Singapore summit news lacks objectivity


President Trump met with Kim Jong Un on Tuesday and they have come to an agreement to work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The news media have covered this issue with much scrutiny towards Trump. In other words, no one seems to show the president support for efforts to reach peace with North Korea. The coverage comes with very little information because the agreement lacks detail. Although there is much talk about getting rid of these nuclear weapons, there is no deadline set for when and no guarantee that the agreement will be irreversible.

The lack of detail has been leading journalists to cover this issue with much skepticism. News outlets believe that Trump is giving up too much and reporters are not hiding it. Objectivity has flown out the window for this summit’s coverage and Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was not happy about it. Rubio jumped in to defend Trump by pointing out the news media’s “hypocrisy.”

“Presidents meeting with #KJU exposed incredible hypocrisy of many in media,” Rubio tweeted. “When Obama did these things, he was described as enlightened. When Trump does it he is reckless & foolish. 1 yr ago they attacked Trump for leading us towards war,now attack for being too quick for peace.”

The New York Times’ opinion columnist, Nicholas Kristof, wrote an article where he too criticized the exchange between Trump and Kim Jong Un. Kristof believes Trump was”out-negotiated” by Kim.

Rubio came back in with another two cents to swoop Trump away from scrutiny. Kristof’s piece was one out of the many opinionated journalists who expressed the same view about the exchange.

This issue leaves many questions unanswered for both sides. It is hard for the news media to cover an issue like this objectively without the right amount of detail needed to inform  readers and viewers. If politicians want to start seeing less “fake news,” then they should give the news media enough information to avoid misinformation. Until we get more detail, journalists will most likely continue criticism towards Trump.

Ice cream name offends religious groups


Canadian ice cream chain “Sweet Jesus” is being boycotted by Christians as it tries to expand across the United States. Some Christians claim the chain is blasphemous, uses the Lord’s name in vain and mocks the Christian faith.

A petition has been made on to urge the Toronto-based company’s founder Andrew Richmond to change the name of the ice cream chain.  It has more than 7,600 signatures.

“We, as Christians, are deeply offended by the name of a new ice cream chain of stores calling themselves ‘Sweet Jesus.’  This is a mockery of taking the Lord’s name in vain and also highly offensive to Christians,” reads the petition.

The ice cream chain uses upside down crosses on the labels of the ice cream cups and various ads for the company use well-known Christian symbols and language.

“One ad on the company’s website shows a Nativity scene, but instead of Baby Jesus, there’s an ice cream cone,” reads the online petition.  “Many of their ads are replete with cherished Christian and Catholic symbols that are used to mock faith, including a rosary, a crucifix with a corpus, and angels.”

One ad for the ice cream company reads: “Thou shalt not take the Lord’s name in vain, but God [expletive] that’s delicious.”

Two Sweet Jesus advertisements (Photo courtesy of

The ice cream company has 19 locations in Canada.  The company has a store at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and is planning to open in other U.S. locations, such as the Mall of America in Minnesota, according to LifeSiteNews.

In covering the controversy, the Christian Post wrote an article condemning the ice cream chain and advocating for the cause of the petitioners. Their article included multiple quotes from various petitions calling for a name change.

“If anything could qualify as ‘hate speech,’ this is it! . . . Even if this were some innocent faux-pas, it would still be unacceptable!  However, this is anything but a mere mistake.  Both in their promotional materials and menu selection, it is plain to see that [owners] Richmond and Todai have every intention of mocking Christ and Christianity,” reads another petition on the Canadian site CitizenGo.

The Christian Post does not give equal coverage to both sides of the story. LifeSiteNews, another Christian news outlet, even launched its own petition condemning the company and demanding a name change. The end of the article includes contact information for the Sweet Jesus company founders.

“Faithful Christians follow the Second Commandment about not taking the name of God in vain. This means that God’s name should be used respectfully, as in prayer or in blessing. Anything else is misusing his name. Christians believe that Jesus is God and his name is holy.  St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians put it this way: ‘At the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow,’” wrote Dorothy Cummings McLean and Pete Baklinski for LifeSiteNews.

“I wonder what might have happened had the company been named ‘Sweet Muhammad’ and employed the same kind of plays on Islamic religious symbols as it does on Christian ones.  Mohammed Mud Pie anyone?  It would never have been tolerated.”

Secular news outlets have given much more equal coverage of the story.  The Toronto Star provided mainly facts in their article about who was opposing the ice cream chain and why.

“There are few things that feel more care-free than enjoying an ice cream cone, and Toronto-based chain Sweet Jesus servers up gigantic, Instagram-worthy soft serve cones – or blasphemy, depending on who you ask,” wrote Jenna Moon for the Toronto Star.

Along with several fiery quotes from petitioners against the company, the Toronto Star article also included the disclaimer issued on the Sweet Jesus’ company website.

“Our name was created from the popular phrase that people use as an expression of enjoyment, surprise or disbelief.  Our aim is not to offer commentary on anyone’s religion or belief systems, our own organization is made up of amazing people that represent a wide range of cultural and religious beliefs.”

