News Literacy

We currently live in a world of media over-consumption. However, that fact is without benefit if we don’t know how to consume it. Journalism professor Howard Schneider, from Stoney Brook University, decided to create the nation’s first New Literacy course in 2009. A lot of this motivation came from the inaccurate information sprouting from the then current H1N1 crisis.

A survey at the beginning of the semester found most of the students seemed ill informed about the news, lacking severe knowledge in news–makers and how an event has a much larger impact as a whole. Therefore many professors thought the students needed more media. It would therefore seem that the students’ first assignment first assignment would be easy: a media blackout of 48 hours. was  to go 48 hours without any news. Students would be prohibited from looking at any news for two days, from political news to the weather. It was found that several students said that assignment was among the hardest things they ever had to do. Even people who never followed the news had developed a carving to flip open a newspaper. It seems the students ween’t exposed to too much media, but to an overload of it.

It also seemed that there was a major correlations among all adults in the U.S. is a lower trust of the media. It was also noted that many saw something as sloppy journalism when it didn’t correlate with their own views. This is a common occurrence I frequently encounter. People often call something ‘fake news’ not because of the quality of the journalism but if it agrees with their own views or not. Among a pro-Democrat or pro-Republican group for example, they each see many political stories as having an agenda to say one side is better. Unfortunately, it seemed the more educated someone was on an issue, the more likely they were to spot a ‘bias’. When taking an “Implicit Bias Test” created by the Harvard and a few other universities, many were shocked by their supposed bias, many rejecting the results. Some however, realized that many of of their bias were probably true, for example, how someone from a ethnic minority might favor whites over their own group if they’ve mostly grown up among whites.

Schneider tried to teach his students what ‘real’ journalism was and how to differentiate from other texts such as entertainment and propaganda. The many media outlets that often spread viral and scandalous information is often false, hurting the reputation or other journalists. He stated that the goal of journalism is to inform and empower its readers. The class also talked about VIA: verification, identification and accountability. It any article lack one or more o those, it wasn’t journalism.


The Courts

According to Mencher, there are two types of courts, a civil law that mostly concerns money ans criminal law which concerns arrest. The key difference is that while a civil court involves the likelihood of the defendant’s liability, criminal court is based off the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. During the trial and pretrial, a journalist should have a checklist of what to write about, including some straightforward ones like the identification of person or organization filling action, to more in depth ones like could the suit lead to a landmark decision? Court decisions have unfortunately been impacted by suspicious circumstances, like whose in the jury. For example, in the O.J. Simpson case,  in which the suspect was found not guilty, the jury was made of mostly black woman after Simpson’s attorneys found that that demographic was the most likely to see him as innocent. Journalists show also take morality into account n identifying victims, as they are often from the most vulnerable groups, such as the young and the poor. Journalists should also be cautious as how circumstances drastically change within a few days. An example given in the book is how a story of a parent praying for her missing kid to be found could turn into a story of a parent being arrested for the murder of his or her own child. Colleague campuses are required by federal law to release data accessible to the public on crimes before or on October first of every year.

The Police Beat

According to Melvin Mencher, if your a reporter on the police beat, the the areas you cover are crime, accidents, fires, departmental activity, departmental integrity and other law enforcement agencies. In the U.S., there has been a decrease in crime overall, probably due to the implementation of the “Disorder Theory”. This means officers pay attention to crimes even if minor, like teenagers loitering or low music. Officers frequently find that these minor offenders often have arms and or are wanted for past offenses.

Diana Sugg of “The Sacramento Bee” describes a daily day in her job covering the police beat. She would start off by visiting the sheriff’s station followed by the police station. She would flip through up to 200 reports a day, focusing on the most interesting stories. For example, a 45 year old teacher murder often gets more attention than if the murder was a 45 year old unemployed man. She then goes to the newsroom to see her editor to determine which stories are worth pursuing. While she takes a break, if anything is to happen, she rushes to the scene of the incident. While on the scene, she finds that neighbors are often the best sources. Your especially lucky if you find a busybody who has the scope on all her neighbors. While the quotes would have to be checked over, there great to have.

Journalists should take cautions in many occurrences, such as identifying a suspect. There have been many cases when a eye witness is taken into custody to police to obtain information, only for a reporter to say that they are the probable perpetrator.

