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Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Why Hire A Professional When Anyone Can Point And Click? Photographers' Income Dropping

In business, photography on March 31, 2010 at 8:27 am
Category:Photographers

Image via Wikipedia

Times are getting tougher for professional photographers,  reports The New York Times.

“There are very few professional photographers who, right now, are not hurting,” said Holly Stuart Hughes, editor of the magazine Photo District News.

That has left professional photographers with a bit of an identity crisis. Nine years ago, when Livia Corona was fresh out of art school, she got assignments from magazines like Travel and Leisure and Time. Then, she said, “three forces coincided.”

They were the advertising downturn, the popularity and accessibility of digital photography, and changes in the stock-photo market.

Magazines’ editorial pages tend to rise or fall depending on how many ad pages they have. In 2000, the magazines measured by Publishers Information Bureau, a trade group, had 286,932 ad pages. In 2009, there were 169,218 — a decline of 41 percent. That means less physical space in which to print photographs.

“Pages are at a premium, and there’s more competition to get anything into a magazine now, and the bar is just higher for excellent work,” said Bill Shapiro, the editor of Life.com, who ran the print revival of Life before Time Inc. shut it in 2007. And that is for the publications that survived — 428 magazines closed in 2009 alone, according to the publication database MediaFinder.com, including ones that regularly assigned original photography, like Gourmet, Portfolio and National Geographic Adventure.

And while magazines once sniffed at stock photographs, which are existing images, not original assignments, shrinking editorial budgets made them reconsider.

I’m writing a story this week for a national magazine — and the editor told me they will be using stock to illustrate it, because it’s cheaper than hiring someone. As amateurs pick up light, easy-to-use digital cameras, competition is increasing. In the old days, you had to have a good understanding, both journalistically and technically, of what makes a compelling image because, shooting film, especially far away on assignment, you had to be sure you had something usable — now, just look at your image and re-shoot, if you can.

The unresolved question, and it’s showing up even in work submitted by professionals, is the boundaries of what’s acceptable when it comes to manipulating digital images, easy to do in Photoshop and other programs — and therefore unusable, if so, by many news photo editors.

Should Obama Attend Church?

In religion on March 30, 2010 at 7:59 pm
South façade of the White House, the executive...

One place to pray. Image via Wikipedia

Tonight NBC Nightly News aired a clip from Matt Lauer’s interview with President Obama, in which he asked the President why he has not chosen a church to attend. He was told that so doing would create too much of a distraction for fellow parishioners, and that the President, instead, receives a daily “devotional” email from a group of pastors nationwide.

Presidents Clinton and Carter managed to choose and attend church while serving in the White House. Given that this Sunday is Easter, one of the most important, if not the most important, days of Christians’ liturgical calendar, this choice, or lack of one, strikes me as odd and evasive.

I began attending a local Episcopal church in 1998 after a personal crisis, being victimized by a criminal, made me deeply question my values, my decisions and my lack of a larger community. I don’t attend every week, but when I do it’s with immense gratitude for a place I’m thoughtfully reminded of deeper and wider values than my own petty personal concerns. I also appreciate being part of a larger community that has warmly welcomed me and my partner, a Buddhist, and helped nurture our spiritual growth. Many of our ministers and assistants, much to my surprise — not having been a “cradle Christian”, attending church faithfully since birth — have become beloved friends.

If Obama truly wants to participate in Christian life, being visible in this specific, chosen, sacred place is part of that commitment, as he knows. He and his wife and two daughters may arrive by limousine surrounded and protected by the Secret Service, but the unyielding hardness of a wooden pew, the Bible and the sermons based on it he would hear there each week, usefully remind us all that’s not how he — or any of us, regardless of our temporal wealth and power — will be leaving.

A good church (or mosque, temple, synagogue or any public place of worship) — and there are many that are not nourishing — is a plot of deep, rich, fertile soil, a place to put down some roots and see what blossoms. When you publicly and collectively meditate and pray for others, it reminds us of our larger humanity and our connection to those, as our service says every week, who are ill, dying, sick or in need.

