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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

The assault on CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan in Egypt stunned the news community, but it also drew attention to a growing problem: the world is becoming a far more dangerous place for reporters.

Uh … HELLLLLLO!

The quote is from the BBC and one of the more simplistic bits of “news” I’ve read in a while … and that’s saying something.

Yes, folks in Britain and America might be forgiven for thinking covering the news is all about straight, white teeth and proper enunciation, since, after all, that is pretty much what it IS about since Fox and Sky took over the world, but the point needs to be made that there is a difference between the infotainment served up tidily by pretty peeps and NEWS.

There’s so little journalism happening these days that consumers have taken to preferring the predigested pap they’re being fed daily. Tasty little tidbits served up by the attractive and well-dressed are so much easier to swallow than the rough grit of real-world happenings that require thorough chewing.

Given the popularity of reality TV, is it any wonder viewers have trouble spotting the difference between Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise and mass rapes along the Congo? With that being the case, it makes perfect sense that pretty girls with microphones should be sent into unpredictable masses of angry, armed people with the expectation they deliver the story through perfectly glossed lips.

Much of the rest of the world understands the dangers of reporting news, a comprehension that tends to garner respect for those who actually do that … who put their asses on the line to gather information, distribute it, and get the word out so those not in-the-know know something.

It’s not simply a case of Anderson Cooper being punched up, either, as made clear by Reporters Without Borders on a regular basis. For example, according to that organization (and reliable it is), so far this year … and we’re not even done with February yet … there have been five journalists killed, one media assistant killed, 152 journalists imprisoned along with 9 media assistants and 116 netzens.

This list of journalists killed in Russia since the 1990s gives a taste of how dangerous reporting the news can be in that country.

Those in power know the power of the press … they always have:

I fear three newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets.
~Napoleon

The Middle East is no New Orleans Square these days, and although the pretty blonde is getting a lot of coverage by those shocked at her treatment, not so much has been said about the dead journalist in Iraq, but it should be a very hot topic.

Iraq ranked first on CPJ’s [Committee to Protect Journalists] 2010 Impunity Index, which lists countries where journalists are murdered on a recurring basis and governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute the killers. Not a single journalist murder since 2003 has been seriously investigated by authorities, and not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice, CPJ research shows.

But back to Lara Logan for a mo …

For all I know, she may be the toughest news hound since Margaret Bourke-White, in which case she knew the risks and went for the story regardless. Maybe she even studied at Columbia under a Ms Matloff, who teaches a war reporting course at Columbia University’s prestigious school of journalism who gives this list of “precautions to minimise the risk and gravity of sexual assault in danger zones”:

* Wear a sturdy belt
* Don’t wear a ponytail or necklace that can be grabbed
* Buy a door alarm for use in hotels
* Don’t take hotel rooms with balconies or easily accessible windows
* Keep a can of deodorant by the bed
* Move furniture in front of hotel room doors
* Don’t drink alcohol alone with men, particularly in the Middle East
* Carry a rape whistle
* Take male colleagues with you in volatile situations
* Tell an assailant that you are pregnant, HIV positive or menstruating
* Urinate, vomit or defecate on yourself

Sounds like good advice for someone exiting Main Street after dark and parked all the way out in Goofy, but the world isn’t Disneyland. Really. It isn’t.

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As a species, are humans getting dumber, or does instant access to information just make it seem that way? A couple of stories in today’s news have me pondering pandering as what was once journalism jigs toward justification with revenue being the mighty motivator.

Starting with all the flap over the President of the United States addressing the nation’s school children, I admit to being aghast. Although I agree that it was totally wrong for Dan Quayle to insist kids spell potato incorrectly, the country’s leaders are supposed to be role models, inspirational … every kid has the potential to be, etc. … and it is rather the job of the President to LEAD, even kids.

This article from the Heritage Foundation takes issue with that whole ‘leadership’ thing, apparently, reducing the office of the President to a political entity without merit .

Parents across the country have raised alarm about President Obama’s planned “back to school” address to American students. When the Department of Education released a lesson plan that included asking youngsters—how can you help President Obama?—parents’ concern that their children were being “organized” for political purposes was justified.

Helping the President is now a bad thing that children are to be turned away from, protected from the idea of? There’s a concept history will not take kindly to.

I won’t bother making too much of a point about the fact that math skills seem to be lacking at the Heritage Foundation … “This year, American taxpayers will spend $10,000 per-student on the average students’ public school education this year. A kindergartener starting school this year can expect to have $100,000 spent on his or her education.” … but will say that $7,692.31 per child per year is peanuts.

Considering the fact that Americans spent more than $66 billion on soft drinks in 2004 … and probably more than that in 2008 … that less-that-ten-grand (do the math) sounds meager.

And speaking of how things sound …

Yet for millions of kids, this six-figure investment will lead to dismal results.

doesn’t sound good. Turn it around, however, and talk about the millions of kids who make the most out of under-funded education, graduate from high school, go through college, establish successful careers, head up companies, raise families and keep the world spinning and the picture shifts from a boo hiss to hearty hoorays accompanied by no few thank-our-lucky-stars.

Arguments over a Presidential address to American children should have been nothing more than a tempest in tepid tea, sour grapes grumbling from some of those who didn’t get enough votes to be running the show right now. Contrary to the general welfare, however, the rabble raises revenue so rates regurgitation.

Of course, this isn’t only an American phenomenon. Over in Europe, they’re getting the short end of the stick from the press as it goes to great lengths to make a tall tale out of French President Sarkozy’s stature … as if his wife wearing flats proves he’s a heel when it comes to running a country.

The BBC headlines the story, “Sarkozy height row grips France”, and if that’s not insulting … even to the French (which might very well be the point, since this is from the BBC) … well …

Mass media … short on substance, but long on prevarication. Why? Because it sells.

We’ll be shortchanged as long as we keep buying it. Shouldn’t we have loftier goals?

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