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Oct 23, 2014

Communications contingent ready for 'hackathon' opportunity

Communications faculty member leads quartet of students to PBS-sponsored "hackathon" focusing on gender gap in technology and wearables.

Oct 22, 2014

Visitors: Redskins change a matter of when, not if

Two prominent proponents pressing for the Washinton Redskins to change their nickname told an audience of Penn State students and community members Wednesday that such a change was a matter of when, not if, as more people realized the impact of the name and its meaning.

"There's no honor to us. It's a name that's always been used in a derogatory manner," said Ray Halbritter, the nation representative and and CEO of Oneida Nation enterprises. "It's something that our children have to face, that they're nothing more than a mascot."

Halbritter and the Oneida Nation have led the national Change the Mascot campaign.

He and columnist Mike Wise of The Washington Post were featured guests for for the Curley Center Conversation, sponsored by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State. John Affleck, the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and director of the Curley Center moderated the session.

Officials from the Washington Redskins were invited to participate in the session but declined.

"It's not a question of if it will change, but when it will change," Halbritter said. He presented his message in a mostly matter-of-fact tone while Wise brought a bit more attitude and edge to the session. Wise has lobbied at his paper for the team nickname to not be used with stories he writes. 

While Halbritter talked about the impact of the name on Native American children -- an impact he said led to a variety of social problems -- Wise focused on the team itself. He said the team's continued defense of the nickname was confounding.

"It's one of the worst decisions, PR wise, in the history of sport," Wise said. "I don't see what the big deal is with the name and why people can't give other people the respect they deserve -- after 80 years."

Additionally, Halbritter told the audience, which was engaged throughout the hourlong discussion and had many questions, that he's an NFL fan and that the Oneida Nation sponsors the Buffalo Bills. He also said the Redskins nickname was the focus of the group's campaign at this point -- but that other Indian nicknames were problematic as well.

"There's a larger discussion that should probably take place in regard to the other names, but this name is a defined racial slur," he said.

Wise said people who are fans of the football team find themselves in a somewhat troubling situation, and he appreciates their consternation. But that that did not change his overall opinion.

"I think there's a real psychology screw in there that will not let them believe something they grew up liking is bad, or a racial slur," Wise said. "Because, if they have to admit that it's bad, then in some way they're bad for supporting it. And nobody wants to believe they're bad."

 

Oct 22, 2014

Probing Question: Why do so many college campuses have ghost legends?

Tis the season -- the season for fright, that is. Haunted houses, monster mazes, horror movies, and ghost stories: October is the month in which we dwell in the darker corners of our imaginations. But with today's news channels filled with scary true-life tales of epidemics and war, why do people seek out make-believe chills and thrills?

Oct 21, 2014

Bronstein Lecture visitors focus on mixing politics, social media

By Joel Wee

Erik Arneson, communications and policy director for Pennsylvania Sen. Dominic Pileggi and Brittany Foster, an associate at Triad Strategies, shared their wisdom about the benefits and pitfalls of mixing politics and social media during the Ben Bronstein Lecture in Ethics and Public Relations on Tuesday. 

Foster opened the session by sharing how the Internet age has changed since its nascence and how much more interactive it has become. She also explained how news sharing and journalism has evolved as a result of the new age of the Internet.

Traditionally, she said, news went through filters; journalists and editors would create a story and decide how much, what and who appeared or did not appear in the stories. The market view was controlled. With the new age of the Internet came unfiltered content and easy access, she said. 

The new Internet also allowed politicians to come in contact directly with their constituents. However, she said that with this newfound freedom and ease of access came problems. “Let’s start with Anthony Weiner,” she said. “This was a case of a politician who used Twitter like it was Tinder.”

Foster also cautioned how this heavy flow of information could become stifling and limiting. She warned about following skewed and self-promoting news organizations, public figures and celebrities. “By doing that, you wouldn’t be getting the full breadth of information you need as you would from traditional media,” said Foster.

