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CNN Pregnancy Test

From  Chevy Chase’s first impression of President Gerald Ford, to Tina Fey’s famous Palin cameos, NBC’s Saturday Night Live has has enjoyed poking fun at politicians and news events for the past 30 years. But this past weekend, the sketch comedy show satirized not the stories in the news, but the way that such stories are being told.  And I venture to say that news buff everywhere got a good laugh.

The fictional commercial, staring Vanessa Bayer and newcomer Beck Bennett, featured a couple who were promoting CNN’s newest  technology–a pregnancy test. The test is advertised as the most informative of its kind, much like the cable channel claims to be as well. Like other pregnancy tests, the stick is meant to update hopeful parents on what could potentially be the biggest news of their lives.

But, to this couple’s annoyance, these updates, like those CNN has been broadcasting for the 6 weeks following the “disappearance” of the Malaysian flight, have been incredibly frequent but completely lacking of substance. At one point the test read, ” BREAKING: CNN more confident than ever that it will soon know if you’re pregnant.” Sound familiar? 

In my opinion, the sketch was the perfect metaphor for what I (and I know classmate’s of mine) have found frustrating throughout the entire coverage of the missing plane. It has been constant coverage of the same facts, merely to draw in viewers under the impression that they will receive news important news, which ultimately (though I’m sure many CNN viewers forgot this fact) relates to human life.



Scandal taints the media’s pool of official sources

Representative Vance McAllister defeated career politician Neil Riser in Louisiana’s 5th congressional district last November on a platform that stressed a need to bring Louisiana values to Washington.  His political ads featured his large family and country home to create the sense that he was a simple family man who wanted to bring “Louisiana values like faith, family, and hard work” to the capital.  The “family man” repeatedly told the electorate that he was “not a politician.”

He lied. Vance McAllister is no family man.  A few days ago a video of McAllister kissing one of his staff members, clearly not his wife, appeared in the media and spread like wildfire.  Today, there is hardly any sign of it. It is tucked under the headlines and bylines of stories that are not against another politician caught in scandal.

McAllister may think he is “not a politician,” but he is fitting the public’s negative stereotype of the average politician to the tee.  The staffer he had an affair with is married and has a 6-year-old child.  That woman resigned from her job and is heading for divorce.  However, McAllister is not resigning and is running for a full seat in the upcoming election.  The media should not back away from going after McAllister.  I think they should create an uproar that would throw McAllister down the steps of the capitol building and into the streets with the common folk that he so proudly claimed to be.

The words “I don’t care what a politician does behind closed doors” have literally come out of my mouth before.  It was not until now that I realize how wrong I was.  The pure hypocrisy in McAllister’s actions disgusts me.  He won a seat in the House of Representatives by using his family life.  He won, and then proceeded to spit in their faces, turn his back on them, and leave them to rot.

The media has a responsibility to push for this congressman’s resignation.  My opinion that journalists need to go after this man tooth and nail is not based upon his immoral actions that have disgraced his family, but is based on the media’s symbiotic relationship with official sources.  If the media will continue to rely on official sources like congressmen and senators, which they undoubtedly will, and the media does not push for the removal of hypocrites like McAllister then all sources of news will lose credibility.  The symbiotic relationship of news and officialdom must be clean in order for it to work.  Without media coverage of McAllister’s deceit and unfaithfulness, he will continue to be a part of the pool of sources used by the media within a few months or even a few years if he wins a full seat in the next election.

McAllister broke the oath he took with his wife during his marriage vows.  He cannot be trusted to keep the oath he took to enter congress. He cannot be trusted to supply the media with information.  The media only has this small window of time to keep the pressure on the congressman to resign.  Louisiana politics have shown that even with a sex scandal the “R” behind the politicians name can save him in the next election.  The media has an obligation of protecting its future sources of information.  Taking down scandalous politicians who will provide the information for news stories will clean up the pool of future sources, and protect the future interests of the American people.


“How Much Is Too Much?”

