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The Communication COMMunity

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In this day where issues like fake news, civility, and civic engagement are constant topics of discussion and debate, journalism’s role as the “fourth pillar of democracy” is growing in importance, with technology propelling the industry into the future of communication.

 

Communication studies remains one of the most popular college majors, with journalism falling under the same umbrella. Even for those not studying it, student journalism brings value to any educational institution because it instills values of discipline, dedication, critical thinking, and effort. Those who actively participate gain a transferable skill set that will lead them to success in any career path. And for students who choose simply to read the student newspaper, they become informed citizens on current events and the community around them.

 

Real Work Environment. The only scholastic club or organization that truly simulates a real work environment is a student newspaper. Student writers develop skills in analytical and critical thinking, leadership, teamwork, multitasking, and a sensitivity to deadlines -- the same attributes that are typically highly sought after by employers.

 

Participants practice managing their responsibilities, leading and working in a team, and even desensitizing themselves to and growing from criticism. Through their different roles in the student newspaper, students boost their résumés and portfolios through writing, photo, and video samples, as well as layout and design skills, editing techniques, public relations, and even social media strategies. Students can explore these different areas of journalism to find their niche and test out the field in a safe environment, all before they even graduate.

 

For those who work on the student paper but don’t ultimately pursue a career in journalism, these experiences are not lost in the future. In addition to the previously mentioned skills, the importance of clarity and economy of words will transfer into any field. Effective communication is invaluable in relationships as well as professional life.

 

Communication Etiquette. Student journalists learn the values of fact checking, correcting their errors, exercising transparency in their writing, questioning opposing viewpoints, and perhaps most importantly, carefully considering the impact of their words. These same principles translate into students’ lives in both the real and virtual world, providing a guideline for ethical communication online and in person. Students are forced to take ownership of their words, actions, and decisions no matter the outcome.

 

Learn from Successes and Failures. Faculty advisors tend to take on a laissez faire approach, giving student journalists the liberty to make their own decisions. Students are treated as professionals as they are held accountable for any errors in judgment, reporting, or criticism and are forced to regularly make decisions regarding ethics, privacy, and the truth. It hurts to get a disappointing grade on an assignment, but it’s far more embarrassing to experience negative public feedback on a misprint, glaring typo, or accidental empty space.


Synthesis of Classroom Learning. Student newspapers provide a practical synthesis between classroom learning and real world experience. In conjunction with their classes, students have the opportunity to apply what they’re learning in the moment.

                        

 

Free Speech. Independent reporting arms citizens with information, investigation, analysis, and community knowledge on the local, national, and international level. Although vital to good journalism, independent reporting is endangered today due to the prevalence of aggregates and online news, coupled with the decline of robust print reporting. This watchdog principle that is integral to democracy can be reinforced in student journalism by teaching students the need to inform the public through reporting that is objective, truthful, contextual, and readable.

 

Building Professional Relationships. Student journalists are forced out of their comfort zones and into the real world to report stories. They learn to effectively interview sources, report clearly and accurately, and remain professional throughout the process. In addition to the confidence that journalism builds, students can also develop a network from the sources they meet, peers they work with, and faculty members who guide them.

 

Students overwhelmingly describe the experiences they gained from working on their schools’ newspapers as positive. While student journalism requires dedication, it is extremely rewarding -- often in the form of a job after college. It can also be fun for students to befriend like-minded people, and empowering to get their work published and see the influence they have on their universities.

Let’s talk persuasion.

In my days as a campus recruiter, I was often called upon to meet with prospective student athletes (and their families) to give them helpful information about the university admissions process. At some point along the way, one of the coaches informed me that 100% of the athletes with whom I met signed with the university. I was delighted, yet somewhat shocked, to hear that information since I truly was not trying to be persuasive in my conversational approach – I was simply being informative yet sincere. I bring this up because our words (and behaviors) inspire action (or inaction), whether we realize it or not.

 

A person holding a wooden board with three small plants taken out of their pots

 

Fast forward a few years into the classroom, and I am influencing students to essentially buy into course concepts every day. I find that whatever seeds I plant into the minds of my listeners typically get regurgitated. For example, if I tell my students that a project is relatively easy, they buy into that idea and provide me feedback that it was, in fact, easy. If I tell students that same project will be difficult or challenging, they face it with fear and a sense of being overwhelmed. What happens when people get overwhelmed? They shut down. Language matters. How we frame ideas matters. As educators, we need to set a persuasive tone and use influential language that is filled with possibilities and opportunities so that our students flourish. We regularly draw upon Aristotle’s persuasive appeals when teaching imperative lessons, but is there anything in particular we can do to help our ideas stick?

 

Let’s change the narrative to being “positively influential”

Sometimes, people attach a negative connotation to the word persuasion. When I think back to my days in recruitment and my present-day classroom discussions, I never felt like I was “persuading” anyone. When I overthink my persuasive tactics, I worry I might come across as “rehearsed” or “sales-y”; I prefer to use the phrase “positively influential”. The best way to plant positive seeds is to do it in such a way that people do not even realize they are being influenced. It is important to note that being influential is both language-based and behavior-based. In your approach to be influential, consider employing some of these ideas to drive home ethos, logos, and pathos even further:

