Todd Vogts

The Voice of the Vogts

Yearbook Land: Where does the closing go?

As you know, I am a high school journalism teacher. My students produce a monthly magazine and a yearbook. We recently completed our 2017 yearbook. We went with a chronological design in which we grouped everything by season (fall, winter, spring) with sections inside each season focusing on aspects of the school year such as sports and student life.

We have been doing this type of book for the past few years. In critiques, we usually get a decent amount of positive feedback. However, one strike against us is always where we place the closing spread (a spread is two facing pages), which is essentially the conclusion of the book.

See, we put the closing before the ad pages and the index, which is where we have every student listed in alphabetical order with the page numbers where they appear in the book. It makes it easy for the students to find themselves. After all, most high school students buy the yearbook to see themselves and their friends in the book. Only later does the value of being able to look back at the year really become evident to them.

Anyway, because we place our closing where we do, we receive marks in the negative column. Here is what one critique said:

“Put the closing at the end of the book instead of before the advertisements.”

I realize that isn’t a harsh criticism, but it still puzzles me and frustrates my students. Why would the closing of the book go after the ads and the index? At the beginning of the book, we put the title page and then the opening spread. That makes sense.

For me, putting the closing before the ads and the index makes sense too. The ads and the index are not part of the content of the book. They are supplemental pages. A textbook doesn’t have the glossary before the conclusion, so why in a yearbook should the ads and the index be before the closing?

To me, the opening and closing at the bookends to the content of the yearbook. They enclose the coverage of the year. Therefore, anything appearing between these two spreads should be contributing to the coverage of the year. It needs to directly address and engage the target audience. The ads don’t do that, though the generosity of the advertisers is crucial for the yearbook’s success. Likewise, the index, though incredibly useful for the readers, does not contribute to the coverage of the yearbook. It is a supplemental tool for navigating the book.

Am I wrong?  For the 2018 yearbook should I advise my students to put the closing in a different location?

I would love to hear what you think. Either leave a comment or shoot me note.

Podcasts: What I’m Listening To

Everyone loves a good story. Our bodies even react favorably to good stories. It doesn’t matter if you read it, watch it or hear it, a good story is too hard to pass up.

So enter the world of podcasts, which is full of good stories.

Podcasts are all the rage right now, and that can probably be attributed to the break-out success of “Serial“, the “This American Life” spinoff that is a true-crime drama told in episodes (more on that in a moment). Of course, a wildly successful production isn’t enough to make an entire genre or platform popular. Technology has played an important role. Smartphones and iPods have made it easier than ever to take audio with you and played via headphones while working out or even via bluetooth-connected cars during your commute. Then, factor in the low cost to produce a podcast (a microphone and some audio editing software on your computer) and how advertisers are jumping on board, making the audio platform profitable, it is clear why podcasts are popping up all over the place.

In fact, nearly a quarter of Americans aged 12 or older have or do listen to podcasts with some regularity, according to data gathered by the Pew Research Center. In fact, according to Andrew Meola of Business Insider:

“Almost 20% of U.S. adults ages 18 to 49 listen to podcasts at least once a month.”

I’m part of that percentage. In fact, I listen to podcasts on a daily basis. What follows is a rundown of what I listen to and why. Keep in mind my listening habits are shaped by my interests, so before you decide podcasts aren’t right for you, look around and see if there is anything of interest to you. There is a podcast for nearly any interest. Sports? Politics? News? Cooking? You name it, there’s a podcast for it.

Without further ado, here is my “now playing” list of podcasts.


Freakonomics Radio

This is the one that started it all. “Freakonomics” was the first podcast I ever started listening to, and it is great. It is a research and data driven podcast where the host, Stephen Dubner, “explores the hidden side of everything.” Obviously, the focus is on economics, but the show looks at the economic implications in a wide variety of subjects. For example, a recent episode looked at the country’s obsession with lawns and asked the question if the costs — financial, environmental and otherwise — are worth the benefits. The podcast spawned from a book written by Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, who is the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago. Seriously, if you listen to one podcast on my list, it should be this one. It’s fascinating.

