Racial Bias Regarding Crime In The Media: Breaking Down The People vs Rashaun Weaver and Gregory and Travis McMichael vs The State of Georgia

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A graphic of the vast difference in coverage of race in the media. Photo credit to EJI.

Bias in the news is not a new concept for media moguls. Since the inception of media and its massive use in the technological era more than ever, bias has affected numerous groups. Racial bias being one of the top problems in the media. Looking at the coverage of crime in the media particularly, we can see the bias the media shows against particular races.

Their are thousands even millions of examples you could choose to look at for racial bias in media. “Mugshots were used in coverage of 45% of cases involving Black people accused of crimes compared to only 8% of cases involving white defendants”.(Equal Justice Initiative)

Looking at and comparing two different court cases, the Ahmaud Arbery murder by the Mcmichael family(https://www.npr.org/2021/11/24/1058240388/ahmaud-arbery-murder-trial-verdict-travis-greg-mcmichael) and the Tessa Majors murder by Rashaun Weaver(https://abc7ny.com/tessa-majors-rashaun-weaver-barnard-student-murder-sentencing/11487509/) . Both these cases were heinous crimes in which both lives did not deserve to be lost.

In each case the bias reporting on each was beyond apparent. In the case of the McMichaels, they were shown in suits versus Weaver who was shown in handcuffs in almost every news articles. The disparity between each is shown in almost every article and can be seen by just a simple search of each of the cases.

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Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael, and William Bryan pictured above in suits at court after murder of Ahmaud Arbery. Photo credit to NPR.
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Rashaun Weaver pictured above being ushered into court in handcuffs and a sweatsuit after murder of Tessa Majors. Photo credit to New York Post.

A study also looked at numerous things such as language use, imagery, framing of victim among many other topics.(Study by GSG 2021) An interesting finding was that, “Media coverage was 50% more likely to refer to white defendants by name as compared to Black defendants.” (EQI 2021) This related directly to the cases looked at as Tessa Majors was named more than her assailant Rashaun Weaver whereas the McMichaels were named much more often and at the top of articles more frequently than Ahmaud Arbery was.

In each of the articles linked you can find a victim impact statement for one of the cases, while the other expresses remorse there is no such statement. “This is a victim impact statement. The victim is Tess Majors. Tess Majors cannot say how being murdered impacted her because she is dead” is found at the end of the article written on the Rashaun Weaver murder. In the case of the McMichaels, Arbery is given no such tribute.

Language also played a major role in creating a narrative for each story. The McMichaels were praised in some articles for trying to “protect their community” and their lawyers even used that as an excuse for the crime. The Rashaun Weaver reports discussed more of the “anguish of losing a child” according to Tessa Majors parents. It was also mentioned that Weaver was said to be part of a “”symptom” of a broken system of repeated incarceration.” His father and other role models had been imprisoned.

Racial bias is an obvious problem in the media. Although it seems to have attention being brought to it and solutions are on the way, the issue still plagues many media outlets and reporters across the nation.

There were numerous instances of bias reporting on the George Floyd situation. Even for outlets like Fox News and CNN the bias could not escape them. “News outlets that are traditionally seen as politically conservative are notably more likely to use language about “looting” and “rioting” and less likely to mention racism and police brutality.” (Signal Ai 2020)

With racial bias still fragmenting the media, solutions have to come to solve the dicey problem. Do these solutions come from the reporters? The editors? The directors? The general public? Does it take standing up or is it an entire systematic change? Whatever it takes it has to come soon and become a massive turn for all of media.

Written by Michael DelloStritto

Sports Journalism and a Lack of Empathy

Written by: Anthony Russo

Triston Casas at Fenway Park

During ESPN’s Mother’s Day broadcast of the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals, Red Sox rookie Triston Casas was asked about his deceased mother in front of a live audience. It is normal for professional athletes to be subject to questions from the media, it’s part of the job description. But there is a time and place for certain questions, and some that should never be asked at all. 

Since the 2017 season, ESPN has been conducting live in-game interviews during their broadcasts. In these interviews, “mic’d up” players are shown on a split screen with the game action on the other half of the monitor. To fans this is a way to see another side of their favorite players as they speak somewhat candidly in the heat of the game. These interviews have been quite popular for ESPN, leading to their continued usage. However, a problem arises when the questions asked by an ESPN broadcaster are too personal, as the player literally has nowhere to hide.

Triston Casas being interviewed live by Karl Ravech 

This is exactly what Triston Casas experienced on May 14th, 2023 when ESPN reporter Karl Ravech was conducting a live interview. In the top of the 3rd inning, Ravech asked Casas, “I know your mom passed away when you were young. What does Mother’s Day mean to you and your brother?” Not only is this a completely inappropriate question to ask an athlete, it had been asked while Casas was actively playing the sport on live television. Not to mention that it was Mother’s Day, a likely triggering day for a person who has lost their own mother. 

This is a complete ethical failure on ESPN’s part. Not only did they put a young athlete in a difficult position, they did so live in front of their entire audience. Such a miscalculation could genuinely affect the outcome of the sporting event itself. Had Casas not been able to impressively shake off the question in real time, he could have been mentally affected causing a potential error in his play. The job of a sports broadcaster should be to cover the sport and entertain the audience, while never having an impact on the outcome of the game itself.

Triston Casas catching a baseball mid-game

The fact that Ravech asked this question at this or any time is utterly shocking. In an age where the mental health of an athlete is finally being treated with the respect and care it deserves, there is no space to put young athletes in potentially traumatic situations such as this. I believe this irregardless of Casas’s ability to control and answer his question. The truth is, Casas should simply not have been in that position in the first place, it is unacceptable.

