The loss of Patrick Vega

Patrick Vega died 10 days into boot camp. Patrick always wanted to be a Marine, and despite his mother’s frequent attempts to tell him it was a phase, he persisted. It took him more than a year to pass the physical tests, running was his weakness. His mother Amy always said, “He’s not the cheetah, he’s the shark in the water.” Patrick loved surfing, water polo, swimming and being a swim instructor.


In the year since Patrick died, the Vega family has been in counseling, and they have some amazing support groups that have helped them through this trying time. The family just spent their Memorial Day weekend at the TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) National Seminar. Both Amy and Patrick’s younger sister Kate openly speak about having good days and bad days. Kate often watches sad movies, so she can let out all her emotions.


It took about eight months for the Vega family to get the report about Patrick’s death, and when they did, they sought a professional to look it over. With some help, they found Dr. Bob Gonzalez who looked over Patrick’s report and dissected it. Dr. Gonzalez told the Vega family there were at least five instances in the report where Patrick could have been saved if he’d just been given an IV and taken to the hospital. This was heartbreaking news for the family.

pat 21 birthday

As they began to look into different ways to deal with the news that Patrick didn’t need to die, they learned about the Feres Doctrine that was established in 1950. The Feres Doctrine says that the federal government can’t be sued when people are injured as a result of military service. The Vega family feels that many things went wrong at boot camp, and  they’d like the opportunity to set the record straight, since they don’t believe Patrick died of natural causes. The Supreme Court just refused to hear another case challenging the Feres Doctrine last week, so the Vegas know they have an uphill battle.


Part of the healing process has led Kate and her father Manny to painting rocks to remember Patrick by. They are beautiful pieces of art, and the love and dedication put into each one is obvious. Wherever they travel, they take a rock with them and find a spot to place it. Patrick will not be forgotten, and he is always with them.

Spencer: Radio Broadcaster

It was 11th grade, and Spencer Fischer remembers it like it was yesterday. It was the first time he thought about being a radio broadcaster.

Spencer big smile

Spencer only lived in Quebec for 10 months, but those months have shaped a career that has spanned two decades. “I had just left a career development class that had basically an old Canadian computer technology… five of the seven jobs based on all the parameters that I put together said that I should be in TV or radio broadcast,” said Spencer.

With a little help from fate and the universe, he was able to quickly jump into a job at a radio station when he moved back to California. “There’s nothing like being on the radio,” said Spencer. “It’s live. It’s real. There’s no going back. It’s hanging those toes over the edge and doing it live. And living like that, it’s positive stress, and I’ve been addicted for a while.”

Spencer has quite a few radio stations listed on his resume, but it’s the time he’s spent broadcasting to the Gold Coast of California that’s made him a household name. Spencer spent more than 10 years entertaining listeners in Santa Barbara at 92.9 KJEE.

When KJEE decided to go in a different direction for their morning show in 2009, Spencer landed the morning show slot at 103.3 The Vibe (KVYB) in Ventura. With the strongest radio signal west of the Mississippi, KVYB reaches from parts of Los Angeles up to San Luis Obispo thus increasing his audience. Spencer is rapidly approaching his 10-year anniversary at The Vibe.

KVYB Signal

In the last year, Spencer began teaching radio classes at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, and he finds the experience extremely rewarding. “I am so surprised at how much I learn,” said Spencer. He describes his students first time on the air at ICLU radio as horrifying. “I love sharing that experience. I love sharing that emotion.”

Broadcast Center 2

To stay connected with the community, Spencer is always looking for ways to be of service. In the early days, he said yes to any organization that asked for his help. Over the years, that’s changed. “Pretty soon you’re not just saying yes to random organizations. You’ve found a way into stuff that you really believe in,” said Spencer.

In his off time, Spencer plays guitar and gets plenty of exercise with his Yorkshire Terrier, Daisy. He is currently in the process of building a home studio and is entertaining the idea of creating a podcast.

Listen to Spencer’s Morning Rush every weekday on 103.3 The Vibe.





