Martin Fennelly Blog

•April 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is one of the best things about this class… the speakers.

We had the pleasure of having Martin Fennelly, a sports writer from the Tampa Tribune.  I’ve read quite a few of his stories, even before we “had to” read his stuff.  Fennelly has an amazing writing style that blends a narrative into a sports story.  Nothing of Fennelly’s work reads like a “box score,” it’s more than that.  Fennelly’s writing is suited more for the feature section than the back page.

Fennelly came to Florida 21 years ago, joined the Trib in the features department (go figure, right?)

“Writing is about the nuances” Fennelly said, as he told a story about a column that sucked him into journalism.  The story?  A feature about the gravedigger that buried JFK.

Fennelly grew up in a house in New York with five newspapers.  It was in his blood.  When reading the articles, Fennelly realized what he loved about the articles.  He loved how the writer would paint a scene instead of straight up calling someone out.  Fennelly adopted this style.  “The Tebow column began with the anecdote at the beginning, asking a basic question,” Fennelly said.

Fennelly talked about the main thing to column writing.  “If you’re going to be cynical, you have to hold it up to something you’re not.  Nothing is worst than writing something that you don’t believe.”

This is an idea that a few of the speakers talked about when they joined us in class.  As a columnist or even an editorial writer, you have to conviction in your writing to be compelling.  “Mortal sin– don’t write anything you don’t truly believe.”  How does Glenn Beck get the viewers that he gets?  What about Rush Limbaugh and his listenership?  They are compelling because they are compassionate and speak their mind.  Dan Ruth has made a career out of speaking his mind and has done very well for himself.

Some more words of advice from Fennelly.  Considering sports writing is all about building relationships with the players, Fennelly believes that if you’re going to”rip them, try to be within shouting distance.”  Players will respect you if they can “talk it out” with you after a rough article.  According to Fennelly, “proximity is everything.”

As far as relationships go, when asked if he ever went soft on a player, Fennelly listed Warren Sapp–former defensive tackle from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a player that might have held back on.  Even though he says they didn’t talk for about a year and a half.

Fennelly believes he hasn’t gotten sick of sports writing is because he writes about people.  “Sports need to be kept in perspective.”   Which I agree, and even though Fennelly has a special knack for making sports stories seem on a higher level, sports is still just sports.

Fennelly believes one of the keys to successful column writing is the ability to make someone laugh.  To be successful, the writer must be able to “entertain the reader.”

Fennelly was awesome to have in class and should be brought back for other classes.  Fennelly has changed the way many think about sports writing and is a wealth of knowledge.

Manjoo Post

•April 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society was a great read.  After being asked to find real world examples out of ideas from the book, I started thinking about my experiences.  Last year (from May to December) I worked at AARP (formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons) as an intern.  I’m not sure if everyone is aware of the role of AARP in national politics, but they are considered the largest lobbying organization in the country (ahead of the NRA.)

Well before the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the health care reform bill through their respective chambers… and before Obama signed the bill into law, there were “information sessions” or “town halls” as they were called.  AARP had a major interest in this bill (closing the medicare doughnut hole, insurance age discrimination, pre-existing conditions, etc.) and therefore held their own “health care forums.”  My job for these events was media relations.

Here’s where Manjoo comes into play.  What I saw at these events was a prime example of both selective exposure and selective perception.   Just when the intensity of the summer heat was growing, so was the intensity at these meetings.  Soon the Tea Party began making appearances and things would regularly get out of hand.

Even though the AARP town halls were meant to be  “community conversations,” they were anything but.  Pro reform/anti-reform advocates went into the discussions (read: shouting matches) with predetermined notions formed by their use of selective exposure.  Both sides selectively exposed themselves to what they wanted to hear and joined groups of like-minded individuals.

Anti-reform attendees would regularly clap, cheer and holler when one of “their own” would make a point, and then the rest of the group would follow up with talking point attacks on our AARP representation.  They would also interrupt or at least attempt to interrupt the thought of the pro-reform supporters.

Pro-reform, while usually outnumbered, also stuck together and shouted back when anti-reform supporters took the floor.

There was no “discussion” to be had.  Only two separate sides that had one agenda in mind, making themselves heard.

The difference between the two sides at the AARP sponsored health care forums, is through their selective perception.  While AARP had not formally come out and endorsed a bill yet during the Summer months, everyone knew where they stood.  AARP has always been a more liberal advocacy organization.  The writing was on the wall, AARP was at the negotiating table and was just trying to get maximum impact on their endorsement.

