Saturday, January 30, 2010

State of the Union, via blog.

I've watched the State of the Union address on television since I was a freshman in high school. Usually it was an assignment, and I've usually had trouble staying awake through it. To be perfectly honest, I've never really understood why it was big news. It's just an assignment for the President too, I've always felt. He states his plans. Which frequently really aren't anything new. The only thing I've ever felt you gained from watching the address was a sense of the president's priorities.

College came, and suddenly, I did not have a television. This year I did not watch the address, but rather, only read three blogs on the subject: Michelle Malkin, a conservative blog, Daily Kos, a liberal blog, and Talking Points Memo, a news blog.

It was the best State of the Union experience I've ever had.

I was able to get the substance of President Obama's speech without getting slowed down by having to wait for the entire audience to clap for five seconds. I wasn't distracted by Joe Biden's silly facial expressions. I wasn't distracted or swayed by Obama's oratorical abilities--I only got the substance of the speech. There was an abundance of information about any specific topic that he spoke on. By the next morning there were links to footage of the speech as well as the exact text. The amount of news resources available for this speech was endless.

I started with Talking Points Memo, the news blog. Its live blog had very little useful substance. A few quick jabs at both liberal and conservative viewpoints, facial expressions, and no sense of what he was talking about. As a news blog, it didn't really cut it on live blogging.

The Daily Kos had a few short live blogs. As soon as the speech ended it had one entry that really didn't have any purpose but to post a poll, but that did make learning about the speech more interactive. However there were several smaller live blogs that provided analysis as the speech progressed, on topics such as jobs or government spending, that were quite useful to interpreting the speech.

Michelle Malkin's live blog was, whether or not you agree with her, undeniably entertaining. From the title alone the reader knows this is going to be an exaggerated completely biased Obama-is-Satan blog. She did make one particularly poignant point: "He blames failures of Washington DC. 'Numbing weight of politics.' Has someone clued him into the fact that HE is Washington DC. HE is the numbing weight." And Malkin continues to do push-ups every time Obama uses the words "I," "Change," and several other fun words like that. Conclusion: I didn't get very much analysis, but I got a decent sense of the speech.

Blogs continued to post until the next morning, providing a complete plethora of information. I did learn some from TPM's posts, but not nearly as much as from Malkin's or The Daily Kos. It's been pointed out so many times that there are problems with blogs, that if you just read one of these you'd get an extremely skewed view of the speech. My reply to that is "Duh." You have to read opposite viewpoints. You can't read just one biased blog. Sometimes reading skewed interpretations is better, because they say things conservative newspapers won't. They'll provide harsher analysis than traditional newspapers. Probably the more you read, the better.

If I could do it all again though, I'd probably watch the address as I read the live blogging. Then I could know when Malkin was exaggerating, as well as get the tone of the speech and its reception. It's true, when I watched the speech alone, I would sometimes get bogged down by who claps at what, or the faces people make, or stuff like that. But atmosphere is something that I missed reading only blogs. I've always seen so much reporting on atmosphere in other media, but in the blogs it was hardly mentioned--except for Alito's comment. But that would have been pretty hard to ignore.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

blogs and politics.

Thirty percent of North Carolina voters in the last election received political news from blogs, according to my Citizens and Media professor.

Upon first glance of two political blogs on opposite ends of the spectrum, BlueNC and Civitas Review, I spotted a pretty high profile topic high on the two blogs--global warming.

BlueNC's article focused on the occurrence that some insurance companies are no longer insuring homes on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, because of their high risk of flooding with the ocean rising. This entry was flashy and funny. Adding extra irony was the author's choice of words when he writes "Capitalism is recognizing something you refuse to do, based mostly either on your ignorance or perhaps on your close ties to fossil fuel industry lobbyists." The author made commentary on conservatives' attitudes towards global warming by using one of their typical weapons: Capitalism.

The comparison to England's government was quite interesting, though. It's always interesting to look at the existing examples, but BlueNC's reference wasn't quite fair. It said that the European government was starting to plan a course of action to deal with the rising problem. However, according to the selections the blog cited, the only "action" was private, non-government organizations urging the government to act fast, rather than the government saying it would act fast. The two are not the same.

Civitas Review's article worked almost as a response to BlueNC's, although Civitas Review's did come out first. Pointing out the flaws and scandals among the climate change advocates, the blog did a reasonable job of defending the conservative side: "The 2007 report, which won the panel the Nobel Peace Prize, said that the probability of Himalayan glaciers 'disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high' emerged last week that the prediction was not based on a consensus among climate change experts but on a media interview with a single Indian glaciologist in 1999."

It’s a convincing example, certainly. I mean, if such a big threat was based on one interview, who would believe that? And the blog continued the example and extended to say that if this particular Nobel prize was based on faulty data, then President Obama's prize might be worth very little, too.

