Indie Journalism thrives in Brazil


Last summer a wave of protests occurred in Brazil. These protests resulted
in a group of “indie journalists” coming together to report the events under the name Ninja (an acronym that stands for Independent Narratives Journalism and Action in Portuguese).

The group started gaining a lot of attention for their unscripted and uncut videos as well as pictures, which put reporters in the shoes of the protesters.

Ninja’s photos show what the police barricade looks like from ground level and they are close enough to see the expressions on the protesters faces: happiness, fear, pain. We see something in the protest that is much more human. By this I mean we are seeing an up-close experience, opposed to a distant look that shows everything, but still reveals nothing.

It’s like watching a security tape of a robbery versus being the cashier there while the robbery occurred. You know what happened, but you can’t quit grasp the emotional content.

I think that this is why Ninja gained so much momentum. We are drawn to what is familiar to us, what we can relate to; and that is not a far shot of streets and people.

Ninja is able to draw audiences in because they show why we should care. They expose us to real people and show us truth, rather than tell us. This is a quality I believe professional news sources would benefit from adopting in moderation.

Advertising in news reporting


Product placement isn’t a new concept in advertising.

Most of us see the giant Coca-Cola glasses in front of “The Voice” judges — that are most definitely not inconspicuous- and accept it for what it is. But would people be more sensitive to product placement or advertising in general if it were integrated into our news?

There was a time where advertisements made up a majority of the newspapers. Those who could read would grab a paper and the lead story may very well be that Greg is finally selling his old goat. Well maybe not; but the point is over time we have moved into wanting to know less about what our neighbors are selling and more about what is going on in the world around us.

We also have evolved to wanting our news to be honest. By this, I mean most people want their news in its purest form, unscathed by other opinions or influence. We want the facts.

However, advertising could be creeping its way back into our news sources.

I’ve noticed a trend in online news reporting where a company will tag its name onto a story. For example, you will read “insert headline here: brought to you by T-Mobile.” A tag line like this is to be expected from cites like Buzzfeed, maybe the Huffington Post; But CNN?

As a student majoring in advertising, I admire the idea to sponsor a news article. Especially for T-Mobile to sponsor one focused on technology and cell phones; it’s a great way to reach their target audience. However as a journalist student I don’t know if I support the advertisement. I think by having a company sponsor an article news and advertising move towards becoming too intertwined.

If the two begin to mesh more I can see problems with people not being able to distinguish facts from exaggerated advertising, or the message of the news being lessened by the distraction of an advertising campaign.

In my opinion, while the tag lines don’t seem to be an issue now, the integration of ads and actual news articles could lead to issues and will be an interesting development to follow.

The Golden Rule for TV news


Recently I watched a newscast where there was an abrupt shift between a package covering different theories on what happened on flight 370 to another announcing that Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher were expecting twins.

I was a bit taken aback that the station had scheduled a story on a tragic event to precede such a perky report on celebrities. To me, it felt that by grouping the two so closely together Flight 370 had been belittled.

It was as though the disappearances and possible deaths of these people was just another human-interest story.

My viewing experience got me wondering how I would feel if a friend or family member of mine had been on that flight and how I would feel if I was watching that station. Surely the event would be devastating to me and to see it taken so lightly by others would be sickening.

So why then did the news station set their schedule up in this way?

The story itself was reported professionally. I don’t think the news station meant to be malicious.

What happened was a crime of carelessness.

In the news station’s defense, Flight 370 has been in the news for quit some time now and it is natural to be slightly desensitized after hearing about an event over and over, and for journalists, who hear and report about tragedies on a daily basis viewing tragedy from an unemotional place is all the more natural.

Still it is important for journalists to remember their audiences do not share that same nonchalant attitude toward death. Especially if their audience could include family members of those involved.

In the case I address now, Flight 370 could have been reported much more tastefully had the scheduling been amended. Yet journalists could avoid issues like this one all together by adopting the golden rule and report as they would like to be reported to.

