Twitter strikes again


I last posted about how social media, more specifically Twitter, are becoming a very integral part of how news is not only spread, but also generated in today’s culture. Once again, the social media giant strikes again, this time bringing to light a very distasteful issue.

Earlier this week, it came to light that the popular brand, Urban Outfitters, was selling a “vintage” Kent State sweatshirt. What was interesting about this item wasn’t that it was supposedly “vintage”; not that it was the only one for sale; not even that it was being sold for an outlandish $129!

What made this particular item so buzz-worthy was its design. It contained what appeared to be blood stains surrounding holes in the shirt (presumed to be bullet holes), reminiscent of the 1970 “Kent State Massacre.”

The listing for the Kent State sweatshirt on

Forty-four years ago, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a group of unarmed students, leaving four dead and nine injured.

The image of the sweatshirt on the Urban Outfitters website spread like wild fire on social media, after being posted on the popular website Buzzfeed. Outrage ensued and spurred Kent State officials to write Urban Outfitters a letter expressing their disgust.

Urban Outfitters released a full apology to Kent State and all those offended by the sweatshirt, claiming that the dye pattern was a result of poor coloring on the sweatshirt, and the holes were due to wear and tear.

Obviously, this did not pacify anyone.

Why would Urban Outfitters buy and sell such a distasteful and offensive item? Was it an honest mistake?

We may never know, but luckily for us we’ll always have Twitter to vent and get our opinions heard.

The role of today’s fashion reporters


As the fashion world moves into its second week of frenzy, designers, bloggers, buyers and models are out on show with photographers and reporters scrambling to document their every move and be the first to report on the latest fashion news.

With London and New York fashion weeks having concluded, the fashion pack continued its jet setting by landing in Milan this week. For the majority of society who aren’t part of the fashion elite, the news media reports are our only source of insight into what goes on at these exclusive events.

The exclusivity of this industry results in fashion news presenting many points of discussion in terms of the role that reporters play in providing to-the-minute updates about the events and trends.

However, through the increased use of the Internet and social media, it can be argued that the role of the reporters is becoming less relevant. With bloggers and celebrities posting immediate updates throughout fashion shows, the general public is fed snippets of information through Instagram snaps and Twitter posts.

The issue this presents is that these people provide limited viewpoints. They do not follow general reporting principles and their reporting reflects their opinions and personal judgment.

Additionally, of late, fashion reporting has been infiltrated by a multitude of young amateur bloggers, many of whom have racked up thousands of followers based on their social media accounts. With many people trusting these bloggers as the source of fashion news, there is less reliance on the reporting by professional fashion reporters.

Ultimately, in order to gain an accurate report of the fashion events of the season, multiple sources may need to be consulted. With many fashion experts shunning the new flock of bloggers for their lack of professionalism and experience, is will be interesting to watch if their access to these intimate shows is revoked or increased in the future.

Additionally, the fashion industry faces constant ridicule by reporters in other industries and is often not taken seriously. As reporters compete in the race to discover the latest “it” items, less care is taken in regards to reporting accuracy.

This was highlighted by a prank experiment staged by a blogger to see if photographers and reporters believed that she was part of the fashion elite based on her alternative clothing. Her results highlighted that fashion is all about perception, often the truth isn’t relevant at all. I find this concept interesting yet contradictory as it undermines the fundamental principles of news reporting which should apply to all reporting industries.

Breaking down our misperceptions


With an iPad in one hand and a microphone in the other, Joy-Ann Reid stood on stage in front of a hundred or few gawking faces. She had been invited to speak in one of my classes unbeknownst to us. Her show on MSNBC covers, analyzes and interprets the timeliest topics of our day, or as she phrased it: the “hot-button issues.”

One of these issues (and the topic she delved into) being immigration and how it is dealt with policy-wise. Reid extensively covered the stories on the thousands of unaccompanied children appearing at the border. And, to her surprise, she noted, the American audience grew angrier even in response to the videos the media showed of buses taking these children to safe houses. They actually became more anti-immigration.

This had me thinking: Does the way that the media portrays or covers immigration affect the way American citizens react towards the topic?

If there is one thing I have learned about journalism, it is that keywords in a story can produce a certain feel or desired outcome. And as I scroll down the current events revolving around immigration, I notice that the stories tend to leave out the immigrant himself — focusing heavily on policy or reform. I understand that the journalist intends to simply report the news without bias, but when there are so many misperceptions that shroud the debate, I feel the journalist is obligated to clear the air first.

