Let’s talk about framing.
“Framing” refers to the choices we make about how to tell a story. The words we use, the tone we take, the people we quote and the people we don’t quote—all those little things affect the way people hear a story and the impressions they take away.
This is awfully postmodern of me, but there’s really no such thing as an unvarnished, unfiltered, truly “neutral” way of telling a story. When you read a news article in the paper or hear one on the radio, what you’re getting is a picture in a frame—and that frame has a very real impact on how you interpret the information you’re receiving.
Nothing inherently wrong with this, so long as we’re all aware of it. The frame is invisible—it’s often hard to spot—but as long as we all pay attention, we’re good.
But when we forget to be aware—when we start taking the frame for granted—when reporters mindlessly perpetuate the same frames over and over and when the consumers of media begin to see those frames as gospel truth—well, that’s when people start getting hurt.
Case in point: UNC versus Michigan State.
I’m not talking about basketball.
I’m talking about “riots.”
On Saturday night, the Michigan State Spartans upset Ohio State to win the Big 10 title and make the Rose Bowl for the first time in 26 years. Afterwards, about 3,000 students gathered for a postgame celebration at Cedar Village, an apartment complex at the edge of campus. There were a number of bonfires—students setting their old couches ablaze, mostly—and that was about it. Cedar Village reported about $10,000 in external property damage, but that was the worst of it. There were no injuries.
East Lansing police went ballistic.
So did Michigan State University officials.
And the media.
Here are some of the choicer bits.
From Fox Sports: “East Lansing police say at least 15 people were arrested during a rowdy celebration of Michigan State’s victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game…Police are offering up to $20,000 for tips that lead to convictions…Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo says he’s disgusted and disappointed by what happened.”
From WILX, a local TV station: “The victory party may be over, but the consequences for the people celebrating in the streets may just be beginning…the city and the University are cracking down, vowing to prosecute as many people as possible involved in a post-game celebration that featured furniture fires…MSU has also vowed disciplinary action, after President Lou Anna K. Simon called the post-game behavior ‘disappointing.’”
Also from WILX, this quote from University spokesperson Kent Casella: “Any student identified as taking part in setting or fueling fires will be subject to the MSU student judicial process, regardless of any criminal charges being filed…If a student is found in violation, he or she faces sanctions ranging from warning to dismissal.”
And from the State News, the MSU student paper, this headline in all caps: “RIOTERS DESCEND ON CEDAR VILLAGE; FIRES, CHAOS ENSUE.”
This is standard practice in East Lansing, Michigan. It’s been this way for fifteen years. Back in 1999 there was a legitimate riot that caused a quarter of a million dollars in damage, and ever since then we’ve had it in our heads that every student celebration is a “riot” or an “emergency situation” that requires tear gas and riot police and mass arrests and fines and jail time and threats of expulsion. Sometimes actual expulsion.
This is how these student gatherings are framed at MSU. And everyone’s complicit in it. East Lansing police assume it’s their job to stop the party altogether, so they’re in hostile-situation mode from the get-go; that provokes the students, who respond by provoking the police, everything escalates and out comes the tear gas. Reporters invariably call them “riots” and focus all their attention on the cost, the damage, the arrests, the tut-tutting over drunken students gone wild. University officials shift into damage-control mode—denouncing the students who take part, disassociating them from the University as much as possible, and seizing every opportunity to insist that MSU as a whole is comprised of good, decent students who would never participate in such rowdy, drunken shenanigans.
And residents in the area go along with it. “Way to spoil a wonderful night,” writes one commenter on the State News story. “You all should be ashamed of yourselves.” Words like “embarrassing” keep cropping up. Words like “garbage.” Somebody else wrote on Facebook: “The players and coaches must be thrilled to know their victory gets overshadowed by the antics of drunken vandals.”
There’s even a Wikipedia page devoted to “Michigan State University student riots.”
People in the Lansing area take all of this for granted. Most folks there can’t imagine these “riots” being interpreted any other way.
Folks in Chapel Hill know better.
In 2009, you see…
Well. You can watch the video for yourself. The staff at the Daily Tar Heel put it together, to commemorate the glorious post-game “celebration” of UNC’s national championship (over Michigan State, ironically enough).
Check out that video. It’s all there, plain as day. After the game, 45,000 people, most of them students, many of them drunk as hell, massed on Franklin Street. Fires were set, multiple fires, up and down the road, and folks jumped in and out of them all night long. Students climbed on town-owned streetlights and shook them until they nearly toppled. The “Columbia Street” sign was forcibly yanked down; people later used it to crowd-surf.
