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Why do journalists use “allegedly” when they report on obvious crimes captured on video?

Look at this picture. A guy in a uniform obviously has his hands around a kid’s neck. Why would Business Insider use the word “allegedly” to describe what seems like a pretty obvious assault? If you are Young Sesame Chicken, what makes the Business Insider post worth sharing is the contrast between the mealy-mouthed headline and the powerful image. Why don’t journalists just call it abuse? Why soften the report…

Thirteen seconds. Dozens of bullets. One explosive photo.

Forget for a moment that the picture is among the most famous in US history, or that the photographer—a 21-year-old Kent State journalism student named John Filo—risked his life to document the tragedy. Consider what the photo captures: Our own military occupied a public university and then opened fire on a crowd of unarmed citizens—students no less—killing four and wounding nine. One student was killed while walking to class. Filo’s…

CNN reports Biden’s dog was “involved in another biting incident”

CNN’s headline: “Bidens’ dog Major involved in another biting incident,” but the story quotes the first lady’s press secretary as saying, “Major nipped someone on a walk.”  So there doesn’t seem to be any need to obscure the identify of the biter. I find the uncritical use of “biting incident” a bit troubling. The phrase “officer-involved shooting” is popular with bad apple cops who wish to conceal their violent actions.…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

For the record, if I should happen to be murdered by someone with a gun…

For the record, if I should happen to be murdered by someone with a gun, I grant all supporters of sensible gun control legislation full permission to politicize my death — as quickly as they like.   I reject any notion that the months, weeks, days, hours, and minutes after a violent firearm incident are “not the time for political debate.”   It’s everyone’s First Amendment right to criticize the…

Iowa Reporter Found Not Guilty By Jury After Arrest At Black Lives Matter Protest

Justice for a brave reporter arrested for doing her essential job, covering a Black Lives Matter demonstration. Thank goodness a fairly selected jury checked the actions of some bad-apple cops, including LEO Luke Wilson, who didn’t want to be observed while on the job. The founders of our nation understood that a healthy democracy requires a free press, not a corrupt police state that serves the interests of the powerful…

For years, I’ve tried to work my way back into the middle class

Well-meaning people tried to encourage me by pointing out how far I had come. “You’re working!” they said, “You’re housed!” And the declaration I found most diminishing: “I’m so proud of you!” I was 52 and I did not mark my progress by those measurements. Rather, I marked my progress by how far I had fallen. What did it mean that I was earning enough to rent a room in…

The Backstory: A reporter arrested while covering a protest faces trial Monday. Here’s why you should care.

Journalists are human, humans make mistakes, and no human journalist should be above criticism. In fact, cub reporters benefit greatly from making mistakes — it’s important for them to learn the consequences of spelling a name wrong or repeating a claim without checking it. However, general, unfocused contempt for “the media” is dangerous to a healthy democracy. Journalists arrested at last summer’s racial justice protests are still facing charges, jail time,…

Dr. Seuss Racism Controversy: A Dr. Seuss Expert Unpacks the Author’s History With Racism, Sexism

Nobody is banning, cancelling or censoring Dr. Seuss. Here’s some great context on why the Seuss estate is voluntarily retiring six titles that contain offensive racial stereotypes. One of the themes across Seuss’ work is the use of exotic, national, racial, and ethnic others as sources of humor. I don’t think he meant that with malice, but to use someone’s nationality or race as a punchline doesn’t land well, especially…

No, Dr. Seuss is not being “banned” or “censored” — but Dr. Seuss Enterprises is voluntarily retiring six books that contain racist stereotypes

It’s nothing new that Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel used racist stereotypes, particularly in his wartime political cartoons. I’m seeing social media chatter from people who a few days ago were up in arms about the gender of a potato (which was overblown, manufactured hype) and who are now leaping to the defense of Dr. Seuss, who is (according to the memes) being “banned” or “cancelled.” In fact, it was the…

Quantum Theatre’s “Far Away” is an enigmatic abstraction, grounded by psychologically deep performances.

