Thursday, April 23, 2009

America's deadliest epidemic

Because of the immeasurable lack of knowledge, news stories on AIDS in the early 80’s fueled the fear of infection. The mixture of sensationalism and novelty of the new virus helped the identification of AIDS earn its number 18 ranking on the public pole even over civil rights and the U.S debut of television.
When the infection first broke it was so much more than just a virus. It effected our culture, politics, science and individuals from all walks of life. No one had known where AIDS had come from, how you could contract it and with no way to fight it, HIV/AIDS was a death sentence and was treated as such in the media. When AIDS first surfaced, in the summer of 1981, the only thing the researchers and the public knew about it, was that it was highly contagious and that men were dying at a rate just a fast as others were contracting the infection. So during this period there was a lot of finger pointing and blame in the media because there were no definite answers. Every type of media had participated in what seemed like a witch hunt for who had brought such a deadly virus into the U.S. Amongst the articles that I had analyzed, which included one from the New York Times and the other from the Miami Herald, journalist were not censored from naming specific groups that “caused” the AIDS outbreak even though there had been no irrefutable evidence labeling any one group thus the stimulation of cultural hostility.
The Regan administration emphasized the concentration of the outbreak being on gays in California and New York.”…Because our focus, up until then, and most of the public noise we made, and everything, meeting with medical groups around the country and so forth had focused on homosexual men. And maybe by doing that we were missing the female cases” Dr. Edward Brant M.D PhD assistant secretary for health 1981-1984.
It wasn’t until 1983 that the name GRID (gay related immunodeficiency disease) changed to HIV/AIDS, acknowledging that it wasn’t just affecting gay men but was a human race problem after cases surfaced in heterosexuals the focus shifted from gays to Haitians living in Miami, FL.
Sternberg reports “Some researchers speculate that the disease was imported from Haiti by a vacationing homosexual who picked up a germ there. One Haitian physician, who believes that his countrymen have become victims of discrimination because of AIDS, has suggested that a vacationing homosexual brought the disease to the island.” This clearly depicts the flying accusations that were happening at the time.
So much time in the press had been used following these types of charges so the public didn’t receive so many facts unless it was about how much money was being invested to curing this deadly ailment, for that was the only thing journalist, researchers and the public could know for certain.
I feel that this topic should have been higher on the list for the journalistic pole because most of the stories on that list were events like the Titanic sinking or ford creating an assembly line but the identification of AIDS was an incredibly complex incident that caused social alienation and still does today. The negative stigma of AIDS being a homosexual male disease still exists and the number of cases has increased drastically over its 26 year presence.

sources:Altman, Lawrence. "Rare Cancer seen in 41 homosexuals". New York Tims. 23 April 2009
Sternberg, Steve. "War on AIDS Gains Momentum:: Research industry springs up overnight to seek cause of mysterious disease". Miami Herald. 23 April 2009
Simone, Renata. “Tracking AIDS History: Politics and Tracking AIDS.” 30 May 2006. Online Video clip. PBS official site, Frontline. Accessed on 23 April 2009.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Quake, Fire, devastate San Francisco, 1906

