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  1. 1. 1 What are we doing here; what’s this thing all about? We’re looking for “the best and the brightest” students to work collaboratively with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, DC. What’s the Pulitzer Center about? “..The Pulitzer Center's mission is to promote in-depth coverage of international affairs, focusing on topics that have been under-reported, mis-reported - or not reported at all.” To get a better understanding of what the Pulitzer Center does and why we think that it is important, let’s review how some news stories were presented to us this past summer a. As of June 30, 2007, The Washington Post reports that Democratic candidates for president1 had raised a combined total of $160,253,355, while the Republican candidates2 have collectively raised $104,844,975. At the head of the pack for the Democrats are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton with $58,495,873 and $52,532,868 respectively. The top fundraisers on the Republican side are Mitt Romney with $34,530,300 and Rudy Giuliani with a total of $33,305,747. The amount of funding a candidate receives plays a huge role in their ability to market themselves and win over voters. As a result, there is often a direct correlation between the amount of money a candidate has and their rankings in the polls. (What kind of funding rules (if any) exist in your high school? If they are allowed to fundraise or use their own personal money to campaign, do the students with the most money usually win?) b. On August 20, 2007, star quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick, plead guilty to charges of dogfighting. The New York Times reports that he made his plea in “a deal with federal prosecutors that will probably land him in prison while he is in 1 Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd, and Mike Gravel 2 Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback, Duncan Hunter, Mike Huckabee, Tommy Thompson, and Jim Gilmore
  2. 2. 2 the prime of his N.F.L. career.” c. On Monday, August 28, 2007, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced his resignation after a stormy period of accusations alleging that he allowed his intense personal loyalties to President Bush to impede his ability to carry out the law. Several Democrats who were among the most ardent of his critics suspected that he had “fudged the truth” under oath in hearings about his involvement in the firings of several U.S. attorneys. Considerable evidence indicates that he had dismissed the attorneys because of his own partisan motives. d. On Sunday, September 9, 2007, pop singer Britney Spears appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards in what was regarded by many to be one of the worst performances in VMA history. The singer, who has had a string of bad press in recent months, lip-synched incorrectly, forgot many of her dance moves, and at times seemed disoriented. Now we have a few questions for you about these stories. If you try to be honest, we’ll do the same. 1. Take the three stories above. In your opinion, rank them in order of importance. Before you do, let’s get something clear. An exercise like this is clearly value-laden. That means that we’re asking for opinions. There is no right or wrong answer. However, the fact that there is no right or wrong answer does not mean that the consequences of one’s thoughts are all the same. For example, if you were asked to rank a cheeseburger, spinach, and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream in the order in which you liked them, there would be no right answer, but there would be consequences because your choices would effect a number of things including your health, your weight, the profitability of the “manufacturers” and
  3. 3. 3 distributors of these items, and the likelihood that these items would continue to be on the market a available to buy in the future. So, in order of importance, how would you rank the three stories above: First: __________________(Just say campaign finance, attorney general, dogfighting, or Britney Spears) Second: ________________(Just say campaign finance, attorney general, dogfighting, or Britney Spears) Third: _________________(Just say campaign finance, attorney general, dogfighting, or Britney Spears) Fourth: ________________ (Just say campaign finance, attorney general, dogfighting, or Britney Spears) 2. Now, here’s where it may get tougher for us. Let’s take it away from one judgmental field (which story you think is most important) to another judgmental field (if you were the news editor for a newspaper, radio station, or TV station, in what order would you report the stories?) First: __________________(Just say campaign finance, attorney general, dogfighting, or Britney Spears) Second: ________________(Just say campaign finance, attorney general, dogfighting, or Britney Spears) Third: __________________(Just say campaign finance, attorney general, dogfighting, or Britney Spears) Fourth: ________________ (Just say campaign finance, attorney general, dogfighting, or Britney Spears) 3. Okay, how does this relate to the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting? (Note: keep in mind that this reporting to Soldan H.S. students and teachers is coming from Civitas