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

February 1998

Super Newsletters Part IV(a): Great Graphics

(The following was adapted from: "Creating Super Newsletters: A Training Curriculum for Cooperative Extension Staff, Module 4," University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, June 1997)

In last month's issue, the article "Would You Like Art with That?" explained how to get the digital artwork available through Ag Communications and Ag Computer Network. If you're interested in more sources for clip art, check out these two sites.

Cool Graphics on the Web
25,000 free graphics, backgrounds, icons, GIFs, and clip art.

Image Paradise
Clip art, clip art, and more clip art.

Whether you get clip art from a computer library or from another source, the important thing to remember is whether it does what you want it to do. Far too often, designers use too many illustrations (mostly clip art). Use clip art sparingly. Then when you do, it will have greater impact.

Look for more on graphics in newsletters next month.

Plagiarism Seminar on Campus

As communicators struggle with the changes brought on by the Internet, an old problem has found a new home. Plagiarism, the stealing of words or ideas, has increased by an order of magnitude because of new technologies, according to Stuart Offenbach, Purdue professor of psychological sciences.

"While the problem of plagiarism exists for words, it also exists for data and photographs. As of now there is no good form of electronic protection to prevent someone from just copying what's on your web site," he says.

"We're supposed to share ideas and information. That is how progress is made. But it is important to acknowledge the originators of the ideas."

Offenbach will be presenting a seminar on plagiarism at 3:30, March 4, in room 311 of Stewart Center on the West Lafayette campus. There is no registration fee. The seminar will cover theft of words and thoughts, copyright infringements, and permissions.

For more information about the seminar, contact Debby Sherman at (765) 494-6666.

Defusing Discussions

These days it's not too hard to find people with skewed views of issues you've spent a great deal of time studying and teaching. Sometimes they're visibly agitated. But telling them they're flat wrong can end the conversation immediately, on a predictably sour note.

Here's one strategy for correcting misconceptions while maintaining the relationship, courtesy of Kathy Rowan, Purdue professor of communications.

First acknowledge the legitimacy of their concern. While the information may be wrong, the emotion they bring to it is not. If you are willing to say you understand why they might be upset or angry, they're more likely to listen to your side. Don't denigrate their feelings.

Second, point out any inconsistencies in the information they have. Look for where it doesn't hold water and (gently) ask them to think the scenario through with you. Ask questions that help lead them to where their information falls short.

If you can get them to agree that their original thesis may be lacking, offer your alternate (hopefully more accurate) version. Show how your version addresses or accounts for the inconsistencies you raised earlier.

Although it's tempting to talk about just the facts, each individual's view is colored by the knowledge and experience he or she brings to an issue. Asking questions to get to the core values that affect perception is a good way to begin the conversation. It also shows you care what people think and you're willing to listen, a courtesy they will be more likely to return.

While our first instinct often is to immediately correct a fallacy, it's a sure-fire way to alienate an audience. Take the time to find out why people believe what they do. It will make the education part easier.

Media Relations Tip: Reporters Run the Gamut

They may all use the title "Doctor," but you know that there's a huge difference between how you would explain your work to a neurologist, an entomologist, or an astronomer.

Likewise, there is a big difference in how you should explain your research to a science reporter at a science publication, a science reporter at a major newspaper, a general beat reporter, or a local television reporter.

Here are hypothetical examples (and admittedly unfair generalizations) of what you might expect from different types of reporters and what the reporters may need from you.

A Science Reporter from a Science Trade Publication . . .
Has read the original research paper and your institution's news release, talked with others in your field, and attended your last lecture at a scientific conference.

A Science Reporter from a Major Newspaper . . .
Has read the original research paper and your institution's news release, attended the scientific conference, but didn't make your lecture.

A General Beat Reporter from a Local Newspaper . . .
Has read your institution's news release.

A Local Television Reporter . . .
While out on another assignment, he or she was sent to your doorstep by a producer back at the station--doesn't even know that a news release exists.

Of course, these are GROSS generalizations, and each individual reporter will be, well, individual. But the point remains: to help make sure that you and your work are accurately represented in the next day's news, tailor your comments to the reporter's level of scientific expertise and knowledge of your field.

Grammar Trap: Joint vs. Individual Possession

This month's "Trap" is about a problem with possessives, about how you punctuate when "ownership" of an object is joint and when ownership is individual.

I'll use Chris and Jane and their department affiliation(s) to get the point across.

If Chris and Jane are members of the same department, for instance, use the possessive form after the last word only.


If Chris and Jane are members of different departments, use the possessive after both words.


Thanks to Rich Edwards, Entomology, for suggesting this topic. If there's a grammar (or usage) trap you'd like me to discuss or you have a tip that will help the rest of us avoid one, please let me know.

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.

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