Saturday, March 31, 2007

Help Your Company: Hire a Spokesperson

Buckeyes 27, Hoyas 23. Halftime.

I love sports. I especially love college sports. So I watch them on television.

And I see a lot of awards presented. At halftime, I just watched Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper present Texas freshman Kevin Durant with the player of the year award.

Good for Chevrolet. Good for the Longhorns. Bad for Ed Peper.

I'm sure Ed Peper could smoke me in a board room. He's probably a business whiz. But he looks like some bowling alley reject on camera. He's awful.

Get him out of there. Hire a spokesperson. We and other mass communications programs across the country are turning out public relations graduates. Hire one. They come across as professionals on camera. Not schlubs.

Buckeyes 29, Hoyas 29. Gotta go!

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Evolving Roles of Weblogs in Academia

Here's a great discussion about the role of Weblogs in academic careers. Fascinating stuff, people.

The publishers have their grips on us for today. The taxpayers pay for their content and then pay dearly to have the same content in the library.

It will end. Not today. Perhaps not even soon. But eventually peer review will take on a new form. And then perhaps the reader will be the gatekeeper.

If you don't see the following link in the above post, read this outline of what the future of publishing might resemble.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

What to Be When You Grow Up

I'm not sure what I'm going to be when I grow up. For today, I am an assistant professor. It's a great job, so who knows.

I've never known what I want to be when I grow up. Most of my students don't either. And that's OK, I tell them.

When I arrived in Las Cruces, N.M., in summer 1994, I was a political science major. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with that. But I had liked the political science classes I had taken at a community college in Phoenix (Paradise Valley Community College).

I already had given up on medicine once I discovered that I do not like being around sick people. So that was out.

Political science did not feel right. So I would stare at the NMSU undergraduate catalog. I would go through all of the majors. I would start over. I would chuckle at "soil science" almost every time.

As much as it is not like me, I would actually pause on wildlife science and ponder becoming a park ranger. It was a phase. I used to want to move to Montana or some other Big Sky state. It was a reaction to living in crowded, sprawled Phoenix for two years.

Anyway, I usually would pause on journalism and mass communications. I'm from a media family, and it was in my blood, it seemed. Then I would look at average starting salaries based upon major. And then I would get depressed.

I wandered into Milton Hall one day and met Dr. J. Sean McCleneghan, who was just then stepping down as department head. We spent a bit of time talking majors that day. Knowing how many credits I already had accumulated, "Dr. Mac" explained the benefits of staying a political science major. We talked about a minor in journalism.

But as with most things, I was "all in."

It's getting close to 13 years later. Mass communications has given me an amazing ride. I've covered Oscar De La Hoya and the Dallas Cowboys. I covered a university president, athletics director, and a head basketball coach all being forced out.

I covered a Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole. I coordinated coverage of a Democratic presidential candidate, Bill Clinton. I met Dole several years later after I coordinated public relations efforts for a lecture he gave at Kansas State University.

I took pictures and asked questions of Garth Brooks at a news conference. I've seen a photograph I took go out on the AP wire and appear on Headline News. I co-hosted a radio talk show, where we interviewed then-governor Gary Johnson and then-mayor Reuben Smith.

Mostly, however, I have worked with a damned great group of people. And more than anything, these relationships are what I cherish.

This week I have spent getting back in touch with some of these people. It's been great. The group of fools with whom I put out a newspaper have gone onto some pretty amazing things. Four have either made it through or are about to finish law school. One has an M.B.A. and is a vice president of a company. They work on both coasts. A bunch live in Chicago.

Several are married. Some are expecting children. It's been cool to catch up with them.

And somehow my career has ended up here. And I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. And I hope that I never do. As long as I meet some equally cool people along the way.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Did Video Really Kill the Radio Star?

Sometime during the 2000-01 academic year, the New York Times Magazine wrote a stellar article detailing how upstart companies TiVo and Replay would kill broadcast television.

I had a newborn then. She's almost 7. TV marches on.

This week Ad Age's Bob Garfield has written about "Chaos Scenario 2.0."

Once again this damned Internet is killing TV and newspapers.

I see the evidence. It's not a great day to make newspapers or buggy harnesses.

Garfield makes good points. The change is upon us. But as I sit here typing, Comedy Central is showing South Park to my left.

There's that damned annoying Burger King ad with the ballerinas.

