Posts Tagged 'Obama'

Media 2.0: the saviour of local journalism

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, wrote Charles Dickens as the opening line of his novel of the French revolution, A Tale of Two Cities. Written by one of the most famous journalists of his age, this paradox could well be applied to the plight of the modern media industry, which is currently in the throes of its own cultural revolution.
Yet the story is fast becoming a tale of two industries: as newspaper circulations decline, online news continues to flourish. Despite the contracting economy, UK online publishers have predicted a 16 per cent growth in digital revenues this year as readers abandon paper for free online sources.

News is going digital and it is hitting traditional media organisations hard. But for regional news outlets, which have felt the worst of the media downturn – a study release last month by Princeton university found that only 15 US cities have competing local papers compare to 689 a century ago – web 2.0 is offering a glimmer of hope for the future.

Linda Preston, creator of local news site, believes that the wealth of information created by web 2.0 means that many beleaguered journalists unable to find work are starting their own local websites to fill the vacuum left by the decline in local papers.

She says: “The public still wants someone who can reach out to them on a local level who has an intimate knowledge of the area. Someone still has to hold corrupt officials to account.

 “I’ve found that many journalists facing redundancy are considering following my example and using their skills and long experience to work their own postcode.”

Even for local papers struggling to survive, the web if offering new possibilities. Elaine Helm, new media editor at the Herald in Everett, Washington state, believes that the power of social media is creating a new golden age for online local news outlets. She says:

“For individual and small groups of journalists, there hasn’t been a better time to be doing what we’re doing and getting it out there.”

During the latest “hundred-year storms to hit Washington state, Helm used social networking to keep local residents informed of the latest developments. She sent out a tweet asking people to use a common hashtag – a metadata naming convention – for all information relating to the storm: #waflood.  

Within minutes, a network of journalists from the area were all using the common tag and soon other contributors from the region were joining in. The information was then picked up by federal and state agencies and soon a mass co-ordination of effort by the state, journalists and locals was providing real-time information on the floods.

For Helm, the wealth of information instantly available on the internet means journalists must stop seeing themselves as the gatekeepers of knowledge, but rather the curators. “There’s a role to play for journalists in sorting through all the stuff that’s out there,” she says.

 “I’ve heard people talk about finding the patterns in the noise. We’re more about looking for and tagging the most relevant and original reporting and trying to bring it to our audiences.”
But relying on citizen journalists has its own pitfalls. Last year the Huffington Post, one of the largest digital media current affairs sites in the world, caused a stir by launching OffTheBus, a project which used 12,000 citizen journalists to cover the US presidential election race.

obama-crossIt was hailed as a resounding success. Mayhill Fowler, a 61-year-old failed novelist with no journalism training, broke two of the most memorable stories of the election: Barack Obamas guns and religion blunder and Bill Clintons fuming at a public rally.

However, the coverage also brought into question the viability and integrity of relying on citizen journalists. Barack Obama’s comments were officially made off-record and while for a citizen journalist they are fair game, for a professional breaking confidentiality could potentially undermine journalistic integrity.
It is the lines of integrity and accountability that will mark out journalists from citizens in media 2.0. “For anyone who wants to be part of the journalism world then having people trust them is the most important thing, says Dan Gillmor, author of We the Media and fellow at  the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. 
Gillmor believes that the advent of web 2.0 will not replace the work of traditional journalists but rather make them more accountable. He says: “I dont think citizen journalists are going to take the place of professionals. They will do things that traditional journalists have never done but we cant replace the good things that they have done. 


Obama is the new religion

Today, while trawling the blogosphere, I stumbled upon a post by one of my fellow opinionaters that has left me utterly bemused.

Caleb Land, who describes himself as “the Student Pastor at Mabel White Memorial Baptist Church in Macon, GA” posted a quote from W. Bradford Wilcox, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, saying:

“…the more the state steps in to reduce the economic and social insecurity of its citizens, the less likely fair-weather believers are to darken the door of a church on Sunday. Now, to paraphrase Charles Krauthammer, Obama hopes to expand the size of the welfare state by offering cradle-to-grave health care and cradle-to-cubicle education to Americans. If he gets his way, Americans will not have to trust in God, or their fellow congregants, to support an ailing parent, or to help them figure out how to pay for their daughter’s college tuition. Instead, they can put their faith in Uncle Sam.”

