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Archive for March, 2010

As a reporter, I don’t know what I would do without the data package on my Blackberry. I use it for mapping out my destinations, finding phone numbers for sources, checking out articles related to the story I’m working on, calling sources, keeping producers up-to-date and tweeting updates of my story for my stations Twitter  and Facebook page. For me it is almost a requirement to have a data package.

With computers we can now write or edit video and send a whole TV package to the station without leaving the field, or home. I would love to go back and see how reporters worked even 20 years ago, a thought laughable for the older generation of reporters. 

The easy accessibility is keeping my reporting relationships in check, but what about for our readers/viewers? We all know people seem to love interaction and getting their say in comments or live chats as news events occur. Everyone can become a part of it. We seem to value participation and interaction. However I think it’s sad where anonymous comments have taken us. 

One of my friends once joked that no matter how sweet or innocent a Youtube video is, the comments below it turn into a huge fight among those commenting and hurtful things which would likely not be said ARE said. (He is more or less right.) I feel like with all the technology, even though we are gaining connections and connectivity, we are also losing our hospitality and social skills of having a real conversation with people and talking to them in person. 

I love going to my great grandmother’s home. She’s 89 years old and has a Facebook page to keep in touch with family. I commend her for that, but when she has people over she is a great host, bring out coffee and baked goods, crackers and spreads. We sit in the living room and talk about where I’m going in life and how people in the family are doing. The conversation is lively and active. She shows me photos family members have sent to her via email. To me,  I think she uses technology well and keeps hospitality and conversation as it should be: a nice relaxing time where we are all engaged in the conversation. 

I compare this with when my friends meet. When you get a group of college students sitting around, there is so much distraction, I actually get a bit bummed out when 50% of the people in talking distance of me are playing on their phones, trying to connect with everyone else. Rude? Yeah, I think so. I think it digs into our social skills. Whenever a situation gets awkward, how many of us reach for our phone and pretend to be writing someone or looking something up. We all do it, we just can’t handle the awkwardness of socializing. 

I feel like my generation won’t have that hospitality my grandmother has. How many of us make or have time to make baked goods to share with company? How many of us can meet with our friends for an hour without touching our phones? How many of us avoid saying certain things in person and instead use social media to say it either anonymously or indirectly? 

I loved it when I went to Europe last year, where people actually still take time to visit with each other, and I mean really take time. I went to a birthday party in Denmark, it lasted all night, from 5 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. and it was very formal, coordinated and great! I got to know many of the people there and not one person was engaging in conversations with people who were not there. The hospitality was amazing, great food, great entertainment, great conversation.

When my Danish friend came to the US and had Christmas with my family, he was appalled by how short and disconnected it was. It was 2-3 hours long, it was a potluck and it was over and done with before we knew it. In Denmark, he said Christmas is an all-day event in his family and they sing and dance around the Christmas tree and people actually get eachother presents,not exchange envelopes of money.  

For another example, I felt like when my European friends had friends over, they weren’t all engrossed in a phone, they were sipping drinks and enjoying each other’s company and the food, and it didn’t last just a short time. It was hours. I miss the connections with people there and time people take to get to know each other, talk, how they prepare for visits, how they take the time to get a REAL present for someone, how they value family and relationships. I think the US needs to take a step back and get to know people again and not just technology. 

I think many of us (Americans) need lessons in socializing and hospitality. We’re losing touch.

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Germans are upset with Apple over nude images the company won’t allow as part of an Iphone application. About a year ago, Sebastian Kempa, a freelance photographer created a project showing how clothes are our “second layer of skin.” He put up his work online at www.naked-people.de. 

The images are of your regular Joe citizens from several countries, tall and short, young and old, fat and thin. To me the images are clearly not pornographic in any way. The project shows before photos of the people in their clothes and the after photos of them naked, sometimes revealing baby weight, tattoos and more. Kempa explains on his site:

“Clothes are our second layer of skin. They disguise, reveal, mirror our innermost being or help to hide it. By wearing certain clothes we can for example give an indication of our profession, our social status or our emotional mood. A business suit makes us guess that the person behind it is a banker, office worker, insurance agent and so on. In our society it is a sign of trustworthiness. But to which degree is this assumption correct? Can we really trust this cover unreservedly?”

