Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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And we’re back!

283349_10101119818062679_125735451_nAfter a busy summer with only an occasional post, the Living in a Media World blog is back – Now in it’s 11th year (Yup, started back in March of 2004!)

If you aren’t already, please follow us on Twitter (@ralphehanson) for daily updates on media, motorcycles, and other amusing things that start with M.  You can also join the conversation of media literacy students and faculty using the hashtag #liamw.

Finally, I have a Tumblr ( with interesting video, art, comics (not that comic aren’t art), animation, photos, and the like.  If you have suggestions for things to post there, don’t hesitate to contact me!



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Getting Old

Years ago when I got my first job as an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University, Jack Sisco, the gruff, old director of the program looked at me and said:

“It’s bad enough when the incoming freshmen could be your children, but when you get to the point that the new assistant professors could be your children, you know you’re getting old.”

Today I had our new assistant professor who will be teaching video checking in, and I got to meet his lovely wife and new daughter. Holding the little girl was a man my age – her grandfather. I checked, and Grandpa and I were the same age.

And so, I came to the realization that I have just hired a new assistant professor who could be my own child. I’m officially old.

I’m off to drink my Metamucil.

And welcome Jacob Rosdail and family, we’re glad to have you here!


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Dealing Globally With Free Speech

I saw a fascinating series of Tweets this morning about the conflict between public safety, ethnic violence/civil wars, and free speech around the world – especially in Turkey and MENA (Middle East/North Africa).  I’m not able to come up with a good link to send you to to better understand the issues going on here, but here is a sampling of the Tweets I read this morning from Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Tweets from Zeynep Tufekci

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Creativity, Tastelessness, and Grabbing the Advertising Audience

In advertising, a tension often exists between creativity and salesmanship.  An ad may do a great job of grabbing people’s attention and generating talk, but if the ad doesn’t have a solid sales message, consumers will not remember the product or give serious thought to buying it. Advertisers also have to be continually asking themselves, “Does this ad help build the value of our brand?”

There have been a number of ads that have done a great job of grabbing the public’s attention.  But have they done a good job of promoting the product?  Have they build the value of the brand?

Consider Anheuser-Busch back in 2009. Their brand Bud Light (the most popular beer in the United States) was launching its Bud Light Lime beer in cans. (Previously it had only been available in bottles.)  Anheuser-Busch promoted the launch with an online ad that had people talking about “getting it in the can” — as in a suburban housewife confessing, “I never thought I’d enjoy getting it in the can as much as I do.” The crude sex joke attracted a lot of talk and attention from the advertising press. But it’s not clear what the message did to promote the brand or increase sales.

American Apparel has long been known for producing explicit ads for it’s line of young adult clothing that have featured nudity and provocative poses.  One recent campaign promoted their knitwear, bodysuits, and stockings  with poses that made women appear “vulnerable and overtly sexual,” according to Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority.  American Apparel defended their ads, saying they had tried to create “authentic, honest and memorable images relevant to their customer base.”  There can be no question that American Apparel has been successful with its shock-style ads.  The problem comes in figuring out what the company can do next to grab attention.

American Apparel ad that was banned in Britain

Irish brewer Guinness, on the other hand, has been successful in grabbing attention, generating talk, and building it’s brand image with an ad that features a group of men playing wheelchair basketball in a gym.  As the ad comes to an end, all but one of the men stand up and then join their one wheelchair-bound friend in a bar for a round of Guinness.  The ad has all the standard elements of a beer ad – guys playing sports and then going out to drink beer together afterwards. But it ads the unexpected twist that gives it a huge dose of heart.

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Questions Worth Asking (Maybe)

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“Control Room” documentary on Al Jazeera’s Coverage of War With Iraq

Broadcast via satellite from the small Arab country of Qatar since 1997, Al Jazeera has carried interviews with everyone from Osama bin Laden to Colin Powell and has been criticized for doing so by both the United States and Arab countries. During the current war in Iraq, Al Jazeera came to worldwide attention, presenting an Arab point of view to the fighting between the United States and Iraq. It has a regular audience of 40 million, which dwarfs CNN or Fox in scope.

Although some observers accuse Al Jazeera of being a pro-Arab propaganda channel, others have described it as the CNN of the Arab world. Perhaps neither label is completely fair or completely accurate. It would seem instead that Al Jazeera is committed to presenting an Arab view of the world. That is, it works at telling the news accurately, but it tells it from a clear point of view.

This documentary, Control Room, was made in 2004 during the height of our war with Iraq.

Here is an online copy of the film.  It is also available through Netflix.

As you watch it, you will likely see things during it that offend you.  You are not watching this to be given “the truth” about any thing.  You are watching it to see how Al Jazeera presented the war to a very large part of the world.  It’s vital that we get a look at how other media portray news that is important to us.

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Into Thin Air’s Jon Krakauer on Everest Disaster

Jon Krakauer was reporting on the commercialization of Mt. Everest for Outside back in 1996 when a sudden storm killed eight people, including four people in the group Krakauer was climbing with.  His reporting became the bestselling book “Into Thin Air.”

Krakauer has written a fascinating essay for the New Yorker’s web site on the avalanche last week that claimed at least 13 lives on Everest.  In it, he notes that famed Everest tour leader Russell Brice (who was the star of the Discovery Channel’s multi-season series on climbing Everest) had become so alarmed about the dangers of a avalanche back in 2012 that he pulled all of his clients off the mountain.

More on this eventually, but this is an important addition to the media narrative about the excitement and dangers of Everest, and the high level of danger that the climbing sherpas are exposed to.

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Live Blogging Everest Tragedy

Mt. Everest is seemingly one of the most remote places on earth, but when news breaks there, we are often able to get up-to-date news there from connected climbers and journalists who can post photos, videos, and text to their blogs for transmission around the world.

This was brought to mind Friday morning when the story broke that at least 12 Sherpa guides were killed in an avalanche on the world’s tallest mountain while working at setting climbing ropes and taking supplies to higher camps.

Much of the news from this morning’s Washington Post story came from climber/blogger Alan Arnette, who has been providing detailed blog posts through out the day today.  Arentte has climbed Everest four times and summited in 2011.  While Arnette is blogging from his home in Colorado, he is in touch with climbers from all around the world who are working on their Everest attempts.

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The Right to Free Speech According to XKCD

Nailed it….

XKCD Free Speech

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