Podcasts: the future of investigative journalism

Long time no see!

I’ve missed writing for you and am so happy that I have been able to post not one but two blogs today. How did you feel about the multimedia blog I posted earlier? I really loved creating it for you all because it allowed me to use my video editing talents and to be creative.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to listen to the first episode of Sarah Koenig’s podcast “Serial” and let me tell you, I’m already hooked! If I am being candid, this is the first podcast that I have thoroughly enjoyed in a very long time. My problem with most podcasts is with the author. Often, the way in which they speak bores me and I lose interest in the subject very quickly. Koenig’s intonation and inflection brings the story to life and I really love how she used alternate audio clips to break up the podcast. The way she speaks to her listeners is as if she has known them for ages and I already feel as invested in Adnan’s story as she is (Koenig).

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Sarah Koenig, the narrator of “Serial”

I really love media that challenges one’s perception of the truth and makes you question what you know. The controversy surrounding the timeline of the murder is shocking and makes me wonder who is telling the truth. Do you think Jay is right in his story or Adnan is telling the truth? This crime story is very interesting to me from a psychological standpoint as I am able to analyze each element of the highly debated verdict (Koenig).

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Who is telling the truth about Hae (middle)? Was it Adnan (left) or Jay (right)?

If I had just read this story in the news, I do not think I would have connected with it like I did. The medium emphasized the story because it allowed for me to visualize the events as they unfolded and to use my own imagination. With investigative journalism, the readers are taken on a journey and with the use of multiple episodes, the element of suspense is increased. As the description explains, “The show follows the plot and characters wherever they lead, through many surprising twists and turns. Sarah won’t know what happens at the end of the story until she gets there, not long before you get there with her” (Serial).

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The podcast feels like a never ending maze

It feels as if you are going on the journey with Koenig and that she is just as in the dark as you are. The surprises that await listeners are endless and after listening to the audio mashup, at the end of the first episode, I cannot wait for the next one. This format especially emphasizes the importance of listening carefully because there are no visuals to aid your comprehension. Listeners must be keen and pay attention to the fine details in order to catch every little hint that Koenig leaves. This medium challenges the listener to be engaged as it stimulates their critical thinking skills with varying outcomes of the case (Koenig).

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What a listener’s wall may look like as they try to piece together the clues

The only negative aspect of the podcast is the effect that it has on Hae Min Lee’s family. The podcast has a slight bias that indicates that Koenig believes that Adnan is innocent. After almost two decades of having lost their daughter, I could not imagine how much pain Hae Lee’s parents are in. They received closure when Adnan was sentenced to prison but now with “Serial’s” investigation, their daughter’s murderer may be walking on the streets again. Within the podcast, in Jay’s story especially, Hae is referred to as a “bitch” and other derogatory terms (Koenig). Hearing their deceased child being spoken about in such a cruel manner must be soul crushing and bring up many feelings from the past. In a letter addressing fans of the podcast, the family writes, “The events of this past week have reopened wounds few can imagine… It remains hard to see so many run to defend someone who committed a horrible crime, who destroyed our family, who refuses to accept responsibility, when so few are willing to speak up for Hae” (Merlan).

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The students’ memorial for Hae Min Lee

My deepest sympathies go out to Hae’s family for their loss and torment by the podcast. Regardless of the family’s feelings, I believe that it is a story that needs to be told. If Adnan was wrongfully sentenced, it is not fair for him to be imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Hae’s true murderer must suffer for their sins.

I enjoy listening to a text like this because it is different than how I normally learn new information. It allows me to sit back, close my eyes and picture the story unfolding in my head. The only drawback to this medium is I cannot control the pace at which the information is presented to me. This is why I will always prefer reading. With reading, I am still able to imagine what the text is conveying but I can move at my own pace throughout the text. At times, I need to reread portions of the text to increase my understanding of the topic but it is more difficult to do this strategy with a podcast.

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The second that I put my headphones in, I am immersed into Koenig’s fast paced reality

Additionally, I like the aspect of having a physical book. Call me old fashioned but I love the feeling of pages between my fingers. With a podcast, it is all online and I am unable to have a visual component. This frustrates me because I am a very visual learner but struggle with auditory learning. Books are more well suited to my needs as a student and I would love for Koenig to transcribe the podcast into a novel!

