Sunday, July 13, 2014

STALEMATE: Ukraine can't win if it becomes what it already was

Photo credit: The Red Phoenix
The seemingly never-ending conflict between Ukraine and Russia is the sort of international chess match that makes political science scholars salivate. It's also the kind of story that has the subplot and all the actors that Tom Clancy would have loved to write a novel about. From Vladimir Putin championing Russia’s intent on becoming an economic superpower to the people of Ukraine fighting simultaneously against two tyrants, and who could forget the intervention of the West. Nevertheless, this is an important story, a story that has seen innocent people lose their lives with a literal tug of war over power. Throughout this drama Russia has been viewed by the Western public and media as the aggressor, a bully, while Ukraine has been cast as the defender, a victim. A recent proliferation of actions by Ukraine towards members of the media could be changing the lens through which this story is being viewed.

On May 18th Marat Saychenko and Oleg Sidyakin, two journalists working for Life News, were arrested by Ukrainian security forces. Several days later the Ukrainian National Guard detained Graham Phillips, a freelance journalist from the UK, “on suspicion of being a spy.” All of these men have ties to RT and Life News, organizations that have long been considered to be distributors of propaganda for Kremlin-Russian sponsored TV. The RT itself released a report claiming that Ukraine had denied some journalists entry into the country and had even refused to release information about the locations of several detained journalists within it’s borders

According to the BBC, "Life News has complained
that its reporters were mistreated by the Ukrainian military"
Photo credit: BBC
If Ukraine is looking to gain sympathizers within the international community, is this the best way to achieve that goal? Since December, when Ukrainians began clamoring in Kiev against the decision of President Yanukovych to demur his country’s inclusion into the EU, It seemed as though Ukraine was seeking a chance to evolve from their history. As Fred Kaplan wrote in a recent article, “They were protesting their president’s retreat from a Western Future to the Eastern past.” The immediate past for people in Ukraine included being subject to what William Risch, a professor of history at Georgia College, called, “an Authoritarian regime, that did alienate many people across Ukraine.”

Is it a moral paradox for Ukraine to seek refuge and safety from an oppressive regime, as well as stave off imperialistic efforts by its supposedly repressive neighbor Russia, but then resort to the same types of behavior itself? By arresting journalists, refusing to disclose their locations, and denying the press entry into its borders, Ukraine is perpetuating an inherent contradiction. If the people leading Ukraine have learned anything from their past, they will ensure the freedom of all press with in their borders. If they don’t they will risk compromising the entire movement that has gripped their nation by resembling the abusive and oppressive conduct that they have been fighting against all along.

- William Korte

The Red and Black

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Who is the madman under your nose? the Savile saga continues

He started his media career in 1958 as a disc jockey at Radio Luxembourg. In 1964, when he was already known as an eccentric, vibrant, and exuberant personality, he started working at the BBC, presenting the first edition of Top of the Pops. From 1975 until 1994, for almost 20 years, he presented a popular TV show, Jim’ll Fix It, where he made children’s wishes come true. He was knighted in 1990. In 2009, The Guardian described him as a “prodigious philanthropist.” On October 29, 2011, he died and everyone was deeply saddened.

Jimmy Savile. Photo credit: The Guardian
One year after his death hundreds of accusations including child sex abuse, sexual interference with corpses, and rape were revealed. Everyone was in shock. The BBC was outraged. The entire British population had been hoaxed for half a century by an eccentric sex offender. His nest was the BBC, where he got his fame and power, where he met influential people and learned to manipulate, where he, to put it in other words, grew as a personality.

Back in 2011, shortly after his death, many flattering words had been written. For instance, Daily Mail paid tribute to him and wrote:
Radio presenter Paul Burnett told Sky News that Sir Jimmy's charity work was a 'two way street', adding: 'He didn't have a family as such and so when he took on a charity, that became his family. He did a lot of work as a porter in the hospital that he collected money for. He would go there at night and work as a porter and I think he loved the people that he worked with, it wasn't just for the publicity, but he knew the charities were doing well out of it as well. He was capable of acts of great kindness. You didn't really ever get to know "the man" because he was a showman, and like so many showmen that's - that's their main thing in life and he did it brilliantly.”
Three years later, The Independent wrote that “Savile's victims at hospitals ranged from five-year-old children to 75-year-old pensioners and included men, women, boys and girls, who were patients, visitors and staff.”

But that is not all of it.

