You just return home from war and now what? I enrolled in college, got a job, and spent time with friends and family but something was missing. Where was my support? I needed to connect with other veterans. I needed to know while the world was moving around me; there was still someone out there like me. Instead of turning to the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars, I went online. The veteran community sprawled from blogs, online organizations (VoteVets and IAVA), meeting people via Facebook, to connecting with the Department of Veterans Affairs through Twitter. All the comfort I needed was now at my fingertips, literally. At the beginning of this month, The Department of Veterans Affairs launched its first official blog called VAntage Point: Dispatches from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. I like to call it the intermediary of a very confusing system. In one corner is the veteran, unsure of how to navigate the brutal VA system and in the other corner is the VA, known for being intimidating and unwelcoming. What the new blog hopes to do is ease the tension between the veteran and the department. Not only will it provide a new line of communication but will also make the VA more obtainable. Social media was the missing link that has united veterans with other veterans and hopes to strengthen their relationship with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Roy, Wes, Ali, and I interviewed students at The University At Albany on how they consume the news. We wanted to see what matters to the average student and where they go to get informed. The interest in news varied throughout the students polled. Some were only concerned about sports, some watched Fox News just to see hot reporters, some cared about gay rights, and some legitimately sought out local and international news. It was interesting to see that students do not solely rely on social media to obtain the news. Several students talked about reading the newspaper while back at home or watching the evening news. It was apparent that these students were passionate about certain issues but the issues varied between the students. Check out the clip and hear from the students themselves!
Dave Winer, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, is on a mission to archive citizen journalism. Winer will be participating in a two-day meeting at the Library of Congress on the importance of backing up the underground rising voices of our country. Think about it, online media and blogging have captured our nation’s attention. However, what happens when someone passes away or gets tired of updating a blog and it drifts off into a sea of nothingness? Where does their content go? For years content deemed worth enough was printed into book form, bought and sold, set on a shelf, and stored. Does it seem fair that the current wave of thoughts and ideas expressed in non-conventional ways will be forgotten about if action is not taken now?
The Library of Congress has already attempted to embrace online media by archiving the collected works of Twitter. Seriously. All those ranting and raving tweets we feel the world needs to know will be archived. According to a New York Times piece, “users currently send a daily flood of 55 million messages…” Is this necessary? Do I want to read 50 Cent’s incoherent tweets 20 years from now? No. This could be an embarrassment for our country. Nevertheless, who is to say what content is worthy enough? For some reason the Library of Congress wants our tweets. Let’s hope Winer can convince them our rants over 140 characters are also worth archiving.
After contemplating who “owns” the election coverage I went searching. However, in the midst of who owns what and how they dominated the coverage, I stumbled upon Media Matters, “During the 2010 election cycle, Fox News, its employees, and its parent company engaged in an unprecedented campaign in support of the Republican Party. The network served as the communications and fundraising wing of the GOP while fervently promoting -- and sometimes creating -- the party's candidates.”
They created the party’s candidates? Did Glenn Beck cry his way into enough homes across the United States and convince potential voters to support the Republican Party? And News Corporation donated $1.25 million to GOP-linked groups?
We are a nation filled with candidates who smear one another, a nation of Americans who need to hear about witchcraft or a Nazi reenactment to become engage in a political conversation. We are seemingly more like a nation with Attention Deficient Disorder who cannot focus for too long on an issue, rather than a nation who is about to see significant change sweep our country.
I spoke with Allison Hibbs, 31, student and freelance writer from Albany, New York regarding this years midterm elections. It’s safe to say that I am not the only one who thinks negative campaigning is taking away from the issues at hand.
“Most obvious this season, I think, is the negative campaigning and general vitriol that has been spewed throughout the campaigns,” said Hibbs. “For example, I do think it's relevant to voters to know that one of their candidates occasionally enjoys dressing up as a Nazi with his son... but I don't think it matters one bit whether someone practiced Wicca years ago. Yet, O'Donnell has gotten FAR more negative attention for that than for her policies.”
Christine O’Donnell has been plastered all over the news for her comments regarding masturbation and witchcraft. I could not tell you a single policy this woman stands behind but I can tell you that she questioned the separation of church and state. Is this important? Of course, but I also need to hear about the issues.
When it comes to who owns the coverage of the elections I could not give you a straight answer. With the rise of social media election coverage is everywhere. My personal Twitter account if filled with tweets from news sources regarding the latest happenings in the political world. The New York Times recently posted an interactive graphic showing the latest tweets regarding the election from October 21 to November 1. As people post tweets related to the candidates running for governor or the Senate, their circles grow and shrink. Clever.
Star and Stripes had a post today outlining what is at stake for the military in the upcoming elections. “What election night could mean for the troops” by Leo Shane III highlights several issues including the repel of DADT, troop withdrawals, and the closing of Guantanamo Bay. These issues hit especially close to home and if the GOP make major gains like some predict the military will be in flux.
Whether it is through her phone apps or RSS feed, Hibbs is also very connected to the election. “I really like MSNBC (and their new Lean Forward tag line), I have a CNN Election Center App on my Droid, I try to read the Times and the Post when I have the time, I occasionally check in with CNN.. and I have a whole host of political RSS feeds,” said Hibbs. “Also, I've been very involved in the state elections, so I watch and read YNN and the TU pretty regularly. I have certain blogs that come right to my phone and laptop.”
After tomorrow all speculation ends when the votes are tallied. There will be debates over coverage, campaign ads, what hurt or helped a candidate, and who reached out to the voters. Regardless of the ridiculous spectacle known as the campaign season, we will finally have the answers to what party has gained or lost, where the country is leaning, and what issues take precedence.Don't forget to vote!