The Right to Offend?




Scene of the Attack on Charlie Hebdo

Two Muslim brothers walked into the offices of the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, on January 7, 2015. Equipped with assault rifles, they massacred 12 people while injuring several others before dying in a shootout with police. A branch of Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility, justifying the attacks for Charlie Hebdo’s articles mocking Islam and Mohammed, the founding prophet of the religion. As France mourned, an international debate raged on free speech and antireligious publications. A year later, heated discussion continues among both policymakers and journalists on what should and should not be said.


The Debate on Freedom of Expression

It’s paramount to understand the context of the leading voices in the debate over freedom of expression. Despite objectionable content, Charlie Hebdo was entirely within French law and protected by Article 10 of France’s “Declaration of Human and Civic Rights of 26 August 1789,” which states, “No one may be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious ones, as long as the manifestation of such opinions does not interfere with the established Law and Order.”

Admonishing supporters of open expression, Dr. Bart Cammaerts writes in his article, “Charlie Hebdo and the Other Within,” that the freedom of expression cannot be left unchecked, “this freedom comes with responsibilities and as far as I’m concerned this freedom is not necessarily a primary right in all circumstance, it has to be balanced out with other rights and protections, for example the right not to be discriminated against, the right not to be racially abused.”

There is, however, a third major voice in the debate of free speech. For the religious, the satire of Charlie Hebdo could be more than insults. It could be blasphemy. John Tate explains in his article, “Toleration, Skepticism, and Blasphemy: John Locke, Jonas Proast, and Charlie Hebdo,” how satirizing religion can be viewed as more than a simple insult. Tate writes, “Religious belief, when deeply held, is likely to define the core identity of a person, and so demands that such individuals tolerate that which is at odds with such belief are likely to produce some resistance. This is particularly the case with ‘blasphemy,’ which in advancing images, statements, or opinions profoundly at odds with particular religious beliefs, sometimes in a derisive or satirical way, impugns all that religious believers hold dear.” For some, an insult on their faith is perceived as a direct assault on them. While this is an invalid reason to support or commit violence, it’s conceivable that blasphemy can be used by the extremists to justify their actions.

Je Suis Charlie : I am Charlie



Je Suis Charlie : I am Charlie

The attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo rattled the world, both in its brutality and its blatant assault on the freedom of expression. In the wake of the attack, many took to social media, using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), demonstrating solidarity with both France, the newspaper, and the belief of freedom of speech. However, while #JeSuisCharlie was adopted by many, another hashtag gained prominence, #JeNeSuisPasCharlie (I am not Charlie). Fabio Giglietto and Yenn Lee studied the evolution and use of the hashtag in their article, “To Be or Not to Be Charlie”. The authors shared, “Users of the said hashtag showed resistance to the mainstream framing of the Charlie Hebdo shooting as the universal value of freedom of expression being threatened by religious intolerance and violence.” Just hours after the tragedy, a movement began that condemned the attacks but similarly rejected the rhetoric used by Charlie Hebdo that initially put them in the crosshairs of terrorists.


Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie : I am not Charlie

The day after the Charlie Hebdo attack, NY Times journalist David Brook penned the op-ed, “I am not Charlie Hebdo.” He begins by commenting on the hypocrisy of America to extol the brave comments of the French publications and similar voices while simultaneously trying to silence and punish those same opinions within our own borders. Brook argues that most of us cannot claim to be Charlie as we would not use such inflammatory language. However, the satirist has not only the right to speak but is even necessary at times. Despite this occasional need to challenge thoughts, the author considers such speech as juvenile and often harming more than helping. Brook writes, “Healthy societies, in other words,don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect. Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect. People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct.”

In his article, Brook supports the freedom of expression and places society as the gatekeeper. This approach certainly stays within the letter of the law. In fact, it proposes no legal change, whatsoever. What it does ask is for individuals to aspire to more mature dialogues and reject those voices that are pointlessly inflammatory. Legal action would still need to be taken in cases of clear misdemeanors and felonies. However, the idea of society policing conversation raises the tide for all boats. The outspoken gain too much response but like a child’s tantrum, they will quiet down when they don’t receive the attention they crave.

Christian Satire?