Quantum Theatre’s streaming production of “Far Away” is an enigmatic abstraction, grounded by psychologically deep performances. In an unstable landscape of shifting allegiances, just how much faith can we have in own senses, our family members, our co-workers, our own creative impulses, our government, and nature itself? Known for making theatre happen in unusual spaces, Quantum has mounted a thoughtful, intelligent video production of Caryl Churchill’s absurdist evisceration of trust.…

Op-ed: QAnon, the Holocaust and the deadly power of conspiracy theories

The Holocaust was the most murderous and massive manifestation of Jew hatred — and it began and ended with the aid of conspiracy theories. State-sponsored conspiracism fueled the genocide of 6 million innocent human beings. A major pillar of Nazi ideology — and an effective method of drumming up anti-Semitism — was the false accusation that Jews had “stabbed Germany in the back” during World War I. […] One of…

Musician Daryl Davis Has Converted Hundreds of KKK Members Over 30 Years — Here’s How

Years later, after earning my degree in Jazz Performance from Howard University, I joined a country band where I was the only Black member. It was 1983 when we visited Frederick, Maryland, and played at an all-white bar (a bar where Blacks were legally allowed to enter but wouldn’t be welcomed). After I finished a set, an older white man approached and said, “I sure like your piano playing, this…

Texas lawyer trapped by cat filter on Zoom call, informs judge he is not a cat

A Texas lawyer accidentally left a kitten filter on during a video conference call with a judge and was unable to change it, eventually responding to a judge’s query about why he was being addressed by a digital feline by saying: “I’m here live. I am not a cat.” Later, the judge wrote: “These fun moments are a byproduct of the legal profession’s dedication to ensuring that the justice system…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In January 2001, I was blogging about Bill Clinton’s #WhiteHouse security deposit, anachronism in the #Titanic movie, a textual detective, and #email #etiquette

In January 2001, I was blogging about The Onion: Clinton Not Expecting to Collect White House Security Deposit Anachronisms in the movie Titanic A textual detective who helps the FBI solve crimes and says Clement Clark Moore did not write “A Visit from St. Nicholas” A student whose client backed out needed a project, so I asked her to write a handout on email. Writing Effective Email: Top 10 Tips…

A practical application of close reading skills: Nazi-spotting

Whenever I teach a literature class, I put a lot of energy into helping students understand the difference between the plot summary and personal engagement (“The character I could most relate to in this story was…”) they got praised for doing in high school, and the more advanced literary close reading skills I ask them to do in my literature class. I’ve had some success drawing on the pre-existing skills…

MAGA World Is Splintering: Following the riot at the Capitol, Trump supporters are having an existential crisis on Twitter.

Bryson Gray, a 29-year-old rapper and Donald Trump superfan from North Carolina, wants to make one thing clear: It was a group of the president’s most loyal supporters that rioted in the U.S. Capitol building on Wednesday, and nobody else. When I spoke with Gray yesterday, he said he had been “too late” to get inside the Capitol itself with the rest of the mob, which broke windows and chanted…

What if the DC rioters had been Black? I think we know the answer | Aja Hannah

This is not just an issue of a double standard between BLM protesters and white, Republican rioters. It is an issue of safety and justice. Black people asking for accountability when police are violent were met with violence from police. White people attempting to stop an election by force is met with sympathy and seemingly unprepared officers. That’s an issue for everyone in America who values their own security. Tell…

Thomas Jefferson on “newspapers without government” vs “government without newspapers”

Those darn founders with their darned respect for the free press. So biased! I am persuaded myself that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In December 2000, I was blogging about typeface snobbery, freedom in video game spaces, the first email message, and T.S. Eliot’s anti-semitism

In December 2000, I was blogging about Typeface snobbery (The Onion) Videogames as gendered play spaces (Henry Jenkins) Who wouldn’t want to trade in the confinement of your room for the immersion promised by today’s video games? …. Perhaps, my son finds in his video games what I found in the woods behind the school, on my bike whizzing down the hills of the suburban back streets, or settled into…