Category Archives: Social Criticism

The ‘State’ of Media at Texas State University

Texas State University is a great choice for mass communication majors who are interested in pursuing an education and future occupation in the any aspects of media. Between the campus media outlets such as the radio station KTSW,  newspaper The University Star, and weekly newscast Bobcat Update, students can be expected to leave Texas State with tons of experience upon reaching graduation. However, if students want a hard-hitting experience, they may want to reconsider working for campus media.

An interesting notion about Texas State University that I mistakenly gathered in my first year upon applying at The University Star was that it had achieved a degree of notoriety for being a rugged and enthusiastic outlet for students who wish to walk a thin line between challenging the establishment and countering traditional media coverage. I can recall my first time entering The Star’s HQ and noticing a yellow old-fashioned and laminated newspaper clipping of an old story involving a brigade of students engaging in night-time streaking across campus.

Much to my chagrin, the experience of being at The University Star as a videographer my freshman year didn’t turn out to be as inspiring as I had imagined. I quickly learned that the image I had of the newspaper didn’t necessarily match up with the realities of the work environment that I was led into. Our management direction was skewed, and assignments either always fell through or were so banal that there was almost no reason to cover them at all. Still, I remained committed to pursuing the most hard-hitting pieces and ideas that I could find.

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There was an unfortunate ‘formality’ of almost always getting shut down on story ideas. Whenever SXSW in March of 2014 was going on, it featured Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange, and I thought I had hit a no-brainer for a story idea or at least a coverage piece, but I was told that since it was in Austin (which is about 25 minutes away), it wasn’t relevant enough for the paper to pick up- despite the fact that the broader story of government overreach and invasion of privacy was happening not only in Austin- but the entire country (and as we know now, the entire world).

Another time there was a student* who was accused by the city police of creating a bomb hoax. As I read the piece in The University Star, I couldn’t help but think, “How did the police justify an attempt of a bomb hoax when they were the ones who investigated his vehicle against his will?” Probable cause was evident, seeing as how he was initially smoking on campus, and fled arrest from officers (smoking on campus is a violation of university policy) but a “hoax” implies a sort of intentional cause to create panic- which was only created by the police department enlisting the Austin bomb squad to blow up packages that were “incapable” of being recognized as explosive or not.

*The suspect was first reported as a student, later reports confirmed that he was not a student of the university

Obviously as I had read this piece, I was stunned with more questions than answers and suggested to my superiors that we should do a follow-up piece on the suspect and the police department’s view of how the event unfolded. Initially, I was told that I’d be given the suspect’s lawyer information and that although cooperation from the police department wasn’t likely, I had the support of The Star to go out and pursue the leads.

Time went on. I checked my inbox, nothing. I found myself asking different editors of the paper for the same piece of information over and over again, sometimes being told that it had already been sent (which obviously wasn’t true) and other times being told “yeah sure, I’ll do it”.

I continued pressing my supervisor on the matter – lightly of course-  because as passionate as I am about journalism I still very much believe that I have to earn my stripes as a reporter. My main concern was getting this story shot and so long as that was done, I’d consider being a minor annoyance a small step in a long path towards victory. I asked for the contact information a third week in a row, believing that I still had supervisor support when his tone seemed to take a different note this time around.

“The thing is, it would require getting law enforcement involved…”

Long story short, I was told that it would be too much of a hassle to get police cooperation on the story, and that I could pursue the story on my own time, but not as The University Star’s reporter. I never followed up on the story solo because after 3+ weeks of asking for something so minor as a number and being met with dragged feet, I knew I wasn’t going to get it. I found the whole incident ironic considering that The Star’s lower tagline reads “Defending the First Amendment since 1911 | The independent student newspaper of Texas State University” That same line that had once ensnared my attention and loyalty before now stared back at me awkwardly. If you’re too nervous about police cooperation or retaliation then you’re not really defending the first amendment, at least not confidently .

