Archive | October 2011

Shattered Glass: Great writer, publication victims of unyielding news cycle

What happens when a journalist fabricates his stories?

He gets caught up in a web of lies, which ultimately destroys his entire career and the reputation of his publication.

Steven Glass, a former journalist for The New Republic magazine, fabricated quotations, sources and even entire events for articles he wrote for the magazine over a three year period. His fraud cost him his job and his career, which was dramatized in the movie Shattered Glass.

Glass’s story shows the cost of the 24-hour news cycle on journalists and publications.

Glass, a young rising star, was a great write; his stories (which were literally stories) were entertaining and interesting.

Though journalists should never create quotes, sources or events for articles like Glass, one can see why Glass, or any other journalist, could sacrifice his ethical journalistic standards to meet hard deadlines, especially when he’s new to the profession.

After Glass’s deceptions came to light, The New Republic, which was read by the President,  had to pick up the pieces and publicly apologize for publishing Glass’s deceptions.

Trying to make their print deadline,  The New Republic didn’t fact check all of Glass’s sources and quotations, but took Glass’s notes as fact. In his explanation of the scandal, Chuck Lane, the editor of The New Republic at the time, said the paper was to busy to catch Glass’s deception: “We extended normal human trust to someone who basically lacked a conscience…We busy, friendly folks, were no match for such a willful deceiver….”

In the movie, Lane suggests to a colleague why the magazine unknowingly printed Glass’s fraudulent articles:  “He handed us fiction after fiction and we printed them all as fact. Just because… we found him ‘entertaining.'”

“It’s indefensible,” he adds.

I couldn’t agree more.

It’s indefensible what Glass did, but what’s even more inexcusable is the 24-hour news cycle today because it contributes to writers’ fraud.

Vote No: Newspapers endorsing candidates

Driving around my hometown Phoenix, Ariz. this fall break, I’ve remembered how beautiful my drive down tree-lined Central Avenue to school was, and how annoyed I was by big political posters that popped up at intersections along Central every election season.

But this year I’m infuriated by one sign in particular.  At to the top of the numerous “Wes Gullet for Mayor” signs is an endorsement by The Arizona Republic, Arizona’s largest daily newspaper.

In a previous post, I expressed my disgust of the media spotlighting certain candidates. The media’s excuse for this activity is that they don’t intentionally favor one candidate over another, which is somewhat understandable.

But the political signs clearly state The Republic supports Wes Gullet for mayor. And from this favoritism arises a conflict of interest.

As a reader, I now believe that the paper will not cover the mayoral election fairly: all the political stories will favor Gullet by either building him a positive image or  projecting his opponents in a negative light.

Even though The Republic’s editorial board decided to favor Gullet, the editorial board is made up of writers and editors throughout the sections of the paper, and so the editorial board influences the paper at large.

The media should not play as big of a role as it does in politics. Period.

When a paper endorses a candidate or proposition, it damages the paper’s integrity in the eyes of readers like me. It also oversteps a line of ethical journalism: observe and report, don’t intervene.Tell a person’s story, don’t write it for them.

Report on politics and publish political op-eds, but don’t endorse any candidate or proposition.

I don’t think I’ll read any more of The Republic’s  political coverage of this mayoral election.

Straight to Voicemail: With latest phone-hacking scandal, media’s professionalism slides further

When you text or call a friend on your cell, you always assume your conversion is private. But for some British royals and celebrities, their texts messages and phone conversations became headline news the next day.

Last summer, British tabloid News of the World, owned by the global news conglomerate News Corp., was accused of hacking the voicemail accounts of celebrities, British royals and victims of terrorism and crime.

The phone-hacking scandal led to the conviction of two News of the World operatives and the arrest of a top News Corp. executive.

However, amongst the drama that brought down the tabloid and now threatens the News Corp. global media empire, no one has asked why a media institution would turn to this illegal and unprofessional activity? The conversation such a question would ignite strikes at the heart of the today’s 24-hour news cycle.

