Monthly Archives: February 2009

Analyzing FRONTLINE/World’s “Jamaica: The Alpha Boys”

FRONTLINE/World’s “Jamaica: The Alpha Boys.” <Click

As always, Frontline World delivers a moving yet informative news package.

For Frontline World’s “Rough Cut” series, reporter Marco Werman visits Jamaica to see what Jamaica’s music scene is up to these days.

Werman traces the musical roots of Kingston, while profiling its musicians of today in the multimedia piece, “Jamaica: The Alpha Boys.”

Werman visits the Alpha Boys School for vocation and music training. The school originally started as an orphanage in the late 1800s and developed into a reform school. Eventually, school’s graduates were going on to become celebrities of the Jamaican music scene.

Today, the Alpha school is still teaching and disciplining young males through the art of music. Many of the school’s recent graduates have emerged as successes.

What makes Werman’s piece so effective is the quality of the production and the way the story is told.

Though the video length is longer than most packages, the “mini-doc” conveys Kingston’s past and present using multiple people’s stories. This is a technique many documentaries big and small use. Here’s what I mean:

  • Werman narrates different scenes and the basic facts.
  • Many experienced Jamaican musicians tell Kingston’s history.
  • Students and teachers of Alpha talk about Alpha.
  • Graduates of Alpha give their input.
  • Stories are told simultaneously.

There are two different stories in this piece. Profiling the Alpha school is the obvious. Jamaican musical history is the underlying narrative, which supports the primary story.

The mise en scène (in the scene), or the overall production, is achieved through the piece’s technical quality.

Cameraman and editor, John MacGibbon, includes plenty of b-roll and detailed editing.

What’s interesting is how Werman is included in the footage. However, most of his talking is done in the narration. This is different from usual mainstream media packages where the reporter is always on screen talking, and lo-fi pieces where the reporter is usually behind the camera.

The package includes a brief written abstract from Werman, allows for comments, and links to outside Web sites and articles, like many multimedia news packages.

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Utah city can refuse religious monuments in public park

The U.S. Supreme court ruled a Utah city can refuse to install a Summum religious monument in a public park.

The Summum religious group, founded in 1975 in Salt Lake City, sought to errect a monument called the “Seven Aphorisms” near a Ten Commandments display.

“Attorneys for the city argued that the appeals court’s ruling would require cities and states to remove long-standing monuments or result in public parks nationwide becoming cluttered junkyards of monuments,” reported James Vicini of Reuters.

Governments can consider form and message when selecting donated monuments, because to force viewpoint-neutrality would cutter parks and create pressure to remove long-standing and cherished monuments, Alito said,” reported Online NewsHour.

Summum followers were interviewed by Adam Liptak in a New York Times article from November 2008.

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TV show host born with disability apparently scares kids

A host of CBeebies, a BCC digital children’s show, has been stirring commotion among parents and their children.

Host Cerrie Burnell, 29, born with one arm, has been said to “scare children” because of her disability.

Parents commented on the CBeebies Web site with great discomfort claiming Burnell would give children nightmares and some wouldn’t be able to cope.

On the otherside, some said the comments are like another form of racism and there are lessons to be learned. It’s discrimination against people with disabilites.

Of children who ask questions about her disability, Burnell said they are asking honestly because they are curious. She explains to them why she is the way she is and they usually move on, said Burnell.

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Arab arts comes to the Kennedy Center

“Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World” opened at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. yesterday.

The three week festival is bringing together and showcasing Arab cultures of 22 Arab nations. According to The Associated Press, 800 artists will be featured in the $10 million festival and it may be, “the largest presentation of Arab arts ever in the United States.”

Included are such exhibitions as cuisine, music, dance, art installations, film, fashion, literature and more. 

Part of the goal in bringing “Arabesque” to the United States was to understand and recognize Arab  people and culture rather than the images of war and terror and the politics attached.

Not only intended to unite American culture with Arab culture, the festival brings together various Arab cultures all the way from Morocco to Egypt to Lebanon to Iraq.

“Signing artists on to the festival turned out to be only the first level of complication,” reported Ellen McCarthy of the Washington Post. Other troubles were getting past the language barrier when scouting out artists, and then trying to find individual’s homes. Communication was an issue as few signed-on members had phones or Internet access. Traveling was also difficult as the visa process took nine months to complete, and services to airports and back had to be scheduled.

Organizing the festival, the Kennedy Center partnered with the League of Arab States. Funding contributions were made by the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, the HRH Foundation, and others. 

Overall, it is hoped that people will leave with a better understanding of Arab culture and embrace a culture they may know little about.

Visit the News Hour Web site to watch a report and read its transcript about the festival.

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Another documentary about the real Republicans

John Ziegler came out with a new documentary film called Media Malpractice How Obama Got Elected and Palin Was Targeted. The film and Web site was created as a follow-up to Blocking the Path to 9/11.

Media Malpractice defends Sarah Palin, highlights the double-standard, and media biases. 

Matt Lauer interviewed Ziegler  on The TODAY Show. Ziegler accused such media as favoring Barack Obama and making Palin look like an idiot. 

In the film, Ziegler turns the tables and quizzes average democrats on their knowledge of the major players like Palin, Obama, John McCain, and Joe Biden.

For more news and upcoming events, go to Media Malpractice Movie Events.

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Obama Campaign Organizer Admires Shepard Fairey

The Amherst Democratic Town Committee hosted a talk with David Cohen, an Obama campaign organizer, at the Bangs Community Center last night.

Street art  by Purple at UMass Amherst.

Street art by "Purple" at UMass Amherst.

Most questions regarded organizing rather than technology and unique means of targeting voters. Following the talk, I asked Cohen about the Obama campaign poster, which was originally designed by street artist Shepard Fairey.

Cohen said Fairey based the image off a couple of photographs.

The campaign is not liable in any way for the image Fairey produced, which was based on an Associated Press photo. The image is licensed to Fairey.

Cohen said “the image certainly had an impact” on him.

The Twitter feed for the event:

Fairey’s Obama image discussed on the Colbert Report.

Here is a recent article from the New Yorker.

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Documentary Shows the ‘Real’ Republican Side

Alexandra Pelosi, daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has come out with a new documentary film Right America: Feeling Wronged

Pelosi, a liberal, typically makes films about Conservatives. In 2003, she made the friendly film about George W. Bush Journeys with George.

This time, Pelosi set out to make a film about Conservative Republicans who don’t get the media coverage that people see on liberal news outlets or FOX News. “Many of the people who attended the McCain campaign rallies complained — rightfully so, Pelosi believes — that the mainstream media weren’t interested in hearing what they had to say,” wrote David Bauder for the Associated Press

“Well, more than 58 million people voted for John McCain, and I know that everyone on the coasts is on an Obama honeymoon right now, and they seem to forget that more than 58 million people did not want Barack Obama to be their president,” Pelosi said in an interview with Mark Schome on

Making the film, Pelosi said she was treated like she was a member of al-Quaida, at times feeling like she was going to be lynched, people called her mother ‘Nazi Pelosi,’ and was even spat on

Pelosi’s interactions weren’t always negative. Pelosi said on The Sean Hannity Show she made a lot of friends and some people were nice to her because of Journeys with George. 

Right America: Feeling Wronged premiered February 16 on HBO.

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