Thursday, April 19, 2007

"How do you feel?"

As a budding journalist, I've often found it hard to ask people questions I know they don't want to hear. My skin has become a bit thicker, though, and I've found that it is my duty and it is for the greatest good that sometimes I make people squirm. Asking the correct questions of the correct people, though, is something that isn't always an easy thing to do.

Such has been the case in the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. Poynter Online's Kelly McBride raised some interesting questions about the media's behavior. As McBride stated, it was the correct thing to do to grill the university president and the administration and to ask questions of the police and other experts.
"But asking every student on campus and every John Doe on the street his or her opinion on whether the school should have been locked down is not watchdog journalism. It’s seeding doubt without evidence. It’s planting distrust in the authorities without any indication of malfeasance. It’s answering the question by asking it."

I completely agree with McBride in this critique. Asking questions of the students and parents that had just experienced a horrific event is not in the public's best interest. They could have just as well asked "How do you feel?" As if the journalist, and the public, don't already know the answer.

Asking the right questions of the right people may not always be an easy thing to do. In the case of the Virginia Tech massacre, I think some thought should be put into the types of questions that should be asked as well as who should be asked in horrific occurrences. The media need to serve as a watchdog, but also need to think of the greater good. "How do you feel?" just doesn't cut it for me.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Google Earth--Darfur Style

Google Earth is a pretty amazing device. At a few clicks of the mouse, you can see your childhood home, your elementary school or any place across the world. In my case, I recently viewed the hotels that I'll be staying in in Lyon, Paris, Florence and Nice. It's a really neat tool that has now expanded into a new mapping device showing the devastating effects of the Darfur crisis.
"The collaboration is an effort to raise awareness about the three-year-old conflict that has killed more than 200,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million people by giving ordinary people access to images generally available only to spies, diplomats, and heads of state. Nobody questions whether Google Earth's new service is – in the specialized terminology of the Web – "cool." The question is: Will it will make a difference? "

When I first read that Google was offering images of the devastation, I was appalled. It's one thing to get an image of the Eiffel Tower, and quite another to search for an image of a starving family. But then I realized that all of the good that could come from people actually seeing what was, and still is occuring in what may seem to be a country a world away.
"But how up-to-date are the images? They are not in real time. Google Earth's images are photographs 'taken by satellites and aircraft sometime in the last three years' and 'updated on a rolling basis,' according to Google's website. The Holocaust Museum's website says the satellite imagery of Darfur and Chad was taken between 2003 through 2006."
This may be a bit of an ethical issue in that what is seen in the images may not be current. A journalist wouldn't write a story and use a photo from three years ago. I tried to Google Earth my house the other day and because it is new, it wasn't there. The fun of Google Earth was taken away from me!

I do applaud Google for emphasizing the importance of what is occurring in Sudan, yet, if false information and photos are being portrayed as truth, their efforts may in fact be quite negative. The truth, in all situations, should be the highest standard.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Ignorance is bliss

A disturbing report was recently released at an international conference on global warming. Although global warming is considered to be "pesky" at this point, the report claims that poor countries, especially, will be hit with death, destruction and extinction of entire species. Only 23 pages of the 1,572-page document have been released at this point, but one can only imagine that there's more bad news to come.
"Poor countries argue that they will suffer due to global warming caused by greenhouse gasses produced in the rich industrial world. At the same time, they're being told not to produce more greenhouse gasses of their own as they try to industrialize their way out of poverty, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips."

It seems to be a lose-lose situation for the third-world countries. But how, you ask, is the reporting of such news an ethical issue? Thank goodness fewer and fewer care about what's happening in the world and don't read the news, because I know that my mouth dropped as I read what was to come.

Although this may sound far-fetched, the report that the scientists came up with may not be truth as to what is to come, and the catastrophic predictions could cause a massive scare--circa Y2K anyone?
"'Don't be poor in a hot country, don't live in hurricane alley, watch out about being on the coasts or in the Arctic, and it's a bad idea to be on high mountains with glaciers melting,' said Stanford University scientist Stephen Schneider, an author of the study. Africa by 2020 is looking at an additional 75 to 250 million people going thirsty because of climate change, and deadly diarrhea diseases 'primarily associated with floods and droughts are expected to rise' in Asia because of global warming, the report said."
What a life to look forward to! Rather than living oblivious to the truth, I do believe that the media is doing in its job informing the public, even if it as report based on predictions for the future. According to Aristotle's pursuit of eudaimonia, one may not necessarily want to know such predicitions, but Mill would argue there could be an element of truth within such predictions. Personally, I would rather know than live a life full of blissful ignorance.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I may have fibbed...

As I have been examining everyone else's ethical practices, I thought it was about time that I take a look at my own. As was pointed out the other night by a friend, I may not be as ethical as I'd like to think.

As a freelance journalist in Des Moines, I write quite a few articles a month, mostly critiquing area restaurants and bars. My editor gives me an assignment, tells me what I need to find out and where to go. The list of questions is usually quite long and it's hard to find the information without asking the waiter or waitress.

So, the other night while on assignment, I may have fibbed a bit about my profession and why I was asking all of the questions I was. I can't let employees of the resturant find out who I am or I will be treated differently because I'm writing a review, but it's not necessarily ethical to lie about my questions either.

