Cutting Ties

Recently, UMass announced they were cutting ties with Bill Cosby, after a series of rape allegations came forward from numerous women. Cosby served as the honorary co-chair of UMass Amherst’s capital campaign, and has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the university. While I’m proud of the university for making this decision, I can’t help but find it a little ironic that by doing so UMass is painting a picture of being a proactive campus against rape culture, when in actuality it is a huge problem that there is simply not enough being done about.

In an article published by The Wire, UMass is listed as one of 55 schools listed as allegedly mishandling rape cases.

Most of us probably remember the gang rape that occurred in a campus residence hall in 2012. Ultimately this was contributed to a lack of security. This came just two years after an article was published in The Daily Collegian, detailing a student who was only given a deferred suspension, even after admitting to the rape. While campus officials admitted they had made a mistake in that repercussion, several other women came forward after and admitted the university had handled their situation in similar fashion. I find it sad that now under the spotlight the university is trying to take hold of the sexual assault problem when it has been a problem all along.

I can not even tell you how many times I have had my female friends walk home alone late at night because the busses have stopped running. And did you know that a lot of the “safe phones” don’t even work? It is little details like this UMass could definitely think more about. Of course, there is a lot more to be done. I’m glad that Campus officials have realized what a dire situation it is and that cutting ties with an alumni who perpetuates such acts, regardless of how notable he is, is imperative.

You can read more about the university cutting ties with Bill Cosby here:

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Athletes Voice Thoughts in Wake of Ferguson

You have had to be living under a rock to not be aware of the ongoing situation going on in Ferguson, Missouri. They controversy has been the most polarizing subject nationwide wide for the past several months, and every person has their own opinion. In wake of the decision to not proceed to court, many were outraged and were not hesitant to voice and demonstrate their thoughts. While common civilians used outlets such as social media and protesting, professional athletes in multiple sports used to their high profile platform to get their message across.


Multiple St. Louis Rams players come out during introductions showcasing “hands up don’t shoot,” in support of Michael Brown.

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Shortly after the decision was made, NBA superstar LeBron James posted this image to his Instagram page, showing clear distaste of how the cases of both Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were handled by the U.S. legal system.


Last week, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose wear a black t shirt with “I can’t breathe,” printed on it, displaying his thoughts of the Eric Garner situation. Garner, under suspicion of selling single cigarettes, was approached and proceeded to be choked by a police officer, which eventually lead to his death. The event was captured on video by a pedestrian, in which Garner can clearly be heard saying “I can’t breathe” while he was being choked.

It is somewhat refreshing to see athletes using their high platform and ability to reach people in a positive way. Too often do we see them, as well as celebrities of other professions, in the news for things that could not affect people one way or the other. Athletes such as the Rams players, LeBron James, and Derrick Rose are using their spotlight to express their opinions on a subject that needs to be talked about, and its nice to see.

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2014 in Review: Republicans, Riots and Racism


A couple of days ago, this picture was what greeted me on Facebook. Because of the outrage and rioting that followed the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, you may not be aware of the identities of the other three boys, all of which were shot by police.

John Crawford III was shot and killed by police in the Dayton, Ohio Walmart in August. He had picked up an air rifle (that can shoot BBs or fire pellets) and was carrying it as he walked through the store, talking on his cell phone. The police claimed they shot Crawford because he failed to drop the gun when they ordered him to, though if you watch the surveillance videos, that can be hard to fathom. The police don’t seem to stop to reason with Crawford; in fact they never stop moving toward their target. The grand jury decided not to indict the officers responsible.

Eric Gardner died in July. While he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes in New York City, an officer placed him in a fatal chokehold, a move that is banned by the NYPD. The grand jury decided not to indict the officer.

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was killed in late November in Cleveland. Some of you may have seen it on the news while you were home for Thanksgiving break, like I did. Like Crawford, he was carrying an airsoft gun. There hasn’t been a conviction at this time.

In a short article by Charles Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, he discusses a personal experience where a white man with an airsoft gun on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign campus was subdued without a single shot fired. Is the police violence a race issue, he asks? Or does the media make it out to be a race issue?

Johnson brings up the fact that everyone, including the police, are fearful because of past shooting massacres like what happened at Virginia Tech. However, the Virginia Tech shooter was Chinese; the Columbine shooters were white. If we are basing our fear off of the past, race shouldn’t be an issue. Whites, Asians, Hispanics and Blacks alike have proven themselves equally capable of committing violent crimes.

Regardless of whether the race of the victims is over-exaggerated, some sort of reform is obviously necessary. Personally, I have a hard time understanding how so many people can be so upset about these killings and yet none of the officers responsible have been indicted – though there is still a possibility in the Rice case. The officer who killed Gardner used a chokehold which is banned by the NYPD. How can he – or the numerous other officers who have used this move – go without punishment? If there is no punishment, police officers will continue to act as if they are above the law.

Police aren’t supposed to be the bad guys. We – no matter what race – should be able to see a police officer and feel protected, not fearful. Training of police officers needs to place more emphasis on protecting without harming and on finding alternatives to shooting fatally. Perhaps we should require that all airsoft guns be painted bright orange so the police and witnesses can tell them apart from real guns. Perhaps our scientists should spend time researching and developing tranquilizer darts, size they are currently not fast acting and require different doses depending on the size of the person. To say that guns were the necessary weapon to “solve” all of these situations is just absurd. But, we can consider “what if’s” all day and they won’t change the past; now we need to focus on preventing such uncalled for shootings in 2015 and the years to come.

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A Message on Educational Structure

In our last class of the semester, we discussed flaws within the education system. This is something that college students feel more passionate about than anyone, because they deal with those flaws every day.

When I was originally looking for colleges, unlike most people I was confident I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to combine my love for horses with my love for writing and eventually work for a horse-related magazine, like Horse Illustrated, Young Rider, Equus, etc. Most of you probably have no idea what I’m talking about but there is a market for journalism about any subject whether it be science, technology, animals or fashion, because there are people out there who take great interest in these things. Thus, when I was picking colleges, UMass seemed like the perfect fit; it offers both journalism and equine management, whereas any other school I looked at had only one or the other.

It was my grand plan to come here and double major or take equine management as a minor. Only after I had started school here did I find out that you can’t do that because one offers an associate’s degree, the other offers a bachelor’s, and there is no minor in equine management. There is no minor in Animal Science either. BDIC proved impossible as well because you have to pick at least three majors to combine and you cannot participate in classes that are 200-level or below – which, being an associate’s degree, equine management practically only offers classes that are 200-level or below.

Long story short, because of the institution’s rules, I am a journalism major with a French minor. This is the closest I can get to my field of interest due to the educational structure that doesn’t see me as an individual.

According to the UMass website, there are 95 undergraduate majors that offer either bachelor’s or associate’s degrees. This sounds pretty impressive until you consider that there are far more than 95 jobs a person can have, probably thousands. I understand entirely that it would be unethical to offer a major catering to each specific career path – there are not enough teachers, overspecialized classes produce a small student count and the school wouldn’t be making much money from it. But when even BDIC – the system designed to incorporate multiple majors – fails, it teaches students to think less creatively. Modern education teaches students to fit into boxes that they have no control in designing. It’s almost like getting hand-me-down clothes from an older brother or sister. Sure, those clothes fit your sibling, but they might not fit you. “You’ll grow into them,” your parent says. When picking a major, you learn to adapt to the circumstances that someone else has already determined for you.

To use another analogy, a fish grows to fit the body of water that contains it. Having such clearly defined, pre-determined majors is like confining the fish to a small bowl. The student – in the analogy, the fish – can only grow so much intellectually as his or her opportunities allow. By allowing students to take classes that only partially fit their interests, administrators put a cap on students’ intellectual growth. This is because when students study subjects that they are truly interested in and passionate about, they learn more from their work. They CARE to learn more. A more open educational system that caters to students’ individuality would produce students that can say their diplomas are more than just $80,000 pieces of paper.

We are constantly learning, often through our work as journalists, that the world can’t be seen in black and white. When will the education system catch up?

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Among this years’ media trends was that of feminism, spearheaded by the likes of Emma Watson and Keira Knightley, who wished to increase awareness and equality for women. This feminist wave also gave rise to an interesting phenomenon, the Free the Nipple campaign. Originally starting as a grassroots campaign, its’ aims are to”stand against female oppression, working to change…inequalities through film, social media…” that immediately caught fire. They seek to decriminalize public female nudity, including breast feeding.

Top celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne, Lena Dunham, and Rumer Willis joined this national movement, either posting pictures of themselves baring their bare breasts or pictures of support for the campaign.

Chest to impress: Michelle's former flame Cara Delevingne is also a supporter of the Free The Nipple campaign and posted this snap to her Instagram account

After posting a risque photo from a French photoshoot, Rihanna was banned from Instagram for 6 months, violating its policy against “pornographic or sexually suggestive photos.” These kinds of female NSFW  photos have found a home in Twitter, however, which has no such policy.

What do you think of this campaign? Are you pro-breast? What do you think of the way society accepts male topless-ness and not female? Is this campaign going too far or not far enough?

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Response to Professor Arthur S. Keane’s Research Analysis

The paper titled “Students as Neo-Liberal Subjects: A Guide to How Millenials Learn Eighteen Talking Points” was very eye opening and interesting in my development of maturing and my college experience. While reading the document I noted many of the points being addressed that relate to me personally or that I can understand such as that students are in a vocational mindset or that students highly value relational teaching. This reading opened my mind to the extent of the college mind and allowed me to understand how I felt and how everyone around me felt as well.

That being said, there are some points addressed in this reading that make me scratch my head and wonder how conclusive these findings are, but like with most studies, results and survey’s are generalizations on a population rather than actually relating to all students.

One of the most interesting points described is the point on anti-intellectualism. I believe this point is accurate but also misled. While I do agree that their is a pressure to just “shut up and listen” to the professor rather than ask questions or answer them, at the same time in small classroom environments I believe that this type of behavior is accepted and encouraged by professors and peers alike. The study in a sense is bias to the large classroom environment, where it is often annoying to ask questions with 200 others in the lecture because it takes away from the teachings of the lesson and with many students not knowing their professor personally this adds a burden to the class structure and learnings.

Overall the points addressed in this study has helped to open my mind and to carefully analyze all situations for what they are and to not judge those who are trying to open up in college. It also has given me a sympathetic view of professors, who I have a great deal of respect for, rather than the condescending answers concluded to within this research.

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Reinterpretation of Social Media: Revival of Facebook

Social media, like other forms of entertainment start off in society having a common purpose. When it comes to social media, there are no exceptions. Social media is prone to society’s influence regardless of the creators intended goals. With that being said, are social media platforms like Facebook actually dying or is it rather that users are bored of the norm associated with the platform?

My answer is the latter, many of the social media platforms are fantastic and reimaginings of their usage is exactly what is needed to keep their longevity. For example, Facebook is a platform that has since been replaced by Twitter by those who use social media most (teenagers and early adults), yet Facebook is still a fantastic platform if you use it outside of the norm. The norm during the prime of Facebook was not about reconnecting but rather it was posting nonsense statuses and getting likes. It was about uploading countless pictures and commenting on friend’s relationship statuses, being brothers with your best friend and being friend’s with your entire high school, regardless if you were friends or not.

In today’s day and age, this norm has been replaced by countless viral videos, spam, and changes to the interface and legal status (Facebook selling information to marketers) that have led to a downfall of users, but, it is this new age that allows Facebook to grow from a matured high school demographic such as myself. Facebook isn’t dead, it just needs to be reimagined. I now use Facebook to express my opinions and to read the news. By following a bunch of News Outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, XXL Magazine, etc. I am able to stay informed in the world without needing to go to the home page of these outlets and be lost. This new era of Facebook also allows me to actually reconnect with people that I have met throughout my life and not just add everybody.

