Monday, April 26, 2010

Coming May 15: "Survivor: The Media Edition"

The National Press Club holds a survival bootcamp for journalists on May 15. Panels focus on the top 10 things you need to do before you change jobs or get laid off, how to build your personal brand, and where journalism jobs will be in 2020. There's also a group session on online video reporting tips and tricks, run by a Medill broadcast professor. The whole day is just $15 for members, $75 for everyone else.

You can find the complete agenda for the day
here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page where it says "Journalism Survival Bootcamp."

Here are some highlights:

May 15, 2010

9:15-10:30 --
How to transform yourself into a tech-savvy reporting powerhouse to cover the journalism of the future. Plus, the top 10 things you need to do now before you change jobs or get laid off.

  • Mark Stencel, managing editor of Digital News, National Public Radio
  • Mary Coffman, professor of broadcast at Northwestern University’s Medill School
  • Tom Kennedy, principal, Kennedy Media, and former Managing Editor for Multimedia at The Washington Post
  • Mark Schoeff, freelance journalist, formerly of Crain's Workforce Management
  • Moderator: NPC Professional Development Committee Chair Susan Heavey, reporter, Reuters

10:45-Noon -- Building your Brand: How to put your best face forward and where to get the skills you need to showcase your talent.
  • Meredith Hooker, managing editor for Internet, Gazette
  • Joanne Allen, reporter, Reuters, Masters in New Media, American University 2010

3:00-4:00 -- Where the jobs are: What you need to do for 2010 and where journalism will be in 2020.

  • Beth Frerking, Assistant Managing Editor, POLITICO
  • Rod Kuckro, chief editor, Platts
  • Ken Sands, online editor, Bloomberg Government
  • Andrea Stone, senior Washington correspondent, AOL
  • Moderator: NPC President Alan Bjerga, reporter, Bloomberg

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Social media tips for journalists

Here's my guest post for the SmartBrief blog on social media. I covered a workshop on social media tips for journalists.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So What

I wrote this a few days ago.

A Poem on the Flogging of a Young Girl in Pakistan
A poem for the young girl in Swat Valley whose flogging by the Taliban was captured on video and shared with media outlets around the world.

Friday, June 6, 2008

So we bought an old magazine rack off Craigslist in Virginia three years ago. It came with a bunch of old files and folders that the seller was going to throw away, but I stopped him because they looked so old and I didn't want to throw away history without reading it.

It turns out they're personal papers and records from WWII for two different people, a man and a woman who later married. I've been meaning to trace down their children, but then I wonder how these papers got into strangers' hands to begin with. They have been living in the magazine rack since we got it and I'm sure they are valuable to somebody -- historians, history buffs, I don't know. I just know I can't throw them away, nor do I have the time to do some reporting and find these people's kids. Please help me figure out what to do with these gems.

The guy, John R. Mueller, studied engineering at Johns Hopkins in the early 1940s and served with the State Department in Manila during WWII. He used to live at 6703 Holabird Avenue (Google Maps says that's in Dundalk, Md.). I have a whole thick folder of his notes from a course called Precision Aircraft Inspection Instruction from 1942. There's also a note to his kids dated 1976 that tells a couple of anecdotes of his life around that time and includes a black and white photograph of him with his schoolmates at Johns Hopkins in 1941, standing in front of a blackboard that says, "Crew of the U.S.S. Eutectic." The handwritten note to his kids explains: "That's a kind of metal and we picked that name as a gag -- we were kidding of course -- we thought it sounded nice for a Navy ship that we might all be assigned to -- (there was a war going on remember? and we had all tried to enlist -- One of the guys was named Meyer and years later in 1947 I heard somebody say to me in an Air Force C46 taking off from Manila --, 'Hey Mueller, what in a H--- are you doing here?' I was State Dept (on my way to Tokio) -- I almost fell over -- It was him. -- Dad 9/3/76"

