The Class Blog (11/19)

Posted November 29, 2009 by danparnella86
Categories: Uncategorized

For our last class before the Thanksgiving break, Professor Walker brought in Professor Cochran to speak about morals and ethics as they apply in the realm of journalism.  We repeated the Journalists’ Oath: “…”  Done!  He said that this was more of a legitimate oath than other hypocritical oaths that just end up being broken.  We discussed how there are no real laws on who can be a journalist or what they can say, which is why ethics plays a large role; there are no clearly defined lines that cannot be crossed.  Professor Cochran described morals as things that we believe whereas ethics are things that we do.  These ethical decisions are made based on our beliefs, culture, tradition, and values.  He also went over typical ethical issues that journalists face before giving us his own practice case study of an example ethical dilemma:

A police source has told one of your reporters that there is a suspicious package in an abandoned warehouse near downtown.  They have reason to believe that if it detonates, scores, if not hundreds, of people could be in danger, including your staff.  However, the police have asked you not to publish this information on your website until after investigations are complete, which could take hours.  Should you publish the news anyway or follows the police orders and wait?

If you do wait, many people could be injured or worse because they were not warned and evacuated before the bomb exploded, but if you publish it now, creating a panic and it ends up to be nothing, you might lose readership and hurt your reputation as a credible news source.  These were many of the discussion topics that came up and we as a class did not ultimately come to a decision.

Professor Cochran’s lecture supported what we read in Harrower’s chapter 7 and added a “real” insight into the ethical dilemmas journalists face almost everyday.

The Swine Flu Diaries

Posted November 18, 2009 by danparnella86
Categories: Uncategorized

Swine Victims

11/9/09

By Danny Parnella

For some students at American University, this semester has proven a bit lonelier than they might have predicted – through no fault of their own.

Senior Mike Silver, for example, was told by his housemates to stay in his room and not come out.  What was the reason for this?  He had full-blown symptoms of H1N1.

His first day of being sick wasn’t too bad.  “I had the chills and a slight fever and a bit of an ache, but it was tolerable,” said Silver.  “The second day was the worst.  I had aches so bad I could barely walk, which I think is something more common with the swine flu than the regular flu, from what I’ve seen.”

For many, however, the actual flu symptoms were not the worst part.

“My housemates quickly got me all the medicine and special food I needed and then stayed the hell away from me,” said Silver.  “Even though I only left my room to get food, they complained that I wasn’t staying in my room enough.”  Even after Silver was no longer showing symptoms, peers that found out he had swine flu would still tell him to stay away.

The university’s policy is that students with flu-like symptoms should quarantine themselves in their room until they have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.

Other college institutions have taken even further steps to separate the sick from the healthy.  Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., has cleared a dorm to quarantine students diagnosed with the H1N1 virus, according to The New York Times.  Others have followed.  “Carnegie Mellon University designated a vacant sorority house for the infected.  St. John’s University set aside a gymnasium,” said the Times.  “And Princeton did the opposite, reserving spaces for healthy students, so sick roommates can sleep in solitude.”

American University created an Emergency Preparedness plan in the event that the H1N1 outbreak turned into a pandemic.  Some AU students said that adding the new plan to every professor’s syllabus created paranoia on campus.

Junior Jenn Fernandes also had the H1N1 virus and said that the plan went a little too far.  “Everyone makes it seem as though it is this horrible thing and that people who have it should be shunned,” said Fernandes.  “It actually does not last that long and should not be treated much differently than the regular flu.”

Silver said the plan was “pointless; though some people were down from it for weeks, most people I’ve talked to, or heard about, were only sick for 3-5 days.  Over the counter Advil and cold-and-flu relief were all I took for this thing.  It’s really not a big deal.”

However, Maylin Wallace, an employee at the Health Center, said she agrees with the World Health Organization’s online statement that “H1N1 appears to be more contagious than seasonal influenza.”  According to the Center for Disease Control, “People infected with the H1N1 flu virus may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick 5-7 days after.”  This is compared to the regular flu that Wallace said should no longer spread 24 hours after the fever breaks.

Some students agree with the heightened caution the university has taken.

