Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Group 2: "The ACORN Sex Scandal"

Terms used within the coverage of the ACORN scandal:

Appropriations Bill: This is a legislative motion (bill), which authorizes the government to spend money. It is a bill that sets money aside for specific spending.

Launder: This is the practice of disguising illegally obtained funds so that they seem legal.

Embezzled: This s the act of dishonestly appropriating or secreting assets, usually financial in nature, by one or more individuals to whom such assets have been entrusted.

Subsidiary: In business matters, is an entity that is controlled by a separate entity. The controlled entity is called a company, corporation, or limited liability company and in some cases can be a government or state-owned enterprise, and the controlling entity is called its parent (or the parent company)

Transparency: "There's no transparency in ACORN" It implies openness, communication, and accountability.

Reconcile: This is a provision in a budget resolution directing one or more committees to submit legislation changing existing law in order to bring spending, revenues, or the debt-limit into conformity with the budget resolution.

Bipartisan: This refers to any bill, act, resolution, or any other action of a political body in which both of the major political parties are in agreement.

Conglomerate: This refers to the combination of two or more firms engaging in entirely different businesses. Conglomerates are often large and can be formed by merging more than four businesses together.

Surreptitiously: The act of doing something stealthy.

Scourge: This refers to someone as an instrument/recipient of punishment or criticism.

Michelle Malkin covers the story as conservative analyst on the Hannity show as well as on her own Blog news site.

Usually the Media Producers are behind the scenes observing the communicator. In the case of the Michelle Malkin Blog article she is the producer and the communicator. In the case of the Hannity appearance the producer is behind the scene and Malkin and Hannity act as communicators with the agenda to expose ACORN. Malkin is known for being very opinionated and very biased on many issues. So, the fact she runs her own Blog, allows her to write about these issues without any oversight. What is also interesting about her being the Producer and Communicator is the fact that she is in close contact with her audience. In most cases the producers is never seen. In her case she is giving the message, and allows her audience to weigh in. Michelle Malkin also acts as the Media Communicator on her Blog. Again, Michelle Malkin proves to be an interesting case. Silverblatt has us look at age, income, race/ethnicity, and gender of the communicator. Then he asks us how these characteristics affect the outcome of the media production. Michelle Malkin is a 39-year-old woman of Philippine descent that attended a very liberal college. She is by no means the proto-typical conservative, yet she is at the forefront of conservative commentary. She becomes a huge advocate for the cutting of ACORN’s funding. On her Blog she even lists the House and Senate representatives that voted no in a 345 to 75 vote in favor for cutting ACORN’s funding. Not only has Malkin weighed in on the ACORN scandal on her Blog, and national television, but she has exposed the organization for past scandals in her book "Culture of Corruption".

James O'Keefe is an investigative journalist and filmmaker that help break the story on the ACORN prostitution scandal.

During college he started a conservative magazine called The Centurion at the State University of New Jersey who’s mission statement says: “We believe in fiscal and moral responsibility, a strong national defense, free-market economics, American exceptionalism, and God.” His most recent investigation was into ACORN (a group that helps poor get housing advice from the government and has voter registration drives), where he got hidden camera footage of ACORN workers giving advice to him and a friend posing as a prostitute and pimp, who said he planned on trafficking underage girls into the country for the sex trade and needed help getting a house to use as a brothel. The workers gave advice on how to avoid paying taxes on the girl’s income. He is the media producer in his films and articles. His videos led the Senate to cut funding and the U.S Census to stop working with ACORN.

James O’Keefe played the central media role in the ACORN‘s bad press and losing funding because without his expose the controversy wouldn’t have come into existence. He is the main media communicator because he created, systematically edited, and released his videos and articles (aside from the people posing undercover with him). He uses latent function because at first his videos appear to be exposing corruption in organizations, but with a little digging it shows his intentions are trying to influence policy against a organization that describes themselves as “the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low-and moderate-income people.”

He was even asked to leave the Leadership institute because officials felt his video work would violate the Internal Revenue Service rules barring nonprofit, community groups from trying to influence legislation.He didn’t stand to really lose anything, so technically what was at issue here is a larger picture of a racist man using investigative tactics and video editing to promote a racist agenda.

The LA Times covers the California investigation of the ACORN prostitution scandal.

