Ju Enn's Class Blog Resource

I’m not perfect okay? But still, I don’t understand why you have to be like this

Posted in Uncategorized by fabledlamb on June 4, 2010

Please. Don’t take out your frustrations on me. Especially not when there are other people who are involved too. And this is not the first time this is happening. If you actually have something to say about me, go ahead and say it to my face. Don’t hide behind it and disguise your inner frustrations as something else instead.

I just do not really like it when people are not managing their anger tactfully. Don’t bottle everything up and then blow up all of a sudden. It can be very misleading.

KPLSTHXBAI.

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With Great Freedom Comes Great Responsibility

Posted in Uncategorized by fabledlamb on May 24, 2010

The Annexe Gallery of Central Market might look simple enough to any onlooker with its wood-panelled floors, white walls and somewhat dim hall. But whenever events are held here, it literally transforms into a lively place filled with artsy works or passionate discourse. In the case of May 8th, 2010, a forum named Building Peace Across Communities organised by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) took place. Panellists included the head of Indonesia’s Maluku Media Center Insany Syahbarwati, communication studies lecturer Dr. Mustafa K. Anuar, editor of The Nut Graph Jacqueline Ann Surin and Asian Public Intellectuals Fellow Prangtip Daoreung.

L-R: Insany, Jacqueline, Masjaliza, Mustafa, Prangtip. Pic taken from World Press Freedom Day Malaysia blogspot.

The forum was moderated by CIJ executive officer Masjaliza Hamzah. As soon as she introduced the panellists, the forum began with a presentation by Insany, who related her experiences of covering the Muslim-Christian conflict in her home in Ambun, Indonesia. The conflict was rooted in the manifestations of past wounds from colonial injustices against Muslims, present Christian fears and rumours that Christians were attempting to wipe out Islam. Insany spoke about her difficulties in providing balanced reporting on an issue where not only was she pressured by her own Muslim community to report in favour of themselves, but also by her personal loyalty to her religion. With her life at stake as well, she confessed that she was unable to separate her feelings and religion whilst reporting. Her account made me realize that despite the limited press freedom we enjoy in Malaysia, the situation in Indonesia is even more severe as journalists are not merely thrown into jail under laws such as ISA, but they can be killed for performing what is, essentially ethical. The question is – are you willing to turn your back against your community or forgo your own life if being an ethical journalist would mean just that? Although I hope I would never be put under such a situation, it really made me think about what I would do.

Insany’s accounts became a starting point which led to the topic of peace journalism. Mustafa Anuar gave a useful suggestion by advising journalists to focus more on context and background information than on graphic descriptions such as blood and gore. Prangtip stressed that it would not be of much benefit overall if only one journalist or one newspaper in the country practises ethical reporting. Therefore, everyone needs to work together as a team in upholding ethics and in reporting racial relations accurately and fairly. A variety of opinions is missing in the Malaysian media, said Jacqueline, as most news articles feature quotes reflecting only one side of an argument. On another note, she thinks that it is equally, if not, more important for readers to also learn to be critical of what they read so that they know how to evaluate the information they receive and what to make of it.

On the whole, the forum was stimulating, to say the least. I left with valuable insights into journalism ethics as practised in the real world.

Sarasota Herald Tribune: Broken Trust

Posted in Uncategorized by fabledlamb on May 20, 2010

The Sarasota Herald Tribune published a series entitled ‘Broken Trust’, detailing an investigation into abusive teachers. The team of journalists managed to uncover a confidential list of 24500 teachers who have been punished for a wide array of offenses and put the names into a searchable database for the public. They also provided helpful tools for anyone interested to interpret or analyze the data, such as pie charts, bar graphs and searchable Google Maps.  The series was written and reported by three people, namely, investigations reporter Chris Davis and reporters Matt Doig and Tiffany Lankes. It took them two years to uncover the information. They avoided breaking the law in the process as theyobtained the information from public records.

Heather Brooke – Unsung Hero

Posted in Uncategorized by fabledlamb on May 13, 2010

Part 1: Introduction – Who is Heather Brooke?

Heather Brooke is a British journalist and writer. Not only that, she is also an honorary professor at the Department of Journalism in City University. She has won many awards for her journalistic work, including the 2009 Freedom of Information (FOI) awards of which she was the first ever international winner for the Investigative Reporters and Editors category. Other awards she received were the Judges’ Prize in the British Press Awards and the Special Commendation Award at the Tenth Annual Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards, both in March 2010.

Part 2: What did Heather Brooke do?

She is best known for successfully investigating and exposing the expenses made by Members of Parliament (MPs) despite contention from the House of Commons. She first telephoned the Freedom of Information Officer of the House of Commons, Bob Castle to enquire about the MP’s expenses. When the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was enforced in 2005, the “green light” was given to her to request all 646 MP’s expenses. She also requested for information on the MP’s travels, names and salaries of MP’s staff and details on their second homes, if any.

