Category Archives: Assignment 10

Assignment 10: Seeing is not believing

So many wars, settling scores Bringing us promises, leaving
us poor I heard them say ‘love is the way” Love is the answer,’ that’s what they say

But look how they treat us, make us
believers We fight their battles, then they deceive us

Try to control us, they couldn’t hold us
‘Cause we just move forward like Buffalo Soldiers

K’naan-Wavin Flag

 

James Morris, the executive director of the World Food Program quoted, “Occasionally, I have thought the worst place for a hungry child to live in Africa today is a community that is at peace with its neighbors and relatively stable” (Polman). The media will focus on more interesting regions where people want to listen and hear about. Simply crying out loud from hungry children is not enough to motivate the media to cover and feature their relatively stable and peaceful place in Africa. When more than 100,000 Iraqis died from the Iraq war, the establishment used the media for its justification. Over half of young adults Americans heard about Kony 2012 and they urged for stopping Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. Many people including Teju Cole criticized this behavior stating Americans should worry about the mess that they have made. Should Americans get blamed? Or Were they just victims of the media just like the hungry children in a safe region in Arica?

Dear Media, please don't use their smiles to benefit yourselves. Some of us can tell the difference between fake smiles and genuine smiles.

Dear Media, please don’t use their smiles to benefit yourselves. Some of us can tell the difference between fake smiles and genuine smiles.

There are many possible answers for the questions above, but certainly people need to be more careful with information they receive and their sources. Global citizens should know about the true image of the world. They need to keep putting efforts to get genuine and accurate information as well as they have to choose sources carefully and be critical about information they encounter. The power of the media is terrifying. Compared to Korea’s corrupted media usage and manipulation, The United States’ are less subtle. Lee Myoung Bak, the 17th president of South Korea dominated the media to cover up his money laundering. During the election campaign, Lee spent a lot of money to take control major broadcasters, newspapers, and most of newspapers. Korean citizens were manipulated and brainwashed; to the point where a hidden video that proves Lee’s money laundering and his lies, was suddenly posted on the internet, but people didn’t believe. Their eyes got blinded and their ears went deaf. Lee was elected and as a result, he has been such a successful president that made a lot of money through his presidency. People regretted, but it was too late. That’s what they got for blindly believing the media and not being critical about the sources.

The media for 'us'? No. They neve cared in the first place.

The media for ‘us’? No.

When it comes down to getting information, I try to get it from as many sources as possible along with many different characteristics and tendencies of the sources. For instance, Fox News and The Wall Street Journal are conservative where the New York Times, CBS, International Herald Tribune are progressive. When I want to know about an issue that has conservative manner, I will be critical about what the New York Times says and compare and contrast with conservative sources like the Wall Street Journal. Aljazeera and BBC are fairly reliable and credible sources. However after so-called ‘Arab Spring,’ Aljazeera’s fair and equal reports and its independency have been questioned. There is no source that is completely free of bias, stereotypes, assumptions, political interests and monetary benefits. We must find our information from many different places and have keen eyes to tell the truth from the wrong.

References

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. 21 Mar. 2012. Web. <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/2/>.

Polman, Linda. “The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?” New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.

“민주, 이명박 대통령 대선자금 수사 촉구.” . SBS News, 15 Jul 2012. Web. <http://news.sbs.co.kr/section_news/news_read.jsp?news_id=N1001259956>.

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Media is a Business

As humans, we often hear what we want to hear more often than what we should hear. This is especially the case with news stories. The news industry is a business, meaning their main goal is maximizing profit. To maximize profit, one needs to please the consumers, or the people watching the news. This contributes to many news sources targeted towards different audiences, in turn, creating a number of different biases in the news. The main question is how do we pick apart information from different news sources to find out what’s true and what isn’t?

In his book, “Manufacturing Consent”, Noam Chomsky talks about two different kinds of subjects in news – worthy victims and unworthy victims. Unsurprisingly, the group that the news focuses on most of the time is the worthy victims. They’re the ones the public wants to hear about whereas the unworthy victims are the people that the public wouldn’t care about as much. “A propaganda system will consistently portray people abused in enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by its own government or clients will be unworthy” (Chomsky). News sources not reporting on what are considered “unworthy victims” is a huge problem in the media and creates a skewed perspective on how people view conflicts around the globe.

Furthermore, news sources will sometimes make assumptions or misinform the general public about these worthy victims to make the news seem more appealing. A very recent example of this pertains to Nelson Mandela who was recently put on life support because of his inability to breath on his own (Huffington Post). Yesterday, a news source called “The Gaurdian Express” launched a news article entitled “Nelson Mandela Life Support Shut Down as Respected Humanitarian Died Age 94”, reporting on something that wasn’t true. In this case, the Guardian made an assumption about the state of Nelson Mandela’s state because of his being put on life support, and turned that assumption into a news article. This soon became the Guardian’s most popular news article even after the public realized it wasn’t true. To be fair, the Guardian has since updated their wrongful assumption and added a question mark to the title.

Now raises the question, which news sources can be trusted and which can’t. The first is to try and avoid news sources geared towards a specific audience such as Fox News or the front page of Reddit. Second, always take news stories with a grain of salt, don’t hesitate to check multiple news sources to try and get the whole picture on current events. A good global news station would be NPR. NPR’s number one goal is to spread information on current events around the world, they have reporters all over the world sharing what they see and hear in their areas, then relaying it to the radio station. They aren’t geared as much towards a specific audience as much as many other news sources.

