Yik Yak gets wrong kind of use


Founded by two college grads in 2013, Yik Yak is an app commonly used by college students to post anonymous jokes and gossip that wouldn’t be shared otherwise. However, what was seen as a fun way to interact, actually turned out to be a mean of verbal abuse and threat to many.

This Tuesday, a student from the University of Missouri was arrested after posting threats and racist commentary on Yik Yak.

Nineteen-year-old Hunter M. Park said he was going to “stand (his) ground and shoot every black person he saw.” Consequentially University of Missouri was able to identify him through his device’s IP address and arrest him on the next day.

This is not the first time Yik Yak faces problems with threats and harassment.

Similar posts happened in the following universities:

  • Charleston Southern University – threats of mass shooting – November 2015
  • Emory University – threats of mass shooting – October 2015
  • American University – racist commentary – October 2015
  • Florida Atlantic University – threats of shooting – September 2015
  • Clemson University – racist commentary – January 2015
  • Kenyon College – threats of violence and sexual assault – October 2014

Whether the app is good or bad, lies on each person’s opinion, however something has to be done about the students that post such comments and what causes them to behave in such manner.

Removing the app from the market or banning from school areas will not decrease harassment, racism and threats. The problem is much greater and concerning than a mere phone app.

Something is wrong, and as bad as it may seem, Yik Yak actually help us realize that something has to be done. Be it good or not, Yik Yak will remain the same, what has to change are the users themselves.

Censorship alive in the 21st century


“I don’t think there has been a worse time for freedom of expression in Spain since the death of Franco,” said Juan Pedro Velazquez-Gaztelu, former El País journalist.

Spanish newspapers and journalist have watched the industry restructure and shrink in the past years. As debts increase, Spain’s most established papers have lost their editorial independence and have watched advertising revenues decrease under the rule of a conservative government.

Known as the “gag law,” individuals who post videos of political protests or amateur videos of public officers will be severely penalized, and in the case of journalists or papers, fired or fined.

As government control increases and revenues decrease, freedom of expression in Spain has been questioned.

“Newspapers are no longer led by their editors, but by chief executives who are worried about accounts and trying to maintain good relationships with those in power,” said Pedro Ramirez, a journalist who was fired from El Mundo.

According to him, newspapers are no longer doing their job as watchdogs, and in turn are giving in to political pressure and editorial restriction.

To think that established journalists are being censored and kept from doing their job worried me. Not only because its what many of us in class aspire to do and become, but merely for the same of the news and truth.

As a matter of fact, our generation and modern society are defined by the fast flow of information, and highly educated and aware individuals — if not that, at least the easy access to news and information. Hence, how is it possible that in a first world country, journalists are being penalized for reporting the truth?

Where did the news go?


Access to news has increased significantly worldwide as new, high technology devices and social media became the main platform for news dissemination. Not only is it a current and immediate news outlet, it allows its users to become aware of the latest global events in a matter of seconds.

However, does all of this speed live up the the news’ worth?

As The New York Times posted in its latest Opinion section, the news media are sliding toward thinner coverage and ever-shorter “news-nuggets” of information. Despite the increase in number and variety of news platforms, all of them are characterized by small and impacting headlines that try to summarize the latest news in a few words — that is, as long as it fits on one’s phone screen.

Sadly to newspapers and to those passionate about journalism and the beauty of unveiling the truth, news, in the 21st century, is being summed up to 10 word tweets and quick Facebook posts.

Development and growth depends on informed, critical individuals who seek information and aren’t “in a rush” to scroll down to the next post. Knowledge comes from content, however how can it prevail if the interests have shifted and news is being trimmed to devote more time and space to pop culture, celebrity gossip, and the latest trends?

Maybe what we know as “news” is changing. Maybe its time to re-define our roles as journalists, or at least, time to figure out a new place where the role of “informants” truly meets people’s needs. Whatever it is, where did news go?

What do we know about Bin Laden?


This week’s New York Times Magazine caused quite a stir among renown contemporary journalists. Jonathan Mahler’s cover “What do we really know about Osama Bin Laden” raised many questions about the circumstances involved in bin Laden’s death and the veracity of the “stories” told at that time by the CIA and the American Government.

In Mahler’s story, not only did he retell the story of bin Laden’s death from a different perspective, he also added Seymour Hersh’s point of view on what truly happened.

