Ag Coms Blog Post 4: Statistical Inference

Today in Ag Coms we discussed statistical inference.  We learned how to decode articles using statistics to be good consumers of information.  As evidenced by the demonstration in class, that can present challenges.

For homework, we’re supposed to read a news article, find the study, analyze the study’s results, and assess the article’s reflection of the study.  The government is constantly pouring money into helping people live longer, healthier lives, so the “Health” section of your local newspaper is a good place to start.

This is not the homework, just in case you’re confused.  I decided to do my own little study, and see how the average headline- skimmer would read a daily smattering of health news.

I’m looking on the front page for the Los Angeles Times’ Health website right now.  There are 14 articles on the main page.  Of these, 6 are about dieting or exercise, four are about cancer, three are about drugs or alternative medical therapies, and one is about persuasion. Almost every article associated with a study grossly over generalizes and comes up with the most shocking headline:

“Popular breast cancer treatment increases risk of mastectomy”, “a baby is born addicted to drugs about once an hour, study says”, “new research sends a stark warning to overweight teens”, “’Weapons of Persuasion’ from Robert Cialini”.

That last one is actually a psychological study that seems fairly unbiased on the varying degrees of success humans have using persuasive tactics on each other.  Fascinating!  But, I had to click on that headline to find out where it was going.  They tried to draw me in with the words “Mitt Romney”.  Mitt Romney? Where?  What’s he doing in the health section?  Is he sick?

I would be interested to see which articles get the most hits.  I’m sure most people breeze past the studies and go straight to “In Your Face Fitness”.  Our country lives in constant fear of ugliness, and our society has told us that skinny, healthy people who exercise a lot are more beautiful.  And, of course, old people with cancer and no hair are ugly.  So you should try as hard as possible not to get cancer, and cling to everything that says “anti- aging” as if your life depends on it.

My point is, being a “good” consumer of information is harder than it should be.  If you really want the truth, you must look at an article’s source.  Few of the headlines accurately represent their articles, and I’d be willing to bet that few of the articles accurately represent that studies they were based on.   Which to me defeats the purpose of an article, because when I read an article about a study, I think, “Great!  They read the study so I don’t have to.”

Well, you do.  You can be a good consumer of information or you can be an ignorant consumer of information, and one could cost you your boob.

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Ag Coms Blog Post 3: Dear Journalism Department,

Class was cancelled twice this week.

The journalism department, to my understanding, faces upheaval.  They hiring new professors and changing curriculums.  From my professors I gather that the biggest debate within the journalism department right now involved the legitimacy of public relations as a journalism practice.

Professor Gearhart probably gave my favorite definition: Journalism means information communication.  Public relations means persuasive communication.  Neither is black- and- white.  Journalism tries to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but public relations can be more selective.

To me, it sounds like the entire department can agree that journalism teaches applied writing, which is why I personally chose the major.  Here are some other things I would like to see:

  • Help us manage our electives.  Cal Poly is so convoluted in terms of its graduation requirements and class availability that students are basically bum- rushed into any elective with space. I want to take technical writing but it doesn’t look possible based on my future plans.  Maybe this could be an automatically department- approved elective?  Or a substitution for one of the existing major electives?   I think our advisors should help us decide which elective will complement our career paths, and get those  (which mine did.  Thanks, advisor!)
  • Get more teachers.  I know you guys are on it.  I applaud.  We have awesome faculty and staff but more often than not they’re overworked, underpaid, burned out, and/ or juggling other jobs.  Our secretary had to be hospitalized. That should be a major hint right there.  Stress kills, and these jobs are stressful.
  • Get a department head, so we look more like a department and less like a laughingstock.
  • 203 is a TERRIBLE intro to journalism course!  I am so glad it’s being abolished.  It teaches majors only about one concentration and leaves freshman totally confused as to what they want to do further down the line. Not to mention it gives people stomach ulcers.  True story.  Usually, 203 only teaches students that they DON’T want to write for newspapers.  I’m excited that the department wants to bring it back to something with a little bit of everything.
  • Global Coms?  What is that?  Why is it in our curriculum if nobody teaches it?
  • Add an MMJ concentration.  I would never chose this.  I think MMJ’s are like robots that live off water and microchips and do nothing but churn out stories all day long. I think they put people like videographers and editors out of a job.  Their devotion to social media may be single-handedly contributing to the deterioration of the human race.  I also think they neglect their children.  But a lot of students want to be one, so why not?
  • Update the computers in the 203 lab to include recent versions of Adobe CS and Final Cut Express, please!  Or at least make them consistent with the rest of the computers on campus.
  • Less learn by doing.  I know Cal Poly’s motto is “Learn by doing”, but there is too much learn by doing going on here.  I am tired of professors up and leaving during lab time while students wrestle with an application.   This week, I get the privilege of teaching myself InDesign.  I know that students are frustrated and crunched for time, especially since the programs are too expensive for us to buy and use at home, and the faculty is “too busy” working their other hundred jobs to help us.  Mike the Technician deserves a hallway named after him (and a pay raise), because he’s probably helped me more with technology than any teacher.
  • What’s with all this reliance on technology?    “My Computer Crashed” is like the new “The Dog Ate My Homework”. There should be a class on What To Do If Your Computer Crashes.