The Daily

The Daily” is produced by the New York Times and hosted byMichael Barbaro. It comes out five days per week and is usually 20 minutes long. It provides a quick recap of the important news of the day in a “narrative news” format, and the interviews are top notch. It is a great way to get caught up on what’s going on in the world. I have to admit, I am struggling to describe this podcast more, though. It’s just a simple, yet effective, podcast for news lovers. I’m a huge news nerd, so it is perfect for me. What’s more, there is even rumors of “The Daily” coming to the weekends. In short, if you don’t get a lot news in your daily media consumption diet, subscribe to this podcast.

On The Media

On the Media” is another news-orientated podcast I love. At its core, it is a press criticism show, and it takes on issues currently being covered in and faced by the media. The opinion and insights the show’s hosts, Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, truly make me think and consider new points of view. Also, the interviews they conduct are a study in quality journalism. For people who are interested in journalism, this show is a must-listen. It is a product of WNYC Studios, and new episodes come out every Friday with a bonus episode usually appearing in the subscription feed earlier in the week.

The Kicker

The Kicker” is also a media criticism show. It is produced by Columbia Journalism Review and hosted by David Uberti. This show really plays on my journalism-nerd tendencies. It is a conversational podcast with audio clips of the news sprinkled in. The host and his guests discuss the news of the day with a focus on how different media outlets are covering those news events. It also touches on the business of the media and how different companies are fair in the ever-changing world of the news. It’s fascinating. If you are interested in the news, give this one a listen.

Serial

Serial” is the podcast poster child. It is a spinoff of “This American Life” and revisits the case of a murdered high school girl and her boyfriend who went to prison for the murder, despite his adamant denials of any involvement. I’m about halfway through Season One, and I love it. It is enthralling. It is the perfect mix of storytelling and journalism. I can see why it skyrocketed to the top of the podcasting charts.

S-Town

S-Town,” much like “Serial,” is a spinoff of “This American Life” and follows a similar structure of its predecessor. It follows the story of John B McLemore, who says he lives in “Shit Town, Alabama” and hates it. The story is fascinating and heartbreaking. I couldn’t listen to the episodes fast enough. Yes, I have already listened to this in its entirety, but I would listen to it again. This podcast, and the life of John B for that matter, are inspiring to me. Listening to this podcast made me want to start a podcast, which is an idea I’m still tossing around in a serious fashion.

Jerdcast

Jerdcast” is a podcast for journalism nerds. It is basically a talkshow where journalism educators come on and talk about the cool things they are doing. It’s not necessarily a highly produced podcast, but the content is enlightening and, as S-Town does, inspires me. Outside of just creating a podcast, though, it makes me want to do more with my journalism courses I teach. The only downside to this podcast is it isn’t produced on a regular basis. In fact, the last episode came out all the way back in March 2017. That’s disappointing. I’m hoping, since the host is an educator, the episodes will start flowing again once school starts up again.

Pod Save America

Pod Save America” is a political podcast produced by former staffers for President Obama. It is not partisan and pretty biased, but it is striving to elevate political discussion. It is very funny, entertaining and informational. However, I no longer subscribe to the podcast. I keep it my list to download when I need a podcast to pass the time, but the production schedule these guys are on is insane and anxiety inducing. They produce at least two episodes each week and each one is often nearly an hour and a half long. I can’t keep up, especially with the other podcasts I listen to. It’s good, though. If I had more time, it would be a permanent member of my subscription list. (I actually produced a low-quality podcast talking about this podcast. You can check that out here if you are interested.)