Thankfully, Casas was composed enough to give an intelligent and optimistic answer to Ravech’s out of line question. When asked about his deceased mother, Casas said, “What happened was unfortunate to me, but I have so many mother figures in my life…Whether they have my last name or whether they don’t, I have so much support from everybody in and around my circle that I don’t even feel I missed out on anything.” At the very least, it seems he is at peace with this loss, and able to look on the brighter side of things. While this was certainly a lucky break for Ravech, it does not mean he should get a pass on such a blunder. 

Unfortunately, a lack of empathy in sports journalism is nothing new. At least in the instance of Casas and Ravesh, I am willing to give Ravesh the benefit of the doubt. While I cannot understand why he asked that question then and there, I do not believe there was any mallace behind him asking it. I cannot say that for every instance of sports journalism insensitivity. There are several occasions where reporters ask players questions with the hope of creating an amplified response.

An example of this happened just recently to NBA champion and all around good guy Giannis Antetokounmpo. Nicknamed “The Greek Freak” for his incredible basketball ability, Giannis had led his 2022/23 Milwaukee Bucks to the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. This was no surprise, as the Bucks were coming off their NBA championship victory from just two years prior. The surprise came when this top seeded Bucks team fell quickly to the Miami Heat, who were the lowest seed in the Eastern Conference.

Giannis Antetokounmpo holding the Bill Russel NBA Finals MVP award after winning the Finals (2021)

While it is always a shock to see a 1 seed lose to the 8th seed team, the Miami Heat were no slouches. Their own ‘freak’ Jimmy Butler had led the Heat all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2 of the last 3 years. But it seems that in sports no matter how well you play, there will always be media backlash for the losing team

Immediately following the Bucks’ Game 5 loss to the Heat on April 26, 2023, Giannis sat down in front of the media as he does after every game. That is when Eric Nehm, a reporter for The Athletic, asked Giannis if he viewed this season as a “failure”. This is yet another inconsiderate question asked at a sensitive time (minutes after his season ended). Not only is this insensitive, but it is clear that Nehm is hoping to receive something “newsworthy” as a reply. Will Giannis maybe: bash his teammates, trash talk the coach, blame the home crowd, or possibly even yell at the reporter for asking? All of these would make great headlines for Nehm, as these are the kind of responses that sports journalists dream of.

Giannis at the Game 5 post-game press conference

But like Casas, Giannis handled this egregious question with class and positivity. Giannis actually spoke for 2 full minutes in response to Nehm. There are a lot of great quotes to take from Giannis’s response such as, “it is not a failure, it’s steps to success” and, “there is no failure in sports…some days you are able to be successful, some days you are not.” Giannis was able to keep a hold of his temper despite appearing physically flustered by what he considered to be a “wrong” question asked by Nehm.

Giannis’s admirable response to this question goes to show why he is such a beloved figure in the sports world. That being said, he should not have been in a position where he needed to impress everyone with his level-headedness in the face of unethical/rude reporting. Athletes that are both good players and good people like Casas and Giannis should not be subjected to dealing with this level of negativity and disdain in order to play the games they love.

Mental health is extremely important for everyone, not just athletes. I am glad to see the importance of mental health is beginning to be accounted for in the sports world. Hopefully this can translate to the world of sports journalism as well. If it were up to me, I would require both Karl Ravech and Eric Nehm to attend sensitivity training courses in order to maintain their current positions. 

The Struggle of Artists Trying to Leave Their Record Labels.

Written By: Kiera Foley

Throughout time there have been lawsuits in the music industry that have caused a lot of buzz but one case that has lasted over five years and may be one of the biggest cases is singer and songwriter Kesha’s legal fight against her old producer Dr. Luke.

Kesha, pictured on the left and Lukasz Gottwald “Dr. Luke” On the right

In 2005 Kesha who was eighteen met Dr. Luke as she was trying to find her way in the music industry. Kesha has stated that at a party with Dr. Luke she believed she had been drugged and assaulted as she woke up the next morning in Dr. Lukes hotel room. She stated that at the time she did not want to be known for what happened and that she just wanted to “Sing and get her music out” . By 2006 she was then signed to Dr. Lukes label but has not released any music.

When looking at this case we can start to see a pattern of power roles being used. There are many cases in music where women are being held in music contracts that are viewed as predatory. For instance if you look at Doja Cat who is currently working with Dr. Luke there is a lot of speculation that she is in the same shoes as Kesha was. When looking at this case or any case there is a media ethics that you need to see. For instance in this case I think of the Confucius Golden Mean which says that moral virtue is the appropriate location between two extremes. Clearly in this case Dr. Luke, Sony and other record labels are morally and ethically wrong here. By forcing a young women to stay at a label that is abusing her.

Flash forward to 2012 Kesha is still signed under Dr. Lukes label and it is made clear that she has no creative say when it comes to her music. While this is major because every artist that is signed to a label should be making the creative decisions when it comes to their music they are putting out. It is known in the music industry that a lot of the times managers and producers will try to shape these artists into something that they may not agree with. In 2014 Kesha checked herself into a rehab facility to get help for her eating disorder that she says was caused by Dr. Luke encouraging her to loose weight. While she is in the facility it is said that she admits to doctors there that Luke has been physically, mentally and emotionally abusing and manipulating her for years.

Then on October 14th, 2014 Keshas lawsuit against Dr. Luke hits the press. In her lawsuit she requests to be let go and released from her record deal with Dr. Luke due to years of feeling suffocated and being at the hand of years of mental, physical and emotional abuse by Dr. Luke. Now when this hit headlines people had many different opinions about the case. To most they agreed that Kesha should be able to leave the record label after all the abuse she had endured for years. But to others she was under contract and she had to wait that out until moving to another label or getting new management. But if she waited out her contract with Dr. Luke she could either be wasting years of potential creating new music or even be forced to create new music under someone like Dr. Luke. That same day Keshas lawsuit hit headlines Dr. Luke also filed a lawsuit against Kesha and her mother for defamation.