CBC News, another Canadian news organization, wrote a short Web article that included many of the main quotes from the online petitions that the other stories have used.

Like the Toronto Star, CBC gave a very factual and much more equal account of the controversy surrounding the company name and advertisements.  CBC reached out to Richmond for a statement.

“We are conscious of the fact that, to some, our name can be off-putting,” Richmond told CBC.  “That fact is something we struggle with, because we sincerely do not wish to give offense or show disrespect in any way toward anyone’s personal beliefs.”

“After a lot of thought, we have decided that we will not make a change. Sweet Jesus is an honest reflection of our experiences and that of our customers and how they react when they try our product. In our experience, the majority of people understand that we’re not trying to make a statement about religion.”

The Huffington Post article about the petitions against Sweet Jesus focused on the variety of reasons the company was facing backlash.  They included quotations from many online petitioners, religious groups and YouTubers that spoke out against the company.

Sweet Jesus ad poster (Photo courtesy of LifeSiteNews).

“The first S in the word Jesus is a lightning strike, reminiscent of the Nazi style used by the SS, and the T in ‘SWEET’ is often shown as an inverted Cross on the company’s various products . . . We cannot remain silent while Our Lord is blasphemed,” wrote the Christian site Return To Order.

The Huffington Post also mentioned some non-religious reasons the company is facing condemnation and controversy.

“Others took issue with one of Sweet Jesus’ advertisements, because the child posing with ice cream running down her face looks similar to Jonbenét Ramsey, a child beauty pageant contestant who was murdered at age 6,” wrote Emma Paling for the Huffington Post.

Did ABC’s ‘The View’ cross a line?


Recently, former White House staffer Omarosa Manigualt, on the reality TV show “Celebrity Big Brother,” commented on Vice President Mike Pence’s faith.

“As bad as you think Trump is, you would be worried about Pence . . . everyone that is wishing for impeachment might want to reconsider their life . . . I am Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things.”

On ABC’s “The View,” Joy Behar and fellow panelists discussed Manigault’s comment.  “It’s one thing to talk to Jesus. It’s another thing when Jesus talks to you. That’s called mental illness, if I’m not correct, hearing voices.”

“The View” member, Sunny Hostin, said, “I’m Catholic, I’m a faithful person, but I don’t know that I want my vice president speaking in tongues.”

Behar continued to mock the vice president.  “My question is, can he talk to Mary Magdalene without his wife in the room?”

Joy Behar on ABC’s “The View” (screengrab from YouTube)

In response to the comments on “The View,” Pence said during an interview with Axios journalist Mike Allen, “I actually heard that ABC has a program that compared my Christianity to mental illness.  And I’d like to laugh about it, but I really can’t . . . It’s just wrong.”

Pence told Allen, “And it’s an insult not to me, but to the vast majority of the American people who, like me, cherish their faith.  My Christianity is the most important thing in my life.”

CBN covered the story in favor of Pence and supported the vice president’s stand against the comments made on “The View.”

As a Christian, upon reading the quotes made on national TV mocking the vice president’s Christian faith, I was deeply offended.

Regardless of your politics, to make fun of someone’s religion, especially on national TV, in such an insensitive way is completely inappropriate.

“But I just think it demonstrates just how out of touch some in the mainstream media are with the faith and values of the American people that you could have a major network like ABC permit a forum for invective against religion like that,” said Pence on Axios.  “And I call them out on it. Not because of what was said about me.  But it’s just simply wrong for ABC to have a television program that expresses that kind of religious intolerance.”

FOX News provided more coverage of the conversation that was held on “The View” by explaining that the panelists’ conversation was surrounding the idea of Pence, an evangelical Christian, becoming the new president and what that would entail.

“He’s not very popular at all,” Hostin said.  “I think when you have a Mike Pence who now sort of puts this religious veneer on things and calls people ‘values voters,’ I think we’re in a dangerous situation.”

FOX News, which is typically criticized for conservative biased, did provide more well-rounded coverage of the story than CBN or the Christian Post.  Although CBN, the Christian Post, ABC, and Fox News cater to niche audiences, Fox News presented a broader perspective on the incident.

The FOX article mentioned the political debate unlike CBN, which only mentions the attack on Christian values.

In the FOX News article, journalist Brian Flood wrote, “Behar said hearing voices is a ‘mental illness’ before Sherri Shepard offered a limited defense of Pence.”

“As a Christian, that’s just par for the course,” Shepard said “You talk to Jesus, Jesus talks back.  What concerns me is, how long is the conversation with Jesus?”

Houses of worship gain access to aid


President Trump signed into law that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) now must provide houses of worship with equal access to disaster relief funds.  According to FEMA, the policy is effective for all disasters declared on or after Aug. 23, 2017.

Prior to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, FEMA did not allocate aid relief to houses of worship. However, after Harvey and Irma, three Texas churches and two Florida synagogues filed lawsuits against the government for not providing the same relief funding as secular nonprofit organizations received.

