Will you…….

December 1, 2010

In a journalistic world where you practically need a shovel and flashlight to dig deep enough to find the real truth, True Enough by Farhad Manjoo sheds a light on many different unfortunate truths about the future and biased tendencies of the world we live in.

This book certainly opened my eyes, and many of my classmates, to my own biases and ignorance in so many aspects of my life.  Manjoo provides plenty of examples that display his theories, but I pose one simple question. Will any of this actually change how we accept the news around us?

Will you ever be able to curb your tendencies of selective exposure?

I highly doubt it. My personal experience may make me sound pigheaded and ignorant but I completely refuse to budge on this.

I am a devout Christian. I have read the Bible many times, but I do have friends that are of all different types of religions: Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist. I have been in many heated arguments with my friends of other faiths, and in those arguments they ask me whether I have read any of their religious texts. A good friend of mine, Ahmed, asked me if I have read the Qur’an and I said, “No and I never will.”

Manjoo was right. I am choosing to expose myself ONLY to scriptures that support my beliefs as a Christian. I refuse to read anything that contradicts my beliefs.

Will you search for all the facts to present the best story/argument possible?

I completely understand Manjoo’s point, to be a reporter you should be fair. Take into consideration all the angles of a news topic/story and dig deep enough to make facts that you report concrete.

After all, there is a cesspool of false information to sort through in todays age of technology: social media (Facebook, Twitter), individual unsourced reporters (bloggers) and even network television itself! This contaminated information field is going to place a cloud of pollution around anything we produce and there is very little we can do about it. Infact, you can go as far as most of the stuff posted online is as fake as Pamela Anderson’s chest.

The example Manjoo gives us with the Swift Boat Voters for Truth in regards to the 2004 election involving democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was used to tarnish his reputation with his actions in the Vietnam War. These allegations had no warrant or proof behind them, but whether there was evidence or not, the damage was already done without proving a thing. As the title clearly states, it was true enough to believe.

I know that 90% of my classmates will say that they are going to be more objective and look around for all the facts, but lets be realistic, we work in a nonstop, extremely fast field, that is rewarded for being the first to break a big story.

If you a news producer tells you to go online and find as much information on the Tiger Woods scandal and have it on my desk in 5 minutes. Are you really going to read through 5 or 6 different sources for the same story to make sure what your turning is the “full truth.” This where that term Manjoo uses “truthiness” rings true.

Speed, availability and exposure is the name of todays game. If you don’t find what they want fast enough, then your employer will fire your ass and find someone who will.

My best example was my internship at ESPN 1040 this past summer. A story broke about NFL great Lawrence Taylor allegedly being involed in a sexual dispute with a minor.

My show host comes to me on his break and says, “Find me a print out of the story as quickly as you can.”

So I go to deadspin.com and print the story and hand it to him and say, “I don’t know if this very official.” His response was, “Even if it is wrong we can always correct it later as long as we get out what he have now. ”

I was shocked. This show host is someone that hundreds maybe even thousands of people listen to in the bay area as a reliable source of information and he does not even care if what he is feeding them is false! The world we live in today is not going to change. The internet has made our job like being in a minefield full of lies.

Will you be able to identify VNR’s when you spot them?

Video news releases are marketing ploys produced in a real news style, basically free advertisement and exposure. Manjoo suggests that most stations use this formula for some type of benefit to the station.

My one experience with VNRs was with my internship at ESPN 1040. One of my first days at the internship, my show host told me to go run to a small sandwich place in Tampa, and asked me to grab his sandwich.

I asked him for the money and he responded, “Oh, just tell them its for me….. Why do you think I mention them once a day???”

Is this something that is going to give this restaurant millions of dollars in profit, no. But it will certainly help them, and the free advertisement comes from a show host who wants free food…. Sad.

Will you actualy change anything you do?

Do not get my pessimistic view on Manjoo’s lessons as a dislike of this book. I thought it was a great read and should be required for all hopeful journalists, but I am trying to be as real as possible. I do not see any of this changing anytime soon. I hope that we all report the news in as fair as way as possible to produce the best story we can for our viewers, but with all of the information out there…. I hate to say this…. but is it really going to matter?

I’m still going to be a Christian, I’m still going to google things to find them the fastest and I’m still going to watch, read and believe what makes me the most comfortable. But that is just me……..

Will you?

New year, new commissioners, new agendas……

On the morning of November 16, 2010, Pinellas county had to swear in the new blood and re-swear in the old blood for its Board of County Commissioners. This meeting took place at the Pinellas County Courthouse located in Clearwater.

This was the first day of the new county commissioners so today acted somewhat as a job training day for them.

The reelected county commissioners were John Morroni and Susan Latvala, and the newly elected county commissioner was Norm Roche.

It started off with these commissioners being sworn in front of other elected officials, a judge and whatever other citizen audience there was, which surprisingly there were some people who were there to watch this whole thing unfold (who knew).