Associates, so it would be presumptuous and judgmental for us to say what Pulitzer would think.) But just to make things fun, that’s what we’re going to do. When Jon and David from the Pulitzer Center come to Soldan on Thursday, October 4, they might have to bop me upside the head because I have so distorted their thinking with this presentation. If I come in wearing a helmet, you’ll know why. Anyway, to get back to the point, the way in which the mainstream press dealt with the four above-mentioned stories reveals a great deal about why the Pulitzer Center exists, what its mandate is, why they are covering the story of the refugee crisis created by the U.S. invasion on Iraq and the ensuing civil war, and why they are coming to Soldan on October 4th. For the most part, here’s the way that the “mainstream press” chose to cover these stories in June-September. You can decide for yourself if you think they “got it right” in determining “what was most important” and/or what was of most interest to readers, listeners, and viewers. a. The Washington Post coverage of campaign finances has been ongoing since the inception of each candidate’s decision to run for president. However, this information only makes it into major news stories periodically when major contributions are made
  4. 4. 4 or when controversy over current campaign finance reform surfaces. Additionally, these funds b. On August 20th, Michael Vick made headlines by pleading guilty to running an illicit dogfighting ring, blowing much conventional news off the airwaves. The quarterback, who was just entering his peak within the NFL, had been hosting and gambling on brutal canine battles at his property in Surrey, Virginia. As a result, Mr. Vick was barred from summer training camp and has shamed the face of the NFL. c. A week later on August 28th, Alberto Gonzales resigned, taking some of the spotlight off of Vick, but news on him is carried primarily on political shows and networks. Gonzales, the first Hispanic to serve as attorney general in the U.S., is thought to have been ousted by the Bush’s inner circle in order to prevent further controversy over his decision to fire several US attorneys. d. Then, on September 9th, Britney Spears gave yet another embarrassing performance. While she has made a significant contribution to pop culture over the past decade, the public seems to be more interested in the series of public faux pas she has made within the last couple of years, and this incident was no exception. Major news carriers from CNN to The New York Times covered the story as front-page, primetime news. So here in simplified terms is the way that the news went: a. Campaign finances were reported largely on “straight” news days. On August 20th, Michael Vick drove “straight news” off the front page. b. On August 28th, Alberto Gonzales, shared the spotlight for a few days with Vick. c. On September 9th, Britney Spears drove Michael Vick and Alberto Gonzales off d. the front page. As the image below demonstrates, this is how most, not all, but most of the press – particularly the mainstream press - played several recent news stories.
  5. 5. 5 Just as you as students did in the beginning of this class, they made value-laden choices. However, their choices are not made in isolation. They affect others. If we take the three stories from the past few months, we might ask, which of these is going to be most important to us in five years, in ten years, in twenty years, in fifty years? Again, we’re being judgmental, but most informed people would say that they story on climate change has the greatest significance. Yet on a day-to-day basis, it has very little “staying power.” Stories like Michael Vick and Britney Spears may be of interest to us, but they don’t do much to help us be “informed citizens.” Some feel that the role of the media is to reflect the interests of the people. Others would describe that more blatantly; the media should (a value-laden word) pander to the people to whatever extent is necessary to increase circulation or ratings. If you ever watch CNN, tune in to Larry King at 8:00 PM or Anderson Cooper at 9:00 PM (Central time). Yep, sometimes they look at “serious” issues. Larry King likes to interview presidential historians; Anderson Cooper is committed to keeping the public aware of the plight of New Orleans post-Katrina. But we have yet to see how low can they go when it comes to groveling for ratings (clearly I’m being judgmental here).
  6. 6. 6 The Ratings Pyramid Now, let’s remember that we stated previously that the mission of the Pulitzer Center is to “… promote in-depth coverage of international affairs, focusing on topics that have been under- reported, mis-reported - or not reported at all.” Clearly the staff of the Pulitzer Center, and even before them, the founders of the Pulitzer Center made a decision – a value-laden decision – that certain news is under-reported and it is important for the public to hear that news. That’s why we’re here today! A story that the Pulitzer Center is currently covering is the refugee crisis created by the U.S. invasion on Iraq and the ensuing civil war. Let’s take a look at where this is and then why this can be such an important story. Iraq is the pink, shaded area on the map!
  7. 7. 7 And here’s a more detailed map of Iraq!
