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What a World Without Community News Would Look Like

By Sydney Jones

I believe there are two types of people in this world: those who care about community journalism and those that don’t know they care about community journalism.

Before finishing my time learning all about this topic in a class I took this semester, I definitely belonged to the latter group. However, once I seriously began to contemplate what a world without community journalism would look like, I became increasingly shocked that more Americans are not protecting this mode of news dissemination with every ounce of democratic freedom they possess.

This is how the American media was started, with news concerning communities being distributed by local newspapers according to geographic location.

Yet many reporters do not see the benefits of local reporting, and some even question if hyper-local journalists have the same abilities as traditional reporters.

“I am offended to think that anyone, anywhere believes American institutions as insulated, self-preserving and self-justifying as police departments, school systems, legislatures and chief executives can be held to gathered facts by amateurs pursuing the task without compensation, training or, for that matter, sufficient standing to make public officials even care to whom it is they are lying to,” said David Simon, who is a producer for The Wire.

Although there is much criticism for hyper-local news, a 2012 Pew Research poll showed that 72 percent of American adults still follow local news closely.

People care about their community and what is currently happening. But many take for granted their local community newspaper and do not consider the implications if it did not exist.

Cold Transmission of Information:

If community journalism did not exist, the transmission of information would potentially be reduced to stories made up of hard facts.

Many major national publications or media companies are not concerned with the small-town feature story or hyper-local niche news. This is a large section of news that is covered not only by journalists but by casual observers as well.

A Journalism Practice study by Evelien D’heer and Steve Paulussen found that in a community soft news about the community’s lifestyle and culture is often covered by citizen reporters.

Citizen journalists help connect members of the community with relevant and meaningful stories. Without such an extremely personal form of journalism, news would not be as appealing to audiences. Citizens want to know what is going on in their specific community.

“At their best, community newspapers satisfy a basic human craving that most big dailies can’t touch, no matter how large their budgets – and that is the affirmation of the sense of community, a positive and intimate reflection of the sense of place, a stroke for our us-ness, our extended family-ness and our profound and interlocking connectedness,” said Jock Lauterer in his book Community Journalism: Relentlessly Local.

This relationship is vital to the health of the community and learning more about one’s culture.

“There is a vital, organic and synergistic interaction between various constituencies within the community, as well as between the community and the newspaper,” said Lauterer.

News as Potential Propaganda: 

Another concerning aspect of a world without community journalism is that it completely eradicates the personal aspect of reporting. While major news companies can still cover stories about a specific community, it is not as meaningful as a citizen reporter who is invested in the community covers the story.

Once community journalists and their exercise of free speech is eradicated, there is also potential for news to become government propaganda.

There is evidence for this in North Korea, where all the major news websites are government run and journalists are not able to properly do their job due to extreme vetting.

The Korean Central News Agency is the only source of news broadcasting available to the North Korean people. There is no room for journalistic integrity or citizen journalism due to everything being vetted through a government agency.

However, citizen journalists are able to fill the role of traditional reporters during a conflict or at an event. The Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan is one example.

“News channels were barred, while police foiled distribution of newspapers and seized newspaper bundles,” said Rabia Noor in her article about the challenges posed to citizen journalists. “Hence, Internet was the sole medium available with people. [The journalists] used blogs and social networking sites to disseminate the news.”

While the news companies were seized by the government, citizen journalists were able to effectively inform their audience about current events happening in their community.

Community journalism is vitally important not only is peaceful times but also during conflicts in order to give the most accurate and relevant information.

Local Journalism as the Lifeblood of the Community: 

Citizen journalism not only provides an interesting and unique perspective, it also brings communities together. Reader’s are becoming more aware of their community through hyper-local blogs and they are being educated on the current events that could affect them.

“Nowadays anyone can be a citizen journalist, since Internet and new media technologies offer unlimited opportunities to upload, and share content for public consumption,” said Noor. “Topics that could not make it to traditional media earlier have nowadays unlimited space to be published on citizen journalism sources, especially news portals and blogs.”

If this mode of reporting did not exist, a gaping hole would be left that would be disastrous. If you believe in personal freedom and free speech, it is imperative you fiercely protect this mode of reporting.


Salt & Light: Working as a Christian Journalist

By Sydney Jones

There is an unfortunate stigma that going to school for writing is a waste of time and money. Add Christian to that mix, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I have always loved to tell stories. As a child, I would constantly create my own stories with accompanying illustrations and present them them proudly to my parents as something worth of a Pulitzer or Nobel. As I became older, I wanted a profession that could merge my love of telling stories with my desire to connect with people.