Reid listed the six main misperceptions for us. The first is that all undocumented immigrants are Latinos. A poll taken in 2012 recorded thatone-third of Americans thought this to be true. Eighty percent come from all over Latin America, not just Mexico. A total of 63 percent of Latinos are U.S. born and, although 16.9 percent of the population is made up of Latinos, they only make up 10 percent of voters.

Many believe that most immigrants are in the country undocumented. Many also believe that most people who come in illegally are border-hopping when the truth of the matter is that 45 percent of the immigrants actually come in legally and simply do not return to their home countries.

One of the biggest misperceptions is that immigrants are taking American jobs. The majority of these immigrants have no other options for them besides low-paid, agricultural jobs. Now I ask: where and who are the Americans competing for these jobs? When Alabama cracked down on immigration law in 2011 with HB 56, the state actually had to relax the law because unharvested crops were dying — Americans weren’t leaping at these new job opportunities.

Another big misperception is that there is a big correlation between immigrants and crime when, in fact, since 1994 immigration has doubled in numbers and crime has dropped. The final misperception is that the immigrants are not paying taxes. ⅓ of them pay tax, including sales tax. They are actually pumping $7 billion into the Social Security system that they will never get back.

So before the media go off publishing an army of headlines about “What has become of immigration reform?” and “Illegal immigrants flood the border,” should the media consider the possibility that it may play a grand role in breaking down the misperceptions of the immigration debate?

These efforts would not be in an attempt to persuade or sway the American public, but instead to inform them — the essence of reporting.

Are phones killing photojournalism?


I dare you to find someone who does not have a camera on their phone. With how popular smart phones are, it’s next to impossible. Even my 90-year-old grandpa’s flip phone has a camera on it (not that he knows how to use it).

Since camera phones are so popular, there is usually always someone around who can take a photo of an even right as it happens.

There are a lot more everyday people with camera phones than there are photojournalists. The exact moment when an event occurs, it is much more likely that someone with a camera phone will be there versus a photojournalist waiting to get the shot.

I do not think an amateur with an iPhone will be able to completely replace a professional photojournalist. The quality and composition of a professionally shot photo will never go out of style; People will always want to see that, but it’s not always an option.

If we look back on 9/11 and the coverage of the event, you can find tons of beautifully shot, powerful images expression the horror everyone felt that day, or showcasing the bravery of some American heroes.

However, there are shaky, blurry videos and images shot by people just walking along the street that we are shown over and over again, because these images captured the exact moment that the first plane hit the North Tower.

No one knew this was going to happen, so no professional photojournalists were on assignment or expecting to cover the first tower, like they were for events later than day and week.

Back in 2001, camera phones were not even available. Most of the videos and images of the first tower were shot with digital cameras. If this event occurred 2014 instead of 2001, there would be a lot more coverage because everyone has a camera phone they can just whip out.

Not only are the availability of camera phones decreasing the need for photojournalists, but social media is making it extremely simple to share these images with the world. You no longer need to work for TIME Magazine for everyone to see your photos, you can just share it on Instagram or Twitter or Facebook.

Still, photojournalists will always be needed. There are some places your Average Joe with an iPhone will not be able or willing to go to. There are very few people brave enough to do what James Foley did, for example. However, camera phones are cutting down this need for photojournalists, since they are proving to be better at documenting breaking, unexpected news.

Journalism and social media’s influence


This September has been a great news month for many journalists. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has captured more towns and oil fields in Syria and President Barack Obama has made an executive decision to soon deploy troops into the area to fight ISIS. The Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to spread and the president made executive decision after the ISIS news to deploy troops to the area to “fight” the disease.

However, I heard more about certain news stories than others and I can’t help to think that the result was from social media. I saw more articles and think pieces on both NFL stars Ray Rice, who was accused of domestic violence, and Adrian Peterson, who is facing child abuse charges, than any of the executive decisions that President Barack Obama made and many other political policy news.

Is it because they monitor what people are talking about on social media and chase the more dramatic, sensationalist stories in order to sell papers and get page clicks?

The “trending meter” on Twitter and Facebook are important tools for a journalist. They can see what people are talking about from a regional, national and worldwide standpoint. I sat and monitored what people were talking about on twitter these past two weeks, and I saw more tweets about the athletes than tweets about politics.

Why is it that generally we are more concerned about scandals than issues that can directly affect our nation? Because we are more concerned about these shocking events, stories about national government issues are being flooded out by the journalists who write about those shocking events. I am not saying that the Rice and Peterson stories lack importance; personally, I am glad that the stories were reported because each lead to powerful discussions about domestic violence and abuse. However, more and more people know every detail about those stories, but lack proper knowledge on ISIS and the affect they have on our country. Is social media more of a clutch for journalists than a useful tool?