  • Use confirming language. Young, moldable minds believe what we tell them to believe. Confirming language such as, “I really liked your contribution to today’s discussion,” lets students know that you are listening to them and that you truly value their input. This has a great impact on their own identify and can affect their academics, how they communicate with others, and ultimately, how they influence others. Paula Denton, EdD and author of The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language that Helps Children Learn and Founder of the Responsive Classroom, notes, “teacher language influences studentsIt shapes how students think and act and, ultimately, how they learn.” While Dr. Denton’s focus is on interactions within an elementary setting, it is safe to assume that language matters well beyond grade school years. Dr. Denton suggests that by being direct, by conveying our faith in students’ abilities, by focusing on actions, by keeping things brief, and by knowing when to be silent, we are fostering a respectful and positive community.
  • Speak to your listener’s needs. People buy into ideas when it benefits Make the information matter to those who are in your presence. It is up to your audience to determine if your message is communicated effectively. Nancy Duarte speaks about the power to change the world in her TedxEast Talk; more specifically, she notes, “It's easy to feel, as the presenter, that you're the star of the show. I realized right away, that that's really broken. Because I have an idea, I can put it out there, but if you guys don't grab that idea and hold it as dear, the idea goes nowhere and the world is never changed. So in reality, the presenter isn't the hero, the audience is the hero of our idea.”
  • Be an Equal. It is important to be able to command a classroom so that we do not lose sight of our desired objectives, but one of my mentors once advised, “you gain power when you lose the power trip.” I have found this approach to work great in a classroom.
  • Be Honest. Even if people ask you hard questions, be honest in your approach to providing information and answering questions. People appreciate honesty and would rather not be persuaded through a false hope; false hope leads to disappointment and distrust.
  • Be Responsive, Timely and Follow Through. Do what you say you’ll do. If your listener has a question with which you do not have a firm response, you may offer to get back to them. Always get back to them in a timely manner. You will build respect and trust.
  • Be Genuine and Kind. Providing information in a genuine and sincere way comes across in various ways. From the tone of our voice to our gestures to our facial expressions to eye contact, these nonverbal behaviors are typically not rehearsed when we are speaking in the moment, authentically. Being authentic creates a sense of trust.
  • Tell a Story. Offering a story helps seal a relatable appeal. One of my mentors once told me, “if you start getting some glazed eyes in the audience, tell a personal story to reel them back in.” People remember stories because they can visualize them, and it also reassures them that you are also a human.

 

Whether we are inside or outside of the classroom, from what we say to how we say it, we are planting seeds in the minds of those who are giving us their attention. Words and behaviors are powerful tools and we should use them in such a way to help create successful contributors to society. If we do a great job as educators, we will see those seeds flourish into something phenomenal.

 

flowers

 

Professionally yours,

Jennifer Mullen

Students make the most of their college experiences when they step out of their comfort zones -- which can sometimes mean physically stepping out of the classroom, or even the country. During this past fall semester, I studied abroad in Galway, Ireland (cue Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl) where the entire continent of Europe served as my classroom at large.

 

That semester I sat through the fewest classes of my college career, yet I would argue that I learned the most during that time.

 

Galway, the future host of the European Capital of Culture for 2020, served as my home base for my travels, my host university, and my new developing friendships. Living with both native Irish and American students, we had plenty to learn about each other’s cultures despite the lack of a language barrier. From slang words to accents to cultural norms and even social media practices – for example, Facebook is still huge for millennials while Twitter has yet to really take off in Ireland – it was almost seamless to pick up on these differences and integrate them into daily life. I learned to love cheesy Irish reality TV, appreciate the bounty of Irish dairy products, and live like a native to the extent that tourists frequently asked me for directions. My Irish friends laughed at the fact that I describe myself as “Irish” (as in Irish-American) back home, and I astonished them with the fact that the state of New York is bigger than their entire country.

The Cliffs of Moher located in County Clare, Ireland.Each year, the beautiful Cliffs of Moher located in County Clare, Ireland attract millions of visitors. 

 

Although I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, the education system was drastically different at my Irish university than back in the States. Where American students are accustomed to continuous learning through daily classes with required attendance, discussion based seminars, homework assignments, essays, presentations, and group projects, European instructors commonly expect students to engage in the majority of their studies on their own time. Without the pressure and reinforcement of continuous learning, students must hold themselves responsible to complete readings and in depth studies outside of class time. As a result, I gained a new-found appreciation for the American education system that I once took for granted, as I learned that I’m personally better suited to a more rigorous class setting.

 

The availability of class notes and lecture slides online (thank you BlackBoard!) and the lack of attendance policies made for the ideal opportunity for international students to travel while still (more or less) keeping up with their courses. During my semester abroad, I was fortunate enough to travel to eight other countries. And, as cliché as it sounds, that was when I learned the most.

 

Overlooking Dyrhólaey arch in south Iceland where I road-tripped to Reynisfjara black sand beach and Seljalandsfoss waterfall.

 

Living, traveling, and exploring independently is one of the best ways to gain self-confidence and a sense of accomplishment. After successfully driving a tiny rental car on frozen back roads through Iceland, I truly felt like I could do anything. As your confidence and comfort zone stretch, you learn more about yourself, as well as the other people and cultures you had set out to explore. A once reserved young girl returned a semester later as sociable as the friendly natives of the Emerald Isle, perhaps earned from the gift of the gab at the Blarney Stone. She acquired tastes for new foods, fashion trends, and a knack for looking like a local in a new city.

 

Kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland is said to give the kisser "the gift of the gab" -- or the ability to speak with eloquence and fluency. The kisser must climb to the top of the castle where they will lean back over the edge, hold onto the rails, and kiss the Stone. 

 

No matter how different the landscape, language, or culture, people are people and they can find a way around any barrier. Standing at the edge of the Cliffs of Moher, skiing in the shadow of the Matterhorn, marching through the peaceful demonstrations in Barcelona/Catalonia, and gaping in awe at the aurora borealis showed me how small the world can be, yet how small I am in this big beautiful world. These experiences help you to better know yourself and the world around you, allowing you to communicate more easily across cultures and in any new situations life has in store for you.

 

Despite longing for my bed, my dog, my family, and my friends back in New York, I knew that studying abroad was the best decision I had ever made for myself. Although I missed Galway as soon as I landed in JFK, I’m lucky that I have a home to return to across the Atlantic, and international friends that I could someday tour around my own country. I highly recommend that everyone given the opportunity to study abroad -- whether for a semester, a summer, a year, or just a few weeks -- live it to the absolute fullest.

“Who do we know?”

 

This question is frequently asked before any position is posted on a job board in an organization. I have been a member of several hiring committees, and we always start a search by listing out the names of people we know who might be interested in the position and reach out accordingly. Organizations always want the “best fit”, culturally and skillfully, and that “best fit” is not always easy to find. Relying on connections we already have often makes it easier to fill positions, and many companies provide incentives for referral-based hiring these days since it helps with recruiting and retaining great talent.

 

On the flip side, when potential applicants are on a job hunt, the first thing they think about is their resume, which is great…because formatting and content matters. However, many times, resumes come second to relationship building in the job search process. Research shows that up to 85% of positions are filled via networking; they are filled by either internal employees or through referrals. Even more data suggests that 70-80% of jobs aren’t even posted before they’re filled. It’s not just about who you know but who knows you and can speak to your qualifications when you are not around.

