We Are All Connected

Some call it the Circle of Life. Others  believe that God blew his own breath into Adam, the first man from whom they believe all humans descend. Still others believe that humans all share alien DNA sequences. And, still others believe there is a universal consciousness that all humans tap into, whether or not they realizing they are doing so. Whatever anyone wants to call it, the fundamental truth of all these beliefs is the same: We are all connected.

This is also the main idea of the book Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, which I am reading for a class. Barabasi believes that all people are interconnected via networks and only separated by a few degrees. If this sounds like a description of modern social networking, that’s because it is although the description isn’t limited to social networking as we know it. Needless to say, there is much more to the book, so I encourage anyone reading this post to check the book out of their local public library. It will not be an easy read, but it will be an interesting one and when you are done, you may not look at the world around you the same.

The point of this post is not to discuss the book. However, I will be writing a book review to be posted soon. This post is a complementary assignment in the class I am taking. In the spirit of Linked, and as a practical demonstration of our interconnectedness, the assignment is to write a blog post that links to the blogs of my classmates and to tell about something I liked about their posts.

First up is Sheerlan who blogs at La Vida News. I was really drawn to her post I Made It. In the post, she talks about how she still lives in the neighborhood that she grew up in, and touches on how it used to be a rough area. The focus of the post is on her upcoming talk to sixth grade girls at the elementary school she used to attend, which happens to be located a four minute walk down the street from her home.

Sheerlan thinks back on her talk with the girls, and recalls a conversation she had with one girl, an aspiring lawyer, after the talk. This conversation prompts her to think back on her group of childhood girlfriends and how they all became a product of their environment in some kind of way. Sheerlan can only hope that the girls she talked to are able to avoid the same fates. Sheerlan recognizes the fact that, out of all her childhood girlfriends, she was the one who “made it”. She graduated high school without becoming a statistic, attended and graduated from college, established a career, and became a homeowner.

I can relate, because my story is similar. Although the details of my story do not exactly mirror hers, I am the Sheerlan among my childhood girlfriends. Although serious health issues have continually interfered with, interrupted, and ended many of my educational and career endeavors, I still strive to achieve my version of the American Dream. I understand Sheerlan’s drive, ambition, and determination because mine are strong as well, and like the old saying goes “it takes one to know one”.

Next up is Scott who blogs at Great Basin Photography. He has a really good review on the book Linked, and made some observations about the book that I had not noticed. But, now that he has brought them to my attention, I do see them. I am still reading the book, but I think that from now on out I will be reading with a more critical eye.

Kristen, over at The Musings of Kristen Nicole, scored tickets to a college basketball game that was held on the USS Midway Museum. The post had a lot of pictures of the game and the USS Midway. As a Navy veteran, I enjoyed the pictures. Kristen’s post made me want to pull out my photo album and take a walk down memory lane to my Navy days.

I enjoyed reading the feature article Have Plane, Will Travel written by Michelle over at Reader Inspired. She writes about a gentleman who enjoys being able to get in his own airplane and travel wherever he wants, thanks to his private pilot’s license. I have no interest in learning how to fly a plane, but I love being able to take off and travel whenever I want to, so I can relate to the gentleman featured in the article. I have to say that being a child-free single has its benefits.

Bernard, who writes over at the eponymous Bernard’s Blog, wrote a thorough, and easily digestible (extra kudos), review of Albert-Laszlo Barabasi’s Linked. Last, but not least, Gary over at Cheyenne Independent wrote a very interesting article exploring the correlation between gun ownership and the number of suicides in Wyoming.

In Suicide in the Old West: The Price of Pro-Gun Policy in Wyoming, he writes that Wyoming has the highest rate of gun ownership in the United States as well as the highest number of suicides, and also talks about Wyoming’s reaction to the Obama Administration’s gun control proposals. The article is well written and a very interesting read. When I think about which states might have the highest suicide rates, Wyoming does not even make my list. Who knew?

Chapter Review

Tompkins, Al. “Tell the Story Online”. Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia, 2nd Edition. Washington: CQ Press, 2012. 171-195. Print.

About the author

Al Tompkins is Sr. Faculty for Broadcast and Online at The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, FL. He is a broadcast veteran with more than 25 years of newsroom experience and 15 years of journalism teaching experience. He has been awarded the Peabody Award, and many other prestigious awards and honors too numerous to list here. Mr. Tompkins is currently pursuing his masters degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and received his bachelor of science degree in journalism from Western Kentucky University.

Introduction

Chapter 13 of Aim for the Heart is entitled “Tell the Story Online”. This chapter takes the storytelling principles of broadcast journalism and explains how they can be applied to online journalism. In explaining the former, Tompkins lays out three learning outcomes:

1. How to think interactively

2. How reporting and writing for online are different from writing for television

3. How to ethically use social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook

How to think interactively

The chapter’s first section, Rules for Online Storytelling, thoroughly covers how journalists can incorporate interactivity into their stories and websites. Before elaborating; however, he points out one of the “worst mistakes” journalists can make is to believe that “online news should be the same as what we put on television but shorter” and that “online news should be just like what we put on television only longer” (172). He goes on to give – and explain in depth – ten rules, or as he likes to call them “strongly worded guidelines”, for online storytelling. These “guidelines” range from using Search Engine Optimization (aka SEO) on headlines to optimizing and using raw video on the Web to explaining when and how to use elaborate presentations.

How reporting and writing for online are different from writing for television

This second section, entitled Reporting and Writing for Online in the book, is no less thorough than the first section. Tompkins goes into detail about 8 ways online and television writing are different. He starts by emphasizing the importance of keeping track of a website’s “key performance indicators” or KPI, making sure to mention that to “Web geeks” this was known by the term “analytics”. He goes on to address issues ranging from verifying linked sources and copyright/fair use guidelines to Web skills journalists need to get or keep their jobs.

How to ethically use social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook

In the third section, entitled Ethics and Social Networks in the book, Tompkins writes that in early 2010 he sat down with Kevin Benz, news director of News 8 Austin; Stacey Woelfel, chair of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA); Ryan Murphy, media attorney; and Richard Goehler, Carol Knopes, and Kathleen Graham, of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation to draft what they considered to be guidelines for the ethical use of social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, wikis, and online chats (191). This section of Chapter 13 is a reprinting of the guidelines found on the RTDNA website, and officially named “RTDNA’s Social Media and Blogging Guidelines”.

RTDNA’s Social Media and Blogging Guidelines are divided into 3 categories: Truth and Fairness, Accountability and Transparency, and Image and Reputation. Each section gives clear, easy to understand instructions and also helps the journalist or blogger reason through trickier issues such as determining if an online source has the legal right to post certain material(s) before linking to it (as explained on page 189, linking to another site/source can imply that a journalist endorses the site/source as legitimate).

Conclusion

I would say that Al Tompkins more than accomplished the goals he set with the 3 learning outcomes at the beginning of the chapter. He is very thorough and I did not find any weaknesses in the chapter. I haven’t read the entire book, yet, but if allowed to make a recommendation based on reading one chapter, I would not hesitate to recommend this book to others. In fact, I wish I would have bought the book sooner, being that it has been referenced in prior classes I have taken as a digital journalism major.