October 31, 2007

Halloween Scrooge

As I've grown older, Halloween has significantly lost its importance to me. When I was little, of course Halloween was a huge deal. I had to have a great new costume to compete with all my friends, my family overly decorated the house and yard with a life-size monster and a terrifying blow-up skeleton that will come back to haunt me in therapy, and I dragged my dad to every house on the street while trick-or-treating. Now, however, Halloween has lost the magic it once held, and I don't know where it went.

I can't blame it all on getting older. Halloween takes on an entirely new form when you're older; I still had to have a great new costume, but the goal is not scare but how little can I wear and still be decent/look like I'm wearing an outfit. Also, instead of coveting sweet candy, I can enjoy treats of a different sort now. So shouldn't Halloween still be exciting?

Honestly, I just sort of forgot it was Halloween time. I'm so busy with school and activities that time literally just slips by. Up until last week, when I saw Halloween decorations out in the stores, I said, "Isn't that a bit early?" After this weekend's costumed festivities, the actual day of Halloween becomes just Wednesday, not one filled with spirits and excitement of the past. I guess I'm a Halloween scrooge, but don't worry- I love Christmas.

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Go Ahead, Shoot the Messenger

"That is to say, research is often dismissed in media accounts on ad hominem grounds, because of the researcher's convictions or his funding source" (152).

Chapter 9 in It Ain't Necessarily So looks at how peer reviewed journals are not always the best, since the peers might have had an agenda while reviewing the article. (As someone who has learned to put a lot of importance on peer reviewed sources for research paper thanks to Dr. Jerz, this was slightly surprising) Often, the media ignores the findings of the article and instead focuses on how it was funded- like a study showing the benefits of calcium funded by the dairy corporations. The results are often dismissed as biased and therefore not useable if the media focuses more on the funders than the research itself. However, can you blame them? Perhaps I'm just used to the media conditioning, but if I'm reading a story about how bad Coca-Cola is for you, funded by the Pepsi Co., of course I'm not going to put as much faith in the resutls. As we have learned, polls, surveys, and research studies can be skewed one way or the other, depending on what is the desired result. Sure, the research itself might carry a lot of meaning, but allowing the names of the funders to come out can greatly impact how that study is viewed in the public eye.

"But reporters who excelled at conveying one part of the explanation paid no heed to an important second part" (170).

Chapter 10 takes on the idea that the media is often so focused on one part of a study or research that it fails to see the rest. This sounds familiar...haven't we learned this previously? Yes, the media picks and chooses what it reports and how, whether it is by only emphasising the bad side of the story or making something out of nothing. There is always a story behind the story, the good behind the bad, and more facts behind those presented. Nothing is as it seems- polls and surveys aren't always done correctly, stories are reported on without having all the information, and scientific research neglects to look at all sides of a problem.

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October 27, 2007

So That's Why I'm So Paranoid...

"Good reporting about risk addresses those issues; yoo often, bad reporting only encourages us to live fearfully ever after" (131).

It's really no surprise that we can blame the media (if we're playing the blame game which I think It Ain't Necessarily So is doing) for turning is all into paranoid hypocondriacs. Every time you turn around, there's another warning about some health related issue, like sneezing will cause balding or that all rain is now acid rain and will slowly eat away your flesh if it touches you. They are sensational and overexaggerated, but highly effective.

Chapter 5 uses the example of increased awareness of breast cancer as an instance of how the media is doing less to educate us about the potential risks of the disease and more to scare women into thinkint they are the next to contract it. I read countless articles in news sources (online, news magazines, etc) about how pretty much everything is going to cause breast cancer one day. Hormones? Yep. Food? Yep. Pesitcides? Yep. Blinking? Yep.

There comes a time when the media has scared us into believing the worst that we just stop listening. It's sort of like "the little boy who cried wolf" scenario- the more the media tries to scare us about diseases, the more we tend to not believe it. However, one day a story will break that will actually be mostly true (I'm not saying the media makes up the risks- they just overexaggerate them) and, sadly, no one will bother listening.