There's also a folder of his correspondence and notes from his time with the State Department in Manila in 1946, including ads that he wrote to sell surplus aircraft in Manila and typewritten letters that give incredible glimpses into life then. Here's an excerpt from a letter he wrote from Manila to a friend in 1946 (he maintained a copy for his own records, apparently):

"If only you could make some big shot in the State Department get wise to the score out here in the East. These people place a heluva lot of value on the thing called "face", and to send a State Department official out here in a packet of the "Marine Lynx" type where we were crammed, 38 men in one sticking cesspool called a "state room" 1st Class at that, is one sure way to make us lose face before we even get to where we are going to carry out our duties as State Department officials. In other words, picture 38 Chinese, Indians, Filipinos, Siamese and Americans of other agencies stuck in the B-48 compartment. When they find out your (sic) from the State Department of the United States of America they look at your cot and you standing there sweating, stripped to the waist in the heat of this room filled with big steam pipes of various types and sizes and no portholes -- and they say, 'Is this the way an American State Department official travels when on official duty' -- They just don't get it and I felt ashamed and must have looked like a damn fool, but there it is."

Isn't that an incredible letter? Surely someone somewhere must need it for research.

Then I have records for his wife, Regina M. Hunkele, also known as Rae, who served as a nurse in the Army during WWII and then became an air hostess with Pan Am in the 1950s. Her papers include her original junior high school and high school diplomas from North Dakota in 1933 and 1937, her original nursing diploma from St. Johns Hospital in North Dakota, the original typewritten letter on really thin paper from the "War Department" calling her to duty at Fort George Wright in Washington state in 1943. It's still in its original air mail envelope, postmarked Washington, D.C. There are lots of other war records and handwritten letters, including a xeroxed copy of her certificate of service with the 807th Medical Air Evacuation Squadron in the Army from 1943 to 1946.

So there you have it.

I welcome advice and suggestions -- what do I do with these papers?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Finding Street Sense in a Walt Whitman poem

I took over as editor of Street Sense, a newspaper that covers poverty and homelessness in the Washington, D.C., area and is sold by homeless vendors for income, three weeks ago. My first editor's column appeared in the July 15 issue and is reproduced below.


Celebrating Multitudes

The streets were deserted outside Union Station when I pulled up in a cab at 3 a.m. on a Thursday. Inside, an Amtrak waiting lounge was crowded with travelers slumped in place or lying across several seats in unapologetic sleep. My train to New York for a journalism conference didn’t leave for another hour, but there were no empty seats here. I rolled my little bag to the next lounge, my eyelids itching from too little sleep in a long week of deadlines.

Less than 40 feet away, another lounge looked emptier and somehow different. There were far fewer travelers but they were all in deep, stretched-out slumber. They had surprisingly little luggage, if you could call their few plastic bags luggage. Where were these people going with their beat-up looking CVS bags?

I hesitated. An unwashed smell drifted by.

They weren’t catching a train. They were homeless. They were catching up on their sleep under these fluorescent lights, using their hands or a balled-up shirt for a pillow.

Less than a month ago, I would probably have sat somewhere else. This Thursday, two weeks after I took over as editor of Street Sense, I mentally shrugged and settled into a stretch of empty seats, taking care to avoid the source of the smell.

It made me think of “Gotta Go,” the pilot episode of Street Sense TV, a 13-part series put together by a homeless crew and due to air on District cable this fall. “Gotta Go” illustrates a devastatingly simple problem: where do you go to the bathroom if you’re homeless? And how do you avoid smelling bad if you don’t have a regular place to wash and change your clothes?

Less than a month ago, I would not have looked as deeply at the people stretched out around me and wondered about their daily rituals of survival. I’ve never been homeless. But since joining Street Sense, I’ve been doing some serious learning.

Some of the learning has been professional, like taking an intensive weekend class in New York City to learn our page-layout program, or attending workshops on affordable housing at a homelessness conference on Capitol Hill.

