Sunday, June 29, 2008

Speechwriter's Resource: Average

Need to know the average teacher salary by state? How about the average house size? Maybe the average IQ?

There's nothing "average" about this Yahoo blog entry that puts together several averages at your fingertips. Are there other Web sites you like to use when you need information in a hurry?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another Novel Newspaper Experiment?

Rocky Mountain News editor, publisher and president John Temple -- while also crediting his town rival Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton -- on Saturday floated another interesting idea to revive the newspaper industry.

Temple says the technology may soon exist where subscribers can get tailored newspapers. In other words, you could get a newspaper delivered to your home that would be different than the one your neighbor gets.

The newspaper business has long been based on editors selecting stories they thought everyone should be informed about, along with a smorgasbord of topics they think might interest different groups of people. He says:

"The newspaper business has long been based on editors selecting stories they thought everyone should be informed about, along with a smorgasbord of topics they think might interest different groups of people...Technology is emerging - electronic and print - that would allow us to deliver a publication that directly responded to those interests customer by customer."

On the heels of the Orlando Sentinel redesign, are these good ideas, or do you think newspapers are over-reaching?

Online Influence and Public Policy

Not that we need any more proof, but here's another example that it's easier than ever to generate viral excitement over the Internet -- even on public policy issues. Politics Online reports that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's online petition to encourage Congress to authorize "the exploration of proven energy reserves" and reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.

Politics Online reports the site has attracted 1.1 million responses in only 30 days. Will it actually have an influence on Congress? Will it move the needle on public opinion on the issue? It's too early to tell, but how many government agencies can say they have created a specific online product that gets more than one million hits in a month? If you do, let us know and tell us how you did it. Leave a comment below or email us at

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Radical Redesign for Newspapers?

On Sunday, the Orlando Sentinel launched a new redesign of its printed newspaper. (Check out Monday's edition, seen on the left, or view the newspaper's preview of redesigned pages.) The Wall Street Journal says the redesign "is a proving ground for Sam Zell's effort to reinvent floundering Tribune Co., owner of a string of television stations and newspapers, including the Sentinel, the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times."

Readers of Romenesko know that media owners, shareholders, journalists and readers have been ringing their hands the last few years, wondering where print news is headed. Others say print is dead and that all newspapers will be read online in the not-so-distance future.

The move will work, according to the Tribune's Lee Abrams.

As TV journalists like to say, time will tell if this bold experiment works. What do you think of the design and of newspaper's future in general?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Visualization of This Blog

If you are familiar with tag clouds, then you will love playing with a program called Wordle. You put in a bunch of words and then, "The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes." We decided to see what this blog looks like visually. We entered every word written on this blog and here's a couple of versions of how it looks.

AP Reconsiders Blog Policy

An article in Editor and Publisher reports that the Associated Press says it will "define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt without infringing on The A.P.’s copyright."

The news organization had come under criticism for trying to make one Web site remove several items that referenced quotes from AP articles. Government communicators should pay attention to the new policy when it is released to get a clear understanding of how A.P. articles can be referenced in blogs.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bonuses for Government Communicators?

An article today by Jason Method of the Asbury Park Press discusses the rarity of bonuses for federal government workers. The piece offers a balanced perspective on the difficulty of issuing bonuses from public funds and the reasons why government might benefit from doing so.

This spring, NAGC issued its first Trends and Salary report. Nearly 24 percent of government communicators at the national, state and local levels reported receiving some kind of bonus in the previous year.

The lure of the private sector is a constant pull for government communicators. Job security and job satisfaction are often reasons these professionals more often than not choose to stay in the public sector.

Perhaps another factor that bonuses are not as prevalent is that the public information industry is still searching for ways to efficiently measure our success.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Report Shines Spotlight on 2008 Election Online Activity

A new report, "The internet and the 2008 election," from the Pew Internet & American Life Project confirms the growing influence of online technologies in the U.S. election cycle. In addition to a summary, the organization listed what it felt was the key findings from the report:
  • Fully 46% of all Americans have used the internet, email, or phone texting to get news about the campaigns, share their views, and mobilize others.
  • More Americans have gone online to get political news and campaign information so far than during all of 2004.
  • Two new internet activities have stormed the political stage: 35% of Americans have watched online videos related to the campaign, and 10% have used social networking sites to engage in political activity.
  • Nearly one in ten internet users has donated money to a candidate online at this point in the race.
  • Young voters tilt toward Obama specifically and toward Democrats generally, and that gives the Democrats some online advantages.
  • 39% of online Americans have used the internet to gain access to primary political documents and observe campaign events.
  • Despite the increased salience of online sources in the political arena, wired Americans have mixed views about the overall impact of the internet on politics.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Best Pactices: Census Bureau Podcasts

The U.S. Census Bureau produces a daily 60-second podcast that serves as a model for government agencies thinking about novel outreach services. From a piece on Father's Day yesterday to motorcycle safety to fingerprints, the agency offers timely and creative topics that are of interest to the media and the general public. Check it out and let us know what you think about this service. Is your agency using podcasts to communicate?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The White House Press Secretary as Author

In government communications, the pinnacle job is the White House press secretary. The public perception of a president often is related to the level of success the press secretary has in dealing with the media. A new book, "What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception," has put a new spotlight on the press secretary's role.

Scott McClellan served as press secretary during a difficult time. He chose not to stay until the end of President George W. Bush's final term and, instead, wrote the book.

The book has created a level of controversy worthy of his time in the White House. There are those who charge he has been disloyal to a president that trusted him and others who think he has provided unprecedented insight to the current administration's operations. Still, there are others who suggest McClellan behaved unethically as press secretary by passing on information to the public that he allegedly know was false. Others say he was just doing his job and did it well under trying conditions.

What do you think? What other issues does his book and public statements mean for government communicators? Leave a comment and take our poll on the right hand side of the page.

Tim Russert

Like most government communicators, I subscribe to quite a few "news alerts" from major news organizations. Most of the ones I receive don't really surprise me. Friday's news alerts about the death of Tim Russert was different; they made me stop working for a while.

I like watching people who enjoy their jobs. There is no question that Tim Russert loved his. From his questions each week on "Meet the Press," the audience knew he had done his homework and that his guests were going to get asked the tough questions. He was a student of American politics and, though not a journalist by training, learned the craft -- and arguably learned it better than most.

The tributes being showered on him are well deserved. His death is a loss for journalism, his family and the nation. His death is also a loss for us in government communications. Russert had a passion for politics and respect for those who serve. But he deservedly held all of them -- and us -- to high standards.

He will be missed and we express our deepest sympathy to his family and colleagues.