Thursday, January 3, 2013

        Sometimes the media brings to light atrocities that demand change and sometimes its exploits them by scaring the public and reinforcing old prejudices 
      This article about the media's coverage of a young woman who died after being gang-raped on a Delhi bus, pointed out how the coverage of this event has brought to light the problem of sexual assaults in India. However it also has driven people to the streets to demand justice.  
      When a story goes global there is no way to hide it any longer.  You can't deny it, say no comment, or exercise the 5th in the court of the media.  Just like many people in America have demanded new gun control laws in the wake of the shooting in Connecticut people in India have gone to the street to demand new laws sexual assault laws and the hanging of everyone who took part in the gang-rape.  
           But just because a story goes global doesn't mean it will lead to cultural change or new laws. 
The problem is that so many stories go global, that they seem to drown each other out.  It the hours after a big story hits the media picks at it like flies pick at a dead horse publishing every juice detail, playing out every theory until they have made all of us so confused and horrified that we can barely recall what the story was about in the first place.       
Before we can put all the pieces together another breaking story comes across the wire and we our given a new monster to fear. 
     A few days after the incident in New Delhi, a crowd of villagers in India publicly beat a politician accused of rape.  I wonder what would happen if we could publicly beat every politician that is accused of committing a crime in the media.
     I like to watch shows like "Reliable Sources"  and "Daily Showthat are critical of the way the media covers important stores. We need more programs and stories that commend the media when they bring important stories to light and condemn them when they spread rumors. 


need more good stories about victims

need a filter more shows that look at it and think about good vs bad.  or at least make fun of it.     

Saturday, December 29, 2012

     Rin Kelly, a writer for wrote an interesting article that asks does the media coverage of mass shooting inspire killers to act.  By surrounding the victims houses, chasing down crying people and publishing every rumor about the killer and their motives before they can be verified the media is giving more than 15 minutes of fame to the killers.   What can be done to encourage the media to show some restraint and respect for the victims and the broken families they leave behind? 
         In the wake of tragic, life shattering event like mass shootings it is easy for people to watch TV news and let in shape the story as every horifing detail comes to light.    
         "(In 1999 right after the shooting at Columbine) Rumors of bullying and vengenance quickly hit airwaves, where the school's nearly 2,000 kids heard and absorbed them. Teenagers eager to talk then repeated them back to a 24-hour media eager to speculate,"
           In this article Kelly points out that the inaccurate stories and speculator that follow mass shootings can have long term effect on how the public's perception of why these things continue to happen.  
   "In the process, (In the coverage of Columbine) we demonized an already vulnerable population of teens, subtly vilified the victims themselves, drew a roadmap to infamy for copycats, pretended that the rarest types of violence are our most pressing violence." 
       Towards the end of the article Kelly talks about behavioral expert Loren Coleman the author of "The Copycat Effect", who argues that many of the many of the killers in the most recent mass shooting are following the methods that were layout in the wall to wall coverage of earlier shootings like Columbine. 
     "Now with mass shootings too, he says 'we're even having the copycat down to the type of gun."
           Here is an article from July that shows how several newspapers covered the movie theater shooting with a picture of the killer and the body count.  There must be a better way to memorialize the victims and talk about what can be done to deal with the problems of gun violence instead of glorifying the killers and their carnage.  It takes time to put together good pieces that go below the obvious headline and that is something that few news organizations have the patients to put out.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Will Newtown Lead to New Day?
               As the Out-of-town media roll out of Newtown after the last funeral, and the focus of the all day news channels returns to a renewed countdown to the fiscal cliff many are wondering if Newtown will lead to a turning point in the war against gun violence or just another scary number (27 dead, 20 of them children). If England was able to enact major changes to its gun laws after the Dunblane school massacre in 1996 and Australia found a reason to give up most of their guns after the Port Arthur massacre, why didn't American make any significant changes after Columbine in 1999 or Virginia Tech in 2007 or the Aurora in July, 2012?  
              This latest massacre pushed President Obama to finally jump off the cliff and call for a commission to look into what can be done to stop the violence. Something he was unwilling to talk about even after the massacre in a movie Theater in July.  But that unfortunate event happened in the middle of an election and this one happened 11 days before Christmas.  After several days of conferring on what would be the best way to respond the NRA decided to release a statement. If only we had guns in every school we would have no more tragedies like this.  However that didn't work in Columbine. Many people responded to Newtown by giving up their guns at gun by back events like this one in Los Angeles. Others are using Facebook to encourage people to post their random acts of kindness
              No matter when these act of senseless murder occur they always inspire a lot of talk and very little action as the national spotlight moves on to the next distraction.  If no major changes come out of this it is bound to happen again.  Its not a matter of if but when. "If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, now incable must Man be of learning from experience." George Bernard Shaw. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Censoring the Internet