Social media play an important impact on journalism and what news the media feel is more important to cover. However, should journalists be so influenced by the people that use social media that they choose to write stories based on what’s trending?

Consumerism: A social problem


The addiction to acquisition has become an everyday thing in American’s lives. Why Americans overspend? Is it the new ways of advertising? Or maybe the cultural shift toward American materialism?

Believe it or not, we have a culture that drives us to buy more and to have the latest products in order to fit in the society and feel “a better person.”

American culture has had a huge change with regards to our way of perception about goods. We live in a consumer society where materialism is dominant. Goods and services are obtained not only to fulfill human’s basic needs, but also to have a special identification in the American society.

Consumption and consumerism are two different things. Consumption is based on satisfying our basic needs; shelter, food, health and education. On the other hand, consumerism is more about materialism; things that drive us to satisfaction, self-actualization and self-esteem.

We live under social pressure, which instills us the definition of overspending in luxury brands, cars and technological devices as a natural thing that we as a culture do.

Think about the iPhone 6. In the same day this iPhone was launched, Americans went to the stores desperately to get Apple’s latest product. The need to have the newest product was higher than the fact of having to be hours in a line.

Additionally, the demand has been so high in the U.S that if you want to get an iPhone 6, you will have to wait three to four weeks until it even ships.

With the release of iPhone 6, we can see how our dependence on material things is increasing. The number of iPhones 6 sold in the first day of its release was the double of the number of iPhones 5 sold two years ago.

It must be noted that our consumerism is also linked with economic issues.

People will do almost anything to obtain the means to consume and this portrays Americans working for long hours in order to indulge themselves with products that aren’t necessarily worth buying. The fact of having more than needed also leads Americans to dept and economic issues.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce and personal bankruptcy, American’s personal savings rate has dropped from 11 percent to below zero since 1982.

This compulsive spending is not only affecting high classes, it is also affecting lower classes. It is common to see a middle class American with a pricey car or brand-name shirt, because they spend most part of their income in “status products.”

We have created this mentality and it is difficult to resist it because it is now part of the culture and what all of us unconsciously do. Although there are products that make our world a little better or faster, we have to control ourselves and think about what is really useful and what is just unnecessary and not worth spending.

News under the radar


After analyzing the news this week, I found that the overwhelming majority of stories focused on sports (particularly the NFL domestic abuse scandal) and ISIS.

While I personally have an interest in sports and have been keeping up with the ISIS crisis, I’ve also read many other stories that I consider very important. What concerns me is that these stories are very under-the-radar and I’ve seen them get pushed to the end of the news segment. That, or they don’t have the amount of coverage I think they deserve.

For example, this week President Obama announced that the U.S. will be sending troops to West Africa and investing $88 million to help fight the Ebola virus. Also, I’m sure you’ve heard about the wild weather on the West Coast, but did you know just how severe the flooding has been? How about the wildfires in California?

These are just a few examples of recent headlines. Now I don’t blame the journalists or reporters who cover these “smaller” stories because I actually think the American public is generally to blame for what makes the top headlines. The journalists are just giving the public what it wants: drama. 

Americans gravitate to stories involving drama. The NFL scandal and ISIS crisis are both very pressing and important issues, but they just so happen to have a rollercoaster of events. Not one domestic abuse case but several. Not one beheading but more. These topics would make headlines regardless of the public interest (because they are important!), but it’s the every minute coverage that detracts from the other news.

Maybe if Americans showed interest in and concern for other topics, the news headlines would follow. I don’t know if this is a problem or just over-analysis, but nevertheless, the top news stories all do an oddly good job at maintaining drama.

iReport now a major storytelling toolkit


The world of professional journalism, with specialists trained in universities and prepared to offer news to meet the five classic questions of who, what, when, where and why, is undergoing a complete transformation.

Advances in digital technology and the wide spread reach of the Internet have certainly led to a new era of journalism that which we may call “citizen journalism.”

Not a day goes by that we aren’t bombarded by an endless succession of tweets, social media, blogs and video clips, all generated by citizens, but that still follows the prevailing principle of news reporting: To inform.

Aside from social media, which have now become one of the greatest allies of newsrooms for discovering and delivering news, we found major news organizations creating their very unique “apps” and sections to its websites for citizens to submit information, videos or photos of any relevant incident they have witnessed.

