Amendment to START treaty squashed in Senate

By Jared Anderson

Republicans in Congress tried to attach an amendment to a nuclear reduction treaty with Russia, but the amendment was swiftly stopped by Senate Democrats.
The treaty calls for mutual arms reductions for both the U.S. and Russia. The amendment would have changed language in the preamble, and the change would have required the treaty to go back to the bargaining table with Russia.
Fox News reported on the situation, noting that Democrats must now try to convince Republicans to join them in voting for the treaty, while Republicans are unhappy that the amendment was blocked.
Ultimately, the amendment was a fairly minor change in language. Its purpose, seemingly, was mainly to send the treaty back to Russia, buying Republicans some time to gain more votes opposing it when the winners of the midterm elections take office next year.
Republicans were also upset that the process was being moved along too fast, according to Fox.
The Washington Examiner took a much more frank tone in its coverage, saying that Democrats "rescued" the treaty from a "treaty-killing amendment." Although the amendment does seem to be designed to kill, or at least delay, the treaty, this strong language seems a bit out of place in a news story, and gives the appearance of a bias.

Don't ask, don't tell repealed by Senate

By Jared Anderson

The U.S. Senate voted to end the controversial military policy that prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
The Star Tribune was very positive in its coverage of the decision. Its story included interviews of a gay veteran and a gay Minnesotan who tried to fight the policy, as well as a Democratic politician who voted to repeal the policy and a representative for the DFL party who supported the repealing.
There were no interviews with anyone who supported the policy. There were also no interviews, quotes, or even mentions of any politicians who voted to keep the policy in place, nor were there any mention of the rationale for keeping it in place.
The story was titled "Minnesotans cheer Senate vote," which might refer more to what the Star Tribune was doing about the decision than the entire state.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press produced a much longer, more thorough article on the vote, taking the novel step to quote several opponents of the decision as well as supporters.
What Don't Ask Don't tell really comes down to is a conflict over whether homosexuality is a choice or tied up in genetics. If genes control whether a person is gay or not, then the military would not be able to reject prospective military members because of a genetic trait like race or sex.
However, if homosexuality is a choice that individuals make, or an action that people participate in, then the military has every right to 'discriminate' against someone choosing to be gay as much as it can 'discriminate' against, and refuse to accept, someone who chooses to support a terrorist organization instead of the U.S. military.

American woman killed in Israel

By Jared Anderson

The body of an American tourist in Israel was found Sunday. The woman was apparently murdered.
Her traveling companion, a British woman, was found tied up and had been stabbed, ABC News reports.
The British woman told authorities that the two were attacked by "two Arabs," according to ABC. Authorities currently believe the attack to be "nationalisticallly motivated."
There have been no terrorist groups taking credit for the attack, Fox in New York reports.
The woman who was killed was originally misidentified by the Jerusalem Post, both stories note.
The British woman said the attacker removed her Star of David necklace before stabbing her, according to Fox.

St Paul superintendent finishes first year

By Jared Anderson

St. Paul Public Schools superintendent Valeria Silva, who has just finished her first year heading up the school district, has been in the news lately after calling two snow days in a row last week.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press frames a pseudo-profile of Silva as a follow-up to the news story about the snow days. She was criticized publicly by the mayor for the decision.
The Pioneer Press article highlights some of the actions Silva has taken and some of the problems she's faced. One major problem has been a gap between test scores from white students and minority students.
The Star Tribune chooses to make its article more of a stand-alone profile in Q and A form.
It covers much of the same ground, Silva's most proud achievements and the problems the school district still faces, in a shorter article that doesn't go in depth into any one issue.
The issue of race and test scores is not mentioned in the Tribune article. This might have to do with the fact that it is a Q and A, so if Silva doesn't mention the issue directly, there is no way for the journalist to put background on the situation in.

