Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Dark Side of Black Friday

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. People will crowd and cram into tiny lines like cattle in order to purchase the latest gadgets and gizmos. However, I do not think that this topic should make headline news. When I looked at the newspapers the day after Thanksgiving, there were countless headlines of the trials and tribulations of Black Friday shopping.

However, I looked at the photos that accompanied the stories, and some of these photos depicted the darker sides of Black Friday better than the article could. Parents will drag children out at 3 a.m. to get toys and the latest designer clothes before everything sells out. This photo depicts a child sleeping in the cart while her mother shops for Christmas presents. I understand that giving and buying for others is important during the holiday season, but is it really necessary to bring sleeping children along? To me, the photo depicts irresponsible parents, not thinking of children’s needs and wants.

Photojournalism is quickly advancing into a popular and useful form of new media, and sometimes a picture is worth more in meaning and appreciation rather than an article. In this context, I think a photo showing the darker side of Black Friday is 10 times more effective than an article.

Rating: Escape the Royal Navy

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Hate Headlines

I’ll admit right up front that this is a ridiculously tiny issue in the grand scope of journalistic issues and/or problem and probably reflects a personal failing on my part. However, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle put a headline on an article that is just so damned empty headed. Rochester-area retailers hope deals attract buyers

Really? Retailers want to attract buyers, eh? I don't believe it. What's all this newfangled hocus pocus about selling things? It's for the birds, I tell you.

A headline of this caliber deserves a promotion. From now on, the editor responsible for the headline will be dubbed Lieutenant Obvious.

While, the headline isn't quite as bad as my all time favorite from USA Today a few months back, recent wolf kills alarm activists, it's still pretty bad.

Now, I'm not that rough on headlines, honestly, and I know for a fact that I'm a terrible headline writer (a quick look at my posts shows that) don't expect the most clever of witticisms on each and every story, but coherency would be nice.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Deserted Piano means...?

Police found a missing piano in the woods near Harwich, Massachusetts. Fantastic. And this makes headline news because...?

While police have no leads as to why the piano is there, and there might be an interesting story behind it, why such a big deal? Making headline news on, you'd think this story had some sort of great piece of American history attached to it. What was attached to this piano was nothing more than a bench. Positioned as if someone intended to play it. Well that's cool. Maybe there is a ghost waiting for this ghost piano...

Rating: Walk the Plank. Kicking this piece off because it lacks relevancy

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All Glory to the Jesus Moth out of East Texas

Not to stay on a religious kick, but here is another older religious themed story, this time from KLTV 7 out of Texas. The image of moth to the right was taken from the guys at KLTV 7.

Here's the deal, a guy finds a moth and the patterns on its back seem to create a face, presumably of Jesus. As it happens, the local media picks up the story a little and throws it up on the Web site.

To her credit, reporter Courtney Lane has a little bit of fun with the short write-up. She mentions the image of Jesus being found on just about one of everything recently, but the best part of the whole thing? Check out the poll asking if the pattern on the moth resembles Jesus or not. Really seems out of place to just ask readers, “hey guys, you think this bug has the holy visage of Jesus on it's back? Yes? No? Somebody who isn't Jesus?

I guess it looks more like Skeletor.

Anyway, props, too, for the interview subjects in not taking the moth too seriously.

No, the story isn't vital in any sense of the word, but the way the story is played shows the reader that right up front.

Rating: Wine and Wenches all around.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spears straddles the zone

It’s the same story: Another celebrity promises to clean up his or her act. Who cares? Every day it seems like one celebrity or another is promising to start a clean bill of health. Celebrities promise to no longer drink while driving or do drugs to cope with their stressful, hectic lives. This was one of the big headlines for today on Yahoo! News, and this makes me extremely disappointed.

