Texas case serves as safety reminder


While I was trying to catch up with the weekly news, as I usually do during Sunday’s night, it was impossible not to read about a terrifying murder of an 18-year-old University of Texas student.

Haruka Weiser, a first-year theater and dance major, was last seen leaving the drama building Sunday night and was found dead two days’ later near the area of Waller Creek on campus.

The same information about the case could be found among all the different news media channels, even the same video was shown in order to help the police to identify the identity of the suspect.

Many emotional details and sentimental quotes about Weiser were attached, however, none of them provided family comments about the situation.

ABC News did a great job providing a timeline specifying how the events unfolded, according to the arrest affidavit.

The story ended up in the best way it could. On April 8, the police department announces that the killer, Meechaiel Khalil Criner, “had been taken into custody and charged with first-degree felony murder.”

This is not the first time a student has been killed. This is not the first time we read this type of news and this would not be the last time we get this type of sorties hitting front page because we are not doing anything about it.

Personally, I hate reading about murders, I don’t like the way in which news media  address the topic. We don’t need to know whether the victim was wearing her mother’s bracelet or if she had plans to meet with someone that night; those are personal matters that, in my opinion, should remain personal.

It is important for people to know about this cases, but it is even more important that the same medium provides alternatives of how to prevent them. A perfect story after telling the event’s facts would be to give tips for university students or even a story challenging the University to become involved to talk about its security measures.

Even though we may be used to this type of news, we also have the power to ask for a different approach, a better approach, a more useful approach.

No more social justice on Snapchat


You’ve probably heard about Snapchat but, for those who haven’t, it is a popular mobile app that allows you to send costumed videos and pictures, which will be self-destructed after a maximum of 10 seconds after the recipient opens it.

Snapchat is mostly a hit among teenagers though it is catching on and embracing new demographics every day. Updates are added to the application frequently in order to improve it and attract all type of publics.

In an attempt to draw more users, on January 2015, Snapchat launched a big project: “Snapchat Discover.” A new way to explore stories from different editorial teams who build storytelling formats that put the narrative first.

Fusion, a television cable, and satellite Hispanic news channel were part of Discover. For me it was the perfect fit, sadly, for some others it wasn’t.

Fusion gears its programming less towards the constant coverage of breaking news, instead, it emphasizes in context and analysis on news and issues, along with interviews, documentaries and long-form reports on current events, lifestyle and pop culture.

In a platform full of highly recognized media channels, such as CNN, ESPN, Vice, National Geographic, MTV, just to name a few; Fusion served as a door to social justice. A topic that is rarely portrayed, because when it is, it tends to be annoyingly slanted.

Fusion addressed its topics in a very sincere and real way, its writers had a very personal tone when writing, which let the readers connect with what was been told.

They knew when to talk about politics and selected only the most newsworthy breaking news when it was necessary.

Even though it did a great job with content and graphics, on April 1, the Fusion bubble disappeared from Snapchat.

Now every Discover Fusion reader is asking the same thing. If Snapchat built Discover for creatives, why did they take out Fusion without any announcement? Why do they left a platform full of the same news we are bombarded with every day?

Peace and Colombian coca crops


While reading the news on Monday morning, I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that The Miami Herald wrote an article about other important things happening in Havana, Cuba, something beyond President Obama’s visit.

The headline read “Will peace halt Colombia’s coca boom?” At a first glance you, probably, would never know that the article was about the peace talks grinding along in the island; but since I’m Colombian I knew right away so I kept reading.

The newspaper did a great job informing the public about the negotiation process, which started more than three years ago. The information was precise, truthful and without biases.

However, what surprised me the most was that instead of focusing on the breaking new the author, Jim Wyss, added a completely different angle to the story.

The fact that negotiators had set Wednesday as a deadline for a final peace deal, was mentioned, but the whole story demonstrates how the decision could affect farmers.

Throughout the story, Wyss proved the world wrong by portraying what farmers in Colombia actually want. The consensus among coca growers is that they want to be out of the business but, for that to occur, the government has to build roads, marketplaces and create an economic ecosystem where legitimate crops can thrive.