 

In short, students need to learn to master the art of networking to help them in their goal of obtaining employment post-graduation. Most students do not realize that many experienced professionals enjoy helping and giving advice to young people. Most students also do not realize that experienced professionals are greatly impressed when “go-getters” seek them out.

 

Collaboration

 

This past year, I had a freshman in a basic communication course who had been assigned to interview someone in her potential field (business). Brilliant assignment, right? It pushed students out of their comfort zones, but most students want to interview someone they already know, like a family friend or relative. It’s great to utilize your existing connections, but it’s not the best way to grow a network.

 

So when my student told me she admired my passion for my job but had no desire to teach herself, I told her not to interview me. Instead, I thought about how she could combine her passions and turn them into a career. I knew that she loved to run and wanted to help people, so I searched “Olympics” on LinkedIn (an amazing resource to find professionals in their respective industries) and found the profile of an executive from the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. When I read his bio I noticed that he had several things in common with my student, so I told her about him. (Relationship building starts with finding commonalities, after all). She reached out to him, and they had a great phone conversation a few days later. He was very impressed that she was already networking at the age of 18 and spoke about potential internships she might look into down the road.

 

The point of that story is, once you find your passions, you can use them to build a career path, but you need to rely on your networking skills to propel you forward. Since most jobs are not even posted, it is vital to start making connections and good impressions so that others remember you. The world seems huge, but industries are quite small once you start finding your passions. So how do you start making these connections? I’ve compiled a brief list to master the art of networking:

 

  • To make the most of networking, you should first know your why. Know what you desire. People want to know how they can help you, but you first need to know what it is YOU want enough to articulate it to someone else in conversation. If you are unsure about what you are passionate about, a good book to check out is Start with Why, by Simon Sinek.
  • Next, create a LinkedIn account and use it in a way that gives you a competitive advantage. Start with a professional headshot and a unique bio that separates you from everyone else. Everyone has a story; this is an opportunity to start yours, and as my friend and National Elevator Pitch Champion, Chris Westfall says, gives others the chance to say “tell me more.”
    • Follow people on LinkedIn within the industry you seek and you’ll start seeing things they post. This can help you become more knowledgeable in the field. Pay attention to the authors of the articles they post and then look them up. Follow them too and so on. If you would like to do more than just follow them, send an invite to connect. Find a commonality and send a professionally-written email that is unique. This should be concise and to the point.

    • If you would truly like to ask their advice on the industry, do not be afraid to send an email to request 10 minutes of their time to learn more about what they do. People typically do not feel put out by giving up 10 minutes of their time. If they do not respond, do not feel bummed. The fear of rejection is real, but if you don’t ask, the answer is always going to be “no” anyway. Someone will eventually respond. Think of rejection as divine redirection.

  • Create professional-looking business cards with relevant information. Here are some tips for What College Students Should Have on Business Cards.
  • Participate in community service that is MEANINGFUL to you. Do not solely do it to rack up service hours for an organization for which you belong. Participating in something meaningful allows you to create more connections with people who have the same interests. If you can assist in a service project that is related to your career, that is a double-bonus!
  • Attend every single networking event that makes you feel uncomfortable. Truthfully, any public space gives you an opportunity to network and connect with people. Do you like yoga? Do you like the dog park? Whatever your interest, others will be there with a common one. People do not know you exist until you let them know you exist. Be prepared to tell people about your interests and how you can potentially collaborate with them once you find that commonality. You never know where one conversation might lead.

 

To wrap this up, it’s important to know that it is never too early to start meeting people. It’s also important to be you…authentically you, in every conversation – you will be seen as more genuine that way. And finally, remember that it’s not all about you – it’s about collaboration, and so every relationship should be a mutually beneficial one. Find your tribe and your networking circle will continue to grow. Opportunities will follow.

 

 

 

 

Professionally yours,

Jennifer Mullen

by Marti Gayle Harvey

 

In my journalism classes, I used to teach using the building-block method. I would set up my class in chunks: present the material, assign a story, require follow up reports and peer reviews, and have students turn in an assignment. This process took about four weeks. Then I would do it again with new material, a new kind of story, and more follow-ups that resulted in another story. At this rate, I was lucky if my students could write four stories a semester.

 

The building-block method is good for perfecting old material before moving on to new material, but it went against my teaching philosophy for writing: "practice makes perfect."

 

Learning by Doing

 

Short deadlines and multiple priorities are hallmarks of the newsroom. No one has time to help anyone else because they’re so busy themselves. You don’t get a long, leisurely introduction to the job. You just do it.

 

Journalism, like public speaking, takes practice, practice, and more practice. You can’t teach someone how to feel when they’re interviewing an intimidating figure. You can’t teach them how to know when someone’s lying to them. You can’t teach them to know when the story just isn’t going to work out.

 

So how can you give your students lots of practical experience in doing what the pros do? Turn your classroom into a newsroom.

 

To replicate the newsroom, turn the first three weeks of the semester into Journalism Boot Camp, covering newsworthiness, the inverted pyramid, research, interviewing, and anything else you feel it's necessary to cover in a class setting.

 

After that, assign stories with deadlines and send the students out for reporting. The time they spend reporting takes the place of class time. By the end of the semester, students will write around 10 news stories.

 

But, what about all that grading?

 

Imagine 20 students per class, 10 assignments per semester. That’s 200 assignments to grade per class. What if you teach four classes? Now you’re up to 800 assignments. And that doesn’t include the labs, quizzes and tests that require attention.

 

That’s why the class is like a newsroom. In my class, students get four assignments at a time and can turn them in in any order they like. There’s a catch: when they turn in an assignment, they must make an appointment with me the next week to edit it. Since they are out working on stories, my class time is freed up for individual appointments. Each student gets 10 to 15 minutes of my undivided attention as I edit (grade) their assignment.

 

Most of my grading is done on the spot, in the classroom, with the student. No more sending back assignments with feedback they never read. No more wondering if they understand my feedback, or even care. Now I get to look them in the eye.

