ctrp343 The Haitian Recovery

Laura Stek went to Haiti to focus on the work of a famous photographer. But going to Haiti quickly became about more than the person taking photographs, as she observed and experienced what is and isn’t going on in terms of the Haitian post earthquake recovery.

Laura’s audio as part of the NOS Haiti file

Outside Port au Prince, Haiti, Photo by Talea Miller, PBS NewsHour

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Spike in Airline Prices

The last night of February 2010 has me looking forward and asking the difficult questions about just what I’m going to focus on, push myself to do that is new and innovative, and where I will take this here journalistic project as the year matures. What topic in what corner of the world do I feel needs better coverage, more explaining, and increased understanding on the international scale? What can I do? What is within my power, as a reporter with connections or in terms of making new contacts- to get more information to present to you reading this.

Naturally for the sake of learning and first hand reporting, I want to do more than bring you information from the comfort of my always interesting Amsterdam life… I want to travel.  Nevermind wanting, when you’ve got family and a life in 2 other countries besides the one you dwell in, travelling isn’t a luxury it is a necessity somewhere behind food, shelter, and clothing on the life-list of what is needed.  But while I’d normally be looking at flights to Portugal for the spring or summer to visit my family and take care of my responsibilities there, this year presents a bigger challenge than ever in the last 8+ years. While I’d like to fly off to New York to visit family and speak at The Next Hope this July, again looking at the options, it is looking increasingly unlikely.

Whether it is for good reasons or not, airlines across the board are raising their prices. With flights within Europe and crossing the Atlantic (that I know of) costing double what they did last year.  And combined with a general decrease in my already extra-modest income this year, even flying at normal rates would have posed a budgetary challenge for this alternative voice in the media wilderness.

All this to say, suddenly the road ahead looks foggier than I had expected.  And while ironically I’ll soon announce several exciting journeys to new corners of the globe, those will be funded by third parties. Because the truth is the combination of my intercontinental life choices, journalistic goals, and an economy that sees little monetary value in what I (or anyone these days) do.. makes for a very difficult road ahead.

What’s the plan then? I’m working on it…

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Testimony on the State of the Media

In a recent post you might remember me pointing to the words of The Wire creator and former Baltimore journalist David Simon as he was interviewed on Bill Moyer’s program. You might also remember that I’m a huge, let’s be honest, FAN, of Simon as I find the Wire to be one imperfect and completely accurate mirror of how our society and our world functions.

So it might come as a surprise and certainly ironic when I tell you I hated David Simon’s testimony before US Congress during the recent session on the state of the media industry. Hmm, saying I hated it is kind of silly, the basic fact is that based on Simon’s words before congress, I don’t agree and would argue some of his statements/facts.

I actually plan to develop my response further, possibly putting it out as a video entry, but for now I wanted to begin to break-down what problem I have with Simon’s words and to properly lay out my own responses. Read more

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Stats can lie

David Simon, creator of The Wire, was on Bill Moyers journal this past week. Before getting into the world of writing and directing television, he was a journalist in Baltimore for many years. At that job he got to watch how the police force, city government, and school system work, or perhaps we could say, don’t work.

At one point in part 1, Simon touches on a topic that says alot about how our world works – the use of statistics to justify some plan or political goal. Specifically he says:

You show me anything that depicts institutional progress in America… anything that a politician can run on, anything that somebody can get a promotion on, and as soon as you invent that statistical category, 50 people at that institution will be at working trying to make it look like progress has been made when actually no progress has occurred.

Simon gets into how when the mayor of Baltimore wanted higher arrest numbers and the police department wanted to show those stats, they would go around arresting anyone they could including people sitting on their front steps (loitering in a drug-free zone). But he points to how the same logic applies in the school system where students are taught only what they need to get test answers right and increase the test scores. Or how the media are more concerned about winning awards and pleasing managers rather than doing difficult investigative reports and connecting those reports to the bigger picture.

As Simon mentions, this same way of thinking can be found in the current financial crisis… showing good numbers to please investors even if those numbers are based on toxic assets and loans that people can’t pay back.

Its enough to make a person think twice when they rely on the old logic “Just the facts m’am”, as journalists so often have throughout history. Stats can be , and often are, used and abused. It takes alot more than stats to tell a story and understand an issue.

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