(un)Sound Bytes

November 3, 2008

During what could be the closest and most crucial presidential campaign in our nation’s history, the campaigning ads seem to have gotten dangerously out of touch with reality.

Earlier in this blog, I talked about how nearly every televised ad was a shot at each candidates “weaknesses.”

Here, I will discuss the ethics of picking out sound bytes that completely distort the original intention of a message to portray that candidate in a bad light.

Technically, a medium can use a sound byte if it doesn’t change words around or replace them with other words. This means that opponents may completely warp an original meaning by selecting certain parts of a sentence or speech and leaving out other context clues.

As an example, McCain picked a piece of one of Obama’s speeches where Obama talks about how the country must repair the economy’s long-term structure.

McCain selects the phrase “the fundamentals of the economy are strong,” claiming Obama was making the same claim that McCain had been accused for.

Here is what an article from the Huffington Post lists as Obama’s original speech.

“[We need] a plan that would extend expiring unemployment benefits. For those Americans who have lost their jobs and have been working hard to find a new one, but haven’t found one yet. That’s part of the change we need. And then after this immediate problem, we’ve got the long-term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows. Change means tax code that doesn’t reward the lobbyists who wrote it, but the American workers and small businesses that deserve it. As President I am going to eliminate capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups.”

Clearly the segment was taken out of context to try to turn people away from Obama.

Also, Obama’s campaign has done the same thing with McCain’s sound bytes, so don’t think that I am trying to sway you to one side because of the close proximity of election day.

This is just one example of the ethical issue of truth and honesty in the media.

I don’t see this problem ever being fixed any time soon.

They aren’t breaking any legal rules, only being dishonest, and people are too lazy and apathetic to search for the truth if they notice something fishy. The public is spoon fed what campaigners want them to think, and they swallow willingly.

Here is the Huffington Post article


A “Minor” Issue?

November 3, 2008

About seven months ago a 16-year-old girl from my hometown and my high school alma mater was brutally stabbed to death in her home.

A few weeks ago police arrested a suspect, Ryan Barnes of Portsmouth Va.

He is 17-years-old.

The problem with this isn’t that he was arrested for being a minor, if he is the lead suspect, then he should get arrested. The problem I see with this is that his name and information is being exploited through different media like the Web and television.

In one particular online article, the reporter included a link to Barnes’s MySpace page and YouTube page.

I understand that when you sign up to have a MySpace or YouTube page, you are agreeing that it is available to the public, but it seems to me that boundaries should be marked for the media in what they may publish.

Barnes is still in high school and isn’t even legal yet. Should there be a privacy issue regarding this?

Not only is he still a minor, but he hasn’t even been found guilty yet, he is only a suspect and could be innocent as far as anyone knows. This could particular ruin his young adult life.

If you were the minor’s parents wouldn’t you be heart broken to know that your child’s information was thrown all over the Web for everyone to see, and not only that but leave him vulnerable to hate mail and endless cyber-stalking?

Minors should not be exploited by the media, especially by ways of social networking websites, where everyone is welcome to read and view private aspects of their lives, and then respond to them by ways of mail messages.

If a news medium believes they have a just cause for providing this private information besides an easy way of cyber-stalking, they should include it in their story .

“Because it’s available,” is not an excuse.

Read the Barnes article here

Democracy Now!

October 19, 2008

No, the title isn’t a personal rally against injustice, it’s the name of a spectacular independent news program.

With the media becoming ever more corporate and income-driven, Democracy Now! is there to give the people perspectives and stories rarely covered by huge news organizations such as Fox, and CNN.

Their website states they offer “independent and international journalists, ordinary people from around the world who are directly affected by U.S. foreign policy, grassroots leaders and peace activists, artists, academics and independent analysts.”

In light of dangerously corporate-sponsored media, this is a blessing.

Every news station today claims they report on the truth, the deepest dirt that the people need to know! Leave no stone unturned, no political mystery unearthed! TRUTH TO THE PEOPLE!

…Oh, except if it gives our corporate sponsor a bad name…or expresses the disgust from the American people about the war…

Luckily for us, Democracy Now! isn’t sponsored by some cannibalistic corporate big-wig. You do get the truth and you do get a detailed analysis of government policies you wouldn’t normally even be informed about.