But much of the learning has been based on personal interactions with the vendors and volunteers who frequent our little office in the Church of the Epiphany every day.

So far, I’ve found Street Sense to be a unique little animal, more challenging and multitudinous than any place I’ve worked in my 12 years in journalism. I’ve learned creative ways to survive when our computer network crashes and we have no technical help available in the face of a looming printer deadline. I’ve re-learned that powerful storytelling and beautifully fragile poetry can come from unexpected sources. I’ve understood that despite their best intentions, sometimes people will break promises and let each other down. But I’ve also seen them try to rise again.

I think of Walt Whitman when I think of Street Sense:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you…

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Things that go fatwa in the knight

(Caricature by Riber Hansson)

In search of more information on Salman Rushdie's knighthood and the angry sputtering from Iran and Pakistan, I made a rather interesting discovery.

Did you know Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II records Royal podcasts? They are infrequent but available. Her last was on Commonwealth Day, which falls on March 12.

But back to important things. Every February, on the fatwa's anniversary, Iran announces that the 1989 death threat to Rushdie is still valid. Click here to see a video of Rushdie reading from "The Satanic Verses."

This June 16, the British government announced it was bestowing knighthood on Rushdie.

The literary world proclaimed its delight at the news. Iran and Pakistan summoned their British envoys to express their displeasure.

A Times story Tuesday:

"Eighteen years after the Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to kill him, a government minister in Pakistan said yesterday that Rushdie’s recent knighthood justified suicide bombing.

The question of blasphemy in The Satanic Verses, Rushdie’s 1988 tale of a prophet misled by the devil, remains a deeply sensitive issue in much of the Muslim world and the author’s inclusion in the Queen’s Birthday Honours last week has inflamed anti-British sentiment.

Gerald Butt, editor of the authoritative Middle East Economic Survey, told The Times: 'It will be interpreted as an action calculated to goad Muslims at a time when the atmosphere is already very tense and Britain’s standing in the region is very low because of its involvement in Iraq and its lack of action in tackling the Palestine issue.'"

At least one Irani group has raised the bounty on Rushdie's head to $150,000.

And the Queen's effigy was burned in Multan, Pakistan.

Click here to download the full list of people honored by the Queen on her birthday. Rushdie's name appears under "Knighthoods" on page 2 of the 95-page document: "Ahmed Salman Rushdie. Author. For services to Literature."

And since we were all wondering, here is the Royal description of the significance of knighthood:

"A knighthood (or a damehood, its female equivalent) is one of the highest honours an individual in the United Kingdom can achieve.

While in past centuries knighthood used to be awarded solely for military merit, today it recognises significant contributions to national life.

Recipients today range from actors to scientists, and from school head teachers to industrialists.

A knighthood cannot be bought and it carries no military obligations to the Sovereign."

And on the same page, this illuminating sidebar, "Did You Know?":

"In ceremony of knighting, the knight-elect kneels on a knighting-stool in front of The Queen, who then lays the sword blade on the knight's right and then left shoulder....Contrary to popular belief, the words 'Arise, Sir ...' are not used."

Note to angry Muslim extremists: You wanted to punish Rushdie in 1989 and made him world-famous instead. Now the queen will honor his fame by taking a sword to his head. Are you happy now?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The senator from Illinois vs. the senator from Punjab

(Photo credit: Associated Press/Ron Edmonds)

Barack Obama's presidential campaign is facing an onslaught of criticism from the Indian-American community after it released a memo Friday tying Hillary Clinton's stance on outsourcing to her and her husband's financial dealings with businesses in India. The memo, released on the condition that it not be attributed to the Obama campaign, called the former First Lady "Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)."

Obama said Monday the memo was a "dumb mistake." He told, a prominent Indian news site, in an interview published today that he was "furious" when he heard about the memo. "Obama acknowledged he had no idea about the document that was being circulated by some members of his campaign staff till the controversy erupted, when the Indian-American community was in uproar and his Indian-American supporters contacted his campaign expressing their concern," reported.

