Thursday, November 30, 2006

Are Muslims being unfairly singled out?

Recently there have been incidents in which Muslim individuals have been singled out and detained for what seems to be acting out in public. Two examples in the news recently include a Muslim student found in the UCLA library who refused to show a required identification card to UCLA security. As a consequence of his refusal, he was tasered five times and arrested.

Another recent incident was the “Minneapolis Six,” who made a scene on a U.S. Airways flight bound for Phoenix. The event occurred Tuesday, November 21, just before the Thanksgiving weekend. FrontPageMagazine.com reported six imams, three of whom bought one-way tickets and did not check luggage, as “praying loudly and spouting some kind of anti-U.S. rhetoric regarding the war in Iraq and Saddam Hussein,” according to airport spokesman Paul Hogan.

The imams proceeded to sit in separate sections of the airplane. They all asked for seatbelt extensions, functioning with as what appeared to be behavioral similarities to the 9/11 hijackers. After being removed from the aircraft, they were questioned by the FBI, but no formal charges were made against them.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for an investigation of the event, claiming it was discriminatory action. In addition, the imams are instigating a boycott of the airlines.

Why would they act with such shady behavior if they didn’t want to be singled out? What were the motivations behind their actions? Why would anyone act with this way in an airport post 9/11 if they didn’t want to get caught and leave a message?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

News Coverage and the Web

The Boston Globe reported twelve high school students were expelled from Edwardsville High School in Illinois. Unlike the Globe, The Edwardsville Journal reported the incident without mentioning a key element—that the fight was orchestrated through MySpace.com.

The Edwardsville Journal reported that “School officials heard about the potential conflict from other students at the school, while the Boston Globe maintained that school officials said the fight was arranged on MySpace.

Why did the Journal leave out this fact? Is the mainstream media overly concerned with occurrences happening on the Web, instead of the events themselves? Does this indicate that some news sources are trying to place blame on social networking sites when altercations like this arise?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Selling/Giving away Children on Craigslist

This morning, as I was searching the CNN.com Web site, I saw a video clip about a five year old boy who was posted on Craigslist by his estranged father. The post ran, “Free to good home, 5 year old boy.”

In a November 11 article by Ben Charny on eweek.com the writer said that an ad posted by a California woman who was attempting to sell her four year old daughter for five hundred dollars was still posted on Craigslist days later.

Charny reported, “Craigslist founder Craig Newmark said the Martinez Police never contacted the company during their investigation, which led to the woman's arrest Tuesday on child soliciting charges.”

When law enforcement was questioned about contacting the site, Charny said “It may not have been necessary in this case. Plus, in general, law enforcers still chafe at the plodding pace of Internet companies acting upon official, or unofficial, requests for help or information. Often, it just isn't worth the wait.”

What else is being sold on popular Internet Web sites, and how can webmasters help prevent transactions like this from happening in the future? What will prevent people from selling sex, drugs, or stolen organs? Should there be more checks and balances on sites like Craigslist that give users complete control and power over information and ads posted online?

To watch the video, click the "More Law Video" tab to watch the on the CNN.com Law section.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

JDate from Hell

I know that I am supposed to do a post right now that is web journalism related, but I read/heard something today that is just too good/hilarious/outrageous to pass up. Here is the low down. A guy, Darren Sherman went out with a girl to snazzy New York restaurant "China Grill." The poor girls name is Joanne (last name not shown). They met on popular Jewish online dating service, Jdate.com.

This truly is the date from hell. If you want to have a hearty laugh click here, read all of the dialogue, and make sure to listen to ALL the phone messages left on Joanne's machine by Darren.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Anchors and TV news executives looking to young blogger for news

How did Brian Stetler become so famous among big shot TV news people? Yesterday, there was a front page article on Stetler and his widely popular blog, tvnewser.com. The 21 year old Towson University student is now a news source for top anchors like Brian Williams from NBC news.

In the article, Stetler pretty much tells his readers to calm down. He said that he has a life outside of posting the most current new updates, and that he is trying his best. I found it pretty entertaining, and am curious how this young student initially got recognized.

To see The New York Times article click here.

What does it say about journalism that The New York Times is printing articles about journalism instead of real news on the front page? Are we (journalists) that obsessed with ourselves? Or, am I overacting?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Joe Sacco says NO to objective journalism

Joe Sacco, award winning comic illustrator and writer, spoke at the Nieman Foundation conference on Friday at the Sheraton hotel in Boston. Sacco, most popularly known for award-winning “Palestine” and “Safe Area Gorazde,” went to Israel and the Palestine for 2 months before writing and illustrating his book. Inspired by Hunter S. Thompson, Michael Herr and George Orwell, Sacco is a frequent illustrator for Robert Crumb’s “American Splendor.”

Often a character in his own work, Sacco said, “It is almost organic that I would do comics about my experiences traveling, let’s say in Gaza or the West Bank." The comic artist expressed his desire to give a human angle when talking about his experiences going into Palestinians’ homes, drinking tea.

