Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Code Switching in the White House

Michelle Obama was on Jimmy Fallon the other night, and I noticed a very interesting code switch during her interview. She was reenacting a conversation with her husband, the president, when she switched tones. She said, acting as if she was talking to her husband, "Yo babe, hook me up". This was very interesting because she had spoken with such sophisticated language for the whole rest of the interview previously, and suddenly her tone completely changed.  This  language reminded of stereotypical  African American slang, which to  me proves  that Michelle Obama was trying to show that they can be the typical African American couple, to relate to more people.

Is code switching necessary when you hold a position like the president of the United States?

I did some research to annswer this question, and came across an article by NPR which explored the reasons that people code switch. It said that "A lot of folks code-switch not just to fit in, but to actively ingratiate themselves to others." I believe that this is what the Obamas are trying to do by code switching. They are trying to appear more relatable to the people, and gain their approval..

 I think it is neccessary for people in power, like the president, to code switch to the degree until they are being fake or are lying. Everyone code switches; people speak differently to their friends than to their bosses. It is a natural occurrence that helps people navigate different social or professional situations. To what degree can the president, or other people of power, code switch? Is there a line that is should be drawn?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"Fit to Print"

As I walked into my kitchen today, I was greeted by a familiar newspaper, spread out across the counter. The New York Times has become a common household object at my house, and is a generally very widely read newspaper. Its stories reach thousands, and many people rely on the New York Times as a major source of current events.

As I glanced across the page, I noticed a small box in the top left corner, with what appeared to be the motto of the newspaper. It read: "All the News That's Fit to Print". This made me wonder:

What defines what is "fit to print"? What goes into making this decision, and what is the impact?

In order to answer these questions, I realized that newspapers in general are, in a way, a construction of history. Newspaper editors determine which stories are most important to be remembered and reported, based off of their own opinions through their own interpretation. This selection process tailors the news to create a certain picture of the world, either a picture that is as accurate as possible, or skewed in one way or another. Many things influence the decision of what is "fit to print", making the decision making process even more complex, and sometimes corrupt.

The public has realized this, and created an answer to that corruption. An organization called FAIR works "as an anti-censorship organization" to "expose neglected news stories and defend working journalists when they are muzzled." This group describes their opinion on bias in the media on their website:

 "Mainstream media are increasingly cozy with the economic and political powers they should be watchdogging. Mergers in the news industry have accelerated, further limiting the spectrum of viewpoints that have access to mass media. With U.S. media outlets overwhelmingly owned by for-profit conglomerates and supported by corporate advertisers, independent journalism is compromised."

Does this quote define the process of finding what is "fit to print"? Is that decision made through relationships with allies of other companies which is mutually beneficial, but overall harmful to the audience of the media? We must be aware of the bias in the media, and realize that a popular newspaper like the New York Times heavily dictates what people know about current events, and what they don't know. Is that what news is supposed to be?