Media Fails As Watchdog; Correction: It’s Your Fault, Too

Have we backed the media into the corner, forcing journalists’ hand to cast the traditional code of ethics away as an afterthought?

It feels like eons ago when the morning paper actually broke news, objective reporting was celebrated, and reporting the facts was simply enough. The unprecedented access this digital age grants the average American has forced the traditional newsroom to reimagine journalism, whether it be through Vox’s explanatory style or FiveThirtyEight’s data journalism. We, the people, are no longer satisfied with just breaking news. Our favorite newsrooms are now first on the story–but also shape the story . Today, we want the sources that are leading the conversation. Put simply, our demand for the sexiest story has affected the content we receive, with many questioning whether it is for the better or worse.

Former PBS News Anchor Jim Lehrer speculated about the future tilt of journalism. “There are fewer and fewer serious journalists, unless you like entertainment, weather, or sports. Real journalists have a responsibility to report stories – and for important stories, not just once, but twice, three times. It takes time, energy, and commitment to keep information from falling through the cracks,” Lehrer said.

There might not be room for the time and energy Lehrer speaks about in the face of the 24/7 news cycle, and further, with the mounting pressure to engage news consumers. Ann Oldenburg, Professor of Digital News at Georgetown University and former USA Today reporter echoed that the future of news rests on the importance of producing “original content. Something that shines a light on something.”

In order to shine this light, however, many reporters have found themselves entangled in a web strewed by the pressures of timeliness and shock value. While recent investigations have highlighted the power of the media to maintain accountability, such as the breaking of the Panama Papers, the accountability of the media itself has come under fire.

While the public is demanding both information and entertainment, we are also wary of what we receive. Most Americans actually place more trust in social media watchdogs than the press according to a Pew Research Center poll. It concluded that as of 2015, 59% of college students have little to no trust in the press to report news fairly and accurately, and would most likely seek an alternative news source such as social media or Buzzfeed.

Ann Curry, former Today anchor spoke with Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times about the public relationship with the media, and how the current Presidential race stands to mend this. “Trump is not just an instant ratings/circulation/clicks gold mine; he is the motherload. He stepped on to the presidential campaign stage precisely at the moment when the media is struggling against deep insecurities about its financial future. The truth is, the media has needed Trump like a crack addict needs a hit.”

While there is the financial incentive for engagement, there is also pressure to be the leading voice on social issues. The 2014 Rolling Stone article, “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA” proved to be an example of journalistic failure in quest of spearheading the nationwide conversation about sexual assault. This article prompted an investigation by the Columbia Journalism Review, which noted that writer Sabrina Rubin Erdely and her editors’ hope that “their investigation would sound an alarm about campus sexual assault and would challenge Virginia and other universities to do better,” overshadowed the basics of reporting. Instead of leading the charge on campus culture, the report suggests that the magazine’s failure may help perpetuate the myth that many women invent rape allegations, when the percentage of false reports is between 2-8%.

A culture war is being waged on the inside of newsrooms about how exactly the media will shape important conversations in the future. The media has the power to help or hurt; be objective or advocate — or simply compete to produce the most captivating story when in reality, sometimes objectivity isn’t the most interesting story to read.

But, content is increasingly driven by the consumer appetite. And so far, we’re hungry for the most entertaining story.


Urban Institute: Evaluate the Debate

For Immediate Release:

Incarceration Project Update: Who Gets Time for Federal Drug Offense? Data Trends and Opportunities for Reform

New York, NY – March 23 2016 – In preparation for the upcoming Senate Judiciary Committee hearing set for March 29th, the Task Force has concluded that the United State’s recent prison population growth stems primarily from the length of time people are required to serve in prison for federal drug offenses based upon data analysis of federal sentencing and corrections.

