Journalism. For or Against?

ct-mizzou-reporters-protest-edit-1111-20151110

Jaime Kedrowski / Missourian

By Ruby Samuels

It was late afternoon, right in the middle of midterms and the red-eyed students in my sociology class were just getting into the topic of the day: mass media’s negative influence on social movements. We were not talking about “fake news,” Breitbart or Alex Jones radio. We were talking about the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the four other “corporate” media companies that we were informed have been purveyors of skewed information both nationally and internationally for over a century.  

As I sat back and listened to my fellow classmates, some of whom are social activists themselves, speak about the media as a rabid and biased generalized other, I was taken aback. They described unwelcome “swarms” of reporters descending on protests that they participated in. They spoke about how even the most openly liberal and anti-Trump reporters are empowering the president by shining a spotlight on his misdeeds. They spoke of how the Women’s March, the largest single-day protest in American history, only reached front page news because it was all about Trump, the man whose name and hair gets people to read articles. Therefore, they said, protests that don’t explicitly resist the president are not covered. They spoke of how the widespread negative coverage of the antifa movement halts progress against white nationalism. Lastly, they said that journalists cover protests as though they are isolated events, which limits the information that readers can absorb about the political and social context that gave rise to the movement in the first place. usa-new-york-daca

A lot of the points that were made in class this week are valid, but I am still grappling with how journalists could be so mistrusted by college students in an era full of headlines that seem to be on their side (in opposition to the current administration). Media may be somewhat inherently  biased– after all, reporters are human beings too– and everyone should learn to be a critical consumer, but I’ve always thought that journalism was a noble and necessary part of democracy. How else can everyone else, who spend most of their waking hours working in their own fields, be made aware of the political, cultural and economic events that shape, however abstractly,the world they live in?

In class, we have also read about zines and citizen journalists with their own publications and distribution methods, who are openly biased and seek to inform the public of their cause. But we still need people whose whole job is to report the news, who are trained in a professional setting to research, report and write about events that their personal ideologies aren’t already tangled up in. Don’t we?

Yes, we have fantastic, well trained, full-time reporters like Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! and Rachel Maddow, who take an activist approach to journalism. But we still need sources that ride the line between parties, that will be listened to by more than the liberals in the preacher’s choir, that can’t be called fake news so easily.

The book we were assigned to read for class that day is called “The Whole World is Watching,” named after the chant of anti-war demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The author, Tom Gitlin, mainly talks about just that– Vietnam protests and the way that major news organizations allied with the Johnson Administration’s pro-war agenda to frame the anti-war protesters as a bunch of riotous hippies. I never got the sense that Gitlin intended to convince his readers that media is the enemy. He just seems to have wanted readers to realize that whatever they read, it’s not the whole truth.

In any case, times have changed. Journalists are still part of an elite intellectual class, which they supply with one version of the truth. As Gitlin wrote: “Simply by doing their jobs, journalists tend to serve the political and economic elite definitions of reality” (pg. 12). But these days, at least, journalists also uncover stories that politicians and certain members of the elite would rather not be shared. Journalists, however, can’t take sides, even when covering injustice and the movements that hope to be the solution. As the New York Times wrote in May:

“The question is which approach is more effective — when The Times looks as if it has joined the resistance, or when it excavates facts without prejudice? In the legal system, it’s the difference between an investigator and a prosecutor….Some readers, alarmed over a Trump presidency, want the newsroom in full combat mode”

article-0-18B3D5B600000578-417_634x425

I think that recent events show that journalists are not turning their cheek to social movements. Six reporters, for example, were charged with felonies and arrested (four of whom acted even after seeing the consequences faced by the first two) for covering inauguration day protests in January,  under the premise that they were violating a Washington D.C. law against rioting. Just a few weeks ago, reporters repeated again and again the date of the deadline for DACA recipients to renew their two-year period of legal status. And what about coverage of the protests that have nothing to do with president Trump?

I’m still left with questions about how to go about doing journalism in a way that maintains the reporter’s role as the white helmet in a war of words. How do journalists cover the news in a way that reveals the structural inequity that leads to protests while also revealing the truth of the other side? How do journalists remain truly unbiased, or reveal their biases without losing readers?  What I do know is the less  that social activists trust the press, the less free the press can be to uncover the stories that those activists  and everyone else need to know. 

