Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pearl Harbor

A tragic day, December 7th, 1941, set the nation still. The attack of Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Japanese navy against the United States in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This sparked the United States involvement in Worl War II. In searching for articles about this historic day, I found one from the Los Angeles Times and one from the New York Times published on the following day, December 8th, 1941.
The first article entitled, Army Bombers Roar North, from the New York Times, talks about the United States getting ready to battle by flying up North. It explains that this is the first sign of war, at 5:25 a.m., that the planes are set off to fly North. The commander of the United States forced in the Far East, Lieut. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, placed the entire command at alert, the artice says. It explains the Great Britain and Netherland forces are also keeping their eyes open for further attacks. Lieut. Gen. Douglas MacArthur told the New York Times that it is a time to maintain self control and there is no need for panic.
The article was short, but in my opinion, still a little vague. There should be more details on the situation as our country is about to go to war. I can't help but feel the sources in thes articles are keeping their statements vague so that anything thry are planning can stay secretive. There were no quotes, only paraphrasing.
In the second article I examined, Attacks Precede War Declaration, from the Los Angeles Times, tells the nation that Japan has gone to war witht the United States and Great Britain. Japan announced it at 6 a.m. The article goes on about the information found about Japan's decision to attack and mode of attack the day after it happened.
This article is the same in length, but in my opinion more informative. It gives more details and not vague statements. In articles today, they are much longer with more details. Especially with something so big and historic. It is possible that it was difficult for the journalists to aquire this information do to the challenges of the time. Today, we have more access and easier access to gathering information and connecting with people.

The New York Times, Dec. 8, 1941, Army Bombers Roar North

The Los Angeles Times, Dec. 8, 1941, Attacks Precede War Declaration

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shuttle Challenger Explodes

On January 28th, 1986, NASA launched the shuttle Challenger, off of the coast of Florida. Within 72 seconds of lift-off, the shuttle exploded above the Atlantic, littering the water with debris from the disaster. All seven of the people on board the shuttle were killed in the explosion.

In the Los Angeles Times, their main article about the explosion of the aircraft was about the debris that stemmed from the disaster. The main source of the article was the United Press, and it was not very long. It discussed the debris that they had found so far in the ocean, and the fact that there were no conclusions that were drawn yet about what could have gone wrong with the spacecraft. It also warned the public to leave the debris alone, and let the experts deal with it. The quotes in the article were from official members of NASA and the Kennedy Space Center, as well as from a member of the Coast Guard.

The New York Times took a different approach. This paper chose to outline the many things that could have caused the explosion in the spacecraft. Not only do they outline all of the various physical problems that could have gone wrong, but they also describe the chemicals inside the chamber on the side of the shuttle, and what malfunctions could have caused the liquid nitrogen and the liquid oxygen to mix and create a bomb. The writer then goes on to suggest sabotage by a worker, and explains the security regarding the rocket. The source of this article was not stated, and there were absolutely no quotes in the entire article. With so much scientific information, it seems that there should have been more concrete sources, but it was just basically lacking proof that any of the concepts were true. 

However, the Washington Post used a very credible source - NASA itself. The Post chose to publish an article that was the direct statement that the assistant administrator made regarding the explosion. This seems, to me, to be the best way to handle the situation. The other two articles were based on speculation, but this was based on all of the facts available to the public, and the press, at the time, straight from the mouth of the NASA administrator. It seems impossible to have found a more constructive source, or a better way to frame the story.

In the 1980’s, literary writing was mixing with journalism to form the way of entertaining the reader along with informing them. Although this had started a great number of years before, writers were still using this as a way of trying to gain readership. I think that the New York Times was attempting to use this approach, to entertain the reader with all of the many things that could have happened. They used this speculation to appeal to those reading the article because they did not have many concrete facts to use. The same cannot be said for the other articles though.

 This story could be compared with the explosion of the shuttle Columbia back in February of 2003. Although the mission had already been completed, and the explosion occurred during re-entry into the atmosphere, the coverage was very similar to that of the shuttle Challenger. Seven people lost their lives, and the debris was littered across the land. Speculation occured then as well, until they pinpointed what it was that had caused the explosion and the break-up of the vessel.

