News this week

Prepare to feel sick to thy stomach.

First of all, you have to read about the horse meat in BK burgers in the UK, among other really, really gross (really worse!) ingredients. Still with me?

My state, Missouri, is considering some legislation that would require gun classes for first graders. First graders! We have a gun safety course combined with other outdoor lessons in some of our high schools called Outdoor Ed. It’s a gym elective, and everyone wants it because you don’t have to “dress out,” which is one of the most barbaric practices ever started in high schools anyway.

But it’s not for first graders, and it’s not even mandatory. This class would be, and it’s created by—you guessed it—the NRA. How did those gun lovers get to be so powerful anyway? This is so creepy, y’all. You might want to think about homeschooling—for this and many other reasons.

A 15-year-old band student who played during Obama’s inauguration was shot and killed near her school by gang members. Hadiya Pendleton herself wasn’t a gang member; she was a friendly and beloved member of the community. Do we really need much more evidence about how much our country suffers at the hands of gun violence? Does that fact that in only a month after Newtown, we still had over 600 people in our country killed by guns? How about this? Or this? Or a mom losing all four of her kids to gun violence?

On the slightly brighter side, here’s a piece from The Nation about how to end rape culture. Now the only hard part is getting it in legislation, eh, folks? That’s going to be hard to do when even Wikipedia calls rape culture a disputed theory. Whatever.

Did you hear about how some kids in a public school were shown a video of “ex-gay rehabilitation” as part of a state-approved health class curriculum? Thank goodness it’s since been pulled, but the fact remains that this video probably caused some damage to all of the kids who saw it—and made life harder for any gay kids in the school.

Speaking of garbage, check out what this Fox News idjut has to say about how women used to have it better than men before feminism because chivalry and chauvinism and misogyny in general are like soooo sexy. Head-desk.

And finally, dog owners in England must microchip their pooches by 2016 by law, which I think is probably a very good law that we could use here across the pond, too.

Future of Print Media is Bleak

When radio and television started broadcasting news, people were concerned about the future of print media.  However there was still room in the market for the newspaper.  This was still the case when the internet became commonplace in homes.  While many people go online for their news, others are still buying newspapers.  Experts say that this may change with the growing use of the iPad and smartphone devices.



Media experts are now predicting that people will continue to use three screens in the future.  These screens are their television, computer and smartphone.  Ipads and other tablet devices are expected to replace the computer in future decades.  It has been stated that while people like the convenience of the mobile phone, they still want big screens to watch television on.

It has been estimated that newspapers in the US will die out within the next five years.  Australian and UK newspapers have the potential to survive another ten years.  Only time will tell whether or not these estimations are accurate. 

The print industry needs to adapt by creating online editions of their product.  Many newspapers have already done this and are reaping the rewards.  Papers with both offline and online editions will capture the attention of both older and younger readers.  Older readers are likely to buy a physical paper while youth tend to search for their information online.  Instead of selling news information, papers need to make it available for free online.  They can then make money by selling advertising.  Papers that do this will have a better shot at surviving the digital age.

Yellow Pages Attempts to be More Sustainable

"Surprisingly, the Yellow Pages directories are still being used."

Ten or fifteen years ago when a person wanted the details of a business they would reach for the Yellow Pages.  Thanks to the internet this is no longer the case.  There is simply no need to flick through a ridiculously thick book for information when one can get it with the click of a mouse.  Unfortunately many businesses have failed to see that print is a dying medium.Surprisingly, the Yellow Pages directories are still being used.  It has been estimated that over 3 million small businesses in the United States advertise with them.  This has led to a large amount of paper being wasted at the Yellow Pages plant.  The business plans on cutting down its paper usage by 50% in the coming years.  They hope to do this by improving their manufacturing methods and by using leftover sawdust and lumber whenever possible.  The company is also planning to use soy-based, non-toxic inks, dyes and glues when printing the books.

