I recently sat down for an interview with two Iranian graduate students from Cornell University who cannot go back home because they fear they may not be able to return. The initial travel ban that was put in place by the president was halted by two judges who ruled that it was unconstitutional. The second version of the ban, which included a few minor changes, was also halted just a couple days after it was signed into place. Even though there technically isn’t a travel ban in place currently. The two students I talked to still felt that the ever changing nature of US immigration policy could pose a threat to their ability to travel back to the US.

One of the students I talked to came to the US d to peruse a law degree and eventually work as a lawyer in New York. She said that after hearing everything the president had to say on the campaign trail and seeing the huge amount of support he got, she no longer feels like she’ll be welcome in the US as an Iranian. The man that I interview also felt similarly. He’s looking towards moving to Canada or Europe after he completes his phd because he feels the US is no longer a place he can call home.

The six countries that were put on the travel ban list: Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen have produced zero individuals who have committed acts of terror on US soil. In a discussion I attended with Phyllis Bennis recently, she talked about the need to demonize Muslims domestically to keep people motivated about US foreign policy. She said the travel ban is directly connected to the wars waged against people living in Muslim majority countries.

It’s interesting to see that the counties that produced the terrorists that committed 9/11, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, were not on the list. It’s even more interesting that those two countries as well as some others in the Muslim world that were not included on the list have ties to Trump industries or are places where US military bases are located or countries that have strong economic ties to the US. 

 

 

 

 

I attended a lecture by Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies. She spoke on how the escalation of military action under the Trump administration could lead to potential war and more conflict. Despite the military dropping the most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan recently, I have seen little news coverage on any actual results or effects of the bomb. With a bomb of this caliber, nicknamed the “mother of all bombs”, you would think media outlets would send journalists to the site of the bombing after the occurrence to show viewers the aftermath and see if there were any civilian causalities. But I seen very little of this in reality.

The bomb is said to have targeted an Islamic State cave and tunnel complex in a remote area of the country’s east. The bomb is also said to have been ordered by the military, possibly independently of the administration. The broader latitude to act independently is concerning because it gives military commanders open opportunity to escalate US military involvement around the world without much check. Since January, the Air Force has dropped more than 450 bombs on Afghanistan, and this “MOAB” that was used has led to the expectations that it could be “used against an underground nuclear facility in a place like Iran or North Korea.”

Bennis talked about how making the military the sole deciders on military actions only makes for more violence and war, since military officials often only look towards military actions as possible solutions. This combined with the lack of substantial/quality media coverage on such a massive bombing is concerning.

This isn’t to say the mainstream media isn’t paying attention to things like this. Its just that the attention is placed in an entertainment-like fashion. It seems that the media, especially broadcast media, finds events like these as opportunities to run 24/7 coverage based entirely on useless information. I have seen more news anchors refer to the president’s tweets when discussing the aftermath of the bombing rather than actual results.

 

 

 

My morning usually starts off with me listening to Morning Edition on NPR. Although Morning Edition is pretty basic and usually only covers the top headlines of the day, I still enjoy listening to it. I’ll also listen to BBC World radio from time to time as well, which is considerably better and focuses on larger international stories. Much of the criticism of NPR is warranted but I do think some of it is outdated. Like almost all mainstream media, NPR fell into the hysteria of the invasion of Iraq and did little to question the government’s actions. But during the time that I have listened to NPR, especially during and after the 2016 election, I think it’s been doing a better job at this.

My favorite program on NPR is All Things Considered. Many of the topics its focuses on are ones that are often overlooked or skimmed over in other mainstream outlets. The podcast/audio format seems to be a great medium to convey stories and humanize characters. You can hear a person’s emotions though their voices and the nuances in how they speak.

Feminism is a subject that many mainstream outlets have begun to take more seriously over the past couple of years, but coverage of women’s issues, especially in relation to the elections, tend to be very surface level. All Things Considered is one of the few sources that has delved into women’s issues at a considerable level. I remember listening to one podcast on All Things Considered that talked about issues of intersectional feminism and representation in the Women’s Marches.

