Tuesday, November 25, 2014

St. Louis Reacts To Ferguson Grand Jury

By Sydney Hallett
OAKVILLE, Missouri, U.S.A. – A split television screen this evening showed protesters gathering in Ferguson and chanting in unison on the left side while the prosecutor for St. Louis County spoke on the right side, explaining why a grand jury chose not to indict police Officer Darren Wilson in the controversial Aug. 9 shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old in Ferguson.
The killing of Michael Brown, an African-American, sparked a series of riots beginning the night of his death and continuing off and on ever since.
After the prosecutor, Robert McCulloch, stopped speaking at the press conference, the crowds that had gathered in anticipation of a decision on whether Wilson would face criminal charges grew unruly.
As President Obama appealed for calm – citing Brown’s family’s call for peaceful protest – police fired smoke to disrupt the angry crowds in Ferguson.
Emma Sona, a student at St. Louis County’s Oakville High School, said she believes peaceful protests are good and necessary, but violent riots are counterproductive.
“This verdict doesn’t mean that racism and police brutality don’t exist,” Sona said. “The way to solve racism in America is not violence.”
She said, too, that the police response to protests, including the arrest of journalists and firing tear gas into neighborhoods, was unacceptable.
Another student at Oakville, Brittany Perry, said she believes “what Wilson did was in self-defense to protect himself from Brown.”
A statement issued by Wilson’s attorneys said that “law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions” and claimed that Wilson “followed his training and followed the law.’’
The statement from the Brown family said, “While we understand that many others share our pain, we ask that you channel your frustration in ways that will make a positive change. We need to work together to fix the system that allowed this to happen.”
From the television pictures in the hours after the verdict, it is clear that protesters were not entirely peaceful.
After McCulloch’s announced that Wilson would not face charges, people screamed or cried on South Florissant Road, with violence breaking out about an hour after the prosecutor began speaking.
Gunshots were heard, according to police, and a couple of police cars wound up on fire there. Journalists and protesters fled the gas-ridden ground after police fired cannisters at them when some demonstrators sought to get past a barricade.
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Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't Expect Much From 'Mockingjay' And You Might Not Be Disappointed

Mockingjay publicity photo
By Lauren Pope
BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom – As a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy, I had long awaited and much anticipated Mockingjay Part 1.
A whole year’s worth of anticipation, in fact, but as much as I hate to admit it, the first half of the third installment to the series wasn’t all that great.
The film begins just after where Catching Fire – the previous movie – left off, showing Katniss Everdeen repeating to herself all the basic elements of who she is in a fight to find some stability. Of course I understood what was going on, however someone without much Hunger Games knowledge may find themselves a little confused – perhaps even left out of the loop. I even heard the man behind me whisper ‘did I see the last one?’
Truthfully, I have always thought that Mockingjay was the weakest book of the three, so with that thought in mind the movie adaption could have only been spectacular if the plot line strayed from what Suzanne Collins had written. But that would have been a risky decision, considering that The Hunger Games comes with a large fan base, expecting the films to do justice by the books they love.
Mockingjay publicity photo
What made The Hunger Games and Catching Fire so interesting was that it didn’t take too long before you got into the action – the actual hunger games.
But Mockingjay Part 1 is only half of a full movie – all build up, with nothing to show for it. Maybe if the other two films hadn’t had such a key element of action in them, this one would have seemed a little livelier.
I can’t help but feel that splitting the last book into two movies was an unnecessary money-making scheme. There is no difference in size that would warrant the creation of four films instead of three.
The producers know that fans will buy tickets, and it seems to me that they are taking advantage of that. Splitting the final segment of a franchise into more parts than the writer intended seems to be a theme taking popular book-to-screen adaptations by storm. Just take a look at Harry Potter, or The Hobbit.
Despite there being no doubt in my mind that Mockingjay Part 1 is the worst installment yet, I didn’t hate it. It wasn’t necessarily a bad movie, it just didn’t live up to the hype of those that came before. I think that disappointment shaped my views more than anything else.
Would I recommend Mockingjay Part 1? Maybe, but be sure to go in not expecting too much.
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Pandas: The Highlight Of The National Zoo

Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
An elephant at the National Zoo.