The need for a college degree


College is, to put it lightly, expensive.

According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2013–14 school year was $30,094 at private colleges, $8,893 for state residents at public colleges and $22,203 for out-of-state residents attending public universities; and this is not including the loss of salary from four plus years out of the work force.

Looking at these prices, it’s no wonder we’ve all heard the horror stories of the debt some students rack up while going to school. It is even worse for those who pay to graduate with a degree in one field, but choose a career in another, making their college degree somewhat insignificant.

Because of the risk we take in paying for a college education, deciding whether or not to attend college can be daunting. However, seeing as I am one of the students taking an economic leap of faith by investing in my college education, I am determined to prove I am not wasting my time and money.

Although the horror stories of wasted money do exist, for the most part college will help you economically. Huffington Post reports college graduates earn approximately 84 percent more than those whom only graduate high school. NPR reports that people who graduate from college are more likely to stay in the work force longer, due to their jobs typically being less physically demanding.

Being able to stay in the work force longer means a better and more stable retirement plan. NPR says, “If you have a postgraduate degree, you will make — just in your retirement years – three to five times what a worker with only a high school education or less will earn at age 65 going forward”.

While college may seem like a lot, you are only paying and sacrificing your time for four years and the economic benefits you reap from a degree last a lifetime.

Still for students majoring in journalism, using to ‘find a better job’ as a reason to attend college may fall flat. A career in journalism without a degree — while hard to attain — is possible. So why pay for college to land a job where it isn’t necessary?

Well, in addition to helping you get a job, a college degree can give you what is needed to advance within the workforce. While you may start out with the same career, as someone with a lesser education, when employers are looking at their workers a college degree may be the extra push you need to land the promotion.

Looking beyond economics, college also gives many students the opportunity to explore fields of study they otherwise wouldn’t, it expands our horizons and can either help you find a passion for a study you didn’t think you had or confirm that you’re in the field you are meant to be in.

The last benefit I want to emphasize is that college makes you happier! Pew Research Center show that 42 percent of people with a college degree said they were “very happy,” whereas only 30 percent of people without a degree said the same.

It’s not clear exactly why this is especially because each person’s experience is unique to them. But college can enrich our lives on so many levels, whether it is the validation of intelligence, a mental push and stimulation, or the friendships we make while attending school.

College for these reasons can be worth more than the price tag we assign it. Perhaps what I’m trying to say might be best summed up in the style of MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign. Tuition: $30,094, textbook: $124, coffee: $4.50, the feeling after graduation: priceless.

Press freedom tested in Hong Kong


Hong Kong is experiencing what CNN calls its all-time low in press freedom.

Historically, Hong Kong has served as the “window into China,” reporting stories about government criticism that mainland reporters could not or would not report.

However, Hong Kong is experiencing serious decline in their press freedom as journalists fall victim to being bullied out of reporting.

Protest organizer and veteran reporter Shirley Yam says headlines and complete pages have been removed from newspapers, columnists have been sacked, and interviews have been bought.

“We get calls from senior government officials, we get calls from tycoons, saying ‘we don’t want to see this in your paper,'” Yam said.

A prime example of oppression of the press in recent days is Kevin Lao.

Lao was editor for Ming Pao, a daily newspaper known for its coverage of human rights, before a Malaysian editor replaced him.

To add insult to injury, Lao was hospitalized Wednesday after being attacked with a meat cleaver. The source of Lao’s attack is unknown, however, many fear that if incidents like Lao’s aren’t addressed seriously and stopped, public fear will grow and Hong Kong’s press will be further prevented from running stories dealing with government and big business.

The issue in Hong Kong highlights the relationship between the press and its government. It seems there is a conundrum with the fact that journalists are supposed to serve the watchdog function over the same government that they depend on to give them the rights and safety to do so.

In the United States, we experience the luxury of a constitution that explicitly tells us there is freedom of press within the First Amendment. Checks and balances within the government makes sure this right is protected.