The tragedy that is the lost Malaysian flight has brought endless coverage of press conferences, official statements, and analysis. Most notably, though, is the controversial interviews with victims’ loved ones. CNN anchor Carol Costello recently wrote an op-ed addressing a frequently asked question when it comes to covering tragedies and the victims: “How much is too much?”

This criticism of the media comes with every tragedy and conflict reported in the news. We see videos and pictures that portray the agony, fear, or sadness that these families experience. It often feels intrusive, and overbearing. However, Costello argues that victims’ stories help the rest of us “make sense of the world,” and often the victims want to share their stories. Costello adds that the media gives “a voice to the voiceless” and “power to the powerless,” but at what point does it become too intrusive? How do we find the appropriate balance?

Today in class we discussed the effect that these dramatic images can have on a tragedy, and, in turn, public perception of the event. The media is a powerful tool that is essential to democracy, but it is important for us as citizens to recognize when the media has gone too far. While we criticize journalists for going too far, we continue to watch the endless dramatic coverage. It is our responsibility as viewers to say when enough is enough!


Zealous ZunZuneo, Not Quite


Recently in discussion, we explored the concept of astroturfing.   By using this tool of framing, an idea or movement can appear as populous and local. This emphasis aids in forming a grassroots movement amongst the audience. However, these movements generally find funds from elite means.

This concept rings true in this Politico article regarding ZunZuneo, an online social networking service on Twitter “masterminded” by the U.S. government. The communications network, meant to heighten dissent amongst young, Cuban users, drew thousands of viewers waiting for a motivation. The U.S. government denies claims that the plan was “covert,” but the Twitter was able to destabilize the Communist government existing in Cuba.  ZunZuneo began in 2009 after the Washington-based Creative Associates International gained thousands of Cuban cellphone numbers.

The funds spent on ZunZuneo, an estimated $1.6 million, were earmarked as projects in Pakistan. The elite means driving the Twitter page were hidden by a trusted organization known as USAID, which disappointed many Cubans who were interviewed upon learning the truth.

ZunZuneo meant to start local, populous outrage amongst young, open-minded Cubans, but the secrecy of the ties with the American government seemed to backfire. The Communist regime in Cuba is still in place, and the twitter page disappeared in 2012.


Pharrell Should Just Stick to Being Happy

ImageThere is an increasing trend in the United States for celebrities to weigh in on politics. This can be an issue since they are obviously not experts on pressing policy matters but their fans will still listen to their opinions. People who are not interested in politics may give an unnecessary amount of weight to celebrity opinions. This can be beneficial and harmful to democracy at the same time. Celebrities have the unique ability to raise awareness to certain policy issues among hard to reach audiences. The celebrity political experts can become harmful to democracy when they are misinformed or just plain stupid. 

Politico recently published an article documenting singing sensation Pharrell Williams’s thoughts on the upcoming 2016 presidential election. In the article he equated political parties to the infamous street gangs “the Bloods” and “the Crips”. He also accused the Tea Party of being racist and learning how to do the “dougie” while their daughters are “twerking”. Essentially Pharrell managed to ramble about politics as incoherently as possible. The singer believes that Hilary Clinton will win the 2016 election and bring equality to women. 

This Politico article begs the question: Why do we care what Pharrell Williams thinks? He did not present any logical or coherent argument in favor of any issues, nor did he say why he even supports Hilary Clinton. Despite these facts people will still listen to his opinion. He may even manage to influence people to vote for Hilary Clinton with his odd statements. Needless to say, this Politico article serves as a great example of news outlets reporting on celebrity opinion not because it’s real news that serves a valuable democratic purpose, but because it catches a hard to reach audience’s attention.


The Future of Television Within Government

televisionDespite very entertaining comments about this Politico article in the comment section, the article itself is a perfect example of some of the stuff we talked about in class regarding media coverage via television and, more specifically, results and effects of having such prominent coverage via cable news. “Conventional wisdom has it that cable news doesn’t have much of a future: The audience is old and getting older, the television landscape is growing more and more fractured…this version of events often ignores the incredible revenue gains made each year by Fox News (like a rocket) and CNN (far more gradual, but we’re still talking billions)… MSNBC isn’t seeing that growth, and it’s not clear how it will”

I think part of what this article hints at is the partisanship and necessity to be compelling within that partisanship of the news… and actually… that is exactly what the article is saying.