Overall, the usage of social media is defined by the users, but just because a norm is no longer appealing does not mean a platform is dying but rather a new norm needs to be established that is beneficial to the platform.

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Surveillance Camera Man: A Man with a Subtle, Interpreted Purpose.

In 2013, a Youtube phenomenon circulated its users, this video subscriber was titled, “Surveillance Camera Man” and his impact was massive to those who looked past the basic concept of the videos and saw the message he was trying to portray. The synopsis of the 8 videos he has put out is simple: The nameless camera man goes out on the streets of Seattle and videotapes people. There are no constraints, no restrictions, the nameless man goes out and videotapes anyone and everyone from businessmen, to security guards, to pedestrians to homeless people, he does not discriminate.

That being said, as most people would guess, this person is not well received by the people he is attempting to videotape with a majority of them getting pretty angry by the interaction and many of them attempt to either physically assault him or to call the police or even to smash his camera. The most interesting part of the entire process is to hear the nameless man speak, which is rare. Often, the cameraman will say brief statements such as “I’m just taking a video” or “taking a video”, but sometimes he poses questions to the people who question him. One notable occasion was when the cameraman was taking a video of a man coming out of the store, the man asked the cameraman, “You know it’s illegal to take a video of me without my consent” to which the cameraman responded, “But you were just in a store with cameras videotaping you and you didn’t question it.” The man had no response, this occasion has led me to my overall topic of this post.

In today’s day and age, we live in a world where privacy is a thing of the past and yet people believe are so blinded to the fact of this. We as a society are monitored continuously whether it is the social media platforms we use, the websites we go to, the phone calls we make, the text messages we send or even the places we go, we are monitored. This is what I think is being brought up by this sensation, is that we no longer exist in a world where privacy is a right and that most of the time our privacy is being breached without our known consent (The terms and conditions are long and too often asked to accept). Although he is acknowledging this point of our society is one of the crudest ways possible, it nonetheless, sparks interest and anger in those that care to hinder government surveillance of our lives.

You can watch all his videos here:” target=”_blank”>

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Two Perspectives To Every Story

I stumbled upon this video on my Facebook page. Although it may not be from a very professional source, it toys with the notion of perspective, particularly in regards to those who are in favor of abortion and those who are very much against it. In this video, a man whom disagrees with abortion is accused of recording women as they enter the clinic. A pregnant woman on the street then lectures him on his oblivion to the sensitive and unique case of each individual woman’s story, reminding him that often times women become pregnant through rape. This clip made me think of how the practice of abortion and/or those who protest against it are portrayed in the media.

Some ideas to grapple with- is there an appropriate place for protestors to preach against abortion? Is the doorway to a clinic appropriate? Is it most effective? What ways is this issue shown through the media? With negative connotations? Neutral ones (certainly not)? What kind of effect do ‘real’ everyday clips like these have over their viewers?

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11-Year Old Representative for The People Of Ferguson

Eleven-year old Marquis Govan digs deep within the dynamics between police aggressors and their victims. When asked why none of his fellow classmates aspire to be policemen, he breaks it down plain and simple, “From the beginning we’ve felt abused by these people, why would you grow up to serve among the abusers. It doesn’t make any sense.” At a meeting of the Saint Louis County Council, Govan approaches the microphone and – within a two minute speech – fights for the rights of the people of Ferguson by outlining the issues of unemployment and lack of diversity amongst policemen. He says, “I would just like to say that the people of Ferguson, I believe don’t need tear gas thrown at them, I believe they need jobs. Govan’s speech lead me to speculate on media representation of protestors (the people of Ferguson) and police forces.  If this eleven year old can pinpoint the issues behind instances of sickening prejudice why can’t others?

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Budweiser Ditches Clydesdales…Just Kidding

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Budweiser beer has become an afterthought among young consumers: according to Budweiser’s parent company Anheuser-Busch, some 44% of 21 to 27-year-old drinkers have never tried Budweiser (an obvious dilemma for the brand).

It wasn’t this statistic that had Internet users in a craze last week, however. Soon after the report was released, one of the trending topics on Facebook was the outcry over the fact that Budweiser would be ditching their nostalgic clydesdale advertisements for promotions aimed at 21 to 27-year-olds. The Wall Street Journal reported that Budweiser would not be trotting out its traditional Clydesdales during the holiday season this year, but instead feature more “current” tactics (which somehow transformed into a rumor that the horses were being replaced by Jay-Z and zombies).

The rumors weren’t taken lightly – people were outraged that Budweiser would take away the beloved clydesdale commercials. Even the millennials couldn’t stand the thought of zombies and rappers taking the place of the classic Budweiser Clydesdales. How DARE you take the horses out of a commercial for a beer we don’t drink.

The next day, however, published an article saying that the clydesdales are here to stay (and we can all breath a sigh of relief). The VP of the company said in a statement that “The Budweiser Clydesdales are here to stay and will continue to play a central role in our campaigns, including holidays and Super Bowl.” In fact, the company just released a new holiday ad featuring both millennials and clydesdales. What a great time to be alive.

It’s interesting that there was enough uproar over these rumors (about an advertising campaign, of all things) that it would be a trending topic on Facebook – and that hundreds of news organizations, bloggers, and websites picked up the story, apparently without fact-checking at all. And still, if the millennials aren’t drinking Budweiser, are the ads really working?

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Texting is Killing Your Back

How often do you walk around looking at your phone with your head down? Chances are it’s pretty often and according to a new study, it’s killing our backs and necks. New York spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj recently published a study in Surgical Technology International’s 25th edition that looks at how much pressure is put on the head and neck as we bend forward. Every time we go to look at our phone we are putting more and more pressure on our neck and it could lead to chronic back and neck pain in the future. Hansraj created a model showing how much pressure is put on our heads and necks the further we lean forward. When we bend 60 degrees forward we are putting 60 pounds of pressure on our neck. If we just consciously keep our heads up even slightly we could greatly reduce the amount of pressure on our necks.

texting spine

In an interview with Huffington Post, Hansraj said that “it’s a very sophisticated assessment of the stresses when the head is in various positions.” He also said that different things could happen to your neck if you’re bending it forward and to the side. Adult human heads are between 10-12 pounds and as we start bending our heads forward, they get heavier and heavier as pressure increases. When we bend our heads just 30 degrees forward, the weight of our heads increases to 40 pounds, four times as much as it really weighs. That seemed crazy to me and it’s now wonder so many people complain about back and neck pain, myself included. In the Huffington Post interview, Hansraj also pointed out that sitting at a desk all day has the same effects on our necks. He lists some ways to alleviate pain that include doing stretches, taking frequent short walks, and positioning your computer so you are looking straight at it rather than looking down at an angle.

Now this doesn’t mean we have to stop using our smart phones but it does mean that we should be more aware of how we are positioning our heads when looking at them and we should be aware of how we are sitting at desks if we want to limit the amount of stress and pain we put on our heads and necks. Even Hansraj says we shouldn’t stop using our phones but people should instead “pay attention to where their head is in space. You want to be careful that your head is straight up when you’re using a smart device.”

So stop looking at your phone so much and start paying attention to the world around you. Look up and you might just see something amazing.

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How can we pop the filter bubble?

filter bubble

“The internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see,” Eli Pariser said.


“A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.” – Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook


Eli Pariser remembers growing up in Maine, where a connection to the internet meant unfettered exposure to a democratic world community. But, as he scrolls through his Facebook News Feed, this multi-view environment has all but disappeared.

Instead, the online content he consumes is determined by algorithmic criteria that includes his computer model, location and past searches. Unlike the Internet Pariser’s younger self dreamed of, information is tailored and packaged to each individual consumer.

We’re living in a filter bubble. And popular sites like Facebook and Twitter aren’t denying it. They say it’s all about your network.

“We don’t want to have editorial judgement over the content of your feed. You’ve made your friends, you’ve connected to the pages that you want to connect to and you’re the best decider for the things you care about,” Facebook engineer Greg Marra told the New York Times.

Where is the value in that? Should a line be drawn between what we want to see and what we need to see? How can we avoid the information junk food Pariser fears?

According to a Pew Research Center study, 30 percent of adults get their news from Facebook. But is it really ‘news’ if users are continually consuming the same stuff from the same people? Pablo Barberá, a doctoral candidate at NYU studying social media usage, warns against these limited perspectives.

“As we move from a world in which traditional media outlets control the content we receive to a world in which most of the content is coming from our friends, it’s really important to understand who your friends are,” he told the New York Times.

echo chamber

“Two users of Twitter might be exposed to very different content based on which accounts they choose to follow, while two people reading the local newspaper… [read] the same content,” Brian Knight said.

A recent study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research proves the consequences of filtering, which is often invisible. The study analyzed the Twitter accounts of 2.2 million users throughout the 2012 election and found that 90 percent of both conservatives and liberals were receiving information from users with the same political viewpoint. How would viewpoints change if users were exposed to more information?

Pariser argues we should go back to 1915, when people read the newspaper, not tweets or status updates. He calls for a renewed code of journalistic ethics and a sense of civic responsibility.

Is our information consumption completely and totally on us? Do media sites share this responsibility?

How can we pop the filter bubble?

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The Starter Pack Trend

If you’ve even glanced at Twitter the past couple days, a new tweeting trend has erupted (in between posts of Kim Kardashian’s photoshoot): the Starter Pack Kits. Overnight, accounts have been created like @ItsStarterPacks, @thisstarterpack, @TheStartrPack, and @StartersPack, posting similar, or even identical, posts. The format is simple- post 4 images of clothing, hair styles, props, accessories, etc with the title, “The X Starter Pack”.

Many posts play on racial or gender stereotypes:

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Lots of users on Twitter have tweeted personalized posts about their friends or have created their own pop culture-related packs. And of course, there are hordes of imitators and re-posters.

The outbreak of this new social media fad relates to much of what we’ve learned in class– viral habits in the media from newspaper clippings to tweets, what’s considered “cool”, reinforcement of stereotypes, and how technology changes the way we communicate and share ideas.

As fast as the trend started, Starter Packs has already been bombarded with the “enough already” criticism. The faster technology advances, with millions of users able to observe and contribute instantaneously, the quicker fads will come and go, only to be replaced by the next viral hit.

In between all the starter packs and Kim’s rear, did you guys still manage to consume news as usual, or have social crazes become too distracting? Do you think news sources face a challenge with the rapidity of social media information sharing? Are posts like this harmless and all in good fun, or are they too influential in propagating stereotypes?

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What if you had the power that Kim K’s butt does?

I don’t want to see Kim Kardashian’s butt – but today, it covered my news feed. No matter where I clicked I couldn’t escape it. It’s trending on social media, and major news outlets are writing about her nude photo shoot for Paper Magazine and how it will “break the internet.” (Which is ironic considering the whole point is that the photos will be printed in ink, on paper.)

“Break the internet” is a phrase used to describe something that goes insanely viral – pictures, video, music, events etc. For example, when Beyonce released her album last September unannounced it was said to break the internet. She was immediately trending on all social media and the most talked about thing on the internet. The phrase should be reworded to “internet takeover” since the internet is indeed intact and functioning despite the photos, but the point is moot.

These events dominate social media at the expense of other news stories. Social media is a major source of information for people and even for news organizations, but when it’s hijacked by frivilous posts, people are deprived of actual, and debatably more important, news.

Today, humans landed the first probe on a comet. Did you know that? Or were you too busy clicking on random posts about Kim Kardashian, her butt, and lists about what it means? This is probably the funniest article I came across today.