For example, there is CNN with its iReport site, which has been extremely successful by doing so, so far. Still not many know about this wonderful news coverage application.

CNN’s iReport was born in 2006 as a citizen journalism project that was later bolstered with the help of professionals to standardize the content. Currently the site receives about 15,000 monthly contributions, of which about 10 percent are used as content for traditional programming news network.

Basically what it is, is a “social network” for news. The news organizations can later take advantage of any and all of the content, especially for breaking stories. It allows for people to share the stories happening around them; where the cameras are not able to reach in time or the media do not get to find out the occurrence of a particular down-to-the minute news break, and thus still be able to capture it for communicating it to the world.

Certainly the iReport toolkit is that which best meets all the characteristics at the time of transmitting information, whether for written media, television channels, radio stations or citizens. In other words we could describe it as a social media in steroids. Yet, reputable and reliable.

So, want to be part of CNN’s news coverage? Now you know you are just one step away of possibly being featured by this prestigious newsroom.

Native advertising: Killing the free press?


With the gradual shift of news from the traditional hard-copy paper format to online journalism, advertisers have found it much more difficult to reach readers.

According to a study done by the Rich Media Gallery, banner advertisements on websites are clicked on purposefully only 0.17% of the time. Now, in an effort to increase the viewing of advertisements, companies have turned to a strategy known as native advertising. It is a strategy that essentially takes an ad and disguises it as a news story.

Native advertising has many journalists worried that the news industry as we know it will die. Independent journalism could nearly vanish if other companies are able to interject their advertisements into real news stories. The popular website BuzzFeed is notorious for this. One hundred percent of its revenue comes from “branding content.” This means that there are articles such as “9 Ways Cleaning Has Become Smarter”… sponsored by Swiffer.

Arguments have been made that “as long as the reader knows the difference between a news article and native advertising, there shouldn’t be a problem.” However, less than half of readers actually can discern the difference because the entire point of the ad is to disguise itself as a news story.

BuzzFeed is not the only website guilty of utilizing native advertising. Even The New York Times ran a “story” on women’s prisons that was really a promotion for season two of the popular TV show “Orange is the New Black.”

Finally, there is some fault to the reader here. The best way to get rid of native advertising is to start paying for online news, but it seems that no one is willing to do that because the Internet is just too convenient.

Obviously, no one really what the full extent of native advertising will be just yet. Only time will tell. Hopefully, the days of a free and independent press in America are not over.

Trends from London Fashion Week 2014


The Scottish question may be the biggest issue in Great Britain right now, but on London’s other side, people are enthralled in the fashion world. During Sept. 12-16, London collected a mountain of brands for Fashion Week 2014.

And the news media are present, telling us what is new and hot. As with previous years, the week is dominated the main fashion trends for the upcoming year. Let’s take a look at items that caught the eye of fashion journalists:


Trainers are always popular and they’re always comfortable. This year, trainers appeared on the catwalks of Burberry and Temperley. Burberry Prorsum tried its best to prove that trainers are good with everything, even dresses. And Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer and chief executive, used a nostalgia denim jacket with collaged chiffon dresses to match the trainers, which is creative and stylish.


Anya Hindmarch showed clutch bags with a pencil cases as an accessory. Meanwhile, Christopher Kane showed off her latest school uniforms. London is a city famous around the world for its school uniforms. They are fashionable and still classical and always catch designers’ eyes.

Venn diagram curves

Among the best of Christopher Kane, Jasper Conran and Stella McCartney, you can find the semi-circles of overlapping colors. This type can also be found in the New York Fashion Week, which showed during earlier this month.

Denim jackets

Demin jackets are very common and almost everybody has one in the closet. Christopher Bailey nipped them in at the waist on the Burberry Prorsum show. And Bailey matched it with dresses, which is cool and a little show off.


This theme happens in every fashion week. Now it is Mulberry’s turn to present this cutie.

Compared to the used London fashion week, this one is more vivid. Designers fully used colors to highlight the the variable clothes. And as I mentioned above, the elements in the fashion week, which contains school, leather and ancient style, attracted mounts of people to London.

Killed black men portrayed negatively


“He’s no saint!”

“He was always a trouble maker.”

These phrases were thrown around constantly as the stories of slain 17-year–old Trayvon Martin and 18-year-old Michael Brown developed.

When the news got out about their murders, the families did what was told: They both handed in pictures of their sons and told the media a brief message about how they did not deserve to die.

