Author Archives: kendra75


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When Does It Stop? The Bullying Epidemic in America Today


the picture consist of articles on bullying, I...

the picture consist of articles on bullying, I obtained it from public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I noted in the previous blog post, I may include some original reporting of my own.  In this case, it is a human interest story about bullying.  The names have been changed to protect the identities of those who spoke to me.  This was done because they agreed to speak to me with the understanding that this article was not to be published and was for classroom use only.  This is a true story and these are real people.

Christy Blake, a 10-year-old, went to school like she did any other day. By the end of that same day she went home distraught and in tears. Another girl, who she thought was her friend, gave her a Post-It-Note that had been passed around to her fellow classmates. That note read, “Christy is a fucking pig.”

According to a nationwide survey, done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2005, 6% of high school students that participated, reported that they did not go to school on one or more of the previous 30 days because they feared for their safety. The survey began in 1991 and spanned 14 years in the hopes to understand a steady trend in the nations public schools.

In the fall of 2010, roughly within six weeks, four teens, the oldest a freshman in college, and the youngest just 13 years old, committed suicide as a result of bullying. This has given birth to a new term, bullicide. The Columbine shooting in 1999, prompted the state of Georgia to be the first among 47 other states to pass anti-bullying laws and in 2010, Georgia passed a state bill that reenforced its anti-bullying law, which states a person accused of bullying can be re-assigned to a different school to put distance between the offender and the victim.

Why the sudden increase in the pro-active stance by the schools against bullying?D. Blake, the mother of the bullied 10-year-old Blake, believes it’s got everything to do with exposure. “What’s going on is that there’s more press on it, more news focused on it, we have social networks and emails and internet…that wasn’t there 50 years ago. Now people are talking about it because when somebody kills themselves because of it, it’s on Facebook and it’s all over the place.”

J. Warrant, a teacher in the Connetquot School District explained, “On Wednesdays all of the staff members wear a green shirt. The shirt is worn to raise the awareness of bullying in school. The front of the shirt says, ‘Got Kindness?’ and the back has the number 160,000…the number of students that stay home from school everyday due to bullies in New York State.” According to the New York State Center for School Safety Organization, this number is accurate on any given day.

M. Light, Assistant Principal for the Brentwood School District says that he believes the loss of education is the most severe punishment a school can do to a child. He says that he feels his district and administrative staff takes a strong enough stance against bullying, which can include multiple days suspension and even the possibility of a superintendent hearing that can lead to expulsion from the school or district. Even with these seemingly heavy consequences and proactive programs like peer meditation and anti-bullying rules, he admits, “ Yes, I have seen students being bullied and in some cases teachers as well. Many times, bullying is seen through the internet now for everyone to see.” Light says the most severe case of bullying that he is aware of in his school, was a case of cyber-bullying, when inappropriate pictures were being displayed on Facebook and cell phones.

Warrant agrees with Light in that, “There are so many ways to bully, not only face to face but by computer and text.”

R. Story, a school social worker for Sayville School District for over 30 years, recalls her school having classroom discussions about bullying with children as young as five years old. “Really, the bigger part of that is teaching the children to be appropriately assertive. We over sensitize kids, so we tell them oh you know, nobody should say this to you or make you feel this way and that’s appropriate but we also need to enable them to be resilient to the point where they can say, you know what, this isn’t my problem this is your problem. They don’t have to internalize everything someone says or does to them.” Story also went on to say that she doesn’t think the schools do enough in terms of teaching children they don’t have to accept bullying or tolerate it.

Kate Williams recalls when her son Brian, who is a student in the Connetquot School District, was bullied constantly by the neighbor’s boy. “Brian was getting ready for his communion and Toby said, ‘I bet your mom is going to take a lot of pictures of you today’, then proceeded to smack him across the face with a stick, and said ‘that should look great!’ Toby was in first grade then. Imagine him now, eighth grade. He’s a sociopath, barred from school sports.” Williams said she really doesn’t feel schools do enough and their actions seem fruitless in her opinion. “Seems like these days the schools mean well, but are also trying to protect themselves against any litigation, now that young kids are being held liable for suicidal teens, and school administrators have to answer to authorities in those cases. So much bullying goes unreported for fear of repercussions. Sad, but a fact of childhood nonetheless. It makes my heart hurt.”

