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Free speech. Here’s another topic countries don’t seem to agree on. Should it be allowed? Does it help a democratic society? How do you define free speech? What can NOT be considered free speech. These were some of the questions we are looking at in my communications law class this summer.

I like to think about the different cases. As I mentioned in another blog, a man in Germany who runs nakedpeople.de is demanding that Apple let him have an application for the Iphone. He says just because his site isn’t in okay in the USA, doesn’t mean they should block it in Europe where his site IS okay and culturally normal.

I know this is a matter of a private company controlling speech and not a government entity, but it’s scary to think how much content could potentially be controlled by  private companies like Apple who have total control over content on your computer or phone. Should that be right? A company in another country controlling what you in your country can and can’t access? 

In the US at least, the government cannot control what a company allows or doesn’t allow.

As I’ve been starting to work at Newsy.com and searching for stories, I’ve been learning how different everyone can tell the same story. I love the international political stories, which I have pitched and worked on every time so far. As I’m researching for different views I’ve learned I can almost always count on Russia Today  to have alternate explanations and opinions, especially when it comes to stories involving communism.

For example, after the North Korea sinking of the South Korean ship, I found most videos talked about the investigation and the international view that the North did the act. Russia Today, however, also reported there was little evidence to make that claim and mentioned the whole ordeal could be a conspiracy against North Korea.

It’s so interesting to me how every country can tell history differently, their news differently and have such different level of standards. This makes it hard to work with journalists across borders.  Working with a journalist from Lithuania was different from working with one from the Netherlands or London. Even how we get out information is so different. What we print is different. There is no one simple solution to how journalism should work around the world because everyone believes something else.

North Korea is one the most interesting countries in the world to me, and I think it’s because I have no access to go there, and know very little about it. To journalists, it’s like a treasure box of stories you just don’t have a key too. It’s dangerous, dirty, full of poverty and seemingly many unfortunate people. North Korea controls their media to a high extent and I want to break in. Now with the sinking of the South Korean ship, North Korea is a hot commodity for international news… again.

What I have been told is that North Korea often acts out in some way like a rotten child and tries to get attention, especially when the country is in need of food.  As journalists we can’t ignore this, but we also shouldn’t serve it either. We need to know more on international stories, so we can write with more expertise. That is one of my personal goals, to go back to Europe and finish a global politics program, so I can write about EU and other international relations with a better eye.

I think it’s tough to report on politics because politicians try to manipulate what media write and try to make them focus on some stories over others. There are too many hidden agendas.

Unfortunately what we don’t have far too often, is time. It takes time to learn about countries and get to know how politics work. I want to be in the know when I write about a place, not out in the dark.

World Cup!

I love football – American football and the rest of the world’s football.  The atmosphere of the games and how much fans get into the game is one of the best parts. I’ve been lucky enough to briefly meet the FIFA World Cup president last year at a press conference in Brussels, Belgium when Belgium/Netherlands were trying to lure the World Cup to their countries jointly. FIFA is a very strong organization and has an amazing amount of power and money. (And strangely enough has not bought into the concept of using instant replay to check over refs’ calls.)

Similarly to the Olympics, when countries to host the World Cup, they can either end up in a load of debt for doing so, (such as Athens did with the Olympics) they can come out with a new world image (which South Africa no doubt is hoping for) and they can cover up the negativities of the country.

Just look at China. During the Olympics there were many negative things going on hidden by tall walls. Communities of people were displaced. A young singer wasn’t allowed to be the face of her song because she wasn’t considered pretty enough.

It saddens me when large events come to cities, making its citizens proud and then practically shoves a portion of them out of the way to show off the best of the best.

Looking at the reporting it seems South Africa with the 2010 World Cup is covering up less poverty etc. than China did with the Olympics. I also believe South Africa has much more to lose and lots prove if things go wrong. Being newly free they have a greater sense of community and power to make the World Cup amazing and an enormous amount of pressure to make sure everyone is safe. South Africa will be the world’s stage.

I think there could have been more reporting on the shortfalls of South Africa, and more about the people. It’s unfortunate that Americans don’t watch soccer as much as the rest of the world, or there probably would have been more stories on the issue throughout the U.S.  That is my only guess as to why there was not as much coverage on much outside of the games themselves. (Plus Africa news has proven to be least interesting to readers and viewers in a number of polls I have seen.)

President Obama said recently that he doesn’t like the 24-hour news cycle. I can see why this may be. When big things happen, it’s hard to secure sites, reel back in “leaked” information, and ultimately stay in control.  As a politician, 24-hour news can be a best friend or biggest foe, depending on the story.

