Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fab without a fortune!

Are you a style-conscious woman trying to stretch your wardrobe dollars to the max? Well, the Budget Babe wants to show you what to buy and how to wear it by keeping you on-trend for less. The Budget Babe has been around for about four years, providing an outlet for fashion savvy bloggers to connect viewers with celebrity-chic outlets for less.

They take outfits that features high end designers like Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, and others, and find affordable look-a-likes down to every accessory through sites like, H&M and JC Penny.

So, now it really is possible to dress like a star.

"Public" broadcasting

Last night the Park School of Communication's Distinguished Visitor Series featured social media entrepreneur and sister to the founder of Facebook, Randi Zuckerberg. As a woman who has first-handedly influenced the way we communicate in our everyday lives, it was great to hear that some of the trends in social media exist to pick up the slack of commercial media outlets by seeking to give voices to those who go unheard by commercial America.

"Social media is a conversation, whether you're doing a broadcast or a news article," she said. "The days of passive consumption are over. People want to fee like they are engaged in the content."

In a time when even public broadcasting programs are succumbing to the ways of the commercial media by providing right or left wing biases, social media is filling that void. One of the main reasons social media is becoming such leading force in our culture is because it gives people that voice as well as the option to participate in the news—something that is changing the future of journalism forever.

Zuckerberg said another trend is the preference of people to tell real, authentic stories. This feature of social media has altered the way people want to consume their news; they want to know whats going on behind the scenes. Although this ultimately diminishes the journalistic principle of transparency, it gives the audience 'real person, real time' commentary. It confirms to consumers that people behind the news are not robots like it often seems in corporate news outlets whom are forced to mark all biases. Even those reporting the news have opinions, and this is something that independent outlets and social media both succeed at expressing.

An article by Fair said, "what is needed is a call for public broadcasting to fulfill its mission, bringing independent, provocative programming that features voices ignored or marginalized by the commercial media." But according to Randi Zuckerberg, an important element that is missing from all news media that social media provides, is the idea of reaching people on their own turf.

"You need to reach people where they are, and where they are is social media," she said. "Social media brings content to people who would not have seen that content makes it live on and on."

So, when both the public and commercial broadcastings are falling short of their obligations to "see America whole, in all its diversity," it is satisfying to know that an arena exists for Americans and people all over the world to go and can express their voices that would otherwise go unheard. Social media, in all of its meanings, is single handedly connecting our world.

Friday, November 25, 2011

"Can't be tamed"

On her 19th birthday, Miley Cyrus posted this video of her song, "Liberty Walk," which featured news coverage of the Occupy movement happening around the world. By doing so, she wanted to show her support for people standing up for what they believe in. Montage scenes of protestors and pepper-spraying police officers are displayed throughout the three minute video to lyrics such as, "It's a liberty walk, walk. Say goodbye to the people who tied you up... free yourself, slam the door, not a prisoner anymore."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Its a 'dog eat dog' world

On the first Thanksgiving, "The Pilgrims had dinner with the Native Americans, and then they all left and got in line at Best Buy." Or at least thats what Ellen DeGeneres told me. And... she has a point. Thanksgiving is often cut short by the anxiousness people have for those Black Friday sales that kick off at midnight, or better yet, 9pm Thanksgiving night. But when the large, dominating retail stores open at 9pm and receive free promoting from all major news outlets, how is it possible for small businesses to compete and survive?

In looking for some of the best Black Friday deals, I haven't seen beyond the names of 'WalMart,' 'Best Buy,' 'Kohls,' and many other the other dominating names in the retail industry. Even here on Lauren Conrad's blog she has the best "Deals & Steals: The Best Black Friday Sales," which include Best Buy, H&M, and an online boutique, What about the others, though?

My point is that it's not just in news that we see the big dogs outrunning the individuals or smaller outlets; we see it in retail as the system gets more and more monopolized. Black Friday means bitter competition in the retail industry, and for small businesses, this requires larger promotions, deals and an extra day devoted to reeling in customers: Small Business Saturday. This is a day, similar to Cyber Monday, where the attention is on small business owners.

