Friday, April 24, 2009

Healthscope Series: Understanding "Chest Pains"


By Maria Monica Abrenica

Chest pains are one of the most misdiagnosed symptoms in medicine and people immediately get alarmed when they experience the symptom and associate it with a fatal heart attack. This is the issue that the American College of Physicians (ACP) raises and seeks to promote heightened public awareness on. In order to deliver a greater understanding of chest pains, the ACP produced a 25-minute film, Chest Pains, as part of the Healthscope Series. Like earlier Healthscope films in the series, Chest Pains features real doctors with their patients in order to bring audiences accurate and understandable health information.

According to the ACP, many people are still unaware that experiencing chest pains does not necessarily signify a heart attack. There are a multitude of other conditions that cause chest pains, says ACP. They can be categorized as cardiac and non-cardiac causes and among them are the following:

Cardiac Causes

Angina. Cholesterol and other substances that build up in the arteries of the heart restrict blood flow. This causes recurrent episodes of chest pain—angina pectoris, or angina.

Pericarditis. Viral infections can cause inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart. This often causes short-lived chest pains.

Coronary Spasm. Coronary arteries, arteries that supply blood to the heart, temporarily restrict blood flow. This can be triggered by the intake of nicotine and caffeine and causes episodes of chest pains.

Non-cardiac Causes

Hiatal hernia. Chest pains may occur when the upper portion of the stomach protrudes into the chest cavity through an opening of the diaphragm called the esophageal hiatus

Heartburn. Stomach acid that washes up from the stomach into the esophagus can cause a painful, burning sensation behind the breastbone.

Panic attack. Experiencing intense fear can be accompanied by chest pains, rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing or shortness of breath.

Lung conditions. A collapsed lung and high blood pressure in the arteries carrying blood to the lungs and asthma also can produce chest pain.

Sore muscles. Chronic pain syndromes can produce persistent muscle-related chest pain.
Injured ribs or pinched nerves. A bruised or broken rib, as well as a pinched nerve, can cause chest pains.

Gallbladder or pancreas problems. Gallstones or inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas can cause acute abdominal pain that could include chest pains.

The American College of Physicians is a national organization of internists—physicians who specialize in the prevention, detection and treatment of illnesses in adults. ACP is the largest medical-specialty organization and second-largest physician group in the United States.

The Healthscope Series is a collection of films produced by the ACP to alert people about common and significant symptoms and to prompt them to seek appropriate medical attention. There are currently 12 films in the series today.

For more information: www.acponline.org

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Benefits of Mobile Communications in Japan


By Lucas Sullivan

Cellphones are now such a common accessory for the typical Japanese student that many view them as “part of their ego,” a medium through which they can broadcast their interests and personality. On Wednesday, March 25, Mito Akiyoshi, a professor from Senshu University in Japan, gave a lecture in the SCILS Building at Rutgers about the trends in mobile communication that she has observed in Japanese society. She made the argument that although mobile devices are considered to be a threat to the productivity of children in Japan, cellphones have important social utility that should not be overlooked.

There were a little less than a dozen attendees at the lecture, with the majority of them being of Asian descent. All but one of the attendees was either a graduate student or a faculty member from the Communications department here at Rutgers. The environment was very casual, and chatting amongst Akiyoshi and her audience was encouraged. Akiyoshi was accompanied by her colleague Jeff Boase, whom she had been conducting similar research with and had worked with him on publishing a variety of scholarly articles. Though she teaches in Japan, Akiyoshi received her PhD from the University of Chicago, so publishing in English is not at all a problem for her.

Akiyoshi began her lecture by explaining that many adults in Japan have the perception that the mobile phone is “evil,” and how the former prime minister of Japan, Yasuo Fukuda, suggested that children be kept away from all cellphones and similar devices. This view isn’t completely unfounded; there are various problems that arise when kids are given free reign over the use of mobile devices. In the first 6 months of 2007, 600 children used online dating services via their phones; these were mostly adolescent girls attempting to trick men in their 30’s into buying gifts for them. There are also problems with bullying, a common problem in children’s society, that carried over to harassment and degradation through mobile communications. Other concerns are that students may become distracted by or even addicted to texting, which can intrude on class time and productive activities quite heavily.

But what about the benefits of owning a mobile phone? Akiyoshi noted that in 2000, mobile phone ownership in Japan was about 20% higher than computer ownership. Unlike PC’s, almost anyone can easily get a mobile phone in Japan. Akiyoshi displayed data she had collected over the past 5 years that demonstrated how genders adapt to mobile phones at an equal rate. This was in contrast to the fact that men were quicker to adopt PC’s, mostly due to middle aged men using these computers for their business purposes.

Many students “feel the need to decorate their phones” with miniature keychains, stickers, whistles, trinkets, and even toys as large as the phones themselves. To these students, the phone is “not just an instrument, but an extension of the [self],” Akiyoshi said. One of the grad students chimed in, saying that while she could not speak for Japanese culture specifically, this practice of adorning one’s phone with various ornaments was a common practice for Korean students as well, mostly for teenage girls. The phone also serves as a great way to “not only build, but maintain” personal networks.

The mobile phone is also a part of the business world. Not only does it facilitate communication between employees who no longer have to be near a landline, but it also presents job opportunities for the everyman. Akiyoshi revealed a website designed to make use of the GPS capabilities in many phones. Using this website, an employer can find job seekers in their local area as quick fill-ins for jobs; an aspiring worker can also see where his services may be needed. One of the professors asked Akiyoshi how often people upgrade their mobile phones – she explained that this usually occurred based on the provider’s contract, much like in the US. Students choose mobile phone providers based on what their families have, so providers gain a generation of consumer loyalty.

Akiyoshi closed her lecture by stating that while phones are most often used for leisure, they can also be used for “purposes that really matter.” For this reason, it may be wrong to try and force mobile phones out of the classroom and replace them with PC’s. Akiyoshi described mobile technology as the “great equalizer” in Japanese society, and concluded that naysayers of its practical use need to be careful to consider the roles of the mobile phone in the “social psychological aspects” of the region.

Hometown Baghdad I: No 'Home Sweet Home' for Iraqis

By Sylver McGriff

Part I
The first of this multi-part report focuses on producer Kate Hillis, and the elements surrounding the production of Hometown Baghdad. Future segments will look more deeply into the characters and content of the acclaimed documentary.

Kate Hillis. Tiny woman. Enormous vision.

“I wanted to do something bigger. But not in the Hollywood sense,” she explains, revealing the modus behind the courage it took for a mainstream producer living securely on a successful career of producing programming for such media giants as ABC, MTV, VH1, HBO, FOX, and CNN to stretch her talented tentacles beyond U.S. borders into a region of the so-called “Axis of Evil” - Iraq - just before, during and after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Did I mention that she was pregnant at the time? Or that in her ninth month, FBI agents unexpectedly showed up at her home for a visit? “I waddled around stashing my files,” she recalls. “Then buzzed them in.” Such is the life of this daring producer of Hometown Baghdad, a series which documents the dangerous reality of the daily lives of three young Iraqis struggling to survive before, during, and in the wake of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

On March 10, Prof. Samiha Matin, a Russell Teaching Fellow and professor of such Rutgers University Journalism and Media Studies courses as Intro to Digital Media and Media Essay, presented “The Writers House Media Group: A Conversation with Kate Hillis” in the University’s Murray Hall. Here, nine Rutgers Journalism students learned first-hand about daily life in U.S.-occupied Iraq.

Hillis herself attended Syracuse University, receiving a degree in Business, after which, she quips, “I worked at the Grammy’s, fetching tuna sandwiches for Gladys Knight & the Pips.” Her Business degree was not wasted, however, as she eventually started her own non-profit production company in which she parlayed the diverse talents of Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Mother Theresa, and then-President Clinton (to name just a few) into a non-profit arena.

At the Rutgers Writers House Media Group event, Hillis showed clips of her successful documentary, "Hometown Baghdad." In the opening segment entitled “Brains on Campus,” Adel - a University of Baghdad College of Engineering student, and one of the main characters of the documentary - describes in heavily accented English what Iraqi student life was like during the U.S. invasion.

“Our college were [sic] attacked by a missile, and a couple of students were killed. One of them died right here,” he recounts, pointing to a tiled-over section of concrete ground. “His brain is right underneath there. They tried to wash it away but it just couldn’t get off, so they put that [tile] just to cover it.” Taped to a wall inside the college hang graduation certificates for other students who have been killed. “One of my friends lost a kidney,” Adel says soberly. “And another friend lost a leg.”

