Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thanks But No Tanks (Investigative Report)

As a native to the Pacific Northwest, I have learned over the years that those who call this place home are incredibly fortunate to have such vast amounts of nature and wild life. The killer whale (or Orca) has become a marine life icon in this area, they are known to be playful, intelligent and very social animals.

Decades ago the attitudes towards Orcas were very different, they were greatly feared and were thought to be violent and dangerous. The overall public knew little about the nature of these creatures, but as their name “killer” whale implies, they sound very unsafe. Because of the lack of knowledge and overwhelming fear, they were hunted and eventually taken into captivity. SeaWorld is one of the most popular Orca attractions in the world and they claim to treat their whales fairly and keep them in top health condition but even if this is true, many people feel as though keeping whales in captivity is inhumane.

Killer whale captures for exhibition purposes began in the Pacific Northwest in 1965, the Center for Whale Research tells us the story of one of the first captures. Ted Griffin, the owner of the Seattle Public Aquarium, dreamed of taking care of a killer whale; he was convinced that a friendly relationship was possible. Griffin bought his first whale for $8,000 and named him Namu. He wanted to show that killer whales were not the dangerous predators that everyone thought they were; to show this to the thousands of tourists coming to see Namu, Griffin decided to swim with him. He studied Namu’s every move and attitude, Griffin eventually hopped on his back and he reported that, "It was as if my every conscious wish became the whales command." They were inseparable and performed together until Namu got a bacterial infection leading him to his death. Ted Griffin had great intentions in showing the public how friendly and intelligent killer whales truly were yet the idea of capturing a helpless animal to use them for commercial entertainment is truly heart breaking.

According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC, a non-profit organization) there are currently a total of 56 orcas held in captivity, 23 wild-captured plus 33 captive-born in at least 12 marine parks around the world. At least 150 orcas have been taken into captivity from the wild since 1961 and 127 of these orcas are now dead.

SeaWorld states that they are committed to animal care, conservation, rescue and research of animals in their park and in the wild. Their legacy is to help animals that are orphaned, ill, injured or in need of expert care and the goal for every animal rescued is to successfully rehabilitate and return it to the wild. “Due to the world-class veterinary care that the whales receive they are not just healthy but they are thriving, and their lifespans are equivalent with whales in the wild,” according to SeaWorld. SeaWorld also states that they have not captured a whale in 35 years due to their ground-breaking reproduction research program.

SeaWorld claims to have top veterinary care for their animals but the information feed to their guests have been proven false by many other marine biologists…

Tilikum was the main breeder at SeaWorld and was used to inseminate all female whales at the facility. Currently, 54% of the whales in SeaWorld’s collection now have Tilikum’s genes even though he has shown significant signs of aggression.

With their new breading program, SeaWorld welcomed a new baby Orca, the calf soon started defying her mother and creating disruptions in the shows. SeaWorld made the decision to split the family apart and move the baby whale to another park when she was just four and a half years old. Once the baby was on a truck on the way to the airport, her mother stayed in the corner of the pool, shaking, screeching and crying. In the film Blackfish a former trainer John Hargrove noted the vocals of the crying mother when her calf was taken from her he and how they had never heard them before so SeaWorld brought in senior researcher scientists to analyze the vocals; they were long range vocals, and she was looking for her calf. “How can anyone look at that and think that that is morally acceptable?”  

SeaWorld has created an environment that greatly inspired many people to go out and to learn about marine life. Without these parks we would not know what we know today about Orca’s and all the other type of marine life. I do believe that SeaWorld had great intentions to keep all of their animals happy and healthy, but with the Orca’s something went extremely wrong. Now we know that these animals love to swim and learn until they ripped away from their families, put into a small pool with other strange whales and told what to do in order to be fed. These animals are highly intelligent and it should not be normalized for them to be put in concrete pools. Another former SeaWorld made a statement about Tilikum that says it best, “…He’s killing not to be a savage. He’s not killing because he’s just crazy. He’s not killing because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s killing because he’s frustrated, and he’s got aggravations and he doesn’t know how to—he has no outlet for it.”