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” The Biblical perspective encourages talk that similarly generates productive communication, including satire. Looking at Jesus Christ, the perfect model for Christians, he did not shy away from trading barbs with the corrupt. In Matthew 23, Jesus called the Pharisees, “hypocrites,” a “brood of vipers,” and accused them of murder. Throughout the Gospels, Christ can be seen using insults, parables, and dashes of humor to attack the religious leaders.  This was not said to tear them down but to say, “what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Stubbornly corrupt, Christ’s words were meant to convict.

Brook’s article was not a Christian commentary but was mostly in step with the Biblical worldview. The article promotes respect and encourages beneficial dialogue. Where Scripture would differ would be in condoning efforts like Charlie Hebdo. While Brook’s may find it occasionally necessary, Charlie Hebdo went beyond satire and was borderline bigotry. Their efforts to challenge Islamic radicals was less targeted and more a scorched earth policy. The magazine often was bolstering their like-minded audience than trying to make a genuine effort to rattle muslims into reformation.  

The attacks on Charlie Hebdo were heinous. Silencing voices through censorship or violence is never the answer. However, individuals must be thicker-skinned while simultaneously rejecting destructive talk. Christians need to prayerfully consider the words they share, seeking to build others up while being ready to speak boldly, when necessary. The freedom of speech is best expressed through love and tolerance.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” 

Hebrews 12:14


Don’t worry about Zika virus…yet.


The Zika virus, a mosquito born illness, has grabbed headlines as it causes panic among expectant mothers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began emergency actions in late January in response to outbreaks of Zika in Central and South America. The Zika virus is known for causing birth defects in the babies of pregnant women. Only a few weeks after the initial actions, the CDC would elevate their emergency teams to their highest level of response. With no cure or vaccine, the Zika virus has many questioning if they are safe and how to protect themselves.

Dr. Kristy Bradley serves as the Oklahoma Department of Health’s State Epidemiologist. Beyond local outbreak prevention efforts, Bradley also works in national groups to develop a surveillance plan for the US in response to the Zika virus. She shares how it has already made its way to the States, “The CDC is reporting a total of 84 cases of the Zika virus disease in the United States but all 84 are infections that have been acquired overseas.”

Explore an interactive map of the Zika virus cases in the US here.

The CDC breaks the spread of the Zika virus into two broad categories: travel-acquired and locally transmitted. All of the Zika virus cases in the US have been considered travel-acquired, which occurs when the patient was infected while traveling outside the US in an area with the Zika-carrying mosquitos and returns to the US. Local transmission is where the patient was infected by a domestic mosquito that carrying the virus. While Zika can also be transmitted by blood transfusion and even sexual contact, the virus would still have originated either through travel or local transmission.

Aedes aegypti

Aedes Aegypti

As of right now, there are no known cases of the Zika virus in Oklahoma. Dr. Bradley explains that our mosquitos are just different. “In regards to the Zika virus, the Aedes Aegypti, or the common name is the Yellow Fever mosquito, is the main type of mosquito that’s effective in spreading this virus…We only have some parts of the United States that have populations of yellow fever mosquitos and its not in Oklahoma.”


While Bradley acknowledges the outbreak sounds alarming, Zika only affects 1 in 5 people. The infection yields mild symptoms of a fever, rash, joint pains, and red eyes. The virus usually is gone within a week’s time. The main concern of Zika revolves entirely around pregnant women as it can cause birth defects in the baby. The common birth defect is microcephaly, where the baby’s head grows much smaller than average and can lead to several developmental disabilities. If you suspect you might have symptoms of the Zika, the CDC recommends seeking your healthcare provider, who can test for the virus.

Zika Virus Prevention Tips

  • Avoid travel to Zika outbreak areas.
  • If you must travel to such areas, wear long-sleeve clothing, use insect repellant, and avoid areas and times where mosquitos are common.
  • Avoid sexual contact or wear protection with Zika-infected individuals.

Dr. Bradley says there is no need for concern but that may not always be the case. While the Zika virus’s main carrier is the Yellow Fever mosquito, there is always the possibility that the virus might spread to a native species of mosquito. With so few cases in the US, chances of a domestic mosquito biting and becoming a carrier of Zika are slim. However, Bradley warns of one upcoming event that might change that, Spring Break.



The best way to stay safe from the Zika virus is to remain informed. Following information by the CDC will keep you updated and aware of prevention methods. While the potential for a US outbreak does exist, health officials say there is no immediate need to panic. More information on Zika can be found on the CDC website and also by visiting the Oklahoma Department of Health’s Zika page.

