Friday, February 26, 2010

void.

I am sitting in the news room, after having woken up way too early and checked the news. After reading the report out of the Daily Cal ("Rioters Clash with Police in Streets South of UC Berkeley") I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of despair. Is this what Arjuna felt when he faced the battlefields? Rioting is not the answer. It's a way to gain attention, sure, but at what price? I understand that people are angry and frustrated - I'm angry and frustrated too. I appreciate the passion coming from these terrible situations. But at the moment, there is a risk of alienating people and losing support. What began back in November as a protest against the fee increases has turned into accusations of racism against the UC system. But just because you're part of the majority race doesn't mean you can afford it either, and just because you are a minority doesn't mean you can't. And now, those who don't share a more radical view of the world are beginning to feel separated from the movement. It is no longer united.

Cort defined it for me last night as "premature concentration," a characteristic that I believe this movement is in danger of encountering. When people have a movement that draws way too much attention to it without a strong support, infrastructure, strategy, etc., they run the risk of having the public opinion turned against them and then the movement is gone. Squashed. By demanding everything right here, right now, nothing is accomplished except for the public's disappointment in the riotous and irrational behavior of the youth. To repeat what has been discussed much over this past week: Success breeds success. Change does not happen in a snap. We cannot expect our society to be fixed in a day. We can work towards it, but that takes patience, understanding and the willingness to dialogue. Again, Cort noted it best: Sometimes, people are so sure they are open-minded that they refuse to listen to the people they deem closed-minded because they feel those people have nothing of worth to say. Do we see the irony in that? I know I do.

The streets of our state are broken. But shouting, vandalizing, misdirecting anger, generalizing...all this accomplishes nothing. Let's not rush to throw stones yet. Let's learn to find another way.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

time moves fast.

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." -Eleanor Roosevelt

I stress myself out a lot about the future. Cheever always used to remind us to live in the present moment, but sometimes I forget and then my mind runs wild. What does the future hold? What are my worries? What are my goals? What am I working towards? It's too easy to get caught up in all of that...A year from now, I'll be nearing the end of my undergraduate career, and then what?

People often ask me what I want to do after college and I honestly can't tell them because I don't know. When my dad asks, I often feel compelled to lie a bit because I don't want him to worry. I plan on applying for everything I can, really, and just hope to God something works out. I think that's why I work so hard right now: to gain as much experience and knowledge as possible.

But I still feel like it's not enough. I still feel like I'm missing something. I'm always in this race with myself to do better - but better than what? And how can I guarantee that everything I'm doing now will really benefit me in the future?

Or maybe this is supposed to be a mystery and maybe I'm supposed to just walk blindly forward. I do love surprises, but sometimes it's just too much for me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

in defense:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." -Voltaire

In regards to my last post - no, a newspaper should not have to apologize for the views of its writers. Especially not in the Opinion section. There is a strong disclaimer that reads: "All signed opinions, artwork and letters are the view of the original author and not necessarily the opinions of the New University." The current criticism that blames the New U for publishing the article is misdirected anger. The New U does not explicitly print articles that the editors agree with - there is a lot of disagreement amongst what writers will sometimes tend to write about. The reasons for not publishing an article, specifically in the Opinion section, is if the information presented is factually wrong (wrong as in "2+2 is 5," not wrong as in "your opinion is wrong") and not supported by sources. However, this does not make the New U as a whole racist, ignorant or offensive.

At the same time, I do feel that the New U should defend its writers and not allow editors to make comments that throw writers under the bus. The system and schedule of production at the paper isn't perfect, I won't lie, but there can only be improvement if those in charge are critical of their work. Folding to the passionate anger of the public is not the way to approach any situation.

There has been so much talk of "freedom of speech" lately on this campus, and I believe that this article is truly an exercise in that freedom. She did not go to a meeting and shout her opinions at anyone, nor did she try to suppress somebody else's views (however misinformed her opinions are).

I get that people are angry and frustrated, and they have a right to be. But watch where your frustrations are directed. I don't like the article's ignorance as well, but in defense of the writer: I doubt she is unintelligent or trying to purposefully offend and anger people. Her opinions are based on her world view, which needs to be broadened. That having been said, though I don't agree with what she wrote, I will not condemn her.

But this is all just my opinion.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

freedom to publish.

Should newspapers be held accountable for the opinions of their writers?

Case: A student submitted an opinion piece about Black History Month. The article can be read here: http://www.newuniversity.org/2010/02/opinion/black-history-month/

The backlash from it is evident in the comments.

My question, though, is it the fault of the New University to have published it? The way I see it is that I think the author is just misinformed and sheltered. She needs to broaden her worldview. It’s a shame that her intelligence is being insulted though, because I feel that she is not “dumb” or trying to be purposefully rude. She just doesn’t know any better. Not that it gives her a free pass though…

I don’t feel the New U should be held accountable for publishing one person’s opinion - albeit, a very uninformed opinion. Sadly, it is an opinion that is still shared throughout the country. The New U’s job is not to cater to one audience, it is to incorporate the many voices of this campus. This author’s opinion is one that is recognized on this campus as legitimate. I’m not saying it’s correct or that I agree with it, because I don’t, but this is just simply my defense of the newspaper.

