Author: Chelsea Teague

About Chelsea Teague

I am a junior at Ithaca College majoring in journalism with minors in scriptwriting and Italian. I love writing about music, fashion and culture and hope to write for an alternative music magazine in the future.

Unitarian Universalists preach community through performance

Mary Kirkpatrick sits on the church pew holding a handful of string. The members of the Unitarian Church of Ithaca greet her clapping as she is announced to perform next. During her act, she depicts the story of a Unitarian summer camp using a series of intricate string figures. This is the first of many performances to be included in the United Universalist talent show, an annual community-building activity open to the public.

This event is more about promoting community and creativity rather than spreading a religious belief, members of the church told Ithaca Week. It does, however, have a direct link to the lessons delivered at sermons.

“We like to think of ourselves as a society rather than a church,” Kirkpatrick said. “When you think about religious education, it’s nothing real solemn. There’s no specific thing that we’re trying to teach or put across.” The talent show performers are encouraged to share any music or creative representation that is important to them; it does not have to be a typically spiritual or religious selection. Acts from the show ranged from popular love songs to poetry about nature and the environment.

“Music and spirituality are directly connected,” Jack Roscoe, chair of the music committee for the church, said. “There’s something about the way that our soul responds to music that it doesn’t respond to talking. Music plays a necessary part of all the things that we do as humans in our culture.”

By opening the talent show to the public, the UU talent show will help to spread a deeper love of music beyond the church itself, Roscoe believes.

“I feel like [music] saved my life,” Judy Stock, the church religious education minstrel, said. “I think it’s vital.” A vocalist from a young age, she believes that performance has played a major role in her life.

Just as the church draws its beliefs from various cultures, the acts at the talent show emphasized the importance of diversity as well. One performance featured a song that used Swahili tribal chants and the English translations to break societal barriers.

The church is among the first to accept the LGBT community in its congregation and encourages diversity both in philosophy and culture. Stock mentions that members of the congregation are taught about everything from Christianity and Paganism to Native American spiritual beliefs and are left to decide which ideologies suit them best.

“There’s a lot of openness to different kinds of ideas but at the same time [the church] has the benefits of a more traditional bricks and mortar church where you have events and support,” Stephanie Ortolano, the church Music Coordinator, said.

“There’s stuff happening all the time and it’s all ongoing,” Kirkpatrick said. “The church resembles a kind of workshop.”
Other activities at UU can be found on their website.

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtqjK0cpO-I&feature=youtu.be

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Pitched Projects

The concepts pitched in class were all very interesting and creative. Most of them sounded fairly viable as well, but if I had to pick favorites, I’d say there were three that stood out to me as particularly intriguing.

Cocoa-Nuts sounded like a great potential business. First off, the name is fantastic– it’s witty, easy to remember and fun to say. There is also good potential for profit, especially with merchandising and thank you gifts for donations. In addition, the market is everywhere; who doesn’t love chocolate? I like that this website would cater specifically to chocolate lovers, as there doesn’t seem to be much competition in that field. Also, since it would focus a lot on sharing recipes, there’s a great opportunity to build a tight community that would be willing to contribute.

Pavement Hiker stood out in my mind as well. I especially liked the tagline: “your city, your trails, your adventure.” I could definitely see a large market for this business, given that most of the hiking websites don’t cater to the densest of populations– the city-dwellers. Personally, I love walking around cities, and especially where I come from, I’m always looking to find adventure on the streets where I grew up. Unfortunately, it is difficult to map out a fun journey when so much of your surroundings consist of concrete and stone. This service definitely has potential to build a close community of contributors, but in order for it to be successful as a start-up, I’d say it would be best to narrow the scope to only a couple cities. That way, it will be much easier to gather information, plus the community would become closer given the proximity and ability to meet in person. After a few years, I’m sure it could expand.