 

On Oct. 26, 2010, shortly after the series of bullicides, the United States Department of Education issued what they call a guidance for educators to combat bullying in their schools. This guidance outlined that, “…a school must take immediate and appropriate action to investigate what occurred once a school knows, or reasonably should know, of possible student-on-student harassment. A school must also take prompt and effective steps to end harassment if it has occurred, eliminate any hostile environment and prevent recurrence.” Failure of the schools to practice this type of guided response, may in fact, leave them open to litigation.

The End of a Semester


If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

Well.  Here it is.  The end of the spring semester at Stony Brook University.  I can’t say it went as well as I had hoped.  Health and other obstacles got in the way of achieving my goal of Dean’s List again for the Spring.  Still, as disappointed as I am about the semester and my grades, I must reflect on all that I have learned.  And believe me, it’s a lot.  At this point I am staying positive and looking forward to my Wedding in October, and a successful fall semester at SBU.

Onward, as they say.

Initially, this blog was set up to meet the requirements of a course I took this spring.  Journalism 24/7.  This course taught me that journalism isn’t just about the story.  It’s not just the reporting or producing.  In fact, it’s not at all just about the news.  It’s a business.  Understanding the business side of journalism is just as important as the industry itself.  Learning the behind-the-scene activity that keeps newspapers in business, television programming alive, and radio broadcasting is crucial to a successful career in journalism.  As is learning the ins-and-outs of the webolution in the news industry.  Yes, I said webolution.  I like it, and it’s fun to say.  Learning the business aspects of journalism has helped me understand why certain decisions are made.

The business of journalism keeps the ball rolling, the information disseminated and the people informed.  It must be successful for journalism to continue in the future.  Make no mistake, journalism is not and should never be about the bottom line, the dollar.  But, that dollar can not be completely ignored either.  There is a fine relationship between business and journalism, and going forward, let’s hope that it continues to favor the story, not the dollar.

I have thoroughly enjoyed blogging about the news industry.  Analyzing what people are writing and saying about the industry has been incredibly informative for me.  I suspect that a lot of my classmates will discontinue their blog, although I would encourage the opposite.

Since my blog started at the end of January, I have had over 500 views.  That may not seem like much, but it’s enough to inspire me to continue the blog.  Obviously, someone out there reads my ramblings and well, even if it’s one person, it’s worth noting, I have an audience.

As long as you keep reading, I will keep writing.  I may expand the topics of the blog a bit in the future.  I might get a few guest bloggers to post and I’m thinking about including some original journalism of my own, local stories from my area, maybe a human interest story here or there.

Journalism in every form, is important.  Whether it’s blogging, broadcast, magazine writing, or main stream news.  As I have said in earlier posts, it’s an important tool in protecting our democracy and freedoms.  Watching the Watchdog is just that.  Making sure others in the industry are doing their job fairly, honestly and accurately.  If they’re not?  We will call them out.

Thank you for the support you have shown by reading my blog.  It is my greatest and most sincere hope that I continue to interest you and inform you.  Please, keep coming back.

Kendra Mercer

Newspapers Find New Foothold Through Digital Media


Paid circulation is going through the roof

Paid circulation is going through the roof (Photo credit: Kristine_Lowe)

So you thought print was dead.  Well, it isn’t.  The New York Times published an article for their blog, Media Decoder on Tuesday.  Small Gain in Newspaper Circulations, Aided by Digital Subscriptions” by Tanzina Vega focused on the recent report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which monitors newspaper circulation.

The report shows an overall increase in circulation for the 618 daily newspapers over a six month period.  Vega states in her article, “The biggest increase was for The New York Times, whose daily circulation, including the digital version, increased 73.05 percent over the previous year, largely because of the introduction of its paid digital subscription model last year. The A.B.C. report on 618 daily newspapers for the six-month period ended March 31 counts both print and digital subscriptions.”

