The other day, as I was leaving Camellia Grill, I overhead a couple of men ahead of me talking about Texas. They kept mentioning Longhorns and looking back at me. Although I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, I realized they were talking about me. When I asked them why, they said, “We thought from your shirt you were from Texas.”

OK, so I had on my “Keep Austin Weird” shirt, a personal favorite in eye-watering lime green with royal blue lettering. It never occurred to me that wearing it identified me as a Texan (not that it’s a problem). Given that line of reasoning, someone reading my T-shirt on any given day might think I’m from Dauphin Island, Ala., or Greensboro, N.C.

I have a friend who buys T-shirts for all occasions and every trip and special event she’s involved with. We trade shirts a lot. If you’re identified as being tied to your T-shirt, people might think I attended the Campout of the Century, sponsored by the Atlanta Area Council of the Boy Scouts to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the BSA in America. I wonder if people think she’s a lone Saints supporter among the Falcons fans in Atlanta. After all, she has the World Champions T-shirt I sent her.

It never crossed my mind that T-shirts were like nametags: identification. I don’t look at a T-shirt from Disney World and tag the wearer as a Floridian or assume that everyone wearing a New Orleans T is from the Crescent City. But apparently some people do.

Now, if I were smart, I’d figure out how to make some money in the T-shirt business. According to the Promotional Products Association International, wearables are the biggest category of promotional products, what we used to call specialty advertising, a $15 billion-a-year industry. Wearables include T-shirts, as well as golf shirts, aprons, uniforms, blazers, caps, hats, headbands, jackets, neckwear and footwear, but it’s a safe bet that T-shirts make up a big part of that category, which totals about $4.5 billion annually.

When I teach the Intro to Mass Comm class, we talk about T-shirts as advertising and how folks wearing them rarely consider themselves walking billboards. Few consumers realize they’re paying someone else for the privilege of advertising a product or company, rather than having the company paying them to communicate their message.

Maybe we should follow the lead of Jason Sadler, who’s figured out how to get people to pay HIM to wear their shirts. He gets the money AND the T-shirts from businesses that want the visibility. He’s sold out months in advance.

If you see me in the dark purple T-shirt that says, “Got Jambalaya?” the answers are no, I’m not being paid to wear it; yes, I do know I’m promoting a product; and yes, I AM from the Jambalaya Capital of the World (Gonzales, La.).

What does your T-shirt say about you?

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I’ve mentioned all these before, but here they are again.

The absolute best of the zillions of browser-based freebies that I’ve downloaded, installed, cursed, culled, uninstalled, enjoyed, and actually used… [continued @Post-Katrina Blog]

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Diffusion of innovations research tracks how new ideas and products — innovations – spread across large populations. Everett Rogers’ 1962 treatise has spurred a vast number of similar studies.  Here’s a quick visual summary… [continued @Post-Katrina Blog]

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It all starts, as it often does, riding around, listening to the radio. And then that song comes on, the one that causes everyone to instantly stop talking, listen in for moment and then tentatively start singing along. The next thing you know, everyone’s making a joyful noise (like that scene in “Wayne’s World” when they break into a rousing version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”). When the song’s over, the conversation might go something like this:

I love that song.
Me, too. Great video. One of my favorites.
Mine, too! I remember the first time I saw it on MTV.

You haven’t had that conversation? It’s probably because you don’t remember when MTV really did stand for Music Television! (A moment of silence for the golden days of MTV.)

For those of us old enough to recall what we were up to when MTV debuted “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles in August 1981, music videos were a mind-blowing new medium. Not only could we hear our favorite songs, but we could SEE them.

Never mind that music videos were really just 3-5 minute ads for some band’s latest album. (You don’t remember albums either, do you? Sigh.) They were personal statements from the members of the band, enhancing whatever story they were telling through their songs, letting us know more about them and What It All Meant. We awaited the release of a new music video from our favorite groups the way we anticipated their latest album, and we talked endlessly about whether their vision for the song matched our own.

