English and Writing Studies Thesis 2017-02-23 19:26:00

Before today, I did not have time to really focus on my thesis. I plan on using today to expand upon what I already have. I not only want to add what I previously wrote in my journal to my electronic version, but I want to continue to expand on other ideas I had/wrote down. I had a goal I was trying to accomplish, but the more I go through life I am starting to realize I am not completely in control. I cannot control when my thoughts will flow or what day I will write a lot/find new material to add. To be completely honest, sometimes ideas come to me when I least expect them to. Like I was telling a classmate, I am learning to not feel discouraged when I do not accomplish what I set out to do. Instead, I am trying to be happy that I accomplished something. 

English and Writing Studies Thesis 2017-02-23 19:26:00

Before today, I did not have time to really focus on my thesis. I plan on using today to expand upon what I already have. I not only want to add what I previously wrote in my journal to my electronic version, but I want to continue to expand on other ideas I had/wrote down. I had a goal I was trying to accomplish, but the more I go through life I am starting to realize I am not completely in control. I cannot control when my thoughts will flow or what day I will write a lot/find new material to add. To be completely honest, sometimes ideas come to me when I least expect them to. Like I was telling a classmate, I am learning to not feel discouraged when I do not accomplish what I set out to do. Instead, I am trying to be happy that I accomplished something. 

English and Writing Studies Thesis 2017-02-23 19:26:00

Before today, I did not have time to really focus on my thesis. I plan on using today to expand upon what I already have. I not only want to add what I previously wrote in my journal to my electronic version, but I want to continue to expand on other ideas I had/wrote down. I had a goal I was trying to accomplish, but the more I go through life I am starting to realize I am not completely in control. I cannot control when my thoughts will flow or what day I will write a lot/find new material to add. To be completely honest, sometimes ideas come to me when I least expect them to. Like I was telling a classmate, I am learning to not feel discouraged when I do not accomplish what I set out to do. Instead, I am trying to be happy that I accomplished something. 

New portions of my thesis

(in expanding on the 4th estate)

Historically, the press is one of the pillars of American democracy. Known as the “Fourth Estate”, the notion of journalism as the fourth leg of the table stems from Britain in the late 1700’s, but it fit nicely with the nascent American experiment as well, situating a free press alongside the Executive, Judicial and Legislative branches of government. Is that overstating it? Perhaps.  But the free press has long been identified as one of the forces that ensures good governance and provides a voice for the people. The founding fathers knew that if governments could suppress news or opinions they didn’t agree with, it would stifle democracy itself. In codifying the freedom of the press in the First Amendment, Thomas Jefferson said “our freedom depends on (it).”

 

(expanding on the use of twitter)

It was a lesson that Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, would learn well. Trump himself has said that he uses Twitter to escape the filter of the media. In doing so, he is able to send a message, free of context and in an environment in which he is unable to be questioned about his meaning or intent. The media is left to speculate about what he may or may not mean, allowing him to shape the message later. He is able, essentially, to repeatedly float a trial balloon of his own ideas and “correct” the record as he sees fit. Trump told Business Insider in an interview from January 16, “I thought I’d do less of it, but I’m covered so dishonestly by the press … I can go bing bing bing and I just keep going and they put it on and as soon as I tweet it out … I find it very accurate … they can’t do much when you tweet it…” The lack of context and accountability (at least in real time) is one of the primary paradigm shifts in the way this President has chosen to communicate with the American public. Currently, Trump owns one of the 50 most followed Twitter handles in the world. Barack Obama, by comparison, has more than three times the number of followers Trump has (84m to 25m) according to twittercounter.com. But it’s not the size of the megaphone; it’s how you use it. Trump has sent more tweets than all but a handful of people. The impact has been enormous. Behind the doors of newsrooms all over the country, rundowns are altered and leads are changed whenever the President sends out a tweet. Due to the need for the newest angle on any given story, a tweet at 8:30 inevitably changes your lead at 9. In some cases, it can become the lead at 9.  On the morning of February 15, starting just before 4 am ET, President Trump sent out a series of tweets apparently inspired by questions raised about his links to Russia. Among other things, he slammed “fake news media” for “conspiracy theories and blind hatred”, then blamed the “Russian connection nonsense” on the Clinton campaign and also compared intelligence leaks to the environment in Russia itself (an odd comparison given his kind commentary about the government in Moscow). While the purpose of this thesis is not to provide a point and counterpoint of the contentious relationship between Trump and the media, I thought this example proved instructive. While the President offered no evidence or support for his claims that major news networks harbored “conspiracy theories and blind hatred” toward him, much of the media were more measured. For example, the article published by NBC News on that same day tempered the claims made by the primary sources for the day’s news. “Neither the Times article or the CNN report contains a smoking gun… Isolated, these seem to be unprecedented stories for a presidential campaign or incoming new administration. But taken together, they have the potential – and we have to stress that word right now – to be something even bigger.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/putting-pieces-russia-story-together-n721141

Were the original reports overblown? That is for others to judge. But if we look at the reports themselves, both CNN and the New York Times appeared to fulfill their journalistic duties by corroborating their stories with multiple sources.