Willcox cites a study of religion in 33 countries by Anthone Gill and Erik Lundsgaarde, political scientists at the University of Washington, which indicates that there is an inverse relationship between faith and state spending on welfare.

He argues that “the nanny state [Obama] is seeking to build will likely crowd out religious institutions in America”. Without religion, he says, “social solidarity [goes] down and social pathology – from drinking to crime – [goes] up.”

Not only does this argument confirm the line that atheists have been taking for hundreds of years – that people only turn to religion in desperation, as articles chronicling the increase in churchgoers since the onslaught of the recession have noted – but it actually seems to suggest that the healthcare system will cause a rise in crime.

Are we seriously meant to believe that people not having to beg for help to send their children to college is a bad thing? And as for the idea that with better state care fewer “fair-weather believers will darken the door of a church” – surely this is not genuine faith and certainly not the kind that the Baptists advocate?

The American electorate turned away from the Bush regime because they finally saw that it was morally bankrupt, elitist and, above all, greedy. They have placed their hope in a man that claims to be none of these things. His dedication to universal healthcare is the greatest proof of this to date.

The future is uncertain and the path is dark. But for those who wish to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable and who value the fundamental Christian values of faith, love and charity above the powerplay statistics of congregations attendance and funding of religious institutions, Obama is the light at the end of the tunnel.

The future’s brown

On Tuesday night, as I stared disbelievingly at the TV through tired eyes, America voted in a man who has already become the voice of a generation.

Obama has won the race for the Presidency by making himself a symbol of hope for the future. The dark years of the Bush administration have been left behind and a new dawn has come for the American people – or so we dare to hope.

Despite the gloom of recession there is an inescapable optimism in the air. Obama has promised to “change the world”; his slogan, “Yes we can”, has fired the imagination of the American people and his oratory, intelligence and charisma have captured hearts and minds across the globe.

On the Daily Show on Wednesday night, Clarence Jones, the speech writer of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, said that Obama’s win heralded the advent of a “multiracial society in which people are ‘judged on the content of their character not the colour of their skin.'”

The son of the black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, Obama embodies the complexities of America’s chequered history. Yet it is his mixed background that has allowed him to escape the legacy of slavery and racial stereotypes that continue to plague race-relations in the US today.

“At various stages in the campaign,” he said in his speech in Philidelphia, “some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or ‘not black enough.’”

“The issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect.”

Tonight, Thursday evening, Professor Jennifer Hochschild, chair of African-American Studies as Harvard University, gave the 22nd Sir Robert Birley Memorial Lecture at City University on ‘The Shifting Politics of Multiracialism ‘Mark One or More’: Barack Obama and the American Racial Order’.

While the arrival of the first African-American president has been hailed as historic, Hochschild believes that traditional racial boundaries have been eroding for the last 30 years.

A poll in September 2007 found that 79 per cent of Americans approve of marriage between blacks and whites and 63 per cent thought that more Americans thinking of themselves as multiracial was a good thing.

Obama has not only managed to transcend racial boundaries, but overstep them altogether. In 2007 the New York Times ran an article with the headline A biracial candidate walks his own fine line. In 2008, another headline ran: When ‘the man’ is one of us. In a 2008 poll, most people asked said that Obama was neither “white or black, he’s a little of both”.

It will take more than a single figurehead to heal the wounds that run so deep in America. Obama’s election is the culmination of the hopes and fears of a people longing for change and to shape their own future. Yet the situation looks increasingly dire – half a million Americans have lost their jobs in the past two months – and many are worried that soon all our high hopes will come crashing to the ground.

In an interview with the Times earlier this month, the geneticist Steve Jones said: “History is made in bed, but nowadays the beds are getting closer together. The future’s brown”. Obama is living proof that the world is getting smaller and, hopefully, better.

April 2019
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