There are several people involved in the Media producing at the Los Angels Times the main Editor: Russ Stanton and depending where the columns are written there are subsidiary editors. This article was written in Sacramento, under State Politics and Enterprise section and the Editor: Linda Rogers is the editor for this section. Eric Bailey is one of the Staff Writers: which also includes Cathy Decker, Michael Finnegan, Shane Goldmacher, Evan Halper (Sacramento Bureau Chief), Patrick McGreevy, Paul Pringle, Michael Rothfeld, George Skelton (Columnist). The LA Times strives to be an advocate for Freedom especially in defending civil liberties and human rights. This article has information about the accusations of ACORN. Eric Bailey the writer interviewed the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Attorney General Jerry Brown and a spokesman from ACORN David Lagstein. Getting information from both sides of story is part of their mission statement of letting the public know. Below is a portion of the LA Times mission statement: “Intellectual honesty is the cornerstone of the editorial page. We strive to be sincere, coherent, consistent and skeptical - and, when called for, to have a sense of humor and a hint of mischief. And a sense of humility, too, in recognizing when we are wrong and when our positions shift in light of new developments or information.”

The Associated Press covers Obama's views on the ACORN Prostitution Scandal.

It seems in this article the media producers are filling us in on the investigation that President Obama says should be done on ACORN. The Associated Press are the ones who created this media source about ACORN. The Associated Press is known for covering all different types of news, and in this instance the Associated Press is giving us the facts about the investigation about people who work with ACORN and told this couple to basically pretend to be a prostitute and a pimp to receive money from ACORN. As well the audience is involved, because some video clips were made and Obama spoke about these video clips on ABC. Also Fox news played a part in this ACORN issue.There tend to be several different communicators throughout this story. We have the Associated Press who wrote the story. Then there’s Obama who has opinions and wants for the story. Also ACORN chief executive Bertha Lewis communicates her thoughts throughout this story. The Associated Press is owned by 1,500 U.S. daily newspapers, and is a non-profit organization. We obviously know the demographics of Barack Obama as he is our President, an African American male who was born in Hawaii in 1961. He also has two daughters. It is clear Barack Obama is going to have a say in what takes place in this ACORN “activity.” Bertha Lewis is from Philadelphia and is the Chief Executive Officer as well as the Chief Organizer of ACRON. She seems to have a strong voice in the decisions and campaigning that ACORN produces. The communicators are the ones who are producing and handling this story. Between Barack Obama who makes the decisions for this country and Bertha Lewis who heads ACORN, they go hand and hand with this issue. We need Obama, Lewis, and the Associated Press to further our understanding by giving us the facts and media to understand the issue. Together all of the communicators are trying to figure out what these employees did and what kind of footage they can get their hands on to deal with this issue.

Bill Press defends ACORN

The Media Producers in the case of “The Bill Press Show” would be the staff at Dial Global. They are the company responsible for the syndication of the show onto local radio networks as well as XM and Sirius satellite radio. However, because this article comes from his own blog, he serves as the media producer. He used this blog as a means to express his opinion further on issues covered from the show as well as stuff that he may not have had time to cover. The primary Media Communicator in this article is Bill Press. This article comes from a blog he had written on the website for his radio program “The Bill Press Show.” Bill Press is the host of his own live radio program that is broadcasted live, nationwide. His show and blogs often feature heavy political commentary by himself as well as guests on the show. His views are considered very liberal and his audience tends to share the same political stance as he does. Another media communicator to note on this particular article is the commentary on his blog left by readers. He has an open forum for readers to contribute to, regardless if they agree or disagree with him. Bill Press has taken to his blog to defend ACORN and the negative portrayal they have been receiving lately from several news outlets. He agrees what ACORN has done is wrong, however he defends it with the good that has come out of the ACORN organization. He goes on to claim that these attacks on ACORN are an attempt to undermine President Obama. He also addresses the voter fraud situation by pointing out that it wasn’t as big as the media made it out to be and ACORN handled it professionally by figuring out the source of the problem and firing those involved. The underlying message of this article that the communicator is trying to establish in regards to the issue is that the good outweighs the bad.

The Analyzation of the Graphic Elements within the Internet Coverage

Photography is not really used in the coverage of this topic. However, since a video recording that was put on the Internet is the topic of discussion, the still frames from the video act as photos. Normally a photo of a person, place or thing with a caption explaining it would be included in an article or news report. That is how the still frames are used in the Michelle Malkin Blog as well as the Internet news sources. The still frames used are images of the two undercover reporters and the ACORN workers.

The images used are still frames, but essentially it is still the video that is the topic of discussion. There has been a considerable amount of debate surrounding the video, and has raised questions about ethical and integrity issues in investigative reporting as well as government funded organizations. In fact, ACORN has plans to file a lawsuit against Hannah Giles one of the reporters in the video. People within the organization said Giles was breaking the law by filming the workers without their consent. However, the bigger ethical and integrity issues lie on the side of ACORN. Workers within the organization offered Giles information on how to evade paying taxes as well as how to start up an underage prostitution ring.

The visual elements do not play a big role in the coverage of this topic. The main elements in the LA Times and Associated Press articles as well as the Blogs tend to be the still frame photos of Hannah Giles with the ACORN workers and the actual videos that she and her partner James O’Keefe recorded. In some blogs and news outlets the tone of the article tends to be in favor of the investigators, and rightly so. The two young investigators were utilizing their first amendment rights.