At these events, selective exposure gave way to selective perception as the two sides came away with different feelings.  Pro-reform advocates typically came away feeling “more informed” and usually more favorable to AARP’s efforts.  While the anti-reform advocates ripped up their AARP cards in front of our state president and placed the entire 1000+ page bill on the table in front of her.  They didn’t care what AARP had to say, were usually upset with AARP and usually felt stronger towards their current beliefs.

These theories hit closer to home than that.

My father is a vigorous follower of the “Rush army.”  During the 2008 campaign, I fell captive to the army as well.

Maybe, it’s because it was easier to agree with my father’s ideals than to disagree… or maybe I simply didn’t like how Obama-fever “swept the nation”  like it has before, only with musicians such as the Beatles, the Stones, and the Backstreet Boys.  Either way, I was hooked.  I spent the entire year tuning into FOX at nights for Hannity and Colmes, waiting for Hannity to deliver the next Obama bombshell, all while waiting for Colmes to speak up so they could interrupt him.  I wanted to be informed–and I was–of McCain’s strengths and Obama’s weaknesses.  I had fallen victim to selective exposure and didn’t even realize it.

It wasn’t until the election was over, and Obama was our President that I was able to go “MIA” on the army.  My time away from the channel and my time at AARP helped to broaden my political sight.  I still don’t agree with everything that President Obama has proposed (closing Guantanamo Bay, Cap and Trade) but a year later, I’m sure a good deal of his supporters don’t either (troop surge in Afghanistan, flip flop on gay marriage.)  Sounds a bit like selective perception.

Even when I think I’m out, they suck me right back in.

We can’t escape selective exposure or perception.  Even if our belief falls in the middle spectrum, we tend to continually expose ourselves to news stories and programs that reflect that belief.  From that exposure, we act/perceive things certain ways.

The bond between selective exposure and selective perception is hard to break, because it makes us who we are.

Best of Blogs III: The Final Round

•April 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So the best of blogs “series” has come to an end.  I am on a search to grab my final three blogs to share.  Here they are for all to enjoy:

South Side Sox

South Side Sox is a Chicago White Sox blog (go figure).  I’m from Chicago originally and I was raised a Sox fan.  The blog is apart of a larger series of sports blogs in the “Sports Blog Nation”.  The blog  is not really for novice baseball fans as the site can get kind of “technical”.  The thing I do like about the site is that they will usually explain the terms they use, like the Understanding Small Sample Sizes, or Evaluating Talent in April post on the front page. Because the blog is apart of a larger “nation” of blogs with multiple writers, the content is fresh (usually multiple posts a day).

I love the “week ahead” previews that they do, like the one on the Tampa Bay Rays.  It gives a great breakdown on the lineups, potential pitching match ups and a nice summary of potential story lines.   This is one of those blogs that I didn’t read before but have already bookmarked it.


Travel Ticker

As I’ve mentioned in the previous blog, I LOVE traveling.  I also consider myself pretty good at finding deals.  This blog is connected to Hotwire and that’s how I discovered it.  I am in love.

This site might be a “borderline” blog.  The site is setup differently, but definitely encompasses a blog into its design.  The travel deals are posted in a blog style.  I love the way Travel Ticker is setup.  At the top of page are four categories, from ways to travel to where to travel. When you click on the certain sections, travels deal are filtered based on what you choose.  For example,  choose “ways to go” and click “flights” and airfare deals come up.

The travel deals are usually pretty decent and I like that they don’t just post the deals, they offer commentary on why they think it’s a good deal.


Lastly… I’m huge into music.  So it’s no surprise that I would find a music blog.  Specifically, I love live music.  That’s where Soundcheck the TBT’s Tampa music scene blog comes in.

The thing that I love about this blog is that they pepper in coverage of national artists coming to the Bay Area’s big venues and also spotlight local artists playing the whole-in-the-walls.

The blog is consistently updated with fresh content and I love the use of photos in every blog with occasional videos thrown in.   Their Artist of the Day feature has spotlighted quite a few local bands that I checked out and am now listening to.

I love and hate the layout however.  I love the big headlines, it makes it easier to separate each post when reading straight through.  Surprisingly though, I don’t like the big font and the white background, it formats weird on my computer.

That’s it, the best blogs I feel that the web has to offer.

