UMass and the Changing Healthcare service.

Everywhere we turn the economy is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. People are having trouble paying for higher education, they are having their homes foreclosed on and healthy food is just beyond the reach of many families and other low-income people. In a time when many people are unable to maintain proper health they are also unable to access health care.

According to a study by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) this issue is no myth.

AAFP found that people in 2009 had been filling prescription medicines at a lower rate. Over half the physicians said they were seeing fewer patients since ’08. More than half the physicians also said that they are seeing issues that could be avoided with preventive care, but fewer patients are seeking it.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare is intended to fix the health care situation. But the remedy hasn’t proven itself yet because we haven’t had a chance to fully see Obamacare in action, and we won’t until 2014. In the mean time people’s access to treatment and clinic visits is becoming a larger and larger issue.

Color Lines reported in 2009 that the rate of uninsured people has spiked to 20 percent. Using U.S. census numbers that is over 62 million people who are uninsured in the U.S.. At the same time the percentage of people being insured by Medicade and Medicare has increased dramatically.

The Color Lines article said “As we’ve reported before, the exchanges might deepen racial and gender imbalances in health-care access”. Other groups effected disproportionately are undocumented workers, who won’t have access to federally funded programs because of citizenship restrictions to federal aid.

Rural areas are also being hit especially hard. According to, rural areas are being affected disproportionately because of the seasonal farm work in those areas. Many rural workers aren’t offered insurance because they only work a few months at one job, then a few months at another, as the seasons change.

Not having health insurance isn’t the only way people are being affected by the changing state of healthcare.

The Daily Finance, a website run by AOL, recently ran an article saying that employers are paying more for their staff’s family health insurance. An increase between 2003 and 2010 has created an environment where employers are less likely to give their workers raises because of the increased cost of insurance.

At UMass Amherst students are feeling the ripples of the changing healthcare economy. University Health Services (UHS) is cutting hours, closing their pharmacy, and introducing a co-insurance system. Steffi Porter discusses these changes in an article for the Daily Collegian.

Emily Mortimer, a UMass senior in the Women, Gender and Sexuality program shared her sentiments saying, “It is unfortunate that while UMass is willing to invest millions in improving the physical structure of UMass, via new dorms, new academic buildings, a new football stadium, they care so little about the physical health of their student body”

The University says that they are making hard economic decisions in a time where a belt is continually being tightened around the budget. At the same time UHS has $5 million in deferred maintenance to its main facility building. The director of UHS, Bernette A. Daly, sent a Letter to the Editor of the Daily Collegian, which discusses some of these hard decisions being made. The University says an economic shift is necessary. For students this shift is going to be a costly one. For UHS staff this is costing them jobs.

The Atlantic recently published an article about the effects of changing the focus of healthcare. CareMore is a California company providing healthcare across the Southwestern United States. They treat more than 50,000 Medicare Advantage patients. Their approach to cutting costs is innovative and unique in the current healthcare economy.

CareMore focuses its care on preventative medicine. They offer free transportation to appointments, provide pill boxes that have alarms to remind patients to take their meds, and send health professionals to patient’s houses to check for hazardous living conditions; items such as hazardous throw rugs are identified and replaced.

All this seems like a costly endeavor, but the reality is that these small steps are working. They keep people healthy while preventing costly treatments like surgery, hospital visits and nursing home stays.

The actual amount of savings by CareMore is significant. In their first four years of operation using more common healthcare models, they had a deficit of $11 million. In 2000, after switching to this more innovative model of medicine, CareMore made a $24 million profit.

The changes to UHS will begin Fall of 2012.

This article and video were created in partnership with Micheal Stewart and Tim Jones.


SEO: A Double Edged Sword

SEO is a great tool for journalists. It lets you see what your readers are actually reading and respond to that. It also lets readers choose what they want to read, through surfing the web, as opposed to being told what to read.

In a Blog post by the Nieman Lab they argue that journalists need to start seeing SEO as something to become fluent in and even appreciate. The writer, Nikki Usher, says this reader driven format doesn’t mean that journalists only write exactly what is trending in SEO feeds. But rather, let these guide journalists in finding what is relevant to people and writing stories that talk about what is important about those trends.

If people are searching for Lady Gaga, writing a story about her draws more readers. But as seen in this article by Color Lines, this doesn’t mean we have to write like a tabloid.  Journalists can still write about issues that are important.

