And the Pulitzer goes to . . .


In January, the Pulitzer nomination of The Washington Post and the U.S. edition of The Guardian for their reports on Edward Snowden and the NSA leaks caused a controversy. But Monday, the two news organizations actually took home the 2014 Pulitzer award for public service.

The Pulitzer board said The Post and The Guardian U.S. were awarded the prize for “authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.”

The Pulitzer Prize is one of the most prestigious and sought-after awards in journalism, literature and photography. Not only is expert reporting and writing involved for journalism, but the story must also be something that matters.

I’ve noticed there is often a discrepancy between stories considered newsworthy and stories that actually matter. For example, usually has a few trending topics, most of them national or global topics that are indeed relevant for a few days. Then there are a few feature stories, usually more lighthearted but have that bizarre element to them that makes them newsworthy.

There are also those random stories about the latest developments in a celebrity’s private life that in my opinion really shouldn’t be trending on CNN. Because that kind of story begs the question…

Who cares? Does it matter? Maybe. But does it really?

I don’t care, personally, but I realize that a lot of the nation does care and, in the end, that will likely determine what is newsworthy. Whatever gets hits on the page, or eyes glued to the TV screen.

This is another reason why it is not at all typical to see celebrity gossip on a website for a print newspaper like The New York Times or The Washington Post. They’re trying to focus on stories that have lasting impacts, while CNN is trying to capture the viewership of society on television. Thus is born the divide between print and television journalism. I’m not trying to say that either one of them is wrong or that one of them is more entertaining.

I’m just saying that a television news website probably won’t win a Pulitzer.

‘Game of Thrones’ audience skyrockets


First, I have to start out by saying that I have waited years to be able to actually write a school assignment regarding “Game of Thrones.” So I will try my hardest to stay unbiased and keep this post about the media. (No promises.)

Sunday marked the season premier of the fourth season of the show, with more than 6.6 million viewers tuning in on HBO. The final count was 8.2 million after viewers watched the reruns on HBO Go.

“Game of Thrones” has steadily increased its viewership since its inception in 2011. Additionally, it is the most successful HBO show since “The Sopranos.”

In this digital age, the media have to measure audiences in a variety of ways. Not only do they record the number who tune in to the show “live,” but also the reruns, on-demand services, and streaming services such as Netflix or HBO Go.

Did I mention that the amount of viewers watching HBO Go crashed the server?

Yeah. It’s that good.

What is interesting about “Game of Thrones” is that it is exclusive to HBO. It cannot (legally) be watched anywhere else. So that means, all 8.2 million viewers who watched the show Sunday night paid for it.

In an earlier blog post, I agreed with the notion that consumers don’t care about the platform they receive the entertainment from, as long as they receive it. However, I was mostly thinking about platforms that are free.

A total of 9.3 million viewers tuned in for the 10th season premier of ABC’s top rated show, “Grey’s Anatomy.” And that show is broadcast over the air. Viewers don’t even have to have cable to watch it.

Thus, “Grey’s Anatomy” grossed just more than a million viewers beyond that of “Game of Thrones,” even though it’s free to watch.

Apparently audiences are willing to cough up the dough for uninterrupted access to their favorite shows. This can also be seen from the success of subscription based entertainment companies such as Netflix, which has been used more widely for streaming than actually sending DVDs, its intended purpose.

So what is it that is making “Game of Thrones” so incredibly successful?

It may have to do with the fact that HBO Go allows audiences to watch the shows available on HBO on-demand, albeit an hour later than the live premier (but who watches live now anyway? Well, except for the 6.6 million who tuned in to GoT live, of course).

However, most television shows have a live premier and some sort of service similar to HBO Go that allows the episode to be watched later so that it can count toward the audience measurement.

To me, Game of Thrones is almost certainly the exception, not the rule for HBO viewership. The makers know they have something so great that people will pay HBO to watch it.

And, the reason for that has an exceedingly simple, irrefutable, probably-not-media related answer: “Game of Thrones” is awesome.