•April 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Best of Blogs:  Round II

With Round 2 of the Best of Blogs, I had to look outside what I currently read.  So I went out on a search of categories  that I interest me.  This is what I found…

1.)  Everything, Everywhere:

This blog was started by man named Gary Arndt who in 2007 decided to sell his home and travel the world.  Before he was 21, he had never even seen salt water– Minnesota is ” a long way from the ocean”, Gary says.

The main thing I like about Everything, Everywhere is the referencing.  This might be hard to understand… but with almost every post Gary references back to a past post.  The thing I like is that he provides links to those posts.  It’s oddly refreshing, and allows me to try and connect as if I’ve been reading the blog from the beginning.

Another feature I like about Everything, Everywhere is the photo of the day.  I love traveling (been to Europe, Caribbean, Mexico a few times myself) and I love taking in new cultures and seeing the amazing sights.   Gary being an amateur photojournalist, the photos are usually AMAZING and I like that he posts them as the first thing you see when you click on the blog.

He has been traveling alone for over 1100 days and yet keeps the content fresh and updated.  I also enjoy his “frequently asked questions”.  Really gives you an idea of what he is about.  Great blog!

This next blog my friend sent me the link to… it isn’t profound… you won’t learn anything or find any great tidbit of everlasting knowledge from it, but it shows another niche blog market: the hilarity of real people.

2.) Hot Chicks with Douchebags

As the name implies, this blog is about mocking hot chicks with douche bags, haha.  The site is usually updated multiple times a day.  The one thing I like about this site– aside from the hilariousness of the idea–is the commentary next to the pictures.  For such a crude, simple idea, the bloggers are actually pretty clever.  See “Where’s Sorority Girl?”… juicedouche … classic!

For my next blog… I did what most of us do for ideas.  Googled it.

3.) ilovephotoblogs

This blog is different in that it showcases other photo blogs.  This site has pointed me to some of the best photo blogs that I’ve seen.  The other thing that I love about the site is that the blogger also posts tips regarding photography in general.

Some of the best posts include:

  • Affordable photography backdrops
  • 9 sure fire tips for better photo blogging
  • 19 killer street photography tips   ( I love this post especially because I love “street” style photography.  I love nitty-gritty pictures with wide angle lenses and obscure angles.
  • Top 10 Photos You Can Stop Shooting Already (most of them are very true!)

There are some amazing blogs out there!

Deal Divas!

•March 25, 2010 • Leave a Comment

On Monday we had the Deal Divas from the St. Petersburg Times come in and speak with us about writing for blogs (which go figure, I’m doing right now).  When I read the blog, I thought “boy, this will be a great class being the only male student in it, talking about writing for fashion.”  After leaving the class, I realized how wrong that initial notion was.

The main thing I took away from the discussion was about finding your niche and how to market yourself… always.  I know at least Stephanie has a personal Twitter account in which she uses to promote her work away from the Times.

I found the tips that the Divas gave about driving traffic to their blogs very insightful.  It blew my mind when they said they actually target national readers instead of local.  Which I mean every publication wants a national following, but they are actually serious about it and are trying to achieve that.  Using certain keywords multiple times throughout a post is a great idea.  I am familiar with SEO (search engine optimization), but I never thought to use it for a blog.  Not only that, but how smart they are to tailor their posts to what is making news and chatter.

I found it interesting that Stephanie said she was blogging before she got into journalism school and that sometimes her blog voice comes into her news stories.  Which I could see as a benefit, especially since she likes writing features.

Stephanie was also saying how with a blog you need to have a strong voice regardless of how you feel about it, because no cares about a melancholy opinion.  Which kind of goes along with Manjoo when he wrote about Rush Limbaugh in his book.  None of his listeners listen to him because he is the most educated on policy.  The reason they listen is because he is passionate about what he believes in (style) and they either agree completely and chime in or rip into him because they absolutely disagree.

I like that they spoke about using multimedia outlets with their posts.  As I said in class on Wednesday,  I love photo mixed in with copy on blogs.  It’s kind of daunting when you click onto a blog with just pages of copy (which I’m sorry I don’t have any pics to show) lol.  I really believe photos/video/audio really adds to whatever vibe the blogger is trying to portray.

Each one of the Divas has a certain day of the week (which is similar to what we had at AARP Florida with our Twitter account).  I think it really works out nicely, especially with the blogs I’m sure because you develop followers for certain days.  The only problem with that is that social media should be more on the spontaneous side.  I think that is the balance corporations are trying to figure out and still be genuine.
I’ll leave you with this quote from the Divas… “Blogging is like watching a sitcom, except you’re one of the cast members.”