But as the story developed, the news media took their own spin on each story. They dug into their background and tried to find any sort of dirt that made the two dead men look unclean.

Martin, killed by neighborhood watch participant George Zimmerman, was suspended from school, and Brown, killed by Ferguson police officer Darrin Wilson, had handwritten raps showing that he was a “criminal and a thug.”

The media used different pictures as well. Martin’s sweet, smiling face was replaced with him in a black hoodie, straight faced as he stared into the camera. Brown’s cap and gown picture was replaced with him in more casual, “urban” clothing, looming over a stoop and holding up a peace sign, which many thought was a gang related.

This sudden change caused the popular opinion to change. These teenagers were now “thugs” that were “up to no good” before they were murdered. Is the goal to make black victims look more like villains?  Should their murders and image not be taken as seriously as others simply because of the color of their skin?

However, it seems that the media does the opposite to non-black murders.

James Holmes, the man who took 12 peoples’ lives in Aurora, Col., in 2012, was shown in the media as a man who not only shot up a movie theater, but a man with multiple degrees in neuroscience. The media even started to use his graduation picture instead of his mug shot.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, suspect of the Boston bombing terrorist attacks in 2013, was made out to be a great student with a good family. Rolling Stone even made his picture the cover of their issue, with him titled as “The Bomber.” The media showed him as an exception from other American terrorists.

These examples are night and day, but clearly show media’s objective. It seems as if no one wants to hear positive aspects about an unfairly murdered black man’s past.

49ers’ case tests new NFL policy


San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ray McDonald has been arrested on felony domestic violence charges following an incident at his 30th birthday party late on the night of Aug, 31.

McDonald allegedly assaulted his 10-week pregnant fiancé, leaving bruises on her neck and arms.

This incident occurred just three days after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell modified The league’s personal conduct policy. The new policy carries a six-game suspension without pay for first-time domestic violence offenses and a life-time ban from the NFL for second offenses.

The policy also states that length of suspensions may be increased in the following cases: if the employee was involved in a prior incident before joining the NFL; violence involving a weapon; choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman; or in the presence of a child.

If found guilty, McDonald could face even harsher punishments since his victim was pregnant. He is due in court Sept. 15. This is just one of several scandals in the NFL right now, as the Ray Rice video recently surfaced and star running back Adrian Peterson is  accused of child abuse in Texas.

Media exposes Ray Rice scandal


Social media play a huge role in the lives of everyone today. More importantly, when a breaking news story is released, it is almost impossible to not hear of it on Facebook, Twitter or any similar social media outlet, while everyone gives out their own opinions.

This is why social media played a key role in the termination of a football player’s contract and indefinite suspension from the NFL.

Ray Rice was caught on camera dragging his unconscious fiancee out of a casino elevator way back in February. So why did it take almost seven months to give him a punishment fit for his horrifying act?

When the first video was released and widely covered by news and sports media, there was public shock, but of a relatively small scale. People were disgusted, but forgot about it in due time, and Rice only suffered a two-game suspension.

It wasn’t until TMZ released a second video, making the attack more visual, that the NFL and Ravens alike stepped up Rice’s punishment.

What is the difference between the release of the two videos? Public backlash.

After the release of the first video, it was a trending story for no more than a few days, quick to be forgotten in a league where crimes like this aren’t that foreign. However, it has been a week since the second was released, and new developments in the story are coming out everyday.

The public became so outraged, it took to social media, making this story a trending topic on Twitter and Facebook for over a week. In a society where the average internet user’s attention span is minimal, this was a long time. The public influence concerning this story was strong enough to end a man’s career, and make NFL reconsider policies.

It is clear the effect social media and the public’s opinion had on this Ray Rice situation. What is not clear, however, is the reason why it took this high level of intensely bad publicity to make the NFL take appropriate measures in the punishment.

Although social media is a blessing, allowing powerful entities like the NFL to hear the voices of the public, it should not have been the driving force to ultimately force the NFL to suspend Rice indefinitely.

The NFL leadership claimed to not have seen the second video until Monday, although law enforcement officials confirm it was sent to the league office in April. Even still, everyone knew what had happened on that elevator and the NFL should have taken appropriate measures then, rather than wait to see if the situation would blow over.

With all these facts known, the NFL has portrayed itself in a horrible light and the influence and backlash of social media are not going to help the league out or lead people to forget about it anytime soon. Let’s just hope the league handles the next situation better than it did this one.

Snapchat: from social to informative


What is Snapchat? It all depends to whom you ask.

imageThe social media app is certainly one of the most buzzed and controversial out there.