How Aereo could change television


Since its debut in February 2012, Aereo has been a bone of legal contention among big broadcast networks. Aereo is a subscription-based service which allows users to stream live and time-shifted over-the-air signals to virtually any device — television, cell phone, or tablet.

The big names in broadcast television, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox, expressed animosity toward Aereo, claiming that the service violates copyright laws and undermines the long-standing tradition of cable companies paying retransmission fees to the networks.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear the case beginning April 22, 2014.

However, some small and independent broadcasters (SIBs) and low power TV stations recently claimed that they back Aereo. They enjoy the exposure that Aereo gives their businesses.

Some of these stations told the court that they “depend heavily on such user-friendly viewing technologies to reach audiences, especially audiences who may not have viewing equipment, cable, or satellite television.”

The fate of SIBs is in the hands of the Supreme Court. If Aereo is found to not violate copyright laws (meaning their streams are not found to constitute as public performances), it could be a game changer.

No broadcast networks have ever really been able to compete with the “Big Three” with the exception of Fox, which came onto the scene in 1996. Since then, even with the availability of news from other platforms, the four biggest networks have reigned supreme.

But, if Aereo allows for streaming at a rate cheaper than cable, the large networks may lose some of their power. This is not to say that SIBs will trump the media giants, but they will definitely have the opportunity to offer a little competition.

Additionally, it is interesting to note that cable and broadcast networks were at odds when cable was first introduced. Aereo may create an alliance against a common foe. Both networks and cable companies will lose money and audiences with Aereo, and at least cable networks pay retransmission fees to the networks.

I personally doubt that the Supreme Court will find Aereo legal, unless networks and Aereo work out some sort of retransmission deal.

On the other hand, if Aereo is approved, the way we watch television could change forever.  In today’s digital age, few care about the platform of entertainment or information as long as they get it, which makes the convenience of Aereo an increasingly appealing option.

America’s not-so-Secret Service


Recent antics of the U.S. Secret Service are no longer so secret ….

Three agents from the Secret Service were sent home from Amsterdam after one was found passed out drunk in a hotel hallway. And their activities have become international news.

An investigation is underway and the agents are blamed with “not doing more to prevent another embarrassment” for the Secret Service, as two years ago they suffered a scandal in which agents brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Cartagena.

Among protecting high profile figures such as the president, the secret service also investigates crimes like counterfeit and credit card fraud.

White House Spokesperson Jay Carney said, “Generally, the President believes … that everybody representing the United States of American overseas needs to hold himself or herself to the highest standards.”

Thus, the three Secret Service agents were sent home as a disciplinary measure. Rightfully so, since their actions were somewhat shameful to the country.

However, isn’t it also a tad shameful for the news media to blatantly broadcast the incident? If America is really concerned with protecting the reputation of the Secret Service, it seems to me that they would like to keep the disciplinary measures “on the down-low.”

The federal government and president could’ve likely dealt with the three agents privately in order to avoid drawing attention to the scandal (that is, if one could call it a scandal compared to the one in Cartagena).

Of course, journalists are all for exposing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so it doesn’t surprise me that this story came out. That being said, I do think that exposing the weakness in a prestigious government agency might be unwise in a climate of international political unrest. It is suspected that the recent disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight may have been an act of terrorism.

I’ve usually leaned towards abridging some rights when safety is involved, but I realize how fine that line is.

Perhaps exposing the scandal will force the Secret Service to clean up their act. Freedom of press can often have a “watch dog” effect on the government.

And now that I think of it, I don’t want a sloppy Secret Service.

The obsession with Flight 370


After Malaysia Air flight 370 went missing on March 8, the news media have been obsessed with finding it. Every TV station, network, and website offers viewers new developments, clues, and even theories at any opportunity.

The story even has celebrities captivated — Courtney Love chimed in tweeting a picture of the ocean with what appears to be oil on the surface that she thought might indicate where the plane landed. (Her theory was later rejected by crowdsourcing site,

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 4.57.17 PMAirline issues are often in the news, from excessive airport delays to mechanical difficulties and, unfortunately, sometimes a plane crashes. However, none of these stories make the top story of news websites for 11 consecutive days.

