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

Selling Skinny by beccan

I sat down for lunch a couple of days ago with a plate of veggies, peanut butter, and a bread stick sitting on the plate in front of me. On my left was a magazine with Kelly Osborn on the cover in a pink dress, with the caption, “How I got Thin”. I began to think to myself that I probably should not eat the breadstick, because it was filled with cheese and was far too delicious to have any nutritional value. I indulged anyway, and it was good, but it would’ve been better if my company at lunch wouldn’t have been a tabloid magazine.

Courtesy of google images

A tabloid magazine may not be the best lunch date.


That is when I started to realize that food had so much power over me. It controlled the way I lived day-to-day, it controlled my mood, and my body. I hated that it was so powerful, but I loved that it was so powerful (a true love-hate relationship). I was in awe that one picture on one magazine with one caption made me feel guilty about eating a breadstick. It sickened me that I could be so influenced my the media. 

 Confused, I decided to take a look at my complex relationship with food more carefully. I noticed that I treat food as a reward or punishment, not a way of sustaining my body. I reward myself with certain foods when I eat healthy all day and on the flip side, I make myself hit the gym for hours if I eat unhealthy one day. To be honest, as I say this right now I am eating my words. Putting my strange relationship with food into words makes it seem crazy. I guess I find it hard to find the fine line between living healthfully and having a bad relationship with food.

I wondered why these thoughts run through my head when I am and always have been healthy, according to the doctor. Why do I feel like if I do not look like the models and actresses I see on television and in magazines, then I will never be accepted by society? The media has done so much damage to how women view themselves. There are constant and persistent reminders everywhere to be skinny. Everywhere I go, there is some reminder that if I want to be accepted by society I must look a certain way.

This made me think about a commercial that a journalism teacher showed is a class i took last semester. Dove is well known for its True Beauty campaign, which is one of the only campaigns that sends the message to women that beauty lies in different sizes and shapes. But Dove’s hard to work show women that they are accepted at any size, doesn’t do too much when every other company selling something tells consumers otherwise. I watch the Dove campaign advertisements and am moved and touched, as a woman, but it really does not change the way that I think about being accepted by society.I just see Dove’s campaign as a way of trying to make Dove look good, as a public relations step. It is shown that 80% of American women are dissatisfied with their appearance. That number is so unsettling, but I do not see it changing anytime soon, unless more companies do what Dove is doing. One company cannot make the change that it will take to change the media’s portrayal of women. 

What could the media do? Advertisers know what skinny, good looking, and tall are appealing to consumers what incentive is there to take a risk on advertising with unlikely models? Probably none. Sex appeal sells. And although Dove made a huge public relations risk, it may not have been worth it if other companies do not follow the same method. 

Becca N.

Fake vs Real by tesshedrick
January 29, 2010, 4:37 pm
Filed under: J500 Week 2 | Tags: ,

Throughout my childhood years, I could always count on the freezer being stocked with my snack food of choice, Twinkies!  Do not ask me why my mother kept the seemingly shelf-lifeless snacks in the freezer, but boy did they taste good coming out of the cold.  Probably consuming hundreds of boxes of Twinkies during my childhood, I do not regret eating any of them.  Why, you may ask; well my friends, ignorance is bliss.  How was I supposed to know that this soft, spongy, creamy (my mouth is watering right now) piece of “cake” was in fact FAKE!?  That’s right, I didn’t.  Unfortunately now I do; I am sad to say that now that I know the truth behind the infamous Twinkie, I cannot shield my eyes anymore.

Why is it that so many kids associate childhood with unhealthy foods such as Twinkies?  You don’t normally hear of adults saying that their favorite food is a Twinkie.  Marketing campaigns targeting children is one of the contributing factors is the media.    Food commercials are geared towards  children, and the timing of the commercials are at commons television viewing times of children.