Just a year later, Brooke decided to narrow down by requesting information from only 10 MPs, of which includes the leaders of certain parties in addition to a few ministers. When refused, she filed an appeal to the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas. Her request was considered for a year, and finally the Information Commissioner released some amount of information in mid 2007.

Early 2008 saw the Commons releasing information on 14 MPs after an Information Tribunal got involved. The speaker appealed the decision on behalf of the House of Commons, objecting the requests of Brooke, Leapman and Ungoed-Thomas for releasing 11 MP’s expenses. The High Court accepted the appeal, and was in favour of disclosing the information to the public. They stated that their decision was based on fulfilling public interest, and to uphold notions of transparence and accountability which has been lacking in the House of Commons expense in the past. Therefore, Brooke’s persistent efforts in pushing for the release of information on MP’s expenses have paid off.

Part 3: Heather Brooke’s Challenges as an Investigative Journalist

When Brooke first called Bob Castle, she only managed to obtain the overall figure of MP’s expenses, not the breakdown to individual MPs. The Commons were reluctant to allow the public to know the details of the government’s personal spending. Moreover, they refused to discuss openly on the inner workings of the system of expenses.

Later, when the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was executed more forcefully in 2005, she asked for information such as names, salaries and travel information of MPs’ staff. Unfortunately, all her requests were declined. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, blocked the information from Brooke personally.

In June 2007, her case was combined with two other cases which, similarly, were also regarding seeking details on MPs, although their case has been dragged out for even longer than hers. The commissioner reached a verdict, but no one was happy with it. He ruled against publishing receipts but thought the allowance could be categorized into certain categories. However, the Commons, Brooke and two other reporters appealed to this decision.

Later, Brooke sought the help of barrister Hugh Tomlinson QC who represented her pro bono at the information tribunal where they provide an avenue to appeal against the commissioner’s decisions. The tribunal members were not pleased with the appeal, arguing that ordering for a full disclosure of the second-homes expense system resembles a culture that is “very different” which “exists in the commercial sphere or in most other public sector organizations”. Nevertheless, after the MPs extended Christmas vacation in 2008, they passed the law exempting themselves from the freedom of information law.

In conclusion, it is important for journalists to strive for freedom of information, especially because they have a role to play as a watchdog and informer to society, even if it means exposing information that might not be very favourable to some parties. As Brooke says, “I think in order to begin the clean-up, it is necessary to get rid of those who created the mess in the first place. Only then can we have a parliament of which we are proud.”

Jahabar Sadiq Talk

Posted in Uncategorized by fabledlamb on April 22, 2010

“You’re only as good as your next byline.” Jahabar Sadiq, the Chief Executive Officer of The Malaysian Insider kept repeating that statement several times throughout the informal 2-hour talk with us final year journalism students. What he said stressed how important it is for journalists to work diligently and to strive for quality whilst reporting. But that was not all he said.

“Journalists need to be interested in hearing people’s stories and want to be the first to tell people what they have just found out,” he said. He reminded me just how essential it is to have an inquisitive nature if you were to become a journalist. Besides that, he pointed out that journalists need to have good listening skills in order to grasp, understand and record data accurately from the interviewees before writing the news story.

Accuracy and honesty, he emphasized, were also crucial principles for every journalist to abide by in their day-today work. “Any mistake you make reduces your credibility as well as the credibility of the organisation you work for.”

In my opinion, one of the most memorable things he told us was that it is that it is very important as a writer to know how you personally sense, look at and process the things you see and hear. And if you know what you write, use it as your style. To me, this translates into having a keen eye for details and applying the way you take in information into your writing.

It was inspiring to hear from someone who has been in the journalism industry for a long time and yet remains unjaded. He showed us that it is possible to remain passionate about your job regardless of the downsides, such as people not interested in reading news that do not directly concern them or that most of the time, journalists are just waiting for something to happen so that they can write about it. Journalism is, after all, a field that allows you to be in the thick of action during the happenings that will shape the nation, and gives you access to information before anyone else has it.

The Impact of the Internet on Journalism

Posted in Uncategorized by fabledlamb on March 25, 2010

Part 2: Essay

The internet has impacted journalism greatly over the past few years.  This article provides three ways. Firstly, internet encourages journalists to be the middle person between the government and the public, encouraging democracy even more so than in print or broadcast. An example that is somewhat related to that would be how news websites and blogs encourage transparency between readers and journalists which may weaken the occupation of journalists. On the other hand, an Associated Press article challenges the original perception that the internet democratizes the media. It states that the news agenda actually seems to be narrowing, with many Web sites primarily packaging news that is produced elsewhere, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual State of the News Media report. The report also states that citizen-created Web sites and blogs are actually far less welcoming to outside commentary than the so-called mainstream media.