Kim Kardashian naked shouldn’t be newsworthy considering she became famous because of a leaked sex tape. Her bare butt isn’t a symbol of anything – it just is – no greater message or purpose. There was no underlying message. The point was to go viral and stay famous, which seems to be her entire reason for existence, and that’s what happened. You win, Kim, your butt broke the internet. But what if she used the ability to trend on all forms of social media for something good? She could accomplish so much.

What if you had the ability to break the internet? How would you use that power?

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Advertisements that Capitalize on the Military

Advertising agencies love the military – because Americans do. Among average Americans, there is a characteristically pro-military sentiment. Americans love watching sappy military homecoming videos, and advertising agencies have been capitalizing on this for years.

Yesterday was Veterans Day, and it was obvious to me how many organizations and corporations use this pro-military sentiment for capital gain. Military-themed advertisements pull on Americans’ heartstrings – and purse strings.

I first started realizing the way I was being manipulated during last year’s Super Bowl with the Budweiser, “A Hero’s Welcome” commercial, which was one of the most popular commercials of Super Bowl XLVIII.

Jeep also used the military homecoming theme in a Super Bowl commercial, attempting to sell a military-themed Jeep Wrangler with the tagline, “When our troops are home, we are more than a family. We are a nation that is whole again.” Bag News called out this blatant capitalization on the pro-military sentiments in a 2014 article, accusing the commercial of playing on the vulnerability of returning troops and the hearts of American sports fans and media consumers. Can a combat veteran ever feel whole again, especially while sitting in a combat-vehicle inspired Jeep?

Ad Age begged another important question – why is the U.S. military, one of the most respected brans in the country, selling troops for such a low price to any beer company to use as a selling tool?

According to a Huffington Post article, advertisers are smart to try to capitalize on veterans, because the market is so huge. With 25 million veterans experiencing a military affinity in America, this market cannot be ignored.

Advertisements that I once thought were tributes to the military, I now see as downright manipulative, and I remain wary about these types of advertisements that capitalize on the Armed Forces and their families.

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The Necktie is More than a Fashion Statement

In class on Tuesday, one of the last things we discussed is how useless a necktie is. It doesn’t keep you warm, cover any part of your body, or serve any real purpose. People – usually men – wear ties to look professional and put together. In our society, ties are part of the accepted way to dress for special occasions, work, and other important events. There is practically no functional use for the necktie, but it is loaded with symbolism and meaning that our culture has placed on it over time.

When you take a second to really think about this idiotic piece of clothing it’s almost comical how much weight it carries. If you went to interview for an office job without your tie, it’s almost guaranteed you won’t get it. But you’re so talented and cool! It doesn’t matter. You’re tie – or lack thereof – is equally, if not more, important.


Well, that’s what I wanted to find out. People didn’t simply start wearing fabric around our necks as a fashion statement one day. Right?

Neckties have been around since the seventeenth century and have evolved into the tie you see adorning men everywhere today. During the Thirty Years War, King Louis XVIII hired Croatian mercenaries who wore cloth around their necks as part of their uniforms. At first, the tie was used to hold soldiers’ jackets together but the King liked the style so much he made neckties a popular fashion style that spread across Europe. (So, I guess someone actually did just start wearing fabric around their neck as a fashion statement one day…)

And that is where it all began.

Over the years, this neck accessory evolved from “la cravate” to bow ties, skinny ties, and wide ties, designed ties, bolo ties – all with many different ways to tie them.

I intended to write about coolness and how over time, the tie will be mocked and replaced by some other fashion statement, but after learning the history of the tie, its future looks bright. It may vary in size and shape and knot and color, but it will remain part of our society as a symbol for social rank, tradition and power. It is timeless.

Other clothing items and accessories won’t be as fortunate. They will be mocked mercilessly in the future because they don’t have the history or the ability to evolve with changing times. Can you picture a pair of Uggs thirty years from now? For everyone’s sake, I hope not. (But, they are comfortable and I will continue to wear them until mockery ensues.)

Who knew a tie meant so much?



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Right to Privacy or Taken too far?

Just as we discussed last week in class whether or not we should know when and where the cameras are that can record us, it seems as though another local school is in the news for the reason we discussed. In today’s Boston Globe, there was an article about how Harvard University was secretly recording classrooms for a study on attendance.

With that, I wonder whether faculty and students here at UMass would have our opinions changed if we knew we were only being recorded for research purposes? And what exactly classifies research?

This news comes after it was reported in Spring 2013 that Harvard officials had reviewed thousands of student emails, which too had people “up in arms” about the decision. I just decided to share this article because it directly relates to the debate we were having last week in class and shows us that it is not only our school that is having these debates.

And if anyone has any additional thoughts to add, does the fact that Harvard is a private school affect the students right to know… or the university’s decision to not tell faculty and students of what they were doing?

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In one of last week’s readings, “How Hip Hop Failed Black Americans”, Questlove brings up an interesting question that I found myself wanting to further investigate. The question is: Why haven’t any current cultural figures completely and successfully replaced the icons of the past in the Pantheon of cool?

Because they can’t.

Completely replacing the figures from the past that defined what it means to be cool is impossible. Their coolness lives on, they live on, and they’re untouchable. The origins of cool lie in the past and that’s where they’ll stay. As Questlove says in one of his main arguments, everything has essentially been done before and that’s why it doesn’t seem cool to us. That’s why we’ll always look at people and trends from the past and think, “Wow they were so much cooler.” Try watching the movie Dazed and Confused and not start wishing you were born 20 years earlier. It’s impossible because these people, their clothing, their lifestyle were so undeniably cool.

This got me thinking about some historic figures and their untouchable sense of coolness that I believe still holds true in today’s society. Here are some icons that immediately come to mind:

Jannis Joplin
Jimi Hendrix
John Lennon

An interesting relationship to note between the three figures listed above- besides all having names that start with the letter “J”- is that they all died way too young. I think this plays a noteworthy role in this discussion because it draws some attention to the fact that legends are born after they die. Relating back to last week’s readings, figures like Louis Armstrong and Lester Young were obviously amazingly cool while they were alive, but they’re afterlife influence is what makes them so historic, iconic and interesting.

People aren’t as fully and passionately recognized by others for what they do until after they die. It’s somewhat of a depressing concept, but also inevitable: it’s what we do as members of society.

It’s harder to find entertainers in today’s society that fall under the category of agreed upon coolness. And I think that’s a distinct difference between figures from the past and figures today. But just because that originality and consistent coolness lies in the past doesn’t mean members of today’s society can’t contribute to it.

Can anyone make an argument for a public figure in today’s society that is or will be a legend of cool?

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Neglected Civic Duty

As most of you know, today is the mid term elections. Out of curiosity, I have asked some of my peers if they were going to vote or not. A lot of them say they “don’t really care”, while others say they didn’t even know the elections were going on.

One of the classes I am taking this semester, “The Politician and the Journalist” taught by Congressman Richard Neal goes in depth about how important it is to reach out to the public in order to obtain their vote and point America in the direction they feel is the right one. Congressman Neal during our class really goes in depth about which types of voters he is most likely going to spend more time with. Although college students do vote, they are more likely to “sometimes” vote; while elderly voters are more likely to vote for sure.

Obtaining the votes of the people is a constant struggle for a politician because you have to keep fighting for their opinion on who should represent them. Aside from elderly voters, another group Democrats and Republicans try to reach out to are the independent voters. The votes from the independent voters could make or break a your chances of winning depending on which way they sway.

In order to better understand following trends in polling data, as an assignment Congressman Neal assigned each of his students a senate race from another state to follow. We have been following these races for about seven weeks now, trying to notice the issues and challenges these senators are facing during these elections. I was assigned to follow the race in Louisiana between Bill Cassidy (R), and Mary Landrieu (D). Currently Landrieu is the incumbent up for re-election, but during this election she is having a difficult time because she does not have the same support she had back in 2008. In 2008 she relied on the African American voters to buoy her in the race. Today, she does not have that support because a lot of people are unaware the mid-term elections are even going on right now. Most votes focus so much on the presidential election every four years, but they forget about the senate races that go on every two years.

Voting is our civic duty as citizens of the United States, and it is important to make sure we get as many voters as possible to the voting booths. We get a say in who we want to represent us, as well as decide whether the laws on the ballot pass or not. That is why it is important to care about the elections, and take them seriously. According to a Pew survey of predicted non-voters this election: 43 percent of people who are non-white will not vote, 34 percent of people under age 30 will not vote, and 46 percent of people with family income under $30K will not vote. If you, or any of your friends and family did not get a chance to vote this term, raise awareness for next time, because there are too many non-voters and all our opinions matter.

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Privacy Settings – None

After watching the Ted Talks in class last week about governments mining data through cell phone records, as well as the revelations of Edward Snowden and the NSA surveillance scandal, I began thinking about the nature of privacy in the 21st century. Does it exist? And if so, to what extent? Has privacy become a privilege and no longer a right?

Nowadays we love the illusion of privacy. We can set our profiles to private so just a selected few can see what we post. But even still, the site that we are posting on sees what you post, even if you don’t consciously allow them to.

So much of our lives are intertwined with technology. Even as I write this, I am looking at a text message out of the corner of my eye. We live our lives both in a physical way, the things we do and say, and on-screen, our presence within the sphere of any technology. Everything we do in the latter category leaves a trail.
But just because our way of life has shifted to encompass this new mode of technology- social media, smart phones, email, downloads, uploads, what-have-you- does that mean some other party has a right to follow that trail, even if that party is the government?

It struck me as fascinating that Mikko Hypponen brought up the point of “why should I care if I have nothing to hide?” The answer is simple- because you have the right to privacy. Privacy is not some antiquated ideal; it might be at its most relevant peak in history by virtue of our online presence.

Once we realized cybersecurity had been compromised, the top companies took it upon themselves to find a solution. Apple and Google, much to the chagrin of the government, have been working on an encrypted phone that would protect the data of its user.

“…the effort would accelerate, and they would develop algorithms that would take the government months or years to crack, and then insist that consumers themselves create their own encryption keys so that the companies would be unable to crack the code or provide it to the government.”

This to me shows that privacy is not only an ideal, but something that we should be striving towards.

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Can We Call It What It Is?

Last week, there were multiple hate crimes committed on our campus. Only one of them were deemed serious enough to have an e-mail sent out to the entire student body. This incident happened over the weekend when a student, who lived in John Quincy Adams on the 22nd floor in a corner room, left to go to Ferguson for the riots and to join positive protests. This student was a member of Student Bridges and the Black Student Union. When he came back to his room, he discovered words written boldly on his door in permanent marker. This threat on his door targeted all African-American students at UMass and made us all feel threatened and unsafe. None of this information was expressed in the e-mail sent to us, and neither was what had been written on this boy’s door. The words said “Kill These N-ggers” in all capitals and boldly drawn in.

What the black student body wants to know is, why none of this information was put in the e-mail. Also, why was this the only one reported? They put all of the information they have when someone has their car stolen or when someone felt uncomfortable at a bus stop, but not when a whole race is being targeted and threatened. There was another person’s door that had derogatory terms written on it and she is a member of the Black Student Union. She says that when she called the police to report what had been done, the woman on the phone claimed “we can’t do anything, it’s free speech.”. No, this is a hate crime.  A hate crime is defined as “a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence”. This is a crime and it needs to be treated as such. In the e-mail we got, it was called “vandalism”. It is much more than that. These people, who wrote it, threatened a whole race of students at this school. Does the school not care about the lives or safety of the students of color? Why haven’t they done anything about the white students running in black students faces yelling “white power!”? If we were to retaliate, wouldn’t we get in more trouble than these racist students?