“JIMMY SAVILE beat and raped a 12-year-old girl during a secret satanic ritual in a hospital,” Express began one of its articles in January 2013. This is an excerpt from the article:
Dr. Sinason told the Sunday Express she first spoke to the victim in 1992.
“She had been a patient at Stoke Mandeville in 1975 when Savile was a regular visitor. She recalled being led into a room that was filled with candles on the lowest level of the hospital, somewhere that was not regularly used by staff. Several adults were there, including Jimmy Savile who, like the others, was wearing a robe and a mask.
She recognised him because of his distinctive voice and the fact that his blond hair was protruding from the side of the mask. He was not the leader but he was seen as important because of his fame.
She was molested, raped and beaten and heard words that sounded like ‘Ave Satanas’, a Latinised version of ‘Hail Satan’, being chanted. There was no mention of any other child being there and she cannot remember how long the attack lasted but she was left extremely frightened and shaken.”
Suddenly the hero had become the villain. Hundreds of complaints began to pour in. People from all corners of England started remembering their horror stories, stories that have been locked in the darkest corners of their memory for tens of years. At Leeds General Infirmary the number of allegations was up to 60.

The questions is: How did a single person, regardless of how influential and manipulative he was, manage to rape and sexually assault people, and have sexual intercourse with corpses numerous times, without anyone saying a single word?

Well, words have been said. But all in vain.

“Noami Stanley, a psychiatric nurse who treated patients who told her they had been abused by Savile at Broadmoor, said police and senior medical staff dismissed her concerns as an "irritation,” the BBC itself reported.

Savile also had free access to the mortuary in the ‘80s. Besides the promiscuous activity that took place, Savile had claimed that the “large rings he wore were ‘made from the glass eyes of dead bodies at the mortuary,’” the Mirror reports.

The Telegraph reported: “Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said: "This is a profoundly shocking report in which for the first time we are able to gain a clear picture of the abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile during his involvement with our hospitals in Leeds, in particular the Leeds General Infirmary, which started in 1962 and continued through to late 2000s.”

Jim’ll Fix It.

- Paula Munteanu

The Guardian
Daily Mail
The Independent
Daily Express
The Telegraph

Saturday, June 28, 2014

"Journalism is not a crime"

Mother of Abdullah Elshamy,
one of the imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists.
Photo credit: Al Jazeera
Journalism is not only a career, for most, it is a passion. The majority of journalists travel on little means, receive meager compensation, and entrench themselves in the deadliest of situations in order to bring awareness to the public. Sometimes the ethics that surround journalism are not about the characters in the articles, but rather the character of the person writing. The general public may not be aware that journalism can be a dangerous and deadly business. Throughout the world journalists are spied upon, imprisoned, abducted, disappeared, and/or killed while pursuing the truths hidden by those in power. For example, in 2013, 70 people lost their lives for reporting on the news, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Currently there are over 200 journalists imprisoned for reasons ranging from charges of subversion to fabricated charges used as a silencer. Such is the case when it comes to the trial of three English Al-Jazeera journalists who have spent more than 115 days in jail for "spreading news and belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood." Correspondent Peter Greste and producers Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, are not the only ones currently being held in Cairo for the crime of being journalists. Abdullah Elshamy, also of Al-Jazeera, has been held in Egyptian prisons for over 250 days and has been on a hunger strike for the last 90.

In some countries there is a belief of an inherent right to the freedom of the press. Turkey, who is currently trying to join the European Union, has been denied admission partly due to their abominable track record in terms of journalistic suppression. In 2012 and 2013 they were the country that imprisoned the most journalists. As the world continues to become a closer knit community, as information spreads at the speed of a click, the role of journalists is increasing in need every second. Some claim that governments have the right to suppress information that may be harmful to the public. CIME blog author Hamroz Abduhoshimov wrote about a law in China that states “social network and internet users who post false rumors that gain more than 500 re-posts or are visited by 5,000 internet users will be sentenced to three years in jail.” While rumors can be malicious, the law in China could be just another tool used by governments in order to silence those who are believed to be against them. As journalism evolves with changing technology, so to should the protections afforded to those behind the words.

As you write and publish works in various countries, what laws and policies have you come across that are meant to derail or silence your work? Moreover, how do you think journalism as a profession and as a livelihood are going to evolve in the coming years with the advent of new technologies and the scrutiny of media rising throughout the world?