From mensnewsdaily:

As you know, attending Sunday morning worship enables you to worship God, which for Christians is both a responsibility and privilege. These services help supply you with moral inspiration and spiritual strength, which are vital to your work as president. Attending habitually will also enable your wife and children to receive biblical instruction and Christian nurture. You have repeatedly claimed that your faith is important to you and helps guide your political priorities, policies, and work. You have frequently used religious rhetoric and scriptural principles and passages to support legislation you are promoting. You have also sought to enlist clergy, committed lay Christians, and religious organizations to work to achieve causes in which you believe strongly. Moreover, attending church faithfully would testify to your professed values and help you gain greater credibility with religious Americans.

Equally important, your regular attendance would set a good example for our nation.

Wrote Time:

Church, in fact, has been a surprisingly tough issue for the Obamas. They resigned their membership with Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago in 2008 after Obama renounced the church’s controversial former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. And while the First Family intended to find a local church to attend when they moved to Washington, concerns about crowds and displacing regular worshippers has prevented them from finding a new religious home during their first year here.

The Obamas have attended Sunday services in Washington three times this year — once at the predominantly African-American 19th Street Baptist Church, and twice at St. John’s Episcopal Church across Lafayette Square from the White House. Asked at Tuesday’s White House briefing whether the First Family is still searching for a local church to join, press secretary Robert Gibbs responded: “The President has attended fairly regularly up at Camp David a church that he’s comfortable in and has enjoyed attending.”

What do you think? Does it matter to you if he chooses a church and becomes a part of that larger community?

Or is he avoiding controversy and further political divisiveness by keeping his prayer life confined to the White House?

Bullying Pushes Two More Girls To Suicide; Nine Massachusetts Students Indicted. It Must Stop!

In behavior, Crime, education on March 30, 2010 at 10:53 am

From the Daily News:

Cops are investigating whether cyberbullies contributed to the suicide of a Long Island teen with nasty messages posted online after her death.

Alexis Pilkington, 17, a West Islip soccer star, took her own life Sunday following vicious taunts on social networking sites – which persisted postmortem on Internet tribute pages, worsening the grief of her family and friends.

“Investigators are monitoring the postings and will take action if any communication is determined to be of a criminal nature,” Suffolk County Deputy Chief of Detectives Frank Stallone said yesterday.

Reports The New York Times:

It is not clear what some students at South Hadley High School expected to achieve by subjecting a freshman to the relentless taunting described by a prosecutor and classmates.

Phoebe Prince, 15, a freshman at South Hadley High School in western Massachusetts, hanged herself in January. Her family had recently moved from Ireland.

Certainly not her suicide. And certainly not the multiple felony indictments announced on Monday against several students at the Massachusetts school.

The prosecutor brought charges Monday against nine teenagers, saying their taunting and physical threats were beyond the pale and led the freshman, Phoebe Prince, to hang herself from a stairwell in January.

The charges were an unusually sharp legal response to the problem of adolescent bullying, which is increasingly conducted in cyberspace as well as in the schoolyard and has drawn growing concern from parents, educators and lawmakers.

In the uproar around the suicides of Ms. Prince, 15, and an 11-year-old boy subjected to harassment in nearby Springfield last year, the Massachusetts legislature stepped up work on an anti-bullying law that is now near passage. The law would require school staff members to report suspected incidents and principals to investigate them. It would also demand that schools teach about the dangers of bullying. Forty-one other states have anti-bullying laws of varying strength.

Maureen Downey, writing in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, asks the only important question:

For those of you who work in schools, why would administrators and teachers let this persecution go unchecked?

Research shows that bullying occurs in all schools, private and public, and that it is often unseen by adults. In an earlier blog on bullying, I cited a 2005 U.S. Department of Education report that found 14 percent of students ages 12 through 18 said they had been bullied in the past six months.

In the early grades, bullies direct their attacks at almost anyone. As they get older, they target certain kids. Bullies go after younger and smaller kids, but victims also are chosen because they are more anxious, sensitive, cautious and quiet.

Bullying is often a spectator sport, with 85 percent of  incidents involving other kids who watch the torment without stopping it. On the day of her suicide, Phoebe was abused her in the school library, the lunchroom and the hallways, according to the charges. Classmates threw a canned drink at her as she walked home, where her sister found her hanging from a stairwell at 4:30 p.m.