Most of the coverage that I listened to and read during the Women’s March focused on little more than the numbers/crowd size and celebrities in attendance. All Things Considered delved into the tensions between white feminists and feminists of color, something that would probably never be covered on CNN or NBC.

NPR has also done a really good job at covering campus sexual assault. NPR ED did an entire series focused on the issues, producing over 20 podcasts focused on topics ranging from how policies from the new administration could affect Title IX funding to the differences in the ways men and women think about sexual assaults. Camus assault is a topic that isn’t taken very seriously and is seldom covered by most mainstream media.

 

 

 

 

Adam Westbrook says the future of journalism will be entrepreneurial. The list that he provides to startup a successful business includes things like defining a target audience, asking if there is income potential and how it fulfills a public service. Much of the marketing that must be done for a startup, especially for a journalism related start up, is heavily reliant on the internet.

The ability to reach a ‘target audience’ and understand who these customers are is almost always done through the web. Its not surprising that because of this, startups have been some of the most vocal in trying to persuade the FCC to not change its net neutrality rules.

After President Trump appointed Ajit Pai as Chairman of the FCC, major Silicon Balley start accelerators like Y Convinator and Techstars, began to circulate a letter asking Pai to leave the Open Internet Order in place. These groups argued that any potential moves by Pai could threaten startups. The letter stated the following:

“The success of America’s startup ecosystem depends on more than improved broadband speeds. We also depend on an open Internet — including enforceable net neutrality rules that ensure big cable companies can’t discriminate against people like us. We’re deeply concerned with your intention to undo the existing legal framework.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a briefing that net neutrality rules under President Obama affected telecommunication companies and that Obama had “reclassified them as common carriers.” He added that any future action by President Trump would “reverse this overreach.” 

 

4/4/17

Arianna Huffington’s AOL deal sparks accusations of a political sell-out from The Guardian

The Huffington Post was not founded as a business to generate huge profits. Instead it was created by Ariana Huffington, Ken Lerer and Jonah Peretti as a liberal alternative to growing conservative outlets like Fox News. Just a few short years after its founding in 2005, Huffington Post was sold to Tim Armstrong, the chief executive officer of AOL. Huffington herself received $21 million from the $315 million sale.

In my opinion, Huffington Post is now based on a model of quantity of quality. It hires young writers to summarize stories and have been reported by other media outlets first. The sites dependence on free labor also started a trend which has since been emulated by outlets like Thought Catalog and Bleacher Report, which was similarly bought by Turner Broadcasting in 2012 for $150-$200 million.  

The Post for the most part resembles an online version of cable news, constantly regurgitating news while throwing in some opinion and mild analysis. This stands in contrast to the original tactics of the Post, such as criticizing the Bush administration and questioning government action, while it was still independent. One could argue that in order for the Huffington Post the expand and become something of its full potential, money is needed. An acquisition from AOL, and now Verizon, could in theory provide that with its unlimited resources.

In some ways, the Post has expanded its reach. It is now available in 19 versions and includes blogs in a variety of subject matters ranging from Latino and Queer Voices to Travel and Wedding. A broader expansion in this sense probably wouldn’t have happened if it had not been bought out by AOL. But the question of quality still looms.

In my opinion, the Post would have been better off operating as a liberal blogsite with the mission of covering politics from a critical angle rather than becoming a mass production operation. 

 

 

3/27/17

Don’t Stamp Out Brainy Mags from The Boston Globe

The Globe Editorial team argues that the United States Postal Service’s plan to raise the price of mailing periodicals would “pit big-time publishers against small journals that enrich the public debate far more than their modest budgets suggest.” They also say price protection is vital to keeping “politically and socially diverse voices” in the public arena. According to article, the Postal Service had come up with a different plan that would have spread the increases more evenly, but the Board of Governors decided to go with the plan made by Time Warner. My question is why would the Board, which according to the article is a government appointed body, do this? It is clearly not in the best interest of the country and does the opposite of protecting public access to information.

