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Originally published Oct. 1, 2008.

by Christopher Brinckerhoff

Video by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Chicagoans swarm Madison Street every weekday morning and evening walking to and from their jobs. A number of them are speaking, but they’re not talking to each other.

The commuters are talking on their cell phones, and some are using headsets and wireless earpieces. Their phones are conveniently tucked away in their purses and pockets. Some research published this year suggested this may not be healthy for human reproduction.

The study, published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine,  said cell phone usage by men might affect sperm quality. The research was completed by the Cleveland Clinic and was called “Effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMW) from cellular phones on human ejaculated semen: an in vitro pilot study.”

The study looked at the effects of electromagnetic waves on human semen by putting it into two small receptacles and exposing one of them to a common model cell phone two centimeters away.

In  the 36 samples they tested the results showed a decrease in the movement and viability of the sperm.

Though the study concedes it was limited in scope, in part, due to a small sample size and having to test in test tubes instead of on live people, another study they also conducted had results consistent with the theory that cell phones impair sperm viability.

In the other study the researchers looked at more than 300 men, and reported a correlation between daily cell phone usage and sperm quality. The research showed that men who used their cell phones more than four hours a day on average also had the least vital sperm on average.

The scientists’ “Effects of radiofrequency…” report said the most significant finding was the increase in  what are called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). ROS is normally created in semen, and antioxidants bond with ROS, thus neutralizing them. This is good because then there aren’t as many free radicals. Free radicals can be bad because they have been associated with cancer formation.

What they found out was that the ROS increased in a statistically significant amount, according to one doctor.

Dr. Paul B. Odland at Columbia College’s Student Health Center said the research seems to pick up on a statistically significant ROS increase.

“The P value is a statistical measurement in which a P value of .05 means that the finding is less due to chance,” Odland said. “This is less than .05 (.022). So that means that it’s unlikely this is a chance measure. It’s suggestive that it’s an actual difference. So that would mean statistically significant. Actually what significance this has for sperm measure and fertility, I don’t know that.”

With the explosion of cell phone usage over the last 20 years and the subsequent growth of cell phone manufactures and carriers, a lot of money has been spent by consumers on these products. One cell phone carrier we contacted has yet to weigh in on the health issue these studies raise.

Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Verizon Wireless store supervisor Dwayne Garner at the 1105 S. State Street store said he was not permitted to comment on the issue. Garner said any comments made must go through their legal department. Messages left for Verizon’s Midwest media relations manager were not returned.

Some college students are not concerned with this possible cell phone hazard.

Columbia freshman and illustration major Mathew Hamilton was working out at the Student Wellness Center at the 731 S. Plymouth building. Hamilton said he’s not worried about the implications of the research.

“Maybe I will be more concerned if it turns out to be true,” Hamilton said.

Columbia student and film major Kyle Norwood said he’s not concerned about the possible danger either. Norwood said perhaps his future self will be mad at his current self for not being more cautious, but he’s so addicted to the technology it doesn’t bother him now.

Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Photo by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Copyright 2008

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

The 2009 "Making Media Connections" conference brought together media heavy weights and nonprofit bleeding hearts. The event reflected the change in times, not the least of which is the Trib's online avatar, Colonel Tribune. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

The 2009 "Making Media Connections" conference brought together media heavyweights and nonprofit bleeding hearts. The event reflected the change in times, not the least of which is the Trib's online avatar, Colonel Tribune. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Chicago – Teams of communications professionals gathered for the final installment of this year’s Making Media Connections conference at Columbia College June 11. Keynote speakers included Columbia College President Warrick Carter, New York Times Chicago Bureau Chief Monica Davey, and the Chicago Tribune avatar Colonel Tribune created and presented by Bill Adee.

Davey said the biggest story of the year is the recession, and nonprofit organizations are in a unique position to be able to provide the real people stories impacting neighborhoods on the ground.

Adee spoke about the new online Chicago Tribune brands he spearheaded including Chicago’s Best Blogs, Chicago Breaking News and Chicago Now. Chicago Now retains 50 to 60 blogs currently, and Adee expected that number to grow.

He said his current project involves a news applications group. Adee did not elaborate on this item.

While the previous day of workshops seemed more hands-on, this day of events seemed to include more panel discussion type of classes. Two of these sessions were “News Columnists” and “Broadcasting Online.”

The “News Columnists” breakout session, moderated by Laurie Glenn of Think Inc., focused on what people need to understand in order to successfully pitch stories to some of the most well-known columnists in the region.

Phil Kadner, Southtown Star, said he was always surprised by how much people can change the world for the better simply by communication. He said the human-interest angle is the most attractive one for stories appropriate for his column. To illustrate the point Kadner said a story about a large veterans’ event was completely different than one about a real veteran. The life story was more compelling to read, and therefore write.

Burt Constable, Daily Herald, said one of the most important factors to consider is the entertainment and interest factor. While there are many important stories out there to be told, many of them go uncovered by columnists simply because their big picture pitches are too boring.

Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, emphasized the importance of timing and the necessity of accurate facts. Sometimes a planned column falls through at the last minute and a call from a public relations person, who at another time would have seemed less likely to yield attention, at that moment, becomes the foremost story to pursue under her looming deadline.

Schmich also said fact accuracy was essential. In one instance she actually decided to discontinue her reliance on a source because name misspellings were given on two consecutive occasions. Yes, Schmich said it’s up to her to do the best she can to check facts, but when sources provided misinformation more than once, that’s a deal breaker.

Ben Goldberger, Huffington Post Chicago, said it is okay to contact writers again when you haven’t heard back from them to let them know you are going to pitch your story to other writers. At the same time, he said tone is key. Do not take a threatening approach such as emphatically telling reporters, “If you don’t jump on this right now I’m going to another publication.” Goldberger said this kind of approach, which he was surprised by how often he received it, would inevitably meet with his answer, “Go ahead.”

Rather, the Huffington editor said to politely inform writers that since you haven’t heard back from them, and if you don’t hear back from them by such and such time, you need to move onto other journalists who might be interested in your story.

Another one of the breakout sessions, “Broadcasting Online” moderated by Center for Neighborhood Technology Director of Development and Communications Nicole Gotthelf, looked at the hows and whys to broadcast messages on the web.

The panelists were Kristine Ostil of Asian American News Network, David Marques of Southwest Youth Collaborative, Carlos Mendez of Radio Arte, and Michael Hoffman of See 3 Communications.

Ostil said her advice to nonprofit communicators is to keep your information up to date. Let your users know when you update your website, and they will trust you more. She also said it’s important to create a visual manifestation of your organization’s mission. Fonts and grammar need to translate into images, videos and graphics.

Marques said hiring young people to expand techno-outreach was not only good for the community, it was also good business. He cited a successful podcast created by a teenager from the southwest side of Chicago about how many police officers are good people. In an area where crime and corruption typically dominate the reputation, a strong young voice was able to counterbalance those views with a positive and true representation of benevolent public servants.

All in all, the conference was a huge success. Like years past, nonprofit communicators connected with influential journalists and media outlets. Also, like at previous conferences, these charity champions established and developed relationships with each other.

What was different in 2009 was the ludicrous level of speed of the evolving media ecosystem. What does this mean in regular words? Technology is changing fast, and it was healthy for professionals with causes to reaffirm their commitments to the public dialogue called the news, and, perhaps more importantly, to each other.

Copyright 2009

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff

cmw1

NetSquared and Community Media Workshop toasted the beginning of CMW's annual conference this Tuesday. Gordon Mayer and Thom Clark of CMW both spoke at the event. Photos by Christopher Brinckerhoff.

Chicago – Nonprofit technology professionals from NetSquared co-hosted their monthly meeting tonight with Community Media Workshop at Columbia College. CMW used the occasion to kick off their annual Making Media Connections conference as well as preview their “the New news” report on Chicago media outlets. The Chicago Community Trust commissioned the research.

The gathering commenced with a streak of drinks and chatter, and moved onto the traditional introduction round robin that happens at most networking functions. There was a common question each person answered as we went around the room. What is the newest news source you have found and will love forever?

In addition to the expected support for traditional outlets including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and National Public Radio, it was notable how many people in the 50-plus group said their new great source was Twitter.

One man said he found out about the Hudson River plane landing on Twitter before he saw it reported by other news sources. This recognition of the relatively new immediacy of information dissemination folded nicely into CMW’s new media report preview.

While some folks get their news through classic channels, others are tweeting on their iPhones and clicking on hyperlinks for their info. At the same time, newspapers are laying off writers like there’s no tomorrow and millions of writers produce online content for zero monetary compensation. This has left many of us wondering how the new media revolution will grow with funding resources.

The report showed funding for the reviewed outlets in the following order, most to least: my piggy bank, for-profit, other (including from advertising dollars), nonprofit, donations, subscriptions, sales of goods and services, venture capital and no response.

The June NetSquared meeting and CMW’s conference kick-off wrapped with perceptive observations on the changing roles of media professionals and technologies.

CMW President Thom Clark said while the business model of online news sources continues to be a subject of debate, there is no doubt the new news has augmented the lob-sided public square of information with more diverse voices.

Copyright 2009

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by Christopher Brinckerhoff and Irving Uriostegui

Which south loop college has smarter students: Columbia, Roosevelt or DePaul? Though DePaul had the highest incoming freshman GPA average in 2007, according to school officials, students said GPA doesn’t convey smarts.

The limited scope of this survey is not the final word on south loop college student intelligenc. Rather, it is a glimpse of school pride and reputation.

The average high school GPA of incoming freshmen in fall 2007 was 3.0 at Roosevelt University, 3.1 at Columbia College and 3.5 at DePaul University, on a four-point scale.

What makes up a student’s smarts? Is it knowledge, experience or charisma? The college students said it’s a combination of all three.

Appearing in the video, in alphabetical order: Davis deVane, Lisa Forkin, Emily Jungles, Abby Lodzinski, Brittany Reed, Stephanie Serine, Kelly Thames.

Copyright 2008

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