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From the Winter 2005 Edition of Community Media Review

Multilingual Journalism at Lehman College

By Jim Carney

In 1994, over 6000 members of four minority journalist associations met in Atlanta Georgia at the "UNITY ‘94 Convention" to discuss the role of minority professionals in the United States. It was clear at the convention that print and broadcast news media help perpetuate the notion that cultural, racial and linguistic diversity is a liability, not an asset. In the past the issues focused on Black and White; today they encompass the racial, ethnic and cultural dynamics of Asian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, African Americans, and those of diverse European ancestry.  The purpose of UNITY ‘94 was to present a blueprint which included: preparing minority high school and college students to be journalists and supporting instructional programs that reflect and respond to multi-cultural communities. While over a decade has passed, there are few innovative approaches to answer these challenges. A recent study by the American Society of Newspaper Editors found that in 2003, minority representation in American newsrooms was only 12.5% while the general minority population is over 31%. It was this need for diversity in American newsrooms which have birth to the Multilingual Journalism Program – MLJ -  at City University of New York’s Lehman College in the Bronx.

The Bronx is well known for its ethnic diversity, particularly with representation from a wide variety of Spanish-speaking immigrant populations. However the MLJ program was designed to go well beyond English and Spanish journalism.  The curriculum for the degree - the only one of its kind in the nation - combines a mixture of traditional journalism courses with advanced training in journalistic writing, in a variety of foreign languages, and a holistic approach to different and new forms of media.  The program also goes beyond linguistics in that a strong focus on multicultural sensitivities is build into the program.  For example, one course is dedicated to researching and studying issues ranging from “Cultural Defense” in criminal cases of domestic abuse, to acceptable eye contact for television interviews in Asian cultures. 

While The Bronx and New York City are well known for having diverse populations, the various ethnic communities still maintain a level of insulation, resisting assimilation and external scrutiny.  Students are guided on ways to respect the cultures they research and are exposed to perspectives unlike their own.  By assigning students to research ethnic communities other than their own, they are forced to visit neighborhoods, and to review and report on local newspapers and radio and cable programs presented in languages such as Korean, Yiddish, French Creole and many more.  

More importantly, prospective ethnic journalists are trained to work within their own communities, to bring to light news, information and analysis of issues and societal problems which are important to the general American public, with understanding and sensitivity.  With the tools and skills of traditional journalism, and increased cultural sensitivity to their own culture and the cultures of their neighbors, these new journalists become the bridge which spans the gap separating ethnic communities.

Equally important to the curricular elements of the Multilingual Journalism Program are the hands-on opportunities for young journalists to “cut their teeth” in the craft.  One of the first products of the MLJ Program was The Bronx Journal.  This monthly newspaper, published with a multilingual section with articles and features in twelve different languages, allows students to write both in English and in the languages they study.  Distributed to community centers, schools, senior centers and other distribution points, the free publication not only serves the college and students, but serves the Bronx community as a whole.

 

Other projects arising from the MLJ Program include television programs, produced by students and distributed through BronxNet, the Community Access Center co-located in the same building as the Mass Communication and Multilingual Journalism Program.  An early educational access program called 168 Horas was a weekly Spanish language magazine program dealing with issues and personalities in the diverse Hispanic population in the Bronx.  Another series, Multilingual News provided a recap of the week’s news from around the world presented in French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.

Currently the award winning magazine program Inside Lehman is produced by Mass Communication, MLJ and Theatre students under the tutelage of veteran NBC producer, Tom O’Hanlon. The highly produced program highlights the programs and the people of the Lehman community, and is cablecast to the entire city through the public access channels of BronxNet and the CUNY-TV educational access channel.

The newest and most innovative effort mounted by the Lehman MLJ/Mass Com Program reflects the convergence of new and traditional media.  Lehman NetRadio made its debut on election night, 2004, with perspective, analysis and discussion of the presidential and local races by Lehman students.  The project is designed to allow students to produce programming for cable television via BronxNet, and for “web radio” with - or without – video, with the assistance of the Bronx Information Network Consortium which streams the audio and video programming to the world-wide-web. Programs in development include a Spanish-language series on fashion, a program profiling and showcasing subway and street performers, a Russian program dealing with American and international politics and a Thai program in both Thai and English. The new facility generating the programming utilizes broadcast quality, robotic Panasonic cameras, a digital audio board and a new VT3 computer based switching, graphic and editing system so that high quality productions can be mounted with two or three crew members. The long-term plan is to have a lineup of programming which is a mixture of video, audio and internet.  The “webstation” will be curated by faculty, and created and produced by students and alumni.

