Now that I’m “done” teaching, I want to go back to school and be in Christopher Allbritton’s class at NYU. Here are the latest assignments he’s given his students:
Assignment: How the Bush and Kerry campaigns use their own blogs. How do they view the blogs of their supporters? Interview people from both campaigns, preferably the person in charge of the official campaign blog. Then find some high-profile blogs that support each candidate and interview them. Show me how the official blogs and supporter blogs fit together and work together, assuming they do. If they don’t, why not? Also, look at the relative online presence and examine how the candidates’ public words jive with their online presence.
Assignment: Find a relatively well-known band/artist/actor/creative performer who keeps a blog (i.e., no buddies of yours who happen to be in a band.) Find out how they use the blog and how it helps their art. Is it just for marketing? A means of expression? An artform unto itself? Profile this person and their blog. Dig deep. I want to know everything about them — childhood, relationships, did they hate their parents, etc. Tie this all together with the blog. Don’t just email this person; call them. If they’re in NYC, sit down and talk with them over coffee. Visit their home. Make them a living, breathing person.
Assignment: There are a lot of different companies out there producing some kind of blogging software. SixApart, Google/Blogger, LIveJournal, Weblogs Inc., and Userland, just to name a few. There are others out there. Contact some of these companies and show me what their vision is for the future of the medium. Where is it going and why? What are some of the uses of the blog that they see but which are not being done now for lack of applications? This is a business story, so look at it from that angle. Find out their business plans, their revenue model, how they plan to stay in business and try to tell me stuff I don’t already know. If they’re based in New York, ask to visit their offices and talk to regular employees. Make this a rich story to tell.
Assignment: Google Rocks, Google Sucks. “Google literacy” is becoming as important as “media literacy.” Most of you didn’t know how Google worked when you started this class. I hope you do now and are familiar with its strengths and its flaws. But most people are not and use Google uncritically. Find people who are critical of google and write a story as to why they’re critical. Mind you, you’ll have to use Google to find these people, so I hope the irony is not lost on you or excluded from your story. Be sure to go to Google to get a response to any criticism. Use any and all search engines at your disposal — including Nexis — to find stories on Google’s failings. Examine how the site works, what’s good about it, what’s bad, and why and how people — especially journalists — rely on Google so much.
I went to college twenty (five) years too soon…