For those worried about the judgment of the crowd (just don’t forget you are part of the crowd, with a mind and needs of your own): The New York Times said that they don’t use web metrics to drive their newsroom. They say their judgment is what people come for and the crowd won’t influence them. They do however use SEO to decide which direction to take the New York Times’ blogs.

The other side of this double-edged sword is that SEO is not humane unless we make it so. In this article by Poynter about the Muslim Center near Ground Zero, we see the failures in technology. It can only do what people tell it to do.

We have a situation where to have a story read journalists must say something false, and in some views racist. At first I thought, why don’t we have Google redirect people to the more ethical stories when they type ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ into a search engine?

But I quickly left that idea lying in the dust. Censorship is unethical, and that is exactly what Google would be doing by redirecting people. So what do we do?

I don’t have a definitive answer. I think that SEO is an important tool in giving readers voices in ways they previously couldn’t access. I also think that, like with any tool, we need to ask ourselves as journalists how can I use this as ethically as possible. We need to avoid situations like what happened with the Muslim Center near Ground Zero, before it becomes an issue.

The audience may guide us, but we can also guide them. If from the start journalists had used different terminology to describe the Muslim Center, people would have to search for something else when seeking articles about this particular issue.

All the power doesn’t lie in the keyboards of the audience. Just like any relationship it is a give and take between readers and journalists. Journalists just need to learn how to work with this new relationship.

U.S. Pakistan Relations Breaking

On Saturday November 26th Pakistan said that a NATO air strike killed 25 Pakistan soldiers. There is some debate over whether the U.S. fired first or Pakistan did. But one thing is for sure: Pakistan is upset.

Can we blame them? Wouldn’t U.S. officials be upset if an international military was storing weapons and had bases in the U.S. Then mistakenly killed 25 U.S. soldiers patrolling the border?

The New York Times said Pakistan has ordered the Central Intelligence Agency remove itself from the Shamsi Air Base where it stores drones. They have also closed two routes used by NATO to bring supplies to Afghanistan.  The majority of supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan travels through these two routes.

The same article said that NATO has responded by saying it is going to conduct an investigation into the event and react accordingly. This raises many issues.

Glenn Grenwald raises one on Democracy Now. If Pakistan didn’t fire first then the U.S. made an irreversible mistake. One it might not be able to fix regardless of any effort to repair relations.  If Pakistan did fire first, then they have a major conflict with the U.S., which the U.S. is failing to acknowledge.

To make matters worse, why would NATO investigate the air strike? I understand that this is common policy, but it seems…. well…. problematic. If a person hits some one with their car and kills them, then claims it was a mistake, would we trust the driver to conduct the investigation? No, an unbiased group would be chosen to conduct the investigation.

So why is it different in War? Pakistan is not a member of NATO. NATO killed 25 Pakistan soldiers, under unclear circumstances.  NATO is doing it’s own investigation and Pakistan is enraged. I don’t see how this will end well for Pakistan, Afghanistan, or the U.S.

Using Multimedia to Discuss Imigration

The piece of Multimedia I choose to Blog about is It is a website dedicated to telling the stories of people directly impacted by the North Carolina immigration laws. They use a mix of video, text, and interactive data, to tell the story.

All together there are six sections to the website. Each section has, except the last, has a video with some pertinent text bellow the video.

The first section, or the homepage, is an into to the rest of the website. The text quickly describes why the website exists and gives some statistics. The video gives a quick overview of what the other videos will be. The only critique I had of this section is that at one point in the video someone is speaking in Spanish and there is no translation of what they are saying. Although, some would argue that this type of choice gives monolingual English speaking people a feel for what it is like to be a monolingual Spanish speaking immigrant.

The second section is called “A Father’s Sacrifice”. This portion of the piece follows a father who’s teenage son is in Immigration Enforcement Custody. We learn what the financial and emotional effects are on the father of this child.

In the third section the focus is on a 22 year old mother of three. Her husband is in custody and is facing deportation. We learn a little about how this is effecting her, and their three children. This piece is titled “Phone Calls From Papi”.

We here from the other side of the story in the fourth portion. An Immigration Enforcement Officer is interviewed for the “Why We Do This” piece. We have the opportunity to hear the reason’s why this particular officer believes it is important to detain and deport people.

“Living Between Borders” is the fifth section, and final video. In this one we hear from an undocumented mother who has lived in the U.S. most of her life. She has young child, because of the ways in which the laws work, if she is deported her child would likely stay in the U.S. without her.