It turns out china is not the only government looking for ways to
censor or restrict internet use.

Yahoo appears to be the only company that has joined Google's call to fight internet censorship in China. While supports in China set up a makeshift shrine outside Google headquarters fearing that this could mean the end for the King of Search in China.

Google's Dispute with China has revived talk of a Global Online Freedom Act that would punish companies for sharing users info with "internet-restricting" companies.

Many people in China have found holes in the Great Fire Wall that allow them to gain access to restricted sites like Facebook and Youtube.

The Italy government is looking to introduce a law that would force people to obtain authorization form the communication ministry to post video on Youtube.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Now the newspaper fits in your Pocket

This story in The New York Times states that Verve Wireless has come up with a way to help local newspapers bring their product to the 40 million people in the U.S. that actively use their cell phone to go online. Verve Wireless provides publishing technologies to create newspaper websites for cell phones in exchange for a share of the ad revenue.

The Associated Press, Verve's biggest customer, made an investment of $3 million to finance the company, based Encinitas, CA. Verve already provides mobile versions of 4,000 newspapers from 140 publishers.

Verve's chief executive, Art Howe said mobile versions of Web sites “cannot just be Internet lite,” they must be redesigned to better fit this new medium of cell phones and PDAs. Verve designed a application for the iPhone one that lets users look through the day's headlines, save articles to read later and send articles to friends.

“Mobile is actually a better way to reach people than print or even Web. It’s versatile, immediate, travels and is just as compelling,” said Howe. With Verve' software publishers can place national ad campaigns on their sites or upload local ads to their cellphone sites.

Philadelphia Magazine, for example, sent readers of its Verve-developed Web site a text message offering $4 grapefruit cocktails and half-price appetizers at a local bar.

Mobile companies hope the ad customization that cellphones offer will encourage advertisers to spend more for ads on cellphones.

Advertisers will spend only $1.6 billion on mobile ads this year, while spending $26 billion online, predicts eMarketer, a marketing research firm.

While their is a hugh potential for growth in mobile readership and advertising I think it will take a three to five years for this market to really take off and for companies to realize that they can reach potential customers by advertising on mobile sites.

My personal cell phone, a cheap, Samsung SGH A707 only lets me look up news on and it only lets you browse through a list of different news categories. Even people who have the iPhone run into areas where their internet connection is slow or does not work because they cannot find a wireless network.

Reading a newspaper or a book on the small scree of a cellphone or PDA or a electronic book reader is never going to be as easy as reading on a laptop or reading the print copy. Its like watching a movie on a big screen TV and then watching it on a portable DVD player.

I think that most people who have iPhones only use it to surf the internet when they have to. They use when they are at work, stung in an airport or, taking the subway. Most people would rather open up their laptop or buy a print copy then read on a screen so small that you have to squint at it if they really wanted to spend a few minutes reading the paper. I think most people would rather watch a movie on a big screen TV rather then their laptop or a portable DVD player.

Surfing the web on your cell phones is good for finding out quick facts like the weather, sports scores and stock updates if you cannot get to you computer or you do not want to wait for your laptop to start up. How many "
CrackBerry" do you that spend several hours every week reading the paper? The PDA and the cellphone are great devices for keeping in touch with friends no matter how far away you are but not for reading.

I think that people who do spend a lot of time surfing the internet on their cellphone get most of their news from TV news and rarely read any of the copy below the headlines when they glance at the local paper.

Creating mobile websites for local newspapers will help them to increase their ad revenues but I think it will do little to help them improve circulation or increase the number of people who read the paper everyday.

