Friday, August 18, 2017

Learning Social Media: It's Never Too Late To Grow!

As I begin a new chapter in the academic world, I find myself anticipating the possibilities of all that I have to learn as a part of Kennesaw State University's graduate certificate program in digital and social media. As the field of digital and social media opens up a new world to all of us, I am thrilled to be a part of a program that focuses on transforming us into knowledgeable pioneers. Even as many of us are long-time users of social media, we understand that this technology is constantly shifting and transforming our society, which gives us an opportunity to constantly expand our knowledge with the hope of being innovative in our usage for our careers, organizations, and as consumers.

So, what do I hope to learn?

One of my expectations of the current course I am enrolled in (Survey of Digital Social Media), is to learn as much as I can about how to effectively manage my usage of social media in both my personal life and as a part of building the brand for The Calamity Chronicle. Thankfully, KSU's program has partnered with Hootsuite, one of the premier tools for social media management and analytics. I am beyond thrilled to expand my knowledge by learning this important management tool, and see what insights I can gain through the statistical analysis through Hootsuite's social listening capabilities. This article from PCMag nicely breaks down Hootsuite's features and communicates what I can expect to gain from using the program to manage The Calamity Chronicle.


I also hope that I can learn how to stay informed on what social media sites are relevant to use to promote my brand, and how to use the unique capabilities of specific social media platforms to gain followers & readers. While I use tools such as Twitter and Facebook to update you all on new material posted here to the site, I want to know how else I can reach people. Right now, I am starting to realize that I need to add Snapchat to my toolbox, as indicated in an article from Forbes that shows increasing numbers of users in the age demographics that I hope to target as readers/listeners/followers.

How do fellow bloggers, writers, and podcasters use sites such as Snapchat and Instagram to promote readership and keep people interested? Are there any social media sites on the periphery that will be relevant to growing my brand?

Finally, I hope to also learn how to become an influencer in the world of blogging and podcasts, and how to inspire my audience to become influencers on my behalf. This is a lofty goal, certainly one that will take me out of my comfort zone. I have found that I have a difficult time promoting myself, and I tend to cringe at the amount of "selfies" I see people posing for constantly. Honestly, I was just criticizing an Instagram user the other day for having over 20 hashtags on a particular post, though internally, I know it is a necessary part of promotion. It is important that I overcome my cynicism of these integral uses of social media, as I learn how to professionally use these platforms to the advantage of my endeavors.


A final thought...

Social media is not static and our ability to learn and grow through the use of this technology should also be open to changes and evolution. As this new chapter in my academic life begins, the biggest lesson I am already learning is to remain open to all possibilities and platforms that may enable my continued growth as a writer. I am not "too old" to use Snapchat. I do need to explore how to use Instagram to promote my brand. I absolutely need to approach social media from the perspective that it is an invaluable tool that I must continually be open to learning about and use to my advantage. As I continue my academic journey as a part of KSU's program, I am hopeful that I will grow in my ability to be an effective communicator, regardless of platform or trend.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Think Local. (With A Shout Out to Jessica Morse - CA04 Congressional Candidate)

There are many lessons that still need to be learned from the results of the 2016 election, but the lesson every American needs to grasp right this very minute is that local elections matter.

Sure, it is easy and more fun to only think about national politics every four years, but we are all a part of our local communities. And if you found yourself feeling frustrated after the 2016 election, feeling as if your vote didn't matter, listen up - if you want to see real change, there is a very real way to make it happen. But you have to be willing to dig in and do more than just post things on Facebook to rile up your Breitbart-loving, crazy, MAGA hat-wearing uncle.

