The Future of Journalism: An Open Letter to CNN

Dear CNN,

I’m writing to share my concerns about the anti-journalism rhetoric that Trump and his Republican peers have been spreading in recent months. As a journalism student, I’ve been gritting my teeth at the very sight of Trump, who I refuse to call my president, writing every news media outlet off as “fake news” and an “enemy of the American people” and turning journalists away every chance they get at asking him questions about whether or not the Russians helped him cheat his way to the White House; the police arresting West Virginia reporter Dan Heyman for “willful disruption of state government processes” after asking Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about the GOP healthcare bill;  and more recently, then Republican candidate for Congress Greg Gianforte body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for inquiring about the aforementioned bill the night before Montana’s congressional election.

Journalists work very hard to write and report the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the events they have witnessed to the public, and make sure that everything they report is accurate and fair. “Fake news” is considered “fabrication” in the eyes of every news organization in the country, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, who had to punish their fair share of fabricators and plagiarists (Jayson Blair played both roles during his tenure at the former company). Trump, on the other hand, considers “fake news” to be your reports about alleged communications between him and our communist neighbor overseas during his campaign, and he’s gone to great lengths to criminalize every reporter for their attempts at getting to the bottom of the greatest political scandal since Watergate, therefore unraveling the very tenet of our democracy as we know it.

Freedom of speech and the press is not only a constitutional right, but also a basic, inalienable, universal human right. It’s already a travesty that journalists in countries that limit or restrict the press are facing prison time or even death for reporting the atrocities of their governments to the public. It’s even more tragic that the very government that guaranteed our rights to free speech, expression, and press over 240 years ago is threatening to silence us for reporting his fraudulent practices inside the Oval Office and beyond simply because they believe that everything you’re reporting is a lie when, in reality, you’re reporting the truth.

I always told my family that I would never travel to a communist country since such countries are notorious for restricting freedom of speech and the press. Now I fear that the United States is turning into one in light of these attacks against journalists. It breaks my heart to hear that once I graduate from college and enter the news media industry, instead of receiving high praise from people for reporting on issues that matter most to them and myself, I will be met with bodily injury and/or even death by fear-mongering politicians and their supporters.

I commend your courage for continuing to hold Trump accountable for his gross misconduct during his six months in office. Your bravery in the face of political adversity gives me hope that someday I’ll be able to perform my job without the risk of cruel and unusual punishment from any government official. I can’t imagine myself living in a country where journalism is no longer a job opportunity for people who want to enter that field, so thank you for all you’re doing to keep that dream and freedom alive. I didn’t want to study journalism before I set foot in college, but now I don’t want to change that path for anything or anyone, especially the man who doesn’t deserve to stay in the White House. I refuse to let Trump make me feel as if everything I’m working for is at risk.
Sincerely,

Cristina Alexander

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Unicorn Frappuccino: The Sugar-Fueled Rollercoaster Ride

Unicorn Frappuccino: The Sugar-Fueled Rollercoaster Ride

Starbuck’s latest frozen beverage, the Unicorn Frappuccino, hit stores nationwide Wednesday, and it’s become an Internet sensation. When I saw a picture of the pink and blue Frappe, which bears some resemblance to the cotton candy-flavored Trix yogurt we all enjoyed as kids, I was immediately transported back to my childhood days of carrying iridescent Lisa Frank folders to school and watching that one episode of Catscratch where Gordon lies to unicorn-obsessed Kimberly, whom he addresses as “Human Kimberly” because he’s a cat, about a unicorn roaming around the woods, so he gets his feline brothers Mr. Blik and Waffle to wear a unicorn costume and head for the woods in order to make Kimberly affirm her pre-pubescent belief that unicorns do indeed exist. Actually,  the only thing from that episode (“Unicorn Club” for my fellow animation nerds) that came to my mind was the “Fancy Pants Unicorn” song, which is exactly what I sang the moment I bought the Unicorn Frappe the next day.

The Unicorn Frappe tastes like cotton candy with a hint of mango–a perfect combination for a Miami-bred girl who’s favorite fruit juice is mango. My high school classmates reported some sourness in their Unicorn Frappes, but I didn’t catch a Sour Patch Kid swimming around in mine.

 

unicorn frappe
The unicorn Frappuccino bears some resemblance to the cotton candy-flavored Trix yogurt we all enjoyed as kids. Photo taken Thursday, April 20, 2017.

I thought my usual Strawberries and Creme Frappe was heavenly, but the Unicorn Frappe really sent me to a Heaven where angels rode unicorns through rainbows and glittery, cotton candy clouds. The next morning, it sent me to Hell. I woke up with a burning sensation in my lower chest that came and went all day, nearly sending me into an anxiety spiral again. During my mani-pedi session, I discovered that my heartburn (or gastritis) was due to the sugar rush the Unicorn Frappe gave me. The drink packed a whopping 76 grams of sugar, which is equivalent to three Snickers bars and two cans of Coca-Cola. I don’t consume any of those products–especially Coca-Cola–yet I started to regret allowing myself to be lured into that sugar trap of a Frappuccino with a cutesy name. In retrospect, the maple syrup I ate with my waffles that morning contains 32 grams of sugar.

