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Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

Does journalism still matter to you?

In behavior, blogging, books, culture, journalism, Media, news, politics, US on August 20, 2012 at 3:05 am
Carl Bernstein in Salt Lake City.jpg

Carl Bernstein in Salt Lake City.jpg (Photo credit: Jeremy Franklin)

Do you care about facts?

Context?

Objective truth?

As someone who’s been working in journalism for 30 years, I get up every morning assuming — hoping! — there is still an audience interested in learning something smart and thoughtful about the world they didn’t know the day before.

I say “day” because minute-to-minute “news” is often, unless it’s about a death or natural disaster, wrong, biased, misinformed.

Being the first to report something doesn’t mean being the best.

I don’t use Twitter. When I read my “news feed” on Facebook, I don’t substitute my friends’ opinions, videos and pet photos for an understanding of the world.

But many people now do. For them this is news, traditional media be damned.

Thanks to the Internet, to blogs like this and news that reifies hardened political views, too many people now turn to an echo chamber, listening and reading only those people whose shared vision of the world and its challenges — poverty, reproductive rights, defense, education, health care — comforts, soothes and reassures them that their worldview is right!

What we’re gaining — in a feeling of connectedness and community — we’re also losing by ignoring or shutting out the viewpoints of those with whom we disagree, perhaps violently. If you live in the U.S. and read the liberal New York Times, it’s worth also reading the opinion and editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to see a totally different view of the same issues.

Just because you lean wayyyyyy to the left, or right, doesn’t mean your opinion is accurate because it’s shared by those who shout your tune the loudest.

No matter how much you may disagree, if you refuse to examine and consider other viewpoints, how can you learn how other people think? With a Presidential election here in a few months, it’s certainly going to play out at the ballot box.

You can’t just cover your ears and shout lalalalalalalalalalalala and hope to have a clue what’s going out there.

I read a variety of media, and try to include British and Canadian sources as often as possible. If I were less lazy, I’d also read Spanish and French media. Nor do I assume that any journalist, or media outlet, has some exclusive claim to the truth. I know better!

When it comes to “truth”, there are many different versions.

Here’s a short video interview from the Guardian newspaper with American journalist Carl Bernstein about the issue; he was one of the two Washington Post reporters whose exhaustive, dogged investigative work on former President Richard Nixon led to his resignation.

In his view, the scourge of our era is this closed-eyes/closed-ears attitude. Our unwillingness to listen to one another in order to gain some sort of consensus.

Do you seek out views other than your own?

“Malled: My Unintentional Career In Retail” — On Sale Today!

In behavior, blogging, books, business, entertainment, journalism, life, Media, Money, women, work on April 14, 2011 at 11:06 am

Finally!

My new memoir, which tells the story of retail work in America, is out today from Portfolio. It’s been getting terrific reviews — Entertainment Weekly calls it “an excellent memoir” and Herb Schaffner, a columnist for Bnet compares it to the best-seller “Nickeled and Dimed”, calling Malled “reality journalism at its best.”

I’m thrilled by the reception it’s gotten, with interviews and reviews, so far, from USA Today, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, the Associated Press and Marie-Claire. I’ll be a guest on NPR’s Diane Rehm show, with two million listeners, on April 19; on Marketplace and on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show on April 20.

I’ve also been invited to write a guest post for the Harvard Business Review blog.

My goal in writing this book is to make retail work — and the 15 million employees who make their living doing it — better understood. We all shop! The American economy, even in a recession, relies heavily on consumer spending, but we rarely talk frankly about what that demands of those workers, many of them part-time, with no benefits, earning low wages with little chance for raises or promotions.

I worked as an associate in a suburban New York mall, with some very wealthy customers, from September 2007 to December 2009, so this is also a portrait of the deepening recession and other workers who are taking low-wage work to make ends meet. I interviewed many others, from Costco CFO Richard Galanti to consultant Paco Underhill to best-selling author and owner of five elegant clothing stores, Jack Mitchell.

Like me, like this blog, “Malled” pulls no punches. It’s sometimes funny, sometimes dark, always honest.

And, yes, there’s plenty of outrage!

Wal-Mart has so far spent $2 million fighting an OSHA order and $7,000 fine to make their stores safer during sales  — after an associate in their Long Island store was killed when shoppers stampeded over his body.

Is this really what we want for our low-wage workers?

The sad thing is that such treatment is considered normal. In 1892, F.W. Woolworth disdained the notion of paying his workers a living wage — his business model, discount goods, simply didn’t allow for it.

