Thursday, December 30, 2010

The 34th Annual World Bodysurfing Championship

Mike Buchmiller stands at the edge of the shore quietly studying the breaking waves. It's a beautiful and bright morning, and there is a large south swell peaking in three to four foot sets. There are four bodysurfers already in the water braving the big surf, and Buchmiller watches as they compete in the 34th annual World Bodysurfing Championship.

"I'm going to go out there, get some distance, and try and get one of those big ones," says Buchmiller when asked to explain his strategy. "Once I get one of those big ones, I'll stick around somewhere in the middle and try and pull out some of those epic tricks." He turns to look back as the horn is blown, and the competitors begin making their way to shore. "Speed and style is what I do," he says.

Drawing nearly 400 bodysurfers from all over the world, the contest is held annually at the Oceanside pier. Contestants compete in divisions according to age. Bobby Beathard, former General Manager of the San Diego Chargers, is one of the contest's more notable competitors, and has been the winner in the men's 65 and over division five years in a row.

"I've been bodysurfing since I was ten," says Buchmiller. "And this is my third contest." The 36-year-old teacher can be found most days bodysurfing or whomping at either Windansea or Marine Street beaches in La Jolla. "This is the first year in awhile that the waves were any good for the contest," he says. "I had a hard time advancing in the conditions last year."

But this year was to be different. Buchmiller, who is a very strong swimmer, immediately positioned himself in a favorable spot where there was a left-breaking wave. The section wasn't lasting long, but long enough for him to impress the judges. Using his speed, he was the first in his heat to catch a wave, and with impressive style, he was able to score well. He wrangled three waves in the the heat, one of which was a beautiful barrel. Final score: 50 points and advancement to the next round.

While the contestants of Buchmiller's heat made their way to shore, there was an emergency situation. "One of the guys in the last heat got pushed into the pier," says Buchmiller. "He grabbed onto the pile and wouldn't let go. We had to run out and get him. Everyone up on the pier was was yelling, Help him! Help Him! The lifeguards weren't around, so we went in." The man was safely brought to shore. He suffered mild abrasions from barnacles attached to the pile.

Buchmiller advanced to the next round, but unfortunately his luck ran out. He was happy to have advanced, but regretful that he did not go further. "Well," he says with a smile. "There's always next year."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Having a Ball

It's the Marine Corps' birthday

Imagine an enormous room filled with the world's fiercest warriors, all dressed in their finest, their medals glimmering brilliantly in the light. It's enough to give a person some wicked goosebumps. This is what its like to witness the 235th United States Marine Corps Birthday Ball.

The birthday ball, held each year by various units of the Marine Corps, celebrates its formation on Nov. 10, 1775.

The nation's top Marine, General James F. Amos, the commandant of the Corps, addressed the Marines and their guests via video message. "For 235 years, at sea and ashore, Marines have succeeded in every clime and place...where hardship and adversity have often been the common thread," he said.

There was the presentation of the colors, accompanied by several rows of sword-bearing honor guards. The Marines stood at rigid attention as the color guard lowered the flags.

Next came the official birthday cake, which was slowly paraded through the center of the room. The Marine Corps Band played "The Marine Hymn" as the procession ended. Then the oldest and youngest marines present cut the cake.

"We're an assemblance of warriors, nothing else," said guest of honor Colonel J. Brian "Irish" Egan from the podium. Although retired from active duty, Irish is still strongly connected with the Marines. His salty language and colorful stories clearly move the crowd, and although his speech was rather lengthy for a formal affair, all eyes were fixed upon him.

"No other service has an annual celebration," said Irish. "Maybe that's because we were founded in a tavern, " he added with a chuckle. This brings forth a volley of oo-rah's from the Marines.

Irish served 33 years in the Corps, beginning his career as an enlisted man. After time in Vietnam as a rifleman, he was accepted into Officer Candidate School. Among his decorations are the Bronze Star with Combat "V", and four Purple Hearts.

"It was a long time ago that I attended my first birthday ball," said Irish. he went on to describe the oldest Marine present at that ball. "He was a PFC when Moby Dick was a minnow!"

Drinks flowed, as did stories about places the Marines have been and the things they have seen, both good and bad. There is an unspoken and robust sense of camaraderie among them, perhaps more easily seen by someone on the outside of their circle.

Smoky Situation

California voters will once again have to decide on the legalization of marijuana

 Should California be the first state to legalize marijuana? Voters will decide in the general election Nov. 2.

California has a longstanding reputation for being one of the most liberal states in the US. It has often been portrayed as a haven for non-conformists and free spirits, and has led the nation in the debate over marijuana. In 1996, when opinions supporting the medical use of marijuana began gaining popularity, voters passed Proposition 215, which legalized the use of marijuana for patients who had the approval of a doctor.

California's marijuana laws have become increasingly lenient in recent years. While distribution is still a felony, a person in possession of less than one ounce is issued a citation, as it is considered a simple misdemeanor.

Since the passage of Prop 215, medical marijuana collectives and dispensaries have operated under vague enforcement guidelines. There have been numerous debates over the validity of patients' need for marijuana.

