Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hollywood's journalists

Investigative journalists are great protagonists because--motivated by a desire to find stuff out either for the public or for their job--they are catapulted into the center of whatever action. If you want to tell a story about some crime or some corruption, putting a neutral inquirer in the center of your story is a good way to examine all the angles.

There are other ways to examine issues--like in "Michael Clayton,"where corruption is realized from the inside--but having a journalist at the center of a story removes the tendency for any immediate blame. When something is up, a journalist slowly uncovers pieces of evidence to complete the picture.

I think that Hollywood's version of journalism gets a little skewed when they try to introduce too much glamor into it. Not glitzy glamor, necessarily, but things like danger and intrigue where sources turn up dead after car bombs go off or anthrax gets mailed to the newsroom.

But the fact that those threats exist in the first place--however overstated they may be in movies--is, I think, a large part of what makes a journalist an exciting protagonist. They are in a neutral position, must shed light on some crime or corruption, and must fight (with their pen!) the natural antagonists that arise from the possibility of being found out.

And the fact that these journalists have to persevere to tell their stories, despite the overstated car bombs and anthrax scares, makes them pretty heroic. Even if they are egotistical or womanizing or otherwise flawed.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Movie Journalists Response

Hollywood and journalism have an odd relationship.

Hollywood has a fascination with the journalism career, but why? Perhaps it is the ability the journalist has to unravel falsehood and reveal the truth. Perhaps it is that the journalist presents an easy antogonist, someone that is instantly unlikable by the public.

Two different takes on a journalist span 40 years of film. The first is the character E.K. Hornebeck in the film "Inherit the Wind." In this film, the journalist recites the classic line, "it is the duty of the paper to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable." This one character is the epitomy of the journalism field. The character, while afflicting those in power in a small, extremist Christian community, is the antithesis of an annoying journalist with an overly cynic look on life. But the character also is shown for his bias against the leader, Matthew Harrison Brady, who happens to be anti-evolution teaching in schools. (The film is based on the Scopes Monkey Trial)

A second view is by Heather Holloway (Katie Holmes) in the film "Thank You for Smoking." Here, Holloway is shown as an ego driven reporter who is willing to do anything, including sleep with Aaron Eckhart's character, to get the big story, even if things are done, "off the record."

It seems that Hollywood, in these two roles at least, view journalism as a career that attracts those with low moral character and lack of ethics. It really seems that Hollywood has almost a disdain with the reporter. But, Hollywood also uses the reporter as the one that brings down those in power that are filled with corruption (like in "All the Presidents Men").

I think we tend to focus on the negative of our own personnas as we ignore the positive ones, and Hollywood merely shows that. Although it may appear journalists are portrayed in a bad light, I believe closer inference on all roles that involve journalists, will reveal that journalists are presented in a relatively equal light.

Pot Post

I think that Paul Blake makes a valid point. The fact that Leon Lott is trying to arrest Michael Phelps for his actions at a party based on a photo is ridiculous! Unless Lott was there at the time of the party, there is no way he can prove that the substance in the pipe was marijuana. It does seem that Lott is drawing unnecessary attention to a minor situation. I don’t think that the photo works against the publisher but rather makes his feelings on the matter very clear. If Lott is going to try everything he can to arrest Phelps then he should also try and arrest Blake.

A week after the Phelps Pot story broke out Katie Couric interviewed rap artist Lil’ Wayne. In that interview Lil’ Wayne admits to smoking pot. If Leon Lott can go after Phelps then shouldn’t someone be going after Lil’ Wayne?