I hope you’ll check it out at malledthebook.com, where you can read the introduction and Chapter One free.

You’ll also find there a listing of my many upcoming readings and events, most in and around New York City and some in Toronto; I’m talking at 10:00 a.m. on May 28 on the downtown campus of my alma mater, The University of Toronto.

The book also has a Facebook fan page; I hope you’ll “like” it and spread the word! If you enjoy “Malled”, I’d love it if you’d write a review at amazon.com

And here’s a funny/spot-on flow chart on what it takes to get a book published…

Working Retail? A Shopper? This Book’s For You

In blogging, books, business, entertainment, journalism, life, Media, news, women, work on March 24, 2011 at 1:37 am
Mall in Jakarta

Mall life....some of us survive it! Image via Wikipedia

Three weeks from today my new memoir, “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail” appears from Portfolio, the imprint of Penguin Press focused on business.

It tells the story of my two years and three months as a sales associate at a suburban New York mall for The North Face, an internationally known brand of outdoor clothing. In it, you’ll also hear from many other associates nationwide, and from consultants, analysts and senior executives — like Richard Galanti, the CFO of Costco — working in the nation’s third largest industry and largest source of new jobs.

If you’ve ever worked in a retail job — or any job with the public (God help you!) — you’ll find something in it to identify with, especially customers from hell, whether entitled finger-snappers or the perpetually dissatisfied.

I started out, as many retail workers do, psyched. New job, new industry, new skills, new co-workers. It was all good!

A few years later, shaking with rage, I actually ran and hid in the stockroom one afternoon after the umpteenth whiny shopper hit my last strained nerve.

“You’re being hostile,” she sniffed.

Truthfully I replied: “You have no idea what hostile looks like!”

Please check out the introduction and chapter one here.

The book — yay! — is getting all sorts of media interest. I’ve already been interviewed, so far, by the Associated Press, Washington Post, WWD, Marie-Claire (May issue) and USA Today. I’m booked on NRP’s Diane Rehm show April 18, and will travel from my home in NY to DC to do it in-studio.

Entertainment Weekly just named it “an excellent memoir.”

Please cross your fingers for its success, come check out our FB page and, if you like it, please spread the word!

Baby? What Baby? We Have A Baby?

In Crime, parenting on May 29, 2010 at 10:47 am
Sleep Like A Baby

Forgettable? Really? Image by peasap via Flickr

Maybe this is why I didn’t have kids.

Two stories from today’s New York Times on people who forget they have babies, one from South Korea, one from the U.S.. In South Korea, Internet gaming addiction is a national problem:

Neither had a job. They were shy and had never dated anyone until they met through an online chat site in 2008. They married, but they knew so little about childbearing that the 25-year-old woman did not know when her baby was due until her water broke.

But in the fantasy world of Internet gaming, they were masters of all they encountered, swashbuckling adventurers exploring mythical lands and slaying monsters. Every evening, the couple, Kim Yun-jeong and her husband, Kim Jae-beom, 41, left their one-room apartment for an all-night Internet cafe where they role-played, often until dawn. Each one raised a virtual daughter, who followed them everywhere, and was fed, dressed and cuddled — all with a few clicks of the mouse.

On the morning of Sept. 24 last year, they returned home after a 12-hour game session to find their actual daughter, a 3-month-old named Sa-rang — love in Korean — dead, shriveled with malnutrition.

In South Korea, one of the world’s most wired societies, addiction to online games has long been treated as a teenage affliction. But the Kims’ case has drawn attention to the growing problem here of Internet game addiction among adults.

And, from the Times’ automotive section:

INFANTS or young children left inside a vehicle can die of hyperthermia in a few hours, even when the temperature outside is not especially hot. It is a tragedy that kills about 30 children a year, according to the National Safety Council.

Making the deaths all the more tragic, perhaps, is that many are a result of forgetfulness rather than neglect, occurring when distracted but otherwise responsible parents or caretakers inadvertently leave a child in the car.

Newspaper articles and campaigns by safety advocates had brought some attention to the problem, but its visibility grew when a March 2009 article by Gene Weingarten in The Washington Post Magazine, “Fatal Distraction,” asked whether the mistake of forgetting a child in the back seat of a car was also a crime. The article won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing…

Janette Fennell is the founder and president of KidsAndCars.org, a safety advocacy group based in Leawood, Kan., that focuses on issues involving children and automobiles. In a telephone interview, Ms. Fennell made her view clear, saying she believed that carmakers must develop reminder devices to warn drivers if a child is left behind.