Initially funded by Cheryl Leech, the woman who created Barney the purple dinosaur (“She’s been our angel,” Hillis said), and produced by Hillis’ own Chat the Planet production company, "Hometown Baghdad" premiered on March 19, 2007 to acclaim in media across the globe. However, Hillis could not garner a concrete deal for the documentary to air on U.S. channels. Instead, "Hometown Baghdad"’s U.S. acclaim came slowly in a word-of-mouth process for the Webby Awards-winning documentary. In 2008, it won for the categories of Reality, Best Political/News Series, and Public Service & Activism.

Webby Awards are given by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences - a diverse organization with such renowned members as David Bowie, Arianna Huffington, ‘Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening, and writers and editors from publications such as The New York Times, Vibe, and Elle magazine - to honor excellence on the Internet. Soon after this win, the Sundance Channel took notice and on March 19, 2009 aired Hometown Baghdad, for which the documentary received a five-star rating by viewers.

“Now, if I can only get a U.S. channel to air it,” Hillis said.
“Good luck with that,” an audience member chuckled.

Iraq is just one of the countries in Hillis’ “Hometown” documentary series; other countries include Israel and Iran. “We try to make them [our documentaries] like a vitamin, hide it in your sugar pops [cereal] so it’s entertaining and also good for you.”

Maher Over Matter

By Shawn Lopez

After their loss to the Hofstra Pride, Rutgers Women’s Lacrosse team stared a disappointing 3-6 record in the face midway through their season. This was an especially disappointing blow for the Scarlet Knights because they had no problem beating Hofstra and several other teams, including Denver and Cornell in prior years. With grueling 3-hour practices 6 days a week, strict rules off the field, team dinners, and pregame rituals, Rutgers was left slightly dumbfounded at the losses. Head Coach Laura Brand turned to sport psychologist Dr. Charles Maher for encouragement.

Maher has worked to mentally prepare several professional teams including the Cleveland Browns, Indians, and Cavaliers. Rutgers football and women’s basketball teams are also lucky enough to have him at their disposal.

Maher visited the 27 members of the Rutgers Women’s Lacrosse team on Wednesday March 25th, just two days after their loss to Hofstra. Upon his arrival in the Women’s Lacrosse locker room, located in the Hale Athletic Center on Busch Campus, Maher retrieved a dry-erase marker from the closet and began writing an acronym on the board. The board read, “WIIFM .” “Does anybody know what this stands for?” The room fell silent. “It stands for what’s in it for me.” He then wrote, “WIIFT.” “And what about this?” We guessed it: “What’s in it for the team?” “If you are solely concerned with what you can get out of your athletic career here, you will bring your team down. This is selfishness. The opposite of selfishness is teamwork, buying into something larger than yourself. If you don’t leave yourself as a person, you’re going ride an emotional rollercoaster on the field,” he said.

Maher went onto explain how our personal choices and attitude affect the outcome of our games. There are simple reasons for why individuals lose focus. “Staying up drinking at the ‘Magic Moon Lounge,’ eating a late dinner at IHOP, or even staying up half the night studying, all affect how focused you are,” said Maher. He writes another acronym on the board, “PPT.” “This stands for the people you should be with, the places you should be, and the things you should put into your body.” He reminded the team that effort, how hard a player works during a game, is not the only thing that is important. Ethic, the way an athlete goes about preparing, is just as, if not more important, he added.

All of this is pretty straightforward; get a lot of sleep, eat right, and follow the coach’s rules. The physical preparation is a no-brainer but how does an athlete mentally prepare? You may have heard of “being in the zone.” This is what Maher likes to call a “cocktail party phrase”- something athletes use in casual conversation but never really think about it’s meaning. You can’t just say to yourself, “Ok I’m going to prepare by visualizing what I’m going to do next or what I need to work on. ““This will not help you,” said Maher. He then wrote yet another acronym, “MAC,” on the dry-erase board. The M stands for “mind in the moment.” If an athlete can focus on what is in front of him/her step by step, play by play he/she will have a lot of leverage. The A stands for “accept what is there, don’t judge.” An athlete should not think about the mistakes he/she has just made. Lastly, the C stands for “commitment to the play.” This refers back to embracing the moment. An athlete should be solely concerned with what is going on in front of him/her.

After the dry erase board was covered with challenging insights and countless acronyms, Maher concluded his speech. “Now ask yourself, are you competing with your opponent or yourself? Once you have conquered any mental distractions you may have, everything else will fall into place, and victory will come easy.”

It should be noted, the Rutgers Women’s Lacrosse team went on to beat Loyola College (no. 13 in the nation), in a Big East conference game the following Friday.

The Cosmic Kaleidoscope

By Kaja Stamnes

Hilding Lindquist, a local blogger and playwright, opened the doors to his creative mind, inviting others to join on Sunday, March 30 at the Ethical Culture Society in Maplewood, NJ. Speaking on the subject, “Our Creative Imagination: The Cosmic Kaleidoscope,” Mr. Lindquist described his existential views of the world, aiming to engage the audience in a conversation about their own ideas. The talk was part of an ongoing lecture series at the Ethical Culture Society, which describes itself as a “Humanist and Ethical movement inspired by the ideal that the supreme aim of our lives is to create a more humane society,” according to the website.

Mr. Lindquist put forth his unique, existentialist view of the world and the place we as human beings occupy within it. He defined his terms to clarify his explanation, using “Universe” as “that what we already know and understand of our environment;” “cosmos as everything” and finally, “world” as in “my world,” “the time and space continuum in which I live and act.” The relationship between these variables is of special interest to Mr. Lindquist, and the afternoon focused on the idea of engaging one's mind and creative imagination whether through thought or discussion, to better understand one's own “world.”

An interesting point made by Mr. Lindquist was the view of human beings as all occupying their own “world” of awareness and understanding, yet universally being connected at the same time. He explained, “one of my basic ideas is that we are all wired the same way, we have the same music score as it were embedded in our DNA, guiding our awareness ... we are able to recognize the truth about our world ... if we are open to the truth ... but then truth is not a fixed marker to be discovered. It is more like the surface of a balloon, ever expanding as we seek more answers, attempt to connect more dots.”

Mr. Lindquist continued by describing his biological understanding of human life, rooted in three tenets: We are tribal animals, we are hunting animals, and our awareness takes different forms—all that are linked—using here the metaphor of an orchestra, different instruments sharing the same musical score.

The existentialist and transcendentalist views that Mr. Lindquist holds places creativity and awareness at the centerpiece of the question of human existence. While religion can play a role in this existence, it is not the stage upon which these other factors are set. Quoting Dr. Stanley Wayne's A Book of Ethical Wisdom, Mr. Lindquist said, “Societies experience religion as a conversation through the ages.” This experience of “religion” as a “conversation” reveals the perspective Mr. Lindquist has about awareness: not only does it precede experience, but it is continually evolving through the metaphorical and actual conversation of human consciousness.

Guatemalan Women's Activist Rallies Support

By Kiyanna Stewart

Women’s rights activist Maria Lucrecia Vicente Franco revealed the harsh realities of women living in Guatemala to a group of Women’s & Gender Studies students on March 25 as part of Rutgers University’s celebration of Women’s History Month.

Vicente Franco is a psychologist and an active member of the Guatemalan women’s rights organization, Nuestra Voz (Our Voice). She presented a screening of the acclaimed documentary, “Killer’s Paradise,” released in 2006, which reveals the socially normalized violence against women in Guatemala, as well as the unresponsive government, which takes no initiative to find or prosecute murderers.

“Killer’s Paradise” documents the story of Claudina Isabel Velasquez, a 19-year-old law student murdered in the summer of 2005, as her family urges the authorities to investigate who killed her. Velasuez is one of more than 6,000 women who have been murdered in Guatemala since 1999. According to Franco, 665 women on average are killed every year.

Last year, of the six-hundred women killed, not one case was solved by Guatemalan authorities. In 2005 alone, 640 women, nearly two a day, were killed at the hands of domestic violence, gang violence and largely, “femicide”, which she calls a fairly new term for a historically-prevalent trend. Femicide, is used to characterize the murder of women specifically because the victim is a woman, and is increasing alarmingly in developing countries with high levels of poverty and illiteracy.

