OLPCorps Tulane University & UC Davis – Sierra Leone

Pointed Pith!! Chelsea Lambasts Journalism to Extreme Degree! by Chelsea Rue
June 24, 2009, 7:37 am
Filed under: In the News, Rants and Raves

Pithy comments, sensationalist and alliterative phrases, quotes taken out of context, tongue in cheek sarcasm (well, I quite like this last one).  All of these have come to characterize journalism over the last few years, particularly in America.  And I don’t like it.  I don’t like it one bit.  I used to have a great deal of respect for journalism.  As a youngster, I saw the discipline itself as a laudable and human rights-driven support for freedom of information and journalists as noble paladins on a quest for Truth with noble intentions of sharing it with the masses.

The coverage of the Iraq War (and basically every broadcast news story I’ve happened to catch on network stations since then) destroyed my childhood opinions in a wave of somber faced, fear-mongering reporting and images to be found 24 hours a day.  To my mind now, journalism isn’t about granting free and unbiased information about current events to the public.  Print or broadcast, it’s all about ratings, circulation, and the unending attempt to one-up the other networks/hosts/newspapers/reporters with larger type font, more startling graphics, and ever-more catchy titles assigned to tragic disasters with human casualties.

Oh, and tickers along the bottom of the screen.  Apparently those are mandatory.

Of course there are exceptions to these incredibly heavy-handed and clumsy (dare I say sensationalist) descriptions: many of them.  And just because I find most journalism distasteful, I am not implying that people should stop keeping abreast of current events.  News is important.  Information is necessary.  I just personally would prefer to receive my information without any of the blatant marketing gimmicks.

Particularly not in a self-appointed watchdog organization who should be above such tricks.

And especially not when said watchdog organization feels compelled to quote the blog of a project I am associated with out of context in a somewhat hyper-critical article in order to support whatever point the author was trying to get at.

I am referring to an article by the OLPC watchdog site, OLPC News.  Despite its rather innocuous moniker, OLPC News is not associated with OLPC the organization (beyond, it seems, attempting to discredit the OLPC initiative OLPCorps by latching onto minor quibbles, feeding them steroids, and posting them right up alongside the valid complaints and news stories).

In this article (OLPCorps Africa Weeks 1-2: A Training Roller Coast), OLPC News quotes from my team’s blog 3 times.  One of these quotes is well within its intent (note that I did mention valid complaints against OLPC; I would never claim that a watchdog is unwarranted or that the majority of the OLPC News articles are unfounded).  Another quote actually inspired the name of the article (although not in the way the original blog author intended…Real World roller coaster indeed).  And the third was clearly a weak and desperate attempt to turn a small joke about jet lag into a negative portrayal of the entire Rwanda training exercise (for a true critique of the Rwanda training exercise by our team, please see OLPCorps Redeemed).

In general, I don’t understand why OLPC News felt the need to stretch the boundaries of truth and intent in this article to imply that OLPCorps is doomed to failure and disgrace in all its aspects and activities when there are valid critiques to be made which could lead to constructive dialogue and actionable alternatives.  At the risk of being self-promoting, here are 2 such critiques by our team:

“…Like little girls are passionate about… err… other things” and Caught in a Ponzi Scheme [Please note in the interest of being completely transparent:  the second blog was quoted correctly in the article, and—though I personally believe the article itself could have been vastly improved by expanding upon the ideas expressed beyond repeating them from our blog—I have no complaints about the context in which the quote was used.]

Overall the OLPC News article was a poor attempt to draw many disparate ideas into a bland argument that OLPCorps is commercial in nature rather than humanitarian, and that the OLPC training regimen was poorly planned, and that Rwanda deserves no credit for developing itself on humanitarian aid dollars, and that OLPCorps volunteers need to get hands-on development experience but should also be really proud of what they’re going to accomplish, and…what was the point of that article again?  It changed topics so many times I got whiplash (as though I were on a roller coaster).

The point remains that my team and I are here to bring something good to a group of wonderful and deserving children through the support of a generous and charitable organization.  We are happy to both accept and offer constructive criticism about OLPC Corps, its mission and its standard operating procedures.  We are not happy with being used to help fuel a piece of writing that would rather skew and misshape an idea to prove an initiative unsalvageable instead of presenting a balanced and valid assessment of flaws found within OLPCorps and offering some alternative ideas or suggestions.

Or at least if we are going to be used, we’d prefer it to be in a well conceived article with a clear point of view and an unambiguous conclusion.

(Was that pithy enough for you?)


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Wow, and you thought my post was all over the place? This one wanders a bit itself, but I’ll focus on the paragraph that is relevant to the OLPC News post in question.

“OLPCorps is commercial in nature rather than humanitarian”

That would be the impression you gave. I was thinking OLPCorps was to show small pilot successes until you mentioned Negroponte wanted it a sales operation. A point collaborated by other posts, you just said it the best.

“the OLPC training regimen was poorly planned,”

Hmm… where does that come from? The 5am quote? I was more trying to give the training a human aspect. I thought the quote humorous.

“Rwanda deserves no credit for developing itself on humanitarian aid dollars”

Whoa nelly! Now that’s a great reach. I never came close to saying anything like that. Not even sure how you got to that conclusion.

“OLPCorps volunteers need to get hands-on development experience but should also be really proud of what they’re going to accomplish”

Yes and yes, but more to the point, OLPCorps experience is development experience.

“what was the point of that article again?”

To synthesize the training experience of OLPCoprs through the writings of a select number of volunteers. And y’all happen to be good writers, hence the 3 quotes. Most would take that as a compliment.

Comment by Wayan

Oh and I did give alternative ideas to improve OLPCorps: http://www.olpcnews.com/people/volunteers/better_olpcorps_africa_program.html

Comment by Wayan

And last but not least, you’re always welcome to submit a Guest Post to OLPC News – a direct way to improve its content.

Comment by Wayan

we all know that olpcnews is hogwash propagated by vota and company. such trash! you all keep up the good work! ciao

Comment by yomama

Hi Yomama,

Thanks for your comment. We do want to clarify something though – we don’t think OLPC News is bad, or hogwash… they provide a valuable resource for people who want to learn more about OLPC from outside of company statements. We did have an issue with the particular article that we responded to, but encourage others to make their own opinion.

Katie M

Comment by Katie Robinette

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