Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blogging the Digital Divide

After learning about the benefits of blogging, such as the possibility of expanding sources, opinions and freedom of expression, I began wondering what are some of the disadvantages of using blogging, or the Internet in general, for communication and information flow? Lets see, if it benefits me, this power journalism class, Western media and the developed country as a whole, then everybody who doesn’t fit into this category is disadvantaged, right?
Not to say the Internet is intentionally used by developed countries to further suppress the voice and already limited powers of the “Global South,” but in a way it is. By being in control of technological developments and making English the language of these developments, how is blogging benefiting the nations that neither speak English nor have Internet access? I’ll find out for you. Don’t worry; I won’t make you think too hard fellow bloggers.
Thank goodness it wasn’t America’s fault to begin with, we have enough guilt on our shoulders at the moment. Actually, the British control of global telegraph networks led to English becoming the main language of international trade and communication, according to the book I’m reading, “International Communication: Continuity and Change” by Daya Kishan Thussu. As the 21st century rolled around English (and yeah partially our fault now) became the main language of multinational interactions by being used within the UN system, large corporations, media, scientific publishing and, of course, the Internet.
English is the second most common language spoken in the world (some sources said third though, hmmm) with more than 500 million speakers, while Mandarin is the first with 1.1 billion speakers. Hindi is around the same as English, about 500 million, hence the confusion about placement. Thinking that either placement would earn us a gold medal at the Olympics (out of the 6,700 languages spoken in the world), it almost seems exciting. Well, this isn’t a competition.
There are 34 countries with a rich multilingual tradition, meaning there are more than 50 languages in daily use. They seem more like the winners to me. Imagine how much more interesting and culturally diverse our country and media system would be if we spoke more languages. Where are these 34 language-gifted countries located? None in Europe if you were wondering, and two-thirds of them are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, South East Asia and the Pacific region. Sun-Saharan Africa is one of the worst areas when it comes to access to telephone lines (coincidence?). In 2005, nearly 1 billion people worldwide had no access to telephones, and without telephone lines you have no Internet. While Internet access has opened up in Africa recently, the high cost for using telephones make them expensive to use, which the majority of the continent’s citizens can’t afford.
What does all of this mean? We should stop using the Internet, learn a new language and travel to Africa to help increase teledensity? I don’t know what you should do because I don’t know what to do myself. I guess writing about is a start. I feel like the whole situation is a catch-22. If I help I’m further supporting Western power over the developing nations by forcing them to “modernize” and lose the rich culture they have managed to hold on to for so long. But if I don’t, will the digital-divide continue to stretch and pull on global relations until we break into two separate worlds? Maybe it already has.
Want to read the book“International Communication: Continuity and Change,” or learn more about it? Go here.

Monday, May 28, 2007

This I believe

The first day of third grade consisted of emptying your markers in the communal tub, getting to know the other students at your assigned table and selecting a locker mate. My best friend was in my class and on the first remark that we could choose our locker partners, our eyes shot across the room towards each other, sparkling at the excitement of the freedom from alphabetical constraint. I don’t remember how the chaotic decision-making process was planned on being carried out, but I do remember my teacher announcing we had a transfer student who could choose first. Since she didn’t know anybody my teacher asked who would like to be her locker partner, clueless to the silent and rapid agreements made throughout the classroom within the first 10 seconds of this announcement. The new girl sat quietly, looking around the room and waiting for an arm to rise, but none did.
She was big for her age, larger than any other girl or boy in the class and in most of the 3rd or 4th grade. Her cheeks were puffy, her hair frizzy and she smelled of body odor that nobody else in the class had yet to develop. The class sat in silence as 10, 15, 20 seconds passed. Her head sank in embarrassment. I reached my hand up said I’d like to be her partner if she would like to be mine.
I hated sharing a locker with her all year long, but I knew it was the right thing to do all year long too. I believe in doing the right thing, even when it’s the last thing you want to do.
While there are so many times in my life when being selfish seems to make the most sense, I think I overlook the importance in seeing the big picture. By placing myself back at in the third grade and remembering how badly I felt for this girl and how this simple gesture, even though it felt so big at the time, really made a difference to her.
The answer seemed to be so simple at the age of nine. Sometimes with the complications that come with growing up, I lose track of the right answer and only see what I want to. Now that I can do what I what whenever I want I don’t stop enough to think how my actions truly affect others. Whether I let somebody in while driving, give a dollar to a homeless person or donate time or money to a worthy cause, it makes me feel better to know I did the right thing.
Click play below or on this link (This I believe #1) for the audio version.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Blogging Gets Furry