StreetSports.com is the last website that stood out to me. I’ve heard a lot of pitches (in this class and in previous semesters) regarding sports journalism, and after a while, a lot of it starts to sound the same. However, one thing I never hear about is tapping into the unrecognized talent that is exhibited right in town. With any hobby, whether it’s sports, music, acting or whatever, it seems that no matter how talented the well-known groups are, there is always someone more talented (and oftentimes more deserving of the spotlight) who simply isn’t getting recognized. Just by walking about town, I’m sure one could easily find a lot of great sportsmen and women who would be more than willing to contribute to the site and get their names out there. As I said with Pavement Hiker, I think the best way to make this successful would be to narrow the scope to one town or county. Once the company starts profiting, it could easily expand to other states or even countries. It seems there would be a sizable audience as well; sports fans should want to check out average people doing extraordinary things. Who knows, they could be the next great _________. Even I would be interested to see what my fellow Ithacans are playing in the streets, and I don’t even like sports.

Of course, these are not the only viable concepts that were pitched in class, and with a little more development, I’m sure all of the ideas could end up becoming successful businesses. However, these three stood out as most original, most feasible and most interesting.

Commercialism in Public Broadcasting

Though public broadcasting in America was originally intended to “help us see America whole, in all its diversity,” according to the Carnegie Commission of Public Broadcasting, it is becoming less and less diverse with the growing need for monetary competition. Commercialism is running rampant in our society, and public broadcasting as we once knew it is essentially dead. Most programs that discuss important issues are voiced by talking heads and government officials, neglecting the voices of the average American people.

A study called “The Cost of Survival: Political Discourse and the New PBS,” found several examples of corruption and bias in public broadcasting. “Voices of public activists were entirely neglected, so that public television’s coverage of the impeachment was filtered through the same politically elite lens as commercial coverage,” one article points out.

There is also an abundance of commercials cluttering up the stations, now taking advantage of the industry’s shift toward making profit. Though once focused on providing the public with important information, the public broadcasting system now abandons their original goal for the sake of commercialism. “As for the noncommercial mission of PBS, there are now lots of commercials on the network, and they are longer and more explicit than ever before, including pitches on children’s shows for theme parks and fast food,” the article points out.

Cross-Ownership

Yet another important issue not often discussed is cross-ownership. Simply put, this means that if you own a newspaper in any given city, you can’t also own a television station in the same area. This is supposed to encourage variety and diversity in the news we consume. Why is this important? Well, can you imagine getting the same news from the same corporation all day every day? Being spoon-fed information that is not verified by other media outlets? Listening only to the issues one company wants you to hear? Oh, sort of like what Rupert Murdoch strives for?

“Our reach is unmatched around the world. We’re reaching people from the moment they wake up until they fall asleep. We give them their morning weather and traffic reports through our television outlets around the world. We enlighten and entertain them with such newspapers as The New York Post and The Times (of London) as they have breakfast, or take the train to work. We update their stock prices and give them the world’s biggest news stories every day through such news channels as Fox or Sky News … And when they get home in the evening we’re there to entertain them with compelling first-run entertainment on FOX or the day’s biggest game on our broadcast, satellite and cable networks. Before going to bed, we give them the latest news, and then they crawl into bed with one of our best-selling novels from HarperCollins.” — Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation, 1999 Annual Report.

Murdoch’s company, News Corp, is huge. They have the ability to follow their consumers throughout the entire day. But Murdoch doesn’t want to stop there. Right now, he’s looking to bend the rules so he can obtain the LA Times. Jon Stewart decided to share his thoughts on the subject here. What do you think? Should companies be allowed to control multiple forms of media in one city, or should the cross ownership laws stay firm?

Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality is an important issue, but it’s hardly ever discussed in news. That’s why many people aren’t even familiar with the term. Net neutrality is “the principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites,” as defined by google. This means that all websites are treated equally and are not required to pay extra to deliver their content to internet users. With net neutrality, independent websites can be just as successful as large, well-established businesses. If you’re a visual learner, here’s a good representation of the issue and why it’s important.