Franco described typical cases, in which, women may first be abducted, subjected to severe beatings, rape, sexual mutilation, perverse torture, or dismemberment then killed and subsequently deposited in public areas. “These are young women who don’t fit a traditional mold. They are mothers working to support their children, young girls putting themselves through school and many of them, professional and independent” she told The Raritan Journal, later adding, “Because they assert themselves into public spaces, they’re specifically being targeted.”

Like Velasquez, 17-year-old Andrea Fabiola Contreras was also gruesomely murdered. Her body was found in a dump in Jocotenango, Sacatepequez with the word “vengeance” carved into her right leg with a knife. Her hands were tied in a plastic bag, which had been thrown into a ditch used as a trash dump. Her throat had been cut, she had wounds and cuts on her face and chest and she had been shot in the head at close range. Contreras had been raped, with her sandals, white blouse, and underclothes were found next to her body, recalls Franco.

“It was tough to hear that this is a reality for some young women not only in Guatemala, but in other parts of the world. We leave our houses and dorm rooms never expecting to be murdered by our ex-boyfriend, father or even our current boyfriend,” said Rutgers Junior Natalie Lenxton. Some argue that the way in which these crimes are unacknowledged adds a double layer of oppression.

According to “Killer’s Paradise,” Guatemalan authorities, who do not keep statistical data, are simply not interested in investigating the disappearances. For the most part, they assume that the woman has run off with a boyfriend, and if they happen to find a body, claim that she must have been a prostitute or actively involved in gangs and therefore, not worth opening a case file for.

Nevertheless, Franco feels that by communicating the extent of violence against women to a global audience, she can mitigate geographical, socioeconomic and cultural boundaries, which foster ideas of separatism while comparing violence. She ended by saying, “I am here [at Rutgers], to show a side of domestic and gendered violence that most don’t ever see. Hopefully by spreading a message internationally, and pressuring the Guatemalan government, we can finally put an end to these inhumane acts of violence.”

The Savvy Real Estate Agent Produces Results

By Tiffany Y. Hsia

Les Newlands strode into the conference room. Dressed in an impeccably tailored suit with matching cufflinks and a stylish coif of swingy salt and pepper, he immediately sat down and looked around the room. His gaze was intense and his presence was supremely confident; this man meant business. Welcome to Real Estate Sales Skills 101.

Les Newlands believes that you can sell anyone anything if you use the right techniques. He believes this because he has done it for years. And now because of his years of expertise, he passes his skills off to various companies and individuals in seminars such as this one with the byline, ‘Those who have the most skills make the most $$$$.’

“Your attitude needs to be energetic, positive and motivational,” Les said while speaking to the intimate coterie of 20 in Brooklyn, N.Y. in March 2009. “Never over promise and under deliver; under promise and over deliver and your clients will think you go above and beyond. You must always have and maintain a sense of urgency. Use silence often and use it as a tool to force people to answer,” spouted Les.

Les has worked in the real estate world for over 20 years, so he’s well versed in his knowledge. Formerly the Senior Vice-President of Sales & Training at the now defunct Foxtons, Les also owns his own consulting firm, Newlands Sales Consulting and has been the Vice-President of Sales & Marketing for Group Ten Builders since 1995.

While demonstrating some of his various sales techniques, Les went from a saccharine sweet smile and honeyed tone of voice to a deadly serious and coercive no crap mode in two seconds flat. It was mind-boggling how a person could switch gears so quickly. His was a method of sales without the obvious hokey sales pitch; it was surprisingly effective.

Before the demise of Foxtons North America, Foxtons had won several awards, including the Stevie Awards from the American Business Award foundation and had some of the highest producing individual sales agents in the industry, according to the National Association of Realtors Magazine. Each and every salesperson that worked at Foxtons had passed through Les’ Buyer Agent Training Program.

During the seminar, Les provided the group with speeches to memorize when confronted in specific real estate situations. Methods such as the ‘Savvy Buyer Story’ were meant to empathize with an upset seller while also assuring them of their real estate agent’s competence. ‘Fish or Cut-Bait’ was a planned confrontation with a picky buyer who had seen multiple homes and was hesitant to buy. The tactic was meant to either firmly coerce them into making a decision sooner rather than later or to cut them off to focus on buyers that were ready to make a purchase quickly.

With a mix of savvy knowledge and psychology, Les’ techniques are incredibly productive. Invaluable information was presented during his seminar and his speech concluded with rousing applause. A particularly poignant tidbit from his speech that was simple yet resoundingly true was, “Give people your time and they will give you their money.”

Newlands will be conducting several other seminars throughout the month of March in Brooklyn for the company, Agent Dashboard.

John Waters Talks Trash at the 92nd Street Y

By Alex Guadagno

The neck is instantly recognizable, but something is conspicuously missing. “I use photography, but I’m no Ansel Adams,” says filmmaker John Waters as a series of movie stills he calls Sophia Loren, Decapitated appears on a Powerpoint presentation behind him. The series features Loren in some of her most poignant scenes, minus her head (which appears to have been haphazardly cut out of each frame with safety scissors). Waters’s current art exhibit, Rear Projection, opens April 3 at the Marianne Boesky Gallery and will contain stills from other classic films presented in a righteously bizarre new light.

“People don’t remember movies they saw. They remember the stills used to promote them,” said Waters. Through editing or rearranging certain images, Waters explained how a new narrative was born. “I’m trying to think of every way to get inside a movie that is not really how you’re supposed to watch it.” He spoke at the 92nd Street Y on Lexington in New York City on March 31, offering attendees a preview of his exhibit and the self-professedly “filthy” mind that created it.

Waters explained that "Rear Projection" is derived from the antiquated film technique where foreground action is combined with prerecorded background action: for example, an actor drives a car as the previously recorded landscape appears to roll past the vehicle’s back window. Taking the term to its literal new level, Waters presented some stills of classic rear projection scenes – with the projection edited to actually fit on someone’s anonymous rear end. “You have no idea how much porn my assistants and I had to watch to find rears with just right sizes and shadowing,” he said. The 92nd Street Y audience, approximately 150 members strong that night, consisted of Upper East Side art connoisseurs, gender-bending club kids, and everything in between. The crowd swelled with appreciative laughter as Waters earnestly scrolled through his works featuring famous faces and superimposed posteriors.

“Waters uses an insider's bag of film tricks and trade lingo to celebrate the excess of the movie industry,” says a press release. “These one time classic, respected, even honored movies are now assaulted, elevated, subtitled and startlingly altered into a new kind of equality; a cult film that only needs one viewer – John Waters himself.”

Though Rear Projection may seem derisive of the works it features, Waters’s vision for his newest exhibit truly sprung out of a love for cinema. “There’s no such thing as a bad movie,” said Waters in his talk. “If you’re bored, just watch the lamps. You get obsessive and you look for the details.” This obsession is apparent in some of his works like Dorothy Mallone’s Collar, which features Mallone in various films, collar always upright. Waters explained how he began watching Mallone’s films just to make sure that her collar was indeed up, foregoing any period movies since he knew there was no chance she’d wear a collared shirt.

His love of all things cinema extends to what Waters calls the “sad, pitiful side of show business, when you’re sitting in some tiny office judging the success of your movie by counting up the popcorn receipts.” Rear Projection not only recognizes this side of the business that many filmmakers deny, it celebrates it. Waters has made his name in film by glorifying the depraved side of human nature in films such as Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Pecker. It is in this same vein that he uses this exhibit to broach the topic of a life in show business.

Waters’s movies solicit laughs from a shared understanding of life on the fringes of mainstream culture. “Rear Projection necessitates a certain degree of insider knowledge too, and that’s what it’s about,” he said. “As well as how depressed normal people must be not to be in on the joke.”

A Cup of Talent

By Alexander Cole

A small crowd of about 30 gathered in the Demarest Dorm’s main lounge last Thursday. Demarest is located on the College Ave campus of Rutgers University. Damian Kulikowski, a tall and imposing figure, grabbed the mic and announced, “Hey guys, we’re Headlock Jukebox, and we’re a Christina Aquilera cover band with a death metal twist!” Some in the crowd sat in silent confusion while others laughed at the joke. The drummer, Pat Kulikowski, started off the song with a fast-paced snare beat, heavy on the bass drum. Damian, the lead singer and guitarist, jumped in with Mark Norton, the bassist. The band played improvised heavy metal for a half hour, to the delight of some and horror of others.