So, moral of the story: don't forget about the small businesses because once they go down, corporate conglomerates will continue to monopolize this country. For the economies sake and for our sake, lets do what we can to keep that from happening.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sound Bong

A friend is gaining attention from many independent artists through her music blog, The Jillboard. She began blogging in high school when she saw the emergence of music blogs and thought, "I could do better." This seems to be a similar quality that leads to the start up of many independent blogs, whether it be music or hard news. When the big guys aren't doing what we want them to do, we disassociate ourselves and find an alternative. For her, seeing and hearing "WooHoo" by Christina Aguilera was the motive behind her first blog post, and ever since, the venting, sharing and promoting of music from hop-hop to rap to electric has been continuously flowing. She has established a committed fan base by promoting herself through word of mouth, utilizing social media and You Tube, and creating bumper stickers with sayings like, "Sound Bong- The" She has one advertisement from Full Sail University, which doubtfully creates a solid revenue stream, but as the blog continues to progress it is possible that we will see more and more. Until then, she is doing everything in the right direction to make her blog go viral.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Queen of Rage"

Huffington Post reported on the recent outrage about the cover of Newsweek's portrayal of presidential candidate, Michelle Bachmann. The magazine chose an unflattering, bug-eyed photo of the conservative candidate—what conservative blogger, Michelle Malkin, calls a "photo cliche about conservative female public figures." 

Bachmann is a legitimate candidate in the campaign and this is an example of how mainstream news can consciously affect the public's opinion of an issue or in this case, a public figure. 

Police in riot gear swept into Occupy Oakland

USA Today published photos of Police ordering protestors to leave... even the most peaceful. Protestors mediated while police waiting for the signal to evict the demonstrators from the area.

The caption of this picture says, "An Occupy protestor is handcuffed by police." But are those really handcuffs? To me, at least, the object around his wrists look more like zip ties.

As the allegations for violence surrounding the Oakland site continue to grow, the media is capturing images that help to solidify the fact that police, themselves, are contributing. At the city's first raid, police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to disperse the activists and last week, there was a murder. As the Huffington Post reported, there is no evidence that the occupiers are to blame for the murder. For news media like the LA Times, though, their report of the incident quotes a police officer saying that the shooting victim is tied to Occupy Oakland. They even go as far as to say, "The city was using the incident as further justification to raze the encampment." 

The difference in the reporting is the opinion it creates in the readers mind. The images and the difference in reporting can either creates empathy for protestors and opposition toward police or give the Occupy movement a negative connotation that necessarily does not exist. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

'Paterno' Scandal?

As an entertainment and celebrity junkie, even I can say that it takes no sports goo-roo to know what's been going on in the world of sports these past few days. No, I do not watch college football and no, I could not have told you who the Penn State football coach was if you asked me last week. Within four days though, I've learned that Joe Paterno has been leading the Nittany Lions football team to victory since 1966, he has been under fire for how he handled sexual abuse allegations against an assistant coach, and now, that he has been fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees.

How do I know this, you may ask? Or better yet, where's the real story? Well, the real story is buried beneath the hundreds of stories, headlines, tweets and Facebook statuses written about this 'American sports icon' who has reached the end of his professional career. In a Huffington Post article, 'Sandusky Scandal: National Media Misses The Mark', Dan Vecellio points out that amidst this breaking news, the "business" of journalism bypassed the journalistic obligation to tell a story and report the news.

Vecellio said, "It is making up the story that will sell the most papers, get the most page views, accrue the most Twitter followers and make the most money in the end." And with a big name like Paterno, it is no wonder that the real story regarding accusations of assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, sexually abusing young boys, isn't making headlines.

Media corporations are going straight for the big name because they know that is what the public (sadly) is most interested in. For this reason, 'The Downfall of American Icon' unfortunately seems to be taking precedence over the young boys abused or the charges Sandusky is facing.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Archiving Perez

Thursday's class with William Jacobson talking about his blog, Legal Insurrection, made me realize the commitment it takes to run a successful blog—finding ways around web controls, deciding on advertising, consistency in blogging, monitoring comments, linking to others, updating the site format, etcetera, etcetera. Although the popularity of his blog may only be a fraction of what blogs like The Drudge Report, Glenn Greenwald on and others have, he is still successful at bringing in revenue and maintaining a solid reader base.

Jacobson took our class through the process of how his blog progressed, which inspired me to investigate just how Perez Hilton has evolved and become one of the most established go-to celebrity news sites garnering nearly 300 million hits a month.

It turns out, that the blog, which launched in 2004, was originally named The mind behind Perez Hilton, Mario Lavandeira, began using Blogger just as Jacobson did. (I wonder if Perez faced the same problems with Google controls as Jacobson experienced.) The content of the archived blog is celebrity gossip, just like, and it appears to be just as critical, subjective and outrageously opinionated as it is today—characteristics that have made his blogging so viral. He takes what major celebrity/entertainment news sites report on and twist them into a perspective that is either comical, emphasizes the severity of an issue or brings awareness to the issue.