I could go on. Sexual assaults got reported. There were injuries. Chapel Hill’s chief of police said he saw someone climb a light pole and try to saw through a power line with a pocket knife. Tens of thousands of dollars in property damage. All told it cost the Town of Chapel Hill $200,000.
Did it make the national news as a “riot”? Was there hand-wringing? Mass arrests? Tear gas? Cops in riot gear? Threats of expulsion? Is UNC forever tainted as a result?
Nope. Exactly the opposite. It’s a watershed moment in Chapel Hill’s recent history. Everybody remembers it fondly.
In fact UNC sells glossy portraits of the celebration online, on the University’s official website, for anyone who wants to relive the moment. Glossy portraits!
Oh, sure, there was talk afterward of how the town could have better handled the situation. No doubt.
Three guesses how that played out.
From WRAL: “(Then-student body president Jasmin) Jones suggests getting a screen so the best game moments can be replayed. She would also like to have a sidewalk deejay…Jones also would like several beach balls to take the place of partiers who normally bounce on top of the large crowd.”
From the Daily Tar Heel: “Former Student Body President J.J. Raynor suggested giving out free food to keep people from drinking as much.”
The town did hold one forum on the matter. At the forum, town officials said it was worth discussing how to improve safety in the future, but unanimously insisted the “celebrations” were “central to UNC’s heritage.”
And what got done? Quoth the DTH: “Attendees were encouraged to remain involved with continued safety efforts by writing down their names and e-mail addresses to receive more information. No other concrete plans were made for moving forward.”
That’s framing for you. Right there.
Seriously, read all those stories I linked to up there, first about MSU, then about UNC. Tell me the difference isn’t jawdropping.
Oh, you think there was some sort of difference between the two gatherings? It couldn’t have just been media framing?
Cool. Below are ten pictures. Four are from the MSU “riot” after the Ohio State game, screencapped from the WILX report. Six are from the UNC “celebration” on Franklin Street in 2009, screencapped from the DTH’s YouTube video.
Can you tell them apart? No cheating!
Answer: the first two and the last two are from Michigan State; the six in the middle are from UNC. Some of those are gimmes: the Columbia Street sign is obviously in Chapel Hill, and the riot police are obviously East Lansing. Can you imagine if the CHPD had broken out the riot gear and the assault weapons in 2009? Seriously, can you imagine?
Now, what do we make of all this? What galls me, personally, is the inconsistency. MSU students have been expelled, arrested, harshly punished by the law—they’ve had their lives ruined, in other words. If they’d been UNC students doing the exact same thing, they’d practically have carrels named after them at the library.
This is not to say that we’re doing it wrong in Chapel Hill.
In fact, looking at the two situations side by side, it’s pretty obvious that Chapel Hill’s the one that’s gotten it right. In Chapel Hill, town/gown relations are not toxic, so police don’t automatically assume that students are the enemy. Town officials see it as their job to manage and facilitate the celebration, not to put a stop to it at all costs—and so the situation gets managed. It’s not antagonistic. People don’t get vilified in the national media. They don’t have their lives ruined. It’s better here.
But let’s be clear about this: it is NOT better here because the students are better behaved. UNC students and MSU students behave exactly the same way, just like Tennessee students and Baylor students and Cal Tech students and students everywhere else that students gather. If it is better here, it is better because of the way we’ve framed it—as a “celebration” instead of a “riot,” as “excited” rather than “drunken,” as “rambunctious” rather than “violent.”
I’m watching the framing happen all over again at Michigan State this week. It wasn’t as big a “riot” as in years past, so there’s not as much hand-wringing—but still, all the talk has been “you ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” “we’re so disappointed in this behavior,” “we’re going to prosecute these people to the fullest extent of the law.” It makes me sick.
It could be worse, I guess. Michigan State students get the short end of the stick here, but they’re hardly the only ones. African-Americans after Hurricane Katrina, for instance, were invariably depicted as “looting” food by the national media, while their white counterparts were depicted as “finding” or “salvaging” food from the same stores. And let’s also save some sympathy for Woodstock ’99, that supposed anarchic chaotic violence-fest. Did you know three times as many people died at the original Woodstock back in ’69? Peace and love, pshaw.
