What’s Missing from the Media?

By Rachel Donovan

According to ABC Action News, at the end of 2020, 98,000 missing persons cases were still active. 40% of these missing people are people of color. Daniel Robinson, a 24 year old field geologist went missing after a work shift on June 23rd, 2021 from outside of Buckeye, Arizona. Peiarre Canty, was reported missing in 2016 in Richmond, Virginia. Gabby Petito was reported missing on August 27th, 2021 while on a cross country road trip with her boyfriend. 

Thousands of Americans are reported missing every year. (Missing and Murdered Women, Canada 2008. Illustration by Renegade98 via Flickr)

What’s similar about these three cases? Well from the outside looking in, all three are missing person’s cases- however one seems to be more known to the general public. 

Missing Poster for Gabby Petito from 2021 (Photo by Octavio Jones/Getty Images)

The Gabby Petito case swept the nation in August of 2021. #findgabbypetito received over 700 million views on TikTok alone and made national headlines. The entire world was searching for Gabby.

But why?

Was her life more valuable to save than Canty & Robinson?

Reporters from ABC News argue, absolutely not, but then why is Gabby a household name while other missing people just slip through the cracks. 

Late journalist Gwen Ifill, identified a theory she entitled “missing white woman syndrome”, where the media takes a priority and an infatuation with covering cases of seemingly middle class white women when they go missing.

In a study conducted by Zach Summers, he looked at articles from well renowned news sources such as: CNN, Chicago Tribune & the Atlanta Journal and compared their coverage of missing peoples cases to the database for missing people. ½ of the articles Summer noted were specifically about white women- a vast over representation compared to the truly 40% of cases that were people of color. 

When looking at the cases of Canty & Robinson- both of which got little to no media coverage and both of which are young African American males?

Is there a coincidence here?

Many would argue yes. 

Media Coverage from CNN of Daniel Robinson. Media Coverage that was shared after media attention from the Gabby Petito case.

According to an article written by NPR, there is a significant correlation between the amount of media coverage a missing person’s case gets and the outcome of their case. In a missing person’s case time is critical and an excellent tool in bringing people home safely.

Natalee Holloway missing poster from 2005 on FBI website. Holloway went missing on a senior trip in Aruba.

This poses a very important concern on the bias in today’s media. Is there a bias for white women receiving media coverage and attention and is that affecting their outcomes? When we look back in modern history, many of the cases that have made national headlines are all white women: Gabby Petito, Natalee Holloway, Laci Peterson and Kristin Smart- all of which young white females. Why are these cases more “media worthy” then others? What is the need to be press worthy?

Many cases of people of color get brushed under the rug, according to a story from ABC Action News. Some are classified as runaways, and get an unfair bias due to the fact that it is “less predictable” that a middle class white woman would be involved in a crime or running away. That assumption however is not fair, and truly not giving everyone the same chance to receive help.

Rawl’s Veil of Ignorance states that there should be justice for all social differentiations. Rawl poses the question of fairness for all and helps to protect the weaker party. The media’s portrayal of missing person’s cases disagrees with Rawl’s theories. With white women’s cases being vastly portrayed in the media over cases of missing individuals of color does not give every case a fair and equal chance of outcome.   

BBC Video on “The Veil of Ignorance”

The media’s goal should be to have compassion for the victims of these cases. There is a social obligation to make sure that these individuals and the public are safe. 

How can we do that? 

How can we do better? 

The media was greatly criticized after Petito’s case in 2021 on their unfair portrayal of some cases over others. No one was discrediting any pain or importance of the cases the media shared, but it was important to show the world the biased lens the media was reporting under.  

Imagine the difference media attention could have given cases. A faster result, more eyes on a case- any coverage is positive. Making newsrooms more culturally diverse can help to make sure all are represented. Checking ourselves and making sure we are not only worrying about what might sound “newsworthy” to the general public but making sure that every case has the opportunity to be heard. It’s important to hold the media accountable and make sure nothing is going missing, that could potentially be found. 

Don’t Say Their Names: The Media’s Role in Sensationalizing Mass Shootings and Why it Needs to Stop

Research shows that by publicizing the name, image, and motives of mass shooters, the media is inadvertently giving these criminals the fame they desire and inciting more shootings.

Several camera crews, reporters, and journalists arrive at Columbine High School.
The media descending in droves to Columbine High School on April 20, 1999
Photo Credit: Ed Andrieski/AP/REX/Shutterstock

On April 20th, 1999, two male students opened fire at their high school in Littleton, Colorado, killing 12 students and 1 teacher before turning their guns on themselves. While the attack lasted for approximately 49 minutes, it received over 40 news segments, many of them live breaking news stories, just in the immediate aftermath. Both CNN and FOX News received historically high ratings. This heinous event is now known worldwide by one word: Columbine. It’s coverage in 1999 received more viewership than the 1992 or 1996 presidential elections, the Rodney King verdict, and the deaths of both Princess Diana and Mother Teresa. The shooting was mentioned on four different TIME Magazine covers that year, more than any other event or person, with the perpetrators appearing on two covers (one more than their victims). As time passed, this coverage has proven to have done much more harm than good.

