Google Trends: Cronkite 90-Minute-Mastery with Jessica Pucci

By: Lindsey Clinkingbeard

March 2017

Cronkite’s Professor of Practice Jessica Pucci explores the world of Google trends in this 90-minute mastery session.

Pucci speaks with a sense of humor while dismantling the vast, overwhelming age of technology; she breaks down exactly how Google Trends works and what happens behind the scenes.

“We have a very trusting relationship with our search engines,” Pucci said.

Google Trends allows us to utilize search query data. Basically, every Google search is documented. But how does Google obtain more data?

Pucci describes how electronic “spiders” – aka Google Bots – actively crawl through every piece of information on the internet. They read the individual characters and learn about the content on each website page. Pucci says the bots come back to their mothership and “index” the information.

This is the first step in page ranking. When updating a website or blog more frequently, you will get higher ratings from Google because the bots are finding the new information.

“It’s important to create timely content … because it is a factor in how high your page will rank,” Pucci said.

The bots can also detect other website links on your site. So when linking to your sources, it shows a sense of transparency – not only to your audience, but to Google Bots as well. When sourcing to other legit sites, Google gives you points for that and again your ranking will be increased.

However, it is important to note that the reverse works as well. If your website links to a fake news website, Google will “ding” your website for doing so.

“How we use data in a perfect world is to connect with our audiences,” Pucci said.

It is important for websites to be user-friendly. The Google Bots care about the organization of the content on a webpage. Headers and tags are important; they help the spiders understand the story while computing information.

According to Pucci, the two most important factors in how your website will rank are:

  1. The URL
  2. The website page’s title tag

These two need to coordinate in order to show the Google bots that the story and the title’s tag go together. This is so the user won’t be redirected to a story about “kittens and rainbows” when, for example, they thought the story was about Trump.

Google Trends (trends.google.com) began indexing search information in 2004. In order to protect privacy, Google Trends will not show specific data, but they will display the data by volume of interest, interest by region, and trends in timing.

This “acts like a cultural marker in a way,” Pucci said.

It is important to keep current trends in mind when working with the search engine. For example, since the invention of the smart phone, no one spells out full words anymore. “Arizona” becomes “az.”

The final point that Pucci showed the class is that “sometimes the news itself is the trend,” she said. Google Trends allows you to compare spikes in trends or see a spike in the timing of the trend. For example, there was a big spike in the search for “Kylie Kardashian” in December 2017, which was right around the time she announced her pregnancy.

Pucci created a lecture that provided valuable information for journalists, bloggers, and strategic communication/PR specialists through her extensive knowledge of online media tools and current media culture.

“Understanding your audience is the first step to connecting with them,” Pucci said.

Women, the Media, and the Workplace: Cronkite Must-See-Monday Event

Women, the Media, and the Workplace: What Women and Men Can Do to Change the Culture of Sexual Harassment

By: Lindsey Clinkingbeard

Moderated by Frank Russell Chair Julia Wallace, the March 20th Women in the Workplace conversation centered around acknowledging the sexual harassment culture and power imbalances in the workplace.

The discussion at the Cronkite school featured ABC 15’s Anita Helt, Retha Hill, the Director of New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, News Deeply’s co-founder and CEO Lara Setrakian, and Chrys Wu the co-founder of Write/Speak/Code for women developers.

When prompted by Wallace about the “bro-culture” in the tech industry, Wu – who was corresponding via Skype – said that we as a society have to start acknowledging that the dominant cultural norm here is shaped around ‘white,’ ‘male,’ and ‘straight.’ She added that this likely influences a lot of what we do and how we make judgements.

Wearing a t-shirt with the words “Nah” – Rosa Parks, Hill discussed the importance of both women and men fighting for equality. She discussed the culture of “old school journalism” and how women of color experienced a duality of issues on both sides

“Women of color are still the minority in journalism. Around 13-14%,” Hill said. “Your allies or mentors are few and far between,” she added.

Hill said that being part of the minority drove women of color to band together. That’s why when it came to the conversation about sexual harassment, Hill said you can’t forget to address the “unbalance” in society. This conversation allotted space for Hill to share some of her own personal experience with sexual assault.