This is another tool that newspapers should jump on to make their product more accessible to more readers but in the end it will do little to solve the revenue problems that the newspaper industry is facing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fencing off free speech

This article and an article in the Chicago Tribune (protest sites for Olympics) that talks about how the Chinese are creating "free speech zones" for people who want to protest in public during the Olympics made me wonder

How can you say you are for freedom of speech on one hand and then insist that if people want to protest in public they must do it in a designated area far away from major political events?

Just as Chinese officials are trying to keep the Olympics from becoming to political officials in Denver and the twin cities are trying to keep the conventions from becoming to political and unpredictable. Denver wants to use the conventions as a world stage to showcase what so great about their cities and the great states of Colorado. They want people to visit Denver. Which is good idea, considering you can travel hundreds of miles to an exotic city without having to change you currency.

The thing is these great cities can still get a good PR boost without having to wall off free speech and keep their plans control the protesters a secret.

It is disturbing to hear about the increased secrecy over what the way the police plan to deal with protesters and what equipment they are planning to purchase to control crowds that could grow as large as the crowd that met Obama in Berlin yesterday.

The refusal of the Denver police to turn over records of the equipment they plan to purchase for crowd control and what they plan to do with unruly protesters have created an atmosphere that is ripe for rumor s and speculation.

This atmosphere has given credence to ridiculous rumors like the police are planning to buy devices that use sound waves to causing them to lose control of their bowels. This system was called the "brown note" in some corners.

Why would anyone believe a rumor that police would resort to using a "Brown Note" against protesters? How could they possibly clean up the mess?

Apparently Denver city officials were afraid that someone would. On Wednesday they told Rocky Mountain News that these rumors were false and insisted that the equipment that they are buying would not include "microwave or sonic waves or weapons that use "slime" or "goo" to immobilize protesters" according to a Fox News article.

Now that we known they are not planning on hiring the GhostBusters, or that Marc Summers from the Nickelodeon's Double Dare. Unfortunately we still cannot rule out if they plan to use sharks with laser beams on their heads.

Until the police realize the details to the public they will never be able to escape the rumors and speculation that will fly all over the internet and eventually leak out into the mainstream media.

"Free speech zones" weather they are in Beijing, a city known for keeping secrets or Denver is a violation of our freedom of speech because it creates a physical barrier between the people and the politicians and the media covering the event.

In the case of the DNC convention, Denver is planning to keep protesters couped up in a cage made of chicken wire and chain link fences that are more than 600 yards from the convention.

Those who attempt to exercise their First Amendment rights outside this makeshift cage, which is partially obscured by trees and sculptures, will be arrested.

According to an editorial in the White Mountain Independent (a small Colorado paper)
John W. Whitehead,

Whitehead points out that even some members of the media are so scared that protesters could disturb their broadcasts or endanger their reporters that they are using Denver officials to keep protesters away from media tents.

It is the job of the media to cover protesters to brave unruly situations and cover all sides of the story of the convention. They must cover the protesters outside of the convention center and keep the Democratic party from dictating the coverage of the event.

Protesters are only perceived as dangerous because their message challenges the status quo. It's the message that is feared. Thus, efforts to confine and control the dissenters are really efforts to confine and control their political messages, whatever those might be.

Free speech zones and all the secrecy that goes with them are not only unconstitutional by unpractical for Denver. By restricting where protesters can go to a few areas far from the action you are enticing them to do more in a desperate attempt to grab the attention of the press.

If you make them feel like they voice cannot be heard because they are physically kept hundreds of feet away from everyone that is participating in the conventions some protesters are more likely to protest in ways in more extreme and even violent ways. Some protesters will come to the free speech zones with the attitude that the only way to get reporters to bring their cameras over and take a peek at what they are doing is to get on the nerves of the police.

Fencing off protesters and keeping them out of the action sends the message to people all over the county that they are really two Americans. ( to steal a line from a famous speech of John Edwards) The connected: politicians who claim to represent the people, corporate tycoons and really rich people and the unconnected; everyone else who lack the money and fame to get their voice heard.
If protesters felt like someone in the convention was willing to listen to their cries if they felt like they did not have to create a chaotic situation to get the attention of the media they might be more likely to corporate.