However, in places where the press is not so fortunate, being watchdog to the government can be dangerous, especially if the government doesn’t want to be monitored. This is the heart of the issue in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong legislative council member Cyd Yo told CNN, “Beijing is a control freak. It cannot bear any opposition.”

It seems to me that journalists and the public alike are on a long road for change in the special administrative region of China. While many are protesting now, what China needs is a fundamental change in how its government relates with the press and a change like this will need both time and passionate supporters.

Tweets about the reporting life in Sochi


Olympians’ performances aren’t the only things making news in Sochi.

A significant number of journalists have taken to Twitter to share with the problems they have run into while in Russia.

Perhaps it all started with the fifth Olympic ring not opening during opening ceremonies, but the Twitter handle @sochiproblems has collected a number of negative reports, mostly about hotel rooms, that can actually be quite comical.

Dallas Robinson, USA bobsledder, tweeted a picture of a door made out of cardboard which his teammate had torn apart and climbed through after being locked in the bathroom.

Steph Stricklen, news anchor for KGW in Portland, tweeted pictures of mirrored bathroom ceilings in Shayba Arena that reflected inside of the stalls to the neighboring areas. She captioned her photo, “because who doesn’t want to use a public restroom with completely mirrored ceilings? thanks shayba arena!” Sporting a grimacing look on her face in the reflection of the ceiling.

My personal favorite tweet was by author, screenwriter and sports columnist Dan Wetzle from inside his hotel room. The tweet is a picture of three light bulbs that reads, “To anyone in Sochi: I am now in possession of three light bulbs. Will trade for a door handle. This offer is real.” Maybe he could help out ESPN reporter Marc Connolly who tweeted a picture of a lamp with two missing light bulbs saying “Only one light bulb per lamp apparently”.

Still, while many reporters seem to be looking at problems in Sochi light-heartedly some issues they have run into is no laughing matter.

One of those issues has to do with the quality of water. Stacy St. Clair, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, reported that employees at her hotel told her not to put the water on her face as it had something very dangerous in it. The water she pictured on Twitter was a yellow-brown color that I cannot imagine she wanted to put on her face anyway

St. Clair later tweeted, “Also on the bright side: I just washed my face with Evian, like I’m a Kardashian or something.”

Other reporters tweeted pictures of open electrical units and light fixtures falling from the ceiling.

The brutally honest tweets continue to roll in but if you’re putting a group of journalists in hotels with less than stellar accommodations what else can you expect?

What I’ve gotten out of these tweets @sochiproblems, other than some good laughs, is that good journalists report stories when they see them, not just when they are assigned. Sure these reporters were there for the Olympics; but they saw something noteworthy of sharing and they did. Although it might be simple these reporter show that being a journalist isn’t your typical 9-5 job, it’s a lifestyle that continues even when you’re off the clock in your relaxing hotel room.

Do newspaper’s DUI mug shots work?


If YouTube has taught me anything, it’s that people like being in the news. And, if pretending to see a leprechaun in my neighborhood means I will get into the news, then I will tell you all about that leprechaun.


However, in Anderson County, Ky., getting in the news seemed to lose its charm when The Anderson News printed the headline, “HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR. But please don’t drink and drive and risk having your picture published.”

 The small paper from Central Kentucky was introducing a new editorial piece to be picked up at the start of 1998. The editorial would publish photos of all persons convicted of drunk driving in Anderson County as an innovative way to deter driving while under the influence.

Mug shots were first published monthly, and then weekly, and then limited only those living in Anderson County or surrounding areas reached by the newspaper.

Although the newspaper’s goal to reduce drunk driving was a noble one, there was no concrete evidence the policy was helping to achieve this goal and some believed the newspaper was taking too much of a toll on residents’ personal lives.

The photos reportedly caused teasing directed towards the kids of parents with their pictures in the newspaper and even an attempted suicide of one teenager who feared having his picture published.

