A quick journalism master class

Wow, far beyond political journos, this piece by Ron Fournier for the Atlantic should be required reading for every journalism student, beat reporter, assignment editor, freelancer, PR pro, publicist, and consumer of news (which should include everyone else). This is one of the wisest, most insightful and practical/idealistic pieces I’ve read on how the sausage gets made. I haven’t been so inspired by the possibilities of this thankless profession in years. Hope it reaches those folks still in the trenches… they are mighty deep and foul right now and could use a bit of light.

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“Kodak moments” should have been available to everyone, since before there was a Kodak

Sharing this spectacular gallery of tintype-style photographs from the AFROPUNK festival not only because the images and their subjects are GLORIOUS. In this gallery, Brazilian-born fashion/culture photographer Driely Schwarz offers a drop of corrective to an injustice that dates to the beginning of photography, and demonstrates the problem maybe need not have existed in the first place. It’s not only technology that created obstacles, but a culture which elevates whiteness and disregards people of color.

Remember that a key aspect of privilege is ignorance about stuff that doesn’t affect you directly. Learn more about this longtime, ongoing problem in this excellent roundup with many embedded links.  (Be sure you don’t miss the powerful, personal testimony by writer/photographer Syreeta McFadden.)

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Saying “hi” while black

Witness! This 15-minute video (embedded in article that sums up encounter) is very uncomfortable to sit through, but must be viewed especially by those of us who don’t experience routine racist abuse of police power. No violence (this time) — just disrespectful, intimidating, and abusive language; unnecessary escalation; intentionally confusing doubletalk; and evidence of a deeply damaged wideset policing mindset among multiple officers. (Seriously some of the officers’ statements are pretty astonishing and revealing.) Disgusting. This must stop. We must hold officers to higher standards, and give them the community support they need for more advanced constructive training, and community pressure to weed out the dangerous assholes.

*Note: The article just came to my attention but is from 2014, and the incident from 2013. Sad to see not much has changed. We allies still must continue to open our eyes; no matter how many viral videos we watch, we cannot have seen as much as our marginalized friends have experienced in their lives. Opting out is privilege.

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Still “tired of hearing about the damn emails”?

Regarding the instantly infamous leak of DNC emails:

I just can’t be upset about the DNC personnel wanting to run the game for a lifetime team-playing Democrat, versus a long-time, strongly self-identified Independent who just recently decided he wanted to pursue the Democratic Party nomination with all its financial and institutional support, rather than take the more difficult (and likely more divisive) third-party route.

Look, the DNC folks didn’t do almost everything they thought up… The leaks are basically notes from an extended brainstorming session. Yes, they reveal the private thoughts of professional Democratic Party operatives (who OBVIOUSLY are biased to their team player!! Duh!), but I put more credence in what was actually published and pushed by the HRC campaign. Ultimately she and they didn’t want to hit too low and so they didn’t. But brainstorming is brainstorming, and campaigning is campaigning.

I think this is a case of confirmation bias. If you think DNC is corrupt and the election was/is stolen, here’s a bunch more facts that you can now take as rock-solid evidence. I don’t see it that way and therefore am not so persuaded.

It’s clear why Bernie partisans are angry. (Though Jane Sanders herself wrote that she, Bernie, and their strategists did the math and even allowing for bias, their bid for the nomination was ultimately going to fail.) But why is there so much egg on the DNC and Hillary partisans’ faces? Well, I think the Democratic/left ethos of concensus-building (to a fault) just doesn’t like the idea of favoritism, even privately. Like Mom and Dad always should pretend they don’t have a favorite even when they obviously do.

Tangentially: I don’t think the RNC and their partisans would be in the same situation. First, RNC is not as cohesive an organization as DNC. But more importantly, the Right seems to respond more positively to these kinds of wargames and dominance plays.

And why is Hillary the clear DNC favorite? Well partially because she has been the clear favorite for so long, in a self-fulfilling prophecy. She has been the front-runner for 2016 the moment she conceded in 2008. Therefore, our Democratic leadership pipeline got realllly weak because everyone assumed HRC and the massive HRC money machine (of which the DNC is only a part) was going to steamroll everyone who tried to step forward. No one wanted to say boo for years! Unlike the Right, the Left didn’t see entering the race as an obvious get-money game for book tours, speaking gigs, TV punditry, personal gain, etc. So everyone was in stasis while she publicly ditherered and demurred. Of course, the whole establishment was pretty annoyed she waited so long to formally announce, but there were strong reasons she didn’t and shouldn’t have done it any sooner. God knows the campaign season is already too long.