On April 16, 2007, a male student at Virginia Tech University killed 32 students and faculty before fatally shooting himself. The perpetrator mailed a lengthy manifesto to NBC News, where he cited the Columbine killers as his inspiration. This is just one example of media contagion and copycat effects of mass shootings. It was not the first, and most definitely not the last. The contagion effect states that one mass shooting incident increases the likelihood of other instances of mass shootings to occur in the near future. This differs slightly from a copycat effect, in which the potential shooter attempts to copy the actions of a previous shooter, typically aiming to kill more people. These effects occur largely in part to the enormous amount of media coverage mass shooters receive, including the amount of times their names are said, photos are shown, and motives/manifestos are spoken about. A clear example of this phenomenon occurred in 2015 when the Charleston Church shooter made national headlines in June, and was cited in August by the shooter at Roanoke Television, who also made national headlines. Then, in October, the Umpqua Community College shooter made national headlines and cited the Roanoke Television shooter.

Infographic displaying the number of copycat crimes after the Columbine shooting as of 2015.
Infographic displaying the Columbine Effect
Source: Mother Jones. Note: This infographic was released in 2015 and is not updated to reflect the updated data.

Another unfortunate truth about mass shootings is that these perpetrators are seeking fame-even if they are no longer around to witness it. Both the Isla Vista and Virginia Tech shooters sent their manifestos to local news networks. The Lafayette Theater shooter left a journal and a thank you note to the Charleston Church shooter at the scene. The Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooter called a local news station during the attack and then checked Facebook to see if he had gone viral. All of these shooters made national headlines, just as they wanted.

In an effort to remove this incentive to possible future mass shooters, the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Team has teamed up with the I Love U Guys Foundation and the FBI to create the Don’t Name Them campaign. This campaign implores the media to stop naming mass shooters once they have been apprehended by the police. Similarly, the No Notoriety Campaign, founded by parents of Alex Taves, a victim of the 2012 Aurora Theater shooting, asks the media to eliminate gratuitous use of the name and photos of the killers, shifting the focus instead, to victims, heroes, and survivors.

The No Notoriety Campaign Protocol.
Source: nonotoriety.com

According to McBride and Castillo, 2021, “ethics policies produce better journalism when they affirmatively guide journalists on what to do, rather than delineate prohibitions on what they shouldn’t.” Both of these campaigns, along with recommendations from the American Psychological Association, provide suggestions to journalists on how they can continue to inform the public, while refraining from sensationalizing these tragedies. Many journalists, including CNN’s Anderson Cooper, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, NBC News’ Megyn Kelly, and former governor and FOX News host Mike Huckabee, have already started omitting the names of mass shooters from their reports, showing that this way of reporting can be done on a wider scale.

“Sociologists and criminologists should study the criminal-but let’s not glorify the attacker by giving them valuable airtime. Don’t share their manifestos, their letters, their Facebook posts. Be above the sensationalism. Tell the real stories-the stories of the victims, the heroes, and the communities who come together to help the families heal.”

Source: dontnamethem.org

Image by the American Psychological Association, 2023

In addition to causing multiple casualties and devastating communities, mass shootings leave some survivors, bystanders, and reporters with post-traumatic stress and create extensive fear among the larger public (Langford & Madfis, 2017). Limiting the amount of coverage given to mass shooters and their heinous crimes would greatly reduce these feelings, instead of exaggerating them.

Though the large amount of mass shootings in the United States is a complex issue, with improvements needed in multiple areas, a change in media coverage on these events is a large step in the right direction towards reducing these tragedies.

“Notoriety, infamy, and ‘press’ are material motivation factors for violent/like minded individuals to get their ‘time in the sun’ … A No Notoriety protocol by the media makes sense and can be implemented immediately.”

source: nonotoriety.com

Written by: Olivia Lombardo

Understanding How “Clickbait” Articles Are Used in the Modern Day

Written by Ryan Masse

(Several examples of links that are commonly found at the bottom of online articles all across the web.
Image Credit: ©BBC.com)

There is a good chance that at one point or another, you have probably said or heard someone say, “Google it” when the answer to a question is uncertain. In the age of the internet, the ability to share and explore content, news and any other unknown information has become readily available and accessible at our fingertips.

 However, the quality of this information may not always be accurate, or even correct at all.

Since its inception in 2006 by blogger Jay Beiger, “clickbait” has gone on to earn its own definition. According to Merriam-Webster, the term clickbait can be defined as “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.” 

Despite being a fairly recent term, the concept of falsely spreading misleading information to garner viewership and generate revenue is one that dates back hundreds of years.

In the 1830’s, Benjamin Day of the New York Sun decided to not only cut costs of his papers, but incorporate sensationalist stories of creatures inhabiting the moon. This decision led to mass sales of his paper, and started a trend that would be followed and evolve for the next several centuries to come.

(Published in 1835, articles known as “The Great Moon Hoax” were shared to the New York Sun, depicting strange and otherworldly creatures that inhabited the moon. Image Credit: ©History.com)

While the existence of mythical moon creatures can be easily debunked today, the possibility that clickbait presents today can lead to much more deception. This is especially the case, as countless websites, organizations, news journals and other sources utilize clickbait to their advantage, leveraging the public through eye grabbing headlines in order to boost personal profit. This is done strategically, as credibility and reputability is sacrificed in order to maximize the percent of click through rates (CTR) on certain sites. 

News outlets and organizational entities are not the only ones benefiting from purposefully misleading an audience to enhance their revenue. In fact, multiple celebrities and notable public figures have also been responsible for directing those who follow them to certain websites for personal gain.

Rapper 50 Cent, and comedians Martin Lawrence and Tommy Chong have all previously used “domain spoofing” tactics, which is a form of hiding where a link that is shared actually sends those who click on it to. Ultimately, these three are among other celebrities who have used their verified status to net themselves thousands of dollars. 