Foster concluded her presentation by saying social media is indispensable for legislators, advocates and public relations professionals but simply using social media posts to connect with the public was not enough. She said communications through social media must well executed and must have a well-planned process as they would in traditional media. Foster manages nine Twitter accounts, including her own, for her clients at Triad Strategies.
Arneson continued the discussion by presenting preventive measures and solutions to the problems highlighted by Foster.

He presented statistics that reflected more than 50 percent of members in the state senate use social media. However, Arneson said the numbers were an estimate and that in actuality, more than 50 percent of the members of the senate use social media. That number, he said, is also growing as politicians are trying reach out to a younger audience to engage in politics and to vote.

With the growing number of politicians taking to social media, the state has enacted some ethical guidelines and rules regarding the use of social media.

One such rule is that absolutely no state resources may be used for legislators’ social media accounts and election campaigns. Staff and legislators also may not use senate work time to campaign on their social media accounts. They may do so on their own time.

According to Arneson, these ethical rules and guidelines are equivalent to a law. “At least that’s what lawyers tell me,” said Arneson. Additionally, one important unwritten rule, he said, is to avoid having a social media post appearing on Political Fails, a blog by Pennsylvania Sen. Mike Schlossberg. The blog documents embarrassing and controversial social media posts by politicians.

“If you are going to be a campaign staffer, a legislative staffer, you want to be a politician or anything political in general, rule No. 1, read that blog and do not do anything that would get you on that,” said Arneson. 

After his presentation, Arneson shared additional examples of political disasters on social media. He also highlighted the problem with staff and interns accidently using their legislators’ Twitter accounts to make personal tweets.

Foster said even though she manages nine Twitter accounts including her own, she tries not to tweet out of a mobile device and uses separate devices if necessary. “If you manage a lot of Twitter accounts, please don’t ever do it from your phone. Mistakes will be made. Don’t sync it with any apps so you won’t be accidently tweeting your mobile game scores,” said Foster.

Deleting tweets is no longer an option, said Arneson, as the website Politwoops manages to capture all deleted tweets from politicians all over the world. So while embarrassing and controversial tweets would no longer live on Twitter if deleted, they could be found on Politwoops, he said.

The duo concluded the presentation by stating that social media will continue to shape the political landscape. While there are guidelines and rules in place, social media will also remain a sticky topic to maneuver ethically and politically. “We’re still figuring out the new web and social media and how to interact but it’s going to be an interesting environment for the years to come,” said Foster.

Oct 20, 2014

Students get start on careers as full-time SIDs

Many different groups make up the athletic department at Penn State. There are student-athletes, administrators, coaches and trainers -- and they are often the people who get the most attention. Or at least they’re the people fans know and see the most.

Another group of behind-the-scenes personnel works to promote and publicize the accomplishments and success of people and programs that comprise the athletic department. And it’s not unusual for the people who work in intercollegiate sports marketing, media relations and promotions personnel to go unnoticed. That’s the case at Penn State as well as colleges and universities across the nation.

In at least two instances, though, the people doing those jobs at Penn State are different.

Specifically, College of Communications seniors Melissa Conrad and Paul Marboe serve as full-time sports information directors while completing a full slate of classes at the University.

Fellow seniors Hannah Aboulhosn and Kelly Hackenbrack profile their classmates.

Melissa Conrad

Melissa Conrad, a native of Hamburg, New Jersey, is a public relations major with a minor in business and a certificate from the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism. She serves as the sports information director (SID) for men’s golf -- a position she has held since the beginning of her sophomore year in 2012.

Men's golf is a year-round sport at Penn State so Conrad is constantly involved with team activities. There are many different tasks that Conrad needs to stay on top of throughout the year.

"When there is a tournament, I will write a preview, a recap after each day (tournaments usually last two days), enter stats into our stat crew program for GoPSUsports.com and have a debrief once the tournament is finished," she said. On a day-to-day basis she also, edits media guides, works with a photographer to organize headshots and match-day pictures and handles media requests for players and the coach.