What makes this story so interesting is the mystery of it all. Audience attention has raised many questions: Why did the plane veer off course? Who was responsible? Was it an act of terrorism or simply a freak accident? And more importantly, why is this plane so hard to find it?

So far, many of these questions have been unanswered. The flight appeared to be on the correct course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing until all contact was lost at 1:22 a.m. The Royal Thai Air Force radar and the Malaysian military radar were able to track the plane turning west over the Indian Ocean toward the Strait of Malacca.

Investigators theorize that the plane was intentionally steered off-course, but still have no working knowledge of the plane’s final fate.

I think it is rare and particularly interesting that a story is picked up while it has more questions than answers. It doesn’t even lend itself to news coverage well, as there is no footage of the actual plane. Newscasters can only offer the new developments and interview aviation experts, occasionally throwing in some b-roll of the Indian Ocean or the aircraft tracking system. The story has become slightly more conducive to television with the background checks on the pilots and interviews of family members. In this particular case, the lack of answers is actually what causes the story to not to be newsworthy, but to stay newsworthy for so long.

However, though Flight 370 still remains a mystery, what is not a mystery is how much the families of the missing must be suffering. The story is both a mystery and a tragedy, and as the story develops, I truly hope that the media gives due respect to those who are personally affected by it. At times it is easy to become enveloped in the conspiracy and suspense, but the media must also remember that the 227 passengers lost is more than just a number.

Uproar against ‘upskirting’


The highest court of Massachusetts ruled Wednesday that it was not illegal to take photos up the skirts of women without them knowing. And the decision is getting a lot of news media attention today.

Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Margot Bostford of the said that these “upskirt” photographs were not technically against the law because technically the women were not nude or partially nude.

The ruling was based on the court case about Michael Robinson, 32, who was arrested in 2010 after being accused of taking cell phone photographs and videos up the skirts of women while riding Boston transportation. Police arranged a decoy operation that caught Robinson in the act. Wednesday’s ruling reversed one by a lower court that denied Robinson’s motion to dismiss the case, according to CNN.

After the decision was announced, social media exploded against “upskirting.” Citizens claimed the right to privacy beneath their own clothing.

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A slew of prosecutors and lawmakers disagree with the decision and are trying to change the law, agreeing that the technicalities of the law violate the spirit of protecting privacy.

It seems like the Massachusetts court system has some explaining to do.

Right now, the state has various wiretapping laws in place. According to the Digital Media Law Project, it is illegal in Massachusetts to secretly record a conversation, whether in person or by another medium. All parties must be informed of the recording in a conversation or telephone call. If the parties do not wish to be recorded, they have a right to leave the conversation.

But, it is legal to secretly snap photos of their underwear.

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll give my consent to be recorded on tape rather than have someone sneak a few photos up my skirt without me knowing. Of course the privacy of conversations is important, but how can the courts assume that undergarments aren’t private too?

“Upskirting” is not only a violation of privacy, but also demeaning to women. Upskirters (if that’s a word now) should be aware that if they get caught, they may not be charged with violating privacy, but will likely be slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit.

What goes up, must come down, just like the law on “Upskirting.”

Violent backlash against Google Glass


The latest innovation from Google, the Google Glass eyepiece has recently caused quite a stir regarding the recording function of the device. Sarah Slocum, a tech writer, was allegedly harassed at a San Francisco bar for recording people with her Google Glass.

According to Slocum, the “Google Glass haters” gave her an obscene gesture, after which she turned on the record function of the device. She told them she was doing so and one man “ripped the Google Glass off [her] face and ran out of the bar.” The others reportedly robbed her of her phone and purse.

It is probably important to remember that the incident took place during the last call at a punk rock bar where the beer was flowing and the common sense was probably not. Still, it is interesting to note that both parties involved in Slocum vs. the “Google Glass Haters” reacted violently over a video recording that lasted barely more than 10 seconds.