While waiting for trial Sony who was Keshas parent label speaks out and says that they believe the entire reason Kesha is doing this is to try and renegotiate her contracts. Sony said this in regards to Kesha coming out and saying Sony knew all about Dr. Lukes abuse this entire time. Now not only is Sonys’ comment ignorant they are disregarding the years of abuse that Kesha had suffered at the hands of Dr. Luke that ended up with Kesha in rehab. This case at the time so far seemed like it was unethical and record labels and producers trying to save themselves and their money.

Kesha seen in court after New York judge refuses to free her from Dr. Lukes record Label

On February 19th of 2016 the New York Judge decides not to let Kesha leave Dr. Lukes record label. The judge stated that “There has been no showing of irreparable harm” and noted that Sony and Luke have allowed Kesha to record new music without the involvement of Dr. Luke. After the news had become public dozens of artists spoke out about how this is happening a lot more than you think in the music industry and that most people are not brave enough to speak up and go to court. Some of these artists include, Lady Gaga, Lorde, Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande. They spoke up using the hashtag #FreeKesha as they posted on their social media accounts talking about how the case unfolded. They also talked about how unethical it is to send someone like Kesha back to a record label that had abused her for years. This case was and still is one of the biggest cases of an artist trying to free themselves from a record label that abused them and used them for money and music. Overall the ruling of this case and how things were handled in the media and by Sony were unethical.

Living in the Dark: The PGA Tour Side of the Merger with LIV Golf

Written by: Nick Penkala

During the 2021 Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) Tour season a new golf league was created that at the time seemed to be out of thin air. LIV Golf League was created and backed by a Saudi Arabian investment group. LIV stands for the Roman numeral 54, which is the amount of golf holes they play during a tournament, compared to the PGA Tour who play 72. This is just one of a number of differences between the two tours. 

Famously, the PGA Tour is an individuals only tour. A golfer will go out with just him and his caddy to carry his bag and help him throughout his round. At the end of the round the only score that matters is the score that you put up that day. Tournaments are usually four rounds with a cut halfway through. The half that finished in the top half gets to move on to the weekend and play an additional two rounds. In the LIV Golf League, it is a team event. Every week the same teams compete against each other and the team with the best score after three days wins the week. 

(View of the 18th green at a LIV Golf event at the Centurion Club. Image credit Paul Childs/Action Images/Reuters https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/10/sport/liv-golf-tournament-explainer-spt-intl/index.html)

On Tuesday, June 6th morning it was announced that the PGA Tour along with LIV Golf and the DP World Tour would be merging, now what exactly does this all mean? First things first, all three organizations will work to try and figure out the best way to go about things. This means that for example, players that have been banned from the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour because they went to play on LIV can potentially come back and play on both of these tours. Nobody knows the parameters of the situation, but I could see a way that everyone is allowed to play where they want. The biggest and most concerning part of the merger is that the Public Investment Fund (which is Saudi Arabian backed and owns LIV Golf) will be an investor in the PGA Tour. This becomes an issue to fans of the PGA Tour because of the type of history the Saudia Arabian culture has towards specific groups of people. 

       Tweet from PGA Tour pro Collin Morikawa the morning the PGA Tour/LIV merger was announced. (Image was taken off of Collin Morikawa’s twitter page)

The morning that the merger news was announced, a number of PGA Tour pros took to Twitter, commenting on the fact that they were not notified by anyone prior to the news breaking. Above is a tweet from Collin Morikawa who is one of the best players in the world and a key piece to the PGA Tour landscape. PGA pro Mackenize Hughes also took to Twitter that morning saying “Nothing like finding out through Twitter that we’re merging with a tour that we said we’d never do that with.” These are just two of the countless members of the Tour to voice their opinion on Tuesday after not being told anything by their organization. 

I think that for the PGA Tour there is a larger issue at hand here. Obviously, allowing an investment from a shady partner is not good, but then doing it and not telling any of your major stakeholders is a massive problem. It is still extremely early in the news cycle for this story, but I would not be surprised if some members refused to play because of this or sued the Tour because they are not happy about how they handled things. I think that the PGA Tour is completely in the wrong in this situation.

The players have every right to know what is going on, especially something of this magnitude.  Ethically it is incorrect for the Tour to not at least let people know there is a conversation going on. I think that the PGA Tour is going to get heat for a long time regarding how they handled this situation. I feel as though this is not the precedent they want to be setting.

The Responsibilities and Mistakes being made in Influencer Marketing

By: Amelia Groothuis

Influencer marketing is a powerful tool that brands use to reach their target audience. By partnering with social media influencers, companies can engage with their followers and create a unique connection with their target market. However, there are responsibilities that come with influencer marketing, and mistakes can be made if these responsibilities are not taken seriously.

This picture depicts what can be going through an influencer’s mind. Found on Pixabay

One of the biggest responsibilities of influencer marketing is transparency. Influencers must be transparent with their followers about their partnerships with brands. This means they should disclose when they are being paid to promote a product or service. This is not only ethical but it is also required by law in many countries. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States requires influencers to disclose their partnerships with brands, and failure to do so can result in fines. “If you endorse a product through social media, your endorsement message should make it obvious when you have a relationship (“material connection”) with the brand. A “material connection” to the brand includes a personal, family, or employment relationship or a financial relationship – such as the brand paying you or giving you free or discounted products or services…As an influencer, it’s your responsibility to make these disclosures, to be familiar with the Endorsement Guides, and to comply with laws against deceptive ads. Don’t rely on others to do it for you.” This makes for the best communication all around for brands, customers, and influencers, as it’s best to be as clear as possible when doing paid endorsements.

