Friday, September 30, 2016

The First Amendment Through Music

Nathan Lors

The Freedom Sings band performed at the Baker Center Theater on Thursday evening. Freedom sings is a critically acclaimed multimedia experience featuring music that has been banned, censored or has sounded a call for social change. Now in their eleventh year of performing all around the country, their performance was thought provoking and encouraged the audience to take a look at the First Amendment from a new perspective.

The performance was led and narrated by Ken Paulson, author and narrator of Freedom Sings. Behind Paulson was a star studded cast of talented musical artists. The artists vary from show to show, however Ohio University hosted some of Freedom Sings most talented members.

The musicians at this particular performance featured Bill Lloyd, Dez Dickerson, Lari White, and Joseph Wooten. Each of these artists had very successful careers in the music industry, with members spanning from Broadway stars to rock and roll hall of fame members.

The importance of the message they send through their music cannot be overstated. Freedom sings takes you on a journey through time with their music, each step of the way showing an inspiring story of how free speech has evolved as a result of brave individuals blowing the whistle against social discrimination in America.

The ensemble played several genres of music including rock, pop, hip-hop and country. The songs were varied but all kept with a central theme of the importance of the freedom of the First Amendment. The band played songs from artists like the Beatles, The Black Eyed Peas, Crosby Stills and Nash, The Kingsmen, Marvin Gaye and many more.

The hand selected songs that the Freedom Sings band performed covered a wide range of social injustices faced by artists in several time periods. The group played songs that illustrated sexism, fought racism, and contested several forms of social inequality.

The music was incredible and kept the crowd captivated for the entire performance, but the message that was conveyed by Paulson and his crew was even more important. Especially with younger audiences such as this one, it is easy to forget where free speech rights came from since many have enjoyed these freedoms all of their lives.

This concert provided a moving reminder of what sacrifices and hardships people went through in our country to provide the rights that each and every citizen enjoy today, all through the power of music.

Using multimedia this was a wonderful way to show how the American government has attempted to censor and intimidate the music that artists produce to conform to what is safe for the public. In turn it then showed how artists took the power back and used their first amendment rights to push the social boundaries of what could be included in music.

These risks that artists took years ago influenced the opportunities and freedoms that artists and all citizens enjoy today in uncensored music.

This performance reminded the audience of a journalist’s most important right, freedom of speech and the press. The first amendment is essential to journalism, and without the bravery and persistence of these musical artists we would not have the rights and liberties that we enjoy today as journalists.

Freedom of Speech and Song

Heather Willard

“I am woman, hear me roar,” ”Four dead in Ohio,” “They got little hands,” “How many deaths will it take till they know?” These and many more iconic lyrics blasted through the Baker Theater last night thanks to the talents of Dez Dickerson, Bill Lloyd, Lari White, and Joseph Wooten, with master of ceremonies Ken Paulson during the Freedom Sings concert through to campus by the Society of Professional Journalists.

It is no secret that songs are one of the greatest communication methods of all time, but not many people realize that there is a great deal of protest, subversion, obscene or otherwise. Even today songs from artists like Katy Perry and Meghan Trainor raise topics and conversations across the world. If citizens cannot say what they want, then there is no true freedom, and that is what the founding fathers believed, and what this concert was all about.

Performance of songs used in Freedom Sings

The ethical connotations of songs or the banning of songs has long been debated, from when “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen was banned from the airwaves for its unintelligible lyrics that were subverting children’s minds, to today when Beyonce’s Formation video and performance at the Super Bowl created uproar and has since become an anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. All of the songs that were performed during the concert had pushed the boundary of their time, and pushed the boundaries of what the first amendment covers.

The night brought history to life and the spirit of American free speech to those that attended. It was also sponsored by Ohio University chapter, Society of Professional Journalists; Ohio University Center for Law, Justice & Culture; Ohio University Office for Diversity and Inclusion; and presented with assistance from The First Amendment Center. 

I was personally inspired by this concert series, as one of the songs performed was created about an incident that occurred close to home. The Kent State shooting was originally labelled a riot in headlines, and the song "Ohio" by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young was released to support the side of the protesters soon after the shooting.

The headline in the New York Times on May 5, 1970.
“(Neil Young) knew that we had to put Ohio out immediately,” said David Crosby in a video shown of an interview with him. “Our manager took the redeye out to new York. It was so immediate we fulfilled that older part of our job, our main job is to entertain, but it’s also to be the town crier. To say ’12 o’clock and all is well,’ or ’11:30 and it’s not so darn good!'”

