Thursday, May 26, 2016

Who owns the Media?

Who owns the media is a very important topic in today's world, with multi-billion dollar news companies competing with tens of thousands of smaller sources to control the public's view of the world. The news is an extremely powerful tool and whoever controls it, controls what everyone sees about recent events and what we think about the world. To avoid a single person or group being able to abuse that power, it is important that the media has multiple outlets, but having too many sources of news can be a problem too. The more news sources there are, the less reliable most of them become. For example, there are very few TV news stations, but they almost always have reliable information. Meanwhile, there are thousands upon thousands of internet news sources like blogs and social media, but their information is far less reliable and than larger sources. This means in order to make news as reliable and available as possible, there needs to be a balance of size and number of media outlets.
The majority of news in the modern day, comes from a handful of very large sources. Companies like Google, New York Times, CNN, and a few others that are listed here, control huge portions of the media because they are the most accessible sources, and can easily be found in print, online, or on TV. Their audiences also do not have to worry about fact checking their information, because it is almost always reliable. Reasons like these attract audiences that do not have the time or initiative to look at multiple sources, and want their news quickly. The problem with this approach to news is when it comes to news like politics. Politics are often highly opinionated, and when your news comes entirely from one source, you are more likely to agree with their point of view and disregard any other.
The other portion of media sources are the smaller sources that are often located solely online. These sources ,as I mentioned earlier, often have less reliable information and should be fact checked, but there are advantages to these sources too. Because there are so many of these sources, it is easy to check other sources to confirm facts, and it is also possible to see an issue from different perspectives by using these sources. Although this approach to news is much more time consuming, it is a good way to eliminate opinion from your news.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Satire Blog

Being informed about the news is more important than ever. Events that take place on the other side of the globe can have a huge impact on your day to day life, so it is important that you at least have a basic understanding of recent events. Unfortunately, there are dozens of new and entertaining distractions from keeping ourselves informed. One solution to this issue, is satire.
Satire is a much more entertaining form of news that focuses more on humor than actual information, while still conveying a fair amount of information. For example, this article by the Onion makes fun of Donald Trump’s campaign, and also informs readers that he is the last remaining republican candidate. This story is much more entertaining than a typical news story, but still contains a fair amount of information and informs readers fairly effectively. There are cases where satire does not contain any useful information about recent events, like in this story by the Onion that just makes fun of people's eating habits, but satirical sources are usually relatively reliable sources of information.
One issue with satire is when it is taken seriously, which can cause confusion and spread disinformation. Because of this, it should be made clear when something is satire so readers do not confuse it with a serious news story. Some examples of this can be found at literally unbelievable which is a website that compiles people's responses on social media to satire that they had taken seriously.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What Does Your News Say About You

            News is something that we are all exposed to every day in one form or another. It can be on TV, the internet, newspapers, magazines, or even just by talking to people. There are so many forms of news that it is practically unavoidable. News also can be told from many different perspectives, and the same story can be interpreted to mean different things depending on who is reporting it. For example, a conservative news source might have completely different stories than a liberal one, or an American news source like CNN, might have vastly different interpretations of news than a British news source like the BBC. Having so many forms and perspectives of news can be helpful in fully understanding recent events, but also confusing as you can’t tell which sources are trustworthy.
            Keeping track of the news can be a stressful and time consuming activity, which raises the question of, why bother? Except for some local stories, the events reported in the news very rarely directly affect most people’s day to day lives, so why do people feel inclined to keep track of the news? I think there are a few different reasons. The first reason I think people watch the news, is simply curiosity. People find that events that are in no way related to them are interesting to learn about. The second reason I think people keep track of the news, is because even though an event might not directly affect their life, there can be some indirect repercussions. This might be as minor as scheduling events around the weather, or as major as managing your finances based on the stock market. You could continue living your life without knowing about details like these, but you can plan your life more efficiently if you do know about them.

            The news source I observed over the past ten days was the Onion, which is part of a category of news sources that are often overlooked, satire. Satirical news sources report news in a sarcastic and usually less informative style than most other serious news sources, and most of their stories are parodies of actual news stories, like a recent story poking fun at the recent stories of issues with white house security. Since satirical news sources usually contain less information than other sources, they are most commonly used as a source of entertainment rather than news. However, one advantage to reading satirical news sources that I notices while observing the onion, was that it seemed to less bias about political stories than in many other sources. I believe this is because satirical news sources are more concerned with entertaining their audience than spreading their ideas.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

What is Journalism?