The Anderson News stopped publishing mug shots of drunk drivers in 2008 under a new editor and the rational that it “adds a level of punishment, or at least embarrassment, beyond what is imposed by a judge.”

What makes The Anderson News’ content interesting is that starting and stopping publishing mug shots of drunk drivers has to do with issue of morality not legality.

Legally speaking, the newspaper had every right to publish the mug shots. It is not uncommon to see stories on criminal cases in newspapers and by drinking and driving the residents of Anderson County gave up their right to privacy.

When The Anderson News began printing mug shots they were attempting to serve their public interest of keeping the streets safe. They were reporting the truth, it was relevant to the community, and using their power of voice to prevent drunk driving appeared to be a morally correct choice.

What the newspaper learned after publishing mug shots for some time was that they may be inflicting harm to their community that was not outweighed by the benefits of their drunk driving coverage. As the coverage led to teasing in schools, embarrassment among community members and, perhaps at its worst, a teenager’s attempted suicide. Analyzing these effects are what motivated the newspaper to pull the piece from their paper.

The Anderson News drunk driving coverage reminds us that being a journalist isn’t solely about circulating information. A good journalist needs to be able to understand the authority that comes with their position and how they can best serve their community.

Journalists must remember that just because something falls in the legal realm of possibility does not mean it is acceptable to publish it.

Lastly, an important point to note is that when The Anderson News pulled its drunk driving coverage, it was under a new editor. This makes me wonder if the newspaper’s employees had seen the moral issues with printing the names and images before the regular feature was pulled, but did not voice their opinions to their editor. If so, this brings up another point that journalists need to not only have a moral compass, but that they need to also be brave enough to stand up for what their gut is telling them.

Time crunches and fact checking


When the two bombs at the Boston Marathon went off on April 15, 2013, I was sitting in a class at my former high school, nearly 3,000 miles away. In less than half an hour, I found out about the bombing. Not from a teacher or announcement, nor a radio or television, but through a tweet sent out by CNN.

While only 8 percent of Americans use Twitter to receive news today, according to Pew research, that number is growing.

Part of the appeal is that Twitter and other online resources alike make circulating news faster now than it has ever been.

The beauty of a tweet is that journalists that have Twitter accounts can write and share a breaking story in seconds. Some will even send out a tweet directly after an interview.

Then to lessen the time frame between a journalist receiving knowledge and forwarding it to us is the matter of smartphones.

Anyone who carries a smartphone has access to these tweets in the literal palm of their hand. And it seems everyone today has a smartphone.

Business Insider estimated that about 22 percent of people in the world would own a smartphone by the end of 2013. Considering areas of the world where technology like this still isn’t available, it is reasonable to believe that if we looked only at Americans the percentage would be higher. Of course, if you’d like to see for yourself you could always glance around a college campus and try to count the number of students walking, smart phone in hand.

Simply enough, Twitter and others alike have made fast paced reporting something we’ve become accustomed to.

More and more immediacy from our news sources is something many of us expect. So, it’s no wonder why many reporters and news organizations make getting a story out quickly a top priority.

And while circulating information quickly may be important, one wonders what we lose when journalists spend less time with their stories.

According to Pew research, 75 percent of Americans don’t think journalists get their facts straight. Could this be an effect of rushed reporting?

The fact of the matter is when reporters are competing with one another to get the information out first; fact checking can take somewhat of a back seat.

This isn’t all speculation; in 2012, The New York Times asked in an Internet survey if reporters should fact check what politicians say. This question, I think brought to many peoples’ attention that fact that fact checking is no longer as important as it once was.

Many people took offense to the question and The Times received a number of sarcastic answers asking if they were joking.

What many reporters and readers may not consider is that there is a trade off between speed and fact checking. The faster a story breaks the less time was spent fact checking, where a story that may take longer to publish allows the journalist more time to fact check. This inverse relation means reporting a story quickly and thoroughly is a feat for any journalist.

However if many people are demanding both, just what exactly are journalists to do?