What’s in a name? Ask Julian Assange…

A version of this post originally appeared in the Arvada Press and is reprinted here with permission.

To paraphrase the young lady on the balcony…

in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet who says, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” — I ask today:

“Is news by any other name still news?”

Although I’ve asked this question before, it’s continues to be important, especially after the international saber-rattling over the charges, extradition requests, and asylum granted for Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

A cause célèbre, yes? But maybe not the whole story.

Not that the Assange/asylum issue isn’t news; it’s big news, with heads of governments in Australia, Europe, Latin America, and the UK jockeying for position and pointing to one another (or someone else) behind their hands.

No, I’m asking the question—“Is news by any other name still news?”—because I have maintained all along—to anyone who would listen—that if Assange had named the organization “WikiNews” instead of WikiLeaks,” this whole story would have played out differently.

Why wouldn’t a name like “Wikileaks” get people up in arms, literally?

Why wouldn’t any government be incensed about material blatantly and globally labeled as “leaked?” Why wouldn’t agencies whose sole purpose is to prevent “leaks” then descend with a fury on those who allowed and perpetrated the “leaking?”

On the other hand, though, news outlets all over the world take great pride—and go to great lengths—to “break” news stories, some of which come from “unnamed sources close to the situation.”

Are these considered leaks? Breaking news? Both?

Let’s face it; authority and the media have been grappling for centuries.

Why? Because freedom of the press improves transparency of information, and transparency of information creates a better society for all people. It’s the different definitions of transparency that get everyone’s dander up.

For example, in its landmark decision on the Pentagon Papers in 1971, our own U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose corruption in government.” (Note, however, that the Court ruled that the government failed to meet the heavy burden of proof required in this case, and its decision did not give the press unlimited freedom to publish classified documents.)

But news is not just about corruption, or even just about government, for that matter.

The holidays are news. Syria is news. The cease-fire is news. Dancing with the Stars is the news. The price of gas and the weather are news.

And, to varying degrees, all of us need this news. With the advance of digital technology and the Internet, we can access all the news we want. In fact, we can gorge on the news; it’s up to us to be responsible consumers of the media. But that’s a topic for another post.

Are some of the documents on WikiLeaks explosive? Yes. Are some embarrassing, some horrifying? Yes and yes. Are some of the documents illuminating, enlightening? Of course.

I do understand that classifying some information is a valid standard. I also know that improved transparency of information in society comes from a free press.

Consider this, too:

There are people who are free today—or are becoming free, or are helping others to become free—because of uncensored news…leaked news, breaking news, or both.

I’ve worked on both side of this debate, in government and in the media, and I remain convinced that “WikiNews” would have been a more palatable portal.

With fewer struggles, WikiNews could have provided the kind of service that WikiLeaks is fighting to provide for people in free democratic societies—and for people who want to live in one.

 A little more about the author:

Andrea Doray is a writer who believes that transparency is not invisible anymore. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

Please feel free to visit my other blogs:

New postings (almost) every day! 365 Days of Divesting — Living more, with less…one day at a time

New posting—first-ever Inspiring Blogger Award! Mirth-Marks — For people who enjoy the irony in life

Lessons from Colorado’s Poet Laureate! This Writing Life — Craft, comment, critique

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Don’t hate political ads…our freedom makes them possible.

If you’re like me, the eight words you never want to hear again (at least until 2013) go something like this:

“I’m [first last], and I approved this message.”

There are good reasons why many of us are weary of this phrase…about 7,770 reasons in my hometown in September alone.

Between September 9 and September 30, the two presidential candidates and their supporters placed nearly 8,000 television ads in Denver, more than in any other market in the key states of Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and in the District of Columbia.

In terms of dollars spent, the Kantar Media Group/CMAG with analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project, reports that, from June 1 through September 30, the volume of presidential advertising across the country was already nearly double that of the 2008 campaign.

In the Denver metro market alone, the candidates spent more than $700 million for 26,000 TV ads from June through September.

Why has Denver received such concentrated attention?

The October 3 debate on the University of Denver campus is one answer, but the primary explanation is that Colorado is a swing state, a battleground state, a state that’s “too close to call.”

Such states have a number of likely voters who are undecided, or are iffy about their candidate.

Before the debate at DU, the presidential race was tighter than in Colorado than in any other swing state. And current poll results says it’s staying that way.

It’s interesting, though, because Colorado contributes only nine of the total 538 votes in the Electoral College.

By my calculations, this equates to about $77 million and 2,889 TV ads per vote…and that’s just through the end of September and just in the Denver-area market.