The paper, as I’ve known it since my year-and-a-half of being here, seems to typically play it safe when it comes to covering local issues, the most controversial thing I had heard of being reported by The Star was an incident that questioned a city council member’s ethics when he, Carter Morris, met with a developer while approval for their project was still being deliberated by city council. Morris was the planning and zoning Vice Chair at the time.

Although the campus media aren’t necessarily the hell-raisers that I typically like to consume, I still hold their motives as an outlet for students to polish themselves in high regard. Certainly there is creativity and insight in all areas of the campus media (especially in KTSW ,their program diversity and professionalism is astounding for a student publication) and while they focus on polishing craft more than breaking media barriers, it at least ensures that students will be professionally prepared to cover news for future publications.

Hopefully by the time they get out of college, they’ll be done playing it safe.

What could have been done to save James Foley?

Photo credit:Gawkr media
James Foley in hostage video released by ISIL, Photo credit:Gawkr media

As you’ve most likely heard by now, American journalist James Foley was beheaded by the Islamic militant group known as ISIL. The execution was carried out as promised by the extremists after they vowed to murder Foley, should the U.S. continue its renewed air strikes in Iraq.

Obama addressing the union over plans to eliminate ISIL on August 8th photocredit: PBS.org
Obama addresses the union over plans to eliminate ISIL on August 8th photocredit: PBS.org

The airstrikes were approved in early August, along with humanitarian relief- after president Obama announced that the U.S. would begin military action in Iraq as a response to increasing threats to the safety of U.S. personnel stationed there; he also cautioned about the possibility of ISIL sparking genocide in the region and stated that the U.S. could not turn a blind eye towards the conflict.

Foley’s parents claim to have been threatened by the White House, when they raised funds to pay off Foley’s captors.

“We were  told very clearly three times that it was illegal for us to try and ransom our son out and that we had possibility of being prosecuted” his mother, Diane Foley,  said on ABC news.

The National Security Council has taken an interesting approach to these accusations, with NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden stating:

NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden
NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden

The law is clear that ransom payments to designated individuals or entities, such as ISIL [ISIS], are prohibited. It is also a matter of longstanding policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers. Doing so would only put more Americans at risk of being taken captive. That is what we convey publicly and what we convey privately.”

Many American media outlets as such as FOX, CNN, and MSNBC, fail to raise the important questions: How could this have been avoided, what could have been done?

As reported by Yahoo News, a mission to save Foley was conducted in August. Intelligence agencies believed that they had discovered Foley’s location in Syria, and “several dozen” special forces operations were deployed from aircraft carriers and engaged in a firefight with militants; but as the scene was later investigated, it became apparent that the location of the hostages (including Foley) had changed. The rescue mission was declared unsuccessful as a result.

What’s so interesting is that the release of this information by the White House marks the first time that the U.S. has divulged information about military personnel being “on the ground” in Syria since their civil war three years ago- yet they won’t comment on when the operation took place or how many hostages they were attempting to rescue in total during that operation. However, a detailed yet unconfirmed account of the rescue attempt by a resident in Raqqa paints a likely picture of how events unfolded in the James Foley rescue attempt, the account in its entirety it resembles the mission carried out to assassinate Osama Bin Laden.

THUMB
*unsubstantiated and unverified account of what happened on July 4th raid on Raqqa to save James Foley * photocredit: the telegraph Uk

Now to answer the questions set before:How could this have been avoided, what could have been done?

As you may know The White House has a pretty shoddy way of getting Americans back from oppressive regimes and terrorists. Bureaucratic red tape frequently halts or stalls negotiations in returning Americans to the homeland- and families are left to worry.

The situation between the Foley family and the White House  is somewhat understandable over  the concern of ransom funds being used to fund terrorist acts, but how long should a family wait to see results?

At the root of the kidnapping was the issue of  American intervention in Iraq and Syria combined with U.S. aggression against ISIL – which can be seen as another attempt of “nation building” on America’s part– this is what ISIL was attacking.