But if you find yourself reading about the “riots” at MSU—or anything else, for that matter—do yourself a favor and stop to reflect on how the story’s being framed. What’s being assumed? What are the words that keep getting used? How else could the story be told, and why isn’t the story being told that way? It’s vital for consumers of media to ask these questions, and it’s vital for reporters to ask them too—otherwise we’ll find ourselves caught in the framing loop, and we’ll start forgetting how to see the world any other way.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go frame this portrait of a bonfire at Cedar Village.
Rose Bowl, baby! Rose Bowl!http://chapelboro.com/columns/aaron-keck/unc-msu-celebrations-riots-media-framing/
HILLSBOROUGH - Former UNC African and Afro-American Studies chair Julius Nyang’oro faces one felony charge placed by an OrangeCounty grand jury Monday morning.
Orange and Chatham County District Attorney Jim Woodall says hundreds of thousands of documents were part of the investigation that concluded about a month ago and lasted nearly a year and a half. He says, from the beginning, he said that he didn’t believe there would be many if any criminal charges against anyone involved, and he couldn’t justify continuing the investigation.
“Quite frankly, we could have continued the investigation, because there are always avenues, more people that could be interviewed,” Woodall says. “But the agent and I decided the active investigation needed to be shut down because we had taken it as far as we felt we should.”
Woodall alleges Nyang’oro accepted $12,000 for a summer class he did not teach. If convicted, that charge will likely not result in time in prison.
“Whenever this investigation started, I told media outlets that I doubted there would be criminal charges,” Woodall says. “If there were criminal charges, I felt like they would be relatively minor. Now this is a felony charge which is a serious charge, but in the scheme of things, it’s one of the lower-level felony charges.”
He says the legality of the issue has been somewhat overblown.
“I felt that this was primarily an issue of academic integrity with the University,” Woodall says. “People have referred to this as academic fraud which is not a good thing obviously, but it’s not necessarily illegal.”
Woodall says while the investigation has concluded, there could be additional charges.
“There’s the potential for at least one other person to be charged,” Woodall says. “If that person is charged, that would probably happen in January. There are no current UNC employees who are the subjects of any investigation.”
Woodall did not name any names, but those charges could come against longtime AFAM department manager Deborah Crowder.
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement, ““The action described in today’s indictment is completely inconsistent with the standards and aspirations of this great institution. This has been a difficult chapter in the University’s history, and we have learned many lessons. I am confident, because of effective processes already put in place, we are moving ahead as a stronger institution with more transparent academic policies, procedures and safeguards.”
Click here to read the full statement.
An external review by former North Carolina governor, Jim Martin found abnormalities in classes in the AFAM department dating back to 1997. The UNC administration says procedures have been put in place to make sure problems like these don’t happen again.
Nyang’oro was the department’s first chairman and took the position in 1992. He held the position until August 2011 when internal investigations into the department began at which time he stepped down. He retired from teaching in June 2012 amid ongoing investigations.
Governor Martin’s review stated the issue was not athletic in nature as non-athletes had equal access to the benefits.
The Martin Report found that the academic fraud included in excess of 200 lecture classes that never met and more than 500 grade changes, averaging B+.
State Bureau of Investigations probes have identified both Nyang’oro and his department manager, Deborah Crowder, as the two mainly responsible for no-show classes. Crowder retired from UNC in September 2009.
Five people were recently indicted by Secretary of State Elaine Marshal for breaking the Unified Athlete Agent Act. Former UNC tutor Jennifer Wiley Thompson was among those charged with athlete-agent inducement in connection with Georgia-based sports agent, Terry Watson. Watson was also indicted as he is accused of luring athletes to use him as an agent once they decided to go pro.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/former-unc-afam-chair-indicted-oc-grand-jury/
CHAPEL HILL – The UNC fraternity into which a student who died last year was pledging is under investigation.
According to WRAL, the Alpha-Alpha Chapter of Chi Phi has been suspended from campus pending an investigation into alcohol violations and inappropriate new-member activities. The chapter is being investigated by the national governing body of Chi Phi.
Eighteen-year-old David Palmer Shannon died last year in Carrboro after falling 40 feet from machinery at a concrete-mixing plant. Carrboro police originally said they believed Shannon was alone at the time of the fall, but the investigation remains open. An autopsy found Shannon had a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit.
Chi Phi had just gotten off probation the day before Shannon died, according to Carrboro Police.
