Is the US doomed?

A new Pew Research Center Poll was published this week  concerning the impact of the news media and colleges/universities on society and I’m not entirely sure why I’m surprised by the results, but I am.

“A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year.”

The poll goes on to say:

As recently as two years ago, most Republicans/Republican leaners held a positive view of the role of colleges and universities. In September 2015, 54% of Republicans said colleges and universities had a positive impact on the way things were going in the country; 37% rated their impact negatively”

By 2016, Republicans’ ratings of colleges and universities were mixed (43% positive, 45% negative).

Now, nearly two-thirds of conservative Republicans (65%) say colleges are having a negative impact, compared with just 43% of moderate and liberal Republicans.

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I’m really curious as to why the increase has been so drastic in such little time. I’m in no way an advocate of everyone going to college. I don’t believe you HAVE to go to college to be successful. Hell, I’m a college graduate (in debt) who’s working at a job that doesn’t require a degree. College isn’t for everybody (and it’s way too expensive), but I’d never say that it’s having a negative impact on society. I think that doctors, engineers, etc and their college degrees are positively impacting society. If we’re talking in terms of personal debt, then I could see viewing it in a negative light, but what other possible reasons are there?

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The other information that surprised me in this poll is how distrusting everyone has become of the media.

Democrats are divided in their views of the effects of the national news media. Nearly half of Democrats/Democratic leaners say the news media has a negative impact on the country (46%) while about as many (44%) view its impact positively.

This marks a major shift from just a year ago, when 33% of Democrats said the national news media had a positive effect and 59% said  it had a negative effect.

Currently, 85% of Republicans/Republican leaners say the news media has a negative effect on the way things are going in the country, up 76% two years ago and 68% in 2010. 

As a person who went to college for journalism, this is hard to hear. Yes, it’s absolutely true that most news sources have some level of bias and it’s fair to question what you hear instead of blindly believing it, but it’s not hard to find relatively unbiased sources.

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This is a pretty basic summary that can be found with a simple Google search

NPR, BBC, AP, Reuters and FactCheck  are my go-to sites to check the information I’ve heard from mainstream media.

Please, instead of accepting what you hear from the president/Twitter trolls about the media being liars and “fake news” (which honestly, Repub distrust being up 76% from two years ago has to be majorly influenced by that), don’t just decide to be distrusting of all media. Do some work and find whatever unbiased source satisfies you. They are out there.

Why do you think Republicans’ views on colleges/universities has become so negative in such a short amount of time? What are your views on college? What about mainstream media? Do you trust it? What are your favorite news sources?

 

The Trends in the News Concerning the Prevalence of Entertainment

 

            If you visited CNN.com you would notice that they have an entire section dedicated to entertainment. When pressing that link, you can learn anything about any celebrity you want. They’ve got a photo gallery of celebrities, a page of quotes by celebrities, and even a page titled” “The Justin Bieber Saga.”

            CNN isn’t the only website dedicating a large section of their website to celebrities, Fox News is also guilty. Their celebrity headlines range from Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s breakup, to the most recent drama on New York Housewives.

            Additionally, if you watch television you can watch shows like Entertainment Tonight, Good Morning America or even entertainment segments during local, national and world news broadcasts. If you flip through the newspaper there’s an entire section dedicated to entertainment and there are entire magazines such as Elle, Cosmo, Men’s Health, Vogue and Women’s Health, just to name a few, that are strictly for entertainment.

            Entertainment news can be defined as information about movies, radio, television and celebrities, as well as games like puzzles, comic strips, cartoons and horoscopes. CNN’s website has an entertainment section, Fox News’s website has one, even the Associated Press’s website has a section for sports and oddity stories.

            “The more relevant you make celebrities the less relevant you become,” said Cory Anton, a communication professor at GV in a Communication Theories lecture. This made a profound impact on me. So profound, in fact, that I’ll be dedicating this entire article to how relevant entertainment news in general is in our society and how it is potentially harmful to ourselves and our society.  

            With the accessibility of Cable TV and internet, the supply of media content has multiplied drastically, which has resulted in greater diversity of content. It’s a well known fact that mainstream media exists to make a profit and it’s sad but true: entertainment sells more than hard news stories, so many of these media outlets have resorted to having entertainment segments or sections to increase ratings.

            According to Thomas Patterson in an article from Harvard College titled “Doing Well and Doing Good: How Soft News and Critical Journalism are Shrinking the News Audience and Weakening Democracy—and what News Outlets Can do About it,” entertainment news is weakening the foundation of democracy by diminishing the public’s information about public affairs and its interest in politics.

            Americans devote more hours of the day to media consumption than any activity except sleep and work. If during this time, we are steeped in entertainment and distracted by remote incidence, the contribution that the news could make to the quality of public life is diminished, and possibly unnecessarily. According to the article, entertainment news may actually be eroding people’s interest in news.

