Obama to Promote Peace Among Arab Leaders

By Megan Wanner

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

President Barack Obama plans to promote peace among Palestinian, Israeli and Egyptian leaders when each visits Washington within the month.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting today, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is scheduled to visit May 26 and Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas May 28.  Obama plans to urge each leader to take initiatives towards peace by offering ways in which the United States can partner with these countries to help.

Palestine and Israel part of a whole

This approach to the Middle East tensions is different from the Bush administration as Obama is recognizing the Palestinian and Israeli conflict as one that affects the Middle East as whole, not one that stands on its own. 

“Obama has a different policy from what Bush previously had,” said Elon University History professor Rodney Clare.  “Bush separated Palestinian and Israeli problems from the rest of the Middle East issues but Obama is linking the Palestinian/Israeli issue to peace as a whole for the Middle East.  He sees a need to address their issues with regard to Middle Eastern peace as a whole becoming a reality.  He’s also asking for a greater compromise on the Israeli part.”

Hands-on rather than hands-off

Obama’s approach is also more hands-on then the Bush administration as he is not only willing to engage in peace initiatives in an effort to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world, but he is making these initiatives a priority. 

“I believe that now is a good time because President Obama appears very committed to the ‘peace process,’” said Elon University Political Science professor Safia Swimelar.  You can tell this in part from his entire world view which sees that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is intimately connected with major other global security issues such as Iraq, Iran, Afghani-Pakastani, etc.  That in order to solve wider problems in the world, this problem should be solved.  They are connected.  Given Obama’s commitment to diplomacy and a more even hand on this issue, I am hopeful that there is an opportunity now.  He has clearly made it a priority, and an early one, which is quite different to the Bush administration which did not see this issue as much of a priority, and despite the fact that a more moderate/liberal Israeli government was partially in power then, we didn’t get anywhere.”

Two-state approach

The two-state approach Obama is proposing is not one with which Israel is compliant though many see it as having potential for effectiveness.

“Obama’s two state solution seems promising,” said Elon University Political Science professor Rudy Zarzar.  “However, this all depends on how willing is Obama is in pushing his peace offer.  However, there are indications that Obama is serious about his interest in ending this impasse which is entering its sixtieth year. Some of these indications are: he already expressed interest and support for the two state solution; he has declared before the world that solving this problem is a matter of national interest for the US; he already has former Senator George Mitchell sent to the Middle East to serve as a mediator between the two sides and with the Arab States; and finally he already asked some key figures in the conflict to come to the US for discussions.”

Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions

An obstacle is the unwillingness of the Israeli government to comply with peace initiatives between Palestine and Israel as the conflict that has raged for years and is not a priority to them.  Israel would rather discuss Iran’s budding nuclear ambitions as they see this as a more pressing issue.

“Basically, Israel’s more concerned about Iran’s nuclear power right now than the Palestinian state so that’s a problem because Palestinians want their own government,” said sophomore International Studies major Amanda Olmstead.  “I think that Obama and his administration will hopefully work out some of the issues there.  There is just so much hatred right now because the U.S. gives the most foreign aid to Israel which shows this historic dislike for Arabs and Islam.  I think the Obama administration is really going to have to work on that because right now the Arabs don’t trust America so why are they going to concede to us if they don’t trust us.”

Overall, Obama’s peace initiative will include many discussions as well as compromises on the parts of everyone involved.

 “Bringing in a summit of leaders will hopefully calm down tensions,” said Freshman Communications major Anne Lukens.  “I think in order to promote peace it is necessary to have open discussions.”

Check out what sophomore International Studies major Amanda Olmstead had to say:


Update on the Future of Journalism

new media

Image courtesy of Google Images

The heart of the matter is that no one can really know what the future of journalism is just as people 20 years ago could not have predicted this would be the future of journalism from then.  The best anyone can do is look around them and predict patterns based on what they see.

Judging from everything around us, technology is taking over the world of journalism.  The Internet is a prominent news medium, delivering news quickly and accurately complete with video and pictures.  No waiting around for the 5 p.m. news; no waiting around for the morning paper.  Instead, we are a few clicks away from constant news updates all the time as often as we want.

