Failed Queries: New Monthly Feature for an Idea Whose Time Has Come — and Gone

In an attempt to better my blog and step up my social media presence, I have been trying to tackle the assignments presented by The Daily Post in its Blogging 201: Branding and Growth course. The Day Five challenge encourages bloggers to “Give ‘Em What They Want” by posting potentially popular content on the days its most likely to be read. In analyzing my blog’s meager

Free Photo from MorgueFile

Free Photo from MorgueFile

statistics, I determined Tuesdays were the best days to post new content and also decided to add a regular monthly feature to my editorial calendar. This feature, Failed Queries, will appear on the third Tuesday of every month until I run out of rejected ideas, which means it may be around for a while. One of my expired ideas, on the lack of TSA Pre-Check Enrollment Centers near some major cities, seemed like a solid pitch until the agency dramatically expanded the service.

If you are interested in reading another failed query from the archives, please check out On Birthdays, Willie Nelson and Failed Queries.

Dear Editor’s Name:

I hope all is well. I was wondering if you’d be interested in a short piece on the fact the Transportation Security Administration does not have enrollment centers near some major cities. For example, the closest enrollment center to Dallas is about 150 miles away in Lawton, Oklahoma. If St. Louis travelers want to enroll in the Pre-Check program, they have to drive about  90 miles to Herrin, Illinois, population 12,000.

I think this would be of interest to your readers and hope you agree. Please let me know if you’d like more information on this idea. Meanwhile, I have included a link to my resume and some writing samples for you to consider. As for my professional credentials, I have a decade of experience as a writing teacher as well as years of reporting experience as a freelancer and staff writer at publications around the country, including The Dallas Morning News. Most recently, I have been working on stories for publication by magazines and blogs including SUCCESS, Eating Well, Poets & Writers, DRAFT Magazine, Organic Gardening, The FruitGuys Almanac and WOW! Women On Writing.

Best,

Charlene Oldham

This Teacher Learns a Few Lessons

A while back, one of my Basic Reporting students turned in an assignment that certainly wasn’t perfect, but had undeniable news value. Locura Sana Fitness, a Facebook page launched by the student and two friends, had built a following of more than 10,000. After helping him polish it into a press release, we sent it off to the university’s student newspaper and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. A story sparked by that press release about the Spanish-language fitness program, offered free through Facebook and other social media sites, ran in last week’s newspaper.

Between the three of them, the college students put in at least 40 hours a week maintaining the Facebook page, YouTube channel and Instagram account which, together, boast more than 20,000 followers. But they are pursuing a passion, not a paycheck, so do it all for free.

While following their dream may eventually lead to financial gain for these young people, their efforts to educate others without expecting anything in return is an important lesson for everyone, especially this teacher. Sometimes, I lament the number of hours I put in planning and grading, occasionally thinking about giving up teaching altogether for more lucrative pursuits. But I always come back to the fact I would miss interacting with students — not only sharing my own passions, but celebrating successes when they discover theirs. When I asked the student how it felt to be featured in the newspaper, he modestly replied,”Yesterday was a good day.”

file4751270600793

morgueFile free photo

It was a good day for both of us.

 

 

 

 

Promoting Books on Pinterest

Here’s a link to my latest article in WOW! Women On Writing about how authors and others in the publishing industry are using Pinterest to promote their work. Now, all I need to do is write my own prose to pin.

A Letter to Stephen Colbert About Joseph Kony

KONY 2012 Video

Like so many other bloggers today, I want to highlight KONY 2012, a film produced by the organization Invisible Children. The 30-minute documentary aims to make Joseph Kony, leader of the African Lord’s Resistance Army, so famous that he can no longer evade arrest by the International Criminal Court on charges brought in 2005. Those allegations include “brainwashing countless children across northern Uganda, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into prepubescent killers,” according to The New York Times Topics Page that covers him.

After discussing Kony and the film  with my students in a media ethics class this morning, this is the letter I would write to television host Stephen Colbert. Feel free to use parts of it in a letter in your own missive to the Comedy Central host, one of 20 “culturemakers” the film urges people to write directly to encourage action.

Dear Mr. Colbert:

Walter Cronkite‘s personal views about the Vietnam War are widely credited with turning public opinion against the conflict in the late 1960s. To be sure, those were different times.