Hip Hop Journalism

John Randolph’s video can easily be mistaken as journalism but it lacks a few important elements. I feel like all he did was find a journalist who had already reported on a similar story and had her reiterate her own research and how it applied to the Chris Brown/Rihanna situation. If Randolph really wanted to do his own research he should of tried to talk to someone a little closer related to the story. Since Chris Brown and Rihanna are probably not taking too many calls right now, Randolph could have tried to interview someone who has been in a similar situation to try and better understand the celebrity feud. He could of also tried to get more than one view on the matter. Rather than just talking to one person he should of talked to several different people on different sides of the issue so that the story didn’t seem so one sided. Though this was an attempt at “doing a little journalism,” I don’t think we can quite call it that.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Blake makes a point

Blakes article, as over-the-top as it may seem, conveys perfectly the point I believe he was trying to make.
Whether you condone the use of marijuana or not, its not unreasonable for a citizen to challenge the law. I commend Blake for taking a stand and making a case for the ludicrousness of Sheriff Lott's pursuits. Blake didn't just want to say that Lott's attempting to charge Phelps based on a photo was ludicrous, he wanted to note that pursuing the case is simply a waste of his time because of the nature of the crime. By using marijuana, taking a photo, posting the photo, and writing about his experience using the marijuana Blake makes a very convincing (in my opinion), ironic, and humorous point about the nature of the law and law enforcement.
Blake was within his rights as a writer and publisher. He wanted to make a statement and he did. If Sheriff Lott wants to pursue him as well... we'll just see who wins that battle. My money's on Blake.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hip-Hop J Response

Well, I hate to break it to this guy, but he didn't do any journalism.
Talking to a journalist to expand on a story she already wrote isn't journalism for the simple fact that he didn't do any of the work.

To be a journalist, we have to not only tell the story, but to sift through the facts, investigate the situation, and go out and do your own interviews.

This guy did tell a story, but not the story. He didn't sift through the story for the facts, he didn't investigate the situation-he only read about it and brought it to a broader audience, and though he did his own interview, he didn't interview the people directly involved in the matter.

This vlog (video blog), though informative, isn't journalism. He gave this writer a chance to expand on the piece she wrote and to help bring awareness to domestic abuse. But this guy is no journalist, and did not practice journalism in this video.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Pot Response

Although slightly dramatic, I think that Paul Blake has a point. Pictures only don’t seem like a good source if credibility in cases like these. It could have been nothing in the bong, or it could have been hay for all I know, but the point is unless the sheriff was there this whole thing seems like a waste of time. Maybe some politicking is taking place here, but I don’t think that any serious charges will come out of this because the proof is either all smoked up or nonexistent.
I don’t think that the story and photo work against Blake because we don’t know if what he says is actually true. We can conclude our own thoughts when we see the photo and I’m sure if we interviewed a serious stoner they could and point out any discrepancies with the photo if there were any, but we won’t.
While comedic, Blake has a point.

Hip Hop Response

I commend him in his effort to talk about this subject, but I think that calling this journalism is a stretch. The whole story is one sided from the point of view of Elizabeth Berry. He doesn’t get both sides of the story and it seems that he didn’t even attempt to.
If he had gotten some feedback from battered women and their specific situations and then backed it up with information from Berry, I think I would look at it differently than I do now. The story now is about her and what she thinks and not about Chris Brown or Rihanna. I think if you’re going to talk about domestic abuse, then you need to really talk about it and not just “report” a one sided story from the mouth of a professional. Get in the trenches with the people who have experienced the violence.
He could still relate it to hip hop culture by sourcing other artists who have been victims of domestic violence and then have Berry talk more about the statistics.
There could have been other ways of going about this, especially if you were going to call it journalism. I think that serious topics deserve serious reporting.


I feel like since the birth of the Suleman octuplets not a day goes by without seeing them in the news. Though the successful delivery of the children is recognized, what news media seems to be infatuated with is the mother’s story. A single mother attempting to raise 14 children on her own seems to be quite a challenge, to say the least.

I believe that Nadya Suleman doesn’t agree or at least is trying to believe that the issue is solely the fact that she is single. She says that her “unconventional way of life”, meaning her decision to be single, is what has put her under the microscope. There are so many single mothers in this country and the fact that she doesn’t have a husband is not what I see as the biggest issue. The problem is that she is being irresponsible by bringing children into this world that she can’t fully provide for. She doesn’t have a job, is still trying to finish school, and has received her last disability check. All that makes for quite the story. Even Ann Curry struggles to find the words when asked about Suleman’s financial situation. There is no nice way of saying that she has no plan of how to provide for her family.

