History is littered with trends that tanked, fads and fashions that seemed like a good idea at the time but, in retrospect, usually came to be labeled, “What were they thinking?” Elephant bellbottoms, ironing your hair, underwear as outerwear – they all beg the question. Buttery chunks? Is bleaching wide, uneven swaths of yellow through your hair attractive or natural looking? And nude lipstick? Try ChapStick®.

Some fashion fatalities hang around longer than others. Some come BACK into style, dusted off and called “retro,” when they probably should’ve stayed gone. To name a few: platform shoes, blue eye shadow, micro mini skirts.

The ad industry has a bad habit of recycling ideas that weren’t smart – or good advertising – in the first place. One of the worst is spending your ad time/space and dollars to promote your competition. It’s very popular these days. And among folks who should know better…

It’s not a new concept; in fact, it’s been going on for a long time. Pepsi has mentioned Coca-Cola in TV commercials since the 1970s. In 1992 Ray Charles “accidentally” drank a Diet Coke in a Diet Pepsi commercial.

You’d think creative people would be more original. But a quick look at recent TV offerings came up with quite a few advertisers using the same old, tired tricks. In one, the terminally-adolescent boys of SONIC® make fun of Wendy’s Frosty composition, the whole time prominently displaying the Wendy’s logo. Then the BURGER KING®, that scary big-plastic-headed creature, breaks into McDonald’s headquarters to steal a recipe. (Seriously? That’s the best idea you could come up with?) It’s not only dumb, it shows Mickey D’s is so much better that BK has to STEAL to compete – their name as well as their product.

AcneFree, a product you may not have heard of, mentions better-known competitor Proactiv® twice during a single commercial.

Even the “Windows 7 was my idea” commercials from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the same folks who brought us those horrendous BURGER KING® commercials, rip off their tagline (“I’m a PC”) from the Macintosh commercials created by TBWA\Media Arts Lab that ran from 2006 until May of this year. Even though they don’t mention Macintosh by name, you hear “I’m a PC” and you think, “I’m a Mac.”

Blogger Dong Ngo wrote,

“…when I saw the ‘I am a PC and Windows 7 was my idea’ ads, I just wanted to jump into panel to ask the presumptuous-looking guy, ‘What is your idea, dude, really? What’s really new?’ (And speaking of original, come on Microsoft! You can do better than imitating Apple’s …ads!)”

He didn’t use nice words to describe Apple’s ads, but call me prejudiced. I’m a Mac myself. I LOVE the “Mac/PC” commercials and am sad to see them go off to the advertising retirement home.

Not only is it tacky to use someone else’s name to promote your product, it’s bad business. While some people believe imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, using your competitor’s name, images and products in your ad gives them visibility – at no cost to them. The advertisers signing the checks for these ads should be asking, “Tell me again why I’m paying to advertise my competition?”

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Beginning on July 4, 1845, Henry David Thoreau spent two years and two months in semi-isolation at a small cabin on the edge of Walden Pond.  This experiment in self reliance led to the publication of Walden in 1854.

One of the better known claims within Walden is this one:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

Lesser known, perhaps, is what follows that famous phrase:

A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work.

After spending much longer than two years and two months playing video games, I have come to believe there is similar despair concealed within the games and amusements of contemporary society.  Institutions of work and institutions of society are equally self-sustaining and, in that self-sustenance, increasingly debilitating to free and individual play.

Nevertheless, that play breaks free.

I call this play that breaks free — both base and basic, creative and crude — the play of the “anti-” or anti-play.

***

This month marks the simultaneous print and online publication of Play Redux.  I am very gratified that this book is being released through the University of Michigan Press digitalculturebooks series:  a venture enabling free online reading through Creative Commons licenses (and which is, in the context of the book, a sort of “anti-publishing.”)

Play Redux represents the culmination of a number of studies of video games and video game play that I have undertaken since the 2003 publication of The Nature of Computer Games.

In brief, the book champions free and individual play – even so-called “bad” play – against the distortions and impositions of work, society, and culture.  Play Redux describes the capacity of games to evoke and protect the dynamic play of cognition – the manipulation of signs and symbols — that is vital to the human aesthetic experience.

In elevating free and individual play, Play Redux reduces the importance and emphasis placed on group and social play within contemporary game studies.

Here is some of the flavor of the book….

From Chapter 1 (re game studies):

Computer game studies have quickly become, like all other forms of academic scholarship, very much like all other forms of academic scholarship: serious. And, imbedded in this seriousness of method (not so bad in and of itself) is a set of seriously debilitating values.