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October 25, 2007

Sink or Swim

Today's mock press conference proved something I think I've known for awhile- I would drown at a real press conference. I'm an outgoing person, but only in situations I'm comfortable in. Yelling over other reporters to interview someone I'll most likely be daunted by? Yeah, that won't work out very well.

The press conference in class was only with President Boyle whom, while an important figure on the campus, isn't really someone I should be intimidated by. I've met her several times and even did introductions for her during orientation this summer. I shouldn't be nervous, right? For some reason, around people who are so accomplished (perhaps displaying qualities I wish I possessed), I clam up. How could I do an interview in real life around people who are genuine celebs or figureheads? Press conferences appear to be very sink or swim. I guess I should invest in some floaties now.

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October 22, 2007

Creating Optimism

"Even news that is bad, when put into perspective, can often be shown to have its good side as well" (92).

Really, I'm not much of a "silver-lining" kind of girl. If news sounds bad, well, then I take it to be bad. If some statistic in a news story shows me murder went up, then I believe the bad, case closed. However, as seen in Chapter 5 of It Ain't Necessarily So, sometimes there is good behind the bad, and vice versa. News stories often report on only one side of the issue however, whether to create a more interesting article or because the reporter genuinely doesn't know the other side (due to either a lack of understanding in the statistics or because the reporter herself was only given half the information). Does this mean that everything has a happier side to it? No, probably not. However, it does make the reader consider that just because a statistic says something bad has occured, it may have an underlying good note to it too.

Chapter 6 remarks on the unreliability of polls, which I've always thought were a bit sketchy. The chapter notes that it makes a difference how the question was asked, the wording, and through what means and to what people. Polls are anything but an exact science because, well, people aren't always completely honest in them either. Even if the question is asked well, worded perfectly, and a huge sample has been taken, people can lie about their answers. Do I support arsons? Sure!, I could lie on a poll (um, I don't, obviously). Journalists then take these numbers, without considering how the poll was conducted, and fit them into the news story (often choosing only the polls that work with their angle). However, can you blame them? An article isn't as interesting if there has to be a disclaimer on it, stating "Ok, the information from the poll you're about to read might be a little off. They contacted the people _____ way, has a margin of error of ____, and the questions were asked as _________". Yawn. Readers want numbers, cold hard "facts"- we don't want to know what went into obtaining them.

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October 19, 2007

Digging for Buried Treasure

"But news accounts, as stated above, should aim for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth- not the excitement, the whole excitement, and nothing but excitement" (53).

As seen in Chapters 2-4 of It Ain't Necessarily So, the media has put the reader on a treasure hunt. For gold? Riches? The secret to life. No, just the truth behind the news story. But wait, shouldn't that already be there?

Chapter 2 looks at how the media makes something out of seemingly nothing- something I've often noticed when trolling a newspaper or news magazine. Really, it's the reason I can't eat eggs anymore. One day good, the next bad, the next good but only if I chase them with rum, and the next harmful if eaten on days ending in 'y'. The media takes stories and literally runs with them, scaring the reader and making them believe that not only is the end near, but studies show there is nothing that can be done. But, in actuality, it was one study, done years ago, about a problem that does not even exist anymore. Where was the truth in that story? How far do I have to dig to find it?

Chapters 3 and 4 also hit on the idea of the missing truth, mainly in missing information. Statistics are bent to fit the needs of the report or story, and credible information is omitted because there isn't any, but the story is run anyway. So much for fullproof fact checking. Sure, the story might seem more interesting and exciting with a scarier or high-impact message, but without the truth, it's not a news story at all. That's called fiction.

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October 18, 2007

What's the Truth?

