Final Project: Podcast Reflection

This final project allowed for the most creativity in a class assignment in our COMM 232 course yet. Given that the format of the assignment was only to make an effective podcast, the freedom we had in choosing the topic made the completing of the assignment exciting rather than stressful. Overall, our group collaborated together very nicely, and we created a product that we are all proud of. The podcast is an educational survey of current Marvel Comics character film rights controversies, a subject which every group member was interested in given our mutual passion for Marvel comics and movies.

To listen to this podcast, click here.


Sarah, Alyssa, and Brittney made a good team for this project because of their mutual knowledge and interest in Marvel comics and films. The combined enthusiasm of the group made the project fun instead of a chore, and thus easier to accomplish in general. Sarah’s and Brittney’s writing skills combined with Alyssa’s video editing experience allowed for the group to collaborate and contribute in some way to the project besides speaking into the recorder.


The research that went into this project was not difficult, although it was a bit extensive. All information used in the recording was found online, compiled from numerous articles on the topic. An article on CheatSheet was the inspiration for the topic, and a source used by the entire group because it lays out all of the characters that Marvel-Disney wants to get back that we talk about in the podcast. Brittney used these articles as sources about 20th Century Fox, Alyssa used these articles to talk about the X-Men and the Maximovs, and Sarah used these articles to finish the discussion with Sony and the fight for Spiderman.

Besides the articles, we approached film studies professor Dr. Nichols for an interview to get a clearer perspective on the situation from a leading academic voice. Dr. Nichols also explained the importance of diversity and representation in Marvel comics and films, which helped Alyssa develop her research about the Maximovs.


As a group, we mapped out how the discussion would pan out—who would talk about Sony, Fox, and X-Men, who would speak in what order, and where we would include segments from Dr. Nichols’ interview. The order is Brittney, Alyssa, and Sarah, with Dr. Nichols opening the discussion by defining film rights and helping Alyssa’s argument.

Each person wrote their own segment for the recording portion of the project, and we collaborated by proof-reading each other’s work and editing our own portions to better fit these pieces together into the whole.


We rented a high-quality USB microphone from the Trible library and recorded the podcast in Sarah’s apartment to ensure good sound quality given the number of people using the audio booths in the library. The interview with Dr. Nichols, however, was recorded on an iPhone 6 given that it was more convenient for Dr. Nichols to record in his office. The recordings were saved to Alyssa’s laptop and edited using Audacity software.


Alyssa put in the most work with editing the recordings to finish the podcast. She used her laptop and Audacity to record everyone’s segments individually, before splicing them together and cutting out awkward pauses and “um”s. Brittney and Sarah helped find the background music that was royalty free (from, which Alyssa strategically manipulated to increase during transitions and decrease during actual speaking time.


Most of the project went smoothly for our group because we worked well together, but there were certain setbacks that we had to ponder how to solve for a while before we could continue. First, Dr. Nichols’ interview was an enormous 15-minutes, and it was difficult to pick out what information we wanted to keep and what we couldn’t use.

Second, we initially wanted to record in the audio booths in the library, but they were occupied by others and were too loud to record. It took a bit of negotiating before we settled on where and when we could all have time to record someplace else—that being Sarah’s apartment.

Third, recording and editing the pieces of recordings together was very tedious and took a lot of time. Not only this, but initially the recording was around 8 minutes, and too long even before adding in Dr. Nichols’ interview. Shaving down our recording time meant we had to rerecord everything to make it all fit.


This project was completed as a team effort by a group of people that were very excited to work together. The success of the group is based on a mutual respect for each other and interest in the project; for example, Sarah did the principle research, Brittney helped edit and advise on the readings and recordings, and Alyssa edited everything together. Each person contributed with their personal strengths, and complimented each other’s weaknesses


Code-Switching: The First Step to Improving Public Schools

Photo via Language Diversity

The Problem: Achievement Gap and Dialect Prejudice

A long buried issue that has gone unaddressed in America’s public schools since desegregation in the 1950’s is what is known as the achievement gap, the “disparity in academic performance” between white students and minority students. Although in recent years, evidence has shown the gap has begun to shrink, the issue is still a problem in many urban inner city areas. National censuses have shown that student minorities tend to perform below the average white student in nearly all subjects for many years, and according to linguists, the language of the school is the key.

