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Archive for the ‘Media Tools’ Category

Making Broadcast News More Radically Decent


by: on August 19th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Radical Decency focuses on replacing the value system, predominant in our culture – compete and win, dominate and control – with a new set of values: Respect, understanding, empathy, acceptance, appreciation, fairness, and justice. To succeed in this daunting task, we are challenged to apply these values in every relationship from the most intimate to the most public and political. Adopting this approach, things that are easy to overlook become more visible including, very importantly, the quality of more remote interactions that vitally affect our lives.

When this different values-based focus is directed toward the broadcast news media, it is just stunning to realize how dismal its “normal” ways of interacting are – if the goal, in Radical Decency terms, is to cultivate a meaningful and mutually respectful dialogue. Quite simply, listening and responding isn’t the goal. Instead, the participants are collecting ammunition so that, as soon as the other person stops talking – or sooner, since interruptions are chronic – they can fire back, reiterating why they are right and he or she is wrong.

Credit: Creative Commons.

Indeed, the typical “conversation” is so far gone that candidates eagerly seek coaching on how to dominate the agenda, ignoring questions and systematically returning to their pre-planned talking points. And, when it comes to “candidate debates,” an added goal is to interject carefully rehearsed zingers, designed to make the other candidate look like a loser. In other words, the self-conscious goal is to avoid any meaningful interaction at all.

It is easy to see why even the best-intentioned politicians would feel trapped within this system. Failing to play the game, the next election as well as their credibility as effective and reliable political operatives would be at great risk. So while I have deep misgivings about the choices our mainstream politicians make, I have some sympathy for the dilemma they would face if they sought to change the rules of the game.


The Art of Revolution: Spoken Word, Video and Performance Art to Change the World: Taien Ng-Chan


by: on August 9th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Like many artists, Montreal writer and multidisciplinary artist, Taien Ng-Chan sees her work as an opportunity to interrogate the world around us, to reach the public, and to work towards a more progressive society. Although she questions whether or not art can actually make an impact in our collective cultural consciousness, or change anything politically, she’s willing to try. As she says, “looking back, historical art movements do seem to end up gaining traction in ways that seem important in hindsight, so we’d better keep doing it, just in case.”

Indeed, Ng-Chan was part of last year’s massive student uprising in Québec, a movement that saw thousands mobilize–first in response to the provincial government’s plan to raise tuition at post-secondary institutions, and then in response to the same government’s oppressive strategies to keep the protests under control. Ultimately what happened in what was called “le printemps érable,” or the “maple spring” (in keeping with the name the Arab Spring), resulted in a provincial election that brought down Québec’s Liberal government. At first it seemed like the incoming Parti Québécois would bring new hope; instead they wore the red square – symbol of the student movement – and at first cancelled the tuition hikes, but they also cut the province’s education budget, and then ended up imposing tuition hikes anyway. Ng-Chan comments that it’s easy to grow cynical when politicians can be so duplicitous; however, she also suggests that it’s important to keep building community to affect change in small ways, and art is just another way to accomplish this.


The Neverending Morality Play of the Deficit Hawks


by: on June 21st, 2013 | Comments Off

When I left the country back in April for an extended sojourn in Europe I made myself a promise and a prediction. I promised that I would not look at a newspaper or any news source — cold turkey, for a news junkie like me. It actually turned out to be easy, a pleasant vacation from the world’s troubles.

I predicted that when I got home and fell back into my old junkie ways, the news would be very much the same as when I left home. It’s a lot like a soap opera: You can skip the news for weeks at a time, and when you turn it back on you feel like you’re picking up right where you left off; you’ve haven’t missed anything important at all.

My prediction proved prescient enough, if I just looked at the leading news stories. Of course I assumed that new, important events had unfolded. They just didn’t make the headlines.


What My Back-and-Forth with The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone Says About Journalistic Sensationalism


by: on June 19th, 2013 | Comments Off

Last night, we learned of the tragic death of Michael Hastings, a relentlessly independent journalist whose 2010 reporting in Rolling Stone ended General Stanley McChrystal’s military career.

For some necessary context, this is Rolling Stone ‘s description of that piece:

Hastings’ unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House.

The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general,” Obama said, announcing McChrystal’s departure. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”

This morning, barely removed from news of Hastings’ death, Michael Calderone, The Huffington Post‘s Senior Media Reporter (and a journalist I generally respect), apparently thought it would be an important journalistic task to ask McChrystal what he thought of Hastings’ death:

Calderone’s move to ask McChrystal for comment so soon after Hastings’ death immediately struck me as mildly inappropriate, given the former general’s connection to Hastings. More than that, however, it struck me as something – a comment from McChrystal – that would have virtually no journalistic value or significance.


Free Speech on Social Media: Anything Goes


by: on June 6th, 2013 | 4 Comments »

Courtesy Facebook

In continuation of my series on First Amendment rights as they impact religious minority groups, I address current controversy over social media posts maligning religious groups. My previous post in this series entitled Does Freedom of Speech Allow Stereotyping discussed a greeting card that stereotyped Muslims as terrorists in an unusually offensive and glaringly inaccurate way. This week I have chosen another unfortunate event, a Facebook post that ignited debate over the possible classification of certain types of content as threats instead of free speech. Tennessee County Commissioner Barry West posted a picture on his Facebook page showing a cowboy aiming a shotgun at the camera with the caption “How to Wink at a Muslim”.