As a global citizen, one needs to realize that media is a business. Near everything they report on is what the public subconsciously hear, news about victims they can sympathize with, even if the source is incorrect. A global citizen needs to be able to second guess everything, stay unbiased in their learning about an event, even if a news source is. This is often tough to do since we have many different biases instilled in us, but it’s important to learn how to deal with media today even if it can often be frustrating.

 

Anderson, Jessica Cumberbatch. “Nelson Mandela On Life Support (REPORT).” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 26 June 2013. Web.

Chomsky, Noam. “Manufacturing Consent: CHAPTER 2: WORTHY AND UNWORTHY VICTIMS.” Winkest Leak. Web.

Smith, Michael. “The Guardian Express.” The Guardian Express. Frackle Media, 26 June 2013. Web.

 

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Navigating the Media Minefield

The saying knowledge is power is a well known idiom, and in our society it is most decidedly the truth.  With the right information you can make millions  or change the world.  This emphasis on knowledge has led to a booming news industry with TV stations, newspapers and websites all vying for your attention.  These sources of information have become so powerful that they can now shape the facts to their choosing, resulting in often contradictory coverage.  As global citizens it is imperative that we learn to separate the true from the false and the biased from the facts.

It is worth noting that in todays day and age few news organizations can get away with a complete lie.  Not only are there laws in place to prevent it, other organizations will jump at the chance to call their opponents out for slip ups.  Instead we see subtle, and sometimes incredibly overt biases guiding the tone and nature of the news.  This far more insidious practice can have a massive influence on peoples opinions, resulting in multiple conflicting interpretations of the same facts.

As a global citizen you should always take new information with a grain of salt.  All news has at some point been written and repackaged by another person.  Even if they are trying to give an unbiased account they can still give a slant to their news, not to mention the possibility of their source being biased.  Furthermore, many news stations and sources purposefully give their news a bias in order to maintain viewership and therefore money.  For instance, a 2012 Pew Research Center Survey “found that opinion and commentary fill 85 percent of the airtime on MSNBC.” (Logiurato)  This heavy level of opinion can result in misinformed viewers whose opinions are not necessarily their own.  While this specific example highlights TV, biased news of all mediums has become a hallmark of American media.

So as a concerned citizen, what can you do to sift through the slant?  The single most important thing you can do it get your news from a variety of sources that present the news as straight as possible.  Yet, having a few opinionated and contradictory sources can help give you new perspective.  For instance my father, a fairly liberal guy who enjoys listening to NPR and watching CNN, tries to tune into Fox’s opinion panel “The Five” to “see how the other side thinks”.  Having a diversity of opinions can make you better informed and more capable of making your decisions.  Another helpful trick is to go international.  There are many reputable news sources outside of the US that can give great insight into international affairs and even American politics.  The BBC and Aljazeera are are both incredible sources, if a tad conservative.

 

The other key to navigating media bias is to dig deeper.  Often times what is presented in a simplistic manner is actually far more complicated.  Beyond this, sometimes news sources end up simply reporting lies.  For instance, in the fall of 2012 a french research study came out implicating genetically modified food consumption with highly increased rates of cancer.  This sent the media into a tizzy and ushered in renewed calls to label GMOs.  Yet upon further investigation it was revealed that the study was done in a completely haphazard manner with little regard for the scientific method (Revkin).  Because of the shallow initial investigation the issue was sensationalized and lies perpetuated.

Another great way to sort fact from fiction is to look at the numerous fact checking institutions.  The fact of the matter is that manipulation of the news is so widespread that some groups make a living off of exposing their lies.  For instance, factcheck.org is an unbiased website that monitors statements made by American politicians and news sources that separates fact from fiction.  These sites are indispensable tools for any global citizen.

The bottom line is that as global citizens we need to take everything with a grain of salt.  Everyone is out to make a living, even the people that are supposed to be giving us the facts.  As Linda Polman points out in War Games, many news stations used children with amputated limbs to increase sympathy and to try and garner a few more views (Polman).  What some may call the deplorable exploitation of suffering, others would call the presentation of the facts.  It all boils down to opinion.

Works Cited
Logiurato, Brett. “MSNBC Has Become Almost Entirely Saturated With Opinion, And Fox News Is Doing Much More Factual Reporting.” Business Insider. N.p., 18 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.
Polman, Linda, and Liz Waters. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.
Revkin, Andrew. “Six French Science Academies Dismiss Study Finding GM Corn Harmed Rats.” Dot Earth Six French Science Academies Dismiss Study Finding GM Corn Harmed Rats Comments. N.p., 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 27 June 2013.
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A. Nicot – Assignment 10: Vetting

There are three main ways to determine a source’s validity as provider of information: are the people writing this information accredited and qualified?; is the publication be it print or digital that they are using accredited, recommended, or respected by experts in the fields it deals with?; is it actually presenting information in a way that defies doubt?

The third of those aspects is crucial if you are trying to determine a source’s true worth, the first two aspects are useful to determine a level of respectability if the issue covered is not particularly dubious or virulently controversial in a manner that might otherwise affect reporting or opinion. Let us describe a hypothetical example.

