Heard it through the grapevine

For being weirdly shaped flaps of skin and sometimes lopped off by artists, ears are a part of a pretty cool process. Hearing, man, it is an important sense. This week in class we learned about our audio projects and Audacity. Shane played us some examples and then have us guess what the story was about. One that really struck me was an example that started with the clicks of a keyboard, went into a panicked 911 call and then there was an emotionally charged mother’s voice speaking clearly for the interview part. The story was about cyberbullying and a girl that committed suicide because of it.

It was so fascinating to me that, as part of such a visual society, I could be hit so hard by just hearing a short, one minute bite of a story. I think we sometimes forget how much things we hear can seep into our brains and stay there. Sometimes it’s those catchy song lyrics (looking at you, “Wrecking Ball”), the hearty laughter of a friend, the mindless humming of an air conditioner, or the blaring of a car horn.

But, sometimes, those noises that seep in can be a bit more vile, like a backhanded compliment, an outright put down or any other kind of attack. Grace Brown founded Project Unbreakable in which she photographs sexual assault survivors with posters that have quotes from their attackers. Even just looking at these quotes as a visual can be disarming and powerful, I couldn’t even imagine hearing this directed at me and then holding that with me. Words when said aloud hold a certain weight that the written word can’t always hold. That weight comes from the tone, the inflection, the way the voice hits your ear. I can scratch at your eardrums or cradle them in a little sea of music notes (like Jigglypuff’s attack in Super Smash Bros Brawl).

There is also the “he said, she said” gossip and stereotype aspect of hearing. Before living in Jones and not being around many people who are in the Greek system, I heard many stereotypes of exclusion, ditzyness, drunkenness, etc. Now that the majority of my residents are Greek, I hear stories firsthand and that has changed my view a bit. Within my hall, my residents will come to me saying “I heard that people have tried to come through the tunnels to freak out girls” and many other stories. Though there is some truth to that (some guy did get into Jones last year, presumably from the tunnels before they were locked for the night), it is interesting how a story can go through a large game of telephone before coming back to me, or another source that can validate its truth.

As a journalist, we can’t just go by hearsay. We have to hear things right and we need to get it down right or else we will be right out of a job. We have to make sure we don’t let it get around the grapevine before we validate it. But, we also have the power to use soundbites and things that we hear to inform the public and make them feel, whether it be sad, mad, happy or activated. We have the power to feed those weird skin flaps we call “ears” and seep something that sticks on the mind of the public. Let’s just make sure it is something that creates something or influences action instead of just poisoning the brain with  negativity. Or, that’s at least what I heard we should do.

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