Showing posts with label journalism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label journalism. Show all posts

05 August, 2016

Old Habits, New Projects

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. - Seneca

The moving finger writes, and having written moves on. Nor all thy piety nor all thy wit, can cancel half a line of it. - Omar Khayyam


New paths are born out of old roads.
I liked being a journalist. There's something in my nature, the desire to be the one who pokes the sleeping bear with a stick, that naturally lended itself to  professional muckraking*. My love of a good story and the firm belief that truth is always stranger than fiction** helped me to frame the facts and rumors people already knew*** into articles with larger contexts and larger meaning beyond the column inch/ page content filler that mainstream journalism has become in this age of content over substance.
Besides that, I was good at it. And I was getting better.

But I am coming to terms with the fact that my stint in journalism, like my stint in higher education, is probably finished.  This story, and my refusal to write something like this that lets the Metro government, Mayor Fischer, and the LMPD off the hook and avoids any real journalistic critique of Metro's absence of actual compassion -- beyond platitudes and photo ops -- pretty much saw to that. It probably didn't help that I accused the then Managing Editor, now Publisher, of wanting seasonal homeless porn. It also probably didn't help that I had the temerity to ask for something more regular than freelance grunt wages while she was working her way into a higher paying position.^

When I'm being honest, though, I know it's probably not a bad thing that I'm not a paid journalist anymore. It took energy away from my poetry. It made me grouchy, and brought out some of the more negative aspects of my personality. I don't mind being an asshole^^, but it's damn exhausting being one all the time. It's exhausting for me and for the people closest to me.

I've been channeling that through my podcast, The Kentucky Muck Podcast. And it's fun. But I'm also struck with how there is no art to any of it. All I've really been doing to chasing other news sources for content because I have neither the money nor the resources to muckrake the way I want to. Besides that, the stories just bore the hell out of me. How many instances of Matt Bevin being a power hungry zealot can I really talk about before it turns into more of the same white noise? How many critiques of Trump and the rise of Fascism in America can I post before it's ignored like street corner preaching?

My obsession with narratives -- and with words --  are really the only thing that journalism, teaching, and the Muck Podcast have in common.  But none of them feed my spirit in the way poetry does. None of them fill my heart the way a good narrative can. Where there is no food for the spirit or the heart, there is no Art. Where there is no Art, there is no Craft, no Style, and no Process. Where none of those things exist, there is no chance for Beauty or for Truth.

So I'm moving into other projects. I'm in pre-production on a new podcast that focuses on the stories of other people's lives.
Between this, my other writing, this blog, my various other interests and obligations, and the perpetual search for paying work, I'm going to be busy. But I'm also going to hitting the road soon to record for the new podcast and hopefully a gig or two. Sometimes new paths grow out of old roads. Maybe it was necessary for me to go back to teaching, go back to print journalism because I needed the leg to stand on moving into my new life. Maybe I needed to go back to things I knew in order to convince myself that I needed to push in a new direction. Maybe I'm just a slow learner.  Maybe I'm 43 and finally getting over the model of manhood/husbandry I was programmed to accept. Maybe I was so nervous about starting my new life on strong footing that I fell back into things I know in order to put my energy elsewhere.

Maybe I'm just making excuses.

But even if I am, excuses are done with. Teaching is done with. Journalism is done with.  Now is the time for Art. And Life. And Beauty. And Truth.

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* Think Upton Sinclair, Ida B. Wells, and Ambrose Bierce. Good muckrakers that terrified people in positions off power. That's what journalism should be. Anything else is Public Relations. (George Orwell, paraphrased.)
** Mark Twain, paraphrased.
*** People don't read, listen, or watch news sources for facts. People generally have a grip on facts as they see it. What people look for is context, and a proper narrative.
^There's no profit in journalism, you see. Advertising based publications only thrive when they expand their advertising, and LEO can't grow into a larger market share without ceasing to be a Louisville-centric publication. 
^^Again, I'm pretty good at it.

If you like what you're reading here, I have work for sale on my amazon author page:
www.amazon.com/author/mickparsons
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11 February, 2016

The cold settles in: more on activism, Quixotism, and the drive for a better life

and I ran back to that hollow again
the moon was just a sliver back then
and I ached for my heart like some tin man
when it came oh it beat and it boiled and it rang..it’s ringing

ring like crazy, ring like hell
turn me back into that wild haired gale
ring like silver, ring like gold
turn these diamonds straight back into coal. 