 As Brian Solis of TechCrunch wrote in his article, “Can the Statusphere Save Journalism?,” “We’re shifting into a rapid-fire culture that moves at Twitter time.  Attention is a precious commodity and requires a personalized engagement strategy in order to consistently vie for it.  The laws of attraction and relationship management are driven by the ability to create compelling content and transparently expose it to the people whom you believe benefit the most from it.”

The key to catching the attention of an audience is creativity.  Not only do journalists need to report the news, but they need to find new ways of doing it.  They need to provide visual ins for their audiences, something besides just words on a page and a still picture or two.  Something like video, graphics, slideshows, anything to pull the reader into the story and make them understand why it is important and why it is being reported.

Jeff Jarvis in “A Scenario for News” asserts that, “Specialization will take over much of journalism.  We’ll no longer all be doing the same things – commodifying news – but will stand out and contribute uniquely by covering a niche deeply.  Local newspapers, I believe, must specialize in being local and serving local communities.”  This is completely true.  If all of journalism is competing for the same things, only a select few will win the readership needed.

When television came around, it rivaled radio for a place in the world of media.  Radio today is much different than it was back then, but it has adapted to television, finding its own place and its own uniqueness that makes it a worthwhile media outlet. 

Today, the same is true for the Internet.  The Internet is revolutionizing the world of journalism with immediacy and print news just cannot keep up.  But that does not mean that print news will become extinct.  The trick is for newspapers to find their niche in the media world, for print journalists to learn how to be unique from Internet journalists, to make a hard copy paper worth printing and reading.  Newspapers are determined not to lose their place so they will adapt to become a unique news source that does not need to rival the Internet, but can be distinguished from it instead.

There are still people who like to be told what the news is and be done.  Not everyone likes the news to be a discussion.  They like the finality of print, the simplicity of it.  Many say that is just an older generation, but if they really look around it’s a younger generation too.  Maybe not as many in the younger generation, but they’re there.  There’s just something about a tangible paper, newsprint with pictures that is classic, something people may think they want to give up, but once it’s gone they’ll want it back.

The future of journalism lies in the hands of those willing to go the extra mile and step outside their comfort zone into the realm of new technology and a new era of media.  As Solis wrote, “Journalists and reporters benefit from reminding the world that they’re real people who are learning that genuinely connecting and participating online, outside of traditional walled gardens, allows the rest of the world to appreciate who they are and what they stand for.”

Journalism is evolving in ways that could have never been predicted.  Where will the future of journalism go?  No one can be entirely positive about that.  But what they can be positive about is that media and journalism is going to continue to evolve as it strives to bring audiences more immediate, updated, accurate, detailed news.

As Jarvis puts it, “The essential functions of journalism – reporting, watching, sharing, answering, explaining – and its verities – factualness, completeness, fairness, timeliness, relevance – are eternal, but the means of performing them are multiplying magnificently.”

Math Tools for Journalists Part 3

By Megan Wanner

Many journalists do not realize it, but time, rate and distance problems are just as relevant now as they were during middle school math class.  These numbers can give stories a whole new dimension of accuracy that readers appreciate when trying to fully grasp a situation such as a car accident where the driver of one car thought he had time to cross in front of another car.

It is important not to only rely on the numbers given to you as a reporter, but to calculate your own in order to provide greater accuracy for your audience.  This may take more time, but it’s more important to be accurate than timely.

The basic formula for time, rate and distance is the same; the equation is just reworked to obtain each number.  One of the most important things to remember with these problems is to keep the units of measurement the same and convert when necessary.


Distance = rate x time

Rate = distance / time

Time = distance / rate

Speed, velocity, acceleration and momentum are also important measurements to know how to calculate.  Speed measures how fast something is going.  Velocity measures how fast something is going and in what direction it is traveling.  Typically, reporters only need to calculate speed.

 While a speedometer will give you “instantaneous speed,” reporters find more usage in average speed, calculated by dividing the traveled distance by the time it took to travel the distance.  As average speed is another word for rate, it can be plugged into the rate equation.

Average speed = distance / time

Acceleration is the starting velocity subtracted from the ending velocity then divided by time.

