Tag Archives: journalism

Ethel Payne: You should know her name

Ethel Payne. I didn’t recognize her name. But the cover of James McGrath Morris’s biography, Eye on the Struggle, called her “the First Lady of the Black Press” — a pioneering journalist of the civil rights era. I wanted to learn her story, so I picked up the book.

payne

Ethel Payne (Washington Post file photo)

I learned that Payne was indeed highly influential, reporting on and often playing a part in the big civil rights stories of the 1950s and ’60s.

I learned that Payne made several trips to Africa, believing there was a close connection between the American civil rights movement and the efforts of African nations to gain independence. Late in her life she fulfilled a dream by interviewing Nelson Mandela after his release from prison in 1990.

I learned that Payne’s writing appeared primarily in the Chicago Defender and other newspapers targeted to the African-American community — the “black press.” I’d known that such papers existed, but I’d never read them. So it still didn’t faze me that, even though I knew about Montgomery and Little Rock and Selma, I didn’t recognize the name of a key participant.

Then I learned that in the 1970s Payne worked as a commentator for CBS. I learned that she wrote a syndicated column that was picked up by many of the “mainstream” newspapers. As a result, I realized that I’d probably heard her speak on TV and that there’s a good chance I’d read some of her columns.

Now it bothers me that I didn’t recognize Ethel Payne’s name. Why hadn’t I remembered her? Continue reading

Where do we go from here?

 

Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live

Kate McKinnon’s opening this week was one of the best SNL moments ever. (Watch it to the end.)

In this week’s historic election upset, I was on the losing side. Where do I go from here? Where do we go from here?

This is the course I’ve mapped out. If your views are similar to mine, I encourage you to join me. If they’re different, I hope — in the interest of constructive dialog — that you’ll discover what’s important to me and what’s not important, like finding fault or throwing bricks.

Listen and learn

I want to understand the vast majority of Trump voters who aren’t racists, neo-Nazis, or anything like that. They’re people with legitimate grievances: they believe that our government is broken and that no one is protecting their interests. I might disagree with them, but I’ll never have a dialog with them — let alone change their minds — if I don’t first listen to them.

Give the president-elect a chance to succeed

When Barack Obama became president in 2009, some of his opponents made his failure their mission. Mitch McConnell said it in so many words. They were wrong, and now that the shoe is on the other foot, we can’t repeat their error. Donald Trump will be our president: we ought to want our president to bring about good.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about silent acquiescence. When President Trump proposes things that I disagree with, when he does things that diminish us as a nation, I’ll call him on it. And especially, I will…

Stand up for my fellow Americans

Let’s all pledge to stand in solidarity with women, immigrants, Muslims, and people of color whenever they’re threatened, whenever their worth and their basic dignity are attacked. Hateful, frightening things were said during the campaign: we can’t dismiss them as merely political rhetoric.

Defend the freedom of the press

Traditional journalism has been in retreat for a generation, because the marketplace for news is changing. Now it’s also coming under attack from from people who have no compunction about publishing lies and from government officials who feel free to threaten and disparage reporters.

Thomas Jefferson knew the importance of a free press. With him, I stand “for freedom of the press, and against all violations of the Constitution to silence by force and not by reason the complaints or criticisms, just or unjust, of our citizens against the conduct of their agents.”

Keep the faith

Just because my candidate lost, the things I believe in — progress, equality, inclusiveness — are no less valuable and no less worth fighting for. I won’t forget the words of Martin Luther King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Maybe the arc is longer than I thought, but the words are as true today as they’ve ever been.

What do you think? Whether you’re on the winning side or the losing side, where do you plan to go from here?

New technologies and their stories

Machines that tell stories. What potential do they hold — both commercially and otherwise? How might they affect the professions of journalism and technical communication?

Robot reading a book

Will “robots” soon write stories and then read them to us? (Image source: Matanya Horowitz)

I came upon a fascinating article this week, titled New technologies and their stories. The article’s contents were curated by design researcher Hanna Zoon at the Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.

I greatly enjoyed the article, despite a couple of hindrances in reading it. First, Zoon often refers to herself in the third person. Second, the article is in German. (My rusty high-school German, buttressed by Google Translate, rode to the rescue.)

Zoon starts by saying “Computers can do different things than people.” Then she describes some of those things.
Continue reading