Objectivity vs. The Truth

I wanted to comment (a little late) on this article that we read for class a few weeks ago.

Blogger David Weinberger discusses the issue of objectivity in the media. I really felt like (since I didn’t blog about this issue before) that right now, with everything that’s going on in the Boston area, is the perfect time to re-read this article and delve into Weinberger’s argument on objectivity.

He pretty much says that because of the ways technology has changed is outdating the idea of objectivity. “What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position,” he says, “Transparency gives the reader information by which she can undo some of the unintended effects of the ever-present biases. Transparency brings us to reliability the way objectivity used to.”

However, we talked about in class how the SPJ Code of Ethics includes nothing about objectivity. Why is it so important for journalists to be objective then? It literally is an unwritten rule. And can it even be achieved? I’d argue that either way bias will seep in no matter how objective you try to be.

Think about the Boston Marathon bombings this past week. I’m not sure if there is a single news outlet that didn’t let any form of bias seep into their coverage at some point.

Another point I’d like to talk about is how the media reports the truth today. There seems to be a sentiment throughout all of the different news stations that there is a sort of”it’s okay if you’re wrong, as long as you get the story right in the end” mentality in the media. I think this is ethically worse for journalists than not being objective.

As demonstrated by Deadspin Wednesday, when they published a video on their site entitled “Today’s Boston Bombing Media Shitshow, in 90 Seconds.” I think this video shows that there are many outlets that want to be the first to break new information and will stick by it even if other sources say otherwise.

This issue I think is the most major issue with mass media journalism today. How can we be so quick to accept the things these mass media news outlets say if all they care about is being the first to break a story?

 

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Pitching Effectively

Professor Adam Peruta’s visit to our class yesterday was really interesting. I loved hearing his ideas and suggestions about how to pitch stories and his trip to Texas for the South by Southwest competition.

The competition as a whole sounded like an amazing experience. Literally spending days working on apps for a competition seems like a dream come true for any devoted marketer. I enjoyed the ideas he shared with us, from the app “Rate My Class” for college students to give feedback to both professors and future students to his actual functioning program “Gopher Groceries” aimed at college students.

He used his experience on his trip to Texas to teach us how to effectively “sell” an idea. He talked about both the positives and negatives of his trip to Texas, and gave me a sense of what I’m going to have to do get funding for my idea.

He told us that in order to make an effective pitch there are seven steps you must try to cover: (1) you should make a case for what problem your product is going to solve (he suggested maybe using a story or a narrative) (2) you should effectively explain how your product solves this problem (3) you need to determine who you’re targeting (4) explain how you’re going to acquire users (5) you need to establish your “total addressable market” (number of people there are and how you’ll get them to commit to your product) (6) how you plan to make money (7) and in Peruta’s perhaps most importantly lay out who’s on your team.

I’m hoping that I can come up with a great idea that will really sell my idea for our pitches! I want to really find something that will make it stand out.

 

Censorship – How much is too much?

In 2008, an editorial published by the St. Louis Dispatch published an article on the idea of censorship both in cellphone service and on the internet. While I had heard of many cases of censorship in print, on television and radio, I had never really considered the idea that cellphone services could censor what the owners who have the service are able to receive messages from.

The story talks about how Verizon tried to prevent those with the service from accessing text messages from a pro-abortion-rights group, NARAL.  While Verizon stated that they try to “‘”promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of [their] users, ‘” it was determined that Verizon could not do this because people had to receive messages from the group. By preventing NARAL from doing what it set out to do, Verizon was infringing upon the group’s right to free speech.

Had it not been for the censorship of internet use in China (like some of what we also read about) I might have been more surprised about this too. Here in the United States, I don’t think the people would stand for censorship on the internet of any kind. I feel as if we are almost spoiled. The article we read on Chinese censorship on Google mentioned that the communist government encourages Internet use for business and school, but wants to prevent the people from getting material that can be seen as “subversive or pornographic.”

Could you image if here, in the United States, the FCC or Congress tried to take away this type of material? There would be an uproar. We would fight, saying that our right to free speech was being violated, and ultimately, the mass would most likely win the fight.

This is what is so great about America, but also terrifies me slightly. Because we are so fervent about our right to free speech, how do we determine how much is too much? And for that matter, how will we learn to be modest and reserved about our beliefs when we fight so hard to say what we believe? Will there be a time when people do not agree upon an issue and somehow things will spiral out of control into chaos?

