November 20, 2008

The princes of Wall Street and peasants of Detroit

It’s a shame that in this digital age we can’t even genuinely deride financiers as paper pushers. The money they make isn’t even real enough to be on paper.

Commentators speculate that the auto industry needs to take its bitter medicine for the good of the market economy — an ideology that was all but abandoned during the bailout of the financial sector, an industry that’s based entirely on fantastical and damning speculations about industries that actually create products.

If the auto companies go under, it could impact around 2.5 million jobs — many earning around 20 dollars an hour, as the New York Times reported today. That decent wage, according to Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, is the main nail in the auto industry’s leaky business model.

For an autoworker, 20 dollars an hour equals about $40,000 a year. Even with luxury benefits like –gasp- health insurance (which I’m sure struggling financiers nobly deprive themselves of). It’s a pretty standard wage.
My question is: why didn’t we hear about exorbitant wages when the financial industry was licking the plate of a 700 billion dollar unconditional bailout?

Politicians who condemn the workers of the United Automobile Workers — who’ve voluntarily taken hits year after year as management wallowed around in excessive bonuses — reveal their own smelly distaste for humanity. For all the talk by Republicans about class war, which Democrats do their utmost to disprove time and again to the disadvantage of their constituencies, the stink is really based on class-based prejudice.

Somehow, it’s acceptable for a fortunate son from the Ivy League to take a couple years of free school (for him) and then slide right into a 100 grand a year starting position at some bank. It’s these people, along with their politician pets who repeatedly deregulated accounting standards — not to mention forcing through “free trade? pacts that only benefit the rich —who are responsible for the economic crisis that risks the modest incomes of
millions of hardworking autoworkers in the United States.

I’ve worked lots of jobs in my life. No matter how menial it seemed my co-workers and I took pride in doing them well.

When politicians and other elites say that 20 dollars an hour is too much while they’re slurping three times as much from the public trough without breaking a sweat, that’s a question of whether America rewards hard work, or whether it rewards an entrenched, unaccountable, privileged class.

It's not just an economic question; it’s a questioning of workers’ humanity.

June 22, 2008

New Blog at www.rhubarbarism.com

So this blog was done for an assignment. That class is over, but I do have a new blog at www.rhubarbarism.com or rhubarbarism.com or however one wants to write it. Please come visit and comment. Thanks.

December 9, 2007

Dinosaur Mummies!

This is my last blog so I thought I'd focus on the very important issue of dinosaur mummies in the Dakotas. This little duck like mummy was found, very well preserved.

It uses the scientist who discovered it to explain why it's important. It then leads into science museum stuff. It gives some info on what the dinosaur was probably like, and how it ran around and did stuff. It also described its appearance, it turns out it might have been striped and camouflage, which is awesome. Certainly,we're not so far from a Jurassic Park scenario, maybe more like people in Uptown with little raptors hopping around on leashes.

Goodbye blog.

Black Cops Sue MPD

Five black policemen have filed suit against the MPD alleging discrimination. I thought it would be interesting to see how the community media covered the issue. This particular article is from the Spokesmen-Recorder. The Star and Tribune also reported on it.

The SR starts out by explaining the situation (in italics for some reason. It then lists who the plaintiffs were and details the contents of the report. It then gives quotes from the Police Community Relations Council (without really explaining how these people are, where they get funding etc). It quotes a rep of the Black policemen group and then closes by quoting a press release from the mayor containing a commitment to diversity in the ciy's workplace.

The ST article goes way more in detail. It starts better, by giving information on what they're actually pissed off about, turns out they've been demoted. It then gets reaction from police, city council, and then the PCRC. Very good. Much more substantial, informative.

This is a hard issue to cover with all the acronyms and history. It needs to be done in detail, with explanations.

Cop in charge of anti-RNC security

The Minnpost is a relatively new new source. It's published by a former publisher of the Star Tribune and its list of writers reads like a who's who of everyone who has been purged from local newsrooms in the last years. It does, however, seem kind of weird. It's like old media tring to be old media in a new place. There's very few interactive resources, there's actually very few pictures. In any case, there's some good writing.
This article is a profile of Ass. Police Chief Matt Bostrom, and his role in organizing security for the RNC next year. It's by former strib columnist Doug Grow.

It starts by setting up the scene of a meeting between old school 60s peace and justice people and Bostrom, the kickefr being that they give him a standing ovation.It goes into the lack of trust between cops and protesters (including the Ramsey County debacle of building pens for protesters). It goes into free speech issues, past anti-convention protests, and articulates a "Minnesota model" based on free speech and, perhaps, using "peaceful" protesters to inform on radical ones. All in all it's a well-written piece. Grow could have tried to talk to some younger activists, he managed to demonize them instead. Maybe that's a metaphor for the Boomer dominated old-media of Minnpost. Sure they are covering that same demographic that still read the star tribune, but what about younger people and the non-traditional readers? Maybe,like this isn't a complete picture ofconvention protesters, the MinnPost isn't a very complete prediction of what will happen to media.