There was an emergency meeting held by the National Pan-Hellenic Council (the historically black fraternities and sororities) after the email went out. About 300 students and faculty showed up to discuss this issue. Even the Chancellor showed up with his board members, but not for long. There was a lot of anger and tension coming from the people of color because we felt as though this was not being taken serious. We first asked why this was being treated as vandalism and not a hate crime or racism. Many questions the students had were not answered by the chancellor and he danced around a lot of solutions we wanted to know about. After about 30 minutes, the Chancellor rushed off to Boston and various students felt like he did not really care and when he was speaking he sounded scripted and fake.

I have not been at this school for long but I have learned the UMass Police Department have not been the best at executing their jobs. Today, I received an email that the person who wrote these things on one of the four doors was caught and will be in court facing charges of vandalism. In the email, it also defines what hate crimes are and goes into saying “The charge of property damage to intimidate provides the basis for a hate crime prosecution”. Maybe there will be another charge added in the future for the hate crime, but as of right now I am doubting it. Now that this one person has been caught and arraigned, what about the others who wrote “nigger” one door, “fag” on another, and “kill the mexicans they can’t speak english anyway” on the third door? I have attended a few of the meetings about this and there are still a lot of students of color who don’t feel safe on this campus anymore. Especially the ones who have never experienced any of this before coming to class.

There needs to be more done about this. I personally think that with all of this money the school is wasting on new buildings, we can use that money for cameras inside the residence halls. This might be because of my old college and even high school, there were about two or three cameras in each hallways. We need this because there a lot of crimes being done on this campus and no one is being caught. You would not think that in communities like Amherst and Northampton that you would have to watch your back 24/7. We should of course always do that but some people were not raised like that so they don’t know what to do.

Our main concerns right now are to figure out why the school kind of brushed this off as a non serious vandalism crime and why the chancellor and his board gives the same scripted speech every time something happens. He kept saying “this disheartens me and hurts me because I want to believe everyone is nice” and he also says “this happens at every school in the world” making it seem like it isn’t that serious. This is not every school, we do not attend every school. We go to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, let’s worry about us. That is all we should be worried about.

Again, I have not been here for long but hearing what the older students have been saying, this little game of the police department not doing their job and the chancellor not caring about us has been going on for too long. This needs to change right now. I am willing to bet money that if there were cameras everywhere, the UMass crime rate would drop. As for the Chancellor cutting budgets and taking away money from the multicultural RSO’s, that is another topic but it needs to be addressed soon. We, as students, need to feel like the school cares. Cares about us, our safety, and our concerns. We don’t pay all of this tuition, some of us paying out of state tuition, to come and be treated like we do not matter and our safety is in our own hand. We should not be the ones coming up with solutions on how to stop this. Another thing I heard at the meeting with the Chancellor is that they turn the problem around and put the solution in the victims’ hands. How is that fair when they get paid to come up with solutions? Students of color should feel safe and appreciated. Students of color need to KNOW that we will no longer be targets of hate crimes on this campus.

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Technology Free Communities

Can you survive a week free from all technology? I’m talking about no phone, no video games, no computer, no TV. You might be saying, “Yeah, no problem!” or you might begin having panic attacks the moment you think about being without your smartphone. Either way a week without technology in contemporary developed society seems near impossible.

Believe it or not, there was a time not so long ago when smartphone didn’t exist. There was no instant messaging, or Facebook reservations, there was no instant news feed, or access to global information at the click of a button. For a long time, people congregated in common spaces to hangout, learn, and spread news. Because the technology didn’t exist, everyone was on an even playing field, everyone needed common spaces and communities where they could socialize.

We don’t have places for that sense of community anymore. That new hip bar in town, you heard about online, made reservations on your smartphone, and accepted the invitation on your Facebook group. You probably carry your smartphone around with you everywhere you go, in traffic you check your Facebook notifications, waiting in line you read your Twitter feed, and standing in elevators you probably do anything on your phone that looks important to avoid awkward conversations.

Reestablishing the town commons might be a far fetched idea, but creating spaces to succeed technology free might be the first step. Sherry Turkle argues that we should make parts of our own home ‘tech free zones’, where real conversation can happen between family members. The dinner table, kitchen, or other common spaces such as the living room as technology free zones could encourage face to face conversations allowing people to really get to know one another.

Why is it that we are so terrified to be without our cell phones and laptops for a few days? Because we fear being out of the loop. Our society is set up around the advances our technology gives us. It is easy to spend a week away from technology, if everyone else is technology free as well. For instance, retreats, camps, and rehabilitation centers all have strict no technology policies. What they do have though is a strong sense of community.

It is my opinion that we should be creating more technology free communities throughout our societies. Places where face-to-face communication is necessary, making our communities real and not just imagined online groups. We have seen the power of the internet and the way that it was able to change the ways in which we communicate, learn, and grow as a community, but we have also seen a loss in the quality of in person communication and community settings. If we began to set up technology free communities and spaces we might just see a positive change in socialization.

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I Was Gonna Title This But Then I Clicked That Other Link and Now I Lost Focus

Let’s talk about What the Internet is doing to our brains.

Ironically, as I was watching the video, I looked away at my television screen, where Bruce Almighty was playing (Love that movie!), and then I couldn’t remember that one scary/thriller movie Jim Carrey was in that really changed my whole perspective on him, so I opened IMDb and of course, discovered it was The Number 23. But gosh, do you even remember what the Number 23 was about? Well, I could not, so I opened the synopsis. Oh man, but wait! Jim Carrey was in A Series of Unfortunate Events! Remember that? He was Count Olaf! Aw man, what were the names of those three kids? They had such awful lives. Oh right, I think after opening the movie page, it was Klaus, Violet, and Sunny. But then, that has me thinking about the movie, of course, so I have to look up the movie trailer on YouTube. Duh. There were twelve books to that series, right? It doesn’t matter. Google will tell me. Oh, I lied. According to Wikipedia, there were thirteen. Just a second. I have to check that text message I just received. Oh man, what was I even doing to begin with?

…And that’s what the Internet is doing to our brains. Or at least, my brain. True story, by the way.

Towards the end of Epipheo’s video, they take the character to the operating room and assimilate him with computer parts. Oddly enough, I related to that. And then, I thought about it deeply, and it makes obvious sense that I would. After all, what do I spend most of my days attached to? My laptop. And when I’m not on the laptop, I am glued to my phone because what else can I possibly do with my life other than spend my days on the Internet/social media? Funny enough, I have days where computers give me awful headaches. So, I read… for all of five minutes before I have to look at my phone again because the Internet has meddled with my brain so much that I can no longer look at an interesting book for five minutes. Like Mark O’Connell, I have become a promiscuous reader.

Apparently, however, I am a promiscuous browser too.

For as long as I can remember, I can no longer have one tab open on the web. If I am doing my homework, I suddenly remember I have to update my to-do list, and then oh wait, I forgot to email my residents about some event tonight, and whoops, maybe I should respond to those emails from my supervisor, so on and so forth. It is a sick cycle, and it is slowly ruining my ability to focus. How many times have you sat down to write a paper, written a paragraph, and then felt an urge to take a “break”? AKA peruse your phone or your Facebook timeline for a half hour. I have way too many times, and it is awful, and much like the character in the the video, I do feel like my computer and I are becoming one. But how can we possibly unattach ourselves from these machines when as Greg Downey posits, we create our images on them, we market ourselves to future employers on them?

Is it possible to remove machines from our lives and be human again, or is this a human-computer transformation we have to grow used to?

It sounds terrible, I know, and as we have mentioned multiple times in the course, there are numerous benefits to having access to the Internet, but we cannot forget the disadvantages.

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Social Media QUIZ: Where Do You Place?

After reading Jeff Jarvis’s “Public Parts,” I began to think a lot about my own social media image in comparison to my fellow UMass students. Am I an avid user? Moderate? I suspect that we as journalism students could potentially be ranked higher than other students on campus, as we are “in the know” about the latest communication technologies. I am curious, if we were to create some sort of scale, how each of us in Journalism 494 would rank our social media habits. So, I’m putting you all up to the challenge. I have devised a 100-point based system that will allow you to evaluate your own social media ranking. Based on a quick Google search of the most popular social media sites used by Americans, I came up with a list of social media sites and secondary apps. It will take a few minutes and a little arithmetic (math? For journo students?) – please bear with me.

A.) If you currently have an active account for any of the following social media platforms, give yourself 3 points per platform:

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. Snapchat
  4. Instagram
  5. Youtube
  6. Tumblr
  7. Pinterest
  8. Google+
  9. Vine
  10. LinkedIn

These social media platforms are how we share our daily lives – but really, we are consumers of the Internet on many more levels than that. What about all of those apps you use that share what you’re doing on Facebook, or store cookies in your laptop to advertise to you later? I’ll refer to these as “secondary apps.” These are the things you probably use in conjunction with the ones above.

 B.) If you currently have an active account for any of the following specific apps or apps in these “genres” that can connect you to another social media platform, give yourself 2 points per app:

  1. Spotify/Pandora/Music radio
  2. Netflix
  3. Skype
  4. Smart phone game (Words with Friends, Scramble, Candy Crush, etc.)
  5. Smart phone fitness app (MyFitnessPal, Map My Run, etc.)
  6. Blog (we all have WordPresses! Blogger, etc.)
  7. Paypal/Amazon/Ebay/Etsy/Chegg/Groupon or any specific online shop/account
  8. Catch all – any category you use that I have failed to mention above

The last part: determine for how long you use these networks/apps you chose on a daily basis. Do this by multiplying the number of apps and networks in which you have accounts by the number of points you receive for time used (i.e. – 13 apps x 3 pts for using 5+ hours a day = 39). Add this to your previous scores to get your final score.

C.) Points per daily time use:

Less than ½ an hour a day: zero pts.

½ an hour-2 hours: 1 pt.

2-5 hours: 2 pts.

5+ hours: 3 pts.

If this was all confusing to you, here is my own personal breakdown:

A.) Social Medias

✔ Facebook

✔ Twitter

✔ Snapchat

✔ Instagram

✔ Youtube

✔ Tumblr

✔ Pinterest

✔ Google+


✔ LinkedIn

9 social medias x 3 pts. = 27 pts.

B.) Secondary Apps

✔ Spotify/Pandora/Music radio

✔ Netflix

✔ Skype

✔ Smart phone game (Words with Friends, Scramble, Candy Crush, etc.)

✔ Smart phone fitness app (MyFitnessPal, Map My Run, etc.)

✔ Blog (we all have WordPress accounts!, Blogger, etc.)

✔ PayPal/Amazon/Ebay/Etsy/online shop or account

Catch all – any category you use that I have failed to mention above

7 apps x 2 pts = 14 pts.

Total so far: 27 pts. + 14 pts. = 41 pts.

In total, I have 16 active accounts.

C.) Daily Time Use

Regularly, I probably use all of my networks and apps for anywhere between 2-5 hours per day.

16 apps x 3 pts. each= 48 pts.

Grand total: 41 pts. + 48 pts. = 89 pts. 

My social media score = 89/100

The breakdown? 0-25 = I’d be okay without the Internet. 25-50 = Social media is fun. 50-75 = Social media is sort of necessary… 75-100= Social media is a lifestyle. Jarvis talks about responsibility on the Internet. Speaking personally, I clearly need to be web-conscious when I am using my dozens of social media outlets and smart phone apps. While you cannot erase what you have put online in the past (“deactivating” an account isn’t as end-all as you may think), Jarvis suggests putting more out there, with the goal of your more professional stuff – a blog or LinkedIn page, perhaps – eventually getting more traffic and reaching the top of a Google search. Remember to be responsible out there, fellow future journalists. As Jarvis says, “the internet is life, only bigger and faster. The lessons you learned as a child and those you teach your children about how to treat others all still apply. The net is still just a place filled with people.”

