Monday, September 29, 2008

Twitter's Debate Twitters-A Class Reaction

The first presidential debate was held on Friday night at the University of Mississippi after much speculation that it would be cancelled by Sen. McCain. The U-Mass Multimedia class headed by Steve Fox followed the debates and twittered their comments and the people's reactions around them who were also watching.

The transcript of the class's comments contains some piercing reactions to Sen. McCain's comments on everything from his credibility to run the country, to touting himself as a moderate legislator who reaches across the aisle. For example, elreynolds writes "McCain may be more qualified to deal with the war, but really nothing else for Presidency." McCain made a point in the debate to mention that he was a POW and somehow implies that this makes him qualified for the job. Alexa M who watched the debates with Dan posted a comment from him. "Being a POW doesn't make you more qualified to be president."

A lot of coverage lately in the MSM has been directed towards McCain's shift from the moderate "maverick," he used to be to the hardcore Republican he is now- The twitterer's echoed this sentiment- elreynolds says about McCain that " he doesn't realize how much he's changed."

The subject of war dominated the debates as well as the twitters- benjaminswill commented that he believed Obama answered the question on the threat of Iran and Korea better than McCain. He wrote "Obama just buuuurned McCain on Korea and Iran." ereed8 makes a good point concerning the heated debate between the two candidates on if the country should have have invaded Iraq-"I'm not a huge McCain fan, but I like that he's looking forward... lets stop talking about "should we have gone into Iraq?" edoody101 agreed with their classmate on this issue, writing, "Whether or not Obama liked the way we entered Iraq it does not matter since we are there".

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Aftermath of the Friday Debate

Senator's Barack Obama and John McCain met head to head in their first debate this past Friday at 9.00p.m. This particular blog post is dedicated to picking out good, well reported and fleshed out pieces by the MSM covering the Presidential debate. I'm going to display the best three in my opinion. What constitutes the best piece is a mixture of: an accurate accounting of the important topics discussed during the debate (i.e. the financial crisis, the war,) and where each candidate stands on them, clear, descriptive writing that evokes an image of the contest- it should paint a vivid picture for those people who couldn't watch, and lastly and most important, a solid representation of both sides and no hint of bias. The best three I've found are as follows:

1. The Saturday Sept. 27th Boston Globe

2. The Saturday Sept. 27th New York Times

3. The Associated Press in the Saturday Sept. 27th Washington Post

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dave Maraniss Speaks To U-Mass

Washington Post associate editor, author and Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss delivered a talk on Monday night to The University of Massachusetts campus titled "Playing For Keeps: Race, Sports and Politics." I was sitting in the front of the Flaven Auditorium, and I was able to listen closely to his passions and life stories concerning journalism and the topics he loved to write about most; Race, Politics and Sports. Maraniss began the interesting talk by explaining the story of one of the women he writes about in his new book, "Rome 1960." Wilma Rudolph, and her life as a African American gold medal winner at those 1960 Olympics, was the first root that Maraniss planted in the audiences' mind during the lecture, which by the end, had grown into a complete, interconnected tree with the lives of Sen. Barack Obama and the 1961 Freedom Riders , each contributing a small part to the Civil Rights movement. "There is no obvious connection between those things, but they are deeply connected and the loves of my life, the obsessions of my career as a journalist weave through those three things," said Maraniss.
The lecture was at its best when Maraniss spoke about his personal experience with such people as Ed Temple, the Tennessee Tiger Belles' coach and also the special moment he had when he traveled to Vietnam with a U.S. Vietnam veteran to meet the Vietcong that had been trying to kill the U.S. Veteran some decades earlier. The way that Maraniss wove together the impassioned topics of race, sports and politics in America with his life experiences as a journalist made for a thoroughly enjoyable lecture.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Media Continues It's Coverage Of The "Straight-Talker."