The Internet coverage of this topic tends to be relatively the same as most of the other media outlets. The Bill Press radio coverage differs the most because the video or images cannot be seen, but even then you can still play the audio on the radio. Otherwise, the other media outlets either had a photo still frame from the video, the video itself or both. Most television news outlets played the video on newscasts that covered the issue. If a blogger covered the issue they usually had a link to the video. The amount of coverage this issue has received is astonishing. The fact that the video was put on the Internet has allowed it to spread like wildfire. Ultimately the video allows for wide use of the product in the media. Besides the obvious use in television, it allows print media to use the still frames for coverage and radio coverage to use audio. In short the different types of media use byproducts of the same product.

Analyzation of the Rhetorical Situation within the Coverage

The four elements of the Rhetorical Situation can apply to the articles we researched in a number of ways. When you examine the cultural context of the production of the articles researched for the ACORN issue, you are going to find that the sources all have the same thing in common except one writer was a woman and the rest were men. On a broad scale, they are all written within the United States. They do however differ in the standpoints of the author and publishing companies. While examining the ACORN debate, we found an overwhelming amount of articles that believed the organization was in the wrong and deserves the backlash it is receiving. The blog from Michelle Malkin, the Associated Press coverage, Los Angeles Times, and the articles from James O’Keefe all oppose the recent actions of ACORN. In order to find an author whose standpoint was to defend ACORN, we had to dig a little bit deeper. We were able to find a blog by radio host Bill Press who stands up for ACORN. As we have already established, the cultural texts for which the text was produced, is almost entirely the same. Like wise, you are going to find the cultural contexts within the text are being received to be the same as well. The standpoints of the reader and the audiences are a little bit harder to gauge, but it is safe to say that when tax dollars and federal funding is being used in a corrupted business the audience is going to be concerned, upset, and outraged that their money is not being used wisely. They are also going to lose faith with our government for not being cautious with the funding that they had made available to this group. In a lot of these articles, you can’t see or read the audience reaction. Based on how the articles are written, it is safe to assume that the audience’s standpoints are going to be very similar to that of the authors. This would be especially true if the readers are a frequent or regular audience, for that particular source.

Silverblatt says that one must consider the values, experiences, and perspectives shared by the audience and whether or not they influence the interpretation of the articles or medium being presented to them. I think this plays an important factor in regards to the articles pertaining to ACORN. Bill Press was the one source we evaluated that defended ACORN. You need to factor in the liberal view of Bill Press and the liberal views of his audience. Where as the coverage by James O’Keefe is a progressive radical view on the debate and that is probably going to brush off a little bit on the audience receiving the message. Ultimately though individual perspectives are the biggest factor in the interpretation of the articles presented to them. Silverblatt goes on to point out “audience members are encouraged to assume the point of view of the preferred reading, they also negotiate their own meaning, based on their individual backgrounds, orientations, and experiences.”

The Variety of Coverage Digital Media Allows and How Communicators Use Internet Writing Conventions

Digital media allows for a vast variety of coverage. It seems that the main points of digital media to name a few, would have to be: video footage, photographs, voice recordings and much more. The Internet also accounts for digital media coverage, as the Internet incorporates all of the main points that I mentioned. Within our research we have been doing on ACORN, it is clear that photographs and video play a large role in the advertising of ACORN. People want to be heard and are doing all they can to get their voices out there about ACORN.

The media communicators seem to “drive the boat” using the Internet writing convections by being able to get their information to a large audience. The Internet has become a way of life and whether it is from social networking sites, blogs, or YouTube, media communicators get the information out there. To be effective, the Internet must first present its information in a way that’s easy on the eyes (everyone knows how much strain staring at a computer for hours causes), and hold the attention of the skimming and distracted eyes of the consumer. The writing conventions for online usually include shorter sentences, chunked paragraphs, bullet points, titles, and bolded words (usually hyperlinks for references or for a detailed explanation of the word).

Another way to grab and keep consumers attention is the incorporation of graphics, pictures with a short caption, roll over links, videos, and an enticing and easy to navigate web page layout.

The conventions between Internet and print differ greatly even though they’re both primary experiences. One usually chooses the tangible book when reading a long novel or story that requires much more concentration. Even though most books are available online the ascetic and portable quality of books is preferable.

When it comes to news, the Internet's instant dissemination isn’t comparable to a newspaper that can’t report breaking events until the next morning. The Internet also provides the opportunity to go more in depth on a topic that newspapers and newscasts just don’t have the time, space or funds to accomplish. People scan over newspaper headlines to get a general idea of what’s going on but go online if they want to become well versed on the topic. It’s the whole meal compared to a sample.

