llposterIt’s a difficult and sometimes dangerous world out there for journalists. While those here in the states face distrust from the public and disdain from pundits, those abroad often face the terror of tyrannical regimes that don’t believe in the freedom of the press and that would do anything in their power to suppress an idea contrary to their agendas.

Just this past year we’ve seen Sri Lankan editor Lasantha Wickramatunga gunned down, U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi detained and tried in Iran, and, more recently, Current TV freelance reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee tried and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor.

It’s infuriating that the North Korean regime chose to pursue legal action against these Americans on vague grounds, but what’s even more maddening is how little we’ve heard from Current TV or Al Gore, who founded the independent news network.

Ever since the beginning of the ordeal, Al Gore and Current TV have been very quiet about the goings on in the Hermit Kingdom. The network also reportedly took down stories and videos about the two journalists on its own Web site.

Further, according to New York Times blogger Brian Stelter, the “two women’s profiles were scrubbed of any reference to the detainments.”

Stelter further reports that:

“It is not unusual for news organizations to adopt a silent stance when their journalists are detained or otherwise endangered overseas. News outlets often choose not to comment as they work aggressively behind the scenes for the release of their employees. But the public nature of Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee’s detainments have put additional pressure on Current to comment about the case.”

If Current TV commented about the case yesterday, I would have said the statement was long overdue. As it stands, even with the news media outlets covering the case more extensively than they’ve done since the beginning of Ms. Lee and Ms. Ling’s detentions, Current TV has not said a word.

It may not be unusual for news organizations to be silent on their journalists’ detentions, but doing so is downright irresponsible. News organizations have a responsibility not just to their public to cover a story without bias, they also have a responsibility to their reporters who often put themselves in harm’s way to get their stories.

By remaining silent, Current TV has failed on both fronts.

Image: @LiberateLaura

sacramentocapitolIf you’re a California resident or even an outsider who’s been following news of us here in the Golden State, you know that we’re in deep doodoo when it comes to the state budget, which is seeing a $24 billion deficit.

In order to close the state’s budget shortfall, the Governator has proposed steep cuts to many of the state’s programs, including cutting $1.9 billion to the University of California and California State University systems and $5.2 billion to the state’s K-12 schools. This could mean very bad news for the U.C. Hastings School of Law, which would lose $10 million in funding under the governor’s proposal.

It could also mean very bad news not just for students looking to go to community colleges, which fall under the K-12 umbrella, but also for a state that needs all the help it can get.

According to the California Community Colleges Web site, the institutions “supply workforce training and basic skills education, prepare students for transfer to four-year institutions and offer opportunities for personal enrichment and lifelong learning.”

In other words: community colleges are not just a proving ground for students planning to attend a four-year university, they’re a training ground for workers who want to learn new skills or improve on the ones they have already acquired

If the community college system lost significant funding or were cut entirely, it would mean some students who want to go to college but who can’t necessarily attend a public or private university straight out of high school will be left in limbo.

It would mean that some people who lost their jobs during this recent recession may not have the option to take classes to build skill sets that would help them find gainful employment.

It would mean that potential sources of revenue for the state – the entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers who could have been produced and/or trained by the colleges – may not reach their full potential or even leave the state to find training elsewhere.

As a product of a community college and of a state university (If you’re thinking “Hmm. That explains a lot,” we don’t love you anymore), I know that both systems of higher education are invaluable. I discovered my passion for journalism in community college and honed my journalism skills at the state university.

I also know, however, that no matter how you slice it, it’s going to be painful when the budget axe finally falls here in California, and there are going to have to be some tough decisions made (don’t believe me? Try closing the budget shortfall)

But the worse thing the state can do is limit the accessibility to these institutions of higher education.

Photo: Franco Follini / Flickr

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