Prop 19 would allow for those 21 or older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, cultivate marijuana plants on private property in an area up to 25 square feet, and possess smoking devices and paraphernalia. A doctor's approval would no longer be necessary.

A major motivation for Prop 19 is the tax revenue that could amount to millions for the state, which has faced severe budget shortfalls in recent years. Additionally, proponents of Prop 19 have claimed that law enforcement officers will have more time and resources to deal with more serious offenses.

And how does law enforcement feel about Prop 19?

"We don't have an official stance on the proposition one way or another," said Lt. David Bond of the La Mesa Police Department. "We're going to enforce the law, and we'll enforce it fairly. We'll let the voters decide about the politics."

Owners of marijuana collectives have their opinions, but most are reluctant to talk. With the constant threat of raids from law enforcement hanging over them, most refuse to be quoted.

"I do think that marijuana should be legalized," said one collective owner who did not want to reveal his name. "But this Prop 19 is a sham. There are so many loopholes in this thing that I couldn't even really tell you how I feel about it."

The legality of the marijuana collectives hangs from the thread of Prop 215, which in itself is a loophole in federal law. While California passed the so-called "Compassionate Use Act", the federal government maintained that possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana is illegal. However, according to the California Voter Information Guide, "in March 2009, the US Justice Department announced that the current administration would not prosecute marijuana patients and providers whose actions are consistent with state medical marijuana laws."

Californians will have to wait and see what the true affects of Prop 19 will be should it pass.


California Community Colleges suffer from state budget cuts

Students and faculty of California's community college system have become the newest victims of the state budget shortfall. With thousands of students starting the fall semester, many will be facing overcrowding, while others will be on waiting lists to add classes.

According to the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, the delay in the California budget has caused all state payments to the community colleges to be blocked, including a payment of $116 million for July, and of $277 million in August. The year's largest payment of $450 million, which is scheduled for September, is also in danger of being blocked. This would bring the total funding delays to $840 million.

The community college system in California is extremely important. According to the Office of the Secretary of Education of California, 60 percent of California State University (CSU) and 30 percent of University of California (UC) graduates are community college transfers. Additionally, 80 percent of law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters are credentialed at community colleges.

Within the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, course sections have been reduced by six percent. This means that some 158 classes were cut. The number of wait list seats has risen to 15,200.

"The roster for my first class had room for 25 students," said 35-year-old Grossmont College student Gilbert Ardilla. "And about 35 students actually showed up. Six of us were wait listed, and the others were trying to crash the class. Anyone who was trying to crash was told that they wouldn't be allowed in the class." Ardilla, a new student at Grossmont, immediately noticed the overcrowding. "There weren't nearly enough seats for people. It was really crowded and nerve-wracking for the people who were wait listed, because a lot of us really needed the classes."

While districts such as Grossmont-Cuyamaca waited in the hope that the budget shortfall would be recolved in time for them to receive their payments, Southwestern College in Chula Vista took a more proactive approach. "We took a look at the state's budget crisis and decided to take strong measures early on," said spokesperson Chris Bender. "By accepting the position that the state was not going to fund us, we were able to keep from having to borrow any money from lenders. This way we haven't had to cut any of the staff or faculty."

In fact, even in the face of the budget shortfall, Southwestern College has added many new classes and certificate courses. "It was just smart planning on our part," said Bender.

With nearly 60 days having passed without a budget, community college districts in California remain hopeful that lawmakers in Sacramento will be able to make the scheduled September payment.

Teacher's Aide

NU Helps educators get back to school

In an effort to help credentialed teachers who have recently received pink slips, National University has announced its Project Teacher Assistance scholarship. Launched Aug. 1, the program is intended to assist alumni who have fallen victim to the financial crisis in California.

"The idea behind this program is to extend a helping hand to our alumni," said Vice President of Student Services Dr. Joseph Zavala.

The scholarship initiative will cover 50 percent of tuition for the first three classes taken toward the completion of a master's degree. In addition, the standard $60 application fee that qualified alumni would pay will also be waived for those who enroll between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31, 2010. To qualify, candidates must be a credentialed teacher in California who has received a pink slip this school year, and an alumnus of National University.

While the difficult times faced in California have some 22,000 teachers facing the possibility of layoffs in the new school year, it is also a time of increased demand for their services. According to a study by the California Department of Education, 32 percent of California's teachers are expected to retire within ten years. In addition, enrollment in teacher preparatory programs at colleges and universities is on the decline. A 2008 study conducted by WestEd indicated that San Diego County alone will need to hire over 5,000 teachers by the 2015/16 school year in order to meet the demands of new enrollment.

While teachers who enroll in Project Teacher Assistance are encouraged to build upon their qualifications, the program will also provide them with an opportunity to find another field of study.

According to interim NU President Patricia Potter, the program "is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our respect and appreciation for their [NU alumni] achievements, and assist them in improving their current situation.