The Yellow Pages brand has accepted that many consumers prefer to use digital services over a book.  Due to this they have created an online service which allows consumers to opt out of receiving the books in the future.  This of course will will further reduce the levels of paper the company is using.

While the attention their company is giving to their carbon footprint is commendable, they may be better off focusing on their online product.  Yellow Pages does have a website however it is not as popular as it could be.  With proper advertising and SEO techniques Yellow Pages has the potential to be even more successful. 

CNN's Show "Reliable Sources"

Have you watched CNN's show, "Reliable Sources?" It explores how media affect the stories they cover and how the news media covers stories in general. While a little on the "lightweight" side as far as criticism of the news media, it is nice to have a show on a mainstream media outlet dedicated to this topic.

 

The show started in 1992 and early on they seemed to focus on how the media was covering the Persian Gulf War. It is hosted by Howard Kurtz who interviews various reporters and others involved in the news media but he also often interjects his own perspective into the conversation. The show airs weekly at 11:00 a.m. EST and 8:00 a.m PST.

While I do find the show interesting, I often find myself "talking to" the television wishing they would delve into things more thoroughly and not be so lightweight. However, again I am glad to see a show on television which does at least openly admit the news media influences the news to such a degree that they actually create the news at times instead of just reporting on it.

 

It would be nice to see a show on an independent station that does not have news and is not owned by a company that has a news outlet (tall order I know). I think this is the only way we'd get the truth out about how the news media colors stories and point how they are in no way neutral of objective.

New York Times Puts Up Paywall

Digital subscribers now pay for high quality articles

 

Maybe we've gotten spoiled. We used to think nothing of paying for quality news. Back in the days of newsstands and paperboys, it made perfect sense for us to shell out a few quarters in exchange for a thick sheaf of inky paper that we'd read while waiting for the bus. Why on earth would we expect to get it for free?

Then the internet happened and everybody's expectation's changed. Suddenly information was available for free, everywhere, all of the time. Individuals would publish content just for themselves at no charge. We had armchair journalists and information hobbyists coming out of our ears. We had bloggers. Maybe it still made sense to pay for a newspaper subscription if you were old and stuff, but to pay for an article? On the internet? Preposterous!

Never mind that the content would be identical to the print copies of the paper. Never mind that quality news organizations would still need to pay their writers for quality work. This was the age of fluid news, and we wanted it all for free--from the New York Times, from the Wall Street Journal, from wherever.

Why so demanding all of a sudden? Was it because we already paid enough for our devices--our shiny new laptops, our tablets and our smartphones? Was it because we were already shelling out for 3G and Wi-Fi, for the right to browse the internet in all its freely flowing glory? None of those dollars went to the news, of course, but suddenly we felt entitled. And suddenly, the top-tier news felt compelled to charge.

Both the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have had paywalls guarding their highest quality articles. Now, the New York Times is putting one up too. Despite the savings from no longer needing to buy so much paper, most news corporations are seeing losses due to a lack of paying customers. Ad revenue only brings in so much, especially compared to the profits garnered from print ads. And so the best in news--who investigate from all over the world, who pay their contributors nicely--have to start charging at the door. 

I'm sure the New York Times's decision wasn't without at least some outcry. People would click a link to some juicy-sounding op-ed only to be prompted for a subscriber password. "Ridiculous!" they probably said. "I can read overstuffed opinions for free all over the net. I'm taking my lack of money elsewhere." But then there are those who shrugged, said, "okay," and paid up. 281,000 people, to be exact, in just three months. That's not a bad figure. The Times has even seen a slight increase in revenue, a recovery from the dip. 

And honestly, why we expect never to pay for content anywhere on the internet is a little baffling. Your parents paid for the right to read the paper every day. Free information is great and will continue to flourish, but if you're going to kick it new-old-school and emulate those iPad commercials by scanning articles on global politics while relaxing with your tablet, you'd better expect to pay your share. 