Where I’m At and the Talented People Who Surround Me at National University

It’s been a long and windy path getting to this moment. At times, it has been difficult. But, it has also been eye-opening and I’m thankful every single day. I went back to school in 2012 when my niece was born. After taking an exorbitant amount of Child Development classes, I shifted gears and pursued an AA in Film Television Media. I had been a radio DJ for 12 years and a video editor for five years prior to going back to school, so it wasn’t a huge stretch. I received an AA in FTVM from Moorpark College in 2015 and a BA in Educational Studies from University of La Verne in Oxnard at the end of 2017.

Me and my inspiration

When I completed my Bachelor’s degree, I put an enormous amount of pressure on myself to not give up. I knew if I stopped going to school that I would never go back. So, the frantic search for a Master’s program began. I was so excited when I found the Digital Journalism program at National University. I’ve only taken two classes, but I’m already loving it. Now, I’m on a path that feels right, and I’m surrounded by some amazing aspiring journalists. I’d love to tell you about these talented writers.

Tanya Adams

Tanya R. Adams
Tanya is a copywriter, life coach and self-admitted tech geek. If you are looking for a freelance marketing specialist or an education writer, visit her professional website here.

Lawrence Broughton

Lawrence Broughton

Lawrence is a writer with his own travel site for fabulous people. He has made it his mission to travel the globe and give detailed accounts of all the destinations he has visited. Visit his travel site for blogs about his trips to Rio De Janeiro, Prague, Paris and Honolulu.

Toni Edwards

Toni Edwards
Toni has a blog that offers something for everyone with varied topics that keep the reader entertained. She has reviewed sports events like basketball, football and martial arts. And, she has also spoken about the dangers of makeup and created various product reviews to help other consumers.

Delores Lewis

Delores Lewis
Delores is an aspiring journalist who goes by Renee on her blog. She is also a talented freelance writer, amateur photographer and graphic designer. Renee calls Houston, Texas home, and I look forward to reading more blogs about the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Renee Summerour

Renee Summerour
Renee is a news anchor, reporter and personality who grew up in San Diego, California. She is currently working as an Anchor, Multi-Media Journalist and Producer for KYMA News 11 in Yuma, Arizona.

Dana Sweidan

Dana Swiedan
Dana is a storyteller, travel planner and freelance journalist. She has a blog that discusses books, travel and local events in her hometown of Sacramento. She is also working with her husband on a podcast that is currently in development.



Review: “Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life” by Albert-László Barabási Chapters 10-16

Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life” (Plume) by Albert-László Barabási Part 2

Linked book cover

My brain hurts, and that can only mean one thing; I just finished reading chapters 10 through 16 in “Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life.” I was hoping to have an epiphany by the end of the book, but unfortunately, I can report no such magical event. It was just as heavy going out, as it was going in.

Random, scale-free network_simoncockell_flickr
Random, scale-free network” by Simon Cockell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The big term that is referred to over and over in the book is scale-free network. Although I read every single page in Linked, I still needed to go back upon completion to wrap my head around why this was an important discovery. As Barabási was trying to explain how real networks grow, he discovered they are managed by two laws: growth and preferential attachment. After creating a model that used both laws, he and his team determined that as nodes are added to a network, they prefer to attach to more connected nodes. Those connected nodes are the hubs in a network.

Spindle cell lipoma” by cnicholsonpath is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In the 11th link titled “The Awakening Internet,” Barabási explains that although humans created the Internet, it is more similar to an ecosystem than something manmade. It is living a life of its own making it like a cell with all the characteristics of an evolving system. Barabási found that the Internet continues to expand node by node which is the first requirement of a scale-free topology.

Elon Musk” by JD Lasica is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Although Linked is more than two decades old, it hinted at something that is a very real concern today: computer self-awareness. It’s something I’ve seen Elon Musk speak about with real concern. Barabási noted that it is impossible to predict the date self-awareness will arrive, but the Internet is already living a life of its own as it evolves and grows each day.

1990-00_ITU Pictures_Flickr.jpg
1990-00” by ITU Pictures is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Barabási tackles the issue of the World Wide Web and how fragmented it is in Link 12, The Fragmented Web. He describes the World Wide Web as having different continents that don’t always link directly to one and other and some continents that only have a way in or a way out. Barabási found that although there are billions of documents on the web, we can only reach about 24% of all documents, and the rest are completely unreachable by surfing the web. This is a reminder about the importance of SEO and anchor text to make sure a webpage is found by its audience.