Mahler begins his article by narrating the series of events that took place at the The White House the day Obama announced bin Laden’s death. Within the first few paragraphs of his article, Mahler boldly contradicted the story told by the CIA regarding bin Laden’s whereabouts and addressed the story told by the White House as “another example of American mythmaking.”

“It’s not that the truth about bin Laden’s death is unknowable,” stated Mahler. “It’s that we don’t know it. We don’t know what happened more than a half-century ago, much less in 2011.”

According to Mahler, the CIA’s years of painstaking intelligence-gathering to find bin Laden’s hideaway was only a polished and flattering version of the truth. Based on Hersh’s previous publications mentioned in Mahler’s article, bin Laden’s location was revealed by a retired member of the Pakistani intelligence who received a $25 million reward for the information. Thus, in Mahler’s view, bin Laden was never actually “hiding,” and the false story told by the media successfully fooled the majority of not only Americans but anyone around the world who followed this noteworthy “event.”

Minutes after the article’s publication, journalists from The Washington Post, The Times and other newspapers fired up social media with criticism and their opinion about this controversial cover story.

While The Times‘ national security reporter Eric Schmitt believed the article “struck a nerve among national security and foreign policy reporters like a few he saw in his three-plus decades at the paper,” others like Jim O’Donnell of Tempe stated that “its the strangest article (he) has ever read in The Times; an extreme case of the story that asserts a wholly indefensible proposition by covering the heck out of a marginalized figure.”

Whether factually, morally or socially accurate, The New York Times must have had substantial reason and motive to bring back to life such delicate issue and to approach it with a rather radical and “conspiracy-based” theory that would naturally cause controversy.

As a matter of fact I believe The Times boldly refuted conformities and proved independence from any sort of institutional and/or governmental control through this article – an aspect of journalism that has been greatly questioned and debated in the 20th century.

A new perspective on the debates


CNN produced a virtual reality version of last Tuesday’s presidential debate telecast and succeeded at what many major media companies have been competing to do since Samsung’s GearVR technology came out.

Not only was this real-time streaming a milestone for CNN technologically speaking, it was also a wise marketing choice. Despite the record 980,000 online viewers, around 73 countries logged onto the VR live stream causing the debates on CNN to be ranked as the #10 cable program with the greatest audience – behind college football games on ESPN and the Fox debate last month.

For the new VR technology streaming, two cameras were installed near the questioners, allowing VR viewers to see how the candidates reacted to each other. Another camera was placed right behind the candidates’ podiums and a fourth camera was embedded in the seating area. With this, anyone with the VR app or the VR headsets had a priviledged 360-degree view of the debate.

According to DJ Roller, co-founder of Next VR and CNN’s partner for the live-stream,“You’d probably get attacked by the Secret Service if you tried to get as close as these cameras! With VR each and every viewer has a seat in the room and a new perspective on presidential debates.” 

Journalists often face danger on the job


Journalism has always been a praised and honorable profession, but to what extent can it continue serving its purpose if it implies a life-threatening outcome to those who practice it?

According to the United Nations Human Rights Council, 1,055 journalists have been killed worldwide in the past 22 years and 80 have already been killed in 2015.

Many may think that this number is due to the risky situations journalists put themselves in, however figures compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists show that journalists and reporters are murdered because of their profession.

Also known as “Death Watch” journalists, they are deliberately targeted and murdered either because of their reporting or simply because they are journalists.

The most recent death happened in Virginia recently where a former WDBJ7 employee shot dead a reporter and a cameraman for WDBJ7, a local CBS affiliate, live on air. The shots could be heard on footage taken by the cameraman before he dropped to the ground.

However, what worsens the situation is that many of these murders outside the United States and other Western nations are investigated and in almost 90 percent of cases no one is prosecuted. In other words, impunity is increasing the risks of this profession and media freedom has been decreasing with every shot fired against a journalist and/or reporter.

Despite the agreement that holds each nation responsible to ensure their journalists’ safety and the protection of media freedom, clearly journalists haven’t been acting of safe ground and daily suffer with the “death watch” label.

Not only is this a matter of respect but also of the implementation of legal frameworks to create an environment where not only journalists but any one can practice their profession in peace.

Twitter boosts TV audience, appeal


Recent research conducted by Twitter revealed the importance of real-time tweets for the popularity and audience of broadcast and cable television.