Journalism can be a very difficult topic to describe because The line of where journalism stops and gossip or opinion begins can often be blurred, and be different for different people. The American Press Institute's definition of journalism is the act of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting new and information. I think this definition is a good summary of what journalism is, but some of the ideas in it can be expanded on.
One important part of journalism is researching the topic firsthand, from reliable sources. Things like interviewing people who know a significant amount about the topic, reading sources that contain accurate information about the topic, and visiting the location of events related to your topic are some of the most common forms of research. Without research grounded in facts about the topic or witnessing an event yourself, it is impossible to write an unbiased report of a topic.
Another crucial part of journalism, is avoiding bias whenever possible, both in your research and when compiling your research. some amount of bias will be present in any form of journalism because you can not always know every detail about your topic, but it can be partially avoided by using a variety of sources and covering as many perspectives as you can. Interviews can be especially biased in some cases, because the interviewee has only seen the event from their perspective, and could have missed important details that completely change the story. The best way to avoid bias in your research is by taking information from every perspective of the event possible. I liked how they said it in the Editors Weblog when they said,” if you get complained at by both sides for being too close to the other you are normally somewhere in the middle, between both camps.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

War Powers of the President

The president is a very important figure in the U.S. military. As commander and chief, he controls a significant part of the militarys actions in times of war. In the constitution, article 1 section 8 clause 11 says that Congress can declare war, and the president directs the war. Article 2 section 2 of the Constitution names the president commander in chief. These two sections require that Congress and the president work together in war time, with congress declaring and funding war, while the president directs it. Over time the president's powers over our military have been expanded beyond what the constitution originally allowed through the 20th and 21st amendments. These amendments allowed the president to deploy troops without congressional approval. This power was given to the president during the cold war because it was believed it would make the country less vulnerable to attack because we could react and deploy troops more easily. This was used to start the Korean War,  Vietnam War,  and many other conflicts. To combat the president's ability to deploy troops without approval, Congress passed the War Powers Act which required the president to alert congress within 48 hours of deploying troops and he must withdraw the troops within 60 days if he does not get Congressional approval. This act prevented the president from having total control over the U.S. army.

Friday, March 6, 2015

World Poverty

            Poverty is a huge issue around the world, affecting billions of people. In America we are relatively isolated from extreme poverty, which makes us much less aware of and sympathetic for people who suffer from poverty. About half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day, and about one sixth of the world live on less than $1.25 a day. This means these people barely have enough money to provide food for themselves and their families, forget common luxuries that we have in America like cars and electronics.

            One of the effects poverty around the world, is people living in poverty cannot afford sufficient shelter or clean water. One billion people around the world do not have access to clean water, which can lead to deadly waterborne illnesses. These illnesses are often treatable, but those who are forced to drink unclean water usually cannot afford medical treatment.  This cycle makes it very difficult for those in poverty to remain healthy. In many tropical countries that have high poverty rates, also suffer from malaria which is one of the biggest killers in the world.
           As you can see, poverty is a huge problem around the world. People on every continent suffer from it, even in some of the richest nations on earth. Although it may be impossible to help all people who are in poverty, it can be helped immensely by charity and other efforts.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Lord of the Flies

            In Lord of the Flies for a large section of the book, it is unclear who the protagonist of the book is. When the book begins it has two main characters that emerge from the jungle first. “The beach between the palm terrace and the water was a thin stick, endless apparently, for to Ralph’s left the perspectives of palm and beach and water drew to a point at infinity; and always, almost visible, was the heat.” It seems that these two boys would naturally become the protagonists, but later Simon and Jack also seem fit for the role of protagonist. Later in the book when Simon and Piggy die, it seems like Ralph is the protagonist and Jack is the antagonist, but I do not entirely agree with that. I think the book was not a story about good guys and bad guys, I think it was more about human morality and how we act without authority or threat of punishment. The protagonist was the entire group and the antagonist was the group’s slow decay.
            One thing in this book that is different from most other survival books about this book is that there are never any threats to the groups lives except for themselves. Most of the time in books like this there is a famine or a hurricane, something that threatens the wellbeing of the characters in the book but in Lord of the Flies there is never anything like that. They even make up their own threat in their imaginations in the book. “He still says he saw the beastie. It came and went away again an’ came back and wanted to eat him” I believe the reason William Golding did not add something like that, is so the book would show how a group would decay on its own without authority. I think that the group probably would have remained more united if there had been a threat. They would have had a common enemy so they would not have become enemies of each other.
            I think that the overall theme of this book is the importance of authority and rules. When people learn that there is nothing stopping them from doing whatever they want, the entire idea of remaining civilized is ignored and replaced with greed and a grab for power. On the island when they attempt to make rules, it fails because they have no way to enforce the rules. Everyone on the island has an even amount of power, so no one is in a position to enforce rules.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hope and Fear