While Phoebe’s bullies used texting and social networking sites to harass her, the prosecutor said most of the bullying occurred on school grounds during school hours.

Like Phoebe, I arrived at my school into a group of 15-year-olds; I was 14, a year ahead. Like her, I came into a tightly-knit crowd of kids who had known one another for decades and from a foreign country. I’d been living in Mexico, (she in her native Ireland).

I was awkward, had acne, had just suffered a serious crisis within my family so wasn’t bouncy and cute and outgoing and conventional.

Perfect target.

I was mercilessly, relentlessly, daily and publicly bullied in Grades 10, 11 and 12 at my middle-class Toronto high school. I was nicknamed Doglin, had a gang of three or four boys barking at me down the hallways, had a dog biscuit laid on my desk in class, had my “nickname” shouted whenever it suited them. Teachers saw and heard. And did nothing.

I finally lost it in Grade 12 math class, as one of them, a stream of insults babbling out of his mouth sotto voce like some toxic soundtrack it was impossible to escape or shut off, hit my last frayed nerve. I’d already been going to see a therapist for years, who wanted to medicate me to relieve my (very real) anxiety. I had friends. I had a few teachers who treated me with great kindness and affection. But, short of changing schools (I’d already attended five by Grade 10), there was no relief to be had.

Our textbook that year was thick, weighing maybe two or three pounds, and I used it to whack the back of his head as hard as I could. God, that felt good!

The teacher, fully aware of the drama, quietly suggested I move to another seat.

Being bullied is one of the worst forms of torture. Unless you (as my partner also knows from his own childhood) or your kids have been through it, it looks harmless. The victim is always blown off, mildly advised to just ignore it, suck it up, walk away.

And if it were physical assault? Rape?

My parents were helpless and frustrated. This waking nightmare left me with a deep and abiding mistrust of “authority”  — since no one who had any did a thing to help or protect me. To this day, to my embarrassment, I can be extremely thin-skinned even in the face of the most loving teasing.

It must stop. School authorities, whether teachers or administrators, should be criminally liable.

What Runs In Your Family?

In behavior, parenting on March 28, 2010 at 9:38 am
WUHAN, CHINA - SEPTEMBER 16:  Workers place an...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Every morning I knock my Mom askew when I open the bedroom curtains.

It’s a blue and green oil painting of her, done by my father, about 5 x 7, a nude done when they were first married. There’s a red and black version of her, also by him, hanging in the dining room — neither are terribly detailed, nothing creepy or embarrassing.

They divorced when I was six, so evidence of their initial love is as comforting to me as loving the beauty of the images as the fact they’re both well-done and of/by people I love.

Our apartment is filled with art and photos: by us, of us, by our parents or friends, alive or dead. My Dad, a former maker of documentaries and news television series, does just about anything creative well, usually with no training: engravings, lithographs, etchings, silver, oils. My sweetie recently took some great photos of Dad, standing at his easel in his bathrobe, working on a still life in his studio.

My mom was a radio and television and film and print journalist. She never attended college, marrying my Canadian Dad at 17 and following him from Manhattan to Vancouver, where I was born. Living there, they started an art gallery, representing terrific painters like David Milne. She modeled for the local newspaper. Creative fearlessless seemed part of their DNA.

I grew up taking all this for granted. Being creative, taking risks, trying stuff without — oh, yeah, training or education or official certification — having an idea and putting it out there for (gulp) mass public judgment and, one hopes, some decent pay, is just what Kellys do.

My partner grew up the son of a Baptist minister and a kindergarten teacher, of Hispanic heritage, born and raised in New Mexico. He’s the guy who told me — almost a deal-breaker when we were dating — that my closets were messy. (Um, they’re closets.) In his own loving/annoying way, he’s very much a PK, a preacher’s kid. They’re said to share fairly universal characteristics: kind, ethical, empathetic, good around adults, obedient to authority. I swear his gravestone will  carry the words, “Be careful.” In his excessively bossy moments, I call him Hall Monitor Boy. I hate rules!

But I love his ferocious work ethic, his joy in teaching and mentoring, his ability to handle any situation with grace and humility and the right degree of gravitas. When he was little, he was routinely sent out to show visiting preachers the local tourist sights, so he’s at ease with strangers and making people feel comfortable.