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This would be my absolute dream!

Finally, who else loved Koenig’s opening about memory challenges? I personally struggle with both short and long term memory so I appreciated that I was not alone in this challenge. By using the audio from the interview with the teenagers, she made me think about how well I would be able to remember the events of a day six weeks ago. So I picked a date: June 9th. I have no clue what I did on that day! I looked into techniques to enhance my memory and discovered that “we can easily lose information it if we don’t make a conscious effort to retain it (Pappas).

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How it feels to try to remember an event from six weeks ago

Could you imagine the pressure these teenagers are under to remember the date of Hae’s murder? I do not think that they are incredibly reliable because, to them, it is just an ordinary day. They did not know that it would be one of the biggest days of their life and thus did not make any effort to remember it. This casts doubt on the authenticity of the duration of the podcast. How can we really be sure if Asia’s affidavit was entirely true? What if Adnan did not go to track practice that day? What if Jay altered the details of his statement because he could not remember exactly what happened? Memory is not reliable and should not be the reason someone is sentenced to prison, in the court of law. The fickleness of long term memory challenges the validity of the case and may be Adnan’s saving grace (Koenig).

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Adnan Syed, 2016

What did you think about “Serial”? Do you think that Hae’s family should have been consulted prior to the podcast? Is Adnan guilty?

I have SO many questions! Hopefully they are answered in the next episode of “Serial,”

Until the next blog,

Emily Kacer

Works Cited

Koenig, Sarah. “Episode 1: The Alibi.” Audio blog post. Serial. iTunes, 3 October 2014.

Web. 19 July 2017.

Koenig, Sarah. “Season One and Two.” Serial. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 July 2017.

Merlan, Anna. “Hae Min Lee’s Family Issues Statement Addressing Serial Fans: Adnan

Syed ‘Destroyed Our Family’ .” Jezebel. N.p., 08 Feb. 2016. Web. 21 July 2017.

Pappas, Christoforos. “Enhancing Long-Term Memory: 7 Strategies For eLearning

Professionals.” ELearning Industry. N.p., 9 June 2015. Web. 21 July 2017.

“Serial.” Stitcher. N.p., 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 21 July 2017.

 

Henrietta’s Black Life Matters

Hello everyone!

I hope you are having a wonderful Friday and that you are as excited about this blog post as I am. This is my first multimedia blog and I am very proud of the final product. Below you will find my video analysis of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks through the post colonial perspective theory.

What did you think? Do you believe that Henrietta’s treatment would have been different if she would had been white?

P.S. Stay tuned because later on today I will be posting another blog! #twoinoneday

Emily Kacer

Works Cited

1920s House. N.d. Pinterest. Web. 20 July 2017.

Around Blacks never relax. N.d. Pinterest. Web. July 20 2017.

Black face and white face. N.d. Pinterest. Web. July 20 2017.

Black Stereotypes. N.d. Youtube. Web. July 20 2017.

Blood Test. N.d. Everyday Health. Web. July 20 2017.

Brizee, Allen, J. Case Tompkins, Libby Chernouski, and Elizabeth Boyle. “Post-Colonial

Criticism (1990s-present).” Purdue Online Writing Lab. N.p., 13 Apr. 2015. Web. 20

July 2017.

Coal Black. N.d. WordPress. Web. July 20 2017.

Education Quote. N.d. Quote Fancy. Web. July 20 2017.

Education. N.d. Sienna Living. Web. July 20 2017.

George Otto Gey. N.d. Wikipedia. Web. 20 July 2017.

Henrietta Lacks House. N.d. Thing Link. Web. 20 July 2017.

Henrietta Lacks. N.d. Biography. Web. 20 July 2017.

Keegin, Emily. White Supremacy. 5 December 2016. Fader. Web. 20 July 2017.

McNamara, Mary. “‘White People’ explores gray areas in privilege and stereotypes.” Los

Angeles Times. N.p., 22 July 2015. Web. 20 July 2017.

Myrdal Gunnar. An American Dilemma . Vol 1. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.;

1944.

One Room School House. 23 June 1950. New York Times. Web. 20 July 2017.

Only for White. N.d. Vintage Everyday. Web. 20 July 2017.