For parents, the ephemeral and private nature of the content goes in hand with “sexting.” For  teens using it, it is just an alternative medium for sharing pictures they would otherwise be uncomfortable posting on other well-known social networks.

If you ask me, I’ll probably agree with both of the sides, but I would also argue it has some useful properties to it. Asides from letting you interact with other users, it is an invitation for you to be a part of news coverage of the stories you have the opportunity to experience.

As I woke up last Tuesday morning and I logged in on Snapchat, I couldn’t help but notice I had an unconventional live story showing. “Fashion Week in NYC.” I had no idea it was that time of the year again.

image-2I pressed my screen with immediate curiosity to get a hold of it and see what was all it all about. It was pretty obvious from the title (and so do I supposed) that shots of the different shows would be featured.

But then there were also the backstage moments; a deeper look onto the collections, the models, the celebrities that were attending and bits of the overall urban atmosphere the city was experiencing.

It was not much after I realized that the platform was actually reporting on the event. The giant collections of “Snaps” (pictures and videos) were certainly informing users about every single thing that was taking place through a unique perspective. That of an insider. In addition, the different angles of coverage on the same subject further helped for a broader understanding of the facts.


Heidi Klum being interviewed at Fashion Week.

The platform has being doing this for a while now. They did just the same thing for the Electric Daisy Carnival back in April and the FIFA World Cup Final in Brazil in July. The truth is, the “Our Story” addition in nothing more but a feature that allows for the most simplistic (and yet alternative) of the ways out there to do news coverage.

It basically compiles the best of the items submitted by users who attend a certain event and then makes them available to other “Snapchatters”, so they can feel like they are right in the middle of the action. And isn’t that what journalism is all about? Recreating the moment?

On an era were newsrooms are making use of social media for discovering and delivering news, it wouldn’t be surprising if they were making use of this app already. The truth is, this is a powerful platform. Aside from instant communication it also provides for pieces of evidence that can support the entire backbone of a story.

I have the feeling that not far from now, we might as well go and thank Snapchat, as we have Twitter and Instagram for reporting us on down-to-the minute newsbreaks. After all, isn’t social media aided lately in revealing and covering the most recent breaking news?

Just how much do we need to know?


For journalists, reporting involves deciding what is newsworthy as well as what is ethical.

Such considerations are currently up for debate surrounding the dissemination of the video of journalist James Foley’s beheading by ISIS last month. Some argue that the video should not be banned as such censorship infringes on First Amendment rights. Others see the video as too gruesome and say it only gives ISIS the publicity they so strongly desire.

The first question to be asked is, Is the story newsworthy? Since it involves human rights and terrorism it is indeed a story of public interest. Furthermore, the ISIS militant in the video gives a “message to America” explaining that Foley’s death is the result of U.S. military intervention so it is of public concern for American citizens and residents.

But is sharing the footage ethical and even necessary for telling the story?

Death is a personal experience. A devout Catholic, Foley spoke of prayer on multiple occasions. For Foley, the moments leading up to his death were likely very spiritual, which is often considered a private matter. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, people should be aided to “live their last moments in dignity and peace.”

The revisiting of his barbaric execution by viewers is not respecting the emphasis his faith places on having a peaceful death. And while it was most certainly an honorable death, I doubt it to be the moment by which Foley would like to be remembered.

While in the moments leading to his death Foley would not have had any expectation of privacy since he was aware of ISIS’ motivation in filming it, this cannot be used as grounds for arguing that he forfeited his right to privacy. Foley had no choice.

On Aug. 20, the day after Foley’s murder, the New York Post published a picture of Foley with the ISIS militant holding the knife blade to his throat moments before making the fatal cut. There is no question that this blatant display went much too far.

While the inclusion of such pictures on pages deep within a newspaper may be up for debate, featuring them on the front page is inexcusable. Cover pages do not give the option for viewer discretion. Just as there are laws protecting children from exposure to obscene material, should this graphic image be accessible to the eyes of young children walking to school?

Sure, a New York Post reporter didn’t film the event and therefore can’t be blamed for the act of invasion of privacy, but is a news organization’s decision to disseminate it equally at fault?

The decision of whether the material containing graphic visuals should be public comes down to deciding whether the gory footage of Foley’s death is a ‘need to know’ or a ‘want to know’ situation.

Does everyone have to play by the rules?


The Information age has given people access to nearly every corner of the globe, high quality cameras that fit into phones about the size of a wallet and the ability to disseminate information in seconds.