I suppose that I follow Kant's rule of dismissing the consequences and focus on my intentions--to get the information I need without "blowing my cover." So, although I may not appear to be "ethical" by some standards by lying, I have good intentions and am getting the job done.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Love on the line

New problems have begun to arise as of late in the newsroom. This new problem has nothing to do with declining readership, the continuing focus on profit or the new entertainment as news lifestyle. Rather, the new problem involves the concept of "love" in the newsroom and the ethical dilemmas that surround it.

Kelly McBride of PoynterOnline described a recent problem that had arisen at The Los Angeles Times because of romance in the newsroom. Here's the recap:
"LA Times editorial page editor Andrés Martinez is dating publicist Kelly Mullens who works for Allan Mayer who represents Hollywood producer Brian Grazer. Martinez invited Grazer to guest edit this weekend’s Current, the Times' Sunday commentary section. Many worry that Grazer's selection as guest editor had more to do with Martinez' romance than his ability."

I was always told that it's not what you know, but who you know. Such is the case in this situation, or so it appears. It seems to me, and many others, that the only reason Grazer was chosen to be the guest editor was because of his connections to Martinez's love interest. Such an idea could be applied to Kant's idea of duty. All of the reporters' duties are the same--to protect the public's best interest. Martinez did not maintain his duty to the people.

The reporters of news are supposed to remain objective putting the public first in the quest for truth. When matters of the heart get involved, one must conciously maintain a boundary between the head and the heart. Martinez, in my opinion, did not use his head.

Maybe McBride is correct in saying that journalists should take a vow of celibacy. Well, not really, but you get the point.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Confidential Sources? Sorry, that's confidential...

The media is currently all abuzz about the recent conviction of Scooter Libby. The trial's outcome does have consequences for more than just Libby, though. In Hope Yen's Associated Press article Libby Trial Prompts Scruitiny on Media, she points out the chilling effects of the disregard of the journalists' privilege in this case and talks about the future of journalists and their sources.

As the article states, over a dozen of Washington's best-known journalists took the stand in the prosecution of Libby, many unwillingly by court order, testifying about "confidential" conversations. This is nothing new in the federal courts, but the idea of confidential sources may come to an end of such occurrences become the norm. Yen goes as far as to say the use of disposable phones and the like may be steps that need to be taken to protect such sources.
"'There are limits' Jane Kirtley, a media ethics professor at the University of Minnesota, said. 'Reporters should have flexibility to negotiate deals with sources regarding 'background' and 'off-the-record' discussions - or risk not getting information at all.'"

The ethical system of duty could easily be applied to this situation. It is a reporters' duty to the public to inform them. The press has a responsibility to the citizens of this country and using whatever means possible must supply them with the truth. If the truth comes in the form of a confidential source, so be it. The reporter then also has the obligation to keep promises of confidentiality, as such--confidential.

In her article, Yen suggests a federal shield law to deter the problem that the court ordered testimonies are creating. In my opinion, if we're going to be maintaining a free and impartial press, I don't think there's any other way to solve it.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Covering a downfall--what's ethical?

It would be obvious to anyone that reads my blogs that PoynterOnline has become a favorite perusal spot of mine. Looking through some of the old archives, I came across a really interesting story about the ethical problems involved in covering the downfall of evangelical ministers.

The article specifically covers the downfall of evangelical minister Pastor Ted Haggard of the New Life Church in Colorado. Bob Steele, of PoynterOnline, conducted an interview with Tim Ryan, the executive news producer of the station covering the unfolding drama. Ryan described the difficulty in deciding whether or not to cover such allegations.

"It's not the kind of story that you can typically just report in the form of 'here's an allegation, here's the response.' The allegations are explosive, the political and religious implications are enormous, and it's the type of story that can threaten our news organization and our careers."
Other issues were also thought about before running such a type of story.

"We never used any graphic descriptions of the claims of what went on between Jones [the man making allegations] and Haggard. We had heard some of the details before but decided by saying 'homosexual sex acts' and 'drug use' we had covered the topic as tastefully as possible and with as much details as needed."
Many ethical issues and standards are involved in the coverage of such a story. This is obviously a story that the public needs to know about. Using the theories of John Locke, when a person in rule becomes tyrannical or corrupt, the public has the right and duty to overthrow. The press, in this case, helped this cause, making the corruption known and forcing the minister out of his position of power.

Unlike Kant, too, Tim Ryan had to think about the consequences of making such knowledge public. Using the idea of utility and thinking of the greatest good for the greatest amount of people, Tim Ryan did believe that making the information public knowledge was in the public's best interest.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Learning Process in Journalism

I was troubled recently by an article I read on PoynterOnline about student journalists. In article titled Student Journalism: Bad Work Undercuts First Amendment, Bob Steele writes about the recent problems in the college journalism industry. As a student of journalism myself, I took this article particularly to heart. Are journalists, particularly student journalists, really abusing the power of the press?

Steele specifically cites two recent incidents involving a faux pas or two by college newspapers. The Princeton University newspaper, The Daily Princetonian, recently came under fire after publishing a joke issue, which Steele describes as "always a bad idea." The other issue, which many of my fellow classmates blogged about, was The Central Connecticut State University satire written titled Rape Only Hurts If You Fight It.
"Student journalists at the high school and college level have a unusual opportunity to learn the craft of journalism and to give members of their school communities meaningful information about relevant issues and events. Given that these are student journalists, the quality of the work may fall short of professional standards."