Since the Aug.1 announcement, just one applicant has enrolled in the program thus far. Dr. Zavala expects this number to increase in the coming weeks. "Many of the school districts haven't finalized their budgets. When they do, there will likely be more layoffs and more candidates for this scholarship," he said.

Candidates for Project Teacher Assistance are required to submit their application along with a photocopy of a pink slip dated within the 2009-2010 school year. Applications and additional information can be found at

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Time Magazine's Richard Stengel Interviews Julian Assange

Julian Assange is no stranger to tough questions. Time Magazine's Richard Stengel recently interviewed the 39-year-old Assange, and was able to get some answers from the controversial Wikileaks founder. The two met via Skype Nov. 30.

Launched in 2006, Wikileaks has published many sensitive and classified documents from various secret and anonymous sources.

What is the purpose of Wikileaks? Assange explained to Stengel that Wikileaks is dedicated to a more open and transparent society, one in which governments are not permitted to employ unethical methods and practices. He desires for government leaders to say in public the same things they say in private. In other words, Assange feels that they should be practicing what they preach.

"...Organizations can be efficient, open and honest, or they can be closed, conspiratorial and inefficient," he said.

Many government officials, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have stated that Wikileaks, by exposing this sensitive information, has put many lives in danger.

"This sort of nonsense about lives being put in jeopardy is trotted out every time a big military or intelligence organization is exposed by the press," said Assange.

Julian Assange (MSNBC Photo) 

Assange explained that there have been no deaths, nor has anyone been wrongfully imprisoned as a result of the information that Wikileaks has published. He compared the record of Wikileaks to that of organizations and governments that he feels have been responsible for thousands of deaths.

When asked if he felt if he were practicing what Stengel called "civil disobedience" in order to expose wrongdoing at a much higher level, Assange answered that he felt Wikileaks was practicing "civil obedience" in its attempt to make the world a more just place. According to Assange, in some 100 legal attacks against Wikileaks, none have been successful in proving any wrongdoing.

While many tend to feel that the US is one of the most free societies in the world, Assange disagrees. He explained that the US has become less and less free in the last thirty years.

"And what has kept the United States in check, to the degree that it has been kept in check from abusing its powers, is this federalism, this strength of the states," he said.

But Assange does not see the US as the only nation guilty of unethical practices. He mentioned China as a nation that he would like Wikileaks to focus on in the future, but for different reasons. In his opinion, when nations are more politically-based, rather than fiscally, there is still potential for change; when money becomes a prime focus, there is no hope. Assange feels that China is on its way to a more open society.

While Assange appears to believe that he is a messenger of truth and information, a savior of journalism and transparency, he is also aware that this role is a dangerous one. He has been quoted several times as saying that his life is in danger.

Assange also has been the focus of attacks on his character. Most recently, he was charged with sexual misconduct in Sweden.

According to the UK's Media Guardian, Assange said, "This case in Sweden is a travesty. No person should be exposed to that type of investigation and persecution."

There is speculation that Assange will soon face charges in the Unites States under the Espionage Act.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Political Correctness: How Far is Too Far?

When  it comes to being politically correct, just how far is too far?

Perhaps we should be asking Juan Williams. Williams, a former senior analyst at National Public Radio (NPR), was recently terminated for comments about Muslims that he made on The O'Reilly Factor.

 Not long before Williams appeared on his show, Bill O'Reilly
was a guest on ABC's The View ,and expressed his opinions
     Juan Williams (Photo courtesy of NPR)    
about the proposed mosque near ground zero in New York.
O'Reilly and the hosts had a shouting match, and co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar stormed off the set.

Why, then, was Williams fired from NPR for making very similar comments?

It is well known that Fox News is an outlet for conservatives, while NPR is known for its more liberal ideals. Allegations about bias within these two organizations are repeatedly thrown back and forth, but the reality is this: Juan Williams was fired, and Bill O'Reilly was not.

Of course, Williams is not necessarily a victim in this situation. Following his termination at NPR, Williams was hired by Fox News, who reportedly paid him $2 million. Apparently being politically correct is more important to NPR than it is to Fox News.

But let me be very clear about one thing: I am in no way defending Fox News.

What I am defending is s person's right to say what they think and feel. Let's be honest with ourselves. In our lives, we are going to see and hear things that will upset us. We will be offended at one time or another. But we must realize and embrace the beauty in this. Yes, I did say beauty; how boring would life be if we all agreed with one another?

Juan Williams was not wrong for saying what he said. He is just another unfortunate individual who decided to voice his opinion rather than stifle it. While there were some of his comments that I personally agreed with, and some that I did not agree with, I believe strongly in his right to voice them.

I believe that our First Amendment rights are the most important, especially in situations such as this. If we are to be ostracized for exercising those rights, who will ultimately pay the price?

All of us will.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Journalism Ethics & The Virginia Tech Massacre


On the morning of Monday, April 16th, 2007, the bloodiest school massacre in US history took place at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The gunman, a 23 year-old senior undergraduate named Seung-Hui Cho, went on a shooting rampage. When it was all over, 32 students and teachers were dead, 25 were wounded, and Cho himself had committed suicide. 