I’m not going to lie, I thought that this stuff was pretty boring. I mean, no offense to the board members that just got elected, but its not interesting to watch people stand in front of a judge and say how they promise to do their job to the best of their abilities.

So, I went out to lunch and came back for the work session part of the meeting.

This is where things heated up a little bit. Now it wasn’t nearly as heated in there as it could of been, because it was the first day of some of the elected officials, but they had to jump right into the fire and start talking about issues immediately. After all, issues don’t stop what they are doing so we can have an election.

Obama did have to inherit quite a mess from the Bush administration (but since he has only made worse).

Anyway, one of the topics that came up immediately was how many assistants county commissioners would be allowed to have. This was the first thing brought up at this meeting was in attempt to make reductions to the county budget, some of the assistants to commissioners have been reduced. They presented a kind of written survey to the commissioners from the assistants on what they have them do.

Since thre are 7 commissioners, they are toying with the idea of having 6 assistants to make budget cuts and each commissioner would have 1 assistant working for them full time and have 2 commissioners share 1 assistant.

This did not o over unanimously, as one of the commissioners stated that this a fairness issue and should consider other options.

This was the topic of conversation for as long as I could stay, but I must say that if I was there on a day where they were talking about bigger hot button issues that I could see this being a great place to be to know excatly what is going on in my community.

Yoga Public Meeting

November 30, 2010

I went to a Hilsborough County Public meeting for one of the strangest things I have ever seen….. An introduction to a baby yoga class.

This class was run by Erin Wheeler, who originally started practicing this back in New York, where she is from. The class had many more participants than I thought it would to be perfectly honest.

To say the least the class was much like a playground…. The kids were able to run around at will if they wanted to. The mothers would attempt to make their children do the various poses throughout the class.

The funny thing that I noticed while this class continued was how much the kids actually tried to immitate what the teachers and parents were doing.

When the teacher would do a downward dog pose most of the kids would look aimlessly at the teacher for a couple seconds, then look at their mom try to attempt it and then do something very similar.

It was like one big game of monkey see monkey do.

I will say though, that the there was a very common theory throughout the entire demonstration, and that was the kids were insanely happy.

Not one child cried! And for not one kid out of about the 20 or so that participated in this to not shed a tear or be difficult about something shocked me. 

Thank the lord the children did not cry either because nothing is worse to me than a screaming child (thank god I don’t have any yet)

These kids were ecstatic, they would run when she wanted to them, they would jump when she said jump.

She played the role of puppet master to things that I never thought could be controlled.

I mean I’ve babysat twice in my life and my skills with a baby were only a couple of steps above Michael Jackson (at least I did not hang the baby over a balcony.)

So in other words, I was very impressed with how smoothly and effective the class was.

When I asked Ms. Wheeler, why and how is this public meeting was taking happening, her response was, “To present a new and fun way for parents and their children to interact in a fun, physical and spiritual way.”

After watching the class first hand I can see why Hillsborough county thought to list this is a public meeting.

Trial Post

November 24, 2010

I’ve been to a couple of courthouses in my day….. I made a mistake as a kid and had to stand in front of a judge.

I watch Judge Mathis and The People’s Court all the time when I’m spending time with my grandmother, but I have never tried to take notes and witness a trial from a reporter’s point of view.

I went to the courthouse on 9309 North Florida Avenue in Tampa and witnessed about an hour of people walking up to the stands to have their cases heard before a judge.

I came to this one conclusion…… I never want to be a judge or report on these situations…. It is boring!!!!!!!

First off, the judge strolls in 30 minutes late, which I guess he can because he is a judge and he can do whatever the hell he wants.  These cases consisted of absolutely nothing exciting.

He would call the name of the person that had a traffic violation and would review their previous citations and from that he would make a decision on what the punishment would be. Some that were multiple offenders had an automatic punishment but most were for small offenses such as: illegal lane change, speeding and careless driving.

At the trial, you have to enter one of three pleas: guilty, not guilty or no contest.

This is not a very difficult concept, yet the stupidity of some people never amazes me, because soe people find a way to screw this up……

One gentlemen by the name of Michael decided to share his feelings and his story about how the ticket was bull s***. He did not get out a sentence before the judge said, “Sir, if you want to fight your case please enter the not guilty plea.”  The man continued to try to tell his story without success. He didn’t end up in custody but proved that it is not a wise or effective idea to try to reason with the judge.

Another person did have an extended conversation with the judge but got caught in a lie within the first two sentenes of her story.

I will admit that I was pretty damn bored throughout most of this visit. I guess from a public records stand point it is interesting to see the prior record of these people to check if these people had any prior record. But let be honest I was a little disappointed with my court experience, expecting something interesting like an O.J. case.

Have you ever had a moment in your life where you had to bite your tongue???

Your boss flips out on you, your in-laws do something ridiculous, a neighbor that won’t stop telling you about his problems when your standing at your car door clearly in a rush to get somewhere and he just won’t shut up and in all of these moments you can’t tell people how you really feel……

Well get used to it……..

