Justice for Trayvon

One of the things I was not supposed to do, as a reporter for a publication that does not espouse a particular political view, was publicize my own political views. While I am finishing up a series on religion in that area, I am still associated with that paper, but we are at a point in our nation’s history when I feel strongly that something has to be done. Please accept my apology if what I say here or on Facebook somehow negatively affects the credibility of the organization for which I worked. My views are not those of the publication.

As I have mentioned here before, the only major disagreement between the editor and me was when I spoke up for my right to sign a petition. When I asked my friend, a former reporter for The New York Times and The Huffington Post, about that right, he defended my editor. Not having any education in journalism, I did not know that, as a rule, journalists do not sign petitions or register with political parties, understanding that any expression of political leaning could immediately be used by an opponent to dismiss all of your work. (This stands, of course, unless you write for Fox News or Mother Jones, where you are assumed to have particular political views.)

My friend added that not declaring allegiance to any party frees him to consider all sides of every story he does, and he therefore has opinions that do not fit neatly into one platform or another. I see that as honorable and to be admired.

During what has been a painful separation from a job that I loved, which has been compounded by the absence of any chance to say goodbye to the people I worked with every week for over a year, a positive result has been a feeling of relative freedom to say “publicly” what I think, which will grow once I have finished the stories I’m writing and completely stopped working there. (I say “publicly” because it’s not really so public; I don’t believe this blog is searchable or contains my name, and the only people who would ever read it are a number that can be counted on one or two hands of close friends and family, and possibly coworkers at the paper who might be afraid that Fox-on-Hudson will find out about me! For the latter, please rest assured that I have not become FB friends with any who would want to alert the opposing faction.)

So now that we’ve clarified that I’m preaching to the choir, let me just say how dismayed I am at the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case. I don’t just mean dismayed — I mean saddened, angry, despairing. I am thinking epic proportions of mass national trauma. In this one court decision, everything that is wrong with race relations and attitudes toward gun ownership and violence in this country are put on display for all to see plainly. While people who like the verdict argue that it had nothing to do with race, those of us who see that it had everything to do with race feel at a loss about what to do about it, now that the laws have protected the killer. While people who think Zimmerman was innocent of any wrongdoing continue to believe justice is being upheld in this country and that they are safer because of the system, those of us who think Trayvon Martin was killed unjustly continue to grieve.

I go on Facebook and repost everything I read about the acquittal that I think best explains why people should still be thinking about it and trying to do something about it. I even go and write comments at the original sites.

John Oliver’s incredulous reaction to the verdict on The Daily Show

American Federation of Teachers’ statement (“The disposition of this case is the antithesis of what we teach our children in school—that the law protects innocent victims and that no one has the right to take the law into his or her own hands. Everyone’s child matters.”)

Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America says we are all Trayvon Martin’s mother (“Stand Your Ground laws, which give everyday citizens more leeway to shoot than the U.S. military gives to our soldiers in war zones, endanger our children, families and communities.”)

Religion News Service commentary: Concealed handguns a form of white social control

Source: UniteWomen.org courtesy of Abigail Adams Brigade

Source: UniteWomen.org courtesy of Abigail Adams Brigade

I realized this morning that I am almost obsessed with it, while others are still going about their daily lives as if things were normal. I have signed petitions calling on the feds to take up the case, but it doesn’t seem like enough. What else can we do??

There was a time in high school that I felt the hopelessness and sadness that comes close to what I’m feeling right now. There was a presentation about going to college, including how to get financial aid, and one white boy got up and said he couldn’t get any scholarships because they’re only for minorities. This being in Arizona, there were only a couple of African American students in the crowd, and one of them spoke up angrily. An argument ensued, wherein it became obvious to me that most of other students thought the black girl was just being hysterical and/or hateful. I cried, and all I could think was akin to, why can’t we just all get along? Only now I know why we can’t just all get along: Some of the people in this country see the atrocities that are still committed against black people on a daily basis, let alone the lack of atonement for the atrocities of the past, while other people in this country don’t see them at all.

