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Cyber Tydings

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February 2014

Promotional portrait of American broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite, mid 1950s. He sits at a desk, a microphone at his elbow, in front of a world map. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

If journalism had a face, it would be the wise and familiar mug of journalist Walter Cronkite. He began working as a journalist and correspondent during World War II and continued to cover some of the most significant events in recent history during his illustrious career. He was the leading correspondent during the Nuremburg trials, an international event that attempted to bring Nazi war criminals to justice. Cronkite became the anchor of CBS Evening News and reported on civil rights events, Watergate, Vietnam, the assassination of JFK and the first man on the moon.

According to an opinion poll, Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. He was praised for his matter-of-fact reporting style and impartiality, a rare quality in an era that contained so much controversial news. He received many awards for his work. They are as follows, according to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications website at Arizona State University: Peabody Award, the William Allen White Award for Journalistic Merit, an Emmy Award from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the George Polk Award and a Gold Medal Award from the International Radio and Television Society.

Cronkite finally stepped down as an anchor for CBS in 1981 and sadly died in 2009 of a cerebrovascular disease. He left an indelible mark on the field of journalism and his legacy will continue to be as well-known as his nightly sign-off, “And that’s the way it is.”

https://cronkite.asu.edu/walter/waltercronkite.php
http://www.biography.com/people/walter-cronkite-9262057

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Politics vs Olympics

The Olympics is one of the few occasions where young, fit, passionate representatives from many nations gather in a single location without declaring war. Yet, every four years, some new political issue crops up surrounding the games. For instance, this year, the winter games are plagued with threats of terrorism and warranted backlash against Russia’s anti-gay policies. In 1968, the problem du jour was a protest against the lack of civil rights in the United States, when Tommie Smith and John Carlos each did the Black Power salute at the awards podium. One of my high school coaches was a silver medalist at the 1968 Games in New Mexico and he attested to the fact that political tensions were high. As a black man, he was asked to boycott the Olympics. He refused, believing that competing and proving his worth on an international stage made a more valuable statement.

The Munich Massacre was a far more severe example of political tension. Palestinian terrorists captured and then brutally murdered 11 Israeli coaches and athletes during the 1972 Munich Games. The Munich police were underprepared and the German army was not permitted to maneuver during peacetime (http://www.olympic.org/munich-1972-summer-olympics ). In this case, many of the events were misreported in the media, creating confusion and an inaccurate portrayal of facts. For example, it was first reported that all attackers had been killed and that the hostages were safe, when in reality, all the hostages had been killed. Media has the power to increase or muffle political tensions and incidents.

Since more people than ever have access to the media, more people are influenced than ever before. I think part of the reason the political issues of the Sochi Olympics are so hotly contended is due in part to the media coverage of the issues. There are certainly biased news sources, and some people are getting their information that way. The Olympics are intended to entertain but, they are inextricably intertwined with politics and viewers should be sure to get the whole story from varied news sources to prevent tensions and false impressions. Keep the spirit of friendly and wholesome competition in the Games, without allowing them become overshadowed with political issues.

Fans at the 2014 Sochi Games
Fans at the 2014 Sochi Games (http://america.aljazeera.com/content/ajam/multimedia/photo-gallery/2014/2/photos-sochi-2014winterolympics/_jcr_content/slideShowImages/slide6/image.adapt.960.high.jpg)

Headlines depicting the horrors at the Olympics in Munich
Headlines depicting the horrors at the Olympics in Munich
(http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-tlSRgiTJsXk/UBc_YGJ0NnI/AAAAAAAAGdY/5VMAi1dEPvM/s1600/Munich+Massacre.jpg)

Women’s Magazines Are Making It Worse

Recently, as I indulged in one of my guilty pleasures, fashion and gossip magazines, it dawned on me that sexism is still disturbingly prevalent in today’s society. And as I read my Cosmopolitan magazine, I began to question whether or not some women and some media outlets are enabling sexism against women and causing misconceptions about femininity to endure.  