After murdering his first two victims in West Ambler Johnson Hall dormitory, Cho returned to his room and gathered materials including videos, pictures, and a manifesto of over 1800 words. While on his way across campus, Cho stopped at a post office and mailed the materials to NBC News. He then continued on to Norris Hall, a building of classrooms and offices. There he chained the exits of the building, then went from classroom to classroom, shooting teachers and students. Days later, when NBC News received the package from Cho, they faced a very serious ethical dilemma: should they air Cho's material? Eventually they did air it, sparking enormous controversy within the journalism community.

Over three years have passed since the massacre took place, yet there is still great debate regarding not only the dilemma that NBC News faced, but also the manner in which the national media covered the shooting.

Media Coverage of the Massacre

The manner in which the national news media covered the Virginia Tech Massacre left a bad taste in the mouths of many students who survived the ordeal, and also with the families of the victims. Reporters and news trucks moved into the area practically overnight, invading the space of those who were already emotionally distressed. 

There is at least one reported incident in which a female journalist found her way into a secured dormitory by posing as a student, and sought out survivors for interviews. In this situation, it is very clear that this was unethical; this was a classic case of the masquerading variety of deception, which is widely frowned upon. When surveys regarding the use of masquerading were conducted among journalists, seventy percent of those who participated believed that it was never justified. (1) In this case, with people who have just suffered incredible strain and hardship, it makes the case against such practices that much stronger.

There are also instances of reporters acting hastily upon unreliable sources and leads. Michael Sneed, a columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, mistakenly used a source who claimed that Seung-Hui Cho was a Chinese National. In his column, Sneed wrote, "The 25 year-old man being investigated for the deadliest carnage in US history reportedly arrived in San Francisco on a United Airlines flight on Aug. 7, 2006, on a visa issued in Shanghai, the source said. Investigators had not linked him to any terrorist groups, the source added." (2). Of course, this information proved later to false. In situations such as these when the pressure to get a scoop is so very high, inaccuracies tend to occur. Marvin Kalb, a former NBC and CBS reporter said, "The best of journalism doesn't sit on it's ass; it produces copy." But he also does not advocate hasty reporting, stating that there is a distinction between  a story that is ready to be printed or broadcast and one that needs to be held. (3). It is obvious that Sneed was impulsive in his reporting of this case. In addition, using anonymous sources is also frowned upon, particularly for the reason of accountability; when a journalist uses an anonymous source, who is to say that the source is real, and not just one that the journalist has conjured up?

The use of citizen-journalists and bloggers to report the news also came under heavy fire following the shooting. Because these people were on the scene before any professional journalists were, they were able to report breaking news almost immediately following the shooting. This sometimes forces the professionals into a tight corner, placing extreme pressure upon them to update and confirm those reports. In an article written for the website The American Editor, Keegan Kyle touches on the subject: "Although breaking a new development can help Web traffic initially, inaccuracies or negligence can damage a newspaper's long-term reputation. Bob Steele, the Nelson Poynter School for Journalism Values at the Poynter Institute, also warns editors not to bite the bait of competition. Shortcuts to the editing and reporting process, he says, can undermine accuracy and fairness, producing a large number of mistakes and corrections. 'That's happened before with the Columbine shootings for instance,' Steele says. 'Anytime you are scrambling to tell a story, there's a danger of hurting accuracy.'" (4)

Media sensationalism of the massacre also added to the growing disgust that the public and the victims were feeling. The need and desire to examine every angle of a story can sometimes go too far. A prime example of this was the media's excessive analysis of two words that were reportedly written on Cho's arm in red ink: Ismail Ax. In his column in the Brisbane Times, Eric Benderoff wrote," ALL at once, the world went looking for the meaning of 'Ismail Ax'. Almost as soon as the detail was reported, the blogosphere filled with theories. Bloggers speculated on a link to Islam or to literature, offered their opinions and millions read the commentaries, according to the website, a search engine for searching blogs." (5) Because it made for such a compelling story, the news media picked up on two key words in those theories: Islamic Terrorism. In this case, it seemed that the media wanted Cho to be linked to Islamic Terrorists, and their coverage of the case seems to support my theory. The power of the media to sway the public in one direction or the other is very apparent here, and what makes it unethical is the fact that not all of the facts of the case had surfaced. In addition to this type of sensationalism, there were small details such as graphics used on television. "He [Simon Dumenco] noted that during CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360", CNN's animated MASSACRE AT VIRGINIA TECH logo throbbed and twirled with all the subtlety of an "American Idol" bumper... A gaudy, twitching animation effect caused the MASSACRE type to briefly explode outside its red box, as did the AT VIRGINIA TECH type a moment later. It took me a couple of rewind passes on my DVR to realize that the grainy gray background behind the twitching type showed a gun sight's crosshairs floating in slow motion across the screen." (6) Even small details such as this seem to make the general public more critical of the media in general; it shows a lack of sensitivity and compassion for those who suffered in this horrific tragedy. I have always been aware of this type of sensationalism, and have certainly found it disturbing when news networks felt the need to label disasters and crises with melodramatic hyperboles. In their defense, however, from a marketing standpoint, it is those headlines and hyperboles that grab a reader or viewer. I blame the tremendous competition between the networks for this problem.