Let's go back to 2010 - the mid-term election that arguably had the biggest political consequence in modern history. Along with the 2010 census, a massive gerrymandering operation was put into place by the state legislatures of key political states. These state legislatures had the power to re-draw their districting maps; to essentially reset the system and set Republicans up for a wave of success for the next decade. This strategy even had a name: REDMAP (Redistricting Majority Project), and was created out of the realization that by flipping the local state legislatures in states that were starting to lean democratic, re-drawing the state and federal lines would help these states eventually lean to the right. And this would have massive national consequences in key states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania - the states we always look at over and over after every election. Republicans spent $30 million on state races in 2010, taking advantage of the fact that Democratic turnout is typically very low in mid-term elections, and when voter turnout is low, it almost always favors Republicans. Thus, with a little bit of money, at the right time, when Democrats weren't looking (although they should have - Karl Rove basically revealed this plan in a Wall Street Journal op-ed), blue states went deep red on the local level, setting up a major shift in the national political landscape. By redrawing the local districts, Republicans essentially shoved all the Democratic leaning areas into the cities and turned all of the surrounding areas into Republican leaning districts. How this plays out is that while more votes for Democratic candidates might be cast in a large population center, such as Philadelphia, those votes are essentially capped, because even though 100,000 people might have voted for a Democrat, that city only represents a small percentage of the legislative seats up for grabs when the lines are re-drawn to isolate the city centers from the rest of the state. Gerrymandering basically negates the idea that the party that gets the most votes wins the election.

*A great resource on the consequences of the 2010 elections and gerrymandering is the book "Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy," by David Daley.*

The big lesson to take away from this? Pay attention to your local elections and participate in them, because they have very big consequences. The best way to change a rigged game is to understand how it operates and work against it on the ground level to disrupt the basic operation - this means getting involved in grass-roots organizations and understanding the issues important to your community. And most of all, it means voting in every single election.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of the El Dorado County Democrats, where Congressional candidate Jessica Morse, was going to speak. Morse is looking to challenge Republican Tom McClintock in the 2018 election, and has been campaigning relentlessly across the CA04 district. During the meeting, the members noted that more candidates were needed in positions such as the local school board, as even it had been taken over by Republicans with special interests in potentially changing educational materials, along with shifting federal funds away from public schools. This is why local elections matter.
After addressing the business of the group, Jessica Morse was introduced and spoke for nearly an hour on the issues facing the CA04 district and our country. Morse has literally walked the district from top to bottom, with her family living in the district for multiple generations. In the time that she spoke, Morse exemplified a qualified candidate that knows the challenges and the issues facing this district, but also understands global issues, and can point to how local and global issues connect. I was honestly inspired by her deep understanding of the effects of the logging industry and her knowledge of the agricultural issues facing the district. Jessica pointed to her service in the State Department and her time serving in Iraq at the height of the war, where she saw first hand how political decisions here in the United States impacted people across the globe. She was responsible for handling multi-billion dollar budgets at the State Department, offering solutions to help eliminate debt, while maintaining resources necessary for positive diplomatic operations.

Jessica Morse is the real deal. I can tell you that as I sat and listened to her share her heart for the people of CA04, I also saw her heart to serve the American people, and the people who suffer all over the world. She spoke of the time she recently spent helping folks whose lives had been devastated by the recent Detwiler wildfires, and steps she was able to take with local officials to help these people in time of desperate need. She didn't wait for news cameras to show up...she went and served, and has been back to help that community multiple times, because the people needed action. A servant-leader is the best way to describe Jessica Morse. She is the leader and the voice that CA04 needs, and is a challenger that McClintock should find terrifying, as she is the voice of a generation that is tired of do-nothing politicians.

After hearing Jessica Morse speak, I felt the way that Josh Lyman felt after hearing Jed Bartlett speak in the T.V. show, The West Wing. I felt that I saw someone who can create real change for the people, and I felt actual hope in a candidate.

To learn more about Jessica Morse, please visit

And for the love of everything that is good, dig in to your local elections, volunteer, and VOTE!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.

By now, it should be abundantly clear that the White House has a leaking problem. Last week, Chief of Staff, Reince Prebus, was ousted from his role in the Trump administration, presumably under suspicion that he had been leaking information about the dysfunctional West Wing, or didn't have the clout to stop other staffers that may be leaking information to the press.

So, every administration has faced similar issues with confidential or unfavorable leaks getting to the press. This isn't something new. What separates the Trump administration with previous administrations are the quantity of the leaks and the level of dysfunction these leaks reveal to the world at large.