From Chapter 6 (re narrative):

In the late 1800s, railroads were “iron horses”; in the early 1900s, automobiles were “horseless carriages.” And, in the late 1900s, computer games were “interactive fictions.”  … The importance of the horse and the importance of narrative fiction… are on similar and diminishing trajectories.

From Chapter 8 (re MMOs):

…currently popular MMO game designs, particularly those promoting cooperative play, operate most fundamentally as a means of social control – and this function  must be weighed heavily against their more productive outcomes.

From Chapter 12 (conclusions):

A virtual world that traps, regulates, and purposefully distorts the overtly selfish behavior of individuals—including, prominently, play—appears to be a well-built bottle for one of our most destructive and most useful genies. I would hesitate to trap that genie permanently inside.

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There’s a lot to write about #oilspill.

Since the oil came ashore and provided the photographs and videos for the mainstream media that, prior to that oil coming ashore, were missing, there’s been a whole lot of shaking going on.

Prior to that oil coming ashore, mainstream media news organizations had other things to talk about:  Arizona’s immigration law, the decline of the euro, the NBA playoffs.   This talk took place despite the huge and growing presence of the oil spill/leak/disaster in the Gulf and despite the incontrovertible reality that that oil would, sooner or later, without recourse or remorse, come ashore.  Somewhere.  Some time.

But there were no pictures.  No pictures – and no emotion.  No heat.

As long as the oil was floating in the Gulf, out of sight and out of the visual mind, it seemed widely assumed that BP’s efforts and claims of control were sufficient.  These claims were, after all, meticulously documented with long lists of boats in service, booms in place, and dollars spent.

Some disagreed.

SkyTruth, for instance, disagreed.  Based on satellite imagery — the same imagery available to BP and the US government — @SkyTruth was persistently tweeting the reality that there was much, much more oil in the water than anyone seemed to realize and certainly more than the 5000 barrels a day claimed by BP and widely reported, parrot-like, by mainstream media.  (Also check the archives of the excellent ROFFS site, which continues to compile and manipulate satellite imagery more quickly and informatively than you’ll find in video and sound bites elsewhere.)

Congressman Edward Markey also disagreed.  At Markey’s insistence (according to Markey), BP agreed to make their live underwater ROV video feed available to the public.   This happened on May 19, almost a month after the initial Deepwater Horizon blowout, and has probably become the single most significant event affecting subsequent media coverage.

Given early access to that live feed (viewed by BP from the very beginning of the incident), NPR was able to confirm the conclusions of SkyTruth:  there was much, much more oil leaking into the Gulf than BP claimed.  And, importantly, the NPR report was not made possible through NPR’s “professional” media contacts nor through interviews with “professional” media pundits.  The NPR report was based on the analysis of Steven Wereley, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, whose demeanor and expertise are quite different from that of, say, George Stephanopoulos or James Carville.

To the extent that mainstream media can access – like NPR – information and expertise beyond that of their politically motivated and easy-to-access usual suspects, their reports have increasingly diverged from claims and reports by BP and, disappointingly, by NOAA and the Coast Guard and other local and federal government officials working in collaboration with BP — and increasingly converged with the arguments and analyses of alternative and social media.   (See, for instance, this disturbing account of the BP-government collaboration on Grand Isle by Mother Jones reporter Mac McClelland.)

Unfortunately, however, trusting in the informal and the unofficial doesn’t come without its own set of problems – including verification.

Public access to the live feed of BP’s ROVs – truly a spectacular technological accomplishment – provides its own sort of verification:  we implicitly trust a camera more than we explicitly trust its operator.  On the other hand, public access to social media content and analysis — such as that available on The Oil Drum website – can be extremely valuable but also potentially hazardous, leading to misinterpretation and, intentionally or not, rumor and panic.  (See, for instance, the still unexplained Monkeyfister report of “Major Changes Down Below…”)

And check out this series of tweets…

The @jgrindal Twitter account has been represented as coming from a consulting engineer on the BP #topkill attempt and, during that attempt, quickly became widely reported and attended.  After weeks of confusing and contradictory reports from BP and no news whatsoever coming from the Deepwater Horizon site itself, the @jgrindal tweets seemed, finally, to provide insight into what was actually happening:  first-hand, immediate, accurate.  The final tweet from the @jgrindal account was this one:

Wow, just got a scathing call from mgmt, requesting I tone down my twitter info… 9:02 AM May 26th via web

Was the @jingrindal account really what it was purported to be?  Or, was that account, like @BPGlobalPR, merely a technologically sophisticated form of roleplay?

