on Social Media will drive me crazy.

Case in point: while scanning my Twitter timeline, I noticed @SherryPollex was having to defend her tweets and social media promotions.

What has been Pollex's main focus the past two years? Fighting ovarian cancer for two years after her diagnosis at age 35.

I started following Pollex's fight because I was a fan of her boyfriend, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver .

They have fought ups and downs on and off the track, and have been an inspiration to almost everyone. I say almost everyone because a mean-spirited Twitter user accused Sherry of self-promotion.

What that person must not have been aware of is that Pollex and Truex have been longtime supporters of the fight against childhood cancers, which is the core of the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation, @MTJFoundation.

Pollex became even more of an inspiration to me after we thought my sister Julie had ovarian cancer. It was diagnosed a few days later as colon cancer that had spread to the ovaries. We were happy because colon cancer seemed far less scary (code for more survivable) than ovarian.

Then, just a few months ago, our only "girl" cousin in the Hoffman family, Becky, was diagnosed with stage 2 ovarian cancer. Like Pollex, she shaved her hair off before it inevitably would fall out.

Pollex recently revealed a short hairdo as her hair has begun growing back. I'm looking forward to seeing Becky with her hair back, too.

Thanks for being an inspiration by sharing your story on Twitter and Social Media. Don't let the haters ever stop you!