North Korea curbs commentary


Kim Jong-un got fat.

According to the South Korean National Intelligence Service, the North Korean dictator has gained around 40 kg (about 88 pounds), and it has not gone unnoticed on various social media platforms in China, such as Weibo.

The weight gain spawned nicknames like “Kim the Fat,” “Kim Fat III,” “Kim Fatty III,” and “Kim III half-moon,” according to Stephen Fottrell’s blog on BBC. Needless to say, the North Korean government was not amused.

Chinese media outlets have censored readers’ comments to appease the North Korean government.

“The North Korean authorities have formally demanded that media, government officials and people from the mainland must not address leader Kim Jong-un in the future as ‘Kim the Fat,'” Hong Kong’s Apple Daily said.

“They are terrified the tyrant will find out about the insult and look for someone to blame,” Fox News World claimed.

Diplomatic relations, particularly peaceful relationships with neighboring nations, is essential in this day and age. However, when does censorship for the sake of political niceties hinder the function of media as a watchdog and critic of the government?

While it is unfortunate but true that citizens of other nations do not enjoy the same rights to freedom of speech and freedom to criticize the government that U.S. citizens do, the internet has begun to give citizens a voice in countries where traditional media is more tightly controlled by the government.

This censorship is a step back for journalism as well as freedom of expression in China. Citizens are unable to comment on or voice disapproval for Kim, even if it is merely centered on his appearance. Media has resumed its submissive role to the government by sacrificing the opinions of citizens to pacify a foreign dictator.

Election trumps paralysis advancement


The development of a wireless connection between the brain and spinal cord has enabled monkeys with paralysis in one leg to walk again without being hooked up to a computer, scientists reported Wednesday.

Though the information must still be processed in a computer, the new technology has made the device wearable.

This scientific achievement shows great promise for future treatments for paralysis in humans that could potentially extend beyond paralysis of merely one leg.

The discovery is by no means a miracle cure for paralysis but is a key development in the rehabilitation process due to its strengthening of the remaining connections between the injured limb and spinal cord.

David Borton, of Brown University, developed the wireless sensor with colleagues while doing doctoral work, according to James Gorman’s article in The New York Times.

This advancement is pivotal in the treatment of spinal cord injuries, so why isn’t it front-page news?

The simple answer: Donald Trump was elected president of the United States.

After scrolling through several pages of articles, this one barely caught my attention because of the small headline and haphazard placement. A discovery that could improve millions of lives in the future was trumped (pun intended) by the sensationalized concerns of today.

Many Americans are thrilled by Trump’s election, but others fear for the nation’s future. If Americans are so concerned about the future, why isn’t an article with potentially life-changing results given more attention.

Out of all the major news organization, excluding scientific journals, The New York Times and CBC News were the only organization to cover this story so far.

News media should spend more time covering medical discoveries and developments that are constantly progressing and advancing rather than dwelling on circumstances that cannot be changed.

Yes, a presidential election is an important historical event that should be covered in the news. However, it should not dominate news to the point where other important stories are ignored almost entirely.

Trump: American vs. Russian coverage


Donald Trump, who is quickly becoming one of the most controversial presidential candidates to date, is not always represented in a positive light in American news media. However, the Russian news media seem enamored with Trump’s outrageous behavior and unprecedented campaign strategy.

Trump’s policies are often overpowered by his cult of personality and American news media end up dedicating more time to covering his contentious antics and rowdy yet fiercely loyal supporters.

With the exception of Fox News, most major news organizations condemn his attitudes toward women, foreigners and Muslims. Since accusations of Trump sexually assaulting women hit the press, U.S. news media have had a difficult time focusing on anything else.

Even student news media at American universities, which typically ensure both liberal and conservative views are equally represented, are swaying from their neutral positions and writing critical pieces on Trump’s bizarre and offensive outbursts.

The Yale Record published a satire, You Dumb Motherfuckers, By James Madison, referring to Trump as a “misogynistic turkey leg that somehow escaped the state fair, fell into a bale of hay, and inexplicably managed to bankrupt six companies,” and shuns the American public for dismantling the safeguards put in place to protect against an “insane demagogue [who] might incite a populist rebellion.”

Even The Miami Hurricane has made the editorial move to officially endorse Hillary Clinton because of Trump’s inability to serve the generation about to enter the job market and shortcomings that are “dangerous, indisputable and increasingly evident.”