Authenticity is an additional responsibility of influencer marketing. Influencers should only support goods and services in which they firmly believe. They run the danger of losing the confidence of their followers if they promote something they don’t genuinely enjoy or use. Additionally, this can hurt the reputation of the brand they are advertising. The reputation of the company could be jeopardized if the influencer’s followers learn that they don’t genuinely enjoy the product. Making clear standards is yet another error. Influencers should get clear instructions from brands on what they are expected to promote, how they are expected to do so, and the ultimate objective. The influencer could not provide what they were looking for if they don’t set clear expectations, which can lead to a campaign’s failure. 

“Authenticity is essential in influencer marketing. People listen to influencers who are honest and relatable. In addition to the moral problems I mentioned above, brands and influencers must also follow FTC rules, community guidelines and terms of service on social media platforms.”(Forbes)

In addition to these obligations, influencer marketing also carries the risk of errors. Not conducting enough research on the influencer is one of the worst errors. Brands should ensure the influencer they are working with shares their values and appeals to their target audience. They should confirm that the influencer’s followers are real and look into the influencer’s engagement rates. They run the danger of misusing their marketing investment if they collaborate with an influencer who has fake followers or low interaction rates. Not assessing the campaign’s success is another error. To determine whether their influencer marketing initiatives are successful and meeting their objectives, brands should monitor the results. This involves keeping tabs on sales, online traffic, and engagement rates. They won’t know whether they are receiving a return on their investment if they don’t evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts.   

An example of an influencer not following the FTC guidelines is Kylie Jenner. As talked about in the article Truth in Advertising, how Kylie Jenner promoted Vlada Haggerty and didn’t make clear whether it was an ad a shoutout a paid promotion, or what it was, you’ll see her exact Instagram post which the caption is only a sentence long. She’s telling her followers to check out their makeup but is not communicating what the goal of this picture is whatsoever. This endorsement by Kylie broke the FTC guidelines, linked here. She is misleading her followers about the relationship she has with this brand as well, she’s directing her followers in a certain direction but with no explanation for anything.

From article in Truth in Advertising

In another Instagram post, Kylie Jenner then posts the picture you see below, and this made Haggerty upset because it’s very similar to her work and social media posts, which is now violating other guidelines since this is not Kylie’s work. Their connection to each other wasn’t disclosed and these two companies aren’t usual collaborators, even so, Kylie did not give credit where it was due and this made Haggerty upset. “Haggerty objected to Jenner’s Instagram for the Kylie Cosmetics holiday collection that had featured the gold hands saying it was too similar to Haggerty’s work. She had previously called Jenner out for another Instagram depicting cosmetics images that touched on similar themes as her own. Haggerty reportedly turned to legal counsel and threatened to sue for copyright infringement.” After breaking the FTC guidelines, now Jenner is being accused of copyright infringement which is a whole other way of her not being ethical on social media and her business. After this dispute, Kylie had finally given credit where it was due, and the issue was resolved between the two companies.

From article in Truth in Advertising

These ethical responsibilities can tend to be forgotten, even by major celebrities who are navigating the influencer world. The FTC does a great job of outlining the rules and regulations to ethically be able to abide by what is right to do when influencers have the opportunity to do endorsements with brands. In conclusion, influencers need to make sure that they are brushed up on these guidelines so as to not face punishments and or break relationships with brands and followers due to a mistake. 

Marvel/Disney Have Lost the Plot

As if their billion dollars of profits weren’t enough, Marvel’s greed resembles that of the greedy, power-hungry villains seen in their films. While their wallets grow, they have little interest in sharing such with artists who helped them get to where they are today.

Back in 2021, Disney/Marvel sued artists and their estates to avoid the copyright notices they received from artists who worked to create characters such as Spider-Man and Iron Man. Watching characters they created carrying home bags full of money to Marvel and Disney, hard working artists who put their heart and soul into their work felt like they weren’t getting the appreciation they deserve.

According to Brooks Barnes, writer at the New York Times, “Marc Toberoff, served Marvel Entertainment, which Disney owns, with notices of copyright termination on behalf of five clients.”. Such clients include iconic artist Steve Ditko and brother of comic book icon Stan Lee, Lawrence D. Lieber. The other clients noted in the article are the children of Don Rico and Gene Colan, as well as artist Don Heck.

Steve Ditko, comic book artist, co-creator of Spider-Man and many other iconic Marvel characters. Credit: The Guardian.

Though they created these characters, the cases were ruled invalid due to the artists and writers working under Marvel’s umbrella. As a member of Disney’s legal team Mr. Petrocelli told New York Times “Since these were works made for hire and thus owned by Marvel, we filed these lawsuits to confirm that the termination notices are invalid and of no legal effect,”.

Work for hire works under the basis that because at the time these artists and writers were creating characters for Marvel comic books, they were in essence doing what they were hired to do. Meaning that ownership does not remain with the creator but with the company they worked for. Therefore, rendering them unable to reclaim rights to characters no matter if they created them. As long as their works are categorized as “work for hire”, then Marvel will continue to hold such rights.

“Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier”..Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan)..Ph: Zade Rosenthal..© 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Adding salt to the wound in terms of public opinion, a report about Marvel Studios’ treatment of such creators was released around the same time as these legal cases. Comic book writer Ed Brubaker went on a tangent about how Marvel Studios credits their creators when the show Falcon and the Winter Soldier aired on the streaming platform Disney+. Brubaker confessed his problems with not receiving the credit he feels he deserves in a newsletter included in a Screen Rant article written by Fareid El Gafy “…for the most part all Steve Epting and I have gotten for creating the Winter Soldier and his storyline is a “thanks” here or there, and over the years that’s become harder and harder to live with.”. Though he expresses his love for the people at Marvel Studios and the actors involved, Brubaker seemingly doesn’t feel himself and artist Epting gets the credit for the characters, and rightfully so.