Now YouTube is the new MTV, and musicians don’t have to wait to have some gatekeeper decide if their video is “good enough” to be on TV. They can just upload their videos directly to the listening – and hopefully buying – public. Regardless of the channel, music videos continue to be created for two reasons:  artistic outlet and commercial enterprise.

But back to that conversation in the car…

On one such occasion, some song came on that sparked a discussion about our FAVORITE music videos and what our Top 10 video list would look like.

I said that Lionel Richie’s video for his 1984 hit “Hello” was probably my all-time favorite. (You remember Lionel, Nicole’s dad?) How can you not love the storyline that goes with those gut-wrenching lyrics?

Another favorite? Men Without Hats, a Canadian group, released in 1982 a quirky little tune called “Safety Dance” and an even quirkier video. You might have seen the cast of “Glee” do a version of the song.

One that’s on my list was the first video I ever watched on “American Bandstand.” If I recall correctly, Dick Clark announced that day in September 1981 that it would be the first video they’d ever shown on that show. The Jacksons combined a bit of psychedelia with their well-known pop sound to create a stunningly beautiful video for “The Triumph (Can you feel it).”

Once I thought about MY favorites, I decided to poll a few people to find out what THEIR favorite music videos are, and I got a wiiiiide variety of opinions from friends far and near, with their choices ranging from tiny tot Willow Smith (“Whip my hair”) to Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Ros (“Glósóli”) and everything in between.

And the music video with the most votes? It was a three-way tie.

Madonna (no surprise there) was voted in for “Express yourself,” her very stylized video with striking sets and the requisite backup dancers. I would’ve thought the much more commercial and controversial “Like a prayer” would’ve won.

Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” was also no surprise. Stefani Germanotta’s stage persona has elevated her to the stratospheric heights that Madonna herself once occupied. The Lady does know how to work a room (via video).

Like Madonna, Gaga got the royal treatment on an episode of “Glee.” And according to a Nielsen SoundScan statistic on Billboard.com, “The Fame” sold 31,000 copies after the Gaga episode on “Glee,” 11% more than the previous week’s sales.

Last but not least in the tie was OK Go’s video for “Here it goes again,” which features the band in 1960s-style clothing doing an intricately choreographed routine on treadmills.

I’ll admit that I’d never heard of this group – or seen this video – until I conducted this totally random, completely unscientific poll. And while I have great admiration for the performance – I mean, really; who could remember (much less execute) those steps? – I find the video to be better than the song itself.

Now, I know that as soon as I hit “enter” and post this blog entry, I’ll hear from upwards of seven people who’ll contest the results, screaming “Unfair!” because their favorite isn’t in the Top Three. So bring it on! Post your choice for Best Music Video Ever. I’ll let you know if I think it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it!

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Except for frequent readers of this blog, not many people know that the School of Mass Communication has a new course in event planning. CMMN A335, Strategic Event Planning & Promotions, looks at the reasons for and steps in creating effective events, usually as a means to raising awareness – and possibly funds – for organizations.

Nonprofits live and die by their events, most of which are fundraisers. For-profit companies use events as well to congratulate hard-working employees, introduce new products, celebrate milestones or just have a good time.

As any member of the A335 class can tell you, movies like “The Wedding Planner” don’t do justice to the huge amount of work that goes into putting on a successful event. And they can also tell you that they’ll do more than walk around with walkie-talkies and clipboards (or iPhones) as they host Tuesday’s Networking Night at Loyola, an opportunity for students and professionals to meet, greet, eat and talk about internship opportunities.

Using the 10 Ps of event planning, an outline of necessary decisions required for executing strategic events, the class members have generated publicity, solicited donations, diagrammed set-ups and arranged decorations for this year’s social/business occasion, the theme of which is “SCORE the perfect internship.”