This article makes bad journalism because it is not newsworthy. Britney Spears claimed that her recent breakdown helped her become stronger. Now she is apparently ready to “get back in the zone.” The writer tries to evoke sympathy for Spears, but this does not work. The article should not have been written because it is only a matter of time before Spears has another crisis. She has had so many already; it is hard for me to believe she really wants to change.

Celebrities continually promise to become better, yet I think their promises are fake. They do not seriously weigh the fact that their consequences have actions, and because they are rich, they are able to buy their way out of jail and therapy. People are facing genocide, war and terrorism, and all the American public cares about is Britney’s newest reform project. Wake up America, there is life outside the celebrities.


Rating: Black Spot (Death!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Welcome to Post-Apocalyptia

This one is a bit old, over at AlterNet but I couldn't resist the opportunity to point out a classy example of nutterism. Rather than tell us how crazy the individuals are, the writer allows the members of this “Joel's Army” to say, just for themselves, just how oddball their beliefs are.

It's easy to decry a religious group such as this as being merely ridiculous, especially if the writer is working over the Internet. Casey Sanchez, however, delivers such choice quotes as:

"I believe we're headed to an Elijah/Jezebel showdown on the Earth, not just in America but all over the globe, and the main warriors will be the prophets of Baal versus the prophets of God, and there will be no middle ground," said Engle. He was referring to the Baal of the Old Testament, a pagan idol whose followers were slaughtered under orders from the prophet Elijah.

This quote, and a dozen or so others, allow the reader to evaluate the position held by the group. It gives the article a certain degree of objective ambiguity. Sure, a rational person wont consider moving toward the end of the world as a particularly coherent idea, but the author leaves all interpretation in the readers hands.

Rating: Found a Treasure Map

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The AP does it again

Today I realized that I criticized what is supposed to be one of the highest quality news organizations more than I criticize any other news medium/news source. I thought about it and reviewed my posts that have basically blasted them out of the water and I kind of felt bad that I have bashed on them so much. However, all of my reasons for criticism have been 100 percent, completely legit. So, now I don't feel as bad.

Is it just me, or do other people find numerous things wrong with the AP's reporting? I seem to do it a lot. I do this on a daily basis though. It's not just me purposefully looking for things wrong in their articles. They just make a lot of mistakes. I don't know whether it has to do with sloppy editing because it's online, or what. I just know it's bad.

And, my job is to point this out. So, today I am not critiquing any articles. I guess I am critiquing my own blog posts about other news sources, namely the Associated Press.

The Associated Press can be put out to sea with nothing but a leaky raft and some cheese for sloppy reporting.

Toy companies get the lead out

To begin with, I'm ashamed of Yahoo news to even have this story advertised on their home page.

It seems to me that toy companies struggle with their toys containing hazardous lead every Christmas season. Why is this? And why does it occur that they ONLY discover this around Christmas season? What are they trying to say? Do they only test for these things around Christmas time?
Well, this article, I'll call it a video-cle because it's a video, talks about toy companies having issues with lead in their toys, however they fail to mention what toy companies. For all the reader knows, it could be any company. They fail to mention that, but they show video footage of different toys. Does that mean that the toys shown in the video are hazardous and represent any company?

This whole article was so vague and completely uninformative, which was the entire intent of the article. They only briefly mentioned what toy companies are doing to prevent lead poisoning. People can find that information anywhere, and the information that they had to offer was next to nothing.
Hello, Associated Press, let's get some names of toy companies up and the toys that people should be cautious of/not buy this holiday season.

Horrible story.

Walk the plank, AP.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Palin acts as valley girl, not professional candidate

Sarah Palin. Whenever I hear that name mentioned, I become annoyed because she did not know how to carry herself in the way befitting a vice presidential candidate. Recently, Palin mentioned in an article by Yahoo news she would possibly run for the presidency in four years. The thought of this makes me sick to my stomach, and I initially thought the article would be horrible and not worth reading — I was wrong.

Though the subject matter is ridiculous, the article was well written. Though the quotes the author used from Palin are elementary and sound uneducated, he or she did the best with what was available.

