18 Apr 2013
Chances are that if you’re even the least bit active on social media or the comments section of your favorite web site, you’ve seen it. You’ve seen that thing after a post that irritates you, baffles you, or means nothing to you. Oftentimes it takes the form of a simple “first”. At other times it’s just a placeholder word that relates to the article, simply for the purpose of being the first comment we see. While I don’t feel qualified (or caffeinated) enough to go into the psychology of why the race to “first” in the comments section is so prevalent, I do feel like diving deeper into the pitfalls of that same race when it comes to modern-day media and news reporting.
As you probably know, there was a clear act of terror committed during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon a few days ago. Nearly two hours after the winners crossed the finish line, two bombs went off in quick succession killing three and injuring over 175 others. The days that followed the attack have been filled with confusion and extensive media coverage. From Ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama to explosions in West, Texas, it has certainly been one hell of a week.
But even through all of that, one of the most troubling occurrences of all wasn’t a bombing, or an explosion, or a tainted letter. Those things were all plenty troubling, to be sure. But, as someone who consumes a large amount of news on a daily basis, what had just as significant an impact on me was the way in which the media handled the “Breaking News” that a suspect had been identified, tracked down, and brought in to custody in the Boston Marathon bombing case.
For me, it started on Twitter. Part of what my role entails at Elite Change is to always be current on what’s going on. I like to do this in my personal life as well, but my job definitely keeps me more in-tune with the current events of the day. Anyways, reports started coming in that a suspect had been identified thanks to camera footage from a retailer across the street from the bombing. Then other reports started rolling in that authorities were “close to or had already” made an arrest in the case. Then reports came out that the detained suspect was to be brought to a Boston courthouse. All of this happened in a matter of minutes.
I was enamored with the furious speed that this was happening. I was refreshing my Twitter feed every 10-15 seconds just waiting for the latest bit of news. (Seriously, if you haven’t been on Twitter when a breaking news story is unfolding, you’re really missing out.) Multiple sources had confirmed to multiple media outlets that an arrest had been made and the suspect was being transported to the courthouse, the street in front of the courthouse becoming an impromptu media gathering space. It was about to happen. We were about to see the person(s) who committed these heinous acts.
But then, nothing. What had been the most engaging couple hours of news in recent memory turned out to be, in essence, a bad prank. In came the news of “conflicting reports” from the various media outlets. Then it was “in custody, not arrested.” Then it was, “Oh wait, we were wrong. Nobody’s even been identified.” On came the disappointment. While watching anchors and outlets walk back their “Exclusive Breaking News” reports is always a sight to be seen, it speaks to a much larger issue of our constant, 24-hour news cycle. It’s that need to be “first” just for the sake of being “first!” Or in other words “Be first, verify later.”
Throughout our country’s media history, there’s always been the journalistic goal of “scooping” a huge story. It’s a huge deal to be the first one to report a groundbreaking piece of news on a big story; I get it. What I don’t understand is when “scooping” that story comes at the expense of throwing solid journalistic practices to the side and, even worse, at the expense of spreading misinformation. Oh, and not to mention physical harm – the media frenzy that happened outside the courthouse prompted a bomb threat. What would have happened if that false bomb threat were really true?
Due in large part to technology and social media, the rate in which we acquire our news today goes just as fast as it comes. Add to that the speed in which that information travels, and you’ve got a very high-pressure situation for news outlets and their corporate owners to break a particular story – to be “first”. But do you really want to be first when you might as well be last? Wouldn’t you rather be second and right than first and wrong? Does the speed of information have to make you take the leap before you look over the ledge? I certainly don’t think so. We must expect more out of our news stations and journalists.
Besides, I’d rather be the one who saw the ledge early enough to stop than the person who jumps off just so that they can say “first” on their way down.
Urban Souls Dance Company Urges the Community to Emancipate Themselves
Urban Souls Dance Company celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with the second installation of its third season with a performance entitled “Re-Written in Stone– 1863 allowed Freedom: 2013 choosing Freedom.” The black history dance concert gave the public a chance to honor this turning point in history through a creative expression of dance, spoken word, and music.
In collaboration with The African American Studies Department at The University of Houston, USDC chose to not only highlight this important moment in American history, but to also help illustrate that people are still shackled by the metaphorical chains projected by the mediated stereotypes of today.
This year’s performance featured choreography by Founding Artistic Director, Harrison Guy; General Manager, Walter Hull; and Courtney D. Jones. Guest performances were performed by Hope Stone Dance Company and KoumanKele African Dance and Drum Ensemble.
One of the key performances was Walter Hull’s choreography of “I Am a Thrival,” an examination of younger generations of African Americans based on self-discovery and on newer generations of African Americans “thriving” in a world where they are free to create their own destiny. Using its focus on African American children as a backdrop, USDC unveiled its newest project, Urban Kids.
Urban Kids is a community initiative that provides dance training and social development skills to youth in the Greater Houston area. After an amazing performance from the young ladies of Urban Kids entitled “Sisters in Spirit,” HISD Trustee and Urban Kids parent Paula Harris urged audience members to support Urban Kids in its mission to develop the creativity of community youth.
The event, held at The University of Houston’s Cullen Performance Hall was a night dedicated to the future of community youth, many of which were in attendance. Barbara Johnson Tucker, who aimed to highlight the verbiage of the Emancipation Proclamation, helped to close out the performance with heartfelt songs. The poets Jem, Lyro, and Seek also helped closed the show with spoken word performances that addressed the plagues of the contemporary African American experience. These performances remind us that although we were allowed freedom, it is now up to us to choose it.
Urban Souls Dance Company is a social arts organization located in Houston, TX. Rooted deeply in the community, USDC believes in always challenging views that separate us. We believe in thinking differently, taking the position that art transforms people, and people transform the world.
For more information please call Urban Souls Dance Company at 832.687.3928. www.urbansouls.org
25 Jan 2013
Welcome to our brand new blog “The Corner!” Here you will find our daily musings and posts about the things that we’re passionate about. Posts will come from various members of the EC team at various times. This is the place where we’ll talk about things that matter to us, our community, and our world.
We hope you’ll stay tuned to this space and take part by commenting when you find a particular post or conversation compelling. Similar to our work, we want to make this digital space a place of community and truly hope that you’ll take part in the conversation with us. Enjoy!