We don’t have kids, so whatever we are, or do, doesn’t play out within our own offspring.

What skills or beliefs or characteristics do you carry from your Mom or Dad or grandparents?

What of yourself do you see in your kids?

Does it make you cringe, or smile?

Get The Flame-Thrower! Two People Need Six Hours to Clear Out Ten Years' Worth Of Crap?

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm
Storage Unit

Image by Penningtron via Flickr

Exhausted!

We started this morning at 9:30 and simply gave up in weary surrender at 2:30, running to KFC for a little disgusting junk-food solace.

So much crap. Two career journos who like to read: photos, negatives, framed artwork, furniture and cookware he kept when he moved into my small apartment 10 years ago.

I did find some very dear treasures, from the cat hand puppet of my childhood to a photo of me in January 1994 on Ko Phi Phi, a remote island off of Southern Thailand to my sketchbook from 1998 with my watercolors of Melbourne and New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. Then there were the engagement photos of me and my ex-husband and even the seating chart for our wedding dinner.  Former beaux cropped up in numerous photos.

Some of it was sad and painful — lots of cards from and photos of the woman who was my closest friend for a decade, who dropped me forever after she married. I found tons of art supplies: pastels, sketchbooks, my colored pencils and watercolors. I loved seeing my paintings from Mexico — where I took an afternoon art class in Spanish in Coyoacan, a suburb of Mexico City. Serendipity turned up some materials that exactly fit my current needs, from a book on handling arthritis pain to a labor study from a week-long journalism fellowship in September 2001; I was on a suburban Maryland college campus on 9/11.

We also, eerily, found a color postcard of the World Trade Center — the day my partner was to move from his Brooklyn apartment into mine was 9/11. Instead, he edited photos for his newspaper job from his apartment and I spent the day in Maryland wondering if he was alive or dead.

My sweetie found a ton of memorabilia — like the color photo of him with Larry Hagman dressed as Santa Claus with Nancy Reagan, in a typically red suit, laughing behind the three of them. Or him posing with George H.W. Bush and Barbara. (White House annual holiday party, open to all members of the White House Press Corps.) A deeply mushy note from an ex? Torn to bits. Ouch!

He’s a Buddhist, but boy do we have a lot of crap. We barely got through half of it today so next Saturday is devoted to finishing the job. Out forever will go the four-foot high stereo speakers as we try to compress everything left into a much smaller, cheaper space. It makes me crazy to spend good money to store…junk. It’s not junk, but what is it? Memories. Stuff, for now, we’re not ready to toss entirely.

I’d flame it all, but I treasure my mother’s typewritten letters, photos and negatives and slides dating back decades and, yes, my bloody clips. His life, like mine, has been filled with adventure, sports, travel and some historic news photos, by him and by others. I adore the 1959 black and white photo he found of his Dad — a Baptist minister long-dead who I never met — complete with those wavy 1950s photo edges. In it, he’s wearing three pairs of eye-glasses at once.

I’d never pictured his Dad being goofy and playful so this is a new image, and one worth framing.

Next week…who knows?

Women Shut Out Of STEM Jobs (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering) — While This Year's Intel Winner Is A Girl

In education, science, Technology, women on March 27, 2010 at 8:24 am
German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks at a tes...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

The report released this week, “Why So Few?” says it all — women remain under-represented in the STEM fields, filled — no coincidence — with growing opportunities and good salaries.

Reported The New York Times:

The report found ample evidence of continuing cultural bias. One study of postdoctoral applicants, for example, found that women had to publish 3 more papers in prestigious journals, or 20 more in less-known publications, to be judged as productive as male applicants.

Making judgments about an individual’s abilities based on his or her sex is a classic form of discrimination, said Nancy Hopkins, an M.I.T. biology professor who created an academic stir in the 1990s by documenting pervasive, but largely unintentional, discrimination against women at the university.

Even if male math geniuses outnumbered female geniuses 3 to 1, Dr. Hopkins said, it would be reasonable to expect one female math professor for every three male professors at places like Harvard and M.I.T. “But in fact, Harvard just tenured its first female, after 375 years,” said Dr. Hopkins.

