Broken Trust

20 05 2010

Broken Trust was an investigative venture helmed by a group of journalists from the Herald Tribune in the year 2005 to uncover cases of abusive teachers in the state of Florida who are allowed to continue their vocation even after they have been reported. The investigation spanned for two years and comprised a team of 17 reporters. The predicament faced by the team was that in order for them to obtain one case file, they had to pay $ 20, 000. However, the team managed to work around that by building their very own database by using public records on action taken against teachers when offences are committed. In this way, they did not breach any state laws or resort to unscrupulous methods to obtain these information. What the team uncovered, after scanning nearly 3000 copies of such cases, was that myriads of cases involving physical abuse and sexual misconduct committed by teachers on their students have been conveniently looked over by the state education departments.

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The Investigative Journalist – Through and through … Heather Brooke

13 05 2010

Heather Brooke – A Biography

Heather Brooke is an American born British journalist who is renowned for her expose on the expenses of British Members of Parliament.  The aftermath of this journalistic endeavour led to the resignation of the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin. Brooke began her career as a journalist, after graduating from the University of Washington, in the student newspaper, The Daily.  From there, she worked at the Spokesman-Review and covered murder cases primarily.





Of Jahabar and Internship

1 05 2010

Malaysiakini or Juice magazine? Which one do I choose? The answer seems obvious. Malaysiakini is definitely the brightest light in the harbour. But I was still entangled in a web of confusion. The internship at Juice was almost confirmed and it is rather near but so is Malaysiakini. However, the uncertainty if I would indeed be accepted as an intern there was rather quickly chiseling off blocks of my mind.

Attempting to regain my sanity and disentangle myself from this very so familiar web, a chat with a friend in a car ride to The Malaysian Insider transpired. Of course, she herself still on the watch for an internship could only say so much and a couple of nods was on the way. Little did I know that I would leave hours later with a confirmed internship at The Malaysian Insider. And all this after an hour with the man behind this news portal, Jahabar Sadiq.

Truth be told and I am ashamed to admit it, when Jahabar walked into the boardroom, the smell of curry puffs infusing the air, I did not know this was the man we were supposed to listen to. Well, he was clad in a casual white shirt and casual slacks after all. His hair was rather unkempt and he did not look (my own prejudices) like any of the Chief Editors of a news organisations you see on the television, like Perry White of the Daily Planet.

“After high school, I didn’t know what to do,” Jahabar said, reminiscing amusingly.

So what did he do? At the age of 19, he joined the Pre-Entry Training Service at the New Straits Times and had been working with NST for six and a half years. But when he was offered a job at the international news wire agency Reuters, he was quick to grab it, not because he resented his work at NST but simply because he felt this was a chance for him to learn and experience new things as a journalist.

“You never, ever stop learning.”

He also reminded us final year degree-in-journalism students that the stuff we learn in college will always be applicable in the working world, despite the fact that your editors may choose not to.

“The rules are what keep you a good journalist,” he said with conviction.

Having practiced journalism for more than two decades, starting from print, and then to wire new agency to broadcast and finally the world of the web, Jahabar peppered his hour-long talk with us, with the occasional interruption from his two state-of-the-art hand phones and his Darth Vader themed ringtone, with the wisdom he had acquired and collected over the years.

“News is what happened today, which didn’t happen yesterday” and “You are only as good as your next by-line”.

As someone who aspires to be a great journalist in the near future, I took to heart all that he had to say but what I remembered the most about Jahabar was his sense of humour.

Towards the end of the talk, when asked about his opinion about the state of online journalism in Malaysia, this is what he said:

“Online journalism in Malaysia is limited,” he said grimly. “By Streamyx.”

The entire room roared with laughter.

As one by one we reeled out of the room, I approached Jahabar and with a tinge of fear asked him if I could be an intern at The Malaysian Insider. Of course, I was expecting a no or a “I’ll look into it” sort of answer. But I was much mistaken. “Yes, of course. In fact, you can even start next week and can cover the Hulu Selangor by-election” was his answer.

I left The Malaysian Insider, with new-gained knowledge, humility and a guaranteed internship.





Impact of Internet on Journalism

25 03 2010

Journalism has always been the guardian of the truth. Nevertheless, journalists are bounded by time and space in the physical world. There is only so much a person could do, let it be research, fact-checking or interviewing a source.

