Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wait, why did Charles O'byrne resign?

D&C readers may be uninformed

In my previous blog post I pointed out how the Democrat and Chronicle (D&C) treated the "Paterson aide pays back $300,000" story with little importance, burying an already unelaborate article. The article explains how Charles O'byrne (Paterson's aide) paid back nearly $300,000 in back taxes.

To further understand my point, consider the fact that O'byrne resigned as a result of scrutiny over his delinquent taxes. Since the article was placed on the second to last page of the Local & State (B section), many D&C readers may have missed the story. Thus, any prior knowledge of O'Byrne's tax problem (before the news broke of his resignation) came from another news source, if it came at all.

This illustrates how burying bad news leads to an uniformed public. Furthermore, any news that compromises the trust in the office of the NY Governor should be top priority, considering the former Governor's prostitution scandal.

D&C's story of O'byrne resignation was the last on page 5B on Saturday. The only content left to proceed it was advertisements and weather (on the following page).

Friday, October 24, 2008

D&C buries bad news: Governer Paterson's aid owed big time

D&C: Paterson aide pays back $300,000

Media Bias isn't always blatant. It often occurs within the mere placement of an article in a newspaper. This is the case in Thursday's issue of the Democrat and Chronicle (D&C), in which a story about Gov. Paterson's top aide Charles O'Byrne is buried.

O'Byrne failed to file tax returns from 2001 to 2005, accumulating nearly $300,000 in state and federal tax debt. Since becoming an aide to then Lieutenant Gov. David Paterson in 2007, he's paid his debt in full.

Which of the following stories should take priority in a newspaper based in Rochester NY: the delinquent tax bills of a negligent NY state official or the 19th annual ABC Household and Antique Sale in a local town?

For the D&C the answer is the latter. The ABC story appeared on page 1B (Local & State section) right below the lead story: Teen charged with DWI. O'byrne's story was buried on page 5B. For other New York newspapers, including the Times Union (based in Albany) and the New York Post, the story was given precedence.

In addition to its poor placement, the article contains minimal information. For instance, the author mentions O'byrne's clinical depression during the years he wasn't paying taxes. But unlike the Times Union, it fails to mention that O'byrne was able to work during that time; since 2001, he's worked as a corporate lawyer, a speech writer (for Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign), and as Chief of Staff to Paterson during his time as Lieutenant Gov. of New York.

It isn't always easy to report bad news. This is especially true if the bad news hits home, literally. However, it is a newspapers responsibility to inform the public of all news and to do so in such a way that important issues (good or bad) are salient. Important issues should also be reported more thoroughly then, lets say a used and antique goods sale. Readers may be upset over reading bad news, but they will have more trust in newspapers that prioritize.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Drinks cause drama in some cities (<=Click here for story)

New York didn't make this list! (<=Click here for just the list)

What is the real purpose of this article?

I know this seems like a random topic to blog about, however I also realize that as college students we can probably all relate at some level to the ever present and sometimes controversial issue: drinking, especially student binge drinking. This article found in Forbes health section is supposed to detail the top 15 cities in America that have high drinking rates; hence, the headline: "America's Hard-Drinking Cities," which immediately drew my attention to the story. I initially read the list of the 15 noted cities around the United States then clicked the link for the full article.

Upon completing reading the article however, I thought it was more of a cry to stop binge drinking in the U.S., especially places like Austin, the number one city on the list as the writers reiterated throughout the text. Also, they particularly pointed out the fact that Austin is home to a majority of college students and thus a threat to their surroundings due to the binge drinking habits which occur mostly by students on Sixth Street.

I did not find this story angle to be very fair. First of all, to specifically point fingers to college sudents as the ones with drinking problems is pure stereotyping, especially just basing that information on mere personal judgements and assumptions. Another slanted component of this story is how prevalent they make the fact that drinking is pure harm to one's body as well as a disturbance of peace to the surrounding community and putting lives at risk with the possibility of drinking and driving. Well, in reality, practically every city in the world must deal with similar situations resulting from drinking problems, not just the top 15 cities in the U.S.

I felt like this article consisted of a plethora of biased insinuations against alcohol, specifically binge drinking in America. Granted there are not many positives to be said of it, I do not think it was necessary to shift the focus of the story line to the multiple negatives of the habit. Based on the headline and lead, I opened the article with an interest in what the top 15 drinking cities in America are and why, not to learn about the negative effects alcohol could have on my life, or a history lesson on drinking in Austin and Milwaukee.

(Above photo taken from, where article is also posted)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Journalists Sentenced for Reporting Corruption.

The post today may be a little off-topic, but I thought it's something everybody should be aware of, and to appreciate the freedom of expression granted in the US, which is relatively greater than many other places in the world, such as Viet Nam.

