So You Want to Use Social Media in the News

As some of you may have heard, while covering the terrible helicopter crash in Seattle, a Denver television station accidentally let it all hang out. Well, they didn’t, but they shared a picture on their live broadcast of someone ELSE letting it all hang out. So yes, congratulations to whoever owns that particular penis, because you have risen to some level of fame.

Sure, broadcasting the news is hard work, and you’ve got to keep a stiff upper lip while the cameras are running. You wouldn’t want to take too soft of an approach in covering the story. Sometimes you want to make sure you’re covering a wider perspective, and sometimes, you know it’s all about the length of your journalism. Keep in mind, though, any news coverage that lasts four hours or longer really needs to get some deeper scrutiny.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten all of those out of the way, let’s move on. See, over time, social media has actually proven to be quite beneficial. There are events that happen worldwide, and the only way people get to find out about them is via checking their Twitters/Facebooks/Instagrams (hey, sometimes the news is food-related). So, while I’ve never been a journalist, I am a social media user, and I’m going to share a few helpful tips for any journalist who is looking to use social media in their broadcasts.

1. Keep abreast of the trends

Listen, you don’t want to go down in history as the news organization that still gets supplemental information from MySpace. Unless, of course, you want your information to not only be terribly out-of-date, but for it to run the potential of causing epilepsy in people seeing it during your news story. Yes, I know that MySpace has changed, but, seriously, is anyone out there really using it even with the changes?

2. Make sure that you’ve already done initial research

The worst thing in the world for a news organization is to be wrong. The second worst thing is to be wrong because you’re taking everyone else’s words at face-value. While you might find plenty of good information by scanning through your social media contacts, make sure that you already know at least a little about what you’re covering. Otherwise, you could be running a news story about how much of a commu-fascist dictator the president is, without doing any sort of research into those political ideologies. (Note: If you are working for cable news, please disregard)

3. Check the names of the parties involved

Listen, maybe you’ve got a hot lead. You’ve seen someone tweet about the most breaking news story in the history of breaking news stories. Maybe they even posted the tweet without saying “#YOLO”. Think about double-checking their name. You wouldn’t want to necessarily spread that information came from @assfister27978134, when you can instead say “Jim”. Not to say that people with relatively unfriendly twitter handles aren’t going to be spreading good information, just that maybe it might be better to go with “sources say”.

4. It’s okay to be late to the coverage

This is something, overall, that news organizations seem to forget, although every once in awhile, it gets put on display. You don’t have to be the first to break the story. Especially not when that breaking story is full of speculation. Sure, you’ve got Facebook telling you all about the huge jets of water spraying all over the place, with locusts trying to eat into your studio’s walls, but maybe you should confirm that it actually IS some sort of end-times scenario before making it sound like an angry deity is exacting vengeance on the planet. As with tip #2, if you’re working in cable news, feel free to disregard this tip.

5. Don’t just stream images live, without checking them in advance

Seriously, people. Images on the internet run down a few categories. You’re bound to find cats, porn, cats watching porn, cat porn, babies, food, food porn, porn stars feeding cats, and then, finally, actual useful image content. The fact that only one station inadvertently aired a picture of a penis is surprising. And how many people out there have gone searching for a seemingly innocuous hashtag, only to be bombarded with more naked body parts than have been near Ron Jeremy? Seriously, image searches are dangerous, and they should NEVER be part of your live broadcast.

Use these simple tips to help make your news stories a little more social media friendly. Or, at least, if you make a mistake, be sure to quickly go onto social media, and say things like “shared a penis on live tv, thanks Obama #fml #smh #yolo #brunettes”. At least you’ll probably get a retweet or something.

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So You’ve Won a Political Battle

If you’ve been following the news recently, you’ve almost undoubtedly seen the big story about the Affordable Care Act. For those that haven’t been as heavily tied in, basically, the requirement for mid-level companies to provide affordable health care coverage has been pushed back, this time to 2016. For larger companies, they don’t need to worry about getting coverage for 95% of employees until that same year, with a requirement to provide it to 70% by 2015. Keep in mind that the vast majority of employers in the country are not subject in any way to this mandate. This is for a program that has been plagued with problems from the get-go, and has drawn the ire of the vast majority of Republicans, who simply wanted to see it eliminated.