Tom Friedman attended the banquet celebrating this year’s 40 Intel science contest winners.

The contest identifies and honors the top math and science high school students in America.

Wrote Friedman:

Seriously, ESPN or MTV should broadcast the Intel finals live. All of the 40 finalists are introduced, with little stories about their lives and aspirations. Then the winners of the nine best projects are announced. And finally, with great drama, the overall winner of the $100,000 award for the best project of the 40 is identified. This year it was Erika Alden DeBenedictis of New Mexico for developing a software navigation system that would enable spacecraft to more efficiently “travel through the solar system.” After her name was called, she was swarmed by her fellow competitor-geeks.

Gotta say, it was the most inspiring evening I’ve had in D.C. in 20 years.

Erika, 18, from Albuquerque, already has her own homepage. Here’s the Intel description of her work.

I loved the video on Intel’s site, in which the female competitors enthuse about their work: “It’s just a completely different way of thinking about the contribution I can make to the world”; “I fell in love with science when I realized how many unanswered questions have yet to be answered”; “I like being on the edge of things.”

If you’re not encouraged — by books, films, mentors, parents, friends, teachers, neighbors, let alone the culture at large — how can we succeed? In my recent post about sexism in journalism, a young college student studying computer science commented on the hostile and sexist climate she faces in the classroom from male students. Even the smartest, toughest, most creative and determined among us can shrivel in the face of such glacial, threatened behavior.

Teachers and professors, take note!

I adored biology and wanted to study it in university and my teacher in senior year discouraged me. I would only have taken one class, from the pure love of it, but he warned me it would be too hard. I regret not doing it and I regret listening to him.

My youngest half-brother won such a prestigious prize in high school — in 1999 — for his work on MRSA. The international reception he received was quite extraordinary: a world-famous scientist took him under her wing; he was flown all over the U.S. to lecture and speak, a major Toronto hospital wanted to patent his work. Doors swung wide open, fast, to some of the most powerful and accomplished contacts imaginable. He had not even started college.

He doesn’t work in science, and left it behind to focus on peace and conflict studies.

Talented, hardworking girls and women in STEM fields need — and deserve — this sort of welcome and encouragement.

I’m in awe of women studying, and working, in STEM. They’re our future.

Filling The 'Hungry Gap' With Tamasin Day-Lewis, Cookbook Author And Sister Of You Know Who

In food, women on March 26, 2010 at 3:54 pm
out of the frying pan

Image by waferboard via Flickr

The month of March — the wind howling today, crocuses and daffodils up here in New York — is called the ‘hungry gap” says Tamasin Day-Lewis, the shaggy-haired, un-Botoxed British cookbook author featured in this month’s U.S. edition of Elle magazine:

England has a trinity of famous food personalities: Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver, and Tamasin Day-Lewis. While the first two have become successful U.S. imports, the latter, despite being the sister of actor Daniel Day-Lewis and a close friend of celebs such as Julia Roberts (who you might recall was linked to the There Will Be Blood actor back in the ’90s), is known here mainly to insiders.

This might have something to do with the fact that, although Day-Lewis’ ethos is similar to Lawson and Oliver’s—we ought to mostly eat delicious food using fresh, humanely sourced ingredients—her delivery is not as user-friendly as Nigella’s (you too can be a domestic goddess) or the Naked Chef’s (throw some arugula in, mate—that’s the secret, innit?). The demystification of cooking is not her primary concern; the poetry of the palate is.

But her latest book, Supper for a Song, may be what expands her U.S. reputation. The title alludes both to getting something for nothing and to the always-out-of-pocket bohemian who pays her way by providing good conversation.

I have one of her cookbooks, Tamasin’s Weekend Food, and love it. It’s one of her eight cookbooks, and her tone — breezy, elegant, relaxed, veddy British — is a lovely breath of fresh country air. It assumes — sigh — one has a big old country house and you need to cook for hungry kids and/or multiple weekend guests. (She lives, lucky thing, in a 15th. century house in Somerset, three hours from London, writes for the Daily Telegraph and has a television show.)

I have none of these but still love the book, its photos and its recipes. It even has the classic red ribbon with which to mark your place.

