Food Politics Part I

In case you haven't heard, gelato sales have been stopped and there will be NO food sales at club fair next week. Why? The cafeteria people got involved (and not just those from our site). Welcome to Food Politics on the local level.

Over the next few days we'll be talking about the politics of food in our country. Many of you might have read "Fast Food Nation" or you've seen "SuperSize Me." Maybe some of you have even seen "Food, Inc." You might have heard the team Frankenfood. Yes, it's a real term coined in the last century to describe genetically modified foods.

Today, I'd like you to start by reading this article from the New York Times about the Child Nutrition Bill that passed Congress last week. What are the main points of the article? What are the key features of the bill? Most importantly, what did you learn about the politics of child nutrition from this article? Be prepared to discuss this. You are advised to make some notes.

Free Speech v. Community Standards

Recently, a student at Rocklin High School was suspended for wearing a rubber bracelet that many felt had an inappropriate message. Read the article, then leave a comment below discussing whether or not the student had the right to wear the bracelet despite its message. Please note that under California Education Code, students CAN be suspended for defiance to school authority.

Be sure to include your first name and last initial so that your comment can be tracked.

Rocklin High suspends boy....

By the way, student free speech would be an appropriate jumping off point for an opinion piece or editorial.

Do yearbooks have a future?

This is an interesting article from Oklahoma about the future of yearbooks. Our books are scheduled to arrive early next week and we sell to nearly 50% of our student population. The books are also requested by the city and two local libraries. With all of that said, our sales are still down significantly over the past two years.

A yearbook is the story of the school year in book form, so what is the future of the traditional yearbook? What makes you think so? Leave a thoughtful comment here. Due by the end of 5th period today.

Note: many of you know my opinion on this issue. Please don't regurgitate my opinion. What are YOUR thoughts on the future of yearbooks?

Things that make you go huh?

Think like a journalist on this one. Leave a comment here discussing both the content of the story and the story itself. It doesn't matter that this is about a yearbook, it could be about a student newspaper as well. There are a few things that should leap off the screen at you. What do you still want to know?

Keep in mind: Prior review in VA is not uncommon.

Article: H.S. Yearbook Halted

As always, I would suggest that you compose your comment elsewhere, then copy and paste it here. This is due by 5 pm Friday, May 21.

Your Thoughts: Convergence Media

View this presentation on convergence media and the future of high school journalism programs (both newspaper and yearbook). After viewing it, leave a comment here. Things to keep in mind:
  1. type your response in a Google Doc first, then copy and paste it when you're done. That saves you the agony of having the comment box time out on you.
  2. your comment should include your thoughts about our media program. What, if anything, from the presentation could we incorporate into our program?
  3. Are there any thoughts in this presentation that would severely disrupt our audience? 
  4. What is the best idea?

'Flag Flap:' Rights and Responsibilities

By now you have  heard about the 'flag flap' at Live Oak High School in the south bay. In short, five students were sent home for wearing the American flag on Cinco de Mayo. Read the most recent article at as well as the related stories posted on that page (the three stories cover the story from the beginning).

The students claim they have the right to wear clothing with the American flag. Site administrators claim wearing the American flag on Cinco de Mayo is offensive and potentially dangerous.

You will also need to consider such court rulings as Tinker and California Education Code 48907.

What is your stand on the issue? Who is right? Leave a comment here with your views. Be specific in your reasons for your stance. It is recommended that you first compose your response in a Google Doc, THEN copy and paste it into a blog comment. That way you don't have to worry about time out issues.

This is due today, May 12 by the end of lunch.

Social Media: Root of all Evil?

A New Jersey middle school principal has called for a ban on all social media networks for students at his school. Read the article linked below. Leave a thoughtful comment here. Do you agree with the policy or not? Why? If the use of social networks is a potential problem what might be a solution to the problem?

Be sure to read the ENTIRE article as the principal's email is at the bottom and he gives his rationale for the request to ban social media networks.

New Jersey Principal Asks Parents To Ban Social Networking

Be sure to leave your comment today, April 29, no later than 5 pm.

Journalism Ethics, Gizmodo and the iPhone

You may have heard that Gizmodo broke a story about the new G4 iPhone. They admit to obtaining the prototype from an individual who 'found it' in a bar in Redwood City. Now, Gizmodo is coming under fire for buying the iPhone and reporting on it. Keeping journalistism ethics in mind, read the articles, then leave a thoughtful comment about how Gizmodo should have handled this situation.