As already mentioned, clickbait serves the purpose of generating news through faulty information. This is done to increase page views, the number of social shares, and ultimately, revenue. While experiencing clickbait may be inevitable, there are ways to identify and avoid these types of articles before clicking on them.

Many articles will utilize aspects of sensationalism and exaggeration in their headlines, attempting to draw readers in before they realize what they’re clicking on may not be factual. Clickbait is also highly prevalent on social media, as this serves as free, marketable content that can be mistakenly clicked on. 

Although these are only a few examples of identifying clickbait, understanding its implications and becoming aware of some of the identifiers of clickbait can be instrumental in helping online users navigate the web. It is without question that the term itself is nearly guaranteed to warrant a knee jerk reaction, with people either in favor for or against clickbait’s usage on the Internet. 

While there are many in the news and marketing industries that use clickbait to their advantage, there are plenty of dangers surrounding its usage. In an always adapting world that has seemingly gone more digital than ever, those who conduct online research want to do so knowing that the sources they visit can be valid. 

When an organization uses clickbait tactics to generate more traffic to their page, they lose credit as a reputable source, and damage the perception of similar organizations in their industry who produce reliable and factual information. 

We live in an age where profit and shock value has become more important than honest and fact-based information. If this pattern continues, journalism and reporting can be led down a slippery slope to the point where fiction becomes fact, and no source is truly trustworthy.

(The graph pictured above indicates how clickbait articles use certain themes and formats to generate interest and online clicks. Image Credit © peppercontent.com)

Bye Bye TikTok

Will Contries continue to ban TikTok?

Written By: Mike Fierstein

Will TikTok Continue to be Banned?

TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms known to date. This app was created by the group Bytedance, which was founded in March 2012. ByteDance created two identical social media platforms named, TikTok and Douyin. While TikTok is completely separate from Douyin, Tiktok is based on markets outside of mainland China and was launched in 2017 for iOS and Android in most other countries. Within the first year of being live, the platform had over 100 Million users. (ByteDance – Inspire Creativity, Enrich Life.)

(pictured TikTok’s Logo)

This fast-paced video-sharing platform has gained popularity rapidly over the past few years and continues to pave the way for all social media platforms. (The Top 10 Social Media Sites & Platforms.) The popularity of this app came from the algorithm of what was seen on the “For You” page. Each user has content that comes up on their feed generated by what they like, share, and post on their own account. (The Top 10 Social Media Sites & Platforms.) This keeps users engaged as they are able to scroll quickly through the app and see a variety of different content that is interesting to them. In October 2020, TikTok surpassed 2 billion mobile downloads worldwide. (15 TikTok Statistics Marketers Need To Know (2022).)

TikTok, as a social media platform, is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. In September of 2021, TikTok announced it had reached one billion active users worldwide. (Thanks a billion! | TikTok Newsroom). TikTok’s 5 most popular countries are the United States, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, and lastly Mexico. The user demographics are very important to its rapid growth, “57 percent of TikTok’s users worldwide identify as female, with the remaining 43 percent identifying as male” (15 TikTok Statistics Marketers Need To Know (2022)). TikTok ranks among the top 5 of all social media platforms in the world and competes against other platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat just to name a few.

Country Active User Accounts
United States131 million users
Indonesia 92.1 million users
Brazil 74.1 million users
Russia54.9 million users
Mexico46 million users

(self-created table) 

With over one billion active users, there are a variety of motivations for how users use their time on the app.  (Thanks a billion! | TikTok Newsroom.) In early March of 2023, the Biden Administration cracked down on the Bytedance CEO, Zhang Yiming to threaten the banning of Tiktok in the United States if China did not sell its share in stake in the company. (Why the U.S. and Other Countries Want to Ban or Restrict TikTok) United States Officials of National Security and other Federal agencies worry about the lack of user knowledge of data sharing between the app and China and how the China Communist Party has unlimited access to American phone records. Because of high tensions between the two countries, the United States feels as though to protect themselves and the American people’s safety, it would be best if there was a change within the system of how data is being stored, saved, and shared by its shareholders. As the app continues to grow in popularity, privacy issues become more urgent. 

Several countries have made plans or have already cut ties with the platform as privacy concerns are questioned universally about the app. “Australia has become the latest country to ban TikTok from federal government devices. Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the ban will take effect “as soon as practicable” and that exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis” (McDade & Jackson 2023).  These bans are starting small and making their way to be departmental and recreational bans as time goes on. 

Other countries that are inducing country bans are France, The Netherlands, New Zealand, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Taiwan, European Union, and Afghanistan.  (Why the U.S. and Other Countries Want to Ban or Restrict TikTok)This group of countries is going to grow as user safety continues to be in question. Each of these countries has been on their toes about how China is using the information they have access to. China’s Foreign Ministry argues these bans do not feel as though it is a fit solution. “‘How unsure of itself can the world’s top superpower be to fear a young people’s favorite app?” said spokeswoman Mao Ning. She said that such bans were an abuse of state power and “overstretching the concept of national security,’ and she urged the U.S. government to “respect the principles of market economy and fair competition” (Canada is latest country to ban TikTok on government phones). With this being said, China claims to have taken no part in the security invasion within the data that comes from the app. 