Another thing that seems to be catching people’s attention is her incredible resemblance to actress Angelina Jolie. Though she has well passed Jolie in family size “Octomom” seems to be mimicking the actress’s lifestyle and appearance. Suleman says all she ever wanted was a big family but I think her actions are some kind of cry of attention. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pot Points Response

First, I agree full heartedly with Blake's opposition to Sheriff Lott.
Although the picture with the column is controversial, I think it emphasizes a point, and again takes another swipe at Lott.

The biggest problem with the Phelps case is that you can't tell if he was actually smoking or if he was joking around, or if he was smoking marijuana or another substance, like hookah. The same with Blake's picture, although it is just a simple pipe, you can't tell if it is plain tobacco, or an overly elaborate way to smoke weed. This picture is taking a blatent shot at Lott to show just how inept and how much a waste of time the whole situation is.

In a round-about way, the photo actually enhances the column. Even though the writer says he smoked weed, you can't truly tell just by simply looking at the picture. The same is inferred with the Phelps photo.

"Future Shock" Yes and No

Stress can be both a useful and/or destructive force.  Stress properly focused can direct and lead through pressure to positive results.  Regular newspaper deadlines are an example of positive stress.  Stress can also be highly destructive physically and emotionally and can stifle one's creativity and overall quality of work and life.  I would argue that stress has plagued man since we were painting caves and hunting beasts for food.

That said, I personally understand and agree with Toffler's argument of "future shock" that rapid technology changes are stressing people out and causing anxiety.  I can see examples of future shock throughout my life.  Technological innovation such as personal computers with high-speed wireless Internet access, e-mail, cell phones and text messaging have created a work-life environment where a person never really has a day off of work because they are always connected to their work, boss, staff, clients or products.  Text messaging has allowed for work or social information to silently enter any environment no matter how prestigious or sacred.  Have you ever texted a friend during a meeting, class or church?  This constant connection for many people, myself included, takes away from peace of mind.

The other side of the coin is that many people lose their peace of mind from not being constantly connected to every available media and information device.  I do think that many, but not all, in society have adapted to the root concerns of Toffler's "future shock" argument.  Many people are no longer shocked by constant technological upgrade and change.  An example of this can be seen in the waiting lists to get the newest editions of I-Phones or Blackberries.  Many are in fact impatient for the next innovation.

Just how will this effect the news and information media?  Well it could very well end newspapers as we currently recognize them, and fundamentally evolve them and save the newspaper industry.  There is a wonderful article in the Feb. 16 issue of Time titled, How to Save Your Newspaper, that states that newspapers and news magazines and other forms of traditional journalism are more popular than ever but the problem is that few of these consumers are paying for content.  The article makes the point that some news organizations might choose to get users to pay for the news services and journalism they provide through an ITunes-esque method of small, one to five cents, one-click micro payments.  

Certainly there is a great deal of information available, and the new medias and information technology have made the information available more popular than ever.  Look at sites like Google or Yahoo News.  It's likely this new technology will not be the executioner of traditional medias but rather a high evolutionary forcing them to adapt and innovate, and in the process base their future and their quality of work on their customers rather than their advertisers.     

Monday, February 9, 2009

An irresponsible mother? Stop the presses!

The story here doesn’t seem to be about a successful delivery of octuplets. While it is a rare occurrence, nobody in the report gives any statistics about the frequency of octuplet births. At this point, the basics of Suleman’s story are already out. The novelty of her situation is a given. If this had happened without fertilization treatments, it would only add to the novelty.

The idea that the crux of the story is Suleman’s lack of a spouse is closer to the point. Ann Curry brings this up early and often, and Suleman seems to have known ahead of time that this would be a major talking point. If we are talking about the story the Today Show wanted to tell, this is probably it. But this is not to say that there isn’t a better story to tell.

People make irresponsible decisions every day. If the media reported on every mother who had children when she probably shouldn’t have, they’d have no time to report on anything else.

As it has been reported, this story is about one woman and her children. As such, it has no impact whatsoever on practically anybody. We watch to fulfill our voyeuristic instincts and pass judgment on this woman. If this were a legitimate news story, it might tie into current trends in in vitro fertilization. Are other mothers opting to have multiple embryos implanted? What are some of the reasons they offer? How common is it for laboratory pregnancies to produce multiples?

