Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Muckrakers Are Back!

On a recent episode of Glee, titled "Rumors," they mocked modern day journalism and reporting. The very opening scene of the episode shows Brittany, a member of the Glee club, hosting her own online television show. On this show, she discusses gossip stories about the other high school students and teachers. On this episode, she says that her best friend "plays for the other team," implying to her guests on the "show" that her friend is a lesbian. 

This rumor spreads like wildfire through the high school. I thought this was interesting not only because it portrays how a rumor or even the truth that is revealed online can go viral in minutes and becomes public before it really should be, but it also shows how someone with no credentials can be spreading news. This also reminded me of what happened recently when Osama bin Laden was killed. The public did not find out about it when President Obama spoke. Rather it became public news when someone twittered about it. 

Similarly, in this episode, Sue Sylvester, the villain of the show, decides to bring back the school newspaper, The Muckraker. Sue tells her student journalists, "The newspaper is making a come back at this school, and like print newspapers everywhere, we're leaner and meaner. No longer concerned with facts, fact checking, integrity or facts. The Muckraker motto, 'If I heard it, it's probably true, or something.'"

Glee is famous for its exaggeration, and although this is another case of classic Glee exaggeration, I think that this is not too far from the truth. This is especially fitting with our most recent media bias projects, where we saw that the news does not just tell the facts. Glee portrays an interesting and comedic commentary on modern day media.

Check out the episode on Hulu:

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Quality of Modern Day Journalism

Recently, we have spoken a lot about blogging in class. When we were looking through the various blogs, we discussed how a blogger must be constantly updating his or her blog. At least every hour, he or she must post something new. I was just on the New York Times website when I noticed that certain articles were posted a mere minute ago. It made me think of the life of a blogger who must constantly be updating and posting new blogs. 
This is another interesting new development for the modern day journalist. Instead of taking the time to write a well written story for the upcoming paper, even though there are always deadlines to meet, journalists now have to be the first ones to launch a new story and not only for tomorrow's newspaper, but for the right now online news. This means that there is whole new element of pressure for journalists to really be the first ones to cover a story. 
This makes me wonder, because these journalists are in such a rush to publish their breaking news stories, is the quality of writing and journalism at a lower caliber now?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What is Journalism?

In class, we have recently been discussing shows like The Daily Show or the The Colbert Report, late night satirical shows that deal with political issues. We discussed in class what the role of these shows really is, but we were not quite successful in defining them. The more politically active students were more inclined to argue that these type of shows are not journalism and that people such as Jon Stewart should not be considered journalists. I'm not quite sure I fully agree with them. I don't think they are journalists in the conventional sense as they are not objective, they only present their side of the story. However, they are transparent about their agendas, and don't try to be objective, therefore at least anyone watching their shows, knows what to expect. As we discussed in class, these shows have a very interesting role. They aren't quite journalists, but they do present news stories and current political issues. Meaning that because they aren't journalists they don't have the same requirements as "normal" journalists, therefore they can project their opinions on issues, and it also allows them to criticize journalists for their flaws. I think this role that they have taken is incredibly important, because these shows act as watchdogs on the media. I do not believe that any media outlet or news story is presented in an unbiased manner, therefore, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have created an outlet to catch biased moments in journalism as well as other political issues. 

I am someone who does not read many newspapers, really just the New York Times. To be honest I don't have the time to read all different newspapers, and I think the people who argue that it's sad for people to only read one newspaper are very naive. I would argue that most people do not spend their time flipping through various newspapers, trying to get a well rounded presentation of current events. Life's busy, very few people have time for that. Therefore, I think these shows are very important, because not everyone has the time to sit and read through many different articles, but people are more inclined to watch a late night television show, when they are tired in bed after a long day of work, so at least people are gaining some information on current events, even though it is one sided and highly subjective. It's better than nothing. I'm not saying that people should watch these shows over reading newspapers, but I do think these shows play an important role as watchdogs on the media, as well as just another outlet for current events, even though it's not the conventional way to learn about the news.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's the Deal with New Media?

A few weeks ago I wrote about the affects of facebook on political issues. In our class now, we are discussing the topic of new media and politics, although the article we read for last class was somewhat behind the times and focused on Myspace rather than facebook. In terms of the revolution in Egypt, facebook has seemed to play an important role. I'm curious though, how influential a facebook page or group can really be? 

