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Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Little Advice for New Authors

Fellow author Amy Neftzger recently wrote a column for a writer's group that I belong to called BookDaily in which she provided some good advice for novice writers.

Amy is an author of fiction for both adults and children and you can find out more about her and her work at her website:

I thought I would share her prescient thoughts with you so I am turning my blog over to her for today.
Amy Neftzger

Starting Out As a Writer: 5 Things You Should Know
By Amy Neftzger

Becoming an author is a long road to walk, and most people have no idea how long it takes to become successful or what they need to do when traveling this road. There are a lot of different ways to get to the end of it, but here are a few suggestions I have to help you along on this journey.

1. Success is not immediate

Many people think that publishing a book is like winning the lottery: you just put the book up for sale and then watch the royalties roll in. The truth is that simply putting your work out there will not make it sell. Readers have too many choices, and when they want a new book they tend to stick with what they know: authors they’ve already read. It takes quite a bit of time to build a following, so patience is the name of the game here. This is true whether you’re self or traditionally published.

2. In order to do it well, you will need help.

Don’t assume that you can write, edit, design layout, format, create cover artwork, and market your book all on your own. If you’re with a traditional publisher they will help with most of these things. If you’re self-published, you’ll need to find a way to get all these things done. You may be multi-talented but you’re still only one person and you may even have another job that currently pays your bills. So there’s the time factor to consider: If you do everything yourself then you’re spending a lot of time doing things other than writing. Aside from the time, when you do everything yourself your work tends to lack the balance that other people can add. Your finances may be limited, so figure out what you’re better at and where you’re weaker and seek affordable help for your weaker areas.

3. The market is currently flooded.

There are a lot of books out there and the number is growing, so readers have a lot of choices. What this means is that your book needs to be the best it can possibly be, because a less polished work simply won’t get any traction in a flooded market. This means that you may want to consider using beta readers to get feedback, and if you’re self-published you should definitely hire an editor and maybe even a proofreader.

4. Reader experience is everything.

People read books for the experience it provides. Your book should be designed to provide it and avoid anything that detracts from it.Things that pull away from the experience are glitches in plot development, spelling or layout errors, and errors in logic. maintaining a logical and believable flow to the plot will enhance reader experience, so use a good outline and be sure that the characters and situations are believable (even in fantasy).

5. It’s worth the effort

If you love to write and it’s in your blood, then you’ll find that all the work you put into producing your book is worth your time. The key is to keep working and improving your craft and to grow as a writer.

About the Author:

Amy Neftzger is the author of fiction books for both adults and children. She has also been published in business and academic journals, as well as literary publications. A few of her favorite things include traveling, books, movies, art, the Oxford comma, and gargoyles.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What is Happening to the News Media?

I hear that question all the time. I hear it mainly because my friends and relatives  know I spent almost 30 years of my life in the news business--first as a general assignment reporter, then as a foreign correspondent, then as an editor.

Later I became a professor of journalism and dean of a journalism program at a major university where I spent a lot of time researching the media.

So I know the news business inside and out. I have worked in it, I have studied it and now, like a lot of other people, I wonder about its usefulness and value.

Several factors have combined to alter the media landscape from the one I entered right out of college in 1970 or so.

Some argue that new technologies have had a deleterious impact on the media. There is no doubt that the old business models that once worked for newspapers, television and radio have changed. Advertising revenues have plummeted and news organizations find themselves scrambling to stay financially afloat.

Add to that the fact that the Internet, the blogosphere, and social media have all united to create a new world of pseudo-journalists who are not held to the same standards of excellence that we "professionals" once were and the picture looks bleak.

Sadly, today's "professionals" often are not being held to that higher standard either. Witness the recent fallout over the Rolling Stone story on the bogus gang rape at the University of Virginia that is being walked back because not a single detail could be corroborated.

Or the kind of "personal" and "participatory" journalism that would have gotten me run out of the Chicago Tribune's newsroom back in the early 1970s. I can almost hear my old city editor yelling:

"You can't write this kind of opinionated crap here!"

Yet, "opinionated crap" is often what we read in newspapers today or see on TV news programs.
I can recall discussions we used to have in news meetings about how to involve our readers more in the news gathering process--a noble idea, up to a point.

Today, those discussions have become reality because of The Internet, bloggers, social media, etc. The media are more interactive than ever.  That's not always a bad thing, but it becomes toxic when news organizations confuse "crowdsourcing" with old fashioned news gathering.