As Rutgers sophomore Kara Zola said while she watched a few expressions, “Metal isn’t for everyone, I guess.” Shortly after the music faded away and the band packed up, another performer took the stage. Why were people gathered to sit in the main lounge and listen to performances they might not even like? They were attending the Demarest Dorm’s second Coffee House event of the semester. The Coffee House is an open-mic talent show in which anyone is able to attend or perform. Damian told this reporter that the word “performers” is preferred, as not all of the people involved simply sing and play instruments. There is spoken word, poetry, sketch comedy, and music of many genres based on who wishes to participate during each individual event. There are usually several of these events each semester and they typically run from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., although sometimes later if the crowd is large enough and there are enough performers. As per its name, each Coffee House also provides free coffee, soda, and light snacks. Each time the event is organized, publicity is handled through word of mouth and Facebook.

Although during some of these events the room is packed to capacity, the average number of attendees is about 20 to 40 people, including those who run the event and the performers themselves. One might wonder, with such a small turnout, why anyone would attend to showcase their abilities. Pat, a School of Arts and Sciences student, also volunteers his drumming ability to those who wish to perform but have no percussion. When this reporter asked him why he plays at all, let alone for others, one thing became obvious. For these and other Coffee House performers, the enjoyment of their craft far outweighs the number of people listening. “I play coffee house because it’s the best way to show unique music,” he said, “and because it’s a good medium that Demarest and Rutgers students in general can use to show their talents.”

After his set, I asked Damian what kind of performances I could expect. He simply smiled and nodded towards the stage as the next performer started. Sean Battle, a poet and member of the group “Verbal Mayhem,” proceeded to fill the room with his powerful words, including one of his more popular pieces, “Crash.” Afterwards, 100% Cotton, an acoustic soft rock group, performed various original and cover songs with great skill. Still later a Rutgers student who had walked in during Sean’s performance approached one of the Demarites (the title for residents of Demarest) and asked for a time slot. Those in attendance were delighted by her original and cover songs with acoustic guitar accompaniment. Throughout the night this reporter would witness performers across many art forms, all of different races, majors, and ages. Raymond Dib, a soft-spoken Rutgers College Philosophy major described it not as a show per se, but as a release from ordinary college life. “Oh,” he commented with a modest smile, “and I play, too.”

Dr. Gleick Proposes the Soft Path to Water

By Maria Monica Abrenica

Water is a human right, but millions of people around the world still have no access to this right. People worry that the day will come when water will no longer be available for us, but an expert believes this is not the case. There are bigger things we must turn our attention to.

These are the points Dr. Peter H. Gleick emphasized in his speech about water and its relevance to various aspects of life last Thursday, March 26. The talk started at 5:30 in the afternoon and was entitled, “How Access to Water Affects Gender, Security, Environment and Human Rights.” It was held at the Scholarly Communication Center in Rutgers University’s Alexander Library, where about fifty people attended.

Dr. Gleick is the president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, California. He has a bachelor’s degree from Yale University as well as a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of California in Berkeley.

He began with an overview of the world’s water crisis and discussed it in terms of three major dimensions. He then closed his talk by providing plausible solutions to the problems surrounding water issues.

“Water is a very big topic. It’s connected to everything,” said Gleick.

Before proceeding with his speech, Gleick said that water and the issues surrounding it must not only be thought of as a scientific concern. “It’s an issue of culture,” he said. According to him, water and water issues are not just the concern of scientists and environmentalists. It is every citizen’s concern and responsibility. He emphasized that water is a human right.

He identified the human, environmental, and political dimensions as three main areas that help us understand the reality of the world’s worsening water crisis. According to Gleick, forty percent of the world’s total population do not have access to safe drinking water and about 2 million deaths every year are caused by water-related diseases that could easily be prevented. He acknowledged that the demands for water have only kept growing throughout the years. This fact, Gleick argued, is not the main issue. The real problem, he believes, is the way humans have kept taking from nature without thinking about the implications. This is the reason why our ecosystems are devastated, he said.

“You can’t deal with water unless you deal with politics,” Gleick said.

Gleick also believes that the world is faced with a worsening water crisis due to the disconnect between water laws and human rights. He traces the origin of setting political boundaries by watersheds to the story of John Wesley Powell, “the first man to go in the Colorado River.” Gleick said that “we are governed by 19th century politics” and that we seem to be stuck in it.

"Population is growing where water is scarcest.” Gleick said that this reality, along with disagreements about what to do with water and inadequate programs, causes the worsening water crisis throughout the world. He also said that the crisis is worse today because we have delayed dealing with the issue.

Having covered the truths about the world’s worsening water crisis, Gleick then proposed ways by which we can work to solve it. In a nutshell, he suggests that we take the “soft path.” Instead of exhausting all our financial resources on building new infrastructures, taking the soft path entails practices and solutions that complement infrastructure that we already have. Gleick said that if we must build new infrastructure, we must build it to a different standard.

“Absolute scarcity is not the real problem."

Gleick said that we are a rich world, but the problem is that riches are unevenly distributed. He believes that those who get more should also acknowledge a greater responsibility. According to him, this is only an initial step in working to solve the water crisis. He also promoted the use of low flow toilets and drip irrigation systems. Finally, he said that fair pricing for water must be implemented because this is the only way basic human needs can be met.

Dr. Gleick encourages everyone to practice a willingness to explore new ideas that will help us solve the water crisis. His speech was one of the events sponsored by the Office of International Programs at the School of Arts and Sciences. It celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights.

The Struggles in the Bayou

By Ezra Dreiblatt

Hurricane Katrina slammed into the southern coast of the United States over three and a half years ago, leaving the city of New Orleans and a large part of the Gulf Region devastated. Today, through the help of volunteers, private money, and the federal government, New Orleans has slowly started to get itself back on its feet. However, even as the Gulf region has disappeared from the headlines and consciousness of many Americans, there is still much work to be done in the poorer parts of New Orleans and in the surrounding area. Liz McCartney, the head of St. Bernard Project, said as much when she spoke to a large group of university students in New Orleans during the spring break in March. Rutgers Hillel, along with Rutgers’ Engineers Without Borders, provided about twenty of the 2,000 students from around the country who traveled to New Orleans for their spring break to help in the rebuilding of the region. As head of St. Bernard Project, McCartney welcomed the groups by laying out how much her organization appreciated the help, all the work that needed to be done, and how important the tasks of the students were.

Ms. McCartney began her speech to the students by asking if anyone recognized her. When few people raised their hands, she jokingly conceded that she was now a minor celebrity as she had received the “Hero of the Year” award from CNN on national television in recognition of all the work she has done in New Orleans since the storm hit. Ironically, while very few of the volunteers knew of this fact, McCartney acknowledged that the exposure had been very helpful in getting volunteers of all ages, ethnicities, and religions to come down to help rebuild the city. McCartney went on to tell everyone a few facts about the St. Bernard Project. She emphasized that the organization has no religious affiliation and that it is only named after the parish in which it resides. She also stressed that the organization is currently rebuilding thirty houses with their full time staff and that any influx of volunteers means that the organization can begin making a dent in the waiting list they have of people seeking new houses or for their houses to be fixed. One important point McCartney wanted everyone to hear is the difference in her mind between a house and a home. As she eloquently put it, “Some of you (volunteers) will be working in houses and in communities that don’t seem as devastated as other areas of the city. What you must understand is that there are people living in lower income neighborhoods whose fences were destroyed, whose porches were torn off. For these people, fixing that fence or porch helps return the house they’re currently living in into a home they can live in.” For many of the volunteers from Rutgers, this statement struck a chord. Pam Slifer, a freshman with the Rutgers Hillel group, said, “I had never really thought of the distinction before; it’s crazy how a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina can totally reshape your conception of what makes a home.” McCartney’s words seemed to strike similar chords with all the students. While she spoke, many of the students could be seen nodding while others had determined expressions on their faces, as they could not wait to begin working the next day.

McCartney finished her speech by thanking everyone who was there but also stressing that there would still be a lot of work to be done once the week of community service was over. She acknowledged that this type of work might not be for everyone but urged every person in the room to tell their friends back home about their experience. “Word of mouth is our best recruiting tool,” she stated, “and me being on CNN,” she joked. McCartney made it clear that the rebuilding of New Orleans and the Gulf Region Is not possible without volunteers. She said she hoped everyone would have a productive and fun week but also that everyone would take some time to learn a little about the city as a whole. For all the students in attendance who were jetlagged and tired, McCartney’s speech was the perfect pick me up. By clearly outlining the work that needed to be done, as well as challenging everyone to do their best, she had given everyone a shot of energy for the week ahead.

