The media’s gender problem


The representation, or lack thereof, of women in the news media has long been a subject of concern. Now, new research is showing us the severity of the situation.

The Women’s Media Center examined 27,000 pieces of media content and discovered that 63 percent of it was distributed by men and 36 percent distributed by women — an almost 2 to 1 difference.

Perhaps not surprisingly, liberal news sites like the Huffington Post almost break even with the gender ratios, while conservative ones maintain a gap; is written 62 percent by men and 38 percent women.

In our progressive time, it is appalling that there is still such a large gender gap. Polarizing gender roles in this way has a detrimental effect on society, purporting stereotypes and hindering us on our road to equality.

Throughout magazines, television shows, movies and advertising, women are more likely to be shown in the home or as sex objects than as hard-working contributors to the business world. We need to stop portraying women in this way as it negatively influences the young people that consume media.

We need to continue forging the path to equality by increasing the presence and changing the portrayal of women in the media.

4/20/14: Marijuana has progressed far


April 20 served as a day to celebrate marijuana and has long been an integral part of pot-culture. As the holiday comes and goes, it remains as a marker for how far our nation has come in the acceptance and legalization of the plant since the date has come around in past years.

Colorado legalized recreational marijuana four months ago and, in that short time, the state has generated $14 million. Denver’s crime rate has decreased, proving the pot opponents wrong who anticipated a drastic increase in crime.

Medical marijuana is making progress even faster than its recreational counterpart, as Maryland becomes the 21st American state to legalize its use. Even conservative regions like the Deep South are opening up to harnessing the plant’s medicinal value, with Alabama signing a measure to allow medicine derived from marijuana.

Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica made international history as he legalized marijuana for his country — creating the first national pot marketplace. Mujica was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, partly because of his legalization decision.

Perhaps our nation has finally realized the financial potential that the legalization of marijuana brings with it; an estimated $105 million in annual sales tax could be generated in California alone.

A total of 58 percent of Americans now say they favor legalization, as opposed to only 12 percent that supported it in 1969. Marijuana is proving itself in the US, and it seems like it’s presence will only continue to grow.

Ultra: Hype and disaster


Ultra Music Festival is one of the largest EDM music festivals in the world, attracting more than 330,000 people from 80 different countries in 2013.

Advertisements, pictures, videos, blog posts and shoutouts for Ultra are found virtually everywhere on the Web when the festival approaches, but after this year, it is still in the news even after it’s completion.

With all the financial success, Ultra this year also brought its fair share of tragedy: a security guard was trampled and left fighting for her life with brain hemorrhaging and a broken leg, and a 21-year-old man mysteriously died. The news media are being flooded with these and other stories, bring this question to Miami’s authorities: Should there be an Ultra 2015 held in Miami?

The Miami Herald hosts a link on its website to a poll, asking, “Is hosting large festivals worth it?” and reports that both Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff are trying to end the festival’s presence in Miami. Emotional stories regarding the trampled security guard’s family continue to use the media to deter Ultra 2015 from happening in Miami.

Will they be successful?

Inaction leads to avoidable child deaths


Prescription drugs are killing Floridia’s kids, thanks to irresponsible parenting and little help from the Department of Children and Families (DCF).

Since 2008, more than 120 children have died in Florida after DCF was told their parents were abusing prescription drugs. And 82 percent of these kids were under 2 years old.

The children died in horrible and preventable ways; from ingesting pills that were left around to being accidentally suffocated by their drug-influenced parents laying on top of them.

News coverage of the deaths has led to a great deal of criticism for the DCF, which has been doing a poor job of monitoring and punishing neglectful parents. The agency’s advice to addicted parents is simple: Stop doing drugs and take a parenting class.

Elizabeth Rydborn, whose five-year-old daughter Ashton died of a toxic combination of pills, was investigated three times before Ashton’s death. Rydborn admitted to DCF that she had a “major problem” with meth, which she tested positive for as well as amphetamines and marijuana. DCF did nothing.

Hopefully the attention these deaths are finally receiving will force the DCF to improve, and save children’s lives.

Syrian war turns three — and worsens


The crisis in Syrian, now approaching its third anniversary, is not getting any better, as a village in the central Homs Province was seized by government forces on Saturday.

The village, Zara, is located near the Lebanese border and was previously held by the rebels. After weeks of gruesome fighting, the government has finally gained control.

Control of Zara is important to the Syrian government for the town’s large Sunni Muslim population-as the majority of Sunnis have supported the revolution-and because the town is another gain for the government’s quest to secure the Syria-Lebanon border.

This border is practically nonexistent, however, as Lebanon continues to be pulled into Syria’s war. Lebanese Sunnis and Shiites alike continue to pour into Syria- each fighting for different sides.

The civil war has taken more than 140,000 lives and more continue to be taken every day in battles themselves as well as other terrorist attacks. 2.5 million Syrians have already fled the country.