As a result, the Justice Department is using more law enforcement resources than ever before in pursuit of the sources that are leaking information to the media.

The question that needs to be asked is - what does it say about the Trump administration, when so many people who are currently working in the West Wing are willing to essentially put their careers on the line to share information to the press about the internal workings of our Executive branch? It is supposed to be the honor of a lifetime to serve in the White House, so what does it say about Trump's leadership when the people who serve at the pleasure of the President decide they cannot remain silent when it comes to their working environment? Or, have these folks simply adapted the attitude of Trump - the "me first, no matter what," self-serving approach to the job? To me, this easily indicates a total lack of leadership, not just from the President, but from all senior level advisors and directors. It's clear that this administration lacks the ability to inspire, on top of what appears to be a total lack of trust in anyone outside of Trump's immediate family...and to be honest, I'm not sure that Trump even trusts his own family at this point, and they certainly shouldn't trust him. This is a guy who would throw anyone under the bus to save his own ass.

What I find interesting is that what made Trump so appealing to a number of voters was his acumen as a business tycoon. He promised to stop bureaucracy and introduce an era of governing with a business attitude. Many people were willing to overlook his failures and reputation as a businessman (multiple bankruptcies, not paying contractors, lawsuits, etc.), paying more attention to how Trump marketed himself. For sure, he is a master of marketing, branding, and talking a good game. Where he continually fails is in the grit of business - making tough decisions, being accountable and taking responsibility, and compromise. For the first time, Donald Trump is working for someone else, the American people. The reason he has been able to get away with a less than stellar business record is because he has only had to answer to himself and a nepotistic board of directors. I can guarantee you that if this administration were a business, with Trump being the CEO, he'd be out of a job already and this business would be in emergency mode. No business would put up with their CEO bashing other directors on social media, or appointing inexperienced people to integral roles, just because they are friends or gave him some money, or create new roles out of thin air and appoint family members to lead on issues they have no experience with. Why are we putting up with this? And will we decide to put up with this again, or will we say enough is enough in 2020 (if he makes it that far...I have my doubts)?

Leaks are neither good or totally depends on what information is leaked and how it effects domestic and global policy. In fact, the government has even taken steps to protect leakers and make it harder for Justice Department officials to meddle with a reporter's sources. Even when leakers did damage to Barack Obama's administration, his own Attorney General, Eric Holder, knew the importance of protecting the First Amendment. Where we run into danger is when classified information is leaked to unfriendly sources...something that Donald Trump managed to do all by himself back in May, when he revealed sensitive intelligence to Russian diplomats in the Oval Office. And if there's one thing we know about Trump, it's that he has his own hypocritical definitions of fairness and holding people to the same standards, evidenced by the one case of criminal leaking the administration has pursued - the prosecution of contractor Reality Leigh Winner, for leaking a classified intelligence report on Russia's attempt to hack the 2016 election. We know Trump even encouraged WikiLeaks to find damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the campaign. To sum up, Trump wants leaks when it benefits him, but when it reveals his incompetence and inability to be an effective leader, he wants those people prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

And the most recent leak sheds more light on a truth that most of us were already savvy to. As the transcripts of Trump's phone calls with other leaders of the world were made available, it cannot be disputed that our diplomacy across the globe has taken a major hit, due to the gross incompetence of our President. Jorge Guajardo, a long-time foreign diplomat from Mexico, has said of the transcript of Trump's phone call with Mexico's president, "He's the opposite of Teddy Roosevelt. He speaks loudly and carries a small stick. Everyone I've spoken to around the world is laughing." To make matters worse, Trump's phone call with Australian Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbill, was just as bad, providing us with solid proof that Trump is the kind of guy who tends to ignore facts, and is willing to weasel out of previous diplomatic agreements if he thinks it makes him look bad.

The old saying goes "The fish rots from the head." And it's never been more true than now. If Trump wants to find the problem in the White House, he needs to only look in the mirror.

In the meantime, with an administration who invented the term "Alternative Facts," and a President who lies about the littlest things, these insider leaks are more than welcome, as truth has become a rare find.