Vega adds, based on the A.B.C. report, “The 618 newspapers with daily circulation increased 0.68 percent. The Wall Street Journal remained in the top spot with a total average daily circulation of 2,118,315, compared with 2,117,796 last year. USA Today was second with 1,817,446; The New York Times had 1,586,757; The Los Angeles Times, 616,575; and The Daily News of New York, 579,636.”

She also quoted the chief executive of the Newspaper Association of America, Caroline H. Little, as stating, “We’re particularly gratified to note that newspapers’ embrace of digital platforms, as well as smart and efficient circulation strategies for print products, are reflected in the numbers, which clearly demonstrate positive trends in total circulation growth for publishers.”

Okay, so you might be sitting here thinking that it shouldn’t count because it’s not print.  Well, actually it is.  It’s just in digital format.  I won’t go as far to say this gets the newspaper industry out of the woods just yet.  I will say that this is promising.  It shows how old media platforms are integrating new media platforms and using it to keep their brand alive. If it takes a bunch of new online subscriptions to keep The Gray Lady in business, and others like the Wall Street Journal, then I’m all for it.  I still enjoy the feel of a newspaper page between my fingers, but I’m also the same person who gets daily email feeds from various news sources and has an online subscription to a major news organization.

Video didn’t kill the radio star, and I honestly don’t think digital will kill traditional print.  There is room for everyone.

Press Censorship in the 21st Century


Icon for censorship

Icon for censorship (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Committee to Protect Journalists released an analysis yesterday, of what they consider the worlds top ten censored countries.  CPJ said this report was released to observe World Press Freedom Day, which is today.

According to the same organization, there have been 17 journalists killed so far in 2012.  There are also a reported 179 journalists currently in prison, worldwide.

Below, I will list the top ten countries along with a brief excerpt taken from the report which describes some of the censorship for each and how it operates.

 

 

1.  Eritrea

“Only state news media are allowed to operate in Eritrea, and they do so under the complete direction of Information Minister Ali Abdu. Journalists are conscripted into their work and enjoy no editorial freedom; they are handed instructionson how to cover events. Journalists suspected of sending information outside the country are thrown into prison without charge or trial and held for extended periods of time without access to family or a lawyer.”

2.  North Korea

” Nearly all the content of North Korea’s 12 main newspapers, 20 periodicals, and broadcasters comes from the official Korean Central News Agency and focuses on the political leadership’s statements and supposed activities. Ruling elites have access to the World Wide Web, but the public is limited to a heavily monitored and censored network with no connections to the outside world. ”

3.  Syria

” …the regime has imposed a blackout on independent news coverage, barring foreign reporters from entering and reporting freely, and detaining and attacking local journalists who try to cover protests. Numerous journalists have gone missing or been detained without charge, and many said they were tortured in custody.”

4.  Iran

“Imprisoned journalists are subject to horrible conditions including solitary confinement, physical abuse, and torture; families of journalists are also intimidated and harassed in a bid to keep them silent. Iranian authorities maintain one of the world’s toughest Internet censorship regimes, blocking millions of websites, including news and social networking sites; using sophisticated techniques to detect interference with anti-censorship programs; and intimidating reporters via social networks.”

5.  Equatorial Guinea

“Technically, some outlets are privately owned, but none are independent, as Obiang and his associates exert direct or indirect control. State mediado not provide international news coverage unless Obiang or another official travels abroad. Censors enforce rigid rules to ensure the regime is portrayed positively; journalists who don’t comply risk prison under criminal statutes including defamation. Security agents closely shadow foreign journalists and restrict photography or filming that documents poverty.”

6.  Uzbekistan

“No independent media outlets are based in Uzbekistan. Independent journalists—mostly contributors to outlets outside the country—are subject to interrogation and prosecution under defamation charges or outdated statutes such as “insulting national traditions.” They and their families are harassed and smeared; some have seen sensitive personal information published by state media.”

7.  Burma

“The government dominates radio and television with a steady stream of propaganda. Laws bar the ownership of a computer without a license and ban the dissemination or posting of unauthorized materials over the Internet. Prison sentences have been used to punish reporters working for exile-run media groups. Regulations imposed in 2011 banned the use of flash drives and voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) communication in Internet cafés.”