I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but I think that verdict really is affecting many people in an incredibly hurtful way, and whether or not you agree with the decision, you have to understand that healing is desperately needed, because the hurt is real.

Solace, however, did come in the form of posts on a tumblr site from people all over the country and even the world, where it is evident that more and more people are aware of the existence of white privilege and know that justice has not been served: We Are Not Trayvon Martin. That, at least, can be a source of some hope.

Now back to the job search … and much-needed, if profane, comic relief about “jobs” from that potty mouth, Louis C.K.

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Back to the drawing board…

I’m looking at these last few entries and having a face-palm moment. Why was I writing about church fundraisers and Lent on a blog about finding a fulfilling line of work?

I suppose it was because I couldn’t really write about my job. Something I didn’t know about journalism is the rather high profile a reporter can have; if you are supposed to report “just the facts” without a particular political bias, then it’s hard to be taken seriously by opponents if they know your political views. So, I wasn’t supposed to sign that petition that I signed, and it was the only time that I really got in trouble with my editor at work.

But now I don’t have that job anymore, and I’m back to looking for one, because we finally made the move to New York City.

My husband’s sanity was at stake; he HATED commuting to his job every day. Now we have a sweet apartment a little north of the neighborhood where we used to live, and he has two more hours of the day, free from the Metro-North Railroad. Is it amazing and wonderful to have a happy partner? Yes. Is it great to be living in the big city, with all it has to offer? Definitely.

The compromise was that I got to stay long enough at the paper to complete a full year of work there and get that much more experience. And the truth is that I also didn’t see a future for myself there; what murky visions I could glimpse were full of stress and angst and long hours, dealing with some difficult personalities — basically, what my editor does. And honestly, I would’ve been horrible at his job, which he does really well. He would joke that I was being groomed to take over for him when he finally had had enough to call it quits, which occasionally felt like it could be any day, but I don’t know how serious those jokes were. In any case, I didn’t think they were that funny.

I really loved my job, though, and I loved that quirky and sometimes really annoying little village where we lived for three years. I had a hard couple of final weeks working there, because the editor was away on the first long vacation he has taken since beginning to work for this organization, which was at least two years ago, and I didn’t really get along well with the others who were in charge (and I wasn’t put in charge after all, since I was leaving anyway) and especially not with the sometimes reporter who was tapped to take over my copy editing role. And who was to be trained by me. And who never really was because she didn’t want to be trained by me anyway.

But all of that is very negative talk that is meant to make me feel better for leaving a position I liked. I got to write a lot, and I even have a few more stories to complete my religion series there, so that is something to do while I’m on the job search. I was really an editorial assistant who gradually got more decision-making powers as time went on, and it felt like the editor trusted me with certain decisions. Being tech-savvy, I got to do a lot of editing on the website, too. There aren’t that many people in that organization with access to publishing directly on the website, so I see that I made myself quite useful.

What’s really been nice is the encouragement I got for my writing. Of course I was a big-ass fish in a tiny little pond, but that’s not going to deflate my ego … not yet, anyway. I was trusted by my editor to go out and get the job done, and he often praised me for my stories. Some of the people I talked to at government or school board meetings or those I interviewed for stories sometimes told me that they liked my reporting and were grateful that I was covering them.

I heard many more compliments than I heard criticisms, which was kind of a new experience for me, and a very valuable one.

We also had good rapport as a production team — the editor, the layout designer, the ads person and me, the copy editor. We joked around a lot. I will miss those days at the office a lot.

And last but not least, I’ll really miss sticking to those Fox-on-Hudson people!

Having my writing published, even just seeing copy-edited pieces in print, is something that did really feel good. I’m not sure I want to keep reporting, but I think I have some time this summer to think about it.

Not the brightest idea I’ve ever had

Writing a blog about my search for a career/job has proven to be problematic in many ways.