Welcome to Night Vale

Much like the aforementioned “Pod Save America,” this is one I no longer subscribe to. “Welcome to Night Vale” has been around too long, and I don’t feel like I can ever catch up. I started from the beginning, and I loved it. It has been described as “A Prairie Home Companion” meets Stephen King, and that is a pretty apt description. It is a community radio show in the fictional town of Night Vale, which is a town filled with strange and other-worldly happenings. It’s intensely entertaining. I would love to still be listening to it, but the compulsive side of me won’t let me just start with the latest episode. I feel like I need to start at the beginning in order to understand everything that is going on. Of course, that means I would need to listen to the 110 episodes that have already been released. Just thinking about how far behind I am induces mild panic. However, if you aren’t as strange as me but love a strange story, jump into the world of “Welcome to Night Vale.”

80th year of Boys State begins

In 1937, young men in the state of Kansas received their first opportunity to have their lives changed.

The American Legion Boys State of Kansas debuted, and for the past 80 years, the program has been instilling ideals of civic responsibility and leadership into our communities by providing a relevant and real-world interactive program aimed at creating more engaged members of society.

Boys State is a “learning by doing” political exercise that simulates elections, political parties and government at the state, county and local levels, providing opportunities to lead under pressure, showcasing character and working effectively within a team. It’s also an opportunity to gain pride and respect for government and the price paid by members of the military to preserve democracy.

The goal is for participants — they are called Staters and they are young men entering their senior year of high school — to leave the program with new leadership skills and feeling empowered to enact positive change in their local communities. Though this has always been a primary objective, this year the curriculum of the program has focused on this more intently, putting the emphasis on city and county government. After all, when a Stater leaves the program, that is the area where he can affect the greatest good.

The 2017 session kicked off today, and I am once again the Program Coordinator, meaning I oversee the day-to-day operations of the program. I work with a talented team of other Coordinators who are charged with various aspects of the program. Below them, if one where to look at a hierarchy, are nearly 100 other staff members teaching the Staters about all aspects of government. I always feel honored and humbled to be able to work with the caliber of people who volunteer their time to make Boys State the program it is.

This year’s session, which as I mentioned is the 80th anniversary of the Kansas program, is taking place today through Friday on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. It was planned with care. You can see what is happening each day by visiting http://ksbstate.org/curriculum/schedule/. You can keep up with the details of the session at http://ksbstate.org/2017-session-2, and http://ksbstate.org/news/ will have Stater-produced news (print, video, and audio) and staff-shot photos throughout the week.

In 2003, I was a Stater, and the program impacted me deeply. It gave me the opportunity to explore my own leadership abilities and grow them into life-long skills, and the lessons I learned from my time as a Stater, which is what the participants are referred to as, still influence me today.

If it weren’t for Boys State, I wouldn’t be who I am today, and I wouldn’t be a journalist. While at State, I was elected by my county to be the newspaper reporter. At the first meeting of the newspaper, called the Staters Union, I was then elected by the other staff members to the editor-in-chief. I was in charge of the entire operation, from writing to editing to producing the newspaper, which was a daily newspaper.

The experience was invaluable. I quickly learned the essentials of newspaper production, and though the daily deadlines were stressful, it gave me a delicious taste for the world of journalism.

I’ve been hooked ever since.

Obviously I’ve gained more journalism knowledge since my time at Boys State, but I wouldn’t have found my passion and true calling if it wasn’t the experience I had that summer prior to my senior year of high school.

I love this program. I honestly feel it is one of the most valuable things I do with my time, but sometimes it is hard to explain why. I hope to spend time this week reflecting on that so I can provide a salient answer. However, that will not keep me from focusing on the Staters and ensuring they have as powerful an experience as I did.

Talking Tech: Do I need multiple blogs and websites?

It’s interesting how little time it takes for a habit to be established. Since starting graduate school again, I have been consumed with reading journal articles, writing research papers, and chiming in on the class discussion boards. Now that the semester is over and I no longer have my course work hanging over my head, I feel like I have nothing to do.

Obviously, I have plenty to do with teaching and preparing for the new member of my family, but in two semesters of work I became so accustomed to having something to work on every waking, free moment of the day, I have found myself with something closely resembling free time.

It almost makes me uncomfortable, especially because it gives me a lot of time to think and dwell on things. Sometimes that is bad, but so far it hasn’t been terrible.