The final section is an interactive area for people to see on a national, local and personal level how the laws effect undocumented people and their communities. The section is titled “Causes and Process”. By clicking and maneuvering through different parts of the section we can take visual inventory of the situation at hand.

The first part of this section is a map of the growing immigration population the U.S., we are able to see the growth over the last 20 years. The second is a map of the different laws in different counties in N.C., and how many people have been effected by those laws. Third we see a detailed time line of what detention and deportation entails for a person detained by Immigration Enforcement.

One of the things that struck me as important was that the website is available in English or Spanish. A necessary factor in making it accessible to the people most directly effected by immigration policy.

I only had two minor problems with the work. The text in the videos was a problem a few times. Their is text laced throughout the videos. Most of it might have benefited from being narrated as opposed to written. At one point in “Living Between Borders” we are given text to read while audio is going. It is hard to read and listen, while actually absorbing the content.

The second problem I had was the music in the background. It was clearly meant to set a tone. In the videos of people who are undocumented or have family who is undocumented the music is sad, meant to evoke sympathy. In the video if the Immigration Officer the music is very different, clearly trying to evoke a different emotion.

In my opinion, let the stories tell themselves. The people’s situations and descriptions of their lives are enough to evoke emotion. The music isn’t necessary.

Over all I thought the piece worked well. The mix of different types of media kept me engaged. The B-roll and stills throughout the videos where all relevant to the audio. Most of all the piece had multiple views on the subject, so that the reader/viewer can decide themselves where they stand on the N.C. Immigration laws issue.

Interviews with UMass students about classes being started three days after the storm.


Occupy Wall St. Interviews With Students.



An Analysis of Peak Oil Websites

For class I have to analyze if 5 different websites are trustworthy sources of information about Peak-Oil theory.

The first site was Counter Currents. Which was a page put together by activists. This group clearly has an alterer motive. Not that having an agenda always makes you untrustworthy, this group did seem to be untrustworthy. The article, although having a wealth of information, didn’t link or cite any of it. So we have no idea if what they say is true or not. The page also didn’t appear to be written for the web and seemed to read like a page from a book.

The Oil Drum was the next website on the list. The website appeared to be a place for discussion about oil to take place. The writers seemed to be from a diverse oil related background. People in the field, people who studied natural resources in school, etc. In short the debate is has a well rounded scope of participants. The website also linked all of its facts and charts to what appeared to be trustworthy sites. Government sites, research organizations, schools. This was the only website I thought fit all of the criteria for being a trusted source of information.

I didn’t find any reason to trust Don’t Tread On Me. Least important, it’s website was hard to read with the overwhelming amount of advertisements on it. More important, they have a very unclear agenda. I was unable to figure out who Don’t Tread On Me is. I can join their academy for free, or give them my money. I know they want revolution, but can’t figure out what kind or how they plan on going about starting one. I mostly find over used quotes and generic theory on the website, no clue as to what they actually want.

Lastly, some of Don’t Tread On Me’s sources are linked to government websites. This is usually good but the websites are so jumbled with jargon that I can’t understand them without a lot of extra time to do research. The other links, which lead to more easily understood websites, are blogs with no sources linked on them. So they link to sources that are incomprehensible to most people or are not trustworthy

Huffington Post, the fourth website was an article by Raymond J Learsy. This site seemed like it could be trusted at face value, but with some research I found it hard to trust. First it was under Political News but it seemed more like an ED/OP piece so I decided to learn more about the writer.

Learsy was in the oil market, and believes that the market is corrupt. The writer has made a portion of his living by trading raw materials, I was unable to ascertain which raw materials. He is also an investor, but I couldn’t figure out what he invests in. So the author may, or may not, have investments in, and made part of his wealth from, oil. If he has then he has a definite agenda when discussing Peak Oil. If he hasn’t then his discussion may not be biased with his personal investments. But, in the end I have no idea so I am unable to trust what he says.

The last website is the Information Clearing House. This site also proved to be untrustworthy. Mostly because the person who runs and writes the website, is just that, one person. This person states that they are only trying to disperse information, not tell the truth. The truth is ours to decide while learning the facts. This is an interesting idea. I like it. But it also doesn’t mean that I can trust a single person that I have no connection too to tell me the truth. Unlike on the Oil Drum site, which appears to only want to disperse information also, there is no one to keep this person in check. No one to tell this person that he is being unreasonable, or to argue if she has alternative facts. Although this website links it facts to other sites, it needs more minds behind the words if it can be trusted.