Inspiring and Informative: Unspeakable Conversations

Before reading Unspeakable Conversations, I had never even been aware that infanticide was a topic that people discussed. I have heard of those who believe that a woman should have the right to abort a fetus if it is disabled or believed to be suffering from some sort of mental or physical disability, but actually killing a living infant or child because of a disability is an argument that I (thankfully) have never come across.

I had also never read a story in this form. I was very honestly very intimidated when I was approaching this article because it is a long story with no breaking points in between. It goes against much of the writing techniques we’ve been taught in j202, but it works. It works so well that I don’t think this story would have quite the same effect in any other form. When I was reading it, I felt as if I was right there, listening to Harriet McBryde Johnson telling the story. Though I had never heard of her or Peter Singer, I could visualize them and the situation as if I had seen them every day of my life.

I was curious to learn more about both of the main characters in this story after reading Unspeakable Conversations, and was saddened to learn that Johnson, the author that moved me with this story, passed away suddenly in 2008, at age 50. The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina said her sudden death stunned everyone in Charleston. They describe her as a strong woman, a fighter, but also as having a great sense of humor, and a love of passing people on the street with her power scooter.

The other character in this story, Peter Singer is still a professor at Princeton. Reading more about his beliefs and ideas, I am very confused as to how he could feel this way and so publicly say things like that he doesn’t consider handicapped children as people (paraphrased by Johnson in paragraph 3). An idea like this seems so monstrous to most people, and in fact Johnson refers to him as a monster and a Nazi in the story, names that those around her called Singer. The fact that he basically believes she shouldn’t have had the chance to live, and says this to Johnson, and yet she still by the end looks to him almost as a friend, says so much about who she was as a person.

I really enjoyed this reading. I not only learned about these important ethical issues that I had been previously unaware of, but also learned about a truly inspiring person. How she lived her life is amazing, and a real wake-up call to appreciate what we have, and to treat those around us with kindness and respect no matter what their abilities or their opinions are.

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Why Obama Won and Romney Lost

The Obama family on the night of the 2012 election.

Many Americans found the 2012 presidential election results surprising. I was very happy with the results, but shocked that President Obama took all the “battleground” states with the exception of North Carolina. The Republican Party proved to be very entertaining in broadcasting their reasons for why the results turned out as they did. In this blog post, I will be examining some of the reasons given by Republicans for the presidential loss.

The media/fact checkers

Many Republicans adamantly believe the media has a liberal bias. Sarah Palin especially made this newsworthy in the 2008 presidential election, coining the term “liberal gotchya media.” Rich Noyes of the conservative Media Research Center slammed the “media’s biased gaffe patrol” for only magnifying every alleged Romney gaffe while failing to treat the president’s missteps equally. “When Obama infamously declared, ‘You didn’t build that,’ ABC, CBS, NBC didn’t report the politically damaging remark for four days,” Noyes wrote. In contrast, the Republican National Committee pounced on the remarks, used them in advertising, and even building an entire convention theme around the out of context quote. Noyes also says the “fact-checkers” which were very popular during this presidential debate season were bias and pointed out Romney and Ryan’s errors more so than President Obama’s and Vice President Joe Biden’s.

Hurricane Isaac/Sandy/Chris Christie

Republicans also gave Mother Nature as a reason for the defeat, blaming not just Hurricane Sandy, which hit right before Election Day, but Hurricane Isaac as well. Hurricane Isaac hit Florida just as the Republican National Convention was descending on Tampa this August. Viewers of the national convention coverage also hit an all-time low, even being beat out by the TLC reality show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” Hurricane Sandy arguably kept some East Coast voters away from the polls. New Jersey governor Chris Christie received most of the blame though, especially for praising President Obama’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy.

Obama suppressing the vote

Republican strategist Karl Rove explains his theory in this video.

Romney not being conservative enough

“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough, I’m going to go nuts,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in a Nov. 5 interview with Politico. “We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”

Even before Romney was chosen as the Republican nominee, he was criticized by other potential nominees and the media for being too centrist, with some even saying that he wanted to “wage war” on the Tea Party. It wasn’t until the first presidential debate that Romney made clear how conservative he could be in an effort to sway undecided voters.

“Ignorant Electorate”

Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who Wisconsin elected in November 2010, made headlines last Thursday by blaming President Obama’s re-election on an “ignorant electorate.”

No matter which reason you like best, it is clear to most that the Republican Party needs to change their platform. Like Senator Graham said, the Republican Party really struggles to connect with voters of color and young voters. As a young voter myself, I feel that the Republican Party will not be able to connect with these voting bases unless they change their stance on social issues. Being more conservative will only make this worse. As time passes, the older voters who make up a large part of the conservative base will disappear, unless Republicans change their stance on issues like gay marriage, they will never be able to reach an entire country.

