Agricultural Communications, Purdue University
An electronic newsletter with communication tips and information


October 1999


If the Call's a Crisis

Recently, the Ag Comm staff who handle Purdue Extension's "888 line" (1-888-EXT-INFO) got some excellent training in dealing with crisis calls from the Lafayette Crisis Center's Cheryl Ubelhor.

We haven't had any full-blown crisis calls yet (and we hope we never do), but we know we should be prepared. Following are some of the points Ubelhor made that particularly struck me.

I've found these tips and techniques to be helpful with many of the calls I get. I hope they help you, too.


Digital Camera Considerations

Some educators have asked if they should get a digital camera or a regular film camera for the office. At this stage of digital camera development, comparing them is risky, but my experience with digital cameras may help you make a decision.

Your decision obviously depends on your audience and intended use.

A decent, new or used, 35-mm film camera in the $400-to-$500 range will take great pictures for posters, publications, and the news media. Add an inexpensive scanner, and you're all set to convert film from prints for computer and Web use.

A digital camera priced from $400 to $1,000 will take good pictures for the Web. But you have to take extra care to get great print shots.

Most inexpensive digital cameras are designed to be very light. This might be a nice consumer feature if you want to carry it in a purse or travel bag. But that light weight works against you when you take a picture. Auto-focus, auto-everything digital cameras will often take a picture when they shouldn't--in other words, when there's not enough light or there's too little contrast for proper auto-focus.

Standing behind one of these marvels and taking a picture under low-light conditions, you might think the picture looks great in that tiny viewfinder. But when you blow it up and put it on a computer screen, you could be surprised at how fuzzy it is.

What to do?

First, try not to force a digital camera to take a picture in low-light or low-contrast conditions (for example, a dark brown cow in front of a brown/gold backdrop under an incandescent light way up on the barn ceiling at the Indiana State Fair). If you must use a digital in these conditions, try a tripod. It will help steady the lightweight camera in your shaking-more-than-you-know-it hands.

Second, find the optimum distance from the camera to the object when you use flash. My guess is that will be no closer than four feet and no further than 12 feet for most digitals with pop-up flashes.

Finally, I like a through-the-lense digital camera that you can push up against your face to help steady the camera. There are digitals with what looks like a tiny TV in the back. I don't like these because 1) they don't allow you to tightly secure the camera, and 2) the tiny TV picture is difficult to see in full sunlight.

Digital cameras can be useful. But for now, I want that big, glossy photo of my grandson shot with a 35-mm film camera.


Copyrights & Reminders

This reprint contains useful advice from a veteran about granting and getting copyrights and permissions. The last tip tells you where to go for more information.

Basic advice on copyright rights and permissions

Barbara Polansky advises those dealing with rights and permissions to heed the following.

Reprinted with permission from Writing Concepts Newsletter, (copyright)
Communications Concepts, Inc.,
7481 Huntsman Blvd., Suite 720,
Springfield, VA 22153-1648.
Phone: 703/643-2200.


Grammar Trap: Simple vs. Simplistic

When the host of one of my favorite shows on HGTV described a lamp she liked as a "simplistic," I knew I'd found my "Trap" for this month.

"Simple" and "simplistic" are NOT synonyms. They don't mean the same thing.

"Simple" has many meanings. In this context, it means basic, uncomplicated, free from ostentation or elaboration.

Example: Her explanation was simple and easy to understand.

"Simplistic" means TOO simple. It describes something that lacks necessary distinctions or complications.

Example: Her explanation was simplistic and left out the most important point. "Simple" is good. "Simplistic" is bad. It's that simple.

If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss or if you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

I've never meant that request more than I do now, folks. After three years of monthly "Grammar Traps," my well is running dry. If you have a grammar or usage question--especially one that lends itself to the "vs." treatment--I'd love to hear from you.


We want to hear from you.
Do you have a communication question?
Do you have a comment on this issue of "On Target"?
If so, please e-mail any of our writers or On Target's managing editor, Kevin Smith.

It is the policy of the Department of Agricultural Communication Service of Purdue University
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without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age or disability.
Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer.
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