Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You know you have been in journalism school to long when

in your dreams, there is breaking news that President Obama's 10 year-old daughter has been caught prostituting herself, and you are feverishly hearing arguments about whether you should run the story or not in your publication. You can almost hear loud shouting matches between your colleagues in the newsroom. "No! There's a little girl that's involved!". "Yes! Because the public has a right to know!". "Blah blah blah blah?!!". "Razz razz razz razz!!!".

And then you wake up, laugh thinking about how absurd it was, and start the countdown 'til the semester ends.

Strangely enough, though, I think my dream made me think of an interesting question that editors must ponder: When can minors be treated as adults, and when should they be allowed to just be kids?

It would be my sincerest, idealistic hope that, in the highly unlikely event that something like this should ever come to light about Malia Obama, the news media would not acknowledge it. She is, after all, a little girl whose life would probably never be the same afterwards. It's hard to imagine all the damage it would cause that could possibly never be repaired. A little girl's self-esteem can be as fragile as glass.

But, the reality is that every single news outlet in the world would publish it. It would probably be one of the biggest news stories we have seen in a very long time. With all the money that could be made, would an editor really have a choice whether or not they should ran the story? Would the people that would have their wallets fattened by this kind of story have the same feelings of moral obligation? Would the readers be disappointed when they opened up your publication, expecting to find out more about the Obama girl scandal, and find nothing?

Must the decisions that editors make be based on more than just right and wrong?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sexy Obama

This month's cover of the magazine "Washingtonian" featured a picture of our new president shirtless. The photo is a candid shot taken of Obama while on vacation in Hawaii, so it is not as though it looks like something straight of the pages of Playgirl. A caption next to the photo said "Our new neighbor is hot".

This has made some folks uncomfortable. It is one of the first times where an American president has been looked at as a sex symbol, and not every feels we should regard our president in such a way. According to a poll on AOL News, 54% of respondents gave a "thumbs down" on the cover. Yet, another poll that asked "Would it catch your eye on newsstands?", 63% of respondents said yes, it would.

I personally don't have a problem with it, if that is the choice of the editors. Yes it's strange and almost silly, but you must remember that this is a magazine and not a newspaper. Magazines are meant to be silly and amusing, especially if the magazine's tone is as such. It's certainly a different way of looking at the president.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Still Not Convinced

Sorry I missed last week. In the exhaustion of trying to complete the J-425 critique project, I passed out on Wednesday afternoon and forgot to blog. Fortunately, that project is now complete and my focus is back on the paper for this class.

I said I would come back to the issue of political endorsements, and the result is I am still not convinced that endorsements are the right thing to do. One of the arguments I have found that some make for the case of endorsing is that it's a tradition. In my research, I have come across a funny quote that shows just how silly and absurd that argument is.

According to Richard Stengel from Time magazine, back in 1936, the Chicago Tribune was very vehemently opposed to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ten days prior to the election, people that happened to call the Tribune's offices for whatever reasons were greeted by switchboard operators with the words "Hello. Chicago Tribune. Only 10 left to save the American way of life".

So yeah. My position in my paper is that political endorsements 1) are not objective 2) open up a proverbial pandora's box for corruption and 3) outdated and no longer have the clout that warrants having them in the first place.

Alright. I'm out. Back to writing.

ciao -K

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I was having a difficult time thinking of something to write about this week, so I went to The Poynter Institute website. I flipped through some of the recent articles they are featuring. I found one that is pretty relevant. The title of it is "Is It Right to Say the Suspect is Black? Or Latino? Or White?". The title is pretty self-explanatory.

It's a pretty interesting thing to ponder. Steve Parker from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is the writer, and he cites the words of Keith Woods of the Pointer-Institute. Woods hosted a seminar where he presented his position that journalists should NOT use the words "black", "Latino", or "white" to describe a suspect.

I think he is right when he says that "black", "Latino", and "white" are one-dimensional words to describe groups of people that come in many different skin tones, facial structures, hair texture etc. I think he's right when he says that it is better to find other outstanding characteristics to identify a suspect, if they are available. People should try to be more creative and descriptive in trying to identify suspects than using old terms that can be stereotypical.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I had a really difficult time thinking of something to write about for our class research paper. There's certainly a lot of interesting things going on in the media these days. Some of the things that I thought about researching were the media's obsession with kidnapping stories and trying to figure out why a vast majority of them are centered around very young caucasian females, when infact many children of all different races disappear all the time, including male children. I was also interested in researching possible sexism with the uproar of people made about the clothing that Sarah Palin wore during the presidential debates. I think I settled on a pretty decent topic.

One thing that has never made much sense to me is why newspapers endorse candidates during elections. It always seemed to me to be completely against what newspapers are all about. Why would a newspaper assume that its citizens are not intelligent enough to make their own choices? Who said they ever needed help in deciding who to vote for? Yet, a vast majority of newspapers, so it appears, do choose to endorse candidates. In some of my early research, a lot of newspapers that do endorse are supporting their position by saying that it furthers discussion, but I'm not buying it. With my paper, I am going to try to understand why and hopefully have a more well-rounded understanding of the topic after I'm done.

I'll check back later on in a few weeks and report my findings and see if my opinions have changed.

ciao -K

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's a crazy time to be at the University of Illinois. Unofficial. Massive power outages. Placentas in the water system. The kid elected to be student trustee is being stripped of the title. The controversial figure Bill Ayers is a guest-in-residence at Allen Hall. Each are newsworthy in their own way. The power outage is the one that really made me think.

I was stuck in my room with no internet. As someone who has the internet categorized as an absolute survival necessity, I was pretty lost without my computer. Fortunately, I could get twitter on my cellphone. It was at that moment that I had wished that I would have been following the Daily Illini.

Twitter, to anyone that doesn't know, is a social networking site where people can post status updates, not unlike the status feature on facebook. The more I think about it now, the more I realize how suitable it is for reporting breaking news stories. As every new sliver of information becomes available, it can be posted to the web. It allows for a new, interesting way for a story to unfold.

It will be interesting to see how the media is going to change in the future. I wonder if one day, written word as a medium will become obsolete. What will happen if one day the news is only presented through motion picture and audio? With the rate of technology soaring, one can never know.

A journalist should always be prepared.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Placenta in Urbana

Has anyone heard of the story about placentas being found in sewage plants here in Urbana? Click here.

It was featured on Perezhilton.com yesterday. Perezhilton.com is such a popular website, though not one considered to be the bastion of quality journalism. Other than that, the story seems to be covered in a few of the local papers including the News-Gazette, but not in any of the major newspapers. I think it's a little unfortunate that, since it got published on PerezHilton.com, now people all over the world might associate our university and it's surrounding community as the place that has placentas in the water system.

Like I said, Perez Hilton is a wildly popular blog that dabbles almost entirely in celebrity gossip. I tried to find a number of approximately how many hits he gets per day, and it looks like the best number I can get is probably an average of about 10,000,000 per day. While the website is can be addicting, it's popularity goes to show downward trends. It shows that people aren't caring about the "meat and potatos" news stories anymore, and prefer "junk food stories". I wonder. If people only consume junk food stories and miss out on the good "nutritious" news stories, will society's health start to suffer? I already feel like it is.

Maybe I'm alone in my thinking, but it seems like people in America just aren't as intelligent these days as they used to be. They seem to be more shallow also. Individualism isn't as valuable as I wish it were. Atleast that's what the media seems to portray. But I think in the coming years, this will start to change when things like youtube allow for so many different people to have their voices heard, and allow so many more options for someone that wants to consume media that they can relate to. That is my prediction for the future of the media.