"We are taking corrective action to make sure that people understand how this could be potentially hurtful," Obama told

Apart from this rebuke from a prominent political action committee, reactions from Indian news sites included headlines like this one, "Obama attacks Indian community."

Obama's trying to make amends, but the three days that passed between the memo's initial release and his public response have probably left some lasting damage.

The group South Asians for Obama (SAFO) is sure ticked off.

Scathing reader comments dominated its message board Monday.

"Pretty stupid thing for Obama's campaign to do. I mean, does this campaign realize that the Indian American community in this country is very financially viable and politically active? I bet they just lot a lot of their votes," read one.

"What really bothers me is that a (D-Israel), (R-Vatican) or (D-Mexico) would have triggered an immediate apology. We deserve the same connsideration (sic)," said another.

"I'm sorry, but my allegiance will probably have to switch. I mean, '(D-Punjab)'? That is not just offensive, it's immature. With a wife who works in politics, I know that a message like that comes from the top down. And all an apology will mean is 'we're sorry this got out.' Obama lost a voter and a donor in me." This by someone signed "Vijay."

Read the full Obama campaign memo here.

Here's the NYT:

"Shortly after the Clinton campaign released the financial information, the campaign of Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, circulated to news organizations — on what it demanded be a not-for-attribution-basis — a scathing analysis. It called Mrs. Clinton “Hillary Clinton (D-Punjab)” in its headline. The document referred to the investment in India and Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising efforts among Indian-Americans. The analysis also highlighted the acceptance by Mr. Clinton of $300,000 in speech fees from Cisco, a company the Obama campaign said has moved American jobs to India.

A copy of the document was obtained by Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, which provided it to The New York Times. The Clinton campaign has long been frustrated by the effort by Mr. Obama to present his campaign as above the kind of attack politics that Mr. Obama and his aides say has led to widespread disillusionment with politics by many Americans.

Asked about the document, Bill Burton, a spokesman for Mr. Obama, said: 'We did give reporters a series of comments she made on the record and other things that are publicly available to anyone who has access to the Internet. I don’t see why anyone would take umbrage with that.'

Asked why the Obama campaign had initially insisted that it not be connected to the document, Mr. Burton replied, 'I’m going to leave my comment at that.'"

Here's more from's "exclusive interview" with Obama Monday:

"Asked what kind of corrective measures he intended to put in place, the Illinois Senator asserted, 'The main thing is just to make certain that anything that goes out under my name or goes out under our campaign's name -- whether it's for attribution or otherwise -- is screened by all senior staff to make sure that we don't make mistakes like this in the first place.'

'The other thing I am obviously doing is reaching out to all my supporters in the Indian-American community to assure them this isn't reflective of my views,' he said.

Obama said he hoped that 'people recognise that this is just an anomalous situation as opposed to any more serious issue in terms of my grasp and understanding of the importance of the Indian-American community and the relationship between the United States and India.'

In a message to the mushrooming South Asians for Obama chapters across the US, the majority of whom are young second-generation Indian Americans, Obama said, 'I want them to know how much I appreciate their support, I want them to know how much their involvement means to our campaign.'"

Daily Kos doesn't think Obama's snafu will get mass attention but that it will stick with Indian-Americans.

"They may be small, but they are not tiny, numbering almost 1% of the population. They are also the best educated and wealthiest group of any national origin in the U.S. They thus have a fair amount of money to give to politics, if they wish, and I assume that this kind of comment would spread far and fast among the politically influential people in this community."

Obama's Web site has no whiff of the controversy, so Kos is probably right about this staying confined to a select community. It's hardly a "macaca moment," as some bloggers suggest.

Meanwhile, I can't seem to find a story mentioning as much as a peep out of Hillary Clinton's campaign in response. Not that her campaign needs to do anything except sit back and watch.