Now we are bombarded with stupid, unscientific "polls" and inane commentary from readers and viewers. No wonder glib MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber says the American electorate is "stupid." It is difficult not to come to that conclusion when you read or listen to some of these comments.

News organizations need to be more than simple aggregators of information. They need to provide knowledgeable, unbiased context for an informed citizenry. Unfortunately, there is little impartial context and even fewer citizens who are adequately informed.

News is often nothing more than "infotainment." It is a prejudicial mix of imprecise information and imprudent stories geared to titillate, rather than inform.

I used to tell my students we needed more of what I call "spinach journalism?" What is spinach journalism? you ask.

It is journalism intended to inform and educate. In essence we are telling news consumers: "Here, read this, watch this, listen to this, it's GOOD FOR YOU!"

Newspapers especially were once the mirrors for the communities they served. They reflected the people and events, the good and the bad of their communities. Granted, the mirrors were not always free of distortion, but at least there were tough professional editors and producers who cracked the whip and kept reporters focused on facts rather than the fiction and opinion we too often see today.

Sadly, I fear there are far too few of those tough and demanding newsroom mentors around today and too many reporters who think the news is theirs to manipulate and mold to fit their worldview or political ideologies.

Along those lines, I am amazed at how far many journalists seem willing to go to protect a Washington administration that has been the most opaque, intrusive and hostile to press freedom than any in recent history.  

It makes me wonder what happened to the traditional role of the press? That role is to act as the de-facto "fourth estate" of government. Journalists, I was always told, were to be the watchdogs of government, not its lapdogs.

As someone once said, journalists should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

That is happening less and less today. It is much easier to write stories that reflect one's own values than to get out of one's comfort zone and enter unfamiliar and even disagreeable territory in the search for truth.

Veracity is seldom found within the confines of our own narrow opinions. All we will find there is further reinforcement for what we already hold to be true.

So when people ask me what is happening to America's news media--once the strongest and freest in the world--I have only one answer: 

"Where's the spinach?"

Monday, December 8, 2014

Do America's Enemies Deserve Our Respect and Empathy?

In a recent speech at Georgetown University Hillary Clinton urged Americans to empathize with and respect our enemies--namely Islamic fanatics who want to kill us and obliterate our way of life.

After those words were uttered by a woman who apparently wants to be America's next president, I think I heard Gen. George S. Patton bellowing epithets from the grave. Patton was notorious for his epithets.

Patton, the no nonsense American general known as "blood and guts" who helped push the Germans out of North Africa and Sicily during WW II and who drove the U.S. Third Army deep into the heart of Germany, said this about America's enemies:

“May God have mercy on my enemies because I won't.” 

That's poles apart from what Hillary Clinton had to say last week about America's enemies and how we should deal with them:
"Show Respect for America's Enemies"

"This is what we call smart power...showing respect, even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible empathize with their perspective and point of view."

I can just imagine what Patton would say about "smart power" and the preposterous notion that we should have respect for and empathize with our enemy's point of view.

He no doubt would have used one of his favorite words: Bullshit!

I wonder how Hillary's statement might have resonated if she had made it during WW II after the world learned what the Nazi's did in death camps like Auschwitz and what the Japanese did in places like Nanking, China?

Oh, but the war against radical Islam is different, some might argue. Really? You mean beheading journalists, slaughtering innocent aide workers and educators, murdering Christians and Jews, and even butchering Muslims who don't adhere to radical Islam is not the same? Really?

Murder is murder no matter who commits it, how it's committed, or in what decade it is committed. Empathy and respect be damned.

And what if President Roosevelt had gone to Congress seeking a declaration of war following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and said:

"We must have empathy for the Japanese who did this to us," instead of what he actually said, which was: "Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

Enemies are enemies. Empathizing and respecting their perspective is a ludicrous thing to say. It is especially preposterous for someone who wants to occupy the White House and become our military's Commander-in-Chief.  

Patton understood that the way to win a war was to fight it, not chatter about it while giving a $200,000 speech. The last thing he would have counseled is for American leaders to engage in fearful hand wringing and hope those who want to destroy us will somehow come to love us if only we are benign, compassionate and work harder to understand their perspective.

General "Blood & Guts" Patton

In a 1944 speech to the Third Army Patton told his men this:
"We want this war over with. The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home."

