Archive for the ‘In the news’ Category

h1

My take on Helen Thomas in Politics Daily: she didn’t deserve this

June 8, 2010

I have a piece up at Politics Daily on Helen Thomas, published yesterday shortly after Helen’s retirement was announced. Yes, I know her remarks were offensive and antisemitic and I don’t defend them. But I don’t think she deserved to be forced into retirement for speaking her opinion when her job is to be an opinion columnist. She issued an apology, as most opinion columnists do when they say something stupid. If you’re interested, the full piece is here (my first piece in Politics Daily!).

h1

It’s the blockade, stupid

June 1, 2010

For all the outcry around the Israeli flotilla attacks, perhaps one of the most important things to come out of it is that the world is finally paying much-needed attention to the longstanding Israeli blockade of Gaza.

Ultimately, the international uproar coming out of this situation is not the product of one isolated incidence of violence but of a series of actions that have taken place for years in Gaza and have, until now, been largely ignored by most of the world and certainly by the United States. Israel has imposed an embargo allowing only food and humanitarian aid into Gaza – nothing else. Which means that they can’t build any homes, schools, hospitals or other infrastructure in Gaza because no supplies can get in.

This, in turn, has kept Gaza in a terrible state of poverty for years. And this situation has been going on for far too long with much of the world ignoring it – so maybe now, as a result of the Monday attacks, international attention is finally being turned to Gaza.

As Foreign Policy magazine writer Marc Lynch tweeted today: the focus of coming days should be on Gaza itself, not just the boat.

UPDATE: This extremely interesting graphic from The Economist shows just what is and isn’t blocked from getting into Gaza.

h1

New AOL Lemondrop post: Women & the Iran Protests

July 15, 2009

The following is an excerpt of my latest post with AOL’s Lemondrop.com. To read the full post, click on the link at the end of this post.

Contrary to the news media’s coverage, the protests in Iran contesting the reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad didn’t end when Michael Jackson died — though they are fading. One of the most intriguing facets of the protests is who’s at the forefront: women.

In a country not well known for women’s rights, this is quite remarkable. You might have heard about the death of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young Iranian woman shot in the streets of Tehran. Though it’s worth noting that Neda’s family said she wasn’t political, she has become the female face of the protest.

Women have been vocally supporting the candidacy of Mir Hussein Mousavi, the chief opponent to incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was declared the winner the morning after the June 12 election. While the Guardian Council — which oversees elections — did a partial recount after Mousavi filed an appeal, the original results were upheld. For the last four weeks, women have marched alongside other protesters through the streets of Iran, even as officials try to stop them, tear-gas them or beat them.

Click here to keep reading.

h1

Guest post on NPR.org: The Future of Journalism

July 6, 2009

The following is an excerpt from a guest post I recently wrote for NPR.org’s Intern Edition blog. They are doing a series of guest posts asking young people to write about their thoughts on the future of journalism. To resad the full post, check out the link below.

In the year 2015, the New York Times as we have known it will cease to exist.

It’s now known as the newspaper of record, with a decorated, storied history spanning over a century and a half. Its Pulitzer- and Nobel- prize-winning columnists have become household names: Friedman, Dowd, Krugman, Collins, Brooks, Rich, Kristof, Douthat.

But now  the paper that has for years been the star of modern journalism is struggling just to survive under the combined pressures of a $250 million high-interest loan from a Mexican billionaire and the lack of a viable business model in an era of declining ad revenues and that thing we call…The Internet. The internet has now become the premiere way for Americans to get our news, and the old tradition of starting off mornings with the newspaper over breakfast has been traded in for hastily checking your Blackberry for news while in line at Starbucks.

But although the fate of the New York Times and other mainstream media outlets looks bleak, the future of journalism looks, from my vantage point, exactly the opposite — I think journalism has a bright, exciting future. Because now we see the rise of citizen journalism, where everyone is empowered to to contribute to and report the news. And with more people and more diverse perspectives reporting and collecting news, our collective access to the information we need can only increase.

The new journalism is about citizen journalism and community journalism. Blogging and the internet have helped connect reporters with their audiences and reduced the barriers between them, and now everyone can report. Everyone has access to publish content, to report events as they see them happening, and to have their accounts read and heard by hundreds, thousands, even millions, around the world. A YouTube user could create a video and get 10 million views. A blogger broke the story about Khalid Sheikh Mohamed being waterboarded 183 times and then it became a mainstream news story. Twitter users in Iran are sharing their accounts of election protests taking place there, while much of the mainstream media has been banned from reporting on the events.

