Weekly News Comment #12

A recent article by the New York Times focused on a single question surrounding the recent shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas: whether or not video footage of the attack should be released to the public.

While some advocate that the footage should be released immediately to inform the public of the terrible reality of such attacks, others argue that the footage serves no real purpose and should be locked away forever or even destroyed. Most occupy a middle ground between these two extremes, including the Rev. Stephen Curry, who likened the footage to that of the Kennedy assassination, but described the situation as being “too raw” for immediate release. Still others oppose the footage’s release for legal reasons, including a former Texas Ranger who suggested that it is still technically evidence in an investigation that might take years, and releasing it to the public might harm that investigation.

Overall, the article seems to suggest that while there are obvious issues with releasing the footage there is some journalistic and historical value to such evidence. While the families of victims in these attacks might be negatively affected by publishing explicit details, these details can also serve to make people angry or disgusted by the attack and subsequently take action to prevent future incidents. The fundamental question for journalists in situations like this is whether photographic or video evidence of such crimes adds anything to the story or is merely there to court controversy and attract viewers.

Emma Watson on Gender Equality

Emma Watson, renowned actress and social activist, recently reflected at One Young World in Ottawa on the difficulties involved with becoming a public figure in the “cause for equality”.

She addressed the audience, consisting of influential young adults from a variety of fields and countries, saying that she never thought she would call herself an activist. “The truth is,” she explained, “it had never been about being an activist; it was about the choice to make myself visible”.

Watson recalled numerous threats after first addressing the issue of gender equality, describing the period afterwards as a “baptism of fire”. Despite this, she did not retract her statements or step out of the spotlight, citing her belief that gender equality is as important or more important than other issues because it intersects with such a wide range of topics.

Weekly News Comment #11

The New York Times recently reported on an eleven minute blackout of President Trump’s Twitter account. Just before 7pm the Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump appeared to no longer exist. Eleven minutes later the account re-appeared and only an hour later the President was tweeting again as if nothing had happened.

While the New York Times provides a fair analysis of the situation, showing tweets that are clearly critical of the account and also voicing opposite opinions that suggest that this is an attack on the President and free speech, it also sensationalizes the story somewhat. While the account was only down for eleven minutes, and Twitter released a statement three hours after its conclusion announcing that it was the action of a rogue employee, the story as presented by the Times sounds much more dire than the facts suggest.

While this is probably satire, it does raise the point that never before has a nation as large as the United States been so affected by a single social media account as now. Regardless of whether this is for better or worse, it is something that has a major effect on the way media is perceived, and poses a potential threat to established media outlets like the Times. If, as suggested by one of the tweets cited in the story, Twitter is a way for the President (and presumably other politicians) to circumvent the “mainstream media” and target their audience directly, this could explain the Times’ dismissive and somewhat exaggerated coverage of the story.

Science Scavenger Hunt

Stanford researchers claim to have taught a machine to detect sexual orientation.

The controversial study, authored by Michal Kosinski and Yilun Wang, works by analyzing photos from dating profiles and detecting key facial features.

When analyzing five clear photos of a person’s face, the machine had an 83% accuracy for women and 91% for men in the study.

Though the intention of the study was to bring awareness to privacy risks and the danger of facial recognition software, according to the New York Times the authors of the study have received several death threats for their publication. Critics have called the study “racism by algorithm” and suggested that the theory behind it “is a mess”.

Vandalism at Morningside College

First impressions are as important for places as they are people, and depending on how you approach Morningside College the first impression you get is “under construction”.After several letters were stolen from a sign showing the name of the college in front of the Eppley Parking Lot, the school decided to remove the rest of the letters. The reason for this decision was both to prevent further theft and to prepare the sign for possible renovation so that letters cannot be easily stolen in the future, a step that has already been taken with other signs around campus.

According to Brett Lyon, director of safety and security at Morningside College, vandalism is something that happens at every college campus. “People feel the need to take letters off signs,” he explained, which can cost the college thousands of dollars to replace. That’s thousands of dollars that could be spent improving the campus, but instead goes into replacing things that are broken or stolen by vandals who are sometimes not even students at the college.

Unless there are clear leads to investigate, it is difficult for campus security to follow up on these crimes. Though the damage is usually noticed by the following morning, without witnesses there is often no reasonable line of investigation and focus is instead shifted to repairing the damage.

Lyon concluded by stating that, with so many students living on campus for so many months out of the year, Morningside College is like a second home. “No one destroys their home,” he said, wishing that everyone took pride in their campus and made an effort to make it a nicer place.

While the college will eventually replace the sign with a more vandal-proof alternative, budgetary concerns are an obvious limiting factor. For now the blank sign stands in mute testimony to the damage that vandals can cause to the image of a college.

Article 2 Draft

Vandalism at Morningside College

First impressions are as important for places as they are people, and depending on how you approach Morningside College the first impression you get is “under construction”.

After several letters were stolen from a sign showing the name of the college in front of the Eppley Parking Lot, the school decided to remove the rest of the letters preemptively to prevent further theft and prepare the sign for possible renovation so that letters cannot be easily stolen in the future, a step that has already been taken with other signs around campus.

According to Brett Lyon, Director of Safety and Security at Morningside College, vandalism is something that happens at every college campus. “People feel the need to take letters off signs,” he explained, which can cost the college thousands of dollars to replace. That’s thousands of dollars that could be spent improving the campus, but instead goes into replacing things that are broken or stolen by vandals who are sometimes not even students at the college.

Lyon concluded by stating that, with so many students living on campus for so many months out of the year, Morningside College is like a second home. “No one destroys their home,” he said wishing that everyone took pride in their campus and made an effort to make it a nicer place.