You see, this Internet thing takes work. I have to pay a lot of attention. I have to interact. In a minute, I will click "Publish" and lean back and watch the new South Park. And I don't want to interact. I want to be entertained.

And that's not going to change. And as long as there are millions of us, there will be some room for mass media.

Quotation of the article: "I always found Marshall McLuhan annoying," says Bruce M. Owen, senior fellow at Stanford University and author of the seminal "Television Economics," "but the medium conditions the message. It's already happening."

P.S. The video killed the radio star was Garfield's metaphor for the Internet killing TV. Funny, but I listened to the radio today. If anything, deregulation killed the radio star.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Teletubbies Retro? I Must Be Old

  • From left, Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, and Po.

Having three young children, the Teletubbies have been a big part of my life during the past decade.

Now, an article in the New York Times tells me that the Teletubbies are now retro! Retro! From 1997!

Something created the same year that I graduated college is now retro. Not cool!

If you're in Times Square any time soon, check out the soon-to-be Ragdoll Inc. store pushing the retro angle. At least part of the profits will go to Autism research, a noble cause.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spending Your Life on U.S. Highway 101

I am not sure where paradise on earth really is, but if I had to guess, I would guess that it lies somewhere along the Pacific Coast Highway. In March 1996, Emily and I packed up our little gold Audi 80 (which I loved until the transmission died) and headed west.

We spent the night somewhere in Southern California (a theme with me, it seems). The next morning we woke up and headed west on some nondescript California highway (likely highway 58). It was foggy as could be, and there was much more livestock than I had imagined for "California."

A few hours later we came through the mountains and descended into the general San Luis Obispo region (details escape me 11 years later). We made our way to the Pacific Coast Highway (U.S. 101) and headed north.

From time-to-time, we would stop and look. But these stops were far too short. In fact, 11 years later, a part of me wishes that I were still standing on the side of that highway staring out at the majesty of the Pacific Ocean.

We were in a hurry that day. We were headed to Monterey and then San Francisco. On the return trip, we came through Las Vegas. Less than a week later we were back in classes.

You see, I think that life would have worked out just fine if we had parked the Audi somewhere in central California and stayed. It's beautiful. There's an ocean. There are plenty of universities there.

But that's not the kind of thing that I do. It's the kind of thing that I think of doing someday. But one of the cruel facts of humanity is that someday never comes. Today is always today. And there are chores to be done. Running away to California is just a little too Jack Kerouac for me, I guess. Hopefully it won't always be. And hopefully some day will come sooner than later.

At nostalgic moments such as these, I think about slowing down a bit. In fact, I find some great irony in the fact that -- as of today -- if you Google the terms "taking life slow," the No. 1 hit is this Weblog. I'm not exactly the poster child for smelling the roses.

But it seems that when the opportunity presents itself, I am too quick to worry about the "plan." If the plan was to make 600 miles that day, then 600 miles were made. Silly, right? I cannot remember the plan 11 years later. But I can remember that view.

I'm sure that Emily and I made it wherever we had planned for that night. We spent 5 or 10 minutes staring at the breathtaking beauty and then moved on. We breezed through the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If you've never been to the aquarium, it's breathtaking (watch Webcam here). It's pretty much the kind of place that they should have to kick you out of at the end of the day. Yet somehow you determine it's time to go. It should never be time to go.

I cannot wait for the day when it is not time to go.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Chinese Food Interesting Memory Trigger

The International House at San José State University provided sleeping quarters for journalism interns for two weeks in summer 1997.

Last week I pulled up to the stop sign at Sunrise Point Road and Mission Road in Las Cruces, N.M. It made me think of a similar stop a decade earlier.

In May 1997, I packed up my white Pontiac Sunbird to head for San José, Calif. My dad was my travel partner as I headed out to participate in the center for editing excellence as part of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund internship.

Some of my college buddies had come by the house the night before and written farewell messages on the cars' windows. That gesture made it even more difficult to head out to California -- especially considering that my wife, Emily, was staying at NMSU for summer classes.

My dad and I drove to Bakersfield, Calif., that day and onto Modesto the next day. My actual internship was with The Modesto Bee, and I had to find an apartment before heading to San José.

It was one of many great road trips with my dad, but as always it was over too soon. I dropped dad off at the San José airport and headed over to San José State for my two week copy editing boot camp.