The nationalist website FdeSouche often delivers factual content – but is it’s presentation questionable? Should a strong condemnation of it by other press outlets affect a reader’s judgment of it?

A story concerning a local crime incident is reported in a local blog posted online, but the story is one that is controversial due to the circumstances of the event in question. The blog post about this incident contains photographic evidence of the event and direct testimony from witnesses the blog author interviewed, but he himself holds opinions directly involved in this controversial case as presented in the rest of his blog. While the information he presents is reliable and his conclusions even sound based on the evidence, a larger national press syndicate condemns his appropriation of the crime for political ends, while it itself does not publish perhaps crucial witness testimony which may change the way the case is presented to and understood by the broader national public.

In this case, should one trust the national publication which is reputable and contains professional investigative journalist, or the clearly-evidenced blog post of a politically minded blogger? Quite clearly the more reliable source on this story at least is the one with photographs of the crime in action who lived in the neighborhood where it was committed. His direct expertise and irrefutable (let’s say) presentation of evidence to form an interpretation of events should trump the reputation of a national press organization which deliberately withholds information for what might be an ideological purpose, or which lacks a contextually appropriate interpretation of the event.

This is in any case how I would personally determine a good source if I actually applied a formal logic to it. In fact of course, I search for sources which will provide news in the format I am looking for it. If I want a broad overview of a news story in easy-to-read blurbs I go to the BBC or CNN (in English-language), or if I want to read a slightly more in depth article I will read the UK newspaper, The Telegraph (in English), or Le Figaro (in French), maybe Le Monde (also French). If I’m looking for a left wing analysis, or a right wing one, I will visit the appropriate website in whichever language I choose, and usually most mainstream news sources have a bias in one of those directions. If I’m looking for a specifically nationalist approach  I will visit one of many nationalist news-agglomeration sites which usually do not necessarily write their own articles but draw attention to the manner in which news stories are covered and provide information in a manner which filters for relevancy to its audience. Perhaps I will pursue the topic to seek a general view of the issue in the eyes of internet denizens, and look at popular imageboards or content-sharing websites.

News acquisition is contextual. I wouldn’t actually recommend a standard manner to analyze a news source like I provided, but rather to understand that since all news is filtered and since all content distributors have interests and biases, to sort through them accordingly to what you’re trying to know. Le Figaro will mention how an international incident will affect France where the BBC will not, for example. As far as sorting through information that is contradictory, if there is no way to find out a definite answer, the only solution is to trust your gut and use what is the most likely version of a story, as you would think it. Or defer to the opinion of  a person or commentator you trust. For example, Eric Zemmour (investigative journalist and media personality)  is usually my go to reference if I have doubts on an issue I know he would know more about in his work. It helps that we agree on many issues.

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The Truth? You Can’t Handle The Truth!

In War Games, Polman opens our eyes to the fact that media has a tendency to cut corners when it comes to reporting on humanitarian aid efforts. Many of the media outlets only send out reporters, or coverage teams, if the costs are covered by the organization wanting the coverage. The coverage serves as an advertisement to bring in donors, and money. So, the independent factor of the media is tainted and most reports only show those poor people in need, how terrible the situation is, and how much help this organization is providing to those poor people. In essence, the media becomes an employee of the organization and only reports positively about the aid effort. Would it be a smart move for the media outlet to report negatively on the organization? A couple of old sayings come to mind. You never bite the hand that feeds you or you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.

Sadly, this scenario probably happens more often throughout the media and news coverage than most people realize. No matter what major news channel you tune in to, they probably have something that influences them besides simply reporting the news. For example, in the coverage of the 2012 Presidential Election, you could turn it to CNN, MSNBC, or FOXNEWS and get different poll results, different opinions on who won debates, and different results on the actual voting. Do you think these media outlets were just getting the wrong information? Maybe, but it is more reasonable to assume that these outlets were trying to please whichever political party with which they are affiliated. In the end, the results have to reflect the true results, but everything in between that can be chalked up to misinformation, even though that’s probably not the case. However, if misinformation is to blame for this, then how can we rely on information that they report on other stories?

The truth to this is that we shouldn’t. The fact is that we all have different opinions, different cultures, and different interpretations of things that we experience or watch. Polman’s book could exaggerate the facts, but it is her experience. In the Eyes of Others could be propaganda for MSF, as simply a show that they are trying to solve the problem, when they really just want to rebuild their image. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures could overemphasize their experiences. How do we trust these print publications when we have evidence that the media isn’t always independent or reporting the “whole truth”? We don’t. Emergency Sex contains a disclaimer to all readers at the beginning of the book. It reads:

Everything in these pages is true as we experienced it, perceived it, and remember it. The book does not, however, pretend to be about the nuances of international politics, and we are not claiming objective historical, journalistic, or academic accuracy. The work is derived from our official memos, personal diaries, letters home, and memories—some many years after the fact. These pages therefore include all the subjective distortions and revisions we told ourselves, our friends, and our bosses. We have changed the names and identities of lovers, acquaintances, and colleagues. We have telescoped time, adjusted the sequence of events, and altered minor facts in some passages to help render the progression of our lives and missions more understandable. We have not artificially re-created dialogue; instead we have simply reported conversations as we remember them. Dialogue that does appear in quotes indicates a more distinct recollection of specific words and phrases. (Emergency, Note to the Reader)

We see many disclaimers, while different in verbiage, similar to this on many ads and commercials as well. While the reason for the disclaimers being on the ads and commercials is for a different reason then it being at the beginning of this book, it is another strong point that proves this concept should be applied to more than just ads, commercials, and books.

