Monday, October 14, 2013

Social Network

Wow where does the time fly. It's been months, nearly seven by my count, since I posted a blog. That's like Rip Van Winkle laying down to take a nap and well the rest is history.

I had an idea for a blog months ago, but I guess it still applies and that's on the term "Social Network." So much of it lately seems to be the exact opposite. Being a news guy I visit quite a few law enforcement Facebook and Twitter pages to get ideas for stories or update stories.

Most of the time those sites are for information sake, but they allow for public posts. Some of them can get particularly nasty. I've seen some sites threaten to bar users because of the comments they've left on posts. It doesn't stop there though. Our website ( also allows comments on news stories. Most times no one bothers, but on stories that smack of controversy that's a whole different animal.

We get complaints sometimes about those comments. Being a flag carrier for the 1st amendment sometimes leaves you conflicted. The anonymity that a username can afford people sometimes emboldens them to post things they wouldn't dare say to a person's face. It can be spiteful, hurtful and can at times be said about a person who can no longer defend themselves. I know of one such case in which it was suggested a facility be named after a person who is no longer with us. I'm glad she wasn't alive to see the posts that attacked her.

Other posts simply attack people for the job that they do. People who wouldn't dream of getting behind the wheel and driving after a few drinks have no trouble hammering out their spiteful thoughts on a keyboard, smart phone or tablet late at night or early in the morning. I guess I was taught to be courteous to people or not indulge in saying something negative about them in public. As a reporter I do have to report on things that do put a negative light on people sometimes, but it is not done with spite. I learned a long time ago that there are two sides to every story and on most social networking sites a way to bar people who can't be social.

Monday, March 25, 2013

User Friendly My Eye!

I have a new pet peeve, no pun intended, that's been slowly developing over the last few years. Somewhere along the lines while learning my journalism craft I recall the words when it comes to radio listeners "Do the Math for them." Granted the term was in reference to numbers, but taking journalistic license I believe it also applies to using the Internet.

I can't tell you how many times I've been told during a live talkshow interview or in doing an interview for a news story, people can go to our website for more information. It's kind of a blanket statement, which shouldn't be used if it's not true.

You see when I'm doing a story I "Do the Math" and do go to the website to make sure what I'm being told exists at a website is there and is user-friendly. If I have to spend ten minutes perusing a website and find no link, banner or search that will get me to where that information is I'm not going to drive people to that website.

Two recent examples. Go to our website to take the survey. Not on the home page, No banner with a link. But the survey was buried in a previous press release that wasn't recent at all. In the other example I was told people can go to our website to find out more about information meetings. I did spend 10 minutes on that website searching for the information and found references to past information sessions, but nothing on upcoming information meetings.

It wouldn't be fair to point out these shortcomings without turning the criticism inward. So if I supply the information in a news story I wrote I'm going to make sure if I drive people to our website for more information the link works, the podcast works or the banner works.

Think of it as someone stopping to ask you directions. You would try to give them the right directions if possible. Imagine the look you'd get if you told them to use Map Quest instead.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wintry Friend

Hello old wintry friend. Plenty of people I've spoken to lately hate how much snow we've received and just want it to stop. For me it's the winter I didn't get to experience five years ago.

I went into a Milwaukee hospital in early February of 2008 for hip surgery. Because of the surgery, complications and rehab I spent the next 6 weeks in hospitals and a rehab center.

The day I went into the hospital for surgery most of southeastern Wisconsin got 12 inches of snow. It was a snowy winter, perhaps our last big winter until this year. I like a good winter it helps me adjust to a new year and put the old one behind me. It also gives me time to organize and take care of things I put off. By spring I'm ready for change.

In addition to the abundant snowfall we've gotten this winter, I've also experienced some loss which I think winter also symbolizes. My Uncle Clyde Chartier passed away at the age of 89. I saw him out Christmas shopping, but a stroke took the life out of him and eventually his life. A classmate at Northern Michigan University went into the hospital to get some problems taken care of and the next thing I know I'm reading about his death on Facebook. Plus another friend I've come to make in Fond du Lac suffered a stroke.

These are all parts of life and maybe I'm more sensitive about them because my Dad passed away one day in January when I was attending college. The last thing we talked about was the upcoming Super Bowl. That was 1980. I knew he was sick, but didn't think he was that sick. It's funny how little our differences while I was a teenager seem to matter now. The real comfort I feel now is when I enjoy a television show, movie or book and think Dad would have loved that.

I no longer take family for granted. We still have our differences from time to time, but more importantly we cherish the time that we can get together. Winter is almost over and spring is hope eternal to twist an old phrase.