Sacco is not a fan of objective journalism. He said that when he went to the Middle East, he had prejudices as a Westerner among the Palestinians. “Women to me felt like pidgins,” he said. They were just faceless beings in headdresses until one woman talked to him in good English and asked him educated questions. That for him broke some of those prejudices.

Sacco said that he was very insecure about the journalistic part of his job. He expressed some uncertainty about what he was doing, but eventually figured it out. He shared advice with the audience when he said, "you have to find out what is important to the people you’re interviewing... if you know what’s going on around you, you’re in."

On the question of journalistic integrity Sacco admitted that some people dismiss his work as just comics, but over the years people have been more willing to see it as legitimate. He studied objective journalism at the University of Oregon, but said he didn’t think he could get the story across in that way. One thing about Sacco is that he did not pretend to function without having his own politics. He said he strives to be honest in his work.

When asked about why he only painted one side of the picture in “Palestine,” he said it was because the American media had already shown the Israeli side. “I’m not afraid to show that I empathize with the Palestinians.”

To my surprise, I learned Sacco hates the expression “graphic novel.” He said that both he and Pulitzer Prize winning comic writer Art Spiegelman hate the reference. A novel to Sacco posits fiction and he sees his work as non-fiction.

Sacco mentioned in his talk that his goal is to be honest. If that is true, why doesn't he paint both sides of the conflict? Isn't an innate part of journalism to produce fair and balanced reporting, even if one is trying to show the other side? Lastly, is it even true that the American media has only reported one side of the conflict? These are serious questions that must be asked before and after reading Sacco's work.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Calvin Trillin talks about the narrative, The New Yorker and the Web

At a conference put on by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, Clavin Trillin, staff writer for the New Yorker since 1963, spoke in the grand ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston this afternoon. Professional journalists shuffled in along with some young adults, who I assumed were students such as myself.

Mark Kramer, who has written for the Boston Globe, The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly, Outside and other publications said while introducing Trillin, “we have to get the story right, and listen to the people who live it.”

After Kramer thanked the crowd for coming, Trillin started his speech with a joke saying, “I wrote a poem in The Nation explaining why Karl Rove seemed so confident. Had a plan to keep Republicans on top by revealing a plot of two Muslim men who are getting married.” Chuckles ran through the room as I watched journalists staring at the speaker then at their laps with pens and notepads in hand, courtesy of Poynter.org.

Trillin spoke about his writing process for narrative journalism at the New Yorker. William Shawn, Trillin’s editor at the time, assigned the writer 3,000 word pieces every three weeks. Trillin said that regular people would ask him how he kept up the pace, while newspaper people asked him what else he did. Laughter flurried across the crowd, as the room was filled with journalists who I’m sure empathized with his situation.

He said that he wasn’t trying to write pieces about typical people, but wanted to tell a story. “The New Yorker was a unique place when I started working there,” he said, “it had no pictures, no table of contents, no poll quotes, or two to three line descriptions.”

Trillin said that the narrative and good writing is a bonus next to the necessity of being accurate. “The basic foundation of journalism is getting it right,” he said. He went on to talk about the temptation that journalists have to blur the truth a little bit when it comes to transition lines and straightening out the facts. He said, “Accuracy is a basic part of this.”

The formal part of his speech ended with a reading of some humorous corrections. He read off funny errors like person x didn’t actually “sache” across the stage, etc.

I found that the most enlightening part of his talk was in the question and answer section. A man asked what Trillin thought of online storytelling and blogs. Trillin responded saying, “I’m not familiar with them, but I agree that this stuff changes in form and venue, but is still writing.” The writer said that when he was a boy there were 4 major magazines, which no longer exist. “Now there are magazines devoted to ferret owners,” he said. He admitted that although he’s not familiar with too much of the online materials, he reads some of the political blogs, particularly during election time.

The last question was from a woman who asked if he ever made any mistakes. Trillin said, “Sure I did.” For Trillin, fact checking is a great comfort. “If you hear a writer at the New Yorker saying that a certain fact checker is a pain, that is a bad reporter,” he said.

Trillin agreed that the Web helps a lot, but said that it is a mistake to rely solely on the Internet for research. He mentioned Wikipedia as being one unreliable source. He expressed his frustration with the free online encyclopedia, saying that they wrongly wrote he is very fond of comic books. “It wasn’t true, I am not fond of comic books,” he responded.

On the Internet as a resource for journalists he said, “It’s wonderful and democratic, but gives you less of an excuse to get it wrong.”