 

Collaboration

 

I do bring them back into class for a week near midterms and again near the end of the semester. They discuss how their stories have gone. They talk about what went well and what didn’t, much like reporters do in the newsroom. Students share how they handled situations that others found troublesome. They take suggestions from each other and offer their advice.

 

Students have even set up outside groups to discuss assignments and how to approach them. Our “newsroom” has become more collaborative.

 

The best part is that by the end of the semester they’ve gained a great deal of confidence, and I really enjoy grading their work.

 

Marti Gayle Harvey is a Lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington, where she teaches journalism. 

 

Spring is finally here! 

Last January, we promised you a new blog, with posts from instructors like yourself. And with the long-awaited spring, we also have our long-awaited blog!

 

Stock photo of a laptop, mug of coffee, journal and pen, camera, calendar that says "January 2018," and a phone with its calculator open to say "2,020".

Photo obtained from www.twenty20.com 

 

Stay tuned for blog posts on teaching tips and best practices, emerging trends in the field, and more! If you're interested in contributing to our blog, click  the link here. If you know what kind of blogs you'd like to see, let us know by clicking here and filling out our short survey.

 

Keep an eye out for our new posts this month, and have a very happy spring!

 

Sincerely,

The Communication Team

Macmillan Learning

What's Your Love Language?

 

Have you ever received a gift from a friend or romantic partner, only to wish you could spend more time with them instead? Have you ever given someone a hug only to find that physical touch makes them uncomfortable?

 

According to Dr. Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages, that may be due to a predisposition in how we prefer to receive and give love to others. Though this book was originally published in 1995, new editions and online quizzes have ensured that the concept is still highly discussed in academia, friend circles, and (of course) social media.

 

For those unfamiliar with love languages, the theory suggests that there are five main ways in which we show our affection for others, and that we each have a preference for both how we receive affection, and how we give affection.

 

For example, if you enjoy baking cookies for your friends, that doesn't necessarily mean that you want your friends to bake for you in exchange. Instead, you might appreciate having your friends offer to help pick up groceries, or hearing them praise your baking skills. Of course, while your friends might be grateful for the time you took to make them, they might have preferred that you spent that time with them instead.

 

 

These individual preferences can lead to communication problems, especially when we unknowingly prioritize our relationship goals over theirs (#relationshipgoals, anyone?). When you bring your partner out to a nice restaurant, you may consider that a sign of love, but they might be wishing you'd just clean the kitchen instead. 

 

 

Whether or not you subscribe to this theory, it's important to consider the ways in which we express our affection for others, and make sure that we're paying attention to their preferences for how they want to be treated. It's also important to recognize how we want to be treated. Once we recognize and communicate those distinctions, we can ensure that we're giving and receiving love in the ways in which our loved ones - including ourselves - deserve.

 

See below for a list and a brief description of each of the love languages discussed in Chapman's book. Of course, you'll likely enjoy expressions of love in all five categories, but the theory of the five languages is that there are one or two you respond to more than the others, whether or not you realize it right away.

 

Words of Affirmation - Verbal or written communication that encourages, validates, and offers active support and appreciation. Examples: "I love you," "I really admire you," "I'm here for you."

 

Acts of Service - Helpful, thoughtful deeds that show your attention to their needs and your willingness to help ease their burdens.  Examples: Offering to help with their cleaning or cooking, driving, or running errands.

 

Receiving Gifts - The thought, effort, and care that goes into the choosing of a gift can mean a great deal to those receiving it. 

 

 

Quality Time - The act of giving someone your undivided attention (that means not looking at your phone, but at your partner) while talking or participating in an activity together. 

 

Physical Touch Physical touches like hugging, kissing, or even holding hands can prove a powerful way of providing support, attention, and a feeling of togetherness. 

 

 

What do you think of these five love languages? Can you think of other examples of showing someone you care about them? How might understanding another's primary love language help you improve your relationship with them?

 

Whatever your primary and secondary love language, I hope you have a great Valentine's Day!

The new Disney/Pixar film Coco has topped the box office for three weekends in a row, and is well on its way toward passing Justice League and becoming the biggest hit movie to come out during the mid-November-to-mid-December corridor – in other words, in between Disney/Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Disney owns a lot of stuff, you guys, and they’re angling to own more with a possible purchase of Fox’s movie and TV studios). This is not surprising in the sense that Pixar movies are often big hits (and, again, Disney owns everything) – but it is notable that this particular Pixar production features almost entirely Mexican characters (and I say “almost” only because the origins of its happily mangy dog sidekick are technically unknown).

 

I just edited a new edition of our intro to film studies book The Film Experience, and one of our objectives for the new edition was to revamp our history coverage to talk more directly about major contributors to the medium’s development who happen to be members of marginalized groups – and whose stories are not always told in traditional narratives about how film got to where it is today. And where it is today, incidentally, still requires a ton more work to do, especially in Hollywood – it’s rare to see a live-action big studio film as dominated by non-white people as this animated one, though Universal’s Fast & Furious series does its part. But we are seeing progress, and it’s particularly heartening to see this progress coming from Pixar, because the company hasn’t made that many movies focusing on humans, period, as opposed to the secret lives of toys, bugs, monsters, fish, scarily sentient planet-dominating cars, and so on.

 

Coco isn’t just a movie where the characters happen to be Mexican (though there’s value in that kind of creative choice, too, of course; that's closer to the kind of inclusive casting choices Disney has made on the new Star Wars pictures), but one that specifically speaks to the dynamics of a large Mexican family, that takes place on the Day of the Dead, and immerses itself in a particular culture’s notions about family, memory, and the afterlife. It’s not as hilarious as some past Pixar movies, but it’s a lovely little film. A lot of cartoons have trouble telling human stories that are actually about humans (perhaps understandably; toys and monsters and bugs are probably more fun to animate), and in a relatively weak year for family-targeted animation, which has seen plenty of big-studio product scrambling for a marketable hook (The Boss Baby; The Emoji Movie), it’s nice to see Coco create a fully felt character out of Miguel, its young hero. The movie is still wildly imaginative in its designs – Pixar’s vision of a city populated by the deceased does not disappoint – but it never feels desperate to throw everything it can think of at its audience As a result, it also feels confident that the audience will find it.