Cellphine polls in NY Times

The New York Times had a great story today about how cell phones are making accurate polling more difficult. This is relevant because we read polls every few days about the presidential election thats still more than a year away. The fact that so many people, especially young people, only have cell phones these days, means that results will be very unrepresentative. There's already all the debate about whether treating elections like a horse race (and it's Hillary by a nose), effects results, now we wonder, are the results already skewed by the technology?

The story starts by explaining how pollsters gather results and telling how prolific cell phones have become. This backed-up by a ton of stats from places like the FCC and pew center etc. It is not until more than halfway down the page that a living human talks to us, sums it all up, although he talks through email.

The article ends with quotes saying pollsters are going to meet this challenge. But, they don't describe the HOW of it. I want to know. Are they gonna figure something out with phone companies (and what do those people think)?

Love Hewitt Body Image Controversy- New or Newz?

Thank you Chicago Tribune. It seems like the "respectable" media uses the internet gossip columns as an excuse to talk about things like Jennifer Love Hewitts bikini controversy. It's not news, not really. It's an excuse to put a picture of her in a bikini on the site, and it sure attracts a lot of attention (being at the top of the most emailed story). The gist of it is that JLH was photographed at beach, people thought she looked overweight on the internet, they made fun of her, she reacted by pointing out that a size 2 is not, by any stretch of the imagination, fat. Good point right. BUT, is it news? Or "Newz"?

The excuse for it is that JLH defended herself on her website by saying,
"To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist," she wrote, "put on a bikini -- put it on and stay strong."
Alright, maybe it would be relevant if she started a foundation, donated money to stop eating disorders, or some real reaction. Instead, it becomes a gossip column.

December 2, 2007

Computer Assisted Reporting

This is the final focus assignment. I'm very happy about that. It's about computer assisted reporting. I retrieved the article from the NICAR.ORG website. It's a computer-assisted report from KHOU in Texas about robberies at ATMs. It's a pretty good subject to cover. You don't often here about these robberies, or at least you don't read about them. It uses computers to chart the areas where these crimes occurred. It then goes into detail about laws that supposedly protect customers at outside ATMs, but usually just protect banks from liability. Although this subject doesn't especially interest me, it's done well; informative with relevant and useful information.

I'm not sure of the role that computers played. They used it to electronically chart the locations of each robbery. They really didn't have that many locations, this could have easily been done by hand. It's not a bad thing that they used computers, it just wasn't especially relevant.

Whoa. I just listened to the broadcast. The editing is really weird. The narration cuts into the quotes super close like, ..."driving in his car." "On my way to work." Brian Erickson had a the "scared, for 200$." ANyway, super weird.

Refinery Worker

I was going to take it easy and write about the Vikings, but this story caught my eye. There was a fire at a refinery in St. Paul Park on Saturday night. One employee was unaccounted for. The PP covered the original story, but they wre scooped by the Star Tribune update. Right now it says it was updated 2 minutes ago. They found the worker's remains.

The ST update just gives the news, along with some background on the fire. It's really very brief. But what an important change for the story,and one that, for the sake of the man's friends and family, should probably be reflected as quickly and accurately as possible.

Snow Emergency

A snow emergency was declared by both cities after last night's storm. It was announced by both the PP and the Star Tribune. In typical PP fashion, though, they included only an announcement, link, and contact number. The ST had a long article that touched on the storm, the snow emergency, how to prepare for a SE and what the weather will look like this week. It's unsigned.

The snow emergency is a pretty confusing thing, even for people who've here a while. It's important that people have relevant information about when it is and how it functions so that their cars don't get towed. I think it was important enough for the ST to give it all this room.

More Polls in Iowa

A new poll was released by the Des Moine Register. It shows Obama and Huckabee with narrow leads, with Clinton and Romney falling. The rest of the candidates are staying consistent. This is MORE newsworthy because a week or two back another poll showed Obama in the lead. It was covered by Fox and Reuters. The problem I have with these polls, apart from the content-free horse race aspect, is that they could be completely inaccurate. The margin of error is 4.4% points. That means that not only could Clinton still be in the lead, but John Edwards could be. THese polls also don't know exactly who will caucus, or how forcefully. TO me, it's a little bit disturbing to focus so much on these polls when, if the margin of error is taken into account, they are not definite.

Last week the Zogby poll that showed CLinton would lose to Republicans was heralded. However, reading the fine print would tell you that, unlike the previous polls, it was done online. WTF. We all know how unreliable online-ness is. Is it the media's responsibility to mention the margin of error, and explain what that means, right away? I think yes.