As an aspiring journalist, I can only hope that Steele wouldn't think of my work in this way. I recently wrote a column for The Simpsonian about my feelings about a rule that will be put into effect at Simpson. I try to use the rule of utility in all that I do, as I think many journalists do. Steele describes his own frustration with student journalits.
"It angers me when I see student journalists throw ethics to the wind and use journalism irresponsibly."

As students, I know that we all are learning. Maybe the articles written were just steps in the learning process, but it's still sad to learn of the pain and anguish they have caused. My own column may have been a little scathing, but I sure hope it didn't cause anyone any pain!

Friday, February 16, 2007

I am the first caucasian

I was troubled by a recent article I read on PoynterOnline. John Mills of KMOV-TV in St. Louis was actually the one to raise the issue of using the term "black" as a noun. The Associated Press in Washington in a national newspapers piece described Barack Obama as "the first black." Not only did I find the use of the term in this way as offensive, I found it to be both unethical and racist.
"Using color as a noun reduces the person to a species, and an imprecise one at that, particularly where Obama is concerned. He's bi-racial and, thus, more than a 'black.' But the larger issue for me is that it's an act of dehumanizing the person, summoning up their essence by rendering them an inanimate color."

I'm currently in a "Gender, Race and Class in the Media" course at school and have become more concientous about the way that media portrays certain things. Recent headlines have especially bothered me. "Forty-six Mexicans killed in accident" and "Cheney's gay daughter pregnant" are not an ethical way to say things. I have a hard time believing that the same headlines would read "Forty-six caucasians killed in accident" or "Cheney's heterosexual daughter pregnant." The same idea applies to Barack Obama-- would I be "the first caucasian?"

I know that we do not live in a perfect world, but one needs to think of virtue. The right thing to do would be to treat others as you would like to be treated. If we continue to base our lives on the color of anothers' skin, we can never live a virtuous life.

Barack Obama may be biracial, but he is a person just like all of the rest of the United States citizens. Nobody should be strictly defined by the color of their skin or their culture, and if we cannot even figure this out in a headline for a newspaper, our society has further to go than I thought.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Here we go again!

I think I'm beginning to sound like a broken record, but it's becoming so easy for me to find stories about the ethical issues in the news industry. Most recently, I came across an article from FreelanceUK about the BBC and their ethical dilemma in promoting Microsoft Vista. Of course at this point, there isn't "proof" that the BBC was in fact talking the product up, but it sounds like investigations will be coming.

"John Beyer, director at Mediawatch UK, has called on the corporation’s trust to investigate.'This is something that the trustees really have to be transparent about. It did occur to me that the BBC in its coverage of the launch of Vista seemed to be promoting it.'”

So what! Big deal? It is a big deal! I've said it before and I'll say it again. Journalism and the media have a direct responsibility to the public--to deliver unbiased views and news one needs to know. It seems to be the same old story again and again. The big companies make deals with one another to make more money. It's just wrong.

The BBC argued that the launch of Microsoft Vista was news.
"As a result of the technology’s dominance, he argued it would be ‘bizarre’ not to have covered the launch of the latest OS, and the BBC has highlighted the product’s perceived flaws."

Yeah...right. Anyone smell bologna? (I really thought of a more profane word instead of bologna, but thought the use of such terms would be inappropriate.)

Using my love for utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest amount of people would be for the journalists to report on important occurrences in the recent past. After all, is not that the responsibility of journalists? I don't think anybody cares to see the commercials during the news.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"Man Down"--Our right to know

In a recent PoynterOnline column, Bob Steele gave his opinion about the recent scrutiny The New York Times has experienced. New York Times reporter Damien Cave recently wrote a story, "Man Down," about a soldier in Iraq who was killed in action. The story ran with a picture of the wounded soldier being carried out of a building.

So why is this such a big deal? Many believe that Cave violated the law about pictures and stories about soldiers dying in Iraq. Although viewing and reading about such deaths may be bad for the country's morale, I think it's something that is our right to see. If the public doesn't see the deaths, in my opinion, it is as if they don't occur.
"[The story] took us to the heart of a military conflict that, no matter what your politics or your views on the war in Iraq, should be of great concern to everyone."

I suppose I'm becoming a bit of a utilitarian. The greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people just seems to be the best option to me, and in this case, the media is doing exactly as it should--showing the public what they have a right to see.
"Especially in a story like this, it's not always possible to avoid doing some harm. The challenge is to minimize the harm, and I believe the Times accomplished that in this case."

I agree 100 percent with Bob Steele. The New York Times was doing its best to serve the public which is their job. In a world where too often things are hidden and sugarcoated, it is nice to finally hear the truth.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Careful what you say

I recently read a news article about the controversy surrounding "Grey's Anatomy" star, Isaiah Washington. Washington apparently had uttered a word that wasn't something he should have said, and apologized for it, yet the paper had not reported what he had said. How am I supposed to learn from his mistakes if I don't know what he said?

PoynterOnline reporter Aly Colon took on this issue of whether or not one should report offensive speech. She sites three elements in which one should consider before printing or reporting the offensive speech: your journalistic purpose, your audience and the clarity that comes from using the word.