For those who want to meet and mingle, you’ll get the chance to talk with representatives of these local organizations seeking interns in mass media and communication:

  • Bond PR & Brand Strategy
  • Brain Injury Association of La.
  • Career Development Center
  • City Business
  • Davillier Photography and Graphic
  • Deveney Communication
  • Deutsch, Kerrigan & Stiles
  • Ehrhardt Group
  • Hyatt Regency New Orleans
  • Jambalaya News
  • JeffCAPP
  • Louisiana Justice Institute
  • Mudbug Media
  • New Orleans Outreach
  • neworleans.com
  • New Orleans VooDoo Arena Football
  • Nola Vie
  • Offbeat magazine
  • St. Charles Ave Magazine/New Orleans Bride Magazine
  • St. Tammany Outreach for the Prevention of Suicide
  • Tales of the Cocktail
  • United Way
  • WWL-TV

And you’ll get to enjoy delicious goodies from these restaurants, who have so generously donated to this event:

  • 5 Happiness
  • McAllister’s Deli
  • Mona’s
  • LA Fresh
  • Louisiana Pizza Kitchen
  • Loyola Sunday Cook Day
  • Starbucks

If you’re looking for a spring or summer internship in advertising, journalism, media studies, photography or public relations, drop by Studio A (4th floor, Communications/Music complex) on Tuesday, Nov. 9 between 6 and 8 p.m. You’ll pass a good time, and you might find that internship of your dreams. Look for details on Facebook.

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I’m sitting in a workshop on blogging as we speak, and the information and discussion are motivating me to know more about the whole process of blogging. I’ve been doing it for almost two years now, and I continue to be astounded at every aspect of this new form of communication.

The workshop,”Learn the Basics of Blogging with WordPress,” is being co-sponsored by the Loyola School of Mass Communication and the New Orleans chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC/NOLA). Lizzy Caston, IABC/NOLA’s vice president of communication, is sharing her vast store of knowledge on the art and science of blogging.

The statistics associated with blogging are staggering!

• 346,000,000 people globally read blogs, according to comScore, March 2008

• average of 900,000 blog posts in a 24-hour period

TechCrunch, the most popular Technology blog, had 1,750,000 RSS subscribers as of January 2009

• 77% of active Internet users read blogs

More importantly, Lizzy is sharing tips on better blogging, including what she calls “The Rules of Blogging.”

• Consider the ACT of blogging just as important as the words.

• Have a passion for what you write about.

Learn blogging best practices.

• Learn FTC and other important legal rules about blogging.

Well, I have to get back to the workshop, but I’ll leave you with this link about Social Media 2010. Happy blogging!

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It used to be that a college diploma was a reserved seat in a nice office, possibly even one with windows. Alas, those days are gone. Offices have become cubicles, and that diploma doesn’t guarantee any job, even one that requires you to wear a nametag and work a drive-thru window.

Don’t leap out of that third floor window yet. It’s not as dire as you might imagine. Your time and financial investment in a college degree will make a big difference during your working lifetime, when you do get a job. But that piece of paper needs some back up, and it’s never too early to start developing another important piece of paper –– your résumé.

I can hear you asking, “But what can I put on my résumé? If I don’t have experience, I can’t get experience.” A legitimate question. The answer? GET INVOLVED.

GET INVOLVED IN YOUR MAJOR. There are opportunities to learn more than just what you’re taught in the classroom. Find an organization that gives you professional development and networking opportunities. Here in the SMC we have chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the American Advertising Federation (Ad Club) and the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Membership not only looks good on that résumé but it opens doors to internships, jobs and advancement. Plus, each chapter needs interested members to help put together programs, attend professional conferences and communicate with other chapters or levels of their own organization. And you get to meet other students with similar interests, some of whom might be from other majors around campus.