Continue reading…

h1

Is America shifting on Israel, or is the media shifting on Israel?

June 16, 2009

One of the things I love almost as much as the news is the narrative being told about the events. It’s difficult for any given person to separate the facts and the actual events taking place from the media narrative being told about it. The Iran story that I’ve been watching lately is a perfect example. No one is really 100% sure what the facts are or what even constitutes fact. MSNBC will spin it one way. Fox and/or Mitt Romney will blame Obama. Bloggers will each try to put their own spin on it. And gradually, the narrative being constructed by the media may or may not reflect the actual facts.

Since Iran has been the Middle East story of the week, and America seems to be able to focus on only one Middle Eastern country at a time, the other big Middle East story of the week hasn’t been getting quite as much attention other than from foreign policy geeks. That story, of course, is the Israel-Palestine peace process.

A few weeks ago President Obama met with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. In early June, Obama delivered a speech to the Middle East from Cairo. This past Sunday, Netanyahu addressed his people on the topic of the peace process.

After these three historic events, a new narrative has emerged: America’s relationship with Israel is changing. Over the past couple of weeks have seen a plethora of articles and blog posts from both seasoned journalists and amateur bloggers alike, all suggesting the same ideas: the power of the legendary Israel lobby is weakening. President Obama is pressuring Netanyahu. Obama is the next Jimmy Carter [because Carter was the last US president who put real pressure on Israel to make peace]. Americans are gradually shifting from unconditionally supporting Israel to supporting a two-state solution. America’s relationship with Israel is changing dramatically. It’s a new chapter in the two countries’ relationship.

The question to me is: has American public opinion on support for Israel really changed? Or is this a shift in the media narrative but not actually a shift in America’s opinions and policy? Is the course of American foreign policy really shifting, or is this talk from speculative cable news pundits?

Is it REALLY a new era in America’s approach to Israel and Palestine? Or am I hoping for too much here?

h1

The New, New Journalism: Andrew Sullivan on Iran

June 15, 2009

There’s a lot of noise circulating right now about how the mainstream media networks like CNN and Fox have failed in providing adequate coverage and on-the-ground reporting on the events taking place in Iran. But there hasn’t been much talk about who HAS been providing stellar coverage of the situation.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been glued to Andrew Sullivan’s blog over at The Atlantic. Andrew’s blog is already high-quality content on a daily basis, but over the weekend he began blogging up a storm in real time as the events unfolded in Iran. Unlike big mainstream media outlets, whose reporting has been hindered by elaborate quality regulations, a lack of foreign bureaus to provide them direct on-the-ground footage, and a strong dislike for all forms of new media, Andrew’s blog has been going nonstop, hindered by none of those things. He is updating multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times an hour, every time he has any new piece of information.

He is gradually weaving together a complex narrative of the events taking place half a world away by piecing together a collection of eye-witness accounts, Iranian tweets, cell-phone videos uploaded on Youtube, reader emails from the US and from far away, riveting photos, and links to a multitude of blogs both big and small.

Old media types might shudder at the idea of linking to an unknown blog, but new media journalists like Sullivan aren’t concerned about how big the readership of your blog is or whether you’re just a student writing your observations on Twitter. It’s not about your press credentials; it’s about free flow of information. In this new media landscape, if you’ve got information, it’s worth sharing — no matter who you are.

CNN and other MSM outlets are running a few articles about what’s going on, but they can’t compete with this – real-time accounts through a variety of different mediums, collected together in one place being updated by the minute.

If you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to. Sullivan’s blog is becoming the only source worth reading for accurate, detailed coverage of the events in Iran.

This is what journalism should be.

h1

A revolution in Iran, where Twitter plays a part

June 14, 2009

I don’t have anything new to say about the situation in Iran this weekend. Really, no one in the US knows anything more than anyone else does. There’s no official confirmation yet on whether the election was rigged, but anyone with half a brain can see that there is clearly foul play going on.

I think what is interesting and unique in this case is that a rigged election could have happened in a developing country 30 years ago and the people would have had to put up with it. But this time, they can’t and they won’t be silenced. The lengths to which the Iranian regime has gone to silence them — shutting down  internet connections, ordering reporters out of the country, attacking protesters — are tremendous, but the protests continue on anyways, growing in strength by the hour. And despite the fact that MSM outlets like the BBC are being kicked out or having their cameras and film taken away, and CNN is barely reporting, worldwide coverage of the situation is growing thanks to Twitter and the blogosphere.