Recently on facebook, there was a group calling for a 3rd Intifada. The group had been calling on a march to Israel to "liberate" Palestine beginning on May 15th. I checked out the facebook page myself, where I found it to be written all in Arabic, but thanks to google translate I was able to read the comments that supporters were posting. I must admit, it did worry me. There were many comments made such as "Death to Israel" and the like. As a result of facebook group, many people reported the page, which was finally shut down by facebook today. I'm happy the page was taken down, it is scary to see such hateful things written so publicly and supported by so many people especially on facebook, a place that you think is a safe environment. However, at the same time, I wonder how far this facebook page would have gone if it was not taken down. I think something very scary and dangerous could have come out of it, but some argue that facebook is not really all that influential. Just something to think about...

Friday, March 25, 2011

Headline News

As we all know this past week there was a terrorist attack in Jerusalem. To us, in the Jewish world, it was a very big deal. In the greater, global perspective however, it did not seem to have that much of an affect. On the day of the bombing, March 23, 2011, soon after the bombing had occurred, you would assume that a terrorist attack would be front and center on the New York Times website. That was not the case. Rather, the death of Elizabeth Taylor made headline news, while a terrorist attack in Israel was simply cast aside to the bottom left corner of the website, where if not searching for it, one may have completely overlooked it. Furthermore, it was a very short, rather casual article, giving very few details. That may be due to the fact that reporters may not have had that much information at that point, but nevertheless, the article did not reflect the seriousness of the issue. 

Later that day, I went to check the New York Times website again, where I found that a new article was posted, one that had much more detail. However, the article was still placed near the bottom of the website, making it something that a reader had to search for, rather than it being breaking, headline news. Similarly, the wording of the article was "small bomb," small being the second word of the article and a word that downplays the significance of the attack. Today, looking at the article again, I have noticed that the word "small" has been removed, however, on the day of the explosion it did exist. 

If a terrorist attack like this happened in another country, wouldn't it have gotten more attention? If a family was slaughtered in the middle of the night in the United States, wouldn't there be an uproar? If all these events were happening anywhere but Israel, I have a feeling that it would make headline news and that sadly people would give it slightly more attention.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Taxes are bad, Fireworks are Pretty"

As noted in The Press Effect, written by Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Paul Waldman, many people gain their political knowledge through late night television shows. A perfect example of this is the American satirical late night television show The Colbert Report, starring Stephen Colbert. In one of last week's episodes Colbert begins his episode by mocking the Republican candidates who are "not" running in the next presidential election. 

The first candidate that Colbert talks about is Newton Gingrinch. He shows a clip of Gingrinch saying that he feels passionately about his country and that is why inappropriate things in his life have happened. Colbert responds to this clip by saying, "All he ever wanted to do was screw America and if we elect him as president he'll keep that promise" mocking him for justifying cheating on his wife with cancer because of the passion he feels for his country.

Colbert goes on to discuss another non candidate for the Republican party, Tim Pawlenty. For Pawlenty, Colbert shows a trailer for his "non campaign" book Courage to Stand. Essentially, this trailer has Pawlenty's beaming voice in the background along with dramatic music, showing insignificant and seemingly random images. Colbert mocks this by saying that it looks like a commercial for the next Transformers movie. Colbert mocks this even further by showing his own movie trailer. In Colbert's movie trailer mirrors Pawlenty's trailer as he has his own voice in the background saying complete nonsense, along with dramatic, inspirational music, all while showing unimportant images like cutting a sandwich with a large metal knife. Colbert says things like "Taxes are bad, fireworks are pretty" to emphasize the meaningless things politicians say, but say with such passion that people accept it. 

I think this is similar to what was shown in that episode of Community, where Colbert is pointing out some of the idiocies of politicians. However, this only further proves the idiocies of the people that support the seemingly stupid and unimportant statements that the politicians make and really just give into them because of the way they present themselves. 

Here's the link to the episode - enjoy!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thank you Mark Zuckerberg

Over the past few weeks it has become evident how strong of a role social medias such as facebook and twitter play in politics. Besides for the recent outbreaks of protesting and riots in Egypt and Libya, facebook is also being used as an outlet by the organization called Planned Parenthood. On February 18, there was a vote to pass the Pence Amendment, which if made into law, will strip Planned Parenthood of all its federal funding. This would prevent Planned Parenthood and 102 affiliated organizations from receiving any federal funds—including money for contraception, cancer screening, STD testing and treatment, education, and more. The Pence amendment would cut off 48% of Planned Parenthood patients—approximately 1.4 million people—from their source of health care.

Therefore, supporters of Planned Parenthood created an event on facebook, which includes a link to sign a petition to raise awareness of this issue. To be honest, without facebook, I would not have known about this issue at all. It's amazing how much more connected the world has become with these social medias, which have made me as well as I'm sure of many others, much more politically aware of issues that I may not have previously known about. 
I guess I owe it to Mark Zuckerberg for making me slightly more aware of what is happening in the world.