The ‘unusual’ element found in news


On Oct. 10, “the most beautiful night” for Venezuelans took place in Caracas.

A group of girls showed their best looks to engage the jury and have the chance of becoming “Miss Venezuela 2013” and, therefore, represent the country internationally in 2014 in the Miss Universe competition.

After the night ended, Migbelis Castellanos was chosen as Miss Venezuela 2013.

This headline appeared in every newspaper of the country, Twitter and Instagram went crazy from the beginning of night to even a week after it happened.

Radio programs, TV shows and newscasts had the winner and the four finalists as guests.

For Venezuelans,  it seems everything else pauses on this night and they are able to escape reality for a while. This event is so powerful in this nation, that has the ability to unify a divided country.

During the “most beautiful night,” it doesn’t matter your political tendency or your social class, everyone is watching. Citizens are all happy to celebrate one more year of one of the things Venezuelans do best, beauty contests.

One of the elements of a good news story is unusualness. This element help journalists to chose whether a story is sufficiently important and interest to show the audience.

One thing is that the dog bites the man and another much different is that the man bites the dog. The first one is a normal behavior that might not deserve to be published by media because it’s a common situation, everyone already knows that a dog can bite a men. However, a man biting a dog its something rare that doesn’t happen often and society should be aware.

For journalists is necessary to find the right angle that develops that touch of uniqueness that can draw peoples attention and also gives society a valuable reason to hear the story.

The main purpose of journalism is to inform society of important things happening around the world that can affect them in some way or another. However, the way journalism functions varies from one country to another. This happens because each society, city and country is different; even each person is different and unique.

Journalism in Venezuela has become a rare thing and in the last five years has turned around completely.

This began with the nation’s political situation and censoring of freedom of expression. Venezuelan journalists in first place have to be very careful on how they communicate things without being subjective or biased by the government.

Another important fact is that with so many bad things happening every day, deaths, corruption, insecurity, bad economy, and more sad things have become the daily life, the common behavior of society. Headlines and news story are always about the same topics and normally are hard to digest.

This has caused a rare phenomenon that people have stopped watching or reading the news. They prefer to not be informed of what is happening.

I’m a Venezuelan and I can tell you how many times I have heard “change the channel or turn down the radio I don’t want to hear anything about the situation in Venezuela.”

People can’t be 100 percent uninformed. As much as a person wants to be far from bad news, the information will always come to you in some way or another.

We live in a world full of media platforms and news will get to you no matter what. Even trough the most basic form of communication, person-to-person communication.

The flip side of the Venezuelan situation is that when good things happen like the selection of the new Miss Venezuela, it becomes a rare situation and gets more attention than a political or economy story.

Normally, in journalism, a story like selection of the new Miss Venezuela might not even be published on the front page of a national newspaper or be the opening story of a newscast because it is not unusual, is something that happens every year.

The case of Venezuela shows how journalism varies depending on the needs of a society, and how something so common as electing a beauty queen every year can become an unusual news story.

Censoring freedom of expression


When we try to think in a country without freedom of expression, we normally think of dictatorial countries, such as Cuba and North Korea. However, these countries have been like this for many years.

Nowadays it is almost unimaginable to think that a democratic country will censor freedom of expression, and therefore freedom of the press just because some of the news organizations and journalists don’t share the same ideas as the government.

Unfortunately, Venezuela has been dealing with the censorship of freedom of the expression because of the political problems existing at the present time in the country.

When Hugo Chavez to office, he claimed to be a democratic president. But, during the time he has been in office, he created his own movement called the socialism of the 21st century. At this moment, people who were in favor of a democratic country became to realized that Chavez was leading the country to a dictatorship.

Suddenly the country separated in two sides. “Chavistas” who were in favor of Chavez, and the opposition who are against the government.

Chavez saw the opposition as a threat and he started closing private entities as well as the media that put in evidence the government acts.

Journalists have the important job of reporting information as it really happen, without being subjective or leaning to a preferential side. However, it is okay for a news organization especially in politics to be sympathizer with one political side, as long as they report accurate and truthful information.

In paper, Venezuela claims to be a democratic country, but in practice they are as close as possible to be a dictatorship like Cuba.

In 2007, the Chavez government closed RCTV. For the first time, one of the major national channel was closed for exposing horrible but truthful acts of his government.

After that, he used the channel for governmental matters where he will put programs that will taught the country about his socialism and will brutally attack the opposition.

More channels, radios and newspaper closed for not sharing the same ideas that the government has, and with this more protest in favor of the freedom of expression started to happen, however; it was useless.

Just two months ago, during Maduro’s term, Globovision, which was the last opposition channel standing, was forced to be sold to the government.

The only channel that was still fighting to speak the truth and freely express opinions was taken by the government.