NASA Hunts Debris, Tells Beachcombers 'Hands Off' 

Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Jan 29, 1986; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986) pg. 1

How Could It Happen? Fuel Tank Leak Feared 


New York Times (1857-Current file); Jan 29, 1986; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) pg. A1

NASA Official's Statement 

The Washington Post  (1974-Current file); Jan 29, 1986; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 - 1992) pg. A6

Hitler launches Kristallnacht

The night that Hitler launched Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was on the evening of November 9th, 1938. The following morning of the tenth led to many newspaper articles about the events of the night before. Kristallnacht was a night of anti-Jewish violence in Germany, brought on with the assassination of a German diplomat, Ernst vom Rath, by a young Jewish man in France.

The news coverage of this story in the Los Angeles Times on the morning of the tenth was very similar to that of the story in the Washington Post on the same morning. Both of these papers gave the background about the killing of the diplomat, then outlined the government’s warning message to the Jews and the occurrences of the previous night - the burning of the synagogues and the destruction of Jewish businesses. The article in the Washington Post went on to describe the precautions France was taking to make sure the anti-Jewish arguments did not get out of hand. But other than this basic information, these two newspapers did not have much detailed information included in their articles. The only visible sources they had were demonstrated by quotes in which German officials sent out warnings to Jewish citizens, and at the beginning of the article, where it stated that they were coming from the United Press.

The coverage in the New York Times was a lot more detailed. The entire first page of the article went into detail on the ages, clothes and mannerisms of the young men doing most of the vandalizing in Berlin. The New York Times described the types of places that were broken into, the names of the street corners where the shops were, and the crowds in the streets that were watching all of this occur. The details they were able to list were kind of astounding to me, seeing as they had no more proof of sources than the articles in the Washington Post or the Los Angeles Times. Their source of information was the Associated Press, and their quotes were, too, from the German officials. They also included a quote from the murderer of vom Rath, Herschel Grynszpan, which was a nice touch. The only real difference I noticed regarding the sources in the New York Times was that the writer stated, “The writer observed three cases of looting...”, showing that someone had observed it first-hand.

One thing that I noticed about all three of these articles was that none of them included the use of the word ‘Kristallnacht’.

I think that the lack of information in the first two articles stems from the fact that World War II was about to explode in Europe, but the US was still so far removed from it at this point that they were not able to experience what was going on firsthand. The articles had to be written mostly from information they were told by others. Also, I believe that some of the newspapers at this time were censoring things so as not to alarm the public. Regardless, the information that the public was finding out was not necessarily the whole story, but the newspapers did not have entire control over that fact.


Los Angeles Times (1886-Current File); Nov 10, 1938; ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times (1881 - 1986) pg. 1

Nazis Burn Synagogue As Rath Dies 

By the United Press. 

The Washington Post  (1877-1954); Nov 10, 1938; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 - 1992) pg. 7


Wireless to THE NEW YORK TIMES. 

New York Times (1857-Current file); Nov 10, 1938; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) pg. 1

Friday, May 8, 2009

Technological Innovations Claim Lives of Many

So here’s a story that was happening all over, but under-reported outside the work of photographers such as Lewis Hine and Jacob Riis. These photographers documented the dangerous conditions faced by factory workers and masses of immigrants who owed their arrival in overcrowded city tenements to the virtues of mass transportation.
Other technological innovations included electricity, which was a commodity still in the process of research and development at the turn of the century.

My first story involves the sad fate of an Edison Power company lineman who was burnt to a crisp from 4500 volts while working one day (Chronicle, 1902). No doubt it was an incident like this that spurred Edison to advertise the dangers of electricity with displays of animal electrocutions.

The most famous animal to meet such an end was Topsy the Killer Elephant. In 1903 Topsy was slated for death after having killed at least three circus hands in separate incidents (NYT,1903). After electrodes were attached to her legs, it took 10 seconds for the animal to die.

In the blurry photo above, plumes of smoke can be seen rising around the rigid legs of the dying elephant.

One need only look at today's mounds of discarded, outdated computers to see that the practice of rushing an undeveloped new technology to the consumer is still very much with us:

Photo Courtesy of:

These mounds of cast-off products are leaching toxic chemicals and compounds into the environment if they're not being melted down by underpaid workers in unsafe working conditions. We must all be aware of such dangers and guard against becoming victims of unsafe products.