It’s made me worry that I didn’t get a job because the prospective employers found this blog and read what I wrote about them. So I stopped mentioning the job interviews and positions I’d applied for.

Then, complaining about aspects of my current part-time position as a reporter for a local news site and free print weekly has alerted superiors to warn me not air my opinions so freely, lest I compromise my mission to report on events and situations fairly.

Also, it’s never a good idea to complain about one’s employer on a public site.

Maybe my problem is that the blog is public. I should probably be journaling about all this stuff and then writing a book about it later, after I am no longer employed at a place I’m complaining about. Or I should make this thing private and unsearchable and only give out the web address to close friends and family via email, not broadcasting it over facebook, which is full of “friends” who are not really my friends anyway. (Hi, those of you reading this and wondering if I meant you!)

Whatever the case, I am finding it hard to write about anything related to my job search, or rather, lack of a job search, or my current position.

I suppose I can say that I may have wriggled my way out of covering the village government, simply by not covering it adequately, though that was not intentional. My heart’s not in it, of course, so there’s that, but I also don’t have the stomach for the quarreling.

My husband came down with the flu on Monday, so he’s been home since Tuesday on. He finally went to the doctor today — one day shy of health insurance coverage, mind you, because our doctor doesn’t work Fridays, and he’s been feeling miserable enough to self pay. I have been trying my best to take care of him.

Now writing that sentence: “I have been trying my best to take care of him,” makes me realize that I have been trying to do that since he started his full-time job at the end of November.

That has been a difficulty for a while between us. I have high expectations of myself, and I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself to be a good stay-at-home spouse, just like Shane was to me for the four years that I worked full-time as a teacher. I want to make delicious dinners with leftovers so he can bring a lunch to work, keep the house clean, do the dishes and the laundry regularly, but then again, I don’t really want to do any of that at all. At the end of the day, when none of that has been done, I feel like I’ve failed him and myself.

I’m also rather a workaholic, so even though I’m technically part-time at the paper, I have made it so that I work on stuff for the paper pretty much a lot of the time. That way I don’t have to do housewife-y stuff, either.

On top of that, I have taken on lots of responsibility at this church. This church! I am in charge of hall rentals, and now I am trying to organize a pancake supper that is happening NEXT WEEK!

One has to understand something about my past to comprehend the anxiety with which I face this freaking pancake supper. I can remember, in my entire 36 years of life, only one or two gatherings that I organized that were successful. I think they were while I was in grad school, so it wasn’t difficult to impress the other grad students I’d invited, who were equally as or perhaps a little nerdier than I was.

OK, so this is at CHURCH for God’s sake, so what am I worrying about? Well, I still want it to be FUN.

In my search for the right formula to create said FUN, I may have tried a little too hard. I bought a bunch of Mardi Gras masks and beads — I mean, come on, Pancake Day is fine and all, but let’s spice things up a little — and I’m thinking about holding a pancake race (which I’ve learned actually happens at pancake suppers in the UK). Shane and a few friends at church are asking me, “Who’s going to run in a pancake relay race?! It’s a bunch of old people who can’t run!” And I’m saying, “The kids?” while I’m thinking, “I want to run in a pancake relay race! And I want to watch a bunch of people making fools of themselves running in a pancake relay race!”

Did I mention there will be mimosas? Everyone is excited about the mimosas. Maybe with mimosas people will wear Mardi Gras masks and beads and run around flipping pancakes. Maybe it will be fun.

Copy editor and reporter and … photographer?

I could say I have been busy with work, getting more responsibilities at the paper, which is sort of true, but since it is only part-time, there’s no real excuse for my long hiatus from writing.

There was that whole job interview thing — I finally heard back that I didn’t get the job, weeks after the second interview I mentioned previously. It was fine not getting the position, especially after worrying that I’d have to interact with that horrible professor, but I did feel like maybe they had somehow seen my blog post about them (and that I didn’t really want the job). I don’t know how they would have, but I stressed out about it anyway. That paranoia led me not to want to write about much else on this blog. And so a couple of other job interviews have come and gone without so much as a … tweet.