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The Great Pumpkin Riot of 2014.

If you don’t read the news you 1) should really consider a different major and 2) need to know that white kids rioted at the annual Keene New Hampshire pumpkin festival for no reason at all this Saturday.

That’s right. The Keene Sentinel reported numerous injuries and dozens of arrests following a night of clashes with area police and town-wide property destruction that included street fires and flipped cars.

The Sentinel spoke with Steven French, 18, who was visiting from Haverhill, Massachusetts. He said the riots were, “wicked.”

“It’s just like a rush. You’re revolting from the cops,” French told the paper Saturday night. “It’s a blast to do things that you’re not supposed to do.”

The great pumpkin riot of 2014 might not go down in history, but one recent riot will be noted for years to come.

In Ferguson, Missouri, people rioted after Daren Wilson, a white police officer shot unarmed black teen,  Michael Brown, six times, killing him on the sidewalk. The shooting ignited racial tensions that had been smoldering just under the surface of American life for decades.

People in Ferguson had been and continue to protest peacefully, demanding justice for Michael Brown, but one night of looting overshadowed dozens of demonstrations and marches. The media spin was enough to cast a criminal light on the Ferguson protestors.

Fox news didn’t hesitate to call angry black protestors thugs and criminals. But back in Keene, Fox quoted a Grad student as saying, “I watched thousands of kids pile into a backyard and kind of go crazy.”

For those of you keeping score at home:

Black protestors=violent criminals

Drunk White College Kids=kind of crazy

If this class has taught us anything, it’s that the media has a way with words and images. Below is a quote from Bill O’Reilly on the Ferguson riots followed by a simple rewording of his statement to frame the pumpkin riot.

Fox News Pundant Bill O’Reilly made the following comments about the riots in Ferguson, Missouri:

Outrage in Ferguson

Outrage in Ferguson

“That’s just disgusting. One of the worst things that we saw was that looting of the liquor store where there was actually a guy with a gun shooting the lock off the door. This is really beyond the pale. These people, are they protesting police violence? Are they protesting the death of this young man? No, they’re not. They’re stealing stuff, they’re looting stuff. They’re thugs. So I think everybody has really got to put this into perspective,” said O’Reilly.

Now, let’s just change a few words:

Bored white kids in New Hampshire

Bored white kids in New Hampshire

That’s just disgusting. One of the worst things that we saw was the smashing of pumpkins and we actually saw a guy throwing bottles at police officers. This is really beyond the pale. These people, are they protesting police violence? Are they protesting the death of a young man? No, they’re not. They’re flipping cars and lighting bonfires. They’re thugs. So I think everybody has really got to put this into perspective.

Italian freelance journalist, Tomaso Clavarino, said in a RT story about the Ferguson riots, “Malcolm X reminds us that the media is a key instrument of subjugation, because it determines which acts are respectable and which are extreme and thus illegitimate.”


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From the Pervert’s Guide to Ideology.

I am not using this post to satisfy my class requirements, but I think it fits in nicely with the discussions we’ve been having in class. Watch Slavoj Zizek in this sort video talk about reality and ideology.


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The Rise of Tech-Savvy Babies

Our discussion about babies and technology today really got me thinking about the risks that all the new technology is posing to babies and toddlers today. Just like a lot of people in class I too have seen babies using iPhones and iPads as if they are three times their age. Two of my cousins have little boys who just recently turned three and I have seen both of them playing games on iPhones and taking selfies when they think no one is looking. We talked about how there really isn’t evidence yet about the effects of letting young babies use this technology because it is so new but I thought I would research it some more and see if I could find anything interesting.

One article that I found that was published back in April on NY Daily News reported that Common Sense Media did a report and found that 38% of babies under two years old use smartphones and tablets. That seemed to me a very high percentage and it seems especially high when you consider that it was just 10% only three years ago in 2011. A few different parents were interviewed in this article and the reporter, Heidi Evans, even talked to doctors and psychologists and they reiterated what we talked about in class; that it is so new we don’t have the answers to whether it is good or bad for young children.

A spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatricians, Dr. Ari Brown, says that they encourage moderation in a child’s use of electronics and also recommends no TV use for children under two.  This made a lot of sense to me but I still don’t see a need to give babies iPhones or iPads at all. They should be playing with the things around them and learning from the environment they are in. Babies brains are developing extremely rapidly and interactions with their parents and loved ones shape who they become. They should be engaging in active exploration and play for the majority of their day.

One of the biggest problems with babies being shaped by the people around them is that now the people around them are always on their phones or computers or tablets so that is what the baby is going to want to do as well. I think parents should not only keep electronics away from children under 5 but they should themselves limit their use of technology around their impressionable babies and toddlers.

I don’t know if we actually explicitly talked about where we all stand regrading having our children or children in general using electronics at such a young age so I was curious to see how many people thought it is a good idea and how many are against it, as I am.

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Internet Access as a Human Right

As established consumers of it, I think it’s safe to say we all have some sense of entitlement to the Internet. Don’t we deserve to use it? Shouldn’t it be for everyone?

The U.N thinks so. In 2011, the U.N. declared Internet access a human right, stating that disconnecting people from it violates human rights and international law. It is important to note that it is the access to the Internet and not the Internet itself that has been declared a human right. Access to a censored Internet (not the open Internet we are familiar with) is another animal entirely.

The Internet as we know it today was developed by DARPA, a branch of the U.S. Department of Defense that creates new technologies for military use, and funded by the Pentagon in the early 1960s. And though one of the Internet’s founders, Vint Cerf, supports that the Internet is for everyone, he does not see it as a human right in itself. It is an important tool of communication that allows people to exercise their rights in new ways, he says, but it is just that: a tool. He provides this example:

“At one time if you didn’t have a horse it was hard to make a living. But the important right in that case was the right to make a living, not the right to a horse.”

The fundamental issue, Cerf argues, lies with “the responsibility of technology creators themselves to support human and civil rights.” In other words, online architecture must protect as well as empower users, not oppress or hurt them. His cases are so strong, I have to agree with him. Internet access should not be roped into human essentials like the right to life or liberty. To me, it makes sense that the Internet is regarded as tool for exercising these rights, albeit one that has become an indispensable addition to our lives as U.S. citizens, but not a right in itself.

Currently, more than two-thirds of the world does not have Internet access, Mother Jones reports. If Internet access becomes widely regarded as a human right, what is to be done with the billions of people who have never, because they cannot, get online? How could such a right ever be enforced?

I welcome your thoughts.

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Culture Representations in “The Simpsons”

Over the long weekend I got to spend some time in Florida visiting my brother who’s a student at UTampa. For most of the weekend, he was working on a lengthy analysis of an article called “Marge Simpson, Blue-Haired Housewife: Defining the Domesticity on The Simpsons”. I took a look at the article and started noticing several media, culture and technology relevant themes that I thought would be worth sharing.

“The Simpsons” is a popular show that’s basically been immersed in our culture. Whether or not you watch it (I don’t), you know who the Simpsons are. The author of this article, Jessamyn Neuhaus, argues that The Simpsons satirizes family sitcoms as we know them. She draws special attention to Marge Simpson as a character that reveals the fictionality of the televised housewife. Neuhaus believes the show questions the function of the nuclear family in American society and society in general, and also embraces the crucial role of female domesticity.

Neuhaus discusses how the “father knows best” mental model is essentially flipped on it’s back; Homer Simpson is completely insensitive to the needs of his family. He’s rude, lazy, clumsy, unintelligent and greedy and this is evident in just about every episode of the show. Then there’s the “housewife” mental model that is also some-what flipped on its back. Marge successfully plays the role of the housewife, fixing problems, keeping the house together and keeping the family together. Marge Simpson is “the putty that just barely holds the Simpson family together week after week,” (Nauhaus 15). But her appearance is what defies the norm. She has blue hair, a raspy voice and no problem speaking her mind. I believe the “housewife” role still exists to some extent, but it has a different voice, a different face, and an active stance. But Neuhaus’ overall takeaway point is its essentiality.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this article is Neuhaus’ discussion of the way The Simpsons satirizes the troubling aspects of American society. The teachers discourage creative thinking. Police officers, elected officials and court officers are corrupt and incompetent. And citizens accept this without protest. This is definitely an exaggerated representation of our reality, but do you ever wonder how far off it really is?

This discussion ties into our course studies because it allows us to further question the way that different aspects of our culture are represented in print, televised or online media outlets and our societal response to it. In one of our readings from a few weeks ago “Going Viral in the Nineteenth Century”, the article discusses the joke boom in newspapers and how that affects consumers of journalism. The article talks about the “it’s so true!” reaction to comedic satire on relevant and relatable issues, drawing comedic attention to what’s really going on and how wrong it is. I believe that this bids relevance to Neuhaus’ argument because while watching The Simpsons or shows of a similar dynamic (Family Guy, South Park, etc.), viewers tend to find themselves laughing in total agreement, despite the sometimes-tasteless delivery.

Can anyone relate to these reactions? I’ve watched my fair share of Family Guy and South Park, so I think that’s why I found this topic interesting to analyze. Do you find these cartoon satirical shows relevant to figures, realities and problems in our society? Or do you find these shows ridiculous and don’t even waste your time engaging?

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When are anonymous sources helpful?

On the front page of The Easton Journal, my hometown’s newspaper, this past weekend, was a story that immediately intrigued me because of its relevance to news that has been circling around the University of Massachusetts Amherst over the past several weeks. The story remembers a teenage boy, Evan Greene, who graduated from the same high school as me and died from a heroin overdose in January of 2014.

In the story, his parents describe him as “gentle…smart, handsome and popular,” and they discuss how they helped him to cope with addiction. According to the story, the parents are “…convinced the problem was bigger than Evan. They don’t blame him. They want to celebrate his life and find some ‘purpose’ in his death.”One of the biggest differences between this story and the one published in The Boston Globe in September is the fact that The Easton Journal identifies sources and the Globe story, on the other hand, controversially cites anonymous people.Stories about drug addiction and overdose almost always involve more than just the person who overdosed — these reports often include family members, friends who tried (or didn’t try) to help them, the person who sold them drugs and the friends with whom they used drugs.

In Easton and the surrounding towns, there is obviously some sort of drug culture, and by identifying a person who has died from an overdose, the story reaches out to those suffering and may have, perhaps, saved a life. By opening up to a local media outlet, Evan’s parents provided the community with an unusual service — they tell us that there is a drug problem in Southeastern Massachusetts and they have a firsthand account to share with us. In the article, his mom is quoted: “Some people won’t admit it when someone dies of drugs. They won’t talk about it. We’re not ashamed. It could happen to anyone.” This powerful statement opens up a discussion about addiction and recognizes it as a disease. It’s upsetting to think that the Greene’s story won’t reach people that far outside of Bristol county, whereas Logan’s story has been reported on various media outlets across Massachusetts and was even published on The Huffington Post. Logan’s story tells the public that there is also a drug problem at UMass and there is still most likely a group of people using heroin. It is possible these people interacted with Logan, so if the Globe identified him by first and last name, maybe the story would have touched more addicts personally and convinced them to get help. But, it is also possible that his death convinced addicts to go to rehab.