On the whole, though, our teachers care about us enough to take our comments to heart and work to give us the best educations possible.  Their dedication lets me know that no matter what concentration I pick, I’m getting  pretty good education.  And that is the truth.

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Ag Coms Blog Post 2: Wyoming

Wyoming has a population of 568,158 people according to a 2011 estimation by the U.S. census bureau. It is the least populous state and the tenth largest.   54% of the land belongs to the United States Government or Wyoming State Government, including Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. Before Lewis and Clark opened the doors to white settlement in 1805, the Crow, Arapaho, Shoshone and Lakota Indian tribes inhabited the region.  Today, tourism and natural gas mining represent the biggest contributors to Wyoming’s economy.  Wyoming also has a healthy agricultural sector as well.  Wyoming produces beef, hay, sugar beets, wheat, barley and wool. It contains the Wind River Indian Reservation, the U.S.’s seventh largest Indian reservation by land, home to 2,500 Eastern Shoshone and more than 5,000 Northern Arapaho Indians. This means about 1.3 % of Wyoming’ population is Native Wyoming.

I think we should give Wyoming back to the Indians.

I don’t know a ton about the reservation system, but I know that the quality of life on reservations sucks, there’s little room for upward mobility and Native Americans often struggle to balance their cultural roots and our cultural expectations (I learned this from reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part- Time Indian).  And I have always admired Native Americans.  I really want to live like a Native American, Old- West style.  You know, in a tipi, drinking from creeks, skinning squirrels,  dancing butt naked with my tribe around a roaring fire in the subzero winter.

And Native Americans can’t do that, because the U.S. government placed them on the least profitable land around.  Ie, ugly land with scarce natural resources that nobody, not even Native Americans, want to visit.

Wyoming is huge.  It’s beautiful.  Food grows there.  People don’t.   The town I live in right now has more people than total population of this gigantic state.   I think we should just make Wyoming a totally open for all the Indians…

…and hope they don’t get all competitive and kill each other like before.

**For clarification.  I realize that some indians, such as the Northwestern Pacific tribes, do not live in tipis.  I would also be willing to live in a pueblo or a log lodge.  But I’m talking mostly about the Plains indians here.

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Ag Coms Blog Post 1: Social Mediator

Today in Agricultural Communications class, we learned that professional communicators must build a web presence and personal brand for themselves through the use of social networking platforms.  Almost every professor in the journalism department stresses the importance of wowing the web with our social networking capabilities.  We must have at least one Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, Youtube, Storify, and WordPress account.  Furthermore, we must glean these accounts with contents that will impress future employers.  Pictures of us having actual social lives could make or break a job opportunity.  If you’re a professional communicator using social media, forget about the “social” aspect- it’s all media, period.

I hate it.

Professor Gearhart’s lecture reiterated common fears I have when using the Web.  Google has a search bar built in to almost every web browser. They offer email.  They can stand in for your Microsoft Office suite.  They now have Google+, which is something like Facebook. I learned from Professor Gearhart that Google tracks your computer’s IP address, and keeps a complete history of all your searches. Ever. You can also link up your Facebook, Twitter and Google accounts so advertisers can categorize your interests and head hunt you.

Think you can opt out?  Think again. When I was absent- mindedly Googling Cosmopolitan one day, I learned that one of the biggest faux- pas a girl can make on a first date is revealing that she has an email account other than Gmail.

So if you’re not betraying all your interests and hobbies to advertisers, you’ll be ostracized as a ho.

Today in class, one gentleman mentioned that he didn’t have any of the aforementioned social media accounts.  The response?  Get one. It looks like living off the grid is no longer an option for those looking for careers in business or media.  Communication is faster, cleaner, and more accessible on the Internet.  Why wouldn’t you make your whole life there?