These findings shift the focus and priority of the Task Force’s policy recommendations to make big cuts in lengths of stay for drug offenses, as the data suggests that these longer sentences work to raise recidivism rates. The individuals serving time were overwhelmingly shown to have minimal prior convictions, a lower risk of recidivism, no history of violence, and played minor roles in tracking operations.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa backed October bill proposing to cut nonviolent drug offenders’ sentences. “With almost half of the 195,809 federally sentenced individuals in the Bureau of Prisons serving time for drug trafficking offenses, it is critical to ask why. We have passed initial drug sentence legislation, but it really comes down to reducing mandatory minimum penalties and granting judges greater discretion for drug offenses,” Grassley said.

The legislation proposed next week will be grounded in analysis of the Task Force’s finding of the characteristics and sentencing lengths as correlated to prison population growth.

The Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections was developed by Congress in response to the decades of federal prison population growth, to create data-driven policy. Additional information pertaining to this research and data visualizations can be found here, as produced by Urban Institute.  

Study co-authors include Samuel Taxy and Cybele Kotonias, researchers at the Urban Institute.

This project was supported by grant no. 2014-ZR-BX-K001 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.


 Scarlet Neath

Communications Department



A Conversation With Cristina

Cristina Del Sesto (Georgetown University ’86) visits Spring Semester Digital News Students March 2 2016, discussing the upcoming National Gallery of Art’s 75th anniversary to facing rejection on the job to arguing with Jesuits at Georgetown.

“Determined, a wicked sense of humor, and a sly smile.” Alexander Prout (Georgetown University ’86) on classmate Cristina Del Sesto (Georgetown University ’86) pictured above on March 2 2016.

Most mornings for Cristina Del Sesto start off similar to students taking Digital News, beginning with reading the news. She describes her day as marked by rejection – something also familiar to the typical spring semester college student seeking summer employment.

It is here that paths differ. These days, Cristina, Deputy Corporate Relations at National Gallery of Art is preparing for the Gallery’s 75th Anniversary on March 17th.

Starting in 2012 at the Gallery, Cristina has spent half her time working to broker a deal with Faber-Castell USA, who this month decided to give $30,000 in art supplies to the National Gallery of Art. Supplies will allow for the installation of “Sketching is Seeing” anniversary program. According to the National Gallery of Art February 29 2016 Press Release, “This program is about how well you can draw; rather, visitors will be encouraged to think about sketching as a tool to explore the museum—to slow down, look carefully, and connect with works of art.”

While this deal fell through, she explains that most development work is a lot of rejection.

“I think what my task is to figure out which companies would make sense for them to sponsor at the National Gallery, and then I need to figure out how to get to the right person.” She explains that she starts the pitch process by developing “the story” and tracking down complementary partners.

While Cristina explains her typical process she lights up, comparing her work to investigative journalism. She continues, “I don’t take no very easily. It’s my personality type. You can learn a lot from rejection, maybe more than from something that comes very easily.”

Persistence in the face of rejection is actually how Cristina got her start. Ultimately it has proven to be a worthy companion throughout her career path as an invaluable asset from her start in the journalism industry to current position in the art world.

“If anyone were to look at my careers, it doesn’t make sense. But now looking back, I am where I started when I graduated from Georgetown. I wanted to work at the Washington Post and National Gallery of Art. There was a sort of randomness to it. I think if you have some sort of vision in your mind, you do hit it.”

Majoring in Art History and English at Georgetown, Cristina took the only journalism course her senior year. She recounts her father’s pressuring to find a job post-graduation as the point that led to the Washington Post, where Cristina’s path crossed with Digital News Professor Ann Oldenburg.

After a series of emails and phone calls with Ann to no job avail, someone quit. A week before graduation, Cristina joined the Washington Post staff on the night shift working until 2:30am when the last edition came out. “I remember there was always a lot of ink on the bottom of my sneakers. I was a runner, that’s how I started.”

From her start as a runner, Cristina has worked in a number of fields from co-authoring a book on international terrorism to Senior Editor launching Amazon’s music site to a consultant for PNC Bank. Perhaps this could be attributed to the “have to do more” mentality she gained at Georgetown, arguing with late Professor James Walsh S.J., and most notably, learning how to think.

As for looking forward past the Gallery’s 75th anniversary, Cristina acknowledges she still hasn’t managed to master the art of slowing down.