By Mugdha Gurram
WASHINGTON, D.C. – It's fun, it's free, and it was only about a 10-minute walk from our hotel, so of course we took the time to go visit the National Zoo.
We were probably most excited about seeing the giant pandas, and we were not disappointed.
The pandas were out, and they managed to look adorable while feasting on bamboo – giving us the perfect opportunity for a few selfies.

Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
A giant panda at the National Zoo.
The zoo is officially the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and part of the Smithsonian’s many free offerings in the capital city.
The animals there stay in large, open spaces filled with trees, rocks, and toys that let them learn and play.
And video feeds like the panda cam allow visitors to watch these little guys even when they’re spending a day in the den.
Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
Flamingos at the National Zoo.
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
A burrowing owl at the National Zoo.
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
King vultures at the National Zoo.
The zoo around in fall is absolutely beautiful; the changing leaves provide a colorful background to the animal habitats.
Even the rain didn’t stop us from enjoying the zoo. We simply headed into the bird house to take a look at our winged friends.
From among the variety of animals we saw, my personal favorites were the pandas.
I’ve never seen them in real life, so it was a fun, new experience.
But of course, it was wonderful to see the elephants, the flamingos, the zebra and the multitude of other animals there, too.
Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
A pathway at the National Zoo.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bracing For Possible Violence In Ferguson

By Sydney Hallett
OAKVILLE, Missouri, U.S.A. – They wait. The citizens of Ferguson and protesters around the United States wait for the grand jury to make a decision whether to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown last August.
As the grand jury makes a decision whether to charge Wilson, both the Missouri National Guard and protesters in Ferguson and other cities across the United States are preparing for what is to come.
On Monday, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency, activating the state highway patrol and the Missouri National Guard to help maintain order in the St. Louis region when the grand jury announces its decision.
It is no wonder why everything is a mess. It seems that the government wants to protect citizens against police brutality by letting the police use brute force against the protesters. Though the protesters are violent and often get out of hand, they are standing up for what they believe in. Whether the grand jury decides to indict Wilson in Brown’s death or not, this will change history for better or for worse.
If Wilson is not charged, violence will break all across the country – starting with Ferguson. It is possible that it will be even worse than the August outbreaks after Brown died.
Though the protesters have settled down, they have not gone away and have been lingering, waiting for the grand jury’s ruling, which could range from intentional murder to a far lesser charge of manslaughter.  What makes it worse is that Ferguson Chief of Police Tom Jackson said in media reports last week that Darren Wilson will “immediately” report back to duty if the grand jury does not indict him.
Because of this, tensions will only grow higher and put both protesters and Wilson in extreme danger. It was not a smart move to report this to the public just days before the grand jury’s decision.
If Wilson is indicted and charged with a crime, then it is possible that tensions will die down. Of course, there will always be pressure between citizens and police, but laws may be passed to change that.
It might be better if Wilson is charged with a crime – he might be safer in jail than anywhere else he would be if he is not charged at all. Though it all comes down to the evidence, I believe that it would be better if he was proven guilty for everyone’s sake and safety. Violent protests would be less likely to erupt and fewer people would get hurt in the mess of it all.
Until there is a conclusion, there is no way to find a possible outcome for the situation. It is likely that there will be violent protests that erupt no matter what the grand jury does.
As the moment of decision – at least as far as the grand jury goes – in the Brown case approaches, it seems as if the city of Ferguson and African-American groups around the nation are a ticking bomb. Though Ferguson already had an outbreak in August with police using tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters, there is a good chance that the protests will be much worse if Wilson is not charged, especially if he immediately reports back to duty. The chief’s stance sends a message that police brutality, even if Wilson did not commit that act, is okay.
It is good that the African-Americans and others who are supporting Brown are standing up for themselves against police brutality. Someone has to stand up against the injustices of this world and the voices taking a stand need to be heard.
The trouble is not all police officers, either, but the select few who abuse their power. Most policemen and women are out there risking their lives to protect their community, and I respect that.
For the sake of the United States, I hope that Wilson is charged in Brown’s death, because if he is not, 50 years of tension will break throughout the nation.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Woodward To Student Journalists: Do Your Research, Then Go Out And Get The Story