I’m not buying this. Now the car has to remind you you have kids? That’s the car’s responsibility?

You accidentally cook your baby — the Times‘, typically obliquely and too-politely calls this “hyperthermia”, — in the back of your vehicle on a hot summer’s day because….you forgot s/he was there?

Babies travel in carseats. Those carseats are heavy and bulky and demand your full attention as you buckle and strap your baby into them, and into your vehicle. When you exit the vehicle to do your urgent errands on a hot day, wear the baby in a sling or put the kid(s) in a stroller and remove them from the car. This is complicated? Yes, it takes time and energy. You chose to have kids, right?

If you’re so tired you forget you have a baby in your own vehicle, you’re in no shape to be driving. Nothing you need to get in a car with your kids and drive to obtain is that urgent — drugstores can deliver medicine and you can buy food and do your banking on-line.

How, exactly, do you forget you have a baby?

With His Photos of Young, Fallen Soldiers' Bedrooms, Ashley Gilbertson Casts A Fresh Eye On War

In photography, the military on April 15, 2010 at 3:06 pm
Africa during World War II:  a Vichy French Do...

Now for something a little different...Image by gbaku via Flickr

“I’ve been covering conflict and war for more than 10 years, but this is the first time that I’ve really felt like a war photographer,” said Mr. Gilbertson, who is based in New York.

This, from The New York TimesLens blog, one of my favorite on-line destinations, which offers the story behind the story:

Although his coverage of Iraq has won awards, including the Robert Capa Gold Medal from the Overseas Press Club of America in 2004, Mr. Gilbertson, 32, said he has stopped photographing combat zones because the American public isn’t responding anymore.

Now concentrating on showing the aftereffects of war, including post-traumatic stress disorder, Mr. Gilbertson looks at bedrooms as a way of memorializing the lives — rather than the deaths — of young combatants.

“It’s powerful to look at where these kids lived, to see who they were as living, breathing human beings,” Mr. Gilbertson said. “Their bedrooms were the one place in the house where they could express themselves with all the things they loved.”

To find the 19 rooms published by The New York Times Magazine, Mr. Gilbertson regularly visited “Faces of the Fallen,” on The Washington Post’s Web site. He narrowed his search to casualties who were around 19, then reached out to their families. In some cases, he spent months building relationships. He has also started a Web site with information on memorial funds.

What's In Your Media Diet?

In Media on March 25, 2010 at 10:06 am
NBC Nightly News broadcast

Image via Wikipedia

In addition to Hoovering up as much information from the world at large — conversations, ads, overheard remarks, keeping my eyes open, looking for trends and patterns — here’s where I get my information. Not a total list, but:

Every morning at 9:00 a.m., I listen to a full hour of BBC World News, on radio; read The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and New York Post, may listening to the local NPR talk shows, The Brian Lehrer Show (call-in) and Leonard Lopate (culture), Soundcheck (music) and their national shows Fresh Air and All Things Considered. On weekends, I enjoy Studio 360 and This American Life, both on PRI. Yes, I am a radio junkie! (Blame it on growing up listening to the excellent programming of the CBC, in Canada; for a good taste of it, try their version of ATC, the nightly new show “As It Happens.”)

I watch much less news television: NBC Nightly News and BBC. I check in a few times a day with mediabistro.com. which has a lot of media-related news and may scan a few other websites I like, quirky, personal ones like Shakesville or huge ones like Arts & Letters Daily and Broadsheet.

I often read British and Canadian newspapers on-line, from The Guardian to The Globe and Mail. I speak French and Spanish, so sometimes read in those languages, in print or on-line, like Le Point or Liberation from France. I was reading the Washington Post on-line and in print for years – looks like my subscription has lapsed — and also sometimes read The Los Angeles Times.

I read a lot of non-fiction — just finished eight books as background for my own — and try to read fiction when I can squeeze it in. I just bought my first copy of Lapham’s Quarterly and look forward to reading it.

I read a lot of colleagues’ non-fiction to blog about it and support other writers. I think it’s important both to share ideas and great work, and to create a sense of community.

I read a ton of women’s magazines, mostly for amusement. I sometimes read Vanity Fair, rarely read The New Yorker (can’t stand its elitist tone and dominance of male writers, a problem for me with many magazines.)

