1984. I was in college. The '70s feminist movement was more than a memory. It was present tense, active, on campus and off.
For a time, I was a president of the Student Feminist Alliance. I was an appointed student representative on the University Commission on the Status of Women.
I attended and shot (as a photojournalist) sporting events that would not have been allowed to exist, would not have been funded, if it weren't for Title IX. (Even so, the women's basketball team wasn't allowed to play in the best fieldhouse on campus, except for big tournament games. Not in the early '80s, yet. By the late '80s, I would find myself shooting NCAA Women's Basketball in the University of Arkansas's primary arena).
We got a woman chancellor hired on campus, the first. We pushed for women to be legitimately considered for every major administrative position national search on campus. We didn't push nominally. Nobody just paid us lip service and hired some crony of a crony instead. Not unless they wanted to feel our wrath.
And somewhere in there, it all got woven in with Geraldine Ferraro. Back then we didn't falter. Didn't accept second-best or also-ran (not the way I see it repeatedly accepted now). Sure, good old boys made harumphing jokes about our lack of humor. How dare we refuse to laugh over being belittled or made the butt of unquestioned jokes?
I really don't think too much of all the compromises and "settling" that happens with the so-called "third wave" feminists. Give me some uppity, strident women any day. We've got NOTHING to apologise for.
And if we had any doubt about that, Geraldine Ferraro's nomination as the first woman as the Democratic Party's vice presidential candidate blew that doubt away.
We'll miss her. But then, we have already been missing her and her (our) generation of feminists for a long time.
That said, we might also note that the first woman who was Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is a 71-year-old grandmother, and besides making history as one of the most effective Speakers ever, now as House Minority Leader, she is still taking NO prisoners.
I just wish we could get Hillary to run again. I'm not ready to let that greatest generation (after the Suffragettes, of course) pass into retirement.
Geraldine A. Ferraro, the former Queens congresswoman who strode onto a podium in 1984 to accept the Democratic nomination for vice president and to take her place in American history as the first woman nominated for national office by a major party, died Saturday in Boston.
“If we can do this, we can do anything,” Ms. Ferraro declared on a July evening to a cheering Democratic National Convention in San Francisco. And for a moment, for the Democratic Party and for an untold number of American women, anything seemed possible: a woman occupying the second-highest office in the land, a derailing of the Republican juggernaut led by President Ronald Reagan, a President Walter F. Mondale.
But Ms. Ferraro’s supporters proclaimed a victory of sorts nonetheless: 64 years after women won the right to vote, a woman had removed the “men only” sign from the White House door.
It would be another 24 years before another woman from a major party was nominated for vice president — Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican running mate of Senator John McCain, in 2008. And though Hillary Rodham Clinton came close to being nominated that year as the Democratic presidential candidate, a woman has yet to occupy the Oval Office. But Ms. Ferraro’s ascendance gave many women heart.
Ann Richards, who was the Texas state treasurer at the time and went on to become governor, recalled that after the Ferraro nomination, “the first thing I thought of was not winning in the political sense, but of my two daughters.”
“To think,” Ms. Richards added, “of the numbers of young women who can now aspire to anything.”
In a statement, President Obama said Saturday, “Geraldine will forever be remembered as a trailblazer who broke down barriers for women, and Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life.”
Smoke and steam hangs over the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull
glacier in Iceland. Volcanic ash drifting across the Atlantic forced the
cancellation of flights in Britain and disrupted air traffic across
Photograph: Jon Gustafsson/AP
How an Icelandic volcano helped spark the French Revolution
Profound effects of
eight-month eruption in 1783 caused chaos from US to Egypt, say experts
Just over 200 years ago an Icelandic volcano erupted with catastrophic
consequences for weather, agriculture and transport across the northern
hemisphere %u2013 and helped trigger the French revolution.
The Laki volcanic fissure in southern Iceland erupted over an
eight-month period from 8 June 1783 to February 1784, spewing lava and
poisonous gases that devastated the island's agriculture, killing much
of the livestock. It is estimated that perhapsa quarter of Iceland's
population died through the ensuing famine.
OTOH, this FB link from my friend John Voelker points out (with link to carbon chart illustration):
Boy, there's some intriguing stuff packed into this short Online Journalism Review piece by Robert Niles, stuff that gets said on the way to saying something else, and those are the bits that give me pause!
They seem to have more ramifications for the world of writing and literacy than they do for the world of vocational training for journalists, although they are also in some sense tossed off, and could use more support than a hasty generalization.
So I figure, why not look in at them here? Let's look beyond the practical vo-tech employment concerns and wax a bit philosophical.
The short answer is, of course, "whatever someone will pay for it." But a more thoughtful response gets at why people are willing to exchange something of value for news information.
