Journalism: now, then, and next

I’m currently volunteering at the wonderful Melbourne Writers Festival, and one of the  perks is a number of comp tickets that I can use to attend sessions outside of my volunteer shifts, and so on Saturday afternoon Erika and I met up at the State Library Victoria to see two panels. The first, When We Talk About Motherhood, was so incredibly, beautifully, terrifyingly powerful that I am still coalescing my thoughts about it, so instead I’ll talk about the second: Journalism: Heartbreak and Resolve.

Moderated by Crikey’s Bhakthi Puvanenthiran and featuring Erik Jensen from The Saturday Paper, Jack Latimore of NITV News and The Guardian, and freelance journalist Ginger Gorman, the discussion hinged on the mental hardships that journalists both encounter and face themselves, as well as the drive to keep going and the hopeful moments that uplift and empower them as well as their readers.

It was a fascinating look both at the industry today and the people in it, especially of the perspective of those who are working to expand and better it with their work and with their support of and amplification of marginalized voices (as writers and subjects), but it was especially interesting to me as I realised with a hint of amusement that it was exactly ten years ago last week that I began studying for my journalism degree at Ithaca College.

I was further amused when I thought about what these working journalists were saying the journalism world (a world I quickly decided at university that I wasn’t actually interested in being a part of) is like these days, and how far off most of my professors’s predictions had been about where the field was heading. This isn’t to say they got it all wrong, of course. They obviously knew that social media would play a large role in the future of the news (although just how large they couldn’t have predicted; one of the panelists mentioned how Instagram is becoming a popular platform for news media, a platform which didn’t even exist during my freshman year and wouldn’t introduce “Instagram Stories” until well after I graduated). And this isn’t to say they should’ve known better, not when new media has changed so rapidly and intensely over the last decade.

But one thing I distinctly remember about my journalism studies was a feeling of… if not pessimism, than resignation. That social media would make us short-attention-spanned and rapidly-reading, that we’d be cutting down our stories to snippets and soundbites. And sure, that’s happened, just like the ubiquity and accessibility of new media and social media has allowed for members of the worst factions of society to pretend their bigoted conspiracy theories are thoughtful, legitimate journalism but has also provided a space for marginalized voices of all sorts to share stories of and from their communities. And for every snapchat broadcast story and 140-character tweet, there’s a riveting 10,000 word longform article that would’ve never gone into print (at least without major cuts) in a traditional publication.

One thing that the journalists on the panel emphasized was that we as readers want to read. We want news. We want thoughtfulness and integrity and truth and rich, multicultural perspectives. Although I am not and probably never will be a journalist, I love journalism and many of my friends work in the media in some form, and I’m always pleased to have the reminder that what they do is appreciated. To look at the journalists on the panel, some saying that there were times that they wanted to quit but didn’t and others saying their worst moments only gave them more determination, to look at the people I know doing great work in new and old media, to look back a decade to when I was a bright-eyed wannabe newspaperwoman without a trace of anger or cynicism… it makes me excited to see what comes next.

Kia kaha, Christchurch

It is a privilege to feel safe in the places you call home. It shouldn’t be, because what is home if it is not a place that is known and that is safe, but again and again we see places that should be known made unsafe by hate. Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and saddened to hear the news of the mass murder of Muslims at a mosque in Christchurch. New Zealand is the safest and most peaceful country I have ever been to or lived in, and yet a group of people decided that shouldn’t be the case for their victims.

New Zealanders haven’t had to grapple with a tragedy like this, whereas in America we are nearly desensitized to news of yet another mass shooting. Politicians send their thoughts and prayers, outraged is silenced with cries of “too soon,” The Onion reposts that too-accurate headline, and nothing changes. I was surprised and gladdened to hear that the New Zealand government’s immediate response was to promise a ban on semi-automatic weapons; imagine if our politicians had ever acted so quickly and decisively? How many schoolchildren, churchgoers, and others would still be with us?

The outpouring of support for the Muslim community in the wake of the tragedy is also heartening. Flowers cover mosques around the country. Vigil attendances number in the thousands. A givealittle page (New Zealand’s answer to Go Fund Me) for victim support has topped $5 million in donations. Kiwis and the world are coming together to echo Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s words about the victims: “They are us.”

At the same time, although for many New Zealand seemed like a utopia between its stunning natural beauty and its peaceful, unified society, the sad truth is that New Zealand is not immune from the influence of intolerance, white supremacy, and an environment where “casual” discrimination is given a blind eye rather than spotlighted and called out (and what does “casual” discrimination even mean? Is it a hobby? A side-hustle? Part-time racism?). Where alt-righters like Stefan Molyneux, Jordan Peterson, and Lauren Southern have eager audiences. Where stereotypes about Maori and other islanders flourish as “jokes.”