Democracy Now! goes above and beyond to honor their duty to the people -providing the truth.

The organization is completely viewer, foundation, and listener supported, they do not accept advertiser, corporate, or government funding to avoid straying to the darkside like the previously mentioned news teams.

Of course, one of Democracy Now!’s faults may be that it is obviously left sided. BUT I believe that having that small persuasion does less damage (if it is providing the truth and exposing the hidden) than if an organization was “unbiased” and only reported things they were allowed to.

The idea of the fact that corporate news organizations must be allowed to report on an issue still blows my mind. The American people should not be spoon fed an agenda deemed fitting to its sponsors, they should be served everything that they could possibly want to know about.

So here’s to endless pats on the back to you, Democracy Now!. Continue independently and steadfastly serving the public with truth and perseverance. You are the last slice in the corporate pie.

Please visit Democracy Now! here

Keeping it Simple, Stupid?

October 18, 2008

CBS has a weekly feature every Friday night that is called Assignment America. A reporter named Steve Hartman reads emailed requests from viewers across the nations about the stories they want to hear and picks the best one to do a short report on at the end of the broadcast.

Some of these broadcasts have been stories about: A drive-in church, care packages for soldiers, a vacuum boy and his obsession…vacuum boy and his obsession? Yes, you heard me correctly, the report that ended the evening news July 27, 2007 was about a boy’s obsession with vacuums.


Apparently Kyle Krichbaum has over 165 vacuums today

Why is this news? And why does America want to see this on their news? Is it because we have become so apathetic to “real” news that we want anything and everything to entertain us?

Why aren’t American’s writing in to Steve and telling him to profile the 17-year-old who started her own charity organization? When is the story about impoverished, resource-lacking schools going to be aired?

And why is Steve actually choosing these stories to air? After all, he is the deciding factor in what stories are “newsworthy.” Could it be that Steve is doing the minimal, and appeasing the beast that is his viewers?

Steve is keeping it simple, stupid.

It may be because he wants to keep ratings high. It may be because his viewers never offer him any other stories of substance.

Whatever the reason is, I think in his job as a national news reporter, his efforts should be narrowed in on concerning, provoking news.

Please humor yourself and watch the video here.

Photo Manipulation

October 6, 2008

Pictures are worth a thousand words. Pictures are frames in time. Pictures capture reality..well most of the time.

A good picture can enhance a story or feature ten times. They give the reader a clear visual and launch them to the scene as if they were there. Many journalists, photographers, and government officials stay true to media ethics and post untampered pictures, however, thanks to the rise of digital photo-manipulation, there has been an increase in altering pictures to a desired effect.

This isn’t new and can be traced back to when photography was invented, but the problem is becoming more dire due to the immediacy that news can received around the world. Any altered picture can effect millions of people in the blink of an eye.

The most problematic alterations are the ones of course that embellish a scene enough that they change the context, and possibly affecting the public’s views.

This first photo alteration is from a pamphlet for the University of Wisconsin at Madison which was supposed to portray its diversity.

The image on the left is the altered image with an African American student's head inserted. The image on the right is the original image with only white students.

The image on the left is the altered image with an African American student's head. The image on the right is the original image with only white students.

Or in a more severe text, when the U.S. Army released photos of two deceased soldiers at Fort Stewart in Georgia in September, 2008, seen here

The man on the left is a composite of the right man's body and his own head.

The man on the left is a composite of the right man's body and his own head.

Then there are less severe photo alterations that don’t necessarily hurt anyone or change someone’s perspective, but still morph reality none the less. Here is the cover of a National Geographic in February of 1982. The Great Pyramids of Giza were squeezed together to create a more aesthetically pleasing cover.

It’s common knowledge that many magazines alter their models with an airbrush and other tools to the extent that they don’t look like themselves, and this seems to be allowed…unless it is a famous person, then the magazines are accused of not portraying them as their true selves. It’s acceptable for models, but not “real” people?

In addition, often, after a print company publishes a photoshopped picture, they will write on the inside cover an exclaimer letting readers know that the photo has been digitally altered. Is this acceptable?