Each of these groups is getting started on a very busy year of speakers, programs and trips…and membership drives. In addition, Ad Club and PRSSA are also looking for those creative and hardy students that will become members of their competition groups, the Ad and Bateman teams, respectively. (Deadline for Bateman applications is Friday, Sept. 24; for Ad Team applications is Tuesday, Sept. 28.)

Need more information? Find a member and ask how you can GET INVOLVED. Or contact:
SPJ: Jean-Paul Arguello, president; Professor Michael Giusti, adviser
Ad Club: Margaret Sanders, president; Dr. Yolanda Cal, adviser
PRSSA: Ashley Stevens, president; Dr. Cathy Rogers, adviser

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I’d like to comment on the sources and contacts of journalists.

I’m prompted to do so because of this:

Reporter Justin Gillis broke the “oil is gone” story for the New York Times on August 4, a day before the official NOAA report detailed in that story was released. While somewhat guarded, Gillis’ story was instrumental in promoting the government position that most of the oil in the Gulf of Mexico had been dealt with effectively.

Subsequently, many have questioned the implications and validity of the NOAA report. And, in testimony before Congress, NOAA spokesman Bill Lehr admitted that most of the BP oil spill in fact remained in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gillis and The New York Times benefited, it seems, from contacts at NOAA. They got a “scoop.” It is not at all clear, however, how the public benefited.

Newspapers of sufficiently high status – The NYT certainly places among these – are often given first access to information by those who wish that information widely distributed. (The recent selective release of the WikiLeaks Afghanistan files through The New York Times, Der Speigel, and The Guardian is a good example of this.)

And, even in more mundane circumstances, journalists commonly establish and maintain useful sets of personal contacts. These contacts are valued for their ability to provide insight and access to information otherwise unavailable – and, if that is what they provide, then rightfully so.

Likewise, broadcast news organizations groom and retain various contacts in the form of resident “experts.” While contacts are normally kept private and (hopefully) exclusive, experts tend to be used more on a public and revolving basis, with attention paid to make sure different experts are given equal opportunities to contextualize controversial issues: one expert from Column A and one from Column B.

In all cases, however, contacts and experts focus and narrow the news. They stand and intervene between the reporting of the news and the news that is being reported.

Increasingly in a new media environment, the news that is being reported — information in the raw — is available to the public without the necessity of professional filtering. For instance, we can now access the pressure readings of BP’s “ambient pressure test” directly from the Macondo well site. In this and other instances (e. g., live BP ROV feeds from the Gulf, the release of WikiLeaks data on its own website, and such), new technology has the potential to cut out the middleman between the public and the information in the news.

Of course, most news organizations don’t think the public is interested enough or intelligent enough to deal with information in the raw; therefore, despite new technology (and in order to sustain demand for their services), these organizations continue to filter and focus their reporting through, ostensibly, the “context” of a story. This contextual filtering includes couching information in summary and in personality: omnipresent talking heads. This filtering process is then much better for ratings and sales than is information in the raw, argue the news organizations; and, ultimately, it’s also better and more informative for an otherwise clueless public.

Contextualizing the story definitely seems better for the ratings. There have been, no doubt, lots more people watching Anderson Cooper’s nightly interviews with Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser on CNN than checking out Gulf of Mexico ship movements on the web. But I wonder what’s truly better for the public.

For instance, without those Deepwater Horizon pressure readings mentioned earlier – information in the raw – how could we determine which is right: the TP editorial that originally told us “pressure rose” during BP’s pressure tests (apparently based on an erroneous Washington Post article — since changed), or the Thad Allen transcript that clearly stated “pressure has not changed”?

And without public vetting – Wikipedia style — of the NOAA “oil is gone” report that appeared in The New York Times, how could we ever learn that the Gillis article was as much dictated by the motives of his NOAA contacts as the intentions of his newspaper?

Do contacts and experts filter and focus our attention on important information — or filter and obscure our ability to access that information on our own?

Shouldn’t contextualizing a story always include the full story of how and why that story has been contextualized?