Time Saving with Online Learning


Today, I turned in my grades for my first online course. I’ve been a distance learner but this J-term was my first time teaching a web-based class. When I proposed developing the curriculum for online learning, I still had my doubts if I could effectively meet my course objectives. I prepared the course with the best examples of online learning I researched. To my delight, my students achieved the learning outcomes and reviewed the course positively. Additionally, I gained deeper insight into online learning. In an increasingly digital world, digital courses must be at the forefront of higher education. Online education allows faculty and student alike to be freed of the restrictions of time and space; giving back time to better approach their work.

The Department of Education reported that around 4.5 million students of Title IV schools were enrolled in some or entirely in online courses. This accounts for a quarter of enrolled students in the institutions. Additionally, many turn to web-based courses through services like Udemy, Coursera, and dozens of other massive open online courses (MOOCs). Online learning is clearly gaining traction as a staple of higher education.

As I developed my online class, Hyperlocal Storytelling, I initially thought of only the convenience it offered me and my students. Within the first week, I learned there was another advantage. Time. I had time to work on other courses’ lesson plans. Similarly, my students were able to attend more courses. The confines of traditional courses can actually limit what can be accomplished. Online courses can be worked on at any time from anywhere. This flexibility gives students more freedom in their academic load and in pursuing internships or careers.

Online education isn’t perfect for every situation. Education Database Online notes two reasons students would seek traditional learning; students can utilize a university’s equipment and access tutoring and assistance. Furthermore, many students desire the tangible experience of a classroom.

Part of the challenge for online classes might be in their structure. Are the faculty creating the right learning environment? In my own preparation, my research advocated for students to have significant access to their instructors and be engaged multiple ways. My approach was to teach through the collective of emails, video lectures, reading, and diverse online and offline assignments. Additionally, students could get my assistance via video chat, phone, emails, and even office hours. Anticipating their needs, I tried to overcome some of online education’s shortcomings. The outcome was overwhelmingly positive.

I don’t believe the choice in higher education is either-or. I foresee a hybrid environment becoming the new status quo. There are now countless web-based tools for communication, collaboration, and content creation. Could writing and research based courses make a digital shift? What if more lecture heavy classes were adapted for web-based learning? Could it stand to reason that half Gen. Ed. requirements be taken online? Gaining back time doesn’t equate to a sacrifice of quality. It could mean, however, that students will have the opportunity to explore their field of study more fully.

It will take major changes to transition higher education to hybrid learning. The educational environment will need to be rebuilt from the ground up and long-held traditions will need to be revised. However, as students gain more flexibility, they will discover new ways to invest in their learning. Faculty will be free to strengthen their pedagogy. As a whole, higher education will become more relevant to those in pursuit of knowledge. An efficient online learning environment that is in tandem with traditional courses will create an education that is time well spent.


Oil tax breaks cripple Oklahoma schools


In 2014, the State of Oklahoma wagered the good times would last. Oklahoma placed its chip on tax breaks. A gamble made in desperation, the state stood so much to lose. The dice rolled snake eyes. Every state department is malnourished by budget cuts. Facing bleaker economics in 2016, Oklahoma demands even more cuts. One of the most devastated departments is Education. The children of Oklahoma are the ones to pay the price for a bet gone badly.

The cost of oil comfortably sat at over $100 a barrel in the summer of 2014. Oklahoma passed a bill that legislature hoped would encourage more drilling. Starting in June 2015, new wells would only be taxed 2% for their first 3 years, afterwards climbing to 7%. Oil plays a key part of Oklahoma’s Gross Production revenue, which is the state’s 3rd largest source of revenue. By the end of 2014, however, the price of oil plummeted to half its value. Starting the New Year, oil is under $30 a barrel. This compounded the existing economic woes caused by low top tax rates. In response, the State of Oklahoma forced massive budget cuts across almost every department. Already ranked one of the worst states for education, the Oklahoma Department of Education was hit even harder by another round of budget cuts this January. The excessive tax breaks to both individuals and companies have created the opposite effect of their purpose.

The lower tax rate for drilling is not without its backers. Supporters are quick to point to oil price’s ebb and flow. The bill makes sense when oil prices are high and when residents are pouring into the economy. Advocates don’t want to make knee-jerk reactions in the event prices should rise again. The problem is that the entire bill relies on the accuracy of estimates, which have proven over and over to not be reliable.