Illustrating Headlines

 

While we may not be doing much reading of the newspapers anymore, we can certainly do our share of misinterpreting them. I have always appreciated an easily misdirected headline--one that was concocted by a writer with a subtle sense of humor or maybe just an oblivious editor who needed to brush up on their double entendres. Headlines aren't an obsolete art, but they just don't pack the same punch as they used to. The layouts of our news sites--even the major, supposedly classy ones--are just so cluttered with ads and photos and other junk that the headline doesn't hold the same power it once did. It doesn't have the same weight online as it did in print, none of the same gravity or command. Maybe that's why illustrator Eric Wedum chooses to render his deliberately misinterpreted headlines as newspaper clippings.

Wedum runs the Tumblr blog F--k Yeah Headlines. Rather than a simple celebration of the best in news headlines like its title might suggest, the blog is actually a showcase of Wedum's own personal illustrations of the header snippets. Every weekday he chooses one particular headline, then sets about constructing a pun or a deliberate misunderstanding from it. The resulting illustrations are silly, smiley, and often quaint. They even match the aesthetic of old newspaper and magazine comics themselves in their wavering, bold lines and singular use of color. 

Some of the headlines come from Rejected Onion, a collection of story ideas that might have but didn't quite make it to the satire news site's front page. But the best ones are the ones created in absolute seriousness and then blown wildly apart from their original intended meaning. A conservative blog's concern about "rogue mail" at an air force base is rendered as a face-punching envelope taking on a bewildered pilot. The economist Krueger who was just appointed by the Obama administration translates into an image of several politicians welcoming the Nightmare on Elm St. villain into the cabinet. Some misreads are a little blunt (yes, we all laughed at the word "cockpit" at some point and yes, probing the inside of the moon sounds naughty) but for the most part they're wry and quietly clever. 

Wedum's only been at the headline drawing game for a few months--since February--but he's amassed quite a collection of news-inspired snippets. I'm always impressed by any cartoonist that can manage to turn out a work a day, especially with quality akin to these. Those who miss the style and goofy humor of the old world of comics--you know, those of you who own the complete New Yorker cartoon collection--will probably appreciate how Wedum has scavenged the old media for new laughs. It could be that a good headline isn't quite what it used to be--it could be that the art of the commanding intro snippet is dying like the rest of print media and getting replaced with weak and lengthy summaries in bold Arial--but at least we can mock the form on its way out. 

Morning Glory is Worth the Watch

Like No Strings Attached and Love and Other Drugs, Morning Glory has the very annoying premise that in order to be successful at work (or even just to be a not-so-successful person at work who just ends up being a workaholic, I guess?), a woman must sacrifice everything else in her life—from social outings to relationships to pretty much anything besides work itself. If that were the basis of the entire film, I would write it off and recommend that you not see it—as I did with the previous two.

But that’s really only a side-plot of the film. The main point of the movie is that its main character, played by Rachel McAdams, has to deal with a layoff after so many years of service invested into her news program—something that thousands of Americans have also dealt with lately, and a nice break from all of these stupid movies and TV shows about rich people that we’re fed daily—and find a new gig. She does, of course, but finds herself having to save a dying morning show in order to save her own livelihood in the process (spoilers ahead).

McAdams shines, as she normally does, as a plucky, ambitious new executive producer who has to deal with everything from door handles that don’t work to prima donna show hosts to sexual harassment from one of her stars—all on her very first day. Still on that first day, however, she proves her pluckiness by firing the lazy, sexual harasser, dealing with a thousand questions at her hurled at a fastball’s pace calmly and rather perfectly, and eventually bringing the show the ratings it needs to not only stay afloat for another year—but for her to even get an offer to serve as executive producer of another, much larger and widely-viewed network.