Another web archive from a little over a year after the original site began, resembles the most recent PerezHilton blog. By this time, he had changed the host site for the blog and there is still no advertising on the site, which is something that he heavily relies on for revenue today. From the start though, he has embedded links to names, photo reels, other blogs, and tags to articles—something that Jacobson says is key to getting hits on your site.

As an independent blogger, Perez Hilton has been recognized by major entertainment news conglomerates. He has really established himself in the entertainment business, even creating his won record label. He creates a community on his blog among the viewers by allowing them to contribute to song "cover contests," comment on posts, and be active members on the site. What I question, though, is, because he has been become so recognized and invested in mainstream institutions, is he still acting as an independent?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Komedian vs. Kardashian

Halloween was upstaged this year by the news of Kim Kardashian filing for divorce from hubby Kris Humphries after just 72 days of marriage. It was not only a trending topic on E! news, Perez Hilton, social media sites and all of the large media outlets, but some celebrities even escaped to their personal blogs to express their alarm about the alleged "marriage sham." 

On his blog, Take a Stroll...with Rob Delaney, the comedian announced his plan to sue Kardashian to stop her divorce from Humphries. And as if that didn't come as a large enough shock, he also plans to sue Ryan Seacrest (Exec Producer of the show), E! Entertainment Television, and Comcast for their promoting of what he calls a "sham marriage." 

Delaney has a standing argument and even has other celebrities backing him up. Actress, Zooey Deschanel posted an interview with Delaney on her blog HelloGiggles that also brings a comedic aura to the breaking news.  

Delaney's ability to propel this entertainment news in a comedic way reflects Jon Stewart's technique on The Daily Show. Comedy in general, acts as a bumper for comedians to deliver an issue in the boldest, rawest and more obscene way. Thus, using comedy to display news is successful because by going to the extreme, it grabs an audience's attention. It gets them to understand an issue for what it really is and in a way that they will not receive from major news conglomerates.  

He says, "It is alleged that Kim Kardshian was paid $18 million to participate in her own wedding. I feel like schools could use that money. Or health clinics in areas hit hardest by the recession. Or Pizza Hut. Or Bernie Madoff. Or my uncle Mitchell, who is a convicted sex offender making a living selling Percocet to the elderly in Rhode Island."

His comedian tang does not take away from the argument, though. It would not be unlikely for a dominating media conglomerate like E!, or a starlet like Kim Kardashian to delve into an opportunity that could both profit her and the network so favorably. Between the E! special: Kim's Fairytale Wedding, the upcoming season of Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and all the other promotions that have surrounded this marriage coming together and now falling apart, it would not seem out of the ordinary for a paycheck to be at the end of it. 

However, Kim's mother, Kris Jenner, came out with a statement today with E! News arguing this speculation saying that the couple did not make a dime off the wedding, but rather, spent millions. What is interesting though, is how quickly their image has transformed just in the past 24 hours from a heartbroken couple to "PR masterminds." 

The network also made a statement defending itself and producers whom have been targeted for having ulterior motives in this situation saying, "the Kardashians have authentically lived their lives on camera for a long time" and this was just another one of those instances.

And lastly, Kim resorted to her blog on Celebuzz to address fans about her decision to file for divorce. "I got caught up with the hoopla and the filming of the TV show that when I probably should have ended my relationship, I didn’t know how to and didn’t want to disappoint a lot of people." ...tis' the life of a work-a-shop-a-reality-tv-holic. 

So what does all of mean? This means we should prepare ourselves for Kardash-omination because we will be seeing even more of the Kardashians as they come to the defense for Kim. Something ironic about the situation though, is the fact that Ryan Seacrest was one of the first to break the news. E! reportedly held "emergency meetings" the day the news was broken to discuss how to "proceed" as a result of the shocking news about one of the stations top profiteers. For being a family so embedded in the network and for how much leverage they have gained as a result, it makes even me, an E! Entertainment and Kardashian goo-roo, a little skeptical of the alleged ulterior motives. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

"We Are the Fourth Estate"

Amy Goodman talks about Democracy Now! arrests and the settlement she and her producers received for their September 1 unlawful arrest at the Republican Convention.

The videos of the arrest became the most watched YouTube videos within the first two days of the Republican Convention. They went viral and because of the major grassroots response, they were released from jail.The lawsuit claimed a violation of the First Amendment rights of Amy and her producers as well as unlawful arrest under the Fourth Amendment.

There was no probable cause or legal basis for the arrest, but most importantly the violation of the First Amendment right of journalists to cover the news. You can't get news if journalists aren't there to cover it.

Goodman said: "We are not there for the state, we are the fourth estate. We are not there to cover for power, but to cover power and to cover the movements that create static and make history. And we've got to get out there on the front like and we cannot be inhibited from that."