8.  Saudi Arabia

“Regulations require government registration and approval of editors for any organization or individual conducting “electronic journalism” or “displaying audio and visual material” on websites, while criteria for approval are vaguely defined. No foreign or local journalists are granted access to the Eastern Province, where protesters have been calling for political reforms and greater rights for the Shiite minority since February 2011. Local news websites that have reported on the unrest have been shut down and their editors arrested. ”

9.  Cuba

“All authorized domestic news media are controlled by the Communist Party, which recognizes freedom of the press only “in accordance with the goals of the socialist society.” Internet service providers are obliged to block objectionable content. Independent journalists and bloggers all work on websites that are hosted overseas and updated through embassies or costly hotel connections.”

10.  Belarus

“…wide-ranging anti-press tactics have included politicized prosecution of journalists; imprisonments; travel bans against critical reporters; debilitating raids on independent newsrooms; wholesale confiscation of newspapers and seizure of reporting equipment; and failure to investigate the murdersof at least three journalists in the past 10 years. After the rigged election of 2010, he cracked down on what was left of the independent media, sending it underground.”

It is also important to note that CPJ recognizes a few runners-up, which include: Turkmenistan, China, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Sudan and Azerbaijan.   You can read the entire report here.

After I read this report from CPJ, I found myself a bit exasperated.  I thought to myself, this is the 21st century!  How is this still taking place in the world?  How is it that all over the world, people are continually stifled and kept in the dark?  There is the Internet for crying out loud!  Well, this report should help to remind all of us that our freedoms are always under attack.  Basic human liberties, as we view them in the West, are consistently trampled on.  It’s bad enough that there are governments out there that continue to murder citizens and completely oppress the people of their country.  I’m not a Pollyanna, by any means.  I think there will always be this kind of behavior.  And I also think there will always be some battle for control of information, but to see it on this scale, today, in these modern times?  Well, the lack of attention given to this is dis-heartening to say the least.  If you are reading this, and you live in the United States, don’t think we are immune to this kind of behavior, albeit on a smaller scale.  Read this.

I think we journalists, as well as the average citizen, should always remember this: Independent journalism needs to exist as a protective tool of democracy, freedoms and basic human rights. Something that is, in my opinion, under attack daily.

A Positive Side to CISPA?


CISPA - The solution is the problem

CISPA – The solution is the problem (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

In an opinion article for Digital Trends, Andrew Couts, points out some positive information( in his opinion) about the passing of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.  His article, Five things everyone needs to know about CISPAstates that specific amendments made prior to the passing by the House, have actually improved the bill.Couts says these are the five things people should be aware of.

1.  CISPA has nothing to do with SOPA.

2.  CISPA got better with amendments.3.  …But it’s still fundamentally broken.

4.  CISPA is not the only cybersecurity bill in Congress.

5.  CISPA likely won’t pass the Senate. (unchanged)

The first point Couts makes is this, “CISPA has to do with privacy. SOPA dealt with censorship. CISPA threatens our Fourth Amendment rights — the right against “unreasonable searches and seizures” — because it allows businesses to hand over a staggering amount of information about us to the federal government with impunity. SOPA threatened our First Amendment rights — the right to free speech — because it would have allowed the federal government to block access to websites using the same practices employed in oppressive regimes, like Iran and China.”

His second point?  “A total of 11 amendments were added to the bill, some of which made positive changes to the types of information that may be shared, and how the government may legally use that information.”  He continues on to list some of the major changes made in the bill and discusses the most notable change, the Quayle amendment that he summarizes in his article.

“One added provision, known as the Quayle amendment, has raised the most number of eyebrows. It outlines the purposes for which the government may use information collected from businesses. They are as follows:

  1. cybersecurity;
  2. investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes;
  3. protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury;
  4. protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and
  5. protection of the national security of the United States

Couts goes on to discuss why he thinks the bill is still flawed and said, “For starters, the bill still does not provide any limits on the information shared under CISPA to be passed along to shadowy organizations, like the National Security Agency, which has essentially no public oversight. Furthermore, CISPA still allows data collected under the bill to be used for vague purposes of “national security,” a term that could mean almost anything.”