Gizmodo blogger's computers seized
Gizmodo article (check out the links within the article)

Your comment is due by 5pm TODAY, April 27.

Court refusal could lead to censorship

The Supreme Court has thrown out a suit by a student who was refused the right to play "Ave Maria" at her high school graduation. Justices have said it was reasonable for administrators to ban the song since it is overtly religious and since previous performances had been challenged by parents.

  • Read the article from the Seattle Times here.
  • This Wikipedia entry gives you a bit of background on the lyrics of the song and its various arrangments.
  • As expected, the Student Press Law Center weighed in on the Court's refusal to hear the case.

Your assignment: Read the various articles above and leave a comment here. Do you think this case could have lasting implications for student speech? Does this case, in any way, compare to the graduation controversy here at HHS last year? If so, how? Please be sure to leave your first name (and last initial if you share the same first name with someone else in class).

This assignment is due today by the end of 5th period (either lunch or class).

Just the facts...or are they?

What are facts? We think facts are something that is true or provable. We believe that intellectual debate on the issues of the day is reasonable with both sides presenting relevant facts to bolster their point of view. We believe that even if a media outlet is unabashedly biased (I know some of the seniors have discussed the bias in Fox News and MSNBC), reasoned argument will win the day.

Unfortunately, that is NOT what is happening. Over the past few years, I have seen an alarming trend where people simply ignore fact and stick to their argument anyway. This might not be so bad when you're discussing the relative merits of a particular store at the mall and whether or not the sales people are rude, but when you have people in positions of power spouting off, it's a problem. How do you know what to believe?

Leonard Pitts, in his column yesterday, describes his recent encounter with a reader who simply did not believe the facts. The documented facts, according to the reader, were wrong. The reader knew, without a doubt, the real story and accused Pitts of lying to the public. Pitts charges that we are in trouble.
To listen to talk radio, to watch TV pundits, to read a newspaper's online message board, is to realize that increasingly, we are a people estranged from critical thinking, divorced from logic, alienated from even objective truth. We admit no ideas that do not confirm us, hear no voices that do not echo us, sift out all information that does not validate what we wish to believe. 
Read the entire column here.

Getting to the bottom of a story does not require you to become a professional journalist. Having access to information presented in a factual way is vital to democracy. Leave a comment discussing how you will inoculate yourself against unreasonable arguments and get to the heart of real issues.  How will you preserve our democracy?

NBC Olympic Coverage FAIL

Sometimes a journalist gets in a hurry and fails to do enough research on a story. Sometimes said journalists gets the information very, very wrong. I think this could be classified as an epic fail on the part of NBC's Olympic Coverage.

Watch the video clip here.

With that being said, these television personalities roasting marshmallows most likely had someone ELSE do the research (yes, there are paid researchers) and they quite possibly could have just been given a briefing on the subject rather than looking into it on their own.

What's the buzz about Buzz?

Bugged by Buzz? Yes, you can turn it off. Read this article from Lifehacker to learn how. Others are writing about the privacy concerns they have about Buzz. Check out this article that is making the rounds this morning (the article, by the way, was sent to me by a non-journalism student last night). What are your thoughts on Buzz? Like it? Hate it? Don't see the point when you have Facebook or Twitter? Media analysis and thoughtful use of media tools is part of the job of a journalist. Look at both of these articles and leave a comment here. This assignment is due not later than the end of lunch on Friday, February 12.

The Future Journalist from Mashable

What do you think? View the presentation, leave a comment. Comment on someone else's comment.

Facing the Dangers of Journalism

Last week, I read this column by Ruben Navarrette, a columnist who appears in the Contra Costa Times (you've read some of his work before). It brought to mind the recent essay assignment in class where you had to write on why it's important to have a free and independent media. For years, journalists around the world have faced danger because of their reporting, but frequently that reporting brings about public awareness and great change.

In a thoughtful comment, discuss the pros and cons of reporting in dangerous situations. Is it imperative that journalists continue to report on issues vital to public health and safety even if they put their own lives at risk? Why or why not?

What's a Journalist to do?

You may have read about the teacher in Brentwood arrested for allegedly soliciting a student for sex. This is one of those situations that a student journalist (or any other journalist) wants to report on or likes to report. However, given the circumstances, it is newsworthy.

