J500 Media and the Environment

Volunteers sustain organizations
July 26, 2009, 12:25 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 6, Justice + Outreach | Tags: , ,

After college I worked in a public relations position for a domestic violence shelter for about two years. I was somewhat familiar with homelessness due to my work there. I learned there that some women and children can become homeless due to domestic violence. And in my position I was able to share with others how organizations like the one I worked for helped make a difference.

The LCS volunteer I interviewed has inspired me to make a bigger impact.

The LCS volunteer I interviewed has inspired me to make a bigger impact. Source: move.org.sg

Even with that background, I learned many things about homelessness from our class. Dr. Mark Holter, associate professor in the school of social welfare at KU, helped open my eyes to the fact that homelessness is a relatively new concept — I had never considered the historical context before.

When our group visited Lawrence Community Shelter, we saw first-hand how volunteers help keep the shelter alive — and I would say that was the key thing that will stick with me the most in the future.

I knew previously that volunteers provide a huge boost to organizations. However I never really considered why volunteers keep coming back to organizations and how they stay so committed. After talking with Bob, a key shelter volunteer, for our final project, I learned how volunteering can impact not only the organization, but also the volunteer. I was truly inspired by Bob’s story and the impact the organization has made in his life. He helps sustain the shelter and the shelter helps sustain him. His work helps me tie back to the sustainability themes we discussed throughout class.

Since my interview with Bob I’ve spent time considering what I can do to make a bigger impact. I’ve been thinking about going back to the domestic violence shelter where I previously worked to spend time as a volunteer. I hope I can provide them with even just a portion of what Bob does for LCS.

-Jennifer E.

Simple terms can make a big impact
July 15, 2009, 7:50 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 5, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , ,

My definition of sustainability: use only what you need, think critically about changes you can make in your life and be conscious about how your choices will affect future generations.

Can we learn something about how to define environmental initiatives from the way food products are labeled? Source: MyPyramid.gov

Can we learn something about how to define environmental initiatives from the way food products -- espcially grains -- are labeled? Source: MyPyramid.gov

In “Leading Change for Sustainability,” Bob Doppelt says sustainability is all about protecting our options. This provided me a great place to start when developing my definition. Thinking about sustainability in the framework of these practices, which are needed to protect life now and in the future, helped me narrow the definition down a bit.

However, I wonder if a majority of the population, most of whom aren’t engaged in environmental issues, really have a good foundation for what sustainability means.

Like the word “green,” sustainable has come to mean different things to different people (and companies). It’s similar to the way food products are labeled — for example, there are products labeled multi-grain, seven-grain, stone-ground, etc., but actually don’t contain whole grains. All the different labels and definitions are confusing and complicated for me as I’ve tried to navigate them, as I’m sure they are for many other consumers.

The language in my definition is simple and straightforward enough that I could easily explain it to someone, and hopefully meaningful enough that a person could break it down and adapt it into their own life. The first part of the definition: “use only what you need” is a simple concept of frugality and not hard to work into your daily processes. The second statement, “think critically about changes you can make in your life,” is also simple but it extremely important — when environmental issues are top of mind and ingrained into your thinking it’s much easier to make environmentally-friendly choices.

The final piece of the definition — being conscious about how your choices will affect future generations — appeals to peoples’ desire to provide a good life for their children and grandchildren.

-Jennifer E.

Does rise in new media change objectivity in traditional journalism?
July 8, 2009, 7:49 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

I believe most journalists do strive to be objective. However, I wonder if the changing landscape of the media has made an impact on the way “traditional” journalists report the news.

The ways people find and read news are changing as technology progresses. Will this eventually lead to a change in the way traditional journalists cover news?

The ways people find and read news are changing as technology progresses. Will this eventually lead to a change in the way traditional journalists cover news?

During the past couple of years, the emergence of blogs and other similar internet communication functions has made it seem that anyone with knowledge about how to use these types of tools, and an opinion about any issue to share with others, can become a journalist in a sense. As bloggers have built audiences and new technology has changed the way people communicate, traditional journalism seems to be struggling. At wordpress.com, there are more than 205,000 bloggers, but less people are taking time to read a traditional newspaper or watch a traditional evening newscast. Instead people are finding news online when they want it and from a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources. This new behavior seems to be leading to layoffs at newspapers across the country while driving down profits at media companies.