In it, she writes:

“The weekend defines one’s style of cooking and eating more than any other time of the week…You have no time — you are tired. You have invited more people than you meant or or you have nowhere to go and nobody to come — YET. You have more time to cook than at any other time of the week, but you don’t want to feel you’ve got to do it — that stops the pleasure of the planning, the mulling, the weekend being the weekend.”

Who else, in a recipe for leeks vinaigrette (p. 88) commands: “Irrigate the leeks, which you have laid regimental style”? Or, (p. 106) “There has been much written about syllabub”?

From a review of her memoir, from The Independent:

Despite her zeal about healthy, sustainable food, Day-Lewis is pessimistic that attitudes will change. “You have to start with people who care a bit,” she adds with a shrug. The English, she says, are more eager to watch cooking on the telly than to care about what they cook and eat. ” I can’t make people buy the ingredients. I can’t make them sit down together. We want to eat food that takes no time at all and is made of mechanically recovered slurry.”

As for Jamie Oliver’s attempts to force children to eat decent school dinners, the plan is fundamentally flawed. “It will never work. You have to get them into the kitchen as part of the curriculum and make them cook,” she says. It was a lesson she learned in the kitchen of Elizabeth Jane Howard as she chopped vegetables and tried to forget her father’s illness. “No child ever didn’t eat what they cooked for themselves. That is what life is all about.” *

Newsweek Sexist? Forty Years Ago, Women Staffers Sued For Equal Treatment. Today, Things Aren't Much Better, There And Elsewhere

In Media, women on March 26, 2010 at 11:58 am
Newsweek Cover: Stephen Jay Gould

Image by Ryan Somma via Flickr

Here’s a story that may come as news to any young, ambitious female journalist — or anyone who’s convinced women are equal to men and the F-word is feminism. Old, tired, done.

Not so much, write three current Newsweek staffers, all young women, who discovered a landmark lawsuit, brought by Newsweek’s female staffers in 1970, when women there were called “dollies”.

From this week’s Newsweek cover story:

But by 1969, as the women’s movement gathered force around them, the dollies got restless. They began meeting in secret, whispering in the ladies’ room or huddling around a colleague’s desk. To talk freely they’d head to the Women’s Exchange, a 19th-century relic where they could chat discreetly on their lunch break. At first there were just three, then nine, then ultimately 46—women who would become the first group of media professionals to sue for employment discrimination based on gender under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Their employer was NEWSWEEK magazine.

In 1970, 46 women sued Newsweek for gender discrimination. Today, three young writers examine how much has changed.

Until six months ago, when sex- and gender-discrimination scandals hit ESPN, David Letterman’s Late Show, and the New York Post, the three of us—all young NEWSWEEK writers—knew virtually nothing of these women’s struggle. Over time, it seemed, their story had faded from the collective conversation. Eventually we got our hands on a worn copy of In Our Time, a memoir written by a former NEWSWEEK researcher, Susan Brownmiller, which had a chapter on the uprising.

In countless small ways, each of us has felt frustrated over the years, as if something was amiss. But as products of a system in which we learned that the fight for equality had been won, we didn’t identify those feelings as gender-related. It seemed like a cop-out, a weakness, to suggest that the problem was anybody’s fault but our own. It sounds naive—we know—especially since our own boss Ann McDaniel climbed the ranks to become NEWSWEEK’s managing director, overseeing all aspects of the company…

Yet the more we talked to our friends and colleagues, the more we heard the same stories of disillusionment, regardless of profession. No one would dare say today that “women don’t write here,” as the NEWSWEEK women were told 40 years ago. But men wrote all but six of NEWSWEEK’s 49 cover stories last year—and two of those used the headline “The Thinking Man.” In 1970, 25 percent of NEWSWEEK’s editorial masthead was female; today that number is 39 percent. Better? Yes. But it’s hardly equality. (Overall, 49 percent of the entire company, the business and editorial sides, is female.) “Contemporary young women enter the workplace full of enthusiasm, only to see their hopes dashed,” says historian Barbara J. Berg. “Because for the first time they’re slammed up against gender bias.” [NB: added boldface here mine]

My first New York City job — oh, I had high hopes! — was for Newsweek’s international edition, the skinny, onion-skin-paper version I’d bought in Africa and Europe myself. I was offered a job tryout of a month. I was warned they already had someone in mind, male, with a fresh Ivy graduate degree (I have no graduate degree). I was also competing with a friend, a lower-level employee there.