 

One interesting aspect of Coco’s success is only tangentially related to the movie itself, but does have to do with the notion of an audience finding it despite the lack of Nemo, Dory, Woody Buzz, or the Incredibles. Coco was initially released in theaters with a short subject in front of it, as has become tradition for most Disney animated features, and just about every Pixar feature. But this wasn’t a Pixar short attached to Coco; rather, it was a 20-minute “featurette” starring the characters from Disney’s megahit Frozen. If 20 minutes sounds like it stretches the definition of a short subject (especially for a family audience), that’s because Olaf’s Frozen Adventure is, in fact, a TV special (an airdate of 12/14 on ABC was recently announced) tacked on to the front of Coco, ostensibly as a special treat.

 

Both the specialness and the treatness have been in doubt, however. There’s speculation that Disney may have been nervous about the financial prospects of a non-sequel Pixar joint with such a specific cultural focus, which would explain why they gave so much screentime over to perhaps the whitest set of characters in the current Disney stable (I mean, the main character in it is a dang snowperson). But what happened next, as the clickbait headlines say, may surprise you: Audiences reacted with irritation towards the Frozen spinoff. Now, a lot of this is anecdotal, as almost all chronicles of audience reactions tend to be, and some of it has to do with the simple yet nearly unsolvable math problem of how to make a kid sit for a 20-minute “short” plus a 105-minute feature (the only real solution: have extremely patient kids). It’s probably a mistake, as ever, to confuse Twitter-complaining with a popular sentiment.

 

Olaf: newfound public enemy number one?

But over in Mexico, where Coco has become the highest-grossing movie in the country’s history (!), the results have been a bit more quantifiable: Though Disney stopped running the Olaf special in front of Coco after a few weeks of its U.S. release, some Mexican theaters (which got the movie several weeks before their U.S. counterparts) began taking it upon themselves to not show Olaf’s Frozen Adventure after some audiences complained. The audiences were – get this – wildly excited to see Coco itself, to see powerful representation from a beloved studio, moreso than whatever bonus Disney thought might draw bigger crowds. U.S. audiences, too, turned out not to need hand-holding from Olaf to lead them into Coco. It's a potent example both of how Disney may be thinking more progressively than they were even five or six years ago... and how audiences around the world may be even further ahead than that.

 

 

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Melanie McFadyen

NCA 2017 Wrap-Up

Posted by Melanie McFadyen Dec 7, 2017

Last month, a few of our editors flew down from our New York offices to Dallas, Texas, to participate in the 103rd annual conference for the National Communication Association. There, we had the chance to meet with Communication instructors like yourselves, from a variety of courses and institutions. If you were in attendance at this year's NCA and stopped by our booth or chatted with some of our editors, THANK YOU! We had a blast, and hope you did too!

 

For those who couldn't make it this year, see below for some pictures and insights from our editors in attendance:

 

Hellooooooo, Dallas!

 

This year marked the first time the conference was held in Dallas, and the city proved to be a great location for the event! In this commercial and cultural hub, scholars around the country learned a lot from each other as they shared ideas, engaged in civil dialogue, and discussed educational tools and teaching methods.

 

Tony Tasset's Eye (2007), found in downtown Dallas

 

The days of November 16th - 19th were filled with educational panels, meetings of special interest groups, and other exciting programs. If you wandered among the vendors and other book-sellers at the exhibition booths you may have spotted Macmillan's red-and-white banner at our booth, where we had great conversations with instructors about our catalog this year. 


Just look at those lights!

 

And of course, after long days of engaging in scholarly discourse, it was time to party! Bedford/St. Martin's held hteir party at the Midnight Rambler, a gorgeous location perfect for a party of communication experts. It was the perfect even to wrap up the conference and the week!! 

 

Next year's NCA conference will be held in Salt Lake City, Utah on November 8th - 11th. The theme will be "Communication at Play," which, according to the event's website, "is intentionally and playfully ambigious." We can't wait to see what next year's theme shapes up to be, and hope to see you there! 

 

Did you attend the NCA this year? What were some of the highlights and takeaways for you? Tell us in the comments, or email a brief statement to melanie.mcfadyen@macmillan.com, and I'll add it to the blog!

Oh, I just can't wait to see The Lion King!

 

That's something I would not have said a week ago. I'll admit, I haven't been the biggest fan of Disney's live-action remakes these past few years, mostly because I'm still re-watching the original animated classics, and I'm tired of seeing the same movies again and again (get some new stories, Hollywood!). No matter how great the live action film is, I'm ultimately going to be comparing them to the original classics.

 

Image result for lion king zazu gif

My reaction to hearing that even Winnie the Pooh and Chip n' Dale are getting live-action movies

 

But with Disney's cast announcement released this Wednesday, I can't help but be excited for the upcoming film. See below for a photo of the full cast below: 

 

 

 

 

 

You may have heard what I'm about to say already, but here goes anyway: Beyoncé as Nala! Donald Glover as Simba! John Oliver as Zazu! I'd be freaking out over James Earl Jones returning as Mufasa, if it wasn't so clear that he could never be replaced as Mufasa. No one can replace Mufasa (It's been over 20 years, and I'm still not over it).  

 

While this announcement is exciting simply for the incredible amount of talent assembled here, it's also being rightly celebrated for being representative of the film's setting, which is strongly implied to be set in the African savanna. This is in contrast to the 1994 animated movie, which had a majority of white actors voicing characters whose names were in Swahili. Disney has struggled with updating their classics to include more diverse and representative casts, and has been criticized for some of their casting choices for Aladdin and Mulan. The casting announcement has given fans hope that the live-action remake will be not only true to the original film's story, but also more inclusive for children of color. As pointed out in my recent post on the Emmys, the entertainment industry still struggles with diversity and inclusion; like this year's Emmy awards, this is a wonderful step in the right direction.

 

Nina Bradley's article in Bustle points out that "being able to identify with someone that looks and sounds like you on screen plays a critical role in one's growth and validation...the Lion King movie will offer young black children an opportunity to feel that their presence matters." For a new generation of children, this live-action version may be their first introduction to The Lion King, and many children of color will be able to appreciate the story in a much deeper way as they can identify with the characters they see and hear onscreen. The live action movie, expected to hit theaters on July 19, 2019, will not only be more authentic to the story's roots in African heritage, but will show both children and adults how a diverse range of talent can take a beloved classic and make it even better.

