Archive for March 2009

Interactive Town Hall w/ Pres. Obama

March 26, 2009

The Article: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/obamas-interactive-town-hall-meeting/?hp

Summary: Continuing his round the country town hall trip, Obama held an online town hall, where computer-users can send in questions to Obama and he will answer them in a live webcast.

My Two Cents:I understand Obama wants to continue his technology-focus that helped him so much in the campaign, but I’m bothered by the way this is presented (and how it was during the campaign). When your aides are filtering the questions and only a handful of questions get answered, that is not direct communication and democracy. When aides can handpick the questions, are you really going to get the tough ones that stump the president? How is this any different from a debate?

Iran Considers Death Penalty for Offensive Bloggers

March 26, 2009

The Articles: http://thinkprogress.org/2009/03/25/iran-bloggers/

http://www.mydd.com/story/2009/3/25/25442/7618

Summary: I’ll let Al Jazeera’s Nazanin Sadri do it:

My Two Cents: Well, I guess Iran never purported to be a democracy, and this kinda seals the deal. Blogging in Iran has really grown over the years, and is seen as the only way sometimes to spread unfiltered news. How sad is that when you’re faced with death for trying to educate? Yes, I’m imposing my Western liberal ideals on Iran, but it just seems like you can’t defend this practice on any rational level.

Newscab

March 24, 2009

On a recent trip to NYC over spring break, I was in a hurry and flagged a cab going downtown. To my amazement, this cab had a TV monitor in the back, complete with a GPS map of where the cab was going and tabs for People Magazine, News (from Reuters), and ESPN. Definitely an interesting combination. I wonder if those tabs cover the majority of people’s interests? In any case, my question is: how many people will click on news as opposed to going to People’s Magazine or ESPN?

Why it’s ok for newspapers to fail…

March 21, 2009

The Article: http://www.technewsworld.com/story/Why-Its-OK-for-Newspapers-to-Die-66560.html?wlc=1237661800

Summary: The article states that in capitalism, it is natural for large industries to fail as new technology renders their practices obsolete. “Creative destruction” is the term, a “process by which a new technology or structure replaces the old and builds a new infrastructure. This is how progress happens and capitalism moves forward.” Giving the examples of how the car replaced the horse and buggy, the author is confident this change is ok.

My Two Cents: Sigh. Despite being poorly written and researched, this article is just stupid. The author clearly has no conception of how “creative destruction” is STILL DESTRUCTION. Sure, the car replaced the horse and buggy, leading to ease of transportation and efficiency, but it also led to the destruction of the environment. With every “advance” capitalism brings, it bring about 5 steps backward. We cannot say for sure what the future of the Internet holds, but we have a pretty good idea right now. Privacy and security are being compromised every day, thousands living in low income environments don’t have access, and powerful corporations are strangling smaller news sources. Celebrating the death of the newspaper is ridiculous. The Internet may be the future, but it’s not perfect. We cannot allow it to continue on its path of corporate control and advertisement saturation. That’s not the news media a democracy needs.

Iranian blogger dies in jail – negligence?

March 20, 2009

Mirsayafi, a blogger sentenced to two years in prison for denouncing the Islamic government in Iran, died March 18 in jail. Mirsayafi says that his personal blog was mostly cultural, not political, with only two or three satirical articles.

The interesting part about this story’s coverage is that it’s very difficult to figure out how Mirsayafi died. I found two sources, a NYTimes Lede blog entry, and an article in the Iranian.com, a “community site for the Iranian diaspora — the Iranian expatriates who care about their identity, culture, music, history, politics, literature and each other, as well as friends and family living in Iran.”