This article should have a serious tone, but it came off as hilarious. Whenever the author quoted Palin, I laughed because she sounded like a ditzy, valley girl who did not know how to speak proper English. For example, Palin continually used the word “like.” A person running for office should not say this word, especially more than once in a sentence.

"I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door," Palin said in an interview with Fox News on Monday.

This idea of the article was worth knowing (so people can start planning not to let Palin run for office), but content was horrible. However, it was not the author’s fault what the subject said; all he or she can do is report the facts, no matter how horrible they are.


Rating: Stole your rum.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

8-year-old boy accused of murdering father

Death, especially death by murder, can be a sensitive subject. It can be equally sensitive when the murderer is an 8-year-old boy. In Arizona, a child is accused of killing his father and his father’s friend with a gun. Though the circumstances are unique, I thought the article was well written and reported for its serious content matter.

The author investigates all sides as to why the boy would murder his father: abuse, spur-of-the-moment idea or psychological problems. Another good thing the author does is providing examples of similar situations where a child killed a parent or guardian. When children do this, it can be a reaction to abuse or the result of mental problems. In this case, the cause it not yet known.

Additionally, the author tells readers the truth: the law does not know how to prosecute the boy because he is so young and there were not many cases like this before. Just like the outcomes of the act are currently unknown, the author does not tell people what is going to happen; he provides multiple outcomes.

I’m happy to see the reporter does not outright accuse the child of murdering his father and his father’s friend. The reporter is reporting only the facts the police have so far, and this method of reporting the truth leads to a good hard-news story.

Link to article:;_ylt=ArKSv1xHa_gkTnTonS9HvBms0NUE

Rating: Rum and wenches

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

End of an Election

So there it is, two years after the campaigns launched and it's Obama with the win. Fantastic. Now I can get back to my regularly scheduled video game football and general pirating.

Seems pretty dull without the instantaneous controversy. Feels like something is missing. Fingers crossed.

Rice causes baby badness

Rice may be bad news bears for your baby, states an article posted on Yahoo! news. In some infants, it can cause a severe allergic reaction, causing the infants to be hospitalized. The reason this is so important? Rice is advocated as one of the first foods babies should eat as a solid food.

I have to give props to Amy Norton for reporting on such a serious issue. The article addresses the symptoms and what may be causes, and also lets parents know that it despite problems, it is still a hypoallergenic food.

The article is short and to the point and does not make the issue into something it is not. Norton also uses correct AP style throughout the article. The only thing that should be reconsidered is possibly giving something so serious a less funny-sounding name, because FPIES is kind of hard to say...

Rating: Positive Two
Link: Rice can trigger severe gut reaction in infants

Article or Tabloid? Too much info about Supreme Court Justices

It's great to think that the people who influence the country, including the president, the supreme court justices and congressmen are all human beings. Articles that shed light on their home lives are sometimes interesting and offer insight to these people who dictate what is and isn't acceptable in our lives. And sometimes, it's in appropriate.

In an article published on, the Associated Press reports that the supreme court is struggling with the Federal Communications Commission's policy regarding the use of vulgarities on television during daytime hours when children may be watching. While this is an important issue and the supreme court justice's personal lives may influence whether they agree with the bans the FCC wants, the article about the bans explained more about the justices than the ban itself.

There is no explain about how exactly they would ban the vulgarities or what would happen to shows that do not comply or if a celebrity slips up on live television. Instead, the article talks about Chief Justice John Roberts' three young children and Justice Antonio Scalia's more than 20 grandchildren. And wouldn't you know it mentions nothing about the three tight-lipped justices' families. Do they have them? Or are they just inhuman because they don't believe in the ban? We don't know.

Instead of trying to guess how the justices will vote based on the number of children and grandchildren have, maybe the journalists should explore the ban itself and what it would mean for television. Then we'd have an article.

Rating: Marooned on an island
Link: Supreme Court whatttt?