On the first day, we were given a stipend for food. We tried a lot of inexpensive restaurants in the eclectic neighborhood around SJSU. I found a little hole in the wall Chinese restaurant on San Fernando Street just a few blocks from Dwight Bentel Hall, our newsroom for the time being.

As tends to be my habit, I get into habits, and I must have eaten at that little place eight or 10 times during the two weeks. They served a great kung pao chicken with zucchini that I could never find after leaving the silicon valley.

Ten years later I am living in Lubbock, Texas. My life took many twists and turns during the past decade, most of which I could never have imagined while embarking on a journalism career 10 years ago.

One day over the winter, I heard my colleague Tom Johnson talking about Chinatown restaurant here in Lubbock. We tried it, and sure enough, they have what I would call San José-style kung pao chicken.

As you might surmise, that was on the dinner menu. When combined with last week's stop sign and today's chat with a student about graduation, I have been flooded with memories. It's been a great 10 years, and 1997 was a great summer. But the thought that comes up again and again is, "where in the world did 10 years go?"

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Joe Consumer Still Not Mass Content Provider

I have used this space to criticize past proclamations of media consumers as major content creators.

As I read again about the Hillary Clinton-based parody of the Apple 1984 commercial, I felt myself begin to be swayed. This ad might have a profound effect on the campaign. Perhaps I was wrong.

Then I read on. The ad was created by Phillip de Vellis, a Democrat and Obama supporter, according to Not so fast, my friend. De Vellis is no ordinary media user. Until the 1984 ad, de Vellis worked for Blue State Digital, an Internet company that provides technology to presidential campaigns, including Obama's.

Oops. Not exactly an outsider. Just a free-lancing insider. And that's not quite a media revolution.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Free First Class Liquor Hardly Justifies This

I already hate to fly. Airlines have among the worst customer service of any industry in the world, and now they have added a new reason.

It seems that, "A BRITISH Airways passenger travelling first class has described how he woke up on a long-haul flight to find that cabin crew had placed a corpse in his row.

"The body of a woman in her seventies, who died after the plane left Delhi for Heathrow, was carried by cabin staff from economy to first class, where there was more space. Her body was propped up in a seat, using pillows."

Now that's what you pay for when you upgrade to first class.

Read the entire story here.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring Break 2007

Aguirre Spring Campground, New Mexico.

Photo by Samuel D. Bradley version 2.0.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Trust Your Heart: It Knows What's Real

Six years ago today (give or take), I had a difficult decision to make. I had identified Annie Lang (Indiana U.) and Mike Shapiro (Cornell U.) as the mentors with whom I wanted to work for my Ph.D.

Both places accepted me with funding. What to do? I could not be two places at once.

Initially, I chose Cornell. In many ways, it was a great decision. Dr. Shapiro is a great mentor, and I loved working with him.

I made the decision, in part, because of a paper Mike had written during the 2000-01 academic year. The paper involved perceived reality. That is, how do you know whether something you have never experienced is realistic?

Without going too deep here, this is of interest to media scholars since almost everything on television is somewhat unlike real life. If television were not bigger, brighter, and louder, why not just turn off the TV and live your life?

My work with Dr. Shapiro resulted in one journal publication (read the PDF here), and I still call upon him for advice to this day. However, while at Cornell I realized that I really did need to learn psychophysiological measurement to answer my research questions.

Annie Lang pulled off a miracle and rescued my chancellor's fellowship, and I was on my way to the Hoosier state. She taught, and I learned. And I consider myself very lucky to have worked with both of these great scholars.

Fast forward to 2007, and my lab is running a study that owes its roots to these two thinkers. We are collecting psychophysiological responses to perceived reality scenarios.

The paradigm is basically this (and owes directly to Dr. Shapiro and colleagues): we establish a scenario that might occur on television. For example, we tell people to consider "A family is at home when an earthquake hits."

Then, given that scenario, we ask people to rate how realistic different events are. So we might say, "family waits for earthquake to end." When we have asked people across the country, they say that this is quite likely to happen.

We might also ask them to decide the reality of something very atypical. So we might say, "family stands by glass window." Again, when we ask people across the country, they say this is highly unlikely.

I am developing a neural network-based theory of how events are stored in the brain and how we decide what is real. The current study is the next logical step.

In brief, we are looking at heart rate in terms of cognitive load. In a safe, controlled environment, we know that the heart decelerates (or stays decelerated) when attentional resources are being allocated.

It was my hypothesis that atypical events would require more cognitive load.