One topic my mind has been coming back to frequently, especially since I started to work on this blog more thanks to the lull between semesters, is the fact I have multiple blogs and websites, sometimes with accompanying, separate social media accounts. Sure, some websites I maintain and operate are for other people or specific business ventures I’m involved in, so those aren’t the ones I’m talking about. I’m talking about the handful that I keep updated that relate directly to me.

Here’s a quick list of the blogs and websites I’m talking about:

  • www.toddvogts.com
    • This is the one you are reading right now. I created it to take more control of my blog, which used to be hosted on the free version of WordPress. I also wanted a way to combine my blog with my presence as an author. The plan, though I haven’t done it yet, is to take down www.authortoddvogts.com and point that domain at this site. After all, I already included all of my author information on here. Check it out, if you are so inclined.
    • Also, since this domain used to be my professional portfolio site, I moved all of that information here too. You can see any of it by navigating through the menu options of this site. However, I still haven’t moved a lot of my design work into this site . . . more on that below.
    • Basically, I wanted to make it a one-stop-shop. All of my social media presences (see a list of those here) even reference this site.
  • www.mrvogts.com
    • This one is for my life as a teacher. It gets updated the most. That’s because I post homework to it daily. I do so to eliminate any excuse my students might have about not knowing what we did any given day in class. I also post news stories about what my classes, specifically my journalism classes, are accomplishing.
    • Beyond all of that, though, I have set the site up to be a resource. I have information and what equate to syllabi for all of my classes on there. I also have information concerning Project Management, which is a curriculum I wrote for the state, on there so other educators can easily access it.
    • This website has its own dedicated Twitter account. That way, my students can follow the account on Twitter and get alerted every time I post homework (I have it set to auto-share any new post so I don’t have to worry about it), and it avoids them having to see all the other stuff I tweet about on my primary Twitter account.
  • www.newsbystesmedia.com
    • This one was created as part of a class project during the Spring 2017 semester of my latest graduate degree. It’s actually part of mrvogts.com. I enjoyed posting to it, which I did on a weekly basis. Then, my professor suggested I keep it going as a resource for scholastic journalists and their advisers. I love that idea! I would love to make it into a MediaShift for high school journalism.
  • www.toddandkendall.com
    • This is the website my wife and I share. We post pictures and insights into our lives. And when I say, “we,” I mean she. My wife updates it on a regular basis. I read what she writes. The arrangement works well.

Do I need all of them?

I don’t know. On one hand, the answer must be “yes” because why else would I have set them up. Of course, I could have set them up as the need for them arose, which I did. Perhaps, though, the necessity of all of these sites has passed. This is why I’m now trying to reevaluate it all and see if I still need them all.

Let’s pick off the low-hanging fruit first. The toddandkendall.com site is basically my wife’s. It’s a non-issue. I’m not even going to worry about it, except to read and enjoy the musings of my bride.

As for newsbytesmedia.com, I like the idea of growing it into more than a class project. I like that idea a lot. I could move it away from mrvogts.com and establish it as a stand-alone site. It could be a tone of fun, and it could even be parlayed into more of a business venture (I’m thinking nonprofit arena, honestly). However, then I would be basically creating a fourth website. I would be going in a direction counter to the idea that I might have too many websites. This one needs more thought and planning . . .

The real crux of the issue seems to be the intersection of toddvogts.com and mrvogts.com. They seem to be rather similar in nature. Both provide information about important aspects of my life. Both provide me a way to connect with others online. And both provide me a platform to write, which is important to my life.

However, the difference is the direction I am pointing my professional life. One site focuses on my desire to be an author and entrepreneur. The other focuses on my desire to be an academic. I love writing novels, which is why I have already published one and have two more completed and awaiting a publisher. I also enjoy being an entrepreneur. I can’t help myself. I struggle to pass up an opportunity to run a business of my own. When it comes to working in academia, though, that is clearly my primary focus at the moment. It’s the entire reason I’m working on this second master’s degree.