Monday, February 22, 2010

the journalist and the murderer. the girl and her manipulation.

"What gives journalism its authenticity and vitality is the tension between the subjects’ blind self-absorption and the journalist’s skepticism. Journalists who swallow the subject’s account whole and publish it are not journalists but publicists…Like the young Aztec men and women selected for sacrifice, who lived in delightful ease and luxury until the appointed day when their hearts were to be carved from their chests, journalistic subjects know all too well what awaits them when the days of wine and roses - the days of the interviews - are over. And still they say yes when a journalist calls, and still they are astonished when they see the flash of the knife." -Janet Malcolm, The Journalist and the Murderer

I don't even know where to begin. The Journalist and the Murderer tells the story behind Fatal Vision by Joe McGinniss. McGinniss befriended the accused murderer, Jeff MacDonald, and agreed to write a book about him. There was a contract. There was the promise of money. MacDonald essentially hired McGinniss to be his publicist, to write a book proclaiming the innocence of a wrongly-accused man (MacDonald was convicted of the crime though), but instead, Fatal Vision tells the story of a cold-blooded, psychopathic killer. McGinniss manipulated MacDonald into trusting him and then turned around and betrayed him - for a profit, too.

MacDonald sued McGinniss, and a whirlwind of criticisms ensued. Their complicated relationship is the story of The Journalist and the Murderer. It begs the question: What is the true nature of the relationship between a journalist and his or her subject?

I’ve always considered the journalist/subject relationship to be the most complicated aspect of the field. Where does a person draw the line between professional and personal? What does that say about journalists who choose to write about their friends (for example, Lillian Ross’s profile of Hemingway)? I once read somewhere that “journalists don’t have friends, only sources”…True or false?

As for Malcolm’s book: The Journalist and the Murderer led me through a rollercoaster of emotions while I read (seriously, there are post-its with sad faces and smiley faces all over my copy of the book), but I really, really loved it. Not because I closed the book thinking, “Oh my God, this is the most wonderful piece of writing in the world!” but because it has made me seriously think and, thus, re-examine almost everything I’ve learned since entering the LJ major…and just when I thought I was getting better acquainted with the field. I do love having my comfortable little bubble of a world shook up from time to time, though.

I began reading the book and thinking, “So MacDonald wants to sue for having his feelings hurt? He should’ve hired a publicist if he wanted a positive book written about him.” But then as I read I became angry at McGinniss for being such a manipulative jerk. I kept trying to make excuses for McGinniss, in hopes of finding some redemption for him. “He’s a journalist,” I kept thinking to myself. “The writer is credible. He must know better.” (It was my own bias, really. I mean, MacDonald was “convicted of murder,” right?) But like Barry says to us from time to time, “These writers didn’t have a class on the evolution of ethics in literary journalism.” (Not that that should be a free pass for McGinniss though.)

So then I started getting angry with McGinniss for lying to get his story, for pretending to be his friend when really he only cared about making himself look good. McGinniss wanted a big story to push him into the spotlight, one that wouldn’t be written off like his past works had been. I think he knew that writing the story of a cold killer would be more alluring to the public, especially since he could boast that he knew MacDonald so well. Here he was, writing from the “mind of a killer” and telling his readers what they could only dream of knowing. McGinniss manipulated MacDonald into trusting him, and then betrayed him – and profited off of it as well. McGinniss also used his friendship with MacDonald to convince him not to talk to other journalists or reporters because he was trying to protect his own story. He didn’t want MacDonald to change his mind and choose another writer; he wanted the exclusive rights to MacDonald’s words.

But the thing is...Haven't I done that? I went into writing about sabers with the knowledge that it would get me attention. I wanted a spotlight on me for just a brief moment. It was the article, after all, that got me started writing for the New U. It got me what I wanted. I couldn't have written it if I hadn't pretended to be so invested in all of their personal lives; otherwise, they wouldn't have let me into their circle. I couldn't have gotten the scenes and information that I wanted.

It's been a year since I finished the article and I wish I could have just closed the book. Why did I sustain those false friendships? Was it because I felt guilty, because I didn't want to admit that I had used a group of people and no longer had need for them? Or because a genuine friendship evolved? I think I was looking for someone to listen to me too. I spent so long listening to others, I wanted someone to hear me out for once. In retrospect, I should've looked elsewhere. This is not the way to do it.

So then is the journalist/subject relationship really that perverse? People who just use one another for attention, and then cast one another aside once the job is done? Feelings are bound to get involved and then things get messy. Where (and how) do we draw the line?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

perceptions.

"We are all apt to believe what the world believes about us." -George Eliot

I wonder if I'm still trying to fill a role. I notice how quick I am to change something about myself the minute I feel someone perceives it negatively. Do I quiet my opinions and thoughts when someone else talks over me? Lately, yes. I can't explain why..potentially, it has to do with this unattractive need to be wanted and liked by everyone. Which is impossible - nobody can be liked by everyone. And I know that; I've been through this cycle before. So why do I still do it?

The world isn't going to wait for me to decide it's time to express myself. It'll pass me by (again) if I'm not careful and then I'll be scrambling to catch up. Head on straight, eyes forward.

In other news: The National Enquirer is eligible for the Pulitzer Prize. I wonder how the world will see journalists now.