  8. 8. 8 Global Gateway: Iraq- Death of a Nation? Since the war in Iraq began in 2003, more than 16% of Iraqis have lost their homes and been displaced. As of June 21, 2007, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that 2.2 million Iraqis had been displaced to neighboring countries, and 2 million were displaced internally, with nearly 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month. To put this in perspective, imagine that the entire population of the metropolitan area of St. Louis was unable to return to their homes and had to flee to neighboring countries or move somewhere else within the U.S. – twice over. The reasons behind the growing numbers of refugees and displaced Iraqi citizens are complex. The occupation of Iraq has led to the destruction of many homes and villages. Additionally, the anarchy that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime has led to sectarian violence between the various ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, the Kurds, the Shi’as, and the Sunnis. In fact, this sectarian violence has gotten so bad, that the country is falling into a Civil War. Reporters David Enders and Richard Rowley, who were sponsored by the Pulitzer Center, traveled across Iraq and the region to document all of this factional fighting and the growing refugee crisis, as well as how the conflict is destabilizing Iraq's neighbors. They are producing a number or articles, interviews, and videos about what they saw. Fortunately for you, you have the unique opportunity to talk personally with David Enders, who is coming on October 4 to speak and answer our questions about his experiences in Iraq. When David is not reporting in Iraq, Syria or other countries in the Middle East, he is a teacher in Harlem, so he is very excited to speak with all of you and share his insight on the issues. You might be asking yourself, “What could I possibly ask?” We can suggest a few areas of exploration. 1. Discrimination against immigrant groups. Many Iraqi refugees are experiencing xenophobia (in other words, a fear or discrimination of outsiders) in the countries in which they have fled to. The Washington Post recently reported that Syrian President Bashar Assad will soon sign an order barring Iraqi immigrants from purchasing property, and many relocated Iraqis have been unable to find work or open businesses in their new homes. Imagine if one hundred years ago the city of St. Louis had barred all Italians from owning land or starting business in the area. How would this have affected the character of the city? In what ways do discrimination against immigrants impact an area? Is there still discrimination here in St. Louis? 2. The impact of a large influx of refugees on an area. The countries surrounding Iraq are seeing hundreds and even thousands of refugees crossing their borders on a daily basis.
  9. 9. 9 How does this impact a country? What kinds of stressors does this create? From the opposite angle, how does the steady stream of citizens leaving impact Iraq? 3. The right to remain in a particular area. In Iraq, many families are being forced to leave their homes for many reasons. Some leave because their homes have been destroyed in strategic military strikes, some are kicked out by other ethnic groups, and still others are unable to continue to support themselves in the flailing economy. Here in St. Louis there are 187 families that are moving out of the Hadley Township in Richmond Heights because developers have come in and are buying out every property owned in the area, even if they don’t want to sell. What rights do these people have to remain in the area? How do they differ from the Iraqi citizens being forced to leave their homes? What do they have in common? To put the situation of Hadley Township into context, let’s look at a similar case in the city of Maplewood, which is adjacent to Richmond Heights. First, let’s go back to the turn of this century. The city of Maplewood was hurting financially, and in particular the school district was nearly broke. The “powers” that be decided to take a course that most other municipalities and school districts in St. Louis County had: they announced that they would take RFPs (Requests for Proposals) to develop new commercial areas within the city and district. This would raise badly needed tax revenue. However, it would also mean that in all likelihood one or more residential areas would have to be torn down to make room for such a development. Between 2000 and 2003, the city of Maplewood negotiated with several developers who wanted to put “box stores” within the city limits. The targeted area was known as Highland Park, bordered by Hanley on the west, Bruno on the north, Laclede Station Road on the east, and Folk on the south. Most of the discussions revolved around what would be the buyout price on the homes. By late 2003, the city reached agreement with the developer THF (which stands for ‘To Have Fun). THF planned to put in a Wal-Mart, SAM’s, and a host of other stores in the area. The offered buy-out prices far in excess of most other developers; in some cases 250% of the previously assessed value of the homes. Homeowners whose houses had been valued at less than $100,000 were offered as much as $200,000. While there was some grumbling, most of the residents in the 180 or so households felt the buyout was fair and they did not object to the deal. By 2004 the deal was done, the bulldozers came in and construction on Wal-Mart and its “cousins” began. Badly needed additional tax revenue began to flow into Maplewood and the Maplewood-Richmond Heights school district. An independent researcher is now studying how former residents have adjusted to the buyout in retrospect. Early indications are that most feel that they were dealt with fairly and they are happy to be where they are currently living. However, some also feel a sense of loss. One woman who moved into the area in the 1950s and lived there for thirty years was so heartbroken by having her home and neighborhood cleared for the development that during the demolition period she frequently went back and cried in the driveway of her former home. She bonded with
