From Mental Health Stigma to Gun Violence and Reform

Since the start of 2018, there have been 91 mass shootings here in the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive.Over 5,000 people have been killed in gun-related violence in the last 5 months. The shocking turn of events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was the last straw for many, resulting in student-led activism that sparked questions about the future of gun control and pushed the cause to the forefront of everyone’s minds.

“All of a sudden, its opening the eyes and raising the consciousness of the adults in the country about what our kids are actually living with at school,” said Margaret Russo, a member of the activist group Hatfield Embraces Acceptance and Dismantles Stigma.

Since the March For Our Lives events, millions of people worldwide have since protested and rallied for gun restrictions in the US in the hopes that gun violence will no longer play a major part in the future lives of children. In an age where cars are being more regulated than guns in the US, many have proposed Australia’s gun reform of 1996 as a model to implement gun laws and restrictions. However, America’s gun culture runs much deeper in history, politics and society, which makes a radical change in gun law much more complicated.

After a string of mass shootings across the country, the Australian government introduced a new National Firearms Agreement in 1996, which included stricter storage and registration requirements, as well as weapon restriction. Incorporated into this agreement was a buyback scheme, which saw over 640,000 newly illegal firearms surrendered to the government between 1996-2013. Gun-related deaths have fallen below 250 every year since then, including police shootings, suicide and homicide. No mass shootings have occurred in the 22 years since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 – the event that prompted the country’s new gun laws.

Gun culture in the US is not so black-and-white. Dr Michael Hannahan, a Political Science Professor at the University of Massachusetts and Director of the University’s Donahue Institute, points out the different cultures of the US and Australia.

“The US and Australia have a lot of similarities. But the gun thing is different,” said Hannahan. “It’s a cultural difference and it’s a little surprising too, because there are a lot of similarities in the development of the countries’ cultures.”

Unlike Australia, guns in America are a right that has been written into the Constitution, rather than a privilege. The second amendment guarantees the freedom and independency of American citizens. But this particular phrase is shadowed by a lot of grey area. Even the late Chief of Justice Warren Burger, a conservative republican, once said that the Second Amendment has “been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the work fraud, on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my life time.” Many people have speculated that this amendment is playing into the capitalist society and is just an excuse for lobby groups like the National Rifle Association to make more money.

Hannahan points out that it is a modern phenomenon that the NRA has transitioned from a gun training organization, favoring hunting, to radical lobbyists – they have essentially divorced from outdoors people. The NRA has claimed that “They’re Coming For Your Guns” in recent years, becoming a full political force, an aspect that emerged in the 1970s.

Hannahan explains that this is not an age-old historical phenomenon, and links it to the history of gun ownership in the US. This, he believes, leads back to two social attitudes:

“One is the notion among a minority of people that we need protection against government take-over… The other is a notion of independence. Even though we’re all involved in this enormous global capitalist society and we buy everything that other people make, very few people are actually self-sufficient. Even if you listen to country music, a lot of it is about self-sufficiency,” said Hannahan.

The NRA plays upon these aspects in their lobbying, tying politicians’ attempts at gun reform to a threat upon the freedom of American citizens.

So what are the options for gun control and reform in America, when this mentality is so deeply ingrained in the minds of many? There is no real answer to that yet, but it is clear that advocacy for some kind of control is being stressed around the world, through rallies, organisations, and even through song.

Ultimately though, the gun culture here is much more pervasive than almost any other country, and we are only just beginning to scratch the surface in the fight against gun violence.

“Its just part of life here – a negative part – but I don’t see it going anywhere,” said Hannahan. “They’re not going to change the amendment, and honestly even if you ban assault weapons they’re still going to be out there.”


Media Memo: Reflections on Multimedia Journalism

At the beginning of the semester, I wrote about the changing face of journalism in multimedia. I have Tweeted, Snapchatted, YouTubed and blogged my way through the news cycle since then, and still wholeheartedly agree with my original thoughts. However, I now have a further understanding of just how important multimedia journalism is in the present, and moving into the future.

Think about the last time you actually picked up a hard copy of The New York Times, or held a copy of your favorite magazine in your hands. (And no, your tablet or iPad doesn’t count.) For many people, especially Millenials, the last time this happened would be hard to trace. You can thank the quickly evolving face of technology for that… and social media.

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Deleting News in the Digital Age

In an age where photos can be published in a matter of seconds and rumors spread via social media in a similar fashion, breaking news must be published almost immediately in order for news sites to stay relevant. This, however, leaves some room for errors, such as incorrect facts, that may tarnish the reputation of the journalist and the news outlet itself. But how do we navigate this cycle without falling behind in the news? Although correct facts and verifications are at the core of journalism, the speed of technology means that time is of the essence – after all, breaking the story first IS important. Many news sites provide updates to published articles and can correct facts and information within seconds, which is the benefit of online journalism as opposed to delays of print journalism. But what happens when news sites decide to remove content completely? What implications can “unpublishing” or deleting news articles actually have?

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Reacting to Liz Robbins

Since the beginning of the Trump administration, issues surrounding immigration have been at the forefront of news and conversation. Now, increasing numbers of immigrants seeking protection and a home in America are being denied green cards or citizenship, especially young adults seeking solace from their homelands. An article by Liz Robbins appeared in the New York Times last week, describing four young immigrants and their failed attempts at securing green card visas. All are in their early 20’s, and all have attempted to move to the U.S. to escape the violence in their lives in places like Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and west Africa.

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The Aftermath: Beyond the March

By Georgia Nelson

On Saturday March 24, 2018, millions of people across the nation and the world united at multiple locations as part of the March for Our Lives Movement to protest gun violence in the United States. In Amherst, Massachusetts, local children, students, parents, grandparents and activists gathered in Kendrick Park, armed with homemade signs and an active purpose. Fronting the march were four students from local colleges and schools, carrying a blue “March For Our Lives” banner and chanting “Books Not Bullets” and “Enough is Enough” as they led the brigade behind them towards the Town Common.