I still do enjoy working for the paper, and staying there is now made easier by the fact that my husband has secured a full-time job (with benefits!) in the city. The whole idea of giving the Ailes operation a hard time is extremely satisfying, which unfortunately allows me and my colleagues to put up with a lot of other stuff, like not being able to go full-time or get insurance benefits.

I remain eternally grateful for the opportunity to develop my skills there, though. I have, since my last posting, written a few more articles, one or two of which have had an impact (however small) on parts of the community.

One of my stories on the Garrison School Board meetings, for example, reportedly angered the teachers there, which was the desired effect. They were not present to hear the condescending tone of some the parents or to defend themselves, and so I felt it my duty to inform those not present of the general themes of the discussion. Unfortunately, I heard that the teachers felt the article was immensely critical of them, when in fact I had tried my best to report as “objectively” as possible.

I haven’t been writing as much for the paper as one might expect, given my “added,” somewhat editorial responsibilities at the paper. With the awesome digital SLR camera that I bought myself for my birthday in October, I have been taking much better pictures than I ever could with my old point-and-shoot, and my photos have been appearing a lot more in the paper than my writing has. My shots of the late-night flooding at high tide in lower Cold Spring (in my last post), for example, were some of the only ones that I have seen. When we need front-page photos now, the editor often asks me to get the shots.

gingerbread ornamentLiving nativity Saunders Farm

The wonders of digital photography! Now any numbnut can take a hundred photos and find a good one somewhere in the mix. I DO want to learn more about photography, though, so that I don’t have to sort through a hundred photos to find one that is merely decent. I know there are several ways to do so that are free, through the Internet, perhaps through all of my artsy photographer friends, but it just means getting up and doing it….

Which brings me to the confessional part of my blog: Am I in a rut? Am I, as I type this entry while noon approaches, in bed, in my bathrobe, shirking my duties as the spouse who works part-time, avoiding the laundry, the dishes, the cleaning, the grocery shopping, the cooking, and contemplating what I’ll watch next on Netflix instant? Am I avoiding a job search that will land us in the city so that my husband doesn’t have to commute an hour and a half each way and so that I can continue working at this paper and take on village reporting duties? Am I also making no progress whatsoever on journaling or writing fiction/creative nonfiction/my first novel? Am I, perhaps, rather depressed? I’m afraid the answer is yes. But therapy will resume as soon as my health insurance kicks in next month.

Be Careful What You Wish For

I’ve been incredibly busy this week with copy editing and writing. This is generally nice, especially compared to last week, when both of my planned stories disappeared because meetings were postponed … postponed, that is, to this week.

Two village board meetings this week: Monday’s was almost three hours long; Tuesday’s was almost two hours long. I don’t know if village board meetings should ever be allowed on consecutive nights. I am not having happy, positive thoughts about some of the people in the village government or on its myriad boards.

During these meetings, I kept thinking about the conflict resolution course I took a few years ago while in grad school, about how these people need to go to mediation in a big way and get off their little soapboxes for at least a minute and actually listen to what someone else is saying, for a change.

But that’s not really fair. I guess I am feeling rebellious because of having to just sit and listen, myself, for once. Yes, I get to write about it later, so I get my say, but I would not allow myself (or be allowed by editors) to write what I really think. That’s what this blog is for….

On occasion, I transcribe from my recording of the meeting something really ridiculous that a person said, because I really want to use it in an article and say, “Hey, everyone! Can you believe this ding dong?!” But I don’t use most of what I transcribe, and I can’t really write an account that sounds like me gossiping with a friend: then he said … and so she said … and then he said….

I am happy, though, that I am busy with work. I am glad to have so much responsibility at this paper, which I think is doing incredible work. I am thankful that the editor is helpful and encouraging and generally happy to have hired me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to wield power and make decisions on which press releases should go in the paper and what should be cut from them and which can just go on the website….