Support for Bergen County Academies Faculty

By Jason Scharch

For eleven months the teachers at Bergen County Academies, located in Hackensack, New Jersey, have worked without a contract. The Academies, as the school is often called, is ranked among the top academic high schools in the nation and often attract highly ranked professionals to teach at their facility. When the students realized that the situation with their teachers’ contracts was not improving they decided to speak out.

Approximately thirty-five students attended the Bergen County Freeholders meeting on March 18, wearing red and showing their loyalty to the faculty at the Academies. This silent statement had been made before during school days, starting with the teachers coordinating wearing red clothing to show their protest, and continuing with the students starting their own coordination of clothing.

Wednesday’s meeting was a chance for students and alumni alike to speak out to the Freeholders, who appoint the Board of Education members at the county-financed school. The Board of Education has met with the teachers fifteen times to discuss contract negotiations, with no resolution so far.

Brian Barone, showed his gratitude to the freeholders for their support but encouraged their intervention in the contract process. “We as alumni would like to thank you for your continued support, monetary and otherwise over the past years,” Barone continued, “ however our educational experience would not have been nearly as special to us without the faculty who are currently working without contracts.” Brian graduated from the Academies, an alumnus from the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts in 2007, and went on to study classical guitar at the Peabody Institute for Johns Hopkins University.

Eric Levin, an alumnus from the Academy for Business and Finance in 2007 said, “I am proud to say that I can flip through my cell phone and find at least a dozen of my past teacher’s cell phone numbers, I am not only proud to call them my teachers, but I feel privileged to call them my friends.” Eric is currently continuing his studies at New York University.


After the public’s time for open statements was over, most of the Freeholders took the time to express their gratitude for the involvement that the students showed in their high school. Their positive remarks included an optimistic view on the contract negotiations and promises that they would continue to work diligently on the subject.

Levin’s view on the meeting was expressed when he told The Bergen Record, "Will they listen? I'm sure they will. Will they respond? I guess we'll have to wait and see." To date the teachers are still without contracts, however students and alumni say that they will be continuing their support in whatever way possible.

“Writers at Rutgers” Kicks Off National Poetry Month

By Joe Bindert

Wednesday, April 1st was the first day of National Poetry Month, and to celebrate, Rutgers University hosted another chapter in its “Writers at Rutgers” series, which brings famous writers from across the country to speak about their work in front of anyone who wishes to participate. To go with the National Poetry Month theme, the writers, who spoke to around fifty people in the Rutgers Campus Center, were Mark Doty, Tina Chang, Brenda Shaughnessy, and Tracy K. Smith, all of whom write poetry. Chang, Shaughnessy, and Smith all met in a class taught by Doty at Columbia University during their undergraduate years.

The first topic put up for discussion was the idea of how and when one discovers when they know they are a poet. Shaughnessy, Smith, and Doty couldn’t exactly come up with a specific time when they realized they were poets, but Chang claims she developed a sense of it when she was in Doty’s class, although another professor at Columbia told her not to throw her work out into the world too soon for fear of getting negative reactions toward her work and killing her “na├»ve confidence,” as she put it. While the other speakers didn’t have one moment in mind, they reaffirmed their love of reading to the audience and stressed how important it was for each of them to become immersed in the world of books. “I thought I would be considered a poet closer to the end of my life… Not this soon,” remarked Smith.

The second topic discussed was what the authors looked to for inspiration. Chang commented that she doesn’t really like to think of any one particular thing that inspires her to write. She prefers to live her life normally, and when something comes to her that she feels like writing about, she does it. Doty remarked that he kept a notebook during his younger years in which he kept track of what he called “random thoughts and scribblings to basically prevent myself from going crazy.” Shaughnessy agreed with both of those responses, stating that she had a similar notebook, but also that she did not go out of her way to look for material to write about and preferred to write spontaneously.

The third topic brought up was the writers’ opinions on how poetry affects people on a physical and visceral level. Doty claimed that the rhythm and the breathing involved in the words and structure used in poems had a great effect on how poems affect both readers and listeners. Chang expanded that a bit, claiming that the vocabulary and choice of words used by the reader can also have a great effect. She mentioned a specific point during Doty’s class in which he read a variety of poems describing how narrator’s body felt during sickness, stating that the language used in the poems “can translate the bodily experience in a way like no other.”

The remainder of the conversation with the speakers included audience members asking the authors specific questions about their work. After the conversation was finished, audience members were encouraged to come back later for a poetry reading by the authors.

Mark Doty is the author of Fire to Fire, a collection of poems that won a National Book Award, and he will be joining the Rutgers English Department faculty starting in the fall 2009 semester. Tina Chang is the author of Half-Lit Houses, a finalist for the 2005 Asian American Literary Award, and she currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and Hunter College. Brenda Shaughnessy is the author of Human Dark with Sugar, winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and she currently teaches creative writing at Princeton University and Eugene Lang College at the New School. Tracy K. Smith has had poetry published in various journals, including Boulevard, Callaloo, and Post Road, and she currently teaches at Princeton University.

Defining the N-Word

By Aliyah Finney

Nigger, perhaps the most controversial and contradictory word in the English language, was the topic of a recent speech. For years many have used the term and the response has spanned form public uproars and boycotts to shrugged shoulders and apathy. A single word has the possibility to rise up a crowd in some instances, or can be heard in lyrics and make millions.

Who’s allowed to say it? Under what conditions is it okay? If I’m just reciting a song, is it racist? Questions like these have been asked to help clear some of the fog surrounding the term. Typically, and unfortunately, the rule of thumb seems to be: If you’re black than it’s okay.

One woman challenged the semantics and appropriateness of the word “nigger”. A talk was given mid January 2009 at Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, California. Marlita Hill, a professor at Mount San Antonio, presented her personal views, along with some history, of the term.

She began by asking the audience to take a deep breath, making fun of the intensity of the word. She quickly flashed a card with the word “nigger” spelled out for all to see, and the class laughed.

Her tactic is creative. She down played the emotional hold that the term has on the students by making her speech entertaining, fun, while remaining quite informative.
She give a brief history of the word, “… in the 1700’s ‘nigger’, along with ‘boy’, were used to avoid calling blacks by their surname. A technique of disrespect. Though both equal in offence ‘nigger’ ended up with a bad rap while ‘boy’ escaped relatively cleanly.”
“Could you have imagined if the two had been reversed? Then we’d think nothing of hearing stuff like ‘The Backstreet Niggers’…” and so on.

She humorously accounted the more modern definitions of the term, quoting Webster’s 10th dictionary edition.

“Nigger” she read “a black person usually to be taken offensively.” But Hill wondered if this was an accurate definition. “…NAACP, 2 national Protestant organizations, and The National Scrabble Player’s Association” are some of the groups looking to either amend or abolish the word entirely.

On the other end of the spectrum, Hill noted an incident where on “May 28th, 1998” after a popular Los Angeles radio station bleeped out the word “nigger” from the songs they played “the LA censor bill [a write up of request and complaints reported to the FCC by the public] actually had hundreds of kids calling in saying that they had the right to be called nigger”.

She examined the word’s use as a term of endearment, noting the confusion it causes. “Perhaps once if it most confusing, though affectionate uses is that by black women who express their love to their man by telling them ‘you my nigger’”.

Such inconsistencies leave one scratching their head. Oprah wants the word banned. Spike Lee, who frequently uses “nigger” in his films, publically criticizes fellow director Quentin Tarentino for doing the same. The drawing line, again, seems to be race.
“The Detroit News of 1995 said that more whites are adopting the dress, manner, music, and slang of black culture. But when the follow the black example of using the n-word the results aren’t always too favorable.” Hill then proceeded to demonstrate a scenario where a white person calls her a “nigger”, and though it was said with no malice, the situation was funny due to its uncomfortablity.

“…the Michigan Chronicle June 30th 1998 asked ‘isn’t this the height of hypocrisy?’ and I say yes.”

“But in all fairness we [black people] don’t always use it in an endearing way. For instance comedian Chris Rock, whose been accused of ‘black on black’ racism for making a differentiation of blacks and niggers.”

Hill was referring to Rock’s skit “I Hate Niggers,” in which he claims that black people hate the same things that white people hate about black people, though more so. He refers to these hated blacks as “niggers” and clearly draws a line between ignorant black people and every other black person. “I love black people, but I hate niggers boy. I wish they’d let me join the Ku Klux Klan,” Rock said during the skit.