“Trump promises to create jobs but built his own career by destroying others’,” TMH editorial board wrote. “He promises to bring jobs back to America, yet his businesses shipped them overseas.”

Russian media, however, praises Trump, particularly his pro-Russia stance. Russian government paper Rossiskaya Gazeta apparently finds his outbursts and offensive dialogue refreshing compared to Clinton’s socially conscious statements, as Steve Rosenberg of BBC News pointed out in Russian media’s love affair with Trump.

“The political coup against him has failed,” Rossiskaya Gazeta wrote. “Trump’s speeches are unpretentious, without the kind of hypocritical political correctness of the conservative establishment.”

In stark contrast to American news media, Russian media presents Trump as the far more sensible candidate in this year’s election.

“I officially declare that Clinton is a cursed witch,” Russian MP Vitaly Milonov said in Komsomolskaya Pravda. “That’s why even a funny guy like Trump looks more reasonable in comparison.”

When public opinion is heavily reliant upon the picture the news media paint of the candidates, this discrepancy could turn into a diplomatic relations disaster, depending on the results of the election.

CNN spews celebrity gossip


Kim Kardashian West was robbed at the No Address Hotel in Paris on Oct. 3. News media speculated the robbery was motivated by Kardashian West’s flaunting of her wealth, particularly a 20-carat diamond ring, on social media.

screen-shot-2016-10-27-at-7-32-04-pmKardashian West has kept a low-profile since the incident, particularly on her many social media pages, leaving fans concerned.

The robbery was old news until hotel employee Abdulrahman, who preferred to use only his first name for security reasons, sat down with Entertainment Tonight and claimed he believes the thieves were after money, not jewelry.

With this new evidence, apart from the impressive haul and Kardashian West’s celebrity status, the incident sounds like your average, everyday robbery.

As expected, entertainment media have dedicated a lot of time and effort in thoroughly covering the case since celebrity gossip is what their audiences want. Even if the incident had been far more minor, voyeuristic interest would still tempt readers to pick up a copy.

But why are news media, which typically focus on hard news, such as CNN, still covering it?

Across the nation, this year’s unprecedented presidential election has caused citizens to question party values. In North Dakota, hundreds are protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. In Indiana, a 25-year-old mother overdosed in her car with her 10-month-old son in the backseat.

With all the newsworthy happenings of the world, why is a nonviolent robbery worth mentioning on a hard news site, regardless of the celebrity status of the victim?

It goes without saying that a robbery is a terrifying incident for the victims and should be taken seriously by authorities and the news media. However, the personal distress it causes a victim doesn’t automatically warrant newsworthiness.

Kardashian West should not receive special treatment or coverage by media, unless that medium’s focus is entertainment and celebrity gossip.

Rather than dredging up old events the public is already aware of, news media should focus on educating readers on the various far-reaching events taking place around the globe.

Bob Dylan wins Nobel Prize in literature


Bob Dylan received the prestigious honor of the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. Dylan is a far cry from the Swedish Academy’s typical choice, being a commercially successful musician instead of a high-brow, lesser-known writer with a strong political or social message.

However, when you take away the vocals and instrumentals, the lyrics left on the page bear a remarkable resemblance to poetry. The Swedish Academy recognbob-dylanized this and treated it as such.

Many see this award as a broadening of the standards of literature, expanding the category to include music and potentially other untraditional art forms.

“The old categories of high and low art, they’ve been collapsing for a long time,” music critic David Hajdu said in a New York Times article, ”but this is it being
made official.”

Although many are praising the institution for expanding its literary horizons, others are not so pleased. Many people from the literary world voiced their disapproval on social media.

“I’m a Dylan fan, but this is an ill conceived nostalgia award wrenched from the rancid prostates of senile, gibbering hippies,” Scottish novelist Irvine Welsh wrote on Twitter.

Both The New York Times and the BBC included this tweet in their articles on Dylan’s win. For the sake of objectivity, news media are obligated to include the opinions of those in disagreement with the Swedish Academy’s choice.

But does this publication of disapproval stifle evolution of the arts?

After receiving such backlash, the chances of reverting to the old method of separating high and low forms of art may resurface, causing a step back in this artistic progression.

