This article was originally published in The Daily Pulp on December 31, 2014.
2014 was a wild and often deeply upsetting year, with missing airplanes, civil war and Russian incursion in Ukraine, the onslaught of ISIS in the Middle East, the abuse of migrant workers in constructing Qatar’s World Cup stadium, serious social unrest in the United States, Ebola’s ravaging of west Africa, Boko Haram kidnappings in Nigeria, the nearly-complete cessation of governance by the United States Congress, and political instability in Sudan. To be sure, there were pleasant interludes – Hey, U.S./Cuba thaw! Hey Pope Francis! Nonetheless, 2014 was largely a stressful year that showed how, in many ways, the post-Cold War calm has ended. In the wake of these events, we at the Daily Pulp try to offer some reflections on 2014, plus some advice (and maybe even a bit of hope!) for the year to come.
Data means very little without interpretation and analysis. Yet, all too often our analysis is guided by our intended outcome. To progress we need to accept that other outcomes are possible and allow our analysis to guide us to an unbiased truth.
– Nick Benjamin, Contributor
My two-sentence summary: It’s a bad idea to simplify the narrative. The truth always resists simplicity.
– Casey Camire, Contributor
This year’s news coverage has taught me that not much changes in the world of broadcasting. FOX News remains an “un-Fair and un-Balanced” microphone for conservative scare tactics, while MSNBC continues to put the “bleeding heart” in bleeding heart liberals. Meanwhile, CNN maintains its trademark of 3-D holograms and repeating the same sound bites on a ten-minute cycle. John King has surpassed John Madden in most digital-screen finger drawings and Wolf Blitzer still thinks that the world is going to end with an Ebola zombie apocalypse.
Aside from the network stereotypes, broadcasting continues to overshadow positive news with the sexy appeal of controversy and catastrophe. Unemployment is at a six-year low, the DOW is at record highs, unprecedented levels of domestic oil production leave us paying significantly less at the pump and the Obama Administration is on the verge of striking a monumental trade agreement with Southeast Asia. Rather than focusing on the positive, we have round-the-clock coverage of missing Air Asia Flight 8501, pundits remain engaged in a hostile debate over the Affordable Care Act and the trivial Keystone Pipeline expansion curiously continues to make headlines. I can be hopeful for a brighter day in broadcasting, but I won’t hold my breath for it. If it isn’t Swine Flu, it’s Ebola. If it isn’t Katrina, it’s Sandy.
So while we are upon yet another new year, I regretfully say that broadcasting, which in many ways sets the tone in America today, will not be changing any time soon.
– Kevin Connell, Contributor
2014 was the year that the United States largely punted on climate change. The latest reports from the U.N. on the progress of global warming say that we have a fairly small window of time to curb carbon levels in the atmosphere. Nonetheless, 2014 showed us that, once again, there was no popular mass movement in support of saving the environment. Furthermore, the Republican Party continues to push for the dismantling of the EPA and the production of fossil fuels. Some of the Democrats, particularly outgoing Senator Mary Landrieu, continued to support coalproduction, the Keystone XL pipeline and other pro-carbon emission policies. (Yes, Virginia, thepipeline was not a good idea environmentally.)
Our political system is failing to lead or respond in an intelligent matter to the findings of the scientific community. The status quo in our wealthy nation may seem OK for the time being, but the biggest drought in California’s history and ever-worsening tornado and hurricane seasons, plus rising sea levels, indicate that our climate is precarious and rapidly destabilizing.
Still, there were some real steps in 2014 toward dealing with global warming, notably the recent climate accord between China and the U.S. A U.N. conference on climate change, scheduled for Paris next December, is also a good omen. Pope Francis has expressed his desire to personally intervene in this conference, an encouraging move given His Holiness’ recent aid in thawing Cuban-American diplomacy. Finally, the December 2014 Caring for Climate (C4C) convention showed that there are private-sector business leaders committed to saving the planet.
I can only hope that 2015 will see a greater societal push for addressing climate change. That push must come not only from politicians, but also the business sector, activists and even celebrities, whose cultural cachet might sway the average person to fight global warming.
– Dan Gorman, Associate Editor and Content Director
Righteous indignation only goes so far. We’d all be better off examining major events with empathy for all parties, even when it’s incredibly difficult to muster.
– Maya Itah, Contributor
I’m disappointed in that often we rush information without vetting it in the hopes of reaching the peak of a news cycle. Events like identifying wrong individuals during the Boston Bombing (everything from Sunil Tripathi to the Saudi Arabian 20-year-old man who news media chose to investigate further even after he was cleared by law enforcement as not being a person of interest) to pointing the finger at North Korea for the recent hack on Sony.
To expand on the latter, North Korea having the technical prowess or capability to pull of a cyber attack of that caliber is absolutely preposterous and the idea itself started with the news media. The actual culprits, calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” had no reference or rhetoric mentioning the Sony movie until it had started making waves on the news.
I would have loved for the news media to focus on the security aspect of this situation – a company as wealthy as Sony that refused to take the appropriate measures to secure the Personally Identifiable Information of its employees due to monetary and labor reasons. An examination of the failure points to the Marketing Executive that was promoted to a Senior Technical Position and given the “keys to the kingdom” to Sony’s infrastructure. The executive stored those keys and passwords in plain-text, unsecured files or changed those key passwords to be the actual word “password,” possibly the biggest sin that exists in the tech spectrum.
Maybe it’s an idealistic view – I realize corporations and news companies have to make money and to make money you spin the stories as big and as far as possible. That, however, doesn’t mean that such behavior is right or that we should condone it.
In 2015 I hope that (and I know I’m stealing from Elissa here but it applies as well) that, without putting on a tinfoil hat, we’re more critical and skeptical of the information that’s put out. I don’t really follow individual reporters – maybe I’ll change that in 2015 by finding an investigative journalist who can change that. I hope that we don’t simply absorb information, but examine it and use it to foster discussion.
– Goran Osim, Webmaster
2014 is the year I completely lost respect for one of my favorite publications. Writing for Rolling Stone has been a dream of mine since I was young. I was enthralled to find a magazine that not only focuses on music (one of my biggest passions in life), but also on politics and current events. Even when I was an aimless college student with little-to-no career direction, visions of my post-college life included exposing political scandals by day and hobnobbing with Billy Joel and Justin Timberlake by night.
This was all before the infamous retraction of the UVA story. As I read how they retracted the story due to “inconsistencies” on the victim’s part, I was horrified at their shifting the blame to Jackie, a young woman who had experienced something traumatic and life-altering, by citing the “inconsistencies” of her story, while at the same time claiming that the magazine was as “fair to her as possible.” I was even more horrified to learn that Jackie was pressured into telling her story and told that it was “too late” when she wanted to pull it, completely violating any sense of journalistic ethics just to make a compelling cover page. While it was noble that Rolling Stone wanted to cover such a sensitive topic, it was obvious from the staff’s treatment of Jackie that the story was being published in the name of entertainment rather than exposé.
I hope that in 2015 I will become more critical of the sources I read. As more and more of these college assault cases pop out of the woodwork, I hope that reporters from all publications, Rolling Stone included, take the integrity and safety of the victim into account.
– Elissa Spinner, Contributor
From Editor-in-Chief: What I learned this year is that it is important to set goals and work to achieve them. Whether it is personally or professionally, make sure you take risks in your life and have a vision for what you want your life to be. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Be creative. Be an entrepreneur. But most of all, be a positive influence on those around you. If you approach life with that kind of optimism, you will find that the world will repay in kind.
– Alex Urban, Site Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Cover photo source: http://theatln.tc/1zxA25s.