Reflection on Dr. V

The controversial 2014 Grantland story by Caleb Hannan on Dr. V. shows just how much a news piece can be life or death. The article discussed how the inventor of arguably the most voluntary golf putter ever was in fact a con who had lied about her credentials, and was transgender.  Dr. V., knowing of the paper’s imminent release, ended up committing suicide, a common tragedy among the trans community. Despite her death, Grantland’s chief editor Bill Simmons still decided to run a revised story, one complete with Dr. V’s death.

I felt I could really relate to the piece, concerning how being a journalists can easily lead to one being tangled in a mess of advisories and tragedy. It also connects to how a writer always has to think about the potential thoughts of it audience. I have now been in situations where something I’ve written has been denied publication because it has been seen as not been worth the potential backlash. While I’m personally against the decision, I understand where the editor is coming from.

A news organization always has to think of its audience, even if it causes a writer to rewrite their thoughts. For example, while Hannan did not want to portray people in the trans community in an adversarial manner, his wording of “a chill went down my spine”, was seriously seen as such offensive to many. However, a newspaper also have to accept backlash  if the issue is important enough, as with the Boston Globe uncovering the church sex scandal. Even though the majority of Globe readers were Catholic, the editors decided that the need for people to know what was going on overrode the potential anger  reader would have over their religious leaders being characterized as criminals.  Also, as with the McDonald’s coffee story, what a journalist reports can have dire consequences.  Stella Lieback endured years of torment and ridicule due to journalists giving an unfair account of how she burned herself with coffee.

We live in an age when anyone, thanks to the internet, can assess articles that aren’t targeted to them. While in the past, almost all the readers of the “Dr.V” would be older white men, many female and younger readers could also access it online and tell their own opinions.  The Grantland editors and writers did not contact any trans gender expert probably do to how rarely they felt they would deal with that issue. The sports world always deals with social issues, but not much has been written about the LGBT issues until recently. The backlash was a wake-up call to news organizations everywhere they they need to be more in touch with marginalized groups.


Superman and Spiderman

Daniel Synder of “The Atlantic” and Sam Kirkland of “Poynter” write on how both Super-Man and Spiderman undermine the profession of journalism. While both costumed characters are portrayed in positive light for their crime-fighting exploits, they’re common disrespect for journalist rules such as committing fraud are consistenly downplayed. While I believe that both supers are being unethical in their reporting, I believe both their creators had the intention of portraying journalists in positive light by equating journalists as the equivalent of crime fighting in the real world.

Act Independently

In my opinion, one should act independently by trying to avoid conflicts of interest. If an organization offers you any favor such as free food, you should definitely consider the reasons for such treatment. Are they trying to compromise your coverage of them? While it’s possible that they’re just be courteous if it’s a cup of water, something more expensive such as a lobster on the house should raise eyebrows.

A journalist should not go to extremes such as not voting, which is something private, but should refrain from public activities such as participating in political protests or putting a lawn sign of a candidate in their front lawn. We as journalists must know it’s impossible to be 100% unbiased.  Fo example, we all have a gender, thus when we report on something related to gender, we will  tend to have more insight on the gender that we are. Most of us define ourselves as being of or lacking a certain religion, but that doesn’t mean we should exclude ourselves from a story dealing with religion. It’s unavoidable that there may be times when someone with close ties to your news station, such as a sponser or an worker of the station, is involved in a news-worthy event. While a news station may fear backlash from the person being reported on, it has to remembered that our main duty is to our audience, not any individual. One could judge whether to report about someone by questioning whether they would report on it had it been a stranger. News stations shouldn’t have double standards for anyone.

CCSU Debate: College Democrats vs College Republicans

Amid tense politics times, few people dare listen to the other side. The CCSU college Democrats and Republicans tried to change that by facing off in a debate geared for people to start having thoughtful conversations again with those of opposing viewpoints. The event, held on March 9th, 2017 at 7pm, was hosted in Semesters in the Student Center and was moderated by the Society of Professional Journalists. The moderators were CCSU Journalism majors John Raz, Lisa Manicotte and Analisa Novak. A mid size audience of around 20 people, ranging rom young to old, watched both sides duck it out for the 90 stated minutes. 

