Coming soon: How do comments on online articles affect reader opinions?


Data Overload: Reflection

“Information overload” is a term that was coined by Alvin Toffler, which refers to the excess amount of information that our generation receives due to various advances in technology. This excess of information can make it difficult for an individual to make decisions or comprehend issues.

We live in the 20th century, which is also known as the information age and the rise of the internet and other advances in computer technology such as search engines, features of mobile phones that provide constant/instant information feeds, and social media websites.

With the invention of search engines, we have access to virtually any information that we want to receive. We have instant access to news from various sources. When we want details about an individual or a news story that has just broken out, we can do a Google search and are instantly provided with large amounts of articles, online news publications, blogs, and various sources of information on the topic. Some of these sources are credible, while some might be biased or filled with mistakes. I have witnessed this aspect of the information overload taking effect on society and the lives of myself and those around me by causing us to make mistakes and incorrectly identify facts or sides to a story.

Another factor contributing to the information overload is the ease with which our generation can recreate and send information. We now have the ability to instantly recreate and send information through the use of email and the sharing of links to information on social media websites.

Facebook has gone even further in encouraging the information overload by creating a new feature where users are notified any time that one of their friends has read a certain news article online. For example, when I log into Facebook and view my news feed, I receive a notification that says “Paul Bauer just read an article called ‘Jersey Shore cast member reveals that she is pregnant’ on Yahoo! news”.  Facebook users have the options of sharing the articles that they read with their friends, and just by clicking on a news article online all of the individual’s friends are exposed to that article.

Another factor contributing to the information overload is the increase in channels that can communicate information to us. This includes the rise of emailing, RSS feeds, instant messaging, text messaging, and telephones. We live in a generation where individuals cannot live without having email access on their cell phones. People want their phones to vibrate every time that they receive a new tweet or have a new Facebook notification. I feel that this can be beneficial in some ways, while it can also be detrimental. It can be beneficial in the sense that we are able to work faster and achieve more when we are able to instantly communicate.

With the wide variety of channels that we can use to receive information, it is both difficult and overwhelming to keep up with the rapid rate at which we are receiving the information.  Receiving such a high volume/rapid rate of information through so many channels also takes away from the time that we are able to put into face-to-face communication.

What do you think? Is the information overload a genuine cause of concern for our generation, or just another concept that exaggerates the negative effects of new technology?

Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy

I recently read an interesting book called “Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy”, by Jeff Chester. Jeff Chester is the director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington D.C. based non-profit dedicated to encouraging democratic expression in the digital media era. The book brought up various provocative points about the democracy in the new digital era. Chester expresses how we are being indirectly targeted by corporations and media companies who are trying to sell their products, and asks whether or not this is ethical.

We are led to believe that we have increased freedom as technology increases and the internet is becoming such a powerful force in our daily lives. However, with the growth of the internet, are we actually losing freedom? Thins such as the “AD-ID”, created by one of the many advertising associations,  monitor our browsing habits and collect detailed information on us, allowing advertisers to target us more aggressively. Chester asks whether or not this is democratic, and makes it clear that in his opinion it is highly unethical and is slowly depleting democracy. I feel more of a moderate view towards the issue in that I feel that while advertisers are in some cases targeting audiences too aggressively, we still ultimately choose what persuades us.

I sincerely feel that regardless of how much an ad is forced onto my brain, if I am genuinely uninterested in the product or unimpressed by the ad, I am not going to buy the product. Advertising and marketing are meant to persuade and used to position a product in a way that makes it desirable, but they are not capable of brainwashing consumers. I ultimately felt that while he did present some interesting views and raise some interesting questions, many of the points were more radical than my personal beliefs on the subject matter. However, I still felt that the book was a good read for anyone interested in the effects that the increased use of internet and digital advertising is having on consumers and society.

McDonalds Sued Over Happy Meal Toys

A mother of two children from Sacramento recently filed a lawsuit against McDonalds, claiming that the fast food chain is marketing to children with its happy meal toys. The woman stated that she would like McDonalds to stop using toys from popular children’s movies such as Shrek. She says that her children often leave their food to get cold while they are playing with the toys. The lawsuit will claim that children do not have the cognitive ability to recognize marketing tactics.