UNC Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Winston Crisp says the University fully supports the investigation and has a “zero tolerance” for actions that threaten the health and safety of students. However, he says the suspension of Chi Phi is not directly related to Shannon’s death.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-chi-phi-fraternity-suspended-investigation/
A couple days ago I wrote about a disturbing trend in modern journalism: with the economy tight, newsrooms are reducing staff to the bare-bones minimum, making it harder and harder for news departments to conduct investigative reporting (or sometimes even basic fact-checking). As a result, reporters often have to rely on what they’re told. That’s always been true to an extent, but I think it’s even more true now than ever before.
In itself, this isn’t the end of the world—so long as those doing the telling are informed and honest, with no incentive to lie or withhold key details or spin the facts to make themselves look good.
And sometimes that’s actually the case. When police or other government officials want to get vital information out to the public, they use the local media. (I remember getting a call from the Chapel Hill PD earlier this year to ask if we could get the word out about an overnight break-in. As I put it on Facebook later: “Small-town journalism in a nutshell—Chapel Hill Police just called me to report a crime.”) The same is even true—occasionally—with more controversial issues. After the Yates Building incident in November 2011, there was some debate about whether those in charge made the right decision given the information they had, but it was obvious to all that they should have had more information in the first place. I think it was town manager Roger Stancil who called it a “communications breakdown.” So there was an incentive for town leaders to communicate, both with each other and with the public. And though it did take a while (Stancil at one point put a gag order on Town staff), eventually they opened up completely. And positive changes got made.
But when those with access to information do have an incentive to lie, to withhold, or to spin—well, that’s a different story.
Small-scale example: let’s talk about University Mall.
It was in mid-September when the news first broke that Dillard’s was likely going to leave—that was when the store converted to a clearance center and shifted very obviously into everything-must-go mode. But was it leaving? It looked that way, but nobody would say for certain: Dillard’s spokesperson Julie Bull said only that the store was converting to clearance, but insisted that didn’t (necessarily) mean it was on the way out. U-Mall GM Peter DeLeon told us that was as much as he knew as well. “(Bull) stated to us that she has not been given that information that they are closing,” he told WCHL, “(and) at this point we have to respect what Dillard’s is telling us.”
How much of that was true? While all that was going on, I walked into Dillard’s, no press badge, and casually asked a cashier what she’d heard—and although she said she’d heard conflicting reports, she told me they’d been informed Dillard’s was closing within a few months. This turned out to be true, and it was more specific than we (and possibly even U-Mall) were hearing from the company. They knew more than they were letting on. And while it’s possible they were keeping U-Mall in the dark as well, there’s evidence to suggest that Silverspot Cinemas was already in the works too. For one thing, it was already in the rumor mill: someone told us in September that she’d heard U-Mall was bringing in a movie theater, though that information was third-hand and the original source wouldn’t go on record. And then there was last week’s press conference, where mall staff put up several renderings of what the new theater would look like—one of which, someone told me later, was actually dated July.
So it’s fair to say there may have been a disconnect between the reality and the official story.
Well, frankly, in September, neither Dillard’s nor U-Mall had much incentive to confirm the store was closing, even if it was true. For Dillard’s, it’s negative publicity: you’re laying off employees, which never looks good, plus closing a location suggests the company is in trouble. (Even in November they didn’t say much. Here’s the one press release where they announced it: good luck spotting it in there.) Same goes for U-Mall, and there it’s even more crucial: malls depend on strong anchor stores to draw in business, and the nation is already littered with malls that suffered badly because they lost their anchor. So U-Mall had every incentive to hold off announcing that Dillard’s was out until they could tailor the announcement to focus on the nice new thing that was coming in.
And in this case, no harm done. We got the full story in November instead of September. No big deal.
But it’s noteworthy that the media really wasn’t able to crack this nut two months ago—and that’s emblematic of a larger, more troubling issue.
For the problem is double-sided. Lacking the power to investigate, reporters in the shrunken newsroom increasingly have to rely on what they’re told—to depend on the kindness of strangers, as it were. But even in a relatively minor situation like this, those with information usually have at least some incentive to withhold it or spin it to their advantage.
There’s no malice in this, by the way. These are good people doing their jobs.
But while reporters’ power is declining, their power is growing. And that’s changing how news stories get told.
Here’s the second trend: while the news media has declined, the PR industry has taken off—and it’s made a science of figuring out how best to ‘control the message.’
