Dementia, media literacy, Reading, Social media, Writing

Student projects revealed

We are officially in finals week here at Tech. Crunch time is upon students and faculty members, who are busy grading, averaging, and even preparing for next quarter.

My copy editing students, as you may recall, worked on a project with Ruston Nursing Home. The students went out in pairs to interview residents at the facility and produced lengthy feature articles highlighting their assigned resident.

The students were a little anxious about the project – not only because it was a large portion of their final grade, but also because they were unaccustomed to having to interview individuals with dementia or other memory problems. Not all of the residents had those issues, of course, but many did.

The stories – y’all. I was blown away.

Here are just a few snippets I had:

“Like sisters do, they had arguments, but (name removed) made it clear that she loved her sister when she cried over not being able to see or talk to her again. When she tried to talk about her other siblings, her words got lost and jumbled because of her health issues combined with her overwhelming emotions.” 

“’He’s just a nice man; it’s as simple as that,’ she said. ‘He’s going to find me wherever I am, every day. And when I find him, I’m going to go over there and shake his hand, kiss him on his forehead and ask him how he’s doing. And he’ll say, “I’m doing beautiful.” And I’ll say, “You better be, because I love you.”’”

“She wouldn’t let the residents forget that it was her birthday, either. Her birthday request? Black-painted nails and a pack of cigarettes.”

They told stories – they told stories of individuals born in the 1920s, individuals who are in the nursing home because of physical injury, because of mental injury. They told the stories about babies being born, about marriages, about divorces, about careers and opportunities passed, about death and loss. These are real people they interviewed, real joy and sorrow they recorded, and real stories they told. This is the job of a journalist.

I did ask them about the project, if they liked it or didn’t like it, and they said they enjoyed it. They said they enjoyed talking with their resident and having the opportunity to flex their writing muscles with a lengthy paper instead of a shorter article, which they usually write.

I am proud of these students. They worked hard, they spent several hours talking with their residents, and they produced great work. This was a great class. They were smart and creative, but, then again, most of my students are.

So now, as we finish up the fall, I’m also preparing for winter – social media, media law, and introduction to mass media. And it’s going to be amazing.

For students wanting to prepare for one of these three classes, read/watch:
MV5BNzI2NDA3MTA4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjA5MzkzMDI@._V1_UY268_CR110,0,182,268_AL_“Freedom for the Thought that We Hate” by Anthony Lewis (Media Law)
“Content Analysis in Mass Communication” by Lombard, Snyder-Duch, and Bracken (Intro to Mass Media)
“Making a Murderer” – Netflix documentary (Media Law and Social Media)
“Nosedive,” “Black Mirror” Episode, Season 3, Episode 1 – Netflix (Social Media)

See you this winter!


Dementia, media literacy, Social media, Writing

Telling your stories

I’ve got to brag on my students a bit.

300x300I am an assistant professor at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. In my time here, I have taught all sorts of classes in communication and journalism: media law, feature writing, social media, public relations, introduction to mass media, intro to journalism, civic journalism – and that is not a comprehensive list. Every class, even those I’ve taught dozens of times, is always a new challenge because communication – and journalism in particular – is continually changing. It’s fascinating and fast-paced, and no two days are the same. I love my job. I really do. It’s not perfect, but I love teaching and researching my favorite subject: how people communicate.

This fall, one of the classes I’m teaching is copy editing. In a nutshell, the goal for copy editing is to teach students to think like editors for newspapers, magazines, broadcasting, public relations, advertising, online media, etc. They work with words, transitions, quotes, interviewing skills, and learning how to treat the AP Stylebook with the reverence it deserves. We talk about meaning and content in articles, how to work with writers, how to write headlines and cutlines, and how to handle ethical and legal issues. It’s a big, tough class – but it is so much fun.

This quarter, my students have partnered up with residents at Ruston Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. They are to write feature stories about their resident – the story topic really is up to them. Maybe their resident fought in WWII and they can focus on that. Maybe their assigned resident loved volunteering, maybe the resident raised a large family. The story isn’t meant to be biographical; it would be quite a feat to write someone’s biography in a single article. But the goal of this project was to capture a snapshot of that person, something that they found as relevant to other readers.

Everyone has a story. Every day, you have a story. My story today is that I got my teeth cleaned and I had no cavities. It sounds like no big deal, but there is a story behind it. Not that I want to go down a rabbit hole here, but the point I’m trying to make is that everyone has a story to tell – every day. Every day.

My students are to find that story.

I’m so excited about this project. SO excited. And part of it comes from my own story, with my dad dealing with Parkinson’s. I want these students to see these residents and talk to them. My dad loved talking to people, and even when he was unable to talk, he loved people to visit. I hope this project, small as it is, will instill in my students a love to hear people’s stories and to want to visit everyone, even people who grew up in a completely different generation. Sometimes age gaps and illnesses can be intimidating. I don’t want that to be the case.