As the pool of traditional journalists becomes smaller, they will be more stretched to cover a variety of topics, as opposed to in the past, when they may have been able to specialize in specific areas or beats. As they have less time to spend researching topics or gathering their own data, I wonder if it will become harder and harder to be objective and not be swayed by packaged data and messages from external sources, such as special interest groups — which represent the views of their own clients. In turn, because the traditional journalists likely work for still-well-respected news sources, they may set the tone about an issue for readers, bloggers, etc., who in turn perpetuate that message.

I’ve never worked as a journalist — this is only my perception about the ways the industry seems to be changing. I’m curious to hear from others who have worked directly within the industry, to see if this perception is true.

-Jennifer E.

Conscious effort needed to be green
June 25, 2009, 6:25 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 2, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , ,

While many people want to consider themselves green, after attending last weekend’s class and reviewing this week’s readings, I think it’s extremely difficult to define exactly what that means. In addition, being completely green in today’s world is very difficult and requires a concentrated effort.

A screen shot of the simplesteps.org link where visitors can sign a petition to make pet products safer.

A screen shot of the simplesteps.org link where visitors can sign a petition to make pet products safer.

I think someone who has the intent to make a conscious effort to help the environment, and takes action to built on that intent, can be considered green. Several readings and video/audio from this week mentioned that the environment is such a big issue that is seems overwhelming for people to try and fix. A google.com search of “green” produced more than 812 million results, and many of those sites contain information and tips for living a more environmentally-friendly life. While it’s great to have some much information at your fingertips, this can be overwhelming, as we discussed last week in class.

Another complication is media reports make it seem that if individuals or families don’t make huge life changes, they’re not really making an impact — for example, the man that appeared on The Colbert Report clip we viewed. That could turn people off and make them think there’s no point in even bothering. However, if individuals can do some simple things that work for their family — switching to all-natural cleaning products, changing light bulbs, using less plastic, etc., they will be making an impact. Even if it’s a small impact, they’re still taking some sort of action.

I really liked the simple, incremental steps presented on the Simple Steps site (which I accessed through the link in our reading from The New York Times). I signed up for their daily e-mail tips, so I’m interested to see how they’re presented in the coming days. I also liked the way this site was organized and the ease with which I could sign a petition about chemicals in pet products (I signed up right away).

Overall, I think that someone who has made a concerted effort on environmental issues can consider themselves green — as long as they recognize that they have to continue taking action and being aware in order to do so.

-Jennifer E.

About me: Jennifer E.
June 14, 2009, 11:47 am
Filed under: J840 Week 1 | Tags: , , ,

I work in the employee communications department for a company in Kansas City. One of our areas of focus for the past few years has been more effectively communicating to employees about all the environmental and social responsibility initiatives occurring within our company. Many employees have a strong interest in hearing about these projects and fully understand the importance of a company being socially responsible. They also want to find ways to be ‘greener’ in the course of their daily work. Because this group is highly engaged, they’re easy to reach and impact with our corporate messages.

My dogs Homer and Martha

My dogs Homer and Martha

However, there are large numbers of employees who I believe have only a passive interest in environmental issues. In this class, I’d like to learn the most effective ways to communicate with this group to convince them to take an interest in the company’s environmental efforts and realize their importance. I’d also like to learn better ways to communicate how an individual employee or team can take small actions that can have a major impact, both environmentally and in terms of cost savings – which is something everyone understands, especially in today’s economic environment.

In addition, I can definitely make improvements in my environmental efforts in my personal life. I’m hoping this class will help inspire me to take additional steps and keep environmental issues top-of-mind inside and outside of work, so that I can properly communicate to others.

I live on the north side of Kansas City with my husband, Mike, and dogs Homer and Martha (see photo). I’ve been in my current job for about two years and prior to it, worked for a financial services company for several years. Before that I worked briefly for two local non-profits. I earned a bachelor’s degree in mass media from Washburn University in Topeka in 2001.

-Jennifer E.