“Postcolonial Theory.” Shmoop. N.p., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 20 July 2017.

Racial Segregation. N.d. Rollins. Web. 20 July 2017.

Racist Cartoon. N.d. Ferris State University. Web. July 20 2017.

Scrub me Mama. 1941. Wikipedia. Web. July 20 2017.

Scrub me Mama. N.d. Pinterest. Web. July 20 2017.

Segregated. 1939. John Hopkins University. Web. 20 July 2017.

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Penguin Random

House, 2010. Print.

Tree Roots. N.d. Clean Crawls. Web. July 20 2017.

Welch, Kelly. “Black Criminal Stereotypes and Racial Profiling.” Journal of Contemporary

Criminal Justice. N.p., 1 Aug. 2007. Web. 20 July 2017.

Whites Only. N.d. Quote Master. Web. 20 July 2017.

 

The HeLa Legacy: Theft, Secrecy and Immortality

For my Course Culminating task, I have decided to read the novel The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. What really drew me in about this novel was the subject matter. For my readers who know me well, you are aware that I have a keen interest in medicine and am an advocate for racial equality. As these are the main components of the novel, I knew that I would enjoy reading Rebecca Skloot’s book. Have any of you read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks? I would definitely recommend this book as a summer read because I cannot put it down. I’m halfway through the novel and it is shaping up to be a real page turner.

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Cover of Skloot’s Novel

Thus far, I have noticed a lot of reoccurring symbolism and archetypal characters emerging. If you haven’t read the novel, I will give you a brief overview without any spoilers (you’re welcome). Rebecca Skloot, the author and narrator of the novel, is extremely interested in the woman behind the famous HeLa cells. These cells came from Henrietta Lacks and were used in countless medical endeavors, like the polio vaccine, without her willing consent. Henrietta passed away before her “immortal” cells reformed cell culture as we know it. Her family was never informed of her cells’ vitality until decades after their widespread use in medical research. This impoverished African American family was shocked that they had been left in the dark for so long while the medical community made millions of dollars in profit from Henrietta’s cells (Skloot 1-7). This true story baffled me because of the strides the medical community has made since the 1950’s.

 

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HeLa Cervical Cancer Cells

 

If I’ve peaked your interest, read along for my analysis of half of this novel using an Archetypal perspective.

What initially peaked my interest was the author’s first person narration of the novel. This writing gives the novel a personal feel and it is almost as though Skloot is speaking directly to you. According to Carl Golden’s definition of the major literary archetypes, Skloot is both a Hero and a Sage within the novel (Golden). Throughout the novel, Skloot fearlessly and tenaciously pursues her objective: to tell Henrietta’s story. After her professor’s brief introduction of the woman behind the HeLa legacy, Skloot decided to “…write a book that was a biography of both the cells and the woman they came from – someone’s daughter, wife and, mother” (Skloot 6). Prior to this novel, minimal information was available about Lacks. This is the very reason why Skloot made it her personal mission to give this woman and her family the recognition they deserved.

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12 Major Archetypes

As the hero, Skloot embarks on a journey to uncover the truth behind the HeLa cells. She was faced with many questions and obstacles along the way but courageously overcame them all. For years, Skloot attempted to get an interview with Henrietta’s family. She even resorted to calling the Lacks family, on a daily basis, but was met with rejection time and time again (Skloot 54). Skloot ultimately embarks on her hero’s journey as she leaves the comfort of her home and travels across the country for answers (Skloot 67). During her journey, Skloot must “overcome fear and commit to change” in order to accomplish her goal of writing the novel (Vogler). Her incredible drive is a result of her underlying “self-type” of being a Sage (Golden). Skloot’s desire for uncovering the truth behind the HeLa cells and belief that “there has to be more to the story” is what makes her such a devoted and unique author (Golden) (Skloot 4).

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Rebecca Skloot holding her novel

The second archetypal character I recognized was Dr. George Gey. Dr. Gey was a prominent scientist within the field of cell culture because he received the original HeLa cells from Henrietta’s biopsy (Skloot 33). More than anything, Gey desired to gain the fame and publicity of growing “the first immortal human cells” thus confirming that Gey’s archetype is the Ruler (Skloot 41) (Golden). As a Ruler, Gey’s main goal is to be successful within the scientific community. With a focus on prestige, Gey is regularly interviewed about his groundbreaking successes within cell culture (Skloot 57). Immediately after the HeLa cells immortality is confirmed, Gey ships the cells around the world for mass production and global experimentation (Skloot 56). He fits the mold of Rulers who are “high achievers with a long list of accomplishments to their name” (Smith).

