Film Review “Good Night, and Good Luck”

One of my best American friends working in Journalism always tells me that I should watch this great movie, “Good Night, and Good Luck.” Finally I did. To me, it was like a well-round journalism history review, a journey to the evolvement of journalism.

The Movie "Good Night, and Good Luck"

“Good Night, and Good Luck” is Murrow’s signature out cue of his program. By watching this film, I got to know the career and life of Murrow, as well as the early broadcast industry. Actually, the two are not separated at all. In the website Historynet.com, Murrow was credited as “inventing broadcast journalism.” It’s probably true. By the time Murrow was producing his TV show “See it Now,” it was the era of radio. Murrow and his colleague had to learn from the basic shooting skills to make the program. They were the entrepreneurs, the adventurers, exploring a new field with their talented sense of journalism.

What Murrow explored was not only about advanced technology for that time. The ideology of journalism had also been advanced thanks to Murrow. The movie tells the story about conflict between Murrow and Senator Joseph McCathy. McCathy, senate from Wisconsin, was promoting this huge activity agains communism. Many people were accused of being communism. Many of McCathy’s charge could not support itself, but he got his national fame during this anti-communism campaign.

One of the things I also noticed is that Murrow used a lot of “We” in his program. It’s more like commentary. That is one of the feature that has been excluded from today’s journalism. Murrow, with his perfect looking for TV and charismatics, was like a knowledgeable idol who told the viewers the truth.

When Murrow did a story about the case of Milo Radulovich, who was fired from the Air Force because his mother was accused of being communism. Murrow explained his opinion about the case and McCathy’s anti-communism on air. Later, he rebated McCathy’s accusation with McCathy’s own speech. He encouraged Americans to be fearless and avoid the pointless accusation:

“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes which were for the moment unpopular. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of the Republic to abdicate his responsibility.”

We could always see Edward Murrow smoking in those old photos.

Murrow is indeed fearless. He even sponsored his program with his own money in order to speak out the truth in his program. However, CBS CEO Bill Paley still decided to move Murrow’s controversial program to Sunday. Paley, as he said in the movie, never censored Murrow’s program. But his last decision did show a compromise during the journey of exploring broadcast journalism.

A New Story from Media Storm — She Looks Back

I was so excited to find a new story published on the Media Storm. It’s a story produced for American Institutes for Research to visually document the impact of their educational projects. The story focuses on women’s education in Liberia. “She looks back” is quoted from the Liberian Administer of Education. She was talking about girls’ education. If the girl is educated, she will contribute back to her family and the society.

The numbers in the story are striking. The number of school before 1989 were 2400, whereas the number decreased to 480 by 2003 as a result of war. Only 31% women can read and write.

The Liberian girl has a beautiful smile in the picture.

Liberian Administer of Education said in the story that in their culture “a girl child is a caretaker.” Girls in Liberia usually have the responsibility to do housework for their family. The girl washes dishes, cooks, takes care of her siblings and parents. Here, in terms of journalism, I really appreciate the nice sequence of the girl cooking. A sequence of shots not only reveal the tedious and time-consuming process, but also show us their humble house and simple food. A girl going to school means some other members from the family have to take care of their home, otherwise there will be a vacuum. Therefore, it is crucial for the parents to understand the importance of education, and support their daughters to go to school.

However, many of the parents didn’t go to school. They didn’t understand the importance of education. The positives created by education is long-term, versus the short term need of taking care of the house. Unfortunately, if the parents don’t understand the long-term paybacks and only focus on the temporary duties, the girls education won’t be permitted.

Another barrier is the financial burden, which in turn becomes the value of this excellent journalism piece. 1.7 out of 3.5 million of Liberians are living in poverty. The girls in Liberia might not have the access to education because their families can’t afford it. The story of “She looks back” will let more people be aware of the issue and provide potential help to them. This impact reminds me of a guest speaker to our Broadcast II class. He said he wishes future journalists would report something that have a positive impact to the society, as opposed to chasing crime and accident all the time.

The story inspired me that as a young journalist, I should tell stories that would generate positive impacts, making a difference in people’s life. There’s no such a thing that the impact is big or small. To those who are in need, they all deserve such an impact.

Modernization of Beijing Opera

Beijing Opera is a gem of Chinese traditional art. However, we have to admit that this form of art is going downward. Highly abstract performance, slow rhythm, consistent melody are less attractive to younger generations. In spite of  the efforts of training new performers from an early age, Chinese operas are losing their audience. Crowded funs gathering in front of stages and watching operas has become the history.

Too much sexy but too little about opera?