However, there are no disclaimers in newspapers or on news channels when they report the news. We are supposed to trust that they are doing their job properly, independently, and reporting the cold hard facts to us. However, there is evidence that disproves this ideology and shows that we must find a way to take the information that is reported, interpret the facts, determine any underlying allegiances or bias that many be present, and then dig to find the truth. There is no easy way, no easy answer to how this is done. There is no magic channel, website, or book that will give us all of the answers. We must use something that we have been working on since we were children.

As children growing up, studies have shown that we aren’t able to truly differentiate advertisements from actual tv programs, distinguish between the two, comprehend the purpose of the advertisements, or understand that they are trying to sell us something until roughly age 12. By that time, we are supposed to have the cognitive ability to grasp that concept. We are supposed to continue to use and strengthen this ability and apply it to all facets of our life. We are not supposed to rely on others to form our opinions for us. We, as responsible members of society, adults, and global citizens, have to recognize the ever growing problem in media and the news and decrypt the information. While it is not possible to find the “whole truth” all the time, we do have a responsibility to dig deeper. As kids, we all, at one point or another, gave our parents the answer when asked why we did something, “Well so-and-so was doing it.” Which our parents would respond, “Well, if so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” The whole premise of this conversation is to instill in us the confidence to be different, make our own decisions, and not be a follower. We can still learn from a simple concept our parents taught us when we were young and apply it when dealing with the media today.

Works Cited:

Abu-Sada, Caroline. In the Eyes of Others. United States: MSF-USA, n.d. Print.

“Advertising and Children.” Raising Children Network. Raising Children Network, 14 3 2011. Web. 27 Jun 2013. .

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth. New York: Hyperion, 2004. Print.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

StateFarm,. State of Disbelief (French Model). 2013. Video. YouTubeWeb. 27 Jun 2013. .

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Is Your News Fact or Fiction? The Impact of Media Bias

Screen Shot 2013-06-26 at 11.39.28 PM

There are over seven billion people on this planet.  As humans, we are all tied together, and we have a duty to one another.  Acknowledging these ties and this duty makes one a global citizen.  Global citizens recognize themselves as part of the entire world; therefore, as part of the world, they are responsible for the protection of its citizens.  Awareness is key if we are to successfully protect our fellow citizens.  Since we are so far from many of the current humanitarian concerns, we have to rely on news outlets to inform us.  Is this news accurate?  How can we determine whether a story is true?  What happens if we find out it is not?  Awareness plus action is what equals a true global citizen.  If we act based on faulty information, we may do more harm than good.

In this day and age, news flies at us every second of the day.  From our computers, to our phones, to just a plain old newspaper, everything is programmed to keep us up to date on the latest stories of the day.  With all of this surrounding us at all times, it is important to look critically at these stories.  News only matters if it is true, so determining which stories are biased or flat out lies is extremely important.  Bias is common in journalism, with many journalists admitting to using a liberal slant in their stories.  People’s feelings about a situation can be significantly affected depending on how the media portrays it.  The same goes for humanitarian aid.  Often, when donors give large amounts of money to an aid organization, they dictate where it will be spent.  Their choice is influenced by what they see on TV, what they read online or in the newspaper, and what other people are saying about the crisis.  How much of this information is actually true?

Greg Mortenson is the best-selling author of Three Cups of Tea.  This book is marketed as a story about a man who was inspired to build schools in Pakistan, and includes tales about him being taken care of by a small village and being kidnapped by the Taliban.  Recently, many of the stories in this book were exposed as exaggerated or completely false.  In the book, there is a picture of Mortenson with his alleged Taliban kidnappers.  One of the men pictured is a member of a respected think tank in Pakistan, and until a short time ago did not know that he was being passed off as a member of the Taliban in a best seller.  The stories in the book are not all that is fishy.  Over the fourteen years that Mortenson’s charity, the Central Asia Institute, has been in existence, they have only once submitted an audited financial statement.  Questions are rising about how the Institute’s money is being spent.  In fact, more money is spent on domestic travel to promote the idea of building schools in Pakistan than actually building the schools.  Mortenson’s story is an example that not everything you see is what it seems to be.

Greg Mortenson with his book, Three Cups of Tea

Greg Mortenson with his book, Three Cups of Tea

Misrepresentation of information can have huge ramifications, especially in the aid industry.  When learning about world events and crises, it is important to do your research.  Checking what several news sources say about a particular topic is one way to protect yourself from inaccurate or slanted news.  For instance, if you rely on Fox News as an information source, there will be a conservative slant to your news.  Knowing this and examining a piece of news on several news outlets will allow you to see a clearer picture of what actually happened.  Scholarly, academic articles can be another source of information.  Because these articles go through several rounds of vetting to ensure they are accurate, they will not offer up-to-date news.  However, they can paint the big picture surrounding an event.  There have been many scholarly articles written about the Rwandan genocide, which happened nearly twenty years ago.  These articles try to answer questions about the genocide, such as what actually happened and why it happened.  First-hand accounts can also be useful in piecing together a story.  The book Emergency Sex gives the reader multiple eyewitness accounts from Ken Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson, who worked in humanitarian crises all over the world in the 1990s.  However, when reading stories such as these, we must be appropriately skeptical.  Greg Mortenson’s story was a firsthand account, and we now know how much of that was actually true.

