By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

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A new look for Media Nation?

I’m trying a new WordPress theme. Thoughts? (Update: Yuck. Back to the old theme.) members and comments

If you are already a member and have logged in, you’ll find that submitting a comment is very simple. But if you are not using your full name in your WordPress profile, then I can’t approve it. (In the case of a few people who have submitted comments using their real names in the past, I’ve done it for you.)

Assuming you don’t mind using your full name (otherwise, why would you by trying to post something at Media Nation?), there’s a simple solution. Go to your WordPress settings and click on “Public Profile.” Now you can change your “Public Display Name” to your full name.

A new look (and more) for Media Nation

As you can see, Media Nation took on a very different appearance over the weekend. I hope you’ll find that it’s cleaner and more readable. I thought you might be interested in why I made the switch.

For the past several years I had parked Media Nation at DreamHost, using free WordPress software as my publication tool. It was a fairly complex set-up — I couldn’t even contemplate changing WordPress themes without bugging my friend Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub, who knew how to delve into the CSS code so that my Google ads would show up properly. And such simple tasks as changing the header photo were labor-intensive enough that I would generally decide I had better things to do with my time.

I already had a number of websites (mainly for my students) parked at, a free publishing-and-hosting platform offered by the same folks who provide the WordPress software. I’d helped my friends John Carroll and Marjorie Arons-Barron set up their blogs there. doesn’t allow advertising, but my Google ad income was fairly minimal, and I found that the ads tended to be low-quality distractions. So I decided to make the switch as soon as my annual DreamHost contract was up.

I almost gave up before I started — it turned out that Media Nation was far too large to transfer to via the normal route. I posted a query to a WordPress support forum. Someone at Automattic, the company that owns WordPress, took an interest and did it for me without charge. So huge props to them.

Now all of my websites are consolidated in one place. is slightly limited in comparison to using WordPress with a hosting service. But it’s also a lot easier, which means that, for my purposes, I’ll be able to do more experimenting.

I’m not crazy about the theme, Twenty Ten. It’s attractive, but it’s so commonly used that it’s lost its distinctiveness. If I can’t find something better, I might at least look into messing with the CSS to make the rather enormous body type a little smaller.

The header photo, by the way, is a picture I took at the Eurasian Media Forum in Almaty, Kazakhstan, in April 2009.

Marjorie Arons-Barron moves to WordPress

It’s Backscratching Day at Media Nation, so let’s get right down to it. First up: My friend Marjorie Arons-Barron has moved her blog from Blogspot to WordPress, and can now be found at I gave her a hand in making the transition, and her new site is much more attractive.

Arons-Barron is a longtime journalist and former editorial director of WCVB-TV (Channel 5). Please pay her site a visit.

WordPress and audio files

Media Nation is built with the endlessly customizable Yet I find that the more limited makes certain key tools more readily available.

A few days ago I posted an item about the New Haven Independent’s fifth-birthday party that included an audio clip of founder and editor Paul Bass. When you click, it takes you away from the post and to a blank page. Yucko.

In, there is a simple command that embeds an audio player on your page. For instance, take a look at the Sermons page of our church’s website, which I maintain using All it takes is a simple line of code that looks like this: . For URL, of course, you substitute the actual URL of the MP3 file.

I’m thinking that if I could just find the right plug-in, I’d have the same capability in Anyone know what it is?

Media Nation’s new mobile edition

This afternoon I added a WordPress plug-in that automatically displays a mobile edition of Media Nation when you visit the site with a smartphone. I’ve tried it on my BlackBerry and can report that it looks OK with the default browser (though the font is too big) and quite nice using Opera Mini.

I also figured out a way to tweak the comments template. You’ll now find a much wider and deeper comments box as well as some helpful introductory text.

Picture this

Back when Media Nation was hosted by, many commenters used icons — avatars — with their posts. That seems to have all but disappeared now that I’m using WordPress.

So I just want to point out that avatars are ridiculously simple with Gravatar. Just sign up, do it and your avatar will automatically appear.

It took me a while because I was using two different e-mail addresses. What’s your excuse?

Tweaking the comments feature

When I moved Media Nation from Blogger to WordPress in August, I quickly found that one feature actually got worse — posting comments became more difficult.

I just installed one feature you should find useful. Now, next to the “post” button, you’ll find a “preview” button, which will allow you to see what your comment will look like before you upload it.

This is especially useful if you’re entering hyperlink code by hand and want to make sure you’ve got it right — that is, if you’re typing:

<A HREF=””>Boston Phoenix</a>

Hit “preview” and you’ll see it as Boston Phoenix.

Archives now online

I’ve just finished bringing the Published Work page up to date. And, with that, I’m happy to say that the new Media Nation site has moved out of beta. I’ve still got some improvements in mind, and suggestions are always welcome.

Welcome to Media Nation’s new home

I ended up moving more quickly than I had intended. But as of today, this is the new permanent home of Media Nation. After four years on, I decided I wanted a better-looking blog with the greater functionality offered by WordPress. Over time, I plan to consolidate my various other Web presences here.

Thank you to everyone for your comments and advice on the new look and feel. I agree with those who say the photo — taken in the booth at WBZ-TV (Channel 4) while political analyst Jon Keller was interviewing U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch — is  distracting. No offense to Keller and Lynch; the fault is entirely the photographer’s. At some point I will come up with a better image.

Please adjust your bookmarks and your RSS subscriptions.

Many thanks to my former student John Guilfoil, the founder and editor of Blast Magazine, who helped me with the set-up process and is now assisting with tweaks to the design.

Tweaking away: What I know about CSS would not fill a tiny thimble. But I’ve managed to boost the body-type size by 5 percent and improve the contrast a bit.

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