An overflow crowd of student journalists and teachers filled a Washington, D.C. hotel ballroom to hear legendary journalist Bob Woodward deliver the keynote address at the National Scholastic Press Association. The students greeted Woodward with a standing ovation.
By Mugdha Gurram
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Young reporters need to get out and talk to people if they want a good story, legendary investigative reporter Bob Woodward told a crowd of student journalists.
“The best source of information is people,” Woodward said in his keynote address at the National Scholastic Press Conference last week.
“Go to the scene,” Woodward said. “There’s always a scene to go to.”
As journalists, “we don’t show up enough,” said Woodward. “You have to get your ass out of the chair and go see things.”
Woodward, best known for being one of two Washington Post reporters who investigated and unveiled the 1970s Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of former President Richard Nixon.
Now an editor at the newspaper, Woodward is also the author of 15 non-fiction books – all of them national bestsellers – and is widely regarded as one of the best journalists in the country.
But as a young reporter in 1972, just months before writing his first Watergate story, Woodward learned his lesson the hard way about going to the scene.
Woodward told students that he wrote a story based on information from a reliable source. The source told Woodard that the Mayflower Coffee Shop had failed a health inspection because of “horrific” conditions. He wrote the story about the coffee shop in the fancy Mayflower Hotel and filed it.
A city editor asked him if he’d ever been to the coffee shop.
When Woodward said no, the editor suggested, “Why don’t you get off your ass and go visit?”
When he did, Woodward discovered that the Mayflower Hotel had no such coffee shop. The closed down Mayflower Coffee Shop was instead in a Hilton hotel. He went back to the office and corrected his mistake.
Woodward told the students to look to witnesses, documents or whatever they can get their hands on, because there’s always something.
“I have never heard of a story where there’s no source of human beings, no source of documents,” said Woodward. “Your job as a journalist is to present the facts.”
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
After speaking to the student journalists, 
Woodward spent time signing books.
He emphasized the importance of this in America.
“This is the wonderful part of this country,” said Woodward. “You can ask about anything!”
He stressed the importance of doing research, especially before an interview, and advised going beyond a simple Google search.
“There are no boundaries,” he said, when it comes to getting information.
Looking up the person to be interviewed and researching their work shows that you “take them as seriously as they take themselves,” Woodward said, adding that he once sent President Obama a 15-page memo outlining what he wanted to talk about before their interview.
Woodward also talked about where to draw the line. He said that while it’s important to pursue a story, something that violates privacy and isn’t something that the public needs to know is not worth it.
He talked about the ever-increasing presence of political bias in cable news channels, calling out networks like Fox News and MSNBC.
Along with giving journalism tips, Woodward reminisced about times from his iconic career.
He told the audience that one of his great regrets was the slip-up with Janet Cooke, a reporter who made up a story about a child heroin user that he, as an editor, failed to catch. The story, published in 1980, won a Pulitzer Prize, which the embarrassed Washington Post had to return.
He talked about his interview with President Ford, some 25 years after Ford pardoned Nixon for his role in Watergate.
In multiple interviews, Woodward repeatedly pestered Ford for the reason why he granted the pardon.
Exasperated, Ford told Woodward he was bored with the question, but the reporter told the former president that he still hadn’t answered it.
Then, Woodward said, Ford opened up.
“I did this for the country,” Ford told him. As president, he didn’t want the nation to be hung up on the scandal, which would surely have dragged on for years without the pardon. Ford also told him he wanted his own presidency, not one mired in the drama of Nixon and Watergate.
It was not the answer Woodward had expected at all.
“This is one of the things about journalism,” said Woodward. “You are often surprised.”
One of Woodward’s last pieces of advice was not a journalism one, but rather a humanitarian one.
“Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them.”
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Friday, November 14, 2014

Up Close And Personal With The Berlin Wall

Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
Part of the Berlin Wall, on display at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