Quake, Fire, devastate San Francisco, 1906

On April 18th 1906, at 5:12 in the morning, an earthquake that has been estimated to have been between 7.8 and 8.25 on the Richter scale, struck along 296 miles of the San Andreas Fault line and could be felt from Los Angeles to Oregon. The epicenter was located just 2 miles from the San Francisco shoreline at a point called Mussel Rock. San Francisco was devastated by the quake and the resulting fire. Buildings collapsed or were badly damaged, and fires broke out seemingly everywhere in the city. The water mains were broken by the quake, and there was no water available to fight the fires. It is estimated that over 1,000 people died as a direct result of the quake and fires. The property damage was in the 100s of millions as 28,000 buildings were destroyed. Half the city was in ruins and over 200,000 people became homeless.
I took a look at the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle to compare coverage. I know that the Chronicle was in the quake, but according to a list of ‘The Buildings Destroyed’, published in the New York Times on April 19th 1906, the ‘New Chronicle Building was hardly damaged’. This article was clearly labeled ‘A Partial List’ so that it can’t be totally accurate by default, but it, and most of the articles in both newspapers do not give sources, verification of facts, or by-lines, in the stories. By that time, (1906), ‘yellow journalism’ had past its hay-day and Newspapers were trying to keep stories more factual, it was around the begining of the "Progressive Era" in Journalism. At that time there were also two different approaches to reporting the story, an informative approach, and the use of a story line to present the facts approach. However, I found no actual proof of anything in any article. They only reported in what seems like a well researched and trustable way. I could only find a couple of times that someone, like a mayor or a fireman, was even quoted. It was a time when investigative journalism was taking a firm hold on the industry, but reporters didn’t reveal sources. Large advertisers such as department stores were starting to emerge and both papers were very much into selling the idea of the “American Dream” in the way articles were framed and also in the advertisements.
The New York Times, now taking the ‘informative approach’, took full advantage of its city-dwelling reader’s interest in the tragedy. They had gained substantial market share and were attracting good advertising dollars. The paper was positioning itself as the newspaper of integrity and morality as well as honesty. Their target market was the upper middle class and well-to-do people of power. The Times articles about the disaster were extremely sensationalized and numerous. The Times at that time was a daily newspaper. Flashy headlines and articles about the Quake completely covered the front pages and dominated almost all of the other pages, sharing space only with advertisements targeted at the upwardly mobile consumer. Headlines such as:’ New York Stunned by Disaster News’, ‘Army Of Homeless Fleeing From The Devastated City’, ‘Half San Francisco Gone’, and ’Over 500 Dead, $200,000,000 Lost In San Francisco Earthquake’, grabbed the main stream readers attention. Headlines such as: ‘Insurance Loss Many Millions, Eastern Concerns Hard Hit by Disaster’, ‘The Buildings Destroyed’, ‘Congress Gives Aid To Stricken Cities’, and ‘The Disaster’s Effect On The Stock Market’, were used to attract and inform the Investor Capitalist. All the headlines were followed by articles that were mostly biased and slanted toward these two groups of readers.
The Chronicle, a once a week 52 page Sunday paper at that time, went right into a public service mode. They did manage to get out a six page paper on Sunday the 22nd and they also joined with the Call and the Examiner to get out a paper in the days after. The headlines and articles were framed to give hope and valuable information to devastated people. Articles with headlines like: ‘Saving The Mint’, and ‘Where People Can Be Found’, are examples of the Chronicles helping approach. People do expect that kind of public service to be a function of the news media during a crisis. I also found one article dated almost 15 months before the big quake,(1-22-1905), with the headline “Why San Francisco Need Not Fear Earthquakes”, about how the shocks were not big enough to hurt the city. It just goes to show how wrong Newspapers can be.
I think when you look at Newspaper and overall media coverage of earthquakes in modern times, things are pretty much the same in times of disasters, with regard to sensationalizing the story or becoming part of the emergency relief efforts, based on regional locations.
By Joel S. (JOUR 301) 4-18-2009


Schudson, Michael, ‘Discovering the News’,(1978), Basic Books, Inc.
JOUR 301 sp.2009 course materials and lectures
New York Times Historical articles on ProQuest at SFPL, News Dated 4-18-1906 to 4-23-1906
San Francisco Chronicle Historical on ProQuest at SFPL, News Dated 1-1-1905 to 4-23-1906

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Japan Bombs Pearl Harbor

It was a regular, beautiful morning on the island of Oahu. Young boys were playing a game of baseball, mothers were spending time with their daughters, and the United States naval base was sound asleep. Little did anyone know that December 7, 1941 would be marked as a historic tragedy when the Japanese surprise attacked the U.S. naval base on Hawaii.


The first article I found is from the New York Times by the United Press. It was published the day of the incident (12/7/1941) as a front cover news story. This article’s title is “Tokyo Bombers Strike Hard At Or Main Bases on Oahu”. One thing I noticed is that this article is lengthy just as a feature story would be in today’s paper. In our current, present day paper, a breaking news story would be covered with a lot of dominant images, graphs, and large headlines; an online breaking news story would be short, concise, and to the point. This 1941 article is a detailed story of what happened that morning at Pearl Harbor.