Strength in Empowerment

As we've seen from other civil movements, the corporate system does not like when the people confront them as flawed. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now said, "Corporate America has a problem when so many people have been disempowered and left out of the system...they see all of these issues as linked." Therefore, the extent to which the Occupy Wall Street movement has grown, she said resembles that of a civil rights movement.

Goodman said, "These people are very clear about what they want, and what they want is an end to the corporate coup d'etat that has been carried out...people work by consensus, consider issues and decide what to do next."

She related this coming together of people in the Occupy Wall Street movement to the unity that was created by Asmaa Mahfouz in Egypt. One person's plea amounted to a civil revolution that ousted Mubarak from Presidency. Similarly, the empowerment that Occupy Wall Street is giving its people has the potential of amounting to an American Revolution that could change the role of corporate America in our lives forever.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gaddafi's death sends media into a 'frenzy'

Interesting article by the Huffington Post posted today about the different approaches taken by media outlets in the reporting of Gaddafi's killing. While major news conglomerates held off until NATO and Libyan sources confirmed the statement of his death, Al Jazeera was seemingly the only big outlet to say definitively that Gaddafi had been killed. By 8a.m. ET Al Jazeera was running a banner that read, "GADDAFI KILLED." It wasn't until an hour later, that The New York Times began running the alert.

Also in the reporting of his death, the footage varies. MSNBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, ABC News and the larger outlets all chose images that captured the celebration of the Libyan people and/or an image of Gaddafi prior to his death. Few outlets, like Al Jazeera and New York Post displayed the graphic images of his death.

Whether one image was better than another, however, isn't the argument. Major news sources waited to go with the story until it was broken by a competitor, meanwhile Al Jazeera was already showing video of the dead body. One tweet read, "Will others go with story now that NYT says it has confirmed #Gaddafi death? CNN still holding off slightly."

Al Jazeera really took the lead on the reporting of this event giving viewers content that no other outlets were providing... so kudos to them!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Enslaved Women

It took one brave woman, compelled to free women of the conventional childbearing obligation, to spark a movement that would liberate woman for generations to come. Despite opposition, Margaret Sanger stimulated women to think for themselves by advocating the prevention of contraception.

Her publications, Woman Rebel and Birth Control Review were seen as filthy and obscene because a woman preventing herself from becoming pregnant was considered a violation of the laws of both God and Nature at the time. Law officials ceased her publication and exiled her from the country, but her dissent magazines instilled a term into its readers minds that would be passed on for over a century to come: birth control.

Introduced in 1914, this umbrella term means any technique or method used to prevent fertilization or to interrupt pregnancy at different stages. Now, in the year 2011, birth control has for the most part lost the negative connotation it once held. Abortion, however,  still lingers in legal, ethical and religious debate. Contraception is still banned in several states and there is still a stigma against women who end a pregnancy through abortion. 

Sanger fought for working class women who often had no idea how to avoid becoming pregnant. Nowadays, women have the options at their fingertips. Places like Planned Parenthood offer contraception, education, services and examinations to any women who seeks their help, even teens. Planned Parenthood receives about $350 million each year in government grants and contracts on the local, state and federal levels, which allows women to take precautionary measures against pregnancy. 

Sanger sparked the movement for birth control, witnessed changes being made and watched the movement succeed, but the fight for women was hardly over. There are now organizations like NOW (The National Organization for Women) who take action to further solidify the accomplishments made by Sanger. With 500,000 contributing members, the organization exists to strengthen women equality, and more specifically, to secure abortion, birth control and all reproductive rights. With the actions they take, such as calling out the Department of Human and Health Services, they encourage members to "take action" themselves by donating or writing a letter to further enforce the work they do.

NOW even has a section criticizing women representation, or lack there of, in the mainstream media titled, "NOW's Media Hall of Shame." In one post about Columnist Dan Savage and comedian Marc Maron, NOW's analysis said: "Political topics and satirical humor have always gone hand-in-hand, but joking about the sexual assault of anyone is in no way amusing. Savage and Maron made it very clear that they have different political views from Bachmann and Santorum, but that gives them no right to fantasize about these candidates being the targets of aggressive, unwanted sex."

NOWs founders address the impact of the media on women's lives and for this reason, fight for media justice for women.

In sum, the legacies of Sanger's accomplishments in the Birth Control Movement and toward women empowerment live on in progressive feminist outlets that exist today. Like Sanger did, these sites don't just get mad, they take action!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Susan Faludi Flops

Susan Faludi's lecture on "9/11: Myth, Media and Gender," was a let down for me. Although she may be admired as a feminist author and journalist, I think Faludi consciously fails to look beyond how just women are perceived or affected in this country; if she did she would recognize the greater social and cultural implications that events like 9/11 have on our nation as a whole.

