Monthly Archives: July 2011

Your incessant sharing can hurt others


First watch this video and then I’ll tell you what it reminded me of…………..

Done? Ok.

I was reminded of a story I heard at a CTN Women’s Conference one year (CTN = <a href="</p>

An Orthodox woman leading a workshop told a story about talking with a friend of hers who was having difficulty conceiving. Now, as you may or may not know, family is hugely important in the Jewish community, especially among the more observant branches. Having children is a foregone conclusion and people often have quite large families to boot. So it seems that there’s always somebody pregnant in the community and this woman’s friend said that every time someone excitedly ran up to her to tell her they, a friend or relative was pregnant, it was like a knife in her heart.

Now, of course none of these people were looking to make this woman feel bad. They were simply sharing happy news. Think about it for a moment though. Would they have gushed just as much if they had known that this woman was not able to have children of her own? Or would they have acted differently? The lesson, the woman telling the story told us, was that we must strive to be more sensitive in the way we talk to people, especially people we don’t know too well. When you hurt someone unintentionally, they don’t hurt any less than if you had intended to upset them. We have to be more cautious.

Hopefully you understand what made me think of this when watching this video. All or Teresa’s friends posting photos of their engagement rings and wedding dresses (and indeed everyone on Facebook who does those things) are just like the people who excitedly talked about someone being pregnant to the woman who couldn’t conceive. They’re not overtly trying to make their single friends feel depressed or inadequate, but let’s be realistic; that’s often the result.

I try to be conscious of this all the time. I’d like to think it’s because I’m a sensitive and kind person (and I hope that’s true to an extent), but it’s also because I’ve experienced something similar to what Teresa and the woman in my story did. My engagement ring was stolen from the apartment my then-boyfriend now-husband and I shared. Stolen before it was officially given to me. I never even got to wear it and its replacement could not be afforded. So how do you think I felt anytime someone flashed their ring or asked me why I wasn’t wearing mine?

I hope this inspires everyone to think carefully before sharing things with a wide network, whether online or in person. You’re entitled to your happiness. Enjoy it, share it with those closest to you. But don’t use it to hurt others.

The new journalism: what is good?



This month’s Carnival of Journalism (JCARN) asks us to help ONA figure out what qualities they should endorse in an era of sweeping change in the news industry. By the way, you really need to click over to the JCARN prompt post because it links to the earlier discussion we had on the topic. It was an epic Google Groups thread. EPIC.

Back to the issue at hand. People have already written a bunch of posts with great suggestions (stay tuned to the JCARN site for an eventual wrap-up post) that I completely agree with. However, I don’t think anyone has specifically mentioned what I’m about to talk about. For once I get to be first on something!

I would like to see ONA recognize news organizations of any size who do the best job promoting their work and delivering it to the audiences which most need or want it. What do I mean by that? I don’t mean commending the orgs with the biggest followings on Twitter or Facebook or anything similarly superficial. I’m talking about hardcore efforts like this one here. Surely we can all see how this is eons ahead of “read our stuff!” This is actual, painstaking connecting of the dots between content and audience. Every news organization should be doing this, but alas, few are.

I think this talk given by a guy at Knight says it all. Here’s the pertinent excerpt, though the entire thing is great:


How many of you, by a show of hands, believe investigative reporting is worth much more to society than it costs?

Nearly everyone. That was too easy.

Next question. How many of you believe that the average American – the cashier at the grocery store — understands the true value of investigative reporting?

Only one hand is up. Yes, our nation has news literacy issues.

One more question: How many of you believe it is your responsibility to explain the value of investigative reporting to society?

Some of you are saying yes, but a minority. Mostly the educators and nonprofit folks [italics mine].

That’s what I want to talk about. I appreciate the fact that for at least 100 years investigative reporters – including me, when I did it – considered themselves too busy to worry about whether the world understands how journalism works.

But we are in a digital age of communication, and in this networked, two-way world people now are part of our process. We have to recognize that.

If investigative journalists don’t explain the impact of their work, who will?

I think we can all see why this is especially crucial for investigative reporting which is time-consuming and expensive but it’s really worthwhile to think about for other beats as well. How can we continually make the case for our content in an authentic and honest way? And also, how can we make sure it is delivered to those who most need the information we’re offering?

This self-promotional bent, for lack of a better term, is a particular quality of online news and “new” journalism and this is why ONA should embrace it. We recognize, often better than legacy media, that we are competing for the audience’s attention at a time of great variety. Consequently, we are not shy about tooting our own horn when it is well-deserved and explaining to our readers/viewers/etc. why what we have done is valuable and how it impacts their lives. Perhaps this is due to the fact that small orgs and start-ups are on shakier financial ground and need to make their case more urgently. But I sense there’s something else going on there. They’re not only interested in their long-term survival, but also in making certain their work is meaningful to people and not just becoming tomorrow’s proverbial fish wrap. 