Hope and fear are a big part of everyone’s life whether they know it or not. In school and work, people hope to get a good grade or a good performance review, and fear missing a deadline or making a mistake on a project. It’s the same reason I’m writing this blog, to avoid a bad grade and get a good one. I believe that hope and fear are both of the forces that motivate people, with hope on one end of the spectrum and fear on the other. Either one can easily replace the other depending on how your mentality in a situation, and both can be equally effective as the other. Most of the time people are motivated by a mixture of the two, instead of just one.
In the book Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo is a great example of motivation by fear. He constantly worries that he will end up like his father, and has the same worries about his children. This is the reason he is so desperate to repair his reputation after returning from being banished. He is motivated through fear to make sure he has a good reputation among Umofia, and that is what eventually leads to his downfall. I think that the reason Okonkwo comes to such an unfortunate end is because when someone is motivated by fear, they become reckless to avoid the impending punishment, and do things like make a connection to a book they read a month ago in order to reach a word count.
In the book Wool by Hugh Howey, there is a good example of a different motivating force which is hope. In the first part of the book, Sheriff Holston’s wife Allison discovers a system that is creating false images to display on screens somewhere in the silo. She assumes this means that the screens displaying the outside of the silo are false images, and goes outside to her death. This event is a great example of how hope motivates. Allison hoped that the barren toxic wasteland she knew was actually a green grassy world that was being hidden from them. She rushes outside only to find she is wrong, which is the downside of being motivated by hope. When people are motivated by hope they rush to the reward they think is at the end of their efforts, and make mistakes that could replace their reward with a punishment.
After reading books like these two, my conclusion is that there is no perfect motivating force. Both hope and fear have significant downfalls that can only be fixed by the presence of the other factors. Overall, the best motivator is enough hope to keep you excited about what you’re doing and influence you to do your best, and enough fear to keep you are cautious about mistakes.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The republic

          Plato's Republic is one of the oldest books still read in our society, but it is still very popular and brings up questions that still have yet to be answered. I think we have failed to answer the questions in this book and are still intrigued with it after thousands of years is because the questions either simply have no answer, or have an answer that changes depending on who's is answering them. For example, the definition of justice is so obscure, how one person interprets it is almost never the same as how someone else defines it.
          In the book one thing I noticed about how Plato described justice, was that he never talked about how anyone would be punished for crimes. I believe the reason that he never mentioned how people would be punished is because he believes that in a just society, there will be no crimes to punish. He thinks justice is not the enforcement of laws and the punishment of crimes, but the lack of crime altogether.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Things Fall Apart

          In the book things fall apart by Chinua Achebe, Okonkwo's village is going through huge changes unlike anything they had ever seen before. As white missionaries and settlers move in they try to impose their ideas about religion and law on the local tribes, first by simply suggesting their ideas, and later by forcing it upon them. Most of the conflict in the book originated from the settlers forcing their ideas on Umofia, which influences the village people to react violently.
          In the book, the village of Umofia is ruled largely by religion and that ends up causing many of their problems. This is similar to how tribe cultures are affecting the spread of Ebola in Africa. Many of the cultures in Africa have death rituals that involve interacting with the bodies of their dead which causes the virus to spread to whoever interacts with the corpses. There is an example of this in the book when Ezeudu died. The ceremony involved leaving the body uncovered and having people walk and around it. In modern day Africa, some groups of people are not willing to give up these rituals despite the threat of Ebola. This has caused Ebola to be spread quickly by corpses in some part of Africa.
          Another important topic in the book is tradition and how it changes. One good example of tradition changing between generations in the book is when Nwoye leaves to join the missionaries and Obierika brings Okonkwo the news while he is exiled. "What moved Obierika to Okonkwo was the sudden appearance of his latter's son, Nwoye, among the missionaries in Umofia." page 107. Okonkwo is extremely against the new religion and is furious at Nwoye for joining it, which I think might be one of the reasons Nwoye left in the first place. He had never agreed with his father and joined the missionaries just to spite him.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Ethnography preconceptions