I would like to think that people who did drugs with Evan got the help they needed when they saw this story or heard of his death. But, who did Logan’s parents specifically help? Yes, the confidential drug informant program at UMass is now suspended and under review, but what about the friends who used drugs with him? Are they getting the help they need? I wonder how the community would have responded to the Globe story if Logan’s parents had said something like, ‘Hey, look, we were unaware that our son was suffering from addiction, but we are still proud of him and we love him and want to help others suffering from the disease.’ It seems the parents were only seeking revenge against the UMass Police Department. This isn’t wrong, as we all mourn in our own separate ways — but it is interesting to wonder how the outcome would have differed if they had been more open about their identities and more open about addiction as a disease. And how would it have differed if the Globe had published a photo of Logan along with the story? Maybe people would have recognized him and it would have brought the story closer to home.

The Globe story helps the community in a more abstract way, putting a program under review and raising awareness about heroin addiction. The story about Evan helps people on a more personal level, reaching out to his immediate family, friends and those who did heroin with him.

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The Central Park Five Reveal an Ugly side to our Justice System

Last night I watched a documentary called “The Central Park Five.” This documentary was about how five black and Latino teenage boys who were wrongly accused of assaulting and raping a white woman jogging in central park. The night of the “Central Park Jogger” case, assaults and robberies were taking place in the park, but these boys knew nothing about the female jogger in the park that night. They were arrested that night, and when they were tried in court, they were pressured into giving false confessions about committing the crime.


Four out of the five boys pleaded guilty in court, though these false confessions. Because of this wrong accusation of the crime, many people began to demonstrate hatred towards these boys by viewing them as bad people, and labeling them as sex offenders. The female jogger, Trisha Meili, went to the court hearing and claimed she didn’t remember the details of her assault that night.


The media blew up on this “Central Park Jogger” case, destroying the reputations of these boys. Many years of their youth were spent in prison, when they should have been spending their lives as free men.


What really stood out to me, was when one of the men said he was unable to find a job because no one wanted to hire a person who was convicted of a felony. With very little education or training in essential skills for jobs, that man had to rely on selling drugs as a way of make money. Selling drugs was the only thing he knew how to do.


This reminds me of the “school to prison pipeline”. Due to a lack of skills or education, people have no other choice but to resort to making money using illegal methods; thus getting them involved in the juvenile and criminal justice systems.


It wasn’t until Matias Reyes confessed to the crime, that the central park five were found innocent. Since they spent so much of their youth in prison, there was a large gap in in their lives. After being released, they were expected to return to their lives and continue from where they left off.


I highly recommend watching this documentary. If anyone else has seen this documentary, and be sure to let me know what you took away from it.

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Is Social Media Ruining or Helping Journalism?

As everyone knows, technology is expanding every day. Hand in hand with these improvements are new forms of social media. Chances are if you are under the age 50 you participate in some form of social media whether it be Facebook, twitter, instagram, you name it. These are just the most popular ones; there are a zillion other forms of social media out there waiting to be used. What these social media outlets are doing are giving people all over the world a voice. At first glance, this sounds like a great advent. People are able to get their own words across like they have never been able to before in history. However all these outlets pose the question: is social media ruining or helping journalism?

Like any valid argument, a case can be made for both sides. Traditional journalists could make the case that it is ruining the craft that they are used to and comfortable with. All journalists can agree that the most important aspect of the profession is of course the content, in that it needs to be factual and unbiased. While most social media outlets are platforms for people to give their own opinions, it can be argued that these opinions can be influencing content put out in major news outlets. For example, if a well respected journalist tweets something opinionated from their verified twitter account, it could be perceived as news although it was not supposed to. Also, with so much being said through social media that could be used for an actual store, journalists have to be more careful than ever when it comes to trusting what they read.

Along with social media, the new wave of blogs and start up “news websites” have greatly impacted the journalism world, in more ways than one. Aside from the advent of blogs allowing anyone in the world to publish their own material, it is undeniable that blogs and online magazines/newspapers have changed the style of traditional journalism. It is very common in this day in age to see long form pieces or on the flip side, short articles featuring more visuals, such as Storify. But just like the social media outlets, journalists have to be very careful obtaining information they read on blogs.

The case can also be made that the expansion of the internet is what is keeping journalism alive. With the print newspaper slowly dying out, the improvements in social media are giving journalists a new lease on life. Through outlets such as Facebook and twitter, journalists can provide links to their online articles. Not just that, but social media has given journalists a platform to engage with readers and get a sense of what they want to be reading, or their own thoughts of what they have read. These type of journalist/reader relationships have only been seen during the social media age, and one could argue that it is improving the content overall.

To answer the question of whether the impact of social media on journalism is positive or negative, it depends on the type of journalist. The traditional journalist who only believes in classical print newspaper style would make the case that it is harming the field. Thew new age journalists would argue however that they are failing to keep up with the times, and that social media is keeping their profession alive.

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Would Cyber Crimes Still Occur had Cyber Space Been Created Earlier?

In today’s world, we see that Internet crime is one of the leading types of crimes occurring in the United States. There have been several national cases of cyber bullying, most notably the story of nearby South Hadley student Phoebe Prince, who committed suicide after she was bullied via social media sites. And on another spectra, we are constantly seeing data breaches where large companies like Home Depot, TJ X Companies, and Target have all had incidents where there customer’s credit card numbers had been stolen. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, there was a steady increase in Internet crime complaints from 2000 to 2009, where the number started off at nearly 17,000 complaints in 2000 to more than 336,000 when it reached its peak in 2009. Until 2013, the complaints had remained steady with the amount of case numbers ranging on each side of the 300,000 per year.

One argument that can be suggested for such a high number is the fact that the Internet is so new that there are simply not laws in place to fit the scenario or to punish those who are committing such acts, and it forces lawmakers to create new laws in order to keep up with the times. Lawmakers have to use these first initial cases of cyber crimes that have occurred as a model to prevent the same crimes from happening in the future.

In the article we read this week, we learn how a Belgium bibliographer named Paul Oblet nearly invented cyberspace in the 1930’s, and was close to creating a device “that could send and receive text, display photographs, transcribe speech and auto-translate between languages.” Essentially, had all his work been destroyed by the Nazis in World War II, we would have had the social networks like we have today back in the 1950s, and life would have been much different because of the way we see how the Internet has shaped our life.

With that, I pose the question of whether we would still be experiencing all the issues that we see today with internet (the bullying, the data breaches, and scams) had cyberspace actually been invented more than 60 years ago with Mr. Oblet. If we had more than 60 years worth of time to prevent the problems and create laws that prevented them, would they be completely gone? Or would we just be seeing other forms of cyber crime that are a result of other inventions in the past few years.

In addition, how would everyday life be different had cyberspace been created and implemented by Paul Oblet. Could future wars have been prevented or other tragedies be stopped, had we had a better way to communicate with people around the world. Or would it still be the same?

Just a thought I had and wondering if anyone else had similar thoughts or a response…

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Be a Media Insurgent

Last week we brainstormed and created a list of the various titles we assign to men with guns. We learned that with each title comes positive or negative associations that are everything but unbiased. We emphasized the responsibility of the journalist to clarify and, instead of defaulting to the use of words packed with preconceived meaning, be objective.

But in a world of changing media, language isn’t the only way we frame stories. Remember the sketched images of a bruised and confused Jennifer in California Watch’s In Jennifer’s Room, and the shadowy figures and silhouettes of the investigative comic strip Invisible Injury: Beyond PTSD. These images made us feel something that, had reporters simply written down the facts, we may have never experienced.

I decided to take some words from our list and type them into Google. Would the images each search generated fit the mold of our definitions?

I started with the most controversial: terrorist. I wasn’t surprised by the scores of men holding artillery guns. What did alarm me were the related searches at the top of the page: bomb, attacks, 9/11 and beard. It seems that instead of distinguishing, as we tried to do in class, between domestic and foreign terrorism, the widely-accepted visual definition of a terrorist is a Middle Eastern man with a gun. Should we eliminate terrorist from our vocabulary as many reputable news sources are doing?

Next, I searched soldier (note that the first associated search was American). Many of the images were silhouettes backed by American flags; others depicted kneeling soldiers before a cross; and others, like this one, showed soldiers with children. Honor. Respect. Bravery. Legitimacy. All words that we used to describe this title. But do these words only apply when we’re talking about an American solider? What are we saying about other countries when our soldiers become the saviors of their children?

After scrolling through pictures of Divergent‘s Shailene Woodley and Veronica Roth’s Insurgent book cover, I finally stumbled upon this. We said that insurgent was one of the words on the list most likely to cause alarm. We said it insinuates active violence and feels threatening. And here you have it: a foreign male with a powerful weapon and, again, a masked face. I Google searched the definition of an insurgent: a rebel or a revolutionary. Then,  American insurgents. Instead of man on a deserted street holding a machine gun- red, white and blue, patriot and anti-imperialist.

With several clicks of the ‘search’ button I saw the central idea of this class come to life: society and culture shape media, while media simultaneously shapes society and culture. Are our definitions of men with guns determined by our national identity? Without a doubt.

How can we revolutionize our use of words and images as media insurgents?

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Self-Censorship in the Media: A Photo No One Wanted to Show

As a photojournalist I’m always drawn to pieces on the craft and journey of photographers. One article caught my eye, but it was less about the journey of the photographer and more about the journey of the photograph. “The War Photo No One Would Publish” by Torie Rose DeGhett gives a detailed account of the events leading up to and after the picture was taken and why almost no one would touch it.

Combat photojournalist Kenneth Jarecke did not want to shoot the Gulf War, but after seeing the work coming out in the early months, he got on the next flight to Saudi Arabia. In the article he tells the author, “It was one picture after another of a sunset with camels and a tank.”

His recount talks a lot about the logistical challenges of photographing an active military operation. Public Affairs officers chaperoned Jarecke and other journalists, and many photos published were militarily provided from cameras on planes. “The images were taken at an altitude that erased the human presence on the ground,” the articles states.

Just hours before the war officially ended, Jarecke and other press members were able to bend the rules and drive toward Kuwait along what is known as the ‘Highway of Death’. Stopping briefly, he got out of the car near a burned Iraqi vehicle and got the shot. The image of a killed enemy soldier was transmitted to America where not a single publication printed it. The Atlantic piece reads, “[Jarecke] assumed the media would be only too happy to challenge the popular narrative of a clean, uncomplicated war.”

The Associated Press removed it from their photo wire service and Time, who sent Jarecke, passed it over. Eventually two European publications did run the picture. The author interviewed many photo editors about their reasoning, many of whom admitted it was the wrong call. Criticizing the magazine a former Time photo editor says the issues, “were very sanitized” and “basically just propaganda.”

This article is important not just for photojournalists but anyone in the industry. Self-censorship is real and often editors get caught up in the decision making process. There are times when the privacy and respect make other photos more appropriate. However, looking for unpopular narratives is not just a journalistic principle but a freedom of speech principle as well. I highly recommend reading the entire article. It has dozens of bits that exemplify restrictions and editorial inhibitions that I could have written pages about. Also please share any thoughts that come to mind regarding this important issue.

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Is Twitter The Lazy Method?

It’s 2014, a new day and age where almost everyone has some type of online profile. Think back 30 years ago, before most of us were born. How did people meet? Through Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Tumblr? No, they went outside and had conversations with neighbors, coworkers, friends of friends. Now, jump back to present time. How many people have you met online? Compare it to how many people you have met in the flesh in the last 6 months.

Too many people are too trustworthy of people they meet online just because they have the same interests. I personally know a lot of people who get on Facebook and Twitter solely to make new friends that live somewhere nowhere near us. But, honestly what’s the point? Why can’t we just go outside and make friends at the local coffee shop by starting a friendly conversation? Maybe this generation is too scared or nervous to walk up to a stranger and say hi, which is kind of weird but you might make a good friend. That person could end up being your best friend or you soul mate, maybe I’m getting too deep but think about it. Just take one day and close all your social apps, go outside, and make five friends that day. Call it a social experiment. We rely too much on twitter to help jumpstart conversations that could be had in person.

