Thursday, April 2, 2009

Riots at 1968 Democratic Convention

At the 1968 Democratic Party Convention in Chicago, Illinois, the politically radical Yippie group was posed to start trouble. The Yippies were an off shoot of the anti-war movement and free speech movement yet were much more politically radical than the former groups. The Democratic convention was where the group's antics reached a climax. The riots and violence that ensued were captured by the newspapers and the reactions were varied amongst them. 
Joseph Kraft of the Washington Post wrote in an August 27, 1968 about the riots and how the divide within the party ran deep in a way that was not anticipated, it ran through the generation lines. Something that would define the politics of the '60s. However, what Kraft did not take into account was that there could be political movements and philosophies that did not fit into the standard Republican/Democrat. Kraft vaguely focused on class lines, generation gaps and geographical location. The Yippie movement did not follow a hierarchy therefore that should not be a part of their political ideology that they would follow. Many news paper writers fail to research enough into the reason why different political groups struggle. They seem to believe that they all follow the mainstream two party system and that it simply not the case. The lack of research does a disservice to the community by not providing them with enough correct  information to asses the situation. This inability to get information about progressive politics, although I would not say necessarily the Yippies were that, keeps people isolated from themselves in the community.
In a August 26,1968, New York Times article Adam Clayton Powell criticized Mayor Richard Daley for calling the National Guard on the "anti-war protesters." The article is extremely short which is disheartening when the subject matter would be greatly debating in the trial of The Chicago Eight after the convention. The police brutality from accounts was excessive yet Kraft never mentions that in his Washington Post article. The NYT article is the first step to a discussion as to why this group acted the way it did. However, enough coverage was not given in order to follow explore this issue. 
When politics get radical in America our society either immediately crucifies it or says nothing which in turn kills it. Movements in America for this reason are extremely difficult because the public is not informed and therefore isolated by the people who are there to keep them informed: the media. 


Israel achieves statehood

On May 14, 1948, the State of Israel was established after the British mandate had expired. The state was established by the Jewish people whose goal it had been to set up a homeland in the Palestinian territories. Due to increasing violence between the Arabs who already occupied the land and the Jewish who wished to, the United Nations took over the matter. The UN set up a vote, which would become Resolution 181, to divide the land between the two peoples. Majority of the Jewish people accepted while a majority of the Arab inhabitants rejected the plan. 
On November 29, 1947 the plan was put to vote and was passed 33 to 13. The Arab countries which opposed wished to go to the International Court of Justice in order to stop the divide of Palestine on the grounds of it was going against the wishes of a majority of its inhabitants. They were denied.
In a New York Times article from May 25, 1948, titled, "Israel Statehood Held 'Legitimate' President Truman acknowledges and subsequently backs the newly formed Israel. I noticed in this article an air of authority which was prominent when the US was declaring war on Iraq in 2003 and claiming the discovery of WMDs which helped spur a baseless war. 
In 'Discovering the News,' there is the issue of the decline of 'facts' after WW1 with the rise of public relations. This NYT article reflects that sentiment. 
President Truman is quoted as saying that Israel has 'legitimate claim to statehood' and that, " the issue is not the Jews or the Arabs it is the validity and the effectiveness of our machinery for peace." Truman fails to state that the people of Palestine are being evicted from their land for the sake of a religious crusade. 
In a May 15, 1948, article published in The Washington Post titled, "New Israel's Declaration of Independence," the same glossing over of the facts and bias is present. The article reads like a narrative, describing the cultural and national identity the Jewish people feel with Palestine and how getting back into Palestine is their right. This article, like the NYT article, is giving off what seems to be  a public relations campaign for the newly formed Israeli state. The Washington Post is using this narrative style to articulate how important and righteous this establishment is. 
A few guiding principles in journalism in the Society of Professional Journalist code of ethics is to minimize harm and to be accountable. Both articles are enhancing harm by giving one sided arguments, using authority figures for validity and not taking into account the Palestinian people as actual stake holders. All of the reasons just stated are also why they are not being held accountable.
The NYT article has an air of what Lippman would have disseminated to the masses. No where does it mention the Palestinian people or the subsequent war that will follow to evict the people. Only a decision from above and its one sided opinion that it believes is fact. We have all seen how the Israeli-Palestinian has progressed over these years and now wonder what could have been different.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Germany Invades Poland


On September 1, 1939 Nazi Germany invaded neighboring Poland, provoking a World War Two. Prior to that, German Chancellor Adolph Hitler issued the “16 points” memorandum, defining the terms for negotiations with the Polish government. As the word powers were still unclear about the conflict’s outcome, the international press closely followed the unfolding events, making note of every little detail that took place as the history was unraveling itself before their very own eyes.