New and rising media outlets such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Buzzfeed, and other online news and search engines have grown among all generations causing television to lose much of its prominence and value in the past years.

However, a new research made by Twitter revealed that Twitter and other social media platforms can actually increase the interest for TV shows and programming and drive a greater audience to take action regarding a specific TV show.

According to Twitter’s global media and agency research director Anjali Midha, the talk about TV shows and its programming on Twitter strongly influences mainstream media as well as consumer attitudes and behaviors.

“There are actionable strategies and tactics that can help both programming content and advertising work harder by tapping into the power of their audiences,” said Midha.

In other words, through TV related posts on Twitter, advertising agencies, directors, anchors, hosts and all others responsible for television programming, gained a real-time access to the audience’s opinion about their work and thus are able to create and deliver material that directly meets the public’s expectations and needs.

Results from the research show that in 2014, 93 percent of Twitter users had a cable subscription and that 85 percent of people active on Twitter during prime-time hours Tweeted about TV. Also, every show with a hashtag integration, had a significant 20 percent increase in tweets per minute about it.

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 12.24.09 PM–> Tweets about Television has influenced the audiences to:

– Take action on a show’s social media sites – 52 percent

– Search the show online (through Google, Yahoo, etc.) – 47 percent

– Follow TV show or talent on Twitter – 46 percent

– Search show on Netflix – 43 percent

– Plan to watch show later – 42 percent

Finally, with this increase in viewership and brand engagement, Twitter is reshaping the ‘TV landscape’ and ironically preventing television from becoming obsolete in an era where social media has taken over.

Social media enhance cultural activism


Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim, was handcuffed and arrested on Monday for taking his homemade alarm clock to school in Dallas.

Claiming that “it wasn’t immediately evident that Ahmed’s clock was a class experiment”, police officers and Ahmed’s English teacher accused him of terrorism for creating what they thought was a fake bomb.

Besides revealing the evident Islamophobia that prevails in many people’s judgments of Muslims in America, this incident also reveals how social media are used as a powerful platform geared towards social chance and activism.Screen Shot 2015-09-17 at 4.58.12 PM

Within one day after the incident, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg and thousands of others immediately showed support for Ahmed and expressed their indignation towards the negative stereotypes and racism that greatly occur in our contemporary society.

More than 100,000 tweets and the hash tags #IStandWithAhmed and #engineersforahmed were trending worldwide by Tuesday morning as well as the school’s Facebook page was filled with criticism.

Seeing this, not only in Ahmed’s case but also in many others related to racism, social media have proven to be one of the greatest platforms to promote justice and equality. And, despite the negative aspects and controversial ideas that may also rise among its users, social media can and have been used for a greater good.

As controversial as it may seem, one can’t deny that in many current cases social media has been crucial in promoting social equality and bringing people together.

Brazil’s media morals — Facts vs. news


One of the greatest and most admirable roles of the news media is to unveil the truth and shine light on hidden and misrepresented facts. However, news media and journalists don’t always honor this role.

Many times what we call news is actually a warped story written on behalf of one’s economic, personal and social interests.

Born and raised in Brazil, I have seen this happen daily on television and other media outlets as the country undergoes a severe and aggravating political and economic crisis.

Amidst the rising wave of opposition against Brazil’s current government and its leader Dilma Rousseff, Rede Globo, the country’s main over-the-air broadcasting network, clearly took its side with the opposition.

Last month, Globo’s director Erick Bretas quoted singer Bob Marley, saying “Get up, stand up” on Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to encourage people to be a part of the uprisings in favor of the president’s impeachment.

In addition to that, Globo interrupted its transmission schedule and left almost 100 percent of its reporters on duty in order to bring about a greater attention to the outbreaks – an effort not seen in Globo’s coverage of other events of the same and/or greater magnitude.

Despite my beliefs that Dilma’s government is highly flawed, corrupt and is headed in the wrong direction, the way these events have been covered by the country’s main TV channel, as well as the statements posted on behalf of its staff have clearly shown bias and a lack of professionalism.

As a matter of fact, I do agree that the country is collapsing in Dilma’s hands, however her impeachment and any other uprising should never originate from the media or be manipulated by it.

Regardless of a specific economic, political and social scenario, media outlets should maintain their integrity and honor their role as informants, not opinion-makers.