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A Journalist’s Conflict with Conflict

I’ve discussed the facts that media is constantly evolving and social networking is growing at a seemingly exponential rate. This time around, however, I want to focus my attention away from media itself, and look at the people who are behind articles and stories, and how their profession can cause them to grow conflicted in what to report and how.

Photo by Flickr user misterlos

The Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at California State University, Fresno, held its 2010 Roger Tatarian Journalism Symposium on Fresno State’s campus on Feb. 26. Gareth Porter and Nancy Youssef spoke at the event about the pressures that journalists face while working with a news organization and how to effectively report on times of conflict with quickly developing technology, respectively.

Porter is an investigative journalist and historian who concentrates on U.S. national security policy. Named one of the “20 top global media figures” in 2009 by the political website, PULSE, Porter is an independent journalist whose articles are published by Inter Press Service.
Youssef is the chief Pentagon correspondent for McClatchy newspapers. Spending four years in Iraq, Youssef covered stories regarding civilian casualties, everyday Iraqi experience and how U.S. military strategy reshaped Iraq’s social and political realms.

If I were working as a journalist for a news organization, I can imagine how there would be times where my own personal ethics could be put to the test with people who are in charge, as they can control how a reporter reports, to an extent.

My personal mentality for overcoming challenges is to first recognize that they exist. Porter clearly laid out the “pressures” he felt many journalists would face, if working for a major news outlet. For one student, it was Porter’s explanation of these pressures that was really worthwhile.

Personally, I’m not a very objective person; one can say I wear my emotions on my sleeve. I understand that there are times when I cannot allow my emotions get the best of me. Needless to say, objective journalism wouldn’t be my occupation of choice.

Porter spoke of some great points for us, as aspiring journalists, to be aware of as we develop our career:

Firstly: avoid conflicts of interest.

Those who are passionate for objective journalism, can easily find themselves in the midst of pressure with their source: as a reporter depends on a source for information, this reporter could grow reluctant to write negative articles on the outlet that this source works for.

Secondly: don’t allow editors to devalue anything you report.

The editor for whom one may work for has great influence on what, where and how a reporter covers a story–  a story’s placement is everything.

Lastly: be honest and show respect to those whom your stories reach: the public.

Porter completed the circle by saying that the final pressure journalists may face is held within the idea of “societal-political influence:” what a news institution reports, is influenced by society and its viewpoint.

Now, when reporting in conflict (and reporting in general), what makes a good reporter?
Youssef focused on the idea that in order to report on a story well, one must actually be present and be a part of the story itself. I couldn’t agree more– It’s important to not only report the facts of a story, but also to cover the interactions of what’s going on around the scene.

Youssef said herself that a good reporter should learn to “take specifics and [report] what they say of the broader perspective.”

I’m not alone in realizing that we need not always be so caught up in the grainy details of a story, as the emotions of those involved can sometimes make a story far better than before, as one Fresno State student felt as well.

Lastly, with great advancements in technology, covering war zone conflict can have a great influence in shaping a political discussion. It’s the reporter’s real-time war coverage that can now force some politicians to form a developing opinion. In a more general perspective, a reporter is able to bring together everyone’s opinion by what they report.

We are able to report in real-time.

We have the ability to shape political discussion.

In having these abilities, however, we must be aware of the pressures that could come along the way. These pressures that could arise should not stand in our way of reporting to the best of our ability. With rapidly growing technology, reporting is easier and more convenient for society to consume.

With that in mind, we must be ethical.

We must be committed.

We must not be conflicted.


Please, I’m Blogging You: Don’t Tweet Around My Facebook–This Is MySpace!

We find ourselves in the midst of a rapidly growing phenomenon that we call “social networking.” What once was an enigma to most people has now grown into a common household topic.

Words began to take on different meanings:

– “Poking” someone no longer meant, “to touch somebody with one’s own finger.”

– “Nudging” someone to do something was no longer an act of rubbing up against somebody to move away, and

– “Tweeting” was no longer an action only birds could do.

Our world has evolved, greatly, especially in terms of networking.

The statistics can’t be finalized, due to the fact that our society’s networking use continues to grow.
At the rate we’re going, it appears, our children will no longer need to learn to have any social skills—they’ll just need to be able to operate a basic computer operating system (and being able to type 100+ words per minute will get them far along in life as well).