“British Mobilizing; Navy Raised To Its Full Strength, Army and Air Reserves Called Up. Parliament is Convoked. Midnight Meeting Is Held by Ministers — Negotiations Admitted Failure,” is a September 1, 1939 front-page story from The New York Times. Combined of two reports — one from the Associated Press and another from a special correspondent in London, the story talks about German aggression, failed negotiations with Poland, British mobilization and evacuation, attempts to address the issue in the Parliament, and presents a detailed account of the events prior to beginning of war.

While the paragraph-long wire from the AP resembles the modern style (short, concise, and straight to the point), the second part by Ferdinand Kuhn, Jr. falls into the category of a narrative written like a police report: “About 9 o’clock yesterday morning M. Lipski had asked to see Herr Von Ribbentrop. The Ambassador had no response until afternoon, when he was asked by telephone if he were coming as Ambassador or as a plenipotentiary to negotiate. He said “as Ambassador.” He heard nothing more until evening, when he was summoned and was told it was already too late, as the time limit has expired.” This over-explanatory style, as well as a lengthy, descriptive headline suggest that the story’s aim was to appeal to the general population and not specific socio-economic class. Nevertheless, the language gets complicated sometimes, as if the writer were someone from the previous century: “that the British regarded them as artful went without saying, since they conveyed a first impression of reasonableness that was not born out by the terms themselves.”

Another distinction from modern journalistic writing is lack of direct quotes — not even once the writer quotes his sources, majority of which are anonymous officials. Moreover, the writer tends to put his own spin on the story by putting quotations marks around certain words — as if he tries to be ironic. He also speculates, as it becomes clear from this passage: “much might have been said about the German “proposals” here tonight if the government had not been so anxious to have the first decision to Warsaw without any prompting.” At this point, it is evident that the style of the article is determined by the trend in journalism of the pre-WWII era — an interpretive reporting.

Another prominent newspaper, the Washington Post, had also provided a detailed coverage of the war, beginning with British mobilization, reactions from the international community, and raids of Polish towns. Somewhat similar in style (very detailed articles with explanatory notes from the editor), the Post writers, however, presented the information more objectively; although the traces of opinion and speculation could be found in some news articles (14 stories were examined), they all closely resemble the modern AP style — short, concise, and informative paragraphs elaborating on who did what and what happened as a result. However, just like in case of the Times, writers did not use direct quotes, and even if they did, they often attributed them to “top officials” and “knowledgeable diplomats” with no names or specific titles. For example, in one of the stories (“Germany Blockades Gdynia; Orders Ships Out of Baltic,” Sep 1, 1931, p.1), the editor mentions “reliable diplomatic sources in Rome,” as well as someone or something called D.N.B. — a source of unclear origin.

What’s interesting is that the facts mentioned by Times are corresponding with those reported by the Post, which can be argued is the sign of accurate reporting. 

Overall, close examination of the two leading newspapers has shown that although different from the journalistic attributes of the 1920s (lack of neutrality, believe that the facts could not be understood by themselves, and skepticism — as Michael Schudson suggest), the professional journalists of the late 1930s did not try to be as objective as they are today… In fact, the profession of the given time period was something in between — a participatory journalism and sharing of unfiltered information, which eventually paved a way for the “ideal of objectivity as we know it.” (Schudson, 120).




Dissolution of the Soviet Union

When it comes to deciding what is news, the industry’s decision makers tend to agree on key characteristics implying the importance and scope of the information that will make a headline. Such characteristics (timeliness, proximity, human interest/impact, prominence, etc…) often determine the place, or rank of the specific story in relation to the medium in which it is published or broadcasted. However, taking in consideration the fact that gatekeepers of the profession view the news through a prism of their own biases or lenses, it will be safe to conclude that this ranking is rather subjective — the notion of importance is a volatile abstract depending on editor’s own preferences and/or the very nature of a singled out medium. At this point, the same goes for the Newseum Top News Stories of the Century, for “even historians might argue about what’s most important.” Thus, it rather came as a surprise that sinking of the “unsinkable” Titanic and assembly line creation by the automaker Ford surpassed such a major event of the twentieth century as the disbandment of the USSR, America’s number one nemesis that influenced the foreign policy of the latter for more than fifty years.  Hence, intrigued by this order, I’ve decided to examine the coverage of the event presented by two very different, yet affluent American newspapers — the Boston Globe and The New York Times. Although this analysis cannot account for the mood of the entire US media of the time, it can, however, shed some light on attitudes of the time vis-à-vis the conduct and reporting style of the period’s mainstream outlets.