Or are we always going to rely on a weatherman to tell us which way the wind blows?

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In the September 2009 issue of New Orleans Magazine, the editor marked the beginning of another pro football season with a note laden with wistfulness and whimsy:  wouldn’t it be great if the fifth anniversary of Katrina saw the Saints returning to the Superdome as world champions?

Sure, everybody chuckled. The Saints as Super Bowl champs? In a city still struggling to rebound from the crisis of Katrina, it was a humorous notion. But amid all the loss – family, friends, treasured belongings – the fans of New Orleans never lost faith in the Saints. And on Sept. 9, the Saints will kick off the 2010 season in the Dome, no longer a place of refuge and misery for thousands but the home of the WORLD CHAMPS (still hard to believe).

And while it won’t rival in any way that moment, that very same day – Thursday, Sept. 9 – the School of Mass Communication is also kicking off a new season, the 2010-2011 academic season. We’ll be hosting all mass comm students in a meet-and-greet (and eat) gathering in Studio A during the window. [For you new students, that’s 12:30 to 2:00.]

You’ll get to meet the faculty, hear more about the SMC and learn how you can get involved in student media (The Maroon newspaper, The Wolf magazine) or one of the professional organizations (American Advertising Federation, Public Relations Student Society of America, Society of Professional Journalists). You’ll also find information on two of the centers associated with the SMC (Loyola Center for Environmental Communication, Shawn M. Donnelley Center for Nonprofit Communications.)

If you’re ready to kick off your career in mass communication or want to know more, join us for the SMC Kick-off. Or you can stop by the SMC office (Communications/Music complex, room 332) any time.

See you at the Kick-off! Saints’ jerseys optional.

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You might think that faculty members take the summer off and that we’re all sitting under a palm tree eating dates and sipping umbrella drinks. Oh, but no. Here in the SMC everyone stays really busy during the months between spring and fall semesters, and much of that busy-ness is school related.

We’re working on our courses for the upcoming semester, updating this syllabus or that test bank, uploading all those files onto Blackboard so they’ll be ready the first day of class (which this fall is Aug. 30). Some of us are cleaning up our offices, filing materials that have collected over the past school year, adding new books or clearing out old ones.

Dr. Bob Thomas, director of the Loyola University Center for Environmental Communication and Loyola Chair in Environmental Communications, has spent the last few months fielding questions from media about the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Dr. David Myers just published a new book, “Play Redux,” through the University of Michigan Press. Professor David Zemmels is also busy writing, working on his doctoral dissertation, planning to add “Dr.” to his title shortly.

Dr. Yolanda Cal and Dr. Cathy Rogers will join Dr. Sonya Duhé and me at The Power to Transform the World conference at Marquette University this week. We’ll be presenting papers on various research projects. As you can imagine, these presentations aren’t created in a few days. We’ve all spent lots of hours this summer pulling them together.

But it’s not all serious work. We’ve been working in some fun too! Drs. Duhé and Cal, along with Professor Michael Giusti and Dr. Sherry Alexander – and me – represented the SMC at the Press Club of New Orleans 2010 awards banquet Saturday night at Harrah’s. We were there to cheer on the SMC students and alumni up for various journalism awards. Dr. Alexander took photos as one Loyola-connected journalist after another went up to collect their trophies. Recent Loyola SMC graduates Trevor Cassidy, Ramon Vargas and Danny Monteverde took home first place honors.

We are especially proud of our current students, who competed against seasoned professionals to take some of the first, second, third place and honorable mention awards. That group includes Katie Urbaszewski, Eduardo Gonzales, Craig Malveaux, Kevin Zansler and Jean-Paul Arguello.

Jean-Paul, an investigative reporter who is interning this summer at The Lens, was announced as the winner of one of the two Press Club scholarships this year.

And the summer’s not over yet. Who knows what’ll happen before we see you in class. Stay tuned!

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