If only our website were up this week! Huge technical difficulties have besieged us, and I hope that they can be overcome soon. Keeping fingers crossed.

And just because I want to post a photo of cute horses at the farm (and not one of the village board):

Horses at Glynwood

The Pipe Dream of a Husband-Wife Sports-Writing Team

Shane and I went to the local high school (American) football game Saturday to report for the paper, which sorely lacks sports coverage. Every so often a regular reporter writes a big story, like the Little League tournament or when the high school baseball team went to the state championships. But my editor had asked a long time ago if I’d wanted to do some sports stories, and I finally got up the nerve to try it, as long as I had Shane, an avid sports follower, to help me.

The last time I had gone to a football game was probably when I was a freshman in high school myself. I didn’t then and still don’t understand the details of the game, possibly intentionally, as I find it one of the most repulsive sports today. All it seems to be good for is traumatic brain injury (not only to the players) and training in loud, macho yelling. I was planning to just take some photos and write a few short lines like “So-and-so made a touchdown in the first quarter” and “They lost to the Broncos [insert score].”

As soon as we got to the field, I noticed the concession stand and hot dogs, while Shane whipped out his notebook and started jotting down notes. Turns out my husband was pretty good at writing his first article, with my lame smartphone photos that cut out the QB and RB and, most times, even the football. The only photo that really turned out well … you can see for yourself that it didn’t really have anything to do with football:

(I just loved that kid’s fashion sense.)

When the article was published online, I got super excited that Shane and I could become the sports-writing duo that expands the paper’s sports section into a force to be reckoned with. We would not only cover important varsity games but perhaps even junior varsity games! Shane could get paid for doing something extra that he enjoys – watching sports! I would take amazing action photos with a new digital SLR camera (that I bought yesterday)!

Then the editor told me what I knew to be true all along: the paper did not have the budget or the space to expand the sports coverage in the way I was hoping. It could accommodate maybe one story per week, if that, and there is already one reporter, possibly two, working on occasional sports coverage. Wuah – wuah, goes the game-over trombone.

In happier news, we don’t have to go to tons of sports games.

We are also looking into health insurance options through the Freelancers’ Union, and I am seriously thinking about getting business cards and a website to promote myself as a freelance copy editor. Got a gig through work doing some academic copy editing, and I applied for a freelance copy-editing position with a cool website today, so keep fingers crossed, everyone!

Above the Fold

It’s the new term of the week. Had never heard it till I got a front-page article “above the fold.” I actually had two by-lines on the front page in this edition, and it feels awesome. Even though it’s only because a senior reporter is out of town for three weeks, and I have to cover her usual Village Board meetings, and because the meeting covered so much material, including a big bike race, that I had to write two separate articles.

I am really, really excited about this job. I am having a ball writing for this amazing publication, getting information out to the people in the community, even though the subject matter is not always riveting. I am so excited, in fact, that I suggested going to the local high school football game today to cover it, since our paper needs more sports coverage. My husband, of course, will help me, but I am glad I did go to my own high school football games as a teenager with friends on the flag team….

To help with this great job, I am looking into buying a better digital camera, to get better photos for the paper (and for myself). Does anyone out there have suggestions for a good but not too expensive entry-level digital SLR camera?

If I were offered a full-time job in the city, I think I would have a hard time leaving this paper, and I can’t think of many full-time jobs I’ve applied to that would make me want to leave.

More tangible results

Monday we hiked parts of some trails we hadn’t done before, and we reached the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain in the Hudson Highlands. The weather was perfect – blue skies and a high in the 70s. It may have been pleasing without the view, but it certainly felt good after an hour of climbing to be able to see the river, the mountains to the west, and the falling-apart castle on Bannerman’s Island.

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There was even a deer near the trail at one point, who did not mind us as we passed quite close to it.