With the severely declining health of Tilikum and an overall outrage from the public, we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. In recent events, SeaWorld has announced their last generation of whales and that they will no longer breed Orcas. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Digital Journalism: How Good Is It / The Next Generation


In part one of two articles, "Digital Journalism: How Good Is It?" Micheal Massings discusses many different types of digital media. Here he evaluates and critiques digital media and how it is known today.   

Massings starts off by saying that The Huffington Post is undergoing an identity crisis. When they first started, one of their core innovations was using core contents from elsewhere. The majority of their items come from the Associated Press, Reuters, and The New York Times and The Washington Post. Recently, Arianna Huffinton announced that the cite plans to end their relationship with AP and that they will be building an in-house news service. There were previous attempts similar to this, both of which failed. The Huffington Post claimed that “print-based imports proved a poor fit in an all-digital operation,” but Massings claims that this was used in order to turn a profit. Massings also states, “In its early years, The Huffington Post seemed on its way to defining a new type of digital journalism. Ten years on, it seems stuck in place, struggling to recapture the innovative spirit that had once defined it.”

This has also been seen in other first generation digital news sites in general. For example, Taking Points Memo offers almost the same mix of blogging, reworking content from other sources, news, and opinion pieces. The site is littered with a mix of ads and has a $50 annual subscriptions for access to extra features, yet also runs regular “longform” pieces as well. Massings mentions Andrew Sullivan, a famous blogger who feels as though ads were not only distracting but also “created incentives for page views over quality content.”

Massings also discusses how “what once seemed distinctive now seems like just another voice in the instant-analysis-and-commentary crowd.”

In part two, “Digital Journalism: The Next Generation,” Micheal Massings points out shortcomings of the next generation of digital journalism and addresses many concerns with it.

BuzzFeed was founded in 2006 and is now one of the internet’s most prominent journalist sites. They are known for their playful listicles, GIFs, teasing headlines, and most popular of all, cute animals. BuzzFeed also has many investigative reports but are described to fall flat within the structures of investigative reporting that most people are used to in this country, Massings also critiques that BuzzFeed does not attain “true journalistic independence” when talking about advertisements and other controversies on the site. “One way or another, BuzzFeed needs to become bolder and brasher. Otherwise, it will remain known mainly for its cat photos.”

Overall Massings believes that the “second generation” (sites such as BuzzFeed) create entertaining and visually engaging material which has had a mesmerizing effect on what we now know as digital journalism, but these sites also lack a sense of outrage or other emotions that are evoked when reading on a more traditional (or first generation) site. Massings also states that many collegues he interviews all agree when he says that there are so many different sites offering information whether that be investigative or something merely for entertainment, the meaningful distinction of digital journalism often gets lost.


"In its early years, The Huffington Post seemed on its way to defining a new type of digital journalism. Ten years on, it seems stuck in place, struggling to recapture the innovative spirit that had once defined it."

“…the site analyzed it from every which way. But everybody’s doing that these days, and what once seemed distinctive now seems just another voice in the instant-analysis-and-commentary crowd.”

 “Some of these sites are for-profit, supported mainly by advertising; others are nonprofit, relying heavily on philanthropy.”


I completely agree with Massings when he illustrates these points. I know in my personal experience in regards to the next generation article that when I go on Facebook, I am overwhelmed with advertisement and articles with catchy headlines. When I find myself interested in one of these I click on it usually to find a website that is very dodgy and most often I get the idea that the information given to me is not accurate but is mainly for entertainment.  

Monday, February 29, 2016

Not Just Journalism... It's Watchdog Journalism

In journalism, there is always the question of whether information that is being presented is credible. Stories you see on the news, social media, or from other sources bring us information that could greatly alter our day to day lives. But whose job is it to make sure that all these facts are correct? How do we know if the articles we are reading aren’t just completely made up?