Hill continued to emphasize that the most important thing as a journalist is to focus on the people.

“Try to work with [different] people…. It’s about being a good reporter, it’s not about being the top correspondent. It’s about the ethics of your reporting,” Hill said.

Helt spoke about the role that office politics play in workplace culture, and how the lack of leadership training for both men and women in management roles contributed to this issue.

“As [part of the media] industry we have to do a better job at providing our up-and-coming with tools on leadership development,” Helt said.

Helt said there would always be “unspoken rules” in each office, but it is up to the employee to determine their own personal “non-negotiables.”

“No matter how much you talk about it… these are things that can take a long time [to change]. When you have a culture of sexual harassment, it doesn’t change fast enough,” Helt said.

Discussing the media industry, Setrakian reminded the audience there is an important degree of “sensitivity” and “making people feel comfortable” when you as the journalist are acting as the story teller. This especially applies to the context of victims of sexual assault.

“You’re going to face some challenges because you’re reporting on serious material,” Setrakian said.

“So the values you bring to the table are important.”

The Promise and Power of Diversity: Cronkite Must-See-Monday Event

By Lindsey Clinkingbeard

March 2017

The Cronkite School’s latest Must-See-Monday explored the context of diversity in our schools and throughout our everyday culture.

Moderated by Jennifer Greer, the panel includes Associate Professor Sharon Bramlett-Solomon, Cronkite News Executive Editor Christina Leonard, and the Director of Cronkite News Borderlands, Vanessa Ruiz.

Greer opened the discussion by asking how each panelist defined the word ‘diversity’ and how they believed it to apply in journalism.

“Diversity is a reflection of who we are as a society. When we think about diversity it should embrace the image of this nation,” Solomon said. “The press should reflect all constituent groups in society,” she added.

Solomon described the importance of not only having young students visit the school, but for them to see a faculty who represent them. Solomon noted that especially when students are applying for college, they will likely decide to attend a school that is inclusive.

“Diversity is reflecting all levels of society, especially those underserved,” Leonard responded.

Leonard described that diversity is ingrained in what we do as journalists. She encouraged those to speak up to their leaders should they see or hear anything that makes them uncomfortable.

“The fact that you still have to fight, that’s why diversity matters. We don’t live in a perfect world. We need champions who will do the right thing,” Leonard said.

Ruiz spoke about the importance of having a diverse newsroom staff and embracing other people’s different backgrounds or cultures.

“You need people who will come to the table with different perspectives. If you don’t have that, your [media] coverage will be limited,” Ruiz said. “Diversity is who we are, plain and simple,” she said.

Ruiz described how we need to have these kinds of conversations with students so that no one feels “less than.” Ruiz added that she saw a personal commitment to diversity here at the Cronkite School, which was an important personal factor for her.

“Diversity matters because we are not all created equal. We come from different backgrounds, heritage, communities… to give it [all] a place to sit at the table is important.”

 

 

Data Journalism: Cronkite Must-See-Monday Event

By: Lindsey Clinkingbeard

October 2017

“What is data journalism?”

This was the first question which Sarah Cohen asked the audience during her lecture at the Walter Cronkite School for the curated “Must See Monday” event on October 23, 2017. The event, moderated by News21 Executive Director Jacquee Petchel, focused on explaining the depths of data journalism and how it plays a crucial role in the work that journalists do every day.

Cohen opened with the fact that one third of the immigrants who were deported were not held under criminal charges here in the states. Exploring these data elements lead Cohen to learn more about the data of immigration and how that played a crucial role when reporting on the topic.

Cohen describes the hardships in dealing with public officials or other high-ranking sources that you need to work with in the data journalism world.

“The refusal of public officials who don’t want to work with us is increasing,” Cohen said.

These officials are no longer cooperating with journalists. Instead, Cohen describes how you need to dig and go out on our own reporting. Search for data, find stories. There are so many factors to what you are researching that exploring the data within various angles could lead you to a story.