On another note, the internet provides a wide range of resources and various technological possibilities to work with. For instance, online databases enable journalists to access a lot of details and information which might not be available elsewhere, for example, government databases. As a result, journalists can really dig up facts and present truths that the public needs to know about.

Interview Feature of a Classmate

Posted in Uncategorized by fabledlamb on March 10, 2010

by Ng Ju Enn

If one was to give a general description of Daniel Goh, he is, in a way, a bunch of contradictions. Just looking at him for the first time can give you a mixed impression.

On one hand, he sports a colourful, elaborate tattoo on his right arm, which suggests that he might perhaps enjoy attention from others, or has an adventurous and daring personality.

And yet, even from observing his behaviour for a few minutes, you’d think that he is an unassuming person, who is content with remaining in the background, doing his own thing. He is frequently seen with his earphones plugged in, listening to Slipknot or Billy Talent, or otherwise, getting lost in a game on his handheld console.   

“I am weird in the sense that I have some seriously strange quirks and habits,” he says.

“Also, I find that I don’t really fit in to a single category of people but I would have to say, the closest category I would fit unto would be the Geeky category. I love electronic games, oh, and siphoning media off the internet for free!”

When asked about his hobbies and interests, he answers, “There are a lot of things that I have been interested in doing for example, bartending, spray painting, and even sport-related activities but due to my incredibly short attention span, they were no more than passing phases.  

“One thing that I have truly stuck to all these years was photography. I get this sense of awe whenever a photographer is able to capture so many emotions and well, the zeitgeist of that precise moment in time and convey it in a manner so pleasing to the eye.”

Although his passion in photography began at 13 when he was given an SLR (single lens reflex) camera by his mother, due to lack of funds as a secondary school student on a meagre allowance, he could not really do very much to advance in that hobby. However, the invention of the digital SLRs two years ago was God-sent, as he is now able to view the pictures he had just snapped, and, to cut it short, save cost.

“When I’m out and about town, I like taking pictures of anything that catches my eye, anything ranging from the mundane to the spectacular, as long as it has a certain meaning to me.”

Unlike Daniel, I am not as crazy about photography. I don’t mind taking pictures from interesting angles once in a while, but on the whole, I prefer the written text more than the visual aspect of things.

On the other hand, one of the things we have in common is that we both enjoy reading. We prefer fictional books over non-fiction. He says “When I read, my imagination is let loose. I get to go to a different time and place and see things from the author or the character’s point of view.

“I mean, I daydream quite a bit and reading to me is just another extension of imagination one where there are rules and regulations or rather a fixed story as opposed to dreaming in general where anything can happen. My favourite authors are Haruki Murakami, Lewis Carroll and Chuck Palahniuk.

“I’d like to become a novelist someday, someone that would put Murakami or even Carroll to shame. It’s kind of ironic actually if you consider the fact that I only started reading a few years back.

“That is why I am doing a journalism course. It was something to do with writing, and I figured it would be a safer choice than doing a degree in English literature, in case my writer ambition was one of my various phases.”

In case that dream doesn’t work out, he has a backup plan of becoming a freelance photojournalist, and maybe still work on a short story or novel in his spare time. This shows that he does not get carried away with his dreams and is able to think practically.

It is quite a coincidence that we both do not play sports, at least not currently. Perhaps there is some measure of truth in the stereotype where people who like sedentary activities such as reading are normally inactive and therefore, not living a very healthy lifestyle.  

We are both fans of rock music, but he listens to “harder” rock such as heavy metal and punk rock, while I prefer softer versions of rock, such as alternative rock or sometimes, pop rock.

Being a fan of tattoos is not a particularly common thing, therefore making it one of the unique, distinguishing characteristics of him. That tattoo on his arm is of a scene from a Tim Burton movie, of whom is one of his favourite directors.

On a more regular, day-to-day note, he is very irritated by the massive traffic jams on the way to university whenever he needs to be there by 8am. “That peak hour when everyone is heading to work or school is maddening, especially when someone cuts into my lane. If any lecturer is reading this, I just want to go out on a limb and say it’s not such a bad idea to instill a ‘no classes before 10am’ policy.”

“Think about it, Taylor’s will be providing a public service by not clashing with the office crowd. Work productivity will go up, not to mention employee morale.”

Despite all his quirks, and at times, ambivalence towards things going on around him, Daniel is just like any other human being at the core. “Love is definitely important to me, not only love between a man and a woman but also the kind of love between a mother and a child. I think life without love is depressing, really, and not worth living.