I read all the (remaining) shelter magazines, for pleasure and inspiration. We have subscriptions to: National Geographic, Smithsonian, Fortune, Forbes, SmartMoney, Barron’s, PDN (a photography trade magazine), Bon Appetit (after Gourmet was killed). At the library, when I have time, I’ll add Maclean’s (Canadian newsweekly), New York, maybe Time or Newsweek, but only rarely.

We fight over the weekend Financial Times we love it so much.

Here’s 13 Big Name writers and their media diets, from The Atlantic.

As fellow True/Slant writer Sara Libby recently wrote:

There you have it: If you’re not, male, white and straight, you simply cannot judge things fairly. Or report on them.

Only two women made that list — which is one reason I rarely read The Atlantic. Get a grip!

How about you?

From IEDs to CVs — The Challenge of Finding Work After War

In business, the military on March 12, 2010 at 9:54 pm
A US soldier arrests a mock suspect wearing ar...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

If there’s any job tougher than being a soldier, it can be finding a civilian employer who truly understands the skills a soldier brings.

From the New York Post:

The unemployment rate for returning veterans is around two percentage points above the national average.

Given how high that average is to begin with, “That’s pretty catastrophic,” says Tarantino, who’s now a legislative associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, lobbying on veterans’ behalf in DC.

Veterans and their advocates say a number of barriers can stand in the way for vets seeking jobs, as well as those returning to work after serving in a war zone. They include long gaps in private-sector work histories, the lack of a network, difficulty adjusting to a work environment after the extremes of combat and a corporate world that often fails to appreciate the crossover value of the considerable skills, both hard and soft, that soldiers acquire.

Throw in a disability, either physical or an invisible one like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and things get harder still. And the cruel irony is, finding work is often a crucial step toward successfully readjusting to civilian life after a deployment.

Young veterans face the most difficulty, reports the Los Angeles Times:

Young combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have another challenge waiting for them when they return home: steep unemployment.

More than 1 in 5 can’t find work, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

The unemployment rate last year for veterans ages 18 to 24 reached 21.1%, compared to 16.6% for that age group as a whole.

In addition to the recession, veterans groups attribute the high jobless rate to a lack of education, job experience and job training in the years before entering the service. Also, many return home with health and mental health problems that make it difficult to find work.

“When a person is deployed, it takes them out of their natural environment and they’re not out there able to compete with the general public for jobs,” said Joseph Sharpe, director of the economic division of the American Legion. “And when they return, they’re not on an even playing field.”

One video game developer is putting its money where its mouth is, donating $1 million to help veterans find work, reports the Washington Post:

The military’s predominantly male makeup falls squarely into Activision Blizzard’s preferred 18- to 35-year-old male demographic. The military has started using video games to train recruits, and service members often spend their down time with game consoles in hand. Activision Blizzard regularly donates video games and gaming consoles to the military through the USO, and the donations have helped the company identify and hire veterans who are interested in the gaming industry.

The foundation will make its first donation of $125,000 to the Paralyzed Veterans of America to help open a vocational rehabilitation center, the company said.

Yet some veterans are doing just fine, reports Fortune, thanks to a special mentoring program:

News Corp. (NWSA) is one of 17 major companies and universities — from Campbell Soup (CPB, Fortune 500), General Electric (GE, Fortune 500), Home Depot (HD, Fortune 500), IBM (IBM, Fortune 500), Procter & Gamble (PG, Fortune 500), Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500), and the University of Texas to, just recently, Bloomberg, Deloitte, and Harvard — that has signed on to provide mentors to veterans through American Corporate Partners since it launched in 2008. Currently ACP has more than 500 mentors matched up with veterans. There are another 800 veterans on a waiting list hoping to be assigned executive role models.

The non-profit is the brainchild of a former investment banker named Sid Goodfriend, who spent 25 years working first for Merrill Lynch and then Credit Suisse (CS). Goodfriend, 50, has no military background himself. Prior to forming ACP, he didn’t even have any close friends who had served in the armed forces. But in the years since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, he says he had developed a really deep sense of appreciation for how fortunate he’s been in life and an admiration for the soldiers that serve to keep him and his family safe. “I owe so much of what I have to these young people who decide to put country first and their welfare second in a lot of cases,” he says.

By 2007, the financially well-off Goodfriend decided that he wanted to leave Wall Street and spend his time giving back to veterans who have served since 9/11. The question was how? As a board member of a New York City non-profit called Student Sponsor Partners, which matches at-risk students in New York’s public school system with sponsors who pay for them to attend a private school and take a role in their education, he had seen firsthand the power of mentoring. And he knew how important mentors had been to him in his own career at Merrill. He figured veterans trying to break into business could use some expert guidance.