In her book, War Games, Linda Polman discusses how aid organizations sometimes aren’t spending their money wisely.  Some employees take kickbacks, money is not competently kept track of, and projects go unsupervised.  “Neither the donors nor their INGOs dare to visit the projects they finance.  The result is an unfathomable channeling of aid billions that is highly susceptible to fraud.” (Polman 134).  Do we hear about this humanitarian aid fraud in the news?  Personally, I feel like it is important enough to be more thoroughly covered by news outlets.  We must demand that the media cover these topics, so that aid organizations will fix these problems to function more effectively.

It is easy for us to assume the best in people, especially in organizations that are based on doing good.  However, we must still remember to keep them accountable, to let them know that someone is watching what they are doing.  Being aware of what is happening in the world is the first step toward becoming a global citizen, and knowing that you are being told the truth is crucial.  Thomas Sowell said, “If people in the media cannot decide whether they are in the business of reporting news or manufacturing propaganda, it is all the more important that the public understand that difference, and choose their news sources accordingly.”  It is important that we be able to distinguish fact from fiction, for our own knowledge and for the sake of the person whose story we are hearing.

 

Works Cited

 

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

“Greg Mortenson’s Stories From ‘Three Cups Of Tea’ Called Into Question By ’60 Minutes'” American Attorney. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://americanattorneysonline.blogspot.com/2011/04/authors-tall-tale-comes-to-light.html>.

Huber, Michaela, Leaf Van Boven, A. Peter McGraw, and Laura Johnson-Graham. “Whom to Help? Immediacy Bias in Judgments and Decisions about Humanitarian Aid.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 115.2 (2011): 283-93. Web. 26 June 2013. <http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/mcgrawp/pdf/huber.vanboven.mcgraw.johnsongraham.2011.pdf>.

“Journalists Admitting Liberal Bias, Part One.” Media Research Center. N.p., 20 Apr. 2012. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.mrc.org/media-bias-101/journalists-admitting-liberal-bias-part-one>.

Kroft, Steve. “Questions over Greg Mortenson’s Stories.” 60 Minutes. CBSNews, 24 June 2012. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57455559/questions-over-greg-mortensons-stories/>.

“Media Bias Explained in One Picture.” Imgur. Imgur, n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://imgur.com/xMpLl>.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Penguin, 2011. Print.

“Rwanda Genocide Scholarly Articles.” Google. Google, n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=rwanda+genocide+scholarly+articles&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart&sa=X&ei=41rMUb-JI4f28wSaxIHgCQ&ved=0CCoQgQMwAA>.

Sowell, Thomas. BrainyQuote. BrainyQuote, n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/thomassowe440790.html>.

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Global Citizenship: Examining Media Sources

 

This day in age, society has become overwhelmed with sources of information. From popular news channels like CNN or Fox News and popular newspapers such as The New York Times and USA to Google searches and Twitter posts, the public is constantly exposed to new information from the media. According to a study by Albert Bandura, the media is primarily used to “promote changes by informing, enabling, motivating, and guiding participants. In the socially mediated pathway, media influences participants to social networks and community settings that provide natural incentives and continued personalized guidance, for desired change” (Bandura).  Because the media can ultimately influence such social change, it’s important to make sure we, as global citizens, extract our information from reliable sources. But how do we know what sources are credible? How can we determine what information is true? How can we recognize biases in articles and news reports? All sources must be met with a critical eye. We must question everything we read or see. Nothing we read can be assumed as true. I believe that when examining information sources, the personal bias of the author must be recognized and accounted for. This kind of examination is especially crucial when investigating accounts of humanitarian aid. Inaccurate reporting about the aid industry will allow corruption and effective aid to continue.

Tony Mazzarella Filming School in Tanzania Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media filming student aid work in Tanzania.

When assessing what sources are trustworthy and what sources are not, I like to pay particular attention to the expertise of the author in the field in which they are reporting about. In Linda Polman’s book War Games, she references media coverage of the Murray Town Camp for Sierra Leone amputee victims as one on many instances in which inaccurate reporting was used to increase aid fund raising.  Because this case was very popular in many countries, media sources from “CNN and the New York Times to Dutch public television and the South China Post all managed to find the Murray Town camp” (61). Not only was the situation of the amputees exaggerated by these sources, resulting in a surplus of aid goods and misuse of aid money, but “even organizations that were not there specifically to help the amputees used photos of people in Murray Town Camp in their fundraising campaigns”(61). In this way, sources that had no knowledge of how to help the amputee victims exploited their situation for personal gains. For this reason, it is important to examine the expertise of the author. Did they actually go and examine the situation in the Murray Town Camp?  Do they have a history of working in crisis areas? Are their reports detailed and accurate, or do they seem embellished and inflated? As global citizens, it is essential that we ask these kinds of questions when examining information sources.