I was in a local grocery store yesterday and there was a table set up with free copies of that day’s Chicago Sun-Times. I overheard the gentleman manning the table telling a shopper how despite all the newsroom cuts, the paper has still managed to win Pulitzer Prizes and do great reporting. The shopper seemed unimpressed and why should he be? We have got to do better than that.

Decorating our lives: what’s in a tchotchke?


Image source


Since coming to the U.S. in 1989, I’ve given considerable thought to my dual (or triple, if you include Jewish) identity on many occasions. I’ve thought about what it means to be an American citizen, but to always feel distinctly “other.” I’ve thought about what it’s like to be a Jew in America and where my obligations and loyalties lie. I’ve thought about the benefits and the pitfalls of having been raised in another culture until almost age nine. But whatever I’ve thought about in terms of my Russian heritage, I can promise you that my mind never turned to couches or rugs or matryeshkas (the Russian nesting dolls you see pictured above). That is, not until Lea Zeltserman provoked me to think about exactly that.

Growing up, I think we had all the typical Russian furniture and accoutrements. When we fled the country though, it wasn’t as though we could take any of it with us. However, we did take several enormous suitcases filled with all sorts of stuff like this (only ours was less fancy I think; the Target/Wal-Mart version if you will :-)).

I didn’t know it then, but it was all slated to be a source of income for us when we lived in Italy for three months awaiting our American visas which were granted via lottery. My father carted a ton of this stuff as well as non-perishable (I hope!) Russian foodstuffs like salami and caviar to open air markets every Sunday. But there was still a ton left after we got to the U.S. We dipped into it for years for the purposes of gift-giving to our American friends and relatives who of course found it all incredibly charming. The question is, did my family feel the same way?

While I don’t recall the antipathy that Lea described in her original post, we definitely didn’t go out of our way to Russian-ize our home and the more time passed, the more I think we got away from any kind of Slavic aesthtetic. Save for some dishes, bowls and food storage containers that stubbornly continue to exist in my mother’s kitchen, nothing remains. True, there are some books which my highly literate parents apparently couldn’t eschew. Russian movies are ubiqutous as well, but even these remnants are at the parental home which I don’t live in anymore. When I look around my townhouse, I see zero traces of anything Russian (or Jewish for that matter). I never gave it a second thought, but I think it makes me a bit sad. It’s as if I’ve completely sublimated my past and heritage without even realizing what I was doing.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve now spent much more of my life here than I ever did in the USSR. And they’ve been the formative years. I graduated high school and college here. I met my husband here (and I should note that he is as American as it gets) and now we’re expecting our first child here. My family never lived in the heavily Russian areas around Chicago (at least not intentionally) and I had few Russian friends growing up.

To some extent, I think all of these were conscious choices and, I think, emblematic of the constant push and pull of the immigrant experience. Your past will at times be reviled and willfully forgotten in favor of a perceived brighter future. But in some ways your adopted country will never feel 100% like home and your desire to belong will never truly be fulfilled. Thus my acceptance of Russian tchotchkes is destined to be about the same as my comfort with Pottery Barn throw pillows and Crate & Barrel china. Now that I’ve realized all this, I think I’ll try to add some touches from my former homeland to my decor. After all, it’s (partly) who I am :-)

The Myth of The New York Times

The Times, like Harvard University, where I attended graduate school, is one of the country’s most elite and exclusive institutions. Its ethos can be best summed up with the phrase “You are lucky to be here.” That huge numbers of people at The Times, as at Harvard, buy into this institutional hubris makes the paper, where I spent 15 years—nearly all of them, thankfully, as a foreign correspondent a few thousand miles from the newsroom—a fear-ridden and oppressive place to work. The Times newsroom, like most corporate nerve centers, is a labyrinth of intrigue, gossip, back-biting, rumor, false piety, rampant ambition, betrayal and deception. Those who play this game well are repugnant. They are also usually the people who run the place. 

When you allow an institution to provide you with your identity and sense of self-worth you become an obsequious pawn, no matter how much talent you possess. You live in perpetual fear of what those in authority think of you and might do to you. This mechanism of internalized control—for you always need them more than they need you—is effective. The rules of advancement at the paper are never clearly defined or written down. Careerists pay lip service to the stated ideals of the institution, which are couched in lofty rhetoric about balance, impartiality and neutrality, but astutely grasp the actual guiding principle of the paper, which is: Do not significantly alienate the corporate and political power elite on whom the institution depends for access and money. Those who master this duplicitous game do well. Those who cling tenaciously to a desire to tell the truth, even at a cost to themselves and the institution, become a management problem.

This is excerpted from a review of Page One, which starts you can read here:…

Let me just say, this is emblematic of ALL large media institutions and it is a poisonous quality that definitely affects the quality and volume of the journalism produced and much more. See also:

I continue to hope for a future where things will be different.

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