I opened the desk drawer to find Tums and aspirin. I got an attaboy note on one of my four stories, one per week, but was still shown the door, as foretold, after a month in their hallowed halls. I did get to go out for dinner with fellow staffers to a nearby Japanese restaurant, everyone confidently using only chopsticks. Luckily, I could too. The conversation was competitively smart.

As fellow True/Slant writer Lisa Takeuchi Cullen — a 12-year staff veteran of Time — has described here, working in the Ivy-educated, mostly white, mostly male ranks of Time or Newsweek is like stepping into a testosterone-soaked locker room full of shoving jocks.

I interviewed three more times over the years at Newsweek, never hired. I admit, I shrivel in job interviews — even with a book, five fellowships, two major newspaper jobs and fluency in two languages. “Do you write for The Atlantic? Harper’s?” I was asked the last time. Of every smart, ambitious, talented writer, about .0002 percent will ever crack one of those two markets, probably two of the most difficult in American journalism to penetrate.

Naively thinking this was intellectually possible without engaging my sexuality — sort of like trying to drive in neutral, as it turned out — I tried, briefly, to get to know a very senior editor there after I left my try-out, hoping he might take an interest in my work and help me try for another chance there.

To my dismay, and shock, he leaned in close at one of our lunches and said, “I can’t smell your perfume.”

Excuse me? He was older, married. I was engaged and living with my fiance. None of which matters. My perfume?

This was also discussed today between current Newsweek staffer Jessica Bennett and former staffer Lynn Povich, one of the editors who sued the magazine, on The Brian Lehrer Show, a WNYC talk and call-in show:

Bennett, at 28 a “senior writer” after four years there, said:  “We were mesmerized by the descriptions of what went on back then. We just couldn’t get enough!” Thanks to buyouts over the years, the women who’d managed to get in and hang on at Newsweek had left. “A lot of institutional knowledge was gone,” said Bennett.

Said Povich, “It’s hard to be a feminist in a ‘post-feminist’ world.”

I’d write off my own lunchtime weirdness with that editor as something dinosaur-ish, impossible today, but for the Newsweek staffers’ current stories:

If a man takes an interest in our work, we can’t help but think about the male superior who advised “using our sexuality” to get ahead, or the manager who winkingly asked one of us, apropos of nothing, to “bake me cookies.” One young colleague recalls being teased about the older male boss who lingered near her desk. “What am I supposed to do with that? Assume that’s the explanation for any accomplishments? Assume my work isn’t valuable?” she asks. “It gets in your head, which is the most insidious part.”

A recent study  of the top 15 political and news magazines found that their male by-lines (the credit line for a story’s writer) outnumbered those of women seven to one.

Plus ca change, mes cheres…

The Stuff We Inherit, From Chairs To Pistols — Then What?

In antiques, design on March 25, 2010 at 6:34 pm
Image representing eBay as depicted in CrunchBase

One solution...Image via CrunchBase

What do you with your family’s stuff if you inherit some decent things and have to go through it all?

Sell it — on Ebay? Craigslist?  At auction? Donate it to Goodwill?

An intriguing new book, “Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family’s past, One Chair, Pistol and Pickle Fork at a Time”, delves into the subject. Lisa Tracy, a journalist, auctioned off many of these objects in 2003.

From The New York Times:

She still regrets aspects of the sale; prices were mostly a few hundred dollars. During the auction, she had hoped to tell buyers about the back stories: how her grandparents entertained on the Canton rose-medallion plates and collected wooden chests while posted with the American military in China and the Philippines, and how the protruding hardware on one trunk always snagged the clothing of anyone walking past.

But as Ms. Tracy approached successful bidders in the parking lot after the sale, they brushed her off politely. “I was so dashed by that,” she said during a recent interview at a Manhattan coffee shop. “But I realized people wanted to start investing their own stories in the pieces, about how they got it at this auction.”