These questions become all too real especially when the topic of government comes into play, these are the people who decide how our country is run and how we are allowed to live our lives. Recently, many people have been attributing the media or the press, with the position of that to watch over the government and make sure that things are being done honestly and correctly. This is described as the “watchdog” role, in the article “Amid Criticism, Support for Media’s ‘Watchdog’ Role Stands Out” they say that the “press acts as a watchdog by preventing political leaders from doing things that should not be done…” But outside of its’ important role as a watchdog, the press receives negative ratings from the public on performance measures. 67% of people say that news reports are inaccurate or tend to favor one side, 76% believe that they are influenced by powerful people and organizations (75%.) Due to this overall distrust in the press, more people have been turning to the internet to get their information.

When turning to the web for investigative journalism, you could either find an amazing story that is accurate and credible, or you could find one that was written by a friend of a friend of someone who heard a small part of the story which not credible whatsoever. A study done by PEW Research Center states that 50% of the public now cites the internet as a main source for national and international news (TV still at number one with 69%.) When turning to the web you can get the information quickly and easily, yet most people still agree that the role of a traditional journalist is much more important than in the past to help make more sense of all the available news and information. This brings up the point that even though the internet may provide fast information, the typical role of the journalist to help find the facts that are credible, and will help the viewer make sense of all these facts is much more valuable than we realize.

Along with the deciphering of information, the journalist’s role as the watchdog is one that is extremely important. By more than three-to-one people, the public believes that news organizations criticism of political leaders keeps them from doing things that should not be done, in addition the public says that the media protects, rather than hurts, democracy. With such a strong force of people always watching the government, the people in charge know that they always have an eye on their back. This group of people is in charge of the well-being of our country and the media plays a very strong role in making sure that the privilege of running a democracy is not taken advantage of. One example of watchdog journalism can be found in a 2012 article by Rolling Stone. An unmanned aerial vehicle lifted off from Shindand Air Base in western Afghanistan heading toward the border with Iran. Its mission: to spy on Tehran's nuclear program, as well as any insurgent activities the Iranians might be supporting in Afghanistan. Overall, there were many questions centered on the drone, but what the public did know what that the government lied about who was responsible for the drone. The military put out a press-release in Kabul saying that the drone was under their command but later the CIA was forced to admit their guilt. This is just one example of how a story was taken up by the media in order to inform citizens about what their government is doing wrong and hopefully influencing the government from continuing activities like this.

If I were to write an investigative article, the topic would most likely be something about how the student body here at Saint Martin’s University feels about tuition prices. For my sources I would send out an anonymous surveys through the SMU email and maybe even have an article on the Belltower’s webpage and have a link to the survey on there. I would also find a source that shows tuition prices of some other schools in Washington State as well as other small private schools that are similar to ours.

To conclude, the watchdog role of journalists is one that is so important and should not be looked over, without it the government might feel as though they could get away with things that they should not be doing. Based on the article written by PEW Research Center it seems as though this role and simply the journalist’s role in the media is one that has an iffy relationship. The public acknowledges these roles as very important ones, but when asked about their creditability they feel as though they are biased and often make mistakes in their reporting. Though there may be ups and downs when it comes to the media, their role as a watchdog is one that is very important and one that help keeps our public informed and the government on their toes.

Friday, February 19, 2016

What Is Journalism?

"What people are ashamed of usually makes a good story."

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

When asked, “What is journalism?” a variety of answers can come to mind, the story a news reporter tells could be journalism, or even an average citizen posting updates on their social media accounts could be considered journalism. Down the News Hole states that, “journalism is what traditionally armed we the people with the knowledge we needed to be our own governors.” With this in mind, we can identify three main points to the role of journalism.

According to The Forth Estate, one role of journalism is to inform citizens, “no governing body can be expected to operate well without knowledge of the issues on which it is to rule, and rule by the people entails the people should be informed." Another is to expose people to opinions contrary to their own. When you live in a particular area, you and those around you may be limited to the views and ideas of those only in that community, but once you are exposed to journalism your viewpoints and ideas could change when you are able to see what others are out there. Journalism is also known to foster a sense of community. For example, if you live in a community that has strict beliefs and values and you feel as though you may not fit in, journalism first gives you that opportunity to be aware of the other concepts that exist in the world and it also allows you to gain that sense that there are people out there like you and a feeling of belonging.

