‘Elephantizing’ profile pictures


Have you ever heard about the ivory trade? If you aren’t an animal activist, you probably haven’t.

News media have failed in the attempt of covering this type of issue, maybe because it involves a lot of international legal details or perhaps it is because they know very little about it.

Even though it isn’t covered enough, the ivory trade is still a huge problem for which every single person interested in giving humanity a better name should be interested.

Ivory trade is the commercial, often an illegal exchange of the ivory tusks of animals such as elephants, hippopotamus, walrus and mammoths. Ivory isn’t a necessary material, it is simply used to make decorative items. However, it’s estimated that 33,000 elephants are killed every year just for their ivory; and with the current rate of slaughter, they will be extinct long before the midway point of this century. How ridiculous, how inhuman!

Fortunately for us, social media not only has addressed the situation but has also created a powerful campaign in order to reach as many people as possible around the world.

As a response to the injustice committed against wild and innocent animals, WildAid, an organization that works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products, launched a new campaign last week: #JoinTheHerd and make 2016 the Year of the Elephant, with the intention of making 2016 the year when more elephants are born than killed by poachers.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 8.00.40 PMThe idea went viral, few hours after launching it, actors, musicians, authors, athletes and millions of people joined the herd by changing their social media profile picture for one that shows half an elephant and half the person’s face … now you know why your Facebook was full of elephants …

#JoinTheHerd had quite an impact, through it, we are being called to be advocates for change only by circulating information resources about the topic among our networks.

It is all very do-able, so let’s save elephants from extinction.

Water crisis hits Flint residents


Much like Ferguson and Baltimore, Flint was a city plagued with crime and challenges that was forgotten by its own nation until tragedy struck and lives were lost or endangered.

This time, however, lives were not lost at the hand of a law enforcement officer exerting illegal force. Lives were lost at the hand of the State of Michigan, which failed to meet a basic need of its residents: clean and safe water.

This week, in the latest in a long series of developments in the story, news reports are saying Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration knew of potential links between the Flint water problems and Legionnaires’ disease.

Two years ago, city officials decided to switch Flint’s source of water from the Detroit River to a new system that would not be ready for use for two years. In the meantime, the government decided to use the water from the Flint River as the city’s source. The highly corrosive river water transported by the city’s lead pipes produced contaminated water in the homes of Flint residents. Although tests proved otherwise, the city and state governments assured residents that the water was safe and drinkable.

Now, two years later, residents of Flint have fallen ill. Flint’s water issue has gone from local media coverage to national and even international coverage.

The media coverage of Flint focuses mainly on what went wrong and images of the water itself rather than on resolutions of the problem. Many of the news stories on Flint show visual footage of the toxic, brown water coming from resident’s tap. They also explain the failures of the state and local government that lead to such a catastrophe. Residents tell of the unwanted changes in their lives.

While these are very important components to the story, I think the more important question is how this problem will be solved. Although the media have shown large donations of bottled water going to Flint, that is only a short-term fix. The media should focus more on when and how the lead pipes carrying the water will be replaced and how the work will be funded.

There should be more of a focus on how the problem will be fixed in the long run so that a crisis like this never happens again.

Longest railroad tunnel near completion


Currently in Switzerland, the Gotthard Base Tunnel is under construction. This is supposed to be the longest railroad tunnel, which will allow passengers to travel from Uri to Ticino, Switzerland.

Reading the newspapers and watching the television news in Switzerland, a lot of media is geared towards this project. The SBB, which is the Swiss Federal Railway, has established some harsh rules. Some of these include, no collisions possible due to two separate tunnels, a vent which in case it burns the smoke leaves the tunnel and does not interfere with the other trains running in the other direction. Additionally only healthy trains will be allowed to carry passengers.

The SBB has let the news media know all this information with the aim of trying to bring as much attention to it as possible, so that once the tunnel is ready and the trains are running, there will be a large number of people wanting to travel this route.

Being this open about all the rules may, however, not be very positive in the future. If an accident were to occur once the tunnel is ready, the company will be questioned as it ensured the safety of all passengers.

Nevertheless the Gotthard Base tunnel will be ready Dec. 11, 2016. Until then a lot of more information and excitement will be heard in the media from SBB.

One woman’s journey


The New York Times is well known for great journalism and captivating stories. The Well Blog, linked to its website, provides fresh health-based content with one woman’s journey in particular.

While Suleika Jaouad is not a journalist, she now writes a documentation of her life for the NYTimes about her post-leukemia recovery journey. Her stories are linked together with a title, “Life, Interrupted,” before the subject of her next post.

Her posts began on May 2, 2013, up until her most recent post Oct. 15, 2015. At the age of 22, she was diagnosed with leukemia and describes her life as coming to a halt. After many months of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, she overcame the odds and began recovering.

