Thursday, April 7, 2011

Opinionated Journalists

Keith Olbermann of MSNBC recently donated funds to a specific political party. Due to the network’s rules, he violated one by donating the money. The company says that none of their employees may take public sides to any political party by donating funds unless there is specific permission (which Olbermann did not have). After suspending him, the company representatives decided to lift his suspension, deciding that the temporary suspension was a sufficient punishment to Keith Olbermann.

It’s a pretty controversial subject to whether or not journalists and news reporters should be able to present their opinions on different topics such as interests, political parties and also controversial topics such as gay marriage or abortion. For me personally, I think it is important to remember what the purpose of the writer/reporter is. For instance, if your purpose is to persuade, then yes, taking a side is vital and mandatory. But with news, the purpose is generally to inform, which requires a non-bias standpoint. For all intensive purposes let’s say for this blog post that the purpose is to inform. In that case, I am going to say that indefinitely, the reporter or journalist should present his or herself in a non-bias context.

First of all, when it comes to informing, if the informer (writer or reporter) has a certain standpoint on the subject at hand then when they present their information, it will be presented strongly and more informatively from the informers interests rather than a non-bias report. This leaves the reader only being halfway and not wholly informed. Next, it’s important to avoid taking sides in order for the network to avoid conflict and strife from their views/readers. Many people are passionate about beliefs, and taking sides could possibly be the downfall of a networks proficiency. Finally, it’s important because taking a stance on a certain topic can be seen as favoritism and the company/network may even possibly lose their viewers/readers in that case.

It’s important for reporters and writers to remain un-bias by doing their research on the different subjects and topics their presenting in order to inform the audience of the topic wholly and not one sided. Giving a one-sided presentation on a topic leaves the viewers upset and frustrated due to not being able to fully understand the topic at hand; but only one side of it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sam I am

In the feature article "The Boy Behind The Mask" Tom Hallman, Jr. beautifully recalls the story of Sam. Sam was born with a birth defect called vascular anomaly. Which is a deformity that left half of Sam's face looking bloated or swollen. On the outside, Sam was easy to judge by bystanders and the general public, what these people couldn't see explained by Tom Hallman Jr. is that on the inside, Sam is a completely normal kid playing sports, attending school as a great student and making friends. Hallman jumps into the life of Sam describing his circumstances in a heart-wrenching way. The reader will have no choice but to fall in love with Sam and his story. Hallman depicts sam as a brave, amiable and fun kid who really just wishes to be normal and able to fit in. Hallman is able to write this story from so many different angles, going through Sam's struggles, ending in his overcoming them. Hallman describes how Sam didn't notice his own differences until he was 3 years old, and when he did, he cried. Sam, 12 years-old decides being different is too difficult, and he'd like to try to have a type of plastic surgery. Although the plastic surgery wasn't able to fix all of his deformity, Sam's first day of high school showed Sam's bravery and character; not willing to be the boy with a deformity, Sam decided where he belonged and embraced school and society and in return was loved and cared for. His story will not be one that is soon forgotten.

This feature article and Pulitzer Prize winner was definitely not by accident. What makes this article a feature is how Hallman gets a profile of Sam and his life, interviewing him and his family with beautiful quotes as well as getting behind the scenes or analyzing the story and life of Sam and his family. The way Hallman writes this article will leave the reader in aw, and quite possibly teary-eyed.

If you wish to read Hallman's feature yourself, you can find it at the following link:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Changed standards?

In response to watching the News War videos part three:

Reporting, writing, and all occupations incorporating providing the raw news to the public, used to be jobs of integrity and individuals held in high esteem. News reporters getting in the nitty gritty part of news, delivering the best stories, and even endangering their lives to do so used to be held as daily heroes. These days, not only have those reporters lost their view of heroism but there seems to be a very negative outlook on the character of these reporters. According to the public, reporters these days are associated with words such as: deception, liars, and quite frankly just people not to be associated with.

Not only has the view of reporters changed, but the news in general has changed in how they run things and the content that each news station delivers to the public. In all sections of the news the question that arises is: Has the standard for news changed? It seems as though in this decade, each year that goes by there is less and less hard news and more covering the latest entertainment story of hollywood movie stars. Has the news changed to strictly entertainment?