Being a journalist has given me that opportunity, as I am able to blend my talents and my passions together in a career field that is known for being a pioneer of personal freedom.

However, many currently do not view reporters in a positive light. We are stereotyped as being shady, manipulative and biased. Many major news networks are considered untrustworthy by those who do not line up with their ideologies. The same could be said about Christians, with the popular opinion being that all who adhere to the Christian faith are alt-right racists.

Yet as a Christian journalist I believe my faith helps rather than hinders my reporting due to the fact that I am being held to a higher standard of truthfulness and accuracy in my reporting.

Called to Excellence

There are multiple times in the Bible that Christians are called to pursue excellence in all areas of life. This naturally pertains to my career in journalism.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus admonishes his follows to let a Christian’s works reflect God. This is a concept that I am constantly reminded of during my work as a reporter. If I am lazy and produce mediocre content, it reflects poorly on my God.

Therefore, I am extremely motivated to become an accomplished journalist so that I can glorify and exalt the God who created me.


Combating Bias

I believe that every member of the media has bias due to the fact that every human adheres to some sort of ideology or worldview.

However, as a member of the media my job is not to try and convince my audience to follow my worldview. My role as a member of the media is to inform and educate my audience of the current events happening in the world so that they can be more well-informed citizens.

I must be aware of my bias, but at the end of the day do not allow them to hinder me from doing my job to the best of my ability.

Positive Influencers

I believe that the media can be a wonderful force for good. Whether it is disseminating important information, revealing corruption or covering historical events, I have a duty to my audience to do my job in a concise and accurate way.

As a Christian journalist, I continually strive to be a positive influence on my audience. I hope that through my reporting, my faith and commitment to excellence will be obvious. If more reporters stay committed to their craft, maybe negative stereotypes might start to change.

Learning New Tricks: Bridging the Gap Between Generations

A person’s interaction with those of different age demographics is vital to understanding different perspectives and developing an open mind, and this is something that Peter Lundrigan discovered through his relationship with his grandparents.

“Every day I came home they asked ‘how was your day, Peter,'” said Lundrigan. “I have never met anyone more compassionate and caring than my grandmother. She believed in me from day one. My grandfather taught me to never argue with an umpire and the phrase ‘if you don’t like it, go play in the street.’ He was the person that taught me what respect and decency is.”

However, Lundrigan’s relationship with his grandparents makes him an anomaly.

“A growing geographical disconnect has occurred between members of many extended families causing the decrease in opportunities for consistent intergenerational learning and support,” states Sally Newman and Alan Hatton-Yeo in their study with the Oxford Institute of Aging.

This lack of communication is becoming the status quo, with people preferring to associate with members of their own age demographic. This issue also has detrimental affects in homes, social settings and the workforce.

“Globalization, gentrification, migration, urban transience, digitization and housing bubbles have all contributed,” said Alex Smith in an article for The Guardian. “The multiplying effect is that many older people have deep roots in their communities but few connections, while many young people have hundreds of connections but no roots in communities.”

Yet the situation isn’t as grim as it seems. All generations have many things to learn when it comes to connecting with others, but the first step to true change is a willingness to learn something new.

The Technological Barrier

There are more ways to communicate than ever before, but that comes with more opportunities for misunderstanding and disconnect.

“Because of technology, we have lost our ability to communicate generationally,” said Mary Donohue at a TED Talk conference. “We no longer see a face or hear a voice or feel the tension in a room. We sit at our screens and we type.”

According to a Pew Research poll, the majority of social media users are under 29. The average user spends up to nine hours a day online, hindering their ability to connect with those in the oldest generation, which has a significantly less obvious presence.

Entrepreneur Infographic.jpg

Denise Thomas, the forensic speech coach for Liberty University, believes that this social media trend leads away from traditional communication.

“The biggest change is the availability to the internet and social media,” said Thomas. “There’s less face to face communication. I think social media facilitates the move away from the traditional family.”

Social media is not the main problem in this situation. Deborah Johnson, a retired small business owner, believes that while social media is beneficial, intergenerational communication is the glue of a society.

“The younger generation has more monetarily than the older generation had and more intellectually because there are more mediums out there to learn from,” said Johnson. “But you can only learn so much from a video game, a magazine or social media, you can’t learn compassion and love and all of the other qualities that will keep our world together.”