By Sydney Hallett
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The West Side: Artistically represented with vibrant colors. Someone spray painted the words “Act Up!” across the wall, indicating the freedom that the citizens had on that side.
You could tell that a thriving community flourished there under a democratic government, with a free press and citizens at liberty to paint the wall that divided a city.
The East Side: A blank, gray wall. There were no signs of expressed freedom, as it looked like it was never touched by a single citizen. Next to the gray wall stood a tall guard tower, signaling that if anyone tried climbing the wall or touched the wall on the east side that they would be arrested or even shot.
Mirwais Kakar, Hila Yosafi-Lehman and 
Sydney Hallett were part of a recent 
Youth Journalism International excursion 
to the Newseum.

Communism had taken over East Berlin, the side where people were hungry and poverty rates were extremely high.
It was two totally different worlds, but it was one city.
November 9 marked the 25th Anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.  A piece of the Berlin Wall is on display at the Newseum, where visitors can see the difference between the democracy and Communist rule in the city of Berlin from 1961 to 1989.
When I visited the Newseum on November 8 with fellow students from Youth Journalism International, I didn’t know it was the anniversary of the unity of Berlin.
As we arrived, signs that marked the anniversary greeted us, and I wondered why it was so important. I never really learned about the Berlin Wall in any of my classes, so I did not understand what the big deal was. Of course I knew about it, but until that moment, I didn’t realize the extreme importance of the wall to those not just in Berlin, but around the world as well.
Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
Hidden compartments in the Trabant automobile, a small car manufactured in East Germany from 1957 to 1991, were sometimes used to smuggle people through the Berlin Wall from East Berlin into West Berlin. It was also used to drive through breaches in the wall the day it fell - Nov. 9, 1989. A "Trabi," as the cars were called, was on display outside the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Sunday as part of the museum's observation of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

At the exhibit a piece of the wall stood just like it would have in pre-1990 Berlin, but without the barbed wire.
The first sight I saw was the West Side and I was extremely impressed with the beauty and expression painted on the wall. Every inch was full of color and joy. It seemed like the people of West Berlin made the wall a canvas of their freedom.
Walking over to the East side, I expected it to look the same, but when I crossed over and looked, I was in shock.
The East side was gray and bland to the point that it seemed like a completely different piece of stone. If I saw the two sides in a picture, I would have never have guessed that they were two opposite sides of one wall.
On the East Side stood the guard tower. Even though no one was up there, it made me feel uncomfortable compared to the West Side.
The differences were drastic, and without even knowing the history, just looking at the two sides made me realize how different East and West Berlin were.
I then understood how important the Berlin Wall was to people.
Citizens on the East side were restricted to harsh rules and given little to no freedom. On the West side, citizens were creative, imaginative, and society thrived.
Part of the Berlin Wall on display at the Newseum

in Washington, D.C.
When the wall was torn down, it not only proved to be a physical barrier but also an emotional barrier in a divided city.
Loved ones who had been separated for 28 years finally got to see each other on November 9, 1991. Friends united and a broken city finally became one again. Even though I was not yet born, I could experience the emotion and power that the Berlin Wall stood for because of the Newseum.
Seeing the wall was one of the most breathtaking experiences of my life – not because it was a beautiful sight, but because of the history and the emotional journey behind the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall.

See Youth Journalism International's overview of the Newseum, a piece that includes photos and information about the FBI and crime exhibit.

See more from Youth Journalism International on the Newseum, including photos and information about the 9/11 exhibit and the Pulitzer Prize winning photography exhibit.
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Newseum Displays Unforgettable Images

Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
The broadcast antenna of the World Trade Center's North Tower, destroyed in the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. Behind the tower are newspaper front pages from that time.
By Van Ngoc Nguyen
WASHINGTON, D.C. – While attending the fall conference of National Scholastic Press Association, I had the precious opportunity to visit the Newseum.
This museum of news is truly an ideal place for student reporters and photographers to get worthy information about gathering news and gain insights into journalism.
Two exhibits at the Newseum attracted my attention the most: The Pulitzer Prize Photography Gallery and The 9/11 Gallery.
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
A 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by New York Times photographer Josh Haner of Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman.

