indyizzy

Bringing the "how" to independent media

“Journalism is My Church”: A repsonse to a talk by Jose Antonio Vargas

A half hour ago I ate dinner with an alien.

Ok, so the “dinner” was an array of Ithaca College catered food, and the “alien” was undocumented immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas.  Vargas was here to give a talk called “Immigration…Beyond Media Myths” as a part of the Park Center for Independent Media speaker series.

The biggest myth that Vargas wanted to bust is that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes. They do. He said, “I pay so much taxes in this country that I should be a Republican.” His sense of humor in the midst of a quite serious situation was comforting and provocative. After all, it is humor that can get us through the hardest of times.

Vargas also advocated storytelling as the best way to get an issue out in the open. And he is a very good story teller. I especially liked the story of when he had to profile Mark Zuckerberg for the New Yorker. He said this was his “turning point” when he realized that he had to stand up for immigration rights. He was assigned to profile Zuckerberg (for the New Yorker no less, a job he said as a young journalist would be one of his final goals. I agree). He said Zuckerberg talked in compact sentences, “subject, verb, period,” and he needed to get more out of him for the profile. So he convinced him to just take an hour long walk around New York City without any press people around. With the city as the backdrop he got Zuckerberg to talk, and he also realized he had gotten everything he wanted– the New Yorker job and to be a New Yorker (which he wanted to do after seeing Woody Allen’s Manhattan. I agree). Zuckerberg asked Vargas, where are you from? And it was then that he realized he had everything except that one thing– to say he is an American. ( I hope I’m doing this story justice).

But what does it mean to be an American? That’s what Vargas’s project, DefineAmerican.com, strives to do. He talked about American exceptionalism, or the idea that America is inherently different and better than other countries. Vargas agreed with this, saying it is good to be American and so many Americans abuse it.

Besides being an undocumented immigrant, Vargas is first and foremost a journalist, and a good one at that. He told us, a room full of disillusioned journalism majors, that now is the best time to be a journalist. Finally, someone who’s positive about the current state of my future career! It’s a good time to be a journalist, but you have to want to be one, you have to love it. Check.

There are so many issues now to talk about, immigration being a top one, that you have to have the passion to write about them. He said now is the time that journalism is becoming personal, it’s giving a voice to the voiceless through social media and blogs, aka what I am doing right now. He said don’t forget that there is a “me” in media. Even if we’re talking about personal situations or telling stories the “personal becomes political.”

And so, how we can strive to solve issues such as immigration is by talking about it. But, as Vargas said, we can only begin to see it move forward when we stop talking about the problem and start talking about the solution. So get out there and talk.

On Camping

There’s been a lot of camping lately, and not the kind you do in the woods. Although it’s already been pointed out, I like the juxtaposition of camping for Occupy Wall Street and camping for things like Black Friday or the premiere of Twilight.

Of course, being America, the Occupy protestors have been dubbed dirty hippies who are committing illegal acts for camping out at Zuccotti Park, and the Twilight fans go unscathed for decking out their tents with pictures of Twilight stars and camping out in public places waiting for the premiere. hmmm, I wonder which one people think is more “American”.

On a different note, Alaskan congressman Don Young says, “Don’t camp, camping’s elitist.” Young made the remarks during a hearing with Douglas Brinkley when they had quite the tiff. Watch the camping remarks here, at around 4:30 min. And watch Young, a puppet for the gas industry, being a jerk here.

A photo representation:

Camping for Occupy Wall Street

Camping for Twilight

Camping for Black Friday

The New Yorker Listened to my Plea

Ok, so maybe it wasn’t solely due to my efforts to bring fracking to the New Yorker (see previous post) but nonetheless it has arrived!

Albeit short, read the article here.

Some quotes:

“In the 2005 energy bill, largely crafted by Vice-President Dick Cheney, fracking was explicitly exempted from federal review under the Safe Drinking Water Act. As a result of this dispensation, which has been dubbed the Halliburton Loophole, drilling companies are under no obligation to make public which chemicals they use.” (just so everyone knows)

“There have been over a million wells hydraulically fractured in the history of the industry, and there is not one—not one—reported case of a freshwater aquifer having ever been contaminated,” Rex Tillerson, the chairman and C.E.O. of ExxonMobil, declared at a congressional hearing last year.” (well, that’s just a straight up lie)

“At some point, either we will outgrow our infatuation or we will burn our way to a very dark place.”

I also like the term “shaleionaires” for those who are making a fortune (or supposedly will) from leasing their land. Never heard that one before, especially since fracking provides so many punny terms. Some favorites are– fracktivist, frack is wack, all fracked up etc…

 

 

Miley Cyrus Supports Occupy Wall Street?

Renowned political activist Miley Cyrus made a music video for her song Liberty Walks using footage from the Occupy Movement and other similar movements around the world. Now that’s American.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/miley-cyrus-made-a-music-video-for-occupy-wall-str

How Occupy Wall Street Got Occupied: The Zuccotti Park Eviction and Recent Events

Last Tuesday the “home” of the Occupy movement, Zuccotti Park, was evicted under direct orders from NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg. He said the reason for the eviction was because the park posed health and safety violations.

He went on to add, in a press conference at City Hall seven hours after the raid, that “New York City is the city where you can come and express yourself. What was happening in Zuccotti Park was not that.”

Right. Because exercising your First Amendment rights and using peaceful protest, media and a general assembly is not “expressing yourself.”