            After surveying the student population at GV, 40 percent of the votes (26 individuals), said they preferred entertainment news over hard news. Some of the reasons ranged from not being able to understand hard news, having too many things to worry about in life already, being too controversial to watch, to not enjoying politics.

            One anonymous survey taker said they preferred entertainment news because “life has enough bad news in it. I don’t want to spend my little free time watching or reading something that’s only going to make me feel worse about the world we live in.”

            At the end of the survey, 70 percent of respondents believed that citizens are less informed about current events because of the prevalence of entertainment news in our media today, while only 24 percent didn’t believe citizens are less informed today.

            One survey taker responded: “Depends on the definition of ‘current event.’ If it’s defined as war, famine and pestilence, then quite probably yes. If current events include the upcoming release of a new Justin Timberlake album, it seems people are right on top of it.”

            The most interesting result of the survey was that individuals that answered they preferred to watch or listen to entertainment news still agreed that the growing coverage and interest in entertainment news is a problem for our society.

            “I think [the prevalence of entertainment news] is a major problem. It’s creating a society of uninformed dimwits that don’t possess the ability to make a rational decision on anything important because they’d rather watch a video about Justin Bieber’s DUI than pick up a newspaper and read about what Congress is doing,” answered one anonymous survey taker.

            Another anonymous survey taker answered: I believe that a growing percentage of the population is more interested in soft news. It seems that they do not want to think, or work to make changes in our society. This means that it is easier for others to have their way, be it good or bad, because there is no opposition or watch-dog group to ask questions or point out flaws or better/other ways to accomplish something.”

            Another answered: “Sadly, I do think the increasing interest in entertainment news is a problem. Any time a person lets their brain rot it’s a problem. Entertainment news is sugar for the brain.”

            On the same subject, someone responded “the media force-feeds us entertainment news and yes this is a problem. As a society we are effectively lobotomizing ourselves with this nonsense!”

            Returning to Anton’s quote: “the more relevant you make celebrities the less relevant you become.”  To be a good functioning democracy, the public must have a clear grasp of the daily workings of its government. Entertainment news provides little beneficial political information and American’s are overdosing on stories of stupidity, scandal and corruption. Entertainment news is causing apathy toward politics, which will eventually turn into apathy toward all news that isn’t entertainment. Ultimately, American’s will become disenchanted with their best source of political information and voting and participation in government, if done at all, will be performed blindly.

            The survey I conducted did have a silver lining: 60 percent of responders said they preferred hard news over entertainment news and their reasoning restored some of my faith in society. One anonymous taker responded:

            “I have no desire to find out what crap the celebrities are up to. I want to know what psychotic crap the politicians are handing to teachers now, if a tornado is about to take out my house, or if I need to donate food to the food banks because some politician has decided food stamps are too expensive.”

             So it seems that there is an increasing prevalence of entertainment news in our media today and there is still a lot of hard news coverage. Some believe that the prevalence of entertainment news is ruining our society while others disagree.

            “I definitely think people are more interested in entertainment news but I’m not sure it’s a huge problem,” one survey taker responded. “The people that want to be interested in hard news will be.”

            Another answered “In some degree yes, I think citizens are more interested in entertainment news, but I think the problem has to do with education. It’s OK to like entertainment news more than hard news, just as long as you’re keeping up with the hard news. However, when people don’t understand the importance of being an informed voter, it’s only natural that media is going to focus on entertainment news to stay afloat. Teaching people to think critically starts with education, and our education system in America is so messed up right now.”

            So based off the Harvard article and my survey, it seems like the best approach to the news is watching, reading, or listening in a healthy balance. It’s okay to like entertainment news more than hard news as long as you continue to educate yourself with what’s important. It seems that the prevalence of entertainment news in society and our media only becomes problematic when that’s the only type of news a person watches and when they’ve become entirely clueless about what’s happening in the world around them. 

G. University provides support for military members

**Names and location have been changed for anonymity**

                Since Sept. 11, 2001, there has been record numbers of veterans returning from war and heading to college. This is because the government created a special bill that would pay all the cost of a four-year degree. Since this bills creation it has helped more than 860,000 veterans go to school.

                These veterans aren’t like traditional students, however. Many have been to war and have emotional or physical scarring. Many of the veterans are older than traditional students and aren’t accustomed to life outside the military. These students come with their own set of needs and colleges are attempting to find ways to accommodate the growing number of student veterans.

                G. University is one college that has found a way to successfully integrate its veterans into civilian and student life. Victory Media publishes a list each year honoring the top 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools in the country that are “doing the most to embrace military service members, veterans and spouses as students and ensure their success on campus” and G. University has made that list for the fifth consecutive year.