Does this woman have a legitimate claim? I do agree that children do not have the ability to realize when something is being sold to them, which makes it unethical to tempt them with toys. However, some parents may enjoy getting these toys for their children. Asking the parent if he/she would like the toy included or not would be the most sensible option. McDonalds could also consider making toys that have some type of educational value. This way, parents can feel that the toy is providing value rather than just distracting their child from finishing lunch.

How do YOU think McDonalds should handle the issue and the negative press surrounding the happy meal toys?

Hershey Sues Mars

Hershey’s candy company has recently gone forward with a lawsuit against Mars candy, claiming that Mars’ “peanut butter chocolate promise squares” are copying Hershey’s patented packaging with their orange, brown, and tan wrapping. Mars candy apparently used an orange background for the candy packaging, which has been trademarked for Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Reese’s pieces. Mars responded by filing a counter complaint against Hershey, claiming that “orange is commonly used  by third parties on packaging as a generic flavor designation for peanuts, peanut butter or peanut butter flavoring.”

Hershey is the largest maker of chocolate candy in the United States, while Mars is second. The companies have clashed before, with Mars having sued Hershey in the past.

From a public relations perspective, one question that can be asked is whether or not Mars is really at fault, and whether the company is creating a bad public image for itself.  I feel that by coming out with similar packaging to Hershey, Mars may be at risk of seeming somewhat deceptive and unoriginal to the public. I feel that the company should make efforts to avoid copying anything that is patented by its main competitor, and failure to do so shows a slight lack of integrity. Mars is already second to Hershey in the business of manufacturing chocolate, and therefore should be focusing on making their trademarks as unique as possible.


Kanye West discusses his controversial actions on the Today Show

Kanye West appeared on the “Today Show”  to answer questions about various controversial comments and actions that he made in recent years. One of the main incidents discussed was when he called president Bush a racist. When asked if he regretted the comment, Kanye was a bit two-sided in his answer. He stated that he did not want to use the word “regret”, and that his comments came from a very pure place. However, he also stated that he acted on emotion and that he did not feel that he had that authority to pin the president as a racist.

From a public relations perspective, I feel that it was a good idea for Kanye to appear on the Today Show in efforts to repair his image and clear up a lot of the negative feelings towards him. However, I feel that he should have put more time into preparation for the interview. A lot of his answers seemed unclear and two-sided. He seemed to get angry and defensive at various points in the interview and was not cooperative with the way the interview was run. I feel that he should have prepared a more firm explanation to give to the public. I think that overall the public will appreciate his efforts to explain himself, but that this opportunity could have been optimized more by Kanye. More preparation would have likely given him better results in reparing his image.

Arizona voters approve medical marijuana use

In recent elections, Arizona voters officially approved the legalization of medical marijuana. The campaign manager for the legalization of medical marijuana was quoted in an article saying, “Now begins the very hard work of implementing this program in the way it was envisioned, with very high standards…we really believe that we have an opportunity to set an example to the rest of the country on what a good medical marijuana program looks like.” The vote in favor of legalization won by only a few thousand votes. Those who oppose medical marijuana do so mainly because of the fact that they do not feel that it will be used only by patients who need it for medical purposes.

Due to the highly controversial nature of this issue and the fact that the state was basically divided in half on their opinions, I feel that the public relations aspect is very important. Now that medical marijuana use has been legalized, Andrew Myers, the campaign manager for the legalization of Marijuana, should focus on showing what exactly is being done in order to ensure that the drug will only be used by those who need it for medical purposes. If the public is not assured that marijuana use will be monitored and that it will be safely used, the uproar against it is likely to continue and cause division and negativity towards state government. It is crucial that the public relations campaign for this issue provides assurance and factual information in order to create and maintain peace.