It is often argued if social media reporting can be called journalism. There are exceptions but I do believe that social media has a great impact on what we call journalism today. In current times, journalism containing breaking news has provided information quickly to those who are unaware of the story. One example is the Boston Marathon, “armature sleuths immediately begin digging for and publishing information online about the bombing and ensuing manhunt, quickly amassing large audiences. Users on Reddit, Twitter and other online platform that didn’t exist a decade and a half ago participated in the news gathering process, sometimes running in tandem with or even ahead of tradition news outlets, but not always pausing to verify information." I know for me personally this has great significance, one of my close family friends and his new wife were actually at the Boston Marathon competing when this happened. I was unaware of the bombing until I saw a Facebook post from him stating that he and his wife were alright, they had already finished the race and were a safe distance away from the explosion. Nonetheless, they were shocked by the loud noise and the complete chaos of those around them. It is an experience that they will never forget and one for me too. Without social media, I wouldn’t have found out about the Boston Marathon attacks until much later and I know my family and friends would have been worried sick hoping that they were okay.

This just goes to show that social media is much more than a platform for information, "it's a whole new force of amazing, raw and close-to-the action footage and there is a lot more of it, in the old days we would find one image of someone's feet being beaten with a cable, but now we get 20 of them. Although it is disturbing, we can begin to see patterns and to build a better picture of the scale of abuse – and that has got to be a good thing for the film." Average citizens like you and I can add so much information to newscasts or documentaries, but one reason that it is not fully accepted by other is simply due to the credibility of it all. Information can be faked, one main downside to videos found on social media is first the provenance, it takes time and money to check that it is real and not faked. “There are far fewer reports to interrogate the spin and the press releases, so the likelihood that they get presented as legitimate ‘news’ has become much greater” (Down the News Hole). Videos that are used from social media sites can greatly add on to newscasts and documentaries, citizen journalists can act as an add-on reporter meaning that their views and experiences can help to show what is going on to many other people.

Overall journalism has recently become a much broader area, the purpose has always been the same to inform citizens, expose people to opinions and to foster a sense of community. But with all the advancements in technology average citizens have the opportunity to show their views, ideas and their stories much quicker and to a much larger audience.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Reeves Middle School Interview

Recently a group of my Saint Martin’s peers and I went to Reeves Middle School to interview groups of students. My group consisted of two girls and one boy all in the sixth grade. At first they were fairly quiet but after a few questions they began to warm up to me and the recorder and had some fun with each other. Overall this was a great experience and I learned a lot of interesting things about these kids.

One of the first questions I asked was “how did you get to Olympia?” At this point they were still acting a little shy and weren't sure how to answer the question but soon they warmed up and I was able to get some knowledge about where they were born, where they have previously lived and things they enjoy about the area.

The next couple of questions that I asked were “what makes Olympia a good or bad place to live?” They believe that one reason Olympia is a good place to live is because of the weather, they said they love the rain and warm summers but especially the occasional snow. Here they all reminisced on a snow storm a couple of years ago and talked about the fun they had with their friends sledding down a hill near the school.

On the clip below I ask why they might think it is a bad place to live but if overall they like it. The reason that I saved this part of the clip is because I was really impressed with how honest and knowledgeable they were with their answers. Even with some problems they found in their community they knew that these issues are bound to happen anywhere and they still love to call this place their home.

After this I asked a few more questions about how their family ended in Olympia, history facts they knew about the city as well as some of their favorite places to visit. The next clip was probably one of my favorite questions that I asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Their answers reminded me a lot of myself when I was their age, I was really unsure of what I wanted to be but I had a few ideas in my mind. When I asked this question I also got a lot of information about hobbies and interests that they currently have.