I suspect the next cycle(s) will be very lively with Dems who have been training and prepping for a more open field. That probably means at least eight years, since she will be (SHE WILL BE, RIGHT?!!!?) the literal incumbent, not just the figurative one as in the past eight. And also more unfortunately, the electorate most likely won’t be willing to go for yet another Democrat after 16 years holding the office, so really I’m making, like, a prediction about the 2036 race. And yes, that assumes she wins both terms, which I hope she does, but yeah it’s all make-believe now anyway.

Next, regarding the deposing of Debbie Wasserman Schultz: I think DWS should have gone underground for a little while, though. She’s irritating on a good day, and showing up like “what, me worry?” at her big meeting with DNC megabosses Sunday (DWS: “I think I can weather this” DNC: “lol no”) and then again putting on a happy face at the Florida delegation breakfast Monday was more proof of her tone-deafness. I am also not thrilled that HRC not only put out a statement of support but also gave her an honorary job plus a high-profile announcement of said job.

But it’s the first day of the DNC convention, so the timing is very very very difficult and tricky and I can allow that maybe I’m not the target demo for these actions. I know they looked at the optics through every prism they could imagine last night. It’s all political theater, sadly, but our current systems demand it.

BTW, here I’ll go ahead and repeat my ideal preference would be exclusively publicly funded elections at all levels. This whole massive get-money game is the root of all electoral and governmental evil. Not sure how we’re ever going to get out of it.

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Less on-the-job training, more like on-your-shoulders

The Chronicle of Higher Education, obviously not an impartial source, released a very interesting op-ed recently: In short, that more companies are expecting colleges and universities to graduate job-ready workers with certain career skills. Students (and probably more keenly, parents) are showing great willingness to track what’s desired, seek it out, and essentially pay for their own job training before ever approaching potential employers. This reduces speculation on a candidate’s “potential”, and saves companies a lot of time and oodles of cash.I find this to be an especially vital subject, as we know that education costs are such a barrier to financial success and even if you get past entry, post-graduation educational debt can be so crippling. It strongly reminds me of how Wal-Mart employees rely so heavily on Medicaid and food stamps as the Walton family gains a larger and larger share of global wealth. American CEOs make 425 times what average U.S. workers make …. where does all that money come from? Clearly, in many places, training is a budget line where some $ can be moved around.
It’s an old argument to me, and a deal that I accepted years ago in my own professional specialty. Journalism school has always struggled to balance its idealistic principles, complex coursework, and essential moral/ethics training with its public identity as a highfalutin’ vocational school. J-school was the bellwether, I guess… even back in the mid-1990s, it was known that journalism was — and certainly still is — among the lowest-paying industries which largely require a bachelor’s degree at the entry level. (I was THRILLED that my first job paid $23,500: ~$2,000 more than that national average. Like that was actually really good. *rolls eyes at the exploitation rampant throughout the whole industry, then and now*). Back in the day, however, a journalism career didn’t require college degrees at all! (Famous example: Peter Jennings was a high-school dropout, and oodles of other scribes never finished college.) As my very dear departed professor/mentor Mr. Conrad Fink used to describe it, newspapering was a working-class gig. You turned up every day, you showed smarts, initiative and moxie, and you learned everything else on the job. (I paraphrase. RIP, sir.) There we were, a generation or two later, paying more for less, and the degree offered no guarantees of employability whatsoever. Of course now the prospects are even worse and j-schools still exist, so… yeah. Bellwether.

But beyond my own sector, I do bemoan the growing general perception that academic majors are “useless”. Used to be that intellectual pursuits and purely academic majors demonstrated cooperative intelligence, an ability to take in the works of great thinkers, and the mental skills needed to synthesize and create new ideas. In other words, at the very least, it demonstrated that someone knew how to THINK and LEARN, aka was highly trainable. Now (and I’m guilty of this too) when I hear someone has a degree in something that’s not obviously applicable to the job market, I think “oh, he must be rich/connected/unfocused.”