ANOTHER VICTIM OF THE LIVE WIRE :While on Duty Lineman Barns Meets Electric Death. (1902, July 10). San Francisco Chronicle (1869-Current File),5. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The San Francisco Chronicle (1865-1922) database. (Document ID: 1245629482).&

CONEY ELEPHANT KILLED :Topsy Overcome with Cyanide of Potassium and Electricity. She Was Adam Forepaugh's "Original Baby Elephant" Twenty-eight Years Ago -- Her Keeper, "Whitey," Would Not See Her Die.. (1903, January 5). New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 1. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2005) database. (Document ID: 101963986).

Press Lets 9/11 Confusion Prevail

By Aaron Salazar
It is imperative to examine the press coverage of the September 11 attacks because they are the most current examples of the government’s power to abuse the public, and their employment of the media to escalate the budgets of the military.
Like when Hitler intentionally burned down his parliament, and blamed it on his enemies to have them exterminated, and yield public support for legislation to further his power, the United States government allowed and assisted in the attacks of September 11. I’ve seen the movies and websites that critically investigate the events, and pry open the contradictory crevasses of the “official” report. There are so many holes in the government’s explanation it is infuriating. What’s worse is the government refuses to answer questions from first-hand witnesses, whose stories tell something completely different. This is the most flagrant display of wickedness I’ve been alive during. The most frustrating part of it is that the press repeats its hegemonic course or coverage. The government’s explanation and interpretation of the attacks are what are solidified into the minds of the people through television, and the timid press is bullied into complying with the president and defense department, or else be casted as unpatriotic and conspirator theorists. The essence of this event exposes the press as again acting as war crier and war arbiter.
The cover on The New York Times’ September 12, 2001 edition is a troubling sight and brutal reminder. Across the top, just beneath the paper’s name, big, bold letters proclaim “U.S. Attacked.” Beneath that another headlines cries “Hijacked Jets Destroy Twin Towers and Hit Pentagon in Day of Terror.” This article goes on to display the scene of that morning. The author, N.R. Kleinfield, flexes of capacity of hyperbole, and digs deep into his bag of diction and wrenches out words like “inexpressible, incomprehensible, and unthinkable” to describe the scene. The rest of the articles on the front cover are basically expressions of confusion.
Another top-page article is titled “President Vows to Exact Punishment for Evil.” Even though the title sounds like the president has a good idea of the perpetrators, the article articulates the opposite. After a brief summary of the disaster and a stream of abject adjectives, R.W. Apple writes, “…security officials earnestly debate the possibility of a congressional declaration of war—but against precisely whom…?” It’s like The Times is just waiting for the government to explain what happened and why, without initiating independent investigation or postulating alternative reasons. Even in times of national disarray, the press is to be a governmental watchdog, not an insipid lapdog constantly seeking approval from a master.
I still shutter when imagining the horror on 9/11. The papers did substantially well in depicting a “hellish” scene. Reporters’ jobs are not to just write elegantly about a horrific event though. Their job is to pry, and risk being labeled unpatriotic in the pursuit of truth. Look at what the poor questioning of 9/11 has led to: an unfounded, murderous occupation of Iraq.

Press Supports Tonkin Resolution

It is abhorrent that only the passage of time reveals true, or dare I say truer, explanations of history. This is how history has played out. Only the witnesses of historical events know the unabridged facts. Sadly, witnesses’ accounts are mostly overlooked, and it is the perspectives of the powerful that impinge on the record, leaving a limited view for future onlookers.

A prevalent examples of this moral abatement is the manipulation of facts that pose as acts of war and result in U.S. retaliation. In the 20th century, a big vehicle for disseminating the government’s call to conflict has been the press. The press, even though professes objectivity, receives information from “official” sources and government agents, making their reports favorable for the government’s actions. An example would be the press coverage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964, which gave President Johnson power to increase military attacks in Vietnam and result in the loss of more than 58,000 American lives and an unknown body count of Vietnamese civilians.