Fortune’s March 22 cover story features several veterans now being recruited by major corporations.

Time To Surgically Detach Your Kids From The Screen? Study Finds They Spend 7.5 Hours A Day There

In behavior, parenting on January 23, 2010 at 8:51 pm
A river snakes in the Niger Delta mangrove for...

You gotta be in it to care about it...Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

Thank God I don’t have kids. Reports the Washington Post:

Youth are spending more time with nearly every form of media than ever, according to a report released Wednesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. They spend more hours on the computer, in front of television, playing video games, texting and listening to music than an adult spends full-time at work.

The only media young people aren’t soaking up, the study says, are newspapers, magazines and other print publications.

Youth spend more than 7 1/2 hours a day using electronic media, or more than 53 hours a week, the 10-year study says. “And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content into those 7½ hours.”

The only cheerful news, from this writer’s very selfish perspective, is that they devote 38 minutes a day to print reading — a decrease of only five minutes from a decade earlier.

Here are a few reasons I find this depressing as hell:

1) Stunted social skills. I hear this from parents and teachers and even college professors — kids who relate to others primarily or exclusively through media, and not face to face, lack the basic and essential education in how to behave socially and professionally. I see it. They don’t look you in the eye, can’t be bothered observing your body language or tone, don’t get the importance of tact, diplomacy or charm. Good luck to ‘em.

2) The natural or physical world is becoming an abstraction. The phenomenon isn’t new, but what a joke — as we’re all supposed to be freaking out about global warming and saving the planet, we’re raising kids who never go outdoors! Or at least, never without their digital pacifiers, unable to trade the tiny plastic screen for the real and real-time (i.e. slow and demanding of focused attention) beauties of a sunset or a flock of birds in flight or the sight of a distant mountain or river.

Many kids are raised to be terrified of the outdoors, not seeing the woods and ravines and beaches as something cool and intriguing to be explored but to be ignored. There’s even a name for this — Nature Deficit Disorder. How can anyone care deeply about “the environment” if they don’t know a thing about it firsthand?

3) Obesity and poor health. Texting for hours every day might strengthen your thumbs, but not much else.

Does this trend bother you? What, if anything, are you doing about it? What, if anything, should we do as a society?

Deborah Howell, Journalism Pioneer, Aka 'The Dragon Lady' Dead At 68

In Media, women on January 5, 2010 at 6:15 pm

From The New York Times:

At age 34, she became city editor of The Minneapolis Star, which later became The Star Tribune after a merger. Four years later she jumped to a rival paper, The St. Paul Pioneer Press, where she served as managing editor and then executive editor. At The Pioneer Press, she oversaw two projects that led the paper to win the first Pulitzer Prizes in the paper’s history, in 1986 and 1988.

Ms. Howell left The Pioneer Press in 1990 to become the chief of the Washington bureau for the Newhouse newspaper chain, a post she held for 15 years. Her staff at Newhouse News Service also won a Pulitzer while she was there.

From 2005 to 2008, she was the ombudsman of The Washington Post, winning friends and admirers despite having a job that meant publicly criticizing her colleagues.

“She was great fun to be around, and she had a reputation which she relished of being a great gossip,” said Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor of The Post. “And it was true, but she was a gossip not in the mean-spirited sense, but simply because she was wildly interested in everything and everybody, and in people’s stories.”

Ms. Howell made a point of mentoring her reporters, helping them develop into book writers and often advising them years after they no longer worked for her. Among the authors she helped were John Sandford, Chuck Logan and H. G. Bissinger.

H.G. Bissinger is better known as Buzz, author of, among other books, “Friday Night Lights”, since made into a television series and film.

Though she had asthma, she seemed anything but frail — she was loud, blunt, funny, fiercely competitive and floridly profane. The contrasting sides of her personality earned her two nicknames in the Twin Cities: Mother Mary Deborah and the Dragon Lady.

Domestic Violence A 'Pre-Existing Condition'? Nice.

In women on November 8, 2009 at 8:10 pm
National Organization for Women

Image via Wikipedia

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, in the Washington Post:

Women have far different interactions with the health-care system than men. Profit-driven insurance companies are allowed to charge women higher premiums than men because women’s reproductive health-care needs are more costly. Even women who never experience pregnancy or childbirth may pay higher premiums.

She adds:

In a half-dozen or so states, insurance companies are allowed to call domestic violence a pre-existing condition and refuse to provide any health coverage to women who are or have been abused.

Words fail me.

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