A moment that caught my attention in Linked was when Barabási admitted the challenge of writing a general audience book while focusing on science at the same time. As someone who is not completely savvy when it comes to scientific terminology, I found Linked to be a challenging read. I enjoyed the history of the Internet and the connections Barabási found between the network of the Internet and networks in all other aspects of life. But, I would have been happier with a dumbed down version of the book.

Review: “Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life” by Albert-László Barabási Chapters 1-9

Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life” (Plume) by Albert-László Barabási Part 1

Linked book cover

Get ready to put on your thinking cap as we step into the first half of “Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life.” Although I’ve had a few days to let the first nine chapters sink in, I still find myself trying to process all the different studies and technical terms that were mentioned.

Linked by Faramarz Hashemi is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Instead of chapters, Barabási has named the sections of the book links. In the second link, Barabási explains the innate desire of human beings to come together. This is a phenomenon that is easily visible on any school playground, in the workplace, and any church on Sunday. Barabási uses a party as an example. He explains how strangers will make their way through a party making connections and creating invisible social links. And, by the end of the party, the guests have created a network.

By link three, Barabási explains the work of Stanley Milgram who rediscovered Frigyes Karinthy’s short stories from 1929 about “six degrees of separation.” Milgram created a study to determine the distance between any two people in the United States, and to his surprise, he found that most people could be connected by 5.5 links. Milgram helped to show that society is quite dense, and that was in 1967. In today’s internet driven world, we can maintain connections over greater distances with ease making the entire planet a large network.

Networking by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0

“Small Worlds” is the title of link four, and it’s about the benefits of weak ties in a network. Although I had been struggling with the heaviness of Linked prior to this chapter, this was the one that got my highlighter going crazy. Barabási discusses Mark Granovetter’s paper “The Strength of Weak Ties,” in which he proposed that when it comes to finding a job or spreading the latest fads, we rely on our weakest links. Because our closest friends run in the same circles and are exposed to the same information we are, we need people outside our home group to bring in and take out information. This is information that becomes crucial in understanding the growth of websites online.

Internet by James Cridland is licensed under CC BY 2.0

While describing Malcom Gladwell’s test to measure a person’s sociability, Barabási begins his explanation of the importance of hubs in a network. According to Gladwell’s research, people who have an easy time making friends are connectors, and Barabási lays the foundation for explaining the similarities between human connectors and hubs on the internet. Because hubs create short paths between two points in a network, they dominate any network they are present in. My head started spinning a bit when Barabási began explaining power laws and their surprising presence in the Web, but the gist of that section is that hubs are what prevent the network from falling apart.

google sign_tshein_flickr
Google sign by Tshein is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By the eighth link titled “Einstein’s Legacy,” the elephant in the book is finally addressed: Google. As Barabási explains, Google became a hub practically overnight, and it is one of the fittest hubs on the web. In another one of Barabási’s technical and scientific jaunts in the book, he explains the phenomenon known as Bose-Einstein condensation. By studying links and fitness of networks, Barabási states that one node especially displays Bose-Einstein condensate perfectly: Microsoft.

Bose-Einstein condensation” by vulgarisation

Next week, we’ll dive into the exciting conclusion of “Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life.”

Review: Chapter 13 “Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia” by Al Tompkins

Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia, Second Edition” (CQ Press) by Al Tompkins

Aim image

Chapter 13 of “Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia” offers numerous strategies on how to tell a story online successfully, while providing real life examples. In the beginning of chapter 13, Tompkins states that watching TV is a passive activity and perusing the news online requires action. Because of this, Tompkins says that journalists must treat TV and online very differently when thinking about how to distribute a news story.

According to Tompkins, online users can participate in a story by commenting on it, showing it to a friend or family member, or by sharing it on their own websites. When users interact with a story online, it promotes a deeper understanding of the story, so Tompkins says online news stories must be planned with interactivity in mind.

SEO” by Christian Schnettelker is licenced under CC BY 2.0

Tompkins found that successful online journalists become skilled at using “search engine optimization,” also known as SEO, to reach the largest audience. Search engines like Yahoo!, MSN and Google have robots that are constantly crawling over new content, and keywords from the story must be embedded in the headline to drive traffic to the story. Tompkins suggests that when online journalists are creating headlines with SEO in mind, they remember that brevity is the first rule, and they only use the words necessary to capture the essence of the story. He recommends journalists also try to think of words or phrases online readers will be using to find information; the more predictable a headline is the better the story’s chances of being found.

