Off The Written Path

Exploring New Journalism

Off The Written Path

Role of First Lady Self-Determined, McBride says

April 21st, 2011 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Photo of the first first lady Martha Washington, left, and photo of current first lady Michelle Obama, right. (Photos are in the public domain.)


For those who wonder what exactly the role of the first lady is, you are not alone. First ladies wonder about that too.

 “It was a demanding job, but it comes with no job description,” former first lady Betty Ford once said.

Anita McBride, who served as chief of staff for former first lady Laura Bush from 2005-2009, said that “every first lady wrestles with” the role they are expected to play.

“(The role) is defined by the first lady herself,” McBride said.

McBride spoke to students at George Mason University, Purdue University and the University of Denver April 14 during a live video conference from Washington, D.C.  Steve Scully, senior executive producer and political editor of C-SPAN , hosted the video conference which is part of a C-SPAN and University of Denver distance learning course.

Although there is no job description for the first lady, there were certain traditional expectations of the role that emerged early on. McBride said a first lady was expected to:

  • Act as a social hostess
  • Be caretaker of the White House
  • Be a traditional homemaker                       

 But, McBride said those expectations have evolved.

“Over time we have come to expect so much more out of first ladies,” McBride said, “we really do expect our first ladies to be deeply engaged in issues that they care about and issues that the nation cares about.”

She said the first modern first lady was defined by Eleanor Roosevelt.

“(She) was very active on a number of issues and continued, until she died, as a human rights activist,” McBride said.

First ladies have the flexibility to pick and choose issues they want to focus on, she said, but they can be strategic in choosing their causes.  

“First ladies are best when they choose…to work on policy issues that are of importance to the administration at large,” McBride said. “You don’t want to be running a shadow government; you don’t want to be running your own White House.”

First ladies also help to carry out their husband’s vision, McBride said. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fight for healthcare was an example.

“It’s a great risk, of course, to be putting yourself out there on a public issue,” McBride said. 

She said Clinton’s move was “very risky, but important.”

“She did sort of redefined, a little bit, how engaged a first lady could be on a particular issue of such tremendous importance and significance in the country,” McBride said.

The role of the first lady, and a future first spouse,  includes working collaboratively with the President on issues that are important to the nation, McBride said. And although questions of what a first lady does still arise, McBride said a first lady works 24-7.

 “It is probably the most important and most demanding unpaid job in the world,” she said. 

The video conference with McBride can be viewed at Other video conferences from the distance learning course are also available. The course, which is done in collaboration with The Cable Center, will not be offered again at the University of Denver after the 2011 Spring Semester.


Infographic of Birth Places of the First Ladies of the U.S.

April 17th, 2011 · No Comments · Tech Blog Posts

Our recent video conference with Anita McBride, chief of staff for former First Lady Laura Bush, had me wondering about previous First Ladies. Below I created a Google map of the states the First Ladies of the United States were born in. I plan to continue editing it and add pictures of the First Ladies.

View First Ladies of the U.S in a larger map


Posterous and an Update on Twitter

April 11th, 2011 · No Comments · Tech Blog Posts

When I did a post about Tumblr it left me with a lot of questions about another site, Posterous. I wanted to find out what it was, how it compared to Tumblr, and why it was on the radar of the tech-savvy people at Mashable. Some of the answers to my questions were in a post by Jennifer Van Grove who actually did a comparison of Tumblr vs. Posterous. According to her,  Posterous is best. ReadWriteWeb calls it a minimalist blogging site that makes Tumblr feel complex. Both posters at Mashable and ReadWriteWeb, as well as Techcrunch, agree that its email-to-blog feature makes it the easiest blogging platform yet. To blog on Posterous all you have to do is send an email. You can even email content to your Posterous blog from your phone, including photos and videos. I’m a fan of simple design but I find their themes a little too minimalist for me. Here are a couple of sample themes from the Posterous blog:

I’m sure simplicity in use, versus simplicity of design,  is the main reason people choose Posterous. I will be getting my iPhone 4 soon,  so I think I might give Posterous a try.

Twitter UPDATE: I have been on Twitter for about a month now. I love the constant stream of information coming from the people I follow. I just soak up the tidbits of journalism advice, news updates and occasional snarky insights into current events. I have reached out to some people to help with our team journalism project, but I cannot say I have made any real connections with anyone in particular. I’m just not sure how to connect with strangers, and it seems a bit rude to simply send them a tweet out of nowhere.  I’m not too sure what proper Twitter etiquette is, but just jumping into an interesting conversation doesn’t feel right (perhaps not the best attitude for a journalist to have, but I’m a work in progress). I think I need to read a few more useful ‘social media for journalists’ guides!


George Mason University and the Use of Social Media in the Case of Abdirashid Dahir

April 3rd, 2011 · 2 Comments · Tech Blog Posts

A recent post by Mindy McAdams about the use of timelines in journalism had me wanting to try out the idea. I thought the recent case of George Mason student Abdirashid Dahir would lend itself to a timeline. How quickly events happened after the Sarah Evans Facebook post would help to show the power of Social Media. This was a way for me to try out the concept, it is not comprehensive and I welcome any suggestions, additions, and corrections on the comments section below.


March 26th, 2011 · No Comments · Tech Blog Posts