The requirements are being eased, potentially, as a way to help out the Democrats during the upcoming election season, but it’s hard to see it as anything other than a straight Republican victory. That is, of course, unless you’re one of those Republican elected officials, who wanted it stopped, and now are upset that it’s being stopped. With that said, I’m going to offer some helpful tips for how to handle yourself should you find yourself on the winning side of any sort of political battle.

As a note, if you are a Democrat who has been elected to office, please keep in mind that these tips may not prove helpful, as recent history has shown that you will infrequently land on the winning side of an issue.

1. Switch sides

This is a tried-and-true tactic. Once your party has proven themselves to be the victors, make sure that you and the rest of your affiliates quickly switch sides. Nobody likes someone who wins all of the time. If you consistently make sure that you’re just always fighting against some sort of injustice, even an injustice that you previously championed, you’ll come out shining like a big pile of diamonds. Look at yourself as the Marian Hossa of non-hockey players. Get yourself on a team that’s going for the championship, but will lose. Then, switch teams, get to the championship, and lose again. That way, when you do finally win your ultimate prize, the public will forget that you were simply jumping from position to position all while just barely losing out.

2. Pretend it was never in doubt

If you choose to not switch sides, perhaps you should simply make it clear that you were always on the correct side of history. In fact, if you can find some way to shoehorn a higher power into your proclamations, even better. After all, people may root for the underdog, but, when the champion had clear help from above, well, then it was just destined to be. Above all else, remain humble enough that people still think you’re pretty darned swell, while also making it clear that you won because you were the smartest, best-looking, most articulate person in the room. If you can find a way to throw a couple of self-deprecating jokes in all of the self-congratulation, all the better.

3. Change the story

Maybe you didn’t actually want to come out on top in your little battle. Maybe by winning, you were actually losing. This is very similar to switching sides, except, this time, it only LOOKS like you came out victorious. You actually lost, because of some random element that most people didn’t even know existed. Sure, you stopped something that was designed to make sure that baby seals weren’t brutally clubbed, but you actually lost, because you couldn’t protect your right to use whatever pipe fittings you wanted to. If you can make it clear that by winning you actually gave up more than you got, people will clamor to see more from you, and will rally around your next talking point.

4. Feign ignorance

News travels fast, but maybe it doesn’t travel fast enough to reach you. This tactic requires you to continue to play off of the fact that you believe you’re losing in your battle to accomplish something, even once it’s clear that everything you aimed for has been done. Your best allies in this are going to be people who aren’t glued to the 24-hour news cycle, or, failing that, the hosts of the 24-hour news cycle. They may start to believe that they missed a key point, or that your whole agenda item is still waiting on a vote. If you can stretch this long enough, people could start to believe that you’re actively being kept out of the loop, and you can sit back and watch as conspiracy theories start to flow. If you can find a way to sneakily get your side of the story out to a site known for satirical news, all the better.

5. Admit your victory; move on to the next topic

WARNING: This tactic is highly advanced, and should only be used in the rarest of situations. For this to succeed, you need to make sure that you will gain enough clout by not only fighting towards your personal agenda, but that people will actually want to defend your position themselves. This shouldn’t be any sort of a slim majority, either. If you can’t be certain that you will maintain a high approval rating, especially in the areas that sent you to political office in the first place, then avoid this tactic completely. After all, admitting that you and your side are victorious could be seen as unabashed bragging, and moving on to something else might actually show an indication of working through the backlog that plagues many political offices. As a caveat to this, if you’re still early in your political career, you can find yourself accidentally using this tactic, and you may not suffer the same stigma as a more veteran party member, but you will certainly lose some of your ability to appear on cable news shows. Above all, use this tactic only at your own risk.

If everyone can just follow these simple suggestions, we can be certain that our government will continue to grind itself into a state of gridlock, all while knowing that nobody is fully prepared to take the credit while dispensing the blame. It certainly wouldn’t do for people to actually have some insight into what the different parties are thinking.

So You’ve Found an Article On the Net

In today’s highly digital world, it’s not only easier to get news from many different sources, sources that might have previously been unavailable to the people reading them, but it’s become easier and easier to share said articles with social media. How many times have you seen someone post the link to a news story from a publication you may never have heard of, only to follow through to that story and learn more about the subject? Even if you aren’t the type to click through, the articles are sitting out there, taunting you with their attention-grabbing headlines. It’s become a bit of a minefield to traverse, made even more difficult, due to the number of satirical sites popping up across the web.