The Pulitzer Prize Photography Gallery consists of Pulitzer-winning photos and a documentary film featuring some photographers talking about the stories behind their famous images.
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut appears in a documentary about Pulitzer Prize winning photos. In 1972, he made the iconic image of Huynh Thi Kim Phuc, a Vietnamese girl burning and running from a napalm attack that won Ut, an Associated Press photographer, the Pulitzer Prize the following year. 

Their stories touched my heart, inciting feelings and thoughts: surprise, sorrow, admiration and happiness.
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
The Newseum photo gallery includes photographer Nick Ut's 1973 Pulitzer winner for spot news photography. The photo, Terror of War, shows nine-year-old Huynh Thi Kim Phuc, burning from napalm, running and screaming, "Too hot, please help me!"

With indelible pictures, artifacts, and interviews with people on the scene, the 9/11 Gallery makes every visitor sadly remember the tragic terrorist attacks.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is the broadcast antenna from the top of the World Trade Center. On one wall are front pages from many newspapers covering the attack.
Along with others in the crowded exhibit, I silently read the front pages about that horrific day, and reminded myself to appreciate the present more.
Van Nguyen / youthjournalism.org
Cameras, a press pass and other gear that belonged to photographer Bill Biggart,who perished in the 9/11 attacks as he documented the scene at the World Trade Center, are at the Newseum.

The 9/11 Gallery also shows a documentary film about the passionate photojournalist Bill Biggart, who died when the second tower at the World Trade Center fell. He was the only working journalist killed while covering the attacks and some of his pictures are on display along with his equipment and press credentials recovered by rescue workers.
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FBI Artifacts, The Berlin Wall, Unabomber Cabin And More - The Newseum Has It All

Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
An open air balcony on the top floor of the Newseum offers a spectacular view of the U.S. Capitol. The flags of the Canadian embassy hang from the building next door.

By Mugdha Gurram
WASHINGTON, D.C. – With exhibits that included a piece of the Berlin Wall and others that focused on 9/11 and years of Pulitzer Prize-winning photos, it’s tough to make it through a fraction of the displays at the Newseum, a museum of news.
The Pulitzer Prize Gallery featured a multitude of award winners dating back to 1942 and in the center is a wall covered with small version of the photographs, categorized by date.
Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
The Unabomber's cabin 
is part of the FBI exhibit
at the Newseum.

The surrounding walls are covered with enlarged photos with descriptions of what is shown and the circumstances of how the photographer captured the image.
These images varied from heartwarming to heartbreaking. The photographs spoke for themselves, but for some – such as the picture of a starving Sudanese child and a vulture taken by the late Kevin Carter – the descriptions made them even more meaningful.
One of my personal favorites at the Newseum was the FBI exhibit featuring federal criminal cases of bombers and serial killers. 

Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
Items that help document the arrest of the 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef are part of the FBI exhibit at the Newseum.
Mugdha Gurram /

A Ku Klux Klan robe and

hood is part of the FBI

display at the Newseum.
The display included the handcuffs used to arrest Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Center bombing, and a carefully preserved Ku Klux Klan costume.
They even had the cabin the infamous Unabomber used to live in.
The FBI exhibit is quite chilling. As a huge fan of crime mysteries, thought, I was fascinated by it. Any fellow Criminal Minds fans probably would be, too. On the other hand, to see the various objects that belong to such gruesome parts of history – well, it was a mix of emotions.
The top level of the Newseum included an open-air balcony that offered a beautiful view of the Capitol – and a great spot for a selfie.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Students Swarm Exhibit Booths At Washington Journalism Conference

Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
Students attending the National Scholastic Press Association's fall conference in Washington, D.C. last week spent some of their time at the exhibit booths. Colleges tried to attract potential pupils, yearbook companies pitched to students and advisors and the non-profit Youth Journalism International, tucked in a back corner, provided information about its annual Excellence in Journalism contest.
Mugdha Gurram / youthjournalism.org
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