                The data Victory Media collected was from a survey of more than 10,000 Veteran Affair approved schools nationwide. The findings are compiled and weighted according to the following categories to determine a final score:

                24 percent military support on campus; 20 percent academic credibility; 10 percent of military students enrolled; ten percent academic credit for military service; ten percent flexibility for military students; five percent for veteran graduation rates; five percent for student tuition assistance; five percent on results of a student survey; five percent for military spouse policies; and one percent on government approval.

                There are a number of things G. University has done to help ensure their student veterans are getting the support they need to succeed. In every department of the school there are designated primary contacts to help with issues pertaining to veteran struggles.

                Melanie works in admissions and is the contact person for veterans. “We have a group called the Veterans Network which is made up of experts in their designated areas that come together to support the specific needs of folks in the military,” she said. “I’m just the contact point for admissions, as there is no one person in charge of recruiting veterans to campus. In fact, most of our veterans are transfer students,” she said.

                Melanie said there is anywhere from 250 to 400 undergraduate applicants each year that indicate they are active military, veterans or dependents or spouses of someone serving in the military.

                According to the Registrar’s office at G. University, veteran enrollment over the past 20 years since every fall from 1994 to 2003 has averaged 250 student veterans. However, after the post 9/11 bill was introduced in fall 2009 enrollment doubled from the prior year and has still continued to grow.

                Nicholas works in personal, professional and career assistance at G. University and has been designated as the department’s veteran contact. His job has two main components, the first is providing personal counseling and the second is providing career counseling.

                “I often work with veterans presenting with deployment or reintegration concerns,” he said. “I also have experience working with trauma survivors and often help veterans cope with difficulties related to their military involvement,” he said.

                “In career counseling, I focus on helping veterans who are confused about their career path or deciding on a major. This often includes self-exploration, finding congruent careers and majors, researching careers, and developing a career plan,” he said. “Also, I have helped veterans identify ways to translate their military experience to strengthen their marketability in the job search process.”

                Nicholas said between the two positions the main focus of his work with veterans and service members is being a resource and support for any career or personal concerns and connecting them with helpful university and community resources.  

                G. University has also created a Veterans Network, which includes a designated lounge area in the K. Center, for student veterans to study, relax, and meet other veterans. The lounge was dedicated by President T.H.  on Nov. 11 of this year and it includes a TV, walls adorned with past military medals, and a spacious area for individuals to meet.

                The Veterans Network has meetings every Wednesday where they discuss military related issues or just come to enjoy each others’ company. Christopher spent eight years in the Army and is now a freshman at G. University and he serves as the Veterans Network’s secretary and risk manager. He says his personal experiences working with G. University veteran liaisons has been positive and the staff has done a fantastic job but there are some things he would like to see change.

                “The only thing I believe G. University needs to do is to advertise the service a bit more throughout the campus and not just through email,” he said. “We are pushing a population of 600 veterans and I believe many don’t even know about the services provided or even that there is a student veteran’s organization here on campus,” he said.

                Duane is also a veteran on campus. He served four years in the Air Force and is still in the reserves and his transition to G. University in the summer of 2012 was very smooth. “The veteran aids were great,” he said. “They answered all my questions and signing up for classes and doing funding paperwork was really easy.”

                There’s another new group on G. University’s campus starting winter semester called G. University Military Support, which aims to provide a place for wives, girlfriends, or children of active or inactive duty military members to gather and meet one another.

                Alexandra is the student on campus that started the group. Her husband has been in the Army National Guard for six years and she says she has felt like part of a minority since she began at G. University.

                “It can be difficult to initially fit into a new group of young people simply because they don’t understand how we think and feel,” Furman said. “It was my goal to find a group here at G. University that catered to military significant others for support, friendship and information. When I was informed there was no such group here, that’s when I started this journey of branching out to men and women like myself,” she said.

                “It’s not easy to network for a group of military significant others, especially since those that aren’t spouses aren’t technically attached to any of the service members info, but that’s why this group is so crucial,” she said. “The people who are nothing significant in the military’s eyes are in need of the same support, friendship and information, and my hopes for this Military Support group is that we can reach out to other significant others and raise awareness of yet another source of diversity on campus,” Alexandra said.

                Julie is a wife of a medically retired Army combat medic and a member of the new group and she feels it’s about time there was a group like this. “I think G. University focuses more on the veterans and tends to forget about the family members that are affected by the veteran,” she said. “I feel the military spouse group will be a great asset to G. University because it will allow the women to have an outlet and to interact with others who are in the same boat as them,” she said.

                “We are non-traditional students and it’s difficult to feel like we fit in when we have been through so much,” she said.

                Nicole shares those sentiments. Her boyfriend has been active duty in the Air Force since 2012 and she’s relieved G. University is finally recognizing significant others of military members.

