J500 Media and the Environment

Discerning service learning by jmuselmann

Sula Teller, food manager at The Merc, just after our interview.

Up until recently, it was difficult to put the scope of my involvement with the Douglas County Food Policy Council in perspective. Our class, Media & the Environment, has been a fusion of journalism and environmental studies departments, and each week we have been blogging about food as a way of getting our feet wet  with both these issues.

But a big part of our class was also to work for the newly formed food council as an interlocutor, surveying different stakeholders in the community as well as Lawrence residents to report back our findings — along with some research — to the council. The goal was to the “What,” the “Why” and the “How” of a local food system for Lawrence. Our group tackled the “Why” aspect.

In going out and interviewing local stakeholders as well as residents, I really started to realize how much of an impact the DCFPC could have, and how important these issues are to everyone, whether they take the time to think about it or not. Simply the act of putting everything else on hold and sitting down to talk about everyday things that most people don’t pay much attention to made me realize the pervasiveness of food attitudes that permeate other aspects of life. Calling attention to these seemingly mundane details about their work, food, and sustainability helped me see the importance of the DCFPC, and also why I had initially written it off as something bureaucratic whose goals I already had the gist of.

Wrong! It’s now apparent to me that the DCFPC is striving to be as vital as the issues it is fighting for. It really hit home when I spent a day in the Section 8 affordable housing district in north Lawrence. There I got to see and hear about how food accessibility (or rather the lack thereof) is directly affecting the lives of entire families. Hearing about families’ struggles made abstract goals of the DCFPC become very real, pertinent and necessary.

All in all, I’ve loved working for the Douglas County Food Policy Council. Working in small groups with a specific goal was rewarding. It felt good to know that we were making a difference and doing work for a task force that really needed our help. That kind of learning and satisfaction transcends earning grades in a grade book — it is immersive, substantial and can meaningfully affect the lives of many people for the better.

—Jacob Muselmann

Reflections on the semester: The whole enchilada by jmuselmann

Food is at the fiber of our very being. It is passed around piping hot with potholders, it is handed to us, self-contained, through the car door in paper sacks and divvied accordingly. It’s what we eat because our family does, our friends have tried, our mothers can afford. We throw it away, and we raise it high above our heads for to honor a friend or deity as an intentional sacrifice. Boxed up, it is heaved and flown across the world, passing some to bless others.

One way or another, people get their hands on food. And then we all have the decision of what to do with it. Some have the luxury of waiting to eat it, others use it as currency or a positioning of power, while for many others, who have not been able to make the decision in quite some time, it is always this: Put it into the holes in our faces in time to prolong death.

Of course by this point, we know we aren’t just talking about food. But rather, how food passes and intersects with our needs for a healthy environment and body whole. The need for change is dire and yet lingers on. The idea of going green is gaining unprecedented momentum, and yet, in many ways, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. People can easily eat their organic cake and not recycle, and we let them. But even within the green universe, there lies a wad of inconsistencies and tradeoffs to be sifted through and decided upon. It’s a voyage that has caused more than one breakdown in the grocery store, where I’m stunned into inaction, clutching my wallet in front of the onions, biting my lip at the global repercussions. Often I leave almost empty-handed. Pressure too great.

People say, “the choice is up to us” as consumers, but it sure is hard. Without good legislative infrastructure to guide food ways, it shouldn’t be surprising that it veers toward the same reckless trajectory as other things in this country, trailing irreversible damage in the wake of progress and profit.

Take me, for example: At least in some point in my life, I have recycled. I have also littered. Oh, and I have been the one calling into report the tags of those I see throw things out of their cars while driving: approximate time of infringement, rough location, type of violation, what kind of model and the company make. I guess this class has shown me that maybe I don’t need a number in my glove box to bring about change, I need only open my fridge instead.

—Jacob Muselmann

About Me: Jacob M. by jmuselmann
January 22, 2010, 12:53 pm
Filed under: About Us, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

My name is Jacob Muselmann (pronounced like the applesauce, but sadly without the relation). I am from Tulsa, Okla. and have been to many different schools before landing in Kansas: Tulsa, Tulsa Community College, Haskell Indian Nations, and Belgrano (in Argentina). I’ve settled down on journalism with a minor in sociocultural anthropology.

I am currently a news designer for the Kansan, a restaurant reviewer for Jayplay magazine, and a copy editing intern at the Lawrence Journal-World. That doesn’t leave me with much free time, but I remember once enjoying drawing, riding my bicycle, exercising, and eating (especially cookies).

The premise of this class got me thinking about my own views on environmentalism: What does it look like? What should I expect from myself and from others? What are the feasible ways to be more sustainable? In addition to answering these questions, I hope to effectively convey what I have learned, because, as you could guess, I have never written about any of these issues.

“Going green” has always been a vague, trendy phrase that made environmentalism seem to me at once lofty and cheapened. I would like to demystify it, engage it, and be able to add something the next time the conversation comes up. To do this, I reckon honesty and a raw approach is the only way to get anywhere. So I’ll start by saying this journey could be a scary undertaking—but a beneficial one, too.

Fact: Mollie, one of my three, younger sisters, and I can feel trapped in even the most freeing of places whenever our parents require family photos. And it shows.

—Jacob Muselmann

About Me: Kelly Cochran by Kelly
January 18, 2010, 12:18 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 1 | Tags: , ,

I am a first- year graduate student in the journalism school.  However,  I am enrolled in the university’s joint degree program which means I am also a second- year law student.  The result of these two degrees is a certification in Media Law and Policy.

I graduated from KU in 2008 with degrees in journalism and French.  I became aware in undergrad how much the journalism industry was changing.  Every aspect of journalism seemed to be in flux. Print newspapers were disappearing, citizen journalism was exploding, and everything was going digital. Importantly, these industry changes would inevitably bring about changes in the law. I decided that, in order to be truly excellent at what I did, I needed to become familiar with media’s legal landscape.