I remember a piece National Geographic ran a few years back about a town in New Jersey with a disproportionate number of multiple-birth children. The article tied this to the large number of fertility clinics in central New Jersey, saying that multiples are a known side effect of fertilization procedures. This worked as a story because it wasn’t just about one family’s predicament. It was about a whole community and, by extension, the people having these procedures done nationwide.

Response to Octuplets Post

After watching the interview, I believe the main focus of the story is on the life of Nadya Suleman.  Although the octuplets are a big deal, it seems as if her lifestyle is much more interesting.  The story highly focuses on her economic issues.  She's a single mother of 14 children, so the question is how will she be able to take care and provide for them?  She plans on going back to college to get her master's but how will she have time to do that, with such a big commitment as a single mom?  

Another big focus in the story is her mental state.  Why did she decide to have so many children?  In the interview she talks about "filling a void" but there must be more reasoning beyond that.  How does she feel she will be able to care for all of her children, and how will they feel growing up with so many brothers and sisters?  

There's so many questions to be asked of this woman.  It's an interesting story and I hope to learn more about the reasoning behind her decision to care for so many kids.  

Suleman Story

Personal feelings aside, the main point of this interview is really to know why a single parent would do this to herself and to these children. I think that the world wants to what she could possibly be thinking. It's great that the babies are healthy and they were delivered with little complication, but that's not the story. People are interested in her mental state and how she is going to raise all these children if she doesn't have a job or a home of her own. It seems that having us know that they are the first surviving octuplets to have been born is supposed to make this more of a story, but the purpose is really to fulfill our desire to know what this woman was thinking in taking this major risk. By interviewing her it gives us insight into her past and her reasoning for doing this. People have speculated about it and now we know.

Another aspect that makes it a story is wanting to know what type of doctor would implant all the embryos into a woman of her age. Ethical questions keep coming up in question to the doctor and people want to know what motivation he had for doing this. Did he properly advise her of the risks? It would seem that he had alterior motives, but what could they be?

This story is not about the babies. It’s about the Nadya Suleman.

Response to Octuplets Story

I think this story is indeed newsworthy and rather interesting in that it is so very strange. However, I think that the "real story" does not lie in Ann Curry's interview with the mother of the babies. I think the real story here is WHY this woman has chosen to have a set of eight children in addition to the other six she already has at home. She says its because she was an only child, etc. But in reality, I think that nobody believes her reasoning. Why haven't we heard more about her battle with depression? Or her earlier career at a mental institution. She obvoiusly possesses some instabilities of her own. Secondly, I think another story should take more focus on the ethical choices made by the doctors and whether or not there needs to be some application of a set of standards or criteria in the field of artificial insemination/invitro fertilization. I would like to have seen how this woman and her and her doctors decisions will likely affect the reproductive medical field in the future, for others that may be seeking similar procedures. I think this story focuses on these two main aspects, the woman's past and what got her to this point and the consequences she may cause not only for herself but for the reproductive medical field in regards to invitro procedures.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Octuplet Story Response

There are a multitude of stories that are, and can be, interwoven into the Nadya Sulemann and the Octuplets Story. Of course a natural story line is the oddity of the birth, and if, and how, it was successful. It is in the realm of oddity, and that makes it newsworthy.
I think one thing that makes this birth so much more newsworthy is that it was done by artificial fertilization, and Ms. Sulemann chose to have that many done. Another story is the fact that she wants to raise 14 children on her own, with no current means of income (even though she wants to after she gets a college degree).

All of these are good story lines, but one that struck me the most, and one that wasn't looked into, was the 'why she wants to do this.' Due to her family history, she felt neglected and needed to have a large family. I think this is a story that could be done, and turned into a social retrospect to see if this is a trend that is taking hold in society.

Do neglected girls feel a need to have large families to fill a void? Why do they feel this way? What options are there to counteract that mindset? Is it prevalent all over society, or does it stay in particular socio-economic group?

The event is loaded with storylines that could be brought out, and I personally feel the Today Show interview failed to do that.