She believes that this was due in part by her 100 day challenge. Her family created this challenge, in which each member would do something different for 100 days. Jaouad’s mother, for instance, began painting a picture everyday for 100 days which she would show to Jaouad. Her closed-off father wrote 100 childhood memories in a book for her. Jaouad began writing in her journal, no matter how irritated or tired she was, she made sure to write everyday for those 100 days.

After her recovery, she wanted to make something of the “halt” in her life. Thus, she is embarking on a journey across America to find herself with her dog, Oscar.

Her heart-warming story and journey brings a beautiful chain of first person blog posts that change the way journalism can affect others.

This kind of journalism entails a good story, and the sole writer to be a person of that story. Jaouad, while not a journalist, has painted a picture of her story for all of her readers and in that way, she has shed new light on feature writing.

Her reporting on her personal journey inspires others and informs them of what really happens during cancer treatment, and of the struggles of catching up with life after.

This kind of journalism provides an interesting story, but written in the actual person’s point of view, which gives readers a different perspective and would not be the same if done differently.

Not releasing shooters’ identity is wrong


The shooting that occurred at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, was a complete tragedy. The shooting follows a string of multiple shootings that have occurred in the U.S. during the past few years. From the Sandy Hook shooting to the shooting at FSU, the U.S. has seen a startling uptake in mass shootings.

Some people argue that the cause of these mass shootings is lax gun control laws, while others believe the cause stems from the people who carry out these acts. Based on what I have seen, it appears as though most news organizations have taken the stance that while lax gun control laws play a role, the person is the main cause of these shootings.

Most news networks, including CNN, have taken the stance of not releasing the shooter’s name of the Oregon College shooting. According to CNN, the shooter “killed to be famous,” and they would not give him that during their broadcasts. The Douglas County sheriff has also taken the stance to not release the gunman’s name, not wanting to make him infamous.

With most of the past shootings, most news organizations have taken the route of not releasing the shooter’s name hoping it would discourage people from committing these acts in the hopes of gaining infamy from coverage of the tragedy. As we can see based on what happened in Oregon, this tactic does not seem be working.

I do not agree with the decision to not publicly release the shooter’s name. I think that people should be able to know who did this crime so we can try to figure out why this happened.

As more details of the shooting come out, we are learning that there were signs that this man suffered from some ideological and personal issues. I don’t think hiding the shooter’s identity will discourage these actions from taking place. I believe that, as a country, we have to come together and focus on what is causing people to commit these heinous actions. While more gun control laws are needed, I think we need to first focus on the people committing the murders and not the weapons used.

Joaquin’s trip up north


Hurricane Joaquin, a Category 4 storm, is expected to blow past South Florida and head directly towards North Carolina as well as the entire Northeast coast.

According to Fox News, governors of three states have already declared a state of emergency: Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Since Joaquin will not affect South Florida, is it really necessary to continue so much coverage by our local news outlets?

As a South Florida resident, this news comes as an initial relief. I am used to constantly checking for updates on various tropical storms and hurricanes beginning in August. Residents in the northeast will experience a shift in media over the course of the next few days.

As a northeast native, I am incredibly familiar with news media coverage about blizzards as well as the occasional thunderstorm. When a rare hurricane travels up the East Coast, a sense of panic shocks the population.

The news in the northeast will focus heavily on Joaquin, as well as preventative measures citizens can take to protect themselves. The general unfamiliarity with hurricanes will influence news stations to continuously track Joaquin on all media outlets.

In general, I’ve noticed that news media outlets in South Florida focus more on the logistics of the storm while news media outlines in the northeast focus more on preventative measures citizens should take. As the Hurricane progresses, it’ll be interesting to see if South Florida continues covering Joaquin.

South Florida may get hit with hurricanes more frequently than another other parts of the United States, but that does not mean local reporters should clog local media outlets with constant coverage about Joaquin.

Facebook features keep us connected


Facebook, one of the leading social media outlets in the world, is consistently growing and expanding.

Just recently, Facebook has updated its “trending” feature. This feature can be found on the right-hand column of the home page and gives the most trending topics that aren’t only popular within the Facebook world, but across the globe.

This feature keeps the discussions on Facebook relevant, and timely. While other social media sites like Twitter, also utilize the “trending” feature, Facebook eliminates the limitations by connecting us to constantly changing information around the world.

Live updates have always been one of Facebook’s strongest features, but as Facebook continues to expand that feature, it may be the reason behind Facebook’s constant success.

To date, Facebook currently has 1.49 billion monthly users. Also, according to Facebook 2015 reports, Facebook has 968 million active daily users. Of course, websites such as Twitter and Instagram are increasingly becoming more popular for teenagers and adults in their early 20s however, Facebook continues to dominate the social media world. There are numerous factors responsible for Facebook’s success. Features that currently keep its audience engaged and connected may be the secret to that success.