This seems like a fair concept, no? Why would major news sites be so hesitant to discuss the issue? Well, because it benefits them, or rather, the big companies that own them. That’s why independent media covers the topic so freely. In fact, a survey found that satirical news organizations have informed the public more than some of our most trusted mainstream sources in broadcasting. John Oliver is one such comedian who recorded an amusing yet informative video about net neutrality. Jon Stewart dedicated a few segments to the issue as well, as did Stephen Colbert, who also brought in expert Tim Wu to discuss neutrality.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, who proposed to move away from net neutrality, is more than a little biased on the issue. Prior to working with the FCC, he was president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, as well as the CEO of the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet association. Put more simply, he was a lobbyist for the companies he is now supposed to be regulating. Even though there has been considerable pushback regarding Wheeler’s proposal, the topic is still up for debate.

What can you do to help? This website has everything you need to know about saving the internet.

Accuracy in Independent Media

With all the bias and censorship of mainstream media, it may seem that independent media is a better, more reliable choice. It’s more transparent than most big corporations are and it often covers stories that are not even referenced by better known companies. However, independent media is not always better. Ethics are a major issue with non-professional journalists, and for writers with no editors or bosses to answer to, some stories might be covered unfairly, inaccurately or just plain fabricated.

One such independent journalist who has been known to stretch the truth or skew facts is Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report. Drudge himself claims that his reports are only 80 percent accurate. You don’t need me to tell you that this means that 20 percent of his reports are inaccurate. Think about that. Would you trust a journalist who blatantly states that some of his articles are not true? A great deal of his big banner stories or “DRUDGE EXCLUSIVES” are completely false. Upon tracking his stories in 1998, Brill’s Content found that 20 of the 51 exclusives were not actually exclusive, but were previously featured in mainstream news. Of the remaining 31, 10 stories were impossible to verify, 10 were blatantly false and indeed never happened, and only 11 were true.

Drudge continues to fabricate stories and mislead readers. A few of his most notable hoaxes were his stories about President Clinton’s aide, Clinton himself, John Kerry, and John McCain. But aside from these memorable “exclusives,” Drudge continues to mislead his readers regularly. In 2012, Think Progress posted a collection of 10 fake stories that Drudge had written just within the year.

So readers, don’t be so quick to believe something just because it’s in the news. Whether it’s mainstream or independent, there’s always a chance it could be complete and utter bullshit. Don’t be afraid to check the facts for yourselves.

Pro YouTubers

As social media continues to grow, there seem to be more and more ways to profit from it. Youtube has proven to be one of the channels through which amateurs can grow their business, gain a following and yes– make quite a large profit.  According to Celebrity Networth, these self-made “celebrities” can make millions of dollars just by posting videos on youtube. For example, at 5.4 billion views, you tuber pewdiepie earns the most from the website, making around $7 million. How is it that regular people can make a living off silly videos?

Youtuber Michael Buckley, also known as What the Buck online, was able to quit his day job as an administrative assistant at a music promotion company to film his videos full-time. He got hundreds of millions of views on youtube, much more than he would get for his part-time segments on a public access channel in Connecticut. A New York Times article says “[Buckley’s] comical rants about celebrities attracted online viewers, and before long Mr. Buckley was tailoring his segments, called ‘What the Buck?’ for the Web. Mr. Buckley knew that the show was ‘only going to go so far on public access.'”

Part of the reason Youtube is more popular that public access is probably the convenience. With the invention of smartphones, people can carry the internet around with them wherever they go. It’s also something that caters directly to the viewers’ needs; anything the audience is interested in is only a click away. The internet is a much cheaper way to produce content as well, with many  Youtubers using only a cheap camera (or in some cases, the one built right into their laptops) to record their musings. For Buckley, a $2,000 canon camera was all he needed to pull in a substantial profit. Anyone can become a successful Youtuber, regardless of money or connections. All you need is the right content to build your brand and expand your audience.