French Newspapers

I believe the idea of an “independent, free, and pluralistic press” is bittersweet. President Sarkozy’s plan to give free subscriptions to all 18 year olds is a great way to re-popularize print media. With readership of newspapers and magazines on a declining slope this idea could help save the industry. On the other hand, does allowing government involvement somehow affect our freedom of speech? By keeping the government out of media involvement we have the right to report on anything and everything in an unbiased manner. I feel like if we were to use this plan in America it could become very complicated. Though I would love for the government to help news media in this tough time, i don't know that I would want media feeling as if they owed the government anything in return. I say we sit back and watch how Sarkozy's plan plays out while we try and find a better way of reviving the news media.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Response to "Real America"

Herbert Gans is quoted as saying that small-town idealism, saying that small, rural towns is where the "American idea" is located, and not the big city.
From a media standpoint, Gans is correct.
Even though big cities may be patriotic, it is typically the small, rural towns (mostly in the South and Midwest it seems) that are depicted as "American." Even with the growth of 24-hour cable news and the Internet, this stigma hasn't changed.
Look at any news, and when they do a piece on "American goodness" or "family values" where is it they typically go? They go to the small towns.
One reason this may be, a simple way, is because that is the basic picture of what we idealize as what American is. Anther reason is because, even with the growth of news and the Internet, many small town residence don't have, or choose not to have, access to cable, and instead live with the five basic channels, while others don't have, or don't have time for, the Internet.
In the media, small town America is still portrayed as a place where "goodness" is still rooted.

French Papers

I'm very torn when it comes to the president's media bail out plan. On the one hand, I like the idea of giving out free newspapers in hopes of gaining more readers. Getting people interested in news and reading is always a plus. I also think that the media is a great part of any country and culture, and it's something that needs to be protected. If the newspaper market really needed the help, I definitely think it is important enough to deserve it.
However, the most important part about news is that it be truthful and unbiased. The government should have as little to do with delivering news as possible. If the government's financial ties didn't allow the government to seap in to the news itself, then the bail out plan sounds like a fine idea. If there was any chance of the news catering to the government because of the ties they had, I don't think it's worth it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

French Newspaper Response

I like President Nicolas Sarkozy's idea of giving out a free subscription to French youths on their 18th birthday. It's a great idea, and I think it would definitely help get more young people to read the newspaper and stay up to date with their current events. Although this is an idea that may work effectively in one country, I do not believe it would work well in America.

Sarkozy states, "It is indeed (the state's) responsibility ... to make sure an independent, free and pluralistic press exists." Yes, we have freedom of the press and 'congress shall make no law abridging' that freedom. If we were to take on Sarkozy's idea and make the government become more responsible for newspaper production in America, this would also mean that many of our freedoms as journalists would probably be taken away as well. I think a lot of conflict would arise and we would not have the ability to publish a lot of the stories/opinions we are able to do in the present.

I do not think the government needs to bail out the news media. Print media may be declining, but that just goes to show that something needs to change, or we need to find new and creative ways to pick up readership across the country. It's hard to decide what will happen, especially with all of our new technology and the internet, but we just have to work hard as journalists in order to avoid anymore decline in our readership.

French Newspaper

I understand why President Sarkozy would want to assist the newspapers, but I don’t think the government should be bailing out the media. It’s like saying, “don’t tell me what to write about,” and then asking for help once readership declines. The theory sounds wonderful, but I can see some drama happening after that.
And who chooses which newspapers gets bailed out and how much of a bailout do they get? Does the Podunk city in Utah receive the same amount as the Washington Post? (My heart jumps to even think of this.) It just poses to many questions for me. What would we have to give up in order to receive help from the government? Nothing is free in this country so something will be lost. And once we slowly start releasing powers to them how long will it be before newspapers have no more power? Who will watchdog over the nasty officials in office and who will warm me about the peanut butter?
Newspapers have to find different ways to boost interest in the printed-paper. There has to be other ways. Having the government bail them out seems like a giving up and rolling over. The copout of all copouts. Is it hard? Yes, I get that. Does losing money suck? Yes, I get that too. But I think that they just have to get creative and move forward.
I understand wanting to help and boosting readership among youth, but at what cost for the future?