The media also came under fire for using Facebook to try and get sources for interviews. "In a separate column published April 17th, Slate's  Jack Schafer noted that NBC and ABC had both left condolence messages on Virginia Tech students' profile pages at the social networking site Facebook and added that if anyone knew Cho, 'we have anchors and producers on campus that would love to meet with you.' (ABC), and 'We have producers and camera crews nearby ready to talk to anyone who can supply information about him [Cho] and his movements leading up to the tragedy.' (NBC)." (7) To many, including myself, I would consider this a classic invasion of privacy. How does a reporter expect to get a source for an interview by violating a source's privacy? This also shows a lack of compassion; the condolence messages given were obviously a mere ruse to obtain information.

NBC's Dilemma

When Seung-Hui Cho mailed the package of pictures, videos, and written material to NBC News, it was clear that what he had in mind was for the world to see the reasons behind his rage. Cho was obviously a very disturbed and conflicted individual, and when one watches the videos that he made, it is very clear that he wanted to be famous, and for the media to sensationalize his rampage. In a way, he was a very clever young man; he knew that when faced with the decision to air his manifesto, NBC would be forced into giving in. There doesn't seem to have been any other course of action in this case. Many people, including survivors and families of the victims, were very critical of NBC's decision. In their eyes, two things were wrong with airing Cho's material: 1) Many of the victims felt that seeing Cho's pictures, and hearing his chilling words forced them to relive the nightmare; in several of the photographs, Cho is posing with his handguns as if he were in the act of shooting them. These terrifying images were no doubt very similar to what many of the victims saw as he shot them to death. 2) Many are of the opinion that by allowing the gunman's voice to broadcast, the media would be granting him his dying wish to be famous, and also opening the floodgates to copycats. 

The dilemma that so critically faced NBC was nothing new to many news networks. There was great controversy surrounding The San Francisco Chronicle's decision to publish letters from the Zodiac killer. The New York Daily News was also the center of a mass criticism when they reprinted letters from the Son of Sam. 

Steve Kapas, who was the president of NBC at the time, appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" with Brian Williams several days following the shooting. When asked to explain NBC's decision to air the material, Kapas said, "Sometimes good journalism is public relations. These are very difficult decisions." (8) Many also agreed with Kapas, noting that NBC was really only acting in the best interest of the general public. Jack Schafer, a writer for Slate, wrote the following in his April 19th column: "NBC needn't apologize to anyone for originally airing the Cho videos and pictures. The Virginia Tech slaughter is an ugly story, but the five W's of journalism- who, what, where, when, and why- demand that journalists ask the question 'why?' even if they can't adequately answer it." (9) It has also been argued among many journalists that airing the Cho material was vital to the well-being of the general public; by seeing that the responsible party for this horrible tragedy was a lone gunman who was obviously mentally disturbed, people can eliminate the possibility of a conspiracy, a scenario in which it is virtually impossible to track down all of the the conspirators. In addition, there is a feeling of security knowing that the responsible party is no longer a threat. I personally agree very strongly with this argument, and have come to the conclusion that the public wants information, but will always be critical of the manner in which it is collected and delivered to them; it is a classic Catch-22.

Others, like Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Editor in Chief of News Tony Burman, disagreed with NBC's final decision. "I think [NBC's] handling of these tapes was a mistake. As I watched them last night, sickened as most viewers were, I imagined what kind of impact this broadcast would have on similarly deranged people. In horrific but real ways, this is their 15 minutes of fame. I had this awful and sad feeling that there were parents watching these excerpts on NBC who were unaware that they will lose their children in some future copycat killing triggered by these broadcasts." (10)

While there seems to be a majority of journalists who agree wit4h NBC's decision to air the Cho material, there is a great deal of argument regarding the repetitive nature of its airing. As soon as NBC made the material available to other news networks, the floodgates opened; many of these networks have been accused of using the images as "video wallpaper". Things were far more excessive with the 24-hour news networks like CNN which have large amounts of time to fill, especially during those times when new developments were slow to make their way into the newsroom. Charles Warner, who writes for a website called Media Curmudgeon, summed up the excess airing of the material by saying, "TV has much greater impact than any other medium because it engages viewers' emotions through its blend of sight, sound, motion, and emotion. Thus videos of airplanes crashing into buildings or a killer's deadly ramblings leave much more dramatic and lasting impressions. And it is these impressions that magnify the perception of excess." (11)

I feel that news organizations are placed in a no-win situation when given this type of information. There certainly has to be a dedication to the practice of good ethics within journalism, but how far is too far? Is there some type of unseen line in the sand? On April 30th, The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz quoted NBC's president Steve Kapas saying, "I'm stunned that people bang down our door at one moment, demanding that we release it uninterrupted and without filter-then question whether it should have been released in the first place...I'm just stunned at the depths of absurdity and hypocrisy." (12) Jane Kirtley, who is Silha Director and a Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota, had a very interesting opinion on the subject. She was quoted in an April 27th edition of UNM News as saying, "The media should always treat victims' families with respect, but victims' families shouldn't have veto power over whether something like this is aired. Where do we stop in accommodating people who object to this? I say turn off the TV or hit the mute button." (13)