One of these cases made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.  FEMA was asked to explain why houses of worship were left out of disaster relief and the agency responded with a new policy protecting these places.

“Private nonprofit houses of worship are now eligible for disaster assistance as community centers, without regard to their secular or religious nature,” according to FEMA.

Becket, a nonprofit law firm aimed at protecting religious freedom, represented the three churches and two synagogues.

“Congress has delivered a big victory for houses of worship everywhere …. It was always strange to tell houses of worship that there is no room at the inn, when they are the first to help in time of need,” said Diana Verm, legal counsel at Becket.

Becket emphasized that houses of worship were some of the first groups to reach out to disaster victims following Harvey and Irma and they consistently reach out to those in need.

The announcement of new law is a major win for faith groups.  The news was celebrated across many faith-based organizations and networks such as CBN, the Times of Israel, and the Orthodox Union.

“We thank the Trump administration for righting this longtime wrong and treating disaster-damaged churches, synagogues and other houses of worship fairly — on the same terms as other nonprofits such as museums, community centers and libraries stricken by natural disaster,” said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union.

ABC News covered the announcement by telling the story of Pastor Charles Stocker, whose Hi-Way Tabernacle Church was almost destroyed by Hurricane Harvey.

Stoker’s attorney, Daniel Bloomberg told ABC, Churches are “hubs for the community,” which is still recovering from the hurricane. “Denying help to them, to these churches, denies help to the community.”

“By finally following the Constitution, FEMA is getting rid of second-class status for churches,” Bloomberg stated.  “We will watch carefully to make sure that FEMA’s new policy is implemented.”

The Washington Post gave the story a different angle.  It covered the history of houses of worship fighting to receive disaster relief funds since the early 2000s.

The Washington Post also covered both sides of opinions about the announcement.

This announcement may be a big win for faith groups and religious conservatives, but some secular forces see federal disaster relief being allocated to houses of worship as a threat to separation of church and state.

The Washington Post wrote in their article that Dena Sher, assistant legislative director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said until this week the FEMA guidelines treated religious and nonreligious nonprofits equally, and determined eligibility based on what activities take place.

“Now this gives houses of worship special treatment,” she said.

“It’s troubling. We know communities need support as they rebuild and we can’t ignore fundamental principles of religious freedom. But the constitutional principle at stake says each of us gets to decide how and if to support any religion. That’s the promise the constitution makes and we should hold to it in good times and bad.”

The rising #Churchtoo movement


The #metoo movement has now inspired a new movement that is gaining traction called “#churchtoo.”  The campaign was launched over Twitter by Hannah Paasch and Emily Joy, who are both survivors of sexual assault.

The mission of #churchtoo is to bring to light the rampant sexual abuse occurring in churches and among the Christian community.

Unlike the #metoo campaign, coverage of the #churchtoo movement has been very minor by secular news networks, if it is even covered at all.

However, the Huffington Post ran a lengthy online article written by Paasch.  In her article, Paasch shared Joy’s story, told her own story and described the campaign.

Paasch wrote, “#ChurchToo is a platform not only where survivors can out their abusers — yes, names and all — but also where Christians, ex-evangelicals and agnostics alike can ask one another: How can we do better? What would a theology of consent and autonomy look like? How would we build a world in which that sort of church was not the exception?”

Time magazine was the only other well-known publication to run a story about #churchtoo.  Their article was only a few short sentences and then a series of screenshots from fiery Twitter posts using the hashtag.

Many Christian publications have written about the campaign such at CBN, Relevant Magazine, and the Christian Post.  All show support of the victims and are in favor of the campaign.

How the story of the campaign is told has varied greatly across Christian publications.  I believe this is likely due to Paasch’s blatant criticisms of the Christian church.

Paasch fervently condemns what she calls, “purity culture” preached in churches and the widespread ideology of sexual restraint in the Christian community.

“That theology of abstinence that singles out women and slut shames everyone who engages in any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage.  Purity culture is the religious antecedent to rape culture, as it lays the bulk of the responsibility for maintaining the sexual purity of both genders on women’s attire and behavior,” wrote Paasch in her article for the Huffington Post.

In her Huffington Post bio, she refers to herself as an “ex-Christian blogger.”

In CBN’s coverage of the #churchtoo campaign, Paasch’s name is not mentioned once.  Instead, their coverage focuses on pastors and prominent Christian leaders who are advocating for churches to address the issues of sexual abuse.

CBN interviewed Jimmy Hinton, who is a pastor of Someset Church of Christ in Pennsylvania and consultant for the nonprofit GRACE on sexual abuse issues occurring in churches and faith-based groups.

Hinton reported his father, who had pastored the church for years, to the police.  Hinton’s father confessed to multiple crimes against children and is now in jail, according to CBN News.

“Survivors are ready to fight for what’s right and they’re ready to fight to have their voice,” Hinton told CBN News.

CBN, a more conservative Christian network, did not quote any of the Twitter posts for the campaign or any survivor’s fiery condemnations of the Christian faith.  Nor did CBN mention anything about “purity culture.”