“I’m never comfortable in any place for very long. I miss the pace of journalism a lot. Non-profits are very, very slow. The for-profit world is more closely aligned with the pace of journalism.”

“Leo’s Dreams of Sushi” Falls Short

Leo O’Donovan Hall, Georgetown University’s only dining hall, has grown infamous among students from the recent health code violations to its sporadic music selection. In latest efforts to amend relations with Georgetown students who are required to purchase a meal plan for at least one year, the Dining Services hosted a lunch themed, “Leo’s Dreams of Sushi.”

These efforts come in the wake of 2 critical and 3 noncritical violations in the fall health inspection report conducted by the United States Department of Health, and student reviews that complain about the variety of food options.

Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services, Joelle Wiese wrote to The Hoya a few months prior that Aramark, the company that supplies both Georgetown University and correctional facility dining services, is trying to keep up with evolving student tastes.

“One of the trends we’ve seen is that students want more of a global palette and bolder flavors. We’re trying to tap into that, whether it’s in Grab ‘n Go or in Leo’s overall.”

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Student reaches for sushi at Leo O’Donovan Hall Thursday, Feb. 17, 2016. Photo take from @GUAuxiliarySvcs Twitter account.

However, ultimately Leo’s dreams of sushi brought focus on a reality that the dining services still haven’t managed to fully address.

Sophomore Emily Ross is required to purchase a meal plan as she lives in dorm-style housing. She was on her way to the dining hall when she viewed a Snapstory from the dining hall. “One of my friends posted a Snapstory of a hair in her sushi from Leo’s, so that made me pretty hesitant. I appreciate Leo’s efforts to revamp the dining hall and provide more options, but I’m afraid some of their endeavors are misguided, and aren’t focusing on the real problem.”

Another sophomore, Martha Strautman said the hair incident is nothing new. “There is always hair everywhere. I feel like a lot of it is just students, but then again there were all those health code violations that no one seems to talk about anymore.”

Despite the sushi lunch, and a continued rise in complaints about cleanliness in the dining hall, the Dining Service focus remains on hosting themed meals. Stay tuned for the “Ding, Ding, Ding, It’s Time for Chicken Wings” To-Go special.


Missing Winner of GOP Debate

Tonight’s debate gave Republican candidates a chance to upset Donald Trump’s lead as the Iowa caucuses approach, but missing man Trump, still took home the win.

In past debates, success has meant different things. In earlier debates, the meaning of “winning” depended on the individual candidate: gain larger endorsements, have a breakout moment, show a more humanized side, upstage a competitor’s policy proposal – the list goes on. But, tonight’s debate challenged our very idea of a debate “W”. You might not even have to be physically on stage.  

Donald Trump, the “elephant not in the room,” as Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly proclaimed, still managed to land a seat in the form of sporadic jokes and attacks. However, Trump may have still gained by bowing out of the debate. While engaging in previous debates have not always been Trump’s strong suit, action and the ability to get people talking has been.

Partnering with Google, Fox News was able to produce data throughout the debate, placing national security at the top of America’s priorities. With this priority, you might think Former Gov. Jeb Bush won, with his tough exchanges, and stepping out of his brother’s shadow. In commentary afterwards, The Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer noted that Bush had one of his best nights, maybe even better than the rest of the group. You could also say that perhaps the moderators won, equipped with their video footage to remain tough and call candidates out, marking Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz points down.


You could rule out Dr. Ben Carson for his fumble with foreign policy. 


But, in determining the winner, I believe you have to look at the larger context of this race. This presidential race has already proven to be unlike any other: Front runners include businessman Trump, neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, and there remains speculation about billionaire publisher and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg may enter the race. The American people are looking outside the typical political realm and the polls show that they are craving something new.

While this debate showed a new depth of substance and rich discussion of policy and issues, action is ultimately of the utmost importance. And, I wouldn’t put it pass people to take stock of the $5,000,000 Trump raided for military veterans during the debate. We will wait for the results of the Iowa vote.

