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Archive for the ‘media’ Category

Mary Richards and Newsroom Sexism

In media, women's rights on May 12, 2010 at 11:07 pm
When Mary Richards asked Lou Grant if she didn’t get a promotion because she was a woman, Lou Grant unapologetically replied “Yes.” The 1970s show poked fun at the very serious subject of sexism in the newsroom. But more than 30 years later, a still gender-biased media is no laughing matter.

To be sure, women have made major strides in the predominately male field. But 20 minutes spent watching the evening news and one begins to wonder if mainstream media still operates under the “good-old boys club” pretense.

From FOX to CNN, women are either portrayed as sexy bimbos or serious bitches. Take, for example, FOX News. The network boast an impressive list of female co-anchors and guest commentators — most of which are beautiful and blonde. Apparently, everything, from these women’s skirt-lengths to their hair lengths, makes them unmarketable as hosts.

Of course, there are a few female hosts such as Greta Van Susteren and Rachel Maddow who command their own shows. But notice how these women are marketed: Short hair, masculine attire and zero sex appeal. The message is clear: To be taken seriously, a woman must become a man.

According to the Women’s Media Center, women hold only 3 percent of clout positions in the mainstream media.

In the words of feminist founding mother Gloria Steinem, “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke.”

Information Overload? Obama Tells Graduating Class TMI Becoming a ‘Distraction’

In media on May 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Yesterday, President Barack Obama gave a commencement address to Hampton University’s 2010 graduating class. The president urged students to stay “informed and engaged,” saying the American experiment “depended on the participation of its people.”

However, before bemoaning apathy and ignorance, Obama ironically bemoaned information itself, telling students they are coming of age in a “24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments.”

This 24/7 environment coupled with the explosion of technology is making information a distraction rather than a means of empowerment, according to the president.

“So all of this is not only putting pressure on you, it’s putting new pressure on our country and our democracy,” he said.

Basically, Obama is suggesting Americans today are suffering from information overload.

The idea of information overload is nothing new. In 1755, French philosopher and contributor to the Encyclopédie, Denis Diderot, wrote about the explosion of information and its negative effects on the population:

“As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe.”

If only Diderot was here to witness the internet.

However, more than 250 years later, human history has been proven the French philosopher wrong.

There exists today more information and greater access to that information than ever before. But contrary to Diderot’s prediction, human beings and societies have adapted to the ever increasing onslaught and access to data. We, as a species, have evolved.

As writer for the Social Computing Journal Stowe Boyd points out in his article “The False Question Of Attention Economics, the idea of information overload is a false one:

“The human mind is exceptionally plastic, especially when young people are exposed to media and symbolic information systems at an early age.”

As technology and access to data continue to increase, so too, will information critics such as the president. However, what these critics fail acknowledge is the power of the human mind to collect, sort and store information deemed relevant.

To be sure, the human mind cannot absorb and store a limitless amount of information. But in a day an age where technology is exploding, let us remember that knowledge is power and push the human mind to its limits.

Agenda Setters and Gatekeepers: How Mainstream Media Controls Information

In media on April 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm

“Information is the currency of democracy.”

The quote is attributed to both founding father Thomas Jefferson and political activist Ralph Nader. Regardless of who said it, the statement is a profound one.

In a America, citizens are assured the news offers differing viewpoints. From FOX News to MSNBC, most viewers are convinced they are getting both “sides” to a story. But are they really?

The truth is, mainstream media is controlled by a tightly knit group of corporations. The “big six,” as they are sometimes described, consist of General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp, Viacom and CBS. Together, these mega-corporations make up and control virtually all mainstream news.

Notice how, when switching between “conservative” and “liberal” mainstream networks, topics covered and facts reported are almost always the same. The perceived difference in bias convinces viewers their source of choice is somehow independent.

Not only does the mainstream media serve as gatekeepers of public information, it also sets the agenda for other news sources. Foreign and local media find themselves marching to the beat set by the “big six.” As a result, massive amounts of information go unreported to the public. Mainstream decides for all what, how much, and the manner in which the news is reported.

But a powerful weapon has emerged in recent years able to counteract big media. The internet has provided the individual with a plethora of opinions and an explosion of information. Free Press accurately describes the World Wide Web as offering “hope” to the public:

“The internet is radically changing the way most everyone experiences media. It could become the central nervous system of a healthy democracy — the greatest engine for free speech, civic engagement, and economic growth ever known. It may be our last, best hope to make an end-run around the traditional media gatekeepers.”