 

A natural outgrowth of the program is a well trained, culturally sensitive group of students who approach the world with a broader view, and at the same time a respect for the nuanced elements of their own ethnic community as well as that of their neighbor’s. 

The success of the program recently prompted Lehman College and CUNY to expand the MLJ - Mass Communication program into the first new department created at the college since the 1970’s. While winning awards, and the accolades of academics and industry leaders are gratifying, perhaps the most significant testament to the success of the new Journalism, Communication and Theatre Department at Lehman is enrollment.  In the last year alone the number of majors jumped from 149 to over 250.

On a practical level, the multimedia approach to journalism, where old media paradigms such as traditional television and radio are challenged, has much to offer all communicators, including community media producers. By thinking of media production and journalism as not just TV, Radio or Print, but as a seamless mixture of formats and technologies, the new producer is liberated from many of the traditional constrictions of old media.  The advances in technology open both the production and the distribution of ideas and information in ways unthinkable a decade ago.  By embracing new technologies and not limiting programming concepts to old models, journalists and community based producers alike can increase the amount and diversity of ideas.

 

While the formalized structure of the Lehman approach to multilingual journalism has proved successful on an academic level, the lessons learned and the approaches taken by the program lends itself to all community media practitioners.  Given that America is no longer just a nation with many minorities, but a nation primarily composed of a patchwork of ethnic populations, cultural sensitivity to one’s own ethnic group, as well as that of their neighbor’s, is critical at all levels of American society. With intolerance and cultural isolationism on the rise, the importance of a diversity of voices is more critical than ever.  Just as the answer to dealing with hate speech is the creation of more counterbalancing speech, the answer to intolerant and divisive racist speech is more diverse and culturally-sensitive speech. 

While the elusive goals of the participants of “UNITY ‘94” are still to be realized, progress is being made in increasing the presence and influence of minority journalists in this country.  Just as the development of cable television opened channels of communications to under-represented communities through community access, new technologies married with new attitudes that are sensitive to the changing landscape of America, hold the promise of a more diverse and more tolerant society.

 

Professor Jim Carney is an Assistant Professor of Journalism, Communication and Theater at Lehman College, City University of New York and served as Executive Director of Bronxnet Community Television for 9 years.  He can be reached at james.carney@lehman.cuny.edu.                                        

                                                                    

 

 

 

 

You Should Live So Long! Bronxnet’s Senior Programming

From fall 2003 edition of Community Media Review

 

By Jim Carney

“You should live so long!”  This is not only a folksy way of wishing someone longevity and luck, but since 1994, it is the title of a Public access show which airs each week on Bronxnet, the community access organization serving over a quarter million cable subscribers in New York City.  The program is indicative of an approach that Bronxnet undertook shortly after its launch over ten years ago.  It was an approach which sought out strategic partners where programming is created using the expertise of the wealth of non-profit organizations in The Bronx, and the powerful reach and potential of Bronxnet’s four public access channels.  Because of the traditional lack of media devoted to issues important to senior citizens, the concept was a natural. Despite a growing population of older Bronxites, information about services and resources available to seniors was difficult to come by. 

 

Services but No Information

In 1993, Bronxnet was envisioned as a different type of Public Access Center.  From the very beginning, the Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and the original Board of Directors saw an unprecedented opportunity.  With the resources of a new access center on the campus of the Lehman Campus of City University of New York, and four channels on the local cablevision system, the possibility of providing traditional Public Access services, combined with targeted programming produced by Bronxnet and in conjunction with other non profit organizations, Bronxnet reached out to the residents of the Bronx to find out what type of programming they wanted to see on their community channels.  One of the first and most obvious areas in need of service were Seniors. 

            A two pronged approach was developed to create programming for and about Bronx Seniors: on one hand, we would create specific shows with strategic partners which featured seniors, and senior advocates talking about what was important to them.  One the other hand we would create an “umbrella programming strategy” which would provide a platform for information and discussion of senior issues and events.

             

“You Should Live So Long!”

            The first program for developed by Bronxnet was in partnership with the local Hebrew Home For The Aging at Riverdale was “You Should Live So Long”.  The show featured weekly discussions of issues, and segments dealing with real life issues facing older Bronx residents.  Programs devoted to nutrition, finance, eldercare, assisted living and other similar subjects provided first hand accounts from local seniors as well as advice from experts designed to make older Bronxites live longer and better lives.  According to Nelson Burros, Director of the Home’s ACCESS Project and current host of the program, “We tried to get away from the common “disease of the week” approach and deal with practical living issues. We feel we have a responsibility to provide educational information to the community.”