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Now, two days later, my knee is protesting, as it often does after a long hike. I don’t know what the problem is, but it aches like the dickens and is all inflamed. It usually goes away after a day or two. In any case, there are positive results of a long hike, and I was glad that my dh persuaded me to do it even though I hadn’t really felt like it. I got much-needed exercise and spent several hours in the woods; there is something fulfilling about walking around in so much green foliage. Going up and down the trails, especially having to scramble up and down rocks, presented a healthy challenge and gave me a sense of accomplishment.

Another accomplishment was the third article I wrote for the paper, about the first day of school in Garrison. It was surprisingly easy to write after having struggled over the one about the Cat Sanctuary, to which I felt very attached. I suppose it’s because I felt detached from the subject that made it easier to write. When I wrote about the cats I kept wanting to talk about my personal experiences there, and that is not what the editor wants. (Most of the reporters there probably want to write their our own weekly columns, and the editor’s job is to keep us from injecting ourselves into his paper.)

I have had rejections from some jobs I’ve applied to and still haven’t heard from most of them. So it was particularly gratifying to go volunteer at the farm on Tuesday, not my usual day. Harvesting beans and arugula, as tedious as it was, made me feel accomplished. Even spraying radishes was satisfying….

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I found out what the farm apprentices make, though, and I doubt I will be trying for one of those any time soon.

Blog vs. Print

Blogs — who reads them? If you are reading this, then I guess the answer is you. But I have to be honest, I don’t read them, unless I’ve searched for a recipe or a knitting pattern and it’s embedded in a blog.

I have to apologize, then, to my friends who have blogs. Honestly, I am the kind of person who scans my facebook feed and gets most of my news that way, and yes I feel sorry saying that. Every so often, I will click on a link from Huff Post or NPR to read an article on politics or the environment, or to watch a Daily Show or Colbert Report clip (not the entire episode, because I don’t have the attention span). OK, I’m trying to make myself look cultured and educated; I also spend a lot of time watching cute animal videos on youtube. C’mon, how many times have you watched the baby panda sneeze? It’s still funny every single time. Or that dubbed video of the dog having a conversation with his owner about maple-smoked bacon?

What’s happening to me? I have no attention span anymore. I get an article on the internet that is over 2 pages long, with all those little numbers in their little boxes at the bottom of the page, and I just quit. If I had it in my hands in a newspaper, and I really wanted to continue reading, I would, I suppose. But I have more trouble staying focused when reading on a computer screen than when it’s on paper — too many other places I could go, I guess, and it makes my eyes go buggy after a while.

I love working as copy editor for our local news website now that they have a weekly print edition. I hardly ever read it online (apologies to the crew); the one time I did was because there was an interview with my knitting/spinning friend in town. But this goes to show that the publisher made an excellent decision to go the paper route, despite what the managing editor says about it being outdated and a poor financial investment — he’s right that things are going in another direction (take the beautiful tablet magazines these days). But there are many people who have said the same thing I have: they never read it online, but they do read the paper. We, the paper and book people, are still a force to be reckoned with! (As well as poor people who do not have ipads and kindles.)

Back to my original question, who reads blogs? Who has the time to sift through all of the information on the Internet? This is why print publishing is still alive (though many would say, dying) — people need a filter, a middle-man, a gateway to help them sort through what’s really worth their time. (I use facebook, which is not a great mediator, but if my newsfeed friends like it, I will probably like it.) And you can safely say that if someone has gone to all the trouble and expense to get something printed on paper and designed to look nice and distributed widely enough, that maybe it has some value, at least to some people.

And back to the theme of my blog — the paper edition is a much more satisfying product than the news website, no matter how great the site is. It is not only visible but tangible as well. And this is why I am happy at this job (that and the fact that it’s only a couple days a week), and why I remember enjoying my time at the English-language daily paper in Taiwan in the early 2000s. I can see the product and feel proud of it, especially if it’s an article I’ve written. Sure, I can write anything I want on the Internet (I’m doing it right now), but to get it out to the whole town, that feels completely different, and awfully satisfying.