Hill goes to say “On the whole this is not just a confusion between blacks and whites, blacks and blacks, rich and poor. Hell, everybody’s throwing up their arms about this one.”

“It’s a confounding situation.” And she’s right. OJ Simpson was acquitted for the murder of his wife Nicole Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. It is believed that Detective Mark Fuhrman, who was assigned to the case, frequently used the word in a derogatory manner. It is speculated that this was a determining factor which lead the jury to vote not guilty. Two people’s lives were lost and the jury’s ruling may not have been based on the facts, but rather the emotional turbulence surrounding the word “nigger”.

“And nobody knows what to do about it. Except me.” Hill said “So first , what not to do; The Jacksonville Free Press of July 15th 1998 says that ‘the Pennsylvania chapter of the NAACP is lobbying to ban books. Classic books containing the word ‘nigger’. Like ‘Song of Solomon’, ‘Huckleberry Finn’, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’.

“This gag approach is the most absurd thing I have ever heard of.” A word has never, in America’s history, been banned or deemed illegal to use, most likely due to its lack of effectiveness and violation against the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of speech to ever American citizen.

“The Michigan Chronicle of 1997 said that ‘it would be foolish to refrain from using the word’ as if its absence will make it and all the hated behind it magically disappear.”
Such is the magnitude of this word that Hill herself confessed that she was torn as to whether to say it or not during her presentation. “So what’s my simple solution? Say it if you need to. It’s an important enough issue guys, but we should be able to talk about it, without hyphenating, asterisking, blushing, whispering, or avoiding it all together.

“Just one rule! Don’t direct it at anybody unless you know they’re okay with it. Right nigger?”
The audience once again laughed though it was clear that the message sunk it. A completely logical and sensible approach to dealing with the n-word was presented.

The Transformation of Journalism

By Travis Drobbin

“Journalism is not dying, it’s merely transforming.” That is the view of Nick Bilton, who spoke at Rutgers on February 2 in front of a crowd of two hundred. Bilton is a research and development specialist with the New York Times as well as the creator of Shifd.com. Bilton discussed a lot of the new technologies that will be introduced to the world in the coming months and years. Bilton noted how the narrative is constantly changing. From cave drawings, the alphabet, illuminated manuscripts, the printing press, and television to the internet. People are beginning to be scared by this change, because media is having a difficult time acclimating to the Internet. The New York Times, on the other hand, is trying to stay ahead of the curve by developing new technologies and implementing them as soon as possible, he said. Bilton went into detail about the Times experiment with something called the CustomTimes. The CustomTimes is a digital take on the traditional street newspaper boxes that take quarters, and in return a person is able to take a newspaper. The Times is now testing a new take on that; the CustomTimes looks like a newspaper box with a computer monitor on it. The consumer would be able to choose the sections that they would want to read, and the machine would print out a copy of their very own custom freshly printed New York Times.

Bilton also brought the crowd’s attention to the idea that consumers are the new editors, as editors to their friends and peers. People are now posting news articles on various social networks, which they believe are important to everyday life. Bilton said these people are being editors because they are choosing the content that people focus their attention on. This is a very important change in the world of newspapers, because people are now taking into their own hands what the people around them read.

Sensors are also on the forefront of news reporting, according to Bilton. Sensors are mechanical devices that are sensitive to light, temperature, radiation level, or the like, that transmits a signal to a measuring or control instrument. These sensors would allow easier and more accurate reporting for any reporter. The amount of time that could be saved using these sensors would be absolutely enormous. The sensors can deliver news instantaneously as it occurs. This is a huge breakthrough in the news world, because the quicker the news can be reported, the more successful the industry will be.

The most sobering information Bilton presented was the continuation of print media. Bilton, said he believes that there will always be a print version of the New York Times. The need for a credible news source will always be needed, and therefore the big news institutions will always be around.

Uncovering the News That Has Yet to Be Discovered

By Diana Curreri

Good journalists do not simply wait for stories to happen. They are the ones who are out to find the newsworthy people, places, and events. That’s the point Rutgers University professor Jan Barry made when he spoke during his lecture to his News Reporting & Writing class on March 27.

Barry told of the long hours and far commutes necessary to get stories. There are numerous people, including fellow reporters, that serve as sources to help report on what is happening.

News stories can happen when you least expect them to, he said. When Barry attended a municipal council meeting in Morris County, New Jersey, a man stated that the same chemical that was used during Agent Orange in Vietnam was also used to kill vegetation under power lines that crossed the Rockaway River. While investigating this story, Barry said he learned that “The best sources turned out to be concerned veterans and independent researchers who dug out details from obscure industrial medical journals, military reports and Veterans Administration files.”

Barry realized he could write a book about well informed citizens. Their stories were worth further investigation and these people served as “local grounding and reference points, which are invaluable in doing comprehensive reporting anchored in a local beat,” Barry said. A few people Barry had met eventually were elected to school boards or municipal council and served as timely references in gathering information that otherwise could have taken weeks to gather from Open Public Records Act.

Sometimes looking for a story can be scary, and while researching one story, another story could be found. Barry told of his experience visiting a ward full of AIDS patients. The event revealed the heartbreaking truth of young people dying in an old-age home from this disease. After his article printed, Barry received many phone calls from patients who had read the article. He found that many were also suffering from their Medicare funding as well.

Barry has also received phone calls from strangers looking to get their stories heard. He heard from a father whose son died in an automobile accident, a veteran who is now going crazy after health problems due to the Gulf war, and “a housing developer who wanted a feature story on his controversial plans,” Barry said, “who called another time to talk about a relative who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound—and a property tax watchdog with a tip that a suburban mayor had just been abducted (turned out he was arrested by the FBI on bribery charges).”

Barry ends his speech by stating, “So there you have it. And in New Jersey, that’s at least 8 million stories—just waiting to be reported.”

Tapping the Grassroots of Sources

By Shaun Van Moerkerken

Too often in today’s society, news reporting is viewed as a job rather than a civic duty to keep American citizens informed about government and their surroundings. When reporting the news becomes a source of revenue, cost effective techniques such as the use of experts are used, which blurs the reality of the news. “Finding well-informed sources in the vastly bigger, diverse and diffuse world beyond the statehouse, municipal building or school board offices takes work,” said Barry. On March 27, Jan Barry a professional journalists and Rutgers University Professor spoke to a group of young upcoming journalist about tapping the grassroots of journalism and the use of unofficial sources. He started off his speech with a quote from his book, “A Citizens Guide to Grassroots Campaigns” “a trade secret of the news media in America is that its major sources include the public-ordinary citizens who call, write, fax, e-mail, or personally deliver an interesting tip or complaint.” This quote may seem controversial to news stations today that rely on the use of politicians and “experts” to convey what is news worthy.

He went on to explain that good reporters don’t just sit back and wait for a tip to come their way, they must search out people who are saying interesting things. When news is not reported in this way, news becomes the hearsay of political figures and societies elites. “The official sources find you,” Barry used a quote from Gary Baehr’s talk on this topic. People in powerful positions don’t want to leave their public images in the hands of news reporters and everyday American citizens so “experts” and public relation workers seek out reporters to make sure the news displays them in a positive manner. The problem with this is “they spin their version of reality to the exclusion of all other versions,” Barry said. The use of experts in the news today is a very popular way for news stations to obtain news because it is cheap and cost effective.

Barry has found himself on many occasions getting down and dirty trying to get the truth behind an important lead. On one occasion, Barry did an investigative series on health concerns over the use of Agent Orange near the Rockaway River, a Morris County water supply and in the Vietnam War. The best sources on this topic turned out being concerned veterans and independent researchers who dug up details from various sources. Finding these folks was not an easy task, but the angle on the story was perfected due to these unofficial sources, Barry said.

Another instance where unofficial sources paid off for Barry’s reporting career was when AIDs patients had been denied access to parts of a town and were even being petitioned to leave the town. The reason the townspeople wanted the patients to leave was because of the fear of catching the deadly disease from them (This was at a time when AIDs awareness was not popular and people were unaware of how to contract AIDs). To find his unofficial sources, Barry went to a nursing home ward full of AIDs patients, which is one of the scariest places he has ever gone looking for a story. “I was glad to get out alive and write a heartbreaking feature story about young people dying in an old-age home,” said Barry. After the story was printed, patients called in with information that sparked breaking-news articles on a Medicare funding dispute that created another crisis for these folks. “Citizens with a hot tip or a cool observation on public affairs are as crucial to American journalism as politicians whose careers flare or flameout in blazing headlines. So there you have it, and in New Jersey, that’s at least 8 million stories-just waiting to be reported,” Barry said in closing.

