Mic-ing the “Hip-Hop Generation”

Paul Coates was an enigmatic god to his sons: a Vietnam vet who rolled with the Black Panthers, an old-school disciplinarian and new-age believer in free love, an autodidact who launched a publishing company in his basement dedicated to telling the true history of African civilization. Most of all, he was a wily tactician whose mission was to carry his sons across the shoals of inner-city adolescence—and through the collapsing civilization of Baltimore in the Age of Crack—and into the safe arms of Howard University, where he worked so his children could attend for free.

Among his brood of seven, his main challenges were Ta-Nehisi, spacey and sensitive and almost comically miscalibrated for his environment, and Big Bill, charismatic and all-too-ready for the challenges of the streets. The Beautiful Struggle follows their divergent paths through this turbulent period, and their father’s steadfast efforts—assisted by mothers, teachers, and a body of myths, histories, and rituals conjured from the past to meet the needs of a troubled present—to keep them whole in a world that seemed bent on their destruction.

With a remarkable ability to reimagine both the lost world of his father’s generation and the terrors and wonders of his own youth, Coates offers readers a small and beautiful epic about boys trying to become men in black America and beyond.

Coates’ struggle is a battle between different black cultures in Baltimre. He must decide t either fllw his father, and e-Black Panther, devted t the fight fr black rights and preservatin f heritage, r the emerging hip-hp culture,

Coates’ book is many things: a tribute to his demanding, disciplinarian father (a steely, larger-than-life figure who in the pages of the book is as blunt as he is an enigma) as well as an homage to the complexities of the communities that he grew up in — in and around Baltimore as well as the metaphoric idea of “black community” itself — and to the various definitions of family, of love, of “support system.”


The Ethical Dilemmas of Melissa Bailey

Yale Workers OK New Contract—6 Months Early

Though Melissa Bailey has practiced some questionable ethical journalistic choices in her reporting for the New Haven Independent, I saw the reasoning behind her actions in every case she presented in class today.

In the case of her eavesdropping on a closed meeting of union workers at Yale University, I saw the fault as belonging to the union for not knowing their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. You cannot fault a journalist for accessing information that was made public, even if she had to do some sneaking and extra work to access that information.

As I said in class, if the union did not want Bailey to hear the meeting they had, then it shouldn’t have been playing on the speakers in the basement where she was listening. If they didn’t want her accessing that room, they should have had someone guarding it to make sure no one went in. It’s not uncommon to bar access to a building when a closed meeting is taking place inside. In the 21st century battle for privacy, it is important to know your own weak points and take the measures to protect them.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think there is always a case to be made for invasion of privacy, but in this case, where the information was so easily accessible for anyone who could have walked into that room, the fault is in the hands of the Yale Union Workers.

There is a part of me that wishes I was more sympathetic to the union workers, but this is the most black-and-white way I am able to look at it.

Final Project

For my final project, I plan to look deeply into the Jason Rezaian case currently dominating the foreign journalism conversation.

Though this particular case seems a bit out of the ordinary, considering Rezaian’s status as a well-respected and seasoned journalist with the Washington Post, it is indicative of a concerning new trend emerging in international reporting:

US correspondents are losing their protection overseas.

An article from the Columbia Journalism Review states, “The Rezaian case, and several others, show that repressive governments are recalibrating the benefits and consequences of jailing foreign journalists.”

Foreign governments are now using American journalists as tools in their foreign policy, revoking privileges and holding them hostage as ways of gaining an upper hand in negotiations. And, with  the United States’ awareness of the dangers of foreign reporting at an all-time high, the US can’t afford to lose another reporter overseas.

Everyone knows the Iranian-born, American-raised Rezaian is hardly guilty of espionage. unfortunately for him, his status as a dual-citizen, which earned him his job, is also the reason he can be tried solely as an Iranian citizen, making him eligible for a much harsher punishment which he doesn’t even deserve.

The Columbia Journalism Review article says, “Many Iranian analysts believe Rezaian’s imprisonment is being orchestrated by hardline elements in Iran so they can use his incarceration to scuttle any possible nuclear deal with which they disagree.”

So how can the US advocate for Rezaian without increasing his worth as a hostage?

What are possible solutions to the dangers of foreign reporting?

How are we supposed to get the first-hand reporting we need without endangering the lives and well-being of some of the United States’ most valuable foreign correspondents?

With my project I seek to first find the reason for this emerging trend, and then find possible solutions. I plan to listen to first-hand accounts of other journalists who found themselves in similar situations or who had to struggle against foreign governments in other ways.

I believe that there has to be a way around sending US journalists overseas to countries where they are simply walking around with huge targets on their backs as foreign governments sit back and wait for the best moment to strike.