Kristen Stewart is Not Happy About Her Celebrity Status

Actress Kristen Stewart, of the famous “Twilight” movie franchise, was recently quoted saying that she does not consider herself a celebrity, does not enjoy being in the spotlight, and does not appreciate the  attention that her personal life gets. She shared certain undersirable incidences, such as her grandparents being concerned and calling her parents when they heard she was pregnant with co-star Robert Pattinson’s child due to false magazine advertisements.  Stewart stated that being a celebrity is not desirable, and that it is “bizarre” to her that everyone is so obsessive about her and/or the movies. She also stated that she does not have intentions of becoming a big movie star.

Stewart often faces criticism from the media for not being very personable or inviting in interviews, and seeming overall unpleasant and bothered when seen off-screen. In my opinion, and from a PR perspective, I feel  that being in the public eye is a part of a being a celebrity/actor. Stewart could be bringing bad publicity her way and tarnishing her image as an actress with her negativity towards the idea of being a celebrity. I feel that she should keep her ill feelings about being in the spotlight to herself, as it could show a lack of appreciation to her fans. If her fan base were to all of a sudden decline, I am sure she would want some of the “bizarre” attention back. While I do not think she needs to express constant joy, Stewart should show a bit more warmth and appreciation, and realize that many actors would love be in her shoes.


Prominent News Analyst Fired for Comment

Juan Williams, a very well known news analyst for liberal news station NPR, was fired after commenting that seeing flight passengers wearing Muslim attire on planes made him nervous. The firing has caused much debate, as many are questioning whether or not it was fair of NPR to fire him for this. Following his firing, the CEO of NPR, Vivian Schiller, said that Williams’ feelings about seeing plane passengers wearing Muslim garb is an issue that he should “discuss with his psychiatrist”. This comment caused even more debate, as it was seen as unnecessary by some to deride him in this matter, on top of firing him, for a comment that many people saw as being harmless. Schiller released an apology after making this statement. Immediately following his firing, Williams signed a multi-year deal with competitors, Fox News. The questions that can be asked from a public relations perspective regarding this issue are what this situation means for NPR, for Juan Williams, and for Fox news.

With regards to Juan Williams and his comment, I do not feel that it was a comment worthy of firing, but do feel that he could have done a better job at avoiding  this type of miscommunication. Though his comment may have seemed harmless to many, others may see it as anti-Muslim, which could harm his image as an objective news analyst.

With regards to NPR, I feel that the CEO of NPR, Vivian Schiller, has brought bad publicity to NPR by allowing both the firing and the malicious comments. Following her derogatory comment towards Williams, various Fox news analysts fought back,  one stating that she was a “pinhead”, and another that she was “not smart enough to run a news station”.  Another Fox News contributor even stated that the way that NPR fired Williams was “vulgar and pitiful” . It is speculated that the real reason for Williams’ firing was because of his role as a Fox news contributor, which NPR did not necessarily approve of. By throwing a malicious comment into the situation, Schiller made the situation seem more personal and has made NPR look bad. I think this is a situation that will require NPR’s public relations team to do a lot of image repair.

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Minnesota Viking’s quaterback involved in scandal

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre is currently involved in a scandal involving game hostess Jenn Sterger. Favre has been accused of sexual harassment, as Sterger released voicemails and photo messages that are believed to be from Favre. Favre is also in the process of writing a book on how celebrity athletes should deal with a sexual crisis. In his book Favre claims that in the midst of a crisis, it is best not to admit to anything, not to apologize, and to show off your talent. He has not said much regarding the scandal. However, he has already been removed from the NFL broadcasts by “Wrangler”. The question of whether the NFL should suspend Favre reigns.

From a public relations perspective, I feel that NFL did make a good move in removing his “wrangler” adds from NFL broadcasts. Any time someone is involved in a sexual harassment scandal, his/her image is questionable to the public, making any products that they are possibly endorsing become associated with their negative image. I think that until the definite facts of his involvement in this sexual harassment case is determined, it is not necessary to actually suspend him. I also feel that his statements about dealing with a scandal are somewhat flawed; from a public relations perspective, it seems more sensible to admit your wrongs and apologize, rather than withhold the truth from the public. Not being apologetic or admitting his wrongs could make it seem that he has not learned from his mistakes,  making his image remain tainted from the scandal in the public’s eyes.