  10. 10. 10 the most recent owner of the home, shared memories of the neighborhood, and took a brick as a souvenir. One of the reasons why Wal-Mart wanted to locate in the Highland Park area was because it was told that this was “as close as it could get to Highway 40.” Well now we learn that another development – this time in the neighborhood known as Hadley Township – is even closer to Highway 40; it is adjacent to the highway (see maps below). This area is also adjacent to the Wal-Mart buyout area and is similar demographically. Now a new developer, Michelson, has plans for mixed-use development in the area (see plans below). If things go as planned, within two years or so, another 187 homes in the area (this time in Hadley Township in Richmond Heights) will be bulldozed and new homes, condos, stores, possibly even a hotel will replace them (a few of the existing dwellings will remain in this case). Our question here is, “Is this a displaced person issue?” While the residents of Hadley Township are not being ousted from their homes for the same reasons that Iraqis are, these families will still have to leave the area. Does this make them, in at least some sense, refugees? Displaced persons? What new challenges will they face in their new communities? What impact will it have on Richmond Heights? What impact will it have on the school district? Finally, what responsibility do we have as citizens to residents of Hadley Township? What responsibility does the government have to the residents of Hadley? Do we/they have any responsibility to them at all? Hopefully these questions will give you something to think about when you prepare for the meeting with David and Jon on October 4.
  11. 11. 11 The Next Area Scheduled to Go Hadley Townshi Wal Mart,
  12. 12. 12 Hadley Township Go-Team Maps “The Heights Richmo nd
  13. 13. 13 “The Heights Richmo nd
  14. 14. 14
  15. 15. 15 So, as we go home tonight, some of us will seek a source of news (newspaper, radio [NPR], television [PBS – Channel 9], internet, etc. Interest in “news” has been sliding in recent years; maybe you can be part of the reversal of that trend! As much as I care about the world, or purport to care about the world, when I check out the newspaper in the morning the first place I go is the sports section. And I’m not above heading for the sleaze; if Tony LaRussa is picked up for DUI, I want to know all about it. But I try to keep in mind that Albert going three for four or Tony having one too many is of little consequence on the future of the world. Similarly, the multitude of crime or so-called human interest stories that are often on the front pages of our newspapers (“if it bleeds, it leads.”) are essentially “here today, gone tomorrow” stories. That’s why, when I’m on my game (i.e. being the way I want to be), I go for stories about the environment, about international conflict, about human rights, about social disparities (both within our countries and in other countries), about hypocrisy among our leaders, about people and corporations buying their way into power, about decent people not having access to the levers of power. These are the stories that will have long- lasting effect. These are the stories on an international level that the Pulitzer Center is covering. We hope that you will take interest in them when the Pulitzer gang comes to your school in October!
  16. 16. 16 Iraq: Death of a Nation? quot;Iraq: death of a nation,quot; a project sponsored by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and carried out by David Enders and Richard Rowley, will examine how the US invasion and occupation created a multi-faceted civil war in which the US is now actively arming multiple factions. It will also examine the refugee crisis created by the invasion and the fighting that has followed. The political, sectarian and ethnic nature of the civil war and resistance to the occupation will be examined from the standpoint of Iraqis who are directly involved. The project will also look at the profound effect the war has had on Iraq's neighbors. Jordan, which initially accepted refugees without conditions, has all but closed its borders, and Syria, which has absorbed more than 1 million refugees already, is appealing to the international community for assistance. United Nations officials have warned of the potential for a massive refugee flow to Europe if something is not done soon. Reporting from Iraq's Kurdish north, Enders and Rowley will also examine the possibility of Turkey being dragged into Iraq as a combatant in an effort to destroy Kurdish rebel groups that use Iraq as a base to attack Turkey. David Enders is a New York-based freelance journalist who has spent more than 18 months in Iraq over the past four years. Richard Rowley has made four award winning feature documentaries with international theatrical distribution and dozens of short films and television pieces.