Academics, Bias, China: this week on Fresh Powder

Do Not Go Gentle

It’s a sad thing, and maybe not a new one, but being a journalist is dangerous business. What’s really disturbing is that it’s particularly difficult for student journalists and journalism advisers, who increasingly face hostility and censorship from school administrators. And it’s all about image. Universities and colleges are so invested in their “brand” that free speech and freedom of the press don’t get considered if a story might be detrimental to the school’s reputation. And if student’s refuse to cooperate? Pull funding. Easy peasy. But students have rights, and the New Voicesmovement is seeking legislation to protect the rights of secondary and college journalists. It’s still a long road, but one well worth walking. So rage on, kids, rage on.

Check Your Bias at the Door

So, no one would argue that bias isn’t a thing, and journalists are (ideally) constantly striving to be mindful of, and check, their own. But personal bias is sneaky–– it can be hard to identify and sometimes even harder to keep out of stories. So Jennifer Cox, an assistant professor at Salisbury University, decided to approach bias from a different vantage point: she took her class on a canoe trip. The students were expected to take photos documenting their experience, and then put together a collection of images to tell a story. The catch? The students couldn’t use their own photos, so they were forced to think hard about what each picture was showing and why, and remove themselves from the story. Kinda cool.

Identity Crisis

Facebook is becoming a teenager in a few months and just like most teenagers, the social media platform seems to be having a crisis of identity. After the election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg balked at the idea of Facebook’s having had any effect on the election, and seemed to want to take a hands-up, not-my-problem approach to the management of fake news. Now, some anonymous Facebook employees are talking about the company’s work on a plan to introduce extreme censorship tools in order to enter China, where the platform is currently banned. This feels like a slippery slope to broader social media censorship that could spread outside of China, and Facebook is built on a foundation of free speech. So who are you going to be, Facebook? A platform so loose fake news can prevail, or one that supports censorship? But the bottom line, it appears, is the bottom line. China’s untapped market of 1.4 billion people must look pretty lucrative indeed, regardless of the cost.

Finnish-ed with the American Education System

Turns out, teaching in America is not the same as teaching in Finland. Go figure! But what Finnish teachers in the American education system are saying is that the differences are so dramatic, and the autonomy so lacking, that it doesn’t even feel like the same vocation the left in Finland. The constant monitoring by school officials in the name of quality control and test prep squashes any creativity that might naturally bubble up for teachers, and the runrunrun school day makes it nearly impossible to devote real time and effort to quality teaching. Huh. Unfortunately, though, busy days and constant monitoring aren’t the biggest problem with the education system, and last-in-the-nation Nevada public schools have their hands full just trying to stay above water. In sum: we got problems.

This also happened: Fake news became IRL terror when a man showed up at a fast food restaurant with a gun, investigating, he said, a (fake) news story about Hillary Clinton. That’s uncool and scary, and it’s just more evidence that we need to practice mindful media consumption. On a lighter note, though, here are some images that will please the perfectionist in you. You’re welcome.