We just don’t know.

But, here’s what we feel:  If @jgrindal doesn’t currently exist, then, in the future, we need to invent him.

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WOW! What happened to the last five months? 

Today, as I delivered media kits from the PR Writing class (Clear Sky Communications) to our semester client, LatiNola, I started thinking about what all’s happened this semester. Seems only yesterday we were explaining our spring syllabi. Suddenly, it’s May.

Looking back, I’d say we were so busy we didn’t have time to notice how fast time was flying. In January and February, we cheered the Saints through the end of a miraculous season to a Super Bowl victory. Then we danced in the streets during a celebratory parade, the likes of which this city has never seen. And we’ve SEEN some parades. Add in Mardi Gras and Spring Break and – don’t blink! – it’s graduation (or as someone put it, grad-DREW-ation). Where else are you going to hear “When the Saints go marching in” played during commencement?

We did manage to squeeze in some school work along the way. Just ask anyone who took a mass comm campaigns class this spring.

The Ad Team (aka Advanced Advertising Campaigns) made us proud at the District 7 AAF National Student Advertising Competition in Mobile, sharing their campaign for State Farm, “Driven to be there.”

And the 2010 Bateman Team (aka Advanced PR Campaigns), keeping up a tradition of excellence in the PRSSA competition, was named the number two team in the nation for their campaign, “Down for the Count,” for the U.S. Census. (Didn’t you love the video on facebook?) Dr. Rogers and the PR majors who made up the team – Jodi, Kate, Christine, Dom and Mari – deserve a huge round of applause for making us all look good.

My own PR campaigns class, PR504, created a rebranding campaign for the Episcopal Community Services of Louisiana, spending six months (they started at Thanksgiving, even though the class didn’t begin until January) crafting an effective campaign for this newly-reorganized local nonprofit.

The halls on the third floor are pretty quiet these days, but if you listen closely, you’ll hear echoes of campaigns past: laughter, intense discussion, sometimes disagreements and always creative strategizing. And while I’m glad to have some time off, I’m looking forward to having those halls filled again. Who knows what’ll happen once August gets here?

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The most immediate reaction came from those monitoring oil stock prices.

Transocean Ltd. today reported a fire onboard its semisubmersible drilling rig Deepwater Horizon. The incident occurred April 20, 2010 at approximately 10:00 p.m. central time in the United States Gulf of Mexico. The rig was located approximately 41 miles offshore Louisiana on Mississippi Canyon block 252.

Subsequently, on April 21, NOAA published their first incident report (now considerably enhanced).

The first news stories, particularly the local New Orleans news stories, focused on the loss of 11 lives in the explosion and ensuing fire.

By April 23, the destruction of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had received global attention.

And then the story began to change. On Saturday, April 24, the U. S. Coast Guard, which had been searching for the 11 missing oil rig workers without success, acknowledged an oil leak at the rig site.  The Coast Guard estimated the leak at 1000 barrels a day.

Twitter and other social media were already covering the event — the #oilspill hashtag was in use early — but these were, at the time, mostly echoing information that had already appeared in more conventional media.  From this point forward, coverage of the Deepwater Horizon incident by mainstream media and by social and alternative media diverged.

Because of the isolated location of the Deepwater Horizon site, there were few visuals for broadcast media to run and rotate.  In the beginning, aside from footage of the oil rig fire recorded by the Coast Guard, the Gulf area maps distributed by NOAA were, by default, the most oft used and repeated images in the mainstream news.

Stymied by this lack of live action, corporate broadcast media turned to their stable of talking heads:  interviews and opinion pieces that mentioned the environment and President Obama and British Petroleum, but revealed little about the cause and extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Conventional print media sources – some, at least – manipulated NOAA and other government data in creative ways, turning one sort of graphic into another sort, based on the same data.  None significantly questioned that data – in particular the widely quoted estimates of the amount of oil released and the area of the Gulf covered by that oil – until a leaked government memo was turned over to the Mobile Press-Register, and, later, when a revised set of Gulf oil estimates appeared on SkyTruth.

In their unrelenting scrutiny of corporate press releases, contrived media events, and, most of the all, the money, social and alternative media have been consistently more insightful than a barrage of conventionally packaged and repetitive news stories sandwiched between Lost and Glee.

