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I'm an assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where I teach and research how news sites can better reach their audiences. I received my Ph.D. from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri where I was one of the founding editors of MyMissourian.com, a citizen journalism site for Columbia, Mo. Before graduate school, I worked as a community newspaper editor in Southern Utah and Southern California.

For Christmas, I can haz Laugh-Out-Loud Cats

I think I can safely republish the image above without offending the author because it’s mine. No, I didn’t draw it. But I can gleefully say the artist, Adam Koford, drew it expressly for me.

If you’re lost, let me explain. My office at Ohio looks downright bare compared to other faculty members. I claim its Spartan or that I’m the Internet guy, I don’t need books and papers, but frankly, it’s starting to bother me. So I’ve been looking for things to hang that express who I am and what I’m trying to do as a professor. For example, I’m trying to find my copy of Generation X, the first comic book to publish online (This is NOT listed on the comic’s Wikipedia entry, but I’m certain of it. I carried around a floppy with the entire comic on it for years). I’m searching for some old pieces of technology in honor of my friend and mentor, Clyde Bentley, how had an old Trash 80 strung up on chicken wire in his office. And I’ve got to have a LOL Cats poster.

I love to share the story of ICanHazCheeseburger with my students. It’s a site run by a journalist (well, at least Ben Huh has a journalism degree) that gets more hits than almost any other site (it’s consistently listed in the Top 10 most visited blogs on Technorati) and it has nothing but pictures of kitties and bad grammar and spelling. What’s not to love? As far as I can tell, you can’t buy a LOL Cats poster anywhere, but then again, I haven’t really looked. (If I had, I would have found tons of them on Cafe Press) and a cat poster really isn’t my thing.

Instead I found something better thanks to my sister in law and her husband. Her blog links to Hobotopia, the blog of Adam Koford, her husband’s brother. I started clicking on the link when I was bored, and I’ll admit, at first, I didn’t get it. I understood the LOL speak, but why make the cats hobos? I thought. However, the more I read the more I started to understand how Koford’s Laugh-Out-Loud Cats are an artifact in this new world we call the Internet. First, he has built his following, which he’s turned into a published collection with a foreward by John Hodgman, the I’m-a-PC guy. I first saw his book as one of the staff recommendations at a little bookstore across from Harvard University last summer. I’m kicking myself that I didn’t have my camera¬† with me.

I think Koford’s creation is perfect for my office and this blog because I think he’s embraced what I’m trying to talk about. He understands the Internet and how people use it, and he’s successfully adapted to to an old medium, pencil and ink cartoons. Every time I look at my comic I’m going to think there might be hope for newspapers. Thanks Adam, and thanks Merilee for knowing this would be a perfect Christmas gift.

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