While the college will eventually replace the sign, budgetary concerns are an obvious limiting factor, and for now the blank sign stands in mute testimony to the damage that vandals can cause to the image of a college.

An Interview with Alex Watters

As the Q&A session started, Alex Watters began pacing back and forth across the front of the classroom in his motorized wheelchair. A few questions in to the interview he noted the humor in the situation, “I always find it ironic that I’m paralyzed but I can’t sit still.”

Watters is a first year advisor at Morningside College, a position that he takes some amount of pride in. “I’m living the dream,” he said, “just not the dream I ever envisioned.”

He sought the position at Morningside in part because of how the school accommodated him after a diving accident that left him paralyzed during his Freshman year. He noted that, while many buildings were not accessible by wheelchair, when he returned the school relocated all his classes to the buildings that were.

Although he appreciates the position he currently has at the college, particularly the fact that it allows him to help students adjust to college and watch them overcome obstacles that he knows they struggle with, he doesn’t intend to be an advisor forever. He explained that he feels one of the best ways to be useful in an organization is to constantly evolve, and joked that before long he’ll be president of the college.

While perhaps not something he plans in the immediate future, Watters explained that he could see himself occupying the position someday. He believes that Morningside has a lot of improvements to make when it comes to accessibility. While he understands that budget can get in the way of many of these projects, he noted the example of an automatic door that leads to the Mustang Grill, which is only accessible by traversing two sets of stairs. He contrasted this with the fact that there is no automatic door at the Lincoln Center, which is frequently used for public events, and explained that it would surely save money and help the community a great deal to simply relocate the equipment to a more sensible location.

Weekly News Comment #5

A recent Vice article highlighted the upcoming expiration on Uber’s transport license in London.

Transport for London (TfL), the organization responsible for managing the licensing of all taxi corporations in the city of London, has found Uber unfit to have their license renewed, citing a “lack of corporate responsibility” that might lead to potential safety and security concerns for passengers.

The article also goes into some detail on Greyball, a tool developed by Uber to identify and deny rides to potential law enforcers in an attempt to avoid official scrutiny.

Though this does not impact Americans directly, and Uber has announced that it intends to appeal this decision, this is an important development for people to be aware of. Uber is a large company that has a presence in most major cities in America, and anyone who uses their services should be aware of potential threats to their personal security or questionable practices by the corporation itself.

The Vice article is short but very clear in its message. It outlines the criticisms that Uber faces and the practical concerns for readers in London who might be affected by this issue.

Scavenger Hunt 1

As I stepped out of the library and into the windy campus mall I realized what it meant to be the last person to leave the classroom on the scavenger hunt assignment. I saw a horde of journalism students spreading out in front of me, the lucky ones already interviewing their marks.

I followed the trail of students with papers and pens in hand, barely managing to keep my own paper from flying off with the wind, as I desperately searched for someone to interview. Realizing that I would find no interviewees by following the other students, I turned around and walked to the Plex, hoping that someone would be waiting in the common room watching TV.

No such luck.

I returned to the campus mall, where I saw yet more journalism students walking around with sheets of paper at the ready. I noticed a student leave the library with a backpack slung over her shoulders and approached her, asking if she had time for a quick interview for my journalism class, which she agreed to.

Just as I began the interview, the wind picked up and I had to fight to straighten the paper enough to write down her name: Angela. I then moved on to the first and only question: a movie recommendation. I asked her to recommend me a movie, possibly her favorite one.

“A movie?” Angela asked, thinking it over for a moment before deciding on Forrest Gump.

I wrote her answer down and, having only one other task, asked if I could take a selfie with her.

She seemed somewhat surprised by this request. “A selfie?” She asked, again seeking confirmation that she had heard me correctly, and asked if I had a phone I could use for it.

I took my phone from my pocket, and after a moment of aligning it properly to get us both in the frame, took the photo. After making sure it had saved properly, I thanked her for her time and concluded the interview, returning to the classroom.

Weekly News Comment #4

The United States is suffering from a major opioid epidemic, and as pointed out by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, the “Lock ’em up and throw away the key” strategy that has been used in the past is not a viable solution.

A recent Vox article highlighted the Governor’s stance, that he voiced in February, and points out recent legislation he has signed that increases the punishment on opioid related crimes. The bill, HB 333, “increased penalties for trafficking heroin below 2 grams to five to 10 years in prison, up from one to five years.

The article then goes on to point out that this is not uncommon for American politicians. Despite the cliché response to the crisis, that the problem can’t be solved simply through mass arrests, lawmakers have reverted back to the old strategies of increasing punishments for those involved in the drug trade, both users and sellers.

At least 16 states have recently passed “tough on crime” laws, imposing new or tougher penalties on opioid use and trafficking, and lengthening prison sentences for those who sold or shared drugs that resulted in a fatal overdose.

Though this approach is made with the intention of decreasing opioid use and subsequently decreasing the number of deaths associated with overdoses, is that research shows this approach to the problem doesn’t work.

The most simple and obvious reason for this is that these drug war policies have been in place for decades, and the current opioid epidemic has occurred despite their enforcement. In addition, since the 80s the price of heroin per gram has dropped by more than 85%, while the number of drug dealers behind bars has increased by a factor of 30, according to drug policy expert Mark Kleiman.

Despite the best efforts of police departments and lawmakers to combat the drug epidemic, their strategy is wrong. As the statistics and expert opinions in the Vox article show, arresting more users and dealers does little to stop the epidemic itself, and only serves to ruin the lives of its victims with excessive sentences and criminal records.

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