Heroes, or villains in disguise?

In this article titled, George Mason University becomes a favorite of Charles Koch by Matthew Barakat, he talks about the connection between the Koch Brothers and the university. This connections goes back to Richard Fink, who is on the board for Mercatus and HIS (Barakat). This bond between the two has been in motion ever since the early 1970s, causing some suspicion in reference to the overwhelming donations from the Koch Brothers over the years. Even though President Cabrera is in support of these ties and the donations that are given to the school, there are others out there that are very concerned with the academic integrity. The main concern for the school that is addressed within this article is the fact that there is a money gap in some areas of the school. With these donations in play, the money gap gets smaller making the Koch Brothers seem like heroes, when in fact they play a role in which material is learned and how teachers go about in their classroom. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/613470e79eb64a5f9a4880996e0fd7c5/george-mason-university-becomes-favorite-charles-koch

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The Students Speak Up

This article in the Huffington Post talks about the students at George Mason University suing the Koch Brothers for access to their records. After finding out what happened in Florida, the accusations pertaining to the actual intentions of the Koch Brothers raised a lot of concerns for the universities connected to any Koch Brothers’ donations. Within the article various students within the Transparent organization gave their thoughts on the subject and how we need to focus on what is really happening. Having the public’s interest at the forefront it is important when this is a public university, so the infringement of private interests disrupts everything. A student a part of Transparent GMU said, “When these donors give money, what do they get in exchange? We want to know what strings are attached. We want to ensure academic integrity in our curriculum,” offering a good point in which we need to look out for. Even if we don’t think the Koch Brothers have an influence on what we are learning, they do because they are such a vital contributor. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/george-mason-students-sue_b_14660680.html

Filtered to the point of no return

Through the use of photojournalism the extent of reality then has the ability to become distorted to the public’s eye. Nowadays there are several ways to manipulate a photo to your preference such as Photoshop, Instagram, and VISCO. Before reading the articles: News Images on Instagram: the Paradox of Authenticity in Hyperreal Photo Reportage and Mini Camera and Maxi Minds: Citizen Photojournalism and the Public Sphere, I had never taken the serious impact of the manipulation of photos into account. Photography, in my mind, is viewed as a way of capturing a moment in time to further the knowledge to the public. However, photos aren’t simply put on display for the public as soon as it happens, and because of that there is room for manipulation and distortion to the authenticity of the photograph. This correlates with the term “hyperreal” which is “… a version of the world that is assumed to be real but it nonetheless distorted and exaggerated to the extent that it becomes hyperreal” (Borges-Rey 577). Now that this concept comes into play it becomes more difficult to distinguish the line in which not to cross. As we talked about hyperreal photos I started to think, “Is it better to have a hyperreal photo in circulation to the public or no photography at all? With this question in mind I found myself debating with the boundaries of photojournalism, so then I turned to the readings to help with that determination.

Often times the public relies on photography to dish out the cold hard truth with what is happening in the world. Before digital imaging was in practice, the photograph that was placed in front of you in the newspaper or on TV was, most likely, untouched and preserved its authenticity. On the other hand, it may not have been as clear as some of the images we see today used to circulate information. As Borges-Rey stated, “The presence of grainy pixels gives greater authenticity” (Borges-Rey 574) demonstrating how times have changed in the world of photojournalism. News reporting platforms such as CNN IReport has very clear images to go with their stories, but the extent of which it was manipulated is unknown to the public. This is a bit scary, because in a sense I feel like I am being lied to when looking for reliable news. According to Paschalidis,

“…. Seamless manipulation of photographs, he argues, would undermine photography’s long-established perception as “a generally trustworthy unbiased transcriber of reality” and shake public trust in the traditionally prized accuracy and veracity of journalistic and documentary photographs” (Paschalidis 637)

This quote encompasses the issue with the integrity when using photos in journalism nowadays and how it is difficult to know when to trust a source, because it can be so easily manipulated for the public.

Instagram and Photoshop are two outlets in which photos can become distorted and are commonly used in today’s society. I am quite fond of Instagram, but thinking back to all the times in which I utilized a filter to make myself look better or to make the background seem more vibrant to generate likes is disheartening. Photoshop has generated controversy over the years, because it’s been used to change the appearance of people’s bodies in order to sell a product or endorse an idea. Another example of distorting photos is through the use of Snapchat. Snapchat is known for having filters to enhance the “average” picture. Often times I will use filters to make myself look slimmer or to erase any imperfections on my face. By doing this I am messing with people’s perception of myself and that is something I am started to notice all over the media.