Sadly, while coca hurts thousands of people all over the world, it is also a survival crop for the majority of those farmers. Cesar Duarte, a Colombian farmer, is aware of that but he also thinks that “that’s worrisome, and that’s why we’re saying we no longer want to make our living growing coca.”

Even though the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) wasn’t out of the equation, the story didn’t take any particular side, instead, it served as a voice for a minority that is being highly affected by the situation and at the same time abandoned by its own country.

So media, somehow, allow us to have a voice.

World terrorized following Brussels


After a week full of politics, terrorism hit the news again.

This time, ISIS, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, sent two suicide blasts on Tuesday morning; one to Brussels’ airport and the other one to the Metro station.

Even though news channels still providing updates of the situation, at the moment 30 people were reported as dead and 230 were wounded in both attacks.

After Belgian police released a notice that includes a photograph of a suspect “wanted for terrorism,” it went viral. Not only news media exposed the image with the intention of collaborating with the country but social media also used it to promote a bunch of support hashtags. #jesuisbrussels, #prayforpeace, #prayforbrussels, are just a few.

The majority of the news media attributed the attacks to links of the city to extremism and terrorist plots and the recent capture of a terrorism suspect Salah Abdeslam in Brussels’s predominantly Muslim Molenbeek quarter.

Others blame Belgium’s intelligence and the lack of sharing important information with their citizens, but CNN made a completely different accusation. In it’s claiming “ISIS noted that Belgium is ‘participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State.’ Belgian warplanes flew 796 sorties and launched 163 airstrikes over Iraq from September 2014 to July 2015, according to the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, and were set to resume these operations this summer.”

What they intended to say is that Belgium, although it is the victim right now, is also responsible in some way.

However, for me, The New York Times is the newspaper with the best coverage. Updates are uploaded within every three minutes, what proves that they are completely committed to the situation. They also created a link where people with no idea about what’s going on can enter and rapidly understand the issue. Questions such as: What happened? Was it ISIS? Where is the investigation heading? Why Brussels? are answered.

What I found really intriguing is CNN’s attempt to add the political process in this hurtful scenario.

Is this the accurate time to do this?  Do people care more about what Trump thinks about the attack than human sorrow?

Maybe they do and that’s the reason behind these attacks; there are many humans but little humanity.

Time change and your health


It is that time of the year were just like blooming flowers and college breaks, another rite of spring is upon us: Daylight Savings Time, which started at 2 a.m. Sunday.

This past weekend, almost every news channel dedicated some time or space to this event; besides Hawaii, Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas, places where time doesn’t change.

Starting last Sunday at 1:59:59 a.m., clocks automatically turned to 3 a.m. making Americans lose one hour of sleep, but an extra hour of sunlight in the evening to take a walk, exercise, enjoy the outdoors or take a nap instead.

News coverage from various sources provided different theories about where Daylight Savings Time originated. CNN reported that the government started using it during World War I to copy the Germans, who were doing it to save on fuel. CBS News stated that Benjamin Franklin originated it. The Huffington Post reported that it started back in the 1800s with a New Zealander named George Vernon Hudson who proposed the idea specifically in 1895.

This might take away some of the credibility of the story, but since the origin of it wasn’t the main thing presented in those articles, that difference didn’t create a major problem.

However, what should be pointed out here is the way in which every news organization provided the same information about the risks of Daylight Savings Time.

Without getting too scientific and managing the medical jargon in a pretty good way, the news media explained to people what they are being exposed to and how they can prevent those issues from occurring to them.

Traffic accidents, racing electricity demand, an increment of strokes and heart attacks are just a few examples of the negative results from gaining one more hour of light; and these aren’t just facts. There are plenty of research studies and analyses that support those statements and this is what drags the public’s attention.

CBS News did an amazing job. The day before the clocks “spring forward” they released an article where they explained, simply but clearly, the five ways in which Daylight Savings Time messes with our health.

Each reason was supported with an expert quote or with a dated study and a picture to make it more interactive, it was both entertaining and professional.

CBS News coverage is an example of how things should be done. It addressed the topic from a creative angle, highlighted its importance and translated the tedious information into an ordinary and understandable language so people could enjoy and learn while reading.

Colombian journalist airs sex tape


Last week, Colombia faced a major wiretapping scandal, which led to the resignation of various public officials.