Currently in the United States, Montana is the first state to officially ban the use and download of Tiktok. The Montana House of Representatives voted in favor of banning the app in early March which would cause Google and Android users and the app itself to be fined by 2024 if the application was used within state lines. (Why the U.S. and Other Countries Want to Ban or Restrict TikTok.) As a whole, the United States has taken precautions with the application of TikTok including banning it from all government-issued devices and many schools have banned it from being used or accessible on school campuses and wifi (Why the U.S. and Other Countries Want to Ban or Restrict TikTok.). Many states in the US are watching how Montana handles this ban and its success of it which could lead TikTok to being banned in other states. There has never been a ban on a platform before so there is a lot of uncertainty of how well this will work out for Montana, but it brings many questions on how TikTok will respond to this. 

Banning the platform is a difficult decision as both parties understand the repercussions of what would happen if they ban TikTok in the United States. Many people would lose their jobs, others would find ways around the ban, and TikTok would lose substantial amounts of money and other problems would arise as the ban continued to follow through. 

Work Cited Page

ByteDance. “ByteDance Our Mission.” Our Mission Inspire Creativity, Enrich Life, ByteDance, ByteDance – Inspire Creativity, Enrich Life.

Espada, Mariah, and Nik Popli. “Why the U.S. and Other Countries Want to Ban or Restrict TikTok.” Time, 16 Mar. 2023, Why the U.S. and Other Countries Want to Ban or Restrict TikTok

Fung, B. (2023, April 14). Montana lawmakers vote to completely ban TikTok in the state | CNN Business. CNN. Montana lawmakers vote to completely ban TikTok in the state | CNN Business

Herrman, John. “How TikTok Is Rewriting the World.” The New York Times, 10 Mar. 2019, How TikTok Is Rewriting the World – The New York Times

TikTok. (2023, January 1). Privacy Policy | TikTok. Www.tiktok.com. Privacy Policy | TikTok

TikTok. “Thanks a Billion!” TikTok, TikTok, 27 Sept. 2021, Thanks a billion! | TikTok Newsroom.

Walsh, Shelley. “The Top 10 Social Media Sites & Platforms.” Search Engine Journal, 30 May 2022, The Top 10 Social Media Sites & Platforms.

Canada is latest country to ban TikTok on government phones. (n.d.). Washington Post. Canada is latest country to ban TikTok on government phones

 Ying Lin, Ying. “15 TikTok Statistics Marketers Need To Know (2022).” Shopify.com, 2 May 2022, 15 TikTok Statistics Marketers Need To Know (2022).

Walsh, Shelley. “The Top 10 Social Media Sites & Platforms.” Search Engine Journal, 30 May 2022, The Top 10 Social Media Sites & Platforms.

Canada is latest country to ban TikTok on government phones. (n.d.). Washington Post. Canada is latest country to ban TikTok on government phones

 Ying Lin, Ying. “15 TikTok Statistics Marketers Need To Know (2022).” Shopify.com, 2 May 2022, 15 TikTok Statistics Marketers Need To Know (2022).

The Truth Always Comes Out

Written By: David Woodford

Fox and Dominion Voting Systems reached a $787 million settlement Tuesday in the voting machine company’s defamation lawsuit. Avoiding a trial in a case that exposed how a top-rated network chased viewers by pushing lies about the 2020 presidential election. Dominion originally asked for $1.6 billion, after arguing that Fox had damaged its reputation by pushing phony conspiracy theories about its equipment switching votes from former President Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden. Fox said the amount greatly exaggerated the value of the Colorado-based company. 

The Delaware Superior Court found that the case should continue on to trial after Judge Eric Davis found that none of what was said on air about Dominion Voting Systems, was true. Dominion originally accused Fox of defaming them by repeatedly airing false allegations made by Trump allies that its machines and software they used had flipped votes to Biden. Many at the network doubted the claims and downplayed those who were making them. Records that were later released as part of the lawsuit, showed how Fox hosts and executives did not believe the claims made by Trump’s allies but went on to air them anyway. All in an attempt to win back viewers who were ditching the network after it called closely contested Arizona for Democrat Joe Biden on election night.  During his deposition, Fox founder Rubert Murdoch testified that he believed the 2020 election was fair and had not been stolen from Trump. “Fox knew the truth,” Dominion argued. 

In his March 31 summary judgment ruling,  Judge Davis called out Fox for airing lies while continuing on about how the bogus election claims continued, 2 1/2 years after Trump lost his bid for reelection. Judge Davis would go on to say, “The statements at issue were dramatically different from the truth. In fact, although it cannot be attributed directly to Fox’s statements, it is noteworthy that some Americans still believe the election was rigged.” Fox argued that they were “obligated to report on the most newsworthy of stories,” a president claiming that he had been cheated out of re-election. Fox said Dominion argued that the network was obligated to suppress the allegations or announce them as false. “Freedom of speech and of the press would be illusory if the prevailing side in a public controversy could sue the press for giving a forum to the losing side,” Fox said in court papers. 

Protests began as the truth came out

Dominion’s lawyers argued that Fox made a calculated decision to repeatedly air the false claims to appeal to their viewers. They allowed guests to falsely claim that the company had rigged the election, flipped large numbers of votes to Biden through a secret algorithm, was owned by a company founded in Venezuela to rig elections for Hugo Chavez, the late president, and bribed government officials. “What they did to get viewers back was start this new narrative that the election had been stolen and that Dominion was the thief,” said Dominion lawyer Rodney Smolla. A lot of the material showed a network scared of its audience after its election night declaration that Biden had won Arizona. The race call infuriated Trump and many viewers who supported him. One of Fox’s top news anchors, Bret Baier, expressed the audience’s anger and suggested rescinding the call, even awarding the state to Trump. “We don’t want to antagonize Trump further,” Murdoch said.  Fox executives and anchors discussed how not to alienate the audience. Fox’s Tucker Carlson suggested a news reporter be fired for tweeting a fact check debunking the fraud claims. 