One of the best pieces of advice Tompkins provides in Chapter 13 is about how an online site can stand out during the big moments: breaking news, special events and elections. Tompkins simple recommendation is “constantly update.” In order to be a user’s source for breaking news, headlines and lead photos will need to be changed often, and stories should have the date and time so the user can track how often something is being updated.

heavy traffic use1_david howard_flickr
heavy traffic use1” by David Howard is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Everyone has heard the phrase “Don’t bury the lead,” and Tompkins suggests journalists will lose online readers if the lead is buried. Although the online audience will read larger pieces, Tompkins recommends online writing that uses short sentences containing 15 or fewer words and doesn’t exceed 800. Tompkins found online news audiences generally come in two waves: midmorning and midafternoon. The greatest focus should be placed on updating the site during heavy traffic times.

As someone who enjoys spending time behind the camera, I found Tompkins’ advice about tailoring video for the web invaluable. He states that using that wide and medium shots don’t work as well as close-up shots with online video. Tompkins recommends keeping mobile users in mind and making the fonts in online graphics large enough to be read on a small screen. He also suggests keeping camera movement to a minimum because it’s difficult to stomach on a cellphone.

Al Tompkins on Video Storytelling by RTDNA courtesy of YouTube

Chapter 13 in “Aim for the Heart: Write, Shoot, Report and Produce for TV and Multimedia” is filled with advice that online journalists can and should refer to often.

Review: “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” by Steve Krug

“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition” (New Riders) by Steve Krug

Don't make me think cover

Although “Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” was released over a decade ago, the advice within the book is timeless. Steve Krug has written a book that is easy to digest, and it won’t take a large amount of time. He reports some readers have read it in two hours; it took me about four. Krug opens the book by emphasizing the book’s title and stating that web designers should never expect the user to think; a webpage should be clear, and everything on it should be visible and easy to find. Krug recommends keeping terminology simple, because when terms become too clever, there is the chance the user won’t understand what is meant and that can lead to frustration.

THINK” by Lara Torvi is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Krug has spent many years observing how users interact with websites, and what he found is that they tend to glance at a webpage rather than read it. Technology has helped speed up our world, and we are always rushing. The mindset of being in a hurry influences how we use the web. Krug found users tend to click on the first thing that jumps out at them on a webpage, and one way to combat users not viewing the entire page is to create a hierarchy that is clear. Krug recommends making the most important item the most prominent and cautions against any extra noise on the page; this can include items that are underlined and webpages that are too busy.

words” by Jonathan Assink is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Since webpages are giant billboards that can be sold to advertisers, visual space is a huge commodity. According to Krug, a simple way to free up space on a webpage is to eliminate useless words. Krug suggests removing half of the words on most webpages, and he is certain value won’t suffer. Krug speaks of eliminating happy talk which he describes as promotional writing that is self-congratulatory. He found another source of useless words in instructions. By making everything self-evident, there isn’t a need for step-by-step instructions on a webpage, because the user will already understand the purpose of the site.

DSC00227” by Andrew_Writer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

One of the most important chapters in the book focuses on the home page. Krug insists that because there are so many items that automatically need to be included on the home page, this section of the website is beyond the web designers control. But, Krug stresses that a good tagline is vital to the success of the site. Taglines are typically placed next to the site logo, and they describe what the site is about in six to eight words. Taglines should be informative and sometimes witty.  Krug recommends against generic and vague taglines, because they can lead to user confusion.

Steve Krug Discusses Usability” by Peachpit TV

Krug’s chapter on usability testing is one of the main nuggets in the book. With easy instructions and guidance, he explains why testing is so crucial and how to do it at a relatively low cost. Since the book is over a decade old, some of the techniques described are outdated, but the crux of his advice is solid; he recommends doing usability testing even if it’s only with one user. Krug found that it’s never too early to test, but often, companies are testing too late. Test and test often is Krug’s enduring advice.

“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability” is full of knowledge and advice that has stood the test of time. It is valuable for anyone seeking a clear and concise presence on the web that will be simple for the audience to use and interact with.