The protesters need to a reason to believe that some of the politicians did not come all this way just to grandstand and preach from their bully pulpit. They did not come from all over the country and all over the world to be treated like terrorists suspects and extremists.

When political protest is caged, it's not just the rights of a few protesters that are at stake. The very definition of freedom is in danger.

Putting physical barriers between protesters and everyone that has a ticket to the convention endanger the definition of freedom that this country was founded on. The bill of rights was written to give freedom to the people that could only be restricted in extreme circumstances.

Citizens were given the freedoms that are guaranteed in the bill of rights to make the government fear the people. Thanks to the paranoia of terrorism in the wake of September 11 terrorists attacks citizens fear the government more then ever before.

In Beijing the International Olympic Committee's chief coordinator, Hein Verbruggen believes that by creating "free speech zones" the IOC is "Showing that Beijing is serious about human rights."

According to Olympics security director Liu Shaowu "free speech zones" give Chinese citizens an opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech that they were given by Chinese law.

"Chinese law guarantees the legal rights of demonstration and assembly," Liu said.

By fencing off protesters Denver officials are lowing themselves to the standards of the Chinese by caging protesters. In China any sign of lowering restrictions on freedom of speech is sen as a sign that the government is giving in to public pressure and actually listening to the people. In American where are freedom of speech is guaranteed by the constitution any sign that the government is trying to cutoff the average citizens from public debate and keep them out of the political process.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Citizen Journalists pays the ultimate price

Wei Wenhau: the first citizen journalist to be killed? | Newsblog | Guardian Unlimited: "Tianmen."

Chinese man is murdered for filming a fight between city officials and villagers.

"On Monday, Wei Wenhau accidentally found himself a witness to a confrontation in the town where he lived in Hubei, a central Chinese province.

Villagers were quarreling with city officials who had arrived in the area to dump waste near their homes. When the officials started to unload the rubbish, a scuffle broke out.

Wenhau worked at a senior level for a construction company and was also a member of the Communist party. He was an upstanding member of the community and on seeing the violence he thought he'd record it.

Reports indicate that Wenhau was hauled out of his car and set on by all the government workers - about 50 of them. He was reportedly attacked for a period of five minutes."

The story of Wei Wenhau's death only came to light as a result of a blogger Paul Walsh. His blog was shut down shortly after his site was overrun by posts attacking the Chinese government.

In a democracy the free press are responsible for holding the government, corporations and anyone else with power accountable to the citizens to make sure they adhere to the rule of law In a dictatorship like China, where the government imposes its will on the people with the rule of fear the citizens have no one to turn to.

Citizen Journalists take on the government imposes on its people by taking up cameras and writing in blogs to bring there brutality to light.

To continue to push for free speech and democracy across the globe America should protest censorship wherever it arises.

Instead of standing by Taiwan and the Bush administration warned Taiwan nine times last year against voting for a referendum to apply to the United Nations as a country separate from China.

We must led the Taiwanese determine how they want to declare their independence from China.

If American does not speak out against China and support citizen Journalists in the effort to bring the truth to the world China's influence will only continue to grow. The ability of China's government to transform their economy, build enough power plants to keep it growing and take on epic architectural feats such as the Three Gorges Damn project have encourage other tyrants. China is inspiring new and old tyrants by providing them with a blueprint of how to impose your will on the people and grow your economy at the same time.

The best way that America can derail this blueprint is by supporting citizen journalists in China to shame the government by bring the truth to light. We have to show then the extreme poverty that still exists throughout the country. We have show how government officials use brutality to strike fear in the eyes of the citizens. Most of all we have to keep the memory of Wei Wenhau alive. No matter how hard the Chinese try to build a firewall to keep out the ideas of the free world the truth will always fine a way to slip through the cracks.

The best thing that we can do as Journalists and citizens is to keep talking about the injustices that continue to go on in China. As the Olympics approach us China will look for any way it can to drum up positive media stories to make it look like the government is more concerned with improving the lives of ordinary citizens then with maintains control. We must tune out the propaganda and bring the stories of citizen journalists to light so that the public can see both sides of the next superpower.