One might guess that this slice of heaven couldn’t contain more than a few ingredients.  WRONG. Try 39 ingredients for each small cake.  And these ingredients are not any that you can find in your average kitchen.  One way to explain the ingredients in a Twinkie is, take a fake Coach purse.  If it is a really good fake, you can’t tell the difference between that one and the real Coach purse.  The same goes for the Twinkie ingredients.  Since eggs, milk, and other perishable ingredients cannot be used in Twinkies, for that would deter and defeat the purpose of the seemingly endless shelf life of the cake, other ingredients must be used to mimic the real ingredients.

Personally, I find this disgusting, and I cannot believe that children are consuming this artificial food.  Parents need to start teaching their kids at an earlier age about nutrition and how to eat healthy.  There are numerous websites that offer great tips for making nutritious, fun meals for kids.  It can be done, everyone!

–Tess H.

Sometimes this is “balanced”. by Dave Dunn
July 10, 2009, 11:43 am
Filed under: Energy + Climate, J840 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

scale I came home one night after the 10 o’clock news feeling good about the story I did, feeling like “I did my job”. It was a story about a complex and heated issue, each side got equal time, it was unbiased and balanced. But I knew the majority of people supported one side, including me…so did I do my job?

The story wasn’t about global warming, but it’s similar in that it’s also a complex and heated issue. (ha ha!) As noted in the AEVS Survey, while there is general consensus among the science community that global warming is real and about certain causes and potential effects, there are still some skeptics. But let’s say the ratio is 90-10. So to be objective and “balanced” in a news story dealing with global warming, should 10 percent go to skeptics and 90 percent to other side? Or maybe more considering the AEVS shows most Americans believe global warming is happening and are concerned about it? It definitely shouldn’t be 50-50, right?

I believe Journalists trying to pinpoint the weight/air-time/print-space to give each side can be a slippery slope. If you agree with John Merrill, that journalists are essentially nothing more than Circus Clowns, it’s asking for disaster. But as Iggers points out, journalists don’t get hired without experience and degrees in larger markets (like top 60 for TV, and of course–national networks & publications). And I believe in most cases these journalists are more, maybe not objective, but FAIR in storytelling. (I don’t know if there can be true objectivity across the board in journalism, unless we’re all robots or something.)

Thinking about advocacy journalism, if allowed whenever and wherever, news might as well turn into opinion (and/or blogs). But it may be more acceptable on environmental issues. I mean, who can argue that trashing the environment is a good thing? There may be a trade-off socially, economically, jobs, etc. And I think the other side needs to be acknowledged, but doesn’t have to get equal time. Advocacy journalism about the environment could be seen as just doing a good thing.

But as I go forward, if it’s known that the majority of people are on one side of any issue, I like it to get the majority of coverage. Is that advocacy journalism, or just fair and “balanced”?

-Dave D.

Does rise in new media change objectivity in traditional journalism? by jenniferedw
July 8, 2009, 7:49 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

I believe most journalists do strive to be objective. However, I wonder if the changing landscape of the media has made an impact on the way “traditional” journalists report the news.

The ways people find and read news are changing as technology progresses. Will this eventually lead to a change in the way traditional journalists cover news?

The ways people find and read news are changing as technology progresses. Will this eventually lead to a change in the way traditional journalists cover news?

During the past couple of years, the emergence of blogs and other similar internet communication functions has made it seem that anyone with knowledge about how to use these types of tools, and an opinion about any issue to share with others, can become a journalist in a sense. As bloggers have built audiences and new technology has changed the way people communicate, traditional journalism seems to be struggling. At wordpress.com, there are more than 205,000 bloggers, but less people are taking time to read a traditional newspaper or watch a traditional evening newscast. Instead people are finding news online when they want it and from a variety of traditional and non-traditional sources. This new behavior seems to be leading to layoffs at newspapers across the country while driving down profits at media companies.