We live in an age where many breaking news story videos are footage shot from a cell phone camera. The ease of Google Glass — portable, hands free, no fumbling for buttons — opens a whole new realm of opportunity in the digital age. The GoPro camera that straps onto objects such as a helmet is also hands-free, but the Google Glass allows for complete control of what is being captured. Although it would not be desirable for quality video in news, in a pinch, it could become any news-gatherer’s dream.

So what is causing the backlash with the public? How is recording on a Google Glass any different than whipping out a cell phone to take a quick video?

Some argue that it is because people can’t tell if they are being recorded or not. Google Glass advocates refute this by saying the Glass has a red light that turns on to indicate that it is recording.

Perhaps it is the fact that the Google Glass seems invasive by nature. The device can go wherever its owner goes and people find that type of technology more threatening than a video camera or even a cell phone.

Or maybe it’s because the Google Glass right now looks something reminiscent of a sci-fi flick.

I personally think that what it boils down to is that people are uncomfortable that they can’t easily see what the Google Glass is doing (as if it isn’t hard enough to get someone’s permission to be recorded anyway). The red recording button does exist, but it is small and definitely inconspicuous compared to a video camera or even a cell phone.

Bottom line, I think it is important to be upfront about recording people with any recording device. Google Glass is an amazing piece of technology, but the people pioneering its integration into society need to recognize the privacy concerns that arise with it.

Because if you’re ignorant about that, you’re bound to get your (Google) Glass kicked.

Ugandan president signs anti-gay bill


Last week was full of proud declarations of homosexuality from prominent names and an overall positive reception from the media and society.

Early in the week, University of Missouri football lineman and potential top draft for the NFL, Michael Sam, established himself as the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL.

Citing Michael Sam as a “hero,” Actress Ellen Page came out as a lesbian on Valentine’s Day during a speech she gave in Las Vegas.

Both celebrities have received much support from fans and LGBT organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign. Social media exploded with congratulations and encouragement.

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Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a bill prohibiting homosexuality.

Homosexuality is already illegal in 78 countries around the world, including much of Africa and the Middle East. Seven of these countries punish homosexuality by the death penalty. In Uganda, homosexual acts are punishable by 14 years in prison. Even organizations or individuals who reach out to counsel homosexual persons can face imprisonment.

President Museveni said he was persuaded to sign the bill, not out of political, but scientific, motivations. He claimed legalizing homosexuality poses “serious public health consequences” according to his scientific advisers.

Musevini’s advisers also assert that homosexuality is an “abnormal behavior” and not something a person is born with.

In the United States, the controversy of gay marriage legalization is always in the news media. It seems to be the “will-they, won’t they” issue of the century.

Whether or not same-sex marriage is legalized in our country, maybe it’s time to pause and enjoy the freedom of expression guaranteed to us by the Constitution.

Despite overwhelming support from the LGBT community, both Page and Sam undoubtedly received a backlash from certain anti-gay groups. Unfortunate though this is, at least they never have to face imprisonment, violence, or unemployment that the few openly gay Africans struggle against.

In my opinion, how a country reacts to the homosexual community demonstrates its degree of progressiveness. The support for LGBT causes is increasing in the United States today, especially with the younger generations. Although the gay marriage controversy remains murky, almost any American would at the very least agree with a person’s individual right to be gay.

Personal opinions aside, from a legal standpoint, Americans uphold all anti-discrimination rights. The matter of whether homosexuality is a choice does not even apply, because everyone is guaranteed the right to express him or herself.

President Obama said that if Uganda’s president passes the anti-gay bill, it will complicate relations with the east African nation. President Museveni decided to push through with the law, opting to uphold the country’s “morals” despite losing international allies.

How “moral” is it to alienate, penalize,and even torture a citizen for how he/she chooses to express love?

Uganda’s government’s behavior demonstrates unacceptable treatment of not just to the gay community, but any group. When this kind of expression is severely punished, it becomes an issue of human rights and dignity.

It’s too soon to tell how relations with Kenya will pan out after the bill passes. However, it seems from the outcry of international responses that most of the world is ready to defend the homosexual community and freedom of expression.