 True Diversity

Today’s younger generation embraces diversity in their social spheres, yet rarely recognize generational diversity as something that should be sought after.

This is made even more obvious in working environments that have different requirements than normal social interactions.

“A lack of understanding across generations can have detrimental effects on communication and working relationships and undermine effective services,” says Constance Patterson in an article for APA.

Different generations are also more likely to be on opposite sides of the political spectrum, with the younger generation leaning more to the left.

Pew Research Infographic

People of all ages must learn to accept each other’s differences and be able to disagree in a appropriate way. Learning to respect different perspectives is key to creating good relationships between generations.

“We want to experience things for ourselves and learn things the hard way,” said Thomas. “Even if I could download my experiences into a younger person’s brain, they don’t have the same perspective to understand things the way I do.”

Complexity and diversity are not issues, and every generation should strive to learn new tricks when attempting to communicate with others.

Influence and Be Influenced

This issue is one that has been caused by all generations, not just one group of people.

Therefore, truly committing to connect with and influence a variety of different ages is important to bridging the gap. Pastor Esteban Monduy believes that influencing each other will bring about positive change in society.

“The best way to change and improve not as a generation but mankind as a whole is for each and every single one of us to focus and work on our own lives,” Monduy said. “And influence those around us towards a positive change. That way if everyone has that attitude you will reach all generations across the board from youngest to oldest like myself.”

Just as Lundrigan learned and allowed himself to be influenced positively by his grandparents, he believes that we should all value those relationships more.

There is much to learn from the differing perspectives of generations and appreciating those differences will help society work together.

“We’re going to have to learn from each other,” said Johnson. “The world is full of too much hate, but if each one of us could influence someone to do things a little differently than they are done right now, I believe there could be a change.”

Political Holocaust: Why Tim Allen’s Comments Are So Problematic

By Sydney Jones

Tim Allen compares his experience as a conservative in Hollywood to being shunned by your friends, wearing a degrading sign on all of your clothing, constantly beaten, starved and eventually murdered.

“If you don’t believe what everyone believes, this is like 30s Germany, if you’re not part of the group,” Allen said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on March 17.

One of the reasons why America is such an amazing country is the fact that we are able to have political minorities whose voice can still be heard and respected. That is why I cannot understand Allen’s logic behind attempting to equate the clash between differing opinions with racism.

Once you examine the historical facts, his statements seem ludicrous. The blatant racism and hatred that minority groups have dealt with in the past overshadows the slight backlash that conservatives receive many times over.

“In 1935 the Nazis announced new laws that make Jews second-class citizens and revoke most of their political rights,” said a statement on the United States Holocaust Museum website. “Further, Jews [were] prohibited from marrying or having sexual relations with persons of ‘German or related blood.”

None of these things are currently happening to the Hollywood elite. There is, however, many statements from both liberal and conservative entertainers that are not being supported by fact. Instead, tolerance is claimed as a way to avoid debate or confrontation.

The majority of entertainers in Hollywood are liberal, with over 70 percent of those who live in the county voting for Hilary Clinton, and because of this many conservative entertainers are afraid to vocalize their beliefs. But I wonder if the real reason they are afraid of expressing them is because they are afraid of having to support them.

“Tim, have you lost your mind?” Steven Goldstein, the Executive Director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, said. “No one in Hollywood today is subjecting you or anyone else to what the Nazis imposed on Jews in the 1930s – the world’s most evil program of dehumanization, imprisonment and mass brutality, implemented by an entire national government, as the prelude for the genocide of nearly an entire people.”

There is a stark difference between clashing opinions and a direct attack on another person’s beliefs. I believe that challenging opposing views and open discussion is necessary for a society’s progression.

“What I find odd about Hollywood is they didn’t like Trump because he was a bully. But if you had any kind of inkling that you were for Trump, you got bullied,” said Allen in an interview with Megyn Kelly.

Being a political minority is not a bad thing. However, when someone starts to juxtapose that with such a horrific event, people are naturally going to speak out against that rhetoric. I do not necessarily view that as bullying.

I believe that Allen’s remarks, joking or not, show how fearful many people are to stand up for what they believe in. There are problems on both sides of the argument, but I believe the first step to change the status quo is to be unashamedly outspoken in order to encourage debate and discussion.

Only then can we change people’s minds.

Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke: A Response To Liberty’s New Attendance Policy

By Sydney Jones

Students at Liberty University were left shocked when an important policy regarding attendance was changed for the Spring 2017 semester.

The registrar’s office released a statement on Dec. 19, 2016, outlining the new policy. This new system is applicable to 100 and 200 level classes, and students are permitted a limited number of elective absences. These absences now include nonattendance for sickness even if the student has a doctor’s note.

Many students are angry and confused with the changes, mainly due to its vague nature and because there was no official widespread announcement.

“A major problem with the new policy is that it’s not clear. Even my professors didn’t understand it, some of them didn’t even bother to go over it with us,” said Laurel Woodruff.

Confusion seems to be a common theme throughout classes. For example, the current Theology 202 syllabus still claims that doctor’s notes are accepted as an excused absence, while other classes like Arts 222 and Government 200 state that doctor’s notes are accepted but are also counted as an absence.

“I understand that we’re paying for this education so we need to show up for class, but if I have a doctor appointment, that shouldn’t have to be one of only four elective absences if you were legitimately sick,” said Daelynn Christman. “I think they have good intentions, but I’m not sure this is the best method.”

According to the registrar’s statement, the attendance policy is to make sure that students understand the university’s expectancies. However, I do not believe the university should hold students liable for being sick, which is something out of their control.

Before the new policy was implemented, many students used their allowed skips to do things like leave early to travel home, to study for an important test in another class or when they felt too sick to attend class but not sick enough to pay for a doctor’s visit.

“Sometimes managing your time well means skipping your 8:15 a.m. class to get sleep or study for a bigger test in a different class,” said Natalie Pace. “Sickness should always be an excused absence that does not count towards your allowed skips.”

While there is no proof that the new policy is what caused the flu epidemic earlier in the semester, students are worried about using skips even when they don’t feel well because they want to save them for a more serious situation. This could be a possible cause of the widespread illness because students were not able to get the rest they needed.

“The only thing the new attendance policy does is hurt the people who needed the old policy,” said Ryan Pelletier. “The new policy prevents professors from being reasonable and working with the students.”

I understand that there is a need for an attendance policy. I am now a sophomore and attending upper level classes, but during my freshman year the policy helped teach me responsibility of managing my schedule. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

I believe whoever was involved with making this decision had good objectives and reasoning for the change. Sometimes things may look great on paper, but once implemented, end up being detrimental.

In this case, the registrar’s office should listen to the opinion of the student body, which seems to be that the old system was efficient enough and should have never been changed.

Why Is No One Cancelling Class Because Of Aleppo?

By Sydney Jones

After Donald Trump was announced as the president-elect following the 2016 election, there was an almost instantaneous outpouring of grief due to fact that a seemingly misogynistic, arrogant and fascist man would soon be leading our country.

Professors cancelled class and violent protests broke out in many cities around the country. A few celebrities even vowed to leave the country (what a tragedy, how will we ever survive without our pop culture gods to worship?).

People are scared. I understand and empathize with that. What I do not empathize with, however, is the delusional state Americans are currently allowing themselves to willingly be imprisoned by.

The vast majority of Americans have the mentality that if something does not directly affect them, it doesn’t exist. And that is exactly what is happening in the case of Aleppo and the Syrian Civil War.

Assad’s government has violated rights of free expression and assembly. They have denied women their basic rights and refused Syrian Kurds and their descendants citizenship because they are “foreigners.” As I am writing these words, the Syrian government is massacring rebels living in Aleppo.

And not one class is being cancelled.

Few are mourning the plight of the Syrian people.

American society has turned a blind eye to the blatant evil that is occurring.

Every crime that critics have claimed that Trump has the potential of committing, Syria has committed 10 times over. Why is this not major news? Why does no one care?

Because it isn’t happening to us. Syria is thousands of miles away, and anyway they aren’t the first dictatorship to do this, and they won’t be the last.

As a society, myself included, we need to wake up from this dream. We need to expand our sphere of compassion to include a larger sector of humanity.

Please stop being passive about human life. If you need something to protest, protest the way the Syrian government is oppressing their people and destroying civilian life. If you need a reason to cancel class, cancel it and go to a peaceful protest and stand up for freedom. Instead of writing angry political Facebook posts, write to your government about why they are allowing hundreds of people to be murdered.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason we are so blind is because we have knowledge and information so readily available that it has caused us to become near-sighted.

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