After researching and analyzing all of the information regarding the media coverage in this case, I have come to one conclusion: there is no definite answer as to what is the right or wrong way to collect information and report it. There seems to be a difference of opinion about all of the ethical dilemmas that each news organization faced. As journalists, we are charged with the responsibility of delivering news to the public. I feel that the public, however, should be less critical of the manner in which it is presented to them. I have long been a critic of the news media, but now that I am directly involved, I have certainly come to see the other side to this very tricky task that we have taken on. As I have stated previously, news organizations are in a no-win situation; people want the information, yet will always remain critical of the manner in which it collected and delivered to them.

Works Cited

 (1), (3) Smith, R.F. (2003). Groping for Ethics in Journalism. Ames: Blackwell Publishing Company.  

(2) Misleads, M.S. (2007, April 19). Killers From China: What Did Michael Sneed Say? Retrieved June 14, 2010 , from Letters From China:

(4) Kyle, K. (2007, October 3). Ethics Debate. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from the American Editor:

(5) Benderoff, E. (2007, April 19) Theories abound about meaning of words on killer's arm. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from Brisbane Times:

(6) , (7), (8), (9), (10), (12), (13) Ewald, A. (2009), October 21) Media Coverage of Virginia Tech Shooting Sparks Controversy and Scrutiny. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from CLA Publications:

(11) Warner, C. (2007, April 21). Media Coverage of the Virginia Tech Massacre. Retrieved June 19, 2010, from Media Curmudgeon:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Fifth Annual Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition

The fifth annual Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Dog Competition was held in Imperial Beach Saturday. Despite the big surf and cloudy, cool weather, the dogs and their owners shared the stoke in the contest, which drew an estimated 2,000 spectators and their four-legged friends.

The contest was a fundraiser for the San Diego Police Department's Canine Unit. "Loews Hotel is very pet friendly," said Public Relations Director Anne Stephanie. "About six years ago we launched a dog surfing program at our hotel. The response that we got from that program was overwhelming, so we've turned it into an annual fundraiser."

There were three categories in the competition: small dogs under forty pounds, large dogs over forty pounds, and the tandems, which consisted of the dogs and their owners on the surfboard together. This was the very first year that this category was added. "Kalani won the contest last year," said Andra Lew of her Golden Retriever, who also won the tandem contest this year along with Lew's other Golden Retriever, Ricochet. "I don't think that it had anything to do with me. It had everything to do with her staying on the board and impressing the judges." Kalani is two and a half years old, and in addition to being a talented surf-dog, she is also a certified pet-therapy dog, and an accomplished dock dog-jumper. 'Her personal best at dock dog-jumping is eighteen feet one inch," said Lew. "She's been surfing and dock dog-jumping since she was five months old."

To get a closer look at the surfing pooches, many on-lookers braved cold water and the occasional drenching clean-up set. Several times the MC of the event had to remind them to stand clear of the strategically placed cones so that the contest judges were offered a clear view of the dogs in the water. Many of the spectators brought their own dogs, many of which were clad in very unique costumes.

April Pasko of Encinitas, who also participated in the competition, had her two Nova Scotia Duck Talling Retrievers dressed in bright-colored dog bikinis. "They're more commonly known as 'Tollers' in the dog world," said Pasko. One of the dogs, Torri, was also the third place winner in the small dogs category. "Torri has been surfing since she was eighteen months. When we would run down the beach she would always watch the dogs and surfers like, I wanna do that." According to Pasko, the best way to teach a dog to surf is to take them out on a very calm day and let them get comfortable in the water and on the surfboard.

Just before the winners of the competition were announced, a member of the San Diego Police Department's Canine Unit fielded questions about their program, which the contest directly benefited. There had been a police dog demonstration planned, but it was cancelled due to the large amounts of dogs in the crowd.

With the sun finally breaking through, the winners of the contest were announced. In the small dogs category, an Australian Kelpie named Abbey Girl was the standout. The large dogs winner was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Stanley, and the winners of the tandem category were the two dogs Ricochet and Kalani, also known as the 'Twisted Sisters'. The first place winners of the contest walked away with a one-night stay at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, with their furry friends of course.

GPA: A Profile

"When I was nine years old, I found a body in a dumpster," says Gilbert Ardilla; there is a strange and faraway look in his eyes as he tells the story. Then he suddenly looks up at the ceiling as if in deep thought. "But it didn't look like a body. It was real purple and dark, and it stunk real bad." He pauses for quite a long time before he goes on. "That was the first time that I realized people die," he says finally.

Gilbert Pico Ardilla Jr., 35, is a fairly well-known rapper in the underground hip-hop community. Known to his fans as GPA, he carries himself with steady confidence of a big man, despite his five feet six inches. His most popular album, Hard Times, was released in 1999, and has sold over 5,000 copies. His music can be found on iTunes and YouTube, and he has quite a following of local hip-hop enthusiasts.