Read the article from the Contra Costa Times, linked above. Suppose you have a student journalist friend at Heritage High School. Your friend calls you for advice. You see, she is the one who has been tasked with writing a brief story about this incident and it must be done today to get in the paper being distributed on Monday. She's not sure how to cover the story. What is your advice, as a responsible journalist, to your friend?

Leave a comment here with your advice to your friend.

We're Number 1! ...or are you?

No, you're not. Yes, we are! NO, you're number 26. No, we're NUMBER 1!

So what does it mean to be number one? We've been hearing that "Avatar" is set to be the #1 movie ever, but what makes that so? Yesterday, BBC reported that "Avatar" was the top-grossing film EVER. Is it really? The Hollywood Reporter begs to differ.

Do you need to love "Avatar" or even love movies to find this interesting? No, this is more about the information you are being fed every day. I'm sure you could think of countless ways to measure the success of a movie. Should there be a standard that removes the hype (i.e. LOTS of money being taken at the box office)? Should media consumers have immediate access to a variety of comparative stats on a movie (or sporting event, or other newsworthy event)? How do we break through the cacophony of voices to find out what is true?

Something to Think About: Advanced Pressure

As journalists, part of our job is to question everything that is around us. Why is it this way? Why do things that way? What does this mean when...? How do I know this to be true? You get the idea. 

Another part of the job is to present all sides of a story, not just the side that everyone agrees to be Truth. We listen to the dissenting voices and present the evidence to our audience.

This Opinion piece from the NY Times, filmed here in the Bay Area, flies in the face of what we "know to be true" here at HHS. Watch it. Think about it. Leave a comment telling us your thoughts on the Advanced Placement culture. Is it worth it? Do the dissenting voices have a point? If so, what is it? What is your biggest take-away (the think you'll think about) from this story? Read the comments of your classmates as well. They will have something to say.

The video is about five minutes long. Watch it, ponder it, leave a comment on this blog post. This assignment is due no later than end of lunch on Wednesday, January 27, 2010.

Leno Wins, Public Loses?

It has been hard to miss the "news" about the ongoing scheduling conflicts between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. While pundits have endlessly commented on the outcome of this titanic battle, few have talked about integrity or the apparent sense of entitlement in this dust-up. Yesterday's Contra Costa Times included this thought-provoking commentary from Ruben Navarette. Read the commentary and do any additional review necessary to bring yourself up to speed on the battle between NBC, Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. After you've had a bit of time to think about the issues involved, leave a comment on your thoughts about the integrity of the people and corporations involved. Be sure to include your real name in your comment and check to see that it's there. Your first name is all that is necessary unless you have the same first name as someone else.

Covering the News in 2010

As you might have heard, there was a 6.5 magnitude earthquake on the northcoast of CA Saturday afternoon (1.9.10). Of course, since my mom lives in the area, I was concerned when I found out about it and called to find out if she was safe and to find out what other news she had about the event. While on the phone, I booted up the computer and checked local news outlets. There were cursory stories about the fact that the earthquake had happened, but, other than an animated graphic of where the earthquake was centered, there wasn't much. Frustrated, I turned to...Twitter.

Now, I know you're thinking that Twitter isn't a news outlet. Clearly it is not. However, what I did find is that if I did a search using the hashtag #earthquake hundreds of tweets popped up. For the next four or five hours I watched what was happening. Initially, most of the posts were pretty serious where individuals and organizations seemed to want to just get the news out there. The "Ferndale Enterprise," a weekly print paper, came through as the go-to news outlet through their Twitter account, @Frndenterprise. By the way, local TV stations were off the air for hours following the quake.

Later, posts became less serious and eventually tapered off. The one video that claimed to be of the earthquake might, in fact, have been from an earlier earthquake in another part of the state. (FYI: you will not be able to click through on the link above at school. The article is at Mashable which monitors social media. Social media outlets are blocked by the school district).

So, here's what you need to think about: How is the way we get our news changing and what does that mean for journalists? We are a print driven publication. Do we need to seriously start thinking about how or whether we need to get involved with social media? Why (or why not) do we need to get online in a more directed fashion? How will this impact us as a staff? Do we need to have staff members whose sole job it is to explore the possibilities of social media? Leave a thoughtful comment here. Please make sure you put an identifiable name with your comment so you get credit. Check the comments to make sure that yours is there!Your comment is due by noon on Tuesday, January 12, 2010.