Instead of immediate criticism, perhaps the news media should take a moment to appreciate the significance of this award and what it means for the future. Dylan’s talent and individuality was finally recognized, and, for the sake of future generations, the news media should acknowledge this accomplishment to the same extent that they have noted the disapproval.

Students neglect danger and party


Windows are boarded up, families have fled their homes and the entire nation is glued to television sets, smart phones and computers to stay updated on the latest news of Hurricane Matthew.

hurricane-matthewThe United States hasn’t been hit by such a strong, dangerous hurricane since Sandy in 2012, so inevitably concern is growing throughout the nation, even in areas not directly impacted by the storm.

Many news stories have warned citizens, especially South Floridians, of the danger of their apathetic attitude. A category 4 hurricane seems obviously threatening to most, but South Florida is frequently plagued by tropical storms, complete with high winds and immense flooding.

President Obama and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have encouraged Americans living in coastal Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to leave their homes, warning that apathy and unwillingness to leave could cost citizens their lives.

However, there is little being said about college students during this time.

Universities along the southeast coast, including University of Miami, the College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina University and University of South Carolina, have closed for the remainder of the week. Schools have encouraged students to evacuate if possible and are taking various precautions to ensure the safety of those who remain on campus.

Many college students are far away from friends and family dealing with a situation that is totally foreign to them. Plenty of students, particularly Midwesterners, have never lived through a hurricane and are utterly unprepared and overwhelmed.

Although the panic and stress this may cause is worrisome, the lack of preparedness and underestimation of the severity of Hurricane Matthew is far more concerning. Classes are canceled, assignments are postponed and students have more free time than ever.

What does that mean? It’s party time.

Media have neglected to cover the added danger that excessive alcohol consumption and drug use will undoubtedly cause during this disaster. Everyone must keep their wits about them during a crisis, and neglecting to do so by binge-drinking and going out in inclement weather may be fatal.

By neglecting to mention this issue and its potentially fatal side effects in the news, media are allowing this attitude to endure, even proliferate. Many young adults are unaware of the severity of a hurricane, so peer pressure and fear of missing out (FOMO, as the kids are calling it these days) are driving students to engage in risky behavior that is unwise even under the safest environmental conditions.

News media should pay more attention to college and university students to remind them of the possible consequences of hurricane parties and discourage them from taking part in unnecessary and life-threatening activities.

#normalizebreastfeeding gains attention


On Sept. 22, Cindy Boren’s article in The Washington Post labeled a woman as an inspiration for pumping breast milk while running a half marathon.

Anna Young completed the Revel Big Cottonwood half marathon in Salt Lake City on Sept. 9, her first race since giving birth to her daughter five months prior.

“I thought it would be something the breastfeeding community would appreciate, but I had no idea I would get such a strong reaction. It’s been mostly positive and I’m grateful for that,” Young said in her e-mail to The Washington Post.

Breastfeeding, whether publicly or privately, has recently caused a social media frenzy, with the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding popping up on Instagram and Twitter. Women have shared empowering photos of breastfeeding and created a supportive community for breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.

However, not everyone is expressing overwhelming support for this movement.

Six days later, Kristine Guerra wrote an article for The Washington Post about a man who punched his wife in the mouth after a male doctor witnessed her breastfeeding her newborn in the hospital.

According to a police report, Rafael Orozco became jealous and enraged when his wife exposed herself to feed her child, causing him to punch her and grab her neck. He even slapped the infant on the head before he was confronted by hospital staff.

The Washington Post has done an excellent job presenting both viewpoints of this issue while still remaining neutral in its reporting. However, when does neutrality for the sake of journalism wind up preventing change?

American women have many freedoms and privileges that women in other societies around the world couldn’t dream to have themselves, yet we are still encouraged to be embarrassed of our bodies and their life-giving functions.

With the outward support of respected mainstream news media, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, society can rid itself of this idea of openly and confidently breastfeeding as taboo. News media are meant to be the voices of the people and progress is unlikely without their involvement.

Say goodbye to Brangelina


After more than a decade together, celebrity power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie separated on Sept. 15. According to CNN, Jolie filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.

Though the pair were only married for two and a half years, they share six children, three biological and three adopted.

Brangelina fans around the world were shocked and craved more insider information. Millennials feed off of the latest celebrity gossip and entertainment news, but where should entertainment news media draw the line when it comes to delving into the relationships and breakups of celebrity families?