While I got closer and closer to graduation, I knew that I needed a deeper understanding of media as both a skill and a business.  In order to do that,  I decided I needed to keep writing and producing as a journalist. But I also wanted to learn about the architecture and rules of the information business. It seemed almost too perfect that the university had an option to stay connected to journalism through  graduate school while also giving me the chance to become an attorney.

I’m interested in the environment and environmental law for the same reason: the emphasis on change. In the past few years there has been a lot of attention given to environmental concerns and we as a public have more information than ever before on environmental issues. More importantly, there seems to be more information on how people can play a part in helping our environment.

I am eager to learn about environmental issues and, in the context of this class, the interaction of media and the environment.  I believe it is highly relevant and important and I am looking forward to the semester.

Kelly Cochran

I don’t need a bottle to get intoxicated by cindyol
July 24, 2009, 11:31 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 6, Local Events + Action, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

Advocacy is intoxicating. The power of giving a voice to people and causes that don’t have a stage of their own through my words is better than drugs or booze.

I first started advocating for my faith when I was in college and the editor of the school paper was an aggressive athiest. I advocated for my daughter almost 20 years ago when she was diagnosed with a mental illness in elementary school. The Kansas City Star published a letter to the editor I sent in to advocate for my political beliefs. I advocated for my children in high school to raise money for their extra curricular activities by launching and writing the content for the booster club websites. I had the chance to advocate for wounded veterans by writing website content during a redesign of the Salute America’s Heroes site in my last job.  And now that I’m finally figuring out what i want to be when I grow up, I must admit that the rush of finding the perfect word to set an emotional hook for a reader is not just intoxicating, it’s borderline addictive.

The experience of digging into the issues surrounding the homeless that have arisen in Lawrence this spring and summer have fed the rush. Doing the interviews where I get to look into their eyes and see their pain, feel their passion, and watch them have the hope to overcome adversity is a payoff that nothing short of incredible. The skills I have honed as an adult – listening and quickly understanding a person’s issues and feelings – and my love of words have given me hope. Words can affect change. The question that remains in advocating for the homeless in Lawrence is how will we use our words? Will we use them to affect positive change, or keep the status quo?

Cindy Olsen

A World Overwhelmed With Words by angelajon
July 10, 2009, 2:31 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,
 Every word written today has the potential to be read by every person on this planet and the message intended is not always the message received.
We live in a world swarming with information from blogs, reality television, supermarket tabloids, and mainstream news media. Getting noticed requires each author to irritate the leading edge of society’s ethical and moralistic principles.

How do we define unacceptable story telling? Do journalists have to go ‘too far’ to sell their publications? 

Panorama of the beef industry in 1900 by a Chicago based photographer

Panorama of the beef industry in 1900 by a Chicago based photographer

“I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident hit its stomach”Upton Sinclair speaking about his 1906 book; The Jungle.


Sinclair’s socialistic message was lost when readers realized that their food supply was potentially deadly. Sinclair’s writing triggered the establishment of the Federal Pure Food and Drug and Meat Inspection Act of 1906 (FDA precursor). The nation’s food supply could have sickened or killed thousands of people if Sinclair’s editor had suppressed the book for bias or advocacy reasons.

What happens when a reporter’s personal integrity is overruled by their desire to champion a cause?

There is a downside to journalistic freedom; consider the recent case of Dole vs. WG Film AB (producer of Bananas!)

Where does reality meet social responsibility?

All varieties of Journalism can be extremely powerful and influential.  Mankind is fallible and should exercise care when weilding any type of power. For the everyday Joe-bag-o-doughnuts the media may be his only advocate; an advocacy we cannot afford to lose.

When does advocacy become abuse of power? Does a ‘good’ reporter stick to facts; do they strive to educate or to persuade the reader?

Each of us must be responsible for judging the truth of what is reported or we will have to rely on governmental oversight. Allowing government to control our media means facing the same governmental dictates George Orwell wrote about in Animal Farm and 1984.

“Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.” George Orwell

We must be mindful that the more something is abused, the more likely it will be placed under governmental controls. Perhaps Big Brother would do a better job?


Angela Jones

Irish Eyes Are…Closed. by TreyW

I bleed blue and gold. As college football season approaches, I conveniently work Kelly Green into my outfit on a daily basis. Yes, anyone who’s seen my embarrassing collection of Notre Dame trademarked items knows it…I’m a domer. However, recent national press forced me to hide my colors for the first time in years.

Obama at Notre Dame commencement

Obama at Notre Dame commencement

News coverage of Pro-Choice President Barack Obama’s May commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame shed such a negative light on an institution I have been so proud to be a part of for years that I found myself closing my Irish eyes and burying my head in the sand. As I watched political “experts” throw their two cents into the kerfuffle, I could not help but think that objectivity in modern journalism was truly dead.

Silent Protest

Silent Protest

“Why,” I thought “does everyone else get to have an opinion about the graduation ceremony of a handful of kids out of millions this year?” Where were the voices that truly mattered in this situation? I understand the outrage of those in the Catholic community. You can not detach Notre Dame from its roots. But why did I have to watch Pat Buchanan tell me what I should believe as a Catholic and a part of the Notre Dame community rather than someone from the 97% of graduating seniors and 73% of students overall who supported Obama’s invitation?

The only refreshing journalism I found throughout the ordeal was from fellow citizen journalists on Facebook (not all of whom shared my opinion) who had legitimate a stake in the situation. Perhaps as an alum, I can’t understand the opinions of those I see as outsiders. Perhaps I’m the one who needs to be open minded about what others might think. Did anyone else watching that coverage even care?

*Trey Williams*