Apparently it was parents that said they would not want the project as an application. My question is why should Apple bow down to the wants of American parents over an application that is culturally acceptable in Germany. Should Apple be controlling content this much?  This worries me to think what else Apple can control. 

As a  company, I understand they should do as they please with their products and content on their products, but as a facet for journalism and freedom of speech, (which they basically say they are) they should not look at barring content. The article brings up a good point. Should a company overseas with different cultural standards be able to control the content in another country that uses their product? I don’t think Americans would like it if it happened to them. 

Germans are much more okay with nudity than Americans are culturally, and it shows. Billboards and commercials show breasts and sex scenes, going to a spa with a swimsuit on is not very normal, etc.  Apple (along with complaining American parents with different standards) should not be the ones to control what is shown in Germany. That’s my opinion.

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I did a story last week on money flow to Chile and Haiti from the mid-Missouri area. I talked to the local Red Cross and Salvation Army, two organizations collecting and sending money for both areas of devastation. The basic consensus was Haiti has received more money that Chile has for a number of reasons. 

One of the men from the Red Cross brought up a reason why that might be I haven’t really thought of. He said there was more media coverage for Haiti, showing all the devastation, and so they got more of a response and more money. Does it really matter how much coverage? Why wasn’t there more coverage for Chile? Surely there were areas hit very hard. 

I think it is hard to compare the two, Haiti and Chile. Even though they both did need international help. Chile’s government and infrastructure, as well as structure of the buildings are much stronger than in Haiti. This is my guess as to why people send less money. Also only around 500 people died compared to over 150,000 in Haiti, (last I checked).  

To me, it is not the media making the difference of how much money people send, but I think if you take two situations that are comparable, and the media covers one better, you would see a difference. 

This is why we, as journalists, bring these topics up in the first place, to be a watchdog, but how many stories are we missing or not talking about enough which need more light shed on them? Do we focus on some more than others unfairly, making money flow to some places more than others? It’s possible, but amount and type of media coverage on an area isn’t the only reason people choose to send money to one place and not another, but it’s interesting to think media coverage definitely has the power to do that. 

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The Austrailan reports it’s not over yet. It was back in 2006 when Jyllands-Posten printed cartoon drawings of Mohammed and caused a stir in the Muslim communities around the world. The picture causing the most concern was one made by Kurt Westergaard, which characterized Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban.  

Even with 24-hour security, a man broke into Westergaard’s home last month with an axe. Police arrested him and no one was hurt. Until last weekend, all Danish papers that reprinted the cartoons as an act of solidarity have not budged in apologizing to the Muslim community. Free speech, they say,  is a right to print the drawings, even if offensive to people. 

Now  on Feb 27, Politiken, a prominent Danish publication, apologized for the offending Muslims with the reprint, breaking that band of solidarity in hope to de-escalate the problem, but still standing by their right to print anything. 

The other newspapers, including Jyllands-Posten say this is a step back for press freedom. As for me, I would have to disagree. I believe they DO have the right to publish the drawings, yes, but it was distasteful and offensive to republish them just for the sake of republishing them and causing salt in the wounds. They were trying to entice the Muslim community to do something about it. (They got what they wanted.) To me, this seems like typical Denmark.

Having lived in Denmark for six months, I can honestly say things between the Danes and Muslim-Danes are not pretty all the time.  Muslims tend to live in their own neighborhoods. Danes tend to look down on them and Muslims tend to hold the lower social-economic class, and are facing more distasteful ridicule in the government policies than they  should.  

For example, the Danish People’s party, a strong anti-immigration party commonly known for anti-Islam politics, tried to pass a law saying food brought to those of lower-income status MUST include pig meat. (The only item mandatory.) The policy didn’t hold a chance, but this shows the Danish People’s Party is not too fond of Islam. 

To look at the history for a moment. Denmark used to have one of the most open immigration policies in Europe. Now today, it is quite the opposite. They have the most closed policy in the European Union. At one point, they even would not even let a Dane have his/her  foreign spouse  live in the country if one of them was under 24. That law was over-ruled by the EU.  Just under 10 percent of the Danish population are immigrants. 