The scandal started when prominent radio host, news anchor and journalist, Vicky Dávila published a secretly filmed video of a 2008 conversation about gay sex between Senator Carlos Ferro and Police Capitan Anyelo Palacios.

She stated that she released the video as an attempt to expose alleged grave sexual misconduct within the National Police, a complaint that has been investigated by other journalists for months.

The content of the video was so strong that it immediately forced the resignation of Ferro,  vice minister of the Interior and National Police Director General Rodolfo Palomino, who had already been charged with sexual harassment.

After the scandal, the whole country, including the news media, was divided in two. People joined either one side or the other; there was no neutral opinion in this case.

One side believed that Dávila published the video in order to help the state with the investigation of the “Fellowship of the Ring,” an alleged gay prostitution network in the police force, which cannot be tolerated. People such as Dávila, those who supported the publication of the video, concluded that the information released served as a proof of the prostitution ring.

The other side, the one I support, claimed that the broadcasting and publishing of this extremely intimate video shows zero evidence of any involvement in prostitution; instead, it only publicizes private matters of professional politicians. Yes, the video proved that the former parliamentarian had had a relationship with a policeman, but it also showed that it would have been consensual.

How are we journalists covering things? Should our beliefs affect our objectivity?

Here is where the journalism’s role as the watchdog of the public interests at its heart should be brought into question.

Colombians might be interested to know where and with who their public figures sleep at night, but since this conduct doesn’t interfere with their assigned work, it should remain private. These persons should be judged by their professional performance, what they do for sexual pleasure, as long as it’s legal, should not be considered a public concern.

The pressure and comments from social media were so explosive that the video was removed from the networks and Dávila resigned as well.

So, did she have a genuine public interest in revealing this or was it something more personal? Despite the reason, journalists should be more careful with what they are publishing.

Words are powerful, they can contribute a lot, but they can also destroy; as Ferro, the victim of this whole story said: “I hope that justice can give me back the dignity journalist Vicky Dávila wanted to snatch from me.”

Personal stories are newsworthy, also


In our days, there’s a common thought about the lack of humanity among the news. People believe that the news media are only interested in breaking news about prominent or public figures. However, if we do a deep search we can find many news sites focused on real life stories about ordinary people.

CNN is one in many news channels that opens the door to its public to express themselves and share their stories, which are very interesting and touching.

In the case of CNN, there are established categories from which the person can choose to write about: Overcoming anxiety, your “Aha” weight-loss moment, how you found happiness or your journey to body acceptance.

At a first glance, the topics might seem a little controversial, but the way in which they are addressed tend to seek for social justice. The stories selected do not promote anorexia, unhealthy methods to lose weight or physical beauty as an important value; instead they ask people to tell their stories to help others to overcome this type of problems that were probably caused by societal pressures.

The assignments not only values people it also encourages them to serve as inspirational models.

Weight gain and obesity trends often make headlines, but many people have found a way to lose weight and get fit by healthy methods and this are the type of stories they are looking for.

Personally, I believe these testimonies are very useful and should be valued. We live in a world where instead of sleeping an extra hour per day, women decide to spend three hours and 19 minutes each week in front of the mirror.  I’m pretty sure that it is not to enhance their beauty, but because they don’t feel comfortable with themselves.

Instead of reading about Kim Kardashian’s new surgery, stories such as “how one woman learned to love herself” should hit the front page of every news channel because they really teach us how to recover from daily problems by natural, real and accessible methods.

‘Elephantizing’ profile pictures


Have you ever heard about the ivory trade? If you aren’t an animal activist, you probably haven’t.

News media have failed in the attempt of covering this type of issue, maybe because it involves a lot of international legal details or perhaps it is because they know very little about it.

Even though it isn’t covered enough, the ivory trade is still a huge problem for which every single person interested in giving humanity a better name should be interested.

Ivory trade is the commercial, often an illegal exchange of the ivory tusks of animals such as elephants, hippopotamus, walrus and mammoths. Ivory isn’t a necessary material, it is simply used to make decorative items. However, it’s estimated that 33,000 elephants are killed every year just for their ivory; and with the current rate of slaughter, they will be extinct long before the midway point of this century. How ridiculous, how inhuman!