In the transcript of the beheading, the executioner- suspected to be Abdel-Majed-Abdel Barry, A.K.A. “Jihadi John- says the following:

“I’m back, Obama, and I am back because of your arrogant foreign policy toward the Islamic state. Because of your insistence in continuing your bombings in Muhassan, Alboumar, and Mosul dam, despite our serious warnings. You, Obama, have yet again, for your actions, have killed yet another American citizen. So just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knives will continue to strike the necks of your people. We take this opportunity to warn those governments who have entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic state and back off and leave our people alone.

And:

“Any aggression towards the Islamic State is an aggression towards Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership. So any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

Notice the distinct omission of any hatred towards democracy or our culture, the freedom and equality of women within our social construct, or anything else resembling the “they hate us because they hate us” rhetoric that gets repeated time and time again by mainstream pundits.  All of the grievances mentioned are a result from an embittered regime struggling to fight back against foreign and domestic enemies.

Territorial_control_of_the_ISIS.svg

Keep in mind that ISIL is surrounded by enemies all over–  governments in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iran are all hostile to it, and it also has the enmity of Al Qaeda, the Kurds, and other rebel groups in Syria- the truth still remains that ISIL is less of a threat than Al Qaeda. President Obama himself has even said on occasion that the amount of territory that ISIL controls is small and while debates go on about how much territory they currently control, it’s mostly agreed to look as pictured above.

As well funded as ISIL might be, there’s no reason to believe that they could afford a war on all fronts with their middle eastern rivals, as well as their European and American enemies.

To this day, ISIL has only vowed to carry out an attack against or our people, should we continue to attack them.

any attempt by you, Obama, to deny the Muslims their rights of living in safety under the Islamic Caliphate will result in the bloodshed of your people.”

Though ISIL may have beheaded an American citizen- it was due to renewed aggression by the United States Government in what they see as a threat to their sovereign region, and considering that they claim to speak for  “Muslims from all walks of life who have accepted the Islamic Caliphate as their leadership”- makes it that much of a bigger target for its predominantly Muslim neighbors, and that much less of our problem.

*This is  post is not excusing ISIL,  nor is it an attempt to justify their actions, it is simply an attempt to put the events listed within context and to promote constructive discussion*

About OurDailyBlaze (OBD):

OurDailyBlaze is a political commentary and social criticism blog created with the uninformed reader in mind.

   Sure, some people might have seen the “news”  on cable stations or sensationalized headlines

…But true coverage goes beyond talking heads and sensationalized gibber-gabber:

Luckily for you, that’s not really our style.

OurDailyBlaze is (Y)OurDailyBlaze- Meaning that we want our readers and our publications to provide top quality analysis, depth, and attitude to every topic.

With that being said – many posts will seem to be derisive and in bad spirits by some; but don’t be dissuaded.

I follow multiple media outlets, candidates, journalists, and movements- all of whom fall short in different ways. I understand that no one is infallible, that this blog will be far from perfect- and that some media outlets legitimately try their best to inform their readers; but part of why I created this blog and this endeavor was to highlight commonalities in media that have become, in my opinion, far too frequent and far too careless.

It’s become a new American custom that prospective candidates and officials face no consequence or castigation for lying to spectators and audiences through  microphones and monitors across the globe. The assumption that a candidate would seek to defend their honor while maintaining candor and integrity has become a long lost remnant of optimists past.

What’s worst of all is that the watch dogs of those in power have surrendered their potential to create productive and meaningful change within our political climate- and in doing so they’ve sold out their loyalty to the uninformed and have disgraced the image of modern journalism. These actions: whether they be through intention or ignorance- are unacceptable.

OurDailyBlaze is committed to pointing out the ugliness of media coverage and metastasizing social mediocrity so that their perpetrators and perpetuates know that there’s a change a ‘comin

And  it’s spreading like wildfire

Welcome To The Blaze.

Photo Credit: http://www.verumserum.com/?p=19796
Photo Credit: http://www.verumserum.com/?p=19796