I took from this argument that one must do what would result in the greatest good for the greatest amount of people, or the idea of utilitarianism.
"The word seems pretty central to any discussion about whether and when to use it. But what about journalists serving more general interest audiences? Words matter."

In this case, I do believe that Washington's use of the word, which happened to be the term "faggot," should have been included in the story. I do believe that summarizing that what Washington was wrong was beneficial, but that there would be purpose, the audience would be correct, and that there would be a great deal of clarity if the word was printed.

I do believe in this case, that the greatest good for the greatest amount of people would be to know what Washington said. This way, the public would know that the use of such terms is unacceptable and that even a star can't get away with such ignorant speech.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sorry, no can do

Browsing through PoynterOnline the other day, I came across a transcript from "On the Media" titled "What's the best story you know but can't write about?" I began to ponder this question before I even read the article, and began raising questions of my own. How many stories out there do the public not know because journalists "can't" write about them?

I won't lie, I've felt the pressure even at a little liberal arts college. I was given a few controversial stories in which I could have made some professors and faculty very angry. I covered the stories, but maybe not as well as I should have because I was afraid of the consequences. Who wants to experience flack for what they write?

I can only imagine the pressure real journalists experience everyday. They have big time editors and the government to deal with. They have to worry about being arrested for what they write! Sadly, this problem is one that can, and most likely does, have very dire consequences.
"I think that reporters should be asked routinely, what is the best story you know about that you can't write, and tell me why you're not writing it. I think reporters should be encouraged to talk about the conflict they have in dealing with their sources and the kinds of accommodations they're making," Edward Wasserman states.

As I stated in a previous blog, the press and the media have a direct responsibility to the public. When the press is making "accomodations" in their writing and, in esscence, not letting the public know the truth in any situation, they're not doing their job of being the watchdog for society. Reporters and the media should have free reign, for the most part, to report on the workings of the government. The press can't do their job when they can't report what they want. Something really needs to change!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Front Page Adline

It seems as though these days one can't go anywhere without seeing an advertisement for something. Most companies depend on advertisements in order to function, including the newspaper business. Increasingly, though, these ads have begun to show up on the front page. Bob Steele of Poynter Online described the quest for profit in newspapers as risky business when the ads have hit the front page.
"Journalism has a very special responsibility in our society. The journalism -- both in process and product -- should be protected from out-of-proportion commercial interests. If we are to keep moving toward more advertising content that competes with the premium news space, we must make sure the journalism does not suffer."
I understand that newspapers are receiving more and more pressure to increase profit margins, but the overall function on the newspaper should not suffer. The front page is meant for the most important news, not for the company that's willing to shell out the most money.
"Simply put, a news organization won't have a strong journalism product unless the business side is healthy."
I recognize that profit is an essential part of any business, but the newspapers' focus should be on their responsibility to the public, not necessarily the shareholders. I'm getting sick of seeing the front page advertisements taking the space where the headlines about Darfur should be.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Another merger...

It's not unlikely to hear about companies changing hands these days. The Mom and Pop businesses are quickly becoming an idea of the past, as owners sellout and corporations buyout. USA Today reported that AT&T will soon be launching its rebranding campaign, as Cingular is a new addition to the conglomerate. The companies have changed names and hands so many times, though, that I can't even keep track.
"Today's AT&T was known as SBC Communications until late 2005, when that regional Bell company acquired its former parent, the AT&T Corp. long-distance business. Several years before that deal, the AT&T long-distance company spun off its cellphone business, AT&T Wireless, as an independent concern. Then, in late 2004, AT&T Wireless was acquired by Cingular, which had no real desire or legal right to adopt a brand still owned by the AT&T long-distance business."

I know that big conglomerate corporations can deliver lower prices for the consumer, but I can't help but feel sorry for the "little guys" trying to make it in the business world. In the media world, there doesn't appear to be many "little guys" left. They can't even compete. Whether it be book publishers, newspapers or cell phone companies, the big dudes rule.

It's not a secret what drives all these mergers. I just hate that money seems to determine so much. Can an ethical decision be based upon the attainment of wealth? In a world where, as the Associated Press calls it, "a confusing dance of brand names" is the norm, I hope that the corporate gurus can think of more than their own pocketbooks.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Eating what the media feeds us

As I was perusing some differeng blogs on the web, I came across "informeddissent" blogging about the media's role in the war in Iraq. Here I go again, blogging about the positives of the American culture. With the recent label of civil war, I have to wonder how truthfully events are being portrayed. Although I take "informeddissent's" assertions with a grain of salt because I have no idea who this person is, I feel that some very good, as well as interesting, arguments were made.

"Instead of authoritative media information about aluminum tubes and mobile weapons labs, we’re now getting authoritative media illumination of why a swift pullout of U.S. troops isn’t realistic or desirable. The result is similar to what was happening four years ago — a huge betrayal of journalistic responsibility."

I find this argument on the whole to be true. Viewers were fed the "weapons of mass destruction" line over and over again. Now that nothing was found, that's something that is no longer mentioned. Now viewers are being bombarded with, "stay the course" and " Get Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say.”

"And so it goes — with U.S. media obsessively focused on such concerns as 'American military and political leverage,' 'American fortunes' and whether 'the United States can gain new traction in Iraq.' With that kind of worldview, no wonder so much news coverage is serving nationalism instead of journalism."