Her book is part of a minitrend of literary memoirs based on longtime possessions. Last year the antiques restorer Maryalice Huggins’s “Aesop’s Mirror: A Love Story” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) described her inconclusive research into the origins of a gilded mirror dripping with high-relief fruit. In August Farrar, Straus will publish the British ceramist Edmund de Waal’s “Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss,” about his inherited collection of some 360 Japanese ivory carvings that were smuggled to safety during the Holocaust.

From Random House’s website:

After their mother’s death, Lisa Tracy and her sister, Jeanne, are left to contend with several households’ worth of furniture and memorabilia, much of it accumulated during their family’s many decades of military service in far-flung outposts from the American frontier to the World War Two–era Pacific. In this engaging and deeply moving book, Tracy chronicles the wondrous interior life of those possessions and discovers that the roots of our passion for acquisition often lie not in shallow materialism but in our desire to possess the most treasured commodity of all: a connection to the past.

What starts as an exercise in information gathering designed to boost the estate’s resale value at auction evolves into a quest that takes Lisa Tracy from her New Jersey home to the Philippines and, ultimately, back to the town where she grew up. These travels open her eyes to a rich family history characterized by duty, hardship, honor, and devotion—qualities embodied in the very items she intends to sell. Here is an inventory unlike any other: silver gewgaws, dueling pistols that once belonged to Aaron Burr (no, not those pistols), a stately storage chest from Boxer Rebellion–era China, providentially recovered family documents, even a chair in which George Washington may or may not have sat—each piece cherished and passed down to Lisa’s generation as an emblem of who her forebears were, what they had done, and where they had been. Each is cataloged here with all the richness and intimacy that only a family member could bring to the endeavor.

As someone unreasonably passionate about antiques, I get it. I love feeling connected to the past whenever I use my brass push-up candlesticks or sit on my 19th-century rush-seated painted chairs or use my 18th. century teapot — $3.50 in an upstate junk shop. I wear antique shawls and, as I write, a pair of green glass Deco-era drop earrings I found in an L.A. flea market for $40. My computer desk is covered with pale green ticking bought in the Paris flea market.

Worn and beautiful, well-made old things comfort and soothe me in a way no slick, shiny modern thing (OK, except my Itouch and Mac) can match.

I bought all of it.

We have very few inherited pieces, for a variety of reasons.

What objects have you inherited that you cherish — or couldn’t wait to dump?

Sick At Home Alone? How Social Media Are Helping

In behavior, Health, Technology on March 25, 2010 at 2:40 pm
Day 6/365

Image by SuperFantastic via Flickr

I found this New York Times story compelling — selfishly — as someone recently largely confined to quarters recovering from a bad bout of osteoarthritis and a back spasm. Two friends, both self-employed writers, one living in a fourth-floor walk-up, are also at home with their own back issues. Comparing notes, checking in with one another and commiserating has made it more bearable.

Thank heaven for email and Facebook!

A diagnosis of a chronic or terminal illness is bad enough — but the added, enforced social, physical and emotional isolation that often comes with it can make things a lot worse.

If you are, as many are, much younger than those typically facing a specific illness or condition, friends in your peer group may have no idea what you face, and may find it depressing or frightening to discuss.

If no one in your family has it — my Dad, 80, and I are comparing athritis meds these days! — who really understands your daily struggles?

You need people who get it and can help:

For many people, social networks are a place for idle chatter about what they made for dinner or sharing cute pictures of their pets. But for people living with chronic diseases or disabilities, they play a more vital role.

“It’s really literally saved my life, just to be able to connect with other people,” said Sean Fogerty, 50, who has multiple sclerosis, is recovering from brain cancer and spends an hour and a half each night talking with other patients online.

People fighting chronic illnesses are less likely than others to have Internet access, but once online they are more likely to blog or participate in online discussions about health problems, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the California HealthCare Foundation.

“If they can break free from the anchors holding them down, people living with chronic disease who go online are finding resources that are more useful than the rest of the population,” said Susannah Fox, associate director of digital strategy at Pew and author of the report.

They are gathering on big patient networking sites like PatientsLikeMe, HealthCentral, Inspire, CureTogether and Alliance Health Networks, and on small sites started by patients on networks like Ning and Wetpaint.

Have social media helped you cope with an illness or injury?

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