He also informs his readers that there are two other bills currently in Congress, one brought forth by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called SECURE IT Act or S. 2151.  The other bill is presented by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), called Cybersecurity Act of 2012 or S. 2105.  Couts explains that both other bills share the problem of broad language like CISPA and that it’s possible in the end that CISPA could be combined with one of the two bills.  Couts reports that currently, Lieberman’s bill has the support of the White House and Senate Democrats.  This is significant since the President has threatened to veto CISPA if certain changes do not take place.

The veto issue is also part of Couts last point, that CISPA will not likely pass in the Senate.  He includes the caveat of change.  If certain requirements outlined by the President take place, and the bill can be hashed out to everyone’s liking, it may pass into law.  Considering the track record, of the two major political parties agreeing on anything, as being less than stellar, I’m personally not going to hold my breath.  That doesn’t mean I’m not deeply concerned about the bill.  After all, it did pass the House with a 248-168 vote and had over 100 cosponsors, which is cause for serious concern for all those who use the internet, and more specifically, investigative journalists.

Overall, I don’t see any real positive change in the language of the bill.  I’m concerned for investigative journalists for a very good reason.  The nature of their work.  The “watchdogs” of government may have to begin re-thinking the methods they use to get information online.  I’m skeptical that should the government get wind of an investigation through the abilities provided by the CISPA bill, they would just let journalists go about their job undeterred.  We may end up seeing more instances like what happened to the two journalists working for USA Today.  You can read more about their story here.

So what’s the take-away?  Well, as Couts points out, it’s a long process and we should all be willing to accept that fact, and keep paying attention no matter how long it takes for a decision to be made on CISPA.  Journalists especially, should be paying close attention.  If you thought there were problems with the use of anonymity before, just wait and see what happens when the government, at will, snoops around your information and starts to monitor you under the guise of national security.  (Especially if your story targets the government.)  As a computer scientist friend of mine casually suggested recently, getting to know the ins-and-outs of encryption might become a valuable investment in your career.

Pulitzer Prize Winners Give Back


The Six Ws of Journalism and Police Investigations

The Six Ws of Journalism and Police Investigations (Photo credit: Image Editor)

Mark Horvit, for the Investigative Reporters and Editors organization, published a blog post on Monday about two Pulitzer Prize winners doing something rare and positive for the journalism industry.

Besides writing an award-winning piece that gained national recognition and awards, Michael Berens and Ken Armstrong decided to give back.  They took their $10,000 prize money and paid for IRE training for their colleagues at The Seattle Times.

Horvit quotes Manny Garcia, the IRE Board President, “Mike and Ken have always been unselfish with their time and talent,” Garcia said. “They both exemplify what IRE is all about: equipping and training journalists world-wide to produce important investigative work. It speaks to their character and the quality news organization that is The Seattle Times.”

According to Horvit’s article, these two men are the second major award winners to do this sort of philanthropic work in the last few years.

This is important news to include these days. Why?  The news about the news doesn’t always have to be critical, or negative or controversial.  Gestures like this will keep journalism moving forward, steadily toward improvement.  Reporting, writing and investigating are skills that can always be improved upon.  I’ve re-discovered that just by keeping this blog.   These two men, decided to invest in the important work that investigative journalists do every day.  Honing their skills, and now making that practice available to others in the business through this training, is invaluable to the industry.

Journalism is not only learning about what we report, but how and why we report.

There is a quote by Thomas Griffith, a former editor for Time, Inc., “Journalism is in fact history on the run.”   That would be something difficult to chase without the necessary skills.  Berens and Armstrong are setting a good example in this industry and they are providing those skills to their fellow staffers.  Kudos to them.

Different Standards for Broadcast News?


NBC News

NBC News (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Sunday, David Carr, of the New York Times published an article called, “TV News Corrects Itself, Just Not on the Air.”

The “Today” show for NBC decided last month to air an edited clip of the 911 call made by George Zimmerman.  Zimmerman as you know is currently facing a second-degree murder charge in the death of Trayvon Martin.  According to Carr’s article, the show edited the clip, which ended up making Zimmerman sound as though he was making racist comments.  Carr called the edited clip, “…misleading, incendiary and dead-bang wrong…”

Carr goes on to say that while NBC took swift action after realizing the terrible editing, albeit a week after it originally aired and re-aired, which included an investigation, the firing of the producer in charge and an apology.