However, the advent of the Internet has transmogrified the mediascape. Borderless and timeless, the flow of information is no longer through a sieve but in an interconnected system. Journalists no longer have to physically travel across regions to report on an issue. Empowered by digital cameras and mobile phones, citizens take it upon themselves to capture an incident and post it onto their blogs. Journalists, consequently, could use these pictures and videos to run a story. Moreover, the tedious work of perusing countless documents has been rendered fruitless since journalists have at their disposal an arsenal of information, easily organised and categorised. Features such as Google Alerts or RSS feeds allow journalists to receive instant updates on various news stories, at the same time, ultimately providing them a plethora of information to choose and work on.

Thus, the Internet has enabled journalists to function faster and much efficiently as disseminators of information.





Dan Gillmor’s Book Review and Profile

13 03 2010

REVIEW

   The birth of the Fourth Estate or the media was to exist as a democratic and independent body to serve as disseminators of information to the public without the influence of the State or the elite Nevertheless, the press, and journalists in particular as agents of this dissemination, do not merely exist as an outlet via which anything and everything gets across. It would be erroneous to surmise it as such. In actuality, journalists exist as sifters, exercising the power to decide what is disseminated to the public and what is not. But the advent of bloggers and citizen journalist over the past decade or so has caused a seismic shift in the media arena. The catastrophe that ultimately catapulted grassroots journalism, as this phenomenon is more glamorously known, were the events of September 11 2001.

   The media survived solely on the print medium in its infancy. And it was during this era of the press that journalism flourished and evolved to a noble art. The press brazenly and vehemently went after wrong-doers and unscrupulous government officials or corrupt governments themselves. It is true that some resorted to personal conjectures and unfounded claims. However, the press was revered and feared as a potent tool of democracy. This status quo was not prevalent. The 20th century brought with it commercialism. Affluent families began taking ownership of the presses and the broadcast media. Media ownership became concentrated and the owner slowly slid their tentacles of control. No longer could the media function independently as it did before. It was around the same time that digital technology was spiralling in growth. The infant Internet provided the opportunity for ordinary citizens to helm the role of journalists or at least publishing materials online from the vicinity of their homes, something only the media had at their disposal. As the Internet caught the fire of progress, tools after tools blossomed online and now, suddenly, towards the end of the  20th century, the citizenry and the media were blessed with the opportunity to reach as many people as they desired with their news. The very first person who probably started the phenomenon we now call blogging was Dave Winer, a programmer for Macintosh. When journalists favoured Microsoft Windows and put Apple in a bad light, he retaliated. He sent out email newsletters to important people in the tech world and he realised, by the level of support he received, he has moved beyond the reach of the media. This catalysed Winer and his team to write an application which was the precursor to blogs. All that was needed to push blogs to a zenith was an event that would affect the whole world. September 11 2001 was just that and like wildfire the virtual world was flooded with personal accounts and experiences of the disaster. Grassroots journalism was never the same and it is still growing.

   In chapter two, Gillmor takes on the point he had made prior, about digital technology catapulting grassroots journalism to unprecedented heights and further expounds the various facets of the technology. He claimed, and rightly so, that the Internet has given birth to an era unheard of in the history of the media, i.e. the citizenry are playing an integral and vital role in world of journalism. It is true that broadcast programmes allowed audiences to air their opinions but the Internet allows them to do it from the privacy and vicinity of their home. Gillmor called this the “Read/write Web”. He listed eight such developments and the first of them is mail lists and forums. Mail lists and forums avoids the cacophony of information from inundating net users and allows them to subscribe to specific areas of information from specific fields and body of knowledge. This way, the users are informed and educated faster and more efficiently without the hassle of sifting. Secondly, weblogs. As mentioned prior, blogs grant the commoner to own her or his own press, as it were. The Big Media could not anymore curtail or block the views of the citizenry, usually under the order from their proprietors and governments. But writing was not the only thing a blogger was afforded to do. As the years progressed and the world entered a new millennium, technology allowed web-users and bloggers to post videos, photos, and sound-clips onto their blogs. This revolutionised the art of news telling as well. The people around the world can now view important events as and when it occurs and likewise, they did not have to wait for the media to pick up their stories. With mobile-phones and digital cameras, they could capture and record these events and upload them almost instantly onto the Net. What these developments, including wikis, RSS, SMS and internet “broadcasting”, foretell is that the world is very rapidly becoming connected and boundaries have been rendered useless.