Now that everyone has the potential to create and distribute news, everyone can technically be a journalist. The “democratization of journalism” has been covered up and down by various types from bloggers tapping out endless opinions to academics scribbling research papers, but few outlets seem to discuss accountability.

Journalists are held to a high standard and are meant to follow a code of ethics as well as adhere to the minute writing and reporting rules presented in the Associated Press Stylebook, but for the most part it’s only the people who have bothered to learn about these things that follow the rules.

Typically those who have attended a j-school, or trained in a very traditional environment understand the weight and history of what being a reporter means. For example, the idea that news is written from independent perspective with no bias (or as little bias as one can manage).

In contrast, the sheer volume of content that is produced by the Web shows a number of people and outlets branding themselves as news when they deliver about as much actually news as Fox News.

Even larger outlets of non-traditional journalism have failed with respect to the public. Earlier this year after a plagiarism scandal, BuzzFeed pulled almost 4,000 different posts. No retraction was printed and BuzzFeed Founder Jonah Peretti argued that as a tech company, not a media company, BuzzFeed did not need to follow the rules of journalistic integrity.

This kind of action raised plenty of eyebrows and had scores of people arguing that despite any tech origins, BuzzFeed definitely needed to follow the rules of journalism simply because they were acting like journalists. This thought comes to the core of the argument if it looks like a journalist, acts like a journalist and reports like a journalist, it should probably try to work from the high-standards expected of a journalist.

Role of reporters in the Pistorius case


Today, South African athlete Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide in the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013.

Since the trial began on March 3, 2014, it has captivated audiences in South Africa and around the world. However, the way in which the coverage of the trial has unfolded in the media is an issue that opens a wider discussion into the nature of news reporting on court trials.

Reporters are required to remove any personal judgment from their writing, as their coverage is the single method through which the public is delivered the information about the case. They need to be aware of the potential the media has to influence public perception of the parties involved in the case.

In this case, the judge recognized this influence of the media, suggesting that witness accounts drawn upon by the defense in the court were not sufficient evidence. This is a result of multiple interpretations of the situation being reported and thus the witnesses’ opinions were transformed by public opinion.

This influence was aided by the presence of social media in the coverage of the story. In particular, multiple newspapers and reporters provided continual updates as the case progressed through Twitter. The judgment was turned into a global spectacle with news websites delivering information through livestreams of the courtroom. The live streaming of the ruling provided a new dimension of insight for the public. Furthermore, social media enabled the public to comment on the case as it progressed.

The question that needs to be raised in relation to this is whether it is acceptable to invade these spaces and release this information to the public. While the public has the right to the information, perhaps the live streaming adds an unnecessary dimension to the reporting.

While Pistorius remains accountable for his actions and the associated consequences, the situation has been exacerbated by the media’s coverage of the event, which has transformed him into a celebrity for all the wrong reasons. When writing these types of news stories, reporters have to use their own moral compass to determine where to draw the line between invading privacy and providing information.

In the same way that Pistorious is accountable for his actions, reporters need to be aware of the impacts of their words when covering these sensitive issues. They have the potential to irreversibly alter the way in which the public perceives situations.

In this case, the work of news reporters has ensured that Pistorius’ achievements and success as the first double leg amputee to participate in the Olympics, will be forever overshadowed by this event.

theSkimm: The future of reporting?


In this digital age, there are a million ways to read the news: turn on the TV, go online, download an app, and even check your e-mail. The last option is becoming increasingly popular, with newsletter like “theSkimm” popping up.

theSkimm is a daily newsletter summing up important current events, written in a sassy tone to appeal to their target demographic, city-dwelling females ages 18 to 34.

The newsletter is simple way to stay up to date and the summaries are written in an interesting way that keeps their audience reading about topics they may not otherwise be interested in.

“We are reaching our readers in the way they want to be reached and they are making us a part of their daily routine,” said Danielle Weisberg, co-founder of theSkimm.

The newsletter’s motto is: “We read. You skimm.” This means that you don’t get all the facts. Still, we are a generation that wants everything fast, easy, and now, while needing to put fourth minimal effort to attain it. This is exactly what theSkimm gives you. It comes right to your e-mail’s inbox, so you don’t have to hunt down the information, and gives it to you very short and sweet.

So, is skimming going to become the future of reporting? If quickly reading over short newsletters were to become how everyone reads the news, possibly important information could be lost or withheld from our knowledge. Not every story can be summed up in one nice, little paragraph. More often than not, readers need background information and longer explanations to understand everything that is going on with complicated topics such as politics and foreign affairs.