How cool is that?

Battle of the Blogs–the Best Three

•March 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

After learning that we were going to start blogging, I decided to get some examples of what makes a blogger effective.  In this search I found 3 blogs that I read on a regular basis that capture my attention.

1.)  ESPN Blog Network:  Big East Blog

This is the blog that I frequent the most.  Out of all my hobbies, sports is my biggest.  The thing that I found great about this blog is the insider information that you receive from the blogger.  The Big East, while being a major conference, doesn’t get as much attention in the mainstream media as the other conferences.  USF gets even less attention.  What I like from this site is that I can search specifically under the USF “tag” to receive all my up-to-date information about the Bulls.  There is just one blogger who takes the reign on this blog.

2.) Mashable

Being a social media junkie (it is pretty much my job at HART) this blog keeps me informed on all the new crazes related to web.  While the site has become much more than a blog, that is still its bread and butter.  With this blog the writer also holds contests for items (such as a new Apple IPad) every couple months.  This blogger has a solid following–one of the most popular blogs on the web–and touches on pretty much anything.  Some of the current posts include:  Why Your Brand Needs to Be on FacebookFacebook Blamed for Rise of Syphillis in UK and When do Twitter Users Sleep? Above all, I like that freshness of this blog.  It gives you a variety of topics and I’m guessing they have multiple bloggers, because the content is updated every hour.

3.) Engadget

Lastly, Engadget is one of my favorite blogs (especially when I’m looking for a new cellphone/electronic).  Engadget is a technology blog (if you couldn’t guess) that focuses on all the new trends in technology.  The blog is a part of a network of blogs each one related to all things geek (consumer electronics, video games etc.)  Like the other blogs, the blog is updated multiple times a day and always have fresh content–there are something like 7 bloggers.  As I mentioned above, I love reading the blog around the time I am looking for a new electronic.  Engadget always has reviews available and they’re usually pretty fair and spot on.  Late last year, the site started producing a once-a-month show that they invite an audience to and broadcast on the website.  The site also does a regular weekly podcast.
So to wrap things up… what makes a good blog to me:  has fresh content and subject matter and acts as a news source.

Dan Ruth–Might as Well be Hitler

•February 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So on Wednesday we had Dan Ruth, an award-winning columnist formerly of the Tampa Tribune, and currently with the St. Petersburg Times.  I was pretty excited when I learned that he would be speaking with us because of the fact that I’ve read quite a few of his articles and he is fairly well-known in the area.  Ironically, it was Dan Ruth getting fired from the Tribune  that actually led me to switch my major to public relations.  I felt that if veteran reporters were getting fired, then how was I going to jump into the field.

Ruth began the conversation talking about what column was his favorite one to write.  His favorite article was regarding the League of the South–an organization of whacked-out Southerners demanding reparations from the North because of what they called a “disruption of  the way of life” (slavery.)  My favorite quote from that was Ruth saying that the North should demand reparations from all the kerosene Sherman had to use on the South.  That what makes Dan Ruth who he is.  His style is very sarcastic and witty–yet simple and straightforward.  Ruth has a very “smart casual” style of writing in which he can be witty and yet keep the writing simple for the readers.

Throughout the discussion there weren’t certain lessons in column writing given out.

Lesson #1:  Be sure the ideas are yours and you have the commitment to the column.  Treat the real estate with a great deal of respect.

Lesson #2: “Your job as a columnist is to make people think about the issues of the day.  Job is to create informed readers.”  Even if they disagree with what you write, you still want them to guage their opinon

Lesson #3: ” Write columns in which people relate to, and get them laughing–gets them to relax.

Ruth talked about where he gets a lot of his ideas.  He mentioned that a good portion of his ideas come from every day life, but the process is still the same.   Columnists have to have their pieces vetted just like anyone.

Best quote was in regards to blogging:  “Blogs are like assho*es, everyone has one.  I tend to agree with him.  The internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, listen to music and watch movies–which is great.  The internet has seemed to revamp individual thought.  The problem I have is when news corporations are taking random people’s blogs seriously and running with stories and later having to retract them.  They are so tied up in being the first to break news that they are severely losing credibility.  Bloggers truly do not have to have any kind of editing process or any kind of real, vetted sources.

Dan is a tremendous journalist and it was a blast to be able to speak with him about the industry.