That is a tough question. I say that pictures are meant to capture the truth. Any alteration of any kind is a distortion of reality. But what if your camera doesn’t capture the colors the way they were and you want to enhance the blue sky?

It’s a tough call to make about the limitations of photo manipulation. My final say is that as a photographer, journalist, or any kind of media official, it is your responsibility to deliver the truth to the public. Alterations should not be made unless it is an unofficial type of graphic design media or a personal media to express your creativity or humor.

You can visit the photo tampering site I got my pictures from here

The Abuse of Freedom of Speech

September 29, 2008

Freedom of Speech is our first amendment and is one of the greatest qualities of our country. As long as it’s true, we can express ourselves any way we want. At any point in time, you can get thousands of different news sources and therefore form your own opinions and further your individuality. We know that this freedom is a great thing, but can it be taken too far?

This weeks blog isn’t about the media, but instead a specific medium, Juicy Campus. I stumbled upon this website a year ago and after looking through, I vowed to never go there again. However, my friend came up this weekend to visit and she started looking through it to find any dirt on her sorority at her school. I read a few posts, and I must say that I haven’t been that disgusted in a long time.

If you aren’t familiar with the website, here is what you can expect when visiting: Shit Talking. That is basically it. It’s designed as a forum for college students to post topics and reply to other topics. This could have potential, if people actually posted legitimate posts about their school like, who they think is going to win homecoming court, or what the best class to take is, but Juicy Campus has taken trash talk to another level.

Every post is another bashing session on a certain fraternity or sorority…or even worse, an individual. Don’t people know that this can seriously hurt someone’s feelings, or potentially ruin an opportunity they may have, like I don’t know…getting a job, being promoted, making friendships…Chances are, 90% of these things aren’t even true.

Now, I appreciate freedom of speech just as much as anyone else. I love being able to blog about anything I could want to, but this site is abusing this right we have. When can you draw the line between free speech and slander? Should there be laws on the extent what you can and can not say?

To be honest, I don’t know what the right thing to do is. It’s a free country, and forums like Juicy Campus may be fun for free time, but in my opinion, it is an abuse to our given right. People need to grow up and respect each other and our freedom of expression.

View the website here

Media Hawks

September 22, 2008

Earlier today as I was browsing through various news websites, I found an article from Fox News published on September 1, titled “Palin’s 17-Year-Old Daughter is pregnant.”

Surprise, the media has dug up some dirt.

Muckraking is an age-old game between the media and public figures, except now in the 21st Century it seems the media are passing important concerns by, and scooping up the most superficial mud.

As soon as anything leaks to the press that is juicy enough to sell some papers, they publish it as quickly as you can say “gossip.” This time, it’s the recent news of Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol’s pregnancy. The 17-year-old, the article reports, is due in December, and says she plans on marrying the father.

Bristol Palin and boyfriend, Levi Johnson

Bristol Palin and boyfriend, Levi Johnston

The Palin’s may have wanted this to be private, because as you can imagine, it may hurt Sarah Palin’s image as Vice President for the Republican Party, who we all know is a huge advocate for pro-life decisions and wed-lock pregnancies, but the media knows no boundaries for personal feelings.

In light of the media hawks swooping down on this recent news, one begs to ask the question: did this revealing or prediction that the media would eventually uncover this, influence Bristol’s decision to keep the baby and marry her boyfriend at age 17?

More than likely, the answer is “yes.” No doubt Sarah Palin would rather have the media find out that her daughter was keeping the baby and marrying the boyfriend so she could emphasize their support of traditional family values.

The article quotes Focus on the Family President James Dobson in saying, “We have always encouraged the parents to love and support their children and always advised the girls to see their pregnancies through…That is what the Palins are doing, and they should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances”

If the media found out that Bristol had an abortion, the Republican Party’s support from super-conservatives would decrease. That’s a lot of pressure on one family, and especially on one girl who hasn’t even graduated high school.

I understand that the media has a job to do, and they do it well, but it would be nice if occasionally, they could put themselves into someone else’s shoes.

Read the entire pregnancy article here