Month: February 2015

A Night Of Hollywood’s Whitest

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The 87th Annual Academy Awards show is a time for film buffs and cinematography enthusiasts to celebrate the year’s best in show and argue for hours on end about which movie should have won for Best Screenplay. It is a time for glitzy gowns to be showcased on the famous red carpet, and for viewers watching at home to peer into the world of Hollywood movie stars. The only thing that’s missing from this world of glamour and finesse is something that hasn’t been around for several decades–diversity.

This year’s host of the prestigious awards show, Neil Patrick Harris, opened up the event with a joke that brought up a good point: “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest–I mean, brightest”.

The Academy, the ones who pick the winners, is made up of 94% whites and 77% males, with an average member age of 63 years.

That being said, it is important to note that this year’s Oscars held the least amount of diversity since 1998.

Among the nominees this year, there were no people of color present. In other categories, female screenwriters, directors or cinematographers weren’t nominated as well, leaving the stage to be set for primarily white, male actors and film makers.

via Huffington Post
A look at this year’s primarily white nominees (via Huffington Post)

Viewers took notice of the lack of diversity, and took to Twitter to lash out against the white-dominating industry, using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite to jokingly point out the overall “whiteness” of the awards show.

This year, John Legend and Common’s win for Best Original Song was only the 32nd time in 87 years that a black person has won an Oscar. That’s 32 wins from a person of color out of more than 3,000 winners. And the times they did win, they won for perfectly portraying the role of a struggling minority (i.e. Octavia Spencer in The Help). Yikes.

More often than not, the entertainment industry has become submerged in Caucasian power. So the question here is, how do we break the habit?


Ithaca Celebrates Black History Month With Communal Events

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February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and learn about the vast historical milestones of blacks around the world. From Jackie Robinson to Maya Angelou, this particular month celebrates both people and events that illustrate just how important it is to promote the education of significant black historical figures who have influenced today’s society.

From a more local point of view, February is a time for the people of Ithaca to commemorate the different cultures spread across the town, as well as within Ithaca College. Promoting both diversity and a communal education, “Ithacans” gathered to create a broad celebration of the different features of black culture.

Ithaca College’s African Latino Society (ALS) held a string of events throughout the month to promote said education on campus, each focusing on a different theme regarding black history and/or current political, social and cultural issues related to race and ethnicity. The events ranged from a screening and discussion of the film Brown Sugarto lectures on selected topics.

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Social Media & Journalism: A New World of Information

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The good ol’ days of traditional journalism seems a prehistoric practice for those who are in the business today. Social media has drastically changed the way we consume and provide news, blowing print journalism away with the dust. With the emergence of iPhones, iPads and wearable technology, the way journalists go about finding and reporting news has drastically changed since the days when the Sunday paper was the only way to get your weekly fix of information.

Nowadays information travels at lightning speed, reaching billions of viewers worldwide in a matter of seconds. Journalists can live tweet events, allowing their audiences to literally follow the news along with them. New technology, such as Google glass, provides a personal point-of-view perspective for video packages. Covering news has become personal, bridging the gap between the audience and the reporter.

Audiences are contributing more and more to the conversation, providing their own feedback and even reporting news on their own using blogs and other social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. As writer and columnist Dan Gillmor says within his book, We the Media, “We’re seeing the rise of the heavy-duty blogger, web site creator, mailing list owner, or SMS gadfly—the medium is less important than the intent and talent—who is becoming a key source of news for others, including professional journalists. In some cases, these people are becoming professional journalists themselves and are finding ways to make a business of their avocation”.

The line between media corporation and average citizen has blurred, creating new sources of information for journalists worldwide. No longer will journalists have to struggle to find resources; information is just around the corner!

Kendrick Lamar Brings Some Much-Needed Attention with New Single

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Two days ago, hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar dropped his new single “The Blacker The Berry“. Since then, Lamar has made quite the headlines, even having his track annotated on by Pulitzer-prize winning author Michael Chabon.

Easily said to be one of the best songs of 2015, the track alludes to Wallace Thurman’s novel (of the same title), which was one of the first publications to openly address color prejudice during the Harlem Renaissance.

Similar to Thurman, Lamar incorporates raw, racially-packed lyrics to create a narrative on the “generational hatred” toward blacks. The harsh synth beats and Lamar’s powerful delivery produces a completely opposite feeling from his Grammy-winning soul track “i”, which preaches the positive, uplifting mantra of loving yourself and the skin you’re in. Lyrics such as “You hate me don’t you?/You hate my people, your plan is to terminate my culture” and “You vandalize my perception but can’t take style from me/And this is more than confession” make “i” look like a measly radio-friendly pop track.