Growing up in Paradise Hills, which is a rough and tumble area of South San Diego County, Ardilla was exposed to violent inner-city life at a very early age. "Gangs have always been in my life. I think that I learned to write PH, which is the neighborhood that I'm from, before I learned to write my name. This was all before I was in kindergarten," he says with an uneasy chuckle. As an only child from a broken home, Ardilla looked to his older cousins and uncles, who were mostly members of neighborhood gangs, for guidance. At the age of twelve, he began smoking crystal meth.

Music has always played a large part in Ardilla's life; his father was a musician who played with several prominent artists. Ardilla recalls his parents putting him down for his nap as a small child by making him listen to a Commodores album front to back. When he was twelve years old, he discovered the rap group NWA while on a trip to Los Angeles. Rappers like NWA's front-man Eazy-E glorified life in the rough neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles, which were much like the neighborhoods where Ardilla grew up. It was the song Eazy Does It that inspired Ardilla to begin writing rap lyrics. "For like four years, I wrote raps," says Ardilla. "I never told anybody I wrote raps until I got into tenth grade. I used to write raps about a guy with one leg, and that was when my friends realized that I could flow. When my family finally found out that I could rap, it was like the floodgates had opened."

Ardilla formed rap groups for the next couple of years, recording music when he could. It was during this time that he was selling crystal meth, which he was also heavily addicted to. "I was smoking anywhere from a half a teener to a teener of crystal a day," says Ardilla, shaking his head at the memory. Gang life suddenly became real to him when a close friend was murdered. Soon after, during a neighborhood party, Ardilla found himself on stage for the first time. This spontaneous performance caught the eye of a local music producer, whom he began recording for shortly thereafter. He formed a close association with another rapper named Lil' One, who was also putting together an album for Ruthless Records, which was owned by Ardilla's hero, Eazy-E. When the two of them made a trip up to Los Angeles to the Ruthless Records studio, Eazy-E himself made an appearance, and also sat and listened to Lil' One's latest record, including a track that Ardilla rapped on. "So Eazy got to hear me on one of the songs, which was bomb," says Ardilla. Two weeks later, Eazy was diagnosed with AIDS and died suddenly. Because of some internal politics, the Lil' One's record with Ardilla's track was never released by Ruthless Records.

After some personal issues with several of his associates in the business, Ardilla became somewhat disillusioned by the personal politics that were transpiring, and decided to give up rapping altogether. With his musical focus behind him, Ardilla once again became caught up in life on the streets. He began drinking heavily, and also returned to crystal meth. "I was selling crystal to support myself at that time," says Ardilla. "And I was making a lot of money and moving a lot of weight." He made the colossal mistake of obtaining an ounce of crystal meth towards the end of the month when most of his customers were low on cash. Owing an
associate $1200 for the meth, he returned home one night to find him there to collect his money. When he asked for the $1200, Ardilla was forced to tell him that he did not have it. "He pulled out a strap and put it to my head, then clicked the damn thing. But the bullet got caught in the chamber," he says. It is obviously a cold and unpleasant memory; Ardilla pauses, then looks at the floor. "I was at a point in my life where I was stressed out and awake for so many days that I told him, Fix your gun and handle it. I'm tired." The dope dealer not only allowed Ardilla to walk away, but in an ironic twist, told him that he needed to leave the life he was living.

Shortly after this life-changing experience, Ardilla recorded a song with one of his associates in the business, therefore returning to rap after nearly eighteen months. Back in the game, he began recording his first full-length album, Hard Times. Other than his decision to stop selling drugs, Ardilla's life had not changed much. "There were the groupies, the drugs, the partying," he says. "I was really a selfish person." Ardilla describes the theme of the album Hard Times as a mirror of the anger that existed within himself. "There was so much turmoil in my life at that time, and I was about to have a baby. But I was still addicted to drugs," he says. Ardilla finally got sober, and was hired at Taylor Guitars, a job he still holds today, nearly twelve years later.

While recording his second album, Ardilla discovered that a friend was using some of his music without his permission. Once again, he decided to leave the music business behind him. He got married, and established a new life for himself as a devoted father, husband, and employee. He still enjoys music, but chides himself for not having been more involved in the business side of the industry; today he receives no royalties from his music.

"I wanted to make sure that I made a footprint in this world," says Ardilla. "By being a father and a husband, I think I've done that. And those are the two hardest occupations." Despite his major musical accomplishments, Ardilla is most proud of his small family, which he is passionately devoted to. He considers himself retired
from hip-hop, and only records when he feels that he needs creative release. "My goal in the next five years is to make sure that every single one of my kids plays an instrument," he says. "My kids are my legacy."

The New Home of the San Diego Chargers?

Will the proposed downtown stadium site be the last chance for the Chargers to stay in San Diego? Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani believes that it is.

The San Diego Stadium Coalition held a town hall meeting Wednesday in order for the public to address specific concerns to Fabiani. "The San Diego Chargers have done everything possible to get a stadium deal done," said Fabiani.