Not so darn good indeed, as demonstrated by several songs released in recent years directly calling out the police and racism seen across America. Maybe in a few decades there will another group of artists, and they will be playing songs like "Don't Shoot" by a collection of artists including Rick Ross, Diddy and 2 Chains. 

Maybe in a few decades they will be singing songs we cannot predict today, but one thing is for sure. In a few decades, Americans will still be singing about freedom, pushing the boundaries of the First Amendment, and breaking down walls through music.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Too Attached?

Brea Burks

Conflict of Interest is a very touchy topic in the journalism world. Writers are always faced with the decision if they should report or interview someone because they might be “too close” to the story. You also have to be aware of the ethic codes that you can break by “getting too involved” with an incoming story. RTDNA wrote an article of the ethic codes that journalists should not break when it comes to conflicts of interest.

Photo by:

But let’s move on to the readings.

The story that grabbed my attention was the Anna Song story. This story was published in 2002 by Howard Rosenberg in the Los Angeles Times. The story explains how a reporter covered the kidnapping and murder of two teenagers. Their bodies were found months later in the suspect’s yard.

A lot of rules were broken by Song when she went to the school to speak about the teenagers that were killed. Once Song started to feel an attachment to the story, that’s when she should have pulled away and asked to work on another story.

We as journalists need to know what is too close to home. It’s our jobs not to be biased and feel self-involved in the stories we have to cover.

Now, I do understand if you feel that you need to finish the story the best of your abilities, however, Anna Song didn’t need to put herself in the shoes of the family members who lost their loved ones. I do believe that the reporter became attached once she interviewed one teenager about the first missing girl, then that teenager also disappeared. That’s when Song needed to step back. After this story was reported, Anna Song became an activist. This fits perfectly in the code of ethics of what NOT to do.

Let’s switch gears and speak on a different topic. Is that OK with you? Great!

Another “sticky” situation, per say, was the discussion we held in class about the reporter, Ethan Bronner. His son enlisted into the Israeli Army while he was writing as the Jeruselem Bureau chief for the New York Times. In my eyes this story is blatantly wrong in so many ways.

The difference between the story of Anna Song and Ethan Bronner is how close each person was to each situation and how quickly each one could have pulled away. For Anna Song, she might have not noticed until very further in the story that she was getting too close to the victims. However, Ethan Bronner knew his son was enlisting into the Israeli Army while he had the job.

In Bronner’s position, he should have asked for a different position or even switch to a different country once he knew his son’s decision, but he decided to stay. This made him potentially very biased on the stories he was producing the company he worked with because he focused on one entity. He wasn’t even writing the stories his employers asked. If journalists reach the crossing point of not producing great content for readers, then it’s time to take responsibility and pass on the information to someone who is capable.

So Much Conflict

Sarah Blankenship

It is pretty humorous that if you type "conflict of interests" into the Google News search, 90 percent of the headlines are about Donald Trump and his campaign. I am not a political guru myself, but I have seen and heard enough about Trump to not be surprised by this finding.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial board explained in an article that "the Trump Organization... has interests around the globe." So this is all one big conflict of interests?

Enough about Trump. I'll leave that question up to you.

Conflicts of interests, and the act of avoiding such situations, are at the very core of journalism ethics.

Back in high school, we were always asking to make sure that we didn't write a story in our school newspaper if we were even remotely related to the story.

As Editor-In-Chief I wouldn't let a soccer player cover the soccer team or let a member of the debate team interview one of their peers on the team. We were oblivious to the real-world implications of the issue, but we were on the right track.

I was particularly struck by one of our readings. It was Los Angeles Times article from 2002 written by Howard Rosenburg. Anna Song, a reporter and part of the KATU coverage team, spoke at a memorial service for two young girls who went missing and were found dead and buried very close to where they lived.

This article was a successful attempt at bringing light to something that should have never happened. That is our job as journalists. We must simply share the news with our audiences.

Anna Song may have felt like she knew the girls after interviewing one of them before her disappearance, but it wasn't her job to speak at their memorial service.

Sure, who doesn't want to be recognized as someone with a big heart who cares about their community and all of those who are in it? Journalists need to be objective; it is not our job to be activists.

We also spoke in class about Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief of The Times, who's son is in the Israeli military. In the article titled Too Close to Home, Clark Hoyt explained the controversial subject and the obvious conflict of interests.

Our table talk in class revolved around if we thought Ethan Bronner should be able to keep his job. Some argued that he should, other said he should not and some tried to come up with solutions such as temporarily taking him out of his position until the controversy had died down.