Many of the students went yesterday to visit their resident for the first time. I can’t wait to hear later today about those experiences. What a fantastic journey they’re about to take, to talk to a stranger and find out about a life.

This is why I love my job.

media literacy, Social media, Writing

Back to school

I have returned.

It’s been a while since I’ve been in the classroom – okay, really just a few months, but it felt like FOREVER. At first, I was kind of under this delusion of “Hmm, maybe I could be a stay-at-home mom.” But, no, no, by mid-August, I missed my work. I missed my colleagues, I missed my students, and I missed my classes.

I do not take it for granted that I have a job that I love. I feel like I’m making a difference in our world, and I love teaching about social media and media law and even copy editing (actually, it’s one of my favs – but, then again, I generally say that about every class). The world of communication and journalism and media is changing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up. But I never get bored.

Every day there is something new in my profession, whether it’s what the president tweeted that I use in media law or what ad was released that relates to media literacy and public relations and social media. All of communication interconnects and can be related in any setting. Communication is a human cornerstone. You have to have it. And I get to teach it! How can I not be overly excited?

So after I got my darling girls settled in their schools, Mommy returned to work. Kyle saw me on the first day and said, “I’m so glad you get to go back to work.” I responded with, “Ha HA, you’re just glad I’m out of pjs in the morning now.”

But, seriously, the first week was great. I may have scared my students a bit with my enthusiasm. Fall quarter is just fun anyway because everyone’s either new or coming back, we’re gearing up for the football season, and after not seeing everyone during summer, it’s just so good to catch up.

I walked into my first class with a big – no, HUGE – grin on my face. And I couldn’t help it. I said (very loudly), “I AM SO GLAD TO BE BACK TODAY! AND WE ARE GOING TO HAVE AN AWESOME QUARTER EEEDDDDIIITTTTIIINNNGGG.”

The responses were less than animated that day, but that’s okay. I had enough eagerness for everyone. And they WILL learn to LOVE editing.

I love hearing my colleagues teach across the hall. I love talking about the news with other news junkies – faculty, staff and students alike. Yes, there are parts of my job I don’t like for sure. And I definitely don’t come into class every day feeling like, “Hooray! I get to teach!” But, in general – I do. And that’s a good feeling to have.

If only fall could really come to Louisiana soon so we can stop pretending it’s fall by turning down the AC. And I would like the love bugs to stay away. Please. It was like a plague of locusts last year. Small (miracle-needed) requests, really.

But I am so glad to be back. It is going to be a great year. I just know it.

media literacy, Parenting, Sweet girls

PDP and Trolls

“I got this feeling…inside my bones…”

Dreamworks-Trolls-Poppy-official-cardboard-cutout-buy-now-at-starstills__15333.1473262262For a year now, The Artist has been in love with “Trolls.” She and my mom went and watched it in theaters, and since then, The Artist has no doubt seen herself as a red-headed Princess Poppy. She asked Santa for a Poppy doll and a Troll tree for Christmas (which she did get), and she loves having daily – yes, daily – dance parties to the “Trolls” soundtrack.

Back around Thanksgiving, we noticed that one particular song, “Can’t Stop The Feeling,” by Justin Timberlake, had The Artist’s touch all over it. She created her own dance to that song.

Now, let me first stop here and say that my FIVE-YEAR-OLD choreographed a song BY HERSELF. Because she certainly didn’t get her dance moves from me. We have been so proud of her creativity and memory, because every time she hears that song, she dances those particular moves that she made up on her own.

“I got that sunshine in my pocket…

A few months ago, our fabulous library planned an end-of-the-summer reading celebration with a talent show. One of the librarians, who knows The Artist’s antics well, asked if she would be interested in performing. I mean…is the sky blue???

When I mentioned it to The Artist, she asked what she should sing. She had sang “Let It Go” to audition for a part in a community theatre play, and while she did good, Kyle and I both said we thought she should do her “Trolls” dance – especially since she choreographed it. She agreed, though she did tell me she would do better singing “This is Me.”

A new outfit was purchased, Poppy pink hair was ordered, and she was ready to go.

“I can’t take my eyes up off it, movin’ so phenomenally…”

My mom and grandmother drove more than an hour away for the performance. I was so excited. She looked adorable, she knew her moves, and it was going to be fabulous. I just knew it.

I asked her to practice for me that morning, and she did – very half-heartedly. She asked, “What if they laugh at me?”

“What are you talking about?” I asked. “No one’s going to laugh at you. You’re adorable.” I was confused. This was The Artist. She doesn’t get stage fright. Where was this coming from?

She didn’t want to perform when Mom and Granny arrived, and my nerves started to become uneasy. Why wasn’t she excited? Why didn’t she smile? Why didn’t she want to practice?