Advertisements

What We’re Reading: January 17, 2012

Compiled by The Nine Ways of Knowing Staff

Related to anything in this list? No. Is it cool anyway? Yes.

Curious why Wikipedia is down? More information on two bills that have web-lovers furious (The New York Times)

It’s not 3 words 8 letters in every language, say “I love you” in 30 languages (Ecosalon)

Taylor Swift on dating red flags (The Berry)

No! The late great Elizabeth Taylor cannot be played by Lindsay Lohan! Or even worse, Megan Fox (Celeb Dirty Laundry)

Yet another great addition to The New York Time’s Modern Love column (The New York Times)

Want to clean out your itsy bitsy dorm closet? (The Frisky)

Image Courtesy of FIGUREatively Speaking

I Was Arrested Protesting for Occupy Wall Street: An Interview with Justine Lyons

Following are excerpts from an interview with Justine Lyons BC ’13 about her involvement with Occupy Wall Street. She was one of 700 protesters arrested at the Brooklyn Bridge on October 1st.

Interview conducted by Sarah Lipkis, Photography Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Nine Ways of Knowing: In your opinion what does Occupy Wall Street (OWS) stand for?

Justine Lyon: At the moment, I think it’s essentially a general movement in support of greater economic opportunity and equality in the US. It’s a cliché, but the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer. The middle class is disappearing, but what does our government do? Establish corporate personhood, give tax breaks to people with the most money, and put the tax burden onto the people who are struggling. At the same time, they’re cutting funding to schools, hospitals and a bunch of other important social services. OWS is the rest of us saying that our system isn’t a fair one, and that it’s time for our government to start looking out for the people who elected them rather than the corporations that finance their campaigns.

Protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge

NWK:Do you think it’s a productive means to accomplish a goal?

JL: I think the verdict is still out on that one, especially seeing as the movement is currently becoming more focused and establishing itself. If nothing else, it certainly can’t hurt.

NWK: Is the “occupation” relevant to the life of Barnard and Columbia students?

JL: If you have student loans I think you should be there! I know that there are some very privileged students here, but at the same time when the economy collapses because we destroyed the middle and working class, they might not be so privileged anymore. OWS represents the 99% who aren’t the richest 1% of the U.S. population, so I would pretty much say yes, it applies to the majority of us.

NWK: Why did you go to the Occupy Wall Street rally at the Brooklyn Bridge?

JL: I went because I wanted to show my support for the idea behind the protest, and to support the people who are actually spending a lot of time doing the occupying. I’ve only actually been able to make it down to Liberty Square once so far, so it was a good opportunity to be a part of it.

NWK: What did you hope to accomplish by going?

JL: Well, the point of the march was to make a statement; to show that the movement is growing and that we are a powerful force in support of social and economic justice in the United States.

NWK: Can you describe the general mood/feeling of the protest?

JL: I got there late and found a couple friends of mine already marching, but everyone was in high spirits. People were energetic, some were even chanting. When we were waiting around the bridge before going onto the roadway, people started to get restless and then when we started onto the road itself, everyone got really excited. We started walking faster and everyone was yelling, and people who had gone on the pedestrian walkway were jumping down onto the road to join us.

NWK: What where you thinking while you were a part of Occupy Wall Street?

Probably something along the lines of, “Yeah, this is great! I’m so glad I got out of bed to come here! Am I going to get arrested? Nah, there are way too many of us, that’s silly. This is awesome!”
NWK: In your opinion, what was the rationale behind protesting on the Brooklyn Bridge?

JL: It’s a really public, touristy spot. From what I understand, it was the original intention to only go on the pedestrian walkway, but because there were so many of us there was a major bottleneck and we were getting restless, so we ended up on the road as well. Either way, it’s a really good spot to get publicity and spread the word to people who may not live in the city or know what’s going on here.

NWK: Can you describe what happened that led to your arrest and what you were thinking as it was unfolding?

