Author Archives: Carly Halpin

The Claws of Corporatization

Could PBS downward spiral be the future of Independent news outlets?

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PBS has been around along time, nearly 4 decades and at its birth the public broadcasting network was intended to provide a diverse look into America. On tompaine.com, an article quotes the orignial founders of PBS & what the purpose of it was: to enhance citizenship and public service, not to sell products. It would be a system free of commerical constraints that would serve as a ‘forum for debate and controversy,’ providing a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise go unheard,’ so that we could see America whole, in all its diversity.’ The article continues to go & rip apart the failure of the broadcasting network that fell incredibly short of its intended purpose. A 2006 FAIR investigation to a look at just how “diverse” & “balanced” & true PBS was to its claims. The results were pretty disheartening & a little distributing for the the world of journalism. The results were as follows:

public interest groups accounted for only 4% of total sources, male sources outnumbered women by more than 4-1, people of color made up only 15% of U.S sources, Republicans outnumbered Democrats 2-, during the Iraq War coverage sources in favor of war outnumbered pro-withdrawal sources 5-1

And the list continued. 

That coverage & that make up of a news outlet seems to be horrifyingly similar to mainstream media’s make-up. And PBS’ purpose at its birth was not to not  be the mainstream, it was to provide balanced, fair, accurate, in depth & unbiased coverage of important political and social issues across the world and the nation. This description sounds pretty similar to a number of current indy media outlets. The largest one coming to my head right now is Democracy Now! Starting as a radio channel, the outlet was to provide the voice to the voiceless & give the American public the news coverage they deserve, free from corporate corruption, commercial ties and biased, insufficient coverage of key issues. Operating free from corporate or governmental ties, Democracy Now was one of the only outlets to get the Iraq War right…don’t invade- it’s not going to work. What did we do? And what did mainstream report? INVADE. SUCCESS…..well nearly a decade later that clearly is not the case.

These Indy media outlets, like Democracy Now, are incredibly vital and essential to the functioning of American society. Mainstream media has fallen into a terrible downward spiral of corporate corruption, greed, lazy reporting, lack of investigation, worthless question-asking and incredible bias. And frankly, I’m becoming progressively disgusted with the lack of professional reporting. I watch CNN nearly every morning (which I’m beginning to believe might need to change) and the lack of reporting on essential political issues is awful. The bulk of the reporting in the morning broadcast has become substance-lacking stories- I am not saying that they are interesting, but there are much more pressing issues at hand across the nation & the world that need more reporting than the story on brave grandmother that landed a plane when her husband had a heart attack. Sure, that’s touching & it probably does deserve a segment on the show, but when it’s length is exceeding the length of the coverage on the violence in the MIddle East, that’s no good.

No that I’ve ranted- I’m serious- PBS’ shocking failure, could potentially be a foreshadow of indy outlets’ futures. (I desperately hope not), but unfortunately history has a mean way of repeating itself & for some reason American’s and their ignorance seem to fall victim to the repeating every time, never learning from the past. PBS was set-up much like indy media outlets set themselves up now & as I have blogged before, I hope that greed does not seep into their existence and blind them to their original purpose. News shouldn’t be profit driven or influenced and sadly it is- because as reality shows it & as everyone knows it, people have to eat & a paycheck puts food on the table, clothes on your back & a roof over your head. I understand that, but as journalism student I firmly believe that the duty of journalists is to accurately, timely and objectively serve the public with fair and diverse coverage of the news- they are the watch dogs & the only people with any real ability to provide a voice that can uphold the values of a true, untainted  democracy. (I get that, that was incredibly cliche & probably what you’ll learn in an Introduction to Journalism class, but it is the truth). 

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Internet= Big Oil

Tuesday’s readings for Indy Media were incredibly intriguing. I always knew there was much debate surrounding the issue of net neutrality and such, but I never really realized the depth of the issue. Concerns with First Amendment rights are prominent in the debate and there are even some “monopolistic” issues that are arising.

The internet is a facilitator for business. It is marketing tool and a platform to grow and market a business. Today hundreds of thousands of people use the internet as a tool/resource to buy things, to find services, to get news and even to instruct themselves on how-to-do certain things. It is an amazing resource, its contents are endless and its availability is worldwide. 20 years ago no body would have expected the internet to have even been a reality, let alone a powerhouse in life. It is a necessity now a days, people depend on it for day to day existence and functioning.