Is there any doubt who started the war on terror? On September 11, 2001 when those hijacked planes flew into the twin towers, into the Pentagon, and into that Pennsylvania farm field, we were at war--even if the current feckless occupant of the White House refuses to call it that.

When you are attacked, no matter what your political affiliation may be or on which side of the political aisle you may sit, you basically have two options: you either capitulate because you are afraid to fight, or you respond with "extreme prejudice," as we used to say in the Army.

Regrettably, the current administration seems to have resurrected a third option--one that was proven woefully ineffective back in 1938. It was called appeasement. And Adolph Hitler laughed all the way to the Eagle's Nest.

After Hillary Clinton's ill-advised and placatory remarks you can almost hear the terrorists hooting and whooping in their desert bunkers and strongholds.

I wonder how Patton might have dealt with the brutal Islamic State currently slaughtering its way through Syria and Iraq.

I can't imagine him telling the men of the Third Army to respect and empathize with that vicious rabble; to try to understand why they hate America or why these cowards are beheading American and other Western captives.

After Patton read the Koran and observed North African Muslims during WW II, we have an idea what he thought of Islam. In his book, War as I Knew it, published posthumously in 1947, he wrote:

"What if the Arabs had been Christians? To me it seems certain that the fatalistic teachings of Mohammed and the utter degradation of women is the outstanding cause for the arrested development of the Arab. He is exactly as he was around the year 700, while we have kept on developing."

Not a sentiment that would make the apologists for Islamic radicals and terrorists happy.

Nor would Islamic suicide bombers have embraced one of Patton's most famous statements:

"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other dumb bastard die for his country."

Amen, General.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

10 surprising social media facts

Authors today need to be savvy about using social media to get the word out about their books. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, book blogs, WAYN--these are all critical social media for marketing books.

And as any author knows (especially those who don't get books reviewed in the New York Times Book Review section) getting the word out is critical for a book to attract readers. 

Today, I am turning my blog over to Monica Wells, content marketing specialist, at BizDb in the United Kingdom. She has gathered some interesting facts about using social media that you might find helpful. 

For example, did you know five Facebook profiles are created every second, or that what's popular on Pinterest on Monday is different from what's popular on Wednesday? Read on for more.

By Monica Wells 

If you consider yourself a social media guru, you're in for a surprise.

Due to social media analytics tools' rapid evolution, industry experts have uncovered a lot of new, increasingly detailed information to help marketers create more effective social media strategies. There are dozens of social media research studies out there.

Here are 10 interesting social media facts you probably don't know:

1. Facebook is growing.

Even though Facebook is becoming obsolete in some markets, the global scale shows something completely different: Five Facebook profiles are created every second. That's more than the number of global births.

2. Twitter has six conversation networks.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center and Social Media Research Foundation analyzed thousands of Twitter conversations and spotted a pattern: There are as many as six types of conversations that take place on Twitter. And we thought tweeting was simple.

3. People love videos.

Even though marketers agree original videos aren't an important part of their social media strategies, the facts speak for themselves. Every day Facebook users watch more than 500 years' worth of videos, and visitors spend, on average, at least 15 minutes on YouTube. 

4. Twitter users want fast responses.

A study by Lithium Technologies shows Twitter's real-time nature raises users' expectations for brand responses. Fifty-three percent of users who tweet to a brand expect an answer within an hour. For those who are angry and tweeting to complain, that number rises to 72 percent.
Use tools to track response time, and answer tweets as fast as possible—especially the angry ones.

5. Most Facebook engagement occurs on Friday.

In its recent Social Intelligence Report, Adobe analyzed more than 225 billion Facebook posts. It found that posts receive more comments, shares and "likes" on Fridays. (Perhaps because Fridays are conducive to slacking off.) Consider this when you review your posting schedule.

6. Late evening is the best time to tweet.

After analyzing more than 1.7 million tweets, TrackMaven determined the best time to tweet is from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, particularly on Sundays. Share volume is lower late at night, and content has a greater chance of being shared. Tweet during this hour for more engagement.

7. Popular topics on Pinterest change by the day.

Pinterest is one of the social media platforms that drive the most Web traffic, and thankfully it shared some of its immense amount of data. On its blog, Pinterest revealed the categories that get the most engagement each day. Whereas fitness posts score high on Monday, inspirational quotes are most popular on Wednesday. (Workers must want some comfort halfway through the workweek.)