 

http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/14/politics/donald-trump-aides-russians-campaign/

 

The point here is its not just about the President targeting the news media – There are clear issues with how the media is reporting these stories. The New York Times and CNNeach had sources – in the case of Times, there were four administration officials. Not one was named. And while the NBC report insisted there was no smoking gun, it was 3 paragraphs down.  And even though NBC’s political director Chuck Todd co-wrote that article, it contrasts wildly with the lead of his own show just hours later, when he said… “welcome to day 1 of what is arguably the biggest Presidential scandal involving a foreign government since Iran-Contra. Take a breath folks — and hunker down for a class 5 political hurricane.” So what do we have here? You can argue that there are simply no clear facts at all, and yet major networks are ascribing impeachable wrongdoing on the nascent Administration.  Are the journalists living up to their own standards? Perhaps.  But how is the public to know? And things go so fast now, it’s hard to filter this through your analytical brain anyway – its more about impression.

Again, you can make the argument that the sources, and therefore the publications themselves were incorrect, but to ascribe “blind hatred” alleges that the media went out of its way to purposefully construct knowingly false stories about the President and his Administration. Of course, just two days later, he put an exclamation point on that very claim, tweeting that the “fake news… is the enemy of the American people.” Five separate media outlets were also singled out in the tweet. One of which, the New York Times, labeled it  a “striking escalation” and said it “echoed the language of autocrats who seek to minimize dissent.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/business/trump-calls-the-news-media-the-enemy-of-the-people.html?_r=0

This is no small point. First of all, the message itself was extreme, prompting days of explanations and questions in the White House briefing room. But it also once again showed the power of Trump’s chosen medium, allowing him essentially a free shot at the media, delivered to the Twitter feeds of more than 25 million people. That is a powerful tool.

But it’s not just for Presidents.  As Time Magazine put it in early February, “Technology has placed a communications revolution in nearly every American palm. When mixed with the economic frustrations of a globalized economy, this power unleashed a new populism. In the history of human beings, it has never been easier to organize groups, for good or ill, or to communicate both truth and lies, to question authority and to undermine the answers that authority gives.”

http://time.com/4657665/steve-bannon-donald-trump/?xid=homepage&pcd=hp-magmod

For traditional journalists, all of them simply makes the burden of doing their every day job heavier and more complicated. The speed of the news cycle and the sheer amount of information available to inform your reporting can overwhelm someone trying to verify the truth of the matter.

Nevertheless, as Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote shortly after the inauguration,  “Journalists shouldn’t rise to the bait and decide to treat Trump as an enemy. Recalling at all times that their mission is truth-telling and holding public officials accountable, they should dig in, paying far more attention to actions than to sensational tweets or briefing-room lies — while still being willing to call out falsehoods clearly when they happen.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-traditional-way-of-reporting-on-a-president-is-dead-and-trumps-press-secretary-killed-it/2017/01/22/75403a00-e0bf-11e6-a453-19ec4b3d09ba_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_sullivan-514pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.8bf7bfe6e2bd

 

It is increasingly difficult to find those who don’t spin their side of the story.

A difficulty that we face as journalists comes when the mission of providing context appears to cast you in an ideological battle with your subject.  For instance, current cable networks too often appear to have an agenda when it comes to covering Washington politics. A possible solution? Simply allow your subjects to speak for themselves, or report everything in a manner that minimizes anything other than fact as much as possible.  The problem with this is that it presupposes that the public has at least a reasonable understanding of what is going on (in other words, context) as to be able to fit the current news in the broader pantheon of current events. In other words, if the President says that he is cutting off all trade with Iran, his comments constitute a fact that can be reported as such. But if the person who hears that doesn’t understand the geopolitical nature of America’s relationship with Iran, the Iranian regime’s reliance on its oil trade with this country, the dire economic circumstances that face the Iranian public, etc., then they may not have enough context to fully understand the story. But then, in providing the context for that (fictional) story, the entity reporting it fails to mention that all of this could lead Iran to take rash action, such as threatening an attack on a U.S. ally, in order to force the President to rethink his decision, would that constitute speculation or a possibility that could be the next stop along a reasonable and logical potential chain of events? It depends who you ask. In this scenario, supporters of the President could declare that it is a creation of those ideologically opposed to him. Supporters could argue the negative – that we simply don’t know what Iran would do and that speculation is useless and even defamatory. But do we do the public a disservice simply by saying we don’t know what would happen?  Truth is that people in all positions speculate all the time.  People who invest and budget money must do it constantly, trying to figure out a financial outcome based on limited evidence that only extends to the present and not the future. People who have experience and knowledge in certain areas =must= be relied upon to give their opinions on how current events may play out in the future. So therein lies another question. Whose opinions matter? Social media has put everyone’s opinions on an even playing field…. No one seems to have more gravitas or is given more respect than anybody else. But is that really how a democracy should work? Shouldn’t there be experts?