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Dr. Gey in his laboratory

As Gey is willing to take Henrietta’s cells, without her willing consent, I also perceive him as the Villain. Without him, Henrietta’s cells would have died along with her and her family would not have been subjected to years of harassment by the press (Skloot 55). Despite all the benefits the HeLa cells ultimately had for the medical community, it was unethical for Gey to harvest them and make a profit from Henrietta’s genetic property as “…her family had no idea her cells were alive” (Skloot 109).

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The Lacks family in 2009

Speaking of Henrietta’s cells, I believe that they are a motif within the novel. By their very definition, “cells are the basic building blocks of all living things… Cells also contain the body’s hereditary material and can make copies of themselves” (What is a Cell?). The cancerous cells removed from Henrietta’s cervix were her genetic property. When Gey took the malignant cells from her biopsy, Gey stole what was rightfully Henrietta’s (Skloot 33). These cells not only represent HeLa’s legacy and immortality within the medical field but they also represent Henrietta herself.

Cells are responsible for containing “…all the genetic information that makes you you” (Skloot 3).

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Cell with genetic information

The HeLa cells are a portion of Henrietta that lives on to this day but they should have died with her because she was not informed of their distribution. Not only were her cells robbed from her but Henrietta’s life was robbed by the inaptitude of the medical community itself. To put it into perspective for my readers, Henrietta was treated with Radium, a life-threatening element, and was denied proper treatment because of her race (Skloot 32). Henrietta lives on through her cells and we will forever be indebted to her because of the great injustice she faced.

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John Hopkins Hospital, where Henrietta received treatment

Two other symbols that Skloot includes within the novel are “Lacks town” and Clover, in addition to the famous photograph of Henrietta. Henrietta grew up, impoverished, within a segregated community, “…the upper plot-now known as Lacks Town-went to the black Lackses” (Skloot 123). Not only were the Lackses separated from society because of their race but they were even barred from living amongst their Caucasian relatives (Skloot 125). The deteriorated areas of “Lacks Town” and Clover represent the segregation of African Americans due to the racial discrimination they faced.

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Henrietta’s childhood home

The photograph of Henrietta is another key symbol I discovered. Skloot recalls:

I’ve spent years staring at that photo, wondering what kind of life she led, what happened to her children, and what she’d think about cells from her cervix living on forever-bought, sold, packaged, and shipped by the trillions to laboratories around the world (Skloot 1-2).

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The famous photograph of Henrietta Lacks

This photograph is tied to Henrietta’s identity and ultimately represents her humanity because it gives a face to the woman behind the cells. For years, Henrietta was misidentified or neglected altogether but this photograph acts as evidence of her mortality (Skloot 109). Without this photograph, Henrietta would remain an abbreviation and her story may have never been told.

Skloot’s use of roles, symbolism and motifs aids the reader’s connection to and comprehension of the text. They are extremely important for the reader to identify with the characters and to become invested within Henrietta’s life story.

Do you agree with my analysis? Please comment below and let me know. As always, this Girl with an Opinion wants to hear your opinion!

Until my next post,

Emily Kacer

 

Works Cited

Golden, Carl. “The 12 Common Archetypes.” Soul Craft. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.

Skloot, Rebecca. “About The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” Rebecca Skloot. N.p., n.d.

Web. 12 July 2017.

Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Penguin Random

House, 2010. Print.

Smith, Nyla. “Brand Archetype: The Ruler.” N-Vision Designs. N.p., 24 May 2016. Web. 12

July 2017.

Vogler, Christopher. “Hero’s Journey.” The Writer’s Journey. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.

“What is a Cell? – Genetics Home Reference.” U.S. National Library of Medicine. National

Institutes of Health, n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.

English: To be required or not to be required?