While neither of the two sources knew themselves how M had died, the wording in the NYTimes was far more ambiguous about M’s death and seemed to blame the Iranian prison system. It took me a couple of minutes of comparing between the two articles to figure out what had happened. Unlike the NYTimes, the Iranian.com explicitly said that M had died from an overdose, the result of  the prison officials’ neglect to provide him with prompt medical service, all in the general context of Iranian’s autocratic system. The Iranian.com’s article did this by including a large quote from the spokesperson of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

“From the Judge who sentenced Mirsayafi solely for his peaceful opinions, to the prison medical staff who ignored his critical condition, a host of judiciary and prison officials are responsible for his death. Mirsayafi’s death is an indication of the cruelty of Iranian Intelligence and security agencies abusing the courts with the cooperation of the Judiciary,” Ghaemi said.”

Comments:

The NYTimes article was much more interested in trying to figure out where to place blame, an observation that can be made by comparing the different International Campaign in Iran’s quote the NYTimes blogger chose to include:

In an interview with the Campaign on 16 December 2008, Mirsayafi said his blog was completely private and was read only by a few of his friends. He also said that expert testimony by an Intelligence Ministry official during his trial emphasized this point and that he should not receive such a heavy sentence.

This quote focuses attention on the blogger’s role as a harmless victim instead of addressing the larger humanitarian and rights problems in Iran.

Speculation:

While it’s possible that the NYTimes blog entry did not mean to be obscure about M’s death, it left me wondering about the mechanics of M’s death. The Iranian.com’s article left me thinking about freedom of speech in an autocratic country like Iran. It seems to me that the latter is more useful when it comes to using media to promote democracy and human rights. In that sense, the NYTimes made M’s story more of a human-interest or murder story than the Iranian.com did

Sources
http://www.iranian.com/main/2009/mar/omidreza-mirsayafi

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/iranian-blogger-dies-in-prison/?scp=3&sq=blogger&st=cse

Online Forums Express Most Anger about A.I.G. Bonuses

March 17, 2009

The Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/18/business/18aigcomments.html?_r=1&hp

Summary: Ok, so you don’t need a summary of the AIG bonus scandal. What is new is that the most passionate outcry against AIG executives is coming from the Internet, in forums and blogs across teh country. Comments are posted in response to articles but also just independent posts. From Saturday to Tuesday, the NYT reported that 7000 AIG-related  comments were posted in response to the issue, making it among the top issues to garner such volume of responses since the NYT opened readers’ comments to articles in 2007.

My Two Cents: Online forums and posts, despite all their flaws, are valuable for one thing: testing the pulse of the American people. Sure, we were all outraged about the AIG bonuses, but how else (besides Letters to the Editors and maybe call in shows) could this anger be expressed? The Internet community really stepped up here to express their opinion, one that was largely united and together. That’s refreshing.

Seattle Paper Switches to Web

March 16, 2009

The Article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/17/business/media/17paper.html?_r=1&hp

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published its last print edition on March 17 before moving entirely to a web-based publication. This move makes The P-I the largest American newspaper to make that step, and will now resemble other web-only news media. “The move shows how some newspapers, in the future, may not vanish but move the battle from print to the digital arena.” About 145 people lost their jobs, as only 20 employees are needed to make the website run. The P-I lost about $14 million in 2008, which prompted the move. The move has been praised as “innovative” and as a creation of “new journalism.” But perhaps this quote says it better:

Ruth Teichroeb, an investigative reporter who was among those who lost their jobs, said she worried about what would be lost. “The thing that’s always been closest to my heart is The P-I’s coverage of the underdog, people who are invisible,” she said. “Those people who have the least voice in society are losing access to another part of the mainstream media.”

My Two Cents: It’s hard to look beyond the 145 people now out of work to the bottom-line attitude that prompted this change. Besides those jobs, what else is lost in the transition to an Internet-only publication? The nostalgia of print media, but ok, that’s inconsequential. The many Washingtonians who depended on The P-I for their news, now potentially ostracized from a media they either do not have access to (for socio-economic reasons) or simply do not understand (the elderly). How is the news media doing its job when it cannot reach those people, those underdogs Ruth Teichroeb worries about? You can argue that an Internet-only publication can be just as effective- look at all the blogs and whatnot that have reached people. But those media started as Internet-only. When a print media makes the move to the web, something is lost that cannot be found again. And we are forced to ask is it worth it?