It is also important to investigate Linda Polman as an author. Is her reporting accurate? How do we know? First of all, Polman’s expertise in the aid industry is apparent throughout her book. She has been to many crisis areas, interviewed many aid officials, and always questions the information she is told. Instead of taking facts presented in media reports as truth, Polman investigates deeper, coming to her own conclusions, which often differ from the popular opinions of media sources. Polman’s expertise in the aid industry combined with her critical eye make her book a valid source. Even so, it is important to keep Polman’s ultimate goal of exposing flaws of the aid industry in mind and realize that this personal bias comes through in her writing. If we understand that, Polmam’s book can be used as a valuable source for understanding the aid industry.

The experiences of the author are also important when examining the credibility of a source. In the book Emergency Sex, authors Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson, all recall personal experiences as aid workers for the United Nations and the Red Cross. By recalling these experiences, each author reveals their personal growth and changed opinion of the aid industry. After their time working in many crisis areas, all three authors are exposed to the corruption in aid organizations. Through personal experience, each author becomes critical of the aid industry and questions the true extent to which aid organizations help victims. At the end of the book, Cain reflects on what he has experienced and realizes that he now understands “the world is corrupt and brutal, that most countries look out only for their own interests, and people seldom rush to dangerous acts of selfless sacrifice” (294). But this does not stop Cain from wanting to help. This is why he feels compelled to write about his experiences and expose problems of the aid industry. In telling their personal experiences, all authors reveal personal flaws and shortcomings while working in the field. Their “tell-all” style of writing shows the truthfulness in their reporting. The amount of experience each author has in the aid industry is made very apparent, therefore validating the book as a reliable source. Even so, we must remember that these stories are personal accounts of the past and are likely contain bias. Instead of taking every word of every story as exact fact, it is more important to see the truth in the themes each author explains and develop a better understanding of the aid industry as a whole.

When first inspecting a media source, one must verify the expertise and experience of the author. If the author has little experience in that field or seems to be reporting for solely popular interest, the source is most likely unreliable. The author most likely used inaccurate statements to gain popularity and public interest. However, if the expertise of the author has been confirmed, then the personal bias of the author should always be investigated. What are their motives for writing? Although all reporting contains some amount of bias, some articles are more opinion based than others. If the article contains a lot of personal opinion, it is important to keep that in mind when extracting information from this source.

Overall, global citizens should examine and investigate all types of media. Thorough and expansive research means exploring beyond popular media sources.  Sources must be critically examined, with particular investigation of the author. Global citizens must make it a priority to find credible sources to truly understand the flaws of aid industry, and therefore we can move forward in finding an effective solution to ending corruption in humanitarian aid.

 

The following video shows how popular media sources often jump of stories of popular interest or report inaccurate findings just for the sake of public interest:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlOI4AQCXiA

 

Sources:

Bandura, Albert. “Social Cognitive Theory of Mass Communication.” Media Psychology 3.3 (2001): 265-99. Print.

Cain, Kenneth, Heidi Postlewait, and Andrew Thomson. Emergency Sex (and Other Desperate Measures): True Stories from a War Zone. London: Ebury, 2004. Print.

Polman, Linda. War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern times. London: Viking, 2010. Print.

Picture:

http://mazz.com/education/2012/08/mazz-media-president-visits-students-in-tanzania/

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The Importance of Vetting Our Sources of Information

The goal of every global citizen is to become as well-versed in as many topics as possible, a difficult task before one even takes into account the countless news sources one can receive their information from, and the fact that a great deal of this information is altered to serve an agenda.

Some books, such as Linda Polman’s “Caravan Crisis” or Kenneth Cain’s “Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures,” are given slightly more credibility, since their stories told are from a “boots on the ground” perspective, and backed by statistics from reputable and independent sources. But even information like this must be viewed critically, because these authors are very clearly trying to send a message about humanitarian aid, and persuade the reader to feel a certain way, through the presentation of selective evidence that helps prove their point.

So how are we to trust mainstream news sources, if even firsthand accounts can be altered in such a way that they invoke a desired reaction?

The first step that we must take if we want to become well informed global citizens, it to try and hear the same story from as many different perspectives as possible. There is an old African proverb that roughly translates to, “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

There are always multiple ways to look at a news story, and there are always different ways to place a spin on it. Only by comparing all sides and angles can we have any hope of sifting through it and determining what really happened.

There have been instances in this course where I have doubted the truth of some of the incidents described, for example the allegations of abuse at the hands of Red Cross workers. I didn’t believe that these incidents could possibly have been as bad as Polman described them to be. She at one point says that she has, “Known aid workers who cared for child soldiers and war orphans by day, and relaxed by night in the arms of child prostitutes.” (Polman)

I did some further research and discovered that the truth was actually even more disturbing than she had described. I read a report titled “No One to Turn To” which details instances where aid workers withheld food and medical supplies from underage girls until sexual acts were performed in exchange. (Save The Children) My skepticism in this instance led me to learn even more about the atrocious treatment of victim populations than I had upon my first reading.

I had to find a U.K. report by Save the Children before I was satisfied that the allegations against Red Cross workers were true. This meant going outside of the usual news sources I turned to for my information, and I ended up discovering something that I had never seen reported to that extent by U.S. media sources.