Also see The Nation’s interactive list of “The Big Ten.”

Talk radio vs. the open market place of ideas

In media on March 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Rush, Levin, Hannity. Talk radio superstars. Their shows are witty, entertaining, controversial and opinionated. But are they enlightening? No.

In fact the opposite is true.

These self proclaimed liberty-loving conservatives practice a form of verbal censorship. Its ironic that while they claim to be pro-free market, they suppress the open marketplace of ideas. Articulate, well-developed arguments expressing contradictory viewpoints simply arent allowed.

Mark Levin is a repeat offender. In a recent show, he not-so-gently told a caller he was pathetic. He then proceeded to mockingly challenged the caller to prove how smart he was. When the caller made a weak attempt to defend himself by replying I am smart Levin quickly interrupted with Ill be the judge of that. Levin continued berating the caller; calling him words like moron and idiot.

Needless to say I didnt learn anything — except maybe how to silence dissent.

But Hannity, Rush and Levin arent merely good arguers — they are skillful censors. The interruption, rudeness and domination they practice on their shows are a form of art. They are steamrollers; more concerned with perpetuating a set belief system than with discovering the truth.

But then why do millions of listeners choose to tune in each week? Surely it is not to learn.

On the contrary, it would appear the only reason conservative listeners lend their ears is to reinforce that which they already believe. The small, insignificant amount of information they may actually glean from the shows pales in comparison to the positive affirmation they receive.

After all, talk radio isnt a dialogue, its a monologue. A monologue people would be better off ignoring. Perhaps Americans need to take a cue from these radio hosts and, with the turn of a dial, censor conservative talk radio.

Let the man speak: Iran’s president vs. media distortion

In foreign policy, media, war and peace on March 9, 2010 at 2:40 am

“Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?” — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Why does the American government so fear speech in opposition to its own?

Point in case: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now I’ll be the first to admit Ahmadinejad is no benevolent leader whose heart’s desire is world peace. But let’s be honest — the guy has not been given a fair shake.

First there was the media-misconstrued “wipe Israel off the map” rumor. If you were listening to the mainstream machine, you probably believed Ahmadinejad unveiled his evil desire to annihilate Israel while giving a speech at a conference in Iran. In actuality, the president of Iran was quoting leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, and said:

“The Iman said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time. This statement is very wise.”

Hmmm. Doesn’t exactly sound like a declaration of war.

And then there was the designed to be ill-fated visit to Columbia University where the president famously denied the existence of homosexuals in Iran. But more offensive than Ahmadinejad’s ridiculous claim was the introduction given to him by University President Lee Bollinger.

“Mr. President you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” were the words Bollinger chose to open with. He continued insulting Iran’s president for more than six minutes; even having the audacity to ask President Ahmadinejad if he plans “on wiping us off the map too?”

He concluded with this disrespectful gem:

“Frankly, and in all candor Mr. President, I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer theses questions. But your avoiding them will, in itself, be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do.”

Talk about an introduction. If only U.S. politicians were so lucky to be prefaced in such a way.

Not only did Ahmadinejad try to reach out to the American people during his visit to the U.S., he also challenged President George W. Bush to a live TV debate that “should be uncensored, above all for the American public.”

Of course, the administration declined; dismissing Ahmadinejad’s invite as a “diversion.”

But Ahmadinejad did not only attempt to communicate with President Bush on live TV. He also addressed to him a lengthy letter in which he challenged Bush’s claim of Christianity.

“Can one be a follower of Jesus Christ (PBUH), the great Messenger of God, feel obliged to respect human rights, present liberalism as a civilization model, announce one’s opposition to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and WMDs, make “War and Terror” his slogan?” he asked in the letter.

Perhaps realizing his efforts to communicate with the president would be ignored, Ahmadinejad attempted to communicate directly with the American people. In his open letter, Ahmadinejad expressed sadness over the Iraq war and sympathy toward both the Iraqis and American soldiers.

“American soldiers often wonder why they have been sent to Iraq,” he said.

Ahmadinejad went on to condemned all terrorism because “its victims are innocent” and posed this question to the American people:

“Is there not a better approach to governance? Is it not possible to put wealth and power in the service of peace, stability, prosperity and the happiness of all peoples through a commitment to justice and respect for the rights of all nations, instead of aggression and war?”