As the pool of traditional journalists becomes smaller, they will be more stretched to cover a variety of topics, as opposed to in the past, when they may have been able to specialize in specific areas or beats. As they have less time to spend researching topics or gathering their own data, I wonder if it will become harder and harder to be objective and not be swayed by packaged data and messages from external sources, such as special interest groups — which represent the views of their own clients. In turn, because the traditional journalists likely work for still-well-respected news sources, they may set the tone about an issue for readers, bloggers, etc., who in turn perpetuate that message.

I’ve never worked as a journalist — this is only my perception about the ways the industry seems to be changing. I’m curious to hear from others who have worked directly within the industry, to see if this perception is true.

-Jennifer E.

A little Black & Blue makes Green by Dave Dunn
June 26, 2009, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Energy + Climate, J840 Week 2, Society + Media | Tags: , ,

I slightly wince at my computer screen as I type in the darkness of my lower level.  My lights are off in an effort to conserve energy and I’m downstairs because it’s the coolest place in the house.  A bead of sweat nearly develops on my brow as my thermostat’s set higher in another eco-friendly effort.  I believe a little “Black & Blue”, like a bruise, to your daily living habits and/or to your wallet are necessary for considering oneself as being “Green”.no pain no gain

Becoming “Green” may be like the old saying, “No pain, no gain.”  Rather than environmental efforts that are simply a by-product of convenience or saving money in the short-term, real environmental action must include sacrifices both financially and socially.

As an example of sacrifices, in a radio interview on the “Brian Lehrer Show” (4/20/2007), NY Times Columnist Thomas Freedman talked about rising the price of oil for 5 years. He said while it would produce short-term financial pain for consumers, it would force the development of energy alternatives, which would eventually drive down the price of oil for good.  Freedman’s key to Environmentalism on a larger scale is higher governmental standards.  And he said higher standards will drive innovation, and innovation will drive green (and green will drive to long-term financial savings and more jobs).

On an individual level, I think being green is holding oneself to higher standards, and to do that includes lowering ones “standard” of living.   With all the confusing and contradictory messages on living green as reported in the New York Times article (“That Buzz in Your Ear Might Be Green Noise”), I believe sacrifice is a big part of determining what is, and what is not, green.

-Dave D.

Conscious effort needed to be green by jenniferedw
June 25, 2009, 6:25 pm
Filed under: J840 Week 2, Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , ,

While many people want to consider themselves green, after attending last weekend’s class and reviewing this week’s readings, I think it’s extremely difficult to define exactly what that means. In addition, being completely green in today’s world is very difficult and requires a concentrated effort.

A screen shot of the simplesteps.org link where visitors can sign a petition to make pet products safer.

A screen shot of the simplesteps.org link where visitors can sign a petition to make pet products safer.

I think someone who has the intent to make a conscious effort to help the environment, and takes action to built on that intent, can be considered green. Several readings and video/audio from this week mentioned that the environment is such a big issue that is seems overwhelming for people to try and fix. A google.com search of “green” produced more than 812 million results, and many of those sites contain information and tips for living a more environmentally-friendly life. While it’s great to have some much information at your fingertips, this can be overwhelming, as we discussed last week in class.

Another complication is media reports make it seem that if individuals or families don’t make huge life changes, they’re not really making an impact — for example, the man that appeared on The Colbert Report clip we viewed. That could turn people off and make them think there’s no point in even bothering. However, if individuals can do some simple things that work for their family — switching to all-natural cleaning products, changing light bulbs, using less plastic, etc., they will be making an impact. Even if it’s a small impact, they’re still taking some sort of action.

I really liked the simple, incremental steps presented on the Simple Steps site (which I accessed through the link in our reading from The New York Times). I signed up for their daily e-mail tips, so I’m interested to see how they’re presented in the coming days. I also liked the way this site was organized and the ease with which I could sign a petition about chemicals in pet products (I signed up right away).

Overall, I think that someone who has made a concerted effort on environmental issues can consider themselves green — as long as they recognize that they have to continue taking action and being aware in order to do so.

-Jennifer E.