There are professional photographers and there are amateur photographers, a distinction is present, but today that distinction is being blurred. Even though I am still learning and understanding citizen journalism, I would have never thought about the implications toward photojournalism; even though photographs are so prominent in the news in which we see every day. The art of manipulation is practiced by most, whether it is inherent or accidental. As Paschalidis states, “The crisis of photojournalism due to digital imaging has been making headlines for the past three decades” (Paschalidis 637) showing the strong impact it has been having on society for some time. Ethics have even been questioned on this subject because as stated above, there are boundaries in photojournalism, but determining what is too far takes more investigation as photography becomes even more integrated into our society. Even though I am aware of photojournalism, there are so many aspects that need to be investigated to fully understand the dos and don’ts of photography used in journalism.

 

Borges-Rey, Eddy. “News Images on Instagram: The paradox of authenticity in hyperreal photo reportage.” Digital Journalism 3.4 (2015): 571-593.

Paschalidis, Gregory. “Mini Cameras and Maxi Minds: Citizen photojournalism and the public sphere.” Digital Journalism 3.4 (2015): 634-652.

A Positive Spin on things

While researching the connection between the Koch Brothers and George Mason University, I found an article on Daily Kos titled, “George Mason University President to Charles Koch: “I am nothing but incredibly grateful.” In this article it briefly gives an overview of the Koch Brothers and their many donations to schools across the United States including our very own university in Virginia. Then there’s a transcript of a conversation with President Angel Cabrera on the WAMU Kojo Nnamdi Show. During this conversation there are many tough questions on the influence of the Koch Brothers on the university and the staff. Of course, Cabrera keeps the focus on the positive aspects with the donations given by the Koch Brothers. A former staff employee also joins the conversation at one point in the show and offers the advice of making the Koch Brothers influence more public, instead of so much secrecy. Cabrera also mentions the involvement of the students, such as GMU Transparent, and how he admires their dedication to finding out the hidden knowledge about the Koch Brothers. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/4/9/1376491/-George-Mason-University-President-to-Charles-Koch-I-am-nothing-but-incredibly-grateful

Right beneath our noses

Another aspect I want to include in my part of the presentation is this group on George Mason’s campus called Transparent GMU (https://www.facebook.com/transparentGMU/). On their Facebook page they posted an article about the lawsuit filed against the Koch Brothers by some students at George Mason University. This article is found on WUSA 9, titled, George Mason Univ. in court over Koch donations, by Hilary Lane (http://www.wusa9.com/news/local/george-mason-univ-in-court-over-koch-donations/409577109). The students at George Mason express concern about the influence by the Koch Brothers and how it affects their education as a result. These large sums of money are tied to the donors in some way shape or form and that is concerning, considering what has happened to other universities with the Koch Brothers. This group on campus was formed around the mission statement, “We aim to shed light on the potential undue influence of GMU donors. We are calling on GMU to ensure academic freedom and integrity is upheld.” Although there is evidence about the Koch Brother’s influence on other schools, it is important to know what is happening in our own backyard.

Koch Brothers deterring Mason student

Throughout this process of researching I will be focusing on the community of George Mason University, and how the donors and funding affect them. Throughout these past couple of years there have been considerable donations made to the school funding different departments, such as the economics department. One article that peeked my interest was on DESMOG, titled Koch Controversy at George Mason University: Student Abandons Economics Major, written by Connor Gibson on May 27, 2016 (found at https://www.desmogblog.com/2016/05/27/student-abandons-economics-major-over-koch-controversy-george-mason-university). This source is a blog type source, but I like that it includes some direct quotes from the student who quit the program unlike the Fourth Estate. This student, Mark Hammond decided that he did not want to continue in the economics program here, due to the overwhelming amount of influence from the Koch Brothers. Mark Hammond states, “Despite my interest in economics, I refuse to pay an incredible amount of money to receive a degree that has, when considering the precedent set at other universities, likely been shaped by our school’s highest bidder” (Desmog).  This gives a good example to include in the News Presentation, because it shows the effect it has had on George Mason students.