Are the media truly serving the government and themselves? Are we really getting the true story? Maybe we should all look past the bombardment of propaganda and think for ourselves--for the sanity of America.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Oh the Sexism...

In a recent communications class, the question was posed to the women: Can you be anything you want to be? There was some chatter, and then I responded, "I don't think that I can be president." Besides not meeting the age requirement, I think it may be a long road until I, or any woman for that matter, will become president. I'm really pulling for Hillary Rodham Clinton in the upcoming election, but I suppose we'll see what happens.

Curiously, though, Susan Estrich of claims that the First Whiffs of Sexismin in Hillary's Presidential Coverage are already upon us. I know that there will be talk and media coverage about Mrs. Clinton, but Estrich makes a valid point in the buzz she has already generated.
"Dick Morris criticizes her for the 'coy pretense of indecision' that he says characterized her attitude towards the presidency until she won her Senate seat. Who is kidding whom? Was Dick fooled? Was anyone in New York confused? Since when does putting first things first, dealing with challenges in an orderly fashion, constitute a 'coy pretense of indecision?' Did anyone accuse George W. Bush of a 'coy pretense of indecision' when he ran for re-election as governor of Texas – and then ran for president?"

Point taken! And really, when was the last time that you heard a male referred to as 'coy'? I'd say that the word has a pretty feminine connotation. But wait, it just gets worse.
"Dick Morris said to Fox’s John Gibson that Hillary would insist on being called President Rodham if/when she is elected president. How does he know? He hasn’t spoken to either Clinton in years, other than a handshake with the former president in a hotel lobby. Yet there he is, pontificating as to how she will insist on being addressed as president. And on television no less, taken seriously, as if he knows. But then, when it comes to Hillary, hysteria reigns, and the facts don’t matter."

Sounds to me as though Mr. Morris may be a little intimidated by Mrs. Clinton, or Mrs. Rodham for that matter. In all honesty, why would it matter? Just because a woman keeps her last name, or hyphenates it for that matter, doesn't mean that she's a bra-burning liberal feminist. Mr. Morris could use a little reality check.
"You don’t have to like Hillary to hate sexism. You don’t have to sympathize with Hillary to take issue with how she is treated. It will be a long road to November 2008. And don’t expect anyone to be coy when it comes to Hillary. Our reactions may, in the end, count for as much as anything she does. Interesting times, these."

I can't wait to see what's said when or if she actually enters the race. It will be an interesting road ahead, that's for sure.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Amputated Wall Street Journal

I decided to let's Jack Shafer help me make sense of of the Wall Street Journal's redesigned paper. As of January 2, the newspaper will lose three inches in width. I suppose I'm just too trusting and believed that the decision to "go small" was for my own convenience, as the publisher claimed. I guess I was blinded by the idea that it would be new and improved. Mr. Shafer brought to my attention, though, that the three inch width loss will save quite a bit of money. Afterall, a mere 10 percent of the paper will be axed.

I suppose I should have seen through the "I fly First Class, but when I'm reading the Journal now I knock over my neighbor's orange juice. That won't happen anymore," story. Pretty lame. I know I've had that problem. I do, in fact, read the Wall Street Journal in the afternoons at work. I can't say I've ever had a problem with the size.

Personally, I think the three inch loss is pretty aggravating. That just means less space for the stories that should be reported.
"The rejigged Journal will also brim with summaries of all sorts. The paper plans to digest news from other news sources in one column, summarize 'the key news by industry and news topic' in another, and even condense the paper's long features to 'draw out the key meaning.'"

Sounds great, doesn't it?

I really liked how Slate allowwed readers to make up new slogans for the Wall Street Journal. Mike O'Connell's seemed to fit particularly well.

all Street
ig things
ome in s

Maybe this alteration will be a change for the better, but the only benefits I can see at this time will be in the Wall Street Journal's pocketbook.

Monday, December 04, 2006

"All My Transgender Children"

Hot off the presses!, in a recent commentary, claimed that All my Children, the 37-year-old soap opera, will be the first to feature a transgender character in their show. I say good for them. It takes some guts to go against the norm, especially for the audience that they serve. In a world where the minority it too often under-represented and mis-represented, I applaud ABC's step out of the box.
"Jeffrey Carlson, whose looks are handsomely androgynous in the way of a Hunky Dory-era David Bowie, plays the transgender character, whose name is Zarf and who has achieved success as a rock star, despite having the stage name Zarf."

Did I mention that I love I digress...I am excited, though, to see some representation for the horribly misrepresented group of people. I have to say that I am a bit nervous that the portrayal will be on a soap opera. I mean, really, how realistic are soap operas? I can't even stand to watch them! I guess that means I won't be seeing the show, but I wish the endeavor the best.
"Agnes Nixon, the storied creator of All My Children, has long been devoted to exploring "controversial" social issues in the most sophisticated way that her art form allows."

Way to go Ms. Nixon, for not being able to address issues that most Americans, or media, don't want anything to do with.

Journalism Ethics a Laughable Matter at Columbia

It doesn't get much more ironic than cheating on a journalism ethics exam. That's just what supposedly happened at Columbia University. In a recent article by Robin Shulman on the, both students and the school responded to the possible cheating fiasco.
"'It's going to affect us for years to come,' said Jack Gillum, 23. 'Columbia's going to have this badge of dishonor. If people did cheat, it makes me really angry,' he added, noting that he pays much of his $43,422 yearly tuition and fees by himself and does not want his degree to be devalued."