I’ve even seen CNN get the story wrong because they were talking about news they haven’t completely fact checked yet. At first CNN said a man trying to get back to Pakistan was on a plane that had to turn around to get him off. Later they said he was apprehended before he even got onto the plane, but that it turned around for other people who were suspected. Sure we got to see the events unfold in real time, but also got to see flaws in reporting that can come with trying to be first.

For democracy’s sake, it’s good to have 24-hour news because it’s harder to hide issues when they are spewing out constantly. The one thing I don’t like is that now politicians often think they have to do something weird or cause a ruckus somehow just to get attention, or even say something ridiculous. How many reporters will go to a boring press conference over one where something sexier is happening?

Overall, 24-hour news is great and I watch it often, but it definitely has it’s ups and downs for those it covers, particularly those wanting certain things hushed up. What do you think?

I recently read an article in the New York Times about animals taking over television. They appear to have steadily rising ratings. The article goes into talking about why animal television is so intriguing. The conclusion? Animals are adorable, weird, just like us, and want to kill and often eat us.

So better question, why do we like watching adorable, weird, human-like, man eating organisms? Can we apply this to our journalism stories? We can. People love little feature, kicker stories about the water-skiing squirrel, or  vicious shark attacks. What we can also take from this as journalists is the videography. Often Discovery Channel or series like “Life” have photographers who are nothing short of amazing. They shoot up close, personal shots of animals to tell the story in the most detailed and beautiful, colorful way possible. These photographers also have patience, and lots of it.

Unfortunately on a day-turn, we cannot sit and wait for the perfect shot of person committing fraud or sit around and wait for an earthquake aftershock to happen. We just don’t have the time, nor the resources, but we can of course put forward the most effort possible to get amazing shots that seem to bring in great rating (at least for the animal world).

What else can we take? Well, obviously there is an interest for longer stories, even for niche market material. “60 Minutes” has been a very popular show with long-term journalism stories. People do still watch it. I wish we had the monetary means to send people out to do more stories like this. Could it up ratings? Maybe. It can’t hurt.

The station I work for currently, KOMU-TV, does a regular, weekly, (I believe) long-term story called “Sarah’s Stories”.  I think this fills a niche market similar to animal stories would. She finds weird, adorable stories, often with people with some sort of issue, sometimes man-eating blindness or cancer for example, who are just like us, but not. We send our best photographer with her to really capture the story well. Sound familiar? Mmmhmm. Are her stories popular in the community? Yep, you bet.

Of course my station may only be able to afford this because we have unpaid students working all the daily reporting shifts for class credit. However, the point remains. We need more of these stories and maybe, our rating could go up too, but ah… where’s the resources to do it more often?

Haiti shook.

Chile shook.

China shook (more than once).

Iceland exploded (Hello, Ash).

Somewhere else has a drought and another has a flood.

Point is, we’ve been hearing LOTS of natural disaster news lately, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets sick of hearing the same stories over and over again. Unfortunately for news directors, these disasters are getting redundant, but we have to show the straight up facts, and we can’t ignore one horrible disaster and tell another. However, we as reporters, can try to find a better story than the same old.

I find the other stories, such as Africa’s flower economics getting screwed over by the ash cloud, much more intriguing. Weirdly enough though, I tend to be a person who like to know the who, what, where, when, why right up front, and I still do, but with these stories, we need to go further to find something that others haven’t to make our stories unique. It’s hard to do. It’s also monetarily impossible for many. Not many stations can afford to send people out to get unique perspectives on a global story. Most video comes straight from mother stations or AP and Rueters, who should be trying harder and not just send out the surface soil. Dig deeper guys!

I have a colleague (and fellow northern Minnesotan) who recently won a Youtube contest for journalism. (Congrats to him!) When I asked him where he wanted to go with his $10 -thousand, he said possibly reporting from Haiti. My first thought was, this has been covered a lot. Who wants to hear about Haiti anymore? I know they are still suffering and there are probably plenty of stories still, but as a news director, do you want more Haiti coverage in your show? Or would you rather have something newer, fresher? I’m struggling with this. How should we cover “old news” and convince directors that a new look at it is worth the effort?

I have to commend my colleague for looking for a deeper story in an “old news” environment and yes, I will watch it. His idea, which I won’t reveal, will indeed tell a great story of a group of people who don’t cross my mind often. Good luck to him and good riddens he has the monetary ability and will to put together what should be a great story.