"Isvestia nye Pravda, y Pravdya nye Isvestia (The news isn't the truth, and the truth isn't the news)" (6)

It seems you can't trust anything these days. As shown in the Intro and Chapter 1 of It Ain't Necessarily So, what the viewer/reader learns through the various news outlets isn't always the whole story. The quote above is an excellent way of describing what we are missing in our news- the truth. But what exactly is the truth anyway?

I'll admit it- I'm not very news-smart. When given a statistic or some fact (like according to a random study, chocolate has been shown to cure headaches), I don't often question the parts I'm not hearing- what were the conditions of the study, what was the exact number it helped, or where did the statistic come from and who paid to find out this information (like a political organization with an agenda). I, like most other Americans (and even not Americans, I'm sure), take the news at face value and just believe what I'm told. Chocolate cures headaches? Sweet (get it?), give me that Hershey's bar. Never you mind that it only worked on a small tribe located in southern Australia.

As Chapter 1 illustrates, the reader/viewer has gotten into the habit of believing what we are told or shown because so much info is left out of the news because it doesn't make the cut. I feel like, if we only hear the bad instead of the good (or vice versa), we're always only getting a half story for everything. While the truth may not always be as interesting as skewing the facts one way or the other, or only giving half of the arguement, it is still the news, and should be reported on along with the half-truths.

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October 14, 2007

Newswriting Genius

Ok, so that might have been a little egotistical of me. I'm far from a newswriting prodigy here- but I am learning a lot in the newswriting class. Some of it is review for me from previous journalism classes but a good portion is new too (crime reporting), which will help me become a better reporter. Need proof? Check out a collection of some of my favorite entries below. It's a good collection of what I've learned thus far.

Coverage/Timeliness- this section focuses on entries that demonstrate my progression of knowledge in the class, as well as my ability to post on time

I'm Sorry...- You'd pick that article, too.
Crime on Campus- Not our campus, naturally.
Fiddles and Dinner- Sounds a little back-country, doesn't it?
How Not to be "That" Reporter- And how to be someone better
Less-Than-Serious Crime Stories- Because crime doesn't always have to be so serious
I Think Something's Happening...Somewhere...- Or something like that...

Depth- I go into a little more detail here

Crime on Campus

Interaction- posts that made me feel popular because they created discussion

I'm Sorry...
Fiddles and Dinner
How Not to be "That" Reporter

Comments- Spreading the love

Chapter 3-5...guilty as charged
Purgatory and Cocaine Underwear

Crafting Compelling LeadsWhen to Press as Press?
Jumping Like Lightening!

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October 12, 2007

I Think Something's Happening...Somewhere...

Well, The Onion has done it again. I'll admit, I'm completely gullible and have fallen for an Onion article on a few occasions. When I started watching the Haiti report, I’m not ashamed to admit, I thought it was real. Ok, it became obvious it was a spoof pretty quickly, but to format of the broadcast was so annoyingly similar an actual news story, who could blame me for falling for the trick?

The Onion mocked real television news by drawing on their flighty broadcasting style and lack of ever reporting real news, at times. Because it was “live”, the report jumped back and forth until finally just settling on “Something Happening in Haiti”. Am I the only one who wouldn’t be completely surprised to see a similar broadcast on CNN or MSNBC? I’ve read or seen several news stories that seemed to be reporting just to report; no conclusion was ever really reached on why it matters (as all good news stories should).

The SNL clip was much more obvious, but still effective, in parodying a news broadcast. The scroll at the bottom of the news often draws my attention away from the story they are reporting on- and often for some trivial detail. Story that somewhat relates: When I was watching something on E! the other day (ok, it’s not real news, or news at all, but go with me here) they had “Breaking News” about Brittany Spears loosing custody of her children. It was like another war had broken out, they covered it so seriously. Then, for the next several hours after the news broke, the bottom scroll bar told the viewer over and over and over again that she had lost custody. Same in the SNL skit- the viewer is given other information via the scroll bar, whether it’s relevant or not. I do with CNN was that witty in their bottom scroll bars though- I’d watch it more.

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