The New York Times article mentions a few NYC residents who were happy to see the park evicted, including a dad pushing his son in his stroller who gave the police emptying the park a thumbs up.

But, from a few first hand accounts that I’ve read, it seems the police are not acting peacefully. Like in this story, which gives a wonderfully written report on the chaos that occurred during the eviction.

Reports like this are crucial, since journalists were blocked from covering the eviction, in a clear violation of First Amendment rights. This shows the power of citizen journalists.

Two days after the eviction was the OWS Day of Action as more than 30,000 people showed up to march on the Brooklyn Bridge and Foley Sqaure. An ironic photo captures former Police Captain Ray Lewis clad in full police uniform being arrested. He later went on Chris Haye’s show to talk about some of the concerns surrounding the Occupy movement and its relationship with the police (he is even against fracking and Fox News!). This video has a very interesting conversation on the matter with Hayes, Lewis and Laura Flanders.

They bring up the point that I have been thinking about—the Occupy movement is straying too far from its original message, the grievances of the 99%, and becoming too much about the protestors versus the police. It is an important point to bring up, but there needs to be a resurgence back to its roots.

 

How Blogging Can Get You an Invitation

It’s nothing new to point out that high-profile bloggers and other social media users score invites and free stuff to and from some pretty swanky places. Fashion bloggers receive front row invitations to runway shows and boxes of clothing from the designers. The pitch being, of course, that just the mere sighting of these celebrity bloggers in the designer’s show or garb will give them media attention. But how do these designers and the likes know which bloggers to chose? If only there was a company that tallied the data and gave each blogger a score; kind of like professional athlete’s stats. Well now there is.

The company is called Klout,a website that generates social media user’s scores on a scale from 1 to 100. They determine the score based on True Reach (size of audience), Amplification Probability (likelihood of retweets, likes, etc.) and Network Score (number of clicks, comments and retweets). Klout measures the scores from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursqaure and YouTube.

What’s interesting is Klout is starting to show a lot of clout. A recent New York Time’s article talks about industry insider events that use Klout to determine their invite list or even their VIP section. The author, Beth Landman, writes that “status has long been based on appearance, accomplishment and notoriety, but social media reach is becoming a new criterion.” Now, even if you are a high-paid model or Society girl, you may be waiting at the door while the blogger with a Klout score of 70 steps in front of you.

It brings to mind the question—how important is social media, really? Does the Klout score take into consideration the difference between a blogger posting pictures of herself in Paris and the journalistic work of independent bloggers? There needs to be a line drawn between the two.

Klout seems to be doing that, at least in the fashion world. Someone quoted in the NYT article talks about that difference. “Just because people throw up blogs in their spare time to express how they feel about neon colors this season does not mean they deserve to sit at a show that costs a hundred thousand dollars to produce,” said Alison Brod, whose firm represents fashion and beauty clients. “Klout helps us sift through the hordes of bloggers.”

Just like designers giving away free stuff, event producers are now using Klout as a means to promote their events. If they invite someone with a high Klout score, they expect them to Tweet or blog about it, thus generating more hits for their event or promotion. It scares me that blogs, which started out independent, could be (or already are) headed in the same direction as mainstream media—completely persuaded by advertising. They may enjoy the perks now, but  how will they feel when they become the guinea pig for a brand. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

How Accuracy is Greater Than Objectivity

You may be fair and balanced but the greater question is–are you accurate?

So many journalists put emphasis on being objective–aka I have no political view on this subject so you should trust me. Even in journalism classes we are taught to always be objective, it is after all in the SPJ code of ethics.

The thing about objectivity is that it’s in itself objective. It could mean different things to different people. Just like if you sent six journalists out to write a story, even if they are being “objective” they would come back with six completely different stories. Just like Ariana Huffington said in this article, even if someone was at the scene of the crime, so to speak, they could still get the facts wrong. Embedded journalists on the front lines could still get names wrong, death tolls wrong, or more egregiously, paint a scene in favor of one side even when it was the exact opposite. Journalists are guilty off this all the time–make the American soldiers the heroes, even if they killed the wrong people. But I digress.

The point of objectivity is… what exactly? When did this obsession with it come into being? Yes, we shouldn’t be directly told what to think about a situation, but the truth is no matter how much journalists say they are objective they are still going to have an opinion on something. For Obama or against him, universal health care or not, pro-life or pro-choice. We are all pro-opinion. So to pretend not to have one is already lying/being un-objective. The problem with journalists in the mainstream media is they are trying too hard to cover up their beliefs, political or otherwise (with the exception of maybe Rachel Maddow and all of Fox news).

It is my belief that I would prefer to hear the facts, whether or not the journalist’s opinion is attached or not. Jon Stewart is an excellent example of this. Yes you might peg him as a liberal, but could you really? What he does is present the facts and call out the media when they’re lying. I find this far more important than if he tried to be objective. Then Jon Stewart wouldn’t be Jon Stewart. I mean, he wasn’t voted America’s Most Trusted Man and his show didn’t win an Emmy for nothing. But again, I digress.

Objectivity is really becoming obsolete in a media that is becoming more and more biased. This, of course, stems down to the media that each person seeks out– is it MSNBC, Fox, Drudge Report or Huffington Post? Each one is associated with a certain political side, yet each one can be accurate while not being objective.

It’s impossible to be objective but it’s possible to be accurate.

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