In May 2008, two Vietnamese journalists were arrested after they reported on a famous case of government corruption in 2006. The reported political scandal is PMU 18 (Public Management Unit 18), which involved the use of millions of public funds in gambling, nepotism and bribery. The PMU was operated under the Ministry of Transport, which received funding from international sources such as Japan, the EU, World Bank and Australia to help Viet Nam build roads and other infrastructures. The PMU scandal was one of the greatest political scandals, which led to extensive news coverage, the resignation of the transport minister, and the arrest of the deputy minister.

The deputy minister was released without any charge in March 2008. His position in the party was still reserved. Shortly after that, two of the journalists who reported on the case two years ago were arrested and accused of "abusing power and democratic freedoms," distributing "false information," and "disclosing secret information." Just a few days ago, on October 14th, one of them, Mr. Chien from Thank Nien was sentenced to 2 years in prison, while the other, Mr. Hai is on probation for 24 months. The justification of the judge for sentencing Mr. Chien to 2 years was that "He doesn't admit for his wrongdoing." Mr. Chien insisted that he got his information from trusted sources, and that the information he provided is completely correct. Mr. Hai, on the other hand, admitted that he was not careful about the information he published. Another journalist who was also arrested, suddenly admitted he was wrong after "a night reconsidering," and was released after that.

I don't want to be biased by making a conclusion that the two journalists are innocent, and the judge has made the wrong decision (whether unintentional or not). The fact that the journalists are both well-respected members of the journalists community, had been writing for two of the most popular news sites in Viet Nam, and have both reported many corruption cases is not why I am more geared towards considering this another example of government corruption. But what a coincidence when they were arrested roughly after the deputy minister was released back to his position. Another "coincidence," as mentioned above, is that the one who doesn't admit the information about corruption was false, was sentenced to prison, while the other not. Besides, when asked about what "false information" the journalists reported, the police answered the question by claiming that it's a "sensitive matter."

Many are angry with the court's decision, and think that anyone who dares to fight government corruption faces the risk of being eliminated, or "taught a lesson." Instead of expressing their angers on traditional Vietnamese news sites, they go on more liberal sites such as BBC Vietnam to voice their opinions. With the youth being more and more skeptical about traditional news sites, and seeing other journalists being convicted for covering corruption, where would the future of the media and future journalists go? Journalists trained to hide the truth? Or journalists escaping traditional media for their own routes?

Bias in sports: what's acceptable, what's over the line?

Headline: Worst Losing Streaks in Sports
At the risk of sounding like a dumb blonde, I feel I should begin this blog with a little confession--I admit, I know next to nothing about professional sports. How I managed to get through a sports writing class last semester is completely beyond me. Instead of writing about politics yet again this week (although it is hard to avoid the temptation,) I thought I would try for an article about sports. The headline for this article struck me right away as a red flag for bias, but as I continued searching for recent sports articles I began to wonder about what it means to have media bias in sports journalism. 

To me, it seems like a 50/50 split. Sometimes, reporters give a very detailed review of the game, complete with play-by-play recreations and spectator reactions to the game, there is little to no reporter opinion or slant (either positive or negative) to these stories. Other times, it can seem like all you get is the reporter's opinion and/or bias to one team (or player) over the other(s). Is it fair for the reporter to cover a game when he or she clearly favors one team? If a reporter is a Giants fan and is asked to cover a Giants game, should another reporter step in place in order to assure an objective/unbiased standpoint? Or perhaps a certain amount of bias is allowed or at least forgivable in the sports world? These are just a few of the questions that came to mind when I was thinking of critiquing this article.

Though the writer did a pretty good job at trying to remain fairly neutral throughout this piece, he did slip up in a few areas, provoking the assumption that he is a Cubs fan. 

"Over the past century, the franchise has perfected the art of losing to the point that fans can't agree whether the Curse of Fred Merkle in 1908 or the Curse of the Billy Goat in 1945 is the phantasma holding back their team." 

The above quotation isn't attributed to anyone, so I'm guessing it is coming from the reporter's own perspective. This is one of the sections of the article that made me think the writer may be a Cubs fan. 

"Disappointment hurts, but abject failure can be far worse. At least Cubs fans have seen their team in the playoffs four times in the past 10 years. Try being a Pirates fan. The last time they had a winning season, George H. W. Bush was president, Nirvana was a new band and Barry Bonds was think."

I love this quotation, mostly for its humor and reference to the amazing band, Nirvana, yet it  made me think-- hey, wait is this guy a Cubs fan or a Pirates fan? Is he both? Again, the sports ignorance in me is out in force. 

"Suddenly, being a Cubs fan doesn't sound so bad. In fact, the lovable losers don't even make our list of the teams with the worst losing streaks in sports." 

Okay-- so maybe he is a Cubs fan. Who knows? Either way, it doesn't really matter. The point is there is blatant bias in this article, what it means to readers is up for debate. It is still an informative and fun read. Does it harm the information presented in the article? Is the argument relevant? These questions are up to you. 

--Above photo accompanied the article.