I am doing my ethnography on my friend's catholic church. I have gone to a Lutheran Church all my life and have become very familiar with their traditions. I have always wondered what was different about catholic churches but I have never had the chance to observe a service at one.
        I do have some preconceptions on what the Catholic Church will be like. One thing I think will be different from my church, is that it might be more strict than a Lutheran church. From what I know about Catholics, they pray at home much more often than anyone from my church.
        Some other things I think will be different from my church is the traditions during the church service. I know that catholic churches have some different view over some topics than Lutherans do. I also know that they have some traditions, like confession, that Lutheran Churches do not have. Another difference I expect to see while observing the church, is a less free form service. From what I have seen of catholic churches, which is not very much, the pastors have a script that they rarely vary from. In my church it is not uncommon for the pastor to start a story related to the sermon.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Me as a Writer

My Autobiography as a Writer
By Alec Wakefield

            Deciding when I first started writing may depend on what you consider writing. Like almost all kids I learned how to draw letters, string together basic words in kindergarten, and even construct easy sentences. But it was not until early grade school that I could create a story in my head and put it in words on paper. So it depends if you think writing is creating words, or stories that decides when I started writing.
            Most of the writing I did in first grade that I can remember was non-fiction, although I’m not sure if that is the best description of it. We used to keep journals that we would use to record what we did over the weekend, and I managed to find mine. Most of my journal entries consisted of misspelled words and poorly drawn pictures, and were probably the first stories I ever wrote. At this point in my writing, I did not know how to come up with my own story line in my head which is required to write fiction.
 The first time I remember writing fiction was in third grade with my teacher Mr. Stimler. Mr. Stimler was one of the most influential people for me as a writer, because he was the first teacher who ever encouraged me to write fiction. Writing fiction was very interesting to me at the time, and this is one of the only times in my life that I wrote for fun. I would start a story in class, then bring it home and continue it and ask Mr. Stimler to read it for me. Most of the writing I did at the time was similar to whatever I had read recently, so some of my stories were not very original, but still helped me come to like writing.
The most important part of fourth and fifth grade for me was the introduction of research papers. It started with writing a paper about a state in fourth grade, and the writing a research paper about parasites the next year in fifth grade. For the first time we had to take notes form our sources, and put them together in to a paper. Research papers are still one my least favorite forms of writing because they are so much more time consuming than writing a story about yourself or one you made up. We continued to write fiction during these years, but the research papers were the most notable change.
            Sixth grade was another important year for me as a writer, partly because research papers and projects became not only part of writing/reading class, but also part of history class. In sixth grade we did a project called history day, which is a national competition of history projects and was also part of our grade. This was the first research project that I enjoyed making, and changed my outlook on research papers. It made me realize they were much more enjoyable if you pick a topic you are interested in before the assignment.
            Seventh and eighth grade were not hugely important in my writing, and were more important for reading. We read short stories and novels instead of writing as much. One significant thing that happened to me as a writer in eighth grade was when we blogged about stories that we read. Blogging about the books taught me to reflect on stories I had read, and think about them in different ways. It helped me view stories and events from many different perspectives.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hamlet blog

In the play hamlet, justice is a big part of the main story as hamlet tries to find out what justice is after he learns that his father was murdered and he finds out that his uncle was responsible. As Hamlet attempts to bring justice to his uncle he finds that justice is more complicated than most people imagine.
 In many ways justice is even more complicated in real life than how it is described in hamlet because most of the time justice is enforced using organizations instead of individuals. This means that for a crime to be punished it has to wait for the organization to decide on the sentence. When an individual enforces justice they can decide on the sentence much sooner, but may have more biased views. The conflict between enforcement by a group which is less biased but takes more time and enforcement by an individual who can enforce justice quickly but is more likely to be biased.
This brings us to my question for this blog, is justice attainable in the real world. Since it is nearly impossible for a person to be completely unbiased, there is no perfect way to determine who is guilty of a crime, how they should be punished, or even if there should be a law against what they did. The only way to make sure that a decision is less biased is to use a group so members of the group can persuade other members who are biased, which means that they are more likely to be unbiased but will need time to discuss.
 That brings up another part of my question, is there a timeline to justice. If a certain amount of time passes and justice is not served to the criminal, can it become too late to punish him? A good example is if you catch a dog chewing a shoe and punish him twenty minutes later, the dog will not understand what the punishment is for and it will just seem like unnecessary cruelty. The question is, does this same property apply to people too. As mentioned earlier, a large group deciding on a sentence would be more accurate but take more time. By that logic a larger group takes longer to come to a decision and will be more accurate, but eventually the group will take so much time that punishing the criminal would not make sense anymore.