Most people have a certain cultural predisposition that makes them more inclined to watch news from their own country. Americans have a tendency to read and watch American news, this isn’t particularly surprising, as the news tends to focus on issues at home, but it offers a very narrow and limited scope of what news is selected to be reported. Rather than watching and reading news from networks like the BBC or Al-Jazeera that offer a more unbiased, and often very different perspective than that of U.S.-based media sources, we tend to stick with what we know.

News sources like Al-Jazeera often offer unbiased and different perspectives on issues than U.S. media does. It is important that we turn to news sources that challenge our views and cause us to grow as better informed global citizens

News sources like Al-Jazeera often offer broader and more varying perspectives than U.S. media, and that can help to give us a fuller picture of world issues. It is important that we turn to news sources that challenge our views and cause us to grow as better informed global citizens.

However, focusing only on American media prevents viewers from seeing the full scale of world events, and keeps them from being able to understand the interconnectivity of global news. Events are seen as isolated incidents, instead of part of a greater conflict, or global issue.

Going beyond this cultural predisposition, there are also political and ideological predispositions that affect our perceptions of media. Whether news is skewed liberally or conservatively (and nearly all of it is skewed in one direction or the other) we are predisposed to watch news that supports our own theories and beliefs. In psychology this idea is known as “confirmation bias,” which is the tendency to favor information that confirms preconceptions.  (Plous)

Rather than watch news that challenges our political or religious beliefs, we instead tend to selectively absorb information from sources that support our preconceived notions. If we hope to become truly informed global citizens however, we must avoid the trappings of simply watching and reading what confirms what we hold to be true, and instead challenge ourselves to try and see things from a different perspective. Only by doing this can we hope to gain a fuller understanding of world affairs, and trust that what we know, is indeed fact.

Works Cited:

Plous, Scott. The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making. 1993. McGraw-Hill

Csaky, Corinna. “No One to Turn To” Save the Children U.K. http://www.un.org/en/pseataskforce/docs/no_one_to_turn_under_reporting_of_child_sea_by_aid_workers.pdf

Polman, Linda. “The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid.” August 2011. Print.

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Modern Media: Consume at Your Own Risk

Public opinion has always been a powerful tool.  Think about all of the ways public opinion has shaped the course of events in recent years.  Joe Paterno, a formerly beloved Penn State football coach, saw public opinion turn drastically against him during the Jerry Sandusky trial, which led to his firing.  More recently, Paula Deen admitted to using racial slurs and has since been dropped by almost all of her sponsors.  As this pertains to humanitarianism, many of us have already written about how the trendy scenario receives more aid money.  One would hope the INGOs would decide to go where they can help the most, not just where people currently are aware of.  The reason public opinion is so sporadic today is because of media and technology.

japan coverage

The decline of journalism has been widely talked about in recent years.  The advent of 24/7 news networks has put strains on traditional reporting practices.  I interned with a PR firm and my boss, a former editor of a major newspaper, talked at length about the price of persistent news networks.  Granted, he may be biased; I wouldn’t be surprised if a print media editor had some contempt for the TV and internet based networks that contributed to his industry’s decline.  However, I still agree with much of what he said.  24/7 news outlets are great for obvious reasons: in an increasing connected world, it helps to be able to keep your viewership/readership informed about events as they happen in real time.  But what happens when there aren’t any significant events occurring?  Fluff.  Watch the news one and you’ll be able to see how much of what is being discussed is completely insignificant.  News Networks are business, though, and they know that boring fluff rarely produces decent ratings, so they polish this fluff with sensationalist headlines and hyperbole.  So what happens is this insignificant news story becomes a faux-event, which in turn waters down the real news.  For example, a Pew Study found that a “full 85% of the Comcast-owned network’s coverage can be classified as opinion or commentary rather than straight news” (Bercovici).  These include CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.  Basically, what you’re hearing on the news 85% of time isn’t reporting, it’s opinion. In fact, “31 percent have ditched a news outlet — be it a newspaper, magazine, or TV channel — for failing to measure up to the level of work they’ve grown accustomed to” in the past year (Welch).

 

This problem of opinion-presented-as-fact is exacerbated by the way most people currently use the media.  Instead of reading or watching the news to inform themselves, most consumers use the media to affirm their already formed opinions. “The idea that media consumers may tune into news that supports their opinions is illustrated by a study of viewers of Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, who see the satirical comedian’s act as nodding toward their political beliefs — regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum. Liberals see his bombastic comments as a parody of conservative talk shows; conservatives see him making digs at liberalism.” Modern technology gives people the ability to easily find media they agree with and the ability to ignore the rest.  This age of enhanced communication should be marked by more informed consumers, yet this isn’t the case.

 

Public opinion has the power to drastically alter so many facets of modern life, but the way public opinion is now formed poses some problems.  Sensationalist, opinion based journalism combined with the closed-minded media consumption has deepened the political rift in American society.  People may have always perceived Fox News as conservative, but now many just see it as an extension of the Republican Party (likewise for MSNBC and the Democratic Party).  My main concern is that the media now has so much influence in shaping public opinion, how do we know that these “news” sources (that are mainly opinion-based) aren’t pushing political agendas?  Objectivity seems to be a modern media rarity.  I would never push for censorship of the media, but there needs to be a way to bridge the gap between differing opinions.  If a person hears the same opinion over and over, then they might eventually treat it as fact.