What happens when it’s your birthday and your parents want to throw you a huge party and tell you to invite your friends but all your “friends” live in different states. Now your party is ruined because you’re stuck with your mom, dad, and annoying little brother with food for 40 people. That’s just one negative scenario and this is just what it has to do with regular, daily life. Don’t you think we should get rid of social networking all together? Shouldn’t we just live like the old days?

Now, let’s talk about social media and journalism.

If you add the social media topic to journalism, it changes. According to Washington Post, 53.8% of journalists use microblogs, such as twitter, to put their story. Washington Post says journalists also use that for breaking news from other media outlets. Twitter is the most popular social media network for breaking  news because it can be the fastest way to stories that just happened. Now, how many of you use Twitter just for breaking news stories and updates? Using social networks can also expand your knowledge of news and what’s going on in not just your community, but in the world. Of course these are not the only two reasons we use social networks but these are two very popular reasons. So this means we have to keep things like Twitter and Facebook around, right? Don’t we need a way to learn about the news happening every minute?

What do you think? Should we just get rid these annoying, lazy websites? Or should we keep them around for journalism purposes?

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Journalism for the Modern World

Last week’s readings discussed at length how the way information is transmitted has drastically changed because of advances in technology. Paul Grabowicz explains in “The Transition to Digital Journalism” that journalists have resorted to a “web-first” or “web-centric” approach to their reporting, also called “reverse publishing.” They think first and foremost about working to produce multimedia pieces and articles for the web and then worry about writing hard copies for newspapers or magazines later.

Grabowicz makes a note that videos can be particularly good for telling stories about food, places that serve food, political turmoil, and the damage of natural disasters, like we saw in The Denver Post’s “Chasing the Beast.”

However, there are so many different potential story topics and so many different ways to transmit information about a topic, that it can be difficult to decide which format will best play off the piece’s attributes. Sean Blanda writes in his post “We need to reinvent the article,” that each bit of information that comes across a journalist’s desk should be handled differently.

So then, my question for all of you is how do you think journalists should go about deciding which format to use in order to best portray the story: video, photos, a traditional written article, an interactive web like PBS’s “A Perfect Terrorist,” a game like Newsgrounds’ “You Shall Know the Truth,” a combination of several of these or something entirely different? Are there any guidelines at all or is the decision entirely based on individual circumstances?

Feel free to refer to the numerous multimedia examples that we looked at as part of this week’s readings in order to organize your response. Do you feel that the journalists who put together these pieces made the best decisions in their formatting? Or do you think any of them could have covered the stories better using a different tactic? Why or why not? What aspects of the stories complement the formats used? Or which aspects could have been portrayed better another way?

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Modern News Consumption

We live in an era of interconnectedness. Communication is no longer a restrictive format, but is flexible across time zones, boarders and mediums. Within this realm of interactive, fragmented and networked media systems, however, consumers can no longer merely rely on news sources to immediately share with them the news in easy accessible formats. Rather, news consumption in our modern world often requires individuals to actively pursue the media and its stories. I see this new form of content consumption, sharing and creation as a form of labor, eliciting a new form of power relationship between journalists and consumers.

Modern and exciting news sharing often involves the use of interactive videos, text, and audio. The New York Times’ “Snow Fall”, The Guardian’s “Firestorm” and The Denver Post’s “Chasing the Beast” all serve as adequate examples. However creative and engaging these stories are, they require the labor of the consumer. They are lengthy and require attention, much more than the wireless did in the late 20th century. Do we, as journalists, have an obligation to offer easy and accessible information to the public, or do these stories better serve democracy?

Journalism isn’t the only media realm requiring the labor of consumers. More specifically, brands have found new ways to create and manage themselves in formats that engage consumers within their our everyday lives and identities. Contemporary branding is often defined as an extension of a saleable self, in which individuals become sites for the extraction of value. In this regard individuals are increasing becoming not only consumers, but also producers of culture – an incidence blatantly obvious on social media. Sharing viral videos, liking pages for discounts on clothing, and commenting on discussion boards is a form of labor. Much like news organisations, brands blur the distinction between producers and consumers.

Axel Bruns, and Associate Professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane Australia coined to term ‘produsage’ to describe this movement towards consumers being both producers and users of media. Bruns also uses the term to explain the moment towards citizen journalism, in which regular individuals are recruited as a part of the news sourcing process. In the previous era of mass communication, a which a strict dichotomy of power relationships existed between politicians, journalists and citizens. In our modern era, however, this distinct hierarchy between the informer and the informed is diminishing. The Australian Labor Party leadership spill of March 20th, 2013, for example, saw politicians themselves break the news of their support for a particular leader via Twitter. This change reveals a bigger shift in the way new media allows the role of the journalist as the gatekeeper to be overlooked.

In this new media world, where we can actively watch things unfold in real time and then chat about them among ourselves, the reliance upon ‘professional’ journalists is depleting. Will this change help or hinder the need for an informed democracy? 

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Unpacking loaded language

Security forces vs. police officers vs. insurgents vs. soldiers vs. terrorists vs. fighters vs… How do you refer to people with guns while also remaining objective in your reporting?

That’s the question we grappled with in Thursday’s class discussion. At best, there’s no clear, good answer, and a few definite bad ones. As journalists, our language choices affect our every piece of work and impact all future projects. Intimidating, yes. But language lies at the heart of the craft; indeed, crafts the story. Diction alters the frame of a story. To not use language of the utmost neutrality is to grind against objectivity and color a reader’s content for them. That’s not our job.

Avoiding loaded language in reporting lends itself to remaining impartial and unbiased. Jonathan Baker, head of the BBC College of Journalism, says that BBC does not take other people’s language as its own, adding:

“Our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.”

Easier said than done, especially when reporting on complex topics like religion, minorities and violence. As we’ve discussed in previous classes, our culture and upbringing shape our worldview and individual perceptions of the truth. We bring all of this baggage into our reporting and writing. This is fine, it’s only human. The trick is avoiding letting this inevitable suitcase of life experiences get in the way of objective, honest content that readers deserve.

So what do you call a person with a gun? A person with a gun who has killed others?

For illustration purposes, let’s try terrorist. CJR writer Tanveer Ali reported that, according to the FBI, a “‘universally accepted'” definition of terrorism doesn’t exist. And depending on the situation (Domestic? Abroad?), its meaning always changes. What is certain is that terrorism/ terrorist are extremely loaded words, about as far away from neutrality as you can get. NPR states in its Code of Ethics that

“Politically loaded language not only violates our commitment to be fair, but also gets in the way of telling good stories. It makes readers and listeners stop to consider whether we’re biased in favor of one side or the other.”

In most cases, just don’t use it. And in all cases, think critically about the meanings of your word choices and remember that some words mean different things in different cultures.

As connotations of certain words change all the time, we must remain culturally conscious as well as ever-vigilant of our language choices. For more interesting reads about loaded language in the media, check out these articles by CJR’s Paul McLeary and Judith Matloff.

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Remaining Unbiased

In class on Tuesday, we discussed the role that the Amherst Police Department had in the riots that surrounded the famed celebration of “Blarney,” an Amherst tradition that occurs in the weekend leading up to St. Patrick’s Day. It was also discussed how militarizing police departments may be a new concept to many Americans, but to UMass students past and present, this is something that we have always been used to. And if someone were to see pictures from Blarney or the Red Sox riot from October 2013 without knowing the context of the picture, one might think that these were soldiers preparing to raid a terrorist group in some foreign country, and not breaking up large crowds of drunk college students.

Whether or not you agree with the increased militarization of police departments or not, or whether it is necessary, we saw another recent case of police militarization taking place where the police went into full military gear. Although the reasoning for this is much more understandable, I always wonder how journalists should cover stories that involve the police so that they are able to tell a story without jumping to conclusion or making assumptions.

This question stems from the recent murder of a Pennsylvania State Trooper. Hundreds of police officials have been searching for 10 days now for the man accused of ambushing two Pennsylvania State Police officers, killing one and serious injuring another. Although we could sit and debate all day whether or not the amount of officials searching for one man is necessary or not, I think it would be wiser to debate how to cover a story like this instead.

In the NBC Boston Affiliate WHDH article from last Wednesday, we see the description of Eric Frein, the man wanted for the murder described as “self-taught survivalist” who modeled his behavior off of soldiers from the “Cold War-era eastern Europe.” As the article states, his criminal record includes “burglary and grand larceny after police accused him of stealing items from vendors at a World War II re-enactment in Odessa, New York.”

My biggest question that I have is on how to remain unbiased in covering a story like this, where the man is accused of killing a State Trooper, although he has not been charged in the court of law yet. Although all the evidence points to this man as being the cop killer, should we as journalists refrain from making that assumption, or portraying the suspect a certain way, even as hundreds of police officials search for the man and say he is in fact the one responsible for the death of a State Trooper?

In the article, his description includes him having “shaved his head in a wide Mohawk, evidently as “part of the mental preparation to commit this cowardly act.’”

In a Huffington Post article of the same nature, the suspect is described as someone who “has participated in military reenactments and has studied the Russian and Serbian languages.” The same article says those reenactments he participated in were “Vietnam Era war-reenactments.”

I guess what I am asking is whether these certain descriptions that the media is using to describe the suspect are actually necessary, or if they are instead reinforcing stereotypes that many groups of people have tried to rid for so long now. Is it actually necessary to include the fact that he knows the Russian or Serbian languages in his description? Does that make him a terrorist and a cop killer?

Do I believe that this guy is absolutely guilty to murdering a cop? Yes. But if I were covering this story as a journalist, I probably wouldn’t include these certain details. And yes, his criminal record states that he has indeed committed crimes like burglary and grand larceny, but are those necessary in describing a man wanted for murder? If his record stated that he has killed others, than yes, I would include that, but if it’s only a crime such as burglary, which is a completely different scale in comparison to murder, I think the journalist should leave it out. I feel like including the fact that he stole is like saying that he got a speeding ticket back in 1997. Yes, he broke the law but it doesn’t exactly show he is a murderer.

And what exactly is a Vietnam War Era reenactment? Without describing what that is, which the Huffington Post doesn’t do, it leaves readers to automatically associate with the deadly war that Vietnam was?

Why isn’t there more focus on what situations made Eric Frein into the kind of person he is today or what made him to have such a grudge against law enforcement officials? I would think articles like those, instead of trying to make connections to his past to explain his current state, would be more efficient in trying to tell this story.

I think these are all things to keep in mind as we cover stories involving police. The police are going to say things and give descriptions based off the fact that a fellow brother in the Police Department was just killed. They too have one angle to the story. But as a journalist, one must remember to remain unbiased, and separate an opinion that a person might have from the actual truth.

This remains the truth, whether covering a story like Blarney, or a story like the murder of Police Officer.

With that being said, did the articles about the wanted cop killer do a good job at keeping bias out of the stories, or did they indeed include details that could have been left out. If so, what would you include or not include when telling this story, or how could we go about another way of telling this story?

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Wage Gap: Not Wide Enough for News

If meaning lies in media representation, we might as well toss the fight for equal pay in the trash.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill initiated in 2012 to protect equal pay for women, was rejected for the fourth time in Congress this past Monday, September 15. To catch you up to speed, women in the United States earn an average 77 cents to every dollar a man makes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

What’s more concerning is the lack of coverage on the bill’s rejection. Have the NYT and WSJ decided the vote on this matter lacks luster the fourth time around? Both of these outlets carried articles surrounding the issue. The NYT tried to cover its bases: an article about Hillary focusing on domestic issues with a brief mention of women’s equal pay (though no mention of the bill), a few Op-Ed’s, one from the editorial board. And yet, the bill never made news sections. (Remember when Times executive editor Jill Abramson resigned because she wasn’t getting the same pay as her white male predecessor?)