As said in the News War videos, to the producers dismay, the comedy show with John Stewart has become statistically the top news show for which Americans watch to gain knowledge. The producers don't see this as an accomplishment, but see it rather as the other news stations failure. So what seems to be the problem? How can a news station make people want to watch what's going on in the middle east rather than which movie star got a DWI this week? It seems as though local news channels have found their niche in entertainment and hard news; but has making money become more important than delivering the important details of what's happening around us? Some believe that the standard for news has changed; they believe that it has lowered, and yet others in the industry believe it has just broadened in what they report about.

How do these controversial topics affect the current college students who are hoping to work for the news/media industry, and what should they be expecting upon joining the industry? Well, first of all that yes, times have changed and the expectations and standard of news has changed as well. It's important for each student to realize this, and important to hold onto their passions if delivering hard news is just that, then chasing after truth at all cause should be their goal. Although society and other news channels have cheapened what they call news, it's important to continue the fight in finding different ways and creative ways to present the news.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Objectivity in journalism

As a journalist, to be objective is all about the raw truth. In David Brooks article, "Objectivity in Journalism" he describes a writer being objective to an, "Old-fashioned virtue that has to be respected above the good of partisan opinion, the reason being, that there is something that exists out there called truth."

The entire reason this statement by Brooks is so powerful revolves around the truth that it brings. Every single individual has an opinion on just about every subject out there. Whether it be hairstyles, sports teams or gardening. Everyone has an opinion and it is easy for them to generally force/express their opinion on anyone who will listen. Generally speaking, it is not a reporters job to give you their opinion. A professional reporter/journailst is there in order to give the latest news, the latest stories, and talk about things that spike other individuals interests. In doing so, it is absolutely vital for those reporters and journalists to give the raw facts, also known as the truth.

Each writer has a decision of the outcome of their story. They can choose to tell the facts that they want in order to make the outcome of the story look the way they want. They can also choose to present the facts and allow the reader to choose their own outcome. Journalism can definitely be objective and it should be objective. No one in their right minds wants to or should be manipulated or swayed into thinking a certain way. The reader wants to be able to determine their own opinion on the topic. It should be the absolute goal of every reporter and journalist to write as David Brooks said it, with the old-fashioned virtue of objectivity by presenting the unbiased facts that they are presenting.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Little white lie?

When it comes to journalism, particularly those who are Christians, when does stretching the truth, changing the story, adding details ect. become a lie? How important is it for Christian journalists to have every detail true in their writings? As the Bible talks continuously about telling the truth, and and how not doing so is a direct sin to God, it should be every Christian journalist' desire to strive for excellence in telling every aspect of the truth. In the article, "Why Tell The Truth" Joseph Stowell expounds specifically on what the Bible has to say about telling the truth. In one section of his article, Stowell talks about the spiritual consequences of lying. His first point is that the truth aligns us with God. He said, "God's intense concern for truthfulness centers on His very nature. He is the "God of truth." As Christians, it should be our purpose to first and foremost bring God praise, and in doing so align us with the nature of God which is truth. Another point Stowell gives is that we (Christians) are redeemed to reflect God's character. Christ coming to earth, and dying on the cross to redeem us was a selfless act, accepting His redeeming and becoming a Christians requires us to reflect that very same character.

There are a few different ways in which a Christian journalist can tell a lie. The first way is through beguilement. Beguilement is in short, jumping to the wrong conclusion of a story. For instance, if a writer were to assume a story were to end a certain way, and write it as such; consequently, they would be lying. Another way would be deceit, now this one is certainly a no brainer. Just as Judas deceived the Lord so do reporters deceive their readers by using crafty words in order to have them believe something that is untrue. Another one would be just lying. Lying straight about facts such as dates, times, or even names of people involved. The final way is by bearing false witness. This ones a little more tricky. A way a reporter can lie by bearing false witness is when they are bearing it against another person. For instance, when writing a story about any individual if the journalist writes a false testimony of individual, they are indeed lying.

All of these different ways and more are ways that reporters, even Christian reporters and journalists are lying constantly. As Christians, it's vital to hold to the integrity Christ calls the church to in not only telling the truth ourselves, but helping others, such as the people we work with or the company we work for to do the same.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

World Wide Web

My father, Ron Russell, who is currently 59 years old and who grew up in the farmland of Missouri can recall a time before the world was dependent on communication through the World Wide Web. Living on his own since he was 16 years old, my father has always understood the significance of communication and hard work. Growing up without computers and without most technology, he explained that research was more hands-on; as in, actually having to travel to the library to do extensive research. He said that people didn’t communicate as well before the Internet simply because it was more difficult “There was no Facebook or Twitter, if you wanted to talk to someone, you had to call them which was expensive, or you had to write them a letter” (R. Russell). In the 1970s my dad used his first computer and first email at the age of 29. The differences between email/internet back then and now are substantial. He explained how when people first started using the Internet, it wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now. He used the analogy of a baby learning to walk, and having to take small steps before getting to the big ones. My dad explained that instead of people just being able to hop on the Internet, that there were actually separate networks that the different workplaces used and that the computers were tied in through work and hardwired through terminals.