South Florida to become 51st state?


City of South Miami officials have passed a resolution supporting the idea to split the state of Florida in half — drawing an east-west line near Orlando — making South Florida the 51st state of the United States.

On Oct. 7, the resolution was proposed by Vice Mayor Walter Harris at a city commission meeting and it passed with a 3-2 vote. The City of South Miami’s reasoning for this is because Tallahassee is not providing South Florida with with adequate representation of its concerns for sea-levels rising in the future.

South Florida has to deal with this environmental concern and Harris believes that nothing will get done in Tallahassee since it doesn’t really apply to them.

On SunSentinel.com he stated, “We have to be able to deal directly with this environmental concern and we can’t really get it done in Tallahassee,” Harris said. “I don’t care what people think — it’s not a matter of electing the right people.”

Mayor Philip Stoddard has actually been advocating for this for the past 15 years, but never went through with a resolution. Stoddard agreed with Harris’ statement.

“It’s very apparent that the attitude of the northern part of the state is that they would just love to saw the state in half and just let us float off into the Caribbean,” Stoddard said. “They’ve made that abundantly clear every possible opportunity and I would love to give them the opportunity to do that.”

In order for this to be approved, it would have to have an electorate approval from the entire state and a Congressional approval.

Leave climate change to the experts


Being fair and balanced is a dogma of journalism. But in an attempt to offer balanced reporting, journalists may in fact introduce inaccuracy and deception.

There is a consensus amongst scientists about climate change. According to climate.nasa.gov, 97 percent of scientists believe that global warming trends are the result of human activity.

If journalists feel they must have balance in their stories, who does that leave them to turn to for the opposition? Well, not scientists.

Quoting politicians on the scientific evidence surrounding climate change is committing the fallacy of inappropriate expertise. Rick Santorum remarked that scientific evidence cannot even withstand common sense, sarcastically saying, “man-made carbon dioxide — a gas that humans exhale and plants need to live, a gas that represents less than 0.1 percent of the atmosphere — is a dangerous pollutant threatening to overheat the world.”

The truth is that although in terms of percentages the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is small, it is very potent and even trace amounts can have disastrous effects.

So let’s leave it to the experts. We wouldn’t ask Albert Einstein for commentary on comparative politics, would we?

It is completely acceptable to consult and quote politicians on policy issues and economic issues surrounding global warming. But our discussions with them should stop there.

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.

News should focus more on environment


Our country has endured many environmental dilemmas, but are we acknowledging them enough and if so are we acting upon it?

Our immediate concerns and interests — such as finances, the stock market or the government shutdown — make us forget about the importance of focusing on our oceans and wildlife before resources are soiled.

An article on CNN titled, “Lionfish infestation in Atlantic Ocean is a growing epidemic” is an alarming report about our Caribbean fish and reef depletion. The article has a statement reading that the lionfish invasion is probably the worst environmental disaster the Atlantic will ever face. Stories like this should be headline news compared to some of the seemingly less relevant stories.

If this really a huge crisis, why is the cover story of that day a scientific report comparing the addictiveness of Oreo cookies versus heroin in lab rats, while this huge ocean crisis was just a side story?

Lionfish can wipe out a coral reef with their aggressive appetite and humans are to blame for their presence in waters. Often, pet owners release their animals into the wild, which started the bloom of lionfish in our waters. Humans are at fault for the majority of our invasive exotic species and environmental issues in general therefore it should be constantly made clear that it is our responsibility to correct these issues.

We are all concerned about the debts that our generation may have to face financially, but there are many more patches to fix above our money conflicts. The meaning of a dollar will be futile when we struggle to find fresh fruit and fish in the markets because we are poisoning our resources.

On CNN, I read two recent articles last that were not highlighted enough on other news sites, but should have been addressed. Reports pertained to two species of deep-sea animals that washed up on California shores last week, an 18’ oar fish as well as a saber toothed whale. Rarely are specimens like these encountered or recovered, especially in the same week. Global warming and ocean pollution is thought to be the culprit.

Enormous oil spills have occurred, radioactive material has made its way into our waters and there are many environmental issues that are going unreported and are unknown to many people.

Miami graduate, Colin Foord, co-founder of Coral Morphologic, explained that Miami itself has a lot of environmental dispute which is swept under the rug and generally is forgotten about and not released to the public.

I understand that not everybody wants a constant reminder that each day we are killing a little piece of our planet, but it’s true. I feel that if we presented these topics even more in our news, perhaps more action would be taken in response to our burdens. We are so focused on what’s popular and our journalists write in a way to draw in a juicy story, but the most important stories should be those that can save our future generations and our planet.