While radio and television can interrupt a program to announce breaking news, the impact of these mediums is lessened because it is a secondary activity. Usually the television is left on for background noise and the radio is on to make the commute to work more bearable. These mediums are used more for entertainment and distraction rather than researching a specific topic.

Photography is used on the Internet but more as advertisements or to provide a better visual understanding of the story. Photography carries a much more nostalgic and tangible quality and is used as a way to capture events to look back and reminisce on. Photography is also an art form in of itself, something that can’t really be said about the Internet.

Film also carries this artistic/emotional quality. It is less about disseminating information and more about visuals, sound and movement. It’s usually a social primary experience meant to transport the viewer into another world for an allotted period of time. The plot is usually discussed with friends afterward.

The Internet also offers interactive conventions unique from any other media that many communicators don’t use properly. Internet provides the opportunity to gauge audience feedback and discussion in real time. Many communicators don’t make use of this when creating a website while some go overboard. The Internet provides a way to appeal to different demographics at the same time, something television or radio shows usually don’t accomplish. ABC appealed to a younger audience by using Amanda Congdon as a more appealing communicator. Communicators can basically let the audience choose what content or topics interest them and follow suit accordingly.

Information Synthesis

When researching a topic it becomes helpful to use different conventions to convey a point or meaning. Throughout our research we have used Blogs, Internet news coverage, online videos and links. By using all of these media texts we are able to better understand and research our topic. For our topic, ACORN, most of the common writing practices were used in the articles written by the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times. The Blog written by Michelle Malkin and the Radio Show by Bill Press practice more of a speaking and thinking discourse convention because of their medium of choice. Blogs open the topic up for more conversational reading as opposed to the more common practices used by a discourse community. The Radio show also offers the opportunity for listeners to give their immediate feedback that allows for a conversational discourse.

Graphic and digital elements were not as heavily present in the research for our ACORN news articles. In general, the digital elements could be perceived as the webpage designs our particular articles were retrieved from. Furthermore the web page designs and the navigation process to get to particular articles needs to also be considered. When we visit a website and stumble upon a random article, we try to think about what brought us here. In other words, how easy or difficult was it to get to where we ended up. Webpage design is a heavy influence on what you ultimately end up reading on a site. The information the publisher feels is the most important or the things they want you to see first are generally going to be the easiest information to navigate too.

The rhetorical analysis of our topic makes it pretty easy to see why what was said, is said. The Blogs are heavily driven by opinion and are written in a particular way that it will affect the audience in the way the writer wants it too. Also, for the most part Blogs are followed by an obedient group of people who will believe the rhetoric spun by the author. On the other hand, the Associated Press articles are written in a fair and balanced tone and through neutral terms and word choice, they are able to affect the audience in a non-biased way. In other words, they aren’t stating opinion; they just want the facts and important issues delivered to the audience.


Working and communicating with our group online was manageable, but it definitely had its challenges. Our group initially made an attempt to get together to discuss the project, but opposing schedules and illness spoiled that plan. If we had we been able to gather it would have made all aspects of the project easier. Communicating online made choosing the topic difficult because of the delay e-mail presents. Assigning the different parts of the project to each member would have been easier to do in a conversational setting. Trying to do it via e-mail and waiting on responses, proved to be very difficult. Despite the difficulty, everyone participated equally and contributed their work on time. In fact, we used several Internet writing conventions to communicate with each other. The most common method was via e-mail, but other methods used were D2L discussion boards, Facebook Chat, and text messaging. If we were to do this assignment over, we decided we would change the way we used the Internet during this assignment. We think it would be best to set up a chat room for our group. It would make a convenient space to get everybody online at the same time and be able to talk about our topic and get responses and input instantly. But again, the challenge would have been trying to effectively organize a time for everybody to log into it. Overall we communicated successfully and efficiently.


Works Cited:

The Michelle Malkin Blog article (http://michellemalkin.com/2009/09/17/another-pipeline-closed-off-house-cuts-acorn-funding/)
The Michelle Malkin on Hannity youtube video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?)
The James O'Keefe article http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/acorn_sting_pimp_is_nj_man_who.html
The James O'Keefe article (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/9/20/784620/-OKeefe-said-he-went-after-ACORN-because-it-registers-minorities-likely-to-vote-against-Republicans)
The James O'Keefe sex scandal videos (http://biggovernment.com/2009/09/10/chaos-for-glory/)
The Associated Press article (http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5g5I6tDiLF17oQUvXCSsqWXxeLNoAD9AR8PG80
The Los Angeles Times article (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-acorn2 2009oct02,0,5150787.story)
The Bill Press Article (http://www.billpressshow.com/2009/09/25/defending-acorn/)

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