Photo of Voting Machines 

It shouldn’t come to much of a surprise to anyone that this case happened. These cases were bound to happen and will only continue to happen down the road. Each network has its own target audience and each network pushes content that they believe will bode well with their readers. Unfortunately, we are seeing more and more inappropriate behavior from these news networks. Company agendas over the truth are the big ones. One that will still continue to happen long after this settlement has settled. 

The media treats Bubba Wallace differently and it’s not ok.

Bubba Wallace, the lone black driver in NASCAR, deserves more credit for what he has to deal with regularly. There have been multiple instances where the media treats Bubba Wallace differently than his fellow competitors. There is a built-in double standard that Bubba has to deal with from the media because he is a polarizing figure.

Written by: Robert Fernandes

Bubba Wallace celebrating his win at Kansas Motor Speedway in 2022 by paying homage to car owner, Michael Jordan, by doing his famous “Shushing the Haters” celebration. Photo Credit: @USAToday

Regarding NASCAR media, Bubba Wallace will always take the headlines for the slightest matter. Even if his actions mirror those of his competitors’ pasts, the media and fans will take it and run with it. There have been multiple instances of how fans and media have treated Bubba differently in similar cases to his competitors. Specifically, instances with a hacked radio and with reactions to gestures.

After NASCAR’s triumphant return to North Wilkesboro Speedway for their inaugural All-Star Race, lone black driver Bubba Wallace made headline news again for the wrong reason (Taranto, 2023). After Wallace exited the car and removed his helmet, fans listening to Wallace’s radio via different websites and devices heard unfamiliar voices saying degrading things towards Bubba. Specifically, “Go back to where you came from you a———. You’re not wanted in NASCAR,” was said over the radio. As it turns out, a fan hacked into Bubba’s radio and decided to say what they felt about the driver. (Crane, 2023)

This is not the first time this has happened in NASCAR. In 2018, a fan hacked into multiple drivers’ radios and spewed out derogatory comments to them (Martinelli, 2023). In my opinion, due to these radios being easily accessible to listen, you can conclude from the numerous past instances that this makes them liable to be hacked easier so this type of thing is common. If you look up articles for that instance in 2018, you will find one, maybe two articles about it. Look up this Bubba Wallace incident and most, if not all, major news media sites have an article on this. For example, The Guardian, ESPN and Bleacher Report all have articles on the Bubba Wallace situation and do not have any for the 2018 incident. This is just one instance of how he is treated differently. While talking about this situation on his daily YouTube series, “Out of the Groove,” NASCAR insider, Eric Estepp says “It pains me to see a couple jackasses like this taint the headlines and hurt the NASCAR communities reputation.” He also goes on to talk about how the few ruin it for all when things like this happen with the negative stereotype that follows NASCAR regularly. (Estepp, 2023)

Bubba Wallace driving his number 23 car at North Wilkesboro in 2023 where he finished 2nd place. Photo Credit: @Motorsport.com

Also at North Wilkesboro, Wallace was shown giving someone the middle finger on the camera (Dedaj, 2023). This was followed by news stories stating their disapproval and a statement saying no fines would be handed out (NASCAR, 2023). This same behavior was seen differently when fellow driver, Chase Elliott, showed Kyle Busch the middle finger at Darlington in 2020 (Schwartz, 2023). Rather than making a statement of disapproval, NASCAR reacted by using this video in promos used to promote the Darlington race every year as discussed in an article by Priyank Mithani. Mithani goes in depth about that comparison and uses some Twitter responses to back this claim. The two tweets that caught my eye were “The people that hated Bubba Wallace’s middle finger are the same ones that loved when Chase Elliott did it” and “They literally use Chase Elliott flipping of Kyle Busch in promos when the sport goes to Darlington…” (Mithani, 2023)

Now that’s only a few examples of how Bubba is treated differently but these events pose a great question about Bubba Wallace. Why is he treated so differently in the media? The easy answer is that he is the polarizing figure transcending NASCAR fandom (Conway, 2023). In 2020, and even before, Bubba embraced being the lone Black driver in NASCAR with his actions (Martinelli, 2017).

NASCAR’s roots are in the South and being from the South holds a stigma of racism dating back to pre-civil war days and NASCAR has tried its hardest to steer away from that stigma. (Bach, 2022) They proved this in 2020 when they listened to Bubba about removing the confederate flag from any racetrack and since that day Bubba Wallace was seen differently from those in NASCAR and from the outside world . He was now seen as more than a racecar driver but a social justice activist (Conway, 2023). Since then the way the media treats him opens him up unnecessary attention.

The NASCAR paddock walking alongside Bubba Wallace in 2020 after a noose was found in his pit stall at Talladega. Photo Credit: @NASCAR

In study about the media habits of political polarization by researchers at Pew Research Center, they concluded that according to one’s political status, one will seek out information from specific sources and mostly those sources. (Mitchell et al., 2014) With this information, you can conclude that if Fox or CNN reports that Bubba intentionally wrecked someone and doesn’t report that Chase Elliott wrecked someone on purpose, this opens a wide open door for people to make assumptions about Bubba, especially if they are not racing fans.

Philosopher John Rawl once said, “Justice emerges when negotiating without social differentiations.” (Rawl, 1971) This means that if we were to look at issues with no bias, a true outcome follows (Christians et al., 2017, p.21) If reporters and fans sat behind a veil of ignorance that Rawl says we should, the harmful attention to Bubba Wallace’s’ every move would lessen.

