Living in a Media World 2E

Looking for Student Blogs

I'm always looking for links to blogs being written by student journalists. If you have one, or know someone who does, drop me a note!

Dr. H

Second Edition Available Now!

The second edition of Mass Communication: Living in a Media World is now available at the very student-friendly price of $45. (Yes, the new edition sells for less than used copies often do of the first edition.) It features a newly strengthened media literacy focus, greater depth on a number of topics, extensive coverage of "long-tail" media, and new chapters on media effects and global media. For more information, visit the CQ Press website.

NEWS: The RSS feed is fixed! Check it out.

NOTE: The video on these pages does not work with Internet Explorer. Try Firefox if you are having trouble viewing the video.

Going through a very busy time right now. Will keep having links, but I'm going to have to keep the comments to a minimum over the next few weeks.

I'm now on Twitter. Follow me at ralphehanson

Saturday - Oct. 31, 2009

Celebrating Halloween The Web Comics Way


Wednesday - Oct. 28, 2009

On The Media Takes On The Music Industry
NPR's On The Media typically takes a news/press orientation to what they cover, but this week the show has Rick Karr as a guest host and reports on the current state of the music industry and how it got there. Aired on the 10th anniversary of the creation of Napster and the brave new world of online music, this program is an absolute must for you to listen to. (I suppose you could read the transcript, but how much fun would that be?) Here's the run down of stories:


Friday - Oct. 23, 2009

Living in the Long Tail - Media News of the Obscure


Wednesday - Oct. 21, 2009

Writing Issue-Oriented Feature Stories

This blog entry is specifically for my feature writing students, but everyone else is welcome to read some excellent issue-oriented feature stories:

Pulitzer Prize Winning Issue-Oriented Features

Other Good Examples of Issue-Oriented Features


Tuesday - Oct. 20, 2009

The Minefield of Targeted Advertising, Part I - McDonald's
It's pretty obvious, given demographic trends, that major corporations are going to need to target racial and ethnic communities if they want to stay relevant in today's market. The census estimates that approximately 65 percent of Americans identify themselves as "white only." The exact figures get a bit confusing, given that Hispanic is an ethnic category, not a racial category. But that means if you make your advertising primarily relevant to white people, you're leaving at least 35 percent of the market out there on the table.

As companies go about trying to market to Hispanic, African American, and Asian American audiences (to name just a few), they need to walk a careful line between appealing to their target and avoiding offensive and dated stereotypes.

McDonalds, for example, has frequently targeted with African American market, though efforts that are usually called "urban marketing". Here's a couple of the company's ads that have attracted attention:

McNuggets Love
"I woke up and found you creepin' / Oh girl, I know your secret,"


Big Mac Remix
Mickey D's meets supa dj Peter Parker


I picked up this story from NPR's African American news program News and Notes which posted a number of comments found online about McDonald's urban ads:

  • "If you don't find this commercial at least just a little funny, I seriously question your sense of humor."
  • "It's sad that this is how the marketing exec's at the McDonald's corporate office THINK they can attract the urban consumer."
  • "Aarrgghh!""
  • "I [expletive] hate these ads. Especially the one with the two little black kids talking to the cashier about how they're going to run a McDonald's when they get older. I hate McDonald's."

News and Views contacted McDonalds about the ads, and McD's spokesperson Danya Proud had this to say:

"We have a responsibility to all of our customers to effectively reach them. We certainly take pride in all of our advertising and try to make it relevant and appealing."

"We work with a dedicated African-American advertising agency that works with us to develop relevant, contemporary creative for our brand, that will resonate with this demographic. Again, as with all our advertising, these commercials reflect a light-hearted, fun approach to our brand, our menu and our customers' experience with our brand."

BTW, you can still find the archives of News & Notes at, but the show went off the air in March of 2009, the victim of recession budget cuts.


Thursday - Oct. 15, 2009

Media Business News


Wednesday - Oct. 14, 2009

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

And finally, no question about it, Gary Smith's Sports Illustrated feature on Texas track phenom Bonnie Richards is one of the best stories I've read in an age!


Friday - Oct. 9, 2009

What Do Women Want? Apparently Social Media


Tuesday - Oct. 6, 2009

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)


Monday - Oct. 5, 2009

Frank Sinatra Had A Cold

This week in my feature writing class we're talking about a couple of classic Esquire feature stories from the mid 1960s - Tom Wolfe's piece on Junior Johnson and Gay Talese's on Frank Sinatra. I found a number of great links to use with Frank Sinatra Has A Cold. Here they are for your consideration. (I know, not really for Intro, but many of us are either teaching or studying feature writing!)


Friday - Oct. 2, 2009

Twitter Twitter Little Star, Tell Me When I've Gone Too Far

While everyone needs to be careful about revealing too much through social media like Twitter, journalists see this as a particularly difficult issue because of fears of alienating sources and readers.

Business Week's Rachael King says she started by keeping her Twitter account private and didn't use her own name on the account. Eventually she started using it to help her report stories and made her account public. Her editors encourage reporters to make use of tools like Twitter, but she's still careful about what personal details she releases on it.

On the other hand, Wall Street Journal reporters are not supposed to post about how a story was reported. The paper's code of conduct says: “Let our coverage speak for itself, and don’t detail how an article was reported, written or edited.” Reporters are also required to get their editor’s permission before friending a confidential source.