Gebe Martinez of the web site "Politico," penned an article on Thursday titled "McCain zigzags on immigration," which efficiently recounts the co-sponsored (Sen. McCain and Sen. Edward Kennedy) 2006 Senate immigration bill, and lays out the many instances where the Arizona Senator has changed his position on the comprehensive immigration legislation.

Martinez does a good job of putting the "zig zags," out there so his audience can then decide for themselves if the changes in McCain's stance are relevant to the election.
The first sign of McCain's shifting happened in 2007 according to Martinez, when Republican voters expressed a strong dislike and protest against the controversial bill which among other legislation included the legalization of 12 million undocumented immigrants. Seeing this, McCain backed away from the measure. A few weeks ago the 72 year-old Senator mentioned "comprehensive, as in one bill," when speaking to Latino community leaders about the bill Martinez writes.
Another good example of the media's reporting on the immigration bill issue, concerning Presidential nominee John McCain's "concession to conservatives," is the progressive non-profit research and info. center "Media Matters'," January 31st piece. This post deals with an appearance by Dana Bash, CNNs congressional correspondent, on American Morning , in which he talks about how McCain said he would not vote for his own legislation allowing citizenship for immigrants. "No, I would not, because we know what the situation is today. The people want the borders secured first," said McCain on January 30th.
The excellent aspect of this post is that Media Matters goes a step further and writes what Bash left out- that just days earlier, McCain had said he would sign that very legislation into law if he were elected president. These discrepancies were brought to my attention strictly because I read them in these two sources. If not for the investigative prowess I probably would not have known the facts of this issue. The media's job is to report the news. As Ernest Hemingway said, "Good writing is true writing."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Research Assignment

It is not a good idea to read, study or cite something on the web and just take the information as true. There are techniques involved that will help you use the web effectively, and wisely. I studied 1 search engine -(Google,) 1 website - ( The Nation,) and 1 blog - (Hendrick Hertzberg,) to apply the techniques suggested by Henderson , and to see how whether or not the information was reliable.

First, I studied the mega search engine Google, to see how reliable the results are and if it should be used instead of going to the library and opening actual research books and periodicals, as well as who they are to then determine accuracy. Hendrson suggests finding out about the author/authors of the product to determine the intent and also to discover if you "are in the right place" for your needs. I easily found a "About" Google page that included their products and corporate information. I then moved on to the web site of the progressive magazine, "The Nation." When you are using a website to gleam information from it, Henderson suggests that you look for a "About the authors link," because it will help to see if the information is reliable, what the authors angle is, his previous writings etc. The Nation does a good job of providing this info - For The Nation's site I didn't see available the link. Henderson also suggests that you pose the question "Does the site include a way to contact the authors?" The Nation didn't have this link on their site.
For Hendrick Hertzberg's blog "Notes on Politics, Mostly," there is an easily accessible link to all his archived writings, which is a technique Henderson suggest as a way to learn if the author is reliable. Although I didn't find a link or way to contact Hertzberg, I believe his work is accurate because of the mere scope of his archived writings that can be seen on the "New Yorker's" site.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

This Week On The Trail

The 2008 race for the highest job in the land, President of the United States, is heating up and getting interesting. The economy slid further on Monday into a dubious tailspin, turning the tide slightly in Sen. Obama's favor, but alas, the attack ammunition is continuing to be fired from both candidate's sides as the country holds its breath in anticipation that the landscape of American finance will return to normal.
The New York Times wrote about the most recent financial crisis to level Wall Street occurring on Monday, which held the possibility of American International Group, the nation's biggest insurance company, collapsing and the previously unthinkable, now a reality, bankruptcy of securities firm Lehman Brothers.
In reaction to this crisis, the candidates have both responded this week by focusing more narrowly on the economy and offering a deluge of shots against each other's campaigns at the same time. On Tuesday, McCain changed his long held stance on regulation, and referring to stricter rules and oversights for financial companies he said in the Washington Post that "Government has a clear responsibility to act in defense of the public interest, and that's exactly what I intend to do." Sen. Obama was in Colorado this week and reiterated his economic proposals, as well as scolded McCain for a comment he had made on Monday. The comment was that the economy is fundamentally sound. Sen. Obama said, "How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?" McCain said this week in an ad that Obama's solution to the economic trouble is only "talk and taxes."
I hope that we as Americans can start to get the actual hard policies from these two candidates instead of a barrage of artillery from the culture wars.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thomas Freidman-Making America Stupid