The point I’m trying to get to is that there has to be some way we can agree to distinguish fact from fiction, or as President Obama said before leaving office “we’ll keep talking past each other.”  One way to get to that common baseline of facts as to admit that not everyone’s knowledge base is equal to everyone else’s and that facts should inherently hold more weight than opinions or beliefs. That means that if someone studying the number of immigrants crossing the border says the number has dropped over the past five years, you can’t give them the same amount of credibility as someone who believes that the number has actually gone up but fails to provide any factual evidence. Now, there are those that do things like this consciously and those that do it unconsciously. We saw throughout the presidential campaign, the rise of fake news – not as it attributes to the mainstream media – but the kind that even the actual people trafficking in it would describe as fake news. It’s the kind of insidious misinformation that gets into our twitter feeds or mailboxes and causes us to doubt what common sense tells us may be true and, in some cases, gives rise to whole new thought processes – all inspired by information that can typically be exposed as false. But not always.

 

Explore half-truths – how they get you to believe?  http://www.digitalpedagogylab.com/hybridped/truthy-lies-surreal-truths/

(more to unpack responsibilities of citizen journalists)

 

On the other side of the coin, many so-called “citizen journalists” may not even realize their level of responsibility to the discourse happening around the country. Instead of trafficking in news, many may believe they are simply exchanging information; commenting on their environment and what is happening in the world.  But the one who receives that message may not see it the same way. Again, due to a lack of context and oftentimes, the inability to track back to the original source of a tweet or a post, the intent of a message is lost. If it’s a sarcastic joke, a cynical aside or even a person blowing off steam, it may come across to others as a political position or a microcosm of a larger issue that needs to be addressed (and perhaps protested or exposed). But there is most definitely a level of responsibility inherent in being able to broadcast a message to thousands and by extension, even hundreds of thousands of people. It is the same level of responsibility one would expect someone to aspire to if they had the podium in a crowded theater. It is not the time to yell “fire”. But let us not ascribe intent to these people. Social media is still in its relative infancy as a medium and the broad reach and power that it wields is still becoming apparent. It is not hard to see examples on a regular basis of people positing pictures or messages online, only to find out later that the viral nature of their own words and actions can cost them their friends and their livelihoods. Many enjoy the ability to remain anonymous no matter what they post and thereby often avoid any kind of legal or ethical consequence for their information. As people who put information into cyberspace, we must reassess our responsibilities in doing so and as news consumers we must approach all information like this with eyes open.

 

 


Questions for Kristen Welker/Katy Tur

I sent these out this week – Kristen, at least, has acknowledged that she got them and hopefully will respond. It was just too hard to do an interview on the phone or in-person. I will not name them in the paper, I will publish their answers anonymously, only identifying them as correspondents at a major TV network who was on the campaign trail and has covered the President.

 

1 – When you were out on the campaign trail, you experienced firsthand the anger that some people aim at the media. By and large, what did people tell you was the reason they were angry?

 

  1. Last fall, Gallup found that just 40% of people trust mass media. Do you believe you have a responsibility to actively try to regain the public’s trust?  And if so, how do you do that?

 

  1. You’ve seen the rise of fake news (meaning news that is created and circulated by anonymous sources online with the intent to mislead, spread a particular agenda or to get clicks). How much effort does the mainstream media need to expend in actively pushing back against fake news?

 

  1. Some people have said we are in a “post-truth” society. Do you believe that?

 

  1. President Obama said before he left office, that “without some common baseline of facts… we’ll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible.” As a society, do we still have a common baseline of facts or not?

 

  1. What was your reaction to President Trump describing the media as the “enemy of the American people”?

 

  1. How has President Trump’s reliance on social media to communicate changed your job?

 

  1. Do you believe that the denigration of journalism by government officials and the public’s lack of trust in the media is eroding the foundations of our democracy?