The Tragedy of Self Immolation – No One Cares


by: Andrew Lam on May 17th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

(Cross-posted from New America Media)

Self-immolation isn’t what it used to be.

This ultimate form of protest became global news in 1963 when the venerable monk Thich Quang Duc set himself ablaze in the middle of Saigon, Vietnam, protesting religious oppression. Doused in gasoline, the monk sat serenely in lotus position and lit a match. A bird of paradise thus blossomed and bloomed, and quickly charred his body.

The photographer Malcolm Browne captured Thich Quang Duc’s fiery renouncement of the mortal coil, the image quickly becoming an icon of the Vietnam War era. The term “self-immolation,” in fact, entered into common English usage after his death, which led to a coup d’etat that toppled the pro-Catholic Ngo Dinh Diem regime.


Unwilling to Listen, Unable to Hear


by: Lynn Feinerman on April 26th, 2013 | 9 Comments »

Boston Marathon Bombing Memorial

Memorial for the Boston Marathon attack on April 15, 2013. Credit: Creative Commons/AnubisAbyss.

On April 20, 2013, days after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon event, President Obama asked: “Why did young men who grew up and studied here as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence?”

Media reported that on April 22, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the two brothers accused in the bombings, answered Obama’ s question. He stated they bombed the event in reaction to U.S. attacks on Islam.

Is Obama listening to that answer? How does he interpret it? Are the mainstream media, and in particular Fox News’ Erik Rush, listening to that answer?

I don’t think Erik Rush is listening. I doubt, in fact, that the Obama administration is listening to that answer… heeding the message. And innocent U.S. citizens are paying the price.


Seven Habits of Civically Engaged Human Beings


by: Thad Williamson on March 15th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

After graduating college, many students lose sight of civic engagement as they focus on moneymaking.

Many college students today feel themselves to be under immense pressure to secure their own professional futures – to be able to repay loans and to avoid falling on the wrong side of the deepening economic divide. Others want to acquire money and comfort, or power, because this is how a successful life has generally been portrayed to them. But many also have a concern with community and social problems and have experience doing various kinds of volunteer work; others are interested in politics and public service.

However, the ideas that getting serious about social change requires more than just volunteer work, and that democratic action is not simply about campaigns, elections, and the deeds of politicians, remain relatively novel to college students. As a college teacher, it is easy to get frustrated when confronted with students who are clueless, disengaged, or unwilling to see beyond the moneymaking definition of success. But in my experience many students are in fact eager for an alternative definition of a good life, and eager to learn more about social movements and social change. This is true whatever the self-described political leanings (if any) of students.


Dear U.S. Media, Your Gun-Inspired Word Plays in NRA Story Titles Are Not Cute


by: on December 25th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

In the wake of Sandy Hook, U.S. media outlets have brought to press a flurry of critical stories on the NRA, rightfully placing the pro-gun behemoth in the spotlight. However, far too many news organizations have attempted to advertise such stories by using gun imagery in the titles.

Such titles, while intended to be witty and sharp, in truth have worked to undermine the very stories and columns being promoted.

These titles are not cute. They are not witty. They are not the product of a responsible journalistic ethic which treats the titles — the promotions — as an important part of a story’s trajectory.


Blaming the Jews: Old Wine in a New Bottle


by: Jay Sterling Silver on September 20th, 2012 | 9 Comments »

Admittedly, I’m a bit touchy about false reports that Jews are involved in sinister activities, like the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press reports that a Jewish real-estate developer in California, having raised five million dollars from “more than 100 Jewish donors,” created the anti-Islam video that touched off riots throughout the Arab world and became the pretense for killing American diplomats in Libya. A cursory knowledge of history, conspiracy theories, and stereotyping — from international banking conspiracies to the Holocaust and its denial to present-day hate groups — can make you feel that way. But normally responsible sources like the Journal and the AP needn’t play into the hands of reactionaries, as they did in the initial reports that Jews were at the bottom of the worldwide furor.

The error was not insignificant. In a day when hateful misinformation can produce instantaneous tragedy in any corner of an overwrought world, as it so clearly has in this case, laying responsibility at the feet of an “Israeli Jew” and his affluent Jewish friends can incite more violence against Jews and anyone else in the path of those moved to murder, in the name of God, over a perceived religious affront.

The error was entirely preventable, as well. As a cursory attempt to check the facts would have revealed, no Sam Bacile — the alleged creator of the video screed — ever walked the earth. It’s equally clear from viewing the 14-minute, YouTube post that it didn’t cost five million dollars, or even five thousand, to produce. And would it stand to reason that the imaginary Bacile, as an Israeli, would attempt to “help his native land” by provoking its neighbors with a vile depiction of Muhammad? Or that the individual at the other end of the phone — who’d be blamed for the deaths of innocent Americans and the spread of rioting across a continent, and who’d become the target of extremists himself — would provide his real name?