There are several factors that contribute to the gap: women taking time off to raise their children, working part-time, creating their own work schedules, etc. These factors, however, do not excuse the practices of “discrimination, negotiating skills and networking over beers,” as NYT writer Claire Cain Miller puts it. The Paycheck Fairness Act would ensure discrimination did not exist. It would also require companies to make salary information public, creating a safeguard for employees who wish to request it.

In addition, the text of the bill states that “bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience” are exceptions to “wage rate differentials” – NH Senator Ayotte (R) need not fret over any vanishing of merit-based pay. Though let it be known, the GOP makes other valid points against the bill.

This isn’t a political blog, I know. We gather here to look at culture, media and technology. Though bills are proposed, passed and rejected often, I believe some (cough cough, this one!) posit deeper meanings of our national psyche than others. What I mean to conclude is this: if our media disregards seemingly significant, characterizing actions of our government, which are in turn reflective of our culture, what news topics are receiving inordinate amounts of attention? Are we subconsciously assigning meaning to not-so-meaningful stories?


Does anyone else think this failed bill is newsworthy?

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Ferguson: Is the Media to Blame?

Something that came across my stream of news headlines recently was a public opinion poll done on St. Louis County.

The Ferguson situation has obviously been going on for a long time. But what does ‘going on’ really mean? To the average American it means that they see it on television or the internet a lot and it has not yet ceased. So basically the media is still covering the issue. According to the people of St. Louis County the same media is the ones to blame for their predicament.

“In your opinion, has the media made the situation in Ferguson, Missouri better or worse?”

73% of the 604 county residents polled thought ‘worse’. This question and one about Governor Jay Nixon’s inadequacies were the only questions in the entire list where races agreed.

I tried putting myself in their shoes. The community is not in the best of conditions and any description of how high the racial tensions are would be insufficient. To blame the media sometimes has merit but in this case not so much. The media is still talking about this issue because it simply has not been resolved. If the events were downplayed and disappeared from the airwaves would protesters still be active? Of course. This Tuesday months after the incident, a group of local protesters stormed a city planning meeting to show their dismay.

The media did not bring outsiders into the area to protest and loot. The media did bring in some people to report on arrests, only to be arrested themselves.

Personally I think the residents got this one wrong. These same residents when asked who was directly responsible for the violent actions, 41% said gangs, 35% said community activists and 23% said police or local government. I understand the gangs answer but the rest are lost on me. They’re frustrated, I get that, but just because the media is an easy target doesn’t make it the right one.

The coverage has led to discussions on institutional racism as well as the militarization of police. For that, I applaud the media for not downplaying or giving up on coverage. I recommend reading the entire poll. The racial breakdown of answers are astonishing.

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Media Representations and Humor

It’s possible I overworked my brain in class on Tuesday, continuously thinking about Douglas Martin’s obituary for Yvonne Brill and Stephen Colbert’s ‘humorous’ comment about Asian Americans.

Obviously, no one found Douglas Martin’s obituary comical or even cute as he intended, but many did find Colbert’s joke intensely hilarious, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the implications involved within that. Stephen Colbert is not racist, or at least, the Stephen Colbert we know, outside of his satirical conservative character, is not racist. But he contributed to a racist stereotype by pushing it to the forefront and bringing it to the national spotlight, even though he was poking fun at people who are racists against the group.

Humor, I believe, can serve as social commentary, but I keep wondering now where the boundary lies. Where is the line between ‘Wow, that was both a funny and powerful message’ and ‘We get that wasn’t explicit discrimination from your part, but it was wrong’. Colbert’s tweet clearly toes the line for some. But where does that line lie? Does the line even exist, or is it impossible to create the line because, as Stuart Hill suggests, nothing has a fixed meaning, and thus you can never say an image is wholly offensive or wholly humorous?

If the line does exist, what, then, matters to the image’s meaning? Does intention count or does it not matter at all that Colbert meant one thing and it came out completely wrong? In Martin’s piece, intention didn’t matter. His platform, however, did. So, is the way the message sent important? Intonation, facial expressions, words, the speaker her/himself – are those important? Dave Chappelle’s skit about grape drink comes to mind here. If we were to use the same argument that’s being used for Stephen Colbert, Dave Chappelle is also contributing to a stereotype about African Americans. But his comment never came under fire. So, what was it about his skit exactly?

It’s important to note that Stephen Colbert didn’t say his offensive comment on his show; he tweeted it. Does that make it worse because his personal meaning is harder to translate through words? Beyond that, do the author’s meanings matter at all? Or is it the meaning people fix on the image that matters? Is it the meaning the media fixes that matters?

Whether Martin’s or Colbert’s writings were offensive or not, I can’t quite tell. It’s always tough to tell with humor, even though Martin’s case was just in bad taste. But in using humor as social commentary, I think it’s important to establish an uncross-able line. The issue, however, is that no image ever means one thing, and so, you can never explicitly say it crossed a line, because someone else will argue a different meaning that crosses no line. And so, all boundaries, across all cultures, will lie in a very different place, and all images across these cultures will have different distances from that boundary.

How can we continue to use humor as social commentary if we can never quite tell what our discourse means to others and where that line exists for them?

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Combining text and photos

One of this week’s readings that I found particularly interesting was the NPR article, “People Wonder: ‘If They Gunned Me Down,’ What Photo Would Media Use?” by Bill Chappell.

A blog called “Which Picture Would They Use?” displays a variety of photos of several young black adults. Each of them posted two pictures of themselves: one that showed them in a respectful setting and another that was a little bit less appropriate. For example, one girl posted a picture of herself smiling and looking proud in a cap and gown next to a selfie where she doesn’t look as proud or happy.

The people shared these photos with the question: which one would the media use?

Would media choose to show an unflattering photo along with the headline “Shot by police…” Doesn’t that sort of tell the readers, ‘well, she didn’t have the best track record to begin with…’ An obvious and unsympathetic argument could be: don’t post a photo to the Internet that you wouldn’t want on the front page of The New York Times. But that’s ridiculous. Maybe a friend posted a picture and you hid it from your timeline, but it’s still out there on the Internet. Would media go so far as to use it?

The argument here is that the photos shared of Michael Brown by the media seem to portray him as a bad kid. Why not choose a photo of his grinning face?

Since multimedia journalism is still fairly new, I find this topic to be a very important discussion to have. Does choosing a certain picture to go along with a story alter the interpretations of readers? And, if so, is this bad?

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Technology in the Classrooms

To begin discussing technology and some different ways in which it affects our education, I searched some general articles that indeed show how our education is affected by the increase in technology. Some may argue that it brings up so much information to us at the click of a button that in fact it may lead us to not question sources but take the information we find for granted.

While there are many be proponents and opponents to the increase in technology in everyday life, which seems to change (and improve) every week, I did find one article in the New York Times that shows how the use of technology in the classroom is beneficial to both the students and the teacher, and how the technology can have an immediate impact on the students. 

In the article, which discusses a start up company by the name of Panorama Education, students can take an online survey at any time during a semester on the effectiveness of the teacher and the class. And the results are immediate to the teacher, which allows him or her to change as the students need. The start up has great supporters like Facebook and Google Ventures, which has helped its growth, and it is already being used in some of the largest school districts in the country. 

I really like the concept behind this idea, and think that it would be very effective if it were implemented here at UMass. Why wait to the end of the semester to take a survey that grades the performance of the teacher? If this was something we saw here, it could change how teachers do their jobs and could be very effective to what students are learning in the classroom. I feel the surveys that are given are very difficult to answer in the first place, and I feel as though half of them are not even read, particularly in large classes. And since each semester costs thousands and thousands of dollars to each student, wouldn’t this help ensure that we are getting the best education possible?

Does anyone else think this might be a good idea at the collegiate level, or at UMass in particular? If not, what could be a downside to implementing this survey system?

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Welcome to M,T & C!

Please feel free to jump right in and post something – a question, a link to an interesting article + a comment, a thought, etc. By now, many dozens of Media, Technology & Culture students have published posts in this blog, so take a minute to scroll below and read some of what they had to say.

Welcome to the class!


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A Generation of Robots

So much of what we discuss in class is about technology and how it’s affecting the journalism field. This class has taught me to really think about my own life and how much of a significant role technology has played. All of the Youtube clips and TEDx talks that we have watched in class have really made me aware of how technology and social media negatively impacting our society and the way we communicate.

As a journalist I really value talking with people face to face and the addiction to smartphones that has become a prominent trend in today’s society has made human interaction almost a thing of the past. In one of the TEDx talks we heard about the idea of being together while being alone and how technology allows us to never really feel lonely. Although smartphones have many benefits such as keeping in touch with friends we cannot physically see because of distance or keeping updated on our friends lives so that time apart will no longer be the reason for  friendships ending, smartphones also have harmed some of our relationships as well. We are so focused on keeping in constant communication with people we are not with that we often forget to maintain relationships with the ones we are with.

I have seen first hand in my life how easily people can mentally disconnect from a conversation even though they are physically there.  I think that it is important we remember how to be in the moment without our smartphones or iPads or laptops even if for only a few hours a day so that we don’t forget how to interact with each other in a world where new technology often consumes us.

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An Older Generation and New Technology

In class last week we had a discussion about older people using new forms of technology and watched a few clips about this topic. During this discussion I thought about one of the readings we had in class “Aging and New Technology on the Job in America” and how there is a digital divide that is affecting the older generation. Although it’s funny to joke about adults trying to use new forms of technology like social media and smart phones, this digital divide has become a huge issue when it comes to adults finding jobs. I couldn’t help but feel concerned for people in my parents generation or grandparents generation who are limited in their job opportunities because of their lack of knowledge with social media.

At the same time I also think it is their own fault for falling so behind in a world that is changing so rapidly. Going off of what the readings from last week discussed, many older people are very capable of adapting to these new forms of technology but their fear of failing prevents them from trying. We also discussed in class how it will only get worse as new forms of technology are being developed faster and faster and the generation that we find it so easy to make fun of, could be us soon. There are already social media platforms that I am not familiar with as a 21 year old, and that is a scary thought for me. With the job market being so competitive right now it is important to keep on top of all forms of social media to keep yourself on an even playing field with those who are younger.

I think that it is important for older people to make a conscious effort to learn the basic social media platforms if they don’t want to fall behind and as hard as they make it out to be, with patience and help from our generation they could adapt in no time. In the future I think that this digital divide will no longer exist when most of the population will be made of people born into a world with technology and adapting to newer forms of technology will come as second nature.

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Activism and Journalism

Recently, I have been writing a paper for my African Law and Society class and found myself writing about some of the questions we confronted in class. While I still haven’t taken a stance on the issue of female genital cutting (FGC), I used a NYT article that related to a lot of the material we covered. Whether you think the issue is relative to the culture or morally wrong, this article is a part of a canon that has shamed women in Africa and increased impotent legislation on a national level. Even with  the use of trained medical personnel to battle infection and other health ramifications, FGC is still being pursued as a backward and unhealthy decision. In our aims to protect women we may also be projecting our interpretations of the rule of law. What I think the article also does is increase traffic about FGC only happening in African countries, without considering how it is also affecting children in America; the practice is usually referred to as gender fixing at birth if a child’s genitals do not fit the ‘norm’. Is this right if we can eliminate more extreme cases? Do we have a right to speak out about it knowing we have a larger of  privilege and media outlets to our devices? 

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