Just a few months after Brubaker expressed his opinion on the matter, another article dropped on The Guardian written by Sam Thielman. It details a report revealing what exactly these artists receive for their comic book stories/characters being adapted onto the big screen, and the return is quite laughable. According to multiple sources unnamed by The Guardian, Marvel and DC have a track record of sending out $5,000 checks and an invitation to the premiere, if anything at all. Considering these movies are making billions of dollars using characters that never existed before these artists created them, paving the way for Marvel to turn these brilliant stories into multi-billion dollar films. Imagine watching from the sidelines as a multi-billion dollar company basks in the fruits of your labor, or as fans celebrate a character that a brilliant artist put time and effort into creating only for them to be forgotten as the character peaks in popularity.

An unnamed source spoke to The Guardian, telling them “I’ve been offered a [special character contract] that was really, really terrible, but it was that or nothing,” says one Marvel creator who asked not to be named. “And then instead of honoring it, they send a thank you note and are like, ‘Here’s some money we don’t owe you!’ and it’s five grand. And you’re like, ‘The movie made a billion dollars.’”. These character contracts are not easy to get from Marvel, but they give creators extra returns on certain characters if they qualify. Though if Marvel or DC are making these qualifications then it’s doubtful that many characters will meet their qualifications.

Amidst a current Writer’s strike within Hollywood, this is yet another reminder of the work that studios seem to conveniently forget and fail to give creators the recognition they deserve. Marvel has led the way in comic book films with their unprecedented success at the box office, and it is unfortunate that the studios tend to dismiss the work that led them to this point. As the saying goes “Don’t forget where you came from”, and Marvel as well as DC has turned its back on the people that built the streets for them to drive upon. Hold out hope for better treatment of creators who helped bring you characters that may have been introduced to you through the big screen, but have existed for much longer. Let’s not let the work these writers and artists have put in go unnoticed, and let’s not let them be forgotten.

Written by: Scott Falzano

(The cover image used in this article is the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #50, written by Stan Lee and drawn by John Romita and Sam Rosen. Image found on Marvel’s website.)

Unleashing the Dark Side: AI’s Role in the Criminal Web of Fake News

written by Goldera Surles

A meme of Abraham Lincoln featured on CivilWarTalk.
Don’t believe everything you read online just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it – Abraham Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln said it himself: don’t believe everything you read online just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it. Our former president may not have said that statement either, but the truth remains. Amidst the world of honest journalism is the dark web of fake news, and artificial intelligence is at its forefront.

A canva photo created by me as a depiction of news joining the dark web.

Fake news consists of false or misleading news reports developed to misinform or deceive readers. Fake news can come in various forms, including news articles or political memes on social media platforms. While some types of this news can be hilarious, it can also damage an organization’s or a person’s reputation. According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 94% of participating journalists expressed how fake news stories and information are an enormous concern in America. 

That concern stems from more than just humans because AI (artificial intelligence) can contribute to misleading news. Real-time information company AppliedXL’s co-founder Francesco Marconi stated in part of an article that there were many examples of news publishers automating content in the world today. As mentioned by one of its senior journalists, the company Reuters uses the Reuters News Tracer as an AI filter that verifies information about events that might be newsworthy. Agence France-Presse, a French international news agency, utilizes the AFP Transcriber, which also incorporates artificial intelligence in voice recognition.

While AI appears to be a potent tool for battling inaccurate information and enhancing local news, The Guardian editor Ian Tucker broke down his feelings about chatbots. He states they have a reputation for manufacturing truth and inventing sources. When I tried to fact-check something using ChatGPT, an AI chatbot developed by OpenAI, the bot suggested inaccurate information. AI can become an unreliable source of facts for reporters. The integration of journalism and artificial intelligence can confuse journalists worldwide.

The police search the suspect’s apartment in Dongguan in the Chinese province of Guangdong.

There is also a dark side to AI emerging as a formidable threat to the truth of journalism. The potential for its misuse is becoming more evident as individuals harness its capabilities to orchestrate immoral criminal activities. A CNN Business article unfolded a story regarding the detainment of a man in China who utilized AI to spread online rumors. The suspect used ChatGPT to fabricate a news report about a train crash, which he later uploaded online intending to acquire revenue.

From an ethical standpoint, this man’s decision defied John Stuart Mill’s principles of utility. According to the book “Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning,” the crucial point of this principle is that the best way to distinguish right from wrong is to produce the greatest amount of good or happiness (20). The specifics of the provided news report failed to promote the most happiness as there is sensitivity regarding the topic. That painful underlying reason for its susceptibility is authorities were under pressure to explain why state media failed to react appropriately to a bullet train collision that killed 40 people in Wenzhou in 2011. The Chinese man immorally used AI to create and disseminate misinformation, which led to the alteration and harm of public opinion.

A photo created for the Christian Science Monitor.
Is AI a peril to journalism?

With this arrest being one of the earliest criminal cases involving an AI chatbot in the nation, a pressing question arises: Is AI a peril to journalism? The ethical integrity of journalism hangs in the balance of AI as a news supplement. The case of the man in China depicts how the intricate web of AI-generated fake news and its implications affect the credibility of journalism. Although AI is not inherently unethical, decisions made by those who use it unjustly can have significant consequences.

AI has had a profoundly transformational effect on the news industry. Its capabilities include large-scale data analysis, automated content creation, and personalized news distribution. To preserve the integrity of journalism, journalists, news organizations, and technology developers must play a vital role. Journalists and reporters should stick to the old-fashioned way of developing news stories to protect the future of journalism. AI-generated news stories are not the most factual. The continuous use of this software will destroy the beacon of truth in journalism. They should uphold the principles of honesty and transparency within their reports and consider the broader moral implications of their actions on society. Journalism must remain a force for truth, enlightenment, and human welfare in the face of the dark side of technology.

How would you like scripts to be written?

“There’s absolutely nothing mini about mini rooms. The only thing mini about it is our pay.”