Case 1: The Boston Globe

The objective, factual, and rather dry style of Elizabeth Neuffer’s  “Republics dissolve Soviet Union. New commonwealth is formed” is a vivid example of modern day journalism. Beginning with a standard lede based on the five pillars of the contemporary news writing (who, what, where, when, why, how) followed by the inverted pyramid structure of the article’s body, Neuffer’s account presents the information at its rawest — no speculations, no opinions, and no sensationalism (despite the overall significance of the event) — just naked facts supported by quotes and materials from the relevant newsmakers such as heads of states, their spokespeople, and news agencies like Associated Press and Moscow- based Interfax. The lack of scholarly terminology and academic jargon and presence of scattered throughout the story bits of historical background and common knowledge facts (Russia’s transition from tsarism to communism, the formation of the USSR, the centrism and autocracy of the regime, etc…), suggest that the article was written for the general audience who might be unfamiliar with Russia’s cultural and historical specifics.

Mainly focusing on the newly formed commonwealth of independent states once comprised the USSR, Neuffer talks about the diplomatic recognition of the former, citing the key actor states’ policy makers — from George Bush’s White House to Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Michio Watanabe, not forgetting the newly emerged leaders of the day-old alliance. In doing so, the author presents contrasting opinions regarding the matter and the future of the new world order — yet another attribute of profession every reporter embraces since his or her days in j-school.

Issues such as democratization, liberalizations of markets, and nuclear disarmament do poke their heads throughout the article, depicting the top priorities of the American Foreign policy amidst the zeitgeist of the previous decade.

Case 2: The New York Times

Leaning towards the feature style of newspaper writing, Francis X. Clines’ “The end of the Soviet Union; 11 Soviet states form commonwealth without clearly defying its powers” is a 1,400-word article where the hardest of news meet analytical depth of high end, white-collar aimed publications such as Foreign Policy or Time Magazine.

Unlike the cool, concise language of the Boston Globe, The New York Times’ take on the unfolded event is portrayed through more sophisticated, intelligent writing full of witty adjectives that show author’s familiarity with the subject matter as well as the quality of education he received prior to joining the newspaper’s staff.

With great attention to detail and full of symbolic descriptions (“…small freshly-minted flags of their sovereign republics under a huge bronze-toned medallion that still bore the hammer and sickle of Communism), the article goes beyond the mere facts (who met who and did what) — it elaborates on a variety of complex issues ranging from the possible UN Security Council’s actions regarding the nuclear dilemma contrasting the new status quo, to long-lasting impact on micro and macro economic development the CIS might face in the future.

What’s striking about this article is that despite being a hot button breaking news story, it is rather abundant with hints regarding the author’s own views (neo-liberal school of thought), as he attributes the economic and political chaos to “seven decades of central dictatorship,” while acknowledging the common good of “free-market prosperity” via change of course to full democratization. Moreover, the streaks of author’s own bias shows through selected phrases and sentences, such as “the uncertain hands of the republic parliaments” or “the meeting today went a considerable step beyond, for not only was the new association enlarged and sealed with pledges of peaceful collaboration, but also the heads of state began settling some differences.”

With that being said, it is evident that although exceptionally well written, as a news story this particular article is somewhat inferior to the first one discussed, for the objectivity of the presented account is blurred by writer’s own “lenses” and visions.


Although very different in style and nature, both of the articles are nevertheless are the examples of modern journalism as we know it, for both of the stories are constructed in a familiar way relevant to the trend of the profession which remained virtually unchanged for the past two decades. First, they both begin with appropriate ledes (the 5 Ws) and present the information in the descending order of importance (the inverted pyramid). Secondly, the materials presented are accompanied by supporting quotes and evidence. Thirdly, despite the light bias of the second, both stories accomplish its main job, that is to inform the public by conveying facts corresponding to the event. And overall, they both reflect on issues that were relevant to the time during which the stories were written.