 

 

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We've been posting a lot on Media lately, but we haven't forgotten other Communication topics! What would you like to see more of in our blogs? Let us know in the comments! 

 

Banner image source: Have You Seen The Current Cast Of The New “Lion King”? Check Inside! | WADL TV Detroit  

The 2017 Emmy Awards aired a week ago, and as the news turns away from this year’s ceremony, the prevailing theme of highlighting diversity will remain relevant for many award ceremonies to come.

 

Overall, this was a great year for diversity in television, as host Stephen Colbert was quick to point out during his opening monologue, stating “For the third year in a row, this is the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history” (2017). To further back up his claim, a montage later in the night showed clips from shows that told diverse and inclusive stories, including Master of None, The Handmaid's Tale, Atlanta, This is Us, and Insecure.

 

In an age of peak television, when there are more scripted shows out and available for streaming than ever before, there’s also a better opportunity for those who have not been previously represented on television to have their stories told. Some of this can be attributed to streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which rely less on ratings and therefore have more creative freedom. Other times, such as in the case of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None and Mindy Kalin’s The Mindy Project, stars who have already established themselves in other shows sometimes have to take matters into their own hands to create the shows that better reflect who they are and what they know.

 

Some of the winners from this diverse group of nominees have done exactly that. Donald Glover became the first black director to win an Emmy for comedy direction for his show Atlanta, and Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win for comedy writing for her episode on Master of None, “Thanksgiving,” which was based on her life growing up as a queer black woman. Other record-breaking winners included Riz Ahmed, the first man of Asian descent to win an acting prize; Sterling K. Brown, the first black actor to win best lead actor since 1998; and Reed Morano, who became the first woman to win for directing in 22 years.

 

Image of Lena Waite with her Emmy Award from www.indiewire.com

Lena Waithe with her Emmy Award. Image from www.indiewire.com

 

These winners are rightfully being celebrated by the television industry and viewers alike, but some industry leaders are skeptical of the self-congratulatory manner in which this year’s diversity was covered, both during and after the show. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Shonda Rhimes said that “it feels embarrassing that we are still in a place in which we have to note these moments…I’m hoping that it’s not a trend. I’m hoping that people don’t feel satisfied because they saw a lot of people win, and then think that we’re done.”

 

It’s certainly true that there’s still a great deal of work to be done. Other critics of this year’s award ceremony pointed out that the pool of nominees and winners were completely devoid of Latino actors, directors, and producers. The only Latino American nominated for an Emmy this year was Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was nominated for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for hosting Saturday Night Live last October (the award went to Alec Baldwin for his guest appearances on the same show).

 

As previously mentioned and as noted by Eliana Dockterman for TIME, the winners who broke records this year all won their awards for work “that dealt explicitly with issues of identity. Donald Glover, who won…for his show Atlanta, has said that he wanted to…share the black experience with the world. Lena Waithe…took home the trophy for an episode about her character coming out to her family.” While these are important stories that deserve to be told and should continue to be told, it should also be normal for marginalized actors to win awards for their talent alone, and not just on work that directly relates to their personal identities.

 

Of course, as television leads the charge in offering diverse stories and then celebrating those stories, it’s wonderful for marginalized groups to finally have a chance to share their points of view with the world. During her acceptance speech, Lena Waithe thanked Netflix and Universal “for creating a different playground for us to play on and shine,” and added that, “the things that make us different, those are our superpowers.”

 

 Riz Ahmed accepting his Emmy Award

Riz Ahmed accepting his Emmy Award. Image from www.eonline.com

 

While presenting the award for Best Actress in a Limited Series or Movie, Riz Ahmed called attention to the importance of giving women more opportunities to tell their stories, as “Time and again we see how the stories we tell are often skewed in favor of the male perspective. When this happens we miss out on an opportunity to let our best talent shine.”

 

Overall, the diversity in this year’s Emmy Awards is a wonderful step forward but, as Shonda Rhimes pointed out, the work isn’t over yet. Now that the Academy has rightfully celebrated the progress it’s made so far, it’s up to the entire television industry to keep up the momentum, because diverse television makes for really great television.

 

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Students will be arriving back on campus over the next few weeks, and many will be coming in to the 2017 - 2018 school year with thoughts and questions about distressing recent events in national and local news. One way to help students process these events is to discuss them as a group in class. While it can be daunting to bring hot-button topics into the class environment, chances are high that these topics are already weighing on students’ minds and students will want to talk about them. Allowing students to express their thoughts and questions among their peers will help them develop the skills they will need to participate in ongoing discussions and debate outside of class.

 

These conversations also present an opportunity for students to practice their media literacy and research skills, which will lead to more informed discussions with fact-based support. Leaders of The Choices Program, an educational nonprofit at Brown University, note that tying curriculum to current events “prepares students to become more informed and engaged citizens.” By sharing their personal experiences and stories, these conversations also have the potential to help students recognize how these issues impact people from different racial, economic, and social backgrounds. That being said, it can still be a challenge for instructors to begin such discussions in the classroom – here are some suggestions for getting started.

 

Prepare students for the discussion beforehand.

 

Despite these clear benefits to discussing current topics in the classroom, it is also important to remember that these issues will impact students in different ways. If you suspect a student might have a particularly strong emotional response to the topic, talk with them and help them prepare for it beforehand (or give them the chance to opt out). Another approach would be to inform all students of the upcoming discussion beforehand, so that concerned students may discuss it with you privately. This tactic also gives students the opportunity to research the topic beforehand, so that they may practice finding reputable sources and using those sources to support their viewpoints. Consider asking students to write down what they know and what questions they have beforehand, so that their responses might help you decide how to frame the conversation.

 

Create a safe, supportive, and respectful classroom environment.

