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.