There are so many different paths and solutions to correcting conflicts of interest before it becomes a larger issue. In Anna Song's case, she cannot take back her speech. Ethan Bronner could've just offered to step out of his position when his son joined the Israeli military; that would have saved the controversy.

As I said before, conflicts of interest are at the very core of journalism ethics. As journalists, we should take steps to avoid putting ourselves in those situations so we can be clear, concise, objective and professional in our reporting.

No one should have to question our judgments.

Conflict of Interests Faced with Expectations

Natalie Chatterton

Journalists have expectations when they take on the role of communicating news stories, opinion pieces, and pictures they post to the public. Their community relies on these journalists to be knowledgeable, truthful, and clear of conflicts of interest. In the reading titled, A Journalist Breaks the Golden Rule by Howard Rosenberg he says, “Many of us in the media are potentially compromised these days, if only because we work for conglomerates whose sprawling interests cut across our news beats.”  Rosenberg clearly states this is an ethical issue between reporters and their media conflicts which bias their writing among multiple other journalistic industries. 

Rosenberg talks about how an Oregon journalist Anna Song exemplified conflict of interest when she was covering a story about two young girls who went missing and then were later found murdered.  The conflict of interest started when Song began to get to know the families involved while she was reporting on the story, and during the memorial she gave a eulogy about the two girls and the families involved. 

Now, looking at this story without having any journalistic knowledge you might think how sweet and considerate it was of Song to do this for the sake of the girls and their families. But, in the eyes of a journalism professional Song crossed a line, “violating a basic tenet of journalism by participating in a story she was supposed to be observing as a reporter, as an outsider,” Rosenberg states.  I think it is important to mention Song became an activist on the topic and not a reporter and in the eyes of Rosenberg if you can cross one ethical line it is that much easier to cross another.

Anna Song is not the only example of reporters and journalist faced with conflicts of interests.

Ethan Bronner is the Jerusalem bureau chief of The New York Times and it was reported that his son enlisted in the Israeli military. After review it was said that this report was true, in ironically enough, a New York Times article by Clark Hoyt titled, Too close To Home

This event was looked at as an unacceptable conflict of interest for Bronner and the Times due to the fact that the New York Times company policy on ethics in journalism states, “that the activities of a journalist's family member may constitute a conflict of interest. 

Hoyt explains that, “Bronner occupies one of journalism’s hottest seats, covering the intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. As the top correspondent for America’s most influential newspaper, everything he writes is examined microscopically for signs of bias.” I believe there is a biased on this topic and in the defense of the New York Times and the position Bronner holds he should be asked to stop reporting on this topic.

Earlier I spoke about media conflicts and the bias among multiple journalistic industries. One of the industries I was referring to was the music industry and music critics. In the reading titled Love Those Perks! / Critics Sound Off on the Ethics of Music Journalism Derk Richardson writes, “The music business has long been plagued with corruption”  explaining that music journalists count on the free goods and perks that come with the territory setting up music journalists for plenty conflicts of interest among this industry.  

There is a word used among the music industry called payola which can be described as “the practice of bribing someone to use their influence or position to promote a particular product or interest” which is relevant to the issues among music critics. In an article titled, Payola: Influencing the Charts Heather McDonald writes, “Payola, which is sometimes also referred to as "pay for play,” is as old as commercial radio, but it really took off in earnest with the advent of rock music and profitable rock music radio” this a tactic that has been used for many years now in this industry and isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
Conflict of interest happens every day to journalists. It is important to remember your journalistic duty and promote unbiased stories to the public for the greater good of your community.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Where Is the Line?

Julia Brown

For many media professionals, conflicts of interest arise naturally on the job.  Whether it’s being given tickets for a show you’ve reviewed or working for a news outlet that is owned by a big name company, the conflicts are endless. 

As journalists, we know from the various ethics codes that advise our profession that we should avoid conflicts of interest because they can lead to unethical decisions and a loss of credibility.

But when do journalists draw the line?  When do conflicts of interest become too big? And how do journalists attempt to avoid conflicts of interest all together?

The Line

This week for class we read two articles that described two very different levels of conflicts of interest.  One article discussed thecodependency that ESPN and the sports world have.

ESPN makes a huge amount of money by holding a monopoly over many sports broadcasts, particularly for college football.  Without those broadcast contracts, ESPN would lose billions of dollars annually.  Conversely, without ESPN’s coverage, many sports teams would also lose revenue.