I can understand this student's frustration, but I can't help but wonder if this was all a rumor or joke blown out of proportion. It's wouldn't be a very funny one; an ironic one, but not funny. But really, I'm curious to see if the allegations of cheating will be substantiated. It's really too bad for all the students that do shell out the money, though, and to have bear the brunt of the bad publicity in their degrees.

The students were given an extra take-home question to adjust for any unfairness. The new essay topic, ironically, "involves a report of cheating by an unnamed individual, followed by rumors and uncertainty."

Some students say this has been a real learning experience for them, learning more these past few days than they did in class. I'm sure it has! If you're going to stupid enough to cheat, don't get caught!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In-text advertising...what?

I've noticed that I don't tend to blog on very positive things. I suppose I'll keep with tradition and blog about a recent article on the Wall Street Journal Online. "Is It News...or Is It an Ad?" caught my attention immediately. I write press release articles for a few companies in town, and know how much fun it is to try to get them published. I assumed that's probably what the article was about.

I was wrong. New "in-text" advertising is a new addition to many news websites. The ads used to be limited to small niche gaming sites, but more mainstream sites are now featuring the trend including Fox News, Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Popular Mechanics magazine.
"Journalism ethics counselors decry the trend. 'It's ethically problematic at the least and potentially quite corrosive of journalistic quality and credibility,' says Bob Steele, the senior ethics faculty member at the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Fla."
I am appalled by this new trend. It's another way for the newspapers to compensate for dwindling profit margins, but putting ads within the text of an article, to me, is despicable. I have problem enough with the pop-ups and flashing ads on the sides of the articles already.
"The brokers say the ads aren't intrusive because users see them only if they move their cursors directly over the highlighted words."
Yeah...right. Too often my mouse scans over an ad and I am bombarded with a movie trailer I don't want to see or a "throw the ball at the target and win" game. The last place I wanted this to happen was when I was trying to read the paper. I suppose I'll just have to stick to the print version.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Woman's Christmas Chores

As the Christmas season descends upon us, I can't help but think of the way media portray women's responsibilities throughout the season. It seems that everywhere I turn there are frilly decorations for the home, Christmas cards to be sent, and cookie recipes galore. Christmas is a stressful time for everyone, but I'm just beginning to get a taste of the pressure placed on women to perform their "duties" during the holiday season.

I come from a divorced home, so I inevitably take on a motherly role when I am with my Dad. Cleaning the house, cooking the meals, and keeping everyone happy is on my to do list. This responsibility has been pushed to the forefront, though, with the holiday season. Christmas with the family will be at my Dad's house, and although I know it isn't necessarily my responsibility, I am feeling the pressure to keep the house clean and prepare for the holiday.

Not only did I respond to this pressure by giving the house a thorough scrub down, but I baked 10 dozen cookies this past weekend. Sadly, I did not get the decorations put up, but I have my plan ready to execute.

I learned this weekend that there is more to Christmas than sitting around the Christmas tree and opening up the presents. I'm no longer a little kid that's satisfied with $10 Barbie. I'm 21 years old now-no longer a child. I suppose I got my own little taste of what it's like to play the adult feminine role at Christmas.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A meeting with the Iowa State Patrol

On my long four hour trek home with my brothers, we stopped to eat at a local Taco Johns in Cherokee, Iowa. As we were eating, I looked up to see three members of the Iowa State Patrol walk into the door, followed by two other women. As the state troopers talked with the women, I couldn't help but chuckle at the flirtation that I thought was taking place. The state troopers received their food and the women followed with their food as well. To my surprise, the women were wearing state patrol uniforms as well.

My brothers and I had all made the assumption that the women were in pursuit of the "men in uniform". I couldn't help but be upset with my false conclusion. We had just talked in class about the ideologies and discourses of gender. I had immediately bought into the idea that the women that had walked in the restaurant couldn't possibly be officers, but rather women seeking a male.

I consider myself a strong, independent woman, that doesn't need a male to validate my worth. I apologize to the women that I made false assumptions about. I was too easily swayed by our cultural portrayals of what feminity and masculinity should be. I hope I learned my lesson this time around.

Monday, November 20, 2006


A recent article by Ameet Sachdev on brought to the forefront a new practice by many lawyers: "blawgging". In the article titled Blogging Lawyers: The Ethics Debate, Sachdev highlights what different states are doing to tackle ethical issues brought about by the journaling lawyers. Many believe that the blogs are being used as free advertising. A large can of worms may have just been opened in the blogging world.
"'If I blog and I talk about the law, why should that be treated any differently from a lawyer who goes to a senior center and gives a free talk about elder care?' said Marty Schwimmer, a lawyer who writes a blog about trademark and copyright law."

Many states are beginning to try to regulate what is posted on the lawyers' blogs, bringing about concerns of freedom of speech and professional ethical conduct. It seems to me that regulation of online content is becoming a large problem. I do agree that there should be some restrictions online, but I think that regulating anyone's blog is a direct infringement on a person's rights.
"The New York state's office of court administration has proposed some requirements that may pose a burden to lawyer bloggers. One amendment would require attorneys to provide copies of all ads. The definition of advertisements would include Web sites, e-mails, blogs and speeches."

