Category: The English Major Reflects

History Repeats Itself: Yellow Journalism in a “Modern” Age

Yellow journalism is a term that describes the sensationalist, money-generating “news” of what was supposed to be a by-gone era: 1895-1898. As we’ve seen in the recent presidential election, yellow journalism hasn’t gone away, it’s just become digitized. Today we know it as “fake news” or “click-bait”, and its only purpose is to entice readers with outrageous  headlines and content. If you take the bait and click, the website and its owners make money via ads. abrahamlincolnanddavisSuch news used to be relegated to grocery store check-out stands with tabloid headliners like, “Teacher Has Eyes in Back of Head!” (I remember seeing this one as a child). Those papers are still there and still amusing, but now they join hands with a massive big brother that has become harder to untangle: digital media.

There are satirical news sites, fake news sites, real news sites, and a wide variety of personal and professional looking blogs that, by sheer numbers, can easily overwhelm and confuse busy readers (and who isn’t busy?). The pendulum has swung from a few mass media powerhouses that dominated the market, to many independent news sources. This has been both a good and bad thing.

On one hand are legitimate concerns about mass media bias being fueled by wealthy subscribers, owners, and donations, not to mention mainstream’s ability to drown out or discredit other voices in a seeming David and Goliath scenario. On the other hand, smaller news sources tend to be less verifiable and possibly even more biased, since they are run by just one person or a small handful of people.

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Always go to the Source

While “Goliath” has been shrinking for years, “David” now has too much power and sway. Medical advice is liberally given online by those who are not doctors or nurses, journalism is just a fancy catch-phrase for bloggers with bad grammar, and real research is allegedly only done by moms, never by scientists. It is a populist arrogance fueled by fear and mistrust of higher institutions (not entirely unfounded), that “they” are not, and do not represent “us”. “They” will no longer tell “us” what to do.

“Goliath”, in an effort to cut financial corners, has fired many a reporter and photographer, while pushing for ever-faster deadlines. Quality control has been so diminished, mass media has been frequently caught with numerous poorly written articles containing few facts and bad spelling that are merely copied from some other news source, which has been copied from some other news source, which has been copied from a dubious news source. These facts only add fuel to the fire of “David’s” skepticism.

Meanwhile, a great many “David” bloggers also simply copy each others’ posts, rather than creating original content (which takes time, money, and effort). This tactic gives the appearance of legitimacy where there is none. Everybody has an opinion, and it is human nature to be drawn to the most outlandish claims. Moderate views may be wiser, but they are not as interesting. Tell-all stories, conspiracy theories, how to make a million dollars, and cures for everything from fatigue to cancer tend to be the revenue-making content of choice. In this, both “David” and “Goliath” are now on the same footing as the Almighty Dollar rules them both.

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Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

(Resources)

https://history.state.gov/milestones/1866-1898/yellow-journalism

https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/

http://realorsatire.com/

http://history.howstuffworks.com/history-vs-myth/10-ways-to-spot-fake-news-story.htm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/11/18/this-is-how-the-internets-fake-news-writers-make-money/?utm_term=.96526b76c19f#comments

Judging Art (and Life) with Emotions and Intellect

I was originally going to title this post: Why the Art World is Loathe to Admit the Emperor has No Clothes. Then I realized the problem I was going to discuss is not an art-world one, but a universal one. The problem is how we tend to define things as good or bad, right and wrong. We flatter ourselves, crediting our choices and beliefs on our brain power, intellect, and research. Now some people do frequently make informed choices, and most people make at least some informed choices. If we’re being honest though, it must be admitted that more often than not, our declarations of good and bad, right and wrong, are based on how we feel about them. Then our intellects kick into gear and fill in the blanks. For example…

Books:

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A smidgen of my book collection.