Public relations has been around forever. As a profession, though, it’s only about as old as psychology, and it’s advancing at about the same rate. (Think about how bad psychology was in 1950 compared to today—PR’s improved by similar leaps and bounds.) And as companies and organizations grow more aware of the importance of “image,” public relations takes on an increasingly prominent role. (This is heightened all the more because there’s been an explosion of new media outlets in recent decades too—from cable channels to the Internet to social media and beyond. Now, if you’re a company, it’s not enough to craft your image on three or four outlets—you have to craft it on three or four hundred.)
As a result: fifty years ago there was one PR rep for every reporter; now the ratio’s closer to 4:1. No reason to think that’s going to change. Career advisors are now actively encouraging prospective journalism majors to track towards PR instead. (Better long-term prospects.)
And that in turn amplifies and accelerates the consequence of all this: what you hear in the news is often just a rehash of official statements and press releases. “Churnalism,” it’s called. We often blame this on journalistic laziness, but that’s not what it is—it’s all these trends at once, coming together. And this is what you get. Government agencies, organizations, businesses all carefully route inquiries to the press office; everyone else is carefully instructed not to speak. You listen to a newscast talk about some national issue, it’s nothing but a Democratic sound bite followed by a Republican sound bite.
Sometimes this is helpful, especially when the PR reps become aware that it’s up to them to determine what gets reported as news. Catherine Lazorko is the public information officer for the Town of Chapel Hill. A couple years ago at WCHL’s Community Forum, she said something that stuck with me: that she finds herself being more careful now, when crafting press releases, about covering all the bases and angles of a given issue—because she knows that her words will very likely end up being lifted directly and dropped into a story. (I doubt that’s changed in the last two years.)
But we can’t assume that sort of altruistic behavior on a regular basis—especially when the organization in question has every incentive to clam up.
In the last three years UNC has had to put up with—well, let’s just say they’ve had to put up with a lot. It’s been three very difficult years. And let’s be honest: some of the headache came from their willingness to be good and open and transparent all that time. Other schools have committed violations far worse than UNC’s—but they locked down, zipped their lips, refused to let NCAA investigators on campus, and basically got off scot-free. UNC did it right, played the game, let investigators on campus, threw open their books, and talked at great length about what went wrong and how best to fix it—and ultimately got hit with sanctions far worse than Miami and Auburn and Oklahoma State and all those other schools put together.
Well, lesson learned.
With the transition from Holden Thorp to Carol Folt, UNC has suddenly become a lot more tight-lipped, at least when it comes to the top administrators. Folt has been incommunicado since taking over, aside from public appearances and carefully prepared remarks; you may notice you don’t hear her quoted in the media nearly as often as Thorp was. (Folt did sit down with us for a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner, but that was really her first extended interview since she first took over—and it’s worth noting that it aired in November. We usually do that annual interview-with-the-chancellor in August.)
And it goes further. Earlier this month UNC named Joel Curran—senior executive at one of the world’s largest PR agencies—to the position of “Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs.” It’s a position they just now created.
Three guesses why.
The point is, organizations like UNC have every reason to want to control the message, as much as possible. The PR industry has enabled them to do that more effectively than ever before—and the media’s inability to dig deeper makes it all the easier too. It’s not because of malice or laziness or any personal flaw—it’s the byproduct of several long-term, large-scale trends, and if we want to reverse it it’s not going to be easy.
But that’s where it stands.
And shoot, now I can’t think of a good ending for this post. Well, add your own pithy conclusion here, and I’ll accept it without question.http://chapelboro.com/columns/aaron-keck/crisis-modern-journalism-part-ii/
“I’ve been doing this since the very beginning,” Cohen says. “I came to Chapel Hill in 1980, and the first cases of HIV in Chapel Hill were in 1981. We had a fairly large epidemic of HIV in North Carolina that the health care providers and the University helped to manage.”
Cohen is UNC’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Global Health and director of the Center for Infectious Diseases.
The North Carolina Award is the state’s highest civilian award and was given to five other people along with Cohen. This came one day after Dean Smith was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest national civilian honor.
Cohen is an infectious disease specialist and says he works with a large group of people across the nation.
“Working to understand the transmission of the virus HIV, and, most importantly, developing strategies to prevent the transmission of HIV,” Cohen says.
Cohen says the study of HIV/AIDS has come a long way in his more than three decades of work on the disease.
“There’s no organism better studied than HIV, and there’s incredible discoveries along the way that have taken this once universally-fatal infection, and, now-a-days, this infection is detected early and (if) people receive the proper treatment, they live a normal, healthy lifespan,” Cohen says. “So it’s a quite remarkable journey over 33 years.”