Both political clubs sat in separate small tables on top of the Semesters’ platform facing the table hosting the moderators, which were off the platform. The CCSU Democrats was represented by Stephan Dew and Josh Quintana, while the CCSU Republicans were represented by Nathan Buyak and Andrew Lanciotto. The three topics discussed were gun control, healthcare and immigration, issues that have stirred up arguments far and wide. 

Around 30 minutes was dedicated to each topic, as well as 30 minutes in the end for questions. John was in charge of the gun-related questions, while Lisa and Annalisa asked the questions on the latter two topics. 

Before any debate questions were asked, Nathan takes about hoe audience members should approach questions, “with an curious-mind”. He said that we live in a age where “it’s hard to have a lead on what people actually believe and why they believe it”, stating that fake news was a major factor in the polarization of society. He also urged audience members to get involved, saying sign in sheets were available.

John started the discussion by asking if “… veterans (should) have policies pertaining to the acquirement of  firearms be relaxed, given their service to our country?”

Nathan, a veteran himself said that the laws should be relaxed, though at the same time acknowledging that some veterans return with severe mental hardships.

Pointing to the bigger picture, Andrew added that “If we’re going to talk about the second amendment and how we have the right to bear arms, we have to talk that anyone can own a gun, if you’re living in the United States and you’re living under the constitution.”

Stephan focused on assault rifles, saying “In my mind, somebody should not be allowed to own an assault weapon or an assault rifle. These are military weapons which are built to kill people.”

Nathan countered this argument by saying “It’s very important to know what assault rifles are, most people think that you’re talking about this big, scary black gun that’s going to go pun-pun-pun, that I can pull the trigger and it will just go pun-pun-pun which is not the case, right. Assault rifles, legal assault rifles, you pull the trigger once, you get one bullet, and you have to pull the trigger again. There’s a very big difference between  an AK-47 and legal assault rifles.”

Moving onto healthcare, Annalisa asked the Republicans if “Is there anything about Obamacare that you like or would keep, and that once again will ask the question to College Democrats, is there about the future of Trumpcare that you guys like or would keep.”

Josh said “I think it  should go further than the ACA, and support Universal healthcare. Universal healthcare works. In every single first world society, Universal healthcare works.”

Nathan denied Josh’s statements by saying, “Whenever we end up having these conversations, we unavoidably drift off to these utopias that exist in northern Europe and Canada. And it turns out that Canada’s healthcare system was declared a human rights violation in 2009.”

Annalisa eventually moved on to was was perhaps the most passionate issue of the election, “The President has asked to built The Wall, as you know this question was going to come up, sure both of you guys did.”

“It won’t work,” Josh replied. “The old saying goes, “You show me a 10 foot wall, I’ll show you a 11 foot ladder.”

Nathan replyed  by stating “When we have what we have now which is a mild welfare type system, where you pay taxes, you pay consistently and it goes to the hospitals, right. When you have that kind of system, you can’t have people coming into the country who don’t pay taxes and then go into the hospitals and use our systems.”

The last 30 minutes were dedicated to answering audience questions. Several audience members critiqued the responses from both sides. One man stated how he had been severely affected due to Obamacare while another stated how many undocumented immigrants still pay taxes, despite contrary beliefs. 

CCSU Senior Chris Marinelli asked if the debaters “believe there should be a pathway to citizenship for people protected by DACA?”

Debaters  from both sides talked about what they taught this experience gave to the community.

Andrew said that “All of this was we pretty much wanna gather people and have this conversation on campus. We want Democrats, Republicans, whatever”. 

One debater even used this event to find more on where he falls politically.”  

Stephan Dew said that he “used to be a Republican until the 2016 election I joined to debate to find where I subside on the issues. It turns out I’m more liberal than I thought I was on certain issues. Especially immigration, healthcare and gun control. I’ve always been very liberal on those but I’ve always tried to be fiscally conservative, but now it seems to be more of a mainstream Democrat than I thought, so I guess that was the goal of the debate”. 

This events followed events like “Tea Against Bigotry” designed to quell disagreement between different student factions.

Debate in CCSU

CCSU hosted their first ever debate between the College Democrats and College Republicans on March 9th, 2017. The event was hosted in Semesters in the Student Center and was moderated by the Society of professional journalists. Josh Quintana and Stephen Dew represented the Democrats while Nathan Buyak and Andrew Lanciotto represented the Republicans.