Pick a Side. Any Side

Guest Post: Olivia Bohringer, Student of the World

Political parties, gender roles, majors in college, personality quizzes, cultural backgrounds, generational differences, religious identify, fashion choices: decisions we make as frequently as every day or as rarely as once in lifetime, each choice asks us to pick a side. Choose a loyalty. What do you stand for? What will you fall for?

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Source: Discovery Magazine, April 2014

Media professionals have an exceptional obligation to loyalties. On one hand, we go into the Deep Dark World of Media to advocate for the underdogs and to touch the most human part of our audiences. But we also sign up to be journalists, agency junkies, copywriters, producers, and communications people to bring in a paycheck. We sit in classes and learn how to work through ethical dilemmas and where to look for inspiration once we enter the real world, and we flip through textbooks and autobiographies looking for answers on how we’ll define our values. But the world of communications and media also asks us to define the values of our audiences and/or industries. A profound responsibility comes with the work in this field, being held accountable to our own set of personal ethics, to codes of action in our industries, and to our audiences.

Loyalty is often reduced to being told to pick a side. But what happens when there’s no clear line in the sand drawn? In a world of political correctness, it is often easy to proudly identify your allegiance to one side with one foot still firmly planted with the opposition. We can talk the talk, but the challenge comes with walking the walk. It’s easy to nod along when you’re in a crowd of many, but the challenge comes when the popular opinion does correspond with your own.

To ask the average student or professional to define his or her loyalties will not necessarily outline clear moral codes. It’s not easy to think about the values you’re devoted to nor the ones that you outright condemn. Perhaps it’s easy to frame loyalties as motivations; what is it that drives you? What gets you up in the morning? What do you find rewarding, and just as importantly, what is discouraging to you? Loyalty has a variety of definitions, but to identify your own, think about the decisions that you are most proud of. Think also about decisions you’ve regretted; sometimes a loyalty can’t be defined until it’s been betrayed.

Ever-shifting and ever-challenging, loyalty shapes every action we take, both personally and professionally. To understand one’s own loyalties is to understand your deepest ethos, your motivations, your most personal drivers. Loyalties reflect our upbringings and our innate values, and they grow to reflect our changing experiences; we can look at our priorities and our passions to find what drives us and calls us to action. The challenge lies in deciding which of these loyalties speak loudest, and if they speak loud enough to pick a side.

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Facebook: Tech Giant or World’s Largest Aggregator?

Guest Post: Ellery Fry, Media Critic

Aligning loyalties should reflect someone’s ethical values.  However, there is a heightened standard for the media and news outlets. This heightened need of loyalties comes to a conflict when looking at Facebook. Facebook considers themselves a tech company but to most users and other critics, they can be argued as the world’s largest media aggregator.  Given this responsibility, Facebook runs into conflicting loyalties on what they should do about censorship. Facebook recently censored the Terror of War Napalm Girl photo from a users post. A Norwegian author who wanted to share the Pulitizer-prize winning photo, by Nick Ut, on the media site was the user who uploaded the image.

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Photo Credit:”The Terror of War by Nick Ut

Facebook however, did not see the photo as artistic, historical or meaningful. Based on Facebook’s initial censorship process and loyalty to provide users with an appropriate feed, the tech company removed the post. Facebook initially saw their loyalty to providing an appropriate feed as more important than conveying the historical and artistic nature of these photos.

After a few days of controversy after the post was taken down, Facebook reinstated the photo and released a statement that stated, “We recognize the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time.” Another statement read, “Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal.”

Facebook needs to work on finding a golden mean in their censorship policy. Where can the line be drawn with censorship? What can be argued as artistic? What is obscenity? All of these questions make it hard for Facebook to keep their loyalties uncrossed.

Going forward, Facebook said they will “adjust [their] review mechanisms” to allow this photo to be shared in the future.

Is this enough?

While Facebook considers themselves a tech company, they are increasingly changing the way to world gets its news and media. Espen Egil Hansen – editor-in-chief and chief executive of Aftenposten – called on Zuckerberg to “recognize his role as the ‘the world’s most powerful editor’ of a site that has become a key player in the distribution of news and information globally.” However, by taking on this new role as a faction of the media, Facebook will have to realign its loyalties. Will the “tech” giant change its ways and realign its loyalties to match its role as a member of the media?

Time will tell.

Happy Labor Day

I always remember my father with fondness on this day because of his tenacious embrace of the labor movement.

As the American economy becomes more and more service based we may forget labor’s historical gravity. The first Labor Day celebration was on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, promoted by the Central Labor Union. The Union held its second Labor Day celebration the next year on September 5, 1883. Labor Day has been celebrated on the first Monday of September ever since. Its launch came at a time when America was moving into the industrial revolution and the conditions of workers were often difficult.

My dad, a WWII vet, frequently teased me about Rosie the Riveter and powerful women. I was young and didn’t understand how much her iconic image meant to him. I’m guessing that in some small (and not so small) ways I must have reminded him of the power she signified. Doing a little research on her image this morning, I learned a few things I didn’t know before.

There were two iconic Rosies.

Rosie Riveter norman rockwellThe first Rosie – the one most of us remember – was painted by J. Howard Miller. He was commissioned by Westinghouse to make a series of posters promoting the war effort. Miller inspired the Saturday Evening Post, whose covers tended toward civic inspiration. With WWII raging the Post hired Norman Rockwell. Rockwell’s Rosie appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post (May 29, 1943). It was the Memorial Day issue. She’s muscular and dressed for a hard day’s work, just like the Rosie most of us might recall. We also know she’s Rosie because of the name inscribed on her lunch pail. However, what might surprise many of you, as it did me, this Rosie is stepping on a copy of Adolph Hitler’s book Mein Kampf. Now this is serious symbolic propaganda.

We_Can_Do_It! J. Howard MillerOn the heels of Post’s highly successful cover, stories about real life Rosies began appearing in newspapers across America. The U.S. government took advantage of Rosie’s popularity and embarked on a recruiting campaign named after her. The campaign, done by J. Walter Thompson under the auspices of the Advertising Council, used J. Howard Miller’s Rosie. The campaign brought millions of women into the workforce. To this day, Rosie the Riveter is considered one of the most successful government advertising campaign in history. On May 25, 2012 the Ad Council threw a 70th Birthday Bash for Rosie, noting that Rosie the Riveter remains an enduring emblem of empowerment for women everywhere.

Dad, thanks for teaching me the value of a hard day’s work. I miss you.

Happy Labor Day everyone!

Jean