On CNN, for instance, there have been some informative comparisons of Deepwater Horizon and the Exxon Valdez – but based on little more than what was already available through Google and Wikipedia, and on much less than you could find and learn about the more relevant example of IXTOC 1.  There was a widely distributed, live-action video of a pelican with oil on its wings, and a full day’s worth of dead-turtles-on-a-beach stories — without much consequence.  There was an interview or two with General Russel L. Honoré — with obligatory references to Katrina.  And there were lots and lots of commercials.

Similarly, the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s reporting on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has remained dedicated and professional, but can do little to match either the stamina or the information flowing from innumerable Twitter lists such this one, compiled by a faraway correspondent for OnEarth magazine and including, among others, local @HumidCity updates.

And now, as the Deepwater Horizon story slides off the lede and breaking news agenda of conventional media — failing to provide live-action images of oil lapping onshore — social and alternative media continue to bring the heat.

Yes, probably the best information has come from a combination of mainstream and alternative/social media sources.  But, if you had to choose only one source of information about the Deepwater Horizon incident — something like Twitter, or something like CNN — which would you choose?

Another good question:  How can an organization with the limited budget and staff of a SkyTruth – or a Wikileaks – accomplish what conventional news media, with all their resources, can’t?

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You may not know this, but YouTube has an interesting policy regarding downloading their videos:  They don’t allow it.  Here’s what Youtube’s online Terms of Service says…

Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be downloaded, copied, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners.

Yet there are many, many tools that allow YouTube videos to be downloaded.  (For examples, check out the Firefox add-ons here.)  And there is widespread sentiment that this is probably a good thing:  sentiment similar to Joyce’s here.  There is also the fact that if you can display something on your computer screen – regardless of its source – then you can also record and store it for later use.  Or, in other words, in order to watch YouTube videos, you are forced, in effect, to download YouTube videos.

With downloading tools widely available and with the practice of downloading YouTube videos widespread, why exactly does YouTube prohibit it?  Because YouTube is forced to comply with existing copyright law.  YouTube operates much like an ISP under the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act).  Their position, under that Act, is basically this (from Ars Techina, 2006):

As the EFF’s Fred von Lohmann explains in an editorial for The Hollywood  Reporter Esq., YouTube is shielded because the site is an “online service provider,” arguably similar to your own Internet Service Provider (ISP). Among other things, the DMCA provides protection for service providers against being held responsible for the actions of their users. Much like the RIAA can’t sue Comcast for little Jimmy’s pirate web server he hosts on their broadband network, so too with YouTube.

This means that YouTube users can download Youtube videos and YouTube is indemnified. Officially, however, YouTube must and does comply with existing copyright law – through, for instance, their takedown policy:  If the owners of videos don’t want YouTube to display their videos, then YouTube, in principle, doesn’t display them.

Some have criticized YouTube for being overly willing to restrict and remove videos based on frequently spurious complaints and claims of ownership.  (The most recent criticism of this sort involves parodies of the movie Downfall)  But, given the inevitability of downloading tools, practice, and sentiment, all these arguments and peccadilloes regarding YouTube’s takedown policy grow irrelevant.

We now have a legislative process that constructs laws at a much slower pace than new technology confounds those laws.  This leaves new media services – like YouTube – in an odd position that results in mysterious documents like YouTube’s Terms of Service (as well as the ubiquitous and arcane EULAs that preface our use of word processors, spreadsheets, and video games).  These seldom read and poorly understood contractual obligations float somewhere between the impossible and the absurd,  creating an anachronistic, steampunk-like world clearly different from the one in which we live.

If laws and documents such as YouTube’s Terms of Service retain meaning only in a court of law, and are there only used to punish a randomly chosen and unlucky few, then there is the tendency to ignore these laws and documents.  I do not think punishment alone is enough to make us do otherwise.

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Long ago in a galaxy far, far away (well, up I-10 a few miles anyway), I transferred from a big school to a small one. People called me crazy (to my face) and wondered if I hadn’t made a career-limiting mistake. And that was my mother!

Others asked why I’d give up the vast array of opportunities available at one of those schools with 30,000+ students to take up residence at a tiny (by comparison) institution with admittedly more limited things to do, classes to take, professionals to connect with.

I couldn’t verbalize my reasons, but I knew in my heart I was doing the right thing. Looking back, I just wonder why I didn’t do it sooner. A small(er) school gives you a chance to meet more people, to make the types of personal and professional connections that help you throughout life. It creates an atmosphere where one-on-one learning is not only possible but happens every day.