Journalists, especially those working for tabloids, are so pressured to be the first to “get the scoop” that they’re resorting to unprofessional sources for information.

Scandals like News of the World paint a negative picture of the media as a cohort of uncaring and insensitive scumbags, when it should be seen as a source of information and human stories.

True, the media’s job is to bring people interesting stories, but does anyone care what some glitzy celebrities think about one another? Celebrities live in a totally different world than most people.

In a time when the media is losing subscribers across the board, editors must recall that readers connect most with human-interest stories, such as a child overcoming cancer or a selfless caregiver dolling out love in the community. Bottom line, people relate most to people like themselves.

Journalists should tell people’s stories through interactions with people; they should sit down and talk to people face-to-face, not steal their private phone conversations.

Otherwise, Journalists aren’t doing their job, and newspapers are only good for the comics or for when you run out of toilet paper.

Cue Cards for the American Voter: Media elevates certain candidates over others

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study Monday, Oct. 17 titled “The Media Primary: How News Media and Blogs Have Eyed the Presidential Contenders During the First Phase of the 2012 Race.” According to the report, Herman Cain surged to the top of positive media coverage after winning the Florida Straw Poll.

“Fueled by Tea Party supporters, conservatives and high-interest GOP primary voters, former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain now leads the race for the Republican presidential nomination,” according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

“Cain checks in as the first choice of 27 percent of Republican voters in the poll, followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 23 percent and [former Texas Gov. Rick] Perry at 16 percent,” according to NBC News Deputy Political Director Mark Murray.

Many media agencies say the Georgian entrepreneur’s sudden surge comes on the coattails of his catchy 9-9-9 tax overhaul plan. But is that really the only reason?

In recent weeks, the media has focused a lot of attention on Cain, after he unexpectedly won the Florida Straw Poll. With all this coverage, Cain has become almost a  household name.

During the election season, the media influence voters’ opinions of candidates and issues through spotlighting poll results, interviews and investigative reporting.

In the case of Cain, he has surged from fifth or sixth to first in recent polls because of his increased media spotlight.

But the media shouldn’t be so involved in picking the president.

Some may argue that the media doesn’t realize what they’re doing or the media provides information on the issues and candidates, so voters can make an educated choice.

However, the media does realize its influence. For example, Anderson Cooper of CNN hosted the town hall “Bullying: It Stops Here” last night.  According to Cooper’s blog AC360, the broadcast was “an effort aimed at taking a stand to help stop the bullying crisis.”

As for being sources of pertinent, unbiased information on candidates, media agencies are notoriously known for certain political “leanings.”

There are also many non-partisan groups that provide unbiased information on candidates, so voters can educate themselves.

Radiolab feeds curosity with engaging, quirky podcasts

What are most people doing on a Sunday afternoon? Beginning their homework due Monday. Watching football. Shopping for lunches for the week at the store.

Bottom line is, not many people are thinking about the complexities of fate and luck, or why they’re so engrossed in something seemingly trivial like running up and down a field with a leather ball.

Radiolab, a program of National Public Radio, captivate listeners in audio explorations of these and other scientific and philosophical questions every Sunday afternoon.

Hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich draw listeners into investigation of otherwise intimidating topics with a conversational approach to interviewing experts.

Abumrad, also producer of the show, is so appreciated for his aesthetic style of broadcast journalism that he was recently awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation grant to “to advance [his] expertise, engage in bold new work, or, if [he] wish[es], to change fields or alter the direction of [his] careers.”

“With these and many other Radiolab shows, accessible as radio broadcasts and as podcasts, Abumrad is inspiring boundless curiosity within a new generation of listeners and experimenting with sound to find ever more effective and entertaining ways to explain ideas and tell a story,”according to his MacArthur citation.

If Abumrad and Krulwich continue demystifying dense topics, people may begin to understand why they procrastinate on homework or watch football all day.