Also, these numbers refer only to television advertising for the presidential candidates.

But, when the race truly is too close to call, those nine votes—of the 270 votes needed to win a majority—could be the difference between winning and losing the presidency.

I shared these numbers with friends who—almost universally—wondered aloud how many people could be fed with this amount of money.

The total dollars spent by all candidates is truly staggering; yet, as much as I would like to see the same amount of money go to fight hunger and poverty, I have to stand on the side of access to information.

When I lived briefly in Turkmenistan this time two years ago, there was no question about who was or would be president.

Current president Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov took office in February 2007 after the death of President for Life Saparmurat Niyazov and the imprisonment of Niyazov’s constitutionally appointed successor.

Although the new constitution allows the formation of multiple political parties, the former Communist Party has been the only one effectively permitted to operate.

Political gatherings are illegal unless government sanctioned.

There are no commercial or private TV stations in Turkmenistan, and articles published by the state-controlled newspapers are heavily censored.

That’s all different here, of course, as a quick spin just through television news shows and online media will confirm.

We here in the U.S. need to be conscious consumers of news and advertising.”

We need to listen and learn, seek the facts, and make decisions that are right for us.

However, this is only possible because we have access to the information.

When I tire of hearing the ads, especially the negative ones, I remind myself that free speech and freedom of the press make this knowledge available to me…and that I am able to make my own decisions and vote for the candidate of my eventual choice.

I’m Andrea Doray and I approved this posting.”

A little more about the author:

Andrea Doray is a full-time writer who, to the probable dismay of family and friends on both sides of the political aisle, is still among the truly undecided. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Please leave a comment…
Thanks!

l

Also, please feel free to visit my other blogs:

New postings every day! 365 Days of Divesting — Living more, with less…one day at a time

New posting! Mirth-Marks — For people who enjoy the irony in life

New publications from Quinn Press! This Writing Life — Craft, comment, critique

 

l

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When truth is more inconceivable than fiction: The Aurora theater shootings

If I were Judith Guest or Anne Tyler,
I would be writing a story about a family dealing with the personal and emotional effects of the inconceivable loss of child.

If I were Dan Brown or Tom Clancy,
I would be crafting a thriller with the emergence of unlikely heroes from inconceivable chaos.

If I were Sue Grafton or John Grisham,
I would be providing a riveting lead-up to a fictional trial for inconceivable events.

If I were James Clavell or Herman Wouk,
I would be writing a historical novel about how a single inconceivable incident can unbalance world affairs.

If I were Stephen King, John Steinbeck, or even Anne Rice,
I might conjure up a character capable of inconceivable evil.

If I were James Michener or Annie Proulx, I might describe—
through a series of nuanced individuals and actions over a number of years—an inconceivable occurrence that changed the face of a community forever.

In fact, if I were one of any number of capable authors, I might craft an elaborate plot about a single shooter who implements a completely inconceivable scheme after months of planning minute macabre details.

Yet, even as finely wrought fiction, this story could stretch our credulity, require a high degree of the suspension of our disbelief.”

Except that this story is not fiction, not the invention of a skillful or competent author. It’s the horrifying, inconceivable account of the theater shooting in Aurora—a real-life story that will continue to play out in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Everyday people became heroes, taking bullets for the loved ones they sheltered. Grieving families and suffering survivors relive their trauma over and over.

Emergency personnel, police officers, swat teams, bomb squads, and volunteers swarmed to the scene and stayed to help the community put itself together.

And already blame has been swirling to fill the void of questions yet to be answered.”

Blame, however, should have nothing at all to do with the young people, families, and members of our armed forces—Colorado citizens who just wanted to step away for a few hours to be entertained with the people they care about—who were in the theater that night.

And of course, the legal proceedings will indeed be nothing less than riveting, no matter what your own sense of justice might be.

Perhaps, in the end, it will be left to someone with the types of sensitivities, awareness, and worldliness as those of authors Michener, Clavell, or Wouk to weave the events of July 20, 2012, into the fabric of global history for those who will come after us.

However, in reality, not even the most gifted author, poet, or playwright can make sense of what happened.

Because the old adage is still correct: truth is more inconceivable than fiction.

This article was previously published in the Arvada Press and affiliated newspapers, and is reprinted here with permission.
 
A little more about the author: Andrea Doray is a writer from Arvada who believes even Stephen King (or John Steinbeck!) has not created a creature of such inconceivable malevolence. Contact her at a.doray@andreadoray.com
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