The Unicorn Frappe is available at local Starbucks until Sunday, while supplies last. And thank God, because I never wanna drink that much sugar ever again, no matter how popular it is. Katy Perry was wise to spit it out on her first sip. As for the baristas who were forced to drizzle blue dyes over the Frappes non-stop, I feel your frustration.

Christmas Gratitude

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2016 was a turbulent year for us all. As we reel in from the insanity of watching the unreal election of a politically inexperienced billionaire and the intermittent rash of terrorist attacks here in the U.S. and abroad, we need to pause and express gratitude for all that we have and pray for those less fortunate.

Here’s a list of things I’m most grateful for:

1. A loving family. They may drive me crazy sometimes, but I love them just as much as they love me.

2. A good education. College may be mentally and emotionally challenging for some people, especially at the university level, but it’ll all be worth it once graduation comes.

3. A supportive boyfriend. Throughout my most difficult time adjusting to a four-year university, Kristoff has always been there for me to vent out my worries and to share my accomplishments. He makes me the happiest girl in the world!

4. Good friends. Need I say more?

 

All these and more make me feel like my life has a purpose, so from 2017 on, I’m gonna put my past behind me, leave my future in God’s hands, and live every precious moment with a positive and open mind.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Big Oscar Win and Other Moments from the 88th Academy Awards

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Big Oscar Win and Other Moments from the 88th Academy Awards

Every year towards the end of winter and the beginning of spring, I like to cuddle up on my couch and watch the flurry of glitz and glamour at the Academy Awards. Last night was no exception, especially with this list of my favorite headline-grabbing moments.

1. Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Oscar win

Leo may have won awards at other ceremonies such as the Teen Choice Awards and People’s Choice Awards, but when it comes to the Oscars, every girl and their mother has been waiting for this gorgeous actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for nearly 20 years since Titanic catapulted him to global stardom. This year, after earning six Oscar nominations, he finally earned the Best Actor award for his leading role of a 1820s frontiersman in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s epic environmental period picture The Revenant. All the women, both in the film industry–Kate Winslet shed tears of joy for her dearest friend–and the common world, cheered for his first Oscar victory. DiCaprio accepted his long sought-after award not in vanity but in gratitude as he thanked his wonderful parents for allowing him to chase his acting dream, his mentors, and the production crew for The Revenant in his speech. He also addressed the need for us to combat climate change, as his recent film touched on the issue of the human race’s relationship with the natural environment, ending his speech with, “Let us not take this planet for granted.”

2. Chris Rock taking on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy

For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hasn’t nominated a single African-American actor, director, or producer for an award in any category, yet they have chosen stand-up comedian and actor Chris Rock to host this year’s Oscars ceremony. And boy, they made the right choice. In his opening monologue, Rock cleverly joked that the Academy Awards is “otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” immediately jumping into the subject of racism in Hollywood–otherwise known as #OscarsSoWhite. He humorously points out that Hollywood is racist not to the level of the police force but rather to the extent in which college sororities are selective about their potential pledges. Some of Rock’s fellow peers in the audience either gasped at his jokes or sat in their leather seats in shocked silence. Rock also pointed out that since it’s the 88th annual Academy Awards, “this whole ‘no black nominees’ thing happened at least 71 other times” since its debut in 1929, but African-Americans didn’t make a big deal over it in decades past due to other racial issues, such as lynchings, rapes, and the Civil Rights Movement to even pay any attention to who was nominated for Best Cinematography or Best Foreign Short Picture. He made some references to recent events in Ferguson, but overall Rock did an excellent job as host.

 

3. Lady Gaga’s performance of “Till It Happens to You”

Although Lady Gaga’s song about sexual assault from CNN Films’s The Hunting Ground lost the Best Original Song bid to Sam Smith’s 007 theme “Writing’s on the Wall”, she was still able to belt out a solid, emotional performance of the anthem with introduction from Vice President Joe Biden, who urged viewers to combat campus sexual assault (the subject of the film from which the Oscar-nominated song was featured) and directed them to the website ItsOnUs.org for more information. Towards the end of the song, a group of campus rape survivors–both young men and women–who had such encouraging words and phrases as “SURVIVOR,” “YOU ARE LOVE,” and “NOT YOUR FAULT” written on their forearms in black Sharpie ink, stepped to the front of the stage and raised their arms in solidarity. Everyone gave Lady Gaga, who is a survivor of campus sexual assault as she suffered it at the age of 19, a riveting standing ovation. (Everyone except my brother, who has shunned Gaga for disrespecting the Catholic religion in her 2010 music video for the single “Alejandro.” GET. OVER. IT.)

 

4. Mad Max: Fury Road winning six production-related Oscars

This one pissed my Mom off. She was expecting the live-action Cinderella remake to win Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Production Design for the characters’ frilly dresses and sophisticated suits, regal couture and Victorian-esque setting, respectively. No, those three categories went to Mad Max: Fury Road for its edgy post-apocalyptic designs for the characters and the set. Mad Max: Fury Road  won three other Oscars for technical categories my mom could care less about and should’ve been awarded to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Film Editing.