Cohen was presented the North Carolina Award by Governor Pat McCrory Thursday in Durham. The N.C. Department of Cultural Resources administers the awards.
Cohen received the award in the science division. He was joined this year by Asheville’s John E. Cram in fine arts, Davidson College graduate John M. H. Hart, Jr. in literature, and legislator Phillip J. Kirk Jr., education administrator John Harding Lucas, and internationally acclaimed linguist Walt Wolfram in public service.http://chapelboro.com/news/health/unc-professor-awarded-highest-state-civillian-honor/
Three things happened in Chapel Hill last week: University Mall announced that Silverspot Cinemas would be replacing Dillard’s; UNC named Joel Curran the new vice chancellor for communications and public affairs; and it actually snowed for a little while.
Here’s my thesis: all three are connected to a single development—a rather disturbing one—that’s plaguing modern journalism. Read on…
If you’ve ever been to our on-air studio at WCHL, you know it’s a pretty small room, with no view of the outside world, in a building set far away from any actual street.
How do we report on traffic?
Truth is, when I’m on the air, there’s no earthly way for me to know firsthand what’s happening on I-40—or, heck, Weaver Dairy for that matter. Occasionally we send someone out to drive around and report back in, if there’s a flood or a snowstorm or something serious. But those are special days. Beyond that, we have to rely on reports we get from other people: Triangle Traffic on Twitter, for instance, or listeners like you. (That’s why we’re always so insistent about asking for “Road Warriors.”)
Same goes for weather, to a point. It snowed a little bit last week, right in the middle of our afternoon newscast—but where was it snowing, and when? We’d gotten the general Orange County forecast from the National Weather Service, and we were monitoring radar throughout—but when the system came through and it started alternating between rain and snow, we had to rely on firsthand reports from listeners (“snow warriors,” as Rachel Nash put it) to tell us where, specifically, it was snowing at a given moment. (Especially when the radar kept insisting there was nothing but rain.)
I mention this because it’s a good illustration of how journalism works in general, for better or worse. All the events we cover take place outside the newsroom, and those who report the news are almost never the ones who make the news—journalistic ethics, you know—so there’s always an extent to which we’re relying on other people to tell us what’s going on.
That’s always been true.
But nowadays it’s compounded by several potentially disturbing trends.
Especially now in the Internet age, people feel increasingly entitled to get their news for free—which makes it harder for news outlets to generate revenue, which leads in turn to staff cuts. (The recession certainly didn’t help.) Newspapers have been hardest hit by this—especially since they always relied on charging consumers directly, as TV and radio never did—but it’s affected every medium, and news outlets everywhere now make do with the bare minimum in staff. (Our news department’s been lucky—we haven’t had to deal much with staff cuts—but we’ve always operated with a pretty small staff to begin with.)
Several consequences. First: a newsroom with a bare-bones staff becomes even less able to go out and cover newsworthy events firsthand. (We encounter this sometimes at WCHL—on nights when, say, the Central West steering committee is meeting at the same time as a Rosemary Imagined event.) But second, and even more important: a newsroom that reduces itself to a bare-bones staff loses its ability to engage in investigative journalism. Investigative reporting is an endeavor that requires time and resources and manpower; in the absence of all three, it becomes impossible.
Both of those consequences amount to the same thing: even more than ever before, news departments have to rely on what they’re told—often without digging deeper or probing further.
The existence of Twitter actually compounds this too, because it means that newsworthy events get reported instantaneously—which reduces the amount of time a newsroom has to put together a story. Forget hard-boiled investigation—at that speed, even basic fact-checking goes out the window. Which is how CNN could mistakenly report that the Supreme Court had struck down the Affordable Care Act, when in fact they’d upheld it—or how news outlets across the country could blithely retweet the mistake, since they’d heard it from a ‘credible source’ like CNN. It’s also how a TV station in California could end up falling for a prank and reporting that the pilot in July’s Asiana Airlines crash was named “Sum Ting Wong.” (In that case the station actually did do some fact-checking: they called the National Transportation Safety Board, where the name was confirmed by an intern who wasn’t really paying attention.) It’s true that news outlets get criticized for rushing on-air with “information” that turns out to be false—but at least the critics will keep tuning in. If you don’t rush on the air with something, people will simply stop listening to you.