101 teaches that if more people want something, and the scarcer it is,
the higher the price. With millions of new websites competing for
people's attention, advertising rates across all media have plunged,
threatening news businesses that depend upon advertising income.
[Hmmm. Tell the Econ 101 argument to poets, and they may beg to differ.
While journalists have long had to contend with the idea that their best work has the value of the Daily Fishwrap, the thing that people pile up unread, throw away daily, or use to line birdcages, poets have lived with this deep knowledge, that their very best work, their best of the best, work that strives for standing the test of time, or ephemeral, contingent, and quickly forgotten work like performance art, has an economic value of precisely ZERO, since before the time of Gutenberg.
I've been checking out the screenshots and early weekend implementation of the new CNN.com redesign. Several of my journalist and non-journalist friends have been weighing in on links I've posted on Facebook (although my CNN buds have been keeping fairly quiet, as is proper. I did same in public forums when I worked there).
Disclaimer:I was a cyberculture columnist for CNN.com from 2002-2005, where I often had to advocate for certain "bloggish" types of discourse that were not generally permitted on the site because the online common wisdom or ways of knowing (crowd-sourced consensus on cyber-topics, usually) couldn't be traced to some important person quoted as saying "X" (an absolute requirement for CNN.com at the time), or because online "conventional" wisdom didn't necessarily jive with journalistic copyediting standards of "The Row" at that time.
Times have certainly changed, both in the network and with the site's embrace of citizen media (something I was also an early advocate for), and now, in its turn toward the site stylings of online "opinion writing" found at Huffington Post and The Daily Beast, among other blog and news aggregators (more on that below).
For what it's worth, a full archive of my CNN.com columns can be viewed here. I was employed by Turner Broadcasting from 2001 to the end of 2006, when I moved to NYC to take a position at Razorfish, ironically, the company responsible for the CNN.com 2007 redesign (UX and creative). I was not involved in the redesign at either company.
I am still struggling with the current decimation and carnage in the field of journalism, and it will never sit well with me. I've mourned the decline of this field since I was first released from J-School with my undergrad degree, right into the world of Reagan media ownership deregulation, the beginning of the end.
Historic 100-year-old papers started closing back then, in the late 1980s, bought up by chains, multiple-paper cities turned into media monopolies overnight. The Clear Channeling of the rural U.S., where I'd come from, was beginning, and it has taken all this time to penetrate to the biggest metropolitan news-gathering organizations in the country.
For a time, some things ran counter to the trend, idiosyncratic things. USAToday was founded, as if to thumb its nose at the decline, yet its modular design spread virally, literally vaporizing page real estate set aside for the work I did best: full page and double-truck photo essays and stories. I fled to grad school, fully aware I was being put out of business.
And Ted Turner, whom I got to meet in 1986, dared to open international bureaus, to populate the landscape with MORE news-gatherers while chain consolidation was reducing them. Fate favored Turner in the form of the Gulf War of 1991, vindicating his international coverage. Before then, people laughed at his staff-heavy spending as an indulgent whim of a boy-man who liked to race sailboats.
But Ted didn't work hard enough to fend off Time Warner, the chains bought up everything, profits rolled in at 20-30% for shareholders in those newly-public corporations, and the shareholders came to regard those kind of margins as a guarantee.
Much is made of the current debate about the newspaper numbers trending to zero. Much more of the debate between Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine and traditional journalists (on Christmas Eve, Jarvis proclaims: "No Hope").
I did not dispute him then because of what I saw happening to photojournalism at that time: the value of my work, of most photographers' work, was trending to absolute zero, which also happens to be the value of poetry, another field in which I have a degree. Royalty-free CDs had already forced me to realize my copyright-based stock photos had just become worthless, because it cost me more to make the images than the market would pay, ever.
To paraphrase a familiar quotation: They came for the Image People, and the Word People said nothing. They were happy to let us fade away. More space in print for words (the more important bits, was their unspoken righteous assumption).
The Word People didn't want to see their own end coming. They didn't want to think that same trend would ever apply to them. But I was certain at the time that it would.
And then, in the early 2000s, the blog and citizen journalism movement arose, and I enthusiastically championed it, participated in it, and would again in a heartbeat. It was overdue. It was necessary. The gatekeepers HAD become drunk on their own power, not sloppy drunk, just too used to holding the keys to the kingdom. Ironically, I was by then working at CNN, covering another war in the Persian Gulf (from Atlanta), and building blogs for unembedded journalists on the ground in Kurdistan.
Now, the unthinkable is happening right before my eyes, the thing I have been preparing for for the last 25 years, and my heart just aches. I DO NOT WANT THIS FUTURE.
