New AU Web Site, Submit Your User Content by americanobserved
March 30, 2009, 8:36 pm
Filed under: Russ | Tags: , , ,

For devoted readers of the AmericanObserved blog, you’ll know I’ve long had a chip on my shoulder about the placement of the Observer on the AU SOC’s Web site. Well, the school has a new Web site, and so does the SOC. The content isn’t dramtically different, although it looks a littl more modern. There’s a “Student and Faculty” work page – it’s still “dynamic” and OUR student work isn’t exactly prominent. We do have a permanent link on the bottom of several pages, and a couple shout-outs throughout the site, which is nice.

Last time I complained about our lack of visibility on the SOC Web site, it got a fairly quick response, which summed up was: you have to tell us you want attention because we’ve got a lot going on. This time they’re making it easier: there’s an easy link to submit “user content” to the SOC Web site. The ability to submit “user content” may be the development that will prevent us from getting jobs in August, but let’s use it to our advantage today.

Cross-posted at Blog/19 and AmericanObserved.


RT: Twitter Wouldn’t Lie to Me! by Russ
March 24, 2009, 11:17 am
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My goal with this blog was to talk about the Observer, not my personal pet peeves or uninformed opinions about journalism, but I’m going to venture into Twitter territory today. I’m generally fairly skeptical of its application as a news tool – great for (self-)promoting, and okay for news-gathering. My blog-mate Anna will heartily disagree. Probably via a tweet. The Observer has its own Twitter account, which has recently been picked up as a promotional tool. But, we, in general, should be careful about relying too heavily on it as reliable source for our news-gathering. While it has been helpful during some dramatic, hard-to-cover news events, and we’ve used it for our reporting, it has also been “helpful” spreading hysterical, un-true rumors during these panicky economic times. For example, yesterday, the rumor that the New Yorker was going to twice-a-month was re-Tweeted all over. This time the rumor was stopped in its tracks, but like on the Internet, the rumor remains archived and ready to rise again, represented as fact. Also, bad for us and for Twitter – it made Jennifer Aniston break up with John Mayer. Allegedly. Cross-posted at Blog/19 and AmericanObserved.

Our Loyal Readers. by Russ
February 4, 2009, 11:11 am
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The bad news is that we don’t appear to have much of a readership. The stats can be viewed at by logging in with the Observer’s gmail creds.

In the past month, we’ve had 1,900 +/- visits to, which I suppose for a publication that only minimally publicizes itself is not bad. But delving just a bit deeper, we can see that the most popular page was the user login – suggesting the most regular visitors to our site are… ourselves editing and publishing new issues.

Site stats for the last month

Site stats for the last month

Our most popular piece of content was Kat Aaron’s piece on “From Slavery to History” in the Jan. 21 issue. It got 129 page views, 68 unique. 

Our visitors come mainly from Virginia (northern, Arlington, most specifically) and then the District. No visitors from many states in the Union, and in the last month, none from outside the U.S.

It’s dangerous to get too wrapped up in the numbers – analyzing specific instances of popularity for an article can create the false impression of a trend, and with site stats this low, it almost certainly is false.

There are also strange flukes, maybe best not explained – like how at least two users searching Google for what turned out to be a hardcore porn Web site were directed to the Observer. Their stays were very brief. We apparently did not offer what they were looking for.

But, we should pay more regular attention to these numbers. There are interesting things to be found. For instance, if perhaps we had been more aware, we would’ve seen that while almost nobody visited our Transition Tracker Web site last semester, a sizable portion of the traffic we did receive was directed from the New York Times.

Continue reading

Blogging is more productive than it looks. by Russ
January 29, 2009, 1:54 am
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Several days ago, I blogged/complained that the Observer didn’t even get a link on AU SOC’s official Web site. Proving that blogging isn’t always just idle whining and talking into the dark emptiness of cyberspace, I was almost immediately corrected by James Robertson that there is actually one on the SOC’s main page… You just have to scroll down, down and down, and then it’s on the left – a box with a graphic from the current issue and a brief description of what we worked on in the most recent issue.

And just a few moments ago, Tia Sumler, the SOC’s manager of marketing and web communication, responded with additional information about some recent changes and where our stuff has shown up on the SOC’s Web site. Among other changes she made recently, the “Student Work” page now not only touts the Observer staff’s hard work on Inauguration Day, the “American Observer” page actually links to the site. So, thank you, Tia.

Tia explained that the SOC’s Web site is dynamic, and fairly frequently updating, so unless things our work is regularly brought to her attention, it’s going to slip off the front/top of the SOC pages. So, it’s up to us to say on top of this, and if there’s something we want brought to the SOC’s attention, probably the most efficient way to do it is to directly contact her about it.

That said, maintaining a prominently and permanently placed display of student work for future employers (and potential future students) is a common feature at many similar programs, for instance, here and here. It’s good to get publicity and drive traffic for projects we’re currently working on, but providing lasting easy access of our good work is 90 percent of the game, in my opinion.

So, anyone have any suggestions to pass on to Tia about how we would like to have the school market our online clip file?

Can we get some AU love here? by Russ
January 27, 2009, 1:52 am
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Not all posts can be as long and involved as the last two, so this one will be fairly short, sweet and to the point. What do you have to do to get some love around here?

As noted in my earlier post we’re hardly the only J-School graduate student Web publication, but we do appear to be the only one that can’t get a link from our own school.

Seriously. AU’s official SOC page has an entire page devoted to the Observer but not a link to the actual publication in sight. There’s the goofy photo of us from the first week of school but no link to the online graduate student publication.

As an online publication, this is problematic.

Needless to say, there’s also no link to the Transition Tracker Web site and it’s amazing spinning wheel of federal agency badges (it’s actually as thrilling as described, please do check it out) that several of us worked very hard on last semester.

On the “Student Work” page, there’s a link to the undergraduate Eagle site, but nothing for this year’s class of journalism grad students.

Maybe a project for the publicity person this time around?