But why do these satirical sites create such difficulty? Because, well, even The Onion, which people have known for years to be satirical in nature, fools some people into believing that what they’re writing is true. This gets even trickier with sites that either a) ARE largely factual, or b) are so new, people haven’t figured out that they’re spewing nothing but a steady stream of b.s. to the general public. There’s also the little detail that a lot of these sites are getting better and better about taking the factual and casting just sublime enough of a crazy light on it that it really seems like what they’re writing is nothing but truth. After all, we’ve witnessed Michelle Bachmann say some things that seem fairly out-of-whack, so an article providing more examples of her craziness doesn’t seem too far of a stretch. There was a Magnificient Soup Dish just this past weekend, and the top scoring team in the history of ever dropped a big ol’ dookie in the middle of the field, so when an article claims that the game was rigged, people buy into it. A lot of these satirical articles are sort of another form of wish fulfillment for the reader, as it reaffirms that maybe things really ARE as bad as they seem.

So, gentle readers, with the current slew of satire being spread across this land, and even reputable news sources becoming more and more slanted, what is one to do when they find an article online? Well, lucky for you, I’m here to deliver a couple of quick suggestions.

1. Share An Article As Soon As You Discover It

Throw caution to the wind! When you find that online story, make sure to get it out there for your friends on Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/whatever else! After all, they haven’t shared it yet, and they clearly need to see it. To make sure it really gains some traction, include some personal commentary to really grab the attention. You may not be the author, but you’re the vehicle through which people are discovering it.

2. Just Ignore It

Yes, the article comes from the New York Times, but, let’s be real. That publication has been little more than a rumor-mongering troglodyte for the last few decades at least, anyway. It certainly doesn’t have the cultural cache as something like http://www.hottestnewseverinthefaceofever.com.

3. When You See Someone Else Post Something, Post Counter-Arguments

Did someone post that the Magnificient Soup Dish was rigged? Find a link that points out how it was the cleanest game ever! Is your favorite actor getting blasted for being a little too straight? Drop some knowledge on the world by sharing an article where they totally had a gay experience! Please note, this point is actually invalid when sharing corrections and factual information with others. That’s what the comment section is for.

4. Click That Linking Button, But Then Attack the Writers

Clearly, people that write anything online are simply doing it for pageviews. I mean, there’s all that fat ad revenue money coming in. It’s why I sleep entirely on a mattress stuffed with money (the money is pennies, but still, that’s a LOT of pennies, even if it is uncomfortable, and even if I did just get them for buying sodas at the store). So, by all means, give them more pageviews. Just be sure to let everyone in your social circle know that you think the writer is nothing more than a steaming pile of turducken (is there any other kind of turducken?), and that you’re clearly more informed. You still get to the joy of being one of the first to share the articles, PLUS you get the added benefit of superiority.

5. Maybe, Oh, Research The Topic A Little, And Then Link To It If It Still Resonates With You

Listen, researching things is hard. But it’s amazing how much information can be gathered relatively quickly through little things like Google. So, if you see something that seems a little too good to be true, do some digging before sharing it. Worst case scenario, you’ll appear a little late to the game, but you won’t be sharing something that can easily be proven false. As an addendum, however, be warned that nothing political in nature can ever be truly proven false, because everything is just too incredibly partisan, so there will be people praising and detracting every single story out there.

With these simple tips, you too can find yourself sharing articles, filling up news feeds, and pushing the images of other people’s babies/pets/lunches completely off of social media. Good luck, and happy hunting!

So You’ve Decided to Patent a Word

If, like me, you’re highly connected to the internet, then you’ve probably run across the story about a certain mobile game maker patenting a specific word (I won’t say the word here, because I don’t want to run afoul of copyright law, which is a thing I clearly don’t understand well), thereby preventing other game makers from using said word in future products. If you aren’t connected to the internet, then I’d like to personally thank whoever printed out this page and handed it to you, and now catch you up on the story. See, a popular mobile game maker, known for making games that crush the souls (or at least savings accounts) of their users, has successfully patented a word that is part of the title of one of its most popular games. This word is synonymous with chocolate, lollipops, jelly beans, and, somehow, butterscotch drops (I may not understand copyright, but I have a working knowledge of synonym). Naturally, bolstered by their ability to patent one word, they are looking to advance their cause, and potentially trademark EVERY word loosely affiliated with their products, and are looking to uphold future trademarks. Of course, this is all done under the guise of “protecting their intellectual property”, and it’s fairly common in the world of business, but at least Kleenex had the wisdom to trademark a word not used in common parlance (because they made it up).