Dialect prejudice may be the invisible barrier keeping minority children from succeeding in our schools. Dr. Rebecca Wheeler, an English professor and the director of the Linguistics minor at Christopher Newport University, defines dialect prejudice as “…a form of racial and ethnic prejudice triggered by a minority group’s language.”  Essentially, the idea that any language variety is “incorrect” or “broken,” or that there is one “correct” way of speaking a language is dialect prejudice.

This is problematic when you have students from dialectically diverse backgrounds entering schools where they are expected to completely disregard their home language for Standard English. This is particularly prevalent in black communities where variants of African American Vernacular English (AAVE) are spoken. Derrin Nelson, an African American student at CNU, shares her experience with dialect prejudice: “I’ve heard stuff like that before, growing up… you’re learning grammar in school where they tell you, ‘Oh that’s not a grammatically correct sentence.’ And as a kid I was like, ‘Why not?’ Because at home, I could say, ‘I stay at the kitchen,’ but if I wrote that in a paper, they wouldn’t understand what I mean.”

Video via YouTube

There may be an answer to this dilemma in code-switching, according to this 2009 study. “In urban school systems, we use the term code switching to refer to students choosing their language to fit the setting– be it a vernacular or a community language in the home, with their friends, in casual settings, or in written contexts of dialogue….versus choosing the more formal, standard written English that is expected by the tests and the business establishment,” Dr. Wheeler explains, “So code switching in an urban environment invites students to choose the language variety to fit the setting.”

The Premise

The research for this study was compiled through observing sessions in a 7th grade English classroom at Barrington Middle School in Detroit. The researcher would spend time in class with the students, and conducted interviews with the teacher, Mr. Lehrer, and two African American students called Kiki and Monet. In the classroom, Mr. Lehrer experimented with students’ success at improving Standard English writing skills.

First, he structured writing exercises where African American students could express themselves in poetry or narrative using AAVE features, and by teaching his class that nonstandard ways of writing and speaking are legitimate through literature featuring characters speaking in dialects.

Then, Lehrer had his students practice writing formal essays using Standard English, but told students to write drafts of their papers to submit to him for critique without grade penalties. He encouraged his class to write the first draft in their home dialect if they wished before going back and switching the final draft to Standard.

Lehrer used this format throughout the school year, but there was a marked improvement in his class’ Standard English writing skills by the end of the study, as well as a change in attitude of some of his students to writing in Standard English.

Diverse Kids in Classroom
Photo via Peak Learning

The Findings

Lehrer’s use of low-stakes writing assignments to celebrate his classroom’s dialect diversity improved his students’ attitudes towards learning Standard English writing, given that beforehand, Kiki and Monet were resistant to changing their writing from AAVE features to Standard English features. Using the home language as “scaffolding,” or as a foundation for Standard writing (instead of the “you’re language is wrong” approach) makes students more receptive to learning and applying Standard writing in their schoolwork.

According to Dr. Wheeler, “A change of attitude on the student’s part is familiar because… no one is recognizing the linguistic richness that they possess! But in the context of remedying that… as a classroom moves into culturally relevant pedagogy, then that lets the students see, ‘Oh, my identity is being honored. Well, from that background, I’m a little more receptive to adding this other form.’ It’s a well-known trajectory.”

Why It Matters

Code-switching is an important tool in the classroom to combat dialect prejudice and to close the achievement gap. Study after study has shown that prescriptivist approaches, which teach the way that English “ought” to be, do not help students learn and in fact, quell their spirit for learning. Respecting and uplifting students is the key to facilitate learning in our public schools, and code-switching techniques show dialectically diverse classrooms that language is a gateway to expressing yourself, and there is no “wrong way” to express yourself while simultaneously helping these students use Standard English and recognize what settings AAVE versus Standard are appropriate for.

“It is so important for little black kids to know that their culture, their identity, is not wrong or broken. Using AAVE is not something they should feel ashamed of,” Nelson comments. “Using Standard should not come at the price of forgetting AAVE.”

Photo via TheBlackHomeschool




Scientific Study Breakdown: Article Choice

The article I have chosen for the scientific study breakdown assignment is titled “The interpretation of sarcasm by typically developing children and children with LLD in the school age population.”


The present study was conducted to obtain information about the interpretation of sarcasm by typically developing children and children with language learning disabilities in the school age population. Prior research indicates sarcasm comprehension is a difficult semantic task for typically developing children to acquire, and thus it is likely that children with language learning disabilities, who have been shown to have significant semantic difficulties, are at risk for delayed acquisition of sarcasm comprehension. Participating children took a 24 question multiple-choice sarcasm test. Results demonstrated significant differences in sarcasmcomprehension between children with language learning disabilities and their typically developing peers. Additionally, findings revealed a significant association between sarcasm comprehension and age, but no significant association with gender. Both groups of children (LLD vs. typical) deviated from the expected developmental sequence of sarcasm interpretation.


Shepperd, K. D. (2008). The interpretation of sarcasm by typically developing children and children with LLD in the school age population (Order No. 1459515). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304524563). Retrieved from

Blog Reviews: Advice Columns

While I am not typically someone who reads blogs or online newspapers (I mean, Tumblr doesn’t count, right?), for COMM232 I was asked to find a few blogs and study them. I chose to look at advice column blogs because I think they are very practical if done properly, and I enjoy reading them. If the author is a good columnist (and gives good advice), then reading a column will read like a little slice-of-life story, with hope for the future of a happy ending to “Anonymous’s” problems. The four columns I will review are as follows: Captain Awkward, DEAR SUGAR, Dear Prudence, and AdviceForYouAlways.

For this assignment, I have chosen to examine and review four advice column blogs based on their:

  • voice and writing style
  • transparency and disclosure
  • linking
  • usefulness
  • social media integration

Captain Awkward

Captain Awkward is an advice column blog written by indie film director Jennifer Peepas. She answers questions from confused and troubled internet readers on topics from writing and publishing, to family drama, and even health and fitness. She answers any question honestly, with a well thought-out and structured response that is humorous in nature but mostly very straight-forward.

Peepas’ writing style is very analytical, critical, but also non-judgmental. She likes to break down the problems described to her and put them in a new perspective for her readers by shining a more emotionally aware light on the topic. Her approach to problems is to help Anonymous understand their own situations and what they can control, but to give them realistic options for how to solve their issues themselves. She is humorous and witty, but she does not make fun of her readers or their problems.

Peepas says on her “About Me” page that “I can’t tell you what to do. But I can try to tell you what to say, or lend you some courage in saying it.” She outright tells her audience the perspective she is approaching her readers’ problems- from the point of view of a film director. She always ensures her readers that her advice is not meant to be taken as a statement of facts, or of a “correct” approach to any situation. She sometimes includes personal anecdotes to supplement her responses, and she leaves the final decisions on what Anonymous should do for them.

The blog’s overall structure allows for easy navigation- there are numerous specified links at the top of the page for readers to hunt down information, and there are links to similar columns and related tags whenever a reader chooses to read a particular article.

I would say the blog is useful, because readers (and Anonymous) usually find what they are looking for in her answers- either they know what they should do, or they are reassured in their choices. A reader can easily search through tags to find articles that are related to their own issues and glean advice from Peepas even if they do not write in to her themselves.

Peepas has social media capabilities available all over the website. Readers can follow her via email updates or WordPress, and they can share links to her blog via Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and more. She also has a link to fan moderated forums if readers want to continue conversations about her articles.


DEAR SUGAR is an advice column hosted on The Rumpus, with a mystery columnist named Sugar (recently revealed to be Cheryl Strayed). This blog is known for the very real, very specific advice given to anyone that can stomach the truth.

Sugar is a pseudonym that Strayed operates under in order to give the nitty-gritty advice her readers ask for. Her voice and writing style are a bit caricatured- she reads like a kind Southern belle or a mother hen that wants to make you feel better but also will give you a slap of reality. She like to frame her responses in a very personal way by including long anecdotes that create a sense of kinship with the reader. Then she ties her story in with Anonymous’ story, and gives her two-cents on the subject. Her readers like how relateable she is, and most likely read her columns to see what interesting tidbits of her life they can find out.

As far as transparency and disclosure go, she originally used her pseudonym to maintain privacy. She did not want to share her identity- which is a convention of advice columns (both the columnist and the readers use pseudonyms), but in a post from 2012 she addresses her decision to come public with her identity: “I want to tell you who I am because it feels like the right thing to do, like we’ve reached a point of intimacy where I really ought to introduce myself. I want to see what happens next, to experience the column as the Sugar who doesn’t have to keep that one big secret that hundreds of you have been told or figured out on your own by now anyway.”

DEAR SUGAR, because it is hosted on another website, does not have independence in the set-up of its blog. Individual articles have links to related posts and tags, but the general interface does not lend itself to organizing and sorting through articles by topic; the front page is a list of articles in recent chronological order. Within each article, Sugar includes links to people and websites she talks about however, and makes reading her column interactive.

DEAR SUGAR is a useful blog because of its painfully direct advice approach. People read her column because they want the straight-up truth; should you break up with him/her? Yes. Are you being creepy? Yes. How do you do this sex thing? Here’s how. However, if you do not want to muddle through all of Sugar’s personal feels and just need the packaged answer, her blog is not for you. Everything she writes is personal to her.

Sugar’s column is not the most social media enabled. Readers like to place comments at the end of articles and discuss things in-house, usually. There are social media sharing buttons at the top right corner of the page next to The Rumpus’ banner and just before the comments section below, but Sugar does not seem to communicate with her audience over social media so much. She prefers emailing.

Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence is an advice column run by Emily Yoffe, hosted on Slate. Yoffe tends to focus her blog on family and workplace relationships, and interpersonal conflicts more-so than dating advice.

Prudence takes a much more detached approach to writing her column than the other blogs I have read. She is calm and instructive in tone- if Anonymous has questions about something she will research and cite her answers, and she presents her responses to Anonymous in a very clinical, but caring way. Rarely does she share personal experiences in her columns, but she does her best to relate to her readers by explaining possible solutions to their problems in a very down-to-earth manner.

Prudence is a pseudonym, although Yoffe has revealed her identity to her readers. She is a journalist for Slate and part of her work is answering the Dear Prudence column. However, her detached writing style makes it difficult to gauge her motives as an advice columnist; not meaning that she is suspect, but that she gives her opinions on her readers’ problems without giving any context as to why she thinks X way is the right way to handle a situation. I feel that if she shared more of her beliefs and experiences, her readers would feel more confident in following her advice.

As far as linking goes, Dear Prudence does not make good use of hyperlinks within the text, and there are no tags with which to sort through and find similar articles that I can find. It is difficult to navigate the Slate website without using the browser back button, which is very annoying.

This leads into the blog’s usefulness- as far as the advice given goes, the blog is wonderful and very useful. As far as finding articles you can relate to in order to find answers… not so much. If tags were added to organize the articles, then readers could seek out specific articles that relate to their own issues without having to wait and see if Prudence will finally answer their question they’ve sent in five times already.

The social media interaction is acceptable, but there is always room for improvement. The Facebook and Twitter share buttons are at the very top of the articles, in plain site, but her comments section is linked in a separate location. Sometimes she live chats with her readers and answers question live. This is an innovative approach to an advice column, given the tradition of anonymity, and I think it drums up excitement for readers every time she schedules a video conference.


AdviceForYouAlways is a column that is hosted on Tumblr by an anonymous user- most questions they get are about love and dating, although sometimes things touch on heavier issues like abuse, mental illness, sexuality, and drug problems. For the most part, it is about dating, though.

Advice is the least professional advice column on my list; Advice writes responses to readers’ problems in a very compassionate and commiserating tone, and focuses on encouraging Anonymous. In the “About Me” section, Advice says, “I’m here to listen and help. This blog is a place of safety, love, kindness, and a willingness for one person to help other people.” The approach is less technical and pushes emotional awareness and communication as the main solutions to most problems.

Advice is an entirely private, anonymous blog that operates with traditional advice column conventions (both columnist and readers are nameless). However, Advice does their best to answer readers’ questions with kindness and sensitivity. Because the column is on a private blog, it is run by an independent writer who is not paid to answer people’s questions all day. Readers are drawn to Advice because the column feels more genuine and relateable; Advice is a regular person that does not have an agenda in answering your questions other than they want to help.

Linking is a particular weakness to Advice’s column. Their answers may contain a link to a website every now and then that helps guide Anonymous in their problem, but otherwise there are no links anywhere. There are no social media outlets, no tags, and no comments section. The only interaction with Advice is to go into the ask box directly. There is a link to various help hotlines on the right under “Services,” as well as a link to the blog’s archives.

This blog, due to its informal structure, is not as useful to people that want long, article length answers to their questions. For the Tumblr community, it is not as useful as blogs that have a more narrow focus, or that use tags, and that include other ways to communicate with their readers. Not to say that Advice is a useless column, because Advice certainly reaches a wide audience and has helped many readers that perhaps would feel intimidated by going to a “professional” advice column instead. Advice reaches a specific demographic, and they know their audience well.

The social media aspect of Advice is, again, almost nonexistent. Besides Skype links to help hotlines and possibly reaching out to individual readers via private message, Advice does not have social media interaction enabling.

My favorite column was Captain Awkward. I felt like I really related to her sense of humor, and the website was very easy to navigate. I read through article after article like it was a book. Easy to understand, highly structured responses, and a sense that not only did I learn how to handle a specific situation, but I learned how to deal with emotions (my own and other peoples).

Page 170 pt 2: How-To Write Articles for Your Blog

How-To Write Articles for Your Blog:

If you run a personal blog, or if you write and edit for a publishing site like Her Campus, then you may find yourself writing articles. An article is a piece of writing that is typically published in a newspaper or on a website, and it can vary in word length and topic, so you have a lot of freedom as an online writer. If you are new to writing for online publications or don’t know how to adapt your writing for online audiences, here is a quick and easy how-to guide to writing articles that can teach you the basics!

  1. Decide on a Topic

(Via Uniwink)

The first step is to pick a topic! Depending on where your articles are published and who your target audience is should help you figure out what topics to write on. For example, if your blog is a personal account, you can write about your personal thoughts and feelings like a journal. If you write for Left Handers Day newsletter, you can write about the science, experiences, or history of left-handed people.  Think about what will both fit on your blog and what will interest your readers the most.

“This is by far the hardest part,” says Grace Sovine, writer and  media coordinator for The Odyssey. “You’re starting from square one here, so it’s hard to think of an interesting topic that you would find enjoyable and would appeal to your wider audience. When in doubt, write about something you’re passionate about. Your writing will be better because you’re invested in the topic. Then, it might be more prudent to publicize your article to a specific audience, rather than initially writing it for them.”

“Target audience is so important,” according to Lee Martin, Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus CNU chapter. “If you want your article to go to, say, college women, you want it to have something in the title and the body about college women to say ‘this is for you.’ When you try to get ‘everyone,’ it falls apart.”

  1. Pick an Article Type

(Via HowStuffWorks)

Now that you have a topic, you must decide what type of article to write. This is important because you want to make your article as interesting as possible— find the best method of conveying your message to interest as many readers as possible. A list of a few different article types are:

Martin recommends going short & sweet, with the more popular article styles. “Listicles generally get the most traffic flow, but people also really enjoy interviews–its just easier to just read the question and then answer. I personally really like profiling people.” There are many different ways to approach your article, but think about which approach is best for your purposes!

  1. Research and Plan the Article

(Via VLS Productions)

Next is the planning stage. Start brainstorming how you want to write your article, go online and find more information, and jot everything down on a piece of paper, in a word document. “It’s best to brainstorm different ideas that will help build up your final piece of writing,” says Summer Enger, an English major and experienced writer at CNU. “So that way you can go back and use it as a reference for the outline of your article.” It is good to get organized and to have everything you want to talk about written down somewhere so that in the process of writing you don’t forget an interesting detail, or you forget where a source came from. Map everything out, it will make it much easier to get into the writing groove for the next step.

Sovine stresses the importance of getting the information you provide  correct. “When you’re putting information out there, it is your job as a writer to make sure you’re giving out the most accurate information available. All you have is your credibility, especially in the journalism business. If you’re not credible, people won’t publish your work.”

Martin recommends getting a little physical with your research to give your article that extra kick of authenticity, “Even if you’re not using direct quotes, interviewing someone and not making the whole article about them, but still using the information that they gave you and then attributing them.”

  1. Start Writing

(Via VPR)

“When you’re writing something, you can tell if it’s going to do really well. If it excites you, then I think it’ll be a good article,” Martin says. The trick is to just start somewhere! Take what you’ve put together in your research and planning, and flesh it all out. Some tips for writing are to watch out for passive sentences, and to vary your sentence length. Don’t make things too complicated for the reader to understand, but give enough information and context.

  1. Editing

(Via Barry Overeem)

Writing is not the last step in this process; you’ve still got to make it perfect! Editing your article is important: you should check for spelling and format errors, correct citations and punctuation, fix up awkward and jumbled sentences, etc. Let a friend read over your article and listen to their suggestions for improvement! It is always a good idea to get someone else to read your work, in case they see something you miss. “All I have to say about this is: Do it. Over and over and over again. Once is not enough,” Martin advises. “Have someone else edit it, and then the last person edit it, and then look it over yourself again.”

  1. Add other Media

(Via MarketingLand)

Depending on the publication, this would be what comes next after you’ve finished writing the article. This is where you add appropriate pictures, .gifs, videos, music, or any other media that can supplement your article. “It is super important to have images and .gifs throughout the body of the texts to break it up.  People don’t like reading anything that’s longer than a few paragraphs,” Martin stresses.

Find a cover image that portrays what the article is about to the reader, so that they will know immediately what they will be reading if they click on a link to it. Add images or .gifs throughout the body of the text (if appropriate) in order to break up the article into smaller, digestible pieces. This is important for online readers since they like to get information fast and easily. Post a video at the top or bottom of the article to supplement the text. It is also good to remember to credit any image or video that you use in your article back to the original poster. Some articles will not require any or all of these techniques, so decide what works best for your article!

  1. Preview the Post

(Via Google Images)

After adding any supplemental media to the article, it is a good idea to look at a preview of the final product to see how everything appears on a webpage. Most blogging and web publishing websites should have a “preview” or “draft” function in the posting platform. Look at the preview for the article to see what a reader will see if you publish the article as-is. Martin shared a little trick of the trade and suggested starting your article in a Word processor first, then pasting it onto your hosting website. “A lot of the time, if you’re copy-pasting in from somewhere [like Word], the formatting may be messed up. So make sure that it all flows on the website you’re publishing on, like Odyssey, or WordPress.”

This is like another editing process, so take this opportunity to move things around in your article so that it is easier to read and more visually organized. Do you have too many or too few images? Are your headlines recognizable? Do your links work?

“Formatting is extremely important,” Sovine states. “Previewing your article helps you find those mistakes in text alignment, image attribution, etc. You need to make sure that your formatting is in the guidelines of the company that you’re writing for. If you’re writing for yourself, find a format that works for you and make it consistent throughout your articles.”

8. Title and Tags

(Via TCK Publishing)

“Before it is set to publish, think of that awesome title,” is the last thing Martin recommends you do. Depending on your writing method, it is ok to have a potential or draft title at the start of writing, although it is important to recognize how much the article can change before you are done with it. Make sure that your title is short and concise, straightforward, and attention-grabbing.

Enger lists a few important factors to consider when coming up with your title, “Misleading titles are very frustrating. Don’t break promises to your audience. Don’t make the title too vague, either. Making your title more specific gives your audience a better understanding of what your article is actually about.”

When tagging, it is important to use keywords from the title and article– this boosts search engine optimization and can increase the likelihood of someone finding your article through Google or your blog’s search function. “Just know what is ‘click-worthy,’ and what will get people,” Martin says. “A lot of that is the title.”

9. Publish and Share

(Via Social Media Examiner)

Once you have finished moving things around in your article, and you are satisfied with the writing and appearance, you can publish it! Publishing the article sends it out into cyberspace, so be doubly sure that you are finished with it. After the article is published, you should look at increasing traffic to your website in order to encourage readers to view it. Share links on Facebook and Twitter, forward it to your friends via email, feature the article on your websites’ homepage if possible.

When asked what social media platforms tend to get the most hits, Martin replied, “Besides Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest is one of the best ways to get article views, oddly enough.” Don’t be afraid to get a little creative when it comes to sharing your article!

You have successfully written and published a blog article, congratulations! Following these steps will show you the basics, and from here on out you can continue to improve your writing techniques and increase your online presence.