I am ok with some online regulation, but to me, a blog is a personal journal. Bloggers don't have a whole lot of control over who reads their blog, unless they want to. If lawyers can get some free "advertising" out of the deal, more power to them. If regulations are going to be put into effect, they will need to be very specific and much less broad than what New York is proposing. It's not as if the blogs are being shoved in people's faces--many go out looking for them.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Don't like a story? Just steal all the newspapers...

With the plethora of good news in the media world, I decided to try and find something more uplifting to blog about. I had no such luck, but I did find something quite interesting. A link on Romenesko lead to a story about The Univesity of Kentucky newspaper and a recent controversial article they ran in their newspaper, The Kentucky Kernel. Over 4,500 copies of the paper were stolen, likely because of the content of one of the stories.

The story in question is about a two students and an alumna who had died earlier this year in two separate incidents. The toxicology reports on the late students stated that they were legally drunk at the time of their death.
"'A lot of people have different opinions about how drinking is dangerous for students," Poore said.' I don't think there should be any argument about why that information should be out there for everybody to discuss. 'These are the kinds of issues that student papers need to cover if they're going to be vital to the campus community.'"
I've written a few controversial stories for our student newspaper, The Simpsonian, but nothing to this caliber. I do think that the families would have wanted the stories to be known, though, to possibly prevent another tragedy from becoming reality.

I congratulate Megan Boehnke, the writer of the story as well as editor in chief of the Kentucky Kernel, for standing her ground and running the story even after receiving numerous calls and emails. I do think it is sad that someone, or more likely some people, stole the newspapers. I hope those responsible are caught and are charged with the felony that they committed.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Borat was a Bummer

I went and saw Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan this weekend with my family, and can't say that I was impressed. We had talked in class about documentaries and about how in filming the producers may, in fact, take advantage of those being filmed. This is something I believe to be very true in the mockumentary.

Don't get me wrong, I did laugh many times throughout the movie. I found it quite humorous when Borat tried to hug and kiss the New Yorkers. I laughed as Borat showed the ignorance of many of the attendees of the rodeo. I did not laugh as he and his friend fought naked. I found it disturbing and sad, though, as the people of Kazakhstan were filmed, as I'm sure they had no idea what was going on.

I felt very sorry for many of the people being taken advantage of. Many, if not all of those filmed believed that Borat was a true person--not an actor. Sadly, I was one of them, until I was told otherwise in class. Maybe I'm too empathetic to those that were duped, but people lost their jobs because of a man pretending to be Borat.

I guess just felt sorry for the man he called "retard" and woman he basically said was ugly, as well as the many others he offended. Those he did offend were polite because they thought he didn't know any better. I just don't feel that people should be blatantly and unknowingly mocked on film without knowing it, for my personal entertainment. Although there were points in which I laughed, such as the buying of a bear, I was appalled at many of the things Borat said and did for a few laughs.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Reality TV is 'Dumb'

I can't say that I've always loved reality television. I was among the many that were obsessed with the first season of Survivor and I have to say I enjoy watching Nanny 911 as I'm a nanny myself. Now and again I'll watch Laguna Beach, but does watching this genre of television really contributing to the dumbing down of the American culture?

Our fascination with reality television, I believe, is rooted in the idea that we can escape from our own monotony and can identify with someone else. Lets root for Sally on Deal or No Deal, dream of being Brenda on The Bachelor, or dream of having an all expense paid makeover on Extreme Makeover.

I do believe, in some sense, that viewing these shows does dumb down our culture . Reality television is by no means the Discovery channel, and serves no other purpose than to entertain. I may learn how to better handle the children I nanny for on Nanny 911, but I watch the show in order to laugh at the parents that can't control their children.

I know that there are better things I could be doing with my time than watching 16-year-old girls spending ungodly amounts of money and backstabbing eachother or people competing to win immunity for the week. I justify my viewing of the program as my guilty pleasure. I may not learn anything of any value, unless you count knowing the latest fads, but sometimes we all need an escape. I'll take that escape, even if it is through Tessa on Laguna Beach or Candice on Survivor.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Tribune Company to change hands?

More news regarding the Los Angeles Times, but this time it's not about reinvention through the Manhattan project or the controversy surrounding editors. Two Los Angeles billionaires, businessman Eli Broad and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, have joined up to submit a bid for the Tribune Company. According to CBS Breaking news, the two would like to return The Los Angeles Times to local ownership.

Nobody was willing to talk about the money aspect of the deal, but I can only imagine the zeros involved.

"Tribune's holdings include 11 daily newspapers, 25 TV stations, the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and Internet ventures as well as sizable stakes in the Food Network and the online classified advertising venture CareerBuilder."
The Associated Press reported that theTribune Company expected multiple bids for the Los Angeles Times, but was surprised by a bid for the entire company.

I am excited that the billionaire businessmen are thinking about giving the The Los Angeles Times local ownership--it may be just what they need. I've been following the ups and downs of the Los Angeles Times for the past few months, and think that the exchange of hands could be good for the paper. As far as what the businessmen plan to do with the rest of the company--I have a feeling that intentions are completely focused on money.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Inevitability of Saw III

I bought into the hype this week and attended Saw III Halloween night. The movie grossed $34.4 million it's opening weekend, so it had to be good, right? The useless murder and gore proved to be too much for many British fans as the BBC reported sick and fainting fans in an article titled "Film fans faint at Saw III show."