8. Visuals have power on Facebook.

We know the value of images in social media marketing, but this figure is mind-blowing: Social Bakers revealed 87 percent of a Facebook page's interactions happen on photo posts. By comparison, posts with links receive just 4 percent of interactions. Choosing photos that fit your brand narrative or tell a story should be your priority.

9. Written content is essential.

Content marketing's expected rise means more marketers will seek high-quality content to raise brand awareness on social media. Writers can feel secure: Marketers appreciate written content most. An annual survey from Social Media Examiner revealed 58 percent of marketers consider blog posts and articles the most important kind of social media content. That's impressive, especially considering that 19 percent of marketers voted for visual content.

10. The 55-64 age bracket is growing on Twitter.

It is the fastest-growing demographic on Twitter. This will bring joy to those who market to mature consumers.

Given the practical insights from all these studies, one thing is clear: To stay on top of your game, you need a firm grasp on social media analytics and statistics.

Monica Wells is a content marketing specialist at A version of this article originally appeared on Social Media Today.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

How to Become an American Ambassador: $$$$$

When I was roaming the world as a foreign correspondent, I spent hours and hours talking to American ambassadors in places like Tokyo, El Salvador, Vietnam, Cambodia, Peru, Mexico, etc. The list goes on and on.

Most of them had extensive knowledge of the countries in which they represented the United States.
Mike Mansfield, for example, was the longest serving U.S. Ambassador to Japan in history (1977-1988). He had a significant knowledge of Japan and Asia and was fond of saying that the United States-Japan relationship is the 'most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none.'

His successor, Michael H. Armacost (1989-1993), was the former ambassador to The Philippines; a member of the National Security Council to handle East Asian and Chinese affairs, and was acting Secretary of State.

When you had a conversation with either of these men about Japanese-U.S. relations, it was substantive.

That same cannot be said for the two most recent ambassadors confirmed by the Senate:

·       New Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bradley Bell, 47, a soap opera producer (The Bold and the Beautiful), Obama donor ($800,000) and bundler ($2.1 million) for his campaigns.

·       New Ambassador to Argentina Noah Bryson Mamet, 44, a political consultant and bundler who raised $500,000 for Obama's presidential campaign.

Neither of America's newest ambassadors have any significant knowledge of the countries they will be working in and neither distinguished themselves during Senate confirmation hearings.
Colleen Bradley Bell

Take this exchange between Bell and Sen. McCain at this week's hearing:

 MCCAIN: So what would you be doing differently from your predecessor, who obviously had very rocky relations with the present government?

BELL: If confirmed, I look forward to working with the broad range of society —

MCCAIN: My question was, what would you do differently?

BELL: Senator, in terms of what I would do differently from my predecessor, Kounalakis

MCCAIN: That’s the question.

BELL: Well, what I would like to do when — if confirmed — I would like to work towards engaging civil society in a deeper — in a deeper —

MCCAIN: Obviously, you don’t want to answer my question.

Then there was this exchange between Mamet and Sen. Marco Rubio:

 RUBIO:  "Mr. Mamet, have you been to Argentina?"

MAMET: "Senator, I haven't had the opportunity yet to be there. I've traveled pretty extensively around the world. But I haven't yet had a chance."

Mamet also conceded that he speaks no Spanish and has little or no knowledge of Argentine history or politics.

Noah Mamet

And so it goes. The truth is that both Bell’s and Mamet's appointments are just another example of the Washington game which rewards campaign donors and friends of the president   with ambassadorial positions.

By recent historic standards, Obama is already pushing the ceiling when it comes to putting friends and campaign supporters in U.S. diplomatic posts.

According to research by the American Foreign Service Association, 35 percent of Obama’s assignments have been political appointments. But in his second term, the number has grown to 41 percent according. The AFSA union represents career diplomats and wants more strict enforcement of a 1980 law that says campaign donations may not be considered a qualification for any foreign posting.

Good luck with that.

 Among other things that law says:  "An individual appointed or assigned to be a chief of mission should possess clearly demonstrated competence to perform the duties of a chief of mission, including, to the maximum extent practicable, a useful knowledge of the principal language or dialect of the country in which the individual is to serve, and knowledge and understanding of the history, the culture, the economic and political institutions, and the interests of that country and its people."

Whoops! Somebody in the White House must have forgotten that. Ditto the Senate. But wait, the confirmation votes for Bell and Mamet were along strict party lines. So forgetfulness was not a factor.

Money was.