Recently a group of pictures named “Who said Beijing Opera is not Sexy” caught my attention. My attention was caught firstly from appeal to the beauty of some pictures (as the one on the left), but then as I moved on to other pictures, I didn’t get it (as the one on the right). It’s hard to tell what makes the differences between the ones that appeal to me with the ones that I feel they are overly sexy. One possible reason is the initial ideas from the artists: whether the artist want to highlight the opera or the sexy models.

My curiosity drove me to do some research about the modernization of traditional arts in China. There are already some criticism towards modernization of traditional operas, questioning that they are distorting and disfiguring the soul of traditional arts. For example, many experts feel upset about an underwear show featuring Beijing Opera. The experts don’t like the idea of showing the beauty of Beijing Opera through nudity. Some critics even stated that national traditions are not supposed to be modernized and distorted. After thinking about the pros and cons, I agree and disagree with the criticism.

The traditional form of arts shows the shining, luxury but distant beauty from old times.

Should Beijing Opera be modernized?

 

 

 

I understand those who criticized the modernization are making their criticism based on the love of Chinese traditions, but we have to admit that simply resisting modern reform might prevent the opera to attracting new fans. I appreciate the creativeness and modern elements added to Beijing Opera. As one of the origins of Chinese arts, it is actually a good thing that Beijing Opera is inspiring contemporary artists, photographers and painters to create. To some extent, good contemporary creations do help to maintain the traditional arts, appealing more people to become interested in the old arts. Therefore, more people would want to watch and learn the opera. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that we have to use nudity to attract people to watch operas. Selling products under the name of traditional arts would also be considered distasteful.

So the bottom-line would be it is fine to add modern and sexy elements to traditional arts as long as they are added to demonstrate the traditional arts to today’s audience. However, if these elements are overly added, it would become sensationalism. In this case, it would be adding traditional arts to those pictures for the sake of sexy appeal, rather than arts modernization.

Film Review—“Searching for Sugar Man”

Gigi invited me to go to True/False Film Festival on the last day. “It’s not just a movie; it’s a film fest, you should go,” Gigi said. Yeah, I should go. It could be the last year for me to stay in Columbia as I will graduate. I’m glad I made the decision. The movie “Searching for Sugar Man” was incredible. It’s the best story I’ve ever heard. As a journalism student, I wish I would have the opportunity to tell a story like this.

Searching for Sugar Man

 

The story is about a singer and songwriter Sixto Rodriguez, who was “the greatest ’70s U.S. rock icon who never was.” His music was appreciated by producers, but sales were loomed. Rumors were he committed suicide on stage when his audience reacted negatively. However, his albums were a hit in another country, South Africa. People love Rodriguez for decades, although they had no clue who the guy is. Very little information about the artist exists. Then two huge funs of Rodriquez’s music, a music retailer and a journalist, started to investigate what really happened to Rodriquez.

 

“Sugar man” is one of Rodriguez’s song. One of the two investigator, the music retailer, also gave himself a name “Sugar” in honor of his music idol.

 

Malik Bendjelloul, Director, Swedish.
Bendjelloul showed up at the True/False Festival in person.

I am appealed to the filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul’s storytelling, and it is inspiring for excellent journalism. He held the central compelling character until half of the movie. This approach keeps viewers interested all the time and wanted to know more about what happens next. What’s more, the rumor of Rodriguez’s suicide and lack of his information dominated the first half of the movie, which is a nice way to show the viewers the difficulties and frustrations of searching for Sugar Man.

Then, at the transition point of the movie, when Rodriguez called Sugar, the audience were amazed to hear the artist’s voice and then see him. The atmosphere of the movie surprisingly turned from depression, sadness and myth to hope, motives and excitement. The story arrived at the most exciting point when Rodriguez when to South Africa and held six great performances which were all sold out. His South African funs crowded, screamed and cried when they see their musical hero.

Sixto Rodriguez

 

 

Rodriguez served as a construction worker and led a very humble life. He didn’t get money from his albums sold in South Africa; He didn’t make money from his successful performances either. He was like a super star in South Africa. Nevertheless, he went back to his life, continue his hard work, and still lives in poverty. He is a true artist, a humble human being, and a star for generations. He is inspiring people by the power of his music and also his life.

First time to be an anchor without speaking Chinese

My first time to be a cut-in anchor means a lot to me. I was the Chinese news anchor at Newsy. Now I’m proud that I’m able to anchor, but not just for Chinese program. It’s something that I’ve been expecting for a long time. To me, this position is much more difficult than other people. To me, it means a lot, a lot of work.

The biggest challenge is my accent. Although I still have it, I did improve a lot. Some of my friends who happened to see my cast told me that they were excited about my progress. I appreciated my friends encouragement a lot, feeling so happy to know it.