The Online forum pillages AP style...

Hold on Dallas. I know they may speak differently in the the south, but throwing the conventions of the written English language out the window? That's just unacceptable. I may be being a little too harsh. It's not that they completely butchered the English language, but at least learn to write in AP style. Newspapers may be dying, but that doesn't mean standards of traditional written journalism have to die with them.

Also, I realize this Web site is related to broadcast journalism. The authors on this site probably didn't have AP style hammered into their heads until it was all they breathed, ate and slept. But double-checking dates and the way to cite money isn't too much to ask, is it?

In the second paragraph of the article, the author makes his first mistake. Instead of abbreviating Sept. 29 as it should be, Doug Dunbar writes the whole word "September" out. Quick AP style lesson: The month is only ever written out when it is a month that is never abbreviated, is followed by a year but NOT a day or stands alone.

Second mistake: In a quote from Jeb Hensarling, Dunbar writes out the word "dollars" instead of using the $ sign before the number 200 million. Perhaps he was nervous about altering a quote, but I've got news for you - that doesn't alter a quote. Another quick AP style lesson: Always use a $ sign before a numeric value, unless you are talking about cents, in which case you can write the word out.

In other quotes, Dunbar fails to place in the attribution in the right place, sticking it after a paragraph instead of after the first sentence. Talk about confusing the reader.

Not only is Dunbar also repetitive, but the story lacks transitions and refers to Dunbar in the third person when at times it seems he is writing the article himself. Is he or isn't he?

CBS Dallas, please figure out how to write in AP style before I tie all of your reporters in trunks full of scorpions.

Link to article: Fannie Mae Execs Wine, Dine & Golf After Bailout

Palin made for dressing room, not White House

In the 2008 presidential election, political cartoon have just as much influence as news articles and television commentaries. Some political cartoons are often vulgar and extremely embarrassing for a candidate, but that is the point, and one cartoon defining the intelligence levels between Sarah Palin and John McCain does this.

The cartoon shows Sarah Palin with bright-red obnoxious lipstick, a red suit and a coif hairdo. She is reading Variety magazine and compliments herself for having a lot of “SNL” ratings. McCain, on the other hand, is in a simple, black suit and is reading the latest poll updates. Cartoon McCain says Palin is not ready for prime time.

The great thing about this cartoon is its reality. Sarah Palin may be the governor of Alaska and the Republican vice presidential candidate, but she does not carry herself as intelligent or serious when it comes to politics. She only cares about fashion and moose hunting; these are qualities that I do not want to see in the White House.

Political cartoons have the ability to provide a simple, artistic way to let voters know about their candidates. Political cartoons also have the ability to be bias as negative television and radio campaign ads. However, the purpose of political cartoon is to provide humor and creativity for audiences.

Rating: Escape the Royal Navy.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Who's to blame?

John Dickerson writes for MSNBC that if Barack Obama loses tomorrow, Americans will lose faith in the idea of family support. Not only that, but it will be his family's fault that he lost because they didn't provide the necessary support to gain the public's support. Wait, what? Really MSNBC? Talk about a red herring.

No matter what the outcome of the election tomorrow, it will not be based on family support. We may have distanced ourselves from some of the founding principles of this country, but I'd still like to think we haven't totally sold ourselves out on why we elect our presidents. While in this particular election there may be even more outside influences than others because of the make-up of the candidates, ultimately, it comes down to policies.

We have to remember that it's not about who makes history for this election, but what their policies are and what they will mean for the country for the next four years. Dickerson attempts to lead the reader to believe that the majority of people will vote for Obama because of his family values and the way he is portrayed with his family rather than the policies he has developed. This may be true for some people, but Americans still listen to their policies and have had the opportunity through debates to get to know these candidates, not just through their wives' introductions of them.

So what it comes down to is this: If Obama loses, it's not because his family didn't do its job. It's because America didn't think he could do his job.

Rating: Negative three.