– Anonymous WGA member about the May 2, 2023 strike, from IndieWire

Are you excited to watch the next season of your favorite television show? If so, it may be time to start rethinking that excitement because you will be waiting longer than expected. On May 2, 2023 the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) began their strike to change open issues within their negotiation deals. There is no question that devastating effects for writers, the industry, and the economy can become possible. If anyone has ever participated in a strike they know that it is about the long-term gains. When beginning this process the painful short-term effects of not engaging in work will prove to be worth it. Strikes can take weeks or months to end, but overtime those on the opposite side will be motivated to make concessions. In this case writers will be rewarded in their negotiations. For over one month now writers have been striking primarily in California and New York in the fight to protect their livable wages (Holmes, 2023).

Writers in front of Netflix on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, California on May 2, 2023. Image by Frederic J. Brown | Afp | Getty Images

If you visit any production company or studio right now you will see hundreds of writers outside with picket signs showcasing their messages. The last time the WGA went on strike was in 2007 before streaming services were fully evolved. It meant that the writers were not able to include them into negotiations as they normally do every time distribution technology changes occur. Now 16 years later television has seen an explosion of streaming platforms. This means more writers are having to do work that pays worse and is less secure. A key issue of the current strike sits with the numerous streaming services as they are continuously pumping out content (Thurm, 2023). Recently streamers have been using a controversial practice that goes about shrinking writers rooms called mini rooms. Traditionally a room will include seven or more writers depending on the series, however mini rooms have only a handful for a shorter period of time. Essentially streamers are hiring writer’s to ‘break’ the story, meaning they are structuring the season and breaking it down. Rather than being paid normal fees the writers are being paid union minimum for a short time on payroll. Despite the shorter time and lower wage these writers are still doing a heavy load of work. Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin stated his thoughts on getting rid of mini rooms, “The right to have that kind of career path. To enable new writers, young writers, and yes, prose writers, to climb the same ladder… Streamers and shortened seasons have blown the ladder to splinters,” (Shanfeld, 2023). Streaming services are creating a system that allows them to produce less episodes in a season for a fraction of the price. The writers are being disrespected because they are being treated as gig writers rather than part of a possibly successful and long lasting show (Chappell, 2023).

As streaming services continue to disrupt the cycle of television shows with their shortened seasons, the duration of employment has become a large concern for writers. The strike is aiming to achieve a minimum terms of employment on television engagements. The goal is 10 consecutive weeks of work in addition to protections for staff writing rooms. Writers are being taken advantage of by the streamers who are engaging them for smaller guaranteed duration’s while insisting exclusivity. In other words they want to be the writers first-priority beyond the guaranteed periods, meaning they are being prohibited from finding other positions. Not only are these writers being paid less than they deserve, but they are not able to find additional employment during the gray windows. It is contributing to their instability while working on temporary scripts. The writers have demanded streamers begin to pay additional residuals that are based on viewership and improve the residuals for high budget advertising-based video on demand television. Unfortunately the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), whom they are striking against, rejected the demand without providing a counter proposal. Streamers have been secretive with their data of viewership, engagement, and the value of specific pieces of content leading to a lack of measurable formulas. Without a proper way to measure the success of shows on these platforms the AMPTP cannot convey a way of measuring the residuals. For these reasons it is extremely important for the WGA to win this fight. The protection of a minimum work period and additional compensation is essential in being able to make a livable wage (Ramo, 2023).

Writers outside the Peacock NewFront, New York City on May 2, 2023. Image by Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images

As writers continue their fight for better contracts many are joining in the action. Outside Culver City’s institutions on May 5, 2023 Jeopardy writer Michele Loud stated, “Our words are on the screen every night. There is no ‘Jeopardy’ without writers. Without us it’s just an empty blue screen,” (Earl, 2023). Brett Goldstein actor from Ted Lasso and writer of Shrinking, both Apple TV+ original shows, told Collider, “It’s time the writers were paid a fair wage. There are writers who are struggling to afford to live, and in our business, we need writers,” (McPherson, 2023). Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Sarah Hyland, and Nolan Gould from the television show Modern Family reunited with their writers on June 1, 2023 to support the mission. Ferguson stated on Instagram, “Modern Family wouldn’t have lasted 11 episodes…much less 11 YEARS without the incredible work of our writers. It was so wonderful reuniting with the @modernfamily cast, crew, and WRITERS today to show that we are all #wgastrong!”

With the continuous support from actors and filmmakers the strike has been in the media everyday. The clever written signs and celebrity appearances has led to the writers winning the current PR war. It has been a long process, however the WGA are not planning on giving up anytime soon. Television shows and movies will continue to suspend production until the strike can be resolved. In the end the goal is for the writers to get what they rightly deserve in the career that they love.” (Saperstein, 2023).

(Top) Actors Sarah Hyland and Jesse Tyler Ferguson with the writers from their television show Modern Family at the WGA strike on June 1, 2023. Image from @sarahhyland | Instagram (Bottom) The cast of Apple TV+ original Ted Lasso supporting the WGA strike on May 30, 2023. Image from @carolinerenard_ | Twitter

Written by Kirstin Trouville

Chappell, B. (2023, May 3). From Mini Rooms to streaming, things have changed since the last big writers strike. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2023/05/03/1173439467/writers-guild-strike-2023-comparison-2007 

Earl, W. (2023, 6 May 6). Week 1 of WGA Strike — ‘Jeopardy!’ Writers Answer Questions: ‘Without Us It’s Just an Empty Blue Screen’. Variety. https://variety.com/2023/tv/news/wga-writers-speak-out-studios-execs-picket-line-1235601261/

Holmes, L. (2023, May 3). If you think a writers strike will be bad for viewers, status quo may be even worse. NPR. https://www.npr.org/2023/05/03/1173552824/what-writers-strike-means-for-viewers