Acceleration = (ending velocity – starting velocity) / time

The acceleration due to the force of gravity is 9.8 meters per second per second.  This acceleration is the same for all falling objects barring the force of friction.  When working with falling objects, you typically only know the distance it fell.  Determining the speed at which an object was traveling when it hit the ground requires a simple manipulation of the acceleration equation.

equation 1



All moving objects have momentum, the force needed to stop an object from moving.

Momentum = mass x velocity

As a journalist, there are two good ways to explain measurements to your reader.  The first is by analogy, the second with simple numbers.

Analogies are a good way to give your readers a visual of how big something is.  For example, if a large tree takes down a power line, it is much easier to describe to readers how large the tree is by comparing it to a building its size.

Simple numbers are used when exact accuracy is needed in a story.  For this it is important to be familiar with area, perimeter, square feet, square yards, circumference and radius to write stories about construction, real estate, etc.

Perimeter is simply the measurement around an object determined by adding the lengths of all the sides together.

Area is the measurement of the region inside an object.

Area of square and rectangle = length x width

Area of triangle = ½base x height

The radius of a circle is the distance from the middle of the circle to any edge of the circle.  You need to know the radius in order to calculate the circumference or distance around the circle. 

equation 2



Volume details can add important context and accuracy to articles.  The basic formula for volume is length multiplied by width multiplied by height. 

Although the metric system is disliked in America, it is actually useful and used for an assortment of measurements.  As it is based on multiples of 10, it is actually easier to use and convert than the English standard version we are used to as it is only a matter of multiplying or dividing by multiples of 10.

Basic Definitions:

Meter—basic unit for length

Gram—basic unit for mass

Newton—basic unit for force

Liter—basic unit for volume

Celcius—basic unit for temperature


micro (1 millionth) 0.000001

milli (1 thousandth) 0.001

centi (1 hundredth) 0.01

deci (1 tenth) 0.1

no prefix 1.0

deka 10

hector 100

kilo 1,000

mega 1,000,000

giga 1,000,000,000

tera 1,000,000,000,000

Practice Problems:

A car is traveling at a constant speed of 70 miles per hour to its destination 200 miles away.  How long will it take the car to get there?

Time = distance / rate

Time = 200 / 70

Time = 2 hours and 51 minutes

The local park is building a rectangular swimming pool for its community.  The pool is 30 feet by 20 feet.  In order to stake out the area for the pool, the committee must know how much area the pool is going to take up.

Area = length x width

Area = 30 x 20

Area = 600 feet2

In order to build a sidewalk around the pool, the committee must know what the perimeter of the pool will be.

Perimeter = 2lengh + 2width

Perimeter = 2(30) + 2(20)

Perimeter = 100 feet

A box of bananas is 3 feet long, 2 feet wide and a foot deep.  What is the volume of the box?

Volume = length x width x height

Volume = 3 x 2 x 1

Volume = 6 feet3

A sidewalk is measured to be 40 meters long.  How many centimeters is this?

40 meters x 100 = 4,000 centimeters

Math Tools For Journalists Part 2

By Megan Wanner

As reporters, we are exposed to many polls and surveys taken as a way to gage what the population is thinking about any number of issues or topics that arise.  It is the reporter’s job to assess the validity and accuracy of these polls and surveys in order to articulate that to their readers.

Polls “are an estimate of public opinion on a single topic or question.”  Random selection is an important factor in taking polls as this means everyone in the population being studied has a chance at being selected.  As researchers cannot survey a whole population, random selection helps their sample group to be as representative of the population as possible.

Margin of error is the “degree of accuracy of the research based on standard norms.”  A confidence level indicates how confident researchers are in their results or “the probability of obtaining a given result by chance.”.  As the margin of error increases, the confidence level increases.  Reporters should be sure to include both margins of error and confidence levels in stories in order to give readers the opportunity to review the results themselves.

One of the most widely known surveys in America is the U.S. Census.  The results obtained during the Census are used to generate congressional districts proportional to the population.

Trey surveyed 50 people about their reactions to President Obama’s first 100 days.  Out of the people polled, 87 percent replied favorably towards Obama.  The margin of error for a survey of 50 people at the 95 percent confidence level is 13.9 percent.  What is the range of favorable opinion towards Obama’s first 100 days?