- Carol Davey

Committee to Protect Journalists - 70 journalists killed in 2013
Al-Jazeera - Afghanistan's journalists betrayed
Committee to Protect Journalists
Committee to Protect Journalists - 2013 prison census
Al Jazeera - Journalists' trial adjourned again
Al Jazeera - Elshamy marks 250 days in jail
Al Jazeera - Crackdown on journalists
The Guardian
CIME blog - China's new law
Reporters without borders

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Doctored Documentary

Photo credit: Deadline
When the Robert Redford produced documentary “Chicagoland” was first made public it was as a mosaic, a “nonfiction-ensemble,” and a hybrid. It was to be a “behind-the-scenes” look at the city of Chicago and the people who define it. The documentary promised an elevated level of access; a never before seen glimpse into what makes the city tick. CNN centered the 8 episode series on Chicago’s charismatic Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, and his efforts to make Chicago the most American of all American Cities. The series was touted as being a reality show that allowed audiences from all over the world to understand what Chicago is all about and showcase the Mayor as well as some of the everyday citizens that make up Chicago’s identity. When the show was first announced, many members of the media who were allowed to screen it questioned its validity and whether it truly was reality TV. A report has seemed to validate those initial concerns, and depict the series as a major conflict of interest.

A recent Chicago Tribune article by Bill Ruthhart suggests that the Chicagoland series was anything but a documentary. The report is based off of 700 emails that were exchanged between producers, Mayor Emmanuel’s Aides, and others involved in the creative process. The Chicago Tribune obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information request. The emails show that the producers were not always granted the access they desired; they illustrate that the mayor’s staff worked together with the producers on the storylines and cinematography, and even reviewed the press releases and advertisements promoting the show before they could be disseminated.

The Chicago Tribune asked show creator Marc Levin about the emails and the Emmanuel editorial control that may have been involved. "Everything the mayor does is stage-managed. Everything. I would be the first to acknowledge that you don't get into Chicago and get access without having to do a certain dance.” Amid the controversy, Emmanuel spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton issued a statement saying that work done between CNN and the mayor was typical. Is this type of relationship to be expected when a news media conglomerate – saddled with the priority of making profits and ratings – attempts to make a foray into the business of making a documentary?

By definition a documentary is a record or documentation of fact, but in this case the Chicagoland series does not seem to fit that criteria. If CNN was willing to sacrifice journalistic integrity when making a documentary, does that mean that they and the people involved in the creative process are willing to compromise their integrity in other areas too? Is it simply something that we should have seen coming, just another cautionary tale of greed vs. ethics?

One thing is for sure; when you mix reality TV with the news media and politics, you never can be sure what you’re going to get.

- William Korte

The Hollywood Reporter
LA Times
Chicago Tribune
"Documentary" definition

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Sun Has Got His Hat On

BBC is not the place where a second chance is given. At least not for the 68-year old DJ who aired a song containing the “N” word.

Radio broadcaster David Lowe.
Photo credit: The Telegraph
David Lowe, who worked for 32 years for BBC, lost his job after playing a 1932 version of a song during his night show on BBC Radio Devon. The version of “The Sun Has Got His Hat On” contains the line: “He’s been tanning n****** out in Timbuktu, now he’s coming back to do the same to you,” according to the Daily Mail.

The same source states that even though Mr. Lowe wanted to apologize on air for his error, the corporation asked him to leave “after just one listener complained.” There is no question about the moral integrity of BBC, although the Jimmy Savile story raised some skeptic eyebrows, but Mr. Lowe argues that the show was pre-recorded and aired without the approval for transmission by station managers, as BBC’s compliance system requires.

The Sun Has Got His Hat On, by Ambrose & his Orquestra
Photo credit: Daily Mail
To add some controversy, shortly before Mr. Lowe was asked to leave the same word was used by Jeremy Clarkson, the presenter of Top Gear, in a show where he was mumbling the nursery rhyme Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe. Unlike Mr. Clarkson, who received a reprimand and had to apologize before proceeding to work again, BBC sent Mr. Lowe an email containing the following line: “Regrettably ... we will have to accept your offer to fall on your sword,” according to The Telegraph.

The question of what the difference was between those two BBC journalists was raised immediately. Why was one of them spared and the other one fired? One more twist took place. Shortly after the announcement of Mr. Lowe leaving, BBC changed its position. “We have offered David Lowe the opportunity to continue presenting his ‘Singers and Swingers’ show, and we would be happy to have him back on air. We accept that the conversation with David about the mistake could have been handled better, but if he chooses not to continue then we would like to thank him for his time presenting on the station and wish him well for the future,” according to The Telegraph.

In the end though, Mr. Lowe did not go back to BBC. He told The Sunday Telegraph: “Unfortunately my health has to come first. The way the BBC have handled this is terrible and it has aggravated my condition. It was an honest mistake, but I’m afraid I won’t be going back on air.”