Conversely, the Christian Post and Relevant Magazine, ran stories about the campaign where the majority of the text was direct quotes from survivors’ Twitters.

The Christian Post and Relevant Magazine both mentioned the oppression of women in churches and told the stories of people who have left the church as a result of sexual abuse.

This raises the question, is coverage of the #churchtoo campaign another way of suppressing the voices of victims?

In my opinion, the CBN story did not suppress the voices of survivor’s.  They quoted prominent Christian U.S. gymnast, Rachael Denhollander, who was the first U.S. gymnast to publically accuse USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

“I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may some day experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me, though I extend that to you as well,” Denhollander told Nassar in her impact statement in court.

I personally enjoyed reading CBN’s story about the campaign because it focused on church reform and the big strides being made to put an end to sexual abuse in the church and faith-based organizations.  The CBN article did not dwell on the horrific crimes of the past, but rather spoke of optimism for the future.

Coverage from the Christian perspective


You may be familiar with the 700 Club, an almost daily newscast on ABC’s Freeform channel produced by the Christian Broadcast Network (CBN).  At CBN, every breaking news headline that another news network like CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC would publish, is reported with Christian or religious-based spin.

On the CBN News website, under the CBN logo, it says in bold letters, “the Christian perspective.”

Many news outlets have sections for news in the United States and world news.  CBN has sections for news in the United States, world news, and another section only for news in Israel.

CBN reports the major stories, but in very different ways than secular news organizations.

For the recent school shooting in Kentucky, like all major news networks, CBN posted a breaking news story about the incident in the traditional hard news format. Later on, CNN posted a follow-up story about a shooting victim who called her mother, whereas CBN posted a follow-up story about Kentucky students coming together for a prayer circle.  MSNBC brought up the debate about gun control legislation and CBN highlighted that the shooter joined an atheist group.

Photo of Kentucky School prayer circle from the CBN News website. Photo credit: Tilghman Pride‏ via Twitter.

This method of reporting and drawing in a particular audience by CBN fills a very specific niche.

It raises questions about accuracy and definite bias, but is this that different than the ways in which “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert caters to bleeding-heart liberals or FOX News caters to radical conservatives?

Those who visit a news media organization such as the CBN for their news are not looking for a neutral or unbiased prospective.  They are looking to find out about the latest news both in the U.S. and worldwide reported to them from a Christian viewpoint with the emphasis on how faith is involved in the major stories of today.

Therefore, the CBN audience would be more interested in reading about the prayer circle in Kentucky, than the debate for gun control legislation. As someone who turns to CBN for the majority of my news, I can attest to this.

Perhaps focusing all coverage on faith may be seen as leaving out major parts of the story about the school shooting.  Conversely, covering prayer circles and religious ties could be viewed as adding more depth.

CBN is the only major news network that fills the Christian audience niche. Its top headlines of last week include, “Pastor Pleads for Protection and Prayers as Syrian Town Endures Attack,” “Oscar-Nominated Film Tells True Story of Muslims Protecting Christians,” and “‘I Never Liked Holding Hands at Church Anyway:’ As Flu Deaths Rise, Churches Change their Rules.”

Networks reveal ideologies


News networks and reporting are supposed to be neutral with no biases. But still, the general public can categorize each network and its reports as a Republican network or a Democratic network.

This is not due to the content that is covered because more or less, any news channel one can put on that is not your “local” news station will be reporting the same stories.

Fox News is a “Republican” news network, although its spokespersons will say otherwise.

“We are a news station that is neutral to both sides. We give the public the news as it is.  We have anchors, reporters, and writers who are from all political parties,” says a news reporter at the Fox 5 news station.

Seventy-eight percent of conservatives think news stations such as CBS, ABC, and NBC are biased toward those who are liberal.

Michelle Koenigsberg, 72, a Republican from Brooklyn, N.Y., says “I only watch Fox News because the other stations are so biased towards liberals, they don’t give a full story.  They lie to make their side look better than they are.”

According to The Washington Post, “a quarter of its audience is from Democrats and 9% from Independents.”

Sophie Browne 21, a Democrat from New York City, stated, “I never watch Fox, it’s way too conservatively biased and I honestly think it’s crap.”

So how and why is each news station able to be categorized to the public?  It seems to be a common belief that Republicans will feel that “Republican” networks and local stations are reporting the news as it really is with no bias, just as Democrats feel that way about the “Democratic” networks and stations.

The main reason for this seems to be the specific parts of a story that is being reported.  For example, the 2016 presidential campaign.

Both ABC and Fox News reported this week on the temperaments of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

ABC stated “Clinton is poised when pointing out Trump’s contradictions and false claims.”

ABC also says “It’s clear that from his tone, Trump is judged on his temperament.”

Why is this? Each network knows its viewers and its rumored political side. The reporters’  jobs are to report the news “as it is” however, they still need to appeal to their audience.