A friend of mine posted this link on her Facebook page. It is a website which discusses the porn industry and the websites, specifically one entitled “Ghetto Gaggers” in which men degrade and abuse African American women. While I’m all for people having the right to satisfy themselves through pornography, sites like “Ghetto Gaggers” need to know their limits. I think, honestly, this kind of mistreatment of women needs to stop and if the way to do that is through censorship, then so be it. It’s disgusting.

Amy Goodman’s Visit at IC

Earlier this evening, Amy Goodman spoke at Ithaca. While I have visited Democracy Now! a few times, I would not consider myself an avid follower of the site. Both Professor Jeff Cohen and Amy talked about both her accomplishments and Goodman’s perspective on the importance of independent media sites, like Democracy Now! and the vital form of journalism they provide.

I thought that Goodman’s speech was very informative, and definitely gave me a perspective of journalism that many people don’t recognize. Goodman said that today, more and more people have a “hunger for independent voices”and that these increasingly more noticed independent voices are threats to mainstream media’s dissemination of the news. Goodman explained that the reason she believes indys are so dangerous is because they allow people to speak for themselves, which can ultimately result in people relating to individuals stories and creating a common ground. This is something that Goodman believes is the first step towards peace. She told the audience that she believed that if mainstream media were to do its job – “to be the fourth estate not ‘for the state'” – and return to being a form of checks and balances on those who run countries, at home and abroad, the world would be a better place.

Goodman told many stories that represented the way Democracy Now! runs to get the most honest stories possible. She explained that she believed it is a journalist’s job to give a voice to those which are often not heard. She talked about multiple different situations where Democracy Now! covered events through conversations with participants in protests and often times chooses to publish truthful stories mainstream media outlets would never publish. She talked about the importance of coverage of movements like Tahrir Square and Occupy Wall Street. Beyond this, she spoke about importance of covering other events Thomas Young’s struggles after being paralyzed in Iraq, Troy Davis’s death sentence (and the unfairness of the whole process) and other negatives that fell upon Davis and his family as well as the impact execution has on those who kill people for a living. She talked about Rosa Parks and the impact not many know she had, as well as the message Emmett Till’s mother sent to the media by having her son’s funeral be an open casket funeral, despite being found at the bottom of a river.

Goodman believes that the mainstream media, instead of maintaining a neutral view on the war in Iraq began “beating the drums for war.” She explained that if the mainstream media functioned as it should, this would not be the case. “If images of war were published every week,” Goodman said, “images that told the true the story of war, I think Americans would say war is not the solution to conflict.”

Finally, Goodman spoke about one final event, which truly showed her, as well as other members of Democracy Now!’s staff dedication to giving a voice to those without voices. She spoke about her trip to East Timor, where she and her camera man were beaten by members of the Indonesian army. Because the US was allied with Indonesia, the mainstream never covered the genocide that took place for over twenty years in this small nation. Goodman’s attempt to report on the true state of life in East Timor, and put her life on the line to get the story out into the eyes of the public.

Goodman described the representation of American’s in other countries. She told her audience that she believed that people in other countries see us as a sword and a shield. A sword, because we have the ability to create weapons that many nations have access to – we make the world a more dangerous place. But at the same time, we have the freedom to speak out when we feel we are being wronged and to express our opinions. We have the ability to call a congressman when we disagree with some enactment, and can sometimes get legislation turned around.

I think that Amy’s work is extremely inspiring, and if I end up being a journalist that has even the slightest amount of passion and dedication to seeking the truth and reporting it as she does, I will feel blessed.

Jim Gilliam’s Inspiring Story

I really wanted to discuss this video we watched in class the other day on Jim Gilliam, the founder of NationBuilder. At first, by looking at the title, I thought “how could the internet be anyone’s religion?” But then I became totally engaged in Jim’s amazing story, and I totally forgot what his original statement was.

I think the thing I found most fascinating about Jim’s story was how much of an impact his use of his blog had through his struggle with cancer and a double lung transplant. It not only offered him inspiration to stay strong, but actually physically helped him survive.

After Jim’s mom died of cancer, and he came close to death, he explained that he lost faith in God, but still had faith in the internet – faith in people. He told the audience that the reason he was still alive was because of the people who followed him and his blog. His faith was in “people connected through the internet” because “God is what happens when humanity is connected.”