            The show, which has received awards for excellence from the American Association of Retired People and the New York Association of Homes and Services for The Aged, has a strong following of senior viewers but is also popular with families of seniors and other caregivers.

 

Aging Well

            Another approach to reaching Bronx Seniors evolved from a short segment contained in Bronxnet’s daily live call in public affairs show, Bronxtalk AM.  The two hour show featured interviews with Bronx newsmakers and community leaders, as well as features containing targeted information for different segments of the community.  The Bronx-based non profit organization, Aging In America was approached about providing a weekly Senior Tip dealing with matters important to older viewers and their families.  Hosted by Dr. Bruce Hurwitz, the segments enlisted the participation of quests who would discuss their areas of expertise ranging from home health care services to public policy matters.  The popularity of the segment lead to a weekly live program which takes live phone calls from Seniors and their families. 

According to Dr. Hurwitz, “Having our own program allows us to focus in depth on the details of complicated and important issues. By having guests like the NYC Commissioner on Aging and the Borough President talking directly about senior issues,  we raise the profile of these issues in the mind of the public.”

 

Spanish Programming

            Perhaps the most dramatic example of the impact public access programming can have in a community is with the Spanish-speaking community. Generally, Spanish-speaking communities of the U.S. have limited options when it comes to media.  When you consider the plight of Spanish speaking seniors, there is virtually nothing.    The Bronxnet live call-in program “Dialogo Con Glennis” regularly deals with issues important to older Latinos.  Luis M. Vasquez, Executive Director of RAIN Services for Senior Citizens, who has made numerous appearances on the show, “Our phones light up after appearing on Glenis’ show.  The show provides us an opportunity to reach a part of our community which desperately needs these services.”  The program’s host, Glenis Henriquez is an educator who feels strongly about brining these stories to older Bronx Latinos. “In areas such as elder abuse, Spanish-speaking seniors do not know that they have any options,” she said. “In my community there is no one else talking about these issues and the options that are available to deal with them.”

 

Seniors at the Helm

            An important aspect of the formulation of how Bronxnet deals with issues important to older residents comes from a commitment to having seniors participate in the creation of programming.  An original member of Bronxnet’s board of Directors is Dr. Roscoe C. Brown Jr.. Among other credits, the octogenarian is one of the legendary World War II fighting Aces known as The Tuskegee Airmen.  He also has served as the president of Bronx Community College and has hosted his own PBS series on historic African Americans. 

            Bronxnet also drew J.J. Gonzalez, a legendary street reporter and one of the first Latino television reporters in America, out of retirement to head up Bronxnet’s News and Public Affairs programming.  Under Gonzalez’ leadership, young producers developed a sensitivity to matters important to seniors.

 

Special Productions

            In addition to Bronxnet’s traditional on air programming for seniors, the access center has taken a leading role in using television to support senior organizations in the Bronx.  Annually, Bronxnet produces a number of video productions for organizations ranging from the Hearts & Hammers program which organizes teams of volunteers who decend upon selected senior homes and devote a day of hard work to repairing and cleaning their homes, to a video “annual report” for RAIN senior services which has used the programming to increase awareness, fund raising and volunteerism. 

 

 

Jim Carney is an assistant professor of Multilingual Journalism and Mass Communication at City University of New York’s Lehman College and until last September served as Executive Director of Bronxnet for nine years.

     

Personal Privacy and Technology

At Odds in the 21st Century

By Jim Carney

Unpublished

McLuhan called The Global Village.[1]  It was to be the condensed, homogenized interconnection of disparate societies, races and peoples all over the physical globe.  For good or evil the telecommunications revolution predicted in the early 1950’s and continuing today, was to bring the people of the planet closer.  While social scientists and prophets such as Marshall McCluan and Alvin Toffler[2] offered theoretical models to lay the groundwork, they could not have predicted which tools actually would make the revolution a reality. Much of what they predicted in their writings has come to fruition. Much of it has not.  If there is one prophesy that has come true, it is that technology has revolutionized the way we work, play and live in the 21st century.  With this wave of technology has come a torrent of information.  Data relating to every detail of our lives is collected, stored sold and distributed, often without our knowledge or consent.  Has this collecting and sharing of intimate details about the individual contributed to shrinking the globe into a Global Village or reduced it into a Universal Market?