It really is an enjoyable, fun film, with plenty of humor, drama, and star talent. In addition to the lovely McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton shine as two unbearable characters, and Patrick Wilson serves as a love interest I could really take or leave. Ty Burrell of Modern Family is also perfectly cast as the perverted co-host whom McAdams cans on her first day. Unfortunately, McAdams doesn’t save the show all on her own; Ford sweeps in and saves the day by getting a big scoop that goes over the heads of all of the other networks. However, it is truly because of McAdams’ character’s work, and encouragement of the old curmudgeon that it all works out in the first place. Then, Ford’s character, despite his being the “third worst person in the world,” has to woo McAdams back to the network by swallowing his own pride in order to keep her, and the show, in his life.

It’s not the most exciting or original plot in the world, but it’s not bad, either. If you’re seeking a funny, semi-drama, semi-rom-com to pass the time with, this one is an enjoyable choice.

See Ya, Borders

This feels like one of those things where you want to scream “I told you so!” but you don’t really know who to scream it at. When the eReaders came out, I knew they would help usher out the joy of printed books, and though I still cling to the hope that they’ll never completely die out, here we are, with Borders, one of the biggest book chains in the country, closing its doors for good. This book chain, of course, also sold plenty of said electronic readers, leading, as many are saying, to its own destruction.

I’ve seen so many small bookshops take a cut—or even fully closing—in the past couple of years, and it’s nothing short of depressing. Yeah, I guess the eReaders cut down on paper waste and save trees, which is very important, but I just can’t stop mourning the loss of the handheld book.

Many people are insisting that it’s not going to become extinct—as I, myself, have been insisting all along, or at least for my own lifetime—but what if it does? What if we become a world where books are so rare they cost a fortune (or worse, we end up burning them for fuel a la The Day After Tomorrow)? Either way, you might want to head on over to your local Borders for some sales pretty soon.

Tell Arkansas Paper to Apologize

You know, newspapers and other printed media are already on the decline; perhaps papers should think twice before alienating the few readers they have left.

An editor from The Batesville Daily Guard of Arkansas should think about this in particular. When John Christopher Millican recently passed away, his obituary was sent in to be listed among the other peoples’ death announcements in the area. Mr. Millican’s life partner, Terrance James, was to be listed in his obituary—but he was edited out of the listing, out of his partner’s very life, by the newspaper staff.

It’s never joyful to see our losses in print, but it at least provides the deceased with a way to be remembered by those who might have known him, as well as his family with another small step to closure. When you list an obituary, it is common to list surviving family members, such as parents, spouses, children, and other loved ones.

In most states, gay and lesbian couples cannot get married, and therefore cannot be listed as spouses. However, there are no laws barring them from being listed as partners, and should be granted the same respect and dignity with this term—which is by no means equal to that of spouse, by the way; both terms should be available to all people legally—when their partners pass away.

Batesville Daily Guard, how dare you. There is no excuse for this outrageous behavior. How would you feel if, after the death of your spouse, you were not listed in his or her obituary?

I would love to hear what your reasoning was for this move. I would love for you to publically announce your bigotry and for you to own your malice for what it is. Was this a single instance of prejudice, or do you routinely snub your gay and lesbian readers? Are you known as the homophobic gazette of the Midwest? Some honest answers would be great.

But you know what else would be great, and decent, and definitely is called for? An apology. And a reprint of Mr. Millican’s obituary in its original form, complete with Mr. James’s name in it. That’s the least you can do to make up for this obnoxious act.

As others have pointed out, not only is this blatant form of bigotry contemptuous due to the fact that it is a blatant form of bigotry, it’s also offensive to journalists everywhere. Local journalists are already covering mostly fluffy, insignificant stories; what better way to threaten the integrity they possess than to omit such a vital piece of information from something as basic and straightforward as an obituary? I don’t mean to mock people’s deaths, only the fact that if you screw up an obituary—on purpose or not—what can you really be accountable for in the end, anyway?

Please click here and sign the petition if you agree that the paper should be held accountable for these actions and that they should both A. issue an apology and B. reprint the obituary.

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