Fox’s report on the temperaments this week revealed the biases that the news viewers feel.

“We’ve known that Clinton isn’t a great retail politician, but is an establishment candidate in a non- establishment year.  We’ve known that she has low ratings on honestly and trustworthiness exacerbated by the Clinton foundation mess,” Fox stated.

The way they portray Trump seems to be more positive than the way ABC does.

“Now that Donald Trump is stabilizing his campaign with more scripted speeches on military readiness,” an ABC story stated.

Although both ABC and Fox News are reporting on the same topic, they are emphasizing the parts of each story that please the viewers and “prove” their stereotyped political beliefs.

Texas case serves as safety reminder


While I was trying to catch up with the weekly news, as I usually do during Sunday’s night, it was impossible not to read about a terrifying murder of an 18-year-old University of Texas student.

Haruka Weiser, a first-year theater and dance major, was last seen leaving the drama building Sunday night and was found dead two days’ later near the area of Waller Creek on campus.

The same information about the case could be found among all the different news media channels, even the same video was shown in order to help the police to identify the identity of the suspect.

Many emotional details and sentimental quotes about Weiser were attached, however, none of them provided family comments about the situation.

ABC News did a great job providing a timeline specifying how the events unfolded, according to the arrest affidavit.

The story ended up in the best way it could. On April 8, the police department announces that the killer, Meechaiel Khalil Criner, “had been taken into custody and charged with first-degree felony murder.”

This is not the first time a student has been killed. This is not the first time we read this type of news and this would not be the last time we get this type of sorties hitting front page because we are not doing anything about it.

Personally, I hate reading about murders, I don’t like the way in which news media  address the topic. We don’t need to know whether the victim was wearing her mother’s bracelet or if she had plans to meet with someone that night; those are personal matters that, in my opinion, should remain personal.

It is important for people to know about this cases, but it is even more important that the same medium provides alternatives of how to prevent them. A perfect story after telling the event’s facts would be to give tips for university students or even a story challenging the University to become involved to talk about its security measures.

Even though we may be used to this type of news, we also have the power to ask for a different approach, a better approach, a more useful approach.

Colombian journalist airs sex tape


Last week, Colombia faced a major wiretapping scandal, which led to the resignation of various public officials.

The scandal started when prominent radio host, news anchor and journalist, Vicky Dávila published a secretly filmed video of a 2008 conversation about gay sex between Senator Carlos Ferro and Police Capitan Anyelo Palacios.

She stated that she released the video as an attempt to expose alleged grave sexual misconduct within the National Police, a complaint that has been investigated by other journalists for months.

The content of the video was so strong that it immediately forced the resignation of Ferro,  vice minister of the Interior and National Police Director General Rodolfo Palomino, who had already been charged with sexual harassment.

After the scandal, the whole country, including the news media, was divided in two. People joined either one side or the other; there was no neutral opinion in this case.

One side believed that Dávila published the video in order to help the state with the investigation of the “Fellowship of the Ring,” an alleged gay prostitution network in the police force, which cannot be tolerated. People such as Dávila, those who supported the publication of the video, concluded that the information released served as a proof of the prostitution ring.

The other side, the one I support, claimed that the broadcasting and publishing of this extremely intimate video shows zero evidence of any involvement in prostitution; instead, it only publicizes private matters of professional politicians. Yes, the video proved that the former parliamentarian had had a relationship with a policeman, but it also showed that it would have been consensual.

How are we journalists covering things? Should our beliefs affect our objectivity?

Here is where the journalism’s role as the watchdog of the public interests at its heart should be brought into question.

Colombians might be interested to know where and with who their public figures sleep at night, but since this conduct doesn’t interfere with their assigned work, it should remain private. These persons should be judged by their professional performance, what they do for sexual pleasure, as long as it’s legal, should not be considered a public concern.

The pressure and comments from social media were so explosive that the video was removed from the networks and Dávila resigned as well.

So, did she have a genuine public interest in revealing this or was it something more personal? Despite the reason, journalists should be more careful with what they are publishing.

Words are powerful, they can contribute a lot, but they can also destroy; as Ferro, the victim of this whole story said: “I hope that justice can give me back the dignity journalist Vicky Dávila wanted to snatch from me.”

Personal stories are newsworthy, also


In our days, there’s a common thought about the lack of humanity among the news. People believe that the news media are only interested in breaking news about prominent or public figures. However, if we do a deep search we can find many news sites focused on real life stories about ordinary people.

CNN is one in many news channels that opens the door to its public to express themselves and share their stories, which are very interesting and touching.

In the case of CNN, there are established categories from which the person can choose to write about: Overcoming anxiety, your “Aha” weight-loss moment, how you found happiness or your journey to body acceptance.

At a first glance, the topics might seem a little controversial, but the way in which they are addressed tend to seek for social justice. The stories selected do not promote anorexia, unhealthy methods to lose weight or physical beauty as an important value; instead they ask people to tell their stories to help others to overcome this type of problems that were probably caused by societal pressures.

The assignments not only values people it also encourages them to serve as inspirational models.

