My first byline of the year is on this column for USA Today about the many feminist plot points in the new Star Wars movie. It was a lot of fun to write, and my mom got to dig up a photo of kindergartner me wearing a fantastically DIY Princess Leia costume.
The response to the column has been robust and interesting. Here are some of the highlights:
First, strong female role models matter for boys and men, too. For more, check out this great piece by Mike Adamick. And those kinds of characters need to be available on and off the screen. That’s not always the case as evidenced by the blight of female action figures in games and play sets.
Second, one mind-bogglingly successful movie with kick-ass female characters and feminine framing is great – but pop culture remains a boys’ club. This Forbes article provides a good primer, pointing out that “gender discrimination, both in front of and behind the camera and in terms of the kind of stories that get told in cinema, has become so pervasive that the ACLU and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stepped in to investigate.”
Finally, this conversation is about a lot more than space-nerd gossip. Stories matter because they’re one of the chief ways kids learn about social norms and the human condition. Here’s an easy-to-understand rundown of the latest research about the power of narrative in child development.
I’m spending the final week of 2015 taking stock of the last year, a task that sounds rather lofty but actually involves wrestling with spreadsheets. I did, however, notice that I never shared around here one of the highlights of my fall: a short explainer on how my UNH journalism students mapped fall-flavored treats to learn about non-linear storytelling.
Earlier this year, I was pleased when my phone offered me the option of assigning different skin tones to the tiny faces I often include in text messages. Score one, I thought, for diversity in digital culture.
What I missed, though, was another subtle bias in this fast growing communication tool: There are very few emojis depicting professional women. As Mic’s Sophie Kleeman points out:
Women who want to use something other than a neutral female emoji have the following options to choose from: a princess, a bride, twins that resemble Playboy bunnies, a dancer in a red dress and a series of “information desk person” characters… Men get the “serious” professional roles, and women get the “girlie” ones.
As Kleeman goes on to explain, this isn’t the most pressing feminist issue out there – but I still think it’s important. Emojis are becoming a bigger part of our digital lives, and it’s problematic if they don’t allow us to properly express a full range of female experiences. Or at least as full a range as is possible with itty-bitty cartoons.
In my latest piece for The Boston Globe, I revisit a longstanding dispute about the origins of the Republican Party…. and uncover a bit of new information about a key organizational meeting that may (or may not) have taken place in Exeter, New Hampshire more than 150 years ago. Read the whole story here.
I’m teaching a digital reporting workshop at UNH this fall, and it’s been fun to dust off storytelling tools that I haven’t had occasion to use in any of my recent freelance work. Students in the course are spending the first half of the semester learning the basics of documenting stories with images, sounds and video. (Also on the syllabus: Social media curation, basic data visualizations and a bit of mapping.) Later in the term, they’ll continue to refine those techniques by covering beats in our community.
This week’s focus was on short-form audio storytelling. I assigned the students to create audio postcards from UNH’s homecoming festivities and publish them on SoundCloud. Yesterday, I brought my parents to the football game and, when I saw how close we were to the cheering squad, I decided to create an audio postcard of my own:
I used my iPhone to record the track. (An external mic tossed over the front of the bleachers would have been a good idea. The track isn’t horrible, but you can hear the guy next to me crunching his paper popcorn bag at a few points.) The sound was edited in FinalCut with the video setting turned off. (The students are using Audacity because it’s free.) The photos were taken with my Nikon D5100 and toned/cropped in iPhoto.
Inbox Essay makes its triumphant return today. As a reminder, I resolved back in January to make 50 essays in 2015. The project took a longish hiatus this summer, but regular publishing resumes right now. This week’s installment looks at digital dating/house hunting/identity building. Read it here.
Bought a house. Danced with my brother at his wedding. Unplugged just a bit. Packed, unpacked and repacked boxes. Pulled weeds and planted perennials. Seared things on the grill. Swam across Goose Pond. Found new places to run in the woods. Remembered how late summer in New Hampshire smells like over-sweet fruit and sounds like crickets. Wrote stories for the Boston Globe about political memorabilia and the end of Jefferson-Jackson dinners. Also: A little feature for the Concord Monitor about the rise of #wedding hashtags.
Pardon the silence around here. It’s been a busy five or six weeks personally and professionally. Some highlights:
1.) I wrote a couple of pieces for the Boston Globe. Here’s an explainer of New Hampshire’s headachy campaign finance laws. And, for some lighter fare, a look at the Granite State’s quirkiest political memorabilia.
2.) I helped run a crowdfunding campaign so the Journalism and Women Symposium can provide mentorship and professional training to 10 early-career female journalists. We raised more than $15,000 to support this year’s amazing class of fellows. (I also started a Northern New England chapter of JAWS. If you’re local and want to join, drop me a line.)
3.) Have I mentioned that I’m making a MOOC about the New Hampshire primary? The University of New Hampshire will launch it’s first massive, open online course (MOOC) this fall. The class is free and focused on the past, present and future of the primary. It’s taught primarily by political science professors Dante Scala and Andy Smith. I’m doing a lot of the technical production, plus giving a couple of lectures about political journalism. Sign up here.
Up next: Watching my baby brother marry a really great person next weekend and (hopefully) buying a house at the end of the month. In other words, it’s going to be a while before we return to regular blogging.
Digital in 2016 will be faster, more intense, and more mobile than it was in 2008, and that has repercussions for how this season’s crop of presidential candidates will behave and how their campaigns will unfold in New Hampshire and beyond.
I spent most of Monday at a workshop on solutions journalism. It was a lovely start to the week for more than one reason. We met at the NH Audubon’s Concord property, which meant we got to see this gorgeous creature during a coffee break. More important, though, was the chance to explore a sub-genre that I’ve been curious about for several years.
Our leader was Tina Rosenberg, a Pulitzer Prize winner and co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, a group that aims to increase the “volume and quality” of this type of storytelling. We spent time discussing what Solutions journalism is and isn’t, but here’s one definition I like a lot:
Solutions journalism can include reporting on responses that are working, partially working, or not working at all but producing useful insights. We can learn just as much from a failure as a success. The key is to look at the whole picture — the problem and the response. Journalism often stops short of the latter.
The notion that this type of storytelling is about presenting a more complete, complex picture is important. I also appreciate the emphasis Rosenberg places on finding compelling characters and structuring “howdoneit” narratives that keep the reader engaged.
I took a lot of notes on Twitter throughout the day. Some highlights:
Great turnout for today's solutions journalism workshop in Concord. Tx for organizing @nhpr, @EndowmentHealth and NH Press Association.