(87 % + 13.9 % = 100.9%) (87% – 13.9% = 73.1%)

Between 73.1 percent and 100.9 percent.

Reporting a business beat typically includes the ability to not only report numbers, but calculate them as well in order to report on financial statements, assets, equity, gross margin, profit, liabilities and other financials. 

Profit and loss statements are different for every business, but essentially calculate the profit by subtracting expenses from income.  Expenses include “cost of goods sold” referring to “direct expenses a business incurs in making or buying its products” and “overhead” referring to “expenses not directly related to the product being made, including salaries of employees, rent, utilities, insurance, etc.”  “Gross margin” is the difference between the “cost of goods sold” and the selling price.

When comparing companies, it is useful to calculate each of their EBITDA “because it shows how much cash a company is earning without regard to items unrelated to current business.  EBITDA stands for “earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.”

Analysts and business owners use ratios on a regular basis to assess financial situations of companies.  Among these ratios are current ratios, quick ratios, debt-to-asset ratios, debt-to-equity ratios, return on assets, return on equity and price-earnings ratios.

Todd owns a muffin shop where he pays $1.35 for each muffin and sells them for $1.75 each.  What is his gross margin?

Gross margin = Selling price – cost of goods sold

$.40 = $1.75 – $1.35

If Todd sells 150 muffins per day, what is his gross profit per day?

Gross margin x Number of items sold = Gross profit

$.40 x 150 = $60

In order to rent his shop, Todd pays $100 per month, overhead expense.  What is his net profit for a month?

Gross margin – Overhead = Net profit

($60 x 30 days) – $100 = $1700

Companies sell stocks and bonds in order to raise money.  People buy stocks as investments and become a small part owner of the company.  A bond is “a loan from an investor to the government or other organization selling the bond.”

Market indexes are used to track prices of groups of stocks allowing investment analysts to measure overall market conditions.  Two of the most popular indexes are the Dow Jones Industrial Average, “the total value of one share each of 30 select stocks divided by a figure called the divisor, and National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ), “an automated quotation system that reports on trading of domestic stocks and bonds not listed on the regular stock markets.”

Ted paid $1,500 for a $1,800 bond with an 8 percent interest rate.  What is his current yield?

(Interest rate x Face Value) / Price = Current Yield

(8% x $1,800) / $1,500 = 9.6 %

Property taxes are a large source of income that local governments, school districts and other community organizations use to pay for day-to-day expenses.  Property tax rates are determined by dividing the total amount of money the governing body needs among the property owners in the tax district.  They are measured in units called mills, which are each one-tenth of a cent.

Property taxes are applied to assessed valuations, a percentage of market value.  Reappraisals are key in updating real property values to reflect current market values.

Appraisal values are based on the property’s use, its characteristics, current market conditions determined by recent sales in the immediate area and visual inspection of the property.  The assessed value of a property is based on local policies including credits and other adjustments.

Residential property is assessed at 40 percent of the appraised value.  The house is appraised at $180,000.  What is the assessed value of the house?

Assessed Value = Appraisal Value x Rate

$72,000 = $180,000 x .40

Elon University Voices on Obama’s First 100 Days

By Megan Wanner

Photo courtesy of Google images

Photo courtesy of Google images

Wednesday, April 29 marked President Barack Obama’s 100th day in office. His first 100 days have been devoted to parting ways with the path the Bush administration had set for the country, among these departures are the remaking of the economy and setting a timeline for reducing U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Obama came out of the gates running, starting to get involved in devising plans to pull the U.S. economy out of the depression it has slumped even before he is sworn into office. By Day 3, Obama had already ordered Guantanamo Bay to be shut down within a year along with overseas prisons and had ordered an end to torture techniques in interrogation.

“I think he’s done great,” said senior Jack Garratt. “I think you can criticize him on his bailout plans but the things he’s done for stem cell research, the environment, his foreign policy I think outweighs that. Just the opening up ties and at least discussing with Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez I think he’s obviously not friends with them but I think entering into a dialogue is good for the American economy and politics in general.”