This codependency is dangerous.  ESPN is doing business with the teams it is supposed to be covering in its journalism.  It can easily create a system of blackmail in favor of ESPN: if the company decides it isn’t gaining enough revenue from a certain team, it simply pulls the plug on their coverage, thereby coercing the teams to up their spending on broadcast coverage.

If a team or conference pays more than another, it is automatically given the most—and best—coverage.  This creates a cyclical toxicity that shouldn’t be welcome at a news outlet.

On the other end ofthe spectrum is the story of Anna Song.  Song was a reporter with KATU in Oregon City, OR.  Song covered the kidnap and murder of two teenagers, and then proceeded to speak at their memorial service.

Howard Rosenberg, the author of the article about this story, claims that Song was out of line.  He states that once you cross an ethical line, it becomes much easier to cross another one.

According to the article, Song and her news director discussed the decision at length before they both agreed that it would be okay for her to speak.  Rosenberg claims that Song was not at fault for wrongly deciding to cross an ethical boundary because she had only been a full-time reporter for two years.

But as inexperienced student journalists, how can we decide what is ethically okay?

Photo from: 
Recognizing and Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

The Department ofJournalism at New York University provided a list of potential conflicts ofinterest that all journalists should look out for.  The two biggest signs of a conflict of interest deal with receiving gifts or hospitality as journalists or giving special treatment to sources in return for a reward.

As journalists, it’s important for us to consider whether it’s worth losing our credibility in order to get a reward or reporting about our family or friends is.

If you wish toavoid conflicts of interest, don’t accept gifts, avoid politics and avoid financial and familial conflicts.  If you follow these guidelines, you should be able to avoid conflicts of interest all together.

Conflicts of Interest Journalists vs. PR Professionals

Vanessa Copetas

Journalism Conflicts of Interest

Recently in class we have been talking a lot about conflicts of interest. Journalists must be sure that they are being unbiased reporters and talk about the truth, disregarding their own beliefs and even breaking a bond with a company that they may be close with in order to report the truth fairly.

While it's hard to be completely unbiased, we are just people after all, I think that journalists should be allowed to chose to walk away from a story if they know they will have a preconceived notion against it. Giving up your story and giving it to another reporter proves that you accept and understand your bias and want to make sure your own beliefs are not stated in the story.

However, what happens when your publication is biased? Recently, The New York Times has been receiving reports that their readers were noticing a liberal bias to their stories. Is it the responsibility of the paper or of the authors to remain unbiased? This brings up an interesting question, do the authors have a stronger responsibility to report the truth to the public or to report in the way their publication wants them to?

The Difference in Public Relations

Similarly, public relations professionals also have an obligation to two parties. Just as a journalist should remain unbiased but true to the way their publication reports, PR professionals should look to the interest of the client but present the truth to the public.

 In public relations you are working for a specific client. Your main goal is to make your client look good which means hiding their faults and bringing attention to their accomplishments.

Look to any person who is well known and you will see that they’re always being showcased in a positive light by their PR team. After all, the goal of public relations is to make your client look good…but can our own client be a conflict of interest to us?

Though some will argue that public relations professionals lie to make their clients look good, as a PR student I have to disagree. Yes it is true that we try not to broadcast our client’s failures, but we do not hide them.

The PRSA Professional Standards Advisory states that, “Conflicts of interest have the potential to undermine or compromise the impartiality, credibility or trustworthiness of a practitioner due to the possibility of a clash between the practitioner’s self-interest and a professional-interest, or their public-interest, or their client’s interest.”

If a PR professional was receiving gifts or had external pressure to create positive lies about their client, then there would be a problem. However, there is nothing wrong with building your client’s reputation with truthful positive actions they have partaken in.

Additionally, PR professionals need to be careful that they’re not taking on opposing clients. It’s important to make sure your clients are not competitors because you are not being true to one client by trying to fight that one is better than the other, although you’re working for both of them.

So What Can a Professional Do If They Know They Have Bias?

Under the PRSA Conflict of Interest codes, it states you must, “act in the best interest of the client or employer, even subordinating the member's personal interests”. While I agree to a point, it’s hard to justify giving up what you stand for because of a client.

I feel as if PR professionals should be able to have a say in the clients they work for. If a professional really disagrees with their client’s beliefs or actions, they should be able to direct them to a coworker who does not have a preconceived notion.

Additionally, journalists should be able to refuse to write for stories where they know they would have a bias.  Accepting and acknowledging you bias is okay, but it could ruin your reputation as credible if that bias is apparent in your writing.

Having some biased is okay, it is a human reaction, but if it gets to the point where you cannot work with a client, I think you should be able to give your client to another professional before you unknowingly harm their reputation.