I see this issue, which was brought up by the Globe mid-2007 as similar to the one now surrounding net-neutrality. Net-neutrality, like price protection in 2007, is in great danger. A hard fought battle for open Internet was won in 2015, which kept providers from charging content providers for “fast lanes”. Net neutrality, just like price protection, is extremely important for independent media outlets that often rely on internet traffic and shares. Ajit Pai, Trump’s appointee to the chair of the Federal Communication Commission, is a strong opponent of net neutrality and has said in the past the its “days are numbered.” It’s not surprising that Pai is a former associate general counsel for Verizon. 

The internet is no longer a luxury, it’s vital to staying connected with the world and as essential as a phone or electricity. So far, the courts have ruled in the people’s favor on this issue. However, cable and telecom corporations like AT&T have said they will continue to fight. If a case on net-neutrality were to go the supreme court, its hard to say what direction it would go, especially with the possibility of another conservative judge on the panel.

In my opinion, net-neutrality is one of the most important issues of the internet age. The potential of any type of regulation would stifle the free flow of information and ultimately act as a censor to public information and the press. In addition, the lack of internet protections would make so that small business and startups would have less of a platform for consumers. It essentially could allow an eventual monopoly of the internet, entirely dictated by Verizon, Time Warner and others. 

 

 

 

How a misguided war led to a powerful nonprofit partnership by Vincent Stehle 

Andre Schiffrin, a publisher of Pantheon Book and founder of the New Press, said that nonprofit news-media outlets are so influential now that they are playing the classic role of the fourth estate. Looking back at history, the original works of great journalism such as Tomas Paine’s Common Sense, were all void of corporate or other underlying interests. The time period when works like Common Sense were published was also an extremely divisive one where the American population was divided into two halves. This is somewhat similar to the divide we see today regarding politics and socio-economic issues. I think times like these breed great independent journalists who are willing to reveal the truth despite enormous pressure to stick with the status quo within mainstream news organizations. As the article states, work by independent journalists, such as that by Robert Spitzer on gay conversion therapy or by David Corn on the 2012 presidential election have an enormous influence on the decisions of our lawmakers and the electorate. This leads me to believe that independent media will probably do the best job at questioning and investigating the actions of the current administration. Its seems that even with the huge divide between the “left-winged” mainstream media and the Trump administration, the difficult questions are still being left behind while the focus remains on frivolous things. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future and whether the nonprofit press will provide the scrutiny it should and that is missing currently in the mainstream press on Washington. 

 

 

Sanger’s legacy is reproductive freedom and racism by Julianne Malveaux

 

This article reflects many of the modern-day issues within the feminist movement such as the lack of understanding regarding issues effecting women on color and the exclusion of minorities within activist circles. This article was written in 2001, when the feminist movement had yet to go mainstream. I think some things have changed since then and the movement and people within the movement have become less exclusionary and much more aware of issues surrounding minorities. There are more feminists of color, such as Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez who have been embraced by the mainstream movement. Black Lives Matter, justice for Palestine and many other movements have had a presence in the Women’s March and continue to as people become more aware of them. I think the questions Malveaux brings up on placing Sanger’s contribution in context and on how we should judge historical figures are important ones. The key is to not diminish Sanger’s legacy and impact on the independence women have today while also understanding that her embrace of eugenics and comments regarding race and disabilities are wrong. It difficult to criticize leaders, especially female leaders who are often few and regarded with less respect than male leaders in history. I think this is somewhat similar to how some feminists view Hillary Clinton. For me, it is hard to acknowledge Clinton’s downfalls because it feels like I am giving more power to the other side and inadvertently saying that she is incompetent, like some would like the argue on the right. The lack of historical female leaders and women in positions of power today also contributes to this issue too. How does one go about criticizing Sheryl Sandberg for her issues without feeling like they’re a bad feminist giving power to those opposed to the movement? I think this problem exists for many historical leaders, male and female. However, people seem to be more willing to point it out, like they are with many other issues, when it is about a woman.