Final Project Update

I think the camera tips from class will be really helpful in doing my final project.  I’m planning on doing at least two pictures and I would also like to do a small video package. I will look at the tips again before interviewing the sources.


Final Project Update

I have begun brainstorming different questions to ask my sources. Making sure I include questions about their personal experiences with geophagy, the cultural/tradition behind it and the health factors. 

Final Project Story Board

Eating Dirt

Nonlinear parts:

the lead – I am thinking about doing a soft lead or even a quote lead if I get a really outstanding quote that would hook the reader.

profiles of the main people – I definitely think the elderly, black lady Ms. Inez would be an interesting person to highlight.  Not only is she in her nineties but has lived off the land to a greater extent than most people.  She has a personality that could provide for a colorful story.

how something works – I want to explain start to finish the process of eating dirt.  How they find it, how they eat it and why they eat it are all questions I want to explore in the story.

the history of the event – Geophagy is rooted in cultural tradition.  I want to trace it back as far as I can and find out why it still exists.


I am toying around with the idea of doing video.  I think it would be one of the best ways to actually capture what I’m describing.  I also think the sources I have would definitely have strong personalities that could add a lot in a video package.


If the video element doesn’t work out, I want to have audio as one of the multimedia elements.  The rich, southern voices of my sources would be able to shine through audio.

Still photos:

I think two or three photos would be good for the story.  However, I don’t really have in mind a big slideshow or anything.


If I did a graphic, it would probably revolve around the health factor of the story.


I want my text to be descriptive and leap off the page for the reader.  I think this story would be a good chance for a cultural tradition to be put in print form instead of just being passed down orally.

What Works Assignment 4/1

From Student to Spy, and Back Again

The title immediately made me want to read the story.  Most people want to know about spies—who they are, what they do and what becomes of them.  The title conveyed that it would unravel the life story of a spy and that’s intriguing to the reader.

The author begins the story with a soft lead.  I like how the author starts the story by describing Jara’s life now.  By doing this, the author can show the transformation Jara’s life underwent.

The author is able to weave in the past and present throughout the story.  I like how the author is able to capture just how surprising Jara’s acceptance into the CIA is.  I was very shocked and amazed that Jara was able to contact the CIA through an email and that they took him seriously as a tool they could use.  I think this shows just how tumultuous the times were after 9/11 for America and the government’s desperation to track down the people who were responsible.

I also think it’s interesting how the author portrays Jara’s religious journey.   Often times Americans automatically connect Islam and Muslims to 9/11.  However, Jara used his religion as a way to fight for his country.  I really like the parallel there and how the author subtly reminds readers that people can jump to conclusions about a person without even knowing them.

The author does not use flowery language to describe Jara’s story but instead is straightforward in presenting the story.  I do wish the author had described more about what exactly Jara did overseas as a spy.

I do think it’s important that the author shared that two of the main factors of this story—the CIA and FBI—did not contribute any information or interviews with the author.  The author had to rely on fact checking through other means to verify the story.

I really like how the author uses the incident of Jara visiting a friend’s home and seeing the Britney Spears poster to juxtapose America’s obsession with celebrities to the real war that was happening to protect Americans.

Once Jara’s cover was blown and had to return home, he began to have psychological problems due to the war. Jara had little money and even slept in his truck.  He also had problems with the law because of his alcohol addiction.  Jara’s return to civilian life was a hard transition and many soldiers have the same problem.

I wish the author would have given more data about veterans’ problems with unemployment and PTSD after returning home.

The author also writes about the Rockhill Farm, a program to help drug addicts and felons rehabilitate.  However, I really think the author could have used more of the story to describe Rockhill Farm and why Jara decided run the place.

Six sources are interviewed for the story.  Sources include Jara’s friends, wife, lawyer and firearms instructor.

At the top of the story, the author has a slideshow of pictures that include scenes from Rockhill Farm.  Also there is a poll where the reader can vote on whether or not they think Jara served his country well.  Although some limitations arise from the secrecy of the topic, I still think the author could have used a graph that showed data about PTSD that would have added value to the story.  I would have also liked to have seen audio or video of an addict who works at the farm to show another perspective.

The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court heard arguments today about the Defense of Marriage Act that blocks the government from acknowledging same-sex marriage.

Part of the DOMA provisions excludes Social Security, pension benefits, and bankruptcy benefits from being given to legally married gay couples that live in states that recognize such unions.

Earlier in the week, the Supreme Court also heard oral arguments about California’s Proposition 8 that bans same-sex marriage in the state.

The court is expected to make a decision by June.

However, the court of public opinion varies.  Some students remain conflicted with their faith and the shifting cultural views on gay marriage.

“Well it’s really tough because first and foremost I’m a Christian, I’m a believer.  So my belief, based off of my faith is that you know a union put together by God is of a man and a woman,” Christina Sallis said.  “But then there are my views of discrimination and as a black woman that weighs heavily on my heart as well.  I don’t think anybody should be denied happiness.”

Sallis went on to say that she would be okay with gays getting married but not necessarily in a church.

Corey Gaines also shared some of the same conflictions.

“Growing up as a Christian background, I’m always taught that marriage is between a husband and a wife but at the same time, I feel that if you love someone who happens to be the same gender, you should be with them,” Gaines said.  “You shouldn’t have the approval to love someone.”

McClure Brooks-Tolley feels that the court will eventually support gay marriage.

“I think they are going to rule that, I mean I hope they rule that the law is unconstitutional,” Brooks-Tolley said.

“My views are that legally it should be perfectly fine to get married.  The church can have their own opinion because we have first amendment rights,” Katie Williamson said.  “But legally if there isn’t equality in marriage, it’s trampling on civil rights.”

Journalism professor Mike Tonos, who also was managing editor at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo, gave insights into the Supreme Court media coverage.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty well-captured to some degree.  As far as I can tell, it’s been fairly balanced…I think it’s always dangerous to speculate on the Supreme Court and try to read too much into their questions or their attitudes toward it,” Tonos said.

Tonos also questioned what type of coverage local papers might give on the Supreme Court’s decision.

“The one thing I don’t know if you’ll see, especially in small town newspapers, is the coverage at the local level.  Because I’m not sure a lot of the local media have identified the gay community within their audience,” Tonos said.  “Or that the gay community is actually a ‘community’ where there are people who will serve as spokespeople for it.”

However, not everyone wants gay marriage to be legalized.  Jessi Foust looks to her faith to decide her opinion.

“Well I’m a Christian and so I believe that a marriage in a relationship is supposed to be between a man and a woman.  As it says in the Bible, basically homosexuality is a perversion,” Foust said.  “It doesn’t necessarily mean I dislike homosexuals, it’s just that I don’t believe that that’s right.”

Foust does think that the Supreme Court will eventually legalize same-sex marriage because so many people accept it as part of the culture more than they have in the past.

Polls have shown that a slight majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage.  Also, President Obama became the first president to announce publicly his support for gay marriage in 2012.

The Supreme Court does not just rely on public opinion to decide matters, but instead relies on the Constitution.  No matter its decision, the Supreme Court’s decision will be historic.

Above is an audio recording of the opinions of several Ole Miss students and Professor Mike Tonos.

Ole Miss Students Discuss Soda Ban

Honors 392 students at Ole Miss discussed the Bloomberg soda ban and the broader implications of restaurant restrictions on health.  Students explored the different issues posed by such a ban like government’s role in society, healthcare, and Mississippi’s “Anti-Bloomberg Bill.”  Below is audio of the students’ discussion that occurred in class on March 20, 2013.