The streets in Tehran, at least from the stream of tweets, blog posts, and cellphone videos coming out of the country, are filled with protesters who managed to organize despite the fact that many of their resources have been taken away. And it all started with one Tweet from a Moussavi supporter:

mousavi

Did their organizing via Twitter work? You decide.

h1

Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination brings out subtle racism everywhere

May 26, 2009

President Obama announced his appointment of Sonia Sotomayor for the ninth seat on the Supreme Court bench yesterday morning, setting the interwebs and the cable news pundits on fire with something big to talk about all day.

Stuart Taylor at the National Journal is right in pointing out that this nomination is extremely shrewd because it puts the Republican Party in a tight spot. If they criticize Sotomayor for the things they most want to attack her for, they risk further branding themselves as the party of old white men. If they don’t attack her aggressively, they risk giving a victory to Obama and further weakening the party.

After Obama’s announcement, what followed was almost boringly predictable: all the news today has been dominated by talk about her race and gender. And though she was only nominated about 12 hours ago, her nomination has already brought race to the forefront of the public discourse — a topic we all normally like to avoid for the sake of our own comfort levels. Better to pretend race doesn’t exist, right? Right. Except now, it suddenly exists, more than ever. The fact that she grew up in the Bronx projects but graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and Yale Law School doesn’t exist, but the fact that she’s a Latina woman definitely does exist.

For instance:

–Glenn Beck says Sotomayor is a racist! (Does anyone else besides me see the irony in the fact that a panel of three white men are discussing whether Sotomayor is racist towards white men?)

–Senator James Inhofe thinks Sotomayor might allow ‘undue influence because of her own personal race and gender‘! (Oh my god, you’re right, because she’s a LATINA WOMAN and her opinions might be different from those of WHITE MEN, she’s automatically a bad judge) 

–Mike Huckabee calls her Maria  Sotomayor. Well, you know, all those brown people have such similar names. 

–Even Politico, however inadvertent, falls prey to some good old-fashioned racial stereotypes.

–The conservative Judicial Confirmation Network whines that “in Sotomayor’s court, the content of your character is not as important as the colour of your skin.”  That’s not a hypocritical statement to make about a minority judge at ALL…

The underlying assertion in all these subtle, or not so subtle, criticisms Sotomayor is that her race and gender make her less qualified to be a Supreme Court justice, because her race and gender might affect her decisions. Thus, following that logic, we should only pick jurists who don’t have any race or gender to cloud their decisions.

You mean to tell me white men are raceless and genderless and completely neutral? Why didn’t someone tell me that before?!

h1

The mainstream media ignored Delara Darabi. New media didn’t.

May 2, 2009

Early Friday morning in Tehran, 23-year-old Delara Darabi was executed in the Rasht prison in Iran for a crime that happened when she was 17. Human rights groups had been protesting and trying to save her from execution for months, since it is a violation of international law to execute anyone for a crime that occurred when they were a minor. Despite the protests, Iranian authorities executed her on Friday with no notice.

What is perhaps the saddest part of her story, however, is that the mainstream, traditional news media did not report the story at all. A Google News search on Delara Darabi revealed, as of late last night, a total of ZERO mainstream US news stories. The only stories about Delara as of last night were from Iranian and international sources, blogs, and human rights groups.

Today, the mainstream media started to pick up on it, with stories from the Los Angeles Times, BBC, United Press International, New York Times, and a few others. Still, at the time of writing this post there are only 206 news stories about Delara Darabi’s unjust execution. By comparison, there are currently 762 news stories about Matthew McConaughey, and 7,078 news stories about Arlen Specter.

So, how, you might ask, did word of the story first break? Who reported it first? The answer is: Darabi’s execution was first reported on Twitter. And then the first media outlet to pick up the story was none other than the epitome of new media, BreakingTweets.com, a news site which reports stories from around the world using Twitter for breaking news. BreakingTweets isn’t run by seasoned news pros, either — its founder and head is Craig Kanalley, a twentysomething journalism grad student trying to revolutionize the way we get our news, through the use of new media.

Breaking Tweets was paying attention to the Delara Darabi story, and they reported it more than a full 24 hours before the mainstream media.