For one instance, I personally did not understand her analysis of the relationship between the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the backlash it had on women, and King Philip's War. The gender implications that arose from an event in the 1600s to an event that occurred in the 21st century do not have any causation relationship. Given that women didn't even gain rights until the almost 1900s, there is no surprise that women were denounced as helpless and weak. Over 400 years later though, that is no reason to still believe that women were perceived as weak and dependent of men during a time of fear and need. The 9/11 attacks shattered our nation as a whole, not just the female gender.

"Men being strong relies on women being weak," Faludi said. But, really, that gives no description to what being "strong" is.  9/11 was a day that our country unified, both in grief and in heroism. Both men and women were victims and heroes of the 9/11 attacks. Whether it was a man or woman that died on the plane, in an office, or in a rescue attempt, the impact it had on our society was equally as chilling.

Another point she made was that women were denounced as soon as they started questioning the government about 9/11. This observation is biased in nature because in the case of questioning government, it is not just women who are wrong for doing so. For example, independent media outlets are frowned upon for their uncensored criticism and questioning of the government. The government is threatened by anyone who questions their intelligence or motives and the Wikileaks case with Julian Assange is a prime example of that.

Faludi said prior to 9/11, America was seen as a nation "not vulnerable  to attack." That day symbolized the shattering of American invincibility and contrary to what Faludi believes, a call for greater domesticity was the least of the cultural implications it had on our nation. She says the media didn't respond to the actual act of terrorism, but rather the cultural implications the attacks had such as "single women rushing to the alter" or "real men bringing back the bacon and women heating it up." Is that really what reflection of 9/11 has come to? She says the magnification of "manly men" in the United States came as a result of the attacks, but what defines a "manly man"? Chivalry went down in history years ago and we are in an age where women seek as high of and education and lifestyle as men. So, it is no longer pertinent to denounce male strength, as Faludi does, because there is no need for it in a culture where women are strong, independent, and capable of holding titles of power as they do today.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where the Ethics Lay

It was sophomore year when citizen journalism and blogging were deprecated for their lack of ethics, editorial accuracy and objectivity. It is now one year later, junior year, and it is the mainstream media conglomerates that we are criticizing for their slanted news coverage, profit-seeking intentions, and conscious efforts to influence public opinion. So, at which point am I, the student, suppose to fully understand where to draw the line between mainstream media and grassroots media?

In Dan Kennedy's article, "Is internet populism destined for corporate ruin?" he poses the question, "if everyone is shouting, can anyone be heard?" This is true of the direction the media is going large in part to the internet—no longer do readers and listeners sit back and passively receive whatever the media is feeding them. The internet has activated the people formally know as the audience, and it is enabling them to contribute to the online blog-o-sphere. They now have the opportunity, and are using it to their advantage, to talk back and participate in the news.

As a result of mobilizing the intelligence of the audience, more and more content producers are added to the mix. Being a 'content producer' has become sort of a vague term due to the effects of the internet.  The role of a 'content producer' nowadays doesn't require an office or a title. As Hagit Limor, President of the Society of Professional Journalists, said, content no longer just comes from corporate headquarters, you can get story ideas and content from your next door neighbor.

Limor discussed the ethics of the online blog-o-sphere and how you need to be able to weed out the good from the bad. As president of one of the nations leading journalism organizations dedicated to free practice of journalism and high standards of ethical behavior, she herself considers citizen journalists and independent media outlets as equals in the professional world of journalism. The organization aims to protect the First Amendment right to the freedom of speech and of the press, but ironically it is more often than not that large media conglomerates fail to uphold this right. Instead, it is the independent outlets that adhere to the true role of the Fourth Estate and not only act as the gatekeepers of information, but serve the public interest by taking advantage of all journalists rights. As Limor said, it takes going that extra mile to deliver the information that other sources aren't (or won't) give to the public. Independent media outlets go this extra mile.

But, how do you decipher the truth when there is such a huge influx of information? The fact of the matter is, the public doesn't trust journalism anymore and sadly, who can blame them? Large media conglomerates are starving for revenue, so they withhold information that ultimately, the public has a right to know. It is the independent media sources that are going outside of the box to leak, deliver and report on real content that the large media outlets aren't telling us.

So, in contradiction to last year's ethics class, my skepticism is no longer of citizen journalists, online bloggers or other indy outlets, but instead is aimed at the intentions of the mainstream media. After all, there is no room for checkbook journalism in honest journalism, and its the 'big guys' like CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and others who are cashing in the biggest checks.