For now, theSkimm seems to have no plans of taking over the reporting world.

“We’re really not a place for people to go to see breaking news and that’s been a luxury,” Weisberg said in an interview with the Huffington Post (

theSkimm continues to grow in popularity, reaching 500,000 subscribers this past July after existing for only two years. The future of news is changing, and it may be headed in the direction of theSkimm.

Responsibility for rising reporters


Have you ever seen the way a piece of meat is cut? The shredding and vicious motion? It is with great disgust that I parallel that to the tragic decapitation of American-Israeli journalist, Steven Sotloff.

I, along with hundreds of other unprepared Americans, mistakenly clicked that play button on Sept. 2. The memory of it still haunts me.

The horror of it all, the stark reality of the video forced me to take a step back and gather my thoughts: what do I do now?

Three years in at the School of Communication at UM and I feel I am three years too deep to go back. More importantly, I have always known I’ve wanted to be a writer. I’ve always known I’ve wanted to shed light on truth and step out of my comfort zone. I didn’t always know I wanted to be a war correspondent, but I did know I wanted to be an international correspondent. And I’ve always known I’m not the only one.

To the millions of you who are drowning in story leads and paper cuts, who are declared journalism majors and aspiring writers, I ask you: What roles will we play in the war? (Should there still be a war when we’re working journalists, that is).

Will our allegiances lie with the American audience or the global audience? And how will we set our priorities?

Ernie Pyle, a journalist for Scripps Howard during World War II, was assigned six months overseas in North Africa. With the humor of Mark Twain and a voice similar to that of Ernest Hemingway, he wrote personal, relatable columns about the GIs he came to live with. Eventually, he died alongside those GIs after being hit by Japanese machine gun fire.

“The Writing 69th” were the first reporters ever to ride shotgun in a bomber through a bombing raid over Germany during World War II. Robert Post of The New York Times died on that fateful mission.

In more recent news, James Foley and Steven Sotloff were both freelance journalists during the Syrian civil war when they were abducted for ransom and eventually used as chess pieces in an upsetting power play. Pyle, Post, Foley and Sotloff are only four of the hundreds we do or do not know about.

For the longest time, the war correspondent has faced conflicting morals. The question of responsibility in wartime has always lied between wanting to swim against the tide of public opinion and wanting to talk about the heroes and the patriotic highlights.

Now, I believe, that question of responsibility has changed to wanting to find the next big conflict to report to a global audience and wanting to maintain self-preservation and safety.

Julian Reichelt, a freelance writer who was in the same area as Sotloff on the day he was taken in Aleppo, admits that “all journalists in war zones operate on the assumption that bad things are what happens to other people.”

How far will we go anymore and what fuels our crazed quest to throw ourselves into the midst of chaos? More importantly, who are we throwing ourselves in the flames for? The majority of the American reporters in the Middle East today appear to be freelance writers. Is it for their country, or an international audience, or is it perhaps for themselves?

NFL handles Ray Rice scandal poorly


Ray Rice, who was a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, has been banned from the National Football League because of an incident that happened in an elevator when he knocked out his then-fiancée. I would now like to address how poorly the NFL has handled this situation.

It is not certain yet, but supposedly, the video of Rice violently assaulting Janay Rice (now his wife), was given to someone in the NFL office back on April 9.

When the video was supposedly seen by this individual, not yet by the media, the NFL’s punishment to Ray Rice was only a two-game suspension. Then, as soon as the raw footage got released by TMZ on Monday,  the NFL banned Rice. Therefore, it is being speculated that the league went (or tried) to go under the table here.

In my opinion, banning Rice from the NFL is an extremely lenient punishment for what he did; he should be grateful he is not behind bars. The NFL is trying to clear the situation up and see who saw what and when, but NFL spokesman; Brian McCarthy released a statement to CNN on this speculation.

“We have no knowledge of this. We are not aware of anyone in our office who possessed or saw the video before it was made public on Monday. We will look into it,” McCarthy said.

It is not a coincidence to me that, then, Rice’s punishment was only a two-game suspension when the media had not gotten hold of the video, then as soon as the media gets the video and a huge controversy arises over this is when the NFL decides to make a bigger move.

If this is the case, it will only prove that the NFL is solely about its money and has no type of ethics. The NFL sets the example for many different groups of people, even children, and the example it is setting right now is sickening.

I would argue that the NFL is in need of new leadership that will handle these kinds of situations in a proper manner and how they deserve to be treated.