Rutgers University Professor Extols Virtues of Active Citizens

By Stephen Yoon

“For many readers, their newspaper is an important part of their life,” said Jan Barry, a professor of journalism at Rutgers University. Indeed, newspapers serve as a primary source of information for many citizens. Barry then went on to emphasize his point by using stories of experiences of readers calling in with proposals for news stories, from deaths to a suburban mayor being arrested by the FBI on bribery charges.

On March 27 Professor Barry presented a speech he had previously given in 2005 called “Tapping the Grassroots, Unofficial Sources.” Barry spoke of the utility of using local citizens as information sources for news reporting, tips that he learned during his tenure as a reporter at The Record of Bergen County in Hackensack, NJ.

“A trade secret of the news media in America is that its major sources include the public—ordinary citizens who call, write, fax, e-mail, or personally deliver an interesting tip or complaint,” Barry wrote in his book, A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns.

He used his experience attained while doing an investigative series on dangerous chemical herbicides being used by the Rockaway River in Morris County, NJ. Indeed this tip did not come from an environmental organization, but from a statement made by a man at a municipal council meeting. At this meeting Barry learned that the same chemicals were used in Agent Orange, a deadly herbicide used during the Vietnam War. Clearly finding unofficial sources requires effort like meeting with people after municipal meetings or going to homes trying to get information.

When trying to follow up on this information with official sources, Barry ran into a roadblock. “Federal officials, it became evident in reporting that story, preferred to stonewall rather than forthrightly address the implications that the United States government poisoned many of their own troops as well as much of Vietnam and its people,” he revealed. Indeed, members of the government and their press corps are well versed in putting a favorable spin on stories relating to them.
Barry was then forced to turn to unofficial sources, the best of which turned out to be concerned veterans and independent researchers. Although the process was very time consuming it was beneficial, as these citizens had gotten information from obscure industrial medical journals, military reports, and Veterans Administration files.

“Finding those folks and reporting their decidedly unofficial—but now historic—story took the better part of three months,” commented Barry.
Indeed having a large, even unorthodox network of sources is absolutely crucial to a proactive news reporter. “I also tap an informal network of people I’ve met while hiking, canoeing, in college classes, at conferences and awards dinners. Another trade secret is that reporters trade sources. Sometimes reporters are sources,” Barry revealed.

Barry’s connections extend even to his experiences serving in Vietnam. As a founder of a Vietnam veterans’ organization, he has been interviewed in print, radio, and television about various stories. Through this organization he was connected to Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry, another member of the organization. Due to this he was constantly tapped by reporters at national news organizations for stories about Kerry.

Barry went on to say, “Finding good unofficial sources takes patience, persistence, and sometimes luck or fortuitous timing.” He then reflected on going into a nursing home ward full of AIDS patients, stating that it was one of the most frightening places he had tried to find a story. His diligence paid off, as he got enough information to write a heartbreaking feature story about young adults in an old-age home withering away from a terminal virus. Barry got more stories after the original article ran, as patients followed up with information about a Medicare funding problem that had arose in the nursing home.

“Finding well-informed sources in the vastly bigger, diverse, and diffuse world beyond the statehouse, municipal building or school board offices takes work. It means listening to gabby gadflies at local meetings and afterwards in cold dark parking lots,” Barry revealed. What we can take away from his speech is that although the work of a news reporter never truly ends, the rewards can be great with enough patience and persistence.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ordinary Citizens Making News

By Russell Booth

In order to find good stories and news sources, journalists have to go the extra mile. Rather than staying in statehouses, municipal buildings, or school board offices, journalists must venture out into the world to find good stories. According to Jan Barry, a retired staff writer for The Record, “It means listening to gabby gadflies at local meetings and afterwards in cold dark parking lots, returning heated phone calls from furious readers fed up with your newspaper, knocking on doors in strange neighborhoods sometimes late at night…” On March 27 in the SCILS building at Rutgers University, Barry delivered a speech to his News Reporting and Writing class. The speech he delivered to the class was the one he gave after being named Journalist-in-Residence in spring 2005 by the North Jersey Media Group Fellowship. His speech, entitled “Tapping the Grassroots: Unofficial Sources-the News-Making Role of Ordinary Citizens,” was about some of journalism’s trade secrets. Some of the trade secrets he spoke about were also mentioned in his book, “A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns.” Following some of these secrets can help lead to a successful career in journalism.

The first trade secret Barry revealed was that citizens were major news sources for media outlets. In his book Barry stated, “A trade secret of the news media in America is that its major sources include the public-ordinary citizens who call, write, fax, e-mail, or personally deliver an interesting tip complaint.” He continued saying that good reporters do not just wait for tips, they go out and find people that are saying and doing interesting things. Barry said journalists that do not go out and search for stories convey “official speak.” These official sources spin their version of reality while excluding all other versions. Barry stated that officials are media savvy and their sources will find you. He said, “Elected officials and government administrators, or their press aides, have perfected the news media game, feeding the media maw with press releases, press conferences, exquisitely timed political tidbits, and provocative public speeches.” All of these sources have planned responses and will only feed information and news stories that put them in a good light.

Barry gave a personal example of how citizens can be reliable sources. He stated that a health story on the effects of the chemical Agent Orange came from a person’s remark at a municipal council meeting in Morris County. At the meeting a man stood up and claimed that the same chemical herbicides that were in Agent Orange were sprayed to kill vegetation under power lines that crossed the Rockaway River. Barry stated, “That man, a local environmentalist was right. He’d done some research.” This is a perfect example that shows how citizens can sometimes be the best sources. By the end of this health story Barry concluded that the best sources were concerned veterans and independent researchers.

Barry said that the next trade secret is that reporters often trade sources. For some stories, the information in the stories come from other journalists. He told the audience, “I also tap an informal network of people I’ve met while hiking, canoeing, in college classes, at conferences and award dinners.” It is very important for journalists to network with each other because networking increases the chances of a journalist finding a good story. According to Barry, citizens that have good tips are crucial to American journalism. He concluded his speech stating, “So there you have it. And in New Jersey, that’s at least 8 million stories-just waiting to be reported.”

Reporters and Unofficial Informants

By Kara Jordhoy

As an investigative reporter, Jan Barry found that sometimes the most reliable source is the ordinary citizen. At public meetings, well-informed men and women often are the first to speak up about the issues that needed to be addressed in town. Barry, a retired reporter for The Record (Bergen County, NJ), gave an in class speech at Rutgers University on Mar. 27 about how average citizens can be the most reliable and finest sources for a journalist.

“A trade secret of the news media in America is that its major sources include the public—ordinary citizens who call, write, fax, e-mail, or personally deliver an interesting tip or complaint,” Barry quoted from his book, A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroot Campaigns.

A few years ago, Barry was doing an investigative series about the use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. At a municipal council meeting in Morris County, a man had stood up and stated that some of the same toxic ingredients used in Agent Orange were sprayed to kill vegetation by the Rockaway River, which is a water supply stream. The man turned out to be correct, startling many who had been drinking that water for years.

Barry said that the official sources usually find the journalist to report the story they want revealed to the public. Barry had founded a Vietnam veterans’ organization that John Kerry had been a member of. When Kerry was nominated for president, Barry received many phone calls from national news organizations.

Clearly putting an emphasis on how anyone could be a source for news, Barry relived stories of how people have called him in the past, wanting him to put something in the paper. He has received phone calls from many local citizens, including a Gulf War veteran who had health issues after serving his country and a father who wanted to tell people about how his son died in a traffic accident.

Barry talked about one of his more scary experiences: walking through a nursing home full of AIDS patients. He said he was glad to get out of there when he finished finding his sources. Barry also went to a town meeting, where people screamed about AIDS patients being brought into the town.

“I was glad to get out of there alive,” Barry exclaimed, shaking his head. AIDS is a sickness that is not contagious from casual contact, something that many of the citizens did not seem to realize.

He then wrote a story about young people who were dying of this terrible virus, pulling the heartstrings of readers. However, Barry then received notice that Medicaid had a funding dispute over these patients, and that everyone with AIDS in the nursing home had to be moved out. Though this story was heartbreaking, Barry found that many critical people in the community decided to volunteer at the hospital, including the chief of police. “News reporting helps to explain something scary and give advice on how to help,” Barry concluded in his speech. His passion for journalism truly stands out through his stories and experiences that all fervent future reporters can look forward to.