Along with “Berry”, musicians within the hip-hop community are joining the effort to speak out against a white-dominated industry. Pharrell Williams’ Grammy performance of “Happy” showed reference to “Hands up, Don’t Shoot“. J. Cole surprised fans by performing “Be Free“, a song he wrote in response to the Michael Brown shooting, on the David Letterman Show. Even Kanye West’s quasi-interruption of Beck’s Grammy acceptance speech stemmed from the rapper’s frustration toward the music industry’s preference of white genres, such as rock, over hip hop.

It is also important to keep in mind that this was the first time in 25 years that the Grammys did not televise the hip hop category, raising the question of whether or not the music industry is indeed attempting to whitewash hip hop.

Lamar’s track has truly perked some ears within the last couple of days, which only makes us anxious to see what the rest of his new album has in store.

How to be a Modern Journalist: A Discussion with Aaron Edwards

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For young aspiring journalists, taking the first steps into the fast-paced world of news reporting can be somewhat of a challenge. You’re young, fresh out of college, not very experienced but very eager to make a name for yourself within the industry…so how do you do it?

For Ithaca College alum and Buzzfeed‘s News app editor Aaron Edwards, it was all about keeping an open mind. Students in the Mobile and Media Journalism class at the college got a chance to chat with him via Skype to find out what it really takes to be successful in this business.

“Be more open to what your fist job might look like than what you anticipated it to be,” Edwards says. “Being open to things is better than being closed off by them.”

Sure, the first jobs a budding news reporter might apply for would be for newspapers and broadcasting channels. However, the way we consume and report media is constantly changing, which means that those just starting out in the business must be willing to adapt to the latest methods of news reporting. That may mean starting off with a job in a field that may not be ideal. There’s often a preconceived notion that to be a reporter you have to start off, well, as a reporter. Nowadays, the need for reporters isn’t as high as the demand for social media experts–but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be forever stuck within a branch you didn’t want to be in.

“The technology industry keeps beating journalism, so people become really valuable when they know how to use all social media,” he says.

That isn’t to say that all the traditional techniques of old-school reporting should be tossed out the window. According to Edwards, it’s still very important to maintain a strong reporting and writing background. Although it might seem as if news reports may be getting shorter and more to the point, journalists should still have a grasp for traditional news formats. I mean, you wouldn’t stop teaching kids how to read just because there’s a text-to-speech app on almost every technological apparatus…at least, I’d hope you wouldn’t…

But the most important piece of advice Edwards gives is probably one that most of us overlook.

“When you start off, dedicate yourself to the work you’re doing,” he says. “Own the fact that you’re there. Throw yourself into your job; don’t start off by trying to impress other people.”

During his days as a young intern for The Associated Press, the best work Edwards did was a result of him sitting head-down at his desk, for hours on end, and focusing solely on his tasks at hand.

“Give people a reason to come to you. Don’t give them a reason to ignore you.”

Learning To Talk About The Problem: An Introduction to Racism And Social Reform

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After the Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, racism became the standard discussion topic for young adults nationwide. Throughout the months of November and December, people used social media to express the immense outrage that was felt toward the jury’s decision. Riots flourished throughout every corner of Ferguson, and even made their way to the streets of New York City. Cases such as Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham and Trayvon Martin fueled the people’s drive to bring about justice and social reform. Locally, Ithaca College students organized their own lie-down demonstrations, banding together to join the fight against racial injustices. It seemed as if a political snowball effect had begun to rouse the population.

But after all the hashtags were tweeted and the demonstrations began to disperse, the protesting trend faded into the background. Nowadays, the world only pays attention to a certain topic if it is current, or “in the now”. Looking at the news headlines today, there isn’t much said about racism or the police brutality cases. It’s almost as if they have disappeared into the background.

It’s unrealistic to think that after a few protests and wearing #BlackLivesMatter t-shirts, the world will suddenly change the way it perceives race and ethnicity. The battle against racism has been a constant struggle for many. But with all the social advances we have made over the years, why is it still so hard to keep this particular hashtag trending?

In today’s fast-paced and social media-fueled society, news is constantly being regurgitated by social media outlets, television stations and radio broadcasts. We have the ability to literally hold all the world’s information in the palm of our hands. It’s only natural that our short attention spans only retain the urge to fight against racism for so long. Yet if we want to galvanize any sort of change, it is vital that we keep this discussion going.

We all have the capacity to do this. Talk with neighbors, talk with friends, talk with family members. The key here is to keep the topic alive. There’s no point in starting a movement if it is simply going to be forgotten in the dust. It’s time to become proactive, and not just simply reactive. If not now, then when?

Additional educational sources: 

American Civil Liberties Union

Brennan Center for Justice 

Race Forward 

U.S. Human Rights Fund