Beneath the comfy blanket of open-mindedness

Scene from 'La mala educacion'

Scene from the movie 'La mala educacion' by Pedro Almodóvar

Apart from the news of endless riots in Africa and/or Asia, another topic caught my attention during this week. It was the controversial incident of a gay couple thrown out of a pub in Soho for displaying their affection in public.

I first saw the news in the Guardian , but I was intrigued by the comments of several followers of the BBC programme World Have Your Say on Facebook.

I won’t pick any names or concrete examples, as anyone interested can read them by him/herself, but many of them were against homosexuality or at least against public displays of affection when it comes to love between two persons of the same sex.

Of course, the opinions are very different as they come from people all over the world with different mentalities, cultures and education, but it was strange to find so many comments blaming the two guys who were asked to leave John Snow because they were being “obscene”.

I don’t know what they were really doing and how intimate they were, but as far as I know Soho is far from being a conservative , immaculate place in London. And to kick someone out from a pub because they are gay — well, that’s really racist and discriminative, isn’t it?

So this brings me to what I really want to emphasize, the fact that so many ‘westerns’ pose in the perfect, sincere image of open-minded people that understand the concept of politically-correctness and overcome any barriers of race, religion or sexuality. Which is not entirely true as a gram of racial segregation lays in many of them under that fluffy, elegant blanket of ‘anti-discrimination’ attitude.

I’m sure there are people who really feel that way without any absconded thought, but the rest just likes to pretend that they are better when it’s not really the case.

I am sure there is research on people’s real feelings towards racism – with everything that this involves – but I wonder what the results would be of an anonymous survey on at least 3,000 people coming from ‘civilised countries’ on a similar topic, including matters of homosexuality, immigration, interracial marriages etc.

Unfortunately I don’t think we really want to know the truth, cause it’s much more comfortable to point finger in public and then spit from behind.

I’d rather debate on topics such as ‘priests sexually abusing children/boys.’ That is what it should really bother us and make us nausea rather than two men/women kissing eachother in a pub in a city which is famous for extravaganza and libertine.

Twitter lesson with @fieldproducer

As a journo at University of Sheffield, I had the great pleasure to meet Neal Mann aka fieldproducer today, on a Twitter workshop. He describes himself as a “Freelance Journalist & social media junkie working for the likes of Sky News.” Basically, he has been breaking news on Twitter since 2009 for Sky News. Neal was a former broadcast MA student at the Uni. And he came to teach us some in-depth about this weird, yet fabulous micro-blogging platform. I admit I’m not such a big fan of tweeting, but I guess that’s because I’m more of a Facebook person.

However, there’s another story with Mark Zuckerberg’s billion wonder – it’s more friend like than newswise. There are many tips about Twitter on hundreds or thousands of blogs, yet not many people use Twitter as a tool for news gathering. Most of the print and web journalists, especially in my country, Romania, tweet only for promoting their articles, editorials etc. And that’s just fine, but there is more than selling your news on Twitter. There are stories hiding behind those 140 character messages, stories which can reach you faster and stronger even than media agencies such as AP or Reuters.

I remember, when I worked for www.adevarul.ro, that some of the very first pictures I’ve seen with the bomb attacks on Moscow metro last year came from Twitter. And so did the pictures of the airplane landing safely on Hudson river or the pictures of the train crash in Belgium in Feb. 2010. There are numerous examples of the “hand” that Twitter gives to journalists and I think that those who grab this hand can score some white-pinkish points in their news rooms.

Obviously, you have to know who to follow and who are the three (or several) reliable sources you need as a journalist to put together a story. Breaking news is not simple in an era of global, digital journalism in which there are so many people who have access to a diversity of sources, from bloggers to common citizens. That’s when a good twitter account makes the difference!

Neal advised us to use Twitter for making lists of people according to our and their interests (i.e. police, military, council lists). It’s not easy to gain important, influential people as your followers, but building a brand of yourself for the virtual world triggers confidence and privacy. And then people will feel safe and confident enough to talk to you first before going to other journalists. So, Twitter helps us gain the trust of thousands of people that we have not even met before in the flesh. For a conservative, traditional journalist this sounds as an absolute madness, however famous media trusts base some of their most valuable news stories on such investigation.

It takes time, a smart phone and a good wi-fi connection to be on Twitter all day long, seven days a week, and sometimes it might be boring, but I strongly believe it can easily become an addiction. Oh, and one more thing I was told today: don’t broadcast your hangover, the colour of your piss or the smell of your morning coffee…nobody cares about it, unless you’re famous, of course! 🙂

Experimenting social media

how an addict looks like 🙂

Alright, after the seminar we had yesterday at the Uni with Matthew Eltringham from BBC I tried to get to know social media better. I think it can help you a lot in finding new stories, although going out on the streets is always better. However, this Tweetdeck is pretty smart and concise and I’m hoping to bring me some good stuff, because it’s pretty damn hard to start over with no connections in a new city. (e.g. Sheffield – for me)

On the other hand, I just think social media (including here the most famous twitter and facebook ) can eat you alive. I mean, there is so little of you and your true life left in the world. We could practically breathe the virtual air and nobody would bother. I love internet, it helps me a lot and gives me reasons to be happy, but what about the real stuff..that palpable thing that you believe in. It’s not superficial, it’s just that sometimes I miss the peace of a day in which I wouldn’t feel the need to go online.

Whatever, it could be just the late hour. I got two links to share:

1. First of all it’s a blog post about the guy from BBC. It’s on Christine Cawthorne’s website. (she teaches us, web students)
http://www.crocstar.com/2010/10/live-blog-with-matt-eltringham-from-the-bbc/

2. Secondly, it’s the trailer for a great movie about the inventor(s) of Facebook (this gigantic souls thief 😀 )

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