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March 24, 2008

Week 8: Tonight's Local News

I chose to watch the 6pm broadcast of KARE11 news this evening, something I do several times a week. Tonight, however, I paid close attention to the amount of time given to the types of stories covered. While I often feel inundated by news coverage of the Iraq War and the 2008 election, I was surprised that the only reference to either topic during the 30 minute broadcast was twenty seconds’ worth of time referring to two American contractors’ bodies found this week. They were mentioned because of their affiliation with a Minnesota contractor whose body has not been found. Perhaps I am not as inundated as I think.

KARE 11’s headline story tonight was about a missing autistic boy, Matthew Boisclaire, in Minnetonka. They spent two minutes covering the story and included an interview with his mother. I think they chose this story as their lead because, as Beach points out, local channels pride themselves on “breaking news? (96) coverage, and other channels were unlikely to be leading with the same story. Perhaps the decision to air this story over the headline chosen this morning (I assume there had been another, as he’d only been missing since school let out) helped to find him promptly, as there was an update twenty minutes into the program: Matthew had been found in a park; he’d taken the wrong bus. I like the happy ending, but since he was found 20 minutes after the story aired, I wonder: was that news? Albeit the boy was autistic, but don’t boys get on the wrong bus every day without making the news? He took up 2:30 seconds of the broadcast, nearly 10% of the evening’s news.

Besides the brief mention of the American contractors’ bodies being found in Iraq, the remainder of the broadcast was local. The second story was about a bridge in St. Cloud being closed due to gusset plate weakness. It was a 2:15 spot and included an interview with a man whose business is affected by the decrease in traffic. I think that interviewing a person affected by the event, as Matthew’s mother was interviewed just minutes before, is a tactic local (and national) news uses to tug on the viewers’ heartstrings and get them emotionally invested in the story.

One minutes and thirty-six seconds were given to the story about an inmate named Hawkins and his interview about getting beat up by Diggins. The story went so fast that I missed why it was included in the news, as I was still taking notes on the previous story. I suppose it was important, but I figure jail fights happen all the time without making the news, so why did this one?

One minute was given to a group of anti-war protestors requesting a permit to protest during the Republican National Convention. I didn’t know that you needed a permit to protest, so I guess that was news to me! After that nearly 8-minute barrage of news, I watched 30 seconds of teasers, or previews, of what’s coming in the next segment. I should add here that I watch KARE 11 news rather than FOX 9 news because I can’t stand how much time they spend “teasing.? FOX 9 runs a 1 hour news broadcast but spends so much time “teasing? the next segment that they might be able to fit the news into 30 minutes if they cut the previews.

I did not time the commercials, as I spent it taking notes on what I’d just watched. The second segment ran 5:12 and consisted of 18 seconds about a meat-packing plant in Arkansas (okay, so two national stories, but they comprised less than one minute). Then two entire minutes were spent on George Clooney and Rene Zellweger’s visit to Duluth today to promote their movie, “Leatherheads.? Here’s the entertainment part of the news that producers think the audiences love. Two minutes were spent on their local appearance, clips from the movie (it airs Friday) and interviews with local Duluth fans. This clip was one of the teasers prior to the 6:00 hour and in-between segments, so embedding this clip in the middle of the broadcast was a wise decision, as it kept movie fans watching.

Three minutes were devoted to weather, which I think is pretty normal. Belinda Jensen embodies Beach’s description of the “happy talk? (94) commentary local anchors use. She smiled, joked, and apologized for the un-spring-like weather she was predicting for the week ahead. Another twelve seconds were given to previews for the remainder of the broadcast.

Upon return, 20 seconds were given to update the audience on Matthew’s whereabouts, as previously mentioned. I suspect that a story was removed for the update because, at the very end of the broadcast, Blaine High School Honors German class was pictured smiling and waving, as the music indicating that the broadcast was over played, with no explanation. Four minutes were then given to sports coverage – all local, about the Minnesota Twins: Joe Nathan signing, spring training and roster moves, the Vikings, and the NCAA Gopher Women’s basketball team. They fit quite a bit into four minutes! Only 8 seconds were given to previews for the last segment; a lot, I think, considering what they covered.

Upon the last return of the evening news, KARE 11 listed their evening TV show line-up (8 seconds), then another human-interest story: the “running of the brides? in an Atlanta bridal shop (49 seconds), a 1:13 recap of the 5 day forecast, and then, as I mentioned, the Blaine German class waving good-bye.