From a very young age, I have always had a passion for the English language. I find writing very therapeutic and enjoy using my vocabulary to communicate my thoughts and ideas. English classes have always intrigued me as I love discussing literature and learning about the world around me. Sadly, many of my peers do not share a mutual love for English. Common opinions include that English courses are “boring,” “useless,” and “outdated.”

I could not disagree more.

Many high school students look at English on a very small scale. They question why it is required to study Shakespeare in 2017 and how this will ever benefit them. While the Shakespeare novel itself may not be a life changing read, the skills they gain from the course, as a whole, outweigh any “boredom”. The skills students learn from taking grade twelve University English, benefit them both within and outside of the classroom.

As a student currently taking grade twelve University level English, I firmly believe that this course is vital for the success of students in post secondary education and agree that it should be required for entry into all universities.

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Graduating Students Eager to use their New Skills.

 

Many authors also share my point of view. In Steve Strauss’ article entitled Why I Hire English Majors, the Huffington Post author writes about the skills associated with English students. Not only are these students able to write and speak eloquently but they have a reputation for being critical thinkers, proficient in time management and confident in their ideas (Strauss). These skills will aid students in their future careers by allowing them to stand apart from the crowd with their unique abilities. Had they not taken grade twelve University English, they would be unable to perform as well as those who took the course. I firmly believe that by taking this course, students will benefit greatly as their skills will be recognized by future professors and employers.

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Graduate Being Hired because they Stand Apart from the Crowd.

 

The way an individual speaks tells a story about who they are. When someone speaks using a wide range of vocabulary to convey concise and clear points, it can be assumed that they are intelligent and highly educated. This proficiency in speech translates into writing as well and increases the credibility of the individual. Contrasting this, if someone writes and/or speaks with errors and does not think clearly, they will be viewed as less than their peer who has the ability of proficiency. Matt Mayberry of Entrepreneur writes on the importance of word choice:

Within the words we speak is an emotional potency. Each word that we use can have a colossal impact. A word from a manager or boss, may, at first glance, seem inconsequential. But never think of words as inconsequential. Instead, think of them as powerful. Words can build up or tear down. They can motivate or discourage. Words influence others and build relationships at work and personally. They can tear down relationships. Simply put, language holds massive, colossal power to manifest change, whether it’s good or bad (Mayberry).

Having English as a required course aids students in learning how imperative language is while simultaneously preparing them for their future in any workforce.

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Confident Speaker with Attentive Audience.

 

English courses provide a solid foundation of skills that are applicable to each and every University program. Whether a student pursues an education in the sciences, maths, humanities or any other studies, use of their linguistic skills will be required on regular occasions. Regardless of the area of study, writing, reading and speech are key components of learning and are essential for success. Without having taken grade twelve University level English, students will be ill prepared for their future area of study and will likely fall behind the rigid expectations of University.

With English being the language that is most frequently studied throughout the world, the English speaking population continues to rise from its estimated 527,000,000 native speakers (Noack and Kamin). As the popularity of English is on the rise, omitting the grade twelve University level English course as a requirement would hinder the opportunities available for students in their future careers.

 

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English: the Most Widespread Language.

 

Without the high school students being required to complete their English courses before University, they would miss out on the opportunity to refine employment skills, increase their credibility and professionalism and be well versed in the most studied language in the world.

 

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Successful Graduates in their Career Paths.

 

Do you agree?

As I’ve voiced my opinion on this debate, I now open the floor to my readers. Do you think that grade 12 University level English should be a requirement for entry into all University programs? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Until the next post,

Emily R. Kacer

References:

“English ENG4U Online Course.” Virtual High School (Ontario), (n.d.), https://www.virtualhighschool.com/courses/outlines/eng4u.asp.

Mayberry, Matt. “Your Words Have Impact, So Think Before You Speak.” Entrepreneur, www.entrepreneur.com/article/251290. Accessed 5 July 2017.

Noack, Rick and Kamin, Lazaro. “The World’s Languages, in 7 maps and charts.” The Washington Post, www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/04/23/the-worlds-languages-in-7-maps-and-charts/?utm_term=.9f4e2d393e7a. Accessed 5 July 2017.

Strauss, Steve. “Why I Hire English Majors.” Huffington Post, www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-strauss/hiring-english-majors_b_3484409.html. Accessed 5 July 2017.