About 60 miles south of Zara, a town called Yabroud is now being targeted by the government forces. Another town on the edge of the Lebanese border, Yabroud is rebel held and has reported heavy aerial attacks.

Media fuel marijuana movement


Medical marijuana is now legal in 20 states across America — with two of those allowing recreational use — and the number is continuing to rise.

With 58 percent of Americans supporting the legalization of marijuana, this statistic is miles away from what it is was decades ago. What is contributing to this rise in acceptance?

Perhaps it is the media, as many Hollywood blockbuster movies show characters using marijuana. From Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in “50/50” using pot medicinally to ease his life with cancer, to Paul Rudd and Leslie Manns’ characters in “This is 40” eating pot cookies on a weekend getaway, marijuana use is being portrayed much differently and with much more acceptance than it was when “Reefer Madness” was released in 1936, for example.

Many TV shows depict marijuana use in this same casual way. It was an integral part of the plot of “That 70’s Show,” for example, as the show documented the main characters frequent use of it and subsequent laughs and adventures experienced because of it. Shows like this continue to influence the younger generations to see the use of marijuana as harmless and socially acceptable.

The Internet is another way support for legalization is being created. With countless websites dedicated to advocating marijuana, it is easier than ever for people to share their opinions and search for statistics, research and studies done on the subject.

For better or for worse — the general consensus is better — the media and Hollywood are fueling the fire that is marijuana legalization.

Social media and political scandals


From  Anthony Weiner’s sexting to now Chris Christie’s lane closures, social media plays an influential role in how we as a country respond to scandal.

In previous years, one would simply hear about scandals on the news — a few times if they were big stories—and forget about them. Now, with the rising use of Twitter, Facebook and other blogging sites, Americans are able to replay, analyze and discuss issues over and over again.

The Internet creates an atmosphere where nothing can be hidden and everything is displayed and public. Anthony Weiner, for example, became an Internet sensation (and joke) when the Congressman was caught sending explicit photos to women. The Internet made it impossible for people not to hear about the scandal and provided a place for people to ridicule and discuss the issue as much as they pleased.

Chris Christie’s role in the closure of three lanes on George Washington Bridge in New Jersey is a trending topic on many Internet sites; from talking about the 91-year-old woman who died during the lane closure, to disclosing the e-mail Christie’s assistant sent out incriminating their involvement. In my opinion, the use of social media will make it impossible for him to recover from a scandal like this because it causes the story to be so widespread and widely discussed.

Social media makes it possible for Americans to give attention to any issues they like, and its influence is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Future of news … Is it in our hands?


As newspaper circulation drops, more and more people are turning for the Internet for their news.

Online subscriptions to newspapers such as The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are on the rise, but online papers aren’t the only place news-hungry people are turning to for their information.

Blogs, Twitter and Facebook are increasingly turned to for updates on the current state of affairs. With approximately 87 million tumblr blogs, one billion active monthly Facebook users and Twitter’s 20 million users that send almost 400 million tweets per day, it is abundantly clear how social media is transmitting news and information.

Many actual journalists use these tweets and Facebook updates in their stories as information, which can potentially lead to misinformation since these sources are not fact-checked and could possibly be unreliable. But, they could also be spot-on and a great asset.

The rise of social media has led to a rise of self-created journalists and journalist assistants, if you will.

The news isn’t in our hands now, but right at our fingertips.

Celebrity obsession: Is it really news?


The story of Justin Bieber’s DUI arrest was a news and entertainment media frenzy.

From newspapers to magazines, TV shows to social media, it was impossible not to be bombarded with information regarding the scandal. Why is it that the story of a teenage boy being arrested in Miami is front page news for days? How has our concept of “journalism” and “news” come to focus on what many see to be an unimportant event?

These questions have a simple answer. Bieber’s story was such big news because of the size of his following—millions and millions of tween girls. As one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, his every move is documented and analyzed, providing whoever writes about it with a plethora of internet hits or TV views.

However, does every young girl in America being in love with Bieber constitute America’s most prolific and respected news organizations to dedicate so much of their time and effort to covering the story of his arrest?

Perhaps incidents like these are a sign of changing times, of our society as a wholes’ obsession with social media and through that, celebrities. Twitter has more than 230 million active users, with 100 million of them logging in every day. The accessibility of Twitter allows many users easy access into what used to be the private world of celebrities.

Thanks to social media outlets like Twitter, it is becoming increasingly common for people to become celebrity obsessed, particularly in the case of Justin Bieber. With almost 50 million Twitter followers who are quick to defend him — in the case of his arrest — or target his potential girlfriends—actress Selena Gomez received death threats as did model Cailin Russo — Bieber’s followers are an enthusiastic bunch.

Through our obsession with social media, we are cultivating a society that is obsessed with celebrities and “celebrity news”. This category used to stand on it’s own, differentiated from regular news. Perhaps now the two are merging. Perhaps, for better or for worse, we are redefining what is truly considered “news.”