You are probably familiar with surveys from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press that found viewers of your program and “The Daily Show” to be better informed than those who got their news from more-traditional news outlets like Cronkite’s. That same group found that “in 2010, for the first time, the internet has surpassed television as the main source of national and international news for people younger than 30.”

Given those findings, it’s no surprise that you were identified by the KONY 2012 social media campaign as one of 20 “culturemakers” capable of driving news and policy. I’m sure you’ve seen the film at the center of the movement by now. It’s a 30-minute documentary that aims to make Joseph Kony, leader of the African Lord’s Resistance Army, so famous that he can no longer evade arrest on war crimes charges brought by the International Criminal Court in 2005. Those allegations include “brainwashing countless children across northern Uganda, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into prepubescent killers,” according to The New York Times.

Although none of the 20 American students in my 8 a.m. college media ethics course seemed to have ever read a Times story about Kony, I would say almost all of them had at least one link to the video in their Facebook queue by the time class met this morning. I would also guess that some of them — and thousands of college students like them — emailed you today.

As a former newspaper reporter, I could lament that it took a social media campaign to draw worldwide attention to a brutal rebel leader who has been covered extensively by traditional media outlets for years. Instead, I will post this letter on my own blog and Facebook page and encourage others to write one like it so they and, hopefully, you can change the world.

After all, you are their Walter Cronkite.

Sincerely,

Charlene Oldham

Saint Louis, Missouri

If a Post is Published in the Forest

As some of you may know, I recently started this blog to share my thoughts on writing, the media industry, teaching and life in general. But I came across some statistics that make me wonder, if a post is published in the forest, and no one is around to read it …

According to the most recent comprehensive study of our reading habits by the National Endowment for the Arts, 43 percent of adults did not read a book for pleasure in 2002. If you look at  U.S. Census data, there were about 215  million adults in the U.S. that year. Doing the math, that means an astounding 92.7 million Americans over 18 did not read a single book for enjoyment in that year — not one. The 2002 statistics marked a 7 percent decline from 1992, the last time the NEA surveyed reading habits. If those trends have persisted over the last decade, that would mean nearly half the adult population will not read a book for enjoyment this year.

Now take into account that the number of print books published in the U.S. rose by 5 percent from 2009 to 2010, an increase of more than 14,000 new titles. Non-traditional publishing more than doubled its number of published titles from 1,033,065 in 2009 to 2,776,260 in 2010, the most-recent year for which numbers are available. “These books, marketed almost exclusively on the web, are largely on-demand titles produced by reprint houses specializing in public domain works and by presses catering to self-publishers and ‘micro-niche’ publications,” according to Bowker, which tracks the publishing industry for publishers, booksellers and libraries.

So, if frighteningly close to half of U.S. adults don’t read for fun these days,  who is reading all these books? Why, other authors, of course.

The blog clearinghouse Technorati.com currently has 1,295,372 blogs in its directory. Of those, 16,846 fall into the site’s BOOKS category. That’s just one indication that the people who do read books are clearly reading, and writing about their hobby, at a pretty furious rate. Add to those the number of blogs about writing and those that, like this one, mention writing, reading or books occasionally. I would venture to say these blogs indicate that a growing number of avid readers are writers as well.

This essay from The New York Times Book Review* touches on some of these topics, but some other reading I have been doing seems to indicate the brief romance between blogging and books might be morphing from a passionate affair into an established marriage or, worse, an incestuous morass that has a growing number of writers competing for the same, shrinking reading public. That thought leads me to the following questions  I would like to put out there for all you readers and writers. Please pass them on to others who might offer some insight:

How many blogs do you read daily?

Do you have a blog?

How many of you bloggers have written, are writing, or are thinking about writing a book?

How does your blogging relate to those book projects?

.Hopefully, this dispatch will make a sound.

* This New York Times essay cites the same NEA study, but uses some interesting new math to highlight its findings.

Brand Management and Super Bowl Ads

One sign of a successful social media campaign is when followers start sharing your content. At the risk of mixing sports metaphors, Chrysler hit a brand management home run with this Super Bowl ad.

Social Media Boot Camp

This week’s Social Media Boot Camp sponsored by Splash Media gave me a plethora of new ideas to share with friends and clients. For example, has your band, corporation, or small business developed a list of key words and phrases that would drive people to its website and other portals. The next step is to integrate as many of those key words and phrases as possible in everything you post. Doing so consistently improves your visibility on Google and other search engines, making it easier for various target audiences to find your content — whether it be your newest song or your latest short story.