Bubba Wallace with fellow driver and good friend, Ryan Blaney, after his first win in NASCAR at Talladega in 2021. Photo Credit: @USAToday

Fellow drivers and all of NASCAR respect Bubba Wallace and that has been seen many times (Holleran, 2023). He is living a dream, like everyone else he races against. In my opinion, that is how he should be seen, as a racecar driver. Also in my opinion, the way the media treats him differently than others gives fans and casual watchers an unfair impression of him creating this double standard I highlighted before. Instead, people should decide their opinion of him based on what makes him a driver. His personality, the car he drives, the manufacturer he drives for, and such.


Christians, C. G., & Al, E. (2016). Media ethics : cases and moral reasoning (10th ed., p. 48). Routledge.

Rawls, J. (2005). A theory of justice: Original edition. Belknap Press.

The Rise of Deepfakes: How AI is Transforming the World of Media

Written by Bryan Grasso

Image by Susan Cipriano from Pixabay

A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) continues to grow as more technological apps are being developed for people to use and explore. Apps such as ChatGPT, Socratic, and many more apps that have been created are making waves for countless people that have been created are making waves for countless people to use. In a way, AI has truly become a technology that any business or individual can leverage to revolutionize the way they work or go about any number of day-to-day activities.

While the idea of AI-generated images or asking an AI to write you a full on movie script is a fun and cool idea to mess around with, there has been a significant rise in a phenomenon within AI known as deepfakes, which refers to the use of AI to create realistic manipulated media content, often involving videos or images. The term is referred to as “deep learning algorithms” which teach themselves to solve problems with large sets of data and can be used to create fake content of real people. Deepfakes have been known to create not just controversy but also have become a growing issue in not just technology, but as our society as a whole. Deepfakes have been starting to pop up and have created a cultural divide between people who seek to use it for fun or others that use it for trouble and crime.

It is also becoming even more of an issue due to the fact that it’s difficult to determine what is real and what is not real when it comes to deepfakes. Researchers have tried to determine a solution to the issue of deepfakes but AI has continued to advance to make it more difficult to pick out the deepfake being used in a certain situation.

Image from the Zee5 website

There have been countless situations that have happened with the consequences of deep fakes. Back in February of this year, a Twitch streamer (Atrioc) was under a lot of controversy as he payed for deepfake pornography where images were generated of fellow women streamers who Atrioc knows and is friends with. The deepfake website had countless images of not only fellow women streamers but celebrities faces as well. QTCinderella, a fellow woman Twitch streamer who’s face was on one of the deepfake videos on the website had commented on the situation and tweeted her disgust and frustration.

A tweet from QTCinderella that she tweeted the day after the screenshot was shared among Reddit members

Experts fear that deepfakes can be used to spread misinformation, for example for political gain, but evidence suggests that women in particular have been victimized. Deepfakes can not only be used for videos and images but are not starting to be used by scammers to call family members and pretend that they are a certain person asking for money. For example, you get a phone call from your grandmother, she says that her car broke down and she needs money to pay the tow truck so you believe this person on the phone and send them the money. Then, you call your grandmother back and she says to, “I never called you about needing money for a tow truck”. This is one of the major things to look out for when it comes to deepfakes continuing to grow especially for scammers to use and dupe people for money.

Image by Cliff Hang from Pixabay

There are many different websites that people can use that involve deep-faking a voice that sounds like either a loved one or even a political figure like Joe Biden or Donald Trump. Some voice deepfake tools need a sample of only a minute long, or even just a few seconds, to produce a voice clone that could be convincing enough to fool someone. 

In my opinion, if not checked, AI can get to a certain point where they can become self aware and create their own deepfakes of anyone, leading to a global meltdown worldwide. An example of how this could happen is if an AI deepfaked the voice of Joe Biden and told China’s officials that they were going to use a nuclear bomb on Russia to start World War III. Now you might feel like this is a bit insane, but it’s a reality we could all face soon if we don’t put the growing rise of deepfakes and AI on notice. This technology can be used to undermine the reputation of a political candidate by making the candidate appear to say or do things that never actually occurred. They are a powerful new tool for those who might want to use misinformation to influence an election.

Image by Patricio González from Pixabay

The continuing rise of deep fakes represent a formidable challenge for society and the future of technology as we navigate the complexity of AI. While deepfakes offer exciting possibilities for creativity, it also presents significant risks that need to be addressed and handled properly. Creating a balance between the responsible use of AI, protecting privacy and security, and preserving the integrity of information to mitigate the potential harm created by deepfakes. Ensuring that the future of media remains rooted in authenticity and trust.

Did TMZ prefer the story over Kobe Bryant’s Family?

Written by: Isabel Fox

TMZ under heat for releasing the news on Kobe Bryant’s death before his family was informed by police. 

Kobe and Gianna

On January 27th, 2020 at 2:24pm TMZ, one of the premier tabloids for entertainment news, posted the first heartbreaking and shocking story headlining the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. The way TMZ reported on this story received terrible backlash. TMZ released this news before families were informed.  TMZ is known for making headlines that are shocking, intriguing, and bold. Even The New York Times Katie Robertson and Edmund Lee, have reported that “TMZ has been known for its brash, tabloid approach and has landed some of the entertainment industry’s biggest scoops, including the death of Michael Jackson” and now Kobe Bryant. While TMZ has been a great source for celebrity entertainment news, have they gone too far and completely disrespected Bryant’s family? 

