Archive for April, 2011

A True Journalist

I’ve discussed the never ending debate of who is considered a real journalist in previous posts. I want to briefly return to the subject, prompted by an LA Times article about a citizen journalist. Her name is Mayhill Fowler and she decided to cover the Obama campaign for Huffington Post‘s “Off the Bus” project of 2008. Through an act of accurate, honest citizen journalism, Mayhill reported Obama saying, “And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” of the Midwesterners who have suffered from the lack of employment and job security of the 2008 economy. The remark made Obama look elitist, and as a strong Obama supporter, Mayhill was dismayed. Regardless, she submitted the report to Huff Post and they posted it, backing her 100% of the way. Naturally, Mayhill received all kinds of harsh, even violent, comments from Obama supporters – some even accusing her of switching sides.

This is a perfect example of beautiful journalism. The kind of journalism that should be coming from all reporters – professional and amateur. Mayhill conducted herself exactly as any reporter should. She was transparent about her views and did not hide the fact that she was an Obama supporter. As a journalist, you can favor whatever you want – there is no rule saying you can’t have an opinion. But if you want to report the facts, it is purely unethical to allow those views to taint your report. Mayhill understood her responsibility and submitted the quotes verbatim.

To further her influence, Mayhill recorded Bill Clinton denouncing Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum for his article on Mr. Clinton. Clinton had no idea 61-year-old Fowler was a journalist – she technically isn’t, with no formal training. Everyone with a cell phone is a journalist these days, however, and nothing is really “off the record” anymore. If you are in the public spotlight, especially in the realm of politics, you should know by now that anything you say and do will eventually end up on the Internet. No one can hide anymore, and for a journalist, that concept can be refreshing. For everyone else, maybe not so much.

It infuriates me that anyone had the nerve to threaten such an honest person for reporting accurately. We are not meant to be cheerleaders for one side or the other, we are meant to prepare you with enough information to make your own educated decision. It is not our job as journalists to tell you what you want to hear. It is our job to tell you the truth, regardless of whether you want to hear it or not.


Baby Band Radiohead

I recently read the 2007 New York Times article “Radiohead, Big Enough to Act like a Baby Band.” I was especially intrigued by this story because I hold so much respect for Radiohead already, so I find it interesting when they find their way into the mainstream media. The story discusses the band’s decision to allow fans to name their price for their album “In Rainbows.” It’s an interesting concept and, in my opinion, an extremely intelligent decision. People rarely pay for music these days – and they are especially not getting it in record stores anymore. They are buying or pirating music online and Radiohead chose to appeal to that market.

Radiohead has such a loyal fanbase that they can afford to act like a “baby band,” or one that is trying to make it big by offering consumers music and merchandise for little to no cost – a good way to get their sound out there. As the article states:

Without a label or a fixed price, and not quantifying its sales for pop charts, “In Rainbows” is selling copies, being avidly played and making the world pay attention.

This is a genius business decision that matches their genius sound. Radiohead was playing stuff off “In Rainbows” before the album was even completed, during their 2006 tour. Sure, you could pre-order the $80 package complete with bonus tracks, vinyls, and merchandise, but you could also purchase all 10 tracks at good quality for 90 cents. Radiohead recognizes that if people want to, they can easily get recorded music for free online. It really comes down to the music, and if people are willing to pay for it, they will.

Another snippet from the story reads:

The fact that fans have paid to get “In Rainbows” is a measure of their eagerness to keep Radiohead writing songs. And the deeper underlying reality is that fans have always set the value of music. They are the ones to decide, yes or no, to buy an album, a single or a concert ticket at the available price. Radiohead’s digital-era flexibility allows more supporters to make themselves known.

It’s refreshing to know that some artists out there are most concerned with their music and their fans, which is what seems to be the underlying motivation for Radiohead to be acting the way they are.

Although, Radiohead just released their newest album this year, “King of Limbs” and they did not present the same offer to fans. Perhaps the four year gap has kept fans eager and waiting for new music, therefore making them willing to pay for the album in full. It’s definitely not for lack of functionality – “In Rainbows” was incredibly successful. It’s something I have contemplated and speculated on, but cannot seem to come up with a solid answer.

My independent media professor invited William A. Jacobson, creator of conservative blog “Legal Insurrection,” to our class a few days ago. My own personal politics aside, it was refreshing to see a speaker with a different perspective than 95% of the Ithaca College campus welcomed into a classroom. The stereotypical Conservative is often looked at negatively, many for good reason – take Bill O’Reilly or other FoxNews stars, for example. The heart of Jacobson’s discussion was not to stuff his politics down our throats, but rather to explain what it takes to start up and maintain a successful blog, regardless of the content.

I was personally pleasantly surprised by Jacobson, who also serves as a law professor at Cornell University. I had checked out his blog prior to the class. He is open and transparent about his viewpoints and holds nothing back when discussing politics. For a journalist, I know less about politics than I maybe should. That is not to say that I’m completely ignorant, but I have a lot to learn and am quite undecided about several hot button issues. I find it helpful to look at issues from all perspectives, so I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from someone with a different viewpoint than many people I am surrounded with every day. I very well might vehemently appose what Jacobson is saying, but at least there is someone out there, who I can respect, saying it.