She didn’t really say much on the drive, but once we arrived at the library, The Artist tearfully announced that she didn’t want to dance. I was pretty disappointed and upset, but Kyle and I both knew it would be worse if we insisted she perform. So we told her once her decision was made, it was final, and we watched the rest of the talent show.

The Artist did not perform.

“Nothin’ I can see but you when you dance, dance, dance…”

We couldn’t figure out what scared her. She kept telling us, “I was afraid everyone was going to laugh because I was dancing. I’ve never danced that dance in front of people.” WHICH MADE NO SENSE BECAUSE THE CHILD HAS SOLO PERFORMED SINGING AND DANCED IN RECITALS. She was fearless. She loved the stage. Was this something new?

Yes. Yes, it was. In a way.

MV5BZTE0N2JiNmEtYTdhYS00ZDQ3LTlkNzEtYWUxZGY0YTFkZjlmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTgxMjYxOQ@@._V1_.jpgJust a couple of days later, both kids were watching “Puppy Dog Pals,” a staple in our home. I was getting ready in our bathroom, and the kids were watching TV in our bedroom. The episode was “Electric Pugaloo,” in case I have other “PDP” peeps out there. And I heard:

“He’s not dancing. He’s just shaking his quills….He looks pretty silly to me.”

“I’ve never danced in front of this many people before…I thought it was dancing.”

“Well, like I said. I know dancing. And that’s not dancing.”

“What if they laugh at us?”


I ran out of the bathroom and realized the episode was about a hedgehog who made up his own dances…and who got made fun of it (obviously, he is beloved at the end, but you get the point).

“So just dance, dance, dance, come on…”

Obviously, we had a long conversation with The Artist about how it was okay that she didn’t perform – but that no one would have laughed. Her dance is amazing. She is amazing. But, performing or not performing, we love her.

Our kids are definitely influenced by what they watch, and while this was a small example, it reminded me how important it is to be on guard. The Artist is a fabulous performer, no mama-bias necessary. And I don’t want her to lose it. So next time there’s something for her to perform and show out, I hope she remembers the end of that episode more than the beginning:

“Hedgie can dance if he wants to.”

“The most important thing is to have fun.”

“Hey, I can do that.”

Yep. So can we.

media literacy, Social media

What is media literacy?

In its basic form, media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms. We hear too much banter about “fake news” and fake websites and journalists who are biased. As a communication assistant professor who teaches aspiring journalists, let me first make a few things clear:

1) Unless you’re working for biased media companies (yeah, I’m calling you out, Fox News, but there are liberal biased media companies, as well), most journalists are trained to be unbiased. TRAINED. Doesn’t mean they like a story they’re covering, but it means they have the education to cover it objectively.

2) Additionally, your local news reporters, your local beat reporters, are probably the most unbiased out of the bunch. They’re probably the ones you get the most objective news from.

3) You as a consumer probably don’t wholly understand your own biases. You see something that maintains your viewpoint on the world, and you are more likely to believe it’s true. Unless you understand your own worldview and biases and are willing to go research on your own from time to time, you’re much more likely to believe fake news.

Media illiteracy has become such a worldwide problem that educators are starting to introduce this concept into classrooms. I don’t even have to address the problem we have in America. It’s evident everywhere.

Before we go further, check out this NPR link and game Factitious. See how you score.

Okay, back? How’d you do?

I teach an entire course on media literacy. It’s a trickier concept that you might think, but, if you are willing and interested in becoming more media literate, here are three tips to help you get started (and signing up for my class can be the fourth one):

1) What are they selling?

Everything you see in the media is selling something, and it may not be for a monetary value. Is it your vote? Is it your action? Is it your opinion? Ads are easy, but TV shows, columns and editorials, photos – everyone is trying to make you pay attention. If they’ve got your focus, you need to ask yourself why.

2) Who is profiting?

Which big media outlet is profiting? What politician is profiting? What happens if you believe/say/buy/vote a certain way? What does that company or that individual gain? What can you watch or support locally or through a grassroots campaign?


Why, oh, why does everyone hate research so much? It makes you understand the world around you so much better! You don’t even have to go to a library – just go to the Internet on your phone! If you see a story, “500 million immigrants to arrive in New Orleans” and you’re like, “OH MY GOSH! No, my world is coming to an end!” (which, to be honest, I probably need to have a heart-to-heart with you if that’s the case, but that’s beside the point), do a few things: look to see if a) it’s a legit news source (websites such as are pretty easy to come by and are NOT REAL NEWS – I literally just made that one up); b) when it was published (as in last night or three years ago); and c) is any other news outlet in the area covering it? If not, it may be not real.

There, three easy suggestions to help you not fall for fake news. Because, really, when you post something on social media, the last thing you want to happen is someone to say, “Um…you know this is a hoax, right?”

Or, even worse – for you to inadvertently spread false information to others.