Cosmopolitan, known colloquially as Cosmo, began in 1886 as a women’s fashion magazine that also included artwork and current culture. It morphed into a magazine that showcased literature, specifically the work of muckrakers during the early 1990s, featuring Upton Sinclair, Kurt Vonnegut and Jack London. They wrote provocative stories that commented on the sociopolitical climate of the day. In 1965, Helen Gurley Brown became the editor of Cosmo (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/04/26/guest-post-the-evolution-of-cosmopolitan-magazine/).  She was a figurehead of the sexual revolution, and she wanted women to feel sexually liberated. Thus began the trend of sex tips and scantily clad women gracing the cover. Cosmo has continued in this vein because sales increased after this makeover but, it is far from serving the purpose that Helen Gurley Brown intended for the magazine.

If Cosmopolitan claims to be a magazine to empower women, then the focus of the magazine should be women. Just because it features a woman on the cover and has advertisements for makeup on the inside does not mean that women are deriving benefits from the magazine. Here are some example of sexist articles and headlines featured in Cosmo under the guise of female empowerment:

What Guys Secretly Freak Out About (Why does it matter?)

Get More Passes in Glasses (Read: How to be more attractive to men.)

50 Ways to Have Fun With Your Guy (What about just having fun?)

Our Most Sizzling Sex Survey: 12,000 Men Confess What Makes Their Toes Curl (Where are the women in this survey for a women’s magazine?) (Cosmopolitan, March 2014, Vol. 256).

 

Even the cover of the magazine is more psychologically appealing to men than women. The models are posed in a come-hither, sexualized manner with minimal clothing. Women are more psychologically attracted to models who have friendly smile, not a sexual smirk, and who are posed facing the camera head on, as this more accurately represents a women’s body and does not over exaggerate curves.  I have often noticed in grocery stores, etc. that the covers of Cosmo are blocked because they are too offensive and sexual. How does this portray the spirit of the magazine which is supposed to be liberation for women? Nearly everything in the magazine relates to men somehow. Whether it is getting fit and sexy for a date, how to decipher your boyfriend’s mood or what to wear to score a guy, the message that is transmitted is sexist and detrimental. It implies that to be a women, you need a man. This is, of course, patently untrue, yet, even when Cosmo tries to highlight the successes of powerful, independent women it falls short. The issue is this: it even defines success in terms of men. It showcases women who are successful in male-dominated fields or women who rose above men in the ranks of their careers, or women who are successful despite handicaps in the workforce imposed by men. These women have achievements that stand alone, regardless of whether or not there are men in their workplace, field or social circle. One article particularly made my hackles rise with this sentence, “Women, unlike men, don’t always know when their value is rising and it’s time to push for more at work.” Men always know when their values are rising? Women are incapable of determining when it is a good time to ask for a raise or promotion? A woman, not a man, made this asinine statement in an article that boasts the ability to “help you [find] love and [unlock] your inner CEO.” Additionally, note that finding love is placed before job success in this headline.

If we want to vanquish sexism and a false portrayal of women, editors of women’s magazines like Cosmo need to seriously reconsider the true message that they convey. Media messages can be subtle, but they are powerful, so women and men alike should be wary of the messages that popular media imbues. I, for one, will be searching for a magazine that portrays women more positively for internal strengths, accomplishments and attitudes, not merely physical appearances or the ability to please a man in bed. As consumers of media and pop culture, we have the power to influence a positive media environment that emphasizes the strengths of all people and discourages discrimination and belittling of groups.

Cosmo cover featuring Miranda Kerr
These are the messages of a typical Cosmo magazine
Cosmo parody
This may be a parody, but these messages would serve women better

Further Reading:

http://www.beautyredefined.net/cosmo-magazine/

http://journalism.uoregon.edu/~cbybee/j388_u02/projects/cosmomaxim.html

 

 

Woodward and Bernstein: At What Cost Should Journalists Pursue the Truth?