Unofficial Sources: The Key to a Great News Story

By Jaclyn Mandelbaum

“A trade secret of the news media in America is that its major sources include the public—ordinary citizens who call, write, fax, e-mail, or personally deliver an interesting tip or complaint”, revealed Professor Jan Barry, referring to his book, “A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns”. On March 27, the Rutgers professor addressed his News Reporting and Writing students and revealed fascinating tips regarding the use of various types of unofficial sources in the journalism field. Barry is a seasoned reporter having written for The Record, and is the author of two books including “Earth Songs: New & Selected Poems” and “A Citizen's Guide to Grassroots Campaigns.” Barry has quite a bit of experience in the industry, and was able to shed light on the use of citizens as helpful and necessary sources in writing a well researched and thought out piece.

Barry provided the class with multiple examples of ways in which common citizens sparked and perpetuated various investigations in his career. He explained how when a resident at a Morris County municipal meeting voiced a concern, an investigative series was born. A local environmentalist was disturbed to find out that the same chemical herbicides that were used in Agent Orange in Vietnam War were being used to kill vegetation along the Rockaway River.

Further research by Barry confirmed that the citizen was indeed correct. According to Barry, the best sources in his investigation turned out to be concerned veterans of the war and independent researchers who extrapolated vague and ambiguous details from medical journals, military reports, and Veterans Administration files. As more discoveries were made, the series of articles was investigated for about three months.

Barry revealed that when he had a discussion with Guy Baehr, a former Star Ledger reporter and Rutgers professor, Baehr said, “The official sources find you.” Elected officials, government administrators, and press aides feed journalists information that they want to be conveyed in a certain manner. They have “perfected the news media game,” as Barry said, and only reveal which news they so chose to reveal. Great journalists should, and could, dig deeper if they want to avoid this “official speak,” as in “official said” sort of journalism, he said.
“Finding well-informed sources in the vastly bigger, diverse and diffuse world beyond the statehouse, municipal building or school board offices takes work. It means listening to gabby gadflies at local meetings and afterwards in cold dark parking lots, returning heated phone calls from furious readers fed up with your newspaper, knocking on doors in strange neighborhoods sometimes late at night, shooting the bull with armed hunters and barbed-hook-flinging fisher folk, consoling distraught relatives and other survivors at fire scenes and funerals, consorting with wary suspects and hyper-talkative lawyers, tracking down people who were once in the news and don’t ever care to be again,” Barry explained

Barry’s journalism students seemed to have taken away a great deal of information from his presentation. They learned that although finding and using unofficial sources could take much patience, persistence, and perhaps some luck or good timing, the results often are worth it. With this knowledge, hopefully these future journalists will dig deep, follow their instincts, and provide the public with fascinating and previously untold news stories.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Welcome, Rutgers University Freshman!

By Jaclyn Mandelbaum

We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to make your transition to Rutgers as smooth as possible… Just a few helpful pointers!

Roommate Drama
For many of you, it is the first time you will be living in the same room as another person – let alone someone who you’ve never met. To avoid sticky situations, make a “room contract” with your roommate. It is great to lay out all of your expectations so there are no surprises. Many of your RA’s will make you do this anyway!

Bus Transportations
Most freshmen will have to take a bus from one campus to another at some point in time. Take a few minutes to look up which buses take which routes. You can visit the transportation website at http://parktran.rutgers.edu/. Don’t get on the wrong bus!

Campus Centers
The campus centers here at Rutgers allow students many opportunities. Most labs have free printing (with a generous limit per semester). Take advantage of this service! It helps to print out lecture slides before class. Campus centers also have places for students to study quietly, and even grab a bite to eat. Make good use of these facilities!

Stay on Top of Your Work!
There is generally A LOT of reading in college. It is so much easier to stay on top of all of this work as the semester progresses. Although most students tend to fall behind on their work, they quickly learn that keeping up is the best route to go. Attending class (and paying attention!) makes work so much easier. Don’t slack or fall behind – you will just create more work for yourself in the end.

Get Involved
Find your niche here at Rutgers. The University provides such a large and diverse selection of clubs, intramural sports, and job opportunities. Take advantage, for if you do, Rutgers will feel like home in no time

The Time of Your Life
Keep up with work, make new friends, try new things. You will have the time of your life and gain an invaluable education here at Rutgers. Enjoy!

Rutgers University 101: Every Freshman's Best Friend

By Maria Monica Abrenica

The University welcomes the Freshmen of Fall 2009!

The transition from your local high school to a big university such as Rutgers can be overwhelming, but it does not have to be a discouraging experience. The more time you spend on campus, the more you will learn about it. A list of the basic information and things you will need to know in order to make your first few days more enjoyable is a good start for learning.

How to Survive Everyday

  • Bus System. Getting from one campus to another is made easier with Rutgers' bus system. All you have to do is wait at designated bus stops and hop on the one that will take you where you need to go.
  • Dining Halls. Studying can work up your appetite and it is always important to fuel the mind by eating on time. A dining hall is available in each campus and a variety of meal plans that meet the diet needs and habits of every student is available.
For more information, call the Rutgers Dining Services at (732) 932-8469/8470.

  • Computer Labs. You may have your own laptop, but you might just prefer not to lug it around with you all day. Computer labs are available at your convenience.

Information Source: 5 Online Sources of Useful Information


1. https://my.rutgers.edu
This is the University Portal for updates and information. Your e-mail account can also be accessed here.
2. http://www.nextbus.com
This site saves you time by giving updates on the arrival time of buses.
3. http://www.dailytargum.com
This is the website for the University paper, the Daily Targum. Keep yourself aware of what is going on around.

Q: What are the campuses in New Brunswick?
A. Busch, College Avenue, Cook, Douglas, and Livingston

Each campus has its characteristic atmosphere. You might have difficulty finding a location during your first few days on campus. This is normal and there is no need to stress out about it. Maps are available for your use. It is always good to seek someone's assistance too. Do not be afraid to ask.

It is normal to feel anxious about your transition to life at the University. You might be overcome by the jitterbug or butterflies in your stomach. It's important not to let fear get the best of you. Look ahead with a positive attitude and embrace this new journey you are beginning at Rutgers University.

A Few Tips

Be on time for your classes. Set task priorities. Study. Interact with people. Give yourself time for extra-curricular activities. Meet new people. Learn. Ask questions. Have fun. Grow.

College Survival Tips 101

By Tiffany Y. Hsia

Were you the nerdy type in school? A band geek? Maybe, you were one of the most popular kids at school? Well guess what? This is college and all bets are off! Everyone starts school with a blank slate, even at a state school like Rutgers where many of your former high school classmates may go. You have the power to determine what kind of experience you will have and what sort of person you will become. College is an overwhelming (but very exciting and fun!) experience, especially when you attend a large university like Rutgers . Here’s a few tips to help you navigate the waters!


If you plan to dorm, contact your roommate before you get to school.


There is nothing worse than being squished into a room the size of a tin can with too many belongings. Make contact with your roommate before you get to school to determine who will bring what items that can be communally shared. If you don’t want them using something of yours, ask them to bring it themselves. This is also a great time to build a relationship, you don’t want to start off on a bad note and have a nightmare roomie!

Make a budget and stick to it! Credit cards are eeeevil!

Credit card companies prey on college freshmen like sharks prey on blood. Yes, it’s easy and tempting to splurge because of your newly found freedom but in the long run you can become burdened down with debt you can’t handle and ruin your credit score for years!

No major? No worries!


Take classes you have an interest in to determine what you’d like to do in the long run.

Rely on yourself.

College isn’t like high school where you are closely monitored. If you don’t go to class, no one will care, but your grades may be another story. Regularly speak with advisors to make sure you are on the right path in your college career. You determine how effective college is for you.

Internships are critical.

Internships make you a more viable candidate for employment and we’re in college to get a job, right? You will get real world experience and if you really rock it out, you may even land a job from an internship!

Get involved on campus.

There are a slew of great activities at Rutgers to get involved with. Joining activities helps you explore your interests and make new friends. These friends may become life long pals and help you to expand your potential work network. It’s a win win situation!

Be safe, healthy and wise.

It’s always safer to travel in pairs or packs in the evenings. If you plan on drinking while socializing, have someone who will look out for your welfare. The best decisions aren’t always made when inebriated.