The combination of income tax cuts and tax breaks to the oil industry has crippled Oklahoma’s departments. This includes almost $47 million cuts from the Department of Education. A 3% reduction is mandated this year across the board. School lunch matching loses 30%. AP teacher training, AP test fee assistance, and staff development funds are halved. The STEM program (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is completely defunded. It’s predicted some schools will be forced to close.

Oklahoma is caught in a downward spiral with its tax breaks and budget cuts. Education leads to prosperity. By defunding education efforts, Oklahoma will fail in creating leaders and industry pioneers. It’s self-damning to cut STEM programs that would produce future engineers and scientists. Oklahoma’s taxes must be revised for any recovery to occur.

Renewable energy is gaining more attention as oil’s appeal wanes. Despite push back from oil lobbyists, Oklahoma should focus its tax incentives for the emerging wind and solar industry. While oil will always remain in constant flux, wind and solar energy would provide a stable market. The State is poised to be a national leader in renewable energy if it would make the commitment. Along with revisions to income tax rates, the Gross Production revenue from a diverse energy portfolio would put Oklahoma’s education back on track, ensuring a brighter future.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Three No-Cost Ideas for Starting Out as a Freelancer


The wife and I were at lunch when our waiter introduced himself. Right away, I noticed his golden voice. I asked if he was a student and what his aspirations were. He had left college for personal reasons but wanted to be a voice actor. He had no idea how to go about achieving this. Even from my students, I hear a lot of inquiries of how to get started as a freelancer and jumpstart their careers. Here are three tips for getting started in freelancing at no cost to yourself!


Having social media profiles is no new thing but are you using them professionally? Social media can be a powerful tool for marketing yourself. However, you need to begin thinking of yourself as a brand. Is your existing social media reflective of how you want to sell yourself? Probably not. Rather than painstakingly adjust your current online presence, create a new one. Start from scratch and shape each aspect of how you will be presented.

You need to begin with one email that can be used to create all the other profiles. This email could also serve as your primary contact. I recommend using Gmail since many services since you get a Youtube account and access to Google’s services (Drive, Docs, Calendar, etc.). Begin using this email to register for all the other websites and social media profiles.

A Facebook Page and Twitter will be great ways to publish your work, update people on your current projects, and socialize with followers. Starting a WordPress blog lets you both write on your current projects, your related interests and thoughts, and even create hub for all your other profiles. A Youtube and/or Soundcloud profile will let you upload and showcase your audio/visual work for potential clients.

With an online presence established, start publishing! Even when you’re not getting work, talk about your topic and become a source of information on it. This will help build yourself as a professional in your field. Find the message boards and other online discussion groups where other professionals meet and join the conversation. Do everything to put yourself out there.


Equipment is expensive. Professional media equipment easily costs thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars. The problem I’ve seen too many times are novice freelancers maxing out credit cards to get the toys but not knowing what’s next. Finding no gigs, they’ve put themselves in debt. If you are just starting out, then accept that better equipment must be earned.

“That’s all fine and good,” you say, “but how am I supposed to do anything with no equipment!”

Take an inventory. Chances are, you have a computer and a smartphone. That’s ok. Use what you have. Smartphones may not be professional equipment but you can still make a professional product with them. Check out my Smartphone Storytelling series! With just a smartphone and computer you could easily put together a commercial for a small business, a video for a church, and many other smaller gigs.

If you know anyone doing media, especially as a freelancer, see if they have any older equipment they don’t mind parting with. Through my early work, I managed to nab all kinds of gear, including an audio mixer and a lens for my DSLR. Get whatever you can and as you gain profit begin upgrading your tools.

Software is perhaps the easiest to get. Plan on doing audio recording/editing? Try Audacity, a free audio editor comparable to Adobe Audition. Need something to edit photos? How about GIMP, a free photo editor comparable to Photoshop. Animation and graphics? Blender. Video editing? Davinci Resolve. Even legal document templates are available online to help you create your contract (which you will need). Just start searching!


To start freelancing you need start doing it! There are many free online marketplaces to tap into that will put you right in the game. The basic plan on GigSalad allows potential clients to find you. Fiverr lets you create a job that you will do for $5 and other higher cost premium jobs.

To be more proactive, you could also look for opportunities on Craigslist and similar websites. These sites consistently have opportunities for freelancers. Indie filmmakers are always looking for casts and crews. Startup businesses have needs for photographers, media performers, and other roles. Seeking them out can help you choose the gigs that work best within your schedule and abilities.