I also did serious self-critique. I played the video back a couple of time, trying to find every imperfectness where there could be improvement. First, I notice my pitch was higher than it could have been. Nice deep voice is more appreciated than high girlish voice in broadcast. Greeley told me the reason could be nervous. I agree with him although I didn’t appear to be nervous, which was good. Second, I can hear the gasping in between. I think it’s also because I was nervous and I didn’t use body breath, which means breathing deeply from belly, very well. Third, Greeley told me my smile was warm and good, but I shouldn’t have keep that smile from the beginning to the end. My expression and delivery should vary according to different stories.

Learning from each experience is always rewarding. I wouldn’t have caught those imperfectness unless I actually did it. I expect more progress during the next shift. My first two cut-ins were far from perfect, but they are like a milestone of my life.

The Newsworthiness of Death

 

Unrest and regime changes result in breaking news, as well as controversial issues concerning violence and blood. Just in 2011, gruesome photos of two controversial leaders’ dead bodies made some media forget normal taboos of covering death. Reuters published a picture of Osama bin Laden’s dead body despite President Obama’s statement against releasing the photo. When Muammar Gaddafi died, graphic pictures appeared with little concern from the media. Sine Saddam Hussein’s execution was broadcast in 2006, the public has questioned covering death and the conflict with newsworthiness.

Many newsrooms have a rule of not showing blood on air, let alone those wounded dead bodies lying in a pool of blood. Journalists report news stories, yet they don’t want to offend the public, especially children. However, the regime-changed leaders’ final moments gave the editors a reason that was hard to resist, which is newsworthiness. Based on journalism principles, the first obligation is to the truth. Radio and Television Digital News Association Media Editor Ryan Murphy wrote in his article, “20 Ethics Questions to Consider Before Using Osama bin Laden Death Photos,” that many news directors said they would run the picture because of it is “clearly of historical significance.”  Publishing the photos would produce a more powerful report than just running a print story. The gruesome pictures did imply credibility and accuracy.

However, no matter how significant the news is, the dead leaders are still human beings. Should journalists treat the death of Gaddafi with the same basic standard of respect? Would there be anyone who run the pictures because they wanted to boost the sales by the gruesome image of a dictator who used to be powerful and proud? Many people call for respect for life so that “even Muammar Gaddafi deserved a private death.” Then what about the newsworthiness? When the traditional ethical rules encounter a need driven by newsworthiness, journalists fall into an ethical dilemma.  Although this kind of big news about a regime-changed leader’s death wouldn’t happen everyday, editors have to make the ethical decision every time they get some newsworthy yet graphic photos.

Today, reporters and editors are facing increasing pressures when they deal with the gruesome photos because of the proliferation of the Internet and social media. Information can spread within seconds, and those who have to make an ethical decision have little time to think twice. More importantly, just like what the news directors said in Murphy’s article: “Once it’s out there, it’s out there and individual media using it won’t make that worse.” Ethical consideration would make an editor hold a gruesome picture of a local accident, but when it’s regarding national breaking news that is pursued by every news outlet, the proliferation of social media pushes editors to release the photos.

While social media is changing the journalistic industry, I don’t think the ethical values are changed. If I were the editor facing the choice of to publish or not, I would say yes. Not running the pictures would only make my newsroom lose in today’s competitive media industry rather than keeping the bloody images from offending the viewers. However, I would be concerned with the ethical values; I would run the story on the front page but publish the picture inside the newspapers, or I would add an additional click to the picture if it’s online. In this way, my newsroom wouldn’t suffer much loss to the competing media outlets because the readers or the viewers can still get the breaking news on the front page. Meanwhile, the image of the dead bodies would not stand out in front.

U.S. Soldiers Return from Afghanistan (Feb 12, 2012)

FORT LEONARD WOOD – More than 90 soldiers returned to Fort Leonard Wood this Sunday from the war in Afghanistan.
The soldiers with the 55th Mobile Augmentation Company5th Engineer Battalion, provided route clearance support for Operation Enduring Freedom during the last year. 13 soldiers were injured.
Family members and friends greeted the soldiers at the welcome home ceremony. Claps, and whistles echoed in the gymnasium. Many of them broke into tears.
Valerie Zimmerman said she has gained more than what she has given up from being an army wife.
“I love being an army wife,” said Zimmerman. “I don’t think I could do it any other way.”
Zimmerman’s son Henry was born 10 days before the husband, Sergeant Michael Zimmerman, was deployed.
Lieutenant Colonel Chris McGowan, the 5th Engineer Battalion commander, said helping the soldiers reset with their families is one of the most important things after returning. A two-week training to help them adjust family life was scheduled.
McGowan served in Iraq in 2011.
The soldiers will have a 12-month break at home before the next deployment.

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