Had time to travel to the library today amid all my studies. Taking a brain breather for the afternoon.
Figured I would wander to my favourite spot in the library: magazine back issues! Specifically the LIFE Magazine section. Managed to find the original LIFE Magazine (Nov 26, 1966) that covered the JFK assassination.
There was an old piece of paper taped to the side of the volume
Take patrons I.D.
Esp. Nov 26/66 Issue
The library received the issue from LIFE in 1966, so for all I know, that little piece of card stock could be 40 some odd years old! [That’s just a guess though. I’m probably wrong.]
Being in the journalism program for two semesters now has made me realize one thing. Sleep is something you dream about when you’re awake. Dreaming when you’re asleep? Who has the time for that? Who even has the time to lie down and plan on getting a good nights rest? It’s never going to happen.
The late nights brought on by my part-time job and school itself have done havoc on my sleep schedule. “I think I’ll go to bed at a reasonably early time tonight” I tell myself. I turn off the lights, get ready for bed.
Oh boy, I have an 8AM class this morning. Wonder if I’ll wake up in time to make it there..
Well, guess I didn’t make it to that class.. Again..
That’s been the pattern somewhat for the last few months. I’ve gotten my work done, don’t get me wrong, but my presence in the classroom is something of an on again off again type deal. I just imagine other people in my class, seeing that I’m – again – not in class, mutter to themselves “does that guy ever come?”
But I guess that is what happens when you take journalism; late nights, early mornings, tired eyes. I just don’t know how I’m going to adjust. I’ve gone the past many years going to bed too late and waking up too early and it’s taken its toll. It seems now my brain wont wake up unless I’ve gotten exactly 8 hours of sleep, which is a problem if I don’t fall asleep until 3 and have to wake up at 7.
But I digress.
Stress is part of this job. These past few months have been incredibly stress-filled, and many others in the program would likely agree. “OH CRAP THAT’S DUE THIS WEEK?” we collectively yell. We were all too busy working on the assignments that were due last week. This happens on a weekly basis as you can imagine.
This though is the last stretch. The final 2 and a half-or so weeks until we can breathe easy for the summer. That is, unless we’re freaking out about finding a job, in which case the stress continues!
This was written for a newsletter assignment, where we had to make our own newsletters, write our own articles, and design them using layouts and graphics. The topic of our newsletter was Sensationalism in the Media. You can see the final piece here.
When every day seems to bring forward a new food that’s unsafe to eat, or a new location that’s unsafe to visit, or a new television show that’s unsafe to watch, it’s understandable that you would go through life with a sense of overwhelming anxiety. Most of this tends to be our own doing; we see or hear something on the TV or through a friend and our brain goes into overdrive thinking of every horrific outcome and problem that can arise. This of course isn’t a modern phenomenon, people have been getting worked up and scared about things since the beginning of humanity through episodes of mass hysteria. One of the most notorious examples of this would be the Salem witch trials in 1692, one of many witch trials that took place in America at the time, spurred by isolationism and religious extremism to name a few. Since the beginning of mass media however, starting with the modern newspaper up to the creation of the World Wide Web, the same culture of fear has been making appearances but in different subtle ways.
Modern-day humans consume a much larger amount of information than before, and with the internet and smartphones, the consumption is frighteningly close to a 24 hour a day intake. Coupled with our innate ability to become fearful about almost everything, the greater information consumption also comes with a greater consumption of bad news, accidents, deaths and other types of misery. The number of information sources has also risen dramatically over the years, so today, not only is there a greater amount of information coming in, there is a greater amount of places where this information is coming from.
The term “if it bleeds it leads” perfectly describes where many media outlets now find themselves. In the current economic climate which sees many TV stations cutting staff, and some newspapers closing altogether, the emphasis on sensational stories usually involving death or other gruesome subject matter tend to get preferential treatment. Though, they can’t be completely blamed for thinking this way, humans after all have a strange fascination with death and misery (the Colosseum anyone?) and it’s only natural for the free market to offer what people want. Many people however equate this onslaught of negative news is due to some kind of sinister intent, that either the companies owning the media property or the people within it, have something to gain from pushing sensationalism and death, something other than money. This argument is lobbied frequently towards entities like Fox News in America and Sun News in Canada; the insinuation being that they both mislead and frighten intentionally because it both sells and helps push viewers towards supporting political policies that benefit the corporation or the wealthy.
There could be arguments made that some media companies use fear as a basis of making money or pushing ideology, but one could make the point that the number of negative, gruesome stories far outweigh those with a positive and happy message. Life in general is a misery-filled roller coaster, and it’s only natural that the media cover that misery. If you were to ask any reporter, chances are they would probably say that they would prefer to cover stories that have nothing to do with death or crime, but it’s an unfortunate reality in the news business. That being said, there are many news organizations which could learn a thing or two about restraint. In his 1999 book ‘The Culture of Fear’, sociologist Barry Glassner noted that throughout the 1990s (and even nowadays) Americans were severely worried about things that weren’t as bad as they thought. When crime rates across America dropped in the 1990s, approximately two-thirds of Americans were under the impression that they were soaring. Similarly, drug use decreased by half in the late ‘90s, but 9 out of 10 people believed that there was a drug epidemic. As noted before, the amount of information has grown over the years, and with it, so has the number of negative news stories. When viewers are overwhelmed with negative news stories as opposed to positive ones, they are more likely to imagine that the world is a horrific, terrible, and dangerous place.
The solution to this would be to find some kind of sensible balance between the two sides. Cover an equal number of positive and negative stories to come to a sensible ratio, even though this is easier said than done. Like I mentioned before, reality offers us an obscene amount of bad news in comparison to good news, and good news itself is much harder to find. Another solution? To keep the negativity and horror from getting to us the way it does. But in our instant news age, that is more like an impossible feat than a simple fix.
*This is the 10 minute radio documentary I produced as a school assignment*
This semester, we were assigned the project of making a 10 minute radio doc for Feature Reporting class. In first semester, we had to make a 5-6 minute radio doc, and I decided to cover the closing of Lorne Ave public school here in London, but this time around I decided to cover something much more upbeat and positive. Enter Awesome London.
Awesome London is part of Awesome International, an organization with chapters all over the world that specialize in the art of giving no-strings-attached $1000 grants, to ideas that are awesome.
The piece I put together looks at the 2 ideas who have won the grants so far (Erin Woodgate in January, and Lincoln McCardle in February) and details the workings of Awesome London itself, where the money comes from, and what concerns are on the horizon for future Awesomes.
Thanks to Christine Moss, Shawn Adamsson, Lincoln McCardle, and Erin Woodgate for graciously letting me take up their time to interview them.