I clearly don’t want to give up the part of my life represented by toddvogts.com, at least not yet. But I’m not serving myself well by keeping my attentions so fractured. I’m not saying I am going to stop taking part in any of my ventures any time soon, but I could at least start to get my online presence straightened out. Right?

So, I could set up a “personal” section on mrvogts.com. It could include my entrepreneurial endeavors. I could also include a section about me as an author. I could import this blog into that blog with some adjustments to keep everything organized. I could kill my Teacher Todd Twitter account and only use my primary Twitter account. Then I could point my toddvogts.com domain to the mrvogts.com website (as well as other domains I have pointed here and there).

Yeah. I could do all that. But, I have long been a believer of keeping different streams separate. I like to compartmentalize my activities, which is why I have so many email addresses and calendar. I want to keep things nice and orderly. My mantra has been, to quote Dr. Egon Spengler, “Don’t cross the streams.”

I still stand by that. So why am I even writing all of this? I don’t know. Maybe I truly have too much time to think. At the very least, though, writing this over the course of several days has helped me “talk” through everything.

So, if you’ve made it this far, you are too kind. If I were you, I probably would have given up around the time I got to the bullet points above. I am interested in what you think, though, so if you have any input, send it my way. The conclusion I have reached at this point is to leave well-enough alone for now. Perhaps once I am teaching at the university level, I might need to redirect everything to a new space entirely. That would probably make more sense than trying to Frankenstein two sites into one. However, I might decide having two separate spaces is the best idea too. Only time will tell.

I feel I’m doing something I often do, and that is get too far ahead of myself. I need to chill out and not feel like I have to streamline a part of my life that may not need streamlined just yet.

This was a long post to basically arrive back at where I started. Sorry about that. It did help me, though.

The Portfolio Comment

Oh, and you know how I mentioned something about needing to put my design work into toddvogts.com? I need to have a way to display all my work in one place. That is my goal, even if it might seem like a pointless endeavor to some. Well, I have some ideas about how to pull this off. Obviously I do more than just design. I take photos, write and produce multimedia content. All of that can pretty easily be displayed on the site without much trouble. However, designs (not website designs) made in software such as InDesign aren’t as easy displayed online without using a third-party solution. I have two in mind.

First, Adobe has a product called Behance, which is an online portfolio platform. I’m already a subscriber to the Adobe Creative Cloud, so that would be a natural fit, especially since I could automatically publish design from InDesign straight to my Behance site. Also, Behance is pretty cool. It is a community of designers and photographers. I can’t hold a candle to what they can do, but it would be neat to be rubbing cyber elbows with them. The downside would be this is another account and online presence to manage.  If I went this route, I would simply put a link to the Behance site on toddvogts.com so anyone who is incredibly bored could check it out.

Second, there is a service called Issuu. It allows documents to be uploaded. Then those documents are turned into shareable and embeddable, digital pieces. It works great with sharing issues of my magazine and the magazine my students produce. As is the theme, I have a different accounts for different purposes. The one that would be most closely associated with toddvogts.com, though, has no content on it whatsoever. I created the account to be able to follow other publications I was interested in, but I haven’t really used it up to its potential. If I used this service, I could just put a link to my account or I could actually embed each design into a page on my website.

So, again, I have used this post to think out loud. I think I will go with Issuu. Even though most of the design work I have done of late is part of my Teacher Todd life, I am still going to store it within the realm of toddvogts.com. That might constitute crossing streams, but my Issuu account tied to my teaching is used to story documents I want to share with my students and fellow educators. So I think I can justify it.

Conclusion

Again, if you have made it this far, you are truly a saint. You didn’t need to stick with it this far, but I’m glad you did. I would like to say my thoughts on these matters are closed, but I will probably revisit them in the future. At least this post allowed me to work through my thoughts. I thank you for indulging me a bit. You might feel you wasted your time, but this was very valuable for me. Thank you, and, seriously, let me know if you have any thoughts.

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