I would like to post links to this blog of editorials and specific articles that I think are important, well-written etc. This Sept. 13th New York Times column is a good first example. I liked the tone of Freidman's writing here as well as the easy to comprehend- common sense.

Read On:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The 2008 Online News Association Conference

The 2008 ONA Conference began this week (A conference for people who work or have interest in on-line media and news.)- September 11th-13th in Washington D.C. The conference is sold out and lucky attendees will be involved in workshops, many discussions on multimedia tools, merging newsrooms and also a packed tutorial on "Social Networking and the News," which will be mulling over the building of such tools as Facebook applications and the common mistakes that are made when integrating social networking and the news.

Being a current college senior at The University of Massachusetts ,I am inundated daily with talk of Facebook and the less popular MySpace. It has drawn attention from the terrestrial news organizations and their development teams. Some reasons why? Because Facebook is one of the top sites on the internet, and because the advertisers much desired after age bracket- the 18-24 year-old's, are the main group who are populating it. Their are many advantages to the media using Facebook such as creating a community; linking journalists and their audience, but there are also questions concerning Social Networking Sites and the use by journalists. This is a unique time in media's life and the ONA Conference is exploring and testing the choppy waters.

Another area of multimedia journalism the conference is covering is the tapping into of User-Generated Content. I think the aspect of "Citizen Journalism," is quite an interesting one- with all its advantages, such as giving the audience unprecedented power which in turn creates community and ubiquitous, broader coverage (and striking photos) of important stories. But the downsize is the problem of journalistic ethics, reliability and accuracy, and objectivity.

"Starting a conversation with the audience, comments and user interaction can lead to interview sources and story ideas as well. To make this happen, a two-way relationship can be fostered through discussion groups, interactive blogs and responses to readers' comments." This is a quote on ONA's site from Morgan Phelps who covered the conference. I personally believe in the power of citizen journalism and user-generated content, and the idea Phelps mentions about the creation of story ideas and interviewing sources is an end to unilateral reporting.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The GOP Women

In part two of Gov. Sarah Palin's interview with ABC news, special attention was paid to the now controversial close to $200 million in federal earmarks she backed this year as Governor of Alaska. Palin's current stump speech is peppered with the fact that pet projects are a waste, and John McCain who is an avid opponent of them, will put a stop to the needless spending. This was not the only GOP "half truth," exposed and reported on by the MSM this week. The New Yorker's Ariel Levy has an article titled "The Lonesome Trail," in the September 15th issue just released to news-stands. The article is an expansive and well reported piece covering Republican Presidential Nominee Sen. John McCain's second wife, Cindy McCain, her life and interests, and her touted claim that the McCain family is "traditional.". Both these pieces of journalism do the job of bringing the truth to light, but will voters take notice? Will it make a difference in the November election?

"It has always been an embarrassment that abuse of [the] earmark process has been accepted in Congress. And that's what John McCain has fought. And that's what I joined him in fighting," she [Palin] said. This is a quote from Charles Gibson's last interview with Palin on Friday. Concerning the millions in requested earmarks- even as Palin defended them, McCain told a television audience that she had never requested them. What will come of this contradiction? Has the media completed it's job, and now its up to the citizenry to do what they may with the info?