 

For any conversations on an uncomfortable topic, it is imperative that all students feel that their thoughts and feelings are respected, and that they have an equal chance to share. On the day of the discussion, have the class create a set of ground rules that will allow them to share their perspectives without fear of judgment, interruption, or rebuke. Examples of potential ground rules include “One mic” (one person at a time), “I statements” (saying “I feel that” instead of “You’re wrong because”), and “Step up step back” (pay attention to how much space you’re taking up in the conversation and adjust as necessary). Once the students have agreed to the ground rules, ensure that they remember to uphold these rules, and address any violations immediately. In the article “10 Ways to Talk to Students About Sensitive Issues in the News,” Jinnie Spiegler from The Learning Network recommends that instructors encourage students to talk openly about their feelings in the discussion, and to occasionally check the emotional “temperature” of the room. These talks can become very personal and cause intense emotional reactions, which can be helped with a safe, open, and respectful classroom environment.

 

Determine your role and prepare accordingly.

 

Many instructors struggle with the ethics of sharing their own personal and political beliefs with their students, especially during group discussions. Therefore, some might decide not to participate in the conversation at all. Others might play the role of a moderator, facilitating while not participating in the discussion. A moderator has the ability to steer the conversation away from off-topic threads, remind students to keep the conversation respectful, and make sure that the discussion is productive with equal chances for all to contribute. Some might choose to answer questions as they come up or clarify misconceptions when necessary, and some will participate fully in the dialogue. Regardless of the role you choose to play, it is important to research the topic fully beforehand so that you can participate, respond, or clarify if needed. Instructors are not immune to these topics and may have an emotional response of their own; if you feel that you might have such a reaction, prepare yourself beforehand in the same way that you might help a concerned student prepare. Along with the links posted at the bottom, there are various resources available either in print or online to help you with these types of discussions. Finally, remember that while these conversations are uncomfortable, by addressing them head-on, your students will be better prepared to engage in public conversations going forward, and may even start to challenge their own biases and assumptions as a result.

 

Questions: How do you teach current events in the classroom? Do you host a group discussion, create lectures, or show news clips or other videos?

 

Resources

10 Ways to Talk to Students about Sensitive Issues in the News

Uncomfortable Conversations: Tools to Teach Current Events and Controversial Issues

 

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It is 11pm on a Tuesday night. Tomorrow morning is the big presentation you have been preparing weeks for and you make moves for an early bedtime. You set the alarm on your phone and plop right into bed. The room is nearly pitch black as you begin shutting your eyes. You are on your way into rem sleep when suddenly...vzzzzzzt; a notification illuminates the room with a piercing flash of light. Fully awakened and tempted, you check that notification of a snapchat. But a snapchat turns into a google search, then a twitter check, an instagram gander, and before you know it, it’s 3am and you’re editing your Facebook profile picture.

 

Many young adults and teenagers have fallen prey to my own device-- it’s the Black Mirror Effect.

 

While the Black Mirror Effect is something I merely coined based off the technological dystopian British program Black Mirror, it describes our society’s current dilemma; we have become entranced by technology and slaves to our screens.

 

Here are some statistics:

  • 95% of all teens (13-17 years of age) are actively online.
  • In 2016, 81% of online teens have some sort of social media account, which is up from 55% in 2006.
  • According to a recent study by the UK disability charity Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62% reported feeling inadequate and 60% reported feelings of jealousy when comparing themselves to other users.

 


 

 

Online games, dating apps, and social media in particular have negative effects on the happiness of Millennials and Generation Z. The increasing number of depressed,sleep deprived hypertexters measuring their self-worth by a Facebook post is frightening.  Adam Alter, social psychologist and author of Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, mentions the effects of addiction on social media usage.

 

Featured in a recent TED Talk, Alter explains why screens do not make us happy. The info graphic below (taken from Alter’s TED Talk) shows how the average work day is organized into time spent on our daily activities. The red space in the personal section represents the amount of time we spend on screens during personal time and how it has increased in just ten years time. According to this chart, screen time has consumed almost our entire personal time.

 

 

 

Now do not misunderstand, screens are not the bane of existence. Screens have revolutionized the world. Calling friends and loved ones over video chats was not possible a few years back and today, we have opportunities to see a familiar face or “attend” an event. It’s quite incredible that our devices can function as a remote, open your car, act as a GPS, count your steps, and even check your heart rate! There’s power in revolution, but the problem with too much power is the lack of self-control.

 

The true culprit behind these addictive behaviors is a common feature on many social media apps--endless scrolling. As Adam Alter suggests, with the lack of stopping cues we have the ability to indulge ourselves into an infinite amount of scrolling. Without an endpoint, it is difficult to determine where and when to stop at any given moment.

 

So how can we put a cap on screen usage? Is legislation over the top? Believe it or not, there is indeed legislation dubbed “Cinderella Laws” already proposed and up for debate in South Korea and China. While that is still just a debate, what can YOU do now? Here are a few thoughts to consider:

 

  • Put it on airplane mode. That way notifications, texts, and emails are not on the radar.
  • When going to an event, such as a concert or festival, keep your phone in your bag. Challenge yourself to not snapchat or “go live” while you are at these events. Just live the experience without your phone.
  • Pick a time of day not to pull your phone out. Dinner time would be a great opportunity to put the phone down.
  • Set time restraints. If 11pm is your bedtime, 9:59pm should be the last minute your thumbs touch that screen.
  • Get an alarm clock. It may be “old school” nowadays but using your phone as a bedtime alarm can prompt temptation. Nothing wrong with a good old fashion alarm clock!

 

There is bliss in unplugging yourself from the digital world and, as I have learned through my nights of sleep deprivation, getting a full eight hours will not only save you from dark circles and zombie eyes, but you’ll ace that big presentation, improve your mental health, and open yourself up to "screenless" experiences. Go live without your phone, and live your life through your own eyes.

 

 

Resources

 

Abrams, Allison. “Mental Health and the Effects of Social Media.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 5 Mar. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/nurturing-self-compassion/201703/mental-health-and-the-effects-social-media. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

 

Alter, Adam. “Why our screens make us less happy.” YouTube, uploaded by TED, 1 August 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K5OO2ybueM.

 

Cottle, Julia. “Facebook and Mental Health: Is Social Media Hurting or Helping?” Mental Help, 15 Mar. 2016. www.mentalhelp.net/articles/facebook-and-mental-health-is-social-media-hurting-or-helping. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

 

Dreifus, Claudia. “Why We Can’t Look Away From Our Screens.” The New York Times, 6 Mar. 2017. www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/science/technology-addiction-irresistible-by-adam-alter.html. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

 

MacMillan, Amanda . “Why Instagram Is the Worst Social Media for Mental Health.” Time, 25 May 2017. www.time.com/4793331/instagram-social-media-mental-health/. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.