Weight gain and obesity trends often make headlines, but many people have found a way to lose weight and get fit by healthy methods and this are the type of stories they are looking for.

Personally, I believe these testimonies are very useful and should be valued. We live in a world where instead of sleeping an extra hour per day, women decide to spend three hours and 19 minutes each week in front of the mirror.  I’m pretty sure that it is not to enhance their beauty, but because they don’t feel comfortable with themselves.

Instead of reading about Kim Kardashian’s new surgery, stories such as “how one woman learned to love herself” should hit the front page of every news channel because they really teach us how to recover from daily problems by natural, real and accessible methods.

Odom found unconscious in brothel


NBA and reality star Lamar Odom was found unconscious at a brothel in Nevada on Wednesday.

According to CNN, Odom had been using cocaine. He was found was in bed at the Love Ranch brothel with a pinkish fluid coming from his mouth and nose.

Support for Odom has been flooding social media from fellow NBA peers including Vince Carter, Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade.

The media has placed a strong focus on Odom’s condition and famous ex-spouse and reality star Khloe Kardashian, yet has failed to shed light on the fact that he was found in a brothel.

According to Wikipedia, Nevada is the only U.S. jurisdiction to allow some legal prostitution. The fact that Odom was found in a brothel is seemingly more controversial than the constant coverage of his ex-spouses’ family.

Since Odom’s current condition is critical, the focus of the media should cover why he was at the Love Ranch, how long he was at the Love Ranch and when he was planning on leaving the Love Ranch. There should also be a follow up feature story about the Love Ranch.

Prior to learning of Odom’s critical condition, I was unaware that prostitution was legal in the United States. I’m sure fellow media consumers are curious to learn more about the Love Ranch, as well as prostitution in Nevada.

The media should dig deeper into the details of Odom’s story rather than the current conditions and reactions from the Kardashian family.

If you have bias, at least admit it


One of the primary tenets of journalism is impartiality. In an ideal world, all news sources would be perfectly objective and never speak a word out of turn. But this is the real world, with news sources run by real people, so remaining completely impartial is easier said than done.

Some news sources seemed to have abandoned this notion of impartiality. From what I’ve heard from most people, the first examples of this that come to mind are MSNBC and Fox News. These news organizations have been known to report news containing obvious biases.

But I don’t have a problem with them.

As stated, the biases are obvious. Although the company motto of Fox may be “fair and balanced”—granted—no one there is hiding anything when they publish and broadcast stories about the Benghazi panel when others have moved on. Similarly, no one at the Drudge Report is keeping any secrets when “IRS PAYS ILLEGALS FOR BABIES” is a teaser headline on their homepage.


When you come to news sources like these, you should know what you’re getting. No one is trying to fool you; the bias is too open for that.

What I personally find more conniving is when bias is existent, but less apparent. This kind of bias is more sly, attempting to subconsciously sway readers without tipping them off about those intentions. This is underhanded, in my opinion, and thus more reprehensible.

Take CNN, for example. An informal survey of my friends will tell you that many people my age consider CNN to be a reliable source of unbiased information. At face value, I might agree with them — but a closer inspection of headlines reveals something different.

IMG_5406Consider this screenshot at the left from the CNN iPhone application.

That headline regarding vaccines technically says nothing wrong. No journalistic principles were violated.

But the request posed by CNN is worded in a way that psychologists would compare to a leading question. It draws readers’ attention to parents who do not vaccinate their children, pointing the finger at a group that has recently received a lot of flack and inviting messages from their opposition, because opponents of an issue are more likely to respond voluntarily to requests like these than sympathizers, who expect attack, and much more than those who are simply ambivalent.

To gauge an honest reflection of the public’s views, the website could impartially ask readers to state their opinion about the issue of vaccinations in general, very easily. But it did not.

I understand that the sly nature of the bias is strategic from a business standpoint; no currently respected news source wants to become the household name of bias like Fox News or MSNBC. But in that case, you might as well honor the journalistic code and remove your biases altogether.

Equal coverage needed for all missing


Hannah Graham’s disappearance has opened old wounds. Cassandra Morton disappeared in 2009 but her name didn’t make national headlines the same way Graham’s has.

Just six days after Morton went missing, Morgan Harrington disappeared. Harrington received more news coverage than Morton.

Morton’s stepfather says it’s because Harrington’s family was able to offer a reward for their daughter and because Morton didn’t fit the media’s preferred image.

According to The Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson:

“A damsel must be white. This requirement is nonnegotiable. It helps if her frame is of dimensions that breathless cable television reporters can credibly describe as ‘petite,’ and it also helps if she’s the kind of woman who wouldn’t really mind being called ‘petite,’ a woman with a good deal of princess in her personality. She must be attractive — also nonnegotiable. Her economic status should be middle class or higher…”

Morton came from Tinbridge Hill, a historically black neighborhood. She experimented with drugs and moved around a lot.