This experiment attempts to control almost everything. So the events are presented via audio (to control for reading speed) while participants watch a black screen. For a variety of psychological stimuli, physiological data have been collected for 6 seconds. So I wanted to record data for exactly 6 seconds after the end of the audio event.

It was impossible to have all of the event audio files take the same length, so we record for 11 seconds. In each case, the sound file begins somewhere after the first second and ends at exactly 5 seconds into the recording.

In each case, the screen went black at the beginning of the trial. This leads to an orienting reflex, marked by cardiac deceleration. What is interesting is that the cardiac decelerations persists for atypical events (white circles). However, the heart rate is higher for typical events (black circles).

This suggests that the brain is indeed having to work harder to process these atypical events.

Too cool. It makes for a great start to spring break. Actually, the stomach flu started spring break, but this is a nice recovery.

For some reason, the Y-axis labels disappeared when I exported this graph. These heart rates range from 78 bpm at the top to 74.5 bpm at the bottom.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

NCAA Tourney Provides Highs, Lows

Media dependency is in full force here, as I spent the evening glued to the television watching the NCAA and NIT selection shows.

Last night I was celebrating that my New Mexico State Aggies (B.A., 1997) won the Western Athletic Conference tournament and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Tonight I am mourning that my Kansas State Wildcats (M.S., 2001) are snubbed and headed to the NIT. The Cats are the first team in the history of the 64-team field from a power conference that won 20 games, won 10 conference games, and finished in the top 4 of the conference and not make it to the Big Dance.

The Indiana Hoosiers (Ph.D., 2005) have a difficult draw, playing Gonzaga in Sacramento.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders (current employer) are also in, and Bob Knight will have his hands full with Boston College.

Let's hope coach Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks (childhood favorite) will finally win in the first round. Since the name of their opponent does not begin with the letter "B," odds are good.

Finally, the Ohio State Buckeyes (former employer) receive the almost automatic bid to the round of 32, as no No. 1 seed has ever lost to a No. 16 seed.

Let the games begin.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring in Lubbock Is Nice

When your back yard has this on March 10, how can you complain?

It was in the upper 70s in Lubbock today. In early March! We spent the day having a cookout in the back yard.

This will never, ever get old.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Huggins: If Only Everyone Worked with Passion

Update (April 6, 2007): Bob Huggins is a traitor coward, and I hope he burns in the hell that is West Virginia.

My favorite quotation of the week came from Kansas State University men's basketball coach Bob Huggins:

“Wouldn’t this be a better world if everyone came to work with as much passion as I put into my job?” he asked during an interview with Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski.

Well said, coach.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Political Orientation Affects Perceptions for All

Recently, my lab has been investigating the cognitive processes underlying the cultivation effect.
In a nutshell, this effect shows that people who watch a lot of television give higher estimates of crime prevalence (among other things).
One of the qualifiers of the cultivation effect is so-called mainstreaming.
That is, the television portrayal of the social world tends to most strongly affect social perceptions of those with views far from the mainstream. In this line, heavy TV viewing has been shown to bring them into the mainstream.
In this figure that I presented at our brown bag luncheon yesterday, we see little evidence of mainstreaming on crime perceptions. Instead, after statistically controlling for age, sex, income, GPA, and need for cognition, we see little effect of TV across the three political orientations. Nonetheless, the strong main effect of political orientation persists.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

University Day Brings Fresh Faces

Today was University Day at Texas Tech University. I wanted to help recruit new students to Tech, so I headed over to the United Spirit Arena this morning to help work the college of mass communications "booth."

It was fun meeting the high school students and their parents. It's an exciting time in life, and their optimism was energizing.

I spoke with a number of students who were interested in the advertising major, and I hope that they will choose to come to Lubbock in the fall or even fall 2008 (there were a lot of motivated juniors there).

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

In Sports, Life We Cannot Be Impartial

I am fascinated by's SportsNation polls.

I seldom voted in online polls until I realized that you can see a state-by-state breakdown after you vote.

Now I vote in every single poll. And the results are always the same: Voters cannot be objective about their sports teams.

Even if you know nothing about college sports, I bet you can identify the states with schools in the Big Ten, Big 12, and Pac-10.

The correlation is not perfect. Iowa has both a Big Ten and a Big 12 school. The Big Ten school is bigger, and the state tipped that way.

The neutral states of the Mountain Time Zone sided with the ACC, as did Southeasten Conference and Big East Conference states.