 

 

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As the end of summer quickly approaches, many colleges will soon start their fall semesters. Some students may be returning back for another year at school, while others will begin as freshmen in the fall. On the first day of classes, students and professors alike may feel a variety of different emotions ranging from nervousness to excitement and everything in between.

 

To deal with these emotions and others, it’s important for students and professors to set clear goals to help them get through the semester. Through personal experience, I find that when I write out my academic goals for myself and keep the list in an accessible place to refer back to, I am more likely to actually achieve my goals. For professors, it might be harder to balance the responsibilities of teaching multiple classes and interacting with students, while also trying to reach the targets they set for themselves.

 

For the upcoming semester, I have personally set goals for myself and have expectations to complete them all. One goal I would like to make happen is to engage more with professors to benefit from their extensive knowledge and really learn from them. In the past, I haven’t tried to make strong relationships with professors because I focused more on balancing my social life with finishing coursework on time. Throughout the semester I will occasionally glance over my list of goals to make sure I keep working towards completing them. At the very end of the semester, I will go through my goals one more time to see which ones I was able to achieve. If I didn’t do something I would’ve liked to do, I will put it on my list for the next semester and continue to work at becoming a better student.

 

On the first day of class, it may be a good idea to set aside time during class for students to set goals for themselves. Setting goals will encourage students to strive to do their best right from the start of the semester. Another useful tip for professors is to have students make another list with specific things that they would like to get out of the class and any teaching techniques they would like the professor to use. Professors can collect the lists from students to develop their own objectives for the semester according to their own needs as well as their students’ needs.

 

As an instructor, do you set goals for yourself at the beginning of each semester?

What are some of the goals you set?

How do you stay on track to achieve your goals throughout the semester?

Do you have any tips for professors or students on what types of goals they should set or how to achieve their goals?

 

 

About the Author

Danielle Straub is the Communication Editorial intern this summer at Macmillan. She is a rising junior at Hunter College in New York City. Pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English, Danielle plans to go into publishing when she finishes college. Danielle enjoys spending her time traveling, cooking, reading, and volunteering.

 

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Whether or not you watch Game of Thrones, you probably already know that the seventh season of the action-packed fantasy returned last month (to record-breaking ratings, no less). Maybe your friends held a viewing party, or posted about it on social media, or slipped “Winter is coming” somewhere into a recent conversation. Even if you’re behind on the show (three seasons behind, in my case), it’s unlikely that you’ll have to wait long before the events of the current season come to your attention (curse you, spoilers!).

 

In an age where countless varieties of television shows are available for your entertainment in a growing array of mediums – like Netflix, DVR, and various online streaming platforms – it’s rare to find one single show that captures such massive appeal and has an audience dedicated enough to tune in every week. Game of Thrones manages both, drawing in 16.1 million total viewers for the seventh season premiere, which includes 10.1 million who watched on the linear channel as the show aired (Variety). While not the only example of “consensus” or “appointment-viewing” television left, it is currently the strongest, growing in its last few seasons while other examples Scandal and The Walking Dead have seen viewership drop off (TIME).

 

Why, then, has Thrones been able to command not just viewers’ attention, but also their Sunday nights? Is it just the merit of the show itself, or is there a social aspect to it as well?

 

Game of Thrones is a prime example of communal TV - shows most enjoyed when we share them with others. Methods of sharing a TV viewing experience include physical watch parties or social media shares - Thrones fans use both.

 

In fact, so many people participate in Game of Thrones parties that The New York Times recently published an article asking “How Quiet Should You Be During ‘Game of Thrones’?”. Reactions from fans were mixed, preferring either total silence, some chatter during unimportant or dialogue-light scenes, and free talking throughout. Some fans need to fully immerse themselves in the show by watching it alone first, and others need to watch with others so that they can ask questions when they lose track of the plot. Fans from both sides cited “the shared experience” as part of their rationale, so which is it? Does the shared experience refer to quietly watching a show as a group, or does it mean talking as a group while watching a television show?

 

If you prefer to watch alone, you can still participate in the communal viewing experience through social media. Here, fans can share their opinions, reactions, and thoughts on the show without having others physically present. In an attempt to increase ratings, many shows have started to encourage (spoiler-free) live-blogging and live-tweeting by having cast and crew members participate. With Game of Thrones, it feels inevitable that as soon as an episode airs, the internet will become a minefield of spoilers for anyone who dares to watch the show later.

 

And that, in part, explains why Game of Thrones is one of the last appointment-viewing shows on television. Because of the communal experience, fans are all but required to view the show each Sunday night when it airs, either because they have agreed to watch with someone else or because they want to avoid having the episode spoiled ahead of time. While spoilers are difficult to avoid for most television shows, it’s particularly risky with Game of Thrones, where dramatic plot twists and power plays are infinitely more enjoyable to fans who didn’t see them coming.

 

                  

Spoilers on Game of Thrones are so hard to avoid that Stephen Colbert introduced the “Spoiler-Proof Bucket” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. All you have to do is wear it on your head and you’ll be spoiler-free! (Image from www.cbs.com)

 

Overall, Game of Thrones is a fun show to watch with others – either electronically or in person – for a variety of reasons. With a large cast of characters to root for (or against), the frequent plot twists and shifting power dynamics compel viewers to tune in week-to-week. As someone planning to catch up to the show this month (to join a viewing party, of course), all I can say is: winter is coming, and it’s bringing communal television back with it.

 

Questions:

  •     Do you watch Game of Thrones? If so, how do you watch it? Alone, with a group? Do you post your thoughts on social media?
  •     How do you think the communal viewing experience differs from the individual viewing experiences? Does it increase your enjoyment of the show, or decrease it?

 

 

 

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7 Premiere Shatters HBO Ratings Records | Variety 

Game of Thrones' New Finale Record Proves It's Consensus TV | Time.com  

How Quiet Should You Be During ‘Game of Thrones’? Fans Disagree - The New York Times