I am certainly not writing this as a sanctimonious outsider pointing out the flaws of another country; I, too, am certainly often guilty of not doing enough to call out intolerance when I see it. It’s particularly tragic to think that the murderers were likely inspired by the political climate of my own nation. And New Zealand is certainly a lot more welcoming than the United States (or Australia, by the way; wow, there is a lot of racism here, and not just from the Senator who made that awful statement after the mosque shooting, although you should enjoy this video of him getting egged by a teenager).

However, it is tempting to dismiss the murderers’ terrible actions as unrelated to anything else in New Zealand society, to identify solely with the victims. But without changing our own actions and stepping up every time to speak out against racism, discrimination, Islamophobia, intolerance, we are dishonouring the victims by allowing the murderers and those who think like them to find something to identify with in us (please read this powerful comic by Spinoff journalist Toby Morris for more).

It is important to carry the feelings of love and solidarity for the Muslim community, the immigrant community, the community as a whole, that are strongest and most present now in wake of this tragedy, and let them be a guideline going forward. We must cultivate an environment in which seeds of hate can not plant roots. And that means asking ourselves difficult questions, and being willing to ask difficult questions to others. Kia kaha, New Zealand. Stay strong and show your strength by protecting your whānau—Maori, pakeha, Muslim, and everyone else who is lucky enough to live in such a kind and beautiful country. Come together in love and action to ensure that everyone is safe in the places they call home.

Reality is dead; long live Reality

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, and I guess I was smart enough as a kid to realise that most fiction writers don’t immediately publish a bestselling novel and turn that into their day job, so I decided I wanted to be a journalist. Linda Ellerbee was my main inspiration for this, between her incredible educational news show Nick News and her Girl Reporter young adult book series.

I stopped wanting to be a journalist sometime in college. Although I loved my classes and my peers, and certain aspects of journalism like copyediting and researching are definitely right up my alley, and I do love the deadline-oriented nature of the job, I just couldn’t see myself doing it as a career. Sometimes I question that, especially when I look at the amazing work some fellow alums are doing, but for the most part I have no desire to step into a newsroom.

Still, I consider both Ellerbee’s work and my time at Ithaca College to have had a huge influence on shaping my life, but between them was something that was even more important: Reality.

Continue reading “Reality is dead; long live Reality”

My IUD story & why I love LARCs

There aren’t many groups that recent news in the United Sates hasn’t upset, and women are no exception.

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that so-called “crisis pregnancy centres” in California are not required to provide abortion information to patients. These often-unlicensed clinics usually pretend to be offering abortions or at least information on how to terminate a pregnancy, but when unsuspecting pregnant women visit, they are lied to, bullied and otherwise coerced into continuing their unwanted pregnancies. Sometimes they are given false information about the risks of abortion, the prevention of STDs, or the status of their pregnancy. Other times, they make it impossible to schedule the abortion that can allegedly be obtained from their clinic until it is too late for the women to terminate, or make the allegedly-available termination inaccessible to low-income women or those without reliable transport by requiring them to return again and again for assessments before signing off on the procedure. The law the Supreme Court struck down had required clinics to state if they were unlicensed, and had required clinics to make patients aware of options available from the state, including abortions.

Now comes the news that Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy will be retiring at the end of the month. Despite being a Reagan-appointed conservative justice, Kennedy was known as a swing-voter who was often a moderate voice in the Supreme Court thanks to key votes in cases regarding issues like marriage equality and reproductive rights. With his departure, Trump has an opportunity to nominate a far more conservative replacement, and naturally we can expect it to be the most awful choice possible. Women across the country are concerned, with good reason, that soon Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that struck down most restrictions on abortion, will be overturned or at least functionally dead.

After Trump’s election, many women feared that a combination of misogyny and pro-life zeal in office would form an attack on reproductive rights and make it more difficult for us to get not only abortions but also contraceptives. One of the major elements of Obama’s healthcare reform was to mandate that most forms of female birth control be covered by health insurance. Many feared (fear) that Trump will attempt to put and end to this, in line with the thinking of so many conservatives that the only purpose of birth control is to allow women to be promiscuous, ignoring the many who use it for health reasons and also the fact that there’s just nothing wrong with having sex. “Get an IUD,” became a common refrain, encouraging women to look into long-term contraception that wouldn’t be disrupted by the administration’s actions.

‘Get an IUD’ is more relevant advice than ever, and as someone who did just that almost a year ago, I thought I’d share a bit about my experience for anyone else who might be considering it.

Continue reading “My IUD story & why I love LARCs”