I was thinking that I were still roaming the world as a foreign correspondent, what could I talk to Ms. Bell about if I were writing about Hungary?

It's oppressive form of government? Nah. It's sick economy? Nah Corruption in the government of PM Viktor Orban? Nah.

But we could spend a good hour discussing the Bold and the Beautiful and its most recent episode: 

"Liam badgers Quinn to admit she went to the shower and took the cake as a momento. Quinn hollers at him to let it go. He accuses her of stalking Hope. Quinn says being treated like a pariah instead of a loving grandmother-to-be is ripping her apart. She insists the baby changes everything. Hope and Wyatt's marriage is secure and she'll never be a threat again. Liam promises as long as she's a threat to Hope's happiness..." 

And I could walk away with a reporter's notebook bulging with news. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


When MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, one of the chief architects of Obamacare referred, in a year-old video last week, to the "stupidity of the American voter" and a "lack of transparency" as critical to the passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, it ignited a fire storm of outrage.

But was Gruber wrong when he made those off-the-cuff remarks about the American electorate at an academic conference in 2013?

Sadly, it appears that he may have been right in his assessment. According to at least two recent surveys, Americans are woefully ignorant when it comes to their country and its governance.

Ask them to name just one Supreme Court Justice and 65 percent can’t, according to the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

It gets better. Ask Americans to name the three branches of their government and 36 percent of Americans can’t. Ask them to name just a single branch of government and 35 percent can’t even do that.

But in a nation consumed like no other with celebrity, ask Americans to reel off the names of the top rock stars, gansta rappers, Oscar favorites, superstars in the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, and any number of mindless reality TV shows and their minions and guess what? You will have no problem getting an answer.

So while Gruber is being pilloried for his remarks, the sad truth is that he is right. American voters are stupid--or perhaps apathetic or indifferent are better descriptions.

Lying to them, as the Obama administration did when it was ramming Obamacare through Congress and down our throats, was viewed as an acceptable tactic. After all, they reasoned, Americans are too stupid to know what's good for them.

While such a conclusion may smack of just somebody's opinion, it was backed up last month in a groundbreaking survey by the U.K. research firm Ipsos MORI. That survey highlighted the political “ignorance” of 11,527 people across 14 countries

It found that Americans are second only to Italians in how little we understand our nations and the issues facing it. (See Graphic)

Here are a few of the questions asked and the results:

·       What percentage of the U.S. population identifies as Muslim?
Americans guessed: 15%.  Reality: 1%

·       What percentage of the population do you think are immigrants to America?
Americans guessed: 32%. Reality: 13%

·       Do you think this statement is true or false: The murder rate is rising in America
70 percent of Americans guessed: True . Reality: False

·       What percentage of American girls aged between 15 and 19 years give birth each year? Americans guessed: 23.9%. Reality: 3.1%

 Back in 2008, Rick Shenkman, the editor-in-chief of the History News Network, published a book entitled: Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter.

Shenkman found that most Americans were, among other things:

·       Ignorant about major international events

·       Knew little about how their own government runs and who runs it

·       Were nonetheless willing to accept government positions and policies even though a moderate amount of critical thought suggested they were bad for the country

·       Were easily swayed by stereotyping, simplistic solutions, irrational fears and public relations babble.

Shenkman found that Americans, when they do pay attention, do so when they perceive that an issue may impact them, their families or friends personally. That is not earth shattering, but it does say something about the fact that Americans, like it or not, are part of the global family.

I spent some two decades as a foreign correspondent, covering stories throughout Asia and Latin America. During that time I discovered that relatively few Americans had any understanding at all of the impact events and policies in places like China or Japan can have on their lives.

For example, when products are manufactured more inexpensively in China or India or Vietnam that often means higher paid Americans lose their jobs.

When rapacious government policies allow a Chinese steel company to export its products at a price that is lower in the American market than the price charged in the domestic Chinese market, and thereby unfairly undercut American steel makers, that is called "dumping."

What most Americans may not know is that dumping is legal under World Trade Organization rules unless the aggrieved foreign country can demonstrate the negative impact of the exporting company on domestic producers. In order to counter dumping, most nations use tariffs and quotas to protect their domestic industry from the negative effects of predatory pricing.

But let's get back to that Ipsos MORI survey and Gruber's unflattering characterization of the American voter.

We often decry the quality of elected officials today. But what about the quality of voters?

How can we make informed decisions about places like Iraq and Iran, organizations like ISIS, government spending, and societal issues if we have no understanding of the essential specifics involved?