Harrington’s parents made television appearances and a website was made to find their daughter. Morton did not receive such attention. Without speaking with both Morton’s and Harrington’s parents, I cannot know the degree to which each family sought coverage and the degree to which the media approached each family to be able to pinpoint the cause of the difference in coverage between the two girls’ disappearances.

In any case, this should serve as a reminder for journalists that content should be dictated by neither aesthetics nor money. We need to strive for fair, unbiased coverage that represents the diversity of our population.

Focus on the news, not on yourself


As anyone who has been following the news recently knows, the Islamic terrorist group ISIS has been a major focus for the United States. Recently, the U.S. began bombing ISIS and has received help from many other countries including Iran. With all of the commotion surrounding this terrorist group, the common thought should be “what else do we need to do as a country?” Unfortunately, this is not the case.

News organizations from both the right and the left have shifted focus almost entirely on President Obama. It seems that the news has become 10 percent “here is what is happening” and 90 percent “here is how I personally feel about it.”

Of course, there is nothing wrong with seeking professional opinions and expert analysis, but it is ludicrous to have a panel of news anchors that seem to know everything about everything. Too many talking heads simply creates noise and confusion, especially when it is essentially professional complaining.

For situations like this, no abstract examples are needed. No one needs to ask: “Well, what if ISIS somehow found a way to infiltrate the United States and take over the Capitol?” That is thinking infinitely far ahead about an improbable situation.

However, this is not to say that some journalistic opinions can be beneficial. They simply have to have enough respect. In the most famous example, Walter Cronkite stated a negative opinion about the war in Vietnam and changed public opinion about the conflict almost overnight.

Unfortunately, the days of journalists with the respect Cronkite garnered are all but over. If the news is ever going to return to its former glory, the noise needs to be cancelled out. Sensationalism needs to disappear and facts need to once again reign supreme. Until that point, speculation and biased opinion will rule the news.

CNN strives for neutral in Scotland vote


One of the biggest stories in world news this week is the Scottish independence referendum results. In the months leading up to the vote, many news sources were covering the politicians speeches and polling public opinion.

imageI’ve been watching a lot of CNN’s coverage of the story, and I’ve noticed that there is an obvious effort to stay neutral.

For example, there was an open mic video that consisted of clips of Scottish voters expressing their views on the referendum and freedom from the UK. Although it was not blatantly alternating between yes and no voters, the video made sure to have an equal amount of people both opposed and supportive of the referendum.

The BBC focused more on how an independent Scotland might influence the economy. Much of the coverage focused on fluctuating share prices and volatility in the weeks leading up to the vote. The coverage also stressed the uncertainty of which currency an independent Scotland would adopt.

By attempting to foresee the possible economic changes that an independent Scotland would bring about, the BBC’s coverage of the story tended to focus on predictions and polling to see where the public stands. Finally, the referendum did not pass, with a slight majority of “no” votes.

BBC worked to avoid misrepresentation


With Scotland’s independence on the line, the historic referendum permeated newsrooms around the world this week.

News organizations reported as usual, interviewing voters who expressed their reasons for voting “Yes” or “No” for Scottish independence. Such reporting came to a halt at 6 a.m. on voting day for several news organizations.

On Sept. 18, BBC News was entirely devoid of opinion on the subject of Scottish independence. Following its code of practice, the BBC reported only uncontroversial factual accounts such as the number of polling stations, the percentage of the electorate registered to vote, and even the weather in a “commitment to impartiality and fairness.”

These sorts of practices are vital to avoid misrepresentation and to ensure that the outcome of an election truly reflects the population’s beliefs as a whole. If an election is predicted to be neck and neck, it is likely that more people will go to the polls. If, on the other hand, reported polling suggests a landslide victory, supporters of the minority party may feel that there is no hope so why bother voting? Or quite the opposite, if the popular candidate is “sure to win,” people may feel that it’s okay not to make it to the polls because so many other people will vote in favor of their cause. If enough people have that mentality, the minority opinion might win after all!

Having said that, as journalists, we must ensure that proper polling techniques were used, such as obtaining a representative sample, before reporting results. We certainly don’t want another case of the 1936 Literary Digest blunder. This applies even when sharing the results of a poll conducted by another organization. The information given to the public may bias their actions and we as journalists don’t want to be responsible for changing the course of history against true public opinion.

Pharrell praises women in album


Pharrell Williams, the award-winning producer, rapper-singer songwriter and recent Oscar nominee, has taken the media by storm due to the recent explanation of the title of his newest album, “G I R L.”

Columbia Records released the album on March 3, and although it has mixed reviews, its message is progressive. In comparison to the saturation of demeaning albums produced by rap and R&B artists of this decade, “G I R L” is a breath of fresh air.

The concept of the album was explained by Pharrell in an interview with GQ magazine , where he stated, “Women and girls, for the most part, have just been so loyal to me and supported me.”

This may seem like a shallow attempt to please a new and younger audience, yet it is still an impressive motive.

In contrast to his latest hit with Robin Thicke titled, “Blurred Lines,” which is a sexist song that sexually objectifies women, the album aims to focus on society’s skewed image of female sexuality rather than exploiting it.