Whenever children are involved, divorces always seem to be messier. But how will constant publicity and prying eyes play a factor in the couple’s ability to divorce peacefully?

Many celebrities go to great lengths to keep their children out of the spotlight and give them a “normal” childhood. However, the Jolie-Pitt children will have even more difficulty coping with their parents’ divorce than ordinary kids with headlines plastered on every front page and media website, from tabloids in supermarket checkout lines to media alerts and twitter feeds.

“I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the well-being of our kids,” Pitt said Tuesday in a statement to CNN. “I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.”

Unfortunately, I doubt reporters and paparazzi will take the pleas of this concerned father to heart.

So why do tabloids and even reputable news organizations, such as CNN and the New York Times, continue to report on celebrity divorces, regardless of the strain placed on the families, especially children, involved?

The answer is simple: money. News media organizations need revenue to survive and more eyeballs mean more ad revenue.

The news media are driven by the public’s voyeuristic interest, but coverage of private lives, even of public figures, seems incredibly invasive. In the case of Brangelina, not only are the media dragging the private details of a celebrity relationship out into the open, but they are taking innocent, and potentially unwilling, children along for the ride.

With this breed of celebrity news taking over, it’s easy to forget that the media’s original role is to act as a watchdog on government and serve the needs, not merely the wants, of the people.

In sickness and in health


Ah, the pursuit of the American Dream. Are any of us immune to this disease? The BBC doesn’t seem to think so.

In light of Hillary Clinton’s appearance at a 9/11 commemoration despite her pneumonia diagnosis, the BBC decided to pick apart the tendency of Americans to forego sick days and even paid vacation days in order to impress bosses who could potentially further their careers and to avoid missing a day’s salary.

In the U.S., we see this dedication to achieving our goals as normal, admirable even. However, BBC News reporter Brian Wheeler points out that, from a European perspective, this tendency is foolish and, at times, dangerous.

Wheeler reported that EU nations “guarantee 20 days’ paid leave a year, plus public holidays,” and, perhaps more importantly, European employees are not afraid to use them.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with loving and being dedicated to a job or career path, but when do the costs of this sacrifice overwhelm the benefits?

Wheeler mentioned how the outbreak of the norovirus vomiting bug at Chipotle was the result of employees coming into work sick rather than missing a day of pay. Were American policies concerning sick leave more lenient or generous, employees would not be forced to put themselves and others at risk in order to eke out a living.

Wheeler made a clever and strategic move in this article. By starting out with mention of Clinton, with election news being all the rage at the moment, Wheeler was able to spark a conversation about American paid-leave policies.

But is that what media must resort to today? It is disappointing to say the least that it takes a public official having a medical emergency at a well-covered event to start a conversation about an issue that has been placed on the back burner for years.

Perhaps, instead of focusing all our attention on the people fighting for a leadership position in which they can solve the nation’s problems, we must invest more time in discussing what those issues are and why they are important.

Cold case or today’s news?


Declaring missing Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student Kristin Denise Smart dead 14 years ago after her 1996 disappearance, the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, along with the FBI, reopened her case Tuesday.

After receiving a tip relating to Smart’s disappearance, authorities once again plunged head first into the investigation. Investigators have pinpointed three spots around campus, where she was last seen alive, that they plan to dig up in an effort to find her body.

The news media coverage of this case poses an interesting question: What is the fascination with reopening cold cases?

Anyone who has ever waited in line at the supermarket has seen it. Whenever a case goes cold, media are determined to continue reporting and updating stories. Tabloids and newspapers release articles and updates about the JonBenét Ramsey case all the time, despite her disappearance occurring almost 20 years ago.

So who is at fault: the news media or news consumers? If no one was buying the tabloids featuring cold cases with so-called new evidence and insider scoops, the media would have no choice but to cease reporting on them.

So this places fault on consumers who eat up that type of news and sensational stories. But, then again, aren’t they simply reading what the media put out there?

It’s only human to strive to find answers and receive closure, especially when it comes to losing a loved one. But when does reopening a cold case go from a burning desire to find answers and keep up to date on the latest gossip to pouring salt in a wound that was finally close to healing?

Perhaps, rather than drawing attention to old news, media should live in the now and keep things as current as possible. Not only would this give families the opportunity to grieve in private, but it would also inform the public about current rather than past events.