“I once read somewhere that “to love and to be loved in return is the greatest thing you will ever learn in this lifetime” and I find it to be of immense significance to me.”

Book Review: We the Media

Posted in Uncategorized by fabledlamb on March 10, 2010

Dan Gillmor

Ch.1-4: We the Media. California: O’Reilly Media. 2004. 87 pp.

Reviewed by: Ng Ju Enn

Dan Gillmor wrote this book to give attention to the importance of grassroots journalism in today’s era. Further probe into possible reasons he wrote the book might suggest that he wrote it to support the usage of new media by ordinary citizens in order to hold certain parties accountable, including journalists as well as people who are considered to be higher up in society such as politicians. In We the Media, Dan Gillmor puts forth the idea that journalism is transforming rapidly from a traditional mass-media structure whereby the journalist finds the news, writes the news, and the public reads it, barely relying on other sources of information, into something more grassroots and democratic. The basis of the book is that technology has offered us ways of spreading news quickly, cheaply and widely, enabling just about anyone to become a journalist.

In Chapter 1, Gillmor gives a history of the mass press, beginning with newspapers, radio and TV, before going into the development of new media such as the internet. Continuing on the same note in Chapter 2, he gives a more comprehensive account of the types of new media forms, listing examples from the American context. Chapter 3 explains that any information hardly remains hidden due to the spread of news via internet and SMS. Chapter 4 talks about how newsmakers can also use new media to their advantage.

Gillmor’s style of writing is simple, fairly straightforward and easy to understand. Rarely does he beat around the bush. Furthermore, there is a good flow from sentence to sentence. One point leads to another in a smooth manner. An example is in the second chapter, where at the end of the subtopic “Internet “Broadcasting””, the author leads into the following part about peer-to-peer networking by stating, “… the cost of delivering online is extremely expensive, because Internet service providers charge for uploading bandwidth at rates amateurs can’t afford. This is where peer-to-peer networking may come into play.” (p. 36-37) I found myself feeling at ease and relaxed as I read, as I could automatically get into the text and absorb whatever he wrote. This proves that Gillmor has succeeded where many authors fail, which is to make writing accessible to the average person reading it. This book would be useful as an introduction for a student of mass communication who is new to the topic of grassroots journalism and new media, or to anyone looking for new ways to enhance their businesses and increase profits and reputation.    

To add to that, Gillmor provides conclusive arguments for each idea he introduces. He provides an adequate amount of real-life examples to support his statements. For instance, to illustrate the important role of new media, he cites the success of Mac developer Dave Winer’s email newsletters, “Dave Net” in defending Apple against critics who say that it is dead. He also describes the benefits of the online mailing list started by Phil Gomes, a public relations practitioner for IBM’s AS/400 midrange computers. Gillmor quotes Gomes as saying that he gained a rich perspective on the customers’ needs, concerns and decision-making processes as he was monitoring the list. The examples used by the author are well-suited for every argument and evidently selected with care. The notion whereby the hegemony practised by the Big Media, which are the media conglomerates is also indicated in a systematic manner as the reason for the need for citizen journalists to do their part.

Moreover, balance is apparent in the views asserts, as seen in the counter-arguments he adds to many of his points. A clear example is how he repeatedly emphasizes that although the free flow of information made possible with internet technologies produces many advantages in terms of serving a as a public watchdog, the invasion of privacy of public officials and celebrities are questioned. This shows that the author attempts to present more than one viewpoint to a certain issue, avoiding biasness or one-sidedness. The reader is then made to ponder on whether that issue or technology is good or bad, which might then prompt them to come up with solutions to a problem.

On the negative side, what the book lacks is a worldwide perspective on the issues discussed. Gilmor admits, “At the risk of seeming to slight the contributions from other nations, I will focus mostly on the American experience.” Giving prominence to happenings in American media and American current affairs means that examples from other countries are not mentioned. Therefore, some of the arguments and suggestions put forward might work in a country like the United States, but perhaps they are less practical for countries whereby the culture differs, for example, Asian or Middle East countries.

Besides that, my opinion is that the third chapter, entitled “The Gates Come Down”, is too long and padded with repetition. Most people who would pick up the book would be intelligent enough to get the point that new media translates into a reality where information, no matter good, bad or secret, always gets out. They do not need to be reminded that for about a dozen times throughout the chapter just for it to sink in. This is where one of the strengths of the book becomes a weakness – too many examples, eventually loses its impact on readers after a while.

In summary, We the Media is an invaluable tool not only for those needing an introduction to the subject, but it can also be a source of reference for more advanced students. The text is easily understandable, however, anyone who is looking for perspectives and examples from outside the United States would need to consult other materials.