Surely such humanitarian ramblings can not be that of the “insane dictator” otherwise known as Mamoud Ahmadinejad? Doesn’t he want to build a nuclear arsenal with the intention of launching World War III? On the contrary, Iran’s president has vehemently denied such accusations.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Ahmadinejad reiterated that Iran has no nuclear weapon ambitions. He called such weapons “outdated” and said Iran is ideologically opposed to them.

“We’ve said many times before, we don’t need the weapon,” he said. “It’s not enshrined in our defense doctrine, nuclear defense, and ideologically we don’t believe in it either. We have actually rejected it on an ideological basis. And politically we know that it’s useless. It’s useless.”

However, the president did defend Iran’s right to develop it’s own nuclear energy without dependence on foreign powers.

“You should not have the ability to developed the nuclear fuel cycle yourself,” he said.

Ahmadinejad also pointed out the often-ignored fact of Iranian non-aggression. The president is correct in claiming that Iran historically has not invaded other nations. However, as he points out, his county has been the target of foreign attacks — including those financed by the United States. And let’s not forget the CIA’s overthrow of the democratically-elected Iranian government in 1953.

To be sure, Ahmadinejad is not to be trusted. But then again what politician is? What is clear is that the United States’ government, using media as a weapon of distortion, has twisted and largely silenced the message of Iran’s president. Ahmadinejad deserves a fair shake. More importantly, the American people deserve to hear what he has to say, uncensored, no matter how unpleasant it may be.

Ahmadinejad calls 9/11 ‘big lie’

In foreign policy, media, politics on March 8, 2010 at 3:27 am

The question itself could be construed as a slap in the face of every patriotic American who fervently believes the innumerable lies constantly told with a straight face by our government leaders.Huffington Post columnist Mike Green

On Saturday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers was a “complicated intelligence scenario and act.”

“September 11 was a big lie and a pretext for the war on terror and a prelude to invading Afghanistan,” he said.

But as Huffington Post columnist Mike Green points out, the Iranian president’s accusations echo the suspicions of many Americans.

“In less than two minutes I can produce a list that will keep every mainstream journalist busy for a week.” Green said. “Yet, these growing lists of legitimate voices with legitimate concerns cannot be heard in a country that prides itself on freedom of speech and freedom of the press.”

According to a 2006 Zogby poll, 42 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government and the 9/11 commission covered up evidence regarding the Sept. 11 attacks. Hopefully Ahmadinejad’s confession brings more media attention to the official story and the growing public unrest.

A digital revolution

In Individual Sovereignty, media on February 23, 2010 at 2:34 am

While most conservatives in America believe government is too powerful, leader of the British Conservative Party David Cameron, says its the people who are gaining control.

In Camerons opinion, control is shifting away from large national governments to the individual. In a recent TED talk, he attributed the transfer of power to the information revolution.

Weve gone from a world of local control, then we went to a world of central control, now were a world of people control, Cameron said. Were now living in a post-bureaucratic age where genuine people power is possible.

While the British Conservative Party and its leaders politics are far from perfect, Camerons belief in the empowerment of the individual through the information revolution is revolutionary. According to him, the revolution can alter both society and government.

We believe that if you give people more power and control over their lives, if you give people more choice, if you put them in the driving seat then actually you can create a stronger and better society, he said. And if you marry this fact with the incredible abundance of information that we have in our world today, I think you can completely, as Ive said, remake politics, remake government, remake your public services. 

The explosion of information and technology has dramatically changed the world in which we live. Most importantly, it has empowered individual users in ways never before imagined. Now it is the people, not a select few, that control the information flow.

Flight 253 passenger says ‘Christmas bomber’ didn’t act alone

In foreign policy, media on February 9, 2010 at 1:37 am

Contradicting claims by the U.S. government and most of the media, one of the passengers aboard flight 253 is telling reporters the man known as the Christmas bomber had an accomplice.

Kurt Haskell and his wife Lori, both Michigan Lawyers, have repeated their story consistently to anyone who will listen. Theyve even dedicated a blog to their experience.

According to Kurt Haskell, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was not alone when he prepared to board the plane in Amsterdam. Haskell says Abdulmutallab was accompanied by a well-dressed Indian man who spoke for him and seemed to be in charge. Haskell said he first noticed them because they seemed to be an odd couple.

