Monthly Archives: May 2015

Using simple words does not mean talking down

Over and over I tell my journalism and public relations students that using simple and clear words carry a lot more power than large,  multi-syllable words.

I often point to Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. William Zinsser in On Writing Well noted of the 701 words in the address, 505 are one syllable and 122 are two-syllable words. That does not leave many words with three or more syllables. And despite these simple words, Lincoln’s speech of 1865 continue to inspire today. Proving simple words can be powerful.

And now, Randall Munroe, the author of XKCD (a great comic strip) explains things using the 1,000 most common English words.

From the pitch posted by Munroe:

The diagrams in Thing Explainer cover all kinds of neat stuff—including computer buildings (datacenters), the flat rocks we live on (tectonic plates), the stuff you use to steer a plane (airliner cockpit controls), and the little bags of water you’re made of (cells).

And all this came from a cartoon Munroe did for his XKCD strip called Up Goer Five, which explained the Saturn V rocket using only common words.

If the book is as good as Up Goer Five, I may have to order this book as required reading for my students.

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Why #GoHomeIndianMedia is trending, and some side notes

The hashtag #GoHomeIndianMedia started taking off over complaints of how the Indian media covered the Nepal earthquake relief efforts. With variations of #IndianMediaGoHome.)

Journalists were accused of creating news or misrepresenting what was happening.

Indian Journalists delivered fake news

One of the largest Indian news channels, NDTV, broadcasted pictures of roads and buildings destroyed by earthquake, saying it was in Nepal. Turns out, the pictures were from Mexico and Chile.

In another instance, NDTV broadcasted a pro-India news, and compared Narendra Modi, Indian prime minister to a god who saved Nepal. India was on the forefront of the rescue team, but this was beginning to cross the line.

A lot of the complaints have focused on how the Indian media appear to be shilling for the Indian government.

Angry Nepalese flocked to Twitter in their numbers, protesting what they have been calling the insensitive, triumphant and jingoistic coverage of the earthquake that devastated the country. End result? #GoHomeIndianMedia was the top trend on Twitter – ironically on press freedom day.

Along with complaints against the Indian media, a number of tweets included calls for the Indian army to pull out.

India Army Media

But, as expected in the area, there has to be a Pakistan angle.

The New Indian Express shows a clipping that explains the #GoHomeIndianMedia movement is all a ploy by the Pakistan nationalists.

One of the complaints using the hashtag is that while 34 countries sent aid, the Indian media focused on what the Indian relief teams did.

Really? Why is that surprising. When I saw the U.S. coverage, they kept interviewing the USAID team (VA Task Force 1). And I bet the French media covered the French teams and so on.

Here is a quick Storify based on the hashtag.

The BBC was also recruiting people to discuss this issue on its World Have Your Say program.

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Filed under Ethics, India

Old and New Washington

I just got my copy of The Correspondent from the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Hong Kong. (Yes, I am still a member.)

One of the little features I have always liked is one with pictures of old and new Hong Kong. (Then and Now. Page 22 of the March edition.)

Got me thinking about how Washington, DC, has changed in the 35+ years I have been here. This would be a nice thing to do on a occasional basis, especially of sites important to journalism.

It’s easy enough to do on the DC SPJ website. So how about it?

Anyone have pictures from 40+ years ago and a picture of the same place (same angle, if possible) today?

Got a story to go with the pictures?

Send them to me at Dan@Kubiske.Org.

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China plays games with journalism visas

But at least it is not as bad as 2013.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China conducts an annual survey of its members (and a few outsiders) on the visa renewal process.

The bottom line for the 2014 survey period: “In general, the visa renewal process went more smoothly this year than last.”

The survey of 2013 was a damning indictment of the pettiness of the Chinese government authorities:

This year it became more obvious than ever that the Chinese authorities abuse the press card and visa renewal process in a political manner, treating journalistic accreditation as a privilege rather than a professional right, and punishing reporters and media organizations for the content of their previous coverage if it has displeased the government.

The most public cases were the denial of visas (or slow walking of the paperwork) to the New York Times and Bloomberg for their reports on how wealthy family members of prominent Communist Party members became and where they are hiding their money.

(See summary here.)

The 2014 report showed that while the visas were handled in a more professional manner, there were still cases of intimidation and out-right threats.

“In one run-in with the authorities, they made perfectly clear they would see us again at the end of the year for visa-renewal. In that sense it was a covert threat.”

“In case of new hire, visa delay was explained by MOFA in a meeting with bureau chief as being the result of concerns about bias in her previous job.”

“I had two interviews where I was questioned about my reporting on Xinjiang and told that the Foreign Ministry would need to be satisfied with my attitude in order to approve my press card. In the end they said they were and that my card would be approved.”

Animosity toward Western media (and Japan is counted in that group, oddly enough) has been a standard feature of how Beijing deals with the press. When we lived in Shanghai — 1992-1994 — the two Western journalists allowed to live there (Reuters and — I think — Asahi Shinbun) had their phone lines cut and received extra shadows in the lead up to the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

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Filed under Censorship, China