I think such a view is unfortunate.  I think it is unfortunate that a news station can more efficiently gain revenue through polarizing audiences and potentially “dumbing down” the electorate.

But I especially like its acknowledgement that many don’t believe television has a future.  Such a view is not true. Professionals like Vincent Harris, believe television will continue to play a major aspect in political campaigns.  I think that’s an interesting aspect when we discuss future political targeting and campaign outreach to the electorate, and that people who believe tv ads will go away are simply underestimating the longevity of television in thisage and that television will continue to be around for a very long time and continue to be a part of politics.


Did You #TBT #GetCoveredNow?

#GetCoveredNowIf you have a twitter or Instagram, you are familiar with “Throw-Back Thursdays” and its acronym hashtag #tbt, which takes place every Thursday when users of social media post pictures of themselves from the past. Who knew President Barack Obama would “tbt” and adopt this social media tradition to highlight policy agenda in Obamacare. In an effort of going public to gain support for Obamacare, President Obama adopted a new twitter campaign reaching out to our generation, familiar with such social media customs. On Wednesday, March 19th, a new Obamacare Twitter campaign was launched. In an effort to captivate an audience who avidly participates in “Throw-Back Thursday,” the twitter campaign urged users to post pictures of themselves in casts or with crutches with the hashtag, #GetCoveredNow.

As of 11:30 A.M. that morning, only one Instagram user, @bravegirlliving, had participated posting, “#tbt to one of the many times I’m glad I had health insurance. If you aren’t already covered, #GetCoveredNow before the March 31st deadline! (@barackobama made me do it)” attaching a picture of her foot and a pair of crutches. The campaign increased slowly, but did not manage to peak high numbers. Excluding accounts for nonprofits created to promote Obamacare, a grand total of five people complied with the request to post a throwback picture of an injury with the hashtag #GetCoveredNow. Also, an Instagram search shows that only 59 total photos have been posted with the #GetCoveredNow tag.

Obama’s goal through this #GetCoveredNow campaign was to captivate a demographic, ages 18-29 that regularly use social media tactics like “Throw-Back Thursday,” who can increase awareness of Obamacare and sway public support. This is a strategic act of “going-public,” when a political official seeks to mobilize support targeting a particular audience with an individual message. Obama strategically created this campaign for social media outlets most enjoyed by a young demographic, hoping that #GetCoveredNow would become a mainstream hashtag. Political officials are also known to intertwine policy agendas with many other entertainment media sources, which explains President Obama’s recent presence on Zach Galifianakis’ “Between Two Ferns” web series. In an attempt to sway public support for the youthful audience, Obama included Obamacare into his humorous dialogue with Galifianakis. #GetCoveredNow used social media to achieve the same goal. However, one could argue just how successful #GetCoveredNow was. Was it an act of successful rhetorical leadership or merely of desperation to save Obamacare?

Some argue that there was an upsetting message behind this tweet that if a person has insurance, they are free to act recklessly. Users related accidents with the need to be covered by Obamacare. Critics believe this encourages reckless behavior and that there is still a need to act with a sense of caution, regardless of one’s insurance plan. Also, Twitter backlash was evident from users opposing Obamacare, such as when Amy Lutz tweeted a photo of her hand in a cast with caption, “#TBT Yes, life happens. It was my responsibility to make sure I #GetCoveredNow, not the government’s.”

The question is whether our generation is buying into #GetCoveredNow. According to, there are over 40 million pictures tagged with #tbt on Instagram and another nearly 23 million with #throwbackthursday. However, only 66 photos total have the hashtag #GetCoveredNow. Maybe our generation just isn’t buying into the claim that we need insurance through Obamacare exchanges. I guess we will see this Thursday.



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