This occasioned the resignation of the entire crew of journalists that were against the selling and the new morals of the channel.

The channel was practically empty, as empty as the country was of journalist that weren’t afraid to speak about the government in broadcast and print.

Thankfully, social media and Internet access isn’t prohibited yet. Now prominent Venezuelan journalist inform through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogs. Also there has been a rise of web programs that can be seen through any device with Internet access.

Nowadays, it is really hard to censor an entire country just by taking away channels, newspaper and radios. Social media has become the voice of a country and its almost unstoppable, even in countries like Venezuela where speaking the truth is a matter of life and death.

The new social media journalism


Social media have become so powerful that it seems information travels faster than light.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many other major networking platforms have made their users active journalists.

Nowadays, people comment and publish pictures of events as they are happening worldwide and sometimes this helps news organizations to gather information and even law enforcement organizations to solve crimes.

A real example of the roll of the “new social media journalists” was the explosions during the Marathon in Boston last April. In the efforts to capture the suspects, people were asked to send their pictures and videos of the finish line area where the two bombs exploded in order to see if the suspect could be identified.

Along with law enforcement and the pictures and videos sent, the suspect was successfully identified.

Not only was the role of the “new social media journalists” helpful to find the suspects, but it also helped news organizations to gather their information during that hectic afternoon and evening.

In moments of panic, when different bombs exploded killing and injuring several individuals at a major event like the Boston Marathon or the more recent Washington, D.C. Navy Yard mass shooting, it gets really difficult for news media to get as close as desired to report what is happening. Also it’s almost impossible to gather accurate information when nobody knows what is happening.

In this case, journalists rely on the pictures and information that only the quickness of social media from persons and witnesses already at the scene can provide.

Even though social media should be a place to begin the news gathering of any story, in moments when time is gold, its acceptable to use it in the most accurate way to provide the audiences the right information as fast as possible.

Since social media offers public information, journalists use it more and more.

In traditional journalism, social media wouldn’t have had a role because it’s really hard to confirm the information. However, the fast, modern lifestyle that people have also requires instant information that social media offers, despite its flaws.

Social media affect all kinds of public figures and events. Now news organizations cite tweets from Twitter, video from YouTube, and posts on Facebook. Media even use pictures that might be published on these networks. Now a tweet is sufficient evidence to start a controversy.

Because social media is really powerful, it must be use really carefully. All the information found in this medium must be confirmed and used accurately without disregarding the truth.

The line between right and wrong


A few weeks ago, United States commemorated the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Every year, the minds of the world remember that day as one of the most horrible tragedies that happened to this country.

The job of a journalist is to communicate accurately the major events that impact society on one way or another. No matter what is the story, a journalist must find the most effective and objective way to report it.

In an utopian world, people won’t have to deal with the sour moments of life. However, this is impossible and mankind must be prepared to face difficult moments.

Usually, in the moments of a collective tragedy two things can happen. A country breaks apart and doesn’t recover from it or people form an union to overcome the situation.

In the case of the 9/11, the whole country briefly shut down and the people formed a union to overcome the tragedy.

Because of this, journalists must be prepared to deal with tragedies and know how to transmit the real facts, without causing more tension in moments of panic. We saw the need for this again in Washington, D.C., and in Nairobi, Kenya, in recent days.

Media have such power that it can harm an individual or an entire society just by publishing the wrong picture.

In addition, information travels so fast that it seems a phenomenon of ubiquity.  Now information is everywhere.

This is a demonstration of the enormous responsibility that the news media carry on their shoulders.

In a world of diversity, the ethics have created a path that journalists can use to guide themselves in the decision of publishing graphic pictures or even strong language.

Each news organization has its own journalistic values and it will have different reasons to decide whether to publish a graphic picture or not. And the profession itself has set its standards through codes of professional standards and ethics.

The Miami Herald will have a different perspective on a graphic picture than the Sun Sentinel.

It is also important to evaluate the news value of a picture, because people depend on what journalist report and how they document reality.

Journalists are also human beings and they act differently under varying influences. However, when it comes the time to decide whether to publish a picture of a person, for example, falling from the World Trade Center, the decision must be based on the person’s own guidelines as well as our professional values and the decision should be free from outside influences.

In contrast, it could be argued that a strong graphic picture might attract a great quantity of viewers. However, ethically speaking, journalists should minimize harm at all cost.

Some of the things that get published can have a negative effect on some individuals. People can be harmed by what they see, even more when they deal with death, pain and traumas.

This is an endless topic. Communication is a human act, and therefore it cannot admit perfection. This means that the most thoughtful story will be submitted under the judgment of the masses. For obvious reasons, the judgment can’t be unanimous.

Some people will acclaim a publication, and there will be others who will critically disapprove the same exact publication.

Only one thing is for sure, you can’t please everyone. Act responsibly and thoughtfully.