Finally, if you are truly just starting out, you probably have no experience or any samples of your work. This makes it hard to get a paid gig. So forget about the money. Do pro bono. Many non-profits, churches, or small businesses have a need for media work but neither the resources or personel to do it. This approach allows you to help support a cause or business you favor. Additionally, its an easy way to build that portfolio when starting out.

Don’t be discouraged to start small and work up from there. You have to crawl before you run.

Freelancing isn’t for anyone. It takes a lot of work! However, you won’t get anything accomplished unless you try. Using no-cost strategies, you can test the waters before diving in and possibly getting in over your head. So go ahead! Get started!

Five Tips for the Freshman Journalism Student

Shawnee News 30

With Fall, many highschool graduates are undertaking the crazy adventure of higher education. Among the college-bound is the next generation of journalists. As the Professor of Broadcast Journalism at Oklahoma Baptist University, I’ve witnessed the shock many students have when they take their first steps into news. Its a lot more work than most realize as they often say, “I had no idea…”

To those brave souls beginning their journey in to journalism, here are my five tips to help you better prepare.

Shawnee News 30


Are you reading the news? No? Start doing it.

Are you watching news broadcasts? No? Start watching them.

If you want to be a journalist, prepare to eat, breathe, and sleep the news. Haha! Not really, there is no sleep for journalists. You need to be plugged into news all the time. Know what is happening in the world around you and stay informed. Consume news in different formats from different organizations. There is no room for favoritism, read and watch it all. You will not only stay up-to-date with events but learn different styles of reporting.

The more you educate yourself, the better you will be able to report on various topics. You will be stronger at finding stories, covering all the angles, and understanding the weight of certain events.

A great way to be on top of things is through Twitter and Facebook. Follow local and national journalists and news organizations of interest. If you check your social media few times a day, you will get the daily updates straight to your feed.


Starting college can be an overwhelming experience. There are plenty of things demanding your attention. However, one of the best ways to establish a strong foundation in journalism is by connecting early with your school’s journalistic organizations. You won’t be expected to know everything from Day 1 but taking baby steps with the group will allow you to gain solid experience. Sticking with it through the years, you can graduate with an established reputation and attractive portfolio.

Make journalism your sport. A college athlete works hard to get on the team and trains to be ready for game day. Similarly, a journalism student needs to get involved and commit the time to getting the publication or broadcast polished. Take on that work ethic and you will be a News MVP in no time!



In college, you will have a faculty advisor and plenty of “unofficial” advisors. Your professors are excellent sources of knowledge. Too many students don’t take advantage of their teachers. Many of those old guys have careers longer than your existance and have plenty to share.

Professor’s help those who help themselves. Take iniative and go beyond the classroom. Be open with your advisor on your academic and professional goals. Talk to them about what opportunities are available to advance yourself. Ask your professors to teach you beyond the textbook and about their own experiences professionally.


Journalists used to have dedicated roles. You had a producer, a reporter, a photographer, an editor, etc. Times have changed and journalists are expected to be jacks-of-all-trades. News organizations are looking for journalists to be able to do it all. In some places, reporters are their own photographers and editors. Many times, photographers will be expected to conduct interviews, film the story, edit it all, and publish it. And everybody, I mean everybody, needs to be a social media guru.

News organizations are all experimenting with this new reality and, honestly, schools are still playing catch-up. Your education is your own. If you want to be best prepared for the climate of the newsroom, learn everything. Take courses beyond the role you would like to do. Are you an aspiring reporter? Take some photography and editing courses. Wanna be a photographer? Learn to write. The more tools in your belt, the more prepared you will be for any job.



From this day forth, don’t view yourself as a journalism student. You are a journalist. Even as you are learning the craft, see yourself as a professional. If you are truly serious about being a journalist, start acting like one.

Where to begin? Do an assessment of your online self. Is your social media reflective of how you want job seekers to view you? If not, clean it up. Additionally, consider creating new emails and profiles for the purpose of publishing your work.

If you feel you are ok online, start being a journalist. Find stories, write, take photos, report. If you have a specific topic you’d like to cover, go for it! Be a community journalist. Report on local sports. Cover pop culture. Just start establishing yourself. You will not only be building yourself up as a commodity but gaining invaluable experience. Even if no one views your work, you will have, at least, began training your “muscles” for bigger and better opportunities. If you do gain viewers, you’ll have the beginnings of a killer portfolio. Dream big!

For journalism tips and trends, follow me on Twitter @xtiannetizen.