It is a communication tool, just like the telephone, television and the radio are. As it always does, history repeats itself- obviously not in exact forms or identical situations, but situations so incredibly comparable to each other that we shouldn’t even run in to some of the issues we do. We should know who to handle that- but that’s another point completely. Just as telephone communication and services needed to eventually be regulated and maintained to ensure efficiency, just as the radio and its frequencies needed to be regulated- the internet needs regulation to ensure that both its users and its content producers have equal, fair, sufficient  and efficient access.

Clearly, the regulation bandwagon hasn’t gotten rolling. Just in recent years has the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) begun enforcing and creating regulations surrounding net neutrality. Even so, the regulations tend to be incredibly vague and lacking. The ACLU released an article in 2010 heavily critiquing the FCC’s (then) recent passing of a “flawed net neutrality rule.” And I’d have to say for the most part, the article was spot-on with its criticism. Sure, the motive behind the rule is essential- it begins to address the assurance that the internet will be a harbor for competition and that fair access is a reality of its existence. But the FCC rule is like swiss-cheese-there are holes and gaps that make it a nearly failed attempt. The rule fails to include both kinds of internet access- wired &  wireless- apparently in this instance the FCC found it only applicable to apply net neutrality regulation to wired services. I’m not quite sure where that makes sense??? It’s the internet isn’t it?? And whatever the access point be, it provides the same service & thus deserves the same protections and regulations. By disallowing equal regulation the internet becomes in danger of facilitating potential first amendment right violations. As noted in the ACLU article (mentioned above), if wireless service is not subject to such regulations of net neutrality that means they have much more freedom to control the content and the availability of the content to users  and thus, control the order that users see search results and things like that.

This point pushes me to discuss something that doesn’t violate the constitution, but does pose a scary possibility. While reading these readings, all I was thinking about was a monopoly and antitrust laws. If companies with money and power can control exactly where their content shows up on a search or can control just how fast their content moves and loads, then they become like big industries. The control puts them at the top and the farther and farther they push to the top, the more control they gain and the more control they gain their ability to suppress competition grows exponentially, if that ability reaches a certain level smaller, lesser competitions in the same field die and continue to die. Eventually, you have an internet monopoly. Competition is squashed. And big business rules again- as we know from history, that never is a good thing.

Just like Sam Gustin discussed in “American Broadband Infrastructure: A National Embarrassment”- U.S officials are not paying enough attention to the internet and its functioning. As noted in the article, the internet is a vital economic tool and it has to be treated like one.  There are policies for an endless number of things that fuel to the functioning of everyday American living- the internet is one of those things and needs to be treated like one.

If we’re not careful big companies, along with the help of the global powerhouse Google, will squash all the little competitors and internet service will become Carniege Oil. Yikes.

VICIOUS BLACK BEAR ATTACKS STUDENTS AT LOCAL COLLEGE


THAT HEADLINE IS NOT TRUE. But pretty amazing that from my apartment living room I can fabricate any headline I want and just simply click a button & the potential for lots of people to see that headline exists.

This cover of Star Magazine exploded across the checkout lines of grocery stores nationwide just a few months ago. That title is incredibly misleading- first of all, there is no hard facts behind this story other than the fact that some 20 year old girl is “claiming” (merely by word of mouth) that the teen pop-star and her had quick one night stand in a bathroom that resulted in her pregnancy. When this headline ran there was absolutely NO paternity test or hard facts or enough sources to verify such a claim- terrible journalism. Accuracy is vital in the world of journalism, without it there is no credibility & the people are misinformed and journalists have violated their duty to the people.

Now Star Magazine, isn’t exactly famous for its accuracy and in depth news pieces, it’s a juicy celeb-gossip magazine that serves as a purely entertainment medium. Which is fine, I suppose. I mean I can’t lie, I have to disclose that sometimes I indulge in a little guilty pleasure by reading magazines like this one- but as an example of journalism it is way off!

