A recent New York Times article discussed how Google has decided to close its “First Click Free” program, which allowed users to view portions of news sites without paying the usual subscription required to view articles. The company has now decided to limit users to five articles per day in an effort to preserve profits for large news corporations that are currently in harsh economic times.
This is not a new phenomenon; many other Web sites exist that provide free news to their viewers, making it hard for traditional profit-oriented news publications to stay competitive. The advent of online news has created questions for many publications that previously relied on monetary support of print newspaper subscribers. These customers, many of which rely on the up-to-date content of the Internet, seldom have the need for a daily subscription.
I recently read in a Chicago Tribune article that the word “Unfriend” has been voted New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 Word of the Year. For the few of you that might be unaware of its definition, the term is used in social networking sites, such as Facebook, for the act of removing someone as a friend. Words such as this have become such a mainstream part of the English language that many have been added to renowned dictionaries across the globe. But is this sort of language abbreviation really a good thing?
The trend, I believe, does not just exist with MySpace and Facebook. Other sites, such as Twitter, also promote a sort of language abbreviation. Don’t get me wrong, I support Twitter and its use in our society. But think about it: one only has a 140 character limit in each post. We’re currently living in a society where abbreviated messages and to-the-point news is valued because of the speed of technology.
It is correct to view a dictionary as a tool for understanding active language. Many forms of slang have evolved from the Internet and social networking systems that have introduced a vast array of new vocabulary used in everyday life. The Oxford Dictionary, as well as many others, make it a point of adding new words to their lists all the time in order to keep the dictionary in sync with current language usage. In fact, Oxford contained as many as 301,100 entries in 2005. Many argue, shouldn’t the dictionary include made-up words? If one is unaware of the meaning of commonly used slang, shouldn’t he/she be able to look it up?
Yes. I do agree that the dictionary needs to act as a sort of accurate account of language use within today’s society. But voting a made-up word as Word of the Year? I feel that “unfriend”, along with many others, has become the slang form of what could be said in better English, and without much more effort. And for Oxford to honor this makes me question what the distinction will someday be between formal writing and casual speech. Do we really need to continue the trend of language abbreviation? I’m sure if one flipped open a dictionary, there exists an entire page of words that he/she didn’t even know existed, that simply haven’t been used because they’re “too long” or “too much effort”. But why should we use all the same words as everyone else and let these cool, less-known words die out?
It’s good that some parts of language are adjusting to the fast-paced world of online news and communication. As a journalist, I embrace this. And admittedly, dictionaries need to be up to date. However, I still think some old vocabulary words have their place and should be appreciated. And Oxford honoring “unfriend” seems a bit over the top.
The runner-up for Word of the Year was “sexting”. Classy, Oxford.
I found an article from the New York Times about a recent study conducted by Cornell University. The study browsed through over 1.6 million news sites and blogs looking for common phrases; these phrases, named in the article as “genetic signatures”, researchers said were the basis for story ideas and story lines. In fact, the study found that 3.5 percent of all headlines originate from blogs. The change in the data obtained during the study is partially attributed to the emergence of blogs and popular social networking sites, such as Facebook. But perhaps the news cycle has been more directly affected by what the article phrases as the “informal but highly influential news recommendation and distribution network”: Twitter. This data, in turn, depicted which ideas and headlines were popular among readers and which weren’t.
The Chicago Tribune recently reported Obama’s stance on US involvement in Iran, where currently many innocent civilians are being beaten or even killed for protesting an obviously unfair election. Many have questioned the president’s stance, saying that he has taken too neutral of an approach in dealing with the conflict. This opposition includes many republicans, such as Sen. John McCain, who commented that “You can’t seriously negotiate with a country that’s beating and killing their citizens, and I don’t think the president quite understands that.” However, President Obama contends that “I made it clear that the United States respects the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran and is not interfering with Iran’s affairs,” and continued, “But only I’m the president of the United States, and I’ve got responsibilities in making certain that we are continually advancing our national security interests and that we are not used as a tool to be exploited by other countries.”
Recently, the New York Times wrote an article that discussed how many smaller news-gathering groups and freelancers are at a huge disadvantage covering events overseas in comparison to larger news corporations. The most recent example of this was the detainment of Laura Ling and Euna Lee in North Korea, who worked for Current TV, a small YouTube-style news organization. Current TV, one of many similar start-up groups, has begun sending its journalists overseas to cover hot-topic stories in an effort to stay competitive with larger, more well-known news organizations. According to the article, in an effort to gain a greater news audience, these start-up organizations have begun “vanguard journalism” as a “unit assembled to cover untold stories around the globe”. The article continues that many say these small news groups are the “consequence of the fragmented media landscape and the declines in international news coverage by traditional outlets”.
Recently, the Chicago Tribune featured an article questioning Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s objectivity in regards to minority issues. Sotomayor, president Obama’s nomination for the Supreme Court, has caused many Americans concern due to her previous conduct in relation to issues dealing with race; many believe she is too radical. When I first heard that Obama had nominated a Hispanic woman for the Supreme Court, I was excited. I was a huge fan of Sandra Day O’Connor, thus, I am excited (from a women’s point of view) to have more female presence on the court. And the diversity she would bring, I thought, would be quite beneficial. However, recent reports have released quotes from various speeches she has given throughout her career; some of these excerpts, it would seem, appear to be very one-sided.
Hey Urbanagora! My name is Rosie Powers, I’m a sophomore at U of I, and an aspiring journalist. I’m currently on staff with the Daily Illini, and I was linked into Urbanagora thanks to the deep intellectual insight of Billy Joe and Josh.
University of Chicago student starts “Men in Power” advocacy group
According to a recent Chicago Tribune story, University of Chicago student Steve Saltarelli recently founded a male advocacy group entitled “Men in Power”. The group was founded to celebrate male achievement while promoting entrance into the competitive workforce. The article also mentions how many members of the group see it as a necessity as a result of the job market shrinkage with the advent of more women reaching higher career positions. Saltarelli proposed the idea in a satirical column, but started the group after he received an overwhelmingly positive response. In this column, Saltarelli wrote, “Anyone with an interest in both studying and learning from men in powerful positions, as well as issues involved with reverse sexism, may become a member of MiP.”
While I believe that this group has the same right as any other gender or cultural group to assemble, its premise seems a bit blurry. It is true that in many male-dominated professions, women are now being offered more jobs in an effort to diversity the workplace, putting some men out of jobs. But “reverse sexism”? Really?
I am not at all advocating against merit. I don’t believe a woman should be hired instead a man merely because of her gender, paying no attention to his or her qualifications. But I find this group’s viewpoint a bit skewed. For example, Corporate America continues to be a male-dominated career field. According to CNN, only 15 of the current Fortune 500 company CEO’s are women. Certain fields, yes, are dominated by women. But similarly, many professions continue to be associated with men.
I support this group in that there are already many other advocacy groups which focus specifically on women or certain minority groups. Consequentially, yes, males have this same right to celebrate their role in society. However, I sometimes think that the presence of these groups (regardless of what race, ethnicity or gender that they focus on) can promote a feeling of segregation and isolation in society. American society has often been described as a sort of “melting pot” of cultures, in that various cultural backgrounds and beliefs coexist to mix together, culminating into a sort of multicultural national stew. Do we always have group ourselves with people exactly like ourselves? From the same socioeconomic backgrounds, with the same ideals, political leanings, ect.? Joining groups like this that promote these ideals can be positive and proactive. But I can’t help but be concerned as to how groups like this, especially with a name like “Men in power”, will promote single-mindedness.