American educator and philosopher Robert Maynard Hutchins may have said it best:

"The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Students Support First Amendment Freedoms More Than Adults

There is a reason the very first amendment to the U. S. Constitution in 1791 dealt with issues such as freedom of speech, the press, religion, the right of peaceful assembly and the right to redress grievances via government petition.

The founding fathers viewed those freedoms and rights as critical to a functioning democracy. Without them a government could exercise almost total control over its people.

Americans often talk about the First Amendment without really knowing what it says. Here is a refresher for those who may have forgotten the wording:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

It was heartening to me a few weeks ago when a national study of 10,463 high school students and 588 teachers funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation found that students are more supportive of the First Amendment than adults and that increased digital news consumption and classroom teaching are driving the change.

It makes me wonder if adults have become blasé about the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment--or worse.

When I hear people suggest that government should "reign in the media" or curb speech they don't like or agree with, it's like suggesting that government chip away at the foundation of the Capitol Building. Eventually, with enough chipping the building will collapse and with enough "reigning in" of the First Amendment we will find ourselves unable to speak or publish freely.

So it was encouraging that these students apparently understand the value of freedom of the press and speech when it comes to opinions they don't agree with.

"Student use of social, mobile and digital media to consume news is at all-time highs, and so is student support of the First Amendment," said Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president of Knight Foundation. "The most supportive students of all are heavy digital media users who also have had a class explaining the First Amendment."

The study, the fifth in a series of national surveys of high school students and teachers commissioned by the Knight Foundation during the past 10 years, holds important implications for the future of the First Amendment. Courts interpret the meaning of the first amendment within the context of public opinion.

Here are a few key findings of the Knight Study:

●      High school students are showing more appreciation for the First Amendment than adults. Only 24 percent of students said that the First Amendment goes too far in guaranteeing the rights of religion, speech, press assembly and petition. In comparison, a Newseum Institute survey that tracks adult opinions on the first amendment showed that 38 percent of adults feel this way. This marks a shift: 10 years ago students (35 percent) were more likely than adults (30 percent) to say that the First Amendment goes too far.

●      More students than ever before are showing support for the First Amendment: Nine in 10 students surveyed said that “people should be able to express unpopular opinions,” and 60 percent oppose government surveillance of online information and phone calls even to identify terrorists.

●      Both digital news consumption and First Amendment appreciation are growing among high school students. Seventy-one percent of students said they read news online daily; in 2006 only 31 percent said they got news and information from the Internet several times per week. And while only eight percent of students reported consuming news and information daily through mobile devices in 2007, the latest report shows 62 percent of students now use mobile for this purpose—the highest level measured by the survey.

●      Digital media works hand-in-hand with the classroom. First Amendment support is highest among students who had a class that dealt with the First Amendment and used digital media on a regular basis. For example, 65 percent of the students who use digital news daily agreed strongly that people should be able to express unpopular opinions, but if they had a First Amendment-related class, the strong support for free speech rose to 69 percent.

●      Most teachers do not support free expression for students creating content about their schools. In a generational divide, the majority of teachers disagree that First Amendment rights should apply to school activities. For example, 57 percent of teachers feel that students should not be allowed to report on controversial issues in student newspapers and 67 percent say that students should not be allowed to express their opinions about teachers and school administrators on Facebook without penalty.

Obviously, there is a parting of the ways when it comes to press and speech freedom for students.

When I was the Dean of the College of Media at the University of Illinois I also happened to be a member of the board of the non-profit Illini Media Company--the student run newspaper that serves the university community.

Thankfully, the Illini Media Company was not a constituent of the University--though its student editors and reporters were.

Did the Daily Illini occasionally make some errors in judgment? Did it sometimes print a story that was not entirely accurate? Did it criticize the University of Illinois administration on occasion?

Yes, yes and yes. It did all of those things. But it corrected its errors and it responsibly recognized, clarified and apologized for its inaccuracies.

But one thing it never did, was kowtow to the University administration when that august body was angry about a Daily Illini story that it didn't approve of.

And that is exactly what "reigning in the media" would mean for press freedom in this country.
As Finley Peter Dunne once said about the media: they should "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

But beyond that, they should use the power of the First Amendment to be an unbiased and responsible watchdog of government and in so doing, speak and act on behalf of the people.

Because if the media do not, who will?

Here is a link to the survey: