Get your weekend off to a smart start with this week's NYWICI must reads.
Many thanks to this week's contributors: Dimitra DeFotis, Brittany Hennessy, Giuliana Lonigro, Robbie McKeon, Eunic Ortiz, Susan Soriano, Rodeena Stephens, Tekla Szymanski, Maria Ungaro and Deirdre Wyeth. For Twitter, please use this hashtag: #NYWICImustreads
“I was just part of a cabal, fighting the injustice of it all, of how women were treated in every field.” Helen Thomas reacts almost hesitantly when I suggest that without her, women journalists might not be where we are today. No, she is not a trailblazer, she says resolutely.
But to many of us female journalists, she was. For the past 60 years, she had been the tenacious award-winning grande dame of U.S. journalism, a straight-shooter, the dean of the White House Press corps. With wit, timeless candor and a razor-sharp voice and pen she has held an unprecedented ten presidential administrations accountable since beginning her career as a copy girl on the now-defunct Washington Daily News and then as a United Press International reporter in 1943. Thomas was the first woman officer of the National Press Club after it opened its doors to women members, and for many of us, she has become a role model and then some. In 2002, she won NYWICI’s MATRIX Award for her achievements in the field of newspaper journalism. But in light of all that, what is so striking about her is her unpretentiousness.
“I am not a woman. I’m a reporter,” is her credo. “You don’t delineate someone in the profession as to whether they’re a man or a woman, but what they do.” But when she embarked on her career, female reporters were the exception, and a woman reporter covering the White House was unheard of. If she could start all over again, would she choose the same profession, I ask her. “Absolutely! Without a doubt.” The answer comes without delay, and I can hear her smile.
And yet, isn’t journalism still a ‘Boys’ Club’? “No, I think it has become more and more a women’s club! Women have come a long way. They still have a way to go in terms of equal pay and recognition. And they should not give up the fight for equality. But times have changed for female journalists." Have they really? I probe. “Mostly beautiful, blond women make it in broadcast journalism,” Thomas once remarked wryly. Does she think that still holds true today? “I’ll give you the answer: Watch television! You have to be very attractive. That’s all I am saying.”
There are many past trailblazers like Dorothy Thompson, Martha Gellhorn, Pauline Frederick, Marguerite Higgins, Doris Fleeson and May Craig that Thomas holds in high esteem. But she won’t single out her own role models or mentors. If anyone, she says, it was her parents — who were illiterate, raised nine children and wanted everyone to be educated — who made the real contribution to her life.
Media realities are changing, but for Thomas, nothing can replace experience and real dedication to truth. “Young people often don’t react enough to what’s going on in the world. You got to have a conscience. I’d rather have my nose against the windowpane than be part of the crowd. Thank God for leakers and whistleblowers.”
What is the impact of new media and blogging on journalism and the public discourse, I ask her. “It is very effective. But I wish that newspapers would be read more. You get a much better air view of what’s going on from a newspaper than from blogging. Now everybody with a laptop thinks they’re a journalist. I don’t call them media. I call them individuals who are getting their point of view across.”
And then she thinks out loud, “I hope we’ll still have newspapers.” Will we? “Absolutely!” But the notion that the public doesn’t hold today’s media in high esteem irritates her tremendously. “I don’t give a damn! I know how I try to do my job.”
A slightly longer version of this article was published in NYWICI’s print newsletter CONNECT (Fall 2006).
As nine justices on the Supreme Court started the discussion this week on one of its most important civil rights decisions of our time - gay marriage, millions have turned to social media to weigh in. If you've been on Facebook this week, you've been seeing a lot of red. The red and pink logo of The Human Rights Campaign, America's largest civil rights organization, has taken over Facebook since Monday. The logo first posted at 1 p.m. EST on Monday and since then, the HRC said it has "snowballed," going globally viral, in support of gay marriage. In addition, the top ten terms trending on Facebook this week are all related to same-sex marriage.
Social media is a proven influence on people's perceptions and decision making. Television and pop culture can also take some of the credit. Last Friday, Chris Cilliza of the Washington Post quoted a media consultant, saying the proliferation of mainstream TV shows depicting gay people has made the public more open to homosexuality. A younger, more tolerant demographic coming into adulthood is also a large factor.
Are social and traditional media the biggest catalyst for America's change in heart? Way back in the dark ages (before Facebook was mainstream), in 2004, an ABC News/Washington Post poll found that only 32 percent of voters thought gay marriage should be legal. This month, the same poll showed support jumping to 58 percent. Though on a slower pace, politicians follow the public. In 2008, President Obama and his opponents all opposed gay marriage. Within the last year, we have seen a huge shift from our officials, including President Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton supporting the issue and Karl Rove recently stated that he could see a 2016 Republican presidential candidate in favor of gay marriage.
Though an image in favor of same-sex marriage proliferate social media and many of our elected officials are joining the cause outside the courthouse, justices inside are still hesitant to grant a full constitutional right for same-sex marriages in the US. Only time will tell how this is handled, despite the groundswell of support from the public and media. Will it be enough to enact change?
How has media (social and traditional) been a catalyst for changing public opinion in this issue?
“Speaking of innovation, for the first time ever, Marie Claire is a fully interactive experience,” wrote Editor in Chief Anne Fulenwider in her March 2013 editor’s note. And over at Time Inc., “This month, Real Simple is debuting an inspiring, surprising and scannable new section.”
New interactive magazines go beyond advertisers’ QR codes that encourage readers to “scan for product demo” and even further than the Love it? Pin it? SnapTag Reader App that Delta (the faucet company), for instance, is incorporating into ads.
Interactive print issues promise more than bonus content, sharable images, or shoppable photo shoots. And, they allow readers to engage—and be rewarded for it—immediately. At the same time, publishers learn what readers find most intriguing and get swift, nuanced feedback regarding print, visual, and language choices, as Mike Hofman, Executive Digital Director at Glamour, pointed out in Folio magazine’s recent Reader Engagement webinar.
The Technology Behind The Page
With a single app, readers engage with editorial and ad content throughout an interactive print magazine. Real Simple’s scannable section, The Realist, comes to life with the help of Digimarc’s free Discover app (found in both the iTunes store and the Google Play market).
And, Hearst’s Marie Claire takes advantage of the free Netpage app (available from iTunes), as did the December 2012 issue of Hearst’s Esquire. “In partnership with the technology company Netpage, we’re debuting a digital technique that makes the magazine as interactive as your iPad….The app will not only enable you to see video and animation related to stories in the magazine and to make purchases directly from the magazine…it will also allow you to clip any article or image and then save it or share it via email or Facebook or any form of social media,” explained David Granger in his editor’s note.
Digimark calls their technology “transparent digital watermarking.” And had you made an appointment with the company at SXSW earlier this week, you could have had a demonstration, according to the latest Digimark press release. By contrast Netpage explains that their Digital Twin™ platform “Works without any special printing process or digital watermarking.”
Close to a year and a half ago House Beautiful launched a Digimark mobile app called House Beautiful Connect that has reader uses within the magazine, an editor’s video for instance.
One of the leading African American producers of this 21st century is Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes. “You never know the biggest day of your life is your biggest day, not until it’s happening. You don’t recognize the biggest day of your life, not until you’re right in the middle of it.” Well, it’s happening for Shonda Rhimes. She has created one of the most popular shows on television…and social media. On any given Thursday night at 10pm EST., just login into Twitter and you will surely see “scandalous” tweets in your timeline.
"Don't be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can make it so." This quote, by BelvaDavis, the first black woman television reporter, is one of my favorite quotes. Ms. Davis struggled to break into broadcast journalism at a time when few women, much less African American women, were in mainstream newscasts. Her struggle, persistence and determination paid off and Ms. Davis became one of America’s pioneering black female news reporters.
Another pioneer in African American television is Yvette Lee Bowser. Throughout her 20-year career, Ms. Bowser created more than 25 television pilots, four of which became classic programming for years to come. These shows include “Living Single, “Half and Half,” “For Your Love” and more. Yvette Lee Bowser is a trailblazer in creating such unique programs that include a cast of strong, humorous and intelligent African American characters.
The cast of African American women producers continues with Stephanie Allain Bray who is known for launching the careers of John Singleton, Robert Rodriguez and Darnell Martin. Stephanie’s career as a film producer includes a stint at Columbia and then President of Henson Films where she produced the popular Hanson brand movies, Muppets from Space and Elmo in Grouchland.
“My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” This quote by Oprah Winfrey is certainly a statement that has propelled her to be one of the most powerful and wealthy people in show business. Oprah Winfrey has definitely put herself in the best place for the next moment. Oprah’s next moments included successful talk show host, launching a magazine, owning her own network and countless philanthropy projects that include opening a school in South Africa.
Women in general have had a major impact in the world of television. African American women are increasingly playing an important role in programming; as well as making their mark on screen.
A few weeks ago, fellow NYWICI member Michelle Lodge recommended the Taryn Simon photography exhibit at MoMA. I hadn’t heard of Taryn and was curious about the exhibit and her work.
Taryn is a New York based photographer who is known for incorporating text with photographs. Taryn’s previous work includes “The Innocents” from 2003, about people wrongfully sentenced to life or death who were released thanks to DNA evidence. In a current digital project entitled Image Atlas, Taryn examines cultural differences in various countries. A collaboration with programmer Aaron Swartz, Image Atlas allows users to enter a search word and to retrieve photos and images organized by country.
“A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters” is the culmination of Taryn’s world travels and research from 2008–2011. The exhibit is organized into eighteen chapters, each divided into three panels. At first glance, the panels reminded me of medieval triptych paintings I remember seeing in art museums. Upon closer viewing, it became apparent that this exhibit has little in common with the typical medieval paintings of large center panels and two smaller side panels that clearly relate to each other visually. Taryn’s triptychs, which she calls chapters, require scrutiny and study. This exhibit is not an artistic, aesthetic rendering but rather a historical archive in three parts of eighteen separate subjects. There is documentary feel to Taryn’s work and an objective, journalistic tone.
The left panel contains ordered photographs of a bloodline, the middle contains narrative text and the right panel includes what Taryn calls footnotes: fragments, beginnings of other stories and photographic evidence. The photographic portraits alone do not tell the complete story; it is only with the added two panels that the viewer gets a sense of story and historical events.
The chapters are presented scientifically, allowing viewers to draw their own conclusions. Taryn’s portrait subjects all have a serious expression and the same pose, hands folded in their lap. Unavailable ascendants or descendents are represented by an empty backdrop with various explanations ranging from “declined participation” to “Location unknown: abducted.”
It is difficult not to feel outrage at the situations that Taryn portrays in her chapters. This exhibit gets at what’s under the surface of everyday life. The impassive expressions in the portraits belie the shocking events many of these various families and bloodlines have lived through. There is also an archetypal element to the work as a whole.
While the nine chapters presented at MoMA are thought-provoking and some are heartbreaking, Chapter III about Joseph Jura made an impression on me as it relates to women’s rights in Africa. Located in Kenya, Jura treated people for infertility, AIDs, “evil spirits” and asthma and has been paid in goats and cash; sometimes the families of women give them to him in exchange for medical treatment. Jura has nine wives, 32 children and 63 grandchildren. In Kenya, polygamy is seen as an alternative to infidelity.
Chapter XV also resonated with me in terms of freedom of expression and communication. Taryn calls this chapter a performance piece; she photographed a Beijing family — carefully selected by the Chinese State Council Information office responsible for China’s external publicity operations. Everyone showed up for the photo shoot. For the footnote panel, Taryn was instructed to photograph a television station; she also photographed a gift bag she was given. In a recent interview, Taryn told The New Yorker she is “…interested in the invisible space between people in communication; the space guided by translation and misinterpretation. This space highlights the inevitability of solitude and the impossibility of true understanding.”
A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters was previously shown at Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Tate Modern in London and the Galerie Almine Rech in Paris.
Curious about the other chapters not on view at MoMA, I found out that they include the effects of thalidomide on children born under its influence; reincarnation; feuding families in Brazil; Filipinos made to eat dogs at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair; albinos in Tanzania; Latif Yahia, Saddam Hussein’s son Uday’s body double who now lives in Ireland; and the abduction of South Korean citizens by North Korea as part of the Cold War conflict.
In the TED video below, Taryn asks “Is fate determined by blood, chance or circumstance? Are we evolving, or are we on repeat?”
This exhibit is worth seeing; it will make you think and will probably elicit strong feelings about the plight of the disadvantaged people it documents. But don’t just take my word for it. As fellow NYWICI member Michelle Lodge puts it: "With so much going on at MoMA, it may be easy to overlook this exhibit, tucked in on the third floor. That would be a mistake. Taryn's work uses her own portraits, artifacts and text to tell stories of both major world events and tiny pockets of society that left me better informed, moved and inspired. See it before it closes."
A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII is on view in The Robert and Joyce Menschel Photography Gallery at MoMA until September 3, 2012.
New York Women in Communications member Dianne Devitt writes about her reaction to Matrix honoree Ann Curry’s dismissal from Today.
On June 29, 2012, NBC’s Today showed us an example of the science of re-generativity in the form of how low we can go as a society. Re-generativity is when new behavior is the result of two forms of previous behavior. In this case, the lack of acknowledgement and respect equals embarrassment for a fellow human being. My spirit reached out to Ann as she handled the situation as best as she could in the moment. Being one of the first victims of downsizing, I empathize all too well with the initial feelings of rejection and confusion as heard by Ann commenting that she did her best.
Regardless of the issues that provoked management to make their “Curry in a Hurry” decision to ask Ann to step down from her place on the show, what wasn’t said was what made the news and what has affected many viewers opinion of the show itself. No formal handshake from any of her colleagues, no wishing her well, absolutely NO decorum. I happened to turn on the station the moment Ann was led to the guillotine and didn’t comprehend what was happening until I read all of the body language that surrounded her. Some things are still better off unsaid within the walls of a family, which in this case was the Today show, to protect the millions of viewers from seeing the dirty laundry aired.
I’d venture a guess that, were this a male anchor, the thought of putting someone out alone without any acknowledgement would never be a consideration. What happened during the 15 years of history that Ann was affiliated with the show? Couldn’t anyone come to the forefront to save what we all need the most in this world, integrity and respect for one another? The interview with the Dali Lama doesn’t make the grade?
Nearly everyone’s proverbial conversation is that we are so connected with our devices, we are losing connection with our emotional language; you know, the one that speaks more than 85 percent versus words. Andrea Peyser in the New York Post summed it up the best: "It wasn’t Today, it was a snuff film. The Today show yesterday didn’t just fling Ann Curry, kicking and screaming, under the bus. The folks at NBC ran her over, backed up the monster truck, and, for kicks and giggles, executed her on live TV.”
Let’s bring back integrity and respect for one another; let’s support Ann, not for what happened but for her position and accomplishments.