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Why Ellen Goodman is Wrong on New Media

By: TexBetsy Friday June 12, 2009 10:58 am

my table at the Molly dinner

Last night was the Molly Dinner for the Texas Observer. I got all decked out, including pink finger and toenails to match my pink canes, and my pink blouse, and went down to the Four Seasons in Austin. Had wonderful conversations, heard horrible tales of unemployed journalists, barely tolerated Ellen Goodman’s screed against new media, and had a ball! Food was so-so, but when we had tornado watches and warnings at the end, I wound up in the lobby talking with the state senators on the education committees, and the highlight of the evening was chatting with Lou Dubose and his wife. Wow!

Interestingly, mine was the only laptop in sight, and I think am the one attendee there who even attempted to live-blog the event. I sat next to much of the Observer staff, and none of them were taking notes of any kind. Lots of journalists in attendance, but I didn’t even see note-pads. Very odd, considering how Netroots Nation last year and SxSW this year were wall-to-wall laptops.

The Molly Awards are given in memory of the wonderful Molly Ivins, one of the smartest and funniest Texans ever, a print journalist and columnist who did "get it" about the reasons why the mainstream media began its decline. She said the following in a 2004 interview:

BuzzFlash: You mention in your introduction that journalism is in a ‘parlous state.’ Tell me what you think is wrong with journalism in general?

Molly Ivins: I am a little grumpy about journalism but I think there is reason for hope. I think we are at the point where the concentration of ownership is really visibly starting to affect the quality of journalism. I know it’s been this way for a while but the only thing new is the degree. And I think it is really starting to tell. It’s not like that when you get bought by some major media corporation. I mean my last paper was sold three times while I worked for it.

I’m not saying that anybody from corporate headquarters calls and says, "Oh, Molly Ivins can’t criticize George W. Bush." No one at that level knows or cares about journalism and what is being said. What’s being done is some bean-counter trains their telescope on their little property down in Texas and says, "Ah! My property down in Texas is not making as much as our property in Kansas City of a similar size. We’ll have to call Texas and tell them to get their quarterly profit margin up."

And ultimately there are only two ways you can squeeze more money out of a newspaper when there is a profit squeeze, as there always is. An old editor of mine used to say that the profits are down from obscene to excessive.

You can squeeze the news hole and literally have less room in the paper for news or you can squeeze the news gathering staff and have less people out there gathering news.

I think the net result is that there is just not as much information in the paper anymore.

BuzzFlash: On a different track, are you familiar with blogs?

Molly Ivins: Yes, and that is where I am optimistic. I think the Internet can potentially have an amazingly positive effect in both journalism and politics.

(Thanks Pellora2 for finding and posting that interview last night.)

None of last night’s speakers get it. Because the Observer and some investigative reporters and columnists are still actually practicing journalism, they have not noticed how many of their colleagues in the industry have become stenographers and abdicated their positions as the fourth estate.


Rihanna’s Silver Lining

By: TexBetsy Sunday March 15, 2009 5:55 pm

I work in a high school that does a lot to address issues of dating violence, family violence, and harassment. We have two full time social workers, and services from the local rape crisis center and the woman’s shelter. We even have one group that addresses the emotional needs of students who have survived wars and/or have lived in refugee camps. I am hopeful that these efforts have an effect on the future relationships of our students, and I am always glad when something from outside the school can help students to come forward and discuss the issues of violence they face.

The relationship violence of Chris Brown towards Rihanna presents just such an opportunity to schools that are looking to for a way to discuss such issues. Here’s how a personal yet public tragedy is being used for good in one high school:

Beyond Gossip, Good and Evil
the New Agenda

In the month since the Chris Brown and Rihanna case broke, bodies of women killed by their current or former intimate partners have piled up. Young love is supposed to hurt a bit emotionally, but increasingly, it bruises. The vociferous response to Chris Brown and Rihanna Fenty, and the range of perspectives on who has the right to hit whom, make it clear that we need to talk about this issue more often, particularly in schools.

Here’s the story.

Jews and Catholics, Guilt and Shame, Abusers and Survivors

By: TexBetsy Friday March 13, 2009 10:32 pm

Since internal shame and guilt have not yet fixed the problem, some forces from outside of religious communities are needed to put a stop to child abuse under the guise of religion, and also a stop to the practice of not holding abusers responsible for their actions.

As a Jewish educator, as a secular educator, I become excited and enamored with the learning, the ideas, the questions, the excitement that my students bring to their learning. I’ve been told that my face and demeanor change when I work with kids, or when I talk about something I saw in a classroom. For many of us, that was the hook that got us to try classroom or informal teaching, and to stay.

But there are many in our profession who admire different aspects of the students, and who are far more interested in the students’ physical than intellectual or spiritual development. These people, even if they never act, are dangerous to the students in their charge and dangerous to the profession. If they do act on their sexual attractions, they cause far-reaching and incalculable damage, and should be punished as sexual predators by the authorities. Even if it damages the reputation of the school or agency. Even if it costs money to settle lawsuits.

Let me stop rambling and present some of the facts that are being debated in New York right now.

Thinking ’bout Mountain Removal

By: TexBetsy Saturday February 21, 2009 9:44 am

Mountain Removal? Yeah, I know. Last time I posted about this topic I called it MTR or mountain Top removal, but it’s turning out to be a bit more than that.

Check out this video:

Mountaintop Removal “Country Roads” Parody

from HORN News

Lyrics by Bob Kincaid. Performed by Tonya Adkins of Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. www.ohvec.org

Support wind instead of mountain removal.