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article imageSocial media promotes unique methods of communication and news Special

By Kevin Jess     Oct 22, 2010 in Internet
Cloutierville - Everyday there is a plethora of new online resources, magazines and features. As the media evolves it attempts to grab the public's attention by creating unique ways of producing information and stories. Such is the way with PokeSalad Granny.
PokeSalad Granny achieves uniqueness and originality in the context of everyday stories written in a rural Southern dialect and is an inspiring example of the variety of ways people are using to exchange ideas through online and social media.
Signing on with Pokesalad Granny and a reading a blog allowed an examination of what this was all about. News writers look for ideas or events that can be shared with others. The public often enjoys the magic of believing, as they do with movie stars and mythical creatures. One needs only to look at the top movie and book offerings, let alone the expanse of tabloid papers available at supermarket stands to see how people are drawn whether it be to escape a perceived dreariness in their own lives or simply to be just entertained. But, how this idea can be used to give information in an entertaining, but still serious way, gave this journalist some ideas on how creative one can be in writing news and features these days.
The true identity of 'Granny' is not given on Facebook, or even on the blog, which is that “magic of believing” concept authors use as a literary device to create analogies or stories such as these. Within these stories, however, are links to serious news and information from different news sites, both citizen and traditional.
Pokesalad Granny describes herself as “A journal produced by a writer with a humorous and sometimes salty take on contemporary affairs, a woman of a certain age, of a certain place in the United States. Enjoy your "laugh of the day or a take on a contemporary event somewhere, " living in a world where Poke Salad Granny gives advice, cupcakes, gripes and scolds and sends folks to the woodshed or just plain feeds them to the alligators. Or maybe she's just sayin'.''
The description on Facebook goes on to say how “Granny is a real granny with family origins from the South and other parts of the world. She is not a myth and is embodied by an old woman from Cloutierville, Louisiana. In a broad way she represents how wisdom and love expands, and information comes in layers. So she becomes your granny who loves you and everyone else no matter what, and talks and treats folks of every stripe just like they were members of a larger, important family. If anyone is naughty they get told and when they do nice, they get cupcakes.”
In an email the writer said, “Granny is based on the lives of three women with Southern origins. One is a woman 98 years old from Cloutierville, another originally from Texas and 86 years old and a woman who died in 1961, whose family was from Missouri and crossed the plains in a covered wagon to Idaho. That's how her family got to the West, although that was before she was born, because she was born in Idaho.
All three women represent everyone's grandmother, the one we had or always wanted, who loves us no matter what, just not our behavior sometimes. These women represent how universal love can be, that crosses all religions and races and politics. They look at individuals not groups and take on problems as they would if everyone was a child because they believe Jesus wants people to be as honest and good as children can be at their best. That's why Granny isn't afraid to talk to the President in the same way she talks to anyone else.
These three women represent the universal thought and wisdom of older women and how they view, or would view, the world today. At their age, they see the world in simple ways and believe that people are essentially good.”
In reviewing some of the stories on the Journal, it is clear the language is different and appears to be colloquial and likely rural. Some of the stories examine political ideas or candidates, but they are written as if they were in the first person as a granny talking to an individual as if he or she would one of her own. The writer scolds BP for the oil spill as if the company were a child that spilled milk on her kitchen floor. Stories about racial problems in the South are described but used to teach forgiveness. A humorous story examines the fashion of young people and their sagging pants the way a Granny would, with surprise at young people doing it and scolding. In the blog she reminds her grandson, “If he ever showed his knickers like that he'd be off to the woodshed with a switch on his behind.”
When I asked the writer what her goal for PokeSalad Granny was she said, " I think our grannies are the ones everyone thinks of as giving advice and love and meaning well. In a world that lacks trust, I think having a character like her can help, even for giving information. So that's one goal. Another one is to make people think or to laugh about things. Then there's my goal for Cloutierville, the town where I am living. The town is dying because a famous house owned in the 19th century by a writer named Kate Chopin turned into a museum burned down. It was the main thing tourists went to see. When the cotton industry left, and farming was less, it was the museum people came for. It was important. When it burned I thought, "the town will die for sure." I worried about that, and so did my family and friends." So I thought I'll write some things and maybe people will know the name Cloutierville and maybe folks will come to visit again. I also thought it would bring hope to the folks of this town, write its history a bit, and work that into contemporary events."
The media is always searching for new ways of presenting ideas, as the Nieman conferences have discussed. Pokesalad Granny has its own way of doing that, according to its description and the comments being made on Facebook, and gaining a wide audience in less than two weeks, according to the numbers I have watched grow on social media. Her Twitter page has also not gone unnoticed. Followers now on Twitter include The Hill (the main Congressional newspaper of the United States), The Cato Institute (the fifth most influential think tank in the world) and Karl Rove (former adviser to President Bush).
That growth verifies what contemporary experts say about interactive and social media sites and how people are attracted to stories written in a simple way like a rural grandmother would talk and that still give information.
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