An ariel view of the protesters

JL: I ended up toward the front of the crowd when the police blocked us from walking any further on the bridge. From there they started picking people off to be arrested. At one point, we sat down and then stood up and then sat back down and then stood up again, trying to figure out what the best strategy was. We also could not hear the warning that the police “gave us.” I have no idea how they could have reasonably expected anyone to hear a dude speaking into a bullhorn over literally thousands of people yelling, but that’s a separate rant. When they started arresting people we thought that they were just taking a few random protesters to scare the rest of us back over the bridge. That was before we knew that they were netting us in from the other side as well. I was one of the early arrests; sometime around 4:15 would be my guess. I was at the front of the crowd and had linked arms with my friends, and eventually they came and arrested us.

NWK: What was it like being arrested? Can you elaborate on that experience?

JL: At first it was intimidating. I’d never been arrested before and there was this big scary group of men, who just so happened to be in uniform, coming at me. After the initial shock, I realized that even though I was being taken into custody I was surrounded by supporters. People on the pedestrian walkway above were taking pictures and/or filming and yelling encouraging messages to us from above, and the Lawyer’s Guild made sure to get everyone’s name and information. After actually being cuffed, everything moved much more slowly.

NWK: Is being arrested for OWS something you’re proud of ?

JL: I’ve heard that you’re not a true activist until you’ve been arrested for it, so I guess I am now! I’m all for a more even distribution of wealth and for ending corporate personhood, so I’m happy to have been arrested for that rather than something else.

NWK: How was jail?

JL: We never actually went to a jail; we were just in holding cells in various precincts in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I ended up at Midtown South, but getting there was absolutely ridiculous. After being cuffed and escorted away from the protest I sat on the bridge for over an hour before finally getting onto one of the MTA busses the NYPD borrowed to transport us all. We sat on the bus on the bridge for probably about 30 minutes before driving into and around downtown Brooklyn, back to Manhattan to go to the precinct in Chinatown, where we sat for about 20 minutes before driving to MTS, which is at 8th and 35th. We sat in that parking lot for another 40 minutes or so before going inside to be processed, which took at least another half hour. I was in handcuffs from about 4:15 to almost 10. Then they put fifteen of us into a little holding cell without enough seating for everyone. We had to be let out of the cell to use the bathroom, so those opportunities were sparse. Most of us hadn’t eaten since before the rally, which began at 3, so we kept asking the officers for food. We actually had to pay for our own water bottles. One woman was able to get out around 11:30 or so. They brought us McDonald’s at around 12:30 or 12:45; everyone gets a plain hamburger, a small order of fries and a small cup of soda. If you’re kosher, halal, vegetarian/vegan or in any way health conscious, you are out of luck because the NYPD had a contract with McDonald’s, and that’s just what you get. I drank two cups of soda and called it a dinner. Everyone else ate the food and felt sick. A few people got out a little before 1 A.M. and slowly, more of us were released. I was the third to last woman and fifth to last protester released from MTS and I got out at 3:30 A.M. A few fellow OWS supporters were still around to greet me, and I waited with them for everyone else. The last person got out at about 4 A.M. So the process was ridiculous, but I met some really cool people! Everyone was lovely, and we definitely kept ourselves entertained.

NWK: Do you think it was justified for the NYPD to arrest people who were protesting on the Brooklyn Bridge?

JL: No. And if their aim was to clear the bridge for traffic, it was also just plain stupid. The NYPD is claiming that we had a fair warning, but any reasonable person would not have expected anyone to hear that warning. The protest was entirely peaceful as well. There was no instigation or confrontation with the cops on our part. They allowed us onto the bridge, nettled us and arrested everyone, which blocked traffic for hours longer than it would have been blocked had we just been allowed to cross.

NWK: Why risk being arrested to go to the protest?

JL: I didn’t really think I was going to be arrested until it actually happened, to be honest. That being said, 12 hours in police custody is a small, although unpleasant, price to pay for lasting change.

NWK: Would you do it again?

If I knew how it would go down would I go to [the October 1st] protest again? Definitely! I marched and got arrested for a new cause and met some really great people doing it. I’m sure I’ll be at other OWS events and demonstrations in the future as well, although I’d kind of like to be on the other end if there are more mass arrests. I think it would be fun to figure out where the protesters were taken and wait to greet them outside.

NWK: When the protests finally end, what do you think it would have accomplished? And how does that make you feel knowing you where there and helped to accomplish something?