All of which adds up to the same thing: forced to operate with a bare-bones staff, under increasingly tight time constraints, news departments are less and less capable of doing the deep digging on their own. More and more, they have to depend on what they’re told. (This is partly why CNN, for instance, is relying more on “I-reporters,” regular folks who send in videos of events. It also explains the rise of “churnalism,” news stories that are either partly or entirely cut-and-pasted from some organization’s press release.)
That’s trend number one.
But trend number two makes it even worse…
Part II to follow tomorrow. Stay tuned.http://chapelboro.com/columns/aaron-keck/the-crisis-of-modern-journalism-part-i/
CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Carol Folt says there are too many new processes that have been put in place since the AFAM scandal for her to be up to speed on the specifics of them in the five months she’s held the position. These comments were made in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.
“They put in a lot of oversight—how many independent projects are being done by a single person, the way that’s followed through in the department, the way that then goes from the department up to the dean,” Chancellor Folt says. “So there’s many, many checks and balances in place that are observed on a term-by-term basis and reported on with metrics to follow.”
She says the deans are taking responsibility of the necessary processes and that she’s getting good reports of the oversight.
However, she says—while the steps that are being taken are good for the University—they weren’t necessary in every area.
“Sometimes one really distressing, bad set of happenings become the poster child for the way the institution is working, and of course that was not the case,” Chancellor Folt says. “In most cases, the processes were safe; in most cases, people were doing all the oversight and management you could ever possibly want.”
She says it’s not always the case that every department needs to change when something like this, but that even more oversight is necessary to find the outlier who is taking advantage.
You can hear the interview in its entirety on WCHL Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
For part four of the interview, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/chancellor-folt-catching-up-on-post-afam-processes/
Chapel Hill – A little competition never hurt anyone; in fact, it can do a lot of good. That seems to be the teaching strategy of UNC professor Gary Kayye.
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Kayye teaches a new media technology class for the UNC journalism school. He teaches two classes, and each one executes a fundraising campaign for their final project.
“I pit one class against the other,” says Kayye, “They have to create an event that raises money for a non profit.”
If you’re involved with UNC campus life you may have seen his students’ work on campus, or on your Facebook and Twitter timelines.
“Both of them are very creative,” Kayye says, “Both of them have had enormous engagement.”
UNC seniors Kelly Crupi and Tricia Cleppe are the captains of the two competing teams that have created a campus-wide buzz.
Cleppe’s team is known as “Heel Heist for the Monday Life”. The Monday Life is a non-profit that helps child patients feel better and heal faster by improving their hospital environment.
“By helping the Monday Life we’re helping buy iPads for children that are stuck in bed to play games on, as well as other resources that make their experience a little better,” Cleppe says.
The campaign raises awareness of their cause through “Scamzees” – a prankster whose catch phrase is, “Doing a little bad for a lot of good.”
“Scamzees decided that since UNC has such a strong athletic tradition, the best way to grab attention from people is to symbolically kidnap athletes around campus,” Cleppe says, “We released videos showing these athletes being a little paranoid, and having Scamzees kidnap them. We did that to raise a ransom, which is 1,000 dollars.”
Scamzees kidnapped UNC men’s basketball star PJ Hairston, men’s soccer players Tyler Engel and Jordan McCrary, and four gymnastics team members: Kristin Aloi, Haley Watts, Christina Pheil, and Margaret Brown.
Students are encouraged to attend the “Heel Heist” Thursday night to raise money for the athletes’ ransom, which will be donated to the Monday Life.
Crupi’s team is hosting Throwback Thursday UNC, better known as “tbtUNC”. The campaign gives UNC students, most of whom were born in the 1990s, a chance to reminisce on their childhoods.
They’re hosting the “Baby Got Throwback Bash” Thursday night.
“We’re going to have a DJ and a live band playing covers of the top hits, and we have over 1,200 dollars worth of prizes to give away,” Crupi says.
tbtUNC raises awareness for their event through social media, with different themes each day. On “Trivia Tuesday,” for example, they ask a trivia question about the 90s on Twitter, and offer prizes to students who answer the questions correctly.
Guests at the event Thursday night will pay a cover, to benefit Camp Kesem.
“It’s a camp for children from ages 6 to 16 who have a parent who either has or has had cancer,” Crupi says, “It’s a one week camp in the summer. It’s basically an opportunity for them to have fun, and not have to think about the fact that they’re dealing with such a devastating thing back at home.”