The Chicago Tribune’s blog titled “Unleashed: The Tribune's pets blog,” exemplifies the charm and temptation of the blogging world. It’s different, innovative and allows journalists to break away from their own leashes tightened by editors, advertisers and lawyers.
In “Blogging Between the Lines” author Dana Hull, from the American Journalism Review, spoke with Robert Cox, president of the Media Bloggers Association. Hull paraphrased Cox saying, “the allure of blogs is their willingness to venture where newspapers have hesitated to journey.” The Chicago Tribune has ventured far from the average newspaper’s blogging in Washington or the behind the scenes perspective on the newsroom staff. These blogging subjects are no less crucial, but perhaps in the bizarre-o-world of blogging they should also be no more important.
The Chicago Tribune’s pet blog features posts relating to issues such as the search for foster homes for shelter animals about to be euthanized. Although there are also more bizarre yet also interesting topics, such as a video on a frog jumping competition in Angels Camp, Calif., which honors Mark Twain. More serious, or newsworthy, was a video feature on a black bear who wandered into the backyards of the residential area of Hartford, Conn.
While the majority of these posts are not “windows into the Editorial Board’s thinking on issues,” such as discussed in Hull’s piece, they are windows into somebody’s world. This blog probably attracts animal lovers and anybody looking for less serious and perhaps fluffy news. We can always use a break from the seriousness of life. Additionally, the site rarely fears any type of lawsuits, unless that black bear has a lawyer on hand to sue for slander.
I have always taken the role of reporters and the word of newspapers seriously, and in return I expected earnest work. Newsroom blogs were reflective of the tone I expected and therefore tolerable in my once anti-blogger viewpoint. This is why I forced myself to examine a newspaper’s more lighthearted blog. Since the idea of a blog is to open your mind to less serious reporting, I decided to loosen my choke collar as much as possible.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ethics beyond the newsroom

Sacrifice is a word journalists know well. Our lives revolve around other peoples’ schedules, our personal opinions are set aside at the cost of others and whatever our editors want us to do is answered with an enthusiastic yes. Most of us agree to these sacrifices for the integrity of our newspapers and ourselves as reporters. When this integrity is lost, however, our jobs become the sacrifice.
Ethics in Journalism is a subject widely discussed and argued about. I think most journalists would agree our words our are power, and when they are misused this is an abuse of power. In order to preserve our voices and maintain our right to inform the public we have to earn respect through honestly. This responsibility spreads throughout the newsroom, into the field and into the hands of the media owners and operators. Without this, we have nothing.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Covering Genocide

Living across the world geographically from Sudan feels even farther away when it comes to culture, language and living conditions. Although some aspects of human nature aren’t changed when borders and seas are crossed. This is something Nicholas Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, addressed in his lecture Monday night.
“I think at the end of the day we have a human compus within us and it’s moved in part my human suffering and also by evil,” he said to a packed Columbia 150 in his keynote address titled, “Covering the first genocide of the 21st century: Reporting from Darfur.” Evil isn’t something I see in my life very often, but there is no doubt the images Kristof showed and the stories he told came from someplace evil.
“You see evil when a guy has his eyes gouged out. That is evil,” he said. Where does the line between the responsibility of a journalist and the compassion of a human being exist? Covering these events from Darfur would surely be a challenge for any journalist, because in the end we are all human beings and just as Kristof said; we are moved by human suffering and evil.
During his lecture, Kristof walked us through the oasis he reported from, located on the border of Sudan and Chad. He described it as a place with a couple of wells, some trees and 30,000 people who fled Darfur and were now living under the trees. At the first tree he found a man whose face and neck were badly scarred.
“He’d been shot in the neck and jaw and left for dead in a pile of bodies with his parents,” Kristof said. This man’s brother escaped the mass killing and later returned to burry the bodies when he discovered his brother was still alive. He carried his brother on his back for 49 days, until they arrived at the border.
Under the next tree a girl and her baby brother rested. Their parents and older siblings were killed and she was trying to keep her brother alive. She looked younger than eight years old. Then, under the third tree there was a woman who was gang raped for days and then had her legs mutilated, to permanently remind her and others of the horrific experience.
“That was really the moment the brutalities hit me and the scale of them,” Kristof said, looking at the photo of the woman on the screen. Because of the mass scale of these killings and rapes it isn’t something the people of Darfur can escape. It isn’t something we, as journalists or human beings, should escape either. This should be confronted, and on a bigger scale than it is currently. This requires the efforts of the U.S. Government and other world leaders, but it also requires the pressure of citizens and the coverage of journalists to make a change.
To learn more, or to donate to stop the genocide, click here.