10 Journalists to Follow in 2016

It’s January 19th. Those New Years resolutions may be beginning to test your time, energy, and strength. But, keeping up with what’s going on shouldn’t fall off your to-do list. Social media can be your greatest tool: everything from keeping your personal life in order to staying in the know. It’s time to revamp your feed and start following these 10 journalists to catch everything from unfolding global crises to the latest in the tech world.

  1. Pete Cashmore
    Twitter: @Mashable
    Keep up with the latest breaking news in everything from politics to In-N-Out burgers with this account run by Founder and CEO of Mashable.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 9.50.59 PM
    Tweeted Tue., Jan., 2016.
  2. Ann Curry, News Anchor/Correspondent at NBC News
    Facebook: Ann Curry
    Ann Curry shares insights and stories pertaining to human rights and justice issues, with a plethora of articles spanning from site’s you might frequently read to the more obscure.
  3. Kevin Cobb, Runs website “Overheard in the Newsroom”.
    Twitter: @OHNewsroom
    This account is for the journalism junkies out there – Every wanted to know what working in a newsroom is really like? Explore the lighter side of the news here.
  4. Gregory Korte, USA Today’s Whitehouse Correspondent
    Facebook: Gregory Korte
    Korte will keep your newsfeed full with to-the-minute White House news.

    Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 9.35.17 PM
    White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest featured on Gregory Korte’s Facebook account Mon., Jan., 2016.


  5. Mona Eltahawy, New York Times Opinion Columnist
    Twitter: @monaeltahawy
    Columnist, author of Headscarves & Hymens, and self-proclaimed feminist writer, Eltahawy is one to watch. Eltahawy is constantly engaging on Twitter, providing insights through a Muslim and feminist lens.
  6. Brian Stelter, Senior Media Correspondent and Host of “Reliable Sources” at CNN
    Facebook: Brian Stelter
    Get your news from a critical perspective: Stelter briefs show, “Reliable Sources” for you.
  7. Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal Personal Technology Columnist
    Twitter: @JoannaStern

    Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 9.07.35 PM.png
    Joanna Stern in New York City Tue., Jan., 2016.Never fear about making conversation with your tech-savvy friends again. Joanna Stern makes her adventures as a Technology Columnist accessible for the beginner to the advanced.
  8. Glenn Beck, The Blaze
    Facebook: Glenn Beck
    Whether you agree with his political views or not, you’ll find plenty political food for thought to fuel your next conversation.
  9. Rob Harris, Sports Reporter for The Associated Press
    Twitter: Rob Harris
    Harris goes more in depth than your typical sports coverage – learn more about the politics and finances of the game too.
  10. Brian Kilmeade, Co-host of Fox & Friends, Host of Kilmeade & Friends
    Facebook: Brian Kilmeade
    Dubbed, “news you can use,” Kilmeade’s account takes you behind the scenes of Fox news.

About Lucy Prout

Lydia Hennessey, Alec Kingston, and Lucy Prout picnic at the Washington Monument on Saturday, May 2, 2015.

Lucy Prout is a sophomore at Georgetown University, pursuing Justice and Peace Studies with a concentration in Justice and the Media, and is currently aspiring to minor in Journalism. She is fascinated by the power of portrayal, and the way this digital age is transforming the way information is received. Growing up in Tokyo, Japan at an international school with students from over fifty different corners of the world, Lucy has cultivated an open mind, bursting with questions, and is rarely willing to accept things the way they are. The need to constantly question and explore led Lucy to find journalism as a natural fit – with it also providing a much needed outlet for investigation inspired by her studies in Justice and Peace. Since beginning to write for Georgetown University’s student-run newspaper, The Hoya, she has never looked back.

Lucy was able to combine her passions for the news and all things digital this past fall working for a digital strategy firm, learning how to most effectively story-tell in a constantly evolving digital world. She is excited to further her skills in this course, and hopes to one day be an investigative reporter in the growing digital news industry.
When Lucy is not in the classroom or running around interviewing contacts for The Hoya, she can be found on the hunt for hidden pockets in DC, attempting to train for a half-marathon, or trying to play basketball in the vicinity of the Georgetown Men’s basketball team.