To read what Romenesko says about how Trillin's writing has changed click here.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Manipulating religious customs with technology

I was intrigued to read an article that explored the life of orthodox Jews and the loopholes they can find within a world of gadgets. My orthodox step father, Bob, sports a tool belt stuffed with his ipod, Trio, Blue-Tooth, and many other electronic tools that get him through the day. Now, he can have more gadgets to look forward to such as the “Sabbath phone,” which has a microprocessor inside it. The device is configured in a way that the user doesn’t have to activate any electronic circuit within that would make he or she break the rules of Jewish Law pertaining to the Sabbath. This phone is available for observant Jews to use from Friday when Shabbat starts to its conclusion on Saturday evening at sundown.

Technology allows us to manipulate three thousand year-old laws from the Bible to accommodate our rapidly evolving technology-based society. Hopefully, we can maintain our religious customs without jeopardizing the sanctity of tradition.

To read more on the subject click here.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another Fox Fumble?

I must admit, Fox News is one of my guilty pleasures. I am drawn to it like a deer in headlights, which segues to today’s blog entry. As I scoured through Fox’s top videos of the day, it didn’t shock me that a clip of a deer holding a plastic pumpkin head in its mouth made number one on the list.

Under the clip, a headline ran, “Michigan deer finds its way out of a tough spot.” All I saw in the clip was an idle deer holding a pumpkin for about 30 seconds. It would help if there was a short story that I could click on underneath the clip, but I guess it’s not enough of a story to actually write about. So, why is it considered a good enough story to broadcast?

I still don’t understand why Fox News continues to put up these videos, but I have been learning to except this trend, sit back and enjoy the mindless entertainment, for now.

In referring back to a conversation I had with Joyce Kulhawik from CBS4, I agree with her on some things discussed. She said that because networks have this new technology they use it, regardless if it’s good news or not. I think they use it even if it isn’t news at all. Maybe they are simply running out of material.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Cell phone use coming to a plane near you

In a society where it’s acceptable for law school students to instant message each other in class and employers to conduct online interviews, are we even making a connection anymore? Is technology, created to enhance communication, further separating us from the outside world?

Emirates airlines announced future plans to allow cell phone use in-flight by implementing new GSM technology, deemed airplane safe. Instead of using designated airline phones, which cost $5.00 per minute, personal cell phones will cost $3.50 per minute. But is it even a question of money, or merely our obsession to stay constantly connected to technology?

In a CNN video segment with Robert Quest, one passenger in opposition to the Airline’s plans said that he gets some of his best work done while traveling by plane. He predicts that people yapping away on their cell phones will be annoying and disruptive. Reports indicate that 50 percent of other airlines will follow suit within the next two years.

If cell phone use is permitted while 35,000 feet in the air, there will be virtually no cell phone free zone on Earth. So, the next time I fly coach in a cramped seat, squished between two other passengers, I will imagine my mother quibbling with another lawyer on her cell phone in a high pitched voice atop a crying baby, tableware hitting food trays, and my friendly neighbor blowing his nose while the other files her nails. Sounds like I have a lot to look forward to!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Getting Readers to Click

As I was checking my AOL email today the title, “German Victims Come Forward” caught my attention. I am not used to hearing the term German victims, without the word Jewish jammed in the middle. An AOL user who goes under the name, CITADEL43 seemed to have a similar reaction. The user said in the “Post Thoughts” section:

I don't know how the media can refer to them as victims. Right or wrong, the Reich's program gave them a life, while many others were having theirs snuffed out. Plus they are of good stock. Most will probably live to be over 100. Doesn't sound like much of a victim, just a product of the Reich.

CITADEL43 received four responses, all of which criticized him for questioning the AP article slug line. What’s interesting about this article is that when you click on the title to read the full story a new title appears, “Germans Tell of Secret Nazi Breeding Program.” This makes me wonder if they used the first controversial title to attract readers into clicking the link to view the full article. Or, are they really calling these Germans victims?

Friday, November 03, 2006

What has Fox News come to?

I was searching on the Foxnews.com website this morning to find more information on their earlier broadcast about a U.S. based website that is providing Islamic Fundamentalists with instructions on how to build Weapons of Mass Destruction. However, I came across a video that Fox News put up instead. The video is of a monkey in the zoo who gets scared of his own reflection.

Judging by the quality of this very short video clip, I have to assume it was done by a citizen and not a professional reporter, or so I hope. Is this a joke? Who cares? Aren’t there more important things in this world going on than a monkey holding a mirror?

Click HERE, and scroll down to the “Download This” section to watch this video along with other frivolous clips.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Kerry gets stuck in his words

On Monday, Democrat Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry created an upset within political campaigns and the military when he said, “Education. If you make the most of it, study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

What did Kerry really mean by this comment, and why would he even tread on such a thin line? Was he referring to President Bush getting the U.S. stuck in Iraq or people in the military?

I’m not so sure that these questions even matter. Kerry offended soldiers, their families and anyone else who supports U.S. troops. I think that he intended to insult the President, but because he could not get his words out right, dug his own grave. Now he is the one who sounds uneducated, because an educated person would think twice about what they were saying to the American people. Not a smart move.

To watch Kerry’s remarks click here.