Sophomore Tommy Medaglia had a more severe experience with the swine flu.  “On a typical day for the five days I had a fever, it ranged from 101 to 104 degrees,” said Medaglia.  He contracted a secondary infection, “which makes it almost impossible to breathe.”  Medaglia said he was impressed by the Emergency Preparedness plan.  “I realized how serious it was, especially if you are the unlucky one like me and contracted the secondary infection,” said Medaglia.

Patricia Kelshian, executive director of Risk Management & Safety Services, had a large part in creating the plan and she said via email that it is necessary in case a pandemic ever occurs.

“In the event that a significant number of students and/or faculty are out sick, this plan will allow classes to continue in an online environment,” said Kelshian via e-mail.  Her response did not comment on whether the plan has caused an unneeded scare among the students.

Sophomore Tori Lardner said she noticed cruel behavior by those around her when she displayed flu-like symptoms.  “They would ask me what I had and then when they found out, they would give me a look and stare away,” said Larder.  “Once, someone yelled at me to get away from them when he heard me coughing.  I feel as though if I told them that I had the regular flu then they would not have had the same serious reaction.”

Lardner said it’s not just the university that is creating all the excitement.  “I think this discrimination is happening because everyone is hyped up about it because of the media and how much it is broadcasted on the news,” said Lardner.

According to news reports, some swine flu sufferers have felt shunned and discriminated against.

As the weather gets colder and the university progresses further into flu season, more students will likely fall prey to H1N1.

“People should be more aware of washing their hands and sharing drinks, but they should not be as paranoid as the media says they should be,” said Fernandes.

Contact:

Tommy Medaglia (571-246-2909, email: golfworld16@gmail.com)

Mike Silver (610-420-7791, email: ms4473a@american.edu)

Tori Lardner (847-476-1833, email: vl8018a@student.american.edu)

Jenn Fernandes (443-553-1836, email: jny502@yahoo.com)

Maylin Wallace-Health Center (202-885-3380, email: mwallace@american.edu)

Patricia Kelshian (202-885-3284, email: pat@american.edu)

Would rather not have published in The Eagle.  Thank you.

Change +1: An American Forum

Posted October 14, 2009 by danparnella86
Categories: Uncategorized

Obama Youth

10/14/09

By Danny Parnella

AU’s American Forum said the youth might be leading erosion of President Obama’s support yesterday in front of a packed student audience.

The panel of political experts included David Gregory, Jose Antonio Vargas, David Winston, David Corn, and Erin McPike, along with Jane Hall, the moderator for the event and an associate professor at AU’s School of Communication.

While Obama still has a strong following, the youth is not seeing the change they had envisioned, they said.

“Young people may not be as enchanted with Obama as they once were,” said McPike, a political reporter for CongressDaily and an AU graduate.

“During his campaign, President Obama made a lot of promises to the younger generation to gain their support, yet it seems the only things we have seen so far are poor job prospects and a health care plan that we will be paying for on top of this,” said Kristen Migosym, an undergraduate from AU.  She was one of at least 200 audience members who came to listen to the forum in the recital hall of AU’s Katzen Arts Center.

The issues Obama brought up during his candidacy have fallen by the wayside, according to the panel.  He has become “a far more conventional president than people expected him to be,” said Corn, the Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones and a columnist for PoliticsDaily.com.  The youth population is looking for results, said Winston, a Republican strategist and the president of The Winston Group.

A student tweeting during the forum agreed, “We are an impatient bunch, Obama!”  Gregory, a journalist and moderator for NBC’s Meet the Press, described the situation as “faith in a leader and less faith or support for his policies.”

The panel said this is the reasoning behind the drop in youth approval to the lowest it has been since Obama’s inauguration, even increasing from a 19 percent disapproval rating in March to 28 percent in September, according to the American Forum Polling Summary.

Vargas, the Technology and Innovations editor of the Huffington Post, said there is political disinterest growing in youths since the election last year and this is the media’s fault.  As a newspaper reporter, “I can tell you editors look down on covering young people,” said Vargas.  He said that the media must do a better job covering youth issues to keep that demographic involved in politics.

Some students agreed, such as Andrew Tomlinson who tweeted, “Why does there have to be a gimmick to get the youth involved, why don’t they just talk about our issues?”  The gimmick he was referring to was all the social networking and Internet campaigning that went on during Obama’s candidacy.