With Danes being a very homogenous group, it’s easy to tell who is of the “true Danes” and who is not. And the Danish People’s Party is growing in votes and momentum. Even though they are not the party with the most power, (they come in third) they are a party that still has a huge impact on politics.  

I’m scared to see where this party would take Denmark if it gets to hold the most power in government. For now I’m glad to see that Politiken realized what they did was offensive/distasteful to people, even if they do have the right to print it.

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After the three Google executives met their loss in the case of the online video, I asked myself why Italy, why now? Press in the Europe is more free in some countries (Norway has the most free press in the world) and far from free in others (Bulgaria has the worst press freedom in the European Union).  

What is known in Italy, as in the rest of the world, is Italy’s Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi controls and owns almost all of the Italian media. This makes it easy for Italy to persecute other free speech rights, doesn’t it? 

There are a large number of politics behind the Amanda Knox  murder case  in Italy and my guess would be there is large number of politics behind this case as well.  Berlusconi likes to keep a tight reign on Italy’s thoughts through the media and that is no secret. There is, however,  also the possibility  that parts of Europe, including Italy, really just prioritize privacy over  information freedom.

Here in the United States, we were founded on freedom of speech, and we have so many ethical guidelines in journalism, many Europeans think we are nuts to not allow government taxes to help keep journalism alive and nuts to not be able to take coffee from a source. One day our privatized journalism may die out because of lack of resources and theirs may live on. Who knows!? But it is VERY unlikely it will ever be ethically changed. As Thomas Jefferson said, he thinks the U.S. would be better served by press without government, than government without press. 

In Europe, many countries believe the government is simply one of many  biases, just like a private company has on the press, and doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll really be any less truthful or journalistic. Knowing European history, it is also no surprise Europeans place privacy over freedom of speech. Blogs in Denmark made fun of the pictures caught on Google’s street level cameras for the maps. They showed people getting pulled over, naked bodies in homes and on lawns, etc.

This may be a breach of privacy to many people, likely even in the US. The EU surely doesn’t seem to be liking the idea of Google taking street level photos in their countries. Looking at German history with the Stasi victims, it’s not surprising privacy is a huge issue to them. 

What’s interesting to me is that this could be the first of many attempts to stop the power of Google. Does Google REALLY have a the RIGHT to take photos of naked people from the highway and blur them and place them online? And what is most terrifying about this Google court case is it may set a precedent for court cases in the future involving similar accusations. What would our world come to if company executives were suddenly responsible for every piece of information on the Web?  

I think I might have better luck finding a job as a free speech lawyer than as a journalist, not to mention more money.

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I found another blog about animation in Taiwan from the  Apple Daily, a news/gossip site. This time the story was about Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Having actually seen him in person before in Brussels, I can say that he definitely does NOT look like how he looks in the animation. He’s grayer and much more tired and exhausted looking than this video shows. However, that is not the point.

The Gordon Brown animation is taken from the Web site of Britain’s Channel 4 News

Channel 4 edited the video to show the most talked about moments, showing Brown as a mean, abusive boss. I have mentioned Apple Daily before in an article talking about ethics.  What’s interesting is the Taiwan animations keep coming up and as Robert Mackey says in his blog:

“reports in Britain following the publication of allegations against Mr. Brown have included denials from aides and civil servants who work closely with him that anything like these events actually took place, that hasn’t stopped British journalists and bloggers from enjoying the Chinese-language animation.”

Clearly, even though it is not fact-checked, bloggers and JOURNALISTS are enjoying it and making it known. I have not ever considered all blogging journalism anyways. It’s true there are some amazing great bloggers out there who get the story right and give a well thought out response to it. HOWEVER, there are far too many bloggers out there being paid to endorse products, push rumor as truth, and destroy or make companies’/private people’s fortunes and reputations.

As a reader we have to be careful and pick apart the truth from the haystack. Know your blogger and their work. In my opinion, we live in a world with so much information readily available, it’s easy to fall through the cracks and find a truthful looking piece of information that is anything but.

With all the misinformation, there will be a greater need for watchdog journalism.

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