Scientist sues over religious discrimination

By Jared Anderson

A scientist is suing the University of Kentucky for religious discrimination after being passed over for a high-level job there.
Astronomer Martin Gaskell interviewed for a job as the director of a student observatory three years ago, reported the Washington Post. He did not get the job, however, as the interviewing committee had concerns over his religious faith and belief on evolution.
"There is no dispute that based on his application, Gaskell was a leading candidate for the position," a U.S. District Judge wrote last month, when he denied a motion by the University and sent the case to trial.
However, members of the science department sent e-mails raising questions about the fact that Gaskell is a Christian, the Kentucky Enquirer reports.
The science department at UK was concerned that Gaskell's religious faith would interfere with his scientific pursuits, calling Gaskell a 'Creationist.' They also expressed concern that Gaskell's hiring would cast a negative light on the University.
Gaskell, however, said he is not a creationist, and that he holds traditional scientific beliefs on evolution. He did give a lecture back in 1997 in which he talked briefly about evolution and expressed some inconsistencies in the theory.
He said he believes that his faith was a major factor in the decision not to hire him.
"I think that if I had a document like this and I was advocating atheism ... I don't think it would be an issue," he said.

Rival 'Wikileaks' site to launch Monday

By Jared Anderson

As Wikileaks.com founder Julian Assange awaits trial in a British jail, several of his former co-workers on the document-publishing website are planning to launch a rival site called Openleaks.com on Monday.
Openleaks founder Daniel Domscheit-Berg said that Wikileaks had become "too much focused on one person," CNN.com reported.
Domscheit-Berg cited philosophical differences for his and the others split from Wikileaks, saying that Wikileaks's obsession with secrecy had become hypocritical. "If you preach transparency to everyone else, you have to be transparent yourself," he told CNN.
Openleaks will work in a similar way to Wikileaks, but with one major change: Openleaks won't publish leaked documents on its own. It will only recieve leaked documents from sources, and then pass them on to other news organizations. The hope is that this will alleviate some of the antagonism that Wikileaks has faced, reports the Los Angeles Times.
Openleaks would then act as a sort of intermediary between anonymous sources and news organizations, protecting the sources from exposure and the news organizations from being forced to reveal sources, because the news organizations don't know the specific source, only Openleaks does.
The site launches Monday, and as of now, no one knows whether it will be successful or a failure, loved or hated. But if the previous episodes of the Wikileaks saga are any indication, it will certainly be something to watch.

Sterger won't sue Favre for harrassment if he is suspended

By Jared Anderson

Former New York Jets employee Jenn Sterger won't pursue a lawsuit if the NFL suspends Brett Favre over Sterger's claims that he sexually harrassed her in 2008, Sterger's lawyer said.
Phil Reese, Sterger's lawyer, appeared on the Dan Patrick show, expressing his and Sterger's belief that a convincing case was made to the NFL that showed Favre's behavior being inappropriate, the Huffington Post reported.
Farve has been accused of sending sexual voicemail and text messages to Sterger when both were with the Jets in 2008. Back in October, Deadspin.com posted some of the picture messages sent to Sterger showing male genitalia that Sterger claims to be from Favre.
Most news organizations did not print the photos because of their graphic and pornographic nature, and because the messages were private and not given to the news media. Deadspin claims the pictures and voicemails came from a third party, not Sterger herself.
Now, Sterger has reportedly threatened to release more damaging information about Favre if the NFL Quarterback is not suspended, if a report from TMZ.com is to be believed.
If Sterger were to release more inappropriate photos, voicemails, or other information, sports news organizations would face another ethical dilemma on how much, if any, of it they should print. Since Deadspin.com was one of the few sites to print the original pictures, Sterger's information handout might not have as many takers as she would hope. Perhaps Sterger needs a big-name publishing group to help her out - Wikileaks, anyone?

Ethics in column-writing

By Jared Anderson

(Note: As someone who wants to go into column-writing, I found two articles that really piqued my interest and that deal with ethics in column-writing. The two columns are not related other than the fact that they show some ethical concerns in columns. I thought that was enough of a common thread to post a blog about)