Students in Kayye’s class may not need a blue book or a scantron sheet for their final project, but Cleppe says the pressure is still on.
“You just really don’t know how much work goes into these types of campaigns until you’re in the middle of one.”
That’s exactly the hands-on lesson Kayye says he planned for the 2 classes.
“They’re doing this in real life,” Kayye says, “Instead of them creating a graphic for a company that doesn’t exist, or creating a social media campaign for something that doesn’t exist; they’re actually invested in seeing it be successful.”
Cleppe’s and Crupi’s teams face off Thursday night as they both host their events at bars on Franklin Street. “Heel Heist” will be held at the library from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m. The “Baby Got Throwback Bash” will be held at R & R Grill from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m.
For more information about Scamzees and the “Heel Heist,” click here.
For more information about tbtUNC and the “Baby Got Throwback Bash,” click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-classes-to-host-fundraising-face-off-thursday/
CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory says the State’s public universities are not training their students to be able to get a job out of college.
“I believe deeply that places like Carolina—Carolina amongst the best in the nation does that extremely well,” UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.
***Listen to Part IV of WCHL’s News Special with the Chancellor***
Gov. McCrory said he doesn’t want to see the government funding degrees like gender studies that he believes will not get someone a job. (Source: N&O – click here)
However, Chancellor Folt’s message in her early days at UNC has been to not only give the students a wide range of knowledge, but a deep understanding of that knowledge.
“Each one of them has a major—sometimes two majors—that have detailed skills taking them all the way to the forefront of knowledge in that area,” Chancellor Folt said. “And these skills are deeply transferrable.”
And, she said she doesn’t just want to focus on today.
“The skills we want for the future are the skills for students that can prepare themselves, not for the jobs that are sitting there today, but for the jobs and creating the jobs of tomorrow,” Chancellor Folt said. “If you think about digital world, the jobs that our students are getting now didn’t even exist ten of 15 years ago.”
She said Carolina is not struggling with getting students into jobs immediately following college.
“Eighty-five percent of the students that graduate from Carolina within the first year have full-time jobs or are in graduate school,” Chancellor Folt said. “It’s up there at the levels of the highest of our elites; we’ll continue to press forward on that. And I feel proud of what they’re doing post-graduation, and I think they’re going to be the people that are helping to bring new economies into the state.”
You can hear the interview in its entirety on WCHL Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m.
To read the other articles in this WCHL News Special series with the Chancellor, navigate below.
CHAPEL HILL – UNC Chancellor Carol Folt says the big decisions about athletics that ultimately affect the University come down to the chancellor. These comments were made in a WCHL News Special with Jim Heavner.
“I think it’s ultimately (in) the authority (of) the chancellor,” Chancellor Folt says. “The chancellor is the responsible person. I have pretty strong feelings about that.”
***Listen to Part III of WCHL’s News Special with the Chancellor***
Chancellor Folt says she’s not going to be involved in the winning and losing of each team. However, she says when it involves the compliance issues and rules or the proper punishment when rules are broken, she needs to be in the mix.
“I don’t try to manage every single part of the budget line, but I certainly am going to talk to people about the way we manage our money” Chancellor Folt says. “I’m going to work with Bubba on the issues, and I’m also going to respect his ability to manage his division. So, it’s a conversation that you have. You talk quite a bit, and you decide where the moment is that (is) your part of that ultimate decision. But, in the end, I have to feel very comfortable about the major decisions that were made.”
UNC basketball’s P.J. Hairston was suspended over the summer after an arrest for possession of marijuana and driving without a license as well as a reckless driving and speeding charge. UNC decided to leave the severity of punishment up to the NCAA; the NCAA has not yet announced how many games Hairston will sit out.
Chancellor Folt says she has been in the conversations surrounding the Hairston situation. She says in any situation, there’s a process that has to be followed to make sure it’s handled properly.
“I would say that Bubba Cunningham would come to me and say, ‘this is the situation; this is my opinion on how to go forward’,” Chancellor Folt says. “And then we would seek opinion of a number of senior leaders depending on that–not down to the details of every NCAA infraction–but when we’re dealing with something that might be a very high-profile issue, or if Bubba has concerns about it, or if we think that this is an important aspect about how Carolina is going to make decisions going forward, I would be involved in it.”
Tune in to the WCHL Morning and Afternoon and Evening News to hear the interview with Chancellor Folt in four parts Monday through Thursday this week.
To read the other articles in this WCHL News Special series with the Chancellor, navigate below.