Carr points out that what the network didn’t do, was make an on-air correction.  Not during any of the four hours of the show was there one second dedicated to a correction that would set the audience straight.

Carr states, “What is it with television news and corrections? When the rest of the journalism world gets something wrong, they generally correct themselves. But network news acts as if an on-air admission of error might cause a meteor to land on the noggin of one of its precious talking heads. NBC used all of the powers at its disposal to amend the mistake, except the high-visibility airtime where the bad clip ran in the first place.”

Carr reached out to Steve Capus, president of NBC News, and much to his disappointment, Capus agreed with Carr.

Capus stated in Carr’s article, “We did an awful lot of work after it happened. We did an exhaustive investigation, I did interviews with a lot of publications to get the message out, but we probably should have done it on our own air.”

Carr wraps up his article saying, “Give NBC credit for dealing with a big error that threatened to sow further mayhem on a very delicate story. It’s just too bad it failed to remember that the fix for bad journalism generally includes more journalism. The kind that goes on the air.”

I agree with Carr.  The network absolutely should have aired a correction, especially given the very nature in the evolution of this case and its national attention.

When Carr mentions that television news never corrects itself unless it is to make a lawsuit go away, I cringe at the comment.  Why is this the case?  Does broadcast journalism hold itself to a different journalistic standard than papers and other forms of the news media?  Shouldn’t this type of behavior, airing corrections on the same broadcast show that made the mistake, be included in a “best practices” standard?  I certainly think it should.  Considering the amount of people out there that still get their news from television broadcasts, I would think that keeping the public correctly informed would be a major characteristic and goal of any network.

I think it’s time that broadcast news, as it pertains to corrections, be held to the very same standards that the print media and online media follow.  Journalism is journalism, and accuracy should be equally required across the board.

Carr speaks with Aaron Brown, a professor of journalism and former anchor.  Brown states, “But given how high-profile that this screw-up was and the fact that it became a news story itself, I’m shocked that they didn’t correct it on the ‘Today’ show.”

Exactly Mr. Brown.  In my view, you and David Carr hit the nail on the head.

What do you think?


Okay, it’s a bit of a slow news day folks.  So in lieu of posting about something I’ve read in the news about the news…I’ve decided to keep to the subject, but ask you all a question.  I would like to know where you stand on this issue.

Reporter Asks What Fellow Journalists Think of the Job


New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York T...

New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York Times newspaper. Reporters and rewrite men writing stories, and waiting to be sent out. Rewrite man in background gets the story on the phone from reporter outside. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an article for the New York Times, David Carr makes an attempt to defend journalism.  His article is titled, “Fill in the Blank:  Being a Reporter Is the _____Job in the World.”

Carr basically sums up the past couple of weeks in the world of journalism, and how there seems to be a lot of talk of dissatisfaction with the job.  In his article he quotes a fellow writer Malcolm Gladwell from a speech he gave at Yale, “Newspapers are kind of dreary, depressed places. I would go the penniless Web route to get practice.”

Carr mentions the Fox Mole indirectly, and we all know how dissatisfied he was with his job.  He also mentions a young journalist who was hired and decided to write-up a press release about his new position and posted it to Tumblr, he was fired within twenty-four hours of being hired.

And then of course, Carr mentioned this, “CareerCast included hundreds of jobs in its annual ranking and decided that being a newspaper reporter was the fifth-worst job in the land. Being a dishwasher and a taxi driver rated as better occupations.”

Okay.  So it wasn’t a great month in the land of journalism, and I agree, albeit with very little experience, that newsrooms and newspapers are not what they used to be.

But.  There is still glory to be found in this old institution.  There are still aspiring young journalists like myself that are figuring out what our niche’s are.  There is a whole generation of journalists up and coming that want to restore the industry to the standards we are taught, and all, I promise is not lost.

Who does CareerCast think they are anyway?  The future of journalism is a bright one.  Thanks to Carr, journalists from all walks of life have commented on the state of the job, and in reading many of the responses to his article, I am convinced that CareerCast is completely off base.

To answer his question:  Being a reporter is the most amazing job in the world.