But what role will activism play in the quest to end gun violence? How will this protest be different than the countless others that have happened for the same cause? Will our voices be enough to put an end to the violent culture that is perpetuated by guns?

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From Skeptic to Sympathizer: How “Deliverance” Changed My Mind

One mountain, two frozen bodies to recover, 365 days since death, and 8,000 meters above sea level. John Branch’s “Deliverance From 27,000 Feet” is a journalistic masterpiece of narrative, description, emotion, understanding, and closure. Instead of 2 more nameless bodies lost to the heights of Mt. Everest, Branch provides us with the stories, inspirations, struggles and losses of climbers Goutam Ghosh, Paresh Nath, Subhas Paul and Sunita Hazra – the only female and sole survivor of this expedition. We come face to face with images and descriptions of death, but also of redemption and recovery.

So when it comes to a confrontational topic like this, how do we write about it? Branch does so with eloquence and respect for the deceased climbers and their families, by answering his own two questions from the first segment: “Who are you? Who left you here? And is anyone coming to take you home?”

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UMass Hockey Scores Success

UMass hockey is the best it has been in a while. Friday March 2 will kick off the quarterfinals of the Hockey East Playoffs, when the puck drops on UMass and Northeastern in Boston at 7 p.m.

Coming off a thrilling three-game series vs. Vermont at the Mullins Center, the Minutemen are riding the high of playoff hockey. A high that when UMass coach Greg Carvel was hired, he vowed to bring back to the program.

“I will work very hard to build this hockey team, but I will work just as hard to connect the student body to the team, the town, the alumni, and anybody in the state of Massachusetts who is a hockey fan,” Carvel said when he was hired.

As Carvel promised, the excitement extends beyond the players on the roster.

With the Mullins Center hosting the home playoff hockey games for UMass in 10 years, fans came in droves to support the Minutemen.

“[UMass hockey’s success] changed my perception, because they’re actually good,” sophomore Amanda Bradway said. “It makes me want to come to the games more and be more active as a student watching the games.”

The three home games against Vermont totaled 11,977 fans with the largest amount on Friday, March 2, with 5,778.

Before gates open though, all is quiet. Workers mull around, prepping for their guests’ arrival, A lone Zamboni cleans the ice making it look as clear as the water it once was.

The Mullins Center is like a living a time machine. At the forefront is the game. Fans cheering—or more accurately slinging insults at the opposing team—is combined with the band playing as the Minutemen and Catamounts skate from one end of the ice to the other.

At the ground floor it’s chaos, but in the rafters it’s constantly calm. Banners hang from the ceiling commemorating the achievements of past Minutemen.

Throughout the concourse, pictures of former Minutemen populate the hallway. Jonathan Quick and Frank Vetrano, just to name a couple, have their photos proudly hung for all to see.

UMass hockey wasn’t always this exciting.

Combining for only 13 wins in the previous two seasons, UMass hockey could have been considered one of worst sports teams on campus. That speaks volumes given that the football team’s largest win total in the last five years has been four.

The success has brought a new excitement for fans.

“It’s more of the hockey getting better, not everything is getting better,” sophomore Breanna-Rose Lamb said. “I know football is not exactly getting better.”

With two exciting wins against Vermont and combined with other wins against schools such as UConn and Northeastern, UMass has proven that it can compete with some of the best teams in the conference.

The real question though, can they keep it up?


Let’s Talk Ethics: Navigating Tragedies in the Digital Age

In the wake of America’s most recent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, questions surrounding the ethics of the videos that were captured have risen. These graphic videos, mostly taken by students inside the school, capture horrific scenes of the terror, devastation and grief that was experienced by the victims and witnesses of the tragedy. But what happens when these videos are shared, posted and tweeted? And how should these videos be used?

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Media Memo: Journalism and Social Media

Meet Jill Webb, a senior journalism and communications major at the University of Massachusetts. From a young age, Jill’s passion for investigative journalism has driven her aspirations to become a journalist. Inspired by the lack of reporting on issues at the heart of underrepresented communities, Jill has aspirations to bring these issues to the surface. She highlights the importance of informing and educating the wider community when it comes to journalism, and hopes to do just that.

For Jill, one huge issue is the ethics of the relationship between multimedia journalism and the public. With the recent school shooting in Florida, videos and photos of what these children and teachers witnessed have been posted, tweeted and shared across the web, from online news outlets to social media. On the one hand, these do spread awareness of just how real and devastating these attacks are, and work to raise issues and discussions surrounding as gun violence and how we can reduce the threat of such attacks in society. However, when it comes to sharing the chilling and disturbing moments that were endured by the victims, where do we draw the line?

Not only can these videos and photos be upsetting for viewers, but they can also bring up the trauma of the event for those who witnessed the attacks. As Jill points out, there has been much discussion of the ethics of posting and sharing this media. I believe it is up to us, as journalists, to navigate and create a happy medium between the trivialization of attacks through such videos, and ensuring the stories of victims and witnesses are more widely shared in an attempt to raise important issues and catalyze change in public awareness, activism and, in turn, policy.

The Future is Now: How Multimedia is Changing the Face of Journalism

Today’s innovative multimedia platforms have given news a new home that is accessible anywhere we have access to our electronic devices and a network connection. The evolution of multimedia in the 21st century has certainly been fast paced, but journalism has managed to keep up with the times. Over the past two decades, journalists have had to navigate the shift between print and television reporting, to online news sites, blogs, virtual reality stories, and in-app news stories. So what exactly does multimedia journalism mean for the future of the profession?

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