The BBC has fairly elaborate guidelines on using social media, especially when they identify themselves as BBC employees. Among the rules are not indicating their political preferences . The rules suggest that BBC employees should have no online political identification, even if they don’t indicate that they work for the BBC.

Even tweets intended for a limited, private audience can be problematic. Raju Narisetti, one of two managing editors for the Washington Post, discontinued his personal Twitter account after questions about his tweets had been raised by Post staff members. One of the tweets in question read “We can incur all sorts of federal deficits for wars and what not, but we have to promise not to increase it by $1 for healthcare reform? Sad.” Another read “Sen Byrd (91) in hospital after he falls from ‘standing up too quickly.” How about term limits. Or retirement age. Or commonsense to prevail.”

The Washington Post put in new guidelines about what editorial employees ought to be posting online. The guidelines read, in part:

“When using [social networks], nothing we do must call into question the impartiality of our news judgment. We never abandon the guidelines that govern the separation of news from opinion, the importance of fact and objectivity, the appropriate use of language and tone, and other hallmarks of our brand of journalism.”

“What you do on social networks should be presumed to be publicly available to anyone, even if you have created a private account. It is possible to use privacy controls online to limit access to sensitive information. But such controls are only a deterrent, not an absolute insulator. Reality is simple: If you don’t want something to be found online, don’t put it there.”

“Post journalists must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything – including photographs or video – that could be perceived as reflecting political racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility.”

WP media reporter Howard Kurtz joked on his Twitter account that "Under new WP guidelines on tweeting, I will now hold forth only on the weather and dessert recipes." In a recent blog post about the Twitter guidelines, Kurtz listed his own, informal rules for his Twitter account:

a) Don't say something that makes you look like a blithering idiot.

b) Don't appear to be in the pocket of Democrats or Republicans (or birthers or truthers).

c) Stick to subjects on which you actually have a clue.

d) Refrain from boring people with the minutiae of your daily life.

e) Don't say anything you couldn't defend as fair analysis in print or on the air.


Thursday - Oct. 1, 2009


Wednesday - September 30, 2009

Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

  • Is It Time To Buy An HDTV?
    Lots of people (including me) seem to think so. Digital TV is on the air and lots of channels have HD programming options. Even my father, who bought his first color TV in 1985, has an HDTV. The story reports that 71 percent of US households will have at least one HD set by the end of the year, compared to 16% in 2005. The big difference (sorry) is that these tend to be mid-sized sets rather than big screen TVs. Which shouldn't surprise. HD has now moved into the mainstream and is no longer just something for people who want the latest-greatest. Also, HDTVs are just about all you can buy anymore. Yes, there are standard def digital TVs, but I don't see them anywhere. (MediaPost)
  • Does Banning Books Lead To Healthier Children?
    I think you know the answer to this one.... Confessions of a Chicago Tribune journalist whose mother hated her true-crime book habit.
  • Should Roman Polanski Still Be Facing Sexual Assault Charges?
    Not really a mass-comm issue, but the arrest of the movie director on sexual assault charges dating back more than 30 years is generating a lot of controversy. Journalist Nina Burleigh discusses her perspective on why she thinks his arrest was a good thing over at Huffington Post. There's also a host of posts there on why he should have charges dropped. Fascinating debate.


Saturday - September 26, 2009

A Few Bloggers To Keep An Eye On

Last spring I taught a class on blogging and commentary writing. A few of my students are still posting occasionally - take a look and see what you think.

  • Genius Waitress
    A journalism major who plays softball and sometimes waits tables.
  • Popcorn and Jr Mints
    A UNK grad heads off to the big city. She is posting on a regular basis these days.
  • Readin' Riedel
    Some thoughts on living in a recession while being newly wed. He's also twittering. It's lonely being a Nebraska fan in Iowa.
  • Welcome to the Jungle
    One post back in August is not enough. Let's pick it up again Garrett. I've never known you to lack anything to say....

Here are a few other blogs I read on a regular basis:

  • Six Until Me
    A great blog about living with Type 1 Diabetes. If you are diabetic, or love someone who is, you need to read this one.
  • Checking Out Chile
    An American abroad to Chile on his gap year.
  • Erik Goes To Germany
    Erik's story, not the band of the same name.
  • KLR650's To Alaska 2009
    A father-in-law and a son-in-law ride KLR 650 motorcycles to Alaska and back together and have a wonderful adventure. As of now, this is a short-term blog, but it's a great little story with fun photos.
  • Tread Life
    A motorcycle blog by Jerry Smith, who freelances for a bunch of motorcycle magazines.


Thursday - September 24, 2009

Not The Media You Were Expecting

One of my favorite types of music (and media content in general) is when an artist takes a work and then completely turns it on its head. That's why I love British new wave musician Joe Jackson so much. He had one live CD many years ago that had three different versions of Is She Really Going Out With Him on it - and each was radically different. So I give you today media turned on its head:


August/September Entries

Living in a Media World Archive

Ralph Hanson's
Other Web Pages

Lots of new and repaired links!

Journalism Orgs

Activist Groups

Media Gossip & Blogs


For Fun

Web Comics
Note - Many of these comics are PG-13

Student Journalist Blogs