A fishy LA Times article or crap-proof journalism?

I hope you are all familiar with the SMELL Test. If not, to sum it up it is a way to asses the credibility of or how reliable a piece of media is.

This past weekend for an ASCJ200 assignment, I took the SMELL test for a trial run on this article written by Los Angeles Times reporter Michael A. Memoli.  To summarize, the article is about president Donald Trump’s accusations of voter fraud in the November 2016 election.

So I got to smelling around and did some research on the source of the article and the information it provides. As stated above, it was published on the LA Time’s website (it’s their official site, I checked) and written by political reporter Michael A. Memoli.

His bio on the Times website says that he has  been a Washington-based political reporter for 11 years. His experience and proximity to America’s political scene gave me confidence that the article would be reliable. However, after reading other articles by Memoli I realized he had a slightly liberal lean. Nevertheless, I trusted his reporting.

Next I started to sniff around his evidence. I asked myself who did he talk to and what facts or quotes back up the statements he makes. Memoli does a great job at linking readers to articles that are relevant to past events or statements he mentions in his article. He also gathers quotes from both sides of the aisle on the issue of voter fraud, citing Sean Spicer, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), and California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

Despite his credible quotes and links, Memoli leaves out other issues discussed in the press conference. Admittedly, he states that it would have been good to give the reader more context by adding a video or listing other topics discussed.

The article also fails to put “evidence or ideology” as said in lecture when Memoli opens the article stating:

“President Trump’s continued insistence that as many as 5 million people illegally cast votes in the election induced further heartburn for the nascent administration Tuesday, as his press secretary struggled to explain and defend the unproven claim before ultimately abruptly ending his second televised briefing.”

His phrase “induced further heartburn for the nascent administration,” clearly reflects that of Memoli’s own opinion rather than objective reporting.

Another aspect of the article that is questionable is the absence of an actual poll or study from the 2016-2017 election that refutes Trump’s statement. Memoli could have also cited the statement from Trump’s own lawyers that saying that there was no voter fraud like this New York Times article did. 

After reading the article in full, the conclusion that Sean Spicer was asked questions on voter fraud that was not proven is logical. I trust that the journalist got it right in this situation. Although no viewpoint is marginalized and the content is not paid for (other criteria to consider in the smell test).

All in all, I have to deduct points for the lack of context when it comes to the entirety of the press conference and editorialization that takes place in the lead. This article doesn’t stink too bad… but it could benefit from a blast of Febreeze. 8/10



iPhone to No Phone and Back

Phone free:

I never thought I’d be in a situation regretting all the times I criticized and complained about Twitter, Facebook, and other apps on my phone for being dysfunctional, but after 24-hours of no media I realized how much I need them.

I knew going sans technology/media as a college student would be difficult; so to distance myself from distractions, I opted to stay at my grandparents house. I planned out my entire 24-hours, two (2) hours before starting my media fast with input on my schedule and tips from my family.

I decided I wouldn’t warn anyone since I was staying at my grandmother’s house, a place I knew I could be safe and fully functional without media. To start my media fast  I decided to make a vision board for the semester; something that I thought would foster more creativity and prompt less cell-phone usage. I was right.

There was something extremely refreshing and rewarding about using my hands to figure things out, map my thoughts, and to get something done. While making my vision board I was able to debate with myself on what was important to me, rather than having my Twitter or Instagram feed tell me.  After my board was done and a huge pile of raggedy magazines had culminated, only two hours had passed. I had a strong urge to take a picture of my board and share it on Snapchat and Instagram but after about 15 minutes of grappling with myself I realized it wasn’t necessary.

From there I walked to the grocery store for my grandma and I started to look at and take in the world around me differently. I talked to people in the neighborhood that I had never spoken to before. During my walk I took in the skyline and admired the architecture around me.

One walk, two meals and three hours of sleep later, I thought everything was going so well and I felt at peace with my media fast; then I cheated. While sorting through my grandad’s old records, I decided to listen to a few with my grandma. I told myself on a scale from 1-10, 10 being the worst, this was only level 3 cheating.

Sitting there listening to all the oldies I realized how much entertainment connects us to people. I had always seen music as a great way to socialize with people but it was cool to do it without sharing a snapchat, tweeting about it, or texting in a group-chat.

Records I listened to with my family during my media blackout.
Records I listened to with my family during my media blackout.

Even after a good 12 hours passed I still was having trouble coping. There were times when I found myself missing my phone and coveting the people using all the technology around me.  I wanted to know what the hot topics in the news were, what was being said in my group chat, and if I had received any new emails. I had never realized how much my desire to know controlled my actions.

I knew I was quite the inquisitive person but going without media/technology helped me discern what was important information. Throughout the day all I really needed to know was the weather, the time, and the directions to where I was going. Everything else was simply superfluous.

From there on my media fast felt long and grueling. I couldn’t workout without music and even felt weird showering without the background noise of a TV or music.  Despite my insecurities, I felt like my temporary sans-phone lifestyle was nothing short of rewarding.  Honestly in lecture when we were told going sans-phone would foster creativity I thought it was a load of crap but I realized how much I was forced to think on my own rather than fill my headspace with what’s on Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. I started to reach out to the people around me without my phone being a barrier. It seems weird but I became more social in that 24 hours without social media.

Back to reality:

I know you all were wondering : Did I post my vision board to social media ? The answer is no…but I did take a picture of it and send it to my family group chat.

Hitting the ground running, I decided to not backtrack and try to catch up with everything I’d missed. That was a mistake. People on Twitter were talking about all sorts of things I had never heard before. I saw a tweet that had mentioned John Lewis’ book sales jumped after Trump attacked him. I didn’t even know that Trump had said anything.

After doing some research on the exchange between Trump and John Lewis, I realized that I really didn’t care. Not just about what was said but about any other the information I had missed. It wasn’t particularly pressing to my life nor did it change anything about my day.

In the day after I ended my media fast,  I realized how even though technology can be convenient, it also makes us lazy.The same walk I took to the store the previous day I decided to take Uber  To add insult to injury, I didn’t even talk to my Uber driver; I listened to music on my phone.

My phone forced me to disconnect from the world immediately around me and turn to the interconnected social media sites. Throughout the day I barely held a conversation with the people that were right in front of me; my neighbors, family, etc. I would laugh at a joke at my phone rather than joking with people around me.

Ultimately, I realized how pathetic it was that I had to create an entire schedule for my media blackout rather than just exploring the world around me and taking my day one minute at a time. After my 24 hour media blackout,  I’ve started to look at my phone as not only a device that kept me connected but a device that barred me from connecting with that which was immediately around me.

No more walks to the store, listening to music with my grandma, or using my hands to make something and sort out my thoughts. Uber, Apple Music, and Instagram had replaced the physical connections i made with the world around me.