Courtesy of Youtube.com, I extracted a short video posted by a web log devoted solely to social media, Socialnomics.com, regarding the “Revolution of Social Media,” asking straight-up: “Is Social Media a Fad?”

“We no longer search for the news, the news finds us..” –Socialnomics.com

“Social Media [is]… a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.” –Socialnomics.com

It’s interesting to see just how dependant we’ve grown on social networking, on sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn.

My question, however, is—Why?

Were we fed social networking growing up, or are we simply influenced by the society we live in, and want to fit into the “social norms?”

I conducted an extremely informal interview/survey with 30 people, ranging in age and college background. For the most part, the result held true to what I believed prior to doing the interviews:

I asked the question: “Which social networking sites do you use?”
The answers came in: 20 people, the oldest being 25-years-old, had a Facebook and/or a Twitter; 5 people, being between 26 and 35-years-old, did not use any social networking sites; and 5 people, exceeding 35-years-old, used Facebook.

Many of the other statistics I had found from the survey clearly upheld this “social standard” of social networking: How long have you had the accounts? How often do you check them? Update them?

The other two trending topics that were really expressed during the course of the interviews were:

1) One’s privacy could be a great risk factor in having a Facebook. Many of those I interviewed, whether they were part of the networking or not, said they felt that one’s information could be taken from these media outlets and be abused.

2) Many of those interviewed also felt that social networking sites can be used in a professional manner, to promote one’s self or one’s own business. This whole idea of marketing one’s self is something that I’ll discuss in greater detail in a future blog post.

Social networking has its positives and negatives, to say the least—it can expand one’s horizons to different people and agencies, or it can harm one’s reputation and tear at the seams of privacy.

It’s hard not to get lost in the cloud of social media—we have to work and be our own filters. It’s necessary to have a solid head on our shoulders and utilize these media outlets to our own benefit. Of those I interviewed, people less than 30-years-old used social media for fun—it’s not bad to have entertainment in our lives, but we cannot be absorbed within it.

We cannot allow these social networking sites to get the best of us.

How do we brush off the negative?

We can simply become more media literate, or:

Perhaps we can just nudge them away?

Poke them out of our lives?

Fly away, and tweet as we go?

To blog, or not to blog: that is the [complex] question.

Photo by Flickr user rcade.

Why do people blog?

For some, blogging is a simple way to express  ideas and thoughts that they hold within their mind–some people simply have to share this with the world. For others, blogging is just another way to pass the time, because they have nothing better to do, and so why not keep up a daily online journal? For a few, however, a blog is something to simply fulfill a need for a college course.

For me, blogging is all the above–I have so much to say and, frankly, I don’t know how to express any of it.

So what is a blog? What is blogging? A blog is simply an abbreviation for “web log.” A blog is an online journal that is updated on a regular basis by an individual (and sometimes, by a company or organization). Blogging is the act of maintaining a blog. The topics of blogs will vary greatly: some people create blogs and closely look at a certain political party; others design a blog and look into the popular culture realm of society.

For my particular blog, I’ll be maintaining it throughout the next few months and talking about various aspects of social media. I’ll look closely at how social media has evolved and changed over the past few years; I’ll examine how “social media” affects us in our everyday lives; in an upcoming post, I’ll even delve into the idea of social networking, and how that has grown in great popularity recently.

Other aspects that I will have the pleasure of looking into will be the pro’s and con’s of social media–how has social media affected the professional world in today’s society? Is social media able to be integrated into professionalism, or is there a distinct line that should be drawn between the two entities?

Needless to say, social media is slowly taking over our world. It is becoming our lives.

It’s important to note as well, that while I will try to stay as objective as possible throughout the next few months, many of my future postings will have my opinion integrated throughout.
While I’ve never really created “blogs” in the past, I have a few “role models,” to help me along the way:

1) Out of the Silicon Valley, Brian Solis works a Public Relations agency from which he has created a quite insightful (and humorous) blog about the union of “social media, PR, web marketing, and technology.”

2) Secondly, Dr. Susan Currie Sivek, assistant professor of Mass Communication and Journalism at California State University, Fresno, has created my “inspiration” for beginning blogging, in her own blog which covers aspects of social media and journalism in our lives.

Thank you all once more for stopping by! If you’d care for an audio intro to my blog, please click here.

Once again, thank you for your time! Here’s to the months ahead as we venture down the yellow bricks on the road of social media!