The Los Angeles County police confirmed the victims only one hour before TMZ released the news. Ultimately this gave little time for officials to inform all of the victims’ families, including Bryant’s. A Los Angeles County Sheriff, Alex Villanueva spoke to this issue. He stated, “It would be extremely disrespectful to understand that your loved one … perished and you learn about it from TMZ…That is just wholly inappropriate”. Alongside his statement, Los Angeles County Undersheriff Tim Murakami, tweeted, “I am saddened that I was gathering facts as a media outlet reported that Kobe had passed.  I understand getting the scoop but please allow us time to make personal notifications to their loved ones. It’s very cold to hear of the loss via media. Breaks my heart”  

Journalists are trained to report on the facts, but consider the ethical and emotional response of their reports. TMZ has had several instances where an ethical approach was lacking tremendously. This kind of report is not surprising when looking at TMZ’s history of their swift and quick reports lacking empathy to victims. TMZ has made reports on celebrity suicides,(Avicii, and Chester Bennington) and gone into unnecessary detail, failing to consider the thoughts and feelings of those closely affected. 

TMZ has a track record of being the first to know and report about celebrity deaths, such as, Micheal Jackson, Whitney Houston, Prince, and Kobe Bryant, it unfortunately makes people trust their source (because they have been right in the past) even before an official report from reputable outlets have confirmed the information. However, this does not mean the ethical approach to their journalists are valid. From The Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan, wrote “If the media world were ruled by thoughtfulness, rigor and ethics, TMZ wouldn’t have broken the news about Sunday’s helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others before all families were notified.”  In fact, after this incident over 600,000 people signed a petition to have TMZ canceled for their lack of sensitivity when it came to this report.

Journalists must follow a code of ethics, and one of them is, “Minimize Harm”. In essence, this means showing compassion for those affected by the news coverage. In instances where people are unable to give consent to a report, journalists must navigate this issue with compassion and sensitivity. In this case, TMZ had every opportunity to wait for police officials to confront the victims’ families before they posted their story. According to the Society of Professional Journalists, and normal human decency, TMZ violated all forms of an ethical stance when releasing this story. 

To the public’s eye, this makes TMZ seem more interested in the entertainment and cash flow of their stores, rather than the humans involved. Overall, TMZ should have, and moving forward, always lead with an ethical approach. It was unnecessary for them to report on Kobe Bryant’s death before his family was informed, let alone the police. 

The Son of Sam Laws: Transferring Anna “Delvey” Sorokin’s Fake Money into the Pockets of Her Real Victims


On February 11th, 2022, Ozark and Grey’s Anatomy fans all over the globe had the treat to binge-watch Inventing Anna on Netflix. This limited series starred Ozark’s three-time Emmy Award winner, Julia Garner, as Anna “Delvey” Sorokin (a fraudster who posed as a wealthy German heiress), and was produced by Grey’s Anatomy’s Shonda Rhimes. During its second week, the series drew in 3.3 billion minutes watched by viewers. 

But here’s the thing… Unlike Marty Byrde laundering money and Izzie Stevens cutting Denny Duquette’s LVAD wire, Anna Sorokin’s grand larceny and theft crimes against banks and New York City’s wealthy elites were non-fiction. Real crimes. Real victims. In 2019, Sorokin was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison.

This whole story is completely true. Except for all of the parts that are totally made up. Created by Shondaland, Inventing Anna premiered on February 11 only on Netflix. Credit: Netflix/YouTube

So, how can audiences enjoy this limited series without feeling guilt that their views might directly pay an economic con artist such as Anna Sorokin? Well, look no further than the Son of Sam laws. 

The Son of Sam laws were passed when serial killer, David Berkowitz, achieved celebrity criminal status and was offered a large sum of money to sell his story. In 1977, the New York State Assembly took action to pass this law so that convicted felons cannot profit from their crimes. They will receive no money for selling their crime stories for books, movies, television shows, etc. Instead, earned money will go right back to the victims. Critics argue that the Son of Sam laws restrict one’s right to freedom of speech. However, more than 40 states and the Federal Government have passed similar legislation.

David Berkowitz, the serial killer known as the Son of Sam, being taken into a Brooklyn precinct station in August 1977. Credit: Barton Silverman/The New York Times

Emma Tucker from the Wall Street Journal writes that New York invoked this rarely used law for Anna Sorokin’s case. Where’s Sorokin’s Netflix money you might ask? It was sent to an escrow account held by her lawyer and monitored by New York’s Office of Victim Services (OVS). The OVS froze $140,000 from Netflix to pay back two victimized banks – City National Bank N.A. ($100,000) and Citibank N.A. ($40,000).

Even with the Son of Sam laws, there’s no question that the attention from Netflix fueled Sorokin’s platform. Interestingly enough, Forbes reports that Sorokin cannot post on social media – either directly or by a third party – due to her house arrest conditions. Despite this fact, Sorokin has found a way to share her side of the story and ease back into the entrepreneur lifestyle. 

Exclusive interview on Call Her Daddy. Check. Selling artwork. Check. Exploring reality TV ventures. Check. 

Anna Sorokin recorded her Call Her Daddy podcast appearance while in custody at the Orange County Correctional Facility. Credit: Alexandra Cooper/Instagram

Selling crime stories to major TV and streaming networks can pose a number of red flags. For one, there may be concerns that the material in the series could re-traumatize the victims – or victims of similar crimes. One of Sorokin’s financial victims was her friend, Rachel Williams. On a trip to Morocco together, Rachel used her credit card as a temporary hold while Sorokin tried to clear up an issue on her credit card. The issue was simple. Sorokin had no money. Rachel was left with the $62,000 hotel bill.