Levy writes about Cindy McCain and the adoption of her now 16 year-old daughter. A story that Mrs. McCain frequently mentions on the campaign trail is how she brought the little girl home from a Bangladesh orphanage and the first time her husband knew about it, the new mother and baby were on American soil. The story from Cindy McCain's view is told to show the "open-heartiness," and compassion of her husband. But not everyone sees it that way. There are some discrepancies in this tale that Levy exposes- Mother Teresa supposedly talked with and convinced Cindy to adopt the child. The only problem is that Mother Teresa wasn't there at the same time McCain was in Bangladesh- Also, Cindy McCain has said many times that their family is "traditional," just like any hardworking American family. But as Levy writes, it's kind of strange that the adoption of a baby-one in which Sen. McCain would be the father of for life- wasn't discussed. This shows a living of two separate lives. This supposed "traditional" family is anything but traditional. For example, a Politico article on Sept. 12th reports the couple file taxed separately. Now these discrepancies are not the end of the world by any means, but thanks to the solid reporting, we as voters can decide if these "half truths" might snowball into larger ones.

These are examples of the MSM doing a good job of mining the truth, and serving it to the public. In my opinion, the people should consider carefully these contradictions coming from the Republicans. But then again, they're just politicians.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Web Sources Helpful to Journalists

  1. Romensko- This is a good source for journalists because of the linking feature. Romensko posts all the important news effecting journalists and their craft to this site. I believe it to be very convenient to have all the stories in one place; saving journalists time. I find the pieces to be timely and helpful.
  2. Project for Excellence in Journalism- This is a good source for journalists because it's site has many features. One, it has a 'Daily Briefing' of the day's digested media news in one section. It has three critical offerings as well- a data library with charts and numbers that could be used in reporters articles-An analysis section that contains commentaries on news- And a 'News Index' which lists such things as 'Top stories across all media' with charts and data. Having all this in one place is helpful.
  3. SCOTUSblog- This is a blog that strictly covers the U.S. Supreme Court. This is a good source for journalists because it contains accurate and plain language on S.C. rulings and cases that a journalist can reference if writing an article on a specific SC case or needing background information.
  4. POLITICO- This news site is fairly moderate in partisanship, which is good for journalists. Another reason I think the site is good for journalists is because they can go to it to read quality articles and basically use it to get a lot of their political news. I really applaud the way the pieces are divided conveniently into headings; Lobbying, Congress, Life, Multimedia etc. This makes it a time-saver for journalists on deadline who need information.
  5. The Economist-Daily News Analysis- This part of the Economist's website is helpful for journalists because of it's large and international scope. It's divided up into specific sections such as Europe, Science & Technology, and Middle East & Africa. I think journalists could go to this website to begin a fact check, gain story ideas, and keep informed on the world's news, all in one succinct section.

The Ties That Bind

The first thing you learn in school as a journalism student is that journalism's main function is to serve as a watchdog, and to keep the government in check while at the same time informing the public if the government tries to do anything that would be detrimental to life, liberty and democracy.
Now, some news organizations do a great job serving as the people's watchdog. A lot of the times reporters can go places ordinary citizens cannot, and they can gleam info from accumulated sources high in governmental positions who will speak with them because of the fact they know they can remain anonymous if necessary and the good journalists will have a solid reputation. This is how huge stories, with human consequences get broken for all the world to see. For example, Seymour Hersh was able to break the Abu Ghraib story partly because people in the current Bush administration were disgusted with the fact that young, mostly southern M.P. Brigade soldiers were torturing Middle Eastern prisoners by taking nude photos, attacking them physically and mentally with guard dogs, and making them strike faux masturbatory poses, so they talked. (The M.P. 's didn't think of these acts on their own, members high up in Bush's cabinet had read Patai's book on the Arab mind and knew how to maximize humiliation).
So this blog is going to deal with the current 2008 Presidential elections and how well the media is or isn't applying their watchdog function and covering the election, if media is bringing to light issues that the public wants to know, and to ultimately help the citizenry make an informed vote. An example of the articles I'll concentrate on and an example of the media doing some good digging is the New York Time's Sept. 10th article "08 Rivals Have Ties to Loan Giants." It is as follows-