Weather news no longer boring


The No. 1 thing people are told not to discuss if they are worried about appearing boring is…


If you guessed correctly, congratulations. You could’ve just won a round of “Family Feud.”

Weather is generally accepted as one of the most mundane small-talk topics known to man, reserved to be spoken about only as a last resort.

However, lately weather has been the topic on everyone’s lips and on every news platform.

What causes a boring topic to catapult to the front page of every paper, lead story of television newscasts, and the home page of every news Web site?

The answer is the bizarre factor.

Winter storms in the north and northeast will be mentioned in the local paper, but won’t usually receive so much as a blurb in national news. But when a few inches of snow paralyzes the entire metropolitan area of Atlanta, the weather certainly makes headlines.

Atlanta became a classic example of Murphy’s Law when the storm hit. Traffic stopped resulting in 20-hour commutes, children were held overnight in their schools, citizens were encouraged to stay home and off the roads. The nation’s ninth largest metropolitan city, the headquarters of CNN, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and even the Weather Channel, was unable to respond efficiently.

Reporters went wild. After all, it’s not every day that the south gets snow, and it’s not every day that a city actually shuts down over two-plus inches of it.

The problems caused by the weather were so extensive that reporters continued to follow the story after the icy situation had been resolved, analyzing who was at fault for Atlanta’s inefficient emergency response system.  The buzz created even extended into this week. Reporters Wednesday wrote stories spectating on Atlanta’s reaction to another incoming storm before it even hit.

Though this week’s storm was more severe than the one prior, it appears Atlanta learned its lesson from the “Snow-pocolypse.” People have been staying off the roads and government buildings and schools were closed well in advance to avoid the traffic.

Whether the weather-obsessed reporters had to anything to do with Atlanta’s much cleaner response to storm number two is up for interpretation. My guess is that Atlanta didn’t want to be the recipient of northern ridicule again.

Snowden nominated for Nobel prize


One man’s criminal is another man’s … Nobel Peace Prize nominee?

Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency contractor, is now taking refuge in Russia after leaking classified NSA surveillance information. Snowden faces felony charges including espionage and theft of government property in the United States.

While he faces severe punishments in his homeland, some foreign governments have a more positive outlook on the situation. Norwegian lawmakers Bard Vegar Solhjell and Snorre Valen announced Jan. 29 on their website that they nominated Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize.

According to Solhjell and Valen, Snowden contributed to peace by “revealing the nature and technological prowess of modern surveillance.” They also said that they recognized the damage to security he may have caused, and noted that they “do not necessarily condone all disclosures.”

Snowden isn’t only up for awards in Norway.  His leakage of 1.7 million classified NSA records also won him the title of International Newsmaker of the Year by editors at Postmedia (fun fact: a close second was the royal baby.)

So, what is Edward Snowden? A whistle-blowing champion of free information or an unpatriotic traitor to the United States?

This is where the line between the freedom of the press and protecting national security becomes inherently fuzzy.

On one hand, Snowden did shed light on shocking information previously unknown by most Americans. According to his information, the government had monitored the phone calls of nearly every American and used surveillance for foreign leaders and terrorist organizations.

Most Americans will likely forgive terrorist surveillance, but recoil at the notion that their own phone calls were tapped. This information made public by Snowden allowed Americans to express their opinions regarding invasion of privacy by the government. Perhaps Snowden should not be punished so harshly for reporting questionable government actions.

Then again, maybe ignorance is bliss.

When it comes to the topic of national security, civil liberties have oft gone unprotected (Does the phrase “clear and present danger” ring a bell?). Many NSA officials now claim that the security of the United States has been threatened due to the leaked information from Snowden.

Thus, the age-old argument of how free freedom is continues. Does the freedom of the press protect revealing information that could potentially threaten a nation? Is it a journalist’s ethical duty to disclose the truth?

The answer is not, nor will it ever be, concrete. However, Snowden has created quite a stir with his NSA file leakage. No matter how noble the intentions, in my opinion, the commotion he caused should win nearly any award but the one for “peace.”