Obama’s first 100 days have been compared to those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a difference being Obama’s immediate implementation of stimulus programs and passing of bills for an immediate effect on the country, but some, such as Elon University freshman Olivia Dubendorf do not think anything Obama has done has been too remarkable, especially internationally where there has been no change seen from the Bush administration.

“I think the first 100 days it’s hard to say how well he’s done,” Dubendorf said. “With the bank crisis anyone would have handled it the same way.”

Some students feel Obama has taken steps in the right direction, but think he’s been sidetracked by smaller issues from what he promised during his campaign.

“I think he’s getting sidetracked with this whole issue of going through the court cases of the tortures,” freshman Grant De Roo said.  “I’m not saying he’s not going to get around to that but I just think small things like that have really sidetracked his administration so far but he’s obviously taking the right steps in those issues but I think they’ve really sidetracked him from what’s important and what he said he had promised to do.”

When sworn into the presidency, Obama was given many situations to deal with right away. Rather than take them one at a time, Obama chose to tackle them all at once.

“I think he’s definitely doing the best he can with the situation he’s been given from former offices but I’m not a huge fan of his bailout plan at all so I guess that’s been a large part of his presidency that I haven’t been real thrilled about,” said junior Laura Wainman. “But like I said I think he’s really trying to do the best he can and to help us out; I think he’s just chosen the wrong method.”

Elon University Theatre Program presents “Mother Courage and Her Children”

By Megan Wanner

Courtesy of Google Images

Courtesy of Google Images

The Elon University, N.C. theatre program presented opening night of “Mother Courage and Her Children,” directed by junior Sarah Pace, in the Black Box Theatre Wednesday night.

The cast includes junior Lynnae Vana starring as Mother Courage, junior Bonnie Bower as her daughter Kattrin, sophomore William Sanborn as her son Eilif and freshman Ben Morris as her son Swiss Cheese.

Other cast include junior Chris Staskel as the Chaplain, junior Dan Gibbons as the Cook and freshman Alyson McKenzie-Wells as Yvette.

“Mother Courage,” written by Bertolt Brecht is the story of a mother living during the Thirty Years War who runs a canteen wagon along with her three children, two sons and a daughter, as they travel throughout Germany and Sweden from 1624 to 1636.

Check out what junior Sunny Smith had to say about the play:

Math Tools for Journalists Part 1

By Megan Wanner


Many journalists do not grasp just how important numbers are in reporting.  In the world around us, numbers are everywhere, from statistics of baseball games to percentiles in school testing.  These numbers are not only everywhere, but relevant to the reporter’s job of informing the public.  Understanding the language of numbers means understanding the style of writing with numbers, including when to use numerals or to spell words out and when to use one word instead of another.


Percentages become very useful in articulating to the reader more clearly.  Rather than using fractions, which can be confusing, journalists can use a more clear, concise number for calculations ranging from compounding interest to payments on loans.


Journalists encounter statistics regularly and when they understand the language, communication between the writer and the reader can become more enjoyable.  Statistics are helpful in determining probability, lottery odds and standard deviations.  Not only are there the everyday statistics, but there are also federal statistics such as unemployment rates.


Math Problems:


1)      Ted typically spends about $230 every three weeks on groceries at Harris Teeter.  The inflation rate at this time is 3.2.  The inflation rate is the same the next year.  What is the new cost of the groceries?


New cost = $230(1+[.032/12])

New cost = $230.61


2)      Rebecca scored an 86% on her United States Government High School Assessment.  Out of the 356 people who took the test, Rebecca scored equal to or higher than 278.  What is Rebecca’s percentile rank?


278/356 = 78th percentile


3)      Harry ranked twenty-sixth in the nation in long jumping.  Over one-fourth of the long jumpers were over the age of sixteen; Harry was fourteen.  Which of these numbers should be expressed as numerals?


26th, 16, 14

In ranking if the number is 10 or above use the numeral word with its subscript.

Numerals are used for numbers 10 and above.


4)      Dennis makes 10 of his 11 free throws in the first half of the basketball game and 11 of his 13 free throws in the second half.  What is his free throw percentage for the game?


[(10+11)/(11+13)]x 100 = 87.5 %