Now, I’m certainly not going to go around copyrighting words, because, well, words should be shared by everyone, and I’m not out to make a quick buck by stopping others from using such words (I totally would be, if I actually thought there would be anything “quick” or “buck”-like about it). The fact remains that there ARE people, whether on behalf of a company, or acting as individuals, who will decide to go to the extreme measure of getting a word trademarked so that others can’t use it without running afoul of some potentially nasty legal proceedings. If you are looking to follow this particular course of action, might I give a few pieces of advice?

1. Choose a word almost never used.

If it’s a made-up word, even better. Words that don’t get used often mean that you won’t have to spend time protecting your copyright. Of course, you won’t get the joy of crushing anyone who decides to let their freak flag fly in the face of your copyright, but it really saves a lot of legwork.

2. Alternately, choose a word that’s used ALL THE TIME.

If you want to go this route, I would suggest grabbing “the”, except this is the age of the internet, and, well, in a few years, only old people will still be using “the”. So, instead, choose a word like “me”, because, if you’re copyrighting a word, you probably live in America, and this word is not going to go out of style in this country any time soon.

3. Make sure that your lawyers ALSO refrain from using your word.

Just because you’re paying them the big bucks (or, getting them to work pro bono because you’ve got blackmail materials) doesn’t mean that they should be held to a lower standard. In fact, hold them to a higher standard. Maybe see if you can keep them from not only using your word, but also all of the letters that make it.

4. Perhaps, pick a word that people just shouldn’t use any more.

You know, words like “smegma”. Or “moist”. Or “jeggings”. And don’t even try to tell me that these words don’t tend to bring about the same reactions in anyone hearing them. You’ll get the fun of both defending your copyright claim, and you’ll get the added bonus of eradicating some terrible words from general use.

5. Seriously, think about what you’re doing.

After all, you’re planning on filing for a copyright claim on a word. Sure, it might be tied only to specific usages of the word, but, if enough people follow suit (and get rewarded with an approved claim), then there’s a chance that the use of these words WILL eventually be outlawed to all but those who can show they’ve filed the proper paperwork. It can only lead to a dystopian wasteland, with people wandering around, speaking in broken sentences, trying to avoid any word that will bring about the officers from the Department of Language and Not Sharing. Store shelves will be stripped bare, because the words to replenish stock will be held in the lofty hands of the wealthiest of wordsmiths. The very meaning of language will be destroyed, and all we, as a society, will be left with, are emojis and texting shorthand.

So, really, when you think about it, we’ve already started on that grand voyage. At least until someone copyrights a picture of a smiling piece of poo.

So You Survived a Polar Vortex

First off, congratulations. You’ve made it through this winter’s buzzword for terrible weather. It really looked like it was going to go all downhill after we had all of the Snowmageddons and the Snowpocalypses (or is that Snowpocalypsii?), but you’ve done it. And you did it with a fancy vortex, too. Give yourself a big thumbs-up and a pat on the back. Just not too hard, because, statistically speaking, you’ve got frostbite somewhere.

Okay, now that we’ve got the congratulations over, did anyone else hear the term “Polar Vortex”, and then imagine a terrible SyFy movie? Like, Sharknado terrible, except staring the kid from Small Wonder taking on tornadoes comprised of nothing but polar bears? Because that would have been pretty amazing in retrospect. Certainly more amazing than seeing your 1000000th video of people taking boiling water and turning it into steam (although, to be honest, that is a pretty cool trick). It would be less dangerous than urinating steam, to prove a point (because, hey, at least if the polar bears bite your member off, that pain is probably pretty quick). And it would be more fun than hiding inside of your home, hoping that you can just get by with what you’ve already built up, because the mere thought of stepping outside makes all of your extremities shriek in terror.