 

 

Bercovici, Jeff. Pew Study Finds MSNBC the Most Opinionated Cable News Channel By Far.  Forbes. 3/18/2013. Web. 6/27/2013.

Best, Elizabeth. The Age of Affirmation.  Pacific Standard. January 21, 2010. Web. June 27, 2013.

Welch, Chris.Quality to blame for declining news audiences, study suggests. The Verge. March 18, 2013. Web. June 27, 2013.

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Assignment 10

Many people rely on news stations and channels for information. I think it is because it is a quick source of finding out what is going on. You can easily turn on your tv and access a local or national news channel. With the Internet, it provides another quick and easy source of gathering news. Simply by typing in www.cnn.com, you are directed within seconds to a website filled with an overflow of current and breaking news. Even with newer forms of social media, such as Twitter, a person can easily go on and read a quick 140 character highlight about a news story. According to an article by Rasmussen Reports, fifty-six percent of the U.S. population get their news from tv and twenty-five percent rely on the Internet (Rasmussen Reports). Even if people don’t necessarily believe what they are reading or watching, I don’t think they want to take the time, or just don’t have the time, to read books such as War Games, In the Eyes of Others, and Emergency Sex, which attempt to expose the truth about news reporting, especially in warring countries.

images-4 b7

As I mentioned in another post, I am a broadcast journalism major. Before taking courses for my major and reading the books assigned for this class, I would always rely on news reporters from different channels and various news websites as a source to know what was going on in the world. But as of lately, with more and more being exposed about news reporters, I’m finding it harder to believe these sources of information. In my Broadcasting in the Public Interest class I took in the fall last year, we learned that what gets broadcast in the way of news has to serve the public’s interest, convenience and necessity. If it is true that news stations and reporters are exaggerating or lying about what they report, then this certainly does not fit into the broadcasting criteria. “Lying” does not fall into the public’s interest, convenience or necessity.

In War Games, Linda Polman attempts to expose the truth about news reporting in warring countries. At one point in the book, she mentions that the media paid children to look sad and wave their amputated limbs on camera without their prosthetic arms, legs, etc. to make the situation look worse than it really was (Polman, 63). But what if Polman was exaggerating or making this up entirely? It’s hard to say who’s right and who isn’t in these situations, because you wouldn’t know unless traveling to these places yourself. However, in my Broadcasting in the Public Interest class, we watched a movie called Control Room, about Al Jazeera, a news station in Qatar. This movie is a documentary about the U.S. war with Iraq (imdb.com). It shows real footage of news reporters in this warring country and the destruction and devastation is certainly something that has no room left for exaggeration. At one point, a news reporter was even killed while out in the field trying to gather and report live news about what was actually going on. This documentary shows that not all news reporting is false. (Below is a link to the trailer of Control Room) However, only six percent of the U.S. population believes that news media is very trustworthy (Rasmussen Reports).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-C-pf6ZPmw

 

But the following video of a real live news report is probably one of the many reasons why only six percent of the population believes that the news media is very trustworthy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8slEPV9LyS0

 

In this video of a live news report in New Jersey, a woman reporting on a recent flood is seen paddling in a canoe through the water, making is seem as though the water was so deep you couldn’t walk through it, thus making the situation seem pretty bad. During her news report, a couple of people walk by and you can clearly see that the water barely even touches their ankles, exposing the news reporter’s extreme exaggeration. Although this does not take place in a warring country, I still think it is a great example of the exaggeration news reporters can put on stories. I think real and false news reporting goes back and forth like this, as well as the content in books such as War Games. It seems to be a constant battle between who and what is right. This leads to the main question “who to believe?”

In Emergency Sex, we are exposed to first hand experiences of what goes on in warring countries. I think it is easier to believe people like Ken, Andrew and Heidi because they are in these places for humanitarian work purposes. I do not think they would lie about what they see because they want to raise awareness about the reality of places such as Haiti and Rwanda. As humanitarians, they want the truth to be shared so that other people will reach out and help, much like they have done.

In conclusion, I think that all of this comes down to trust. As a broadcast journalism major, myself and other students in my classes, almost have an obligation to trust news reporting, especially since it is what we want to do as a career. We all have certain news reporters/anchors and news stations that we look up to and aspire to be like. With the dreams of one day being like these people, we believe they do no wrong and therefore trust what they say to us through our television screens. For the rest of the population who is not interesting in pursuing a career in this field, I think they have a decision. Do they trust these news reporters or do they trust the writings of people such as Linda Polman, Ken Cain, etc.?

References:

“Broadcast Journo Exaggerates Flood.” YouTube. YouTube, 26 May 2006. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8slEPV9LyS0>.
“Only 6% Rate News Media As Very Trustworthy – Rasmussen Reports™.” Only 6% Rate News Media As Very Trustworthy – Rasmussen Reports™. N.p., 28 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/february_2013/only_6_rate_news_media_as_very_trustworthy>.
“Control Room.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0391024/>.
Polman, Linda, Liz Waters, and Linda Polman. The Crisis Caravan: What’s Wrong with Humanitarian Aid? New York: Metropolitan, 2010. Print.
“Control Room Trailer.” YouTube. YouTube, 28 Aug. 2006. Web. 27 June 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-C-pf6ZPmw>.
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