There was not one story updating the listener on the Iraq War or the 2008 Presidential Election, as I’d expected. However, some of the coverage made me wonder if it really was news: a boy getting on the wrong bus and a man getting beat up in jail? Hmm, maybe it was a slow news day? I suppose if anything tragic had happened to the boy, or if something worse happens to the man in jail, KARE 11 would have the proud distinction of covering it first. Way to promote tragedy!

March 21, 2008

Week 7: YouTube Obesity Videos

Week 7: Youtube Obesity Videos

First, I’ll comment on Trier’s articles, “ ‘Cool’ Engagements with YouTube? Parts 1 and 2. I enjoyed reading both of his articles, particularly because I learned a few things, such as what a podcast is and how it works. My church offers sermons on podcast, so maybe I’ll try it out next time I’m out of town. Part two suggested using YouTube videos for introducing the author of a novel or for students to post their created video assignments, both of which I liked and thought were useful ideas. However, I do not think that allowing students to search the internet for YouTube videos related to the study topic is a good idea, especially for my 8th grade students. I felt even more strongly that this would not be an appropriate assignment after my seemingly benign YouTube search for obesity-related clips.

I simply typed “obesity? into the search area and was immediately besieged by thousands of clips. The very first, most informative, interesting, and useful clip to come up was created by National Geographic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CodB8Q71Sok It runs 3min, 36 seconds. I’ll talk about this one first. It seems to be a clip from a TV show, posted by NG. In it, we meet a 28 year old man who weighs over 500 pounds and is preparing to undergo gastric bypass surgery. I thought that the video was informative and realistic and could be used to prompt discussion about weight loss methods for people struggling with obesity.

A second NG clip that I also found interesting seemed to also be a segment from the same episode mentioned above. It runs 6min, 4 sec. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxSAhLyKVqw In it, an endocrinologist explains Cushing Syndrome, a disorder caused by tumors on the pituitary gland, causing obesity. The clip contains interviews with a patient who was healthy as a young woman, but gained a large amount of weight in her 20’s for no apparent reason. She suffered from obesity for many years before she was diagnosed with Cushing Syndrome and had an operation to remove the tumors. While certainly not all people who are obese suffer from Cushing Syndrome, I thought this clip could start a great conversation about the causes of obesity and break down the stereotype that obesity is always caused by overeating.

A third clip that I thought would be useful in the classroom was made by “Kidfluence TV? and runs for 4:00. It seems to be a student-news program, a type of informational video often played on PBS on Saturday mornings. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mF0FUW3oJw8 This clip would be appropriate to play in health class unity on nutrition or exercise, and could introduce the topic in student-friendly lingo.

A fourth clip that I found discussed a weight-loss drug named “Accomplia.? The clip appears to be from a Fox News broadcast and was posted on YouTube in December 2006. It runs for 2:00. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsPCTGyufho I think that one could be opening Pandora’s box by discussing diet pills for weight loss in a classroom, but the same could be said about many things; suffice it to say, I would use this one with caution. I would also have to do more research about this drug because “Accomplia? is a European drug that had not been released in the United States in 2006. I wonder if the new weight loss drug advertised on TV, “Alli? is the same thing.
The previously mentioned four clips were those that I found most useful and likely to include in a classroom. I found some clips of individuals who were keeping obesity diaries; of interest was a man who called himself “used to be 803.? He’d posted hundreds of videos documenting his weight loss. The one I watched went on for several minutes and was a mostly an obese man’s ramblings on what it feels like to be judged by others based on his appearance. I felt that it was not well done and would probably not use it in class.

“Used to be 803? inspired me to enter “Weight Watchers? on my search. I found many amateur videos of people tracking their weight loss with photos of themselves in the same outfits at decreasing weights. I would only use something like this in class if I were going to assign students to keep diaries of themselves to be posted into a video. Most were boring to watch.

The remaining dozens of clips that I bothered to watch were terribly useless and mostly degrading to the individuals who posted them. I will not attach them to this blog because they disgust me and I have no intention of promoting individuals’ stupidity. Many consisted of obese women and men in sports bras and spandex shorts doing exercises like jumping jacks, dancing, running, etc. Those were the decent ones. Several appeared in my search that had titles like “how to have sex with a fat woman,? etc. There seemed to be more amateur videos of obese people exercising and having sex than there were educational or informative videos! This is the very reason I would not give an assignment such as the one I’ve just conducted, at least not in my current position as a middle school teacher. Perhaps one could expect high school students to search maturely, but after my experience of 30 eighth graders researching in the computer lab for their informational speeches, I would NOT allow them access to YouTube to search for informational videos.