Neuffer, Elizabeth. “Republics Dissolve Soviet Union. New Commonwealth is Formed.” Boston Globe. Dec. 22, 1991, p.1


Clines, Francis X. “The End of The Soviet Union; 11 Soviet States Form Commonwealth Without Clearly Defying Its Purposes.” The New York Times, Dec. 22, 1991, p.A1.

MLK Assassination

The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 was so closely tied to the civil rights that were being fought for and then with the timing of the killings of JFK and RFK, the death of this progressive leader was a major historical element in America.   I looked at three articles in the NYT about the death of MLK.  One that was published right after his death 4/5/68 then another 4/23/68 and a third 6/9/68. 

The first had the headline: Dismay in Nation -- Negroes Urge Others to Carry on Spirit of Non-Violence.
This article quoted every major African American in America at the time.  NAACP, NUL, Jackie Robinson, a negro psychologist, a negro senator, as well as some other public notables such as Richard Nixon and the Gov. of Texas.
The article did a good job of getting lots of quotes and information into it but I was surprised to see that there were no details of the actual shooting or the investigation.  Even though there could have been other articles that covered the details it is odd that there was no mention of anything in the article. Also there were no quotes or information from the police or the King family.  It seems like that would be a logical addition more than Jackie Robinson.  
The second article: A Convict Says Ray Sought Bounty

This article starts to answer the questions of who could have killed King.  There was information from an inmate and police follow up.  I did feel that the article, like the first, lacked information about the shooting and how to get information to police.  The article came out relatively soon after the shooting and there weren't any new details released about autopsy or investigation or anything except the word of this inmate.  It is also lacking last known whereabouts of the suspect.  It was really just a blurb and left me with more questions than answers.

The third article was Guns and Assassins
This article pulls together the information on RFK, JFK, and MLK's killers and where they are in prosecution.  While it gives information as to how the police and courts are coming along in the trial process but don't quote the DA's or the families.  It is largely un-sourced information.

I was greatly surprised by the lack of information given in all three of these articles.  Even when most people would know a great deal about the event, there must have been a way for them to package the general info into the articles so that they all had more context -- especially for the NYT and their status as a historical publication.

Pearl Harbor Bombing

I looked at two articles that the New York Times posted in response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. This event is arguably what thrust America into WW2 and changed a series of events that followed. There were two times that I checked to see if the coverage was any different.  The first article I looked at was published in the NYT the following day and one that was published to weeks later.  The first article was titled: Entire City Put on War Footing.
This article was focused on the rounding up of Japanese in NYC.  It discussed persons of interest that could be Japanese loyalists. 
It mentioned suspicious activity occurring amongst small groups of Japanese in the city. One sentence actually insinuated that a Japanese businessman knew of the attack because he didn't renew his lease on the first of December.  The article referred to Japanese people being taken to Ellis island as prisoners -- that language, even though it may be true, makes it sound like they had been tried and convicted.  The language and insinuations make this piece seem very biased but there were efforts to get quotes and information from people brought to Ellis Island. The third person to arrive was quoted.  There was another problem though -- their were names of people who were brought to the internment camps that were not interviewed and that seemed prime for the possibility of blacklisting.  They weren't quoted and it didn't serve any other known purpose other than to list them as possible conspirators.  
The article did a good job of quoting public officials, even if the quote was that they couldn't comment at that time but they didn't contact or quote any non-detained Japanese people or any human rights representatives. 

The second article was a series of first-hand accounts on site from Pearl Harbor that piece together a timeline of what happened that morning.  It was titled: Torpedo Hit the Arizona First -- Navy Men of Pearl Harbor Say.
I was suspicious of this grouping of accounts because these people were spouting off percentage numbers and, while people do sort of see things like that, there is no precision or professional used to back up the approximations made by the officers.  One person claimed that 60% of the causalities were in one area and another said that 1,000 were wounded but these were officers and they were saying it in the recounting of the events rather than saying "we later found out" or "medical personal said" so there is some suspicion raised there.  Also no civilians or medical personal were added into this piece.  It also quotes the Navy having said something but not what branch of the Navy or what representative or when.  The story gives a fairly clear account of the morning but it raises more questions for me than it answered. It would have been a more balanced, full story if they let the people tell the story first-hand at the beginning then moved on to the provable facts given by officials and others that have been corroborated.