As a writer and parent, I like to stay up on the latest book trends. As my “About” page notes, I am fascinated with human psychology. I am insatiably curious about people and the choices they make. Whenever someone declares a book “good” or “bad”, I always ask why. Invariably, the person’s answer is based on how they feel about the book, or rather, what emotions the book brings forth. Is it exciting? Is it sad? Is it a page-turner? Is it short? Are there too many big words? Is it informative? I always tell my students really important concepts to ask themselves are, “What does the book teach? What is the moral? Is it a good moral?” and “Why?”

Movies:

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Archival, 3D glasses and movie.

I’ve noticed a similar trend when my friends and I debate on the worth of a film (I suppose I could have also titled this, In Which I Reveal My Media Snobbery). I love a film based on the cinematic qualities of setting, film technique, costuming, originality, acting, storytelling, and moral lessons. Ergo, The Lord of the Rings films are among my favorite films. Some of my friends love a movie because they like looking at a beloved actor (ok, I’ll be honest, I’m not above this one), or they want to enjoy a simple escape from reality. Maybe they want to laugh, tickle their dark side, or get a scare. These are all valid reasons to watch movies, but can we go any deeper with them? What else (if anything) are they teaching us? Does it even matter?

Art:

As a photographer, I follow a lot of blogs, read a lot of art books, and visit a lot of museums and art galleries. I have seen the work of both acclaimed and up-and-coming artists. I feel that many of the most praised photographers…well, stink. Their work is not all that great, technically speaking. It isn’t beautiful (to me), it doesn’t teach (me). Usually it’s just bizarre (to me) or perverse.

Morals and Life and Religion, Oh My!

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I have noticed over the years, people tend to apply emotional judgements to determine bigger, more important life questions as well. When I ask others why they chose a particular religion (or no religion), they usually say, “it felt right”, or they “felt peace” about their decision. When asked where they stand on certain moral issues, people often respond with what they believe, followed by an intellectual answer like, “it just makes sense that…”

Usually, one’s religion or lack thereof, colors one’s moral beliefs about life. How then, can a potentially life-changing, emotionally-based decision such as religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs), proceed to intellectually inform one’s morals honestly? If one’s morals are truly intellectually based, it suggests that if facts change or new information is brought to light, one’s morals would likewise change. Yet, that rarely happens. Information is often suppressed in tight-knit groups, and morals are colored instead by cleverly disguised, emotional dogma.

What do you find true, noble, or praiseworthy?

These opinions of mine are precisely why I like to ask others what they see. Different people have different sets of eyes, ears, and minds that interpret the same piece of material that I see, hear, or consider. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and if you have not seen that classic Twilight Zone episode, you can correct that in 25 minutes here. 🙂

Still, there is also truth to search out. It is overly simplistic, pacifistic, and erroneous to simply claim that everyone is right (ever see Bruce Almighty?). It is fine, even necessary to be entertained and have fun, but it is important to exercise our brains by asking questions and thinking carefully about the answers. Why is something appealing and what does it teach? Can it be proven or disproved?

I like this quote from the Book of Philippians chapter 4, verse 8 in the Bible, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I used to think that meant whatever I found noble, pure, lovely, etc. was, obviously, what everyone should find noble, etc., as well. After all…

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Fancy Feast cat food commercial


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My New Baby (Book)!

My new baby! Described by my husband as “well-written but weird”, this short book was inspired by personal dreams and way too much reading of Christian mystics over the past 2 years. It is with great pride and just a little trepidation that I present my new e-book, available exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle: I Am My Beloved’s: A Mystical Allegory

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Is it a work of fiction, or not? Is it meant to be disturbing or reassuring? A work as mysterious as the subject matter, this short piece features the emotional highs and lows of spiritual mysticism from a Christian perspective.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LX71IQZ#nav-subnav


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Antique Vintage Globe Bookends for the Classy Librarian

These beautiful little works of art belonged to my paternal grandmother, a major bibliophile, and have been passed down to me, another bibliophile. For only standing around 12″ tall, they sure pack a lot of gorgeous detail that I just had to show off. Oh, and they spin too!

Love these images too? You can have your own, watermark-free copies by going to www.LouraLawrencePhoto.com

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