A small faculty-student ration allows me to be able to tailor my advising recommendations to a student’s needs, to identify specific openings that a prospective intern is seeking, to share the right business cards with a graduating senior looking for that all-important first job, to get to know students as more than just assignments and grades.

A student from another school remarked recently how cool it was that Loyola professors know our students’ names and talk with them outside of class, whether it’s in the hallways or on the way to the Danna Center. This student said that doesn’t happen at many other schools (even small ones). It’s one of the reasons I love teaching at Loyola and why students flourish here.

I was reminded of this during the weekend; I rode along with Loyola’s Ad Team as they participated in the District 7 National Student Advertising Competition in Mobile.

After an outstanding performance by the team, I feel even more strongly that Loyola’s size and the resulting ability to forge connections between faculty and students help make this a very special place. It’s created a strong bond between Dr. Yolanda Cal, in her first year as Loyola Ad Team adviser, and her senior-level students.

The 12 students who comprise In the NO Advertising may be bone tired just now, but they’re also excited about the prospects for the future. They’re eager to start fund raising for a trip to a professional development workshop in NYC in the fall, and they’re already talking about next year’s District 7 competition. They’re ready to mentor those coming after them and pass along what they’ve learned to the next Ad Team.

I encourage you to say congratulations to the members of the Ad Team when you see them; they deserve it. If you don’t know who they are, just ask. You’ll get to meet some really interesting people. Ask Diego about being Cuban, even though he’s Panamanian. Ask Mallory if there’s more water. Ask Alysha to say “thank you!” Ask Kristin about Chick-fil-A. Ask Diane what a plasma car is. Ask Thomas about hair spray (the product, not the musical). Each team member has some great stories to share.

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In the US, something called the “hot news doctrine” originated within a 1918 Supreme Court case in which the Associated Press tried to use copyright law to protect its scoops from being themselves scooped by other (competing and would-be) news agencies.

Normally, copyright law only protects the expression of ideas (or facts) — not the actual ideas (or facts).  However, in applying copyright law to “hot news,” the Supreme Court found reason to protect the ideas (or facts) themselves in circumstances where those ideas (or facts) had commercial and short-term value.

But that was then and this is now.

More recent cases have specified and limited the application of this hot news doctrine to direct competitors.  Yet the argument has been revived by those news organizations that would attempt (or wish) to prevent Google-like aggregators from appropriating their scoops (mostly their headlines) without their explicit permission.

This is all a bit ironic, however, in that news content is rapidly being gathered more easily, cheaply, and consistently by something other than news agencies.  For instance, no matter how many foreign correspondents the NYT or the BBC can put in, say, Iran, those correspondents are never going to be able to see and hear all the things that any one of millions of Iranians can see and hear with a cell phone.  Voila:  Neda.  Or, voila again (and more recently):  meteor flyby.

Therefore, if there is any value to be derived from the scoop, then that value should eventually and rightfully accrue more often to the public than to the middle-man news agencies that thereafter appropriate it.  For this reason alone, news agencies that continue to chase the scoop, whether through the hot news doctrine or some other, are unlikely to be successful.

In that same 1918 opinion, however, the Supreme Court also did a cute little formal analysis of the news that divided it into two parts:  the factual content part (i.e., the “hot news” part) and the “literary” form part (already protected by copyright law).

Unlike news content, the “literary” form of the news cannot be so easily or cheaply crowd-sourced.  Insofar as we still assign status and believability to traditional news sources, contextualizing the news remains an important and exclusive product provided by a relatively small group of media experts and pundits.  And this important value is something news organizations certainly wish to preserve:  the contextualization or form of their news.

But there are problems here as well.

Traditional “literary” news forms — news producers might call these “stories” or “packages” —  are more suited to please audiences than to distinguish between what is true and what is false.   Do we, for instance, really need more characters, stories, drama, and media “personalities” (à la Fox News)?  Or do we need, basically, data filtering and database management tools (à la Google maps — and the like)?

Tim-Berners Lee – who first developed the world wide web — is currently spearheading, in association with the U.K. government, a new sort of news contextualization and form built around and more dependent on news content than either audience preferences for folktales or the news industry’s preference for easily reproduced and commodified templates.

It’s really very easy to tell the difference between these two forms.

If the form of the news depends on the news content that it explicates, then that form will be, without that content, hollow and unappealing.  On the other hand, if the form of the news depends on something other than news content, then that form will, golem-like, walk and talk and draw our attention despite its emptiness.

Sort of, for instance, like this.