So, here is my transition- the emerging world online is making it SO VERY easy for headlines like this to be published at a much faster rate and reach a much wider audience than this. And quite frankly, that’s a tad bit scary…actually it’s really scary. That means people are much more prone to indulging in news that is inaccurate, fabricated, sensationalized, biased and misleading. News dissemination should be an honest, truthful, informative and helpful process for people. This Justin Bieber story wasn’t just at checkout lines, it erupted across the web- individual bloggers picked it up, entertainment sources picked up the stories- it went viral. And all of this went down without any fact-checking or reliable source feedback. Hundreds of thousands of Americans (even people outside the states) were reading this headline and gasping that the teen pop-star was now a father of some young girl’s baby and all those shocked Americans went to their friends and blabbed the headline. This story probably spread like wildfire across the states.

That is exactly the kind of platform the internet has created. It has created a medium that does not have the roadblocks of editors and fact-checking, nope, with a few quick typed out words and a click of the mouse anything goes public. It’s so fast.  Nothing online is safe. Within the last few days CNN reported on a solider who posted on his “private” facebook page some slandering remarks about current President Obama. The soldier is now facing dishonorable discharge-mind you such a discharge strips a solider of any veteran’s rights or benefits. Of course, the solider and his lawyer are claiming that he was merely just exercising his right as a U.S citizen to freedom of speech- but that is not the point. The point is, this solider believed that his private page was safe- not accurate. Nothing online is private, if somebody wants access to something bad enough- there is a way to get it.

Similar to the Justin Bieber pregnancy scandal, Drudge Report ran a story about former President Bill Clinton fathering a boy with another woman (other than Hillary, obviously) in Arkansas. Just the click of that “publish” button put this story online for millions of Americans to read. A story based on inaccurate and insufficient reporting posed the potential to permanently damage an official’s entire career. That is alot of power and influence in one bloggers’ mouse.

It’s pretty disturbing the ease that now exists in publishing stories without accuracy. And this is the problem and challenge that so many online publications, particularly Independent Media outlets, need to be incredibly aware of  and ready to combat. Sometimes indy media sites don’t have the access to sources like mainstream media does, so ensuring accuracy is essential in gaining credibility and truly  informing the public. The potential to misrepresent, mislead and publish inaccurately is immense and very accessible. Video editing tools, photo editing tools and recording devices are becoming accessible to anybody who wants them and the portability of such tools are making it very easy for anybody to capture occurrences. The increased ability to capture footage or still images and then edit them without the help of someone trained in such programs is causing even more potential for inaccurate material to go viral online and misinform hundreds of thousands of people worldwide- sometimes on incredibly important and prominent issues.

Accuracy is a vital element of journalism and it can not get lost in the shuffle of accessibility, the growing need for immediacy and the increasing growth of untrained “journalists”.

 

Who needs a degree??

Well, apparently not journalists! Citizen journalism is on the rise. The trend continues–>the internet is putting power in the hands of individuals, regardless of educational background, geographical location, time zone or economic class. Online independent media outlets are popping up everywhere & people without any formal training or journalism background have the power, tools & resources to report on anything, anywhere. Mobile devices like phones or ipods or lap tops have the ability to record and capture both still pictures and video. Those things are common to the majority of the population, not just the privileged, educated journalists.