Going Live: Quality or Stupidity?

WARNING: OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE IN CLIP

If Bill O’Reilly had read chapter 16 of Aim for the Heart by Al Tompkins, the American people would have never been gifted with the YouTube phenomenon that is Bill O’Reilly’s Inside Edition freakout.

In his chapter on how journalists can report ethically to minimize harm, Tompkins addresses questions every journalist should ask before going live. I’ll highlight a few of the most important questions in this post.

  1. The most important is “What are your motivations for going live?”

Tompkins uses September 11th as a perfect example of necessary live reporting. People both wanted and needed to know what was going on. The events according to Tompkins were of “vital public importance.” The live reporting on 9/11 also allowed the millions of people watching around the world to “quickly understand the scope and nature of the threat, even as the story was still unfolding,” according to Tompkins.

2. “Are you prepared to air the worst possible outcome that could result from this unfolding story?”

Fox News clearly was not prepared when they went live with a car chase during Shepard Smith’s show on September 28, 2012. The show had been cutting to the Phoenix, Arizona car chase periodically throughout Shep Smith’s hour long show, which airs at 3 p.m. EST. When a man emerged from the car being chased, Smith started narrating the man’s actions while viewers watched the live footage. The man shortly pulled out a gun and shot himself on live TV in front of millions of viewers. Smith yelled “Get off it!” and the show cut to commercial.

The show did have the footage on a five second delay, which Tompkins refers to as an “electronic safety net.” Smith and Michael Clemente, Fox News Vice President of News, both apologized for the disturbing scene. Clemente blamed the footage airing on “severe human error.”

3. “What factor does the time of day play in your decision to cover a breaking event?” 

Twenty-four hour news channels like Fox News, MSNBC, and CNN often rely on breaking live news to fill their endless amounts of time. These channels also usually reach a specific audience, such as the elderly, and other adults who are home during the day. Hopefully, not too many kids were watching Fox News when the disturbing image above was played. Local news and national news have to be more careful with live footage, as families often watch these programs together.

Going live is a risky practice for any journalist. Asking these questions can help avoid terrible situations like the one faced by Fox News in September. As Tompkins shows in this chapter of Aim for the Heart, reporting live without being adequately prepared can have dire consequences. It can also be a very stressful situation for everyone involved, including the journalist (lookin’ at you O’Reilly).

Is Sandy going to be Katrina Part II?

Sandy is the most hated name in the country right now. The violent “superstorm” left millions of Americans across 24 states without power. Much of the mainstream media coverage of the event has been focused on New York City and New Jersey. Images of the famous Jersey shore in ruins are some of the most circulated across the internet, as well as the damage in New York City itself. The image of a New York City subway station underwater is one of the most disturbing images associated with the disaster.

Controversy regarding the amount of coverage paid to New York City over other areas affected by the storm has been a national discussion over the last few days.

This video, which I saw on the NBC Nightly News, was particularly disturbing to me.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8004316/ns/video/#49650027

Brian Williams, who I trust more than almost anyone for objective news reporting, compared the situation in Staten Island to those that we saw in the lower ninth ward after Hurricane Katrina.

Williams also ends the piece by questioning the city’s decision to hold the New York City Marathon. He echoes Rep. Michael Grimm (featured at 2:23 in the video) saying “The city of New York right  now is preparing for a marathon…we’re pulling bodies out of water. Do you see the disconnect here?”

The New York City Mayor’s Office announced on Friday, November 2, that the NYC Marathon would be canceled. The statement from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office reads:

“While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division. The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination. We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it.”

The Mayor’s office directly referring to the controversy surrounding the marathon in their statement was a smart move. As is Rep. Grimm and Brian Williams calling out the city. The aftermath of Katrina deeply divided the country, and those wounds are still healing.

The lower ninth ward, which is still not fully recovered from the storm after 7 years, is one of the poorest areas in New Orleans. Many documentaries and other media in the months and years following the disaster asked why FEMA and the government never seemed to even try to help the people affected by the storm in that area.

The people living in that area are unlike the residents of Staten Island who we saw pleading for help. No camera crews visited the area until long after the storm. They never had the opportunity to be the face of the forgotten, lost in the devastation, like these Staten Island residents are.

The fact that New York City government officials are acknowledging the Staten Island situation, even discussing the controversy in their decision to cancel the marathon, leaves me feeling hopeful that the aftermath of Sandy will not be on the same level as Katrina.

Sandy victims still need aid though, especially as temperatures are continuing to drop on the East Coast.