However, others said they are greatly involved, including Robbie Schwartz a recent graduate from AU who helped write up the polling analysis that the forum was based on.  “Health care, gay marriage, the economy, schools are all important issues to me and all have been tackled by Obama in some regard in the past few months,” said Schwartz.

Both Corn and Vargas said that Obama started out great by capitalizing on the social networking technology during his campaign, but it did not continue when he was elected into office reducing the transparency between the government and the youth.  Winston said the Republican’s needed to utilize this technology in order to win over more of the young voters, but Vargas said in contrast that “it’s not the technology, it’s the message.”

Schwartz said after the forum that it only touched the surface of these issues.  “It would have been extremely beneficial to have a student be a panelist,” he said.  “I would have loved to have seen either a student government representative or a College Democrat/Republican throw in their own two cents on how the overall youth community is feeling about Obama and politics in general.”  Schwartz also said Gregory made the discussion too general because, according to him, “as the host of Meet the Press, Gregory had to avoid showing any bias.”

However, he said that a lot of the conversation was interesting and thought provoking, including the comment from Vargas that the youth do not watch Meet the Press.  “It was so true and really spoke to how politics doesn’t always cater to the younger generation.”

##

The Laws of Journalism

Posted September 28, 2009 by danparnella86
Categories: Uncategorized

In response to Danna Walker’s blog The Seven Laws of Journalism – This Semester, I tend to agree that the word “news” has taken on a new meaning since its first introduction.  News used to be everything you read in the newspaper.  It was mostly fact-based events that impacted the general public.  Now, news is basically anything you hear about anything or anyone that is new to you.  This explains why “Did you hear the news?” now pertains to almost anything, not just important, fact based topics.

So, in saying that, I disagree with Walker that we (the youth) think that news “is dry and objective — and generally to be avoided unless you’re a hard-core politics junkie.”  However, I do agree that “journalism” might be defined in that manner.  That is why, to me, The Daily Show is considered news or has news elements, but it is not journalism.

Walker’s journalism laws definitely get to the root of the matter of why to be a journalist and how to be the best one possible, but I also thought some of them were very applicable to any other career in communications.  I want to work in the film industry where you will often need to step out of your comfort zone and “grow a pair” in order to create your vision.  Soundstages are not so invisible to your audience so getting out in the world shoot in the real setting makes a huge difference.

Dealing with life should be a global rule.  In whatever you end up doing as a career, you must be organized and be able to manage your time effectively.  You almost always have deadlines and your work has to be at least up to par.  Procrastination is just wasting your life away.  Instead of doing things you would really want to spend your time doing, you waste it on mindless junk just to keep yourself from doing what needs to be done.  There is no point to it and chronic procrastination leads to high stress and a disorganized life.  Nothing is more applicable for the real world than to stay organized and make the best use of your time.

The reading we had also covered some rules for journalism, how to cover meetings, politics, and sports.  I liked the section that said even though a meeting might be boring doesn’t mean your story has to be.  This included some good advice including keeping things short so its harder to bore your reader.  Covering politics is definitely the most difficult as you can never be sure who is telling the whole truth or if there is more information that needs to be uncovered.  For each different beat there are different techniques to gather the facts and create a readable, accurate story.

Texting Craze

Posted September 17, 2009 by danparnella86
Categories: Uncategorized

In almost every one of my classes I hear the quiet tapping of cell phone buttons or see someone staring at their glowing screen reading a reply.  Texting is taking over as the primary form of communication for today’s youth, besides actual face-to-face interaction.  The cell phone is becoming more of an instant messaging device than it is an actual phone.  This is based on a study conducted by the NPD Group revealing “46 percent of youth with cell-phones engage in text messaging, more so than making actual phone calls” (Link).   More and more often I now walk through the quad and instead of students talking to themselves with a phone stuck to their ear, they are looking down and furiously typing on their keyboards.

Texting is fast and easy once you get the hang of it and you can do it almost anywhere.  Unlike making a phone call, you can text during dinner, class, while you’re talking to someone else, you don’t need to interrupt something important to ask a quick question and get a fast response.  In our present fast paced world, constant social interaction is necessary.  One must always be connected to the social network and texting is a simple way to achieve just that.

This is less applicable for adults, partially because there is less social interaction and it is less useful in the business world.  Therefore, it is our youth who have mastered the art and are able to type extremely fast and utilize texting to the best of its ability.