The proposed ten acre site sits adjacent to Petco Park, and will be much less expensive to build than any other site because of the existing infrastructure, Fabiani said. The new plan is estimated to cost nearly $200 million less than the sites which were proposed in Escondido, Chula Vista, and Oceanside. There is also a plan to attach a retractable roof to the new stadium, which will allow for events to take place there year round. "It costs the city $17 million per year to operate Qualcomm stadium," said Fabiani. "And it sits vacant for much of the year not earning any revenue from tenants." The proposed plan will possibly serve as a venue for sports and events that take place in the San Diego Sports Arena, which, as Fabiani also pointed out, sits vacant for much of the year as well.

In addition to being the 'greenest' building in the world, the new stadium will be built with fewer seats than Qualcomm, which will guarantee sellouts for each game. This will eliminate the possibility of television blackouts. Some of the land at the proposed site will have to acquired, but a large portion of it sits atop the current Petco Park tailgate parking area. "The transit yards there will also have to be relocated and cleaned up," said Fabiani.

But not everyone is happy about the proposed stadium. Unlike the previous plan that involved the development around the Qualcomm site in Mission Valley, the area around the downtown site is not quite large enough for private development, which would have helped to fund the stadium. Because of this, some taxpayer dollars will be needed to finance it. In a tough economy, and within a city that has had severe financial difficulties, some citizens find the proposal a tough pill to swallow. "My concern is all of the traffic and the crowds that it will bring," said Martin Balfour. Balfour, 62, is a resident of the East Village, and lives just blocks from the proposed site. "I'm also not convinced that the taxpayers should have to help pay for it," adds Balfour. "The city is already in financial trouble, they're cutting police jobs, firemen, teachers. Should a new football stadium be our priority? I don't feel that it should be."

Many San Diegans are very excited at the prospect of a new stadium. "I think that it's a great thing for the city of San Diego," said 42 year-old Matthew Seller of Little Italy. "A new stadium will be a huge money-maker for the city with super bowls and the crowds that it will draw. Even if taxpayers have to chip in, it seems like a good return on our money. I see it as an investment."

Before the stadium plans can move forward, there is a critical study that must be commissioned by the Centre City Development Corporation, or CCDC. The San Diego City Council will vote on the proposal to increase the spending cap of the CCDC on June 22. The study is estimated to cost the city $500,000. Fabiani stressed the importance of this study, calling it a 'last chance' for the stadium plan, and possibly for the Chargers future in San Diego.

Oil Spill Response

In response to the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, specific questions have been raised regarding the possible effects of such a disaster in the San Diego area.

Many of the environmental regulations that are in place today are the result of a massive oil spill which occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara in January, 1969. The spill lasted a total of eleven days, during which time over 200,000 gallons of crude oil bubbled to the surface, then spread into an 800 square mile slick. Tides carried the oil to nearly 35 miles of California coastline. It is estimated that over 3,000 birds were killed the in disaster.

"In the event of a spill in the San Diego area, three government agencies would be directly involved: the US Coast Guard, the California Department of Fish and Game Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response, and the California State Lands Commission," said LTJG Marc Mares of the US Coast Guard in an email response. Each of these agencies have specific duties within what is called the ACP, or Area Contingency Plan. Each agency also has specific jurisdictions. The ACP is updated by the Area Committee, or AC, which is composed of local, state, and federal employees as well as industry and concerned citizens. The AC meets quarterly to discuss oil spill prevention and response, in addition to conducting training exercises.

"From an ecological standpoint, a spill in the Southern California area would differ greatly from the spill in the Gulf of Mexico due to the massive kelp forests here," said Ryder Gamboa, who is a senior environmental specialist in water toxicology in Orange County. These forests would be impacted on a far greater level than that of a rocky ocean floor. The currents in the Pacific would also play a far different role. "Pacific currents run from north to south," added Gamboa. "This would more than likely push a great deal of the spilled oil towards Mexican waters." The impact upon marine life would also be substantial, with effects lasting decades. "Toxins will find their way into the endocrine systems of fish, which in turn effects their hormone levels and reproductive systems," said Gamboa.

The local seafood industry would also be greatly impacted. "All of the catfish and salmon that we buy come from farms," said Bert Amador, who is a manager at Anthony's Fish Grotto. "But we also buy a lot of local seafood such as swordfish. If there were to be an oil disaster here, we would be forced to buy these types of fish from other places such as Mexico, which in turn would raise the prices for the customer."

Public opinion of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico is varied. "I think that it's a crying shame what's going on down there," said 37 year-old Justin Francon of Linda Vista. He shakes his head as he casts his fishing line into the San Diego Bay. "I only hope that this sends a message to people in charge to stop off-shore drilling. I sure don't want to see something like that happen here in our backyard." His fishing companion, who is also casting a line not far away, also chimes in. "I don't really agree with that," said 41 year-old Nat Davis, also of Linda Vista. "You can't just stop drilling for oil because of one spill. But they should be doing something to make it safer, that's for sure," he says.