I asked him when people started to use computers at homes and he explained that when the work environment started to have computers, people wanted them at their houses too. Mostly to be used as a word processor to replace the typewriter. People were excited to be able to have something fix their spelling mistakes before it was printed out. An interesting fact the my dad mentioned was that Personal Computers did not initially have a lot of space back then, and that you can buy a general calculator at the store now, that has a significant amount more memory than what a PC did back then.

My dad’s favorite thing about the Internet today would be the available research he’s able to find online. He specifically talked about how neat it was for people to be able to even do genealogy researches to learn more about their family’s history. He also talked about how great it was to be able to look up companies you needed to find out about them he said, “It’s the ease and speed of finding something.”

When asked what he thought the technology of the World Wide Web would look like in the future, my dad explained that it’s like an evolution. He talked about the historical aspect of the Internet and compared it to what an automobile was like 100 years ago “The first automobile is almost unrecognizable, without windows, heat, air-conditioner, and with solid rubber tires” (R. Russell). He compared the old automobile to the way cars today function with climate control and concert quality sound systems. He said, “What will it be like in a hundred years? The technology is always new. To imagine what it will involve into is almost incomprehensible.”

Besides a few negative connotations, my dad believes that overall, the World Wide Web has helped increase and develop communication skills. His final thought on this historically changing aspect of communication was, “I am 59 years old and proud to be this age. I’ve been a science fiction reader all of my life and I’ve always believed: If we can dream it we can achieve it. God has given us talents and abilities and we can either choose to use those, or not” (R. Russell)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Christian Journalism?

In the communication industry it is often a controversial subject to whether or not Christians should take part in the various concentrations of communications. Generally speaking, from broadcasting and journalism to public relations and advertising; the communication industry is seen as something strictly secular. In broadcasting, stories are generally either cooked up or received through deception. In advertising, as my communication professor puts it, you are generally talking someone into buying something they don't need. Is that not a lie? How can Christians be apart of these industries when they are generated around such character?

In the article, "Toward A Compassionate Press" written by David Aikman, he explains that, "An important element in journalism, and indeed a frequently mentioned motive among young journalists for their decision to enter the profession, is the belief that exposing wickedness in society can lead to beneficial social change." Not only does Aikam mention the desire for young journalist to draw up the wickedness in their reporting, but he later describes that self promotion and self awareness in the industry takes away from what the profession originally was itself. Which was simply, "To report and interpret the news" (Aikman). If this is the case with journalism and other branches of communication, where do the Christians in the industry fit in? As a Christian, to bring about wickedness and dwell on the negative, and to promote one's self worth are not considered enriching and pleasing to the Lord, how can Christians find a place among those who do not share similar morals and ethics? Aikam goes onto explaining what it means to be a Christian in the industry. He says, "First, Christian journalism should more than anything be about truth. As Clifford Kelly has said, "Truth is the Christian journalist's best friend""(Aikam). Although generally speaking, the industry of communication is seen as secular, that doesn't have to be the case for a Christian individual working in the industry. Aikman later uses the verse Ephesians 4:15 which talks about speaking the truth in love. No matter the circumstance Christian individuals are called by God to speak the truth in love. Whether that means not covering a story because it has false facts, or advertising a product that is known to be faulty. Christ is sovereign and is thankful for the Christian who lives above reproach by holding His commands. Jerry Falwell used to explain that anything that is Christian, should be the best. Reporters, advertisers, journalists who are Christians should be the individuals who are the best. They should be the ones with high morals and sound ethics. Those individuals should be the ones speaking the truth in love by providing the best truth to the best of their abilities to their customers and readers. The last point Aikman shares about the Christian journalist is, "Finally, a Christian journalist will always be only as effective for the Kingdom of God as his or her degree of godliness extends." However much the Christian journalist is willing to humble themselves and allow God to work through them by living above reproach, is how effective that Christian individual will be to their ultimate goal in furthering the kingdom of God.