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Journalists arrested covering Occupy Wall Street protests

At least 26 “journalists,” seven of which were “full-time employed traditional news-gathering employees,” were arrested Thursday, Nov. 17, covering the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street protests, according to The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

In some cases, journalists have found themselves targets of police violence and arrest for reporting on the protests.

The police argue that not all the journalists have press passes to distinguish them from the protestors, but the editor of the New York Observer shot back about the ironies in the New York Police Department’s press credentialing process, which requires journalists to have documented proof of having covered six events on different days.

Of course, the only way to document one’s coverage of these events is to attend the events as an uncredentialed reporter, she adds.

However, credentialed journalists covering from the protests report still report being victims of police brutality.

The Huffington Post passes along one incidence of police violence against journalists:

Lucy Kafanov, a reporter for the RT television network, said she was hit with a police baton while trying to film the protests. She told another reporter for her network that she had her press credentials clearly visible, but was still struck. She also said that she witnessed another reporter from the IndyMedia network being “slammed against the wall” and arrested.

“It does not seem police are making a distinction between press and protesters,” she said.

Reporters are using Twitter and their own media to spread word of the heavy hand police are using against them.

It is horrible that the police are using violence against the protestors, especially journalists.

Journalists are just trying to do their job diligently and cover the protests. However, I do believe journalists should be arrested when they turn into protestors and disrupt traffic or trespass on private property.

Bottom line, the police should arrest people who are breaking the law, not doing their job.


Utah Mayor Writes Upbeat New Stories Under Alias

“Disguising himself with an alias, the mayor of Utah’s second-largest city has been writing upbeat freelance articles about his town for area news outlets because he claimed the media spent too much time on crime coverage,” the AP reports.

West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder revealed himself as the writer of stories that appeared in the Deseret News, KSL-TV’s website and a community weekly over several months, insisting that balance was needed.

“I thought about all the people just reading about crime in our city and nothing better,” West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder told AP. “I’m trying to stand up for us because we do get the short end of the stick negative stories.”

Winder told AP that crime stories made up 56 percent of the coverage of West Valley City by the Desert News over three months earlier this year.

In a state that is struggling to attract business and jobs in this bad economy, one might understand why the mayor tried to spruce up his town’s image.

But, as a Deseret News executive told the newspaper, there is a deep concern that someone may purposely misrepresent himself in order to influence the public, which is what the mayor did.

Moreover, this person writing under a pen name may feel free to falsify information and quotes, which goes against all journalistic ethics. Falsifying information and quotes could spell disaster for a paper today. With already few people paying for news, people would lose trust in the integrity of the newspaper and cancel their subscription.

In this way, the story of a Utah mayor using an alias to drum up business in his town speaks to the heart of the problem in journalism today. Because of the bad economy, newspapers are consolidating with affiliated television and radio stations or closing.

According to the AP, Deseret News, the paper Winder wrote for, began accepting contributions after cutting its newsroom staff and consolidating operations with affiliated television and radio stations.

Though Winder told the AP that his stories, even the ones in which he quoted himself, are “100 percent factually correct,” one must wonder how many other contributions that newspapers are accepting and printing today are true. With the state of journalism today, lies may become news.


The Fourth Column of Government: How the media holds polticians accountable

In a previous post, I spoke about how the media plays too much a role in the presidential election.

To recap, republican presidential primary candidate, Herman Cain, came out of the woodwork to unexpectedly win the Florida Straw Poll a week after receiving the media spotlight for his “9-9-9” federal tax plan. After the straw poll and more media attention, Cain surged ahead of nominees Rick Perry and Mitt Romney in a national poll to the head of  field of the republican presidential nominees.

However, Cain’s relationship with the media has recently soured with the exposure of multiple sexual harassment allegations when Cain was the CEO of the National Restaurant  Association. (Read a quick synopsis of the sexual harassment allegations at NPR’s News Blog “The Two-Way.”)

The former media darling is now bashing the media for investigating the allegations. But the media continues to investigate these allegations further as the alleged victims come forward with their stories.

Is the media however snooping where they shouldn’t? Is the media playing too much of a role in the presidential election?

In this case, I don’t think so. I think the media is doing it’s job by holding politicians, especially presidential-hopefuls like Cain, accountable to the public. The media is helping American voters to be more informed, so voters may fully comprehend the weight of their vote.

Now some might argue that politicians need some privacy too. But if they wanted privacy they shouldn’t be in public office.

In the last week, the media has done an exceptionally good job of exposing wrongs in government and public institutions. The Washington Post uncovered that the Air Force dumped military remains in a landfill. The media also brought to light allegations of sexual assault against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

It is in these cases that the media is not overstepping any boundaries, but is doing its job: exposing the truth and holding people accountable for their actions.


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.

What’s the latest from the Syrian uprising?

Syrian security forces shot dead 29 people across the country Sept. 15, making last week one of the bloodiest in recent weeks, according to The New York Times.

Since the unrest began in mid-March, the United Nations estimates 2,700 people have been killed and human rights groups say more than 10,000 people have been jailed, according to Times.

But sadly most Americans don’t care, or that’s what news organizations are saying by dropping coverage of the violent crackdowns in Syria.

It’s not that Americans don’t care; it’s the media who doesn’t find the uprising important, and arguably for good reasons.

First, the Western media hasn’t been allowed into Syria, so journalists cannot confirm what is actually happening on the ground in Syria.

Second, the videos shot on cellphones that leak out via Facebook and Youtube are rather graphic and scare and disgust audiences. The content of the videos also cannot be confirmed, since journalists are not allowed in the country.

Third, the coverage becomes gruesomely repetitive, when reporting about protestors clashing with security forces and the death toll.

Nonetheless, the Western media should keep the spotlight on the violent crackdowns by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because the media focus on the Egyptian protests helped end the violent crackdown on Egyptians.

Anyway, there are relevant ways to write about the Syrian uprising without having to be in the country.

National Public Radio’s reporters talked to refugees fleeing the violence in Syria for the Turkish border. They were able to humanize the Syrian refugees and their drama, while keeping the story relevant and interesting.

A journalist’s job is to speak for the voiceless. I hope the Western media doesn’t forget this.

VeriCorder app paves way toward future of mobile media

The company’s Poddio application software transforms a smartphone into a full-featured sound editing suite.

Cellphones today have become as ubiquitous as televisions.

Even in the most impoverished countries, like Haiti, one-third of the population has cellphones, many of which have internet connectivity.

Many media organizations, such as CNN and NPR, have taken advantage of this technology wave by introducing mobile apps, which connect smartphone-users to news content, and utilizing social media, like Facebook and Twitter, that send subscribers breaking news updates.

Instead of just using mobile media as a tool to connect to consumers, VeriCorder Technology Inc. has taken it one step further by introducing a mobile editing app called 1st Video that allow journalists to take and edit video, photos and audio on their iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and publish news stories straight to the web.

Now, journalists are able to disperse important breaking news quicker. It also contributes to better, more in-depth news stories, as journalists can take more time in the field building their stories without the fear of missing a deadline.

The mobile editing app is also considerably cheaper than hardware costs of traditional equipment.

Journalists can be ready to file quality stories for less than $300. A professional camera alone can cost more than $2,000.

VeriCorder also offers hardware, such as lenses and microphones, that are compatible with iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and their mobile editing apps.

The 1st Video app completes the mobile media loop, making news from production to consumption totally wireless.