Teddy Trouble

Let me first say, I didn't come up with that title. Obviously, it's a reference from the Christian Science Monitor about the British teacher who allowed her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed (everyone seems to spell it differently). The story has already been broken, so what we're seeing now is analysis. The HIndu and the Christian Science Monitor both talk about how England is trying to negotiate with Sudanese authorities.

Both articles follow a similar pattern, noting that England is negotiating, giving us background, noting the protests calling for her "execution." In a way, I was a little bit skeptical of the way the media covered this story of protests. As the CSM notes, even the BBC thought protests were suspiciously well-organized. By giving so much attention to a fringe, or a government ploy, without including other more moderate views that are more representative, the media gives westerners the idea that all muslims are ridiculously extreme. The fact that the story of who was behind the protests hasn't yet come out, is a little disturbing to me. The CSM does a better job of mentioning this. It's a case where the media gets to really frame the public's perspective on a whole groups of people, very important, especially in these times.

Putin Wins

Putin's United Russia Party has won 62% of the vote with 34% of precincts reporting. The other non-Kremlin parties, including the Communists, are complaining that there were irregular circumstances. The opposition that actually opposes Putin has been in the news lately becaus ehte government has cracked-down on them. The chess player Gary Kasparov has been very active.

Because of the hostile atmosphere towards journalists in Russia, I thought it would be interesting to look at ABC coverage, in comparison to the Russian News and Information Agency.

The ABC story is much longer. Because it refers to something Americans probably don't know too much about, it spends the last 2 pages updating us on events that have already occurred. The crackdown on other opposition groups, criticisms of Putin's leadership, etc. In contrast, the RNIA just has an updates on voting totals.It then reassures the public that his party will not change the constitution. Finally, it ends with quotes form the Communist party (who play the role of the "loyal opposition" to Putin), citing voting irregularities and promising legal action. There was no mention of Kasparov or the boycott by his party. It's interesting, because not knowing whether Kasparoov is just a Western fixation (like Nader) or whether he's actually a power in pilitics that is not being covered by the media (like Ron Paul) for whatever reasons.

November 24, 2007

Qwest Vandals- Pi Press Scoops the Star Trib

Last week, three men were arrested for vandalizing cable boxes in Minneapolis. Both papers covered it at the time. However, the PP has somehow scooped the Trib on a Minneapolis story. They found a buddy of theirs that gave the motive for messing with cable boxes. It is the following: "He literally does this stuff because he thinks it's funny." Wow.

Ok, so the public IS wondering what these guys were up to. Explaining that they're just pranksters informs the public that they aren't anti-tv extremists or something. T.V. is safe. The question I would ask: How believable is this guy?

The reporter actually does a great job balancing these concerns. She goes to Xcel and the Comcast to try to confirm what this guy said were work histories. She also talks to cell phone providers to match his descriptions of pranks to actual events. Last she checked state records to confirm the convictions that this guy described. All in all she did a great job on what is more or less a stupid story (or a story about stupid people). She ends with a Comcast Spokesperson describing the huge risk of electrical shock. And even reports that she has tried to get interviews with the accused.

Black Friday

I was going to compare the Star Trib (I couldn't find link but it's in the paper paper ) and Pi Press articles about Black Friday because, even before I looked, I knew there would be a ton of them. Along with fluff about the state fair, stories about this horrible shopping day are a tradition in place of real news. But then I looked at the Pi Press article and it just didn't seem adequate. It's just the typical story about shopping. It doesn't hold up at all to the ST's title, "A Kinder, Gentler Black Friday." First off, three reporters contributed to the story. This isn't all, remember the ST has a new direction. They also have an article all about SUI (Shopping while Under the Influence). I'm always amazed that the media hypes this horrific occasion so much, if it were any other destination that was busy and clogged they would deter people.

In any case. The premise of the main article is that this "Black Friday" isn't as crazy as previous ones have been. My favorite phrase in the lead is,"Reports of orderly gift-buying broke out all over the Twin Cities." The mixture of journalist-speak with such an inane topic strikes me as more gross than funny. Ok, I get it. This isn't a serious story. The reporters are having fun with it. The public wants to read about it. To tell you the truth I'm a little relieved that we didn't see the typical day-after-thanksgiving profile: Three generations of women who annually wake up at 3 am to go shopping together. Thanks Star Tribune.

The meat of this story is a discussion of how much tamer BF is this year. It touches on the economic problems like housing and jobs, but the experts they spoke to, managers and retail experts, veer away from this much more interesting topic. Instead it focuses on preparation of stores as the key to avoiding a mess. Too bad, the other story would have been more interesting.