Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fit to Print?

In the spring of 2006, I authored a research thesis on the media. “What Happened to the News?” received rave reviews from classmates and professors alike. Upon joining Associated Content, I decided to post this extensively researched piece in the hopes that it might garner some attention to my writing, a vocation I aspire to.
I’ve been interested in politics since the nineties, paying more and more attention to the bigger world around me each year. I feel blessed to be an American, a person who’s been fortunate to be born in a country where idealistically I have a right to participate, to have my voice be heard.

During the Monica Lewinsky scandal of the mid-nineties, I became aware of the role that a certain group of people played in shaping our nation in every way imaginable. And not for my benefit! Slowly the picture grew clearer and clearer. The events disseminated to us through what we refer to as the mass media dictate the discussion and as a result, much of the mindset of the populace. The situation came to the forefront during the turning-point election of 2000 and has eventually become the norm.

In my desire to write, I’ve wanted to develop an outlet for pointing out the injustice and wrongdoing out there in hopes of getting more people to pay attention. In February of 2007, I began a blog called “Rants”. To this day, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve wanted it to be, but this may turn out to be its next incarnation.

I live in Long Island, New York, and I feel that our daily periodical, Newsday, is respectable and well put-together. It provides me with my fodder for conversation in my daily life, as I’m sure other local newspapers are for millions of others. Newsday is the only newspaper I read regularly, so many of my views are skewed, to a degree, from my perspective here in NY. I suppose that it is probably a valid representative example of newspapers, and the media in general. So, take what you want from this…it’s just some of the world the way I see it.

What Happened in the News? Week of 10/20-10/25

Herein are some stories I found during the week’s news items. They were all presented in Long Island Newsday for the week ending October 25 and can be fully explored at Newsday.com.

What the …?

Yankee Phenom’s DUI Story

Evidence of the news cancellation is easily observed by picking up any newspaper, most any day. Newspaper readers scan headlines to find stories of interest to them, so these headlines and where they’re placed have a lot to do with what they, the general media, want us to be talking about. For two days this week, Monday and Tuesday, the DUI arrest of Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain made the cover of Newsday. (“DUI Apology: Joba’s Sorry Scene” screamed the headline on Monday and “Inside Joba’s Wild Night” on Tuesday.)

Tuesday’s edition came with a page 2/3 spread that included a story on Joba’s blood alcohol level, another about witnesses to the bar scene before the arrest, a timeline of the evening, a synopsis of the DUI laws in both New York and Nebraska, where the incident occurred, the effects of impairment on the operation of a vehicle, and a map of the area. Pictures of the player and the two bars he visited rounded out the coverage. This treatment was additionally given pages and pages of coverage within the sports pages, where the whole thing belonged in the first place.

Putting such a spotlight on an unfortunate story about a baseball player is absolutely ridiculous for a major newspaper. Regrettably, this sort of thing happens all too often, as sensationalism and entertainment have become the focus of newspapers and the rest of the media. Do we ask for it, or are we conditioned to yearn for it? I hope it’s the latter!

Put This in the Vault – Stories that Inform

GOP voter fraud alleged (Newsday, October 19, 2008)

“SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Dozens of newly minted Republican voters say they were duped into joining the party by a GOP contractor with a trail of fraud complaints stretching across the United States.” (BY EVAN HALPER AND MICHAEL ROTHFELD | originally printed in the Los Angeles Times)

A political firm hired by the California Republican Party to register new voters has been accused of duping dozens of voters into joining the Republican Party. Young Political Majors approached the voters with the premise of signing a petition for tougher penalties against child molesters. Instead, the constituents found themselves unwitting members of the Republican Party.

This story embodies the nefarious tactics we’ve come to expect from the Republicans in the past several years. With this year’s Presidential election looming as a major referendum on real change from the past eight years of disastrous policies, the dirty tricks seem to be all the Republicans have to grasp at any hopes of winning anything this November.

I think the majority of Americans have grown accustomed to these underhanded strategies, from the nasty “robo-calls” employed by Bush against McCain during the 2000 primaries to the phone jamming scheme in New Hampshire in 2004 to countless others. A story like this one is destined to backfire and will only serve to bolster the Democrats in races around the country.
(full story: http://www.newsday.com/news/printedition/nation/ny-usfrau5890162oct19,0,415274.story )

Powell chooses, defends Obama ((Newsday, October 20, 2008)

On Sunday’s “Meet the Press”, former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell broke with his party and endorsed Barak Obama for President. “I think we need a president who’s a generational change and that’s why I am supporting Barak Obama…” Powell maintains that he’s still a Republican, but he just doesn’t agree with the extreme rightward direction of the party of late.

Colin Powell is a well respected figure among Americans in general and his endorsement of Obama speaks volumes about the state of mind of the populace in general. We are in need of a change, and it seems to me that having John McCain as our next Commander in Chief just wouldn’t steer this country towards a better direction. It’s too bad, I think McCain would’ve been a better choice than what we ended up with in 2000!

(Note: Rush Limbaugh repeatedly referred to this story in a typically ugly talking-head manner this week, claiming in no uncertain terms this endorsement was based solely on race. Disgusting!)

Robbing Us

On Monday, three stories were published that deserved the type of coverage Joba got. (Newsday: Not Falling Fast Enough, Reid J. Epstein, October, 20, 2008 and High Prices Get Stuck that Way, Associated Press, page A8) The stories incensed me as they made me realize all of the reprehensible things going on out there that we just can’t control, yet are literally pulling the money straight from my pockets. New York Senator Charles Schumer “called it ‘shocking’ that crude oil has fallen 52 percent from a July high of $144 per barrel, but retail gasoline prices are down 20 percent and home heating oil costs are down 12 percent during the same time period.” Clearly, people somewhere between the oil fields and the gas tanks are committing robbery on all of us. You don’t need to be an economist to figure that one out.

The people within the oil industry aren’t the only ones pinching our pockets. “High Prices Get Stuck that Way” illustrates how retailers who’ve had to raise prices due to the rising price in gas haven’t adjusted their prices accordingly as the price of gasoline has come down. The effects of this condition can be seen at any supermarket across the country.

Stories like this should be shouted from the mountaintop, or at least given more attention to than the shenanigans of a major league baseball kid. When people are indifferent to anything politic, it’s because they’re not seeing the connection between the people that represent them in government (at any level) and their lives. Guess what, they do! If we all paid a little more attention to stories like these, maybe our lives would be a little better.