Fortunately for us, social media not only has addressed the situation but has also created a powerful campaign in order to reach as many people as possible around the world.

As a response to the injustice committed against wild and innocent animals, WildAid, an organization that works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products, launched a new campaign last week: #JoinTheHerd and make 2016 the Year of the Elephant, with the intention of making 2016 the year when more elephants are born than killed by poachers.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 8.00.40 PMThe idea went viral, few hours after launching it, actors, musicians, authors, athletes and millions of people joined the herd by changing their social media profile picture for one that shows half an elephant and half the person’s face … now you know why your Facebook was full of elephants …

#JoinTheHerd had quite an impact, through it, we are being called to be advocates for change only by circulating information resources about the topic among our networks.

It is all very do-able, so let’s save elephants from extinction.

Seeking truth in the Middle East


My grandmother believed that we, the people of the “technological era,” are very fortunate. “You have access to every piece of information you want, INSTANTLY!” she said and she was right. What she didn’t notice was that sometimes the news media build a completely wrong image of something and mislead millions of people.

Sadly, this is a common problem when reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict. We have to admit it is a very difficult thing to understand, but that can’t be the excuse to portray inaccurate and misleading information.

It seems as a routine, anywhere in the world the news of a terrorist attack is always on the victim when the terrorist attack is in Israel news is about the terrorist dead.

CBS News report on Feb. 3, 2016, wasn’t an exception. “3 Palestinians killed as daily violence grinds on,” read the distorted headline, without mentioning that they were killed after attacking and killing a 19-year-old female officer.

Although they were shot dead at the scene as a matter of defense, readers of the news site will surely think Israel is at fault of the death of three “innocent” men, who were actually terrorists.

After causing a storm on Twitter and thousands of complaints, the headline was changed to: “Israeli police kill 3 alleged Palestinian attackers.” That’s definitely a better headline for the story that followed it, but it was insufficient to satisfy the police narration, which stated that the Palestinian men planned to use guns, knives and explosives during an attack near a holy site.

Surprisingly, this time, other news sites recognized for posting anti-Israel news, such as BBC, had neutral headlines: “Israeli border guard shot in Jerusalem attack.”

CBS didn’t issue any statement or response over the headline, however, the unsatisfied readers accomplished their goal victoriously and opened our eyes to make us realize that if the news media can’t choose the side of facts, we can make sure that the true story is told.

Use your voice!

Steve Harvey’s ‘terrible mistake’


For the first time in the history of beauty pageants, the host of the event received even more attention than the contestants themselves.

During the Miss Universe contest on Dec. 20, 2015, host Steve Harvey committed what we can call an epic “oops!” Live on air as he announced that Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez had won the title.

But the joy lasted less than five minutes. While the prettiest woman of the entire universe celebrated, Harvey apologized and announced that he had made a “terrible mistake.”

Colombia was the first runner-up.

What an error! A night that was supposed to be remembered for its culture, perfect bodies, smiles and beautiful women ended up being a story full of irate messages and conspiracy theories.

Social media exploded and everybody had a comment about what had happened. It smelled fishy to many. Some people thought it was a publicity stunt to get everyone talking about Miss Universe when normally no one (except Colombians and Venezuelans) would be talking about it.

Tweets suggested the competition needed a boost so it wouldn’t be difficult to conclude that the crown switcheroo was previously arranged. Vulture’s Joe Adalian, a veteran television industry reporter, said, “everybody wins here ….”

As critics continued growing, others accepted human error as a plausible explanation and asked people not to be so hard on Harvey.

The corporate news media didn’t wait much as well. They focused their resources on every thinkable angle on the error. It was an unusual and very newsworthy situation, but, in my opinion, the media failed this time.

The scandal not only drowned out other important news that happened both before and after Harvey’s “mistake,” but also narrowed the coverage towards two things: Miss Colombia and Steve Harvey; leaving behind who was the actual star of the show: Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach.

The funniest thing is that you may have NO idea who she is. Oh well! Then, let me do what the media didn’t; introduce you to Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, Miss Universe 2015.

At this point, a really good angle to cover this tremendous scandal would be asking Miss Philippines what she felt or how does she feel now. Give her more importance. At the end of the day, like it or not, she is the one who won.