Saturday, March 22, 2008

Questionable advertising

There are few people who have not seen a political advertisement this year.  Way beyond a year in advance, presidential candidates started running ads to boost their popularity.  Some of these ads are basic and just show the candidate's stances on major issues.  As you approach the November elections, the purpose of the ads change.  Many of them become attack ads on other candidates in the same party.  A recent article on Poynter discussed a new form of these advertisements.  Barack Obama bought space on newspaper sites in the Ohio and Texas areas.  Some of those sites included Akron Beacon Journal and the Houston Chronicle.  The ads on these sites dropped down when you opened the newspaper's site.  The Poynter article asks questions about why the newspaper chose to run these ads.  Would it run ads like this on the front page of the newspaper? 

Personally, I am getting a little tired of all the political ads, as are many others.  We have been overwhelmed by these ads for too long and I have really just started tuning them out.  At this point I can't imagine a political ad makes that much of a difference.   

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Misleading Headlines

Even though many of us are on spring break, I am sure we have heard about the latest The New York Times story. We have moved on from John McCain to a new politician- Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer, who is currently serving as governor of New York, has been accused of being involved in a prostitution ring. Kelly McBride, Ethics Group Leader of, looks at this story in a different angle than most. Instead of trying to find the best source or digging up more details, McBride focuses on the headline. "The "prostitution ring" headline is misleading. The reporting so far suggests that Spitzer hired a prostitute who worked for an organized ring. No one is suggesting that Spitzer is somehow involved in running the ring or protecting it. A more precise headline would be more accurate," stated McBride. She worries that people will not look beyond the headline and therefore not understand what is actually occurring.

I agree with McBride. Journalists need to make sure what they are writing is not misleading. I understand that headlines can really grab a person's attention, but I think that is the main reason why journalists need to be so careful of what their headlines state. A very recent example of this is the John McCain story, also done by The New York Times. A misleading headline and poorly edited story lead to much confusion over what has happened. McBride also states the need for sources. Many of the reports had statements from 'anonymous sources.' When I see this I tend to question who this person really is, or if they even exist. After seeing so many journalists, writers, reporters, etc. getting caught up in plagiarising, it is hard to instantly believe a story that does not have actual named sources.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Truth?

Recently in class we have been discussing the need for truth in journalism. Journalists need to be sure that what they are reporting is the honest truth. I believe that this a very important thing for journalists to be aware of, but I do not think they are the only writers who need to be aware of it. Even authors of books need to be held accountable for what they write, specifically if they are writing what they label a memoir, or non-fiction story.

It was recently discovered that Misha Defonseca's book, "Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Year" is not what she had claimed it to be. Claims made my Defonseca in the book included things like "she found herself trapped in the Warsaw ghetto, killed a Nazi soldier in self-defense and was adopted by a pack of wolves that protected her." Her book became very popular in Belgium, even having a feature film created in France about it.

It seems like plagiarism and faulty "memoirs" are happening a little more frequently these days. I am sure a story about a lady reflecting on her travels across Europe with wolves during World War II would be very interesting, but don't we deserve the truth. So many people bought in to her story and she just kept on living the lie. So many people were negatively impacted by that war that it seems wrong to record such a drastic story as the truth. Another memoir turned falsification that occurred recently was that of "A Million Little Pieces" by author James Frey. His book was on Oprah's book club list before it was found out to have false information in it. I think that if these people really wanted to write non-fiction or memoirs, then they need to make sure they stick to the truth. They may have great stories, but by not sticking to them their book shifts to fiction. Even if it seems like the right decision at the time, they have to remember that somebody, someday will find out what they did.