- Gregory Alan Iskov, "The Stable Song"




Every place I've lived, regardless of the general climate, is home to the same joke:

"If you want the weather to change, wait five minutes."

Given that River City was enjoying some comfortable daytime temperatures last week, the re-emergence of winter-like weather this week is yet another reminder that Ohio River Valley Weather will find a way to refuse a more optimistic seasonal categorization.  

Now, before you think I'm complaining, Dear Friends and Readers, please know that my memories of #ZOMBIESNOWPOCALYPSE2015 are still fresh.The truth is this winter has been, so far, a fairly typical winter. It would be easy to call it too cold (because right now, it sure as hell feels like it), but given Metro Louisville's inability to handle any kind of inclement weather with any aplomb it is difficult to see the winter as anything but a catastrophe waiting to happen.

I love it for all it's follies and foibles, though. Louisville has embraced me as much as any place can embrace an itchy-footed, semi-domesticated, rarely-do-well with a better than average vocabulary.

Wherever home happens to be, it's perfectly normal to find attributes about the place that make it special to you. For example, I call Louisville home. It helps that my wife lives here, and that I'm close to family. The thing I love about Louisville besides that is that it's still basically a small town... or, at least, it behaves like one. For the most part, people here do too, though anyone who hasn't been to a city that knows its a city and behaves like one would maintain that a large population and a few tall buildings are all that is required to make a city.

This is untrue.

A city has a different heart and a different soul. Not better. Different. Cities move fast and leave the past buried in dust -- at least, until it can be resurrected to turn a greasy buck for some carpetbagging capitalist. *

Louisville still has that small town heart. It's true that the carpetbaggers are at the door -- Omni Hotel, Google Fiber -- but it's difficult to not let them in after you've already invited them in and allowed them to shit all over the furniture.** I love it hear because in spite of the efforts of people to polish it, the underbelly of the city is still -- well, a turd. River towns are always a little grimy, and they need to be. All manner of things come up and down river and are deposited here. People. Goods. Art. Pollution. A sacred connection to something older, deeper, more meaningful, and fundamentally human*** that you simply don't find in other places. Yes, there is humanity in other places. Yes, there is a way to the sacred and the divine in other places.

But a river is an ancient artery that records every age. As a matter of fact, where I sit right now is nothing more than a long dry riverbed. Waters move and cut and focus the geography, leave behind something for people to use and live and take care of. The riverbed is a living thing, recording and remembering the history we don't take time to notice.

It will be this history that sits in judgement over us long after we have become the very fossils we ignore in the name of profit.

Lately I've been trying to figure out ways to leave a positive mark on the rocks instead of a negative one. Some plans have fallen through -- working to organize local adjuncts to demand better from their masters has lost serious momentum^. Working to maintain a radical labor union has also proven nearly impossible, as I am apparently too caustic and hurt people's feels^^. This has caused me to have rethink my relationships with people and remember that most relationships are transitory. But as long  as my marriage is good and my close family still embraces me, life is good.


If you like what you read, please consider helping support the author. Thanks for reading!







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*Read: locally, the "Democratic" mayor and metro council's clear disregard for working people by allowing Omni Hotel developers to not hire union carpenters. Read also the vote in metro council tonight that, if it goes through will go against a standing union contract to bring Google Fiber to town. Yes, this town still has a small town heart and a small town soul... but Mayor Fischer and his "economic development team" are trying really hard to murder it.
**Read: 4th Street Live
*** To be human is to be of the dirt. We are a grimy bunch. And there's something sacred in that, too.
^Everyone agrees that change is necessary, but they're waiting for someone else to do the lifting... which never works. It's all of us or none of us.
^^It's true. As eloquent as I can be, I'm also an asshole sometimes. But don't mistake that admission for an apology. Having a difficult personality and being wrong are two different things. And I'm not wrong.

04 December, 2015

Dirty River Media: An Argument For Muckraking

You can't buy a bag of peanuts in this town without someone writing a song about you. -- Charles Foster Kane (Citizen Kane, 1941)

There are a lot of ways to practice the art of journalism, and one of them is to use your art like a hammer to destroy the right people — who are almost always your enemies, for one reason or another, and who usually deserve to be crippled, because they are wrong." - Hunter S. Thompson


 
Julius Chambers, maybe the first muckraker

The first reported use of the term "muckraker"* was by no less than President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. During a speech, he used it in reference to William Randolph Hearst and Hearst's brand of yellow journalism**. Usage of the term grew and came into include Julius Chambers -- maybe the first real muckraker -- Nelly Bly, Upton Sinclair, and Ambrose Bierce, among others.***

Muckraking is part of the grand tradition in journalism that's dying at the hands of corporate owned media. Keep in mind, Dear Friends and Readers, that no less than 6 corporations own most of the large market media in this country... and that's just TV and radio. Newspapers are corporate owned as well, split between Gannett, The McClatchy Co., Hearst, Cox Media, Media News Co., and Village Voice Media (which has eaten up most of what used to be the alternative weeklies.

Part of the problem is people sometimes confuse muckraking -- which sometimes rears its head under the more polite hat of "investigative journalism" -- with yellow journalism^ -- which is alive and well, as well as well funded.

Another problem is people -- including some who claim to be journalists -- buy into the idea, often espoused by anyone who doesn't agree with the particular brand of facts^^ posited by a reporter or talking head^^^, that journalism ought to strive to be "objective."

That, Dear Friends and Readers, is complete rhetorical bollix.

Journalism can't be objective because its first allegiance ought to be to the truth. The role of the 4th Estate is to drag stories out into the light and hold our elected officials' feet to the proverbial fire. It should not ever be Public Relations for any political party or politician, and should look at everything through a critical lens. And regardless of what anyone tells you, being critical means having an agenda. 

My recent split with LEO Weekly (one of the few alt weeklies not owned by Village Voice Media) occurred over a disagreement on how a particular story ought to have been portrayed.  Another aspect -- which I will call coincidental because it's more of a feeling than something I can document -- is that from their perspective, I got greedy. My work was considered exemplary by the managing editor until I had the temerity to ask if I could be more than a freelancer. After that, all of a sudden, I was breaching journalistic standards.

I'm a contrarian. I'll admit that. But having a natural tendency to disagree is not the same thing as a breach of "the basic tenets of journalism"+ On the contrary, it makes me a good muckraker. You have to have a contrary personality and a solid sense of self to be willing to rub academic department chairs, deans, editors, and politicians the wrong way. A good friend of mine once called this my tendency to "poke the bear." 

And that, Dear Friends and Readers, is what I intend to continue doing.

That's why I'm going to be finding my own press credentials and starting my own endeavor, called Dirty River Media. This will include a few projects, including publishing and podcasting, and other enterprises will hopefully add to the already existing push back against monopolized media and milquetoast reporting.  One project, The Kentucky Muck Podcast, will be a weekly show about local, regional, and state issues, as well as arts and culture, that need to see some light. That's what muckraking is, and that's what I do better than most anyone around. 

I promise my reporting will be honest, authentic, and researched; and I hope it will be entertaining. Stay tuned.
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*Defined as - raking through the muck and finding the real story.
**Hearst more or less invented large scale yellow journalism, the tradition of which is carried on by Fox News, HLN, and MSNBC most effectively.
***People like this are my heroes. So are Ida B Wells, Walt Whitman, Utah Phillips, Hunter S. Thompson, and Pete Rose. Not necessarily in that order. Look 'em up.
^ I just felt like using a bold yellow font. That's one kind of editorial decision that even schooled journalists are comfortable making.
^^ Facts are difficult to find and almost always difficult to use in any critical sense... and generally get confused with "opinion" which everyone has according to one smelly metaphor.
^^^ Talking head -- no, not the band. talking heads read you a news script that they may or may not have had any part of putting together. Probably not, more than likely.
 + The same editor who accused me of breaking faith with "the basic tenets of journalism" is the very same one who quoted HST to me by saying "objective journalism is bullshit."  You can't have it both ways. Either you write something honest and authentic and true, or you write shit. 

30 June, 2015

Currents Along the Dirty, Sacred River: Solidarity Updates, Of Flags and Phalluses, and Papa's Brand New (Old) Bag

 "We gave him a platform." -Toni Whalen, JCTC Head of Human Resources (via email from ORR)

My daughter, who also maintains a blog, gave me a hard time recently because I haven't been updating enough... which is a fair critique. It's not for the lack of things happening. You'd think I'd have more time to sit here, safe in the bunker, and spout off. Mostly I've been waiting for some of the smoke to clear. I've also been trying to drum up some work and have been moderately successful. Also, with all the internet either covered in stars and bars or rainbows and the passage of the the TPP  -- which will do to the globe what NAFTA did to North America -- and the fact that I am awaiting for yet another laughter filled response to my second Open Records Request.

The nature of my second request is such that I will hopefully be able to name the cabal otherwise known as #respondent53, after which I will be able to unleash the whole sorry and torrid tale of how corporate lackeys in higher education work to undermine activists and destroy the heart of what higher education used to mean... before the bean counters* and the lackeys* and the weasels* got in.

This has story Oscar movie material stamped all over, Dear Friends and Readers. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking they can get Joaquin Phoenix to play me:


Damn. Even I'm not sure that isn't me.

I kid, I kid. My nose looks nothing like that.

I'm working on an article for another blog, placing my unjust and illegal termination/banishment in the context of the national trend. And while there is plenty of good news out there, the fact is that adjunct labor activists -- particularly in the south are being targeted and removed from institutions that have no interest in higher education, in students, or in teachers.


Of Flags and Phalluses

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard that #SCOTUS finally agreed that the 14th Amendment applies to everyone. There is no marriage and "gay marriage." It's all just marriage, and I'm damn happy to see it. Of course, never let it be said that one idjit* or a flock of them can't ruin a good thing. County Clerks in the Kentucky counties of Boone (near Cincinnati) and Rowan (that's out in Morehead, a place near and dear to my heart.) have decided to stop giving out marriage licenses entirely because of what they believe is a divinely inspired moral objection.

The truth is, though, Dear Friends and Readers, that they are terrified at that thought of two men being intimate. I'd say they were upset about two women being intimate, but let's be honest -- that's had the wink wink naughty main stream porn nod of approval for years. Tightly crushed tits in an embrace  -- well, that and a bottle of moisturizer and you have a normal Friday night every lonely trailer park, highrise, and tenement across this country.  This obsessive objection to marriage equality is about people's personal inferiority complexes about their judas root.

I made it my business a long time ago to only worry about mine. This cut out a lot of puerile entertainment for me... most straight porn is about the penis (so that the "viewer" can imagine himself there as he "views".). But I am a happier guy for it. If you are one who spends too much time worrying about someone else's junk, try focusing on your own. Granted, you'll probably stay home more... but you'll be happier.

In the category of Red Herrings, you'll find the perpetually disturbing rukus over the confederate flag.  This should not be an argument, as far as I'm concerned. The stars and bars, like the Nazi Swastika, belongs in history books, not flying over government buildings. The fact that both Google and Amazon saw fit to block the southern cross was just one more piece of corporate opportunism.  And while the nation's Facebook users argued over flags and rainbows, Obama signed into law the most damaging and damning economic policy since NAFTA.

Racism and bigotry are not things to be tolerated or accepted, and must be fought where ever they rear their ugly, misshapen heads. But never forget that the powermongers have long used existing racism to slow solidarity and union movements and to ensure that their profit coffers are fat. Know who your enemy is.

Papa's Brand New (Old) Bag

That's right. I have managed to find work at Louisville's alternative weekly paper, The LEO. I'm back in the muckraking freelance journalist saddle again. Good Lord, I've missed it. 

Solidarity!

I want to thank everyone again who signed the petition to have me reinstated without prejudice. If you'd still like to, or if you want to pass it around, here it is.
A friend and Fellow Worker, J.P. Wright, has started a small support fund. If you'd like to contribute, go here.
Some have expressed an interest in writing letters of support of my reinstatement. Here are some addresses:

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*Please see The Parsons Dictionary of Often Used Words and Phrases, Desk Ed. for proper definitions if their meaning is unclear.