Journalism| noun|ˈjər-nə-ˌli-zəm|the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media. (Merriam Webster)
That is the very first definition of journalism listed in the dictionary and doesn’t specify that it is a professional thing- (and I am not by any means saying that journalism is not a profession & that journalists are not professionals- because I’m studying journalism & fully believe it does require a degree of professionalism & the like). However, the definition shows that the practice of journalism is open to anybody. News is everywhere & it is utterly impossible for a journalist to be everywhere all the time, so when news emerges without the presence of a journalist, why can’t they eye witness “report”? Nothing is stopping them. News dissemination is emerging from the past tight grip of big news outlets & is scattering into the smaller hands of hundreds of thousands of news outlets and resources. And thus you have the birth of citizen journalism.
As a journalism student I have two very different views on the reality and the practice of citizen journalism.
First the good.
The Huffington Post did something incredible with its birth, it opened up its news content to the public, anybody with information can post to the website. There are no formal editors that the writers have to report to or any of that other stuff that typically goes in a regular newsroom. Journalism is, after all, suppose to be the upkeeper of democracy and democracy is a government by the people for the people- so, what  better way to get news then from the people. Not just the person behind the typewriter and the scribbled-in notebook. Mayhill Fowler wrote for the Huffington Post multiple times, twice she broke huge news on prominent political figures- Barack Obama in his run for the presidency & Bill Clinton, while his wife ran for the presidency. She caught the words of both political figures that really shot a blow to their credibility. But how did just an “ordinary” citizen have such close access to these figures?? Because she WASN’T  a formal journalist….kind of ironic, no?
Another upside, with citizen journalists reporting they can openly admit to bias, which is kind of helpful & on a new level, very transparent. Journalism has always suppose to be objective, however, opinion, bias & outlooks are impossible to get rid of. so, no journalist truly, purely and untainted reports objectively- its impossible. So, by adding this other element of transparency into the operation of the journalist by admitting bias, it adds to credibility. Fowler openly admitted to being an avid Obama supporter during the campaign & yet still published work that could have been very detrimental to the success of the presidential candidate.
Now the downside.
Without formal training there is no teaching or “deeper” understanding of the practice. Ethics and accuracy become a major issues without the formality of editing that exists in a legitimate newsroom. Ethical operations and accurate delivery of stories is essential to upholding the good name of journalism- without the practice is tarnished.
So, the world of citizen journalism is absolutely questionable, but on the other hand incredibly beneficial to the reality of news dissemination.
Democracy is for the people by the people..why shouldn’t the news be?

VIRAL

I feel like I often repeat myself when blogging in regards to new independent media & the incredible phenomena of the internet, but whatever it’s pretty important. 10 years ago I don’t think anybody could have guessed what the internet would be today- the amount of content and traffic the internet sees on a daily basis is crazy. I don’t think anything- not even the highways or public restrooms see as much traffic as the internet (excuse, the vulgar reference, but I’m assuming they do see a lot of traffic). Never when I was younger could I imagine being so dependent on the internet as a resource and a tool- years ago it was only good for AIM to instant message my friends and update my buddy-profile. Everyone uses the internet & the internet has created a platform of immense accessibility.

In the video above Sophia Grace an 8 year British girl is being filmed by her parents- there is no professional recording studio or crazy manager- probably just a hand held digital camera. The video is posted to Youtube. The video goes viral. Everybody is clicking and sharing the link to watch an adorable 8 year old girl belt her lungs out to rapper, Nicki Minaj’s Super Bass. The video goes so viral and becomes so popular on youtube that ELLEN DEGENERES, the quirky late afternoon talk-show host flies her to the U.S to appear on the show. Not only does Sophia get an incredible 15 minutes of fame on huge U.S television network, but she gets to the meet the multi-millionare dollar rapper-her idol- Nicki Minaj. Pretty cool? Absolutely, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the internet.

The spreading of ideas is incredible on the web. Within seconds anything posted can reach hundreds of people- an audience much larger than any other television network could reach. That’s not the point of this blog- the point of this blog is to emphasize the power of just on individual on the web. There is no need for a middleman.

Brian Stelter of the New York Times wrote an article on the youtube sensation, Michael Buckley. Buckley launched his own youtube celebrity gossip show-What the Buck that he released multiple times a week. He got so big that he started to bring revenue. Incredible, that from just simple equipment and no professional training that Buckley become such an incredible media hit. No manager or publicist or camera-crew or make-up artist or contractor had to be called in to complete Buckley’s project. The income falls right into the hands of the creator and star himself.

The potential for success is just huge on the internet. The power of the individual to start something is expanding rapidly online, however, the success of that individual still depends on the masses. Without a large audience success isn’t possible. But the internet makes it way easier to find an audience and fuel that audience’s growth. Incredible.

“Transparency is the new Objectivity”

One of the articles required for the reading in my Indy Media class this Tuesday caught my attention. A blogger, David Weinbereger wrote on his blog talking about how transparency has become the new objectivity in terms of journalism. And just that line, that was his title & is now the title of this post, is incredibly intriguing and seems to be very true.