The entire story raises questions. What made BBC change its mind? Why did Mr. Clarkson receive only a warning? Why was the show aired without any approval from the station managers? And lastly, there is more than one person producing and airing a radio show – even at the smallest radio stations the whole process involves at least two-three people – so why was there nothing said about them?

- Paula Munteanu

Daily Mail
The Telegraph

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Ethics of Pain Profiteering

On Friday May 22, 2014, a young man committed mass murder in a drive by shooting spree that killed and injured his fellow classmates. This type of violence is sadly nothing new in America—but what has become different is the stand the survivors and the community are taking against the media who are covering the story. As the news of the deadly shooting unfolded, the killer’s YouTube account, his various social medias, and even his 140-page manifesto began spreading like wildfire across the internet and major news networks. In under a day, the killer’s name was everywhere. For some, like Anderson Cooper in this tweet, the infamy of the shooter surpassed the memory of those fallen:

Isla Vistan residents.
Photcredit: The Santa Barbara Independent
Ethics in journalism encompass many things, including knowing when not to publish. For years the media has been covering events such as these, but at what cost? Most people can still recall the two shooters from Columbine by name, yet can they remember a single victim? Beyond making the shooter ‘famous,' the media has also been seen as invading the privacy of the Isla Vista community. Protesters (as photographed) held up signs in front a storefront riddled with bullet holes that said: “let us heal,” “let us mourn,” and “remembrance over ratings.” The community is sending a strong message to those in the media; pain is not for profit.

The other ethical problem entangled in this tragedy is the publishing of the killer’s manifesto. The Poynter Institute offers some suggestions as to how to publish the document (and the possible positive outcomes of doing so) linking this manifesto to that of the Unabomber in the 1990s. The article, titled ‘The right way to publish a deranged killer’s manifesto,” claims that “perhaps the most valuable thing journalists can do would be to get psychiatrists and psychologists to annotate the document.” Every journalist and news outlet must make the choice to publish, but they should do so with while valuing the memory of victims and their families over the number of ‘hits’, ‘shares’, or ‘retweets.’

How do you think the media should report on such events?

- Carol Davey

LA Times
The New York Times
NBC News
Twitter - AC360
International Business Times

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The ratings game is bad sportmanship

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 has baffled aviation experts, governments, and transportation agencies while gripping the consciousness of the news consuming public all over the world. This has not gone unnoticed by the editors and producers of the news media; like those at CNN who according to the Washington Post have seen their ratings increase among viewers ages 25-54 by 86% since the plane went missing on March 8th. In fact, one could argue that the longer the plane remains missing and an unsolved mystery the better off the news media becomes.

In a recent US News article by Rachel Brody, Fox News Reporter Howard Kurtz outlined how CNN’s all out coverage blitz has left him a bit perplexed. Kurtz referred to CNN's antics as, "all-plane, all-the-time coverage." Kurtz believes that when a major news story occurs like the disappearance of flight 370 that the coverage becomes saturated and providing actual facts is given less importance. “We’re all falling into the trap, I think, of filling airtime with speculation that turns out not to be true.” When the news media provides us with conjecture or hypotheses are they really just playing with our emotions? Are they enlisting fear, hope, and loss in order to attract viewers and listeners, thus choosing ratings over ethical journalism?

Since flight 370 disappeared almost 3 months have passed. Surely CNN and the rest of the news media have judiciously ensured that their networks have given equal amounts of attention and coverage to all noteworthy stories over the same period of time, right? As we speak there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Crimea and Russia as well, and who can forget about Global Warming, Afghanistan and Fallujah? Surely amongst the stories about war and conflict and climate change there are feel good stories out there that deserve our attention too, and the media’s as well, no? For how long have we accepted a uniform, recurring pattern of news reporting? Who is the more culpable party, the producer or the consumer?

Without trivializing the tragedy of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 and the lives lost, shouldn’t we as consumers demand more from our news media? Shouldn’t we be more outspoken with our eyes and ears in what we want to be informed on? It almost seems as though we have enabled the news media to become complacent and stagnant with how they cover news stories by the way we choose to follow news coverage of events. Should this aspect of our consumerism make us less aware of what’s going on in the world? When the news media can do just fine ratings wise with the cyclical mass production of fear and unproven speculation over the course of 3 months worth of coverage, why would they be motivated to change their ways and diversify what types of stories they cover? News is supposed to mean “new” information, but it seems as though we are just fine with being spoon-fed theory or rumor or something that we have already heard before. In 2014 when it comes to news and journalism it almost seems like we the consuming public would much rather be well entertained than well informed.

- William Korte

The Washington Post
US News