A column in the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard protests a series of articles written by the Nigerian Syndicated columnist Dele Sobowale, pointing out ethical flaws in Sobowale's writing process.
Sobowale "has this tendency of raising issues he has scanty information about," the Vanguard column said, pointing our inconsistencies in the information in Sobowale's recent columns.
"Column-writing is surely a sacred privilege," writes the Vanguard. It "demands of the writer to constantly bring to bear the ethics of the trade: objectivity, fairness and accuracy."
This brings to light the importance of doing ones own reporting, even as a columnist. Even though a columnist is paid for his or her opinion, and to add color and analysis to current news stories, a columnist is still a journalist - and as the Pew Research Center's Principles of Journalism says, Journalism is, at its essence, "a discipline of verification."
In the Pioneer Press, columnist Ruben Rosario writes about the responses he has gotten from readers after his column about Pre-Kindergarten education. He prints quotes from readers who disagree with his ideas and are upset with an ambiguous line from the column seen to be taking shots at the Catholic Church.
Rosario uses this new column to explain his writing, pointing out that his line was in no way a criticism of the church, but was merely a way of saying that even respected institutions can be wrong about certain things.
Rosario refuses to apologize for the line, which I think is a good decision. He explained what he meant, and then he stood by his words. Too often, journalists succumb to public pressure to apologize for controversial decisions just to appease readers. There are cases where apologies are neccessary, but journalism is about telling the truth more than about trying not to offend readers. A columnist shouldn't have to apologize for his opinion.
One place where Rosario's column gets into muddy ethical ground, however, is when he begins to print unflattering comments from readers and pokes fun at those who criticize him, derogatorily calling one a "tea-party type" and casting a criticizing light on conservatives as he notes the man with the Bush-Cheney bumper sticker who cut him off in traffic.
A column doesn't seem like an appropriate place to chastise or make fun of opponents without giving them a chance to explain themselves. Even though a column is meant to be opinion-based, that doesn't mean the columnist should get free reign to paint his opponents as uneducated (because they don't speak multiple languages like Rosario makes it clear he does) or as angry drivers. It's not a black-and-white line of what should be printed in column, but it seems a bit questionable ethically to me.

University golf coach to sue after resigning

By Jared Anderson

Former University of Minnesota golf coach Katie Brenny is beginning the process of suing the University, claiming she was discriminated against based on her sexual orientation.
Brenny, who served as associate coach for the women's golf team for around two months this fall, said that her job description changed when officials in the golf program found out that she was a lesbian, the Star Tribune reports.
Brenny didn't travel with the team to any competitions and wasn't allowed to speak to players about golf, the Minnesota Daily reports.
The Daily covered the story several weeks ago, noting that Brenny was replaced by a relative of the director of golf. While the Daily printed both the director's name and the name of his relative in both stories, the Star Tribune chose not to include either name or the exact position title for the director.
The decision may have to do with the fact that the story suggests that the golf director treated Brenny poorly because she was gay, although the discrimination charges haven't even been made official by Brenny's lawyer yet, much less proven in court. Having the director's name tied to the 'homophobia' label (which is already an unbelievably inaccurate and overused term) could cause undue harm to him and his career, especially if the charges are never proven.

No Ho Ho: New York YMCA sends Santa packing

By Jared Anderson

A YMCA in New York decided to remove Santa Claus from its annual holiday luncheon, replacing St. Nicholas with Frosty the Snowman.
The decision, which a YMCA spokesman called a 'transition' rather than a 'replacement' comes as a part of the YMCA's effort to 'rebrand' itself, YMCA officials told the New York Post.
The Post used unusually colorful language to cover the response to the decision: The spokesman for the Catholic League "fumed" rather than "said" his response in the Post's article.
In the same way, gather.com's coverage called the spokesman "livid," and referenced the Post article where the quote first ran. It's reasonable to assume the writer from gather.com may have taken cues from the Post article, which the gather.com article was clearly based on.
It's indicative of the journalistic 'pack' mentality that the two articles have such similarities. On top of the Catholic League's quote, both articles treat the issue in a similar way, using Christmas cliches and color to draw a bit of humor from the story.
What is interesting about this story is that typically, politically-correct Christmas celebrators tend to use Santa Claus to replace the Christian nativity scene in an attempt to be non-offensive to people of other faiths. This YMCA's decision takes the idea a huge step further, by replacing Santa Claus with "a secular cartoon character," as gather.com puts it.
It's a fascinating trend in Christmas celebration that Santa Claus has become known as 'not secular enough.'