Wendy March visited us this past Tuesday at USF. His story and examples about Mark Jimenez and his shady political contributions to the Clinton campaign were very interesting.

The other big takeaway I have from his presentation were how many different websites and sources that you have at your fingertips  just by browsing online.

The biggest thing that caught my attention for what my future is job is going to be is to report the news, not to give my opinion on it.

March told us how he is a political reporter and that he can give you the facts but can not in any way favor or endorse a candidate.

Since I am not very into politics and do not listen or watch many programs about them, I began trying to think of examples of this in sports.

If you watch Sportscenter, then you will notice that the anchors rarely give their opinion on subjects or games. When they are reporting or doing voice overs for the highlights of a game, they are throwing out stat lines and catchy phrases like “cooler than the other side of the pillow” or “winner winner chicken dinner.”

When they are going into greater detail about a game, they will bring on an expert, which is normally a former pro, to give their opinion about a game, not you.

Our job is to report, not to persuade people to see events that we report our way. Our job as reporters is to present the facts and let viwers figure out an opinionated subject for themselves.

Unfortunately, it can leave us as journalists and reporters feeling like this towards te end of a show….

This is the feeling of not being able to say how you truly feel…. The moments where you have to bite your tongue are some of the most agonizing and frustrating moments in someone’s life.

Consider the alternative though, if you say something as a public figure, which you are as an anchor, you are held accountable for that statement forever.

So in some cases, it is much better to stay objective. Like a wiseman once said, “you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube” in reference to once you say something in the media business.

The Ripple Effect

November 5, 2010

Have you ever watched the scene from the movie Jurassic Park when the T-Rex is walking around and the glass of water shakes when he takes a step?  Or when a single drop water hits a calm surface of water and creates a bunch of mini-waves?

This is an example of a ripple effect….

The ripple effect in the world of reporting and examining a budget is when a small change on a company/state budget causes a major change for the people it will effect.

For example, The Florida state budget is produced every year for the fiscal year, which begins on October 1st and runs until September 30th of the next year.  These budgets include all of the data that anyone could possibly want to know for the upcoming spending year.

Often times, these documents are lengthy and can be difficult to locate the juicy subjects if left to have to dig through it.

The first part of the budget Preston Trigg told us to read would be to check out the summary. The summary will give you an outline and highlights major spending projects….. usually.

Then there are the budgets that try to hide things that SEEM very small. Small changes such as a 2% in fees to account for other expenses.

The 2% incrase on fees may not seem like all that much, but guess who gets that bill…..

YOU DO!

That 2% increase in a USF budget will come in the form of higher parking permits, higher tuition, lab fees etc etc etc.

That si why I bring up the ripple effect. The small percentage increases and decreases can not be overlooked or ignored.

Sometimes the bottomline can be deceiving. Our job at reporters is to cut through all of this information and deem what is newsworthy.

I understand that the smaller % changes will not jump off the page at you, but there effect on everyday citizens in everyday is significant and is our job to challenge, question and report when necessary.

The Tater Poll

November 3, 2010

Today was filled with excitement, worry and expectations.

The long awaited senate and governor race for the state of Florida came to an end today.

The battle for governor is still currently in the air between republican Rick Scott and democrat Alex Sink. Hoever, the race for the Senate could hardly be called a race.

Marco Rubio won in a landslide, crushing former governor and independant candidate Charlie Crist.

Why I am writing this you ask? When you could obtain this information from any news outlet website instead of my blog, because I could have told you this 5 hours ago after I performed a thing I call, “The Tater Poll.”

The Tater Poll was conducted a church on East Lake Road, which was my nearest voting station, for the purposes of seeing if my 10 person survey could accurately predict the outcome tonight.

I was diverse in my selection of what I dubbed the “The Tater Ten.”

4 questions were asked:

  • Who did you vote for in the senate race
  • Who did oyu vote for in the governor race
  • Why did you vote the way you did
  • Do you like that you are part of the Tater Ten

The results of the Tater Ten did not lie.

Out of the 10 voters, 7 voted for Rubio, 2 for Crist and 1 for Meeks.

Out of the 10 voters, 6 voted for Scott, and 4 for Sink.

Out of the 10 voters, the majority were concerned with the economy and did not want to be taxed higher. 7 of ten said fraud scandals and allegations had no influence on there vote.

Out of the 10 voters, all 10 said the results of the Tater would predict the winners tonight.

They were right (round of applause), as the results are all but official and ring true to my poll.

The most interesting part of my poll was the mere fact that these people were so willing to participate in it. Not one single person gave me the “I do n’t have to tell you” line. They all were proud and stood by their beliefs of why they selected there candidate.

When I attended the USF watch party, The room seemed to be dominated by Alex Sink supporters, which is why I was surprised when the majority of the voters I polled were primarily republican.

Although, alot of the people I polled were older and many in attendence at the Watch Party were either students or hispanic, who tend to support democrats.

To sum this all up, I will be available for the 2012 election if FOX, CNN or NBC would like to jump on the opportunity of knowing the outcome to that race before 9 o’clock at night.