   In the third chapter, Gillmor discussed the effect this new media is having on newsmakers. Succinctly put, the Big Media either shies away from certain controversies or decides simply to push them under the carpet. This practice barricades the flow of information to the citizens in entirety. Consequently, these newsmakers, especially the unscrupulous and corrupt types, have a way out of their wrong-doings, more above those done in public events. However, with blogs, mobile phones with cameras and computers in a mobile phone, this sort of news find their way immediately into the Internet and like wildfire they spread. Not only are they informing citizens such as themselves but sometimes they also provide scoops or leads for journalists who are bound by space and time. Citizens are anywhere and everywhere. Thus, anyone and everyone could provide leads for journalists from anywhere the moment something occurs through the aid of their mobile phones and the Internet. Similarly, the newsmakers (celebrities, politicians, government officials etc) could make use of the new technology and disseminate their views to the public. They don’t have to rely on the traditional media or even fear them. They could and should take advantage of the Internet. And Gillmor expanded on this thought in the fourth chapter wherein he opined that the newsmakers especially those from the corporate and business circle and celebrities are using the new media to their advantage. Gillmor also stated that public relations practitioners can use blogs and the other features in the Internet and offered some pointers. He stated that PR practitioners and their clients should listen to their audiences because they may be better informed about certain things. He advised them to observe chat rooms and forums. He also advised them to post everything a journalist requires on their websites such as videos, photos, sound clips and text, among other things. At the end of the day, the new media provides an unprecendeted way for newsmakers to communicate and receive response from their audience in a more efficient and fast way.    

ACTIVIST, READER, PEACE-LOVER

Thunder rumbled deeply from afar. Ominous grey clouds gathered like fleets of celestial armada in the dark, evening sky. The sight may have signalled the apocalypse to some with the mind of the ancients and to some, dulled by the woes of the world, it would have been dismal Why wouldn’t it when the clouds and the heavens frowned with a hue so gloomy? But for Mohani Niza, this often shunned colour is interesting.

“Red is even better!” she exclaimed, exuberating optimism. “I love all kinds of colour.”

The 21-year old college student walked, devil-may-care, into the dimly lit room, with a plain jet-black jeans and a loose blouse embroidered with daisies and petunias. She would have blended easily with the crowd of Petaling Street, with her wavy black hair and a plain façade, emanating not the aura of an activist or a fighter (for the right causes that is). Nevertheless, the blood that ran in the veins of history’s peace-lovers or India’s Mahatma Gandhi undoubtedly has been ‘passed on’ to her.

“I’ve always been idealistic and just want everyone to live in peace. We don’t need violence. In fact, I’ve always been sensitive to violence in the media.”

Mohani does not avoid the violence quite blatantly displayed over the news channels of the world only. She expressed her utter dislike and perhaps resentment towards violent movies.

It is not surprising to discover that she has volunteered for a number of social organisations and activism, what with her view of the world. Mohani decided, for obvious reasons, not to reveal as to which organisations she was involved in. However, she did reveal that it was idealism that propelled her to join activism.

“At first I wanted to save the world. Then I realized that that is not achievable of course. But still I want to apply my skills, talents, passion in making things a bit better in this world.”    

A final-year degree student in Journalism at Taylor’s College Petaling Jaya, she enjoys the company of books and novels. Albeit swaying to the side of the non-fiction, such as Farish Noor’s The Other Malaysia website, exploring social and political issues of the region, Mohani declared a particular novel assisted her to deal with religious doubts and she discovered that it is alright to have a mind inundated with questions about her faith and that it is alright to search and not remain content with the status quo.

“It’s about this young teenage girl who grows up with no religion but yearns to find one because everyone around her -except her parents who raised her without religion in the first place – pressure her to have a religion.

“I grew up with religion and was educated in Islamic schools. But as I grew older I had a lot of questions about religion and god. And I still do. This book calmed me a bit because it says it’s okay to think about stuff and not have any conclusions just yet as you’ll discover it at your own time.”

The novel in question is ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret’ by Judy Blume.

Despite her involvement with social issues in the country and her outlook of life itself, Mohani confessed, at the end, that she possesses a negative trait which she said exasperates those around her.

“I give advice when its not needed sometimes. People get annoyed because sometimes all they want me to do is comfort them and not dissect their problems into a million little pieces.

“Sometimes you just need to be there for them, you know.”





Hello world!

13 03 2010

Welcome to WordPress.com. This is your first post. Edit or delete it and start blogging!