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Race for the White House: Notes from an Intern

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Six months ago, I had the amazing opportunity to work at USA Today. As a reader engagement intern, I worked on all sorts of things, one of them being running the “Race for the White House” photo gallery. Every day, I would slog through a live stream of thousands of photos pouring in from AFP, Getty, and AP photographers. I would pull out the best ones and throw them online.

USA Today is known for its unbiased writing and fair reporting. In a photo gallery, especially a politically oriented one, these qualities were extraordinarily important.

In order to avoid any possible accusations of bias, I made rules for myself.

If I selected two photos of Romney, I needed two photos of Obama. When I picked a photo of Romney where he was smiling, I would do the same for the President. Eventually, in my search to find the day’s photos, I began to pick up on trends and repeating patterns in the kinds of images that were taken.

For the most part, Obama is usually more photogenic than Romney. Mitt is often caught with a strange look on his face, akin to if he had just smelled something unpleasant. He is sometimes cross-eyed, and very frequently, his smile has a sort of strange look to it, like he’s just learned what a smile is. Obama on the other hand, smiles “better” but can more easily be caught with a somewhat disappointed, scowling, or angry look on his face.

Now, I should give some background to exactly HOW candidates are photographed. For the most part, the photos are shot by a group of journalists who follow the campaigns around like hippies would do with The Grateful Dead.  They shoot everything and anything. These photographers are not paid by the photo (like paparazzi). They’re being paid an annual salary like any other job, so for the most part they don’t really have that much of an agenda.

The photojournalists aren’t there to smear a specific candidate with an unflattering photo (though that’s sometimes the job of the newspaper itself).

Trying to get photographs of Romney on the campaign trail was much more difficult than getting photos of Obama. Day to day, I had a surplus of Obama photos. It seemed Romney held less public events, and many more private fundraisers. Obama was more often seen speaking at a high school, or grabbing fudge from a local store, and actually mingling with people, compared to Romney.

What did all this mean in terms of the election? Probably not much. If you wanted an “angry” photo of Obama to go along with your story, you could certainly find one. Same with Romney. In the end, it’s the editors who decide what the public at large sees, whether it’s a scowl, or a smile.

Filed under Obama Romney Campaign USA Today journalism photojournalism photos photography news newspapers newspaper president politics democrats republican liberal conservative

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An American soldier’s helmet cam feed:

"I got a hit a total of 4 times. My helmet cam died and i made it down the mountain on my own. I was also hit in the side of my helmet and my eye pro was shot off of my face. We were doing overwatch on the village to recon and gather intel. I was point heading down the face of the hill with the LT. when we got hit. the rest of the squad was pinned down by machine gun fire. I didn’t start the video until a few mins into the firefight for obvious reasons. I came out into the open to draw fire so my squad could get to safety.

A round struck the tube by my hand of the 203 grenade launcher which knocked it out of my hands. When I picked the rifle back up it was still functional but the grenade launcher tube had a nice sized 7.62 cal bullet hole in it and was rendered useless. “

Filed under soldier military army afghanistan war helmet cam first person

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236 years ago, in the midst of the Revolutionary War, a group of renegade politicians approved the above document to serve as a declaration of the United States’ Independence from the British Empire.If you’re in the Washington D.C. area, or will be soon,  you should make it a point to visit the National Archives, where you can see all kinds of cool old stuff, including an original copy of the Declaration.

236 years ago, in the midst of the Revolutionary War, a group of renegade politicians approved the above document to serve as a declaration of the United States’ Independence from the British Empire.

If you’re in the Washington D.C. area, or will be soon,  you should make it a point to visit the National Archives, where you can see all kinds of cool old stuff, including an original copy of the Declaration.

Filed under Independence Day Declaration of Independence Revolution

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The Plight of The Refugee

Note: I originally co-authored the following academic paper last year. In light of the ongoing plight of the Syrian people, I decided now would be an apt time to put this online.

-Evan Gray

Above: Men displaced from Shangil Tobaya farm rented land in North Darfur.

Statelessness has been a significant issue ever since the formation of the state. Since its inception, the United States of America has portrayed itself as an open and accepting country to whomever might need its protections. After all, how could a country founded upon freedom of speech, religion, do anything but accept those persecuted few in need of a new homeland? 

This, however, has not been the case. Throughout recent history, the United States has been rather stingy regarding who they let in under the status of refugee, allowing about 80,000 people a year to enter the country by these means. With over 15.1 million people in the world classified as refugees by the UN, the United States is taking in a mere 0.5%, leaving many to live in squalor, whether that be in refugee camps, or in developing nations not much better off than where they came from. What hinders countries from accepting refugees with open arms?

The United States Department of State attempts to answer this question on their home page:

“If safe, voluntary repatriation is not feasible, other durable solutions are sought, including resettlement in countries of asylum within the region and in other regions. Resettlement in other countries, including the United States, is appropriate for refugees in urgent need of protection and for refugees for whom other durable solutions are inappropriate or unavailable.”

This sort of rhetoric appears throughout many US Department of State documents, where it is stated multiple times that resettlement of refugees is the last resort and is only used in extreme cases of persecution. But, this policy isn’t entirely the doing of the United States, the UNHCR is by and large the organization that sets standards for refugee care and placement. In fact, many countries around the world have modeled their refugee acceptance standards after the UNHCR’s.

Read more …

Filed under Refugee UN UNHCR Displaces

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And the fate of the world is decided…"President Barack Obama hosts a working dinner during the G8 Summit at Camp David. Seated clockwise from the President are: Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan, Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, and President François Hollande of France."

And the fate of the world is decided…

"President Barack Obama hosts a working dinner during the G8 Summit at Camp David. Seated clockwise from the President are: Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan, Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, and President François Hollande of France."

Filed under Obama President Politics G-8