In an interview with Zane Lowe backstage of the Brit Awards, Pharrell explained in clarity his reasoning for the album’s title and theme by stating,

“The reason why I named it “G I R L” in capital letters is because when you look at it, it looks a little weird. And the reason why it does is because society is a little unbalanced. And I just thought like, if I’m gonna make an album, I need to make an album that says everything that I’ve ever wanted to say, like dreamt of.”

The 41-year-old father and husband has made it clear that his new focus for 2014 and the future is to influence future generations of hip-hop and R&B artists to approach albums in a more progressive light. Pharrell added,

“I admire women in a lot of ways, but I needed to make sure that everyone knew that. On the surface, I do look and I do like them and I appreciate them in my little dirty ways here and there, but at the core, is what I’m telling you. We need them. Every living breathing human being on this planet regardless to your sexual orientation benefits from two things from a woman: the agreement to enter the act and the agreement to have you. So they have the power.”

Pharrell has managed to become one of the most influential hit makers in pop history, and his positive impact on pop culture, media, and entertainment is incomparable.

Writing with a national perspective


I recently read a CNN article on the preliminary session of the Syrian peace talks, in which a peculiar event took place — Iran was invited to the conference and then dis-invited by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The reporters went on to say that ‘Western leaders believe Iran has provided military and intelligence support to Syrian government forces,’ and that fighters from Iran-backed militia have fought on the side of the Syrian government. When I first read this, who actually dis-invited Iran was unclear to me, as was the reason that the event occurred. The succession of the reporters’ choices implies that the reason Iran did not attend/was dis-invited was for military reasons.

The reality of the situation was that the UN gave Iran an ultimatum: that Iran could attend the peace conferences on the side of the UN (against the Syrian government) or they could not attend. Iran chose not to stand against Syria, and did not attend. This was information available to my International Studies teacher but not to the reporters at the time, and they used Western leaders’ opinions as their next step in explaining the information.

Does this represent a nationalistic explanation of international events?

I think so. This nationalism, I believe, comes out naturally and is almost inescapable. The only way one could report this in an absolutely unbiased way would be to provide the audience with a transcript of the talks and let them come to their own conclusions. People generally want a summary — and all summaries are written from the view of the reporter. Most people with an interest in world news still do not want an intensive reading representing a complex and dizzying array of international relations.

That being said, the fact that our tendency towards nationalism is expressed with militaristic assumptions can be dangerous in the world of reporting—and in our own lives. To assume militaristic reasons behind anything because of a lack of information might be rationally considering all possibilities—or it might be demonization of other countries or other parts of the world that we don’t understand.

I believe that the fault lies not particularly in presenting this one personal conclusion (of many possible conclusions) but in leaving out that they could not find a definite reason to present to the audience or that it was only one conclusion of many. Had the reporters mentioned the lack of information, I (and other readers) would be less inclined to confidently believe that militaristic support was the key to figuring out what was happening.

After reading the article, that piece of information stood out most to me — and then, the next day I learned what I confidently took away from the article was wrong. Iran was not particularly hiding something military and that was not why they were dis-invited. The slightest difference in presentation of information makes a big difference.

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Has journalism fallen?


Theodore Dawes explains in his article “The Fall of Journalism” that people tend to think that the newspaper is the product and that people are the customers. He says it is the other way around, stating that “advertisers are the customer and reader attention is the product.”

He explains that for years he has asked the same question: “Why are newspapers published?” and says he has received no good answer. To him, the real answer is because it makes money for the publisher.

Dawes believes that it is all driven by advertising and is about money, not really about the structure of it and those well-written articles, pointing out that he has “never taken a course in journalism, which I regard as a boon to my career and particularly to my reporting.”

This is an interesting point of view by a journalist himself, also expressing the relationship between newspaper owners and reporters; this first one taking advantage of reporters.

“Newspaper owners have for centuries utilized this leaning to pay reporters peanuts.  In fact, reporters are the lowest paid among occupations that require a college degree. In most places they earn 40-50 percent less than the local librarian. The newspaper owners benefit greatly from the naiveté of those in their newsroom.  They’re not going to say a word.”

This caught my attention because it should not be like that since reporters are primarily the ones who find something newsworthy for people and who are making an impact in the audience.

Dawes has another interesting point of view regarding journalism: he does not believe there exists such thing as “journalistic objectivity,” which is “a significant principle of journalistic professionalism that can refer to fairness, disinterestedness, factuality, and nonpartisanship, but most often encompasses all of these qualities.” He states that people believe they are reading the objective news, when in fact they are not: “Objective news was and remains a joke, but Americans continue to believe it exists.”

There are many points of view in society about what journalism is or should be, and many people out there who have different opinions and ways to look at the profession as a whole. But we journalists have to keep in mind that no matter what it is said, we always stick to the basics of professional journalism: write the truth and only the truth. Be honest to your audience and always give them something newsworthy for them to read about.

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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.