It was some of my J-School students at University of Montana who turned me on to The Spokesman-Review as a paper with an online site I really admired, ESPECIALLY because of the way it integrated photojournalism the way I remembered it, before images morphed off into newsprint postage stamps, like it used to be. I often linked to original reporting from there, once I started following the paper. It reminded me of the old Detroit Free-Press, had that same feeling in the online edition.
So I knew the name Steve Smith before encountering this story, just as I knew Clay Shirky online when he was making his prophecies. But it is Steve Smith who reminds me below why I am so heartsick, and why I will continue to fight against this watchdog-less future.
Smith's sad post below reminds me of why this will always be my life's work, no matter what I end up doing for a living. Go read the unexcerpted original, especially if this is or was your field too.
For all of the years I worked as a senior editor, I tried to end
each calendar year with a memo to my staff thanking them for their hard
work, reminding them of the good journalism we had accomplished and
wishing them well for the coming year.
I have been struggling in recent days trying to craft a note from my
voluntary exile, something appropriate for my former staff and, maybe,
appropriate for others who follow this blog.
And I’m finding the words are not coming easily. Maybe it’s the
bleak, snowy landscape in Spokane that has left me feeling so
inadequate to the task. Or the knowledge that this holiday season has
found so many of my former colleagues unemployed and struggling,
sitting on the sidelines while our industry stuggles for survival.
But I am not, by nature, melancholy and certainly not so when I
think about the profession to which i have devoted my life. I remain an
optimist, if not about the future of newspapers, certainly about the
future of journalism.
In struggling to find words for this post, I went back to a speech I
gave some years ago to a convention of college journalists. I excerpted
a portion of that speech for my farewell note to the staff of The
Statesman Journal in 2002. As I re-read that excerpt this morning, I
found it still conveys my core beliefs. It expresses my optimism as
well as anything I could write today. And so I am going to plagiarize
myself for this year’s holiday note.
This is what I wrote in 2002. I re-dedicate it to the staff of The
Spokesman-Review, which is doing such good work during the current
weather crisis, to my professional friends and colleagues and to the
countless students with whom I have worked in the last year.
Several years ago, Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at New York University penned a book titled “What are journalists for?”
What a terrific question that is.
Here’s my take:
Journalists exist to serve – not ourselves, not our bosses, not our friends, boosters, advertisers or benefactors.
We exist to serve citizens in the exercise of their citizenship.
Let me say that again…we exist to serve citizens in the exercise of their citizenship.
And in serving citizens we adhere to certain core values:
Values of community
The marketplace of ideas
The First Amendment
Honesty and truth-telling journalism
Voice to the voiceless
Defense of the defenseless
And in all of this, we are fearless.
That is our calling.
And it is a calling – I believe that with all my heart - a call to service.
If you pursue this calling, this is what you can expect:
Disappointed parents and frustrated lovers
Generally primitive working conditions in buildings you hate in cities where you’d never want to live.
Your friends will be people just like you, except there won’t be too many of them.
Public officials will distrust and despise you. But, not to
worry, many of your loyal readers or viewers will distrust and despise
A good day will be one in which no one calls to scream in your
ear – except that’s a bad day, too, because you obviously haven’t
written anything important enough to arouse anyone.
Your spouse will wonder why you don’t know the meaning of a 40-hour, five-day workweek.
And your kids, should you be in a meaningful relationship long
enough to have any, will describe you as a “writer” during their show
and tell in the hopes classmates will think you do something
respectable, like writing pornographic romance novels.
Statistics say you will experience divorce, alcoholism and heart
disease at rates higher than the norm. You’ll probably smoke – or wish
You won’t retire to a beach house in Florida. Hell, you probably won’t live to retirement.
But even knowing this in advance, some of you in this room, most
of you I hope, are going to pursue the call to service. Already, you
can’t imagine doing anything else.
And I am so grateful for that.
I am grateful for the people just like you who work in my
newsroom. They are our best and brightest and I am proud every day to
be their editor.
They have brains. They have heart. The have the fire in the
belly and the courage of their convictions. They bring guts to the
party. They work harder than sane people should work and then, on the
day when something happens in our world that could change everything,
when history hangs in the balance, they are there to write the story.
And by following in their footsteps, no matter the challenges, you
are sustained, whether you work for The New York Times or the Statesman
Journal or The Oregon Daily Emerald. You are part of a great tradition
that stretches back 250 years. And while we are humbled daily in the
practice of that tradition, we must also be proud and honored and
steadfast as its stewards.
My neighbor Dave was out surfing the crowd that centered around Madiba restaurant in Fort Greene (about a block or two from my house) and flowed through the street and down to Fort Greene Park. I was already in my jammies and couldn't drag myself away from the TV coverage of the big party in Chicago at Grant Park. A VERY emotional night, and now, a whole new world to walk around in! What an amazing time to be alive!