Utah, Idaho, Nevada, and Hawaii stayed "regional" in the west with the Pac-10.

Colorado -- whose Buffaloes are in last place in the Big 12 -- defected and sided with the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Pennsylvania -- whose population base is on the east coast and whose Nittany Lions are in last place -- shunned the Big Ten in favor of the ACC.

Best is a subjective thing in sports. We always see the bad calls made against our teams and minimize those that go our way. More often than not, the better team wins. But not always ... and especially not in sports such as football and college basketball where you are one-and-done in the post-season.

If we are to believe the 224,076 voters at the time that I took this screen shot, the ACC is best, followed by the Big Ten, Pac-10, and Big 12.

Looking at a more objective measure, the so-called conference RPI (ratings percentage index), the standings look as such:

Conference W/L PCT RPI
1 Atlantic Coast Conference 132-33 .800 .5861
2 Southeastern Conference 127-38 .770 .5851
3 Pac 10 Conference 90-26 .776 .5733
4 Big Ten Conference 116-38 .753 .5730
5 Big East Conference 159-54 .746 .5615
6 Missouri Valley Conference 79-32 .712 .5597
7 Big XII Conference 119-40 .748 .5593

According to the RPI, picked the wrong teams altogether. My beloved Big XII, apparently, deserved to be at the bottom of the pile. But it looks that population of the respective states undeservedly carried the Big Ten above the Pac-10.

This will fuel the fire of SEC fans who claim that an unfair bias in Bristol, Conn., keeps their conference from getting proper respect on ESPN and ABC sports.

Passionate fans. That's one of the reasons that I love sports. I do not make the mistake of talking politics at work, but I can talk sports every day. We can argue about the best teams without the hatred that is now an inseparable part of politics.

Now I've got to get back to celebrating. My childhood team, Kansas; my master's alma mater, Kansas State; my doctoral alma mater, Indiana; and current employer, Texas Tech, all won yesterday! Sadly my New Mexico State Aggies fell short in an upset of Top 10 Nevada.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Tech Changes Fast; Teach Thinking Instead

I'm not sure what to write. I'm not sure what I even think right now. It's still digesting.

Yesterday, the college of mass communications' national board of directors met in Lubbock.

I was born in the Midwest, and I have spent most of my life living in the "middle." One of the problems with living in the middle is that the population centers are on the coasts. And it's difficult to get people to come to the middle.

That's what makes yesterday's meeting so amazing to me. Sitting in Lubbock, Texas, (not quite the backwater of its image but not exactly Times Square), we had a room full of heads of media industries. I won't waste time dropping names here, but there were an impressive array of leaders from all areas of media.

It is likely that had I not come to Tech, I would never have been in the company of so many decision makers at one time. And we were in Lubbock, not New York City.

It was a fascinating round table discussion. We listened as they talked about what today's students need. The recurring theme was the change of pace of new technology.

We cannot teach that, of course. By its very definition, fast-paced change is, well, changing too fast to teach. If you've never taught a college course, you may not know how much time goes into getting the course ready. Even if you take a semester to get a course prepared on, let's say, user-created ads (such as those in the Super Bowl), by the time the students show up for the course, you might as well be teaching the telegraph.

Things will have changed.

As I sat there, I kept thinking that this fast pacing means that we must focus on creative thinking more than even. Instead of trying to keep up -- for example my first journalism class at NMSU was the last semester they actually used typewriters -- we need to take a step back from technology and teach thinking.

I sat pondering this, and then my colleague Coy Callison actually said it out loud. Thanks, Coy. Of all of those media leaders, none likely even heard the word Internet in a college classroom. Yet they manage to lead large corporations in a digital era.

Along the way, someone taught them to think. And that has served them well. And I think that is our job in the university classroom today.

Don't get me wrong. I will make changes in the way I teach because of what I heard on Friday. I will make changes as soon as Monday. But I will not throw my syllabus in the wastebin because the media industry is changing fast.

In an address Thursday night, board member David Fowler, a creative guru at Ogilvy & Mather, talked about the "big idea." He was referring to David Ogilvy's quotation, "It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night."

Today the big idea is more important than ever.

I will not concede to Marshall Mcluhan. Not today. Not ever. The medium is not the message. The message is still the message. And you still need the big idea ... perhaps more now than ever. And our students are far better served learning how to come up with the idea than chasing the current media fad.

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