But this brings up an important point:  to what extent does virtual life affect real life? Why does society obsess over social media? Maybe people think that if they document everything about their life online, they’ll live forever. Maybe everyone just wants to be a part of a new chapter in history.  There exists, in fact, a dimension in which conversations are not recorded.  There are parts of your life nobody photographs.  There are actual activities other than surfing, browsing, tagging, posting and updating. And believe it or not, there are some people in the world who don’t even own a computer. I’d be willing to bet that there are some people who have jobs and not Facebook accounts.

It’s important to remember that although the Web is a powerful tool, we are more powerful.  Personally, I have a love/ hate relationship with the Internet.  I love free, instant information.  I love that I can look up anything and read about it from ten different sources. I’m just bothered by how personal Web browsing has become.  Google tracks all your searches and then shows you ads?  Really?  But I guess we should expect it; everything free comes with a price.

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Protected: Greek Week Shirts!

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Protected: Hey AE girls,

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Plus Sized Adele Represents

  1. The chart- topping pop star gets a finally gets a full body shot on the cover of December’s Cosmopolitan
  2. Hey gang-
    This quarter, I’m running a blog a multimedia journalism class, journalism 285.  This week we worked with a tool called Storify, which creates a kind of resource collage of Tweets, status updates, YouTube videos, Flickr posts, and other links.  Since my roommate and I wanted to know we couldn’t find the December Cosmopolitan at any of our local Albertson’s, Rite- Aids, Barnes & Nobles, or Victoria’s Secrets (what?  They should sell Cosmo, right?), I decided to investigate this controversial US cover that has Cosmo selling like hotcakes.
  3. November 9, 2011 1:21:45 PM EST
  4. April 15th, 2011:  Rolling Stone covers only Adele’s head & neck.
  5. November 9, 2011 1:01:22 PM EST
  6. October 2011:  British Vogue might be “adoring Adele”, but only her face.
  7. November 9, 2011 1:01:09 PM EST
  8. December 2011:  Sex sells.  But not as well as Adele.
  9. So Storify allows you to search Tweets and Facebook posts, but the only searchable status updates are ones that are already public.  Nobody’s profile is public.  You can install this “Storigy This!” button on your own Facebook to expose your friends whenever they say something relevant.
  10. Adele looks pretty on the front of Cosmo…I’ve seen some people talk about her weight. Chill, y’all…
    November 9, 2011 12:03:24 PM EST
  11. I just can’t get enought of this song, it’s amazing!:D
    November 9, 2011 12:31:50 PM EST
  12. In love with Cosmo 🙂 ….
    November 8, 2011 3:58:17 PM EST
  13. Word on the Street: Adele is being teased and called fat after looking stunning on the latest cover of Cosmo. Can…
    November 7, 2011 12:17:16 PM EST
  14. Reaading Cosmo Adele on the cover she so beautifuL 🙂
    November 8, 2011 4:27:34 PM EST
  15. I just can’t get enought of this song, it’s amazing!:D
    November 9, 2011 12:31:50 PM EST
  16. Why is adele on the cover of Cosmo?
    November 9, 2011 12:23:56 PM EST
  17. Totally forgot tweet that Adele( @Pita9008 )is in cosmo! Hell yeah baby, plus size girls can to be in front cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine.
    November 9, 2011 12:51:24 AM EST
  18. Did adele lose weight? Or did cosmo just make her look skinny for the cover? .. if they made her look skinnier I’m gonna be mad!
    November 4, 2011 1:41:36 PM EDT
  19. Sure, she sounds like a black person and swears “more than Lil Wayne and Eminem combined”, but I was actually really surprised by the amount of African- American women impressed with Adele. You go, white girl.
  20. Reading my cosmo fav quote:”adele talks fast laughs loud and says fuck more than lil wayne and eminem combined” lol
    November 9, 2011 2:17:54 AM EST
  21. Adele’s music videos also reflect her growing autonomy in the body image department.  Several of her earlier music videos focused on actors to tell her stories. “Rolling in the Deep” had the singer sittin’ pretty in a chair (ps- am I the only one who wanted all those water glasses to explode?) Her latest installment, “Someone Like You”, actually features her walking around.  Let’s hear it for mobility.
  22. Adele – Someone Like You
    September 27, 2011 5:37:34 PM EDT
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