McPherson, C. (2023, May 2). Elizabeth Olsen, Brett Goldstein, and More Hollywood Stars Offer Support to Striking Writers. Collider. https://collider.com/wga-writers-strike-celebrity-support/

Saperstein, P. (2023, May 16). Writers strike 2023: The celebrities who have picketed with WGA. Variety. https://variety.com/lists/writers-strike-2023-celebrities-picketing-wga/tina-fey-2/ 

Shanfeld, E. (2023, May 9). George R.R. Martin Calls Mini Rooms ‘Abominations’: ‘The WGA Needs to Win on That Issue’. Variety. https://variety.com/2023/tv/news/george-rr-martin-writers-strike-mini-rooms-1235607525/

Ramo, E. (2023, June 1). 3 challenges to overcome in the writers’ strike. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/elsaramo/2023/05/29/wga-strike-breaking-down-the-fight/?sh=2723cbee1de0 

Thurm, E. (2023, May 5). All about the writers strike: What does the WGA want and why are they fighting so hard for it?. GQ. https://www.gq.com/story/writers-strike-2023-wga-explained

The Kneel That Changed the World

By Jake Bencale

(Colin Kaepernick after a game against the Carolina Panthers in 2016. Image Credit: Gerry Melendez for ESPN)

Colin Kaepernick was a professional football player who played quarterback in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers. He was drafted in the second round with the 36th pick in the NFL draft and went on to play six seasons all with the 49ers. Kaepernick was one of the league’s young stars that grabbed the attention of viewers with his athleticism, size, and speed. He was known for not only throwing the football but also running it, this impressive combination led to him making a SuperBowl appearance in just his  second season in the league in 2012, as well as an NFC championship the following year in 2013.

He went on to sign a six year contract extension with San Francisco worth up to 126 million dollars in 2014, but his play slowly declined after this. He eventually lost his position as starting quarterback and became the backup to open the 2016 season. During the 2016 preseason though Kaepernick made headlines not only in the sports media world but the mainstream media as well.

In August of that year he took a knee while the America’s national anthem “The Star Spangled Banner” started to play before the football game commenced which has been a tradition in every sport for many years now. Kaepernick was questioned by reporters about why he was kneeling and he went on to say “There are bodies in the street… I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”. Kaepernick then continued on by saying “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” The 49ers released a statement that stayed neutral about the situation and said that it is an individual’s choice whether they choose to stand or kneel during the anthem. 

The sports media world targeted Kaepernick and attacked him quite heavily questioning his tactics to use the country’s national anthem to shine a light and spread awareness on the topic of police brutality and racial inequality. In an article from The Guardian by Bryan Armen Graham and Les Carpenter, they talk about how people in the sports media world as well as fans and prominent figures of the game are missing the entire point of his protests. at the begging of their article they talk about watching ESPN anchors debate with each other over Kaepernick’s protest and whether or not the way he went about it was correct. These analysts continued to discuss the military that is out protecting out country, and the veterans that have died while serving.

The one thing that was never discussed during the argument on ESPN, was the actual thing Colin Kaepernick was protesting about. Not once did any person bring up police brutality or racial inequality, the real reason for his protests, instead they made it about patriotism and how he was being unpatriotic and disrespectful to the country and those who protect it. People such as former NFL quarterback turned analyst Trent Dilfer, former NFL head coach Rex Ryan, and even the commissioner of the NFL Rodger Goodell all had something negative to say about what Kaepernick was doing at the time.

Dilfer tried to say he was overshadowing and hurting his team by protesting and that he should “be quiet and sit in the shadows” as a backup quarterback. Buffalo Bills head coach at the time Rex Ryan who did not name Kaepernick specifically said that he should look at the gifts we have as Americans thanks to the people serving the country, and standing for the national anthem is a way to show respect and show thanks to them. Finally, NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell is even quoted saying that he does not “necessarily agree with what he is doing”.

(Colin Kaepernick kneeling during a game in 2016 with the San Francisco 49ers. Image Credit: Ted S. Warren—AP/Shutterstock.com )

Even with all of this going on and controversy raging around him, Kaepernick got his starting job back stepping in for an injured Blaine Gabbert and ended up playing 12 games and having his best season statistically despite the teams record since his championship game appearances. His contract was restructured during the 2016 season that reduced it to a two year deal that he had fulfilled by the end of 2016 season, with a player option for him to choose whether he wanted to stay with the 49ers or become a free agent and play for another team. He chose to opt out of his contract and enter free agency. 

Once he was officially done with the 49ers the executives such as their new head coach Kyle Shanahan and their general manager John Lynch spoke up about Kaepernick and his situation. Shanahan just touched on the fact he wanted to keep his own successful style of football when it came to his new team but he did not see Kaepernick fitting into it stylistically. Lynch went on to say that they sat down with Kaepernick and told him if he did not opt out of his contract they would release him from the team anyway, but tried to make it seem that it was mutual and went on to compliment him and how great he is at football. So Kaepernick waited for a call in free agency but it never came.

Not in the form of a starter or a backup, not one team called Colin Kaepernick or his agents to offer him a job. Still today in 2023, besides a couple workouts he has held for scouts or private workouts he has had for teams, Kaepernick has never put an NFL jersey on since the end of the 2016 season.

(Kaepernick during his open workout for NFL scouts in 2019 trying to make an NFL comeback. Image Credit: Todd Kirkland, AP)

 Kaepernick went on to file a grievance against the NFL in 2017 for alleged collusion amongst the league and its team’s owners when it came to signing Kaepernick and to keeping him out of the league. In 2019 the lawsuit was finally settled with him and the NFL with Kaepernick winning the case but is rumored to have only made less than 10 million dollars to replenish lost playing time and legal fees. Kaepernick certainly deserved to get a settlement out of the lawsuit, but the NFL should have had to pay much more than they did to Kaepernick.   

