Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Explanation of tragic events

Columbine. Virginia Tech. Amish school in Pennsylvania. Westroads Mall in Omaha. Chances are pretty high that each of these things reminds you of a very tragic event. In each case, at least one shooter went into a place of gathering, fired several gunshots killing many and then turned the gun on themselves. Each of these events came as a big surprise to people all over the United States. How could such a horrible thing happen in their small town? After this past weekend, we can add another name to that list: Ryan Schallenberger or Chesterfield, N.C. He never got the chance to carry out his plan however. When 10 lbs ammonium nitrate showed up at the teens home, his parents called police who then discovered the plan to place several bombs in the local high school. They also discovered a journal where the teen had written his plans for what he was calling a "Columbine follow-up."

So how do we explain these tragedies? It is easy to point fingers and blame all sorts of people. An unusual one to point the finger at though is the media. How does the media cause this pain and suffering? It might be a bit of a stretch, but I really do think they contribute to some of it. When these events occurred, the media went crazy with covering as much of it as they could. They interviewd anyone they could who was involved or maybe just knew someone who was involved. They flashed several pictures on the screen of the shooter(s). By giving so much attention to the shooters, I think it sometimes motivates others. It seems that very often the shooter is angry about how they were treated by others. They know that by committing this horrible act, their name will be remembered for a long time to come. For them, that can be a very gratifying feeling. I think it is important that the media let the public know what all happened, but maybe focus more on the victims and not giving so much attention to the criminal.

Monday, April 14, 2008

In response to my last blog...

While browsing through recent news articles online, I came across this article.

Really? Are we that desperate for a good show? After the whole Britney saga I would think that Dr. Phil and his staff would be super aware of how they are handling themselves. Bailing such a violent girl out of jail in order to book her on the show is out of line. I do not care that they have now cancelled the girl's appearance. There is a line between media and the law in terms of getting stories and I think Dr. Phil's team just stormed right over that line.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

When Enough is Enough!

I am assuming that by now, most of you have seen the video of the Florida teenager getting senselessly beat by other female students. It is a sickening video to watch. The girl is continually cornered and then kicked, jabbed by knees and punched repeatedly. The girls are screaming at each other but it is hard to make out what they are saying other than they are obviously using some very harsh and emotionally charged words. Now, I am not using this post to discuss whether or not the beating was ethical- I am hoping all would agree that it was not. Instead, I want to look at how the media handeled it.

I first saw the video on the CBS Early Show . I was appalled. I could not believe how much of it they were showing. The faces of all involved were blurred out, but you could hear the shouting in the background and see exactly what was happening to the victim. It was horrific. I saw updates about it throughout the day on CNN and then saw it again the next morning once again on CBS. The news anchors talked with the parents about what had happened and the normal questions of what might have led up to this. The girls recorded the entire incident for one reason. They were hoping to post it on YouTube. As I read an article on CNN's Web site about it, the following paragraphs really stuck out.

The suspects didn't have a chance to post the video online before police moved in and seized it, Judd said. The Sheriff's Department made it public, and it wound up on YouTube anyway. Judd recognizes the irony."In a perverted sense, we were feeding into exactly what the kids wanted," he said. "But according to Florida law, [the video] is public record, and it's going to be in the public domain whether we agree with that or not."

Well, there you have it. The video was supposed to go on YouTube, was [almost] stopped by police, until they themselves made it public. The thing really bothering me here is how the media has gone crazy with showing it. There isn't a hunt for the suspects that would give them a reason to play it so frequently. It was made public because it is dealing with a legal case. I just do not feel that the newsstations need to be playing as much of it and as frequently as they do.

One final side note. The CNN article referenced in this blog starts out: "Eight Florida teenagers -- six of them girls -- will be tried as adults..." Is it necessary that we point how many were girls? Had it been 6 boys and 2 girls would that have been mentioned? Would the story have even got this type of attention if it was all guys involved in the incident. Again, just a side note, but something to keep in mind.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Failing Accuracy

Reporters have the responsibility of researching for their stories and gathering all the relevant facts related to their story. Sometimes a reporter may find what seems to be the most perfect piece of information to help form their story, but they still have to fact check that information. Is everything really true?

A recent article on Poynter.org discussed a story about the Los Angeles Times. It was recently discovered that one of their articles from a 1994 issue of the paper contained some misleading information. The story was about an attack on rapper Tupac Shakur.

" The LA Times Shakur article was challenged by The Smoking Gun Web site, which said the documents were not authentic and that the Times had fallen for a hoax perpetrated by an unsavory, unreliable source. "

I was surprised to see the date on this- 1994. First, there has been a substantial amount of time that has passed since the original article came out. I realize that sites like "The Smoking Gun" work to uncover things like this, but maybe their time could be more well spent on more current things. Second, I am interested how this article came to the LA Times. Today, the Internet is so prevelant in newsreporting that it is hard for me to remember that the Internet was not always there for people to use for research. Either way, no matter where reporters get their information from, they need to be sure to do some thorough fact checking. Not only as an ethical duty to their readers, but also for the company to spare them downfalls later on.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sex for Sale

Advertisements come in many forms, from print, such as billboards, magazines, and newspapers, to broadcast, such as radio and TV. Advertisers have the very difficult task of influencing people to purchase a particular product, good, or service. There are many ways to go about getting people’s attention and attempting to influence them towards your product. I believe advertisers do have ethical decisions to deal with when producing these advertisements.
Bob Garfield, a weekly columnist for Advertising Age recently discussed an ad put out by Abercrombie and Fitch. This ad was put out to promote their new line of lingerie- Gilly Hicks-Sydney. Garfield wasn’t focusing on the actual product so much as the ad used to promote the product. The ad is a short video of teen girls and guys on a beach setting. The problem with the video- the actors are not wearing the lingerie they are advertising. You get a chance to see it as the naked teens play around clothesline where their missing articles of clothing are hanging. There are very few shots throughout the ad where the teens are actually wearing anything.

I viewed this ad and was shocked by what I saw. First off, I had to fill out a ‘consent form’ to prove I was 18, which should have been my first clue. When I returned to Garfield’s article online I read through the comments left by other readers. Many of them were disturbed as I was by the content. The following comment caught my attention the most: “One in four girl teens have a sexually transmitted disease according to a survey released this week. Some of these diseases kill. Don't we have a responsibility to our daughters to stop this trend in advertising? Fathers in the ad world take note.... –S R, NEW YORK, NY.” I don’t know that the fathers are the only ones to blame here. I really feel the media needs to be more aware of how they are portraying young women. They hold a lot of power, but need to be very aware of how they are using that power.