I didn't faint or get sick, but I could have. The movie was disturbingly violent showing disgusting and heinous murders. I turned my head and closed my eyes more than a few times, but not because I was scared. I thought I was going to vomit.

The binary opposition of good versus evil was all inevitable in the movie. The ending, although I normally like knowing what will happen, was all too predictablle. The gore continued until only one character was left, mourning the loss of his wife due to his own stupidity.

The scary movie genre has never really done a whole lot for me. To me, scary movies don't really follow the narrative structure, and I can't say I've ever really learned a lesson from a scary movie. I suppose you could say that in Saw III the moral is to be a good person or Jigsaw will come after you, but that's not really a lesson.

To me, though, any movie that causes people to get sick or faint has some problems. I like something that I can learn from. Maybe I should stick to the independent films I enjoy.

Tabloid Time

According to a recent Top 25 list posted on, only three of the top 25 daily newspapers in the U.S. reported circulation gains in a six month period. The rest of the dailies experienced losses--some significant. Not very uplifiting news for the print medium, yet again. So which newspapers gained while the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe lost readership by over three percent? The tabloids.

Louis Hau of responded to this information by writing an article titled "Is it the tabloids' time?". The three dailies that were lucky enough to gain readers included The New York Daily News, The New York Post, and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In his article, Hau poses the question, "Do the New York Post and the New York Daily News represent the future of the U.S. newspaper industry?"

One of the main reasons that Hau sites as to why the tabloids are succeeding is the local coverage they offer.
"Readers turn to the Post and News to read compelling stories about what's going on in their own town, and from the perspective of the average citizen."

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the local coverage my hometowns' Siouxland Press and Warren Town and Country News offer me, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy getting my news from a tabloid. I can't help but think of The National Enquirers I saw on the news stands as a child with the aliens and christ-like figures emblazoned on the front cover.

Hau makes a disturbing assertion, though, when he talks of Britain's many newspapers switching to tabloid formats.
"Could the next step be to shift to a tabloid format? Leading newspapers in Britain, such as The Times of London and The Independent, have already made the change. And while such a shift would have profound implications for how much news and advertising they can run, some newspaper executives have spoken openly about making a similar move."

Maybe I'm boring and all too serious in thinking that such a move would be ludicrous. I do read the paper online knowing that I am contributing to the declining print medium, but I certainly don't want the tabloids to overtake the newspaper. I'll be sticking with The New York Times and The Des Moines Register, thanks.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Oh the scandal!

Americans love to read about the scandals corrupting our society, but the investigative reporting involved in uncovering such scandals may become a thing of the past. Howard Kurtz writes about this problem in his column in an article titled "Tightened Belts Could Put Press in a Pinch."

"Real investigative reporting, as opposed to the what-happened-yesterday stuff, is time-consuming, risky and expensive. And as one news organization after another sheds staff in this tough financial climate, it's worth considering what aggressive journalism has produced lately."

As more and more staff cuts are made to increase profit margins, fewer people are available in the newsroom to take on the time consuming task of investigative reporting. These cutbacks may have harsh repercussions for American citizens and their right to know what's going on behind closed doors. The cuts are coming at a time when more and more focus is on profit margins rather than quality journalism. I know money needs to be made, but the press' responsibility to the public should come first.
"Some of these customers are consuming the companies' wares online, which is great for exposure but doesn't produce the revenue needed to support long-form reporting. If this erosion continues, it would be bad news for serious journalism, and good news for corrupt politicians."
Kurtz gives a laundry list of important stories uncovered by investigative reporters, most recently the Mark Foley scandal, but an accompanying laundry list cites the newspapers that have cut their writing staffs by ten percent and more, including the Dallas Morning News, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Kurtz claims the cuts may even spread to broadcast journalism.

I'm afraid that if the staff cuts continue, many of the scandals uncovered may become something that the public may never know about. How many more Mark Foley's or Tom DeLay's are in Congress? The public may never know.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Los Angeles Times seeks reinvention in the Manhattan Project

The Los Angeles Times' battle continues to unfold, as the newspaper decided to launch a project to investigate ways to "reinvent" the paper for the future. Daniel B. Wood of The Christian Science Monitor in his article titled "L. A. Times epic battle to retain glory--and profits" describes the project and the struggle that the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers have experienced as readership continues to decline.
"What is going on with the L.A. Times is going on in newspapers everywhere," says Tom Petner, a journalism professor at Temple University in Philadelphia.
What is going on at the Los Angeles Times is obviously not an isolated incident. Newspapers across the United States are seeing declining readership, ads, and revenue. I applaud the Los Angeles Times for their initiative in their investigation and I'm anxious to see what they come up with. The reinvention project, named The Manhattan Project, will be carried out by none other than select staff members of the paper .
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, brings up a very good point in the article.
"One of the struggles within the organization is the question of whether newspapers are a dying industry in print or an emerging industry online. If they are a dying industry, then the cutbacks make sense. But if they are emerging elsewhere in new forms, [the cuts] may seem irrational."
I know that my generation may be responsible for the "dying" print publication, but we are still getting our news from the television or the internet (or at least I am!) It does seem to me that although print may be dying, the internet news forum seems to be booming. Now if only there was a way to harness more profit from online news!