10 News in Knoxville (Rachel’s hometown) reported that Rachel was traumatized by this experience. They also shared that Rachel did not approve of how she was portrayed in the series. In addition, Rachel said, “It’s very irresponsible for Netflix to be telling it in this way, celebrating somebody who is so callous, and their willingness to take advantage of people around them to manipulate them for their own greedy goals.”

And two, there’s the possibility that spotlighting stories like Anna Sorokin could glorify and glamorize her and her actions. Furthermore, take a look at the following crime documentary series and their Hollywood sweetheart stars: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile. Zac Efron as Ted Bundy. My Friend Dahmer. Ross Lynch as Jeffrey Dahmer. The Dropout. Amanda Seyfried as Elizabeth Holmes. The risk of glorification increases when viewers struggle to separate the beloved actor’s performance from the crimes that were ultimately committed.

On the other hand, it’s possible that convicted felons with a Netflix platform may want to give themselves a redemption arc and – no pun intended – reinvent themselves. Sorokin spoke to Savannah Sellers in an exclusive NBC News interview and said, “Hopefully, I’ll be given a chance to like focus all my energy into something legal. I’d love to be given an opportunity for people not to just dismiss me as like a quote-unquote scammer and just see what I’m going to do next.”

We’ll see what comes next for Anna Sorokin. But in the meantime… Grab your remote. Get comfortable with a cozy blanket. And enjoy the critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated performance by Julia Garner. Thanks to the Son of Sam laws, you can be assured that Sorokin’s Netflix money will be going into the pockets of the rightful owners.

Have We Gone Too Far: How Media is Dehumanizing Athletes in Professional Sports

Written by Ray Lewis, June 5, 2023

The medical staff for the Buffalo Bills rush on to the field to evaluate an unconscious Damar Hamlin, after his collapse. Image taken from Associated Press.

Monday night football – an American tradition. This January 3rd game features the Buffalo Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals. With 5:58 left on the clock in the first quarter, the world stands still. Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapses mid-game. The fan filled stadium silenced. The anxiety is palpable. Viewers at home, mortified by the scene. A game we love turned into life, or death, before our very own eyes. A star athlete became human again. Thanks to first responders, Damar is revived and taken off the field. His heart stopped, on the field, on live television. While these events were shocking, this is not where the controversy stands. Skip Bayless, a well-known sports broadcaster, tweeted during these events.

(Skip Bayless, host of Undisputed on ESPN, goes to social media amidst the Damar Hamlin collapse in game on January 3rd, 2023 (screenshot credit) with his concern over finishing the game.)

The world wondered if this 24-year-old, Hamlin, would live. A prominent sports media figure worried about the game being finished. Skip Bayless simply illustrates the issue with modern sports media – athletes are no longer seen as human. Agape is an ethics principle built on the unselfish love of others. When the game stops, do we care more about the final score than person impacted. When did we forget they are human? Does scoring the winning touchdown matter more than a beating heart? The insensitivity of this post demonstrates that we have dehumanized athletes.

(David Shuster reports on social media (screenshot credit) that the players and coaches ultimately determinded to not continue the game.)

Bayless was not the only person that received criticism for his response. According to a tweet from writer and producer, David Shuster, the NFL did make the decision to postpone the game. It was determined by the players refusal to retake the field. What does this say about the National Football League? Player safety has taken a backseat to their pocketbooks. So how does the most popular sport in America get here you ask? Fantasy football has largely attributed this.

Modern sports revolved around fantasy sports leagues. Fantasy football has been a major shift to the way modern athletics are viewed. Fans now have more at stake. We feel connected to these athletes at greater depths, but have we lost touch of the fact that they are human. When an athlete is injured, how does it impact us? It is estimated that Fantasy Football is a 70 billion dollar market. This largely attributes athletes being seen as a stat line instead of a living, breathing being. I’ve seen it time and again: An injury to a player evokes moans and sometimes profanity in the moment. But it is not out of concern for the athlete on the field. It is because the player — often a quarterback, a running back or a receiver — is central to someone’s fantasy team, Rhoden reports in his New York Times article in 2015.

(Graphic demonstrates the income in billions US dollars from 2013-2023 in the fantasy sports sector. Image taken from Statistic.com, 2023.)

People invest a lot in professional sports teams. Whether it is betting, purchasing tickets and merchandise, or playing fantasy sports leagues, sports are a lifestyle. Fans feel like they are part of something. They invest their identities in these athletes’ performances. The same goes for athletes. Many spend their whole lives working for an opportunity to make it pro. Athletes often enter the professional ranks at a young age. They risk they physical beings to entertain us daily. But when an athlete faces a career ending injury, we care more about the game being played than their safety?

If you’re a sports fan, ask yourself these questions. When is the last time you have learned something about your favorite athlete’s life? Do you know anything about your athlete outside of their stats? How many points did they score? Whether they will be traded? Media loves athletes when they perform. After a big game, they are paramount. Poor performance = headline news. Seldom do you hear about their real lives. This devalues their humanness.

Next time you see an athlete getting injured, I want you ask yourself this. Would you want the game to keep going if that was your son or daughter? What about your best friend? If they were laying on that field fighting for their lives, would you be waiting for the next whistle? It is important for media to remember – it’s okay to reschedule. We can wait to report or post on social media. Fans and media should remember that athletes are people. When you put on their jersey, brag on their career performances or boast about last nights win; remember that is a person – just like you – on the other side of the tv. Sports media – it’s time we start making athletes human again.