Archive for the 'Politics' Category
I posted this on Facebook, so all my “Friends” have seen it already, but I feel compelled to post it here as well. My first public radio story aired on KQED’s The California Report on August 1. Thank you, Alec and Victoria Loorz, for putting up with my home invasions for the last several months! And thank you, Victoria Mauleon, for helping cut my story down from 11 minutes to four!No comments
Same day, the Supreme Court decided that the federal government can no longer ban campaign contributions by corporations. How corporate money will change American politics (more than it has?) remains to be seen.
Maybe the dude on Olive Street in L.A. was protesting the high court ruling. Or, maybe the rain sparked an urge. Or maybe he just had to go.2 comments
Originally written for USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.
Last year, I wrote a 3,000-word article about land reclamation. Princes, politicians and planners the world over were (and are) literally creating cities like Dubai and others by filling in swamps for airport terminals, transforming dumps into mixed-use communities and sculpting islands in the sea from sand and rock.
Writing for an international business audience, I reported mostly on the construction process and the resulting amenities. I also included the politics, players, environmental considerations and human rights issues (Human Rights Watch, for example, has criticized the United Arab Emirates government for allegedly allowing companies to exploit their migrant workforces – withholding wages, denying medical care and propagating poor working conditions). The day before it went to press I received this email:
I called you yesterday because I wanted to check with you about one specific cut I had to make in the Land Reclamation story–the part about human rights issues in Dubai.
The article is still very good, but I wanted to try to make sure you still wanted your name on it.
Normally this wouldn’t even be something we’d ask the writer about, but we (the editors) all felt the content should stay and that it made the article even better. A presidential veto, let’s say, over passed our opinions, though. …
At the time, I was freelancing. I was creating my own brand, operating as an independent contractor, an island, a seemingly autonomous entity. What were my options? I worked hard on the story, interviewed professors in Pakistan, experts in Singapore, studied articles about the rise of the aerotropolis. I had spent months researching and several weeks writing, and I was proud of my work.
I argued with the editor.
His hands were tied, he said.
So, I kept the byline. If I were Jay Rosen, I would have published the original story on my blog, and thousands would have seen it. My initial tweat would have garnered enough outrage and attention that the publisher would have changed his mind (or pulled the story completely). My audience would demand that I speak more loudly, or boycott the business magazine entirely. In Rosen’s world, magazines like this one would go under in a hurry, and the eloquent voices of story tellers like me would rise up.
But, we’re not quite there. The magazine still exists and still publishes stories about new convention centers, new marketing deals, new opulent meeting rooms the world over. (And, I have in my portfolio, as one of my writing mentors calls it, a “blow job story.”) The story remains incomplete; it’s a story about one-fifth of the world’s cranes with no mention of the operators.
What should I have done?
As a freelancer, I mistakenly thought I was an independent entity, separate not only from audience, but also from commercial control. But, as Professor Suro pointed out, freelancers live in denial. Freelancers cannot walk into the office the next day and complain or fight. We are the opposite of autonomous.
Our readings (Glasser, Gunther and Ettema) and class discussions suggest that we’re moving away from this “presidential veto model,” away from advertisers dictating stories, and away even from making story decisions in our own “moral universe of one.” We’re moving away from deciding what to cover with little conversation with our audience.
The solution? The future? The Blog. Build what Rosen calls Little First Amendment Machines. Try to gain a bigger audience than Dad and boyfriend. And start the discussion the magazine and advertisers don’t want the world to have. Tell your audience what you think they ought to know about migrant workers in Dubai. See what they say. What stories come forth. Start the discussion. Write well. And hope someone is listening, hope someone is there to contribute, challenge and talk back.
After that land reclamation and development story was published, I never heard from the magazine again. Maybe I should post the original now.
Haiku after seeing C|O Berlin’s Photographs of the Collection of Agnès b.
Photographed punks, boys.
Limbs vulnerable, naked.
Me lonely, looking.No comments