On August 2, 1964 a U.S. navy vessel reported undertaking enemy fire from North Vietnamese torpedo-boats. The U.S. was perturbed because we were in international waters and abiding by U.N. laws. Two days later the ships were attacked again. Reported were two boats damaged and two sunk. On August 5, the Wall Street Journal, on page one in Vol. CLXIV No.26, reported President Johnson ordered a “limited” airstrike over North Vietnamese bases. The Journal writes, “This Government is united in determination to take all necessary measures in support of freedom and peace in Southeast Asia.” The report also mentions Johnson’s request to Congress for permission to deploy more military might to Vietnam. Johnson is quoted, ‘“our response, for the present, will be limited and fitting.”’ The papers failed to report though that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave the president the power to send as many troops as he wants, and for as long as he obliges.

The resolution was signed into law on August 7. On August 7, 1964 the Los Angeles Times reported, buried between headlines on page two, “Senate, House to Back Action by President.” The article reads how “overwhelmingly” the legislature has endorsed the resolution. Two opposing voices are acknowledge, but immediately after that paragraph, Sen. Frank Church’s responds to those two dissenters by being quoted as saying “there is a time to question policy and ‘“there is a time to rally around the flag.’’’ One dissenter is quoted. Sen. Morse is quoted: ‘“The United States has been a provocateur in Southeast Asia…Both sides have provoked this war. There’s only one place to take it, and that’s to the conference table.”’ Morse’s remarks are then refuted by the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Wheeler and Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, J. Fulbright. The press favorably communicates the resolution to the public. One counter argument is heard, but overall the article leans toward the government’s sentiment.

Cuban Crisis News Blockade

Cuban Missile Crisis
At Left: Fidel Castro meets
Nikita Kruschev, 1960.

The Cuban Crisis, or Cuban Missile Crisis, as it was known in the United States, is arguably the biggest story of our times—both in terms of its long-playing nature and the unique manner it was released (or not) by U.S. press sources.

The story of the U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba did not begin with the 1962 “October Crisis,” as it was known in Cuba. The 1962 military standoff over Cuba was really between the U.S. and the USSR, and began months—if not years—before, as evidenced by a Washington Post release from November of 1961 which promotes the idea of a trade embargo against Cuba. The brief two paragraphs sum up the point of the conflict—private property expropriated by Castro’s communist regime…(Reuters, 1961).

From the journalistic point of view, the most noteworthy part of this political spectacle was the U.S. government-mandated news blackout in the months prior to, during, and after the actual "missile crisis" of October 1962. This blackout is evidenced in the Washington Post’s archives, where no Cuba-related news appears between March, 1962 and August, 1963. Then-press secretary to the White House Pierre Salinger recalls that the missile-sightings were only reported in Britain (293) and that this highly controlled release of the news was necessary for the interests of the United States.

The blight of the trade embargo has cast its shadow over generations of Cubans and U.S. citizens in the years since the crisis. A scenario in which human lives are subjugated to the interests of would-be traders in sugar, rum and cigars hardly seems laughable, yet it seems absurd to many that the embargo still lumbers on long after it may (or not) have had any substantial effect on the Cuban economy.

The foreshadowing of the 1961 pro-embargo Post releases, along with the fact that the story and photos of the Soviet “weaponry” were only released in Britain leave the question of the extent to which elements of this historic narrative may be fabrications… Stories that are selectively disseminated in this way lose their credibility and take on aspects of propaganda.

Maybe the New Yorker summed the situation up best in publishing an embargo-related story called Mutually Assured Stupidity (1994) and, as one independent blogger suggested, the blockade stays in effect mainly because “we have hated them so long, we have forgotten the reasons,” (Leler, 2009) and are afraid to lower the guard for fear of the unknown…

Or, in light of the government-mandated news blocks on the story, there could be reasons that no one mentions. In all the reading and searching I did for this topic, no one suggested that Cubans may be better off without the U.S. presence there. By many accounts, pre-Castro Havana was, to many visitors, little more than one big brothel. In view of accounts like those, perhaps the trade embargo and travel restrictions were the best things that ever happened to Cuba…


Briton Suggests Cuba Embargo. (1961, November 9). The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973),p. A18. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 - 1992) database. (Document ID: 161674762).

164 Violations Of Cuba Embargo. (1963, August 30). The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973),p. A1. Retrieved May 8, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post (1877 - 1992) database. (Document ID: 163709452).

Leler, William. End the Embargo of Cuba. Accessed May 8, 2009.

Salinger, Pierre. With Kennedy. New York: Doubleday, 1966.