This class is forcing me to become media literate, which is the intention, of course. I’m beginning to understand why America is becoming fatter – things like online communities and YouTube videos are enormous time wasters and our students are engaging in them with reckless abandon! I’ve spent more hours this semester reading and watching mostly ridiculous ramblings of people with too much time on their hands. I do feel that our students need to be media literate, but I would include in a media literacy class lessons on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle that technology seems to promote.

March 8, 2008

Week 6: Welcome to Weight Watchers

Picture 074.jpg Aulds Hawaii Trip 424.jpg

One week after I saw this photo, taken in April 2006, I joined Weight Watchers. In July 2007, I was 25 pounds lighter and finally comfortable enough to pose in a swimsuit, in Hawaii of course. (What a beauty!)

In the two years I’ve attended Weight Watchers (WW from here on out) meetings, I’ve never gone to the message boards. This week I “lurked? for our Media Ethnography assignment and learned for the first time what people are talking about when they say “online communities.?

I’ve never been interested in joining an “online community? for several reasons, one being that I didn’t know what the internet was until I reached college! Even though I now have high speed DSL, I certainly don’t have the time to sit for hours and chat with strangers. However, lots of people do, and thousands of them are WW members!

When WW members post, they choose a made up name, and beneath that they list their start weight, current weight, and “goal? weight. There are rules by which they must abide and WW will delete posts that defy the rules. While there is an air of anonymity, many people freely share personal information, including email addresses and My Space pages, where they can show off photos of themselves and their families. Today, I read a post where two people were talking about buying a dress for an event, and the correspondent left the chat, visited the other’s My Space page to see the dress, then returned to comment on it!

There are 55 different message boards from which to choose! First, I visited the “Newbies? board, where people mostly had questions about how the WW program runs. Today, LIFETIMER4GOOD was upset about her weigh in (WI):

“I don't know exactly why I gained this week, usually I can figure it out and expect it but today I didn't! Maybe it's that I didn't exercise enough, maybe it's that I ate 2 lean quisine meals this week. Not sure! I thought my portions of everything were in check!

I did go to Pizza Hut yesterday w/ MIL and the kids. I had a salad but had 3 slices of med. pizza. Maybe the sodium from that? Would it have showed up today? I should have upped my water yesterday I guess but I didn't! Maybe that would have flushed it out! I even had a light dinner b/c of lunch yesterday. Opps...Forgot to say what my WI was/is.

I gained 1 lb!?

I could relate better to PIGLET16 whose reply made me LOL:

“Really? You had 3 pieces of pizza yesterday and are upset about a fricken pound?

<~~~gained 2.6 this week.

I advise you to shut it.?

So, sometimes the posters aren’t so kind.

I decided to visit different board for 30 year olds, and discovered several groups who knew each other quite well. For instance, MR.BUNDY started a thread this morning “Any one I know…? and the post was “and love around??

One minute later, SJGOODE replied:
“I know you. I am not sure about the love part though. Do all the freaks come out on the weekends or what??

The thread went on for an hour, with the chatters talking about what they were doing over the weekend, whose in-laws were visiting, and what the weather was like in their parts of the country. Not a word was spoken about what they were eating or weighing, which leads me to believe that they have become friends. This must be what “online community? means. I suppose that if were living alone or didn’t have other friends, or just had time to make friends online, this would be an easy and non-intimidating way to do it. I left that thread of friends and read another group’s thread, who call themselves the “YaYa Sisterfriends.? Many of them posted this morning with greetings and hugs, reported their successes and weight losses and cheered each other on. They even included a welcome for other people to join, which made me feel that I wouldn’t be booted or ignored if I chose to post there.

I decided not to post online but to leave my discovery of online communities as it is…a discovery. Now that I have a better idea of what they are and how they work, I will be more likely to use them when there is a time for them in my life. I also understand now why my students are so drawn to them; if you can type, you can make a friend. Before the advent of the internet, typing skills were not necessary for friendships. I can see how message boards may be a useful tool to get my students to write about what they are learning: WW members post about their weight loss lessons every day, all day.