In journalism, Bob Woodward and Carl Berstein are celebrities. Together, they exposed the secrets behind the infamous Watergate scandal. Like a pair of journalists turned private-eyes, these two Washington Post reporters hunted down sources and facts that would inextricably link Nixon and his CRP campaign to five burglars who had been arrested at the Watergate Hotel. Woodward and Berstein were persistent, publishing stories that showed connections between the president and the burglary, despite the lack of hard evidence (http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/web/woodstein/post/). They certainly obtained results, but it could be argued that their methods were not ethically sound. The investigation of Woodward and Bernstein raises the question, at what cost should journalists pursue the truth? Were the illegal methods used to obtain information about the Watergate scandal worth the results of the investigation and the long-term effects on the field of journalism?

                According to Rodger Streitmatter, author of Mightier than the Sword: How the News Media Have Shaped American History, Woodward and Bernstein “begged, lied, badgered sources, and, on occasion, broke the law” to obtain their valuable information about Watergate (http://www.studentpulse.com/articles/618/watergate-and-the-washington-post-questionable-tactics-in-service-to-democracy ). They wiretapped some sources, lied and pretended to be other people and gained access to credit card information during their investigation. If Woodward’s and Bernstein’s suspicions had not been correct and if Nixon’s campaign group had not been linked to the burglary, it is unlikely that the invasions of privacy that the reporters committed would have gone unpunished. Yet, in some ways, regardless of how dubious the methods of gathering facts, it is undeniable that Woodward and Bernstein changed the face of journalism. After the Watergate story was published and Woodward and Bernstein became renowned for their work, investigative reporting became very popular. Journalism became recognized as a true career; it gave way to the hey-day of investigative journalism. (http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2012/06/watergate-burgard/ ) These results may be worth the unsavory methods used to investigate the story, because Woodward and Bernstein not only created one of the most famous stories in investigative journalism, they also increased the popularity of the field as a whole.

The Kerner Commission Report

The news is an integral part of everyday life. Turning on the TV, reading the newspaper or perusing the internet is a part of the daily routine of many. But what if the news was inaccurate and distorted? This was a severe problem in the 1960s when newspapers sensationalized and sometimes fabricated reports on the race riots and social issues of the day. Often, reporters used biased sources for information or cited interviews with officials who were ill-informed about the situations. These flaws in news reporting were brought to light by the 1968 Kerner report (http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/6553/).

The Kerner report states that the media inaccurately and inadequately portrayed the news. Those who controlled media were predominately white and the black community felt as though their perspective was not being portrayed in the news. Since it was a time of such extreme social tension, accurate and factual news coverage was extremely important. The imbalanced portrayal of news caused a “white agenda” to be the only perspective the news showed, and the black community mistrusted the newspapers because they misrepresented their views. The Kerner Commission Report brought many social injustices to the forefront of social consciousness while also addressing the inequities of media treatment of these issues.

One is Silver and the Other Gold

Things have changed significantly in the past 50 years. Social climate, fashion, and even the way we communicate with each other. Consider that communication remained relatively unchanged from the Roman era to approximately 1436, the year that Johannes Gutenberg invented a moving-type printing press. Yet, in the past 50 years, communication has undergone a complete transformation. From shorthand to Basic to email to texting, communication has become faster, more efficient and, some would argue, less personal.

                My grandfather, I call him Pop-pop, worked on the very first computer, ERA 1011. Today, he is baffled by his cell phone. “Is this on?” he asks me, turning the plastic brick over in his weathered hands. How strange it must seem to him, once an expert on cutting-edge technology, now obsolete. He is very interested in the latest and greatest, but he simply can’t keep up with it. I can relate to this sentiment.

My Pop-pop is one of the many members of his generation who believes that communication today is too cold and impersonal. He reminds me (a few too many times, he can’t remember as well as he used too) to always write thank-you notes and that face-to-face is more valuable than anything else. He has seen the transformation, so I trust his judgment. We cannot turn back time, nor should we desire to reverse the progress we’ve made, but he reminds me to respect the value of old-fashioned communication. As a society, we are required to adjust to the new and cutting-edge technology and this is valuable as well. I learnt it from a man who knows, change is good, but tradition deserves to be honored.

 

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