Minding the Trolls


This post on Poynter outlines successful approaches to comment moderation as used by various news sites. I personally found the Huffington Post’s approach to be the most thought out and effective. They rely a lot on their own readers to moderate comments. Not only does this make it easier to moderate the huge flow of comments they receive, but it keeps their readers active on their site and in the conversation. Here are my favorite methods of comment moderation.

1. Readers who have flagged a lot of inappropriate comments that the moderation team ends up deleting are given “community moderator badges.” When readers with this badge flag a comment, the moderation team gives the flagged comment priority review.

  • MiamiHerald.com doesn’t have a designated staff of moderators, but instead tries to make it a shared responsibility among editors, producers, reporters and readers. The site’s online producers are asked to monitor comments on active stories. They get emails whenever readers have flagged an inappropriate comment and then look to see whether the comment has violated the site’s guidelines.

2. Make sure that a vocal minority aren’t dominating the conversation.

  • It’s about making sure that people who want a real debate can have that discussion rather than having someone come in and hit them over the head with caps lock.

3. Rewarding readers for contributing thoughtful comments.

“Self Portrait of the Journalist”

In pop culture, journalists are portrayed as ruthless and untrustworthy, willing to do anything for the sake of a good story. Driven only by a selfish thirst for fame and recognition. In the journalism world, a reputation like this can either propel or destroy a career. Joe McGinnis, who first gained notoriety with his book, The Selling of the President, 1968, about the use of television in the 1968 Nixon-Humphrey campaign, is a prime example of the way a reputation for deceiving subjects can permanently affect a journalist’s career.

in 1983, McGinnis published Fatal Vision, his first true-crime novel and immediately received national acclaim, topping the best-seller list. The book was a profile of convicted murderer Jeffrey MacDonald, who killed his wife and two young daughters at their home in Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1970.

Over the course of writing the book, McGinnis and MacDonald developed a strange journalist-subject relationship, much more resembling of a close friendship. The men hung out together, watched sports games, and drank beers. When MacDonald went to prison, McGinnis continued to write him letters.

All of that ended when Fatal Vision was released, painting a portrait of MacDonald as a sociopathic killer.

In some ways, McGinnis’ actions make a fair amount of sense. His career had hit a rough patch, and his next book would determine whether he was going to finally sink or continue to swim for a little while longer. Jeffrey MacDonald couldn’t have come along at a better time. His story was just what McGinnis needed to rehab his career and ensure him a place in journalism’s history. McGinnis was desperate. He was willing to do anything, even if that meant giving MacDonald a cut of the book’s profits.

In her book, The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcolm examines the strange and twisted relationship between McGinnis and MacDonald.

Quotation Nation: Getting to the Bottom of the “He Said, She Said” Hullabaloo

I see merit to both sides of the quotation debate. First off, a direct quote isn’t a direct quote if it is not written exactly as it was first said…I mean DUH. But of course it is also unethical to print a quote that doesn’t make sense or that readers won’t be able to understand or grasp the meaning of.

I think the question of whether you can alter quotes in reporting can be answered with one simple golden rule:

Do not change the meaning of the quote. The only time a journalist should alter a quote should be for brevity and conciseness, or for understandability. If a quote doesn’t make sense out of context, it’s okay to qualify it.

Some may argue that this doesn’t address the question of language and wording, as the same idea with the same meaning can be expressed several times over with different language, but I think that language is one of the greatest factors in the true meaning of a quote.

I also think that the identity of the person being quoted is hugely important in how a quote is received. Any person’s identity gets woven into their words, even if they are just being read off paper.

As a journalist, I strive for accuracy when I quote people. As much as I possibly can, I try to keep a quote exactly as it sounded when I first heard it. I only ever make changes when I need to, and any changes I make I account for so readers are made aware that they are not receiving the quote as it was when it was first said. If I change the wording of a quote enough, I won’t even present it as a direct quotation anymore. It would not be fair of me to do so. The perceived meaning may still be the same but to put something that has evolved so much between two quotation marks would be a misrepresentation.

Journalists do not create moments, we REcreate them. So it shouldn’t be that hard to recreate the moment in which you heard a quote.

In the end, I think the safest bet is to try to represent a quote as it was originally intended. Remember, these are someone else’s words and ideas, and it is not our responsibility as journalists to assign meaning to them, we simply report them.

What Went Wrong With Rolling Stone?

While the Columbia Journalism Review does a good job examining how Rolling Stone could have made such a terrible error in their reporting, I don’t necessarily agree with the reasons they chose as the main causes of the blunder.

I think that the  biggest mistake they made would have to be in the fact that there was no set protocol to follow to begin with. How do they know which rules they broke if there is no clean-cut listing of the rules to begin with?

In a world where there is more grey area than not, it is crucial to outline consistency wherever it is present. Rolling Stone should have guidelines and they should follow them.

There is too much room for error when it comes to this. Rolling Stone should be as thorough as possible in the areas where they can be. That way they have the opportunity to focus more in areas that are not quite so cut and dry.