Colin Kaepernick will go down in history not for being a football player, but for an athlete that used his platform to voice his opinion. He was ridiculed and harassed by fans for being unpatriotic and that his protests were anti-military. Then president of the United States  Donald Trump even spoke out against Kaepernick’s protest and said teams should have firm punishments if a player kneels. According to an article by John Breech of CBS Sports, multiple polls show that the majority of Americans did not agree with Kaepernick’s stance and thought he was “unpatriotic”.

The sports media world through all of this has switched its stance on Kaepernick all together. During the period of 2016 when he was in the midst of protesting about racial inequality, sports media treated him quite poorly and made it seem as though he didn’t want to play football, he was just there to collect a paycheck and protest about his views. After he went unsigned in free agency sports media started to change its view and questioned why he wasn’t getting signed because he was far better than some of the starters at the time in the league, and no doubt would have been a top tier back up. While this was going on he was getting various marketing deals that the mainstream media paid no attention to such as his Nike deal for their “Just Do It’ campaign.

The sports media world once again denounced him when he sued the NFL, but other athletes in various sports were starting to kneel and the public media opinion was still mostly negative on the topic but was shifting. In 2020 with the death of George Floyd, the perspective changed completely. Sports media networks and the NFL went from denouncing what Colin Kaepernick did years earlier to completely and wholeheartedly supporting athletes kneeling and using their platform to have their voice be heard about racial inequalities in America, and the media has kept this view ever since.

The media, particularly in the sports world truly warped the entire meaning of what Colin Kaepernick’s protest was all about. He said multiple times in various interviews that he loves America, its people and has no issue with the people that serve and protect, but he was still plagued as unpatriotic and anti-military. These analysts and sports personalities never stopped to look into the true meaning of what his message was, and once the murders of people like Breonna Taylor came at the hands of the police causing national outrage and protests over three years later, they finally paid attention and listened. Now today when teams or players kneel analysts from ESPN or Fox News discuss it and great it is that athletes use their platform to speak out and stand up for what they believe in.

(Kaepernick in one of Nike’s adds for its 2018 “Just Do It’ Campaign. Image Credit: ©Nike)

Colin Kaepernick was unfortunately the only person to lose his career in sports for believing in a cause and for what he thought was right, and in the end he was right. He paved the road for many athletes to stand up and use their platform to voice their opinions, and to be role models for others to look up too. Colin Kaepernick may not be a star starting quarterback anymore, but he has left a bigger and more positive impact in this world by standing up for racial justice and equality. He truly transcended sports as well as gave a voice to those who went unnoticed in the media prior, and continues to be a leading figure in the ongoing battle for social and racial justice equality in America.   

Fact or Fiction? Fake News Regarding The Covid-19 Vaccines


“Corona virus in bloodstream”.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Fake news has circulated the media for years, but during the Covid-19 Pandemic it was especially prominent. Lies about mask wearing and conspiracy theories flooded the media, and led the public to be confused what information was true versus what was false. But, fake news regarding the Covid-19 vaccines especially fell victim into the fake news controversy.

Fake news is described as, “False news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared or distributed for the purpose of generating revenue, or promoting or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.:”. In the case of the Covid-19 vaccines, the fake news was used to discredit a political movement, and company.

There are multiple fake news stories that circulate around the Covid-19 vaccines, but the idea that the vaccines contained a microchip that allowed the Government to track people was one of the craziest. This fake news story gained a lot of traction and caused great concern across the United States. It’s hard to pinpoint where this theory originated, but one large voice who emphasized this was “Charlamagne Tha God” who is the host of a popular radio show in New York.

Charlamagne expressed his thoughts regarding the vaccine, and mentioned that he believes President Trump only received the vaccine and encouraged others to just so that the Government could microchip them. This claim had no warrant or facts behind it, it was just a statement thrown out onto a radio show with many listeners by an influential radio talk show host. Videos then began being posted on social media, where people were showing their arms with these supposed magnets/microchips sticking out. These videos continued to push this narrative, and further insight paranoia across the country about the vaccines. Having a platform like Charlamagne’s radio show means that his words have power, which can rapidly cause the spread of fake news.

Graphic showing the results of a May 2020 poll that asked people if they believed microchips were being implanted into U.S. Citizens bodies through the Covid-19 vaccines.
CBS News

A few months after these claims, Economist/YouGov conducted a survey. They sampled 1500 adult participants. The results of this survey showed that 44% of Republicans, 19% of Democrats, and 24% of Independents believe that Bill Gates wants to implant microchips into the Covid-19 vaccines. This survey showcases just how much of an impact fake news can have on individuals beliefs.

Especially in this case, fake news can be very harmful. The claim that the vaccines contain a microchip is a public health risk. This caused many individuals to be weary of the vaccine, and ultimately deterred them from getting the vaccine. By choosing not to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, not only the individual denying the dose was affected, but the entire United States population. Getting the vaccine is very important because it will help protect you by creating an antibody response without you having to experience potentially severe illness or post-COVID conditions. Thus, the more people getting the vaccine, the better the chance of herd immunity which is when a large portion of a population becomes immune to Covid.

This fake news seems to spread faster than the facts, because it will cause controversy and conversation. So, how do we combat this spread of health misinformation? It’s important to research, and find other sources that verify this information before you spread fake news.

In general, Covid-19 is a hot topic for misinformation. This image is a graphic with 5 key tips to combat fake news/misinformation about Covid-19.
Image by bmsg

By spreading the fake news about the Covid-19 vaccine containing a microchip, this caused a mistrust of the government and doctors involved, which gave the media a bad reputation. The media is supposed to be used to provide accurate information to the public, so when fake news is being spread without fact checking, it can cause the public to question what is true versus what isn’t. This mistrust between the public and the media can cause reputable sources to lose their credibility, and ultimately result in the downfall of the media.