The last question that I asked was “How do you identify yourself?” This question was one that was personally difficult for me to answer when a peer asked me so I really didn’t have a lot of expectations when I asked them but again I was pleasantly surprised. They said things like how they pride themselves on being nice to friends but also like to lovingly pick on their younger siblings.

After this interview I can say that I had the pleasure to get to know a few few students from Olympia as well as walking away with new insights that will help my interviewing skills.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Tonight’s Top News… Staring You

In a world overpowered with technology and information, breaking news often comes from a variety of sources and most of them are virtual. Ordinary citizens like you and I are now able to share stories that may have not been heard if resources like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or personal blogs had not been invented.

This concept is known today as "citizen journalism," this is defined as the gathering, spreading, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially from the internet. An article featured on discusses the three main points that are benefits of citizen journalism. The first advantage is opening up content to the public’s comment. People can freely express their opinion on the internet, sometimes with no filter, but overall this provides feedback to what the viewers want. The next benefit of citizen journalism is the civilian acts as an add-on reporter. Many news stations and other journalists use videos they find off of social media in their stories in order to improve them. And the last main benefit is the idea of "open-source" or "participatory" reporting. Again with using of social media there is a whole new realm of videos that are open for reporters to take advantage of (The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism).

Many argue whether or not phone cameras and internet videos threaten broadcasts, but many state that “the collective arena is a hive of creativity." Roger Graef, award-winning filmmaker and founder of Films of Record shows two main issues arising when looking at citizen journalism; “There are two big downsides to 'found' video: the first is provenance; it takes money and time to check that it is real and not faked; the second risk is that just because you can shoot on a camera phone doesn't mean you should. I worry that commissioners will use this as an excuse to cut budgets for factual even further" (The Rise of Citizen Journalism). Overall, Graef is questioning is the credibility of videos posted by people who may not be qualified to report on that topic and there is always the possibility the whole video is made up. Even with this time consuming and costly method, many believe that citizen videos greatly broaden the horizon for journalists and filmmakers

Social media is opening a whole new world for the realm of news and media. Chris Shaw, editorial director ITN Productions says, "It's a whole new force of amazing, raw and close-to-the action footage and there is a lot more of it" (The Rise of Citizen Journalism). On recent example of how this information has been so valuable to the public is from the documentary created by Shaw and ITN called Syria’s Torture Machine. This documentary included over 30,000 clips that were uploaded on numerous social media sites including videos from military torturers and footage from local families and citizens caught in demonstrations. These videos are so treasured is because there are many places, like Syria, where journalists are not allowed to go. Videos straight from the people who are being affected adds so much value to the story being told.

Journalism has been forever changed, and that is mostly for the better, thanks to the fact that people can interact with media organizations and share their opinions, personal stories, and photos and videos of news as it happens.


"The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism." Poynter. N.p., 31 May 2005. Web. Feb. 2016.

Bulkley, Kate. "The Rise of Citizen Journalism." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 June      2012. Web. Feb. 2016.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Medium is the Message

The sole ways in which humans communicated in the past was orally, your sense of hearing and the use of your mouth was key. The alphabet and written language then moved our primary senses from hearing to sight. A while later the printing press even further extended our means of communications.

The realm of pop-culture is built around new technologies which greatly changes people’s views and access to the world. Marshall McLuhan brought us the concept that "the medium is the message," but what does that really mean? When I first thought about this idea, I believed that the way in which you communicate your message doesn't matter as much as the concept or the actual information that you are relaying in your message. When McLuhan states that "the median is the message" he is saying the exact opposite of what I thought was true. He believes that the message is not what matters at all, it is the ways in which you send your message to people.

Today there are countless ways to access information; you can watch a variety of TV news stations, look at social media websites, books, newspapers, blogs, radio, and so many more. But without all of these things, your message is almost useless. What is information worth if you can’t share it with others? With all the new types of communication methods, you can more readily access and share information to people anywhere in the world.