While some might see being a student and an SID as enough to fulfill their time in college, but Conrad wanted to make sure that she took advantage of all that Penn State has to offer. She’s also a member of Happy Valley Communications, the Public Relations Student Society of America, Order Up and the Association for Women in Sports Media.

Conrad obviously enjoys a busy lifestyle, and she sees balancing and time management as essential. "I tend to make it a little more difficult with the amount of other activities I am involved with, so I do think it could be a little easier if I was just a student and an SID," she said.

Conrad previously completed summer internships for Adidas (2014) and Under Armour (2013) and she hopes to parlay her experience in the sports world to a career in the industry. She said it can be tough doing a job that is normally done by full-time employees at other colleges and universities while she still has exams and schoolwork, but she appreciates the challenge.

"Sometimes you are working with people who may or may not know that you are a student so being a student SID in general can be a disadvantage from the start," she said. “I lack experience compared with other full-time SIDs and I want to sound and act professional when working with them."

While Conrad does have to a lot on her plate when it comes to passing her classes, staying up-to-date with her clubs and making sure all aspects of men's golf are in order, she finds the real-world experience she has received has made all of the stress and work worth it.

She knows she has the respect of those at Penn State, too.

"For my first home tournament, I was really worried and pacing back and forth in the clubhouse the entire time before play began," she said. "I was afraid I wouldn't know how to do anything, but I eventually figured everything out, the tournament ran smoothly and it ended up being an amazing experience."

During the debriefing session with coach Greg Nye, his comments about her approach helped boost Conrad’s confidence. “He said, ‘I saw you pacing in the clubhouse beforehand and right then and there I knew we were in good hands,’" Conrad recalled.

-- Kelly Hackenbrack

Paul Marboe

Paul Marboe is responsible for handling all media requests, writing releases, writing previews and recaps for the Penn State men’s tennis team. He manages the roster, schedule and statistics on GoPSUsports.com and produces the media guide all while being a full-time student at Penn State.

“It is tough doing this with school work.  During the spring, I work over 20 hours per week on top of my normal class schedule.  So I have to maximize my free time to get homework done.  It can get overwhelming some weeks, but I work as hard as I can to balance everything,” said Marboe.

It’s not just the spring, though. Working with tennis is a year-round job. During the fall season, Marboe works in the communications office at least once a week. If there are tournaments, he tweets out scores and writes recaps for each night of the tournament. He typically works less during the fall, only 10 to 15 hours a week.

“The spring is a lot more intense with dual matches every week, especially when we have home matches. If we have a week where we’re hosting a dual match or two, I spend more like 20 to 25 hours per week on tennis,” Marboe said. “The spring season requires a lot more work on a day-to-day basis.”

On match days, Marboe is the man to contact.

“I get to the courts about two hours before the match starts. I set up the computer, the statistics program and outline my recap,” said Marboe. During the match, I update the live stats and live tweet the match. After the match ends, I bring any reporters at the match down to the courts to do interviews. I then upload the stats to GoPSUsports.”

Though the hours can be long and unusual, working as in SID has its perks.

“The best part of this job is the people. I love working in the athletic communications office because everyone has the same passion for sports and Penn State that I do,” said Marboe. “Working at Penn State is great because it is at the highest level of college athletics. There is a high standard for athletes, coaches, and the whole athletic department. I like that because it pushes me to always work harder.  The full-time staff in athletic communications has continued to push me and give me more challenges as I get more experience in the office.”

Being an SID has set Marboe perfectly up for his future. A State College native, he hopes to continue working as an SID in college sports, and might even remain close Happy Valley after graduation.

“You have to be passionate about sports and take pride in doing your best work. You have to bring that passion every day of the job. It’s not the most well-paid job and you don’t always get many ‘thank yous,’ so that passion has to be what drives you,” said Marboe. I’ve never wanted to work in anything but sports and sports information is the perfect place for me.”

-- Hannah Aboulhosn

Oct 20, 2014

Penn Staters craft big, productive presence at ESPN

From entry level production assistants to top administrators, dozens of Penn Staters work at ESPN and shape how millions of fans consume their news and sports on a daily basis.

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