After approaching the ticket counter, Haskell says the Indian man tried to convince the agent to let Abdulmutallab board the plane without proper identity saying, This man needs to board the plane and he doesnt have a passport After the ticket agent refused, the Indian man explained to the agent that He [Abdulmutallab] is from Sudan, we do this all the time.

Haskell then says the Indian man and Abdulmutallab were sent down the hall to speak to a manger.

A Jan. 22 article by ABC titled Alert: Female Suicide Bombers May Be Heading Here From Yemen supports Haskells story. Buried at the very end of the article, ABC reporters make this shocking statement:

Federal agents also tell they are attempting to identify a man who passengers said helped Abdulmutallab change planes for Detroit when he landed in Amsterdam from Lagos, Nigeria.

Authorities had initially discounted the passenger accounts, but the agents say there is a growing belief the man have played a role to make sure Abdulmutallab did not get cold feet.

A more recent twist to the official story was reported by the Detroit News. In an article titled Terror Suspect kept visa to avoid tipping off larger investigation, reporter Nathan Hurst says a top State Department official has revealed that Abdulmutallab was intentionally allowed to keep his visa so as not to interfere with a larger investigation. The article claims that:

Patrick F. Kennedy, an undersecretary for management at the State Department, said Abdulmutallab’s visa wasn’t taken away because intelligence officials asked his agency not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would’ve foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States.

A ‘progressive’ distraction

In media, politics on February 6, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Glenn Beck and FOX News have a new left wing enemy — the progressives. Much of the rhetoric that was aimed toward Democrats in previous years is now being used against the supposedly sinister grandchild of the Bull Moose Party.

Most historians trace the beginnings of the progressive movement to Teddy Roosevelt’s resignation from Republican ranks and formation of his own Bull Moose Party. A party which advocated things such as minimum wage laws and prohibition.

Beck and FOX are correct that the Progressive Party and modern progressives are in favor of  increasing the scope of the national government — but all for the “common good.” Basically, a progressive sees things that are wrong within a society and attempts to make them right through the force of government.

While I don’t agree with much of the progressive platform, I do admire its concern and commitment to the downtrodden. The modern progressive movement is not some left wing, God-hating crusade that wishes to steal your children from you and place them in fascist indoctrination institutions. On the contrary, the progressives gave us things like child labor laws and women’s suffrage.

Perhaps what disturbs me most about (mainly) Beck’s anti-progressive banter, is that it distracts Americans from the real issue. How often do we hear Beck and other conservative media pundits claiming that it’s not about left versus right, Democrat versus Republican? And yet, they continually play the fear card, saturating their viewers with an us-versus-them mindset.

The progressives are not “evil” as some would have you believe. They are not what threatens America or the world. But neither is the Tea Party movement, moral majority, conservatism, communism or socialism. As long as Americans of all political ideologies are fed and accept the divisive rhetoric that causes them to see a targeted group as the “enemy” we will never be free.

Newspapers in desperate need of makeover

In media on January 27, 2010 at 12:30 am

In the long run, I think there is no practical reason for newspapers to survive, — Jacek Utko, Polish newspaper designer

Are newspapers doomed for a fate similar to that of the automobile industry? John Kerry proposed a government bailout to save the sinking ship of print media in April. But throwing money at a product that consumers no longer have an interest in would only prolong the pain. Perhaps the only real solution is to make papers, well, prettier.

Consumers today are accustomed to looking at web pages. Internet news is more appealing than print because it is cheaper, more accessible and more aesthetically pleasing. So, the more print news can mimic online news the longer it can prolong its not-so-certain demise.

However, cost and accessibility are really out of the hands of the newspapers. (Although a smaller, more mobile paper format such as a tabloid would lend itself to better accessibility). So what is left for the newspapers to control? Design.

Design is one of those tools that is too often overlooked by the jaded journalists of old. After all, it is content that matters. But if a product doesn’t say “pick me up” at first glance then readers will never get to the content. The truth is, content, or text, is ugly. The challenge is to make it prettier.

Luckily for designers, readers today have shorter attention spans and require much more visual stimulation to be engaged. As a result, many newspapers are trading in their old, traditional six-column design for a look that more closely resembles a web page. Some are opting for a more poster-like design with one large, dominant art element. And still others are moving toward a more magazine inspired design dominated by reefers and jumps and complete with an index.

But regardless of what new format a newspaper follows, one thing is for certain — change is needed. Unfortunately, adherence to tradition is a favorite of the newspaper industry. In the end, it may be stubbornness, not decreasing readership, that leads to its demise.