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.