Of course, if you live in Minnesota (or, really, any Northern area that prides itself a little too much on how it handles cold weather), chances are that you not only embraced the polar vortex, but you spat right into it’s eye (metaphorically speaking, as spit probably ALSO turned to steam in those temperatures). For every 50 people who talked about how cold it was, and how they were hunkering down inside, there was at least 1 person who decided that they would venture outside, performing the types of activity that are normally saved for the months where green is visible in more than just your nostrils. If you were one of those people, congratulations on finding pants big enough to hide your enormous manhood, although the recent temperatures probably made that bit a little easier. Also, stop it. You’re part of the reason other states make fun of yours for living there. When even the Mars Rover is flaunting having warmer temperatures, it’s time to rethink that water-skiing trip to Lake Superior.

But, alas and alack, the temperatures are currently inching upwards. By the end of the week, at least for the Upper Midwest, there will be the ability to step outside without doing your best A Christmas Story impression. So, how can you possibly cope with suddenly warmer surroundings?

1. Take an ice bath.

Pro athletes do it all the time, and look at how much they get paid!

2. Empty out your freezer, and then see if you can fit inside it for a couple of minutes.

Truth be told, it’ll probably be warmer than it was over the past few days, so you should be able to get a good slalom going on.

3. 20 degrees above zero? Turn on the AC!

After all, you certainly wouldn’t want the neighbors to start thinking that you’re too comfortable. As an added bonus, if you turn the AC up high enough, you can actually make it feel legitimately warm outside.

4. Learn how to skin animals, turning their pelts into furs to wear around the house.

This sort of weather pattern is sure to repeat itself, so don’t let your guard down for an instant.

5. Take a moment to enjoy air that doesn’t immediately freeze your lungs, and maybe go for a nice little walk or something.

Clearly, this isn’t really scientific or medical advice (which you shouldn’t be taking too seriously from a blog anyway), so you may have a better plan for how to spend your warming days.

So there you have it. Just a couple of ideas about how to make it through the warming that is bound to follow the most recent polar vortex. May you keep all of your fingers!

So You Got the Stomach Flu

The last couple of days around my house were certainly eventful ones. At least, they were if you allow “eventful” to also mean “not a lot of stuff actually happens”. See, on Monday, HawtWife got stricken with the stomach flu. This lasted until right around midnight, when the bug decided to jump from her to me. Thankfully, Nugget seems to be avoiding this, so we’re hopefully past it, as long as we disinfect the entire house.

See, the way that this particular bug worked through our household was that it started with hours of nausea, complete with more trips to visit the porcelain throne than one would expect. I made a terrible mistake at one point in the night of my initial symptoms, thinking that I would be safe drinking water, because, well, I was clearly starting to get dehydrated. I soon regretted this, as the water didn’t last in my stomach for even a few minutes. But I’m sure you’re not reading this to see about how sick other people have been. Instead, I offer you some suggestions on things you can do if you come down with this, or a similar, illness.

1. Catch up on daytime television.

Finally! Time to see if Maury’s found all of the “not-the-father’s”, and to see whatever it is Joel McHale has to watch to gather material for The Soup. After all, daytime television is widely known as the trashiest of televisions.

2. Shovel all of the snow.

I mean, you’re home anyway. May as well be productive. If you happen to live in a place where they don’t have snow, then, I don’t know, mow your lawn or something.

3. Buy ALL of the things!

Don’t want to step outside? Shop online! After all, it’s the holiday season, and isn’t that the true meaning of this time of year? If you don’t purchase big and fancy enough things, you don’t get kissed for New Year’s. Proven fact (fact is a word that may or may not mean what it normally means in this context).

4. Build furniture.

Sure, you can take the easy way out and build something that’s pre-fabricated. Or you can get a bunch of lumber together and try to cobble together your best bookshelf. Sure, you never took a shop course in your life, but hey, who’s going to tell you how to actually craft something (aside from everyone who’s actually done it before)?

5. Sleep. Like, all damned day.

Seriously, if you end up with a similar bug to what went around our house, this is about all you’ll be able to do. With the stomach discomfort, the headaches, and the dizziness, keeping yourself prone is just about the safest thing you can do, and, to be honest, just about all you actually have the energy for.

So there you have it. I hope that you follow these tips (at least one of them) should you get struck low by this bug, and have a safe and productive sick day.