Delara Darabi’s story should be seen as a case study of some of the challenges with our media system as it stands today:

Ethnocentrism still reigns supreme: stories with an “American” angle – like the imprisonment of American journalist Roxana Saberi in Iran – are more important than similar stories, like Delara Darabi’s, without the American angle. With Roxana Saberi, international media attention has been fierce — and because of that, so has international pressure on Iranian authorities. Had Delara Darabi had that kind of attention, she could have had a very different fate. But she didn’t get that attention – because she’s not American.

And new media won major points. Old media types who rail against new media, such as NYT’s Maureen Dowd and Matt Bai, who spent last week complaining about Twitter, should take note: the New York Times was shamefully far, far behind Twitter and new media in picking up this story.

Where are our media’s priorities? What is driving them to choose to write 7000+ of the same stories on Arlen Specter, and almost nothing about the international law-violating execution of an innocent young Iranian woman?

Perhaps it is because human rights stories just don’t sell as much as stories about high-intensity partisan clashes or Hollywood actors. Human rights stories, particuarly world news, may sell less copies or bring in few page views. But news isn’t supposed to be about the profit motive — it’s supposed to be about educating and informing the masses about the world around them. If the press is to act as an arbiter of what is news, they should be reporting on what matters, rather than more banal stories about the White House puppy or Michelle Obama’s garden.

Like this post? Click here to subscribe to this blog.

h1

Why Congress NEEDS to be tweeting

April 29, 2009

claire-mccaskill-twitterA few months back I started writing a post questioning whether members of Congress really need to be Tweeting. Especially if their Tweets are particularly snarky. That post, like about 75% of the posts I start writing, never saw the light of day because I never completed that idea.

But then last week Matt Bai of the New York Times slammed politicians who use Twitter, most notably Senator Claire McCaskill. “The capital might be a better place if it became a Twitter-free zone,” Bai wrote, “a city where people spent more time talking to the guy serving the coffee and less time informing the world that the coffee had, in fact, been served.”

Then Senator McCaskill responded on her Tumblr blog (really, she has a Tumblr, which is worth noting in and of itself): “I tweet an average of 4 to 5 times a day.  This has become a welcome discipline for me in Washington. As I am walking to a hearing, or riding the tram over for a vote, I think of what I want to tell the folks at home about my work or life. This, I believe, is a fairly decent way to stay connected. After all, I’m in Washington to work for them and this process reminds me of it several times a day.

Senator McCaskill was also on a panel last week at the Politics Online conference in Washington, which I was fortunate enough to attend (thanks to the wonderful Julie Germany). On the panel, she and three other Members of Congress discussed how they use Twitter to stay connected with their constituents. All of them manage their own Twitter accounts and love the direct connection it gives them to the people — without reporters or communications staff in between them. All of them also read all their replies – they may not have time to respond to everything, but they read them, and it gives them an important window into the minds of their constituents, allowing them to know what the people are thinking.

The Members of Congress on the panel also talked about the frustrations they have run into sometimes in dealing with the other hundreds of Members of Congress who are not using Twitter and other new media tools to communicate with their constituents. Most elected officials haven’t gotten on the new media train yet. Most of them still don’t see the value in it. It’s not unlike the general population really — most normal people still don’t get the value of Twitter, either.

Bai also complains about other politicians, like Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA, who recently tweeted:

craig-fugate-twitter

To which Bai responded in his article: “Which kind of makes you wonder: if the head of FEMA feels that disoriented buying a latte near the White House, what’s going to happen during a tornado?”

But Bai, and the other old media types like him who won’t stop complaining about how Washington is all a-twitter, don’t really get it. Elected officials may be elected officials, but they’re human beings too – and were chosen by the people to run our government. That doesn’t make them any less human, and the beauty of new media is that you get unfiltered access to these politicians and get to feel more connected to them. They step out from behind the curtain of press secretaries and communications staff and mainstream media and give you direct, unfiltered access to them.

So what if the head of FEMA had a stressful morning? Being the head of FEMA doesn’t mean you don’t experience the same normal moments that average people experience, or that you’re any less human than them. Hiding those moments behind a curtain isn’t productive, nor does it give people any more confidence that you can do your job better when there’s a tornado. And anyone who expects politicians to operate with secrecy rather than transparency is suggesting something ridiculous, as Bai does.

But politicians using Twitter are informing their constituents of what they’re doing in Congress (and why), provoking policy discussions, and most importantly, listening to what their constituents are saying and using that feedback as they continue their work in Congress. I’d say that’s a pretty good case for why every member of Congress should be getting on the new media train.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.