Students use blogs to send a message

Brittany Senary

Several Kent State majors blog for an important purpose

An old blue toilet. A rusty, vintage refrigerator. Two half-full shakers of salt and pepper. Rusty cans of food. Imagine that these are your most prized possessions-imagine that they are your only possessions. One time you owned a house. Everything was simple and basic. It was modest. It was home. It is all gone now. One sweep from a storm you saw coming but did not budge; why move? You knew nothing else. Roads covered with clothes, glass, and mattresses; some might call this garbage, you called this your bedroom.– Posted by Brad Baranowski, sophomore history major.

KSU United for the Gulf Coast, a program that brings students to New Orleans and Mississippi to help with the clean-up and re-building after Hurricane Katrina, started their own blog this year.

Megan Odell-Scott, Ohio campus compact Americorps VISTA service leader, created the blog so students could write on it and post pictures documenting what happened during the trip.

The program has brought 725 students south since Hurricane Katrina. Students pay $299, which pays for transportation, lodging and food.

Check out the blogs

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“I think the Web site was really successful,” Odell-Scott said. “That’s how a lot of people I know kept up with the trip. Students couldn’t call their parents everyday, so they gave them the blog site and they could get a better idea on what we were doing down there. I think it also helped spread the word on what kind of state Mississippi and New Orleans are still in and how, even though its two and a half years later, it still needs a lot of our help.”

In the past, the organization blogged through, but this is the first time they have blogged without outside help.

Odell-Scott made the blog through Blogspot.

“It had step-by-step directions,” Odell-Scott said. “It seems universal. I am not technologically savvy, so if I can set it up, anyone can.”

This is the fifth trip Kent State has taken and the fifth for Odell-Scott.

“If we go next year, I want to make the blog bigger. I want to have more students posting, with more pictures and videos because it really is a great tool for everyone to see what the trip is about.”

A blog, also known as a Web log is a Web site, maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events or other material such as graphics or video.

Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject, while others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Some blogs focus on a particular subject like politics, local events or a profession.

Technorati, an Internet search engine for blogs is currently tracking 112.8 million blogs.

What is Kent State doing with blogs?

Public relations

Bill Sledzik, associate professor in public relations, teaches “Online Tactics,” a class where students create their own blog, write an e-newsletter, create podcasts and critique online newsrooms.

The students create a blog on any topic, but the posts must relate to public relations. Some students’ blogs discuss health care, the entertainment industry and politics.

Students must have 10 posts and are graded based on if the student has stayed on topic, if the article is engaging and if the post has good links.

“The students also need to promote their blog,” Sledzik said. “They do that by telling everyone they know about it and posting on other peoples’ blogs, so they come back and look at yours.”

Noelle Pennyman, junior public relations major, created her own blog called PR in the Spotlight: Public Relations and its Effect on the Entertainment Industry.

“When Professor Sledzik told us about the blogs, he said to do something about what we are really interested in, and want to keep talking about,” Pennyman said.

Pennyman eventually wants to work in entertainment public relations.

For the class, students have to build up blog readership.

“The blog is not successful if no one is reading it,” Pennyman said.

The students need to post or comment on others’ blogs and monitor five to 10 blogs. This helps to increase their readership because students leave their URL when they comment on other peoples’ blogs.

Pennyman feels running a Web page has helped her with public relations.

“I just had a phone interview (with a potential employer) and the big thing he asked me was what Web 2.0 media I am familiar with, and he read my blog,” Pennyman said. “This only helps me more. I am a lot more confident while looking for internships. The generation before me is not that familiar with social media tools. I know how to utilize the tools so it really helps my marketability.”

Pennyman said it was incredibly easy to set up the blog.

“It was just as easy as setting up an account on Facebook,” Pennyman said.

Education, Health and Human Services

Jill Jones, junior integrated language arts major, writes a blog for the education, health and human services Web site.

“They gave us strict guidelines that said we could talk about anything like what it’s like to be in college and what it’s like to be an education major,” said Jones, who posts three times a month.

The blog is posted on a Kent State Web site, so Jones said posts must be appropriate and not contain profanity.

“This was the first blog I’ve ever done, so I had no idea what to do,” Jones said. “This is a new thing the education program is doing. I think it’s fun. It is teaching me a lot because I am horrible with computers.”

To create her blog, she looked at other peoples’ blogs to get a feel for how they set theirs up.

In addition, Jones is also working on a professional blog at Blogspot for her language, literature and learning class and what she is learning in education.

She hopes to keep the blog going, so she can use it for job interviews.

“I think it would be really cool if you go for an interview and say ‘go check out my blog,'” Jones said. “I can see it helping me as another outlook for people to look at. They can look at the blog instead of looking at a resume.”

Jones is responsible for commenting on other peoples’ blogs from her class, seven posts and adding another form of media such as pictures or video.

Jones plans on becoming a high school English teacher.

“I think it could help me teach high school students,” Jones said. “If they want to talk about novels from class, they can go off each other and discuss it on the blog, and ask each other questions. The only thing to worry about as a teacher is if it is going to be vulgar or if students will say mean things about each other.

“As a teacher, I would have to monitor it. But I think it would be really cool to see them discuss the book in a different light and be like ‘I hate this book, how do I get through it?’ It will give them a different outlook.”


Matthew Stewart, a Stark campus English professor, has his own blog called Ohio River Life.

He began blogging in August of 2006 . He ran his first blog like a magazine, where many people contributed stories.

After Stewart left the Morning Journal in East Liverpool and the East Liverpool Review, he was used to writing every day.

“When you are used to writing every day, it was something I wanted to continue doing,” Stewart said. “Since I wrote for the newspapers, people knew who I was, so when I started the blog I got readership right away.”

Stewart said to gain readers, bloggers must start telling people about it.

“It is not easy to get readers,” Stewart said. “You have to get a word of mouth thing going. People knew who I was and passed around the address.”

Stewart said he uses Blogspot for Ohio River Life.

“I like a simple design,” Stewart said. “I use pictures and words that are clear and easy to read. I’ve never had trouble with Blogspot. So I say it ain’t broke so I don’t need to fix it. I have a situation that I like and it works well.”

Along with posts, Stewart posts pictures he takes and historical pictures of the town.

“If you have an audience, you have got to have something everyday,” Stewart said. “I don’t always live up to that, but if the blog is static, people don’t come back. That is a key to success: constantly have new things up every day.”

All and all, Stewart said he spends about two hours a day writing, preparing and managing the site.

“If I didn’t enjoy doing it, I wouldn’t be doing it,” Stewart said.

One thing Stewart does to try to stop is threatening comments. He does this by not allowing anonymous comments on his blog.

“Writing for a blog is a discipline, and you have to enjoy doing it,” Stewart said. “I try to have posts five days a week; if I don’t, I feel like I am neglecting it. But the blog is only as good as the person who runs it. You need to be able to contribute and express yourself well for the blog to be successful.”

What Students Can Do With Blogs

Sledzik has his own blog, ToughSledding. He started the blog in 2006 because he felt he wouldn’t truly understand the medium, unless he tried it.

ToughSledding, on WordPress, mostly addresses topics in public relations.

Although he loves blog writing, he feels people do not realize how time-consuming it is.

“If you want to build a following, it is very time-consuming. Creating them is not important – it is maintaining the blog that is important.”

Sledzik said this is a great discussion network for people who have a passion on any topic and it develops the writer’s voice as an online writer.

Sledzik uses WordPress because he said it has the best spam filters and it is intuitive.

Students can set up a free blog through places like, and

Contact College of Communication and Information reporter Brittany Senary at [email protected].