JL: If nothing else, they will have sent a message to our government that we’re not content with our current system that favors the richest and unfairly burdens everyone else, and I’m proud to have been a part of that message. But hopefully we’ll be able to mobilize beyond that and see a true shift in the priorities of our representatives toward people rather than humoring corporate greed.

Photos courtesy of Long Island Press and The Blaze

The Voices of Protest: The Stand Up Movement

By Olivia Hull

Are you woman enough?

It wasn’t exactly the Columbia student protests of ’68, but it was something. At noon last Thursday, a group of 5 or 6 disgruntled Barnard women held a small demonstration outside the entrance of the Diana building. The protest was in opposition to the new tuition policy announced by Dean Avis Hinkson , BC ’84, in an e-mail sent to the student body on October 5th. The group, led by Barnard juniors Hannah Goldstein and Naomi Roochnik, jumped up and down together, chanting “Stand up to Barnard!” and “Strong, Beautiful, Broke!” They passed out flyers outlining their demands, which included “immediate rescindment of the tuition policy” for all students already enrolled in the college, and “transparent policy-making in the future.” An online petition to redact the policy has 641 signatures.

The Facebook event counted more than 300 students among its attendees, but Roochnik didn’t expect many to show up. “There’s a culture of apathy at this school,” says Naomi Roochnik, who will graduate this year as a result of the modified policy. “People don’t even pretend to care. The most important thing, though, is that at least we tried.” Roochnik says she entered Barnard already planning to attend school part-time in her senior year. “I can’t afford school anymore,” she says. “I have to pay for college this year. My parents already said they couldn’t pay.” She’s disappointed in the way she feels Barnard has “nickel-and-dimed” her at every turn. “Even staying in housing over winter break used to be free, this year it’s $200. And parents have to pay $10 for Parent’s Weekend. I’m tired of being taken advantage of financially by Barnard.” Though she understands that the school has growing financial concerns, she, like many other students, feels the timing of the announcement was inconsiderate. “It’s dishonest, it’s deceitful, it’s just plain greedy,” she says.

“This policy is unfair to those who already have plans,” says Amelia Lembeck, a sophomore at Barnard. “They plan their semesters around taking fewer jobs, and having a job, or an unpaid internship. In those situations, there is no reason you should have to pay full-time.” Although she’s not affected personally, she says many of her friends will be affected. “They just can’t afford eight full semesters.”

Rachel Bronstein, BC’13, wasn’t planning on taking classes part-time either but she says the recent administration move has “lowered my faith in the Barnard community. It has affected the way I see Barnard.” At first, Bronstein says she was confused when she received the e-mail, because it came after students registered for fall classes. “I was shocked when it became clear that they expected us to change our plans,” she says. “It’s a common policy at other schools, but they could have given us some warning.“

Bronstein hopes the protest and petition will make an impression on the administration. “My hope is that they didn’t realize the effect that it would have on students,” she says. “To her credit, Dean Hinkson has seemed somewhat open to criticism. She thought it would affect only 20-50 students (the estimated number of students who take classes part time per semester). But it really affects the whole community. Most people know at least someone who will be affected by the change. In general it makes me feel like I’m valued more for the check I give Barnard than for my presence here.”

“Barnard isn’t showing that they care for students as students, but rather as people who can pay,” says Vanessa Thill, BC’13. Thill, who has been very involved in the Stand Up movement, says she hopes their demands will be heard. “It’s not meant to be antagonistic, but someone needs to stand up,” she says. “Taking from how they reacted to the outrage over the meal plan changes, I think they will listen. Barnard students are known as the movers and the shakers. They should expect us to fight back.”

Olivia Hull is a sophomore at Barnard and a Staff Writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

The Occupy Wall Street Cleanup

By Samantha Plotner

Thursday night, the Occupy Wall Street protesters faced eviction from Zuccotti Park, where they have been camped out for almost a month. Here is some documentation of the protestors’ efforts to clean up the park to avoid being thrown out the next morning. The morning brought good news, the New York Times reports. For now at least, the protesters will not be evicted from the park.

Everyone swept and collected trash, despite the rain.

The NYPD, lined up along the whole block.

Donated mops and brooms helped in the clean up effort.
An example of the “human microphone,” used as an intercom system in the park 
without the use of amplification.