                While the transporter beams of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek still exists only in the realm of fantasy, the realities of the internet and digital satellite communications - unforeseen even in science fiction a few years ago - are impacting our lives.  For example, the 2-way video wrist watches of the Dick Tracy comics of the 1930’s once were fodder for fantasy. Today, the Citizen and Fossil watch companies are marketing personal wireless computers in the form of a wristwatch, which come close to Chester Gould’s crime-fighting gadgets of the funny pages[3]. From satellite locating systems in passenger cars (known as ONSTAR), to instant access to the wealth of world stock markets, with a hand-held computer and a wireless connection, the information we have available to us would be astounding to the social scientists of the 50’s and 60’s. Transponders contained in automated toll taking devices such as EZ-Pass track the movement of our cars and have been used to collar deadbeat dads and capture child abductors.  Global Satellite Positioning or GPS devices are now routinely available in cell phones so we will always know our longitudinal and latitudinal location, even though we may actually, be hopelessly lost. [4]

More disconcerting may be the amount of personal information available to anyone with the will to seek it out.  Concerns about personal privacy are increasing as information is collected, tracked and stored away in commercial and government databases. 

 

Radio Frequency Identification

A recent development with implications on individual privacy, is the implementation of technology called RFID. The micro-transmitting technology is being introduced by commercial retailers such as Wal-mart.  The “box store” chain recently advanced plans to roll out the implanting of Radio Frequency ID chips on merchandise from their top 100 suppliers.  The tiny transmitter (in some forms, no larger than a grain of rice) transmits a radio signature a short distance giving each sweater or Barbie doll its own unique identifying code number.  The plan is to have the chips eventually replace the familiar bar codes on price tags, so in theory shoppers could walk out of the store without having to go through a checkout line.  The chips would transmit to receivers located at the exit of the store and the cost would automatically be deducted from their credit card which contains a smart chip with similar embedded proximity technology.

Privacy advocates have expressed concern regarding the possible misuse of this technology.  Clothing retailer Benetton had announced plans to embed these RFID chips in apparel which would in theory, remain within the article of clothing until it is destroyed.[5] Critics draw a parallel between real life and fiction, in the 2002 film Minority Report[6]  in which characters walk down a public corridor where the walls sense the identity of the individual and modify customized advertising projected on the wall, based upon the ID information contained on embedded chips. Critics envision a scenario where a “smart” sensor at the door a store, welcomes you back by name, and informs you that the milk you purchased two weeks ago has past its freshness date.  More cynical critics point to the cooperative research that Wal-Mart and Proctor & Gamble have conducted with the US Department of Homeland Security where RFID technology would be used to track consumer patterns and assist in tracking down terror suspects.[7]  The US Department of Defense has required that suppliers for military units use the technology to facilitate supply lines and track everything from artillery shells to combat rations. 

The anonymity provided through the use of cash in financial transactions may also threatened by the use of RFID technology.  Rumors have been circulating for years regarding the European Union and a plan  to embed RFID’s in larger denomination Euro bank notes by the end of 2005. The technology would be used to track money in order to prevent money laundering and other criminal activities.  Tests on how the money is tracked is beginning this year with embedded casino chips. Participating casinos will be able to scrutinize the gambling patters of patrons and prevent theft and counterfeiting, and also allow the m,orte effective use of complemetary meals, show tickets and hotel rooms for high rollers. However, the technology necessary to place a sufficiently small and durable RFIDs within paper notes is not yet viable, although the EU has been speaking with the Hitatchi Corporation which has developed an RFID chip less that a half millimeter wide and one tenth of a millimeter thick.[8]

This technology has strong proponents who justifiably sing the praises of RFID technology - particularly in medical applications.  In the Singapore Alexandra Hospital, staff and patients were given ID cards with embedded chips which monitored the movements and contacts made by caregivers, with patients diagnosed with Secure Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.  If a new case was diagnosed, all those who had come into contact with the patient could be immediately identified, tested and treated.[9]   In another test application of the technology in Atlanta and Seattle, RFID tags are being strategically placed on infirmed seniors and on items in their homes.  By monitoring interactions the seniors have with medicine packages, food containers and by tracking general activity, researchers are able to detect when a senior forgets to take their medication, or skips a meal.  Critics meanwhile, equate this to a form of “digital nannies”.[10]  While these pilot programs are completely voluntary, privacy advocates foresee problems illustrated by a recent internet hoax, which is entirely believable to the gullible and to cynics .