 

5. Spotlight robbing Best Picture from The Revenant

In the past few years, the Best Picture Oscar seems to be awarded to films who have touched on a vital, relevant social issue. Everybody was expecting The Revenant to win this category because not only did the film give a message on the ethical ramifications of revenge, it also gave the viewers a glimpse of how majestic the native environment was in the early 1800s compared to today, where we are abusing natural resources and evicting modern Native Americans from their homes for the sake of corporate industry. Spotlight, on the other hand, spoke about the efforts of the Boston Globe‘s investigative journalists to expose a rash of sexual abuse cases by Roman Catholic preists in the archdiocese of Boston, which aroused major controversy in the Catholic Church in the early 2000s. Environmentalism is just as relevant as sexual abuse in the world’s most religious institution, yet the Best Picture award went to Spotlight.  What irony.

Letter to Kanye West

Dear Mr. West,

I appreciate your musical genius just as much as I appreciate Mozart’s. I’ve followed your career since I was 10 years old, and I’ve seen how exponentially your music has evolved. But when word circulated on the Internet that you spewed out a sexually charged lyric against Taylor Swift in your new song “Famous” at New York Fashion Week today, the first thought that came to mind was…”ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR FRICKIN’ MIND?!”

The first time you dissed Swift was at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, when you interrupted her speech by calling her out for winning Best Female Video for her single “You Belong With Me” over Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” We eventually forgot about it, and saw you and Swift slowly become friends. Now that you dissed her by lyrically suggesting she owed you a sexual favor–and at a fashion venue, no less–I don’t know of we’re ever gonna get past your degrading performance, especially me (I did not watch your show on Tidal, I read about it). You have a gorgeous wife and two impressionable children, the oldest of whom attended your show tonight. Is your relapsed disrespect towards one of the most successful young women of today’s music industry an example you want to set for your youngest son? Do you want your daughter to disown you as her father once she discovers your misogynistic attitude a decade from now? More importantly, do you want to see Kim walk out of your life forever (unless you apologize to her about your behavior, if she even has the mind to ask for an apology at all)? And, perhaps more imperatively, do you want to lose the respect and friendship of other female pop singers you have collaborated with over the years?

I’ll leave you with these thoughts to think about tonight. Whether or not I’ll listen to your new album The Life of Pablo–or at least listen its singles on the radio or YouTube–is the most difficult decision for me to make as a music fan, even as I’m writing this.

Taylor Swift invested a lot of effort into her music to get to where she is today, so don’t give yourself any credit for catapulting her career sky high.

Regards,
Cristina Alexander

Different Strokes

At the time I posted my rant about the unrealistic demands of my online Ethics class–not to mention the fact that the course was written by someone other than my professor–my mother was hospitalized because she suffered a stroke while working in the pharmacy. The stroke affected the left hemisphere of her brain, which controls speech, language and cognitive thinking. It wasn’t bad to the point where my mother lost her speech entirely, no. Rather, the stroke gave her a mild case of speech aphasia, which causes difficulty in speaking, reading, writing and listening but doesn’t affect intelligence in any way, not even memory (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association).

The first night in the hospital bed, my mom had trouble coming up with words to say, especially with the stroke team asking her 20+ questions about her personal information (age, date of birth, etc.) and the events that led up to her stroke to begin with. The next four days her speech improved, but she was confusing gender pronouns and names, calling me a “he” and my brother a “she,” and sometimes calling me by my brother’s name. I got a little impatient with my mother for giving me a male pronoun, but my brother told me that I shouldn’t act that way towards someone who recently suffered a stroke–especially when the stroke patient is the same person who brought us into the world.

Yesterday, my mother returned home. However, there is still room for improvement in terms of her speech.

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As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m looking back on everything that had transpired in 2015. The other day as my bus was running late to take me to my Journalism class, I kept saying that I wanted this year to be over already. It was basically one episode of misfortune after another–my stepdad’s chainsaw injury to his arm on Valentine’s Day; my grandfather’s death after a fall at his assisted-living facility that rendered him comatose two days after Mother’s Day; my brother’s car accident just 30 days before Halloween; and now, my mother’s migraine-induced stroke a week before Thanksgiving. While I am thankful that most of my family is still alive, all these unfortunate events, especially my mother’s stroke, have affected me to the point where I am contemplating on taking a measure that may cause some people to raise their eyebrows: taking a break from school after earning my Associate of Arts degree.

Although a good education is essential, I hate to see that the mantra of the American education system is “Go to college because you’re SUPPOSED to, NOT because you want to learn the tools of trade you wish to get into.” I heard that I don’t necessarily need a degree of any sort to get into the writing field as long as I have the skills to write well–and I have been honing my writing skills since middle school, if not earlier. Other than that, I am very upset with my online Ethics class requires me to write three essays in one month, and with Voc Rehab for making me major in Mass Communications in lieu of English or Creative Writing. I would choose one of the two as a Minor, but still. And a degree is not exactly worth anything in this day and age, so why even bother?