                “I feel like everyone likes the fact I have a man in a uniform but they don’t understand that you’re not doing it for the uniform, you’re doing it for the person,” she said. “I do get depressed when I see my friends with their boyfriends on campus and how easy it is for them to hang out with their boyfriends every night. It’s really hard for me and I feel like my friends don’t understand just how hard it is so I think this network will help a lot!”

                Amanda’s husband has been active duty in the Army for seven months and she says she has felt isolated on campus but hopes that will change with the new group. “I mostly feel isolated due to not many people being able to understand,” she said. “I’m hoping it will allow me to connect with more people that understand what I’m going through.”

                G. University’s President T.H. believes G. University’s is doing a good job incorporating veterans but he wants to continue improving.

                “As we look ahead we see more veterans coming back to civilian life and many of them have skills and values needed in the workplace. G. University wants to serve those who have served with offering opportunities for service members who have potential and the desire to achieve their degree,” he said.

                “G. University has seen a dramatic increase in the number of veterans and they come from more than Michigan, therefore, our desire to offer in-state tuition to all veterans no matter which state they come from or are going to is important,” he said. “We have significantly improved our services to them in financial aid and in academic advising, as well as creating a welcoming university with the new Veteran Lounge,” Haas said.

                “We continue to seek input from veterans, students, faculty and staff to ensure that we are doing the best we can in our service to our students and doing it right for the right reasons. We aim to create opportunities for those who have served us!”

Peaceful protesters now considered terrorists in the USA

Peaceful protesters now considered terrorists in the USA

The pipeline that’s meant to run from Canada all the way down to Texas isn’t even 75% complete and it’s already causing major problems. 1,040,000 gallons of oil has already been spilled and millions of dollars has been spent trying to clean it up to no avail. 

Large numbers of Americans have gathered in D.C, have held public meetings, created online videos, and some have even locked themselves to equipment in protest of the pipeline. Every action by protesters has been peaceful and non-violent, however, they’re being labeled terrorists. 

“TransCanada is trying to paint concerned citizens as abusive, aggressive law breakers when in fact that describes themselves. They are giving presentations to the FBI and local law enforcement making us out to be criminals and telling our local law enforcement they should be looking at terrorism laws as possible ways to prosecute us.”

Need  reason to worry about the NSA spying scandal? Try this: you legally protest an oil company in y our town, are arrested, and wind up in court facing federal terrorism charges and a personal eternity behind bars. The evidence presented against you was gathered by the NSA monitoring of your telephone usage and social media communications, all at the behest of said oil company, which owns every Senator who sits on the Intelligence Committee in Washington D.C.

Think it can’t happen?

It’s already happening. 

Is America becoming a police state?

First, we find out about the NSA and PRISM, taking and storing all of our phone calls, emails, social media, locations, etc.

And just today it was announced the FBI has been using drones to “conduct surveillance” on American soil, without any policies or regulations on how/why/why they’re used.

Some citizens seem to be okay with this, saying that we need to give up certain freedoms in order to stay safe. However, some citizens are against this, saying the FBI has gone too far and that our rights as Americans are becoming more of a privilege.

What do you think?

Valentine’s day dilemma

Valentine’s day is an awful holiday regardless of your relationship status. Single folks hate it because they’re made to feel more lonely than usual. With the increase in commercials and Valentine’s related items in stores, it’s hard not to. The holiday is awful for couples, too, because they’re made to feel pressured into doing or giving things to their significant other. There’s a lot of pressure from society telling us to either find a significant other or to spoil the one we do have. It has never made any sense to me. 

A Christian Saint named Valentinus was imprisoned and he sent a letter to a female on the day of his death signed “from your Valentine.” Thus Valentine’s day was born. It didn’t become associated with romantic love until the middle ages, when Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle began expressing love by presenting others with flowers, candies, and greetings cards, which they called “valentines.” I always blamed Hallmark for the holiday, but I guess now I can blame Chaucer. 

I’ve spent the holiday both ways before and I can vouch for those feelings. On the years I spent it without a significant other I didn’t feel included or up to society’s standards. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized how stupid that really was. When I was in a relationship, I always felt like I’d be an awful girlfriend for not making the day ridiculously special for my significant other, and that may just be equally stupid. 

Why does there need to be a day to let our significant others know we care about them? I think that’s what confuses me the most. If you have a significant other they should already know they’re loved and cared about. They should be reminded verbally and by your actions daily. If you don’t have a significant other, there are still people you can let know you care about them, be it your mother, father, or best friend. Unfortunately, though, society can’t make money off of that. 

Nobody loves Valentine’s day more than Hallmark, Hershey’s and flower businesses. I guess I can’t solely blame Chaucer. If they weren’t shoving the holiday down our throats for their own profit, telling us we need to buy mushy cards, tons of sweets, and bouquets of flowers, maybe we could admit how superficial the holiday actually is and forget it even exits.