 

  1. Do you believe that the events of the last six months have permanently changed the job of a journalist in America? Or do you believe the challenges you currently face are only temporary?

 


Finally I will see my People! by Debbie Bagnato



Despite my ability and often preference to work alone endlessly on a piece before I want to share it with anyone, I am so excited and actually relieved to be meeting with my group later today! I have spent an endless amount of time on this piece, editing, revising, loving, hating and--in some scenes-- almost destroying my writing completely. The result is that I recognize my profound need for their input! I did follow my own instructions from last week and stayed away from this piece, in an effort to not destroy it through unnecessary revisions and/ or deletes. I will be reading todays chosen piece almost as my colleagues are because I only skimmed the scenes opening and closing lines to know where I might start and finish--class-time provided. There may be a bit more then we can read in each "script" but we will see how the time works and decide together. Then I can return to the revising mode with a fresh outlook and some strong ideas, perspectives and suggestions (and not destroy what is perceived as the good stuff)...I have a store full of co-workers who are excited about this story being told--and their personalities being enjoyed, laughed about, or identified with by others.
As for the website, I hope to gain much knowlege from my worthy colleagues so that I can comfortably and confidently move forward with this piece of the puzzle. We all know that I am not the strongest in this area so will need the tips and clever clues (?) of my colleagues in order to complete this challenge with ease. I do not want to be weeping over my inability to get the scenes to show up by clicking on a link or--worse still--realize that I have deleted my entire project after working on it for days by accidentally hitting a wrong key--and yes, I am fully capable of such malfunctions...Despite all my true efforts alone, I need the help of my peeps!
Other than that, working on my other piece has been an entirely different type of mindset but I am having fun as I go. It seems I can revise my earlier scenes--but not to excess--and then continue with my tale in my changing voice. This is also a sort of creative nonfictional piece as well--the scenes are based on true happenings OR are a recap of events, modified for the purpose of performance and/or  reading enjoyment. It seems to be a similar voice to my thesis project but there are different underlying concerns beneath the humor in these two pieces. For now, I am just trying to get the rest of my outline--in the remaining scenes--on paper in a humorous yet true-to-these-character fashion. The break from my multi-character piece to this "two-fer" was strange but allows for more one-on-one interaction. After pages of thinking of the endless, multi-layered conversations in front of Courtesy and trying to capture that momentum, this is equally trying as I attempt to bring the conversations, heart, and humor down to the simple reality of my sister and I. Our back-and-forth banter, fueled by jet-lag, mom-worry and poor Italian usage when visiting our brother, is a different but equally enjoyable type of emotion that I am trying to recreate. My hope is that each project will benefit the other and I will find my voice in both pieces, and be glad to hear it. Happy writing guys!

Finally I will see my People! by Debbie Bagnato



Despite my ability and often preference to work alone endlessly on a piece before I want to share it with anyone, I am so excited and actually relieved to be meeting with my group later today! I have spent an endless amount of time on this piece, editing, revising, loving, hating and--in some scenes-- almost destroying my writing completely. The result is that I recognize my profound need for their input! I did follow my own instructions from last week and stayed away from this piece, in an effort to not destroy it through unnecessary revisions and/ or deletes. I will be reading todays chosen piece almost as my colleagues are because I only skimmed the scenes opening and closing lines to know where I might start and finish--class-time provided. There may be a bit more then we can read in each "script" but we will see how the time works and decide together. Then I can return to the revising mode with a fresh outlook and some strong ideas, perspectives and suggestions (and not destroy what is perceived as the good stuff)...I have a store full of co-workers who are excited about this story being told--and their personalities being enjoyed, laughed about, or identified with by others.
As for the website, I hope to gain much knowlege from my worthy colleagues so that I can comfortably and confidently move forward with this piece of the puzzle. We all know that I am not the strongest in this area so will need the tips and clever clues (?) of my colleagues in order to complete this challenge with ease. I do not want to be weeping over my inability to get the scenes to show up by clicking on a link or--worse still--realize that I have deleted my entire project after working on it for days by accidentally hitting a wrong key--and yes, I am fully capable of such malfunctions...Despite all my true efforts alone, I need the help of my peeps!
Other than that, working on my other piece has been an entirely different type of mindset but I am having fun as I go. It seems I can revise my earlier scenes--but not to excess--and then continue with my tale in my changing voice. This is also a sort of creative nonfictional piece as well--the scenes are based on true happenings OR are a recap of events, modified for the purpose of performance and/or  reading enjoyment. It seems to be a similar voice to my thesis project but there are different underlying concerns beneath the humor in these two pieces. For now, I am just trying to get the rest of my outline--in the remaining scenes--on paper in a humorous yet true-to-these-character fashion. The break from my multi-character piece to this "two-fer" was strange but allows for more one-on-one interaction. After pages of thinking of the endless, multi-layered conversations in front of Courtesy and trying to capture that momentum, this is equally trying as I attempt to bring the conversations, heart, and humor down to the simple reality of my sister and I. Our back-and-forth banter, fueled by jet-lag, mom-worry and poor Italian usage when visiting our brother, is a different but equally enjoyable type of emotion that I am trying to recreate. My hope is that each project will benefit the other and I will find my voice in both pieces, and be glad to hear it. Happy writing guys!