Journalism for decades has prided itself on being the source of news and information for the public- delivering its content completely objectively, without bias or conflict of interest. Sure in theory that’s great- untainted stories, purely truth & absolute fact….who wouldn’t want that? The concept of objectivity is brilliant, however the application of objectivity is a much more difficult reality & seems to string a very tangled web. Just from experience as a human being (I’m not quoting or referring to any expert testimony on this), people have opinions. It seems to be fairly inherent in human nature to have an opinion, an outlook or a unique perception of things in life. And more often than not those perceptions, opinions and outlooks differ from individual to individual. So, regardless of how strongly a journalist strives for objectivity, their human nature is embedded with the stickiness of opinion and bias.  Weinberger sums up the problem of objectivity perfectly in his post: “The problem with objectivity is that it tries to show what the world looks like from no particular point of view, which is like wondering what something looks like in the dark.” 

The new age of indy media & the internet is creating an incredible transformation from the attempted application of objectivity to the delivery of news to the application of transparency to the delivery of news.

Weinbereger particularly references the use of “linking” online as an key element in the transformation. It’s perfect. A reader can read through an entire post online and when things are linked in the story, they can see exactly where the author gathered their information to create the story. There becomes less hesitation to not trust sources and proving legitimacy is right at that the reader’s fingertips-they are no longer at the mercy of these news outlets to “ensure” quality & legitimacy.

The conversational feel to indy media makes for a much easier platform to generate transparency. Readers have the ability to directly contact the authors of online pieces to ask questions via email or telephone (both are often listed) and also to comment on posts. The openness facilitated by the internet paves the way for transparency.

The transparency of the online world and the news sources that call the web home are leading to incredible expansions and revitalization of the journalism world. Will Bunch’s, A Landmark for bloggers and the Future for Journalism” discusses how the online world has allowed for investigative journalism to reach new heights. The resources provided by readers is incredibly vital to the sustaining of journalism. And the happier and more involved the readers feel in the content the more likely they are to stay faithful and contribute, making these new online news sources an integral part of news dissemination.

Journalism Degree. $50,000. Laptop. $1,000. Free Speech. Pricel….oops, just kidding, that’ll cost ya.

 

Seems to be a reoccurring theme here. Is “free” speech really “free”?

I took a sort of pledge to day in class that I promised to read the article Jeff Cohen handed out in class, Don’t Stamp Out Brainy Mags. Well, I stuck to that pledge & read it. I had no intentions of blogging about it prior to reading it. But WOW.

The article isn’t super recent, it was written in the Spring of 2007 about the approved spikes in postal rates that would negatively effect small, independent magazine outlets. Costs for these magazines were intended to jump nearly 30%, bringing costs for the business operations at an incredibly high level- out of reach for many. But that isn’t even the bad part about this story. The proposed increase was not the idea of the postal service or the government in an attempt to boost revenue, no! it was by the manipulating minds of media conglomerate giant Time Warner. And how convienent that Time Warner owns some of the biggest magazine’s in the U.S: People, In Style and Time. The business plan was projected to vastly benefit Time Warner & its many projects, so revenue would sky rocket- small, independent magazines however, that (the article says & I agree) “enrich the public debate far more than their modest budgets suggest.”

This common theme seems to be interjecting itself into the world of independent & non-mainstream media outlets. The power of money is threatening to hinder & ruin the mobilization of indy media. && this is not to say that I am at all denoting the success of indy media, because frankly despite the incredible obstacles it has to overcome, indy outlets & sources have reached incredible heights & great success.

the article discussed that sure the internet is facilitating a great home for indy outlets to call home, but for a lot of indy outlets it is not a sufficient source of revenue. I think though that his concern is not so much realistic currently. The potential for indy outlets to profit online is significant- look at Huffington Post & the many blogs that have hit it big & are profiting & are far from mainstream- to name a few: Legal Insurrection, Perez Hilton, Democracy Now! & so many more!

So, potential success is there. The internet is not a doomed place or a facilitator that will put hundreds of people out of business.

Back to this particular article though! It brings up a serious point about free speech. If in order to publicize your free speech & your message you have to pay & & so without the funds, your free speech isn’t reaching an audience as it would via the postal service (in this case). That is not equality of the press & it is certainly not an exercising of free speech (which is a CONSTITUTIONAL liberty). The article even quotes the Postal Service’s mission ( which is laid out by federal law), “to bind the nation together through the personal, education, literary and business correspondence of the people.” Its purpose is to facilitate conversation- without the pure, not tainted, abundant practice and exercise of free speech this mission is not fulfilled.

So just how  free is free? Apparently free is becoming a commodity & comes at a price.