I’m not proud of that impulse and I think it’s a shame that this is now normal. This goes beyond the loathsome anti-intellectualism of many Americans. The disrespect for education I worry most about comes from those who are educated. It’s executives that are benefiting most from this offloading of training expenses! It’s the best minds in the country destroying the public sector and younger generations! That is beyond immoral, it’s damn short-sighted.

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Treating erotic dancers like carnival games is apparently normal in Alberta

It’s a looney game all right.

Apparently in Alberta, Canada, local laws separate nude dancers from patrons by 1 meter. As a workaround, patrons toss 1- and 2-dollar coins at the dancers. Sometimes, these tosses are far from gentle. In fact, some “gentlemen” pitch the coins with enough force to leave bruises, and seem to think hitting the most delicate areas give them the highest entertainment value. Some of them will even heat the coins first. This is should be criminal, but it’s just shrugged off.

This article and the activity it describes are profoundly upsetting to me, a GREAT (aka horrible) example of how insane, inhumane, and ultimately pointless behavior becomes considered “normal” just because of circumstances and then repetition. Just because something is common, don’t make it right! Damn!

Arguments can be made generally for “who has the power” in an erotic entertainment setting. There is no ambiguity here: it’s culturally normalized, institutionally enforced abuse and humiliation of women by men, with women just accepting the status quo.


Also, it was only in 2015 that bare breasts were distinguished from full nudity, and burlesque dancers were subject to the same separation and tipping laws. Here’s the update about that.  Well that’s great for them, I guess.

But that leaves their nude sisters back in the clubs being pummeled. I don’t like the implications of that kind of separatist thinking. Because either way, in the eyes of rape culture, you’re all whores. And here’s some legalistic rape apologist thinking for ya to prove it:

As recently as this summer, Alberta officials were continuing defending the strict anti-bare-breasts policy as a “safety measure” to prevent lust-crazed men from assaulting performers.

“Contact with a performer could lead to a sexual assault, you know … when you involve alcohol, the risk factors increase,” Dave Berry, acting vice-president of the liquor regulator’s compliance and social responsibility division.

In the interest of letting the people affected speak for themselves, here’s a discussion on a chat board for strippers speaking about the game. There are apparently various ways to approach it. But still… Even when speaking positively, they still explicitly call it a carnival game. It’s not right.


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Happy Pride 2016!

PRIDE 2016 was a little more frustrating this year at first — the necessary increased security by NYPD plus NYPD counterterrorism was augmented by Secret Service because Hillary Clinton joined city and state leaders at the front of the march in the West Village. Also, untold thousands more people joined in the marching groups than previously (probably inspired by recent political and Supreme Court events). We in the NBCUniversal contingent therefore stepped off more than 4 hours later than originally planned, which was kind of brutal… especially considering I had an exhausting Saturday and suffered some unexpected predawn insomnia. I was so annoyed as the afternoon dragged on uselessly — but when we finally stepped onto 5th Avenue and heard the cheers and music and saw the smiles and felt the love and excitement, it lifted me up and I was very happy I persevered.

I made it through the full route to Stonewall Inn and the Stonewall Monument at Christopher Park (pics in the comments!!) , and then just bailed and limped home.

Here’s what I wrote early in the day before I got so annoyed with logistics and was still in the ready-to-go cloud:

Why Pride is so important to me: I always support self-expression and assertion of personal identity. I also believe in the importance of community, to both individuals and society overall. Pride is a simultaneous celebration of both. But that’s true of many parades. This one is important to me because it declares the value of QUEERNESS specifically. Of being untraditional, transgressive, bold, countercultural, unrepentant — yet loving!! At the same time!! It’s DEFIANT LOVE, an incredible contradiction that is easy to hold in one hand. I salute everyone making their statements today, whatever it is and wherever you fall on the sexuality, gender, political, cultural, economic, or general oddball spectrum. And on a personal note: thank you to all the magnificent weirdos who make space for my weirdness, the extremely queer folk who make space for my queerness. When the oppressors come for you, I know they are coming for me too. Therefore, I will ALWAYS fight for you, because I know we fight for US. I love you. HAPPY PRIDE, today and every day.”

Thank you NYC’s all-embracing and all-encompassing queer+allies community. Thank you for welcoming me to your celebration. I love you.❤ Happy Pride EVERYONE.
(… and now i finally allow myself to crash out, hopefully for a good long rest.)

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