I started this blog as a project for a class – English 121, Introduction to Professional Communication- at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I believe writing a weekly blog has caused me to become a more thoughtful writer. The exercise has prompted me to be ever watchful for interesting topics and to look for ways to tie in multimedia. It has also caused me to become better informed on topics related to social media and professional communication, which is something I have found useful beyond my school life.
I am not new to writing for a public audience, having worked in radio for over twenty-five years and posted news stories online for that last 10 of those, but I have not tried anything like this blog for a long time. The two closest experiences I had to blogging would be briefly writing a college newspaper column back when I was 21 and daily journaling in my high school composition class. The difference is: in my daily journal, I did not have to find topics that were of interest to anyone else and when I wrote my column, I didn’t really know how (of course, there was no Google to search for inspiration back then).
I enjoyed working to develop a lighter, entertaining style that is different from what I have used in my work. I also grew more adept at seeking out supplemental material to engage readers – pictures, videos, links to related articles, etc.. This is one of the things I came back to school to learn: how to use the flexibility of today’s communication technology to its fullest. I had made four or five posts (starting with “Why I’m Following Alex Trebek’s Mustache”) before I started including photos and videos. When I got to the topic of comparing the CB radio craze of the 1970s with today’s social media, it was great to be able to include a youtube clip of the song “Convoy” to help set the scene. Since what I wanted to learn about most was social media and the web, that was what I decided to focus on for most of my blog posts. The need for weekly content forced me to constantly look for interesting topics. This is a good practice for any writer and had the side benefit of exposing me to more material than I would have encountered in my regular classwork.
Beyond my school life, this constant exercise in gathering material, examining it, and commenting on it has resulted in my becoming better informed. It has even made me a better conversationalist. In searching for topics that I thought people would take interest in and find useful, I have also found myself prepared with extemporaneous material whenever the topics of social media and new journalism come up in conversation. “How entertaining this must make me at parties!” I think to myself. Reading and writing help people to learn and form opinions. Following and commenting on current trends helped me to feel that I was staying current myself. As a middle-aged person adapting to changes in the workplace, this made me more confident about my future in the communication industry. I am not old enough to coast until retirement, but the gray hair in my beard may make an employer wonder if I would be the best person to oversee communication strategies that include social media and other emerging approaches. I know people who are older than me who are more technically savvy so I do not believe age alone qualifies or disqualifies a person for a job. I do believe, though, that a person has to keep investing energy in learning new approaches and how to use new technologies. This was the topic of another of my blog posts, “Keeping Up – Tougher Than it Used to Be.”
I decided to create this blog under an alias to prevent any confusion with my professional online presence. I am not sure if “Baxter Berkely” will post again, but he might, if he has something to say. Maybe he’ll write a book someday so the other me doesn’t have to worry about paparazzi when the book is a best seller (do paparazzi stalk authors? I’ve never seen weekly photos of what Stephen King is wearing). I will most likely take what I have learned here and apply it in my professional life under my real name. This weekly exercise has encouraged me to collect topics and think them over, to look for ways to present them in an up-to-date fashion, and to continue to look forward to “what’s next” in the ever-changing world of professional communication.