It focuses on the events of the morning, step by step. This article already stated “104 dead and more than 300 wounded in the Army forces alone as a result of the Japanese bombing of the Island of Oahu”. It seems as though the media and journalists are not trying to hide any information, but they are actually telling readers every bit of information they retrieve. The article also explains how the United States forces were not prepared in this attack, obviously, although they had known for a week that something was invading the U.S. territory. Sadly, the “identity of the planes was not definitely known”. 

The article states that nonmilitary people were just watching the attack from a hill. There is, surprisingly, only one major source cited in this article; it is from a civilian (Merrit Laws) who saw the beginnings of the Pearl Harbor attack. Merrit Laws quotes are separated into three different paragraphs, one following after another. “I also saw what looked like dive bombers coming over in single file. Some of the ships dived down very low over the water to aim bombs at warships,” said Merrit Law. The end of the article is basically explanations of how the Japanese bombed the naval base whether is was dive bombers, two planes diving into each other, or planes shooting bombs at the base.


The second article I found is also from NYT, but published a day after December 7, 1941. This article concentrates on how Japanese people from New York City, Newark, Jersey City, Bayonne, and Paterson were sent to Ellis Island as prisoners because they were Japanese. American born Japanese citizens were also sent away.


It did not matter if you were a banker, silk importer, or a businessman, if you were Japanese you were arrested and taken away to Ellis Island. There are a lot more quotes in this article; however, the quotes are from broad sources. This article is extremely specific containing a lot of dates, times, and addresses.



Sunday, April 19, 2009

First Man to Set Foot on the Moon

This story indubitably deserved its third-rank position in the top one-hundred  20th century news stories. This achievement of the United States—more exclusively Neil Armstrong—galvanized the technology revolution and the methods which we used this technology as a catalyst for our own exploration of frontiers. Early quests of Earth’s uninhibited lands and scientific inquisition of human thought mirrored that of Apollo 11’s journey in 1969, yet it proved to be most significant because it contained both the physical and scientific aspects—as well as the technological. In 1969, published media and television media made this technology available to millions of United States citizens. We were not only effected by the doors that were opened by technology, but more importantly by the development of our capabilities as a country that the media brought to light.

            In “A Fateful Step Into A Vast Unknown” (New York Times), journalist Walter Sullivan took a poignant journalistic route to demonstrate that media was the primary support for the optimism of American citizens during Apollo 11’s quest to the moon. The sensationalism of the media and the citizens “piggy-backed” each other by the Sullivan’s capture of a sanguine tone in his article. He reports, “…we cannot say to what extent it is the start of a new era because we cannot estimate what man’s ultimate capabilities will be” to leave the reader with an open end of possibilities for the future. He proceeded to discuss the potential journey to Jupiter and Mars if the trip to the moon was established as a success. Yet in retrospect, we know that technology remains too rudimentary to permit further space exploration.

The antique American notion of Manifest Destiny was attributed to this sensationalism held within the citizens and media. Sullivan referred to Armstrong’s expedition as “man’s destiny”, yet he stated that this act is most momentous because centuries of perspective were not needed to recognize its impact since media supplied the means for all citizens to behold the event. The trip to the moon heightened nationalism, thus the popularity in the belief of Manifest Destiny followed in its footsteps.

            In the Los Angeles Times article, “Doctors Wary: Moon Walker’s First Steps Full of Danger”, Harry Nelson attempted to raise concerns amongst the public just a few days before Armstrong was scheduled to set foot on the moon. He accounted for all the potential malfunctions with the astronaut’s gear or reaction to the foreign environment. For example, he posed a suspicious question, “Will one-sixth G be enough to stimulate in a normal way the body’s balance mechanism in the inner ear, thus allowing the astronauts to stand and walk without loosing balance?”However,  Nelson held up the credibility of his apprehensions by using a professional source from NASA, Dr. Charles A. Berry.

            This article is unique in comparison to sensationalist articles because it includes American citizens in the technicalities of the project, by elaborating details of particular parts of the spacecraft and their functions. This complex information was typically unattainable by most citizens, but it was made accessible by the media. Consequently, nationalism triumphed over Nelson’s dubious tone.