“I still have a request out, from over a year and a half ago, where a Governor just decided he didn’t want to work with us,” Cohen said.

Describing her determination, Cohen said [her and her colleagues] would camp out for days on end going through official documents.

“We went to the courthouse, brought cookies, and told them we would take as long as it takes to get what we needed,” Cohen said.

This kind of self-reporting, as Cohen references, is where the journalism kicks in. Is the data useful? Can you use it? Or is it not worth it? Sometimes it’s not. Cohen says these are questions each journalist should be asking themselves when diving into this project.

“You can get certain info from the government, but you still have to report what you’re finding,” Petchel says.

“I think the lesson is that… everything always has to be checked. That’s the role of journalism,” Petchel said.

When describing situations where her team would win lawsuits, Cohen says that “sometimes we would win the records, and we still wouldn’t get them.”

Cohen said she was an economist for the federal government for 10 years before she got into journalism. She describes how she was working in a statistical program with companies, where she would try to determine if these companies were lying with their information.

It got more computer and data-driven. She found that data journalism was close to what she was looking for in her life.

“I got lucky that I found editors in my school who were interested in the knowledgeable content rather than the fact that I don’t necessarily have a background in journalism,” Cohen said.

Cohen describes that accepting a project doesn’t pan out is something that journalists will face at some point.

“Usually, if you plan to get one document, have a few backups. Sometimes the records don’t pan out, or the source fails. And in that case, you have to call it… even after a year or so of investment,” Cohen said.

Cohen also warned about authenticity when exploring your research.

“It’s a lot easier to fabricate a document than it is to fabricate data,” Cohen says.

 

 

Free Speech on Campus: Cronkite Must-See-Monday Event

By: Lindsey Clinkingbeard

February 2017

“Speech on Campus” Must-See-Monday event, moderated by Cronkite Professor Joseph Russomanno, featured two speakers from separate private colleges. Both schools had recently experienced backlash from students regarding protests and free speech on campus. The interview, recorded by Arizona PBS, focused on communication as a useful and powerful tool to be used.

Lucia Valdivia is an Assistant Professor of English and Humanities at Reed College.  She discussed how students have begun to fight institutional racism in class during lectures.

Audience members shook their heads as Valdivia discussed the criticism received from students who were campaigning visually against certain texts they were teaching, such as Aristotle.

“Especially with the election of Donald Trump, there has been a sense of disempowerment and dramatic change among students,” Valdivia said. “And I think anger can be misdirected sometimes,” she said.

Allison Stanger, a Professor of International Politics and Economics at Middlebury College, discussed how students are angry about “perceived injustices in our justice system.”

“There is a parallel dynamic of extremism on both sides, fighting fire with fire. And that’s very sad for me because that goes against constitutional democracy, where we can debate issues and agree to mutually disagree,” Stanger said.

The first amendment was also a topic discussed widely between the two professors. Valdivia openly discussed her childhood upbringing in Peru, where she said others were killed “for using their words.” When it comes to free speech, Valdivia said that there is a place for everyone.

“There is a time, and a place, and a platform. That does not include silencing other people,” Valdivia said.

Stanger added how freedom of speech only “increases democracy.” Stanger emphasized the role of the university is to teach students how to “allow reason to prevail… [and] to harness reason to bring about change,” she said.

Stanger says this means addressing the civic education crisis in grades k-12 here in America, where she says the majority of students are coming to college without a proper context of the first amendment or constitutional rights.

Russomanno asked both professors how they are addressing the speech in their classrooms. Valdivia responded by saying that she leads by example.

“I think in the classroom, I have to teach the deeper meaning of words,” she said. “Teach students how to fight back with words. How to knock back the assumptions and ask the tough questions. This is useful in fighting for social justice. Having a great argument technique is going to serve you well. Knowing how to reason and argue is important,” Valdivia said. She added that being mindful and training yourself to listen before responding is important.

Valdivia said that trying to get people to think objectively about the principles, that will encourage better conversation. But there is one thing she made very clear.

“Once you start censoring, it is a very slippery slope.”