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Kimberly Joyce

Journalism Student at Ithaca College

Blogs May Rival the Mainstream Media

Over a decade ago, two bloggers proved that investigative journalism isn’t reserved for the mainstream media. In 2004, Scott Johnson and Charles Johnson became whistle-blowers, questioning a “60 Minutes” report containing what seemed to be false documents about President George W. Bush’s Air National Service. In a Washington Post article following the discovery, one blogger called the scandal, “the blog’s breakthrough moment.” In the thirteen years since the scandal, blogs have only become more prevalent in today’s society and have found a spot in journalism that continues to grow.

While blogs have their notable and obvious downfalls such as a lack of editors to fact-check or even filter content, the internet age has allowed blogs to rise in credibility as well as popularity. Advertisement and donations from subscribers has allowed blogs the capital to bring in professionally trained journalists, giving sites credibility, but also reporters with practical and ethical skill sets. In the case of “The Intercept”, an independent news source, award-winning blogger Glenn Greenwald was brought on by billionaire Pierre Omidyar to help found the site. This multi-million dollar investment shows the quick evolution of the blog from a single reporter in their own home, to a driving force, focused on ground-breaking journalism.

If there is anything blogs have always had on their side, it is speed. The Washington Post article highlights that the first post questioning the “60 Minutes” report appeared less than four hours after the segment aired. Even in modern times, when the online newspaper is eclipsing it’s print counterpart, there are only so many reporters in the newsroom. This ties in with the passion with which bloggers approach their topic. In a time when the number of reports in a newsroom is being cut, those remaining are stretched thinner between multiple beats. The internet is filled with what seems to be an endless supply of blogs, meaning there is someone out there who cares about eh topic willing to cover it.

As blogs continue to grow in size and add professional journalists to their ranks, it won’t be surprising to see more cases in which bloggers become whistle-blowers not only for the government, but also for their mainstream competition.

Local Clinic Launches Crowdfunding Campaign

With the end of winter and flu season, people often forget that health care is something that is important year round. The Ithaca Health Alliance launched their Spring for Health Campaign on April 1 to allow the community to donate funds to help support programs run by the Alliance.  Continue reading “Local Clinic Launches Crowdfunding Campaign”

Driver Suspensions Cause Problems for Ithaca School District

Many schools in the district have been affected by the recent driver suspensions.
Many schools in the district have been affected by the recent driver suspensions. Photo by Kim Joyce

In early March of this year, the Ithaca City School District was faced with a driver shortage. Four of their usual drivers were sidelined for various violations of the district’s safety policy. This means four of the 77 daily routes are now forced to be doubled or run by standby drivers.

Safety Policies

“For us, first and foremost, is the safety of our students,” said bus driver Mark Sammo in an Ithaca City School District Board of Education meeting.

The school district already takes many precautions to ensure the safety of their students.

Children are given assigned seating on their bus. “[Assigned seats] create a more stable and secure environment for children on the bus,” according to the ICSD transportation policy.

Also, all buses are equipped with seat belts, and though it is not mandatory in the state of New York that students use these seat belts, a district policy put in place in 2012 dictates that students must wear a seat belt while on the buses.

Recent suspensions have caused problems for the Ithaca City School District.
Recent suspensions have caused problems for the Ithaca City School District. Photo by: Kim Joyce

There is a tax incentive in New York State that rewards districts for requiring students to wear seat belts while riding a bus. A law passed in 1987 required all buses built for use in New York to have seat belts. This did not required districts to adopt laws dictating that students wear them, and according to a study done in 2010, only 35 of the states 690 school districts required their students to wear a seat belt while riding the bus.

However these safety precautions did not prevent the incidents that caused these drivers to be suspended.

In one account of an incident that left former Moravia school district teacher and current ICSD bus driver Barth Mapes suspended for six weeks, Mapes finished his route and arrived at the next school to pick-up more children. He exited the bus to use the restroom and returned to find a child sleeping on the bus. In his account on ithaca.com, Mapes called the bus garage to inform them that the child was still on the bus, and returned him to his father before the child woke up.

Mapes was not punished until six months later when he was suspended for six weeks without pay.

Dealing with the Shortages

In order to make up for the lack of bus drivers, the normal amount of standby drivers could not cover all the positions left empty. In their accounts on ithaca.com, both Mapes and Sammo stated that to fill in for the suspended drivers, personnel from other parts of the department, including mechanics and office staff, were brought in to drive buses. Neither driver was able to be reached for further comment.

District policy does not require drivers to be trained fully until the end of their first year of service with the district, but it does require all drivers to obtain a commercial license with special endorsements before children can be transported.

The largest issue brought up by these simultaneous suspensions  is whether it is safer to suspend drivers for their mistakes and leave the department short staffed temporarily, or to let these infractions slide.

“[There are] lots of sensitive areas and confidential issues,” said transportation manager James Ellis in an email.

There hasn’t been any response as to whether or not these incidents and their reaction will cause any change in disciplinary policy.

Safety a Concern in Renewed Boathouse License

Forty people pack the Common Council chambers, waiting for the City Administration meeting to begin. Parents and children pull extra chairs from stacks and make their own rows when the pre-arranged seating fills. Members and supporters of the Cascadilla Boat Club have come to voice their opinion on the club’s licensing agreement, now under scrutiny after nearly 40 years.

Continue reading “Safety a Concern in Renewed Boathouse License”

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