Exploring Electronic Literature

I'm on eliterature.org's 3rd collection of Electronic Literature. It's...interesting. Let me say straight up that some of the works are downright ridiculous, like a bunch of kids playing and making absolute nonsense. Embarrassing. And others...super cool.

There's one work called Icarus Needs that reminds me of stuff you can make in Twine (huge fan of e-lit games in Twine.) Maybe I'll go look at some more works in Twine. That might be a great platform for my project eventually, though putting something in Twine is code heavy and would be a semester-long project in itself. But it's a possibility, and I don't know why I didn't think of it before. I love Twine.

There's another by a guy in Mexico that is sort of interactive, and it's a story that you click on and you get images and emails and recordings that help move the story forward. The story is interesting in itself, and the interactive part is very well done. It's called Tatuaje.

Then there's Grita by someone in Lima. It was well made digitally, but I didn't really like his writing or his poetry. Great skill creating online spaces, though.

Basically cool stuff. I could see my work on Twine, because you can be sort of linear on Twine, and you don't need a whole bunch of design elements. You'd need a real Twine expert, though, to make something valid. And I'm no Twine expert.


Exploring Electronic Literature

I'm on eliterature.org's 3rd collection of Electronic Literature. It's...interesting. Let me say straight up that some of the works are downright ridiculous, like a bunch of kids playing and making absolute nonsense. Embarrassing. And others...super cool.

There's one work called Icarus Needs that reminds me of stuff you can make in Twine (huge fan of e-lit games in Twine.) Maybe I'll go look at some more works in Twine. That might be a great platform for my project eventually, though putting something in Twine is code heavy and would be a semester-long project in itself. But it's a possibility, and I don't know why I didn't think of it before. I love Twine.

There's another by a guy in Mexico that is sort of interactive, and it's a story that you click on and you get images and emails and recordings that help move the story forward. The story is interesting in itself, and the interactive part is very well done. It's called Tatuaje.

Then there's Grita by someone in Lima. It was well made digitally, but I didn't really like his writing or his poetry. Great skill creating online spaces, though.

Basically cool stuff. I could see my work on Twine, because you can be sort of linear on Twine, and you don't need a whole bunch of design elements. You'd need a real Twine expert, though, to make something valid. And I'm no Twine expert.


An Interesting Day

     When my phone rang on Wednesday night, I checked Caller ID to see if I should avoid the call as per my routine. I was curious as to why my school was calling, but let it go to voice mail anyway. The district was informing everyone that due to the day of protest, taxi would not be operating in town and to adjust travel plans accordingly. I was quite confused by this bit of news, so I checked Facebook.

     I soon found out about how Thursday would be a day to protest the treatment of immigrants in this country. All businesses in Perth Amboy would be shut down as a sign to the president of just how needed immigrants are in this country. While I admire the intent behind what was being "organized", I couldn't throw my support behind it.

     For one, the organizers were actively encouraging people to: a) skip school and b) keep their kids home from school. This interruption of education (especially in a group that is behind as it is) serves no real purpose. Participants were not marching, holding rallies, or in any other way actively protesting. Over half of my students were out today, only to sleep in and watch television according to the students who did show up.

     It's also very dangerous to only use the term "immigrant" to define participants in the protest. By doing so, organizers are not recognizing the difference between immigrants who are here legally, and those who are here illegally. That leads some people (my easily-excitable students included) to think that America is against immigration. Whatever your thoughts on the president may be, I have always understood him to want to go after the "bad guys."

     The other issue is that it was for one day. No lasting message can be sent when the powers-that-be know you intend to return to work tomorrow. An indefinite strike would send more of a message. Unfortunately, most participants in Amboy can't afford to miss more than a day's pay. My students also seemed to think that shutting down Amboy's taxi service was going to send a message to Trump. I somehow think he was unaffected. In fact, I think no one in the establishment was affected. Only students who rely on taxis to get to school.

     So I'll return to work tomorrow to hear how kids took the day off and spent it doing nothing. I can only imagine the outrage when I let them know that the day may not count since over half the students were absent.