An internet article which contained the United Press International byline of fictitious writer Jesse Warrens, blandly detailed the plans that the US Department of Health & Human Services was implementing to implant sub-dermal RFID chips into the homeless populations of five American cities.  The article goes on to explain that the initiative is designed to track and assist the homeless. Authorities would be able to more efficiently serve mentally ill intransient with social services, while cutting down on crime and antisocial behavior.  The unverified article - apparently an April Fools hoax - appeared as legitimate news on numerous political and conspiratorial web sites.[11]  

While forcible implantation of humans is still socially unacceptable, voluntary implementation of human tagging, with sub-dermal chips for commercial security applications, is a growing business. Implanted RFID’s provide keyless and card-less access to secure facilities, to only those implanted with authorized RFID’s.[12]  The chips are used not only to provide controlled access, but also to track employees within facilities and to regulate lights and air conditioning.  Both literally and figuratively, this new technology is changing our environment.

 

Googling in Public

As of this writing, the founders of the internet search engine Google are taking their company public.[13]  The privately held company revolutionized the new business of “information mining” within the billions of documents on the Web. However controversy is stirring on what Google plans to do with information gleaned from its users. 

The technology Google uses scans the internet for a word or term a user types into the simple box on the opening Google web page. Google comes up with matches but also ties the search to a line-up of sponsors who vie to pop up as a “sponsored site” along with the generic web search.  For example, if you type in the word “Las Vegas”, a sponsored site for airlines and hotels which serve the city may appear as sponsored sites along with other matching web pages.  However if you type in the word “china”, the system doe not know if you mean the Asian nation or dinner plates.  Additional words typed in may limit the sponsors to the original intent of the user.  Sponsors bid to pay the highest amount to Google, for every time a user clicks on the sponsored site.  The new tightly targeted mode of advertising is popular with advertisers because it closely targets ad dollars with people interested in purchasing their wares. By clicking on the sponsored link, a user expresses a serious interest in their product and the advertisers dollars are not wasted.[14] 

The new service launched on April 20, 2004, called Gmail uses similar technology to provide a free email service which allows virtually unlimited memory storage for a user’s email.  Google plans on profiting from the free service by scanning the content of user emails for words and terms, and then matches them with sponsors whose ads appear in a similar fashion to sponsored sites which pop up on the Google search engine site. 

While similar technology is currently used to scan and delete emails for harmful viruses and unwanted spam messages, the use of this technology for commercial purposes has drawn the ire of privacy proponents.

One of the positive elements of Gmail being presented by Google is the amount of storage space available for user messages.  The company says that the information in Gmail messages will be stored in perpetuity - even after a user deleted a message or canceled their account.  While confidentiality is being guaranteed by the management of Google, the existence of the information makes it available in the future for any entity which gains control of the service. Also, the information is there for subpoenas, court orders and hackers.  Assurances that the information will never be read by humans, only by machines, has not allayed concerns.[15]

 

 



[1] Understanding Media, McLuhan, Marshall, NY 1964

[2] Future Shock, Toffler, Alvin

[3] At the January 2003 Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas, Bill Gates, chairman and founder of Microsoft, unveiled the “SPOT” Wristwatch which receives wireless updates on stock transactions, breaking news updates and instant email messages. Subscription to an FM wireless service is necessary and is currently available in 80% of the U.S. (C-NET.COM).

[4] This essay is originating from  N40degrees 57.303’, by W73degrees 47.266’ - give or take 167 feet.

[5] Electronic Privacy Information Center www.epic.org/privacy/rfid

[6] “Minority Report”, Universal Studios 2002

[7] Watchdogs Push for RFID Laws  by Marc Baard, Wired News 4/3/04

[8] Casino Chips To Carry RFID Tags By Jeff Hecht, New Scientist  1/04

[9] Electronic Privacy Information Center ibid

[10] RFID Keeps Track of Seniors by Marc Baard, Wired News 3/10/04

[11] Program to Implant Homeless Friends of Liberty: www.sianews.com

[12] Verichip Corporation markets RFID sub-dermal implants for security purposes and has authorized 12 physicians in 8 states to implant employees of security conscious companies and those fearful of kidnapping plots. www.4verichip.com 

[13] Google Said to Pick Bankers to Lead IPO by Andrew Ross Sorkin and Landon Thomas Jr., NY Times 4/27/04

[14] An excellent 5 part series written and produced by Rick Karr of National Public Radio which presents a clear and concise look at the world of search engines and at Google is available at the NPR Morning Edition web site at  http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/2004/apr/google/

[15] Google Mail Put to the Test by Larry Majid, CBSNews.com, 4/20/04

Lehman NetRadio Team
netradio2.jpg
Jim Carney, S. de la Cruz, Eng Yves Dossous, J. Ortiz, C. Cosme, J. Colon, B. Quinn, P. Willaims

The Bronx Journal
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"TBJ" is a Bronx community newspaper written by MLJ Students

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