While texting is obviously useful in many ways, there are negative consequences of its ever-increasing use.  Beth Raymond, a sophomore at American University, agrees she texts more than she makes phone calls, but says it is slightly a problem.  “People lose that ‘face-to-face’ contact,” says Raymond.  “It’s more impersonal.”  There is also the problem that many times messages get lost in translation.  It is hard to show exactly what you mean through text alone.  An article by William A. Gentry agrees that 93 percent of the emotional meaning behind what someone says is nonverbal (or non-textual) (Link).  With words being such a low percentage of what we are trying to communicate, it is easy to see how messages can be misunderstood or taken the wrong way.  This is really the reason why we have emoticons (the smiley faces and frowns among many others), so that we can express emotion through text.  However, how do you express sarcasm, which can easily be misconstrued when the tone of voice is not heard?

Even with these negatives that threaten the future of our society (the way texting destroys the English language is a whole story in itself), texting isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  It will continue to grow because it has made life a little simpler and more convenient for our youth that never stop to breathe.

Newsroom: No opinions allowed

Posted September 2, 2009 by danparnella86
Categories: Uncategorized

Objectivity in journalism used to seem like a given to me.  However, the more news I absorb, the more a slant or opinion starts to creep through.  From reading several articles on the subject it seems that many feel objectivity is dead, but it can’t be completely gone.  Not all of news is about controversial issues or the important politicos involved, so how can there be anything but facts in a story about a raging fire in California?  Even as I write that, however, I suppose one could show a bias in how the state is handling the situation or something similar.  I would think the editor would pick up on any opinion and strike it out, unless he is “corrupt” as well.

Now I say “corrupt” specifically in quotations to emphasize how I feel on the issue of objectivity vs. opinion.  A little bias is really not going to have the great impact on its readers that some seem to think.  In the age we are in now, with high speed internet and 24-hour news stations, we consume so much news from so many different sources that it’s almost impossible for us not to hear all the facts.  Yes, we hear a certain view from one source, but then hear the complete opposite from another.  There is still a balance and it is still possible for the consumer to make up his or her own mind.

This brings me to my opinion that many times editors go too far in trying to keep everything objective.  Trying to keep your newspaper free from slant is one thing, but then enforcing the same rule on the personal lives of your employees is another.  Many reporters and journalists have created their own blogs where their personal opinion should be allowed to exist freely.  They might comment on an article they actually wrote, but now interjecting how they feel on the topic.  Some editors feel these blogs are detrimental to their company and have tried to constrain the bias there as well.  This, as one of Steve Outing’s interviewees pointed out, is a direct violation of the First Amendment and, in my opinion, should not be tolerated.  Until journalists are allowed to give input in their own stories, which many think should happen sooner rather than later, their own personal blogs should be an allowable space for bias.

I think it comes down to tradition and naivety.  News consumers are smarter than they are given credit for and can sift through slant to see the actual facts and in this age there are enough there for us to make our own decisions.

Hello writing for mass comm!

Posted August 27, 2009 by danparnella86
Categories: Uncategorized

So, after reading the first assignment from the Harrower’s book, I will describe it as “thick.”  There is a lot of information crammed onto every one of these pages, but fortunately, most of it is interesting.  The section titled “How the news comes together” grabbed my attention, as I had no idea how many people it actually takes to create a newspaper.  According to the “Reporter” quiz I wouldn’t “be too happy working in the newsroom.”  I was amused when I read one page past our reading where it describes why we call it a “deadline.”

From this class I really expect to eventually be able to write more efficiently, meaning writing quality work, but in a much shorter amount of time.  It takes me forever to write down my thoughts so I hope this class will help with that.  I’m willing to put 100 percent (not % or per cent :P) into this class in order to be skilled at writing.  This would obviously help me in my academic career, but also in my professional.  I aspire to be a feature film editor and writing is still a part of that career choice.  Others still need to know my thought processes and I will need to document while also edit.  Therefore, learning to write effectively is a must.

I am also hoping this class teaches me a different style of writing or different strategies to approach writing.  I am tired of writing literary essays and research papers.  I need something new that might actually work for me.  I need new strategies because of my inability to crank out a piece of writing.  I almost always have an immediate writer’s block when I sit down to write something so I’m hoping that this class will change that.  I’m looking forward to learning to write for mass communication so let’s get started.