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Maybe it’s the pollen in the air and the circuitous routes I’ve had to take to get around campus that have me thinking about the Yellow Brick Road. Or it could be that the Emerald City is on my mind after reading the announcement of the death of Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Munchkin coroner in “The Wizard of Oz.”  Of course, it’s probably that I just saw “Wicked,” the upbeat musical version of Gregory Maguire’s considerably darker book of the same name. But I’ve been singing, “Oh what a celebration we’ll have today.”

And there’s lots to celebrate here in the School of Mass Communication. The 2010 Bateman team, taking on the U.S. Census as a client, was named one of the top 3 teams in the nationwide competition put on by the Public Relations Student Society of America. Those who know Loyola’s history in Bateman competition understand that it was almost a given that they’d be among the best of the 68 teams that competed in the first round. Dr. Cathy Rogers, PRSSA and Bateman adviser, has led teams to national glory as first place winners in 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2008 and 2009. As Christine Minero (account executive), Jodi Forte, Kate Gremillion, Dominic Moncada and Marimar Velez head to Washington, D.C. in mid-May to do their live presentation, they take our congratulations and support with them.

The Loyola Ad Team is putting the finishing touches on their presentation for the District 7 American Advertising Federation round of the National Student Advertising Competition, whose client this year is State Farm. Katy Villavicencio, Margaret Sanders, Laura Sanders, Diane Rama, Thomas Froehle, Diego Morales, Brendan Minard, Justin Ross, Mallory Smith, Cyrille Brathwaite, Kristin Sutton and the team’s account executive, Alysha Jean-Charles – led by Dr. Yolanda Cal, AAF adviser –  head out Thursday to Mobile. We know they’ll soon be celebrating their success, and we send them off with our best wishes.

The SMC celebrated a year of success at Thursday’s annual Spring Fiesta in Dixon Court. With the Thelonius Monk Institute musicians adding a note of musical class to the event, Dr. Sonya Duhé, SMC director, recognized our outstanding mass communication students and award winners, as well as next year’s student media leaders.

It’s been quite a year for the SMC. Among our reasons to celebrate:

Dr. Duhé came aboard in August to direct the SMC. Dr. Leslie Parr led the Center for the Study of New Orleans through its inaugural year of programming and created a minor in New Orleans Studies. Dr. Sherry Alexander celebrated her selection as a photographer in the Fourth Juried Loyola International Photo Contest. Dr. Larry Lorenz was named the 2009 recipient of the Dux Academicus Award.

And there are many others in the SMC – and among our talented alumni – who’ve made us proud that they’re part of our school. Check out the SMC’s Web page to see more about our successes. (http://css.loyno.edu/masscomm/)

And one more reason to celebrate: Harold Baquet sent positive news from his bedside at M.D. Anderson. Get well soon, Harold.

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While you were trying to figure out if it was time to turn over so your back would be as brown as your front, some of your fellow students were getting a taste of the “real world,” and I don’t mean the MTV show.

Members of the Spring 2010 Ad Team, also known as the Loyola University American Advertising Federation National Student Advertising Competition team, spent part of the first weekend of break locked in a computer lab, busy putting the finishing touches on their plans book for a campaign for State Farm insurance, this year’s competition client.

No Coppertone and cocktails for these Ad Team members. Think pizza and cold coffee. These students wrote and rewrote copy, thought and rethought strategy, added and re-added budgets. They put in long hours while others were enjoying free time and fabulous trips.  Just like “regular” ad professionals. And like regular ad pros, they can now step back and feel a sense of accomplishment.

But they’re not done yet. In April they’ll head to Mobile to defend their campaign in a live presentation, competing against 9 other teams in AAF District 7, all hoping to win the chance to go to the national competition in Florida later this year.

Friends, coworkers, roomies and family members have spent the last three months asking team members where they disappear to for hours at a time, why they always seem to be “in class” and why they never seem to answer their phones, texts or e-mails. And, supportive as they are, these friends just can’t appreciate how a 32-page book and 20-minute presentation could consume so much of their significant others’ lives.

But it is. If you’re not convinced, just ask Alysha, Mallory, Kristin, Thomas or Diane. Or Margaret, Laura, Brendan or Justin. Or Cyrille, Katy or Diego. And don’t forget Dr. Yolanda Cal, the SMC’s new advertising sequence head and adviser to the Ad Team, who’s been there every step of the way, also giving up part of her spring break to guide the team.

While you’re at it, wish them good luck as they head out to Mobile. We know they’ll do us proud!

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