Teachable Moments in Journalism This Week

UConn Student Media Parody’s Rape Call
From AP:

HARTFORD, Conn. — “A student-run television station at the University of Connecticut has apologized for airing a video sketch that parodies a female student using a campus phone to report an attempted rape.

The clip ran as part of UCTV’s entertainment programming. It showed the phone malfunctioning and calling the woman offensive names. It has sparked protests on campus with some student groups saying it mocks sexual assault.”

I am linking you to the video with a warning it is extremely graphic language and makes a joke about rape.  It is mind boggling that this could be produced at all, much less on student media at a prestigious school.

A UConn senior wrote to the Hartford Courant complaining about the video that she said had played for months:

“A video produced by the University of Connecticut student-run TV station attempts to make crude humor while depicting a young woman being chased through the night by an apparent rapist and unable to get help from automated emergency phones. That such a piece was created, aired and was available on the station’s website (until it was removed Tuesday in the face of student complaints) is outrageous.”

“First aired last November, the video mocks sexual assault survivors and contributes to a rape culture that is unacceptable on campus and beyond. The commentary in the video perpetuates myths about the legitimacy of rape claims, denigrating those who have been subjected to sexual violence. There is nothing humorous or redeeming about the video.”

“Additionally, the video, like all content provided by UCTV, is made possible in part due to mandatory student fees. UConn students are required to pay a $10 fee that, according to the UConn bursar’s website, “support equipment, supplies, student wages and travel expenses for industry conferences.” Because UConn receives significant state funding, it’s possible that all Connecticut taxpayers have had their money play a role in the creation of the video. Considering that tuition increases are guaranteed for the next four years, it’s obvious that students’ money is in short supply — and should not be going toward such egregiously disturbing videos.”

The video was posted on YouTube but pulled after a copyright claim by UConn. The Student TV station’s  website explained it this way, without saying much at all about what they were explaining:

UCTV Statement of Position Regarding “Shenanigans” Season 1, Episode 5:

UCTV’s mission statement states that “UCTV is run entirely by undergraduate students on the Storrs campus at the University of Connecticut… UCTV will serve as a source of information and entertainment as well as an outlet for creative expression for all undergraduate University of Connecticut students with an interest in television and its related areas of business.”

In accordance with our mission, UCTV strives to serve as an open medium for UConn students to come to us and produce content without censorship. We apologize for any frustration or harm the respective video clip has caused and all of us here at UCTV have learned from this event. We are reviewing our Broadcast Policies and Procedures to see whether there is more we can do in the future to prevent a similar situation from occurring again. Please keep in mind that the views expressed on any UCTV program do not reflect the opinions of UCTV, its board of directors, its members, or the University of Connecticut. On March 1st 2012, UCTV will release an updated version of our Broadcast Policies and Procedures on our website. As constituents of UCTV, all students are encouraged to contact us at productions@uctv.uconn.edu with any comments or concerns regarding our current or future content.

Facebookers following the controversy cite other incidences of sexism that they say have shown up on the student TV.  Here are some screenshots that purportedly came from another episode:


Station uses puppets to tell story of a big federal trial.
From the station that brought you naked anchors and shirtless reporters, WOIO now is offering a puppet version of their coverage of a federal embezzlement trial.

The station wants you to know this is not the only coverage they give to the trial. They have real reporters doing real stories too.  Story on NPR’s Morning Edition.


Ratings Games

How networks and local TV stations play games with ratings.  The NYT peeled back a secret that those of us who play in TV have known for a while and that is sometimes, during ratings periods, we change the title of a show in order not to have it count in the ratings.  Stations do this when the Super Bowl is on.  For example they may slightly change the name of a newscast so it does not count as a newscast but as a special show.  It is probably not ethical but/and it is how the rules are written.



Protecting Journalists at Conventions

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press  is partnering with law firms to give support to journalists who get arrested covering the national political conventions or the G5.  Remember, a bunch of journalists and bloggers were arrested four years ago in Minneapolis at the GOP convention . http://www.rcfp.org/node/124007


Brits Call in J-Schools to Teach Numeracy

There is a rumbling going on in the UK to urge J-schools to do something about making journalists smarter when it comes to math and stats.  One writer offered these tips for what they call “number hygiene”

Number hygiene for journalists – check list:

  1. Buyer beware. Who cooked this figure up; what are their credentials; are they selling something?
  2. If the story comes from a sample, is it a fair representation of the wider group?
  3. What exactly did the pollsters/survey researchers ask? What the public understands may not match what the researcher thinks.
  4. What kind of average?
  5. With a sample, check the margin of error, the plus or minus 3 per cent figure. With a league table is like being compared with like?
  6. One change in the numbers does not mean a trend. Blips happen often.
  7. Beware spurious connections that don’t amount to ‘a causes b’.
  8. Some events are rare and stories should say so.
  9. Comparisons can make risk intelligible: the risk of dying being operated on under a general anaesthetic is on average the same as the risk being killed while traveling 60 miles on a motorbike.
  10. ‘Could be as high as’ points to an extreme; better to say ‘unlikely to be greater than’.
  11. State the frequency of an event in relation to a set number of people (1,000).
  12. Use graphics as long as they are clear and tell the story that’s in the text.


Gaming the News

On Thursday’s Morning Edition, NPR profiled Zynga, the company that makes games for Facebook. (Farmville, Words With Friends and so on.) Zynga has discovered  that people LOVE to use social media to play-they will even spend money on it if they can interact with others. Interaction is key.


Gaming the News, as it is sometime called has proved worthwhile on occasion.
The BBC, for example has a simple calculator that let’s you see where you fit in the order of the 76 billion people who have lived on earth.  Here are my stats:

USA Today has a cool game that allows you to find out which candidate is most like what you want the next president to be:
Another game asked readers to guess “who said that” Charlie Sheen or Gaddafy
Gothamist produced a game showing how difficult it is to plan a park in an urban area after fights broke out about the issue:

Wired provides a game where: http://www.wired.com/special_multimedia/2009/cutthroatCapitalismTheGame


LIVE Super Bowl Ad Decisions

Coke is going to make decisions LIVE during the Super Bowl which version of their Polar Bear ad to run. If NY is winning they will run one ad, if the Pats make a big play, they will run the other. Real-time ad decisions. Why don’t we see more of this in online advertising? Especially in political advertising?



Bakerfield, CA, where a station is investigating an apparent murder, part of a love triangle. Then as the station tried to get some video of one of the people involved in the case, she tried to run over the news crew.

Here is the fuller story.

One thing to keep in mind about these games is they have a LONG life online and they increase “time spent on site” which is becoming a key metric for online sites.

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