What I did not get on this entry, however, was the time peg. This scandal came out more than a year ago, and the study was not new. The most recent time peg in the article was Obama's Nobel prize...which really is not news at this point, either. Where's the relevance in this blog? There wasn't any prominence value, either. If this issue had anything to do with North Carolina, the author didn't make that clear.

Overall, while Civitas Review was more accurate and fair (though definitely politically biased, both blogs are), it wasn't as entertaining as BlueNC.

Reading the blogs did give me a better understanding of North Carolina politics. After getting past the high profile issue of climate change, I learned about many issues and scandals that I had never read about in the news before. For instance, I never thought that we had corruption within the ABC stores of the state.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Hometown news

I moved to Raleigh when I was less than a year old, returning to where my father was born and grew up, and only about an hour drive away from where my mom grew up. Raleigh's a rather urban city. It's the biggest city in North Carolina besides Charlotte. Although I was raised technically in the South, I never really got the Southern experience. My father has read the News and Observer since he was little. My grandfather, although I never knew him, was a real news addict. My father's family was very, very tight on money, but always found enough for the daily News and Observer. My dad still reads the News and Observer every single morning, just about cover to cover.

Because of this, I personally feel a strong pride for the News and Observer. I've read it almost daily (although not cover to cover) with breakfast since middle school. It is without a doubt my favorite newspaper. At breakfast though, as my dad read it at the same time, I would only take the sections he was done with. He was first usually finished with the Local and State sections of the paper, so that's the section I read most days--I normally only spent about half an hour a day on the paper. I didn't start reading the political news until high school. I used to simply glance at the headlines and then read the lengthy feature stories about cute little towns near Raleigh where people still farmed, or cool stories about Raleigh natives who beat the odds.

I live in the Raleigh suburbs, but I went to high school in the heart of downtown. Raleigh Charter High School is located just a few blocks from the North Carolina Supreme Court and Legislature. I really got into political news my sophomore year, my first year on my high school newspaper.

My brother drove me to school every day freshman year, his senior year. My school was in a former cotton mill, in the middle of housing projects and abandoned buildings. In 2004, a few years after the school was opened, many of the abandoned buildings were torn down and replaced by fancy, very expensive townhouses. Driving to school one day, we noticed soccer field orange cones in front of some of the houses. My brother asked a man in the yard why they were up, and he replied that the neighborhood no longer wanted students parking in front of its houses, so a few neighbors put cones up. My brother was infuriated by this, as many students relied on these spots. Girls had to walk about half a mile by themselves through downtown by themselves without these spots. My brother saw it as that these were public streets, and he paid taxes, so he had as much of a right to them as the homeowners. So my brother knocked down the cones and parked on that public street. From then on, my brother kept parking on the street, but was harassed and verbally threatened by neighbors. His car was even vandalized once. Double sided nails were placed on the curbs so students were having to buy new tires. My brother was not the only one, either--many students faced the same problems, who did not have spaces in the school parking lot to park in.

The neighbors submitted a bill to the city council to make parking on that street 2 hour limited, unless you had a special permit--in other words, most everyone except students could park there. It wasn't until my sophomore year that this bill actually saw recognition. I went with my high school paper to this meeting, and listened to the neighbors complain about my school. They complained that we would just sit in our cars for several minutes, and that once one citizen even walked out on his front porch to see two students making out. Because you know, last time I checked, making out was against the law.

There were two major things that bothered me about this: our school was there before their homes were built, thus, if they had a problem with high school students parking near their homes, perhaps they should not have bought those homes. Second, if the neighbors blocked us from parking in those spots, then we would just be pushed back farther and farther within the legal "safe" limit for Raleigh--which I think was around a mile and half. Speaking from personal experience, you walk a mile and a half away from my school you're in an area with the highest crime rate in the city. A girl walking by herself for a mile and a half in that area is absolutely not safe.

But the city council voted, and collectively felt that providing parking for the students was not the city's responsibility. The neighbors won.

This is when I personally realized the impact that local government had on us. This decision affected me much more than any made by the national government. So I started to read local government news.

As for how my community gets news, however, quite frankly I'm not sure. Raleigh is a big city with all different kinds of people, so it's hard to generalize. I've met plenty who were very well informed from local to national, but I once met a man in August of 2008 who did not know who John McCain was.

Very few people I know, however, are subscribed to a newspaper. Most people I know who are read the News and Observer. A few people I know get niche publications. A friend of mine receives a Jewish newspaper, and as far as I know, that is her only source of news.

Internet media is obviously very popular